Saturday, April 09, 2011

Book - The Big Switch

I bought The Big Switch by Nicholas Carr when I saw him speak in Bristol at The Watershed. Although the subject matter of his talk he was covered in his most recent book The Shallows, It was The Big Switch I bought after the talk. The Big Switch is about the rise of "The Cloud", of computing as a utility. Carr puts move to computing as a utility in the historical context of the move to electricity as a utility. Now, I like the book; I found some of the details of the rise of the electricity industry interesting and he sets out his basic thesis well. But, I didn't find the book provoked me as much as I had anticipated. Why? I'm not sure, but I think the root cause was that I already knew too much about Carr's subject matter. 

So, gentle reader, why am I bothering to mention  a three-year old book on my blog? Well, I spent a day last week in a meeting with some very high-powered technical experts looking at the impact of The Cloud on the future of the wireless semiconductor business; I was surprised at how the fact of the utilitization of computing had passed them by. And so it occurred to me that it may have passed you by as well, gentle reader. And that's why I mention The Big Switch - for your education.  


Richard Taylor said...

I have never been a big fan of Carr. He came to fame by writing "IT Doesn't Matter" and since then has written a series of books warning us about the disastrous consequences of each advance in technology. When Gutenberg first invented printing there were plenty of older fuddy-duddies who complained that manuscripts were better and claimed that printing would only be a passing fad. If Carr had lived in those days he would have been one of them.

The Editor said...

I agree.

He was promoting "The Shallows" when I heard him speak. I asked him whether he wasn't just being an old man criticising the young. His response left me with the feeling that his books take the opportunity to point out problems because that makes them sell, but that his own point of view is more nuanced.

I recommend the "The Big Switch" not for the sections about how "the World Wide Computer" means the end to personal privacy, but for the excellent history of the power grid and the rise of Cloud Computing.

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