The Power of Knowledge: How Information and Technology Made the Modern World

Jeremy Black, Author
Jeremy Black. Yale Univ., $40 (480p) ISBN 978-0-300-16795-5
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Building on his work Maps and History, Black traces the accretion of information throughout the centuries, particularly in the West, with some reference to the Far East, particularly China. Beginning with cartography in the Middle Ages, he stresses that knowledge of the shape of the earth led to voyages of discovery, from which came the belief that the "Western world-view was correct and should shape the world." Black show how the discoveries of the early explorers affected science, technology, religion, and government. Innovations breed more innovations across other fields: determining accurate longitude, for example, spurred research into other forms of measurement, while the growth of central governments created demographic maps, which allowed the spread of Western colonialism. He also discusses how misappropriated information, such as the "scientific" proof of white, European superiority, resulted in ideas like eugenics. With the growth of the Internet, Black briefly tackles fears of a Big Brother state, though he feels suppression of information is the real danger. Though his points are sometimes lost in the plethora of information, the book is filled with interesting factoids, and Black concludes that information is a double-edged sword that, nevertheless, is an essential part of future learning. (Jan.)
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