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Overconnected: The Promise and Threat of the Internet

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In OVERCONNECTED, Bill Davidow explains how the almost miraculous success of the Internet in connecting the world through the Worldwide Web has also created a unique set of hazards, in effect overconnecting us, with the direst of consequences. p The benefits of our recently arrived-at state of connectivity have been myriad from the ease with which it has been possible to bu In OVERCONNECTED, Bill Davidow explains how the almost miraculous success of the Internet in connecting the world through the Worldwide Web has also created a unique set of hazards, in effect overconnecting us, with the direst of consequences. p The benefits of our recently arrived-at state of connectivity have been myriad from the ease with which it has been possible to buy a new house to the convenience of borrowing and investing money profitably. But the luxuries of the connected age have taken on a momentum all of their own. By counter-intuitively anatomizing how being overconnected tends to create systems of positive feedback that have largely negative consequences, Davidow explains everything from the recent Subprime mortgage crisis to the meltdown of Iceland, from the loss of people s privacy to the spectacular fall of the stock market. All because we were so miraculously wired together. p Explaining how such symptoms of Internet connection as unforeseeable accidents and how thought contagions acted to accelerate the downfall and make us permanently vulnerable to catastrophe, Davidow places our recent experience in historical perspective and offers a set of practical steps to minimize similar disasters in the future.p William Davidow is a successful Silicon Valley venture capitalist, philanthropist, and author, and as a senior vice-president of Intel Corporation, he was responsible for the design of the Intel microprocessor chip. He has written three previous books Marketing High Technology (The Free Press, 1986) and Total Customer Service (Harper, 1989), both with Bro Uttal, and The Virtual Corporation" (Harper, 1992), with Michael Malone as well as columns for Forbes and numerous op-ed pieces. He graduated from Dartmouth College, has a masters degree from the California Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. from Stanford University. He serves on the boards of Cal Tech, the California Nature Conservancy, and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.


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In OVERCONNECTED, Bill Davidow explains how the almost miraculous success of the Internet in connecting the world through the Worldwide Web has also created a unique set of hazards, in effect overconnecting us, with the direst of consequences. p The benefits of our recently arrived-at state of connectivity have been myriad from the ease with which it has been possible to bu In OVERCONNECTED, Bill Davidow explains how the almost miraculous success of the Internet in connecting the world through the Worldwide Web has also created a unique set of hazards, in effect overconnecting us, with the direst of consequences. p The benefits of our recently arrived-at state of connectivity have been myriad from the ease with which it has been possible to buy a new house to the convenience of borrowing and investing money profitably. But the luxuries of the connected age have taken on a momentum all of their own. By counter-intuitively anatomizing how being overconnected tends to create systems of positive feedback that have largely negative consequences, Davidow explains everything from the recent Subprime mortgage crisis to the meltdown of Iceland, from the loss of people s privacy to the spectacular fall of the stock market. All because we were so miraculously wired together. p Explaining how such symptoms of Internet connection as unforeseeable accidents and how thought contagions acted to accelerate the downfall and make us permanently vulnerable to catastrophe, Davidow places our recent experience in historical perspective and offers a set of practical steps to minimize similar disasters in the future.p William Davidow is a successful Silicon Valley venture capitalist, philanthropist, and author, and as a senior vice-president of Intel Corporation, he was responsible for the design of the Intel microprocessor chip. He has written three previous books Marketing High Technology (The Free Press, 1986) and Total Customer Service (Harper, 1989), both with Bro Uttal, and The Virtual Corporation" (Harper, 1992), with Michael Malone as well as columns for Forbes and numerous op-ed pieces. He graduated from Dartmouth College, has a masters degree from the California Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. from Stanford University. He serves on the boards of Cal Tech, the California Nature Conservancy, and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

30 review for Overconnected: The Promise and Threat of the Internet

  1. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    I have to admit, to a degree I was looking to read a book that trashed the internet, particularly one that offered critiques of the effects of socializing on it. But this ain't that book. However, what it is is actually not too bad, and it did satisfy the Luddite strain in me. It takes a macro/large event-scale approach rather than focusing on the personal-level consequences of what Davidow calls "overconnectivity," which in a nutshell is the author's contention that overly pervasive and complex s I have to admit, to a degree I was looking to read a book that trashed the internet, particularly one that offered critiques of the effects of socializing on it. But this ain't that book. However, what it is is actually not too bad, and it did satisfy the Luddite strain in me. It takes a macro/large event-scale approach rather than focusing on the personal-level consequences of what Davidow calls "overconnectivity," which in a nutshell is the author's contention that overly pervasive and complex systems such as the internet can aid, abet and worsen the severity of events, and leave a lot of unprepared people, who have not adjusted to the new order, reeling in its wake. The internet, for all its glories, more rapidly spreads and worsens pain in a globally connected world. Mainly the book looks at how the internet has worsened the fallout of various financial crises, including the subprime mortgage crisis in which we are still deeply mired (2 million homes expected to be repo'd in 2011; and mine might be one of them). Davidow's compact explanation of the history and causes of the subprime mortgage crisis is probably the best I've ever read. He pretty much nails it in about 3 pages. What the book really seems to be, oftentimes, is a critique of the cynically immoral deregulated business practices afoot in the global economy, more than it is a critique of the internet. The internet can be used as a tool by elites to manipulate and ruin the rest of us, and accelerate the bilking process. In a sense, the net is not the explosion itself, but the metaphorical gasoline that can make the conflagration far worse. I had written a lot of thoughts about this book as I went along, but decided to just pen a pithy assessment. I think Davidow's tome is supposed to be like one of those Malcolm Gladwell books, just not as good. And it can get tedious at times, especially when it rehashes things like the history of the internet, and Davidow's own folksy anecdotes about his times as a Silicon Valley executive. Although there is an amusing story about he and colleagues sitting around a table in the early 70s pondering future uses of computer technology--but failing to see big-picture drawbacks like the swift collapses of wired financial institutions, etc.--and envisioning instead apps such as recipe databases for housewives. He admits it was sexist and a naive sign of those times. Speaking about semiconductors, he writes. "We Intel engineers believed our tiny device would improve the world, but we failed to understand how it would transform it." The book is a good primer to those wanting to ponder the downside of technologies that are touted as panaceas or quality of life enhancers.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Okay this is my favorite, thought provoking book of the year (and yes I know it is only January) but this one will rule the year. It has something for everyone. The historian, economist, entrepreneur, technician, psychologist, engineer, current events guru, and much more. It will make you thnk about what happen in recent events and why.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Hano-Chan

    Quite informative and presents some interesting arguments about over-connectivity. It is not about Social Media like I thought when I first saw it in the bookstore. It talks about the social implications of becoming over-connected which is facilitated by the prevalence of the internet in our times. How positive feedback loops are driving more change, faster than the environment can cope with sometimes. How the internet and the resulting connectivity levels in various regions of the world has aff Quite informative and presents some interesting arguments about over-connectivity. It is not about Social Media like I thought when I first saw it in the bookstore. It talks about the social implications of becoming over-connected which is facilitated by the prevalence of the internet in our times. How positive feedback loops are driving more change, faster than the environment can cope with sometimes. How the internet and the resulting connectivity levels in various regions of the world has affected the way we interact, the way we do business and how it impacted social systems, governments and political entities. The beginning was interesting, the middle felt too lengthy, the ending of the book became very exciting for me when the author was presenting possible solutions for this phenomenon.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Zaron

    An interesting book whose argument could be more effectively made in a five or ten thousand word essay. It also suffers from feeling dated at this point. Worth considering the argument about the risk of over-connection and there's a certain prescience in it, but not something I'd recommend reading now. The author's biases toward market solutions shows and sometimes the argument is undermined with the conflation of the improvement in technology, policy, and the internet into over-connection creat An interesting book whose argument could be more effectively made in a five or ten thousand word essay. It also suffers from feeling dated at this point. Worth considering the argument about the risk of over-connection and there's a certain prescience in it, but not something I'd recommend reading now. The author's biases toward market solutions shows and sometimes the argument is undermined with the conflation of the improvement in technology, policy, and the internet into over-connection created by the internet.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Katie Adee

    In many ways, OVERconnected served as an eye-opener for me regarding the role technology and the internet plays in our lives. Davidow uses a somewhat narrative style through the first person to lay out the (much abbreviated!) history of the internet and make his case accessible to his readers. He also shares some personal experiences he's had and his small role in creating an overconnected world that help us connect to him and the book. Another way Davidow makes the book accessible to a wide aud In many ways, OVERconnected served as an eye-opener for me regarding the role technology and the internet plays in our lives. Davidow uses a somewhat narrative style through the first person to lay out the (much abbreviated!) history of the internet and make his case accessible to his readers. He also shares some personal experiences he's had and his small role in creating an overconnected world that help us connect to him and the book. Another way Davidow makes the book accessible to a wide audience is that he doesn't show off an impressive vocabulary, which I sometimes grumbled at during Medical Murder: Disturbing cases of doctors who kill. OVERconnected's strongest positive feature was how Davidow took up to three chapters to explore/explain a point without it dragging on. The example that best comes to mind is Iceland's banking crisis. I tend to live in a news shell (meaning I rarely follow any news) and came away from those chapters understanding something I had no previous knowledge of. Davidow also compares and contrasts the 1929 stock market crash to the one of September 2008. He shows how connectivity between institutions enabled things to fly high then spiral out of control. OVERconnected's weakest feature, for me, came in the final three chapters. This is a non-fiction book and definitely follows the classic essay structure I learned in school: introduction with thesis, body paragraphs that support thesis, and conclusion that summarizes what's been discussed and a possible call to action. Davidow's "essay" is 200 pages in the hardback edition, and of those 200 pages, 52 pages feel like conclusion, with only the last twelve pages a call to action.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Raymond

    William brought forward the idea of Internet and the World Wide Web has both made our modern lives better by connecting domains that were once separated, as well as the increased risks of being "overconnected" that clouds our ability in managing the complexity that has grown exponentially. William showcased the idea through various stages of connected-ness in systems, and giving examples of the boom of industrial age in US brought forward by the rail networks that connect producers and consumers William brought forward the idea of Internet and the World Wide Web has both made our modern lives better by connecting domains that were once separated, as well as the increased risks of being "overconnected" that clouds our ability in managing the complexity that has grown exponentially. William showcased the idea through various stages of connected-ness in systems, and giving examples of the boom of industrial age in US brought forward by the rail networks that connect producers and consumers, as well as the telegraph that brought connection to the business worlds. With the emergence of Internet, Iceland has been introduced into the world of financial market. The ease of having bank account, to applying loans and making risky investment bets. All these actions have both bring boom and bust to its once simple economy till the pre-2008 Global Recession. William discussed the same model that fuel the growth is responsible of its downfall as well, due largely by positive feedback loop, and the unmanageable momentum that has pushed through the social and financial lives of everyone. All in all, this book is a light read for everyone, and it provides the necessary understanding of how things happen from a different perspectives. It touches domains from system engineering, to economic policies as well as financial markets on the surface, and readers can dive into a more thorough understanding later.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andy Daykin

    The author Davidow makes some good points about how the internet contributed to the global financial meltdown of 07/08, in particular with Iceland. He does a good job of building up his points with lots of data and intriguing anecdotes. However, this is also one of the negatives of the book. He doesn't attempt to explore the promise part of the internet as much as he could have and focuses mostly on the negatives without offering very clear solutions to the problems. The fact that he relies heav The author Davidow makes some good points about how the internet contributed to the global financial meltdown of 07/08, in particular with Iceland. He does a good job of building up his points with lots of data and intriguing anecdotes. However, this is also one of the negatives of the book. He doesn't attempt to explore the promise part of the internet as much as he could have and focuses mostly on the negatives without offering very clear solutions to the problems. The fact that he relies heavily on anecdotal evidence means that he doesn't explore the overall effect, such as some of the good parts. There is little mention of what the internet has done to contribute to exposing dictators in 3rd world countries and how it has made it easier to obtain information that helps people understand financial data.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy Ranieri

    Outstanding book of knowledge. I learned quite a bit about history, financial markets, semiconductors, and all sorts of random trivia and knowledge. I don't know how one man can know so much about so many things. I only gave this 3 stars however as the book was less about the internet than it was about interconnections and how the internet boosts interconnections. Still, it is a good read and you will know a lot more about the world when you finish. Outstanding book of knowledge. I learned quite a bit about history, financial markets, semiconductors, and all sorts of random trivia and knowledge. I don't know how one man can know so much about so many things. I only gave this 3 stars however as the book was less about the internet than it was about interconnections and how the internet boosts interconnections. Still, it is a good read and you will know a lot more about the world when you finish.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    I think I misjudged this book initially. After re-reading this book I think the author has a point about networks and the problem they pose to stable systems. That having been said, At any given point in the book up until the end I could not decide if Mr Davidow was a luddite or encouraging us to change our approach to networks. I am pleased to say that this book is not a call to reject technology, but to see and prevent the damage that very complex interconnected systems could cause.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Luis Capelo

    The book focuses on the destructive aspects of an interconnected world. While those aspects do exist, the author does not comment on the other mechianisms resulting from this interconnection that allow our societies to thrive. Failure is highly potentialized by the internet in. the author point of view, failing to address its constructive side.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Huyen

    This book makes you think. The central thesis is that due to technology, especially the internet, our society has become so overconnected and changes so rapidly that it is almost impossible for institutions to adapt and design timely regulations. It leaves us more vulnerable to massive disruptions in employment, the financial markets and privacy. very thought-provoking book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Aditya

    Very interesting read... Davidow talks about how a state of overconnectivity can adversely affect booming economies and individuals alike, bringing detailed examples from all over the world, and ranging from the early nineteenth century to the present-day. He paints a very vivid picture in the examples mixed with superb insights.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Frank Gruver

    I prefer fiction over non fiction , but I also like to read about technology so that’s how I read this book and found it to be an interesting read in that it talks about , for one, the mortgage crisis and how technology played a big part , the stock market, Iceland. Worth reading.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    I liked this mostly for the history provided on the various financial collapses and transportation / technological innovations, which were well written and fascinating. The theory is a nice one, but I felt the author really just stated the same thing again and again.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Phil Simon

    The premise is at first a bit tough to swallow: the a state of overconnectedness caused things like the recent financial debacle. Still, Davidow makes his points clearly. By virtue of technology, bad things get really bad really quickly. Good book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mike Stolfi

    Is social networking a potential siren song to the society we've built? In many ways yes, but is it too late to regulate the effects? Perhaps, now that the proverbial cat's out of the bag. Worth thinking about even though it may never reach a legislator. Is social networking a potential siren song to the society we've built? In many ways yes, but is it too late to regulate the effects? Perhaps, now that the proverbial cat's out of the bag. Worth thinking about even though it may never reach a legislator.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Thomas McGuire

    Good theory backed up by clear, real-world examples. A warning as to the unforseen consequences of technological innovation.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Virginia Rand

    Very interesting, but the ideas were a bit hard to comprehend in places.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    More at http://greatesthitsblog.com/category/... More at http://greatesthitsblog.com/category/...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ravi Jain

    RESEARCH: 2/5 EASE OF UNDERSTANDING: 3/5 LANGUAGE: 3/5 ENTERTAINING: 2/5 A very novel concept but poorly written. Would surely be a bestseller if it was well written.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    It seemed like it had promise of an in depth study, but was more brushstrokes, touching on several topics superficially that have been covered in other venues.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ilana Milkes

  23. 4 out of 5

    D. Emery Bunn

  24. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alex Lee

  26. 5 out of 5

    Derek

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mike

  28. 5 out of 5

    Open Road Media

  29. 5 out of 5

    Edward

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mitch

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