Nicholas Carr, amongst the most incisive and profound critic of information technology, will be in Silicon Valley tonight (7.00 pm), at Campbell's Barnes and Noble bookstore in conversation with ZDNet honcho Dan Farber, Edgeio co-founder/CEO Keith Teare, and Gillmor Gang ringleader & Podtech exec Steve Gillmor, and me. While the event is ostensibly to discuss my dastardly/bastardly Cult of the Amateur (a term Nick himself coined), I would rather do the big switch myself and talk about Nick's forthcoming new book, The Big Switch (to be published by Norton). Here's Nick on his sweeping new tome:
A hundred years ago, businesses began dismantling their waterwheels, steam engines, and generators. After producing their own mechanical power for centuries, they suddenly had an alternative. They could plug into the newly built electric grid and get all the electricity they needed from central stations. The cheap power pumped out by electric utilities didn't just transform how businesses operate. It set off a chain reaction of economic, social, and cultural changes that brought the modern world into existence.
Today, a new technological revolution is under way, and it's following a similar course. Companies are beginning to dismantle their private computer systems and tap into rich services delivered over the Internet. This time, it’s computing that’s turning into a utility. The shift is already remaking the computer industry, bringing new competitors like Google and Salesforce.com to the fore and threatening stalwarts like Microsoft, SAP, and Dell. But the effects will reach much further. Cheap, utility-supplied computing will ultimately change society as profoundly as cheap electricity did.
Wow! I have a strong suspicion that The Big Switch is going to be as profoundly surprisingly as Does IT Matter, the controversial book that originally made Carr's name as an information technology guru and sceptic. Rather than talk about the inanity of Web 2.0's blogs, splogs and flogs, tonight, I hope we'll also get a chance to talk about the profound social ramifications of cheap, utility-supplied computing. I think Nick is right. We really are on the verge of a new industrial revolution. Unlike Silicon Valley's much hyped user-generation content revolution, Nick Carr's big switch is for real. I can't wait to hear more about it tonight.