I figured I knew Nick Carr's central thesis behind his new book, The Big Switch: Our New Digital Destiny, before I started. I've read Nick's blog religiously for years and was fortunate to have him keynote last year's Open Source Business Conference.
The thesis runs something like this: IT didn't used to matter very much because interchangeable software systems widely used throughout industries means IT no longer provides a basis for competitive differentiation (see pages 56-57). In the next phase (dubbed "utility computing"), traditional IT matters even less: data centers are the new utilities, allowing more efficient deployment of software applications than any one company could hope to build on its own. Jack into the network of data and services and get on with your business.
What I wasn't anticipating was where such nonchalance could lead socially. This comes in the second half of the book, and left me wishing that Nick's arguments weren't so lucidly advanced. It would have been nice to caricature his argument and move on. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that's possible.
But first Utopia, before further discussion of Carr's Dystopia.… Read more