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The definitive guide to the cloud computing revolution. Hailed as "the most influential book so far on the cloud computing movement" (Christian Science Monitor), The Big Switch makes a simple and profound statement: Computing is turning into a utility, and the effects of this transition will ultimately change society as completely as the advent of cheap electricity did. In The definitive guide to the cloud computing revolution. Hailed as "the most influential book so far on the cloud computing movement" (Christian Science Monitor), The Big Switch makes a simple and profound statement: Computing is turning into a utility, and the effects of this transition will ultimately change society as completely as the advent of cheap electricity did. In a new chapter for this edition that brings the story up-to-date, Nicholas Carr revisits the dramatic new world being conjured from the circuits of the "World Wide Computer."


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The definitive guide to the cloud computing revolution. Hailed as "the most influential book so far on the cloud computing movement" (Christian Science Monitor), The Big Switch makes a simple and profound statement: Computing is turning into a utility, and the effects of this transition will ultimately change society as completely as the advent of cheap electricity did. In The definitive guide to the cloud computing revolution. Hailed as "the most influential book so far on the cloud computing movement" (Christian Science Monitor), The Big Switch makes a simple and profound statement: Computing is turning into a utility, and the effects of this transition will ultimately change society as completely as the advent of cheap electricity did. In a new chapter for this edition that brings the story up-to-date, Nicholas Carr revisits the dramatic new world being conjured from the circuits of the "World Wide Computer."

30 review for The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google

  1. 4 out of 5

    Omar Halabieh

    Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful: 1- "What made large-scale electric utilities possible was a series of scientific and engineering breakthroughs - in electricity generation and transmission as well as in the design of electric motors - but what ensured their triumph was not technology but economics." 2- "At a purely economic level, the similarities between electricity and information technology are even more striking. Both are what economists call general p Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful: 1- "What made large-scale electric utilities possible was a series of scientific and engineering breakthroughs - in electricity generation and transmission as well as in the design of electric motors - but what ensured their triumph was not technology but economics." 2- "At a purely economic level, the similarities between electricity and information technology are even more striking. Both are what economists call general purpose technologies...they can both be delivered efficiently over a network." 3- "If the electric dynamo was the machine that fashioned twentieth-century society - that made us who we are - the information dynamo is the machine that will fashion the new society of the twenty-first century." 4- "What the fiber-optic Internet does for computing is exactly what the alternating current network did for electricity: it makes the location of the equipment unimportant to the user. But it does more than that. Because the internet has been designed to accommodate any type of computer and any form of digital information, it also plays the role of Insull's rotary converter: it allows disparate and formerly incompatible machines to operate together as a single system. It creates harmony out of a cacophony. By providing a universal medium for data transmission and translation, the Net is spurring the creation of centralized computing plants that can serve thousands or millions of customers simultaneously. What companies used to have no choice but to supply themselves, they can now purchase as a service for a simple fee. And that means they can finally free themselves from their digital millwork." 5- "It will take many years for the utility computing system to mature. Like Edison and Insull before them, the pioneers of the new industry will face difficult business and technical challenges. They'll need to figure out the best ways to meter and set prices for different kinds of services. They'll need to become more adept at balancing loads and managing diversity factors as demand grows. They'll need to work with governments to establish effective regulatory regimes. They'll need to achieve new levels of security, reliability, and efficiency. Most daunting of all they'll need to convince big companies to give up control over their private systems and begin to dismantle the data centers into which they've plowed so much money. But these challenges will be met just as they were met before. The economics of computing have changed, and it's the new economics that are now guiding progress. the PC age is giving way to a new era: the utility age." 6- "Virtualization allows companies - or the utilities that serve them - to regain the high capacity utilization that characterized the mainframe age while gaining even more flexibility that they had during the PC age. It offers the best of both worlds." 7- "Some of the old-line companies will succeed in making the switch to the new model of computing; others will fail. But all of them would be wise to study the examples of General Electric and Westinghouse. A hundred years ago, both these companies were making a lot of money selling electricity production components and systems to individual companies. That business disappeared as big utilities took over electricity supply. But GE and Westinghouse were able to reinvent themselves. They became leading suppliers of generators and other equipment to the new utilities, and they also operated or invested in utilities themselves. Most important of all, they built vast new businesses supplying electric appliances to consumers - businesses that only became possible after the arrival of large scale electric utilities." 8- "When applications have no physical form, when they can be delivered as digital services over a network, the constraints disappear. Computing is also much more modular than electricity generation. Not only can applications be provided by different utilities, but even the basic building blocks of computing - data storage, data processing, data transmission - can be broken up into different services supplied from different locations by different companies. Modularity reduces the likelihood that the new utilities will form service monopolies, and it gives us, as the users of utility computing, a virtually unlimited array of options." 9- "Not only will the Internet tend to divide people with different views, in other words, it will also tend to magnify the differences." 10- "All technological change is generational change. The full power and consequence of a new technology are unleashed only when those who have grown up with it become adults and begin to push their outdated parents to the margins. As the 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."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Randy

    Reason for inclusion on Reading List: (1-2 paragraphs). Background on future computing and networking concepts, looking toward possible directions of computing and information systems. Brief synopsis : (1-2 paragraphs). Carr explores the movement from ‘hard drive’ computing of the desktop to ‘cloud’ computing of the night, how our servers and operating systems will be run by net applications in the future, not by programs on a clumsy desktop. Mirrors the same revolutionary movement of power sourc Reason for inclusion on Reading List: (1-2 paragraphs). Background on future computing and networking concepts, looking toward possible directions of computing and information systems. Brief synopsis : (1-2 paragraphs). Carr explores the movement from ‘hard drive’ computing of the desktop to ‘cloud’ computing of the night, how our servers and operating systems will be run by net applications in the future, not by programs on a clumsy desktop. Mirrors the same revolutionary movement of power sources from site-generated sources like steam and water wheels to the utility sourced electrical grid. Kind of work defined by basic elements (character, plot, setting, language, theme)—what elements are foregrounded? How do they fit together?: (2-4 paragraphs) A brief and tight exposition of the movement of crucial business systems from micro private sources to macro general sources and efficiencies gained by moving to larger economies of scale. Kind of work defined by structure—how is it constructed? (1-2 paragraphs). Carr starts with Burden’s Wheel, a massive water wheel that quickly became obsolete with the onset of steam power and then the subsequent movement to electrical power. He follows Edison’s privately sold generators and then General Electric’s optimizing of AC generation and how a movement toward more efficient economies of scale was the driving force behind the building of infrastructure that in turn led to even faster industrial progress. Carr then flips to the current status of computing and IT and maintains that we are on the verge of a similar change. The human mind is already adapting to web life and the digital cable is in place that will enable the final leap to general source utility computing. Kind of work defined by theme, interests--(1-2 paragraphs). This is primarily an informational read where Carr takes past precedent and then details how those precedents can indicate where and how our current business and computing structures will change. Overall effectiveness of piece—its strengths (1-2 paragraphs). A quick and efficient read. Carr effectively illustrates his key concepts without lingering and keeps the reader engaged with anecdotal evidence to go along with the drier material. Where would you alter the text, why, how?—its potential weaknesses (1-2 paragraphs). Carr explains his concept pretty well, but doesn’t exactly break any new ground here. There are questions raised as to where the displaced human workers are to go once their clerking and IT jobs are gone, but no satisfactory theories as to what the great jobless masses are to do with all this excess computing power. Finally, your overall analysis of this piece holistically (1 page maximum) A quick read that concisely illustrates how the movement from micro to macro computing will take place and why along with giving analogous scenarios from previous industrial innovations. Now that you have read and considered this work in the context of your own ongoing research and writing, how does this work inform that work? Carr raises some interesting questions I think are worth exploring. In fact, his book reinforces things that I’ve thought about previously about capitalism, corporate efficiency, and automation. I mean, how does a society occupy a whole mass of people that aren’t required to do anything constructive? What do we do with all that free time?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Will

    Meh. An overly enthusiastic introduction to the concept of 'digital utilities'. For my money, entirely insufficient attention is paid to the potential *costs* of said utility infrastructure. Carr fails to adequately address how these utility services are expected to continue functioning in an era of severely constrained energy resources, not to mention the potential compromises in civil and personal liberties that utility internet services are enabling as we speak. Meh. An overly enthusiastic introduction to the concept of 'digital utilities'. For my money, entirely insufficient attention is paid to the potential *costs* of said utility infrastructure. Carr fails to adequately address how these utility services are expected to continue functioning in an era of severely constrained energy resources, not to mention the potential compromises in civil and personal liberties that utility internet services are enabling as we speak.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Veronica Morfi

    I never thought, when I originally started this book, that I'd love it so much. But, I believe that for a Computer Science student like me, or anyone involved in any kind of IT work, this is a must read. Carr's book presents the present day technology and what's to be expected by compering it to the first steps towards the Electric era. I never could have thought that electricity and computers and networks would have so many similarities while also we get to learn even more from all of their dif I never thought, when I originally started this book, that I'd love it so much. But, I believe that for a Computer Science student like me, or anyone involved in any kind of IT work, this is a must read. Carr's book presents the present day technology and what's to be expected by compering it to the first steps towards the Electric era. I never could have thought that electricity and computers and networks would have so many similarities while also we get to learn even more from all of their differences. The Big Switch is a great book for people that love to know how it all begun and hope's of where technology is heading, while getting really inside the depths and structure of Computers and the World Wide Web. But I also believe that the readers of this book still need to have some IT background, not much, since everything is so well explained but some.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Taylor

    The way we use computers has changed forever. Once, everything you needed for your computer was contained in the plastic or metal casing. You bought software in a box. Now your devices are access points, a way onto the internet. Software gets downloaded or used through your browser. Nicholas Carr sees a parallel between the way computing has changed and is changing and the way electricity moved from Edison’s controlled, private network to a utility. The old and outdated business model was that you The way we use computers has changed forever. Once, everything you needed for your computer was contained in the plastic or metal casing. You bought software in a box. Now your devices are access points, a way onto the internet. Software gets downloaded or used through your browser. Nicholas Carr sees a parallel between the way computing has changed and is changing and the way electricity moved from Edison’s controlled, private network to a utility. The old and outdated business model was that you competed and strove for a monopoly. You wanted to quash your competitors. Now, business rivals must engage in co-opetition: Apple must let Google have apps on iDevices to satisfy consumers; the full power of Microsoft Office is only just being restored now that it’s available on every mobile platform and in the cloud. Often in investing and business, we’re hungry to know what’s going to happen next. We forget that history is an excellent teacher. Warren Buffett, for example, used history to dodge the dot com bubble. As Carr makes his case, he links where computing is and where it’s going to the evolution of the electricity industry. If computing affects your investments or your business, you want to read this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    Ask just about anyone who knows me well and they'll tell you that I could not care less about anything to do with computers. When it comes to computers, I want to know two things: "Is it working?" and "If it's not working, can you make it work?" Everything else goes in one ear and right out the other. So it's a bit surprising that a book about computing made it onto my reading list. I think I stumbled across it on a list of "important books that you absolutely have to read," and it sounded intere Ask just about anyone who knows me well and they'll tell you that I could not care less about anything to do with computers. When it comes to computers, I want to know two things: "Is it working?" and "If it's not working, can you make it work?" Everything else goes in one ear and right out the other. So it's a bit surprising that a book about computing made it onto my reading list. I think I stumbled across it on a list of "important books that you absolutely have to read," and it sounded interesting, so on my list it went, and languished for many years, as many books do because my reading list is very long. All that being said, I thought this book was both very readable and accessible for someone who knows nothing about computers and likes it that way. It kept me engaged, I never felt lost, and I learned a lot. I think where it shines is in the early chapters, where it compares the rise of and evolution of computing to the rise of and evolution of electricity. Later chapters, which dealt issues of where computing could go wrong, were, I felt, a touch histrionic (although not off-base; just the tone was a little histrionic). Also, even though it isn't THAT old, it's amazing how much of it is already out-of-date. It's truly astounding, how rapidly our world is changing!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jim Nielsen

    I love Carr's writing on technology. I read this book over six years after it was published, but most of it was still quite relevant to today's tech scene. He has such a fascinating way of seeing through overhyped technology and revealing the often overlooked effects it has on our humanity. I love Carr's writing on technology. I read this book over six years after it was published, but most of it was still quite relevant to today's tech scene. He has such a fascinating way of seeing through overhyped technology and revealing the often overlooked effects it has on our humanity.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    Excellent. Thorough, well-researched and documented. With a keen critical eye and deep curiosity the author provides a guided tour of the World Wide Computer and the challenges and opportunities it provides for us the minions/neurons/users/abusers of its capabilities.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jesse Wattenbarger

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I read Carr's The Shallows before I read this book. He wrote this one first, and there is some overlap. However, the comparison between the effects of electricity in our society and the Internet on our society were not as pronounced in The Shallows. This book gives an excellent, well-researched, and well-cited history of the adoption of electricity and its evolution into a utility. Carr then aptly compares the gradual evolution of electric utilities to the current evolution of computing that is h I read Carr's The Shallows before I read this book. He wrote this one first, and there is some overlap. However, the comparison between the effects of electricity in our society and the Internet on our society were not as pronounced in The Shallows. This book gives an excellent, well-researched, and well-cited history of the adoption of electricity and its evolution into a utility. Carr then aptly compares the gradual evolution of electric utilities to the current evolution of computing that is happening now. It's a good and valid point. Just as manufacturers and production facilities once generated their own power and eventually moved into the electric grid when AC power and huge centralized power facilities that could distribute electricity far and wide became possible, corporations and small businesses are finding themselves able to make moves from providing their own computing infrastructure to using remote computing as a utility that can be centralized at large data centers and distributed far and wide. In this comparison, faster and wider data connections are like AC current. Carr does a good job of point out the similarities as well as the differences between the two. For example, with electricity the juice is always on the production and distribution side but the application is always on the consumption side. With computing, not only can the data be transferred to the consumption side the actual applications can be transferred as well. Some discussion of the breakdowns in the comparison are provided and welcomed. It's not a perfect comparison, but it is a good and strikingly poignant one. The histories provided are fascinating if a bit familiar to me. I love how Carr chooses really great quotes from poets, writers, and scientists that echo and encapsulate the culture and progress happening at different times in history. "Here is our poetry," wrote an awestruck Ezra Pound when, in 1910, he gazed for the first time upon Manhattan's nighttime illuminations, "for we have pulled down the stars to our will." In "The White City," Carr gives some tasty quotes about the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago which was created and marketed as a testament to the power of electricity and housed hundreds of exhibits of the latest electrical equipment. Carr tells us that a visitor, L. Frank Baum, was so dazzled by the fair that it became the inspiration for the Emerald City in his 1900 book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. So, even if these histories are familiar to me, they hold my interest with a dialogue of the time. Central to Carr's theme in both The Shallows and this book is the transition of one cultural defining technology and the embrace of the next. In The Shallows, this transition was a bit more sinister, that of books to the Internet. It also described an abandoning of books and an embrace of Internet technology and how it would change us. In The Big Switch, we are not abandoning electricity and embracing utility computing. We _are_ however abandoning our personal computing habits and our privacy. These discussions, to me, are the most interesting. He does manage to make some great connections between our abandoning of fire, candle-light and families crowding around one light and heat source at night to discuss the day and practice togetherness to the more autonomous family spurred by electricity. People can spend more time alone and in their own rooms since we have cheap independent power. There are subtle connections between these and his points about computing and the Internet--anti-social ramifications of new technologies. But, Carr is not a doomsayer. He stresses that technology is amoral. He just explores our cultural responses through the citation of studies, artists, and scientists. One of the best parts is where Carr talks about the natural dichotomy of computing and the Internet. Where individuals and early "hippy" computer scientists saw it as purely a revolutionary, anarchistic, or at least democratic tool governments and corporations see it as a tool for control. And, Carr correctly points out that the original and most natural use of a computer is a tool for control. That was, after all, the original point of computing. I can't remember the exact quote, but he quotes someone who says something to the effect of "blindly embracing progress for the sake of progress is folly." We should be cognizant of what we're doing as individuals and as a society. We should be fully aware of the benefits of new technologies and the sacrifices we're making in their wake. In this, he sheds a lot of light, for me on something I've noticed in computer science. He doesn't spell it out discretely, but it does seem as though many of those in my field have been forming a new religion. It is based on the same premise of old religions--that humans are fundamentally flawed. The founders of Google believe this. Many computer scientists seem to believe this. And they believe that the computer, the Internet, and Artificial Intelligence is our salvation. And many of the visions of the young, brilliant, millionaires of today are based on this. And many of them have childish and unchecked goals that in the future will seem as ridiculous as those goals outlined by quack electrical futurists who claimed that electricity would cure all disease by continually pumping the air with charged particles or pumping human bodies with clean electricity. These new futurists claim that the computer will improve our flawed humanity by categorizing the world's information, holding all of our information so we don't have to remember it, and telling us what and how to think.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    I received this book for free from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway! The Big Switch originally hit shelves in 2008. At that time, people were not sure about the whole "cloud computing" movement. This book is the 2013 re-release with a new afterword by the author. And now everyone has embraced the cloud just 5 years later (ok, not everyone, but far more than in 2008). This book is divided into three distinct parts that each focus on a different aspect of the grand move to cloud, or utility, computi I received this book for free from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway! The Big Switch originally hit shelves in 2008. At that time, people were not sure about the whole "cloud computing" movement. This book is the 2013 re-release with a new afterword by the author. And now everyone has embraced the cloud just 5 years later (ok, not everyone, but far more than in 2008). This book is divided into three distinct parts that each focus on a different aspect of the grand move to cloud, or utility, computing. The first section describes the rise of electric power and the eventual switch to centralized utility providers to supply the electric needs of consumers. The author outlines the many parallels between electricity and computing. These parallels include how all-important the industry has become to everyday life. This part of the book was both informative and utterly fascinating. The next part of the book sang the praises of the switch to utility computing and listed many benefits that have already been realized in this infancy period for the cloud. The author also gives many examples of great things that can and will come in the future due to the rise of the cloud. The last section switches gears from the beginnings of the book. The author sends out a dire warning of the many dangers and pitfalls that are becoming a reality in the cloud era. Privacy issues (NSA, right?), dependency on technology, and many more issues are outlined in detail. The new afterword updates the book with all of the new information that has come along in the last 5 years. The author also points out the parts of his predictions that are already coming true and makes a few more prognostications along the way. I get the impression that the author sees the cloud as a grand change in humanity that could be great and wonderful except for the fact that it is being created and implemented by people. So, his overwhelming sense of dread for the future isn't tempered by optimism because the cons may just outweigh the pros in this case. What do I think after reading this? I am in awe of the scope that utility computing already has encompassed. However, I am fearful for the future because we have already seen many of the examples from the author's warnings come to pass and I believe most of them will be a reality over the next few years. So, as much as I like Facebook and Amazon and Goodreads, I am less optimistic for our future in the cloud computing era. I do recommend this to anyone interested in computing, history, futurist predictions, social media, or social politics.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    Author Nicholas Carr's insightful and easily accessible book, "The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from Edison to Google," discusses the changes taking place in business, society, and culture due to the rapid development of computer technology across the globe. Carr uses the electrification of America as a historical reference point to show readers how a new technology can revolutionize every aspect of a society - from factory workers' wages and socioeconomic classes to family cohesion and the so Author Nicholas Carr's insightful and easily accessible book, "The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from Edison to Google," discusses the changes taking place in business, society, and culture due to the rapid development of computer technology across the globe. Carr uses the electrification of America as a historical reference point to show readers how a new technology can revolutionize every aspect of a society - from factory workers' wages and socioeconomic classes to family cohesion and the social aspects of housework. Carr than applies the lessons learned during the electrification transformation to the computer revolution and, in particular, the Internet. Issues such as energy, privacy, the personalization of search engines, terrorism, and the possibility of Artificial Intelligence created by the information gleaned from our search keywords, keystrokes, and purchases are all discussed in this compact text. At just over 230 pages, the author gives a concise exploration of many of the changes happening to society because of the "World Wide Computer." Many of the topics could easily morph into its own book, but Carr does a great job at giving each a fair amount of text and moving on. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the impact the Internet and the information age will have on our way of life.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Bashaar

    I love Nicholas Carr's writing. He has a very lively style, and he goes just deep enough into the technology that the lay reader can understand it, but not so deep that a non-expert feels overwhelmed. In this book, he makes an analogy between how electricity became a utility and how computing power is becoming a utility. I honestly hadn't known that, in the early days of electricity, the generating plant had to be very close to where the electricity was needed, because the problem of long-distan I love Nicholas Carr's writing. He has a very lively style, and he goes just deep enough into the technology that the lay reader can understand it, but not so deep that a non-expert feels overwhelmed. In this book, he makes an analogy between how electricity became a utility and how computing power is becoming a utility. I honestly hadn't known that, in the early days of electricity, the generating plant had to be very close to where the electricity was needed, because the problem of long-distance transmission hadn't been solved. Similar problems with data transmission have recently been solved, and he makes it sound inevitable that everything's going to the cloud. Then he makes you really depressed because everything's going to the cloud. He talks about how centralizing the storage, analysis and presentation of data gives a lot more power to governments and big corporations.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tennyson C. Robin

    In-depth knowledge necessary in this day and age for your edification. So glad I persevered to the end: chapter 8 was so illuminating both culturally and politically. Ended perfectly with the epilogue. 10 years later and today we're clearly seeing the repercussions in every possible way. Excuse my cynicism, read and you'll see ;) In-depth knowledge necessary in this day and age for your edification. So glad I persevered to the end: chapter 8 was so illuminating both culturally and politically. Ended perfectly with the epilogue. 10 years later and today we're clearly seeing the repercussions in every possible way. Excuse my cynicism, read and you'll see ;)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    A facile book, a summary rather than a treatise of Internet-culture thinking. Carr predicts something possibly either apocalyptic or utopian, but doesn't offer analysis or insight or a unique conclusion. A facile book, a summary rather than a treatise of Internet-culture thinking. Carr predicts something possibly either apocalyptic or utopian, but doesn't offer analysis or insight or a unique conclusion.

  15. 5 out of 5

    CB_Read

    Part 1 of 3: (First, an aside: Having first encountered the author's writing in my first philosophy seminar, I've considered Nicholas Carr a respectable, even admirable, critic of the sweeping effects that computing and IT have had on society. In my fourth year in college, I read Carr's work again in my last philosophy seminar, and I was able to discuss his work with him in person when he came to our class. The class even got to have dinner with him at our professor's house. All that is to say, I Part 1 of 3: (First, an aside: Having first encountered the author's writing in my first philosophy seminar, I've considered Nicholas Carr a respectable, even admirable, critic of the sweeping effects that computing and IT have had on society. In my fourth year in college, I read Carr's work again in my last philosophy seminar, and I was able to discuss his work with him in person when he came to our class. The class even got to have dinner with him at our professor's house. All that is to say, I may be biased, but I think the author is definitely someone whose argument should carefully and deeply be considered.) In this updated version of what was likely the first in a three-book deal, Nicholas Carr sets the groundwork for what will be the through line argument of the two books that follow, "The Shallows" and "The Glass Cage." This edition's new afterword, written five years after first publication, allows the author to mostly confirm his earlier predictions and also hint toward what the next decades (the 2010s) would look like. Technological revolutions have widespread, and often unanticipated, societal and behavioral effects. Since the beginning of utility-scale electricity, the past one hundred years have been a whirlwind of highly customary, even completely global, lifestyle changes largely based around the availability of electricity. Carr argues and illustrates in this book that a comparable trend has taken place in computing, and the next three generations (100 years from now) will see comparable life-altering effects. In our case, the unique challenge is that the general purposes of a worldwide information technology network (the Internet plus all the personal and private computer networks) are above and beyond those of supplying electricity worldwide. We've seen the differences with the nearly complete lack of digital rights or privacy, the spread of disinformation, distributed virus attacks and hacks into sensitive systems, and much more. There are truly amazing benefits to using computing for several different purposes, including freedom of expression and organizing. But there is an enduring myth that goes back to the Internet's early democratic, even anarchic, beginnings. It is that the computer/Internet is a tool for personal liberation and global connection. Carr concedes that, yes, global computer networks enable users to become their own publishers, and with this comes extraordinary opportunities of freedom of self-expression. That has been the theory of the libertarian ethos that drove the early Internet 20-30 years ago. But Carr argues that the application of the Internet and global computer networks has been one of control: the billions of daily users controlled by the few biggest technology companies. Through their services, these companies interface with us almost every waking moment of our lives, and it is their goal to encroach even further. Many of us welcome them and their services, and in fact could not imagine our lives without them. The technology itself, and the inevitability of technological revolutions in general, is practically neutral. It is the application of the tools--for the exercise of freedom or the enforcement of control--that decides their moral value. *** That is the general argument of the 3-book series. In this book, Carr gives the history of electricity, computing, and cloud services. He then begins to illustrate how these changes in our daily lives are changing our behavior. The argument is compelling, the anecdotes are vivid and telling of the anticipated changes that, when written in 2007, were becoming true by 2013, and have since continued to bear fruit. With characteristic insight and top-notch rhetorical persuasion, Nicholas Carr's "The Big Switch" is a provocative harbinger of the next phase in the global IT revolution, and a guide to our present and future digital world.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Patrik Hallberg

    A great read that compares the electrical grid to cloud computing and just like electricity became a general-purpose technology and commodity cloud computing is becoming one claims author Nicholas Carr. The first part of the book is probably the best and with the most refreshing new ideas. I had never thought of electricity and cloud computing as similar but after reading this book I completely agree. It was fascinating to learn more about the history of electricity and how it moved from like ma A great read that compares the electrical grid to cloud computing and just like electricity became a general-purpose technology and commodity cloud computing is becoming one claims author Nicholas Carr. The first part of the book is probably the best and with the most refreshing new ideas. I had never thought of electricity and cloud computing as similar but after reading this book I completely agree. It was fascinating to learn more about the history of electricity and how it moved from like mainframe computing (Direct current) into cloud computing by the invention of AC (Alternate current) and the electrical grid. The second part is about living in the cloud and contains ideas about AI, how man and machine will blend together and how the web was created by government and then became a voice for freedom and now the control is coming back. Internet is a source of liberation & empowerment but at the same time we have zero privacy. The internet knows more about us than we know about ourselves. The web is becoming our memory. "All living creatures are information processing machines at some level" - Charles Seife - Decoding the Universe

  17. 5 out of 5

    Leonidas

    Full Review: The Big Switch: From Edison To Google Review The Big Switch: From Edison To Google By Nicholas Carr The Big Switch is about our technological progress from developing electricity into a utility, through developing computing into a utility, and into complete immersion with the internet and all of its knowledge. Nicholas teaches us about the social and economic driving forces brought about through introducing electricity. At first, manufacturers relied on their own electrical production u Full Review: The Big Switch: From Edison To Google Review The Big Switch: From Edison To Google By Nicholas Carr The Big Switch is about our technological progress from developing electricity into a utility, through developing computing into a utility, and into complete immersion with the internet and all of its knowledge. Nicholas teaches us about the social and economic driving forces brought about through introducing electricity. At first, manufacturers relied on their own electrical production using hydro, coal, or other measures. The evolutionary process was to develop ever-larger, and stronger production facilities, for each individual manufacturer. Edison, and his colleagues had a monopoly on this forefront, emphasizing direct current, despite its limited distance in delivery. With the discovery and implementation of alternative current, Nikola Tesla was able to revolutionize the ease of providing everyone with electricity. With alternative current, we see the arrival of large power generating stations, and with that cheap readily available electricity, available to both residential, and commercial uses. The rapid development of electricity generation, and distribution allowed westernized nations to progress very quickly, technologically, socially, and commercially. Nicholas quickly educates us on various innovations that progressed from the 30’s into the 70’s, such as nuclear power, communication technology, and most importantly, the introduction to computing. The computing revolution is heavily influenced by the rapid, exponential production of information, and the perpetual need for information processing. From processing large swaths of government census data, to calculating scientific, and business calculations. Business development is an incredible driving force, for example, when various airlines implemented large computers to increase ticket processing, thus reducing costs for travelers, and increasing revenues for the companies. Financial institutions implement large risk-management portfolios for their various investments, while manufacturers require better, faster, stronger processes, all through calculations. Thanks to business investing into computation, the costs quickly decreased, and we are introduced into personal computing, ie. Apple and Microsoft. Personal computing allowed individuals to develop their own software, and take control away from corporate monopolies on computing innovation. But while, personal computing was influential in giving power to consumers, it was the internet that allowed consumers to become producers. As is widely known, CERN developed the internet, initially for military use, but the internet eventually became a consumer product. Thanks to the development of internet browsers, websites were invented, and thus the rapid surge in the sharing of information, knowledge, opinions, and everything humanly in between. But the excess information required meaningfulness, and Google’s Page algorithm came about in the mid 90’s to early 2000’s. The algorithm allows search engines to know what a website is about, based on the links pointing to it. This revolutionary idea took Google from a simple idea, into the world’s most powerful organizer of information. Another important revolution involves computing as a utility. We are no longer bound to purchasing expensive, physical hardware. Instead, we can upload our information into the cloud (internet), and have it stay there perpetually, albeit, perhaps forever. This freedom from hardware, allows us produce information, from anywhere on the planet, at any time, and is available to absolutely anyone. This infrastructure, freedom, and ability is now, always there, just as electricity has become. As electricity has become a utility, so has the internet, and search engines such as Google. We expect it to be there, it is an invisible force that drives our motivations, expectations, and experiences. Ultimately, Nicholas Carr expands on a revolutionary idea where humans will be completely plugged into this utility, and ironically, we become part of it as perpetual producers. Read for history, economic, technological, and social value. Cheers. Leonidas

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    The former editor of the Harvard Business Review, Nicholas Carr uses the story of electricity as a backdrop for considering the evolution and future of our digitally connected economy and society ("living in the cloud"). He makes the case that the adoption of new technology is not driven principally by the technology itself, but rather by the economics that the technology enables. As centralized, general purpose technologies, both electricity and the internet have reshaped business and culture i The former editor of the Harvard Business Review, Nicholas Carr uses the story of electricity as a backdrop for considering the evolution and future of our digitally connected economy and society ("living in the cloud"). He makes the case that the adoption of new technology is not driven principally by the technology itself, but rather by the economics that the technology enables. As centralized, general purpose technologies, both electricity and the internet have reshaped business and culture in profound ways. The most interesting chapters (at least to me) of the book relate to the impacts of electrification, perhaps because they largely go unacknowledged in the modern age: the rise of the middle class (now threatened by the economics of the digital age), the expansion of public education, the flowering of mass culture (similarly threatened by "the great unbundling" of entertainment and media), the movement of population to the suburbs, and the shift from an industrial to a service economy. Carr tells the story of electrification through the contributions of the great inventors: Thomas Edison (electricity systems), Samuel Insull (centralized electricity grid), Charles Parson (improved steam turbine), Nikola Tesla (alternating current), and Herman Hollerith (punch card tabulator). The more familiar stories of Gates and Grove are also recounted in the second half of the book. "The entire history of automated data processing, from Hollerith's punch-card system through the mainframe computer and on to the modern computer network, is best understood as part of [the] process of reestablishing and maintaining control," Carr tells us. In the most provocative chapter ("iGod," towards the end of the book), he ponders the potential to integrate computer networks with human brains as the co-founders of Google have sanguinely suggested. It occurs to me that I'm contributing to the "spider's web" as I type. Carr is cautionary in the final pages: "The World Wide Computer and those who program it have little interest in our exhibiting...'the thick and multi-textured density of deeply evolved personality.' They want us to act as hyperefficient data processors, as cogs in an intellectual machine whose workings and ends are beyond us. The most revolutionary consequence of the expansion of the Internet's power, scope, and usefulness may not be that computers will start to think like us but that we will come to think like computers." In an epilogue, he poignantly describes the cultural consequences of "one of man's greatest inventions:" the wick, which "tamed fire" and brought families together, "drawn by the flickering flame." The electric lightbulb delivered many revolutionary advantages, but disintegrated "the soul of the house" in the process. "All technological change is generational change," Carr writes in his final paragraph. "The full power and consequence of a new technology are unleashed only when those who have grown up with it become adults and begin to push their outdated parents to the margins. As the 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."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Computing will soon become a utility like electricity. Unlike electricity though the applications of it can also be viewed as a service. This is important because people can leverage their ideas even more now. A single man now has access to huge resources that he can purchase on a usage basis instead of having to front large capital investments. Costs of starting a company continue to plummet. The years of being in the red waiting for enough sales or users to start to get an ROI are gone. Just mo Computing will soon become a utility like electricity. Unlike electricity though the applications of it can also be viewed as a service. This is important because people can leverage their ideas even more now. A single man now has access to huge resources that he can purchase on a usage basis instead of having to front large capital investments. Costs of starting a company continue to plummet. The years of being in the red waiting for enough sales or users to start to get an ROI are gone. Just months of setting up a service and slowly paying more for increasing use. Another important point was the fact that a company used to have to buy more computing power than their projected peak use. Now they can buy only what they use from these new utility companies. Economies of scale. The beginning was boring. The rest was good. I really need to stop reading these internet blog books. They're all fluff and not really worth the time. Maybe. They do read quickly. Quotes: "All of these businesses demonstrate an unusual sort of economic behavior that economists call "increasing returns to scale." What it means, simply, is that the more products they sell, the more profitable they become. That's a very different dynamic from the one that prevails in the industrial world, where the businesses are subject to diminishing returns to scale. As a producer of physical goods increases its output, it sooner or later has to begin paying more for its inputs - for the raw materials, components, supplies, real estate, and workers that it needs to make and sell its products. It can offset these higher costs by achieving economies of scale - by using fewer inputs to make each additional product - but eventually the higher costs overwhelm the scale economies, and the company's profits, or returns, begin to shrink. The law of diminishing returns in effect sets limits on the size of companies, or at least on the size of their profits." "Tasks demanding flexibility, creativity, generalized problem solving and complex communications - what we call nonroutine cognitive tasks - do not (yet) lend themselves to computerization." "In 2006, Texas marshals began setting up webcams along the border with Mexico and began streaming the video feeds over the internet. People all around the world can now watch for illegal immigrants, clicking a button to alert the police to any suspicious activity. It's law enforcement on the cheap." "The most successful articles, in economic terms, are the ones that not only draw a lot of readers but deal with subjects that attract high-priced ads. And the most successful of all are those that attract a lot of readers who are inclined to click on the high-priced ads...In general, articles on serious and complex subjects, from politics to wars to international affairs, will fail to generate attractive ad revenues." "Small incentives, almost imperceptible differentials, can lead to strikingly polarized results." "The more that people converse or otherwise share information with other people who hold similar views, the more extreme their view become."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Raghu

    This book, though it deals with computers and technology, belongs mainly in the genre of an existential debate on the computer technology and mankind's future. I did not read the author's other famous book 'Does IT Matter?'. But the publicity surrounding that book made me want to read this new book from Nicholas Carr. The discusses a number of issues. They can be briefly summarised as below: 1)Individual computing facilities in our homes and corporate establishments will be replaced by all of us This book, though it deals with computers and technology, belongs mainly in the genre of an existential debate on the computer technology and mankind's future. I did not read the author's other famous book 'Does IT Matter?'. But the publicity surrounding that book made me want to read this new book from Nicholas Carr. The discusses a number of issues. They can be briefly summarised as below: 1)Individual computing facilities in our homes and corporate establishments will be replaced by all of us plugging into the massive, global computer grid that the Internet is. The analogy is similar to electric utilities replacing generators in each house. This will have major implications for privacy and social discourse. I think that this is already coming to pass with offerings from Amazon, Google and even Apache. 2)Contrary to the touted image of greater democracy and diversity in the world thru the Net, the way computer programs track our clicks and visits to the various web pages, we are being more and more bundled within the groups of like-thinking social networks and contacts. This has great social implications for the future of tolerance, democracy and diversity. The author calls this 'ideological amplification'. To quote: "Net users seek out like-minded individuals who have similar values and thus become less likely to trust important decisions to people whose values differ from theirs. Such balkanization and the loss of shared experiences and values may be harmful to our future democracy". I think this is a very important observation from the author. 3)The author says that we have zero privacy in the era of the internet. As we spend more time filling databases with details of our lives and desires, software programs discover more patterns in us and exploit them for the benefit of corporations. Computer programs will discern what we want, what motivates us, how we are likely to react to various stimuli and eventually KNOW more about us than we ourselves. This is also a fair comment though I feel that we have mechanisms to keep it under check. 4)The author quotes various interviews that Google's founders Brin and Page have given to the media. The Google founders have an ultimate vision that the search engine would enable the human mind gradually merge into the artificial mind that is created by the vast World wide web of data and the indexing engines and the search algorithms. This is a grand vision reminding one of Stanley Kubrick's '2001:A space Odyssey's HAL computer. Their vision is also that the Google search would give you what you are looking for even though you don't precisely know what it is that you are after. We can find this already happening in some ways even when we put in the not so appropriate words in the search keyword or even misspell it. I found the book quite interesting reading and rather thought provoking though I may not agree with all the dire visions of the future that the author envisages. It is an important book to read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Peter Murray

    Towards the end of the last chapter of his book, Nicholas Carr relates an anecdote about the visit of a guest speaker to the Google headquarters:[return][return] George Dyson, a historian of technology…, Freeman Dyson, was invited to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, in October 2005 to give a speech at the party celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of von Neumann’s invention [of an electronic computer that could store in its memory the instructions for its use]. “Despite the wh Towards the end of the last chapter of his book, Nicholas Carr relates an anecdote about the visit of a guest speaker to the Google headquarters:[return][return] George Dyson, a historian of technology…, Freeman Dyson, was invited to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, in October 2005 to give a speech at the party celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of von Neumann’s invention [of an electronic computer that could store in its memory the instructions for its use]. “Despite the whimsical furniture and other toys, “Dyson would later recall of his visit, “I felt I was entering a 14th-century cathedral — not in the 14th century but in the 12th century, while it was being built. Everyone was busy carving one stone here and another stone there, with some invisible architect getting everything to fit. The mood was playful, yet there was a palpable reverence in the air.” After his talk, Dyson found himself chatting with a Google engineer about the company’s controversial plan to scan the contents of the world’s libraries into its database. “We are not scanning all of those books to be read by people,” the engineer told him. “We are scanning them to be read by an [artificial intelligence engine].”[return][return]So concludes this work — a view of technical progress from the emergence of electricity to the emergence of what Carr calls “the World Wide Computer.” In successive chapters, he builds the story line from the harnessing of electricity for commercial use to the economics of the migration from private power generation to common utility. He then uses that story line to illustrate the change happening with isolated computers being supplanted by a common computing utility. Call it a “grid” or “computing in the cloud,” Carr’s vision of the future is dominated by a computing infrastructure that is greater than the sum of its parts: an infrastructure that we are all a part of building right now and an infrastructure that is as inevitable as the emergence of the electric utility that our lives depend on. An infrastructure built on the knowledge embedded in the choices each of us make online and the machine’s comprehension of the knowledge gleaned from the scans of the books of the world’s libraries.[return][return]Carr’s work is easy to read — clearly the work of a writer who excels at expressing himself clearly. The ease at which one can read the words, though, only underscores the utterly transformative nature of the world now emerging. The picture he paints is not only of a rosy, utopian future, however. Carr gives equal time to the problems and challenges of the “big switch” to the World Wide Computer. But he makes clear that the World Wide Computer is in our future, just as sure as we are of what happens each time we flip a light switch.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tom Franklin

    I'll admit it's difficult to fairly judge a book where the initial premise is that my career field is doomed and disappearing as he writes. I tried hard to not have too big of a chip on my shoulder, and to the extent I succeeded, here's what I have to say: If Sarchasm is the enormous gulf between a sarcastic comment and a person who missed said intended sarcasm, there must be an analogous word for someone who misses the irony of their own introductory remarks. After presenting the reader with an I'll admit it's difficult to fairly judge a book where the initial premise is that my career field is doomed and disappearing as he writes. I tried hard to not have too big of a chip on my shoulder, and to the extent I succeeded, here's what I have to say: If Sarchasm is the enormous gulf between a sarcastic comment and a person who missed said intended sarcasm, there must be an analogous word for someone who misses the irony of their own introductory remarks. After presenting the reader with an extended piece on IT Is Doomed Thanks to Cloud Computing, Carr tries to put this into perspective by describing the birth of the electronics industry in the US. Electricity started out as a standard business expense--each factory/business manufactured its own electricity. Once companies learned how to create it more cheaply (based on large-scale equipment and factoring in the economies-of-scale) factories/businesses began buying their electricity from electricity-generating companies. Electricity became a utility, something businesses depended on someone else to provide for them. Before making his computing applications as a utility analogy, Carr spends several pages amusing us with the predictions that were made as to how Electricity would transform our lives for the better. Electrified water would be purified water; the public health would be improved via regular electric shocks, etc. These were huckster claims, ideals and dreams sold to a public desiring a solution to their ills through something barely tames, revolutionary and from The Future. I have to admit, I saw this as the best analogy for the first section of Carr's book. Cloud computing? It has its niche, but I doubt businesses are willing to put too much stock into it just yet. Internet connections are not as trustworthy as they would need to be to base all of your workday on 'net-based applications, bandwidth and throughput at most businesses is insufficient for many computing tasks and, above all, computing isn't passive in the same way electricity is. Computing typically deals with sensitive data (personal and/or business) and the regular news reports of data being compromised by hackers and unscrupulous employees should be more than enough to give anyone pause. The fact that the government can come in and seize the 'records' of your online activities through one of these software-as-a-service utility companies should give anyone a secondary pause. What is on your computer and what is on my computer is still considered personal, which is why we still refer to it as a Personal Computer. The theory behind cloud computing is a step in a possible direction, but I don't believe it's the be all and end all that Carr believes.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jun-E

    Nicholas Carr’s “The Big Switch” takes us through the electrification of the world and the rise of cloud computing, and describes the similarities of both phenomena and their wide-ranging impacts on society. While companies used to have to generate their own electricity to power their own machines, the provision of electricity as a utility freed the companies from having to have their own electricians and engineers, and focus on their core business. In a similar trajectory, software and hardware Nicholas Carr’s “The Big Switch” takes us through the electrification of the world and the rise of cloud computing, and describes the similarities of both phenomena and their wide-ranging impacts on society. While companies used to have to generate their own electricity to power their own machines, the provision of electricity as a utility freed the companies from having to have their own electricians and engineers, and focus on their core business. In a similar trajectory, software and hardware services are increasingly provided over the Internet by centralised data-processing plants, turning computing into a general purpose utility as well. The value of the book, to me, is the critical scrutiny of the implications of the intended and unintended consequences of the centralisation of electricity provision and utility computing. On the mass availability of electricity and the rise of home appliances, for example, Carr pointed out that the home appliances, instead of decreasing the hours that mothers spent on housework (comparing between 1914 and 1965), simply changed societal expectations on how clean homes should be. “Clothes had to be changed more frequently, rugs had to be cleaner, curls in hair had to be bouncier, meals had to be more elaborate, and the household china had to be more plentiful and gleam more brightly. Tasks that once had been done once every few months now had to be performed every day.” Housewives were expected to operate their appliances themselves and receive minimal help from family and helpers. Quality of life did not improve much for the homemakers. The stories of the “utilisation” of electricity and computing form an interesting juxtaposition, but the main highlight really is on the latter, as there is where the future lies. In part two of the book, it switches into high gear and focuses on the implications of cloud computing. The below points are what I found to be most interesting: The Internet concentrates wealth from the hands of the many to the hands of a few. The number of jobs are drastically decreased with the abundance of cheap processing power, storage capacity, and communication bandwidth. Example: In 2005, when eBay bought Skype for $2.1bil, Skype had signed up 53mil customers, more than twice the number of phone customers served by British Telecom. At that time, Skype employed just 200 people, as opposed to about 90,000 people employed in the UK by British Telecom. Computers are taking over jobs through automation of clerical and information processing tasks – and humans are providing free labour to corporations on tasks that computers have not taken over (such as uploading of content on Youtube and Facebook, filtering of content on Digg, moderating online communities on Reddit, etc.). Knowledge work is also increasingly being outsourced to countries where human resources are cheaper. Then there is what Carr describes to be “the great unbundling”, where we stop consuming as a bundle but focus on single items within a bundle (e.g. we now read an article instead of a magazine, and listen to a song instead of an album). A single newspaper article is now competing as “a separate product standing naked in the marketplace. It lives or dies on it own economic merits”. The implications of The Great Unbundling are severe. Investigative journalism articles, which consume more resources and yields less ad revenue, are much less profitable to produce, and a publisher who no longer sells its content by the bundle will find it much more difficult to subsidise good quality journalism with other articles, as advertisers are paying per article and not per publication. Carr also states, with clear substantiation, that the Internet is more a technology of control than a technology of emancipation. Freedom of expression is countered by surveillance, and freedom to think is influenced by technologies that manipulate our attention to further agendas that are not our own. Corporations and governments are increasingly able to control and track their employees and citizens; consumer behaviour are also increasingly manipulated based on their online activity and personalised advertising. Computer systems and the Internet put enormous power into the hands of powerful institutions and individuals, and the acts of control become harder and harder to detect (and to evade) because they are so embedded within the systems that we have grown to rely on. The first edition of Nicholas Carr’s book was published in 2008, about ten years ago. Within these ten years, we have been able to witness the materialisation of his prophecies with chilling accuracy. I will leave you with three paragraphs from the book, quoted ad verbatim, that gave me chills on what the future may bring to the very consciousness of the human mind and its relation with artificial intelligence: [...] Our technologies, he explained, make us as surely as we make our technologies. That’s been true of the tools we use to process matter and energy, but it’s been particularly true of the tools that we use to process information, from the map to the clock to the computer. The medium is not only the message. The medium is the mind. It shapes what we see and how we see it. The printed page, the dominant information medium of the past 500 years, molded our thinking through, to quote Neil Postman, “its emphasis on logic, sequence, history, exposition, objectivity, detachment, and discipline.” The emphasis of the Internet, our new universal medium, is altogether different. It stresses immediacy, simultaneity, contingency, subjectivity, disposability, and above all, speed. The Net provides no incentive to stop and think deeply about anything, to construct in our memory that “dense repository” of knowledge that Foreman cherishes. It’s easier, as Kelly says, “to Google something a second or third time rather than remember it ourselves”. On the Internet, we seem impelled to glide across the slick surface of data as we make our rushed passage from link to link. And this is precisely the behaviour that the Internet, as a commercial system, is designed to promote. We are the Web’s neurons, and the more links we click, pages we view, and transactions we make – the faster we fire – the more intelligence the Web collects, the more economic value what it gains, and the more profit it throws off. We feel like “pancake people” on the Web because that’s the role we are assigned to play. The World Wide Computer and those who program it have little interest in our exhibiting what Foreman calls “the thick and multi-textured density of deeply evolved personality.” They want us to act as hyperefficient data processors, as cogs in an intellectual machine whose workings and ends are beyond us. The most revolutionary consequence of the expansion of the Internet’s power, scope, and usefulness may not be that computers will start to think like us but we will come to think like computers. Our consciousness will thin out, flatten, as our minds are trained, link by link, to “DO THIS with what you find HERE and go THERE with the result.” The artificial intelligence we’re creating may turn out to be our own.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Howard

    Ultimately, I found this book disappointing. It is written in two parts. The first part tells of the move from individual production of electricity to the utility model where electricity was sold as a commodity. It explains how this revolutionized society as it made electricity affordable to the masses and changed the way industry produced products. In short, it remade the world as we know it. The author then compares that change to a similar change in computing. According to the author, we are i Ultimately, I found this book disappointing. It is written in two parts. The first part tells of the move from individual production of electricity to the utility model where electricity was sold as a commodity. It explains how this revolutionized society as it made electricity affordable to the masses and changed the way industry produced products. In short, it remade the world as we know it. The author then compares that change to a similar change in computing. According to the author, we are in the midst of the change from individuals and companies owning their own computing devices to a world where computing power and storage become commodities. This change is made possible by wide-spread broadband Internet access and brings a wealth of possibilities with it. The tone of the first part of the book is upbeat and positive. The author seems to feel that the transformation in electricity was a net positive and seems to apply this outlook to the move to distributed computing. However, the second part goes in a different direction. The second part of this book discusses the challenges that ubiquitous cloud computing will bring with it. However, instead of the positive outlook expressed in the first part, the author seems to have an almost Luddite, doomsday perspective. Don't misunderstand. The challenges presented are real, and I appreciate the author bringing them to my attention so that I can be alert to them as we move through this time in our history. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have the same foresight that he showed in the first half of the book. Nowhere do we see the idea that the changes that bring about these challenges might also bring with them the new thinking that will create solutions to them as well. Very disappointing. In the end, I think this book is a good and important read for anyone working with technology on a day-to-day basis (which is just about everyone!). So read it for the abundant and well documented information that it communicates. Just don't expect to find long-term solutions in it or be left feeling good about the future when you finish reading it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Graham

    Interesting perspective on the rise and eventual dominance of cloud computing. The author compares the rise of cloud or utility computing with the rise of central electricity generation at the beginning of the 20th century. I must admit I was sceptical at first but the author presents a well thought out and extremely well researched argument. He predicts the end of the corporate data centre and for the migration of almost all desktop applications to the cloud. Just as no individual or major corp Interesting perspective on the rise and eventual dominance of cloud computing. The author compares the rise of cloud or utility computing with the rise of central electricity generation at the beginning of the 20th century. I must admit I was sceptical at first but the author presents a well thought out and extremely well researched argument. He predicts the end of the corporate data centre and for the migration of almost all desktop applications to the cloud. Just as no individual or major corporation generates their own electricity the author predicts that eventually running applications on your own machine or within your company will become as rare as generating your own electricity. I enjoyed the first seven chapters of the book but felt that the last four were really just fillers! Once the main point had been made, analysed and the compelling argument made I felt that I had got it! The author however then spent the last few chapters of the book talking about artificial intelligence and science fiction concepts such as cyborgs and mind machine interfaces. Whilst these topics are interesting in their own right I would have preferred a more focused ending on current trends in cloud computing such as the development of private and community clouds. The security issues with public clouds and the rise of consumption centric personal devices such as tablet computers. These newer devices depend on the cloud for so much more than traditional desktop or laptop computers. The growth of the "app" store or the fact that more and more people are moving to Netflix rather than Blockbuster for their video entertainment. The growth of cloud music services such as Spotify or Pandora would have been far more interesting. Summary: Well researched, compelling argument poor finish.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dylan

    I spend a large chunk of my time online, and I threw in my lot with the emerging web culture way back in the nineties -- but I really know very little about how the web works in practical terms. So I'm an invested but ignorant audience on the subject of the economic and cultural consequences of changes in network technology. That makes me the perfect reader for Carr's book, which is a useful layman's primer to the changes now under way. He begins by restating at some length his 2005 thesis (at th I spend a large chunk of my time online, and I threw in my lot with the emerging web culture way back in the nineties -- but I really know very little about how the web works in practical terms. So I'm an invested but ignorant audience on the subject of the economic and cultural consequences of changes in network technology. That makes me the perfect reader for Carr's book, which is a useful layman's primer to the changes now under way. He begins by restating at some length his 2005 thesis (at the time Cassandra-like, now already a commonplace) that the increasing transfer of software and data from single private hard drives onto shared resources on the net would cause a large part of the technology industry to become obsolete. He then extends the view to the similar changes happening in media and to how, by greatly reducing the cost of production, the net privileges a small group of producers over labor -- while turning consumers into an auxiliary free labor force. The takeaway: a great many mid-level knowledge-worker jobs in many industries are not just shifting, but disappearing. Eek! He also points out the loss of privacy and cultural fragmentation that have come with the move of so much of our social lives online. None of this is terrifically surprising unless you have clung to a naive techno-utopianism through the course of the past decade or so -- but in reading I had to admit that a part of my mind had done just that. So, for the uninformed web surfer who enjoys the benefits of the net without much thinking of their costs, The Big Switch made a useful basic guide to the way my favorite medium actually functions.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Sanders

    The book begins with a history of electric power generation. Initially, every factory had its own power generation plant and a department to run the plant. Eventually, power began to be generated centrally by utilities and transmitted to factories. This allowed factories to get rid of their power generation departments and to save boat loads of money and become more efficient. The whole story of the insights and inventions that got us from point A to B is quite interesting. The author then argue The book begins with a history of electric power generation. Initially, every factory had its own power generation plant and a department to run the plant. Eventually, power began to be generated centrally by utilities and transmitted to factories. This allowed factories to get rid of their power generation departments and to save boat loads of money and become more efficient. The whole story of the insights and inventions that got us from point A to B is quite interesting. The author then argues that an analogous process is happening with information technology. Companies like Google are analogous to the utility companies. Eventually, PC's will be replaced with thin clients, and office software and data storage will be implemented centrally via information companies. The analogy breaks down in a number of ways. The factory power employees became clerks, but the IT employees will mostly be out of a job as will many of those clerk jobs created when centralized electrification occurred. In fact many jobs such as newspaper related jobs are being lost because people do the job for free on the internet. The net also poses security problems that weren't faced by the power companies. The last chapter "igod" was extremely interesting. It turns out that Google's real goal is to build the first real AI. That is, the ultimate search engine is of necessity an AI. This had never occurred to me, but once mentioned it is obvious. I found the discussion in that last chapter fascinating. I've passed over the details and haven't really captured this very interesting perspective on part of our history, but all in all, this is a book of great insights.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    The book provides a good analogy between the technology of the Internet and the power industry. In many ways you can see the similarities and that may potentially help provide some guidance as to the future development of the Internet. If nothing else it certainly indicates that access to the Internet will be as important as access to electricity. The author certainly makes some assumptions that some of the small changes we are seeing today will result in large changes to the way we consume techn The book provides a good analogy between the technology of the Internet and the power industry. In many ways you can see the similarities and that may potentially help provide some guidance as to the future development of the Internet. If nothing else it certainly indicates that access to the Internet will be as important as access to electricity. The author certainly makes some assumptions that some of the small changes we are seeing today will result in large changes to the way we consume technology down the track. However, using the electricity industry as the bench mark you would have to agree that things certainly appear to be panning out the way that the author foresees. The books provides some interesting insights into the electricity industry and how it grew to be something that is almost omnipresent now. It also take a look at the personalities and decisions that shaped the developments of the industry and effects that key decisions made in its growth. This provides a nice juxtapose to what is happening with technology given the advent of the Internet. The book is easy to read and very interesting but tends to weaken as it progresses and deals more with todays technology. Many of the concepts it focuses on here are well defined and in some respected being repeated by multiple authors. It would have been nice to see the author draw more future analogies in what we might come to expect from technology based on what has happened with electricity. All in all, a very worthwhile read and something that will make you think, especially if you are wanting to understand about all this 'cloud computing' stuff.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joe Raimondo

    Carr's provocative "IT doesn't Matter' set off a firestorm a few years back, and he's leveraged that attention into becoming a leading commentator on the emerging role of technology both in business and society at large. Carr's breezy little "The Big Switch" discusses the evolving era of "utility" computing, developing a framework for understanding an emerging computing environment where most resources will exist outside of organizations. He makes the case for such a transition manifest by contra Carr's provocative "IT doesn't Matter' set off a firestorm a few years back, and he's leveraged that attention into becoming a leading commentator on the emerging role of technology both in business and society at large. Carr's breezy little "The Big Switch" discusses the evolving era of "utility" computing, developing a framework for understanding an emerging computing environment where most resources will exist outside of organizations. He makes the case for such a transition manifest by contrasting today's development with the adoption of electricity in business and society at large at the turn of the 20th Century. Once companies had a "Chief Electrical Officer" -- a high level officer charged with developing and implementing electrification strategies. Implied but not stated is that today's Chief Information Officer is likely to suffer a similar fate. The last chapter was the most interesting but the least satisfying because it was somewhat surface-y. The chapter -- called iGod -- discusses the vision of Google founders Page and Brin and others in the resurgent AI domain. He discusses other programs direct pursuing man-machine interfaces, and while he remains skeptical, it's unfortunate that he doesn't turn some some of the more established critiques (e.g., Winograd & Flores) or a more modern effort to outline a program for machine augmentation of human intelligence (Jeff Hawkins' seminal "On Intelligence.")

  30. 4 out of 5

    Liam

    "But electricity and computing share a special trait that makes them unique even among the relatively small set of general purpose technologies: they can both be delivered efficiently from a great distance over a network. Because they don't have to be produced locally, they can achieve the scale economies of central supply." (15) "The proliferation of single-purpose systems has resulted in extraordinarily low levels of capacity utilization. One recent study of six corporate data centers revealed "But electricity and computing share a special trait that makes them unique even among the relatively small set of general purpose technologies: they can both be delivered efficiently from a great distance over a network. Because they don't have to be produced locally, they can achieve the scale economies of central supply." (15) "The proliferation of single-purpose systems has resulted in extraordinarily low levels of capacity utilization. One recent study of six corporate data centers revealed that most of their 1,000 servers were using less than a quarter of their available processing power. ... 'To waste a CPU cycle or a byte of memory was an embarrassing lapse,' recalls the science writer Brian Hayes. 'To clobber a small problem with a big computer was considered tasteless, and unsporting, like trout fishing with dynamite.' The client-server model killed the conservation ethic. Profligacy replaced frugality as the defining characteristic of business computing." (55-6) "By putting the means of production into the hands of the masses but withholding from those masses any ownership over the products of their communal work, the World Wide Computer provides and incredibly efficient mechanism for harvesting the economic value of the labor provided by the very many and concentrating it in the hands of the very few." (142-3) "What makes us so smart is that our minds are constantly providing answers without knowing the questions. They're making sense rather than performing calculations." (224)

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