This book is about dramatic consequences of what author calls radical connectivity – the ability of everybody to obtain any information and connect with everybody else in the world. His main idea is that consequences of such democratization of communication undermines institutions of society and endangers its effective functioning.
- BURN IT ALL DOWN
This is about fear that author feel before Internet expansion and increase in freedom of people that it brings with it. Author does not trying to hide that he is active member of big left and as such in awe before big government and other big institutions of society. Even if he states at one point that some big institution deserve to die, he still believes that without some of big institutions led by supremely wise men like Obama, we all going to suffer. He clearly stated his fear that without all these big institutions and their power all “progressive” achievements of last 150+ years in limiting economic and personal freedoms of Americans will be lost. In addition to general statements about big institutions and threat to their existence this chapter also goes through brief history of development of computers that become basis for radical connectivity from PC through Internet and mobile devices. It also includes some interesting passages about what author calls “Nerd decease”, situation well familiar to everybody who ever dealt professionally with people of high technology. Quite often these people tend to look for overcomplicated technological solutions for problems that could be easily solved in much simpler way. As example he provides typical situation when complex code was developed to transfer reports to user when it could be easily done by manually delivering it across the aisle in the office.
- BIG NEWS
This chapter reviews dare situation of big news organizations that are getting killed by freedom of everybody to collect and distribute information. Behind author’s worries about decrease in professionalism of news media one can clearly see fear that without tightly controlled information flow the left political movement would be hard pressed its traditional advantage in setting up narrative and manipulating public opinion. Author is trying to find solace in some leftist success stories of online community organizing such as Huffington and Guardian experiences, but it is hard to believe that these leftist organizations that would have to compete with multiple online rightist organization could possibly provide such dominance as leftists had in time past when all three and only three TV news services were leftist. They had such amazing capability to distort information that they managed to create perception of right wing guilt in such event as communist Oswald killing president Kennedy.
- BIG POLITICAL PARTIES
Being one of technological leads in Obama campaign, author seems to be more positive in his views on impact of radical connectivity in politics mainly because Obama’s campaign was able to benefit from indoctrination of youth by public schools and colleges and therefore tap into their enthusiasm and pockets. However even in this area where author built successful carrier, he is filled with fear because radical connectivity can push upfront populist movements like Tea party that are capable to destroy leftist big government game that for more than a century was based on two big government parties: Bureaucratic party of Democrats and Crony capitalist party of Republicans.
- BIG FUN
This chapter is review of slow moving demise of another bastion of leftism – big entertainment. With virtual impossibility to control production and distribution of online entertainment Hollywood and traditional Music industry are in process of loosing control over content and distribution. Practically they are loosing monopoly power on propaganda via entertainment. Author also afraid of power moving from content oriented big entities such as Hollywood that had always been political to platform oriented big entities such as Amazon that do not really care about content, making it much more difficult from point of view of message control.
- BIG GOVERNMENT
This chapter is looking at impact of radical connectivity on big government. It recites a few cases of groundswell, meaning people finding ways to get around big government, and naturally states his fear of chaos if big government loses control over people. Another fear that is mentioned here is the fear of people sorting themselves out into separate like-minded groups and trying to handle their problem without government interference. I guess one of the main problems it represents for a liberal is dramatic increase in difficulties to conduct robbery of productive people on behalf of unproductive because it would be a big challenge to convince them that robbery is for common good when they know that they have nothing in common with beneficiaries of robbery whether these beneficiaries habituate in welfare slams or posh government offices. The final part of this chapter is dedicated to transparency of government and lobbying opportunities provided by online organizing.
- BIG ARMIES
This chapter is about impact of radical connectivity on war. The believe expressed here is that Internet, global connectivity, and similar thing completely change methods of conducting hostile actions leading to empowering of individuals to fight using terror actions and information disclosure. The big idea here is that government could not possibly shut down some digital networks. I guess meaning of big armies, their capabilities, and war with massive death is beyond author’s imagination, probably due to the lack of historical knowledge.
- BIG MINDS
This one is about elite education and government based scientific community with its process of elite selection and pier review based approval and legitimation that is increasingly coming under pressure from various forms of online education and knowledge development and dissemination. All these developments undermine authority and consequently cause fear for big government types. Author describes attempts to establish at least some authority online via authoritative sources such as Wikipedia and various fact check websites, but he does not feel that these attempts are really successful in achieving their goals.
- BIG COMPANIES
This chapter is about online goods and services providers that increasingly push out big companies substituting them with small shops and remaking America into free agent country. One of the most important points here is that economy of scale is loosing its advantages when it competes with economy of cheap information flows. Specifically reviewed are software sharing services and the cloud. This chapter is a great resource for all kind of information about weird web sites related to small online businesses.
- BIG OPPORTUNITIES?
The final chapter is kind of summary of situation. Author clearly sees that we are at the point of revolution in human history as big or even bigger then revolutions of early XX century that swept away thousands of years of monarchies and aristocracies ruling the world. It looks like big institutions of our time are moving in the same direction – they will be swept away by newly acquired power of individuals to control their lives, their productive, consuming, intellectual, and communicative activities. Author seems to be desperately looking for new institutions that could save power of elite or as he puts it “direction-setting inspirational leadership”, but could not find anything.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I agree that we are moving into new age of radical change in society institutions due to “radical connectivity” as author puts it. Contrary to the author I see only good coming from it because increase in power of individuals is not coming at the expense of decrease in power of some benevolent abstract entities of big government or big anything. It is coming at the expense of power of other individuals who are in control of these big institutions and routinely use this control to transfer to themselves wealth and resource created by other people. It short if “radical connectivity” wins, the contemporary elites will go the way of aristocracies a centuries past into oblivion. Author seems to fear this and I relish seeing it coming.