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Overconnected: The Promise and Threat of the Internet

Book Description

In Overconnected, Bill Davidow, a former Silicon Valley executive, explains how the almost miraculous success of the Internet Web has also created a unique set of hazards, in effect overconnecting us, with the direst of consequences for our political, economic, and day-to-day lives.

The practical applications of this new medium—not least among them the ability to borrow money, invest in the stock market, or buy a new home—have made it a force unequaled in scope or impact in our daily lives. But the luxuries of the connected age have taken on a momentum all of their own, ultimately becoming the root cause of the recent financial meltdown from which the world is now still struggling to recover.
 
By meticulously and 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 that forced the Federal Government to rescue institutions supposedly “too big to fail.” All because we were so miraculously wired together!
 
Explaining how such symptoms of Internet connection as unforeseeable accidents and 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.
 
Original, commonsensical and historically informed, Overconnected indentifies problems we live with that are now so large, omnipresent and part of our daily lives that few people have even noticed them.
 
“The technology genie is out of the bottle. And as a result, you’re not going to put it back . . . [Overconnected] is a great read that is part historical, part anecdotal . . . the book addresses a universal audience. Its key message is really to anyone who uses technology.” —Paul Otinelli, CEO of Intel Corporation
 
Overconnected has the wonderful effect of explaining seemingly unrelated problems in a way that instantly makes sense once it is pointed out, and that also suggests feasible corrections. One of the pioneers of the modern technology shows how the unanticipated effects of the Internet are distorting economics, politics, international relations, and individual lives. The book is clear, original, and worth being widely read.” —James Fallows, Author and National Correspondent for The Atlantic
 
“Bill Davidow artfully employs historical analogies—many of them startlingly novel—to ask some penetrating questions about the Internet revolution and its implication for commerce, finance, politics, and culture. Written with punch and passion, Overconnected invokes examples from the South Sea Bubble and the economic explosion of Iceland to the rise of Chicago and the near-demise of New Orleans to demonstrate the in-built vulnerability of inter-connected systems. Davidow argues compellingly that connectivity without coordination is a formula for chronic instability—and that hyper-connection without coordination is a formula for mega-catastrophe, as recent events have shown. This is a bold and brave book. Its message deserves to go viral.” —David M. Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945, and Professor of History emeritus at Stanford University
 
“This book is an engagingly written primer on the impacts of the world’s most powerful interconnection technology. Every policy maker, politician, and businessperson should read it to gain a deeper understanding into how the Internet will transform government, our social institutions, the economy, and our lives.” —Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley
 
Bill Davidow has been a high-technology industry executive and a venture capital investor for more than thirty years, having worked at managerial positions at Intel Corp., Hewlett Packard and General Electric. He is now an active advisor to Mohr Davidow Ventures, a venture capital firm. An electrical engineer by training, he has earned degrees at Dartmouth College, the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University and is the author of Marketing High Technology and a co-author of Total Customer Service and The Virtual Corporation.