The Verge Shares Its Top Ten List of Non-Fiction Technology Books of All Time
There is a different vibe to reading from leaves of paper rather than digitally absorbing the same information from a screen. But as we live in the digital universe now, it might be of interest to you just how we built this Electric Ladyland. (Yes, a Jimi Hendrix reference.)
There is a fascinating list of the best non-fiction tech books from theverge.com this week. It looks so interesting it has me feeling guilty about not having already bought all of them and curling up to read them.
Here is how they decided to produce their list:
The Verge lives in the news cycle, after all — we wanted to praise the form of writing that lasts: the book. How else do we move forward if we can’t remember the past? So we set out with the audacious goal to define the best books about tech out there. We were less interested in works that are supposedly influential and more in ones that have endured, with ideas that are still relevant today, stories that have captured something essential about technology, and writing that’s made us stand up in our seats.
Seeflection.com will provide descriptions of two of the highlighted books and positions they were published in, and list the rest. You may want to celebrate Independence Day by downloading a book on good, old-fashioned American technological know-how.
1. Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its Discontents by Ellen Ullman
Liz Lopatto had this observation why it was her number one.:
“Not only does Ullman tell us what it was like to be an engineer during the dot-com bubble, but she does it in prose that many professional writers envy.”
The end users, who are only too human, are a source of contempt for these programmers — and Ullman’s attempt to bridge these two groups with a program makes her increasingly troubled. Because far from the machine, away from the sterile comforts of logic, there are people: AIDS patients, who the program is meant to help. For better or worse, we’ve all gotten closer to the machine since Ullman first wrote, but this memoir is perhaps the most powerful book ever written about technology.
2. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by Neil Postman
In Technopoly, Postman describes America as a “totalitarian technopoly,” in which people are less important than the machines. There’s no reliable way to order information into meaning because it is impossible to know which information to discard. People are so reliant on technology, they can’t make decisions without it. “Darkly funny, Postman argues that we have made ourselves subservient to our tools.”
Wikipedia describes the book this way:
Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology is a book by Neil Postman published in 1992 that describes the development and characteristics of a “technopoly”. He defines a technopoly as a society in which technology is deified, meaning “the culture seeks its authorization in technology, finds its satisfactions in technology, and takes its orders from technology”. It is characterized by a surplus of information generated by technology, which technological tools are in turn employed to cope with, in order to provide direction and purpose for society and individuals.
Postman considers technopoly to be the most recent of three kinds of cultures distinguished by shifts in their attitude towards technology – tool-using cultures, technocracies, and technopolies. Each, he says, is produced by the emergence of new technologies that “compete with old ones…mostly for dominance of their worldviews”.
You can check it out on Google GoodReads here.
The rest of the top five from theverge.com list:
3. Uncanny Valley by Anna Weiner
4. This Machine Kills Secrets: Julian Assange, the Cypherpunks, and Their Fight to Empower Whistleblowers by Andy Greenberg
5. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace by Janet Murray
So if you are looking for a good summer read for the beach or the resort pool, we recommend you take a moment to read about the people that chose the difficult path. And gave whatever it took to help us reach the machine learning, generative AI, and chatbots of today.
Also in keeping with full disclosure from Vox Media: If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission.
read more at theverge.com