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The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google Paperback – 25 Jun 2013

3.9 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (25 Jun. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039334522X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393345223
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 292,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


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

About the Author

Nicholas Carr is the author of Does IT Matter? The former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, he has written for The New York Times, the Financial Times, Wired and other publications. Author blog:

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Nick Carr's publisher was kind enough to send me a copy of his new book, "The Big Switch: Rewiring the world, from Edison to Google". I have been reading the book on and off for the last few days. Overall, the The Big Switch is a very pleasant, thought provoking and easy read.

The book is essentially two books in one. In the "first" book, Carr discuss the move to "utility computing" (grid-based, aka cloud computing) and goes on to describe a number of historical analogies on how electricity utilities and grids were first introduced during the last century. The second "book" is made up of a series of essays on the social, moral and policy implications of our digital world. Though well researched, I found the first part rather boring.

With regards to utility computing, (Software virtualisation. Data Centre consolidation. IP connectivity. ITIL processes, hardware standardisation. Shared IT Services model). The idea sounds great and more and more enterprises are seriously starting to think about moving to this model for the future.

In the "second" book, (which I found very thought provoking) Carr, explores areas such as privacy, security and "market of one" opportunities and risks. He concludes that we are heading into a new era:

"In the years ahead, more and more of the information-processing tasks that we rely on, at home and at work, will be handled by big data centres located out on the Internet. The nature and economics of computing will change as dramatically as the nature and economics of mechanical power changed with the rise of electric utilities in the early years of the last century. The consequences for society - for the way we live, work, learn, communicate, entertain ourselves, and even think - promise to be equally profound.
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Format: Hardcover
The Big Switch is a book about the future of computing but it begins in the past with the production of electricity. We are given a history of how technology changed the way in which humanity manipulates matter, and how this drove us to need to handle information in ever more sophisticated ways. This is an extremely interesting story and Carr does a good job of showing how these changes affected society.

This history is interesting in its own right but Carr's reasons for going into it are to shed light on our present. The analogy is made between the change in businesses in the past being responsible for generating their own power to outside companies doing it for them, and today's world, where we increasingly don't need to think about maintaining our own software and computing systems. Today we very rarely need to think about IT, often doing much of our computing online and never needing to maintain the software ourselves. More and more this is done by outside agencies, the most obvious of which is Google.

While history is a good way to analyse our present times, Carr understands that no historical analogy is perfect. The similarities between the revolution in providing power and the revolution in computing are very interesting but so are the differences. This is what Carr focuses on in the second half of his book. His thoughts on the way the Internet is changing the world both socially and economically, are well contrasted to the way electricity revolutionised our lives. He makes the point that in some ways new technology and change is for the better, while in others it is for the worse.

I found this second half to be very thought provoking and disturbing at times. We are often given to understand that the Internet is a force for freedom.
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By Jeremy Walton TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 21 May 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book looks at the way in which the provision of computing is moving away from our desktops to more remote locations which are accessed via the internet. In this day and age, that would be identified as the transition to cloud computing, and the notion that much of what we do (such as, for example, searching on Google or writing this review) is powered by compute resources which we don't know (or care) about has become pervasive. Written in 2008, when this was a comparatively new idea, this book draws the analogy between computing as a utility and the revolution which occurred when industry stopped generating its own power with steam engines and plugged into a shared electric grid. Carr notes how the economies of scale associated with the grid made it easier and cheaper for more factories and homes to connect to it and, in a bravura passage (pp 89-102) shows how modern society owes its shape to the far-reaching effects of the provision of cheap electric power in apparently unlimited quantities.

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.
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