In This Review

Knowing Machines: Essays on Technical Change
Knowing Machines: Essays on Technical Change
By Donald Mackenzie
MIT Press, 1996, 338 pp

Not for the technologically faint of heart, this volume contains provocative essays by one of the more interesting sociologists of modern technology. His central theme is the impact of organizations on technology creation. Rejecting notions of linear improvement or the inevitable unfolding of technological change, he points to the importance of unreasoning optimism, political pressure, and charismatic individuals. It is not always the case, as others have noted, that what wins is the optimal technology from a narrow scientific point of view. The author's wide scope ranges from a sympathetic analysis of Karl Marx's views on technology to a discussion of the role of self-propelling prophesy in the adoption of laser gyroscopes for aerial navigation. In short, his intellectual agility is as impressive as his observations are instructive.