“Old and new technologies exist for you to use, analyze, discuss, and comment on. Don’t just take their existence for granted. Don’t just accept new technologies passively; be proactive about them. Because only through collective and conscious technological design can a better humanity become possible. That’s right: we are our technology, and if we design better machines and devices, we will also improve alongside them.”
When I was a kid, I spent summers helping my mom in the family store. With the tips I earned from customers, every Saturday I went to the hardware store and bought a wrench. Before long I had a whole collection of them, a festival of stainless steel. My wrenches were my “Linus blanket.” I didn’t use them every day, but I knew that if I needed them, they were there waiting for me.
Ever since, I have been fascinated by the relationship between man and machine. I believe that this relationship is crucial to understanding who we are and, more importantly, where we’re going.
In this book, I condense twenty-five years of study and reasoning, and recount the birth and diffusion of ten of the most fascinating inventions in history.
In these pages, you will find the genesis of the 3-D printer, which changed the process of making and selling goods by bringing re-centering the human value of manufacturing. You’ll find flint, the mother of all technologies and the origin of our humanity, marking the moment that the natural became artificial. Next, we’ll talk about the brake, the reverse shot of speed, indispensable to accompanying humanity through the modern age. Then there’s the coffee machine, which triggered the rise of the bourgeoisie by giving rise to new forms of cultural democracy; the ballpoint pen, which allows us to reflect on the return of oral culture and the future of writing; and the washing machine, one of the most important tools for women’s emancipation. We will then take a leap into the future, looking at the Google search bar, the greatest cultural revolution since Gutenberg’s printing press, and the remote control, a symbol of family power. And of course, we can’t forget the smartphone, the true paradigm-shifter of our time, or Wikipedia, the most important collective project in the history of culture, which allows us to understand how our species is continually changing.
By analyzing the anthropological and social implications of these inventions, it becomes palpably clear that there is nothing more influential than technology when it comes to reshaping the cultural practices of our species. Because technology has always been part of who we are.