Living in the Labyrinth of Technology


539 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-4432-8
DDC 303.48'3




Reviewed by Jeffrey Moon

Jeffrey Moon is head of the Maps, Data, and Government Information
Centre at Queen’s University.


Following on the heels of The Labyrinth of Technology (2000), this book
takes another look at the ways people and technology interact. The
earlier work focused on preventive strategies to improve outcomes
associated with technological development. In this detailed and
well-researched book, Vanderburg explores “where we are taking science
and technology, and where science and technology are taking us.”

The author describes several stages of human development and the
“megaprojects” they achieved. The first, homo logos, associated
names, meanings, and values with elements of the natural world around
them (megaproject one). The second, homo societas, established “a
cultural approach to life,” developing societies and putting some
distance between human groups and nature (megaproject two). Emerging
from traditional societies were “mass societies and urban habitats”
that completely transformed our relationship with nature. Out of this
third megaproject arose homo economicus and its late 20th-century
successor, homo informaticus. It is this third stage that deals with the
tensions and interconnections between culture, technology, and the
biosphere. Vanderburg uses practical examples to examine our experiences
in and perceptions of the world around us, and how technology is
changing both. For instance, he compares the development of the Model T
Ford and the Mustang as an adaptation to a new way of “knowing and

On this note, Vanderburg posits that technology has left us “torn
between a knowing and doing embedded in experience and a knowing and
doing separated from experience.” This is a complex argument to make,
and the author admits the possibility that he could be “dead wrong.”
Such a concession may be misplaced modesty given the depth of research
and the breadth of the arguments presented. Vanderburg draws upon a wide
range of sources (witness 42 pages of notes) and disciplines. The book
is well indexed, seasoned with accessible examples and interesting
historical footnotes, and organized into three main parts along the
lines of the stages described above. While heavy going in places (at
least for this reader), Living in the Labyrinth of Technology is a
worthwhile read for followers of the ongoing technology debate we’re
all living, whether we know it or not.


Vanderburg, Willem H., “Living in the Labyrinth of Technology,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024,