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Writings on science, technology and society

Human progress through engineering and scientific achievements can so intoxicate its chroniclers as to make them feel omnipotent, or at least suffused with the illusion of temporarily holding the whole world in their hands.

I've written about scientific and technological change -- innovation, in short -- for more than 25 years. I've approached the subject from the perspective of individual aspirations and social construction, or how groups of people organize their societies in desired ways, exploiting knowledge and human-created instruments and artifacts in order to achieve their aims. In addition to my "social constructionist" mentality, I also -- unlike most popular writers on innovation -- reject the so-called "linear" model of innovation, whereby science is believed to be the basis for knowledge, which engineers and inventors then apply. In reality, scientists and technologists both create knowledge, though sometimes of a different character. Since the 1940s, the relationship between science and the application of knowledge to the real world has been multi-directional, giving rise to a notion of "techno-science." Under this view, "techno-science" arises from the design labs at Intel to the physics departments at Princeton, from the maize fields of West Africa to the bio-engineering labs at the University of Califonia. The creation of new knowledge occurs across a wide continium, where the line between "theory" and "practice" blurs, if not breaks down altother at times. The practical application of knowledge and the creation of basic concepts co-evolve.

In writing about technology, science and innovation, I've been associated with three broad subjects:

technology, geography and economic development
science, engineering and national security
computing, software and information technology

Two of my books, Showstopper (about Microsoft) and Endless Frontier (the history of the marriage between scientists and soldiers during and after World War II), reflect more serious engagement with these themes.

Many significant articles of mine on innovation can be found in:

The New York Times, where I authored the Ping column on innovation from 2007-2008

Technology Review magazine

The Wall Street Journal, for whom I served as the principal writer on computing and software from 1989 through the end of 1994

For the PBS television documentary, Code Rush, I served as chief technical consultant and co-writer.

In Spectrum, the official magazine of the IEEE.

In the fall of 2010, I began a new series of writing on society, technology and society for Spectrum, under the title, "The Scientific Estate." See the debut article in the series: