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Nicholas Carr's bestselling The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google
Just released: second paperback edition, with new afterword
"The best read so far about the significance of the shift to cloud computing." -Financial Times
The Big Switch is Pulitzer Prize-nominee Nicholas Carr's sweeping and often disturbing look at how a new computer revolution – "the cloud" – is reshaping business, society and culture.
A hundred years ago, companies stopped generating their own power with steam engines and dynamos and plugged into the newly built electric grid. The cheap power pumped out by electric utilities didn’t just change how businesses operate. It set off a chain reaction of economic and social transformations that brought the modern world into existence. Today, a similar revolution is under way. Hooked up to the Internet’s global computing grid, massive information-processing plants have begun pumping data and software code into our homes and businesses. This time, it’s computing that’s turning into a utility.
The shift is already remaking the computer industry, bringing new competitors like Google and Salesforce.com to the fore and threatening stalwarts like Microsoft and Dell. But the effects will reach much further. Cheap, utility-supplied computing will ultimately change society as profoundly as cheap electricity did. We can already see the early effects — in the shift of control over media from institutions to individuals, in debates over the value of privacy, in the export of the jobs of knowledge workers, even in the growing concentration of wealth. As information utilities expand, the changes will only broaden, and their pace will only accelerate.
Nicholas Carr, author of the acclaimed The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, is the ideal guide to explain this historic upheaval. Writing in a lucid, engaging style, he weaves together history, economics and technology to describe how and why computers are changing — and what it means for all of us. From the software business to the newspaper business, from job creation to community formation, from national defense to personal identity, The Big Switch provides a panoramic view of the new world being conjured from the circuits of the “World Wide Computer.”
Acclaim for The Big Switch:
"Future Shock for the Web-apps era ... Compulsively readable - for nontechies, too."
"Magisterial ... Draws an elegant and illuminating parallel between the late-19th-century electrification of America and today's computing world. "
"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. "
"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
"... widely considered to be the most influential book so far on the cloud computing movement."
-The Christian Science Monitor
"The first serious examination of 'Web 2.0' in book form."
"Carr's book is persuasive, well-researched, authoritative and convincing. He's reasonable in his conclusions and moderate in his extrapolations. This is an exceedingly good book. "
"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. "
-New York Post
"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. "
"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
"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
"Mr. Carr is always interesting."
"Carr is one of the more cogent writers on the economic and social implications of the changes sweeping through corporate data centres."
"'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."
"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."
"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."
"Considered and erudite."
"Carr stimulates, provokes and entertains superbly."
"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 (starred review)
"Highly interesting. Carr presents a persuasive historical analogy that computer utilities will replace in-house computer facilities as electrical utilities replaced in-house generators. . . . The Big Switch impressively discusses the positive and negative aspects of the coming 'World Wide Computer.' "
-Thomas P. Hughes, Emeritus Mellon Professor of the History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania, and author of Human-Built World and American Genesis
"Nick Carr gets it right. There's a big switch coming. Personal computers are over; instead our lives will soon center around one planetary World Wide Computer. Carr lays out scores of reasons why he, and we, should dread this inevitable future. But even for those of us who can't wait for its arrival, this profile of the emerging machine by a very competent reporter is the kind of evidence every future-oriented person should read."
-Kevin Kelly, author of Out of Control and New Rules for the New Economy
"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."
"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."
"An enjoyable and thought-provoking read."
"The Big Switch explains the future of computing in terms so simple I can understand them."
-Ed Cone, Greensboro News-Record