The Big Switch

More scary stuff.

Just 100 years ago larger businesses generated their own electricity. The subsequent development of the electricity grid, delivering electricity as a commodity, profoundly changed business and society. In the same way, argues Nick Carr in The Big Switch, computer utilities will replace in-house facilities and business and society will be transformed again by the “World Wide Computer”.

The latter part of the book looks at the social and economic consequences of this ubiquitous computing facility and they’re far from utopian. From an extensive review by Andrew Orlowski in the Register:

Carr identifies what [the empty-headed prophets of technology utopianism] have in common quite clearly – and it’s a pseudo-religion: the final chapter is called iGod. He’s excellent at pointing out some of the consequences of technology the utopians ignore, such as the body count. Self-styled “revolutionary” utopians always brush aside the consequences of their advice: the means justify the ends.

The web prophets invariably ignore the sheer hopelessness of today’s internet for sustaining creative business. This is a deep structural problem: because everyone can get hold of anything in this anarchy, there’s none of the scarcity provided by a limited choice of TV channels or movie theatres – and scarcity creates economic incentives for both distributors and creators. Yet for the utopians, some business “model” will pop up and in act of deus ex machina, save the day.

For Carr, correctly, this just isn’t good enough.

For a brief intro watch an interview with Greg Jarboe on YouTube.