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Rybczynski, Witold.

Markham (Ont.), Penguin, c1983. 247pp, paper, $7.95, ISBN 0-1400-7564-X. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Don Precosky

Volume 13 Number 6
1985 November

Witold Rybczynski is an associate professor and director of the Centre for Minimum Cost Housing at McGill University. This is his second book on the subject of the social impact of technology.

Taming the Tiger is about the struggle to control technology. Its approach is an historical one. Part I of the book, "The Shock of the Machine," focuses on various negative responses to technology such as Luddism, Islamic fundamentalism, and the horrific Cambodian experiment of Pol Pot. In each case, it traces the causes of the hostility toward a new form of technology and the reasons for that reaction's failure. Part II, "The Environment of Technology," looks at creative and positive responses to technology both as they have occurred in history and as the author suggests they might occur in the near future in response to current technology. His basic assumption is very clear; rejection of a new technology is doomed to failure.

This is a readable and enlightening history for the general reader or for the student from grade 12 on up. You do not need to be a technical person to follow its argument. A lot of research went into the writing, and the author has provided a long and detailed bibliography for anyone interested in doing further reading on any of the topics covered.

Generally, Rybczynski is an optimist about technology and tends to find fault with reactions that are hostile to, rather than with technology. I think that he looks at things through slightly rose-coloured glasses, assuming that our society will be able to reach a consensus on the proper applications of new technology and that all segments of society are pulling in one direction; and that there is indeed a goal or use for any one technology that everyone can agree on. Of course, the human race will be okay if it learns to make decisions intelligently and to deal with social change in a rational manner. But it never has in the past, and there is no reason to believe that it will in the future.

Don Precosky, College of New Caledonia, Prince George, B.C.
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