Vaclav Smil

Invention and Innovation: A Brief History of Hype and Failure -- Vaclav Smil, Hardcover

$24.95 $17.99 Sale
Shipping calculated at checkout.
Format: Hardcover
174 in stock, ready to ship
From the New York Times-bestselling author, a new volume on the history of human ingenuity--and its attendant breakthroughs and busts.

The world is never finished catching up with Vaclav Smil. In his latest and perhaps most readable book, Invention and Innovation, the prolific author--a favorite of Bill Gates--pens an insightful and fact-filled jaunt through the history of human invention. Impatient with the hype that so often accompanies innovation, Smil offers in this book a clear-eyed corrective to the overpromises that accompany everything from new cures for diseases to AI. He reminds us that even after we go quite far along the invention-development-application trajectory, we may never get anything real to deploy. Or worse, even after we have succeeded by introducing an invention, its future may be marked by underperformance, disappointment, demise, or outright harm.

Drawing on his vast breadth of scientific and historical knowledge, Smil explains the difference between invention and innovation. He then looks at three different types of inventions.

Inventions that failed to dominate as promised:
  • Airships
  • Nuclear fission
  • Supersonic flight

Inventions that turned disastrous:
  • Leaded gasoline
  • DDT
  • Chlorofluorocarbons

Inventions we have long been promised (and that would be highly beneficial):
  • Travel in vacuum (hyperloop)
  • Nitrogen-fixing cereals
  • Nuclear fusion

Finally, he offers a "wish list" of inventions that we most urgently need to confront the staggering challenges of the twenty-first century.

Filled with engaging examples and pragmatic approaches, this book is a sobering account of the folly that so often attends human ingenuity--and how we can, and must, better align our expectations with reality.

Author: Vaclav Smil
Publisher: MIT Press
Published: 02/14/2023
Pages: 232
Binding Type: Hardcover
Weight: 1.05lbs
Size: 9.10h x 6.00w x 1.10d
ISBN: 9780262048057

Review Citation(s):
Kirkus Reviews 10/15/2022
Publishers Weekly 10/24/2022

Product Tags:

Applied Sciences, Hardcover, History, Inventions, MIT Press, Science, Technological forecasting, Technology & Engineering, Vaclav Smil

Find your next favorite

Welcome to Book & Mortar

Explore our extensive collection of contemporary and classic books. From the latest bestsellers to hidden gems, we have something for every book lover. Dive into the world of literature with our curated selection, and let your reading adventure begin.

Contact form

Fill this out if you need to get in touch with me!