Axemaker's Gift

Axemaker's Gift : Technology's Capture and Control of Our Minds and Culture

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At the close of this century of creativity and discovery, humanists and scientists alike wonder: How could human beings in all their brilliance - those "axemakers" with the genius to invent, lead, inspire, heal, design - have brought the world to the brink of destruction? The answers can be found in The Axemaker's Gift, an imaginative and brilliantly informed double-edged history of human culture. James Burke, a leading expert on the interaction of technology and society, and Robert Ornstein, a pioneer in charting the evolution of consciousness, show how the interaction between innovation and the brain has continually reshaped the world and, more important, the way we more

Product details

  • Paperback | 348 pages
  • 152.4 x 228.6 x 25.4mm | 362.87g
  • Tarcher/Putnam,US
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Trade Pbk.
  • 0874778565
  • 9780874778564
  • 922,261

Review Text

A Cook's tour of humankind's great innovations and the glories and tribulations that came in their wake. Burke (The Day the Universe Changed, 1986, etc.) is a master storyteller of the big picture: the origin of Western attitudes and institutions, and how technology shapes destiny, are a couple of his earlier efforts. Here he and psychologist Ornstein (The Roots of the Self, 1993, etc.) chronicle those achievements that allowed humans to make great leaps forward. And they do go back, all the way to the first stone tools of ancient hominids. Some of the axemakers' (people whose inventions shaped our world and our minds) big "gifts": the protohorticultural societies, the hydraulic civilizations, the first laws and alphabets, printmaking, the discovery of the New World, medical advances, the Industrial Revolution, the computer age. Each of these gifts causes major ripples in the prevailing institutions, opens new vistas, makes life a little easier (at least for some folks), and the authors do an excellent job outlining the dynamics and tensions they arouse. But each gift also exacts a price, be it rigid hierarchies, slavery, or grotesque environmental degradation; furthermore, in every instance, these gifts have increasingly distanced the axemakers and their governmental masters from the general population. We now find ourselves at a precarious historical juncture, say the authors, with a vulnerable agricultural base, population numbers run amok, a trashed environment, and a citizenry out of touch with how the world works and relying on the axemaker's quick fixes. Their Rx, in miniature: Concentrate on small-scale communities, indigenous knowledge, and participatory democracy; use the computer to gain access to the web of knowledge already available. Hardly original, but Burke and Ornstein are quick to admit it. The beauty of this book lies in the conjuring of those innovative moments, beautifully woven, entertaining vignettes that explain where the changes came from, the trouble they caused, and where they led. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Table of contents

The Axemaker's Gift - James Burke and Robert Ornstein Prologue I. Getting an Edge 1. Getting an Edge 2. Token Contribution 3. The ABC of Logic II. Cutting Up the World 4. Faith of Power 5. Fit to Print 6. New Worlds 7. Root and Branch 8. Class Act 9. Doctor's Order III. Picking Up the Pieces 10. Journey's End 11. Forward to the Past Select Bibliography Indexshow more
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