The Big Switch, by Carr

June 5, 2008 at 1:09 pm 1 comment

An insightful book pointing out the similarities and differences between today’s increasingly wired world, as in the Internet, the Web, and computing power and yesteryear’s increasingly wired world, as in electricity, and means of production and distribution.  Pointing out the evolution to electricity as a utility, Carr makes the analogous prediction for ‘computing power.’  And his arguments are persuasive.

I was reminded near the end of the book of the caustic “Cult of the Amateur.”  Carr’s arguments touch on many of the same points, but are no where near as irritating to listen to as Keen’s.

P21 a list of web 2.0 familiars: MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket, World of Warcraft, Disney’s Club Penguin, YouTube, Joost, WordPress, Google Docs, Rojo, Bloglines…virtual hard drives: omnidrive and box.

P34  …when William the Conqueror surveyed England in 1066 for his Domesday book….?  What’s that?

P68 Software as a service making inroads into corporations…

P70…with SAAS like…they wouldn’t have to buy software licenses or maintenance contracts, or invest in new servers or other equipment, they wouldn’t have to hire consultants to integrate their systems.  Their marketers and salespeople could simply launch their web browsers, click over to the site and start working.  All the software code and all their data resided on Salesforce’s computers.  And when the program needed to be upgraded, the new version simply appeared….

P71 Other corporate software as SAAS:  CRM: RightNow Technologies; Managing personnel: Employease; Transporation: LeanLogistics; Business Intelligence: Oco; Banking services: Digital Insight; Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP): Workday, NetSuite,,,,

P72 SAAS sales are booming and will by 2011 account for 25 percent of the business software market.

P94  The shift in skilled employment away form tradesmen and toward what would come to be known as “knowledge workers”…increased the workforce’s educational requirements.  Learning the three R’s in grammar school was no longer enough.  Children needed further and more specialized education to prepare them for the new white-collar jobs….  This sounds like our ‘information literacy’ discussions.

P99  With the advent of the electric iron, ironing was easier, but that led to the expectation that everything was ironed – so it actually increased the amount of ironing being done.   “While women didn’t have to work as hard to do their ironing, they had to do more of it, more often, and with more precision. “  Another case of “now that you can, you are expected to.” 

P118  As utility computing advanced, companies will have to make decisions about what to hold onto and what to turn over to utilities.  Smaller companies will have strong economic incentives to embrace the full utility model, most larger companies will need to carefully balance their past investments in in-house computing with the benefits provided by utilities.  They can be expected to pursue a hybrid approach for many years… In the long run, the IT department is unlikely to survive, at least not in its familiar form….  Business units and even individual employees will be able to control the processing of information directly, without the need for legions of technical specialists.

P120 online picture fixing: Phixr

P142  As user-generated content continues to be commercialized, it seems likely that the largest threat posed by social production….will be to individual professionals – to the journalists, editors, photographers, …and he other information workers who can be replaced…why pay a professional to do something that an amateur is happy to do for free?

P155  As newspapers on online and stories are ‘unbundled’ from each other, journalists will be paid for stories that attract ad clickthroughs, skewing the topics of research toward the sensationalistic.,,,

P157 Online media enthusiasts often point out that we’ll be able to purchase just those things of interest rather than all the other junk that used to be bundled with it.  But the detritus that ends up being culled from our culture may include products that many of us would define as ‘the good stuff.’  What’s sacrificed may not be blandness but quality….the culture of abundance being produced by the World Wide Computer is really just a culture of mediocrity – many miles wide but only a fraction of an inch deep.

P192 Even as the World Wide Computer grants us new opportunities and tools for self-expression and self-fulfillment, it is also given others an unprecedented ability to influence how we think and what we do, to funnel our attention and actions toward their own ends.  The technology’s ultimate social and personal consequences will be determined in large measure y how the tension between the two sides of its nature – liberating and controlling – comes to be resolved.

P208  BitTorrent is now the BitTorrent Entertainment Network?  Wow.

P209 we accept greater control (over us, our information, and our actions) in return for greater convenience.

P216 A 2004 Microsoft patent for transmitting power and data using the human body; a bus that can be used to connect “a network of devices coupled to a single body…can be extended by connoting multiple bodies through physical contact [such as] a handshake.  When two or more bodies are connected physically, the linked bodies form one large bus over which power and/or communications signals can be transmitted….

This reminds me of the drummers in the Diamond Age.


Matthew 20: 17 “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst”

P218 Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service….  A program passes a task to a human to provide the required (as of today) intelligence… like in the Diamond Age again.

P219 220 When we use Google search, our contribution to its intelligence is made unconsciously.  Every link on the web contains a little bit of intelligence; all the links contain a great deal of intelligence….systematically exploits human knowledge and decisions about what is significant.  Every time we write a link or even click on one, we are making the machine a little smarter….  As the computing cloud grows, as it becomes ubiquitous, we will feed ever more intelligence into it.  The transfer of our intelligence into the machine will happen, in other words, whether or not we allow chips or sockets to be embedded in our skulls.

P226  As we put ever more intelligence into the web, will we, individually, become more intelligent, or less so….?  Kevin Kelly: what will surprise us is how dependant we will be on what the Machine knows….We already find it easier to Google something a second or third time rather than remember it ourselves….it will become our memory…when divorced from the Machine [people] won’t feel like themselves – as if they’d have a lobotomy…. [like Manfred Macx in Accelerando by Stross, when he loses his specs, his link to the web].  Kelly: the submergence of our minds and our selves into a greater intelligence will mark the fulfillment of our destiny…  Kaczynski, the unabomber: As machines become more and more intelligent, people will let machines make more of their decisions for them.…also, “Why the Future Doesn’t need us,” by Joy.

P233  All technological change is generational change.  The full power and consequences 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 the progress covers its tracks, perpetually refreshing the illusion that where we are is where we were meant to be….Prensky’s digital natives and immigrants.

P241 In the Notes “SaaS delivery challenges on-premise software” Desisto, et. al. 

The Notes section was never referenced in the text, say through footnotes.  Sort of irritating to come across it now.

YouOS using Amazon web services…




Entry filed under: feed my pet brain, information literacy, web2.

In the kitchen with the kids Keep it short and sweet

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