10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires (Kindle Edition)If you have even a passing interest in the internet or communications technology in general, this book will provide a fascinating read for you.
The book has a grand theory about the cycle of communications technology, but the mainstay of the work is a revetting history of the subject.
If you have read and enjoyed any of Bill Bryson's work on science and technology then this book will give you more of the same.
It is packed full of the eccentric characters which populate Bryson's work, from visionaries to profiteers, despots to anarchists, all drawn with the same eye for detail and great story telling (although admittedly this book is not intended to be as humorous as Bryson's work).
Even if you are uninterested in the grand theory which this book sets out, then the history of the subject matter makes it a hugely enjoyable and a worthwhile read.
But this book goes beyond a simple history, it introduces a fascinating theory about the cycle of communications technology.
Timothy Wu focuses on disruptive technologies and how throughout modern history, such technologies have either been suppressed or subsumed (eaten up - the Kronos effect) by the owners of existing technology.
From telephone empires to movie studios, the radio network and cable TV this cycle is repeated again and again, and often the vested interests in the old technologies go to quite shocking lengths to destroy, or in some case steal away, the ideas that pose a threat to them.
For example, did you know that Bell Labs invented an answerphone in the 1930s but kept the details secret because the management felt it would be a threat to their phone business? Did you know the inventor / discoverer of FM radio had his technology suppresses by the powerfully radio oligarchy?
The book concludes by looking at the internet, seeing how it too is a disruptive technology which threatens the strangle hold of the ancien regime, and suggests that the vested interests of the old world threaten even now to subsume this new medium (given that it is now too late to suppress it!).
The theory is remarkably persuasive as it is backed up with so many historical examples and raises many troubling and thought-provoking questions.
So, if you are reading this review on Amazon, you are probably interested in the internet enough to be directly affected by the ideas in this book. Stop reading this review and buy it!
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