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ISBN 9781594202537 Published June 2010
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Posted Dec. 10, 2010 10:16 a.m. by 800-ceo-read
Overconnected: The Promise and Threat of the Internet by William H. Davidow, Delphinium Books, 240 pages, $27.95, Hardcover, January 2011, ISBN 9781883285463
As we move from an industrial era mindset that new technologies have made obsolete, our ability to be plugged in and instantly connected has introduced us to unpredicted challenges and dangers. Recent books like The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus, and Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants all look at the way technology affects the way we think or have actually recreated how we think.
The title of this book, Overconnected, could lead you to believe that this is a book about email, iPhones and the other distractions that seem to direct our modern lives. Instead, author William Davidow is more concerned about how strong connections, instead of idyllically solving problems, have worked in the other direction:
Strong connections, it turns out, have only magnified the problems, turning local problems into national ones and national crises into international ones. Now, as all other forms of interconnections have improved, and as those interconnections have grown more robust thanks to the Internet, society is increasingly subject to interdependencies—not always for the better.
Being connected has certainly made us more efficient. But there’s now the risk of reacting so quickly that we don’t give the thought we might have given to our actions and reactions even twenty years ago. Looking at the 2008 financial crisis, Davidow writes:
It is impossible to really understand what went on in the worldwide economic crisis of 2008 without examining the role that the Internet played in supercharging it. Without the Internet, the credit mess would have undoubtedly caused a recession of some magnitude. While we can never measure the Internet’s full effects, we know that it made the current crisis larger, more widespread, and more virulent. It not only carried the information, it helped spread what is known as a “thought contagion.” That is, the rate at which greed and fearmongering took place—via instant access to news and online rumors—was accelerated to unprecedented levels.
This is a book that takes a serious and scholarly look at world-wide technological change. He gives us the history of the Internet and then uses the economic crisis in Iceland as a case study. This is a book that will be talked about for years to come, written by a person who is not lamenting our loss of time but warning us of the larger new threats being overconnected brings into our lives.
Jack Covert Selects – What Technology Wants
Posted Oct. 15, 2010 4:12 a.m. by 800-ceo-read
What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly, Viking Books, 416 pages, $27.95, Hardcover, October 2010, ISBN 9780670022151
Business changes. We don’t do business today in the same way we did it at the turn of the century—either 1900 or 2000. And though it’s not specifically about business, the inevitability of change is why you should pick up Kevin Kelly’s latest book, What Technology Wants.
Kevin Kelly has written big idea books before, most notably Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, & the Economic World, which we chose for The 100 Best Business Books of All Time. And like Out of Control, What Technology Wants is vast in scope. It attempts to break down old ways of thinking by clarifying a large, hard-to-grasp-in-its-entirety issue—technology.
This isn’t the first book this year to try to tackle the subject holistically. In Linchpin, Seth Godin challenged us to redefine work, to give up the industrial era mindset that new technologies have made obsolete. The Shallows by Nicholas Carr and Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus both looked at the way technology affects the very way we think. But Kelly takes it a step further, defining technology as part of our thought process, as a natural extension of evolution and a natural, living system. In fact, technology is not a sufficient word for what Kelly is trying to grasp, so he’s coined a new word—the technium.
For the rest of this book I will use the term technium where others might use technology as a plural, and to mean a whole system (as in “technology accelerates”). I reserve the term technology to mean a specific technology, such as radar or plastic polymers. For example, I would say: “The technium accelerates the invention of technologies.” In other words, technologies can be patented, while the technium includes the patent system itself.
He then traces the technium back to our hunter-gatherer past to document how it evolved to its current state.
The technium gains immense power not only from its scale but from its self-amplifying nature. One breakthrough invention, such as the alphabet, the steam-pump, or electricity, can lead to further breakthrough inventions, such as books, coal mines, and telephones. These advances in turn lead to other breakthrough inventions, such as libraries, power generators, and the internet.
The technium is “human extended,” something we’ve been building and evolving since we have been building and evolving. It is the “extended body for ideas.” And to be in business today, to truly innovate, it is important to have a grasp on that “extended body for ideas”—to know that the answer to your business’s troubles isn’t to get on Twitter, but to understand the changing environment that bred it. You won’t find any immediately applicable business solutions in What Technology Wants, but you will find something that could much more important to your business—a new way of looking at the world.