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“Magisterial. . . . Draws an elegant and illuminating parallel between the late-19th-century electrification of America and today’s computing world.”—Salon

Hailed as “the most influential book so far on the cloud computing movement” (Christian Science Monitor), The Big Switch makes a simple and profound statement: Computing is turning into a utility, and the effects of this transition will ultimately change society as completely as the advent of cheap electricity did. In a new chapter for this edition that brings the story up-to-date, Nicholas Carr revisits the dramatic new world being conjured from the circuits of the “World Wide Computer.”


The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google
Average rating
4 / 5
Forceful account might benefit from more humility.
April 1st, 2015
This book tells two stories. One is an analogy between the establishment of the modern electricity grid and cloud computing networks suggesting that computer networks will soon transform society with cloud computing networks turning computing into a commodity that we will be able to buy and use for any number of purposes with little if any effort. The other story is that cloud computing networks creates a technological potential that is probably bad news for life as we know it both intellectually and socially. The book is interesting because its author has clearly read and is engaging academic thought about the history and implications of computers and technology, but the author takes a rather straightforward view of technology, accepting a technological determinism. This position has some motivation that the author shares, but I wish he had engaged more with some potential objections. For example, comparing computers to utility is an idea that achieved some popularity in the 60s and 70s but failed then why is Carr so sure that now will be so different. Some of the author's negative apprehension about computers seems to be more a contrarian response to the endless positive froth generated by a thousand optimistic press releases than a completely justified intellectual position. That said the author stakes out his position relatively clearly and offers a contrast with the technological optimism that so many companies and authors offer.
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