Episode#17 – The Big Switch

The Big Switch

by Nicholas Carr


The book in one sentence

How disruptive technologies like cloud computing change our world.


My personal opinion

This book was an eye opener for me. When I read this book, I was already working with cloud computing and all this. But after reading this book I understood what potential we have in front of us.

Nicholas Carr describes in the first chapters how electricity was invented. “Electricity?”, you will say. Yes, electricity! Because there are a lot of similarities between electricity and cloud computing.

In the beginning you have the slow growing impact of new technology on current processes, the status quo, how we currently do things. But during this first phase we only gather experience with the new technology, making the status quo more efficient. The real disruption comes when the new technology – like electricity years ago – becomes commodity and complementary technologies are invented. As a result, the combination of 1) availability and 2) complementary technologies changes the status quo completely.

I love the example where Nicholas Carr describes the end of the “cooling” industry. Years ago, food and drinks where cooled by real ice cubes. There were a lot of companies specialised in the transport of huge amounts of ice from the northern part of our world back to the cities. At first, the invention of electricity itself was no danger to the “cooling” industry. But when the electric-powered fridge as a complementary technology was invented, available for each and every household or business, a whole industry disappeared in a short time frame. This is the real impact of disruption!

In the book Nicholas Carr explains the similarities between electricity, cloud computing and how “cheap” processing of information will change our world.


To whom I would recommend this book

In general, if you are interested in the very trending topic of disruption, I can recommend the book to you. The content is very good and Nicholas Carr has an entertaining style of writing. The book will give you some nice examples of disruption which you can use for story-telling. Personally, I like the crush of the “cooling” industry to explain how the potential of cloud computing and complementary technologies like the Internet-of-Things or artificial intelligence will change our world as well.


What I learned from this book

  • The technological progress and its consequences are mainly driven by our markets. More efficient ways to produce goods will always dominate. Competition enforces the technological progress.
  • Never let pride or money make you hesitate to take on your dreams (when Samuel Insull accepted his job at the Chicago Edison Company his salary dropped from 36.000 Dollar to 12.000 Dollar).
  • Electricity was supported by the positive feedback of the network: more customers led to a more efficient production of electricity, leading to lower prices for the network, leading to more customer…
  • Disruptive technologies eliminate bottlenecks and therefore lead to major changes (like electric energy for manufacturing processes).
  • “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us” – John M. Clukin


Want to read this book?

Check it out on Amazon.com – The Big Switch by Nicolas Carr



Thanks to the publisher for printing such a great book!