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Trade Paper

192pp. 7.69 x 9.44

B&W illustrations

Technology, Science

Summer 2005

KnowledgeContext, publisher

Quality Books Inc, distributor

Amazon, retailer


Advance Praise

Fish don't notice water and most of society doesn't think about technology. But technology grows ever more powerful, and blindly accepting or rejecting it grows ever more dangerous. The critical thinking process described by Aznar opens a door to understanding through which every citizen in our country should walk.

Karl Pister

Chancellor Emeritus

University of California at Santa Cruz


Technology infuses everything we do. Like a gathering storm, it has become the fastest moving, most powerful new element of our natural world. Like any force of nature, it is something we should study well, to chart a course to a better future, a course that takes care of our loved ones along the way. Only a lifelong learner can be a good captain in our technological world, and this scintillating, optimistic book will help you get your sea legs. Read Technology Challenged, consider its advice, and rejoice. This is a wondrous time to be alive.

John Smart


Acceleration Studies Foundation


“As a professor at a university surrounded by passionate technology users, I found Aznar's book inspiring. I have adopted it for use in the Technology Innovation course.”

Raymond Blackwood

University of Advancing Technology



Technology Challenged is a passionate and personal voyage of discovery into today's complicated world of technology. Here educators and parents can find a simple road map to understanding technology and find a new approach to get across technology’s culture and wisdom to children of all ages.”

Dom Lindars

Senior Director

Oracle Corporation


“Having tracked technology on surprising pathways to its secret dumping grounds in the slums of China and India, I have witnessed both sides of the technology coin — the glory as well as the horror. Our very survival as a species requires that we fully appreciate both possibilities. Anyone concerned about the life and death relationship between our planet's future and technology, should read Technology Challenged.”

Jim Puckett


Basel Action Network


“...Technology Challenged [is] an interesting and pertinent account of the issues behind the concept of technological literacy.  It provides a very readable explanation of the central issues of how technology impacts on us and what we as humans should know and be able to do in relation to the ever expanding role of technology that permeates our lives.”

Robert Wicklein

Professor, College of Education

University of Georgia


The goal of a Library Media Teacher is to make sure that students have the necessary tools that lead to Information Literacy.   I would recommend Technology Challenged as a guide in this endeavor.  Hopefully, the next generation will lead us on a path of balance that embraces the assets of technology while protecting our environment.  Information leads to understanding and power!

Sylvia Ellefsen

Library Media Teacher

Westlake School

Santa Cruz, California


“Aznar tackles the important issue of how we, as a society, evaluate our technology. With the power to feed the world or to destroy it, technology is worth thinking about.”

Cathy Barlow

Dean, Watson School of Education

University of North Carolina at Wilmington



Technology Challenged is being adopted as a textbook by:

Becker College


University of Advancing Technology


University of California / COSMOS


University of Georgia / syllabus


Technology Challenged

Understanding Our Creations & Choosing Our Future

Written by Miguel F. Aznar


Why to Buy:

  • Enhances technological literacy.

  • Gives a simple strategy for understanding and evaluating any technology

  • Makes sense of rapid change by revealing the underlying patterns in technology's history and future

  • Connects to a middle school curriculum on critical thinking, helping parents and teachers support the learning process

  • Empowers readers to identify and choose technology that is good for them, their community, and our civilization

  • Supports the philanthropic activities of KnowledgeContext, a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit corporation through a portion of the profits from sale of this book.

  • Tells many interesting stories.


About the Book Topic:

Technology has transformed our world from the first stone tools through development of agriculture, writing, printing, global transportation, global communication, computing, genetic engineering, and much more.  When we used the same technology as our parents and their parents, we needed no more than to know how to operate a few objects.  Today, technology's generations pass more quickly than human generations.  Further, our choices in education, career, politics, and health are predicated on rapidly changing technology.  How do we understand enough about our creations that we can make informed choices?  How can we choose our individual and collective future?


Book Description:

Stories from the Hawaiian Bobtail squid's use of bacteria to simulate moonlight to an Australian aboriginal tribe's mythology-based evaluation of axes and canoes illustrate a nine-step strategy for understanding and evaluating any technology.  By painting a big picture view of technology, this book offers context, an antidote to information overload.  From that perspective, it reveals the simple patterns underlying all technology, allowing us to see what does not change in a technological world of rapid change.




Author Information:

Miguel F. Aznar is Executive Director of KnowledgeContext. He is passionate about teaching how to understand and evaluate technology. Mr. Aznar discovered this calling after studying electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California at Berkeley and working as a software engineer (NASA, Amdahl) and management consultant (Ernst & Young, AT&T). He speaks publicly on this issue of technological literacy at conferences and on the media.


Comparative Titles:

None directly comparable, but concepts from the following books are integrated into a more accessible and useful form:

  • Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond, Norton & Company, 1999, ISBN 0393317552, $14.95 (evolution of technology)

  • Connections, James Burke, Little, Brown and Company, 1987, ISBN 0316116726, $23.95 (challenges of predicting technology)

  • The Pinball Effect, James Burke, Little, Brown and Company, 1996, ISBN 0316116025, $23.95 (patterns of change in technology)

  • Beyond Engineering: How Society Shapes Technology, Robert Pool, Oxford University Press, 1997, ISBN 0195107721, $30.00 (roles played in changing technology)

  • Age of Spiritual Machines, Ray Kurzweil, Viking, 1999, ISBN 0670882178, $25.95 (how technology changes)

  • Non-Zero: The Logic of Human Destiny, Robert Wright, Pantheon, 2000, ISBN 0679442529, $27.50 (where technology comes from)


Miguel F. Aznar


800 Brommer Street, Suite 28

Santa Cruz, CA 95062

(831) 465-6513



Table of Contents:

(click on the links below to read the book in HTML format)





Chapter 1: What is technology?

  • Tools that extend our ability

  • Systems: The Intangible Levers

  • Information: The invisible ingredient

  • Not applied science

Chapter 2: Why do we use it?

  • Communication

  • Health

  • Entertainment

  • Organization

Chapter 3: Where does it come from?

  • Other Technology

  • Dense populations

  • Specialization

  • Plan or Accident

  • Protection

Chapter 4: How does is work?

  • Energy: the muscle behind technology

  • Organization Part 1: Centralized vs. Distributed

  • Control: like riding a bicycle

  • Information: algorithms

  • Organization Part 2: Repetition & Layers

  • Emergent behavior

Chapter 5: How does it change?

  • Disappearing Technology

  • Necessity’s Mother & Daughter

  • Advantage, Compatibility, Risk, Visibility

  • Autocatalysis

  • Evolution & Memes

Chapter 6: How does it change us?

  • Methuselah’s Burden

  • Working up the Pyramid

  • Our Perception of Reality

  • The Human Species

Chapter 7: How do we change it?

  • Engineer

  • Govern

  • Promote

  • Manage

  • Invest

  • Question

Chapter 8: What are its costs & benefits?

  • Enabler vs. Crutch

  • Complexity vs. Predictability

  • Catastrophic vs. Chronic

  • Control vs. Freedom

  • Progress vs. Obsolescence

Chapter 9: How do we evaluate it?

  • Survival

  • Ritual

  • Power

  • Authority

  • Economic

  • Ecologic

The Tao of technology


Going Beyond this Book






The 99 most commonly appearing words are sized proportionally to frequency of occurrence:

(click on the graphic above to go to Amazon's concordance page, which hyperlinks each word to an online version of the book)



 2010 KnowledgeContext


Teaching Young People to Think About Technology