For a Kinder, Gentler Society
The American Technological Challenge
Stagnation and Decline in the 21st Century
  • Jan Vijg
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The American Technological Challenge. Stagnation and Decline in the 21st Century
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The American Technological Challenge refutes the myth that we live in the most innovative of times. New, life-changing inventions have become rare and in spite of ample vocal support of innovation, an increasingly complacent society has lost its taste for risk and often actively resists change. Far from being unique, technology slowdowns are recurrent events in history, occurring in civilizations that have reached the zenith of their success. They are the inevitable fate of an increasingly regulated, successful society.


About the Author

Combining a passion for history and for science, Netherlands-born Jan Vijg earned his PhD in biology at the University of Leiden and built a career as a molecular geneticist, witnessing the revolution in genetics, from recombinant DNA technology to the human genome project of the 1990s. His own research program is focused on the hypothesis that aging is caused by random changes in the genome of our somatic cells.

Dr. Vijg moved to the US in 1993 to become Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. He has published over 200 scientific articles and two books. His studies put him at the forefront of the current scientific advances that inspire so many authors to write about the upcoming era of immortality. His position as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Genetics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York (since July 2008) is also very focused on technology development. An important part of his responsibilities is to translate new discoveries, made by the faculty, into clinical applications. Therefore, he has a great professional interest in the implementation of new technology in society; thus, he writes as a scientist who wants to see his inventions applied in society and is frustrated by the current climate that is no longer conducive to the quick application of novel technology, not even if it is obviously benign. His sympathy goes to those who are optimistic about our technological future and he provides extensive space for their arguments.

About the Book

Most people would characterize the dawn of the 21st century as the age of technological progress par excellence. If you are one of them, then, think again. While our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents witnessed...

Most people would characterize the dawn of the 21st century as the age of technological progress par excellence. If you are one of them, then, think again. While our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents witnessed life-changing inventions every decade, very little major new technology has seen the light of day over the last half century. We find ourselves in the midst of a technology slowdown!

This book is about the causes and consequences of technology slowdowns, which are not unique but recurrent events in human history. They occur not in times of upheaval, when violent interstate conflicts are the order of the day. Such periods foster innovation and allow major, breakthrough inventions to be adopted quickly. Instead, innovation seriously stalls in times that are peaceful, when governments reign supreme and citizens are encapsulated by layers of benign regulation to protect them against all possible harm.

We find ourselves in the best of times. The long period of bloody combat that characterized so much of the 20th century has finally ended. Violent conflicts between states are minimal and conditions for almost everyone on the planet are on an upswing, with poverty on the decline and life expectancy and literacy increasing. Responsible government and industry leaders have begun to refrain from risky bets on exciting new exploits and the time of grand projects, such as the Eisenhower Interstate System, the Moon Landing Program or the development of the internet is behind us. Instead, we have to make do with incremental improvements of existing technology, catch-up programs in developing countries and social programs. The consequences are stalling wealth generation and an end to the dramatic changes society has undergone since the industrial revolution now more than 200 years ago.

The book is intended for an educated, general audience. It provides basic information about the process of invention, the current status of major areas of technology development and the reasons for a decline in progress. An important part of the book is a discussion of the intricate relationship of humans with technology, how technology gave rise to the first successful human societies and the factors that time and again determined why technology would flourish and why it would stall.


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Pages 260
Year: 2011
LC Classification: B478.V53 2011
Dewey code: 306--dc23
BISAC: TEC056000 TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / History
BISAC: HIS036000 HISTORY / United States / General
Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-885-1
Price: USD 22.95
Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-886-8
Price: USD 32.95
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