- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co.; Reprint edition (16 Jan. 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393333949
- ISBN-13: 978-0393333947
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2 x 21.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 895,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google Paperback – 16 Jan 2009
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"Mr. Carr is always interesting." -- Washington Times "Lucid and accessible ... [Carr's] account is one of high journalism, rather than of a social or computer scientist. His book should be read by anyone interested in the shift from the world wide web and its implications for industry, work and our information environment." -- Times Higher Education Supplement "Mr. Carr's provocations are destined to influence CEOs and the boards and investors that support them as companies grapple with the constant change of the digital age." -- The Wall Street Journal "Considered and erudite." -- The Telegraph "The first serious examination of 'Web 2.0' in book form." -- The Register "The Big Switch is thought-provoking and an enjoyable read, and the history of American electricity that makes up the first half of the book is riveting stuff. Further, the book broadly reinforces the point that it's always wise to distrust utopias, technological or otherwise." -- The New York Post "Persuasive, well-researched, authoritative and convincing....He's reasonable in his conclusions and moderate in his extrapolations. This is an exceedingly good book." -- Techworld "The Big Switch ... will almost certainly influence a large audience. Carr persuasively argues that we're moving from the era of the personal computer to an age of utility computing - by which he means the expansion of grid computing, the distribution of computing and storage over the Internet, until it accounts for the bulk of what the human race does digitally. And he nicely marshals his historical analogies, detailing how electricity delivered over a grid supplanted the various power sources used during most of the 19th century ... I also suspect he's right to suggest that in a decade or so, many things we now believe permanent will have disappeared." -- Technology Review "While technological innovation is largely the creation of idealistic geniuses spurred on by utopian visions, Carr points out, it is rapidly co-opted by the incumbent in power and turned to other purposes ... Technology may be the ultimate tool or even the ultimate psychedelic, but do we really want to become utterly dependent on something about which we have essentially no say? And as for those Utopian visions, do we really share them?" -- San Francisco Chronicle "Magisterial ... Draws an elegant and illuminating parallel between the late-19th-century electrification of America and today's computing world." -- Salon "Carr's analysis of the recent past is clear and insightful as he examines common computing tools that are embedded in the Internet instead of stored on a hard drive, including Google and YouTube." -- Publishers Weekly "Nick Carr has written a meditation on the loss of the old when confronted by the new, the loss of the incumbents' advantage when history shifts under them, the loss of data control to third parties, and the loss of sovereignty to institutions and other actors we can't control." -- Public CIO "[#4 on Newsweek's "Fifty Books For Our Times":] You've heard of 'cloud computing,' but let's be honest, you really don't know what it means. Or why it's going to change everything." -- Newsweek "Carr may take a somewhat apocalyptic view of the vast technological and social issues which a move to utility computing will raise, not least those of privacy, ownership and access, but he makes a compelling case for its desirability in a world where the network is pervasive. Whether we go gently into this world is, of course, up to us, but with the insight offered here we will at least be prepared to understand the consequences of our choices earlier in the process rather than later." -- New Humanist "A leading technological rabble-rouser prognosticates a world beyond Web 2.0. [Carr's] broader sociological observations are punctuated by a pair of ominously prescient chapters about privacy issues and cyberterrorism." -- Kirkus Reviews "Carr stimulates, provokes and entertains superbly." -- Information Age "The Big Switch explains the future of computing in terms so simple I can understand them." -- Ed Cone - Greensboro News-Record "An enjoyable and thought-provoking read." -- GigaOm "Carr is one of the more cogent writers on the economic and social implications of the changes sweeping through corporate data centres." -- Financial Times "'Information is born free, but everywhere is found in chains.' So Nicholas Carr-in his latest and characteristically stimulating challenge to conventional thinking about technology-might have paraphrased Rousseau." -- Democracy "[W]idely considered to be the most influential book so far on the cloud computing movement." -- Christian Science Monitor "Quick, clear read on an important theme ... Scary? No doubt. But as we prepare for the World Wide Computer, it's not a bad idea to consider its dark side." -- Business Week "Starred Review. Carr created a huge rift in the business community with his first book, Does IT Matter?, challenging the conventional wisdom that information technology provides a competitive advantage. Here he examines the future of the Internet, which he says may one day completely replace the desktop PC as all computing services are delivered over the Net as a utility, the Internet morphing into one giant 'World Wide Computer.' ... Carr warns that the downside of the World Wide Computer may mean further concentration of wealth for the few, and the loss of jobs, privacy, and the depth of our culture." -- Booklist
An analysis of an evolving trend in computer-based business makes predictions about what will be its role in transforming economics and culture, in an account that evaluates how the shift from private computer systems to Internet-based networks has initiated a major revolution that will impact all components of society. Reprint. 25,000 first printi
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Having made this connection (with the implication that utility computing will occasion a revolution of similar magnitude), he goes on to look at aspects of the digital economy ranging from the types of jobs it creates (or, rather, doesn't) to the way in which consumers are able to unbundle their purchases (e.g. individual songs instead of albums, pages and stories instead of newspapers). He considers some of the effects on privacy - how the information that we volunteer about ourselves can be harvested for uses that we aren't aware of, including targeted marketing. In this context, he quotes (p206) an executive who brilliantly compares traditional and internet advertising, saying the former is like dropping bombs on cities (when the company can't be sure who gets hit or missed) whilst the latter is like making "lots of spearheads, and then [getting] people to impale themselves". Finally, he looks at the way in which our connection to the internet is turning it into a "thinking machine" (in the way, for example, we unconsciously help Google to optimize its searches).
This is all fascinating stuff, cleverly teased out by an skillful and intelligent author using an engaging style. He reaches a brilliant apogee at the end of the book with a meditation on the difference between the light of a candle and an electric bulb, which is used to shed light (hah!) on the nature of technological progress (p233): "As older generations die, they take with them their knowledge of what was lost when the new technology arrived, and only the sense of what was gained remains. It's in this way that progress covers its tracks, perpetually refreshing the illusion that where we are is where we were meant to be." Just perfect.
The first part of the book is well worth reading and is an important and accessible contribution to an important subject; the second part of the book isn't.
When it was first written, the Cloud was mostly marketing hot air, but that has now seriously changed and this book gives you a very sound basis for trying to figure out where it is all going and how it may affect you and your business.
Richard Carr's observations about the step change increase in potential that the internet provides for the companies and governments to control people is an important challenge to the widely held view that the internet is liberating customers and citizens.
The chapter on iGod is also a thought provoking.... are we becoming a pancake people?
Carr is clearly excited by the possibilities of `The Cloud' - or the `World Wide Computer' as he insists on repeatedly calling it.
However, he overeggs the parallel with Edison and doesn't seem to appreciate that supplying an IT service is potentially more complex than supplying electricity. In fact like many evangelists he seems blind to any of the Clouds potential flaws, reliability, control, security etc. While some of his comments about the client server model of delivery just demonstrate how little he understands it and will irrite anyone who know a bit about IT.
But he does have some interesting things to say on the web as an instrument of freedom versus control.
Overall even at 200 pages this feels a bit stretched and could probably be condensed into 100. But worth a read none the less.
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