The Big Switch [book]

The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google makes comparisons between the introduction of electricity as a utility and the progress of software, and even hardware, as utilities (via the internet)–an intriguing, though as Nicholas Carr admits, somewhat imperfect metaphor.

More interesting are two points of analysis regarding the internet age:
1) the wealth divide
Due to the nature of the internet – where people can provide their services for free (think blogging, editing Wikipedia, other crowd sourced things) and where people expect things to be free (news, information) – many middle classed jobs are being displaced, replaced, changed. So whereas “electrification forced the companies [Henry Ford, etc.] to spread their increasing wealth widely among their employees…the arrival of the universal computing grid portends a very different kind of economic realignment. Rather than concentrating wealth in the hands of a small number of companies, it may concentrate wealth in the hands of a small number of individuals, eroding the middle class and widening the divide between the haves and have-nots.” (p. 143, Ch. “From the Many to the Few”)

2) political/personal divide
Despite the incomprehensible amount of information online, or possibly because of it, people tend to visit sites with information or contributors they relate to. In politics this means conservatives are mostly only reading conservative sites and being linked to other conservative sites, and same for liberals. There’s an aspect of confirmation bias (what information you’re looking for and what information you’re seeing), and also just who wants to read something they strongly disagree with? Our personal information filters to weed through all that information defeat diversity and democracy of information – that which the internet is supposed to provide. Carr refers to economist Thomas Schelling’s fairly famous 1970s study of segregation (pp. 158-160) [Micromotives and Macrobehavior on wikipedia] and a 2005 study that showed that participating in a group of people with shared beliefs will amplify those beliefs (pp. 164-166) [“What Really Happened on Deliberation Day?” pdf]. (Ch. “The Great Unbundling”)

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