Axemaker's Gift

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Book: THE AXEMAKER'S GIFT. James Burke and Robert Ornstein. Grosset/Putnam, 1995



"At the close of this century of creativity and discovery, humanists and scientists alike wonder: How could human beings in all their brilliance -- those "axemakers" with the genius to invent, lead, inspire, heal, design -- have brought the world to the brink of distruction?

The answers can be found in The Axemaker's Gift, an imaginative and brilliantly informed double-edged history of human culture. James Burke, a leading expert on the interaction of technology and society, and Robert Ornstein, a pioneer in charting the evolution of consciousness, show how the interaction between innovation and the brain has continually reshaped the world and, more important, the way we think.

Using the whole of human history and Western culture as its canvas, this magnificent book shows how, at each major stage of innovation, from the first stone axe to the supercomputers of today's world, those few with the capacity for sequential analysis (the axemakers) generated technologies that gave them the power with which to control and shape the rest of their community. The other, older kinds of knowledge, born of intuition and the brain's multiple nonverbal talents, were undervalued and largely ignored. Now, the authors say, the cumulative effects of axemaker technology have brought us to the point where it is possible -- and imperative for our survival -- to bring back into use those ancient forms of knowledge, still resident in the non-axemaker cultures of the modern world.

Once in an era, a book comes along that changes the way we think about ourselves, our culture, and our future. Brilliant, radical, and extraordinary in its range, The Axemakers Gift poses the right questions at a critical moment, and begins to find the right answers. It offers a sophisticated and original way to recapture hope for the future." (