In Alex Gibney’s 2015 documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, a number of technology whizzes—Jobs included—make solemn pronouncements about how they expect Apple products to change the world. The validity of these remarks is arguable: much as I like my iPhone and would not want to go without it, I would not claim that it has changed my life so much as it has simplified tasks that I previously handled in different, less efficient ways. The comments in the movie stand as instances of the technological fallacy: the idea that technologies inevitably alter the development of the societies that employ them.

Mark Kurlansky is an ardent opponent of that idea, and he spends a goodly portion of his new book, Paper: Paging through History, refuting the proposition and demonstrating the means by which societies have adapted...


New to The New Criterion?

Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.

Popular Right Now