Why Things Bite Back: Predicting the Problems of Progress

Edward Tenner

How scientific and technological advances solve acute problems but offer chronic problems in their stead. Tenner’s fascinating book – in the same vein as Charles Handy’s The Age of Unreason – pinpoints the problems and offers a new paradigm for controlling them.

Edward Tenner contends that with every great advance in science and technology, there is a corresponding revenge effect: transportation which hinders mobility, exercise which diminishes fitness, pest control that spread pests and communication that limits information. This book explains why so many people are dissatisfied and apprehensive despite the undeniable improvements which technology has brought them. The irony lies in the very success of technology which has tended to replace the acute problems that it helps to solve with chronic ones which cannot be eradicated, but only managed: yesterday’s asbestos curtain which represented protection from acute hazard now implies long-term, chronic hazard. WHY THINGS BITE BACK is carefully and extensively documented: it brings together common themes from widely differing disciplines: traffic engineering, epidemiology, ecology, social pyschology and organisational behaviour. It draws on scientific articles as well as business, computer and sports magazines. The resulting overview offers a template for problem solving across the board – be it in business management , household matters, or indeed how to cope with the general stress of living in the technological world.

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