Book Review, “The Big Switch” by Nicholas Carr

I recently read “The Big Switch, Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google” by Nicholas Carr. I enjoyed the book, even though I’m a technologist who actually thinks he understands a lot about how the Internet and its applications work. Carr does a nice job of comparing the “utilification” of computing with the conversion of the electrical power industry from locally generated and managed power points to the grid of today (though interestingly, we’re now seeing more “point” generation — personal power. Many technologies seem to oscillate between centralization and decentralization, just like computing). He highlights the disruptive nature of internet technologies and points out that utility computing and ubiquitous access will change the world and the economy in profound and not completely predictable ways. After all, many of the technology decisions of the early industrial age looked sound but were quickly rendered obsolete — technological obsolescence is not a phenomenon of the computing age alone.

Carr’s “big picture” approach is good for those of us who labor in technology, especially in management positions, to help us keep in our minds exactly how much we don’t know and can’t predict, except with 20/20 hindsight. This is also a good book for the educated layman trying to understand the macro-level impacts of computing on society. Carr could have speculated more on the economic and societal implications, but he leaves that as an exercise for the reader 😉 . While it’s not in the same league as Friedman’s “The World is Flat,” this book complements Friedman’s themes very nicely.

Here’s an Amazon link to the book…

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