News & Politics

How Sex, Bombs and Burgers Shaped our World

From Skype to robotics, our basest instincts have given us our greatest innovations. An expert explains why.

 Our lives today are more defined by technology than ever before. Thanks to Skype and Google, we can video chat with our family from across the planet. We have robots to clean our floors and satellite TV that allows us to watch anything we want, whenever we want it. We can reheat food at the touch of a button. But without our basest instincts — our most violent and libidinous tendencies — none of this would be possible. Indeed, if Canadian tech journalist Peter Nowak is to be believed, the key drivers of 20th-century progress were bloodlust, gluttony and our desire to get laid.

In his new book, “Sex, Bombs and Burgers,” Nowak argues that porn, fast food and the military have completely reshaped modern technology and our relationship to it. He points to inventions like powderized food, which emerged out of the Second World War effort and made restaurant chains like McDonald’s and Dairy Queen possible. He shows how outsourced phone sex lines have helped bring wealth to poor countries, like Guyana. And he explains how pornography helped drive both the home entertainment industry and modern Web technology, like video chat. An entertaining and well-research read, filled with surprising facts, “Sex, Bombs and Burgers” offers a provocative alternate history of 20th-century progress.

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