Don Norman: Designing For People

Nielsen Norman Group

Two Books on Technology: "The Nature of Technology" & "Technology Matters"

Arthur, W. B. (2009). The nature of technology: what it is and how it evolves. New York: Free Press.

Nye, D. E. (2006). Technology matters: questions to live with. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Technology is important to all of us, and it is critical to understand the role it plays in society. Society, culture, human behavior and technology lay a complex intertwined role together, each mutually influencing the other, so the evolution of each is affected by the evolution of the others. Both these two recent books are valuable. Brian Arthur is an economist who has contributed much to our understanding of technology and product success. But I was disappointed in this book, which I considered a lightweight essay, not up to his usual standards. Nye's book, on the other hand, is deep and thoughtful, with a much deeper analysis of all that ails us. I particularly am fond of this quote from Chapter 1 of Nye's book: "Necessity is often not the mother of invention. In many cases, it surely has been just the opposite. When humans possess a tool, they excel at finding new uses for it. The tool often exists before the problem to be solved. Latent in every tool are unforeseen transformations."

Arthur makes the same point when he points out that phenomena drive technologists and scientists, and from phenomena we get technologies, from technologies we get products, and from products we get needs. (Actually, I suspect I am mixing three sources together here: Arthur, Nye, and my own thinking - see my essay for Interactions Magazine, Technology First, Needs Last.)

Links to these books at Brian Arthur: The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves. David Nye: Technology Matters: Questions to Live With