Efficient Frontier
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William J. Bernstein

Over the past decade, I've written (among other books) A Splendid Exchange, a history of global trade, and most recently, Masters of the Word, an exploration of how communication tools shaped human history. This new book is a wide-ranging narrative history of the human race viewed through the kaleidoscopic lens of communications technology.

Among the book's many narratives:

  • How the first writing systems in Mesopotamia and Egypt, because they were so complex, could be mastered by only a privileged elite who used this unique skill of literacy to assemble large, despotic city states and the world's first empires.

  • How the development of progressively simpler alphabetic systems in the Eastern Mediterranean region allowed ever larger percentages of ordinary people to learn them. The final result, the Greek alphabet, could be grasped so easily that it fostered the dawn of democracy in Greece.

  • How Gutenberg actually changed the world. He didn't invent movable type, and he certainly didn't invent the printing press. The technology he developed, rather, was yet more subtle and powerful.

  • How the Refomation was not effected by Luther the fiery preacher and brilliant theologian, but rather by Luther the publisher.

  • How the fall of the Soviet Union resulted, in large part, from a colossal error in radio production.

  • How the Internet isn't destroying our children's academic performance, rewiring our brains, making us stupid,  destroying investigative journalism, and won't produce democracy in the Arab world, but will  likely make genocide less frequent.

The Introduction (plus the first half of Chapter 1) are available online, compliments of Grove/Atlantic Press.  You can also listen to an audio of my book talk (Seattle Town Hall, April 2013). If these whet your appetite, you will find Masters of the Word on sale at Amazon.com in both hard copy and Kindle, and in book stores around the country.

Bought the book? Found a typo? Report it to motw "at" efficientfrontier.com and you will receive a hearty metaphorical pat on the back from the author.

Copyright 2013, William J. Bernstein. All rights reserved.

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