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VINE VOICEon 11 April 2014
I realise that this book is written by two supermen of our digital era, no doubt with the help of considerable professional support. It's dazzling with information and makes a ringing endorsement of the hype of our digital age. To criticise it will be to generate no doubt a host of unfavourable comment and accusations of being mired in the past. But honestly, although the research on the technologies themselves is excellent - full marks here - this is so framed in adulation it becomes just another overhyped unrealistic catalogue of how technology will save the world.

Technology is brilliant – I love my iPad, the kettle that makes my coffee that's been brought to me by a fair trade value stream all the way from Brazil, the fact that I can post this review into the Internet and it can be read by millions if they wish, that I can talk by Skype to my friends and work colleagues in Australia, America or Denmark, and all at the same time. I love pacemakers and cybernetically controlled automobiles that auto drive. I've made a career in technology since my 20s and worked with many of the world's leading technology firms as a consultant.

But for those reasons I know how easy it is to turn technology into the wonder working Merlin, the magician that will solve all problems, when it cannot and won't.

Let me tell you what the generation of technology pioneers in the 70s and early 80s of last century genuinely believed (I worked for IBM at the time). We believe that in 30 years time, by the beginning of the 21st-century, most people would not need to work more than three days a week and our standard of living would be much greater. Why was this? It was because the computer and robotics were going to remove the necessity to work. Moreover the work that we do would be far more interesting because all of the mundane stuff would be done by computers. People really believed this: is that your experience today?

The Internet is changing the world, but it is for both good and ill. It will create no more community than the telephone or the neighbourhood grapevine. Community is created by socially minded human beings using the means at their disposal. The technologies that we create are created by us, reflecting our natures and by and are used by us reflecting our natures. Whether you watch porn or study chemistry, read the classics online or dump your latest "I am now having coffee in Starbucks" posting to Facebook, depends on you not the Internet. That's why some Twitter feeds are interesting and others not. The Internet will make it easier to have different collections of community and it will provide new games and modes of interaction. But playing bridge with someone in Australia will create no more community than playing bridge in the bridge club down the road or at home. The Internet will make it easier to find scattered people who share your interest perhaps, and this will work as well for the paedophile as a student of alchemy, but you will probably make more intense connections if you meet face-to-face in a physical society.

Technology may help us to solve environmental and energy problems – I certainly hope so. But technology will only really be effective in this sphere when human beings find a right relationship with nature. It is the wrong relationship with nature, not technology, that led to the abuse and destruction of the environment. We didn't care enough when we saw the dying. If we now care enough to want to create technologies to put it right, let us hope that it is because we value nature for itself and not simply to create the next round of control.

So, please read the book for the list of all the things that are likely to be happening – and many of the technologies are either already here or will come, if not when forecast, then before too much longer. But it's down to us what we do with them as to whether they make the world a better place or not. Hyping technology does neither it nor us a service.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 June 2013
This book comes with impressive credentials. The authors have excellent technology and foreign policy experience. The pair of quotes on the cover are from people with their own brilliance too - Richard Branson and Walter Isaacson. The subject - how digital technology is changing nearly every aspect of our life - is one that fascinates me. So why did I feel getting to the end of it was all rather a slog?

Because it's written in a very flat style. The prose is plain - in a workmanlike rather than Ernest Hemingway sense. The colourful examples are rare and the personal stories to engage the reader few and far between. It's almost as if they had read a Malcolm Gladwell book and gone for a writing style as far different from him as possible.

The other reason that I found it a bit of a slog is that there is nothing much very new in their forecasting. If you've already consumed many words on this topic, it is mostly all very familiar territory. Overall, the book is rather like a large collection of expert, slightly dry, op-ed pieces on the digital world strung together. Each individually is well worth a read, but collectively you would hope for a bit more spark and liveliness.

Conversely, if you haven't, then the book certainly does a good job at thoroughly covering all the angles and mentioning all the main trends. It is also interesting to read what two people so deeply immersed in Google have to say about privacy (it's a crucial part of the future, they argue).

In summary then, the book is a comprehensive summary of existing predictions and trends rather than something that will wow you with original insight or fascinate you with the way the tale is told.
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on 8 March 2014
Saw the book by incidence. Flipping through the cover one could easy have thought the authors had received a Nobel price for the book judging the number of endorsements from Henry Kissinger, Walter Isaacson, Richard Branson, Bill Clinton and a long list of other dignitaries. To some degree I did what one shouldn't which is judge a book by its cover.

Eric and Jared has done a good job in explaining the inter-net's ability to in Thomas Friedman's words - "flatten the world". Not only has digital technology served as a tools, but weapons as well.

Not that there is a lot of eye-popping information however the authors have done a great job in tying together the events that the world has seen over the last decade. A good example is the social effect communications lines were used during the Arab Spring. Here it is not just how Facebook and Twitter was used, but the causes, effects and consequences were as well.

Still have a few pages to go and though a slightly abbreviated version might have been good I will recommended the book.
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on 23 May 2013
It says a lot about the digital age that the two authors who have been privileged to be exposed to so much in the world come up with so little. Some general musings about how technology will influence daily lives followed by some rather simplistic interpretations of how this will affect social and economic change. One of their points rings true: in the digital age people will be promoted (in both senses of the word) beyond any substance that would merit it. Disappointing.
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on 24 May 2013
Shortly after reading the book, I saw two separate articles in the New York Times The first announced a joint venture with NASA in quantum computing to be used in amongst other things, facial recognition. The second was the roll-out of Google glasses, with a disclaimer about proper protection of privacy. Credible denial? No. The cruel fact is that the cyber war between China and the West is well underway. Schmidt and Cohen have with stark clarity introduced us to our present - and to our immediate future that lays out a stark vision of a world where personal rights become meaningless, privacy is a memory by old people and there is no boundary between private and public life. Any person concerned with the politics of urban life, intellectual freedom and the difference between knowledge and wisdom should read this book and ponder the implications for public policy concerning the rights of the individual, intellectual freedom and proper structure of education.
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on 18 May 2014
A mixture of hard-headed analysis and naivety. States are good (democratic) or bad (tyrannies). The USA can be relied upon 'to properly calibrate' the balance between ensuring public safety and preserving privacy'. As for Google itself, 'our business depends on the trust of our users', so everything's OK. Plenty of anecdote but little evidence. No historical perspective, simply a distinction between BC (before connectivity) and AD (after digital?)
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on 1 April 2014
Written by two people who seem to consider only the impact of computers on the world, this is interesting but it needs a does of reality. How will the world provide the resources to build mobile phones for everyone, to service them, provide electricity everywhere - and deal with issues like food, water, and climate change. Somewhat blinkered to say the least
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on 24 June 2013
with the prism scandal in full bloom this book is an awful exercise in deceit. no mention of all email being shifted, screened and categorized - only the suggestion that there was this risk ten years ago that security industry would try to get accesss to it. we know better now.
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on 12 August 2013
Julian Assange

"This book is a balefully seminal work in which neither author has the language to see, much less to express, the titanic centralizing evil they are constructing. "What Lockheed Martin was to the 20th century," they tell us, "technology and cybersecurity companies will be to the 21st." Without even understanding how, they have updated and seamlessly implemented George Orwell's prophecy. If you want a vision of the future, imagine Washington-backed Google Glasses strapped onto vacant human faces -- forever. Zealots of the cult of consumer technology will find little to inspire them here, not that they ever seem to need it. But this is essential reading for anyone caught up in the struggle for the future, in view of one simple imperative: Know your enemy."

Scary book.
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on 22 January 2016
Informative, well written, endorsements by influential people even though I don't like to be influenced by reviews.
I liked this book, schmidt and Cohen have written a book covering a wide range of topics. Read it and educate yourself.
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