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Next: The Future Just Happened by Michael…
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Next: The Future Just Happened (edition 2002)

by Michael Lewis

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287339,220 (3.76)None
Member:jspiros
Title:Next: The Future Just Happened
Authors:Michael Lewis
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2002), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Delicious Library, Your library
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Next: The Future Just Happened by Michael Lewis

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This is an excellent book that rationally examines the Internet and the social change it has invoked. Rather than just bemoan and whine about the impact, Lewis has bothered to investigate the reasons for the myriad changes. His book should be required reading for sociology and business classes. He has a sarcastic wit yet keen insight into the radical shifts that have taken place, and he speculates on what the future might bring.

Central to Lewis's observations is the idea that the Internet has altered the relationship between the "insiders" and the "outsiders": between those who formerly controlled information and its flow to their benefit i.e., those who try to define what that information is, and those who have always been denied access to that power and information because of youth, lack of formal education, or lack of capital.

In Next, Lewis shows how the Internet is the ideal model for sociologists who believe that our "selves are merely the masks we wear in response to the social situations in which we find ourselves." On the Internet, a boy barely in his teens flouts the investment system, making big enough bucks to get the SEC breathing down his neck for stock market fraud. What really makes them mad is that he has beaten them at their own game. When being accused of "manipulating" stock prices, he throws their logic back at them, asserting that that's the whole point of the stock market, that without manipulation, there would be no stock market. He watched stocks being hyped by professionals at the behest of companies and to the benefit of their own portfolios, in a world where companies cared more about their stock's value than the products they produced. A Blomberg study revealed that amateur predictions were twice as likely to be correct than those of stock analyst professionals.

Markus, a bored adolescent, too young to drive, became one of the most respected legal advisors on Askme.com. His legal expertise came from watching myriads of legal television shows and from searching out the answers on the Internet. Ironically, his information appears to have been correct, and even the head of the American Bar Association admitted that most legal counsel is simply a matter of dispensing appropriate information. The story of how Askme.com got started is in itself instructive. It was designed by a software company to permit corporations to create an intranet that provided the capability for anyone to ask a question and anyone else in the corporation to provide an answer. Thus the information flow would change from the traditional top down pyramid model to a more pancake-shaped environment where information moved horizontally. It could be a bit unsettling for some people to see a vice-president get assistance from an assembly line worker, but the results were much more profitable companies, so the software became quite popular. The only concern prospective customers had was whether a product could withstand heavy usage, so the designers created Askme.com, a public site where people could ask questions of others. It became so popular that it was getting 10 million hits per day, and experts were vying for top rankings from those they assisted. Markus was so accommodating and his information so reliable that he was once asked by a "client" to provide the defense in court. Fortunately, his mother wouldn't drive him to court, but he supplied legal briefs and other legal documents that were accepted. The pyramid flattening to a pancake has become a metaphor for all that is happening around us.

Gnutella, the famous peer-to-peer software, is also examined as an example of the new relationships that have arisen from the ubiquitous nature of the Internet. It, too, demonstrates how the social order has been reversed and prestige redistributed. The corrosive effect of money, the lessening of gambling as sinful, and the devaluation of formal training in the exchange of knowledge ("casual thought went well with casual dress,") are additional side effects.

Lewis writes so smoothly. His observations are often funny as he describes people's behavior and familial interactions. The Internet has provided a window through which even youngsters, like the teenage investor, can "glimpse the essential truth of the market -- that even people who call themselves professionals were often incapable of independent thought and that most people , though obsessed with money, had little ability to make decisions about it." It's also clear from his examples, most illuminatingly the interviews with the SEC and the parents, that most adults have no idea what's happening around them, and that these youngsters are becoming proficient at the same tools available to the "experts." Lewis's observations, in my experience, are valid, but whether they are entirely due to the Internet is problematic. Certainly, anyone can set him/herself up as a consultant merely by making speculative announcements publicly and then charging huge fees regardless of whether the information is appropriate, valid, or even false. We are surrounded by silly, self-esteem-building, "creativity" workshops that are singularly lacking in content and substance. We are told that all we need do is have a little passion for something in order to be successful. Competence has little to do with anything any more.

I remember a call from a father inebriatingly asking why it was necessary for his son to take certain courses - Shakespeare was one of them - that the father and the boy deemed to be unnecessary since his son was already making so much money in the stock market. My explanation that one of the roles of a multi-faceted education was to create a compassionate and informed citizenry fell on stony ground. Clearly, the only value this family had was monetary.

Keep your eye on the outsiders. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
I listened to this book on the way up to Scott & Stacey's wedding.

It was pretty good.

The 15 year old stock trader who made half a million in the market was a pretty funny and enlightening story. ( )
  dvf1976 | Apr 23, 2008 |
This book let me feeling vindicated. Yes Yes Yes Yes this is how the world is changing and we are seeing it here in darkest Africa even! Creativity is KING! ( )
  thanesh | Apr 13, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393323528, Paperback)

If you've ever had the sneaking (and perhaps depressing) suspicion that the Internet is radically changing the world as you know it, buck up. No wait, buckle up--it is. While some people celebrate this and others bemoan it, Michael Lewis has been busy investigating the reasons for this rapid change. Employing the sarcastic wit and keen recognition of social shifts that readers of Liar's Poker and The New New Thing will recognize, Lewis takes us on a quick spin through today and speculates on what it might mean for tomorrow.

Central to Lewis's observations is the idea that the Internet hasn't really caused anything; rather it fills a type of social hole, the most obvious of which is a need to alter relations between "insiders" and "outsiders." In Next, Lewis shows how the Internet is the ideal model for sociologists who believe that our "selves are merely the masks we wear in response to the social situations in which we find ourselves." It is the place where a New Jersey boy barely into his teens flouts the investment system, making big enough bucks to get the SEC breathing down his neck for stock market fraud. Where Markus, a bored adolescent stuck in a dusty desert town and too young to even drive, becomes the most-requested legal expert on Askme.com, doling out advice on everything from how to plead to murder charges to how much an Illinois resident can profit from illegal gains before being charged with fraud ($5,001 was the figure Markus supplied to this particular cost-benefit query). Where a left-leaning kid of 14 in a depressed town outside Manchester is too poor to take up a partial scholarship to a school for gifted children, but who spends all hours (all cheap call-time hours, at least) engaged in "digital socialism," trying to develop a successor to Gnutella, the notorious file-sharing program that had spawned the new field of peer-to-peer computing. Lewis burrows deeply into each of these stories and others, examining social phenomena that the Internet has contributed to: the redistribution of prestige and authority and the reversal of the social order; the erosive effect on the money culture (both in the democratization of capital and in the effect of gambling losing its "status as a sin"); the decreased value we place on formal training (or as he puts it "casual thought went well with casual dress"); and the increased need for knowledge exchange.

Lewis's observations are piercingly sharp. He can be very funny in portraying ordinary people's behavior, but remains thorough and insightful in his examination of the social consequences. He notes that Jonathan Lebed, the teenage online investor, had "glimpsed the essential truth of the market--that even people who called themselves professionals were often incapable of independent thought and that most people, though obsessed with money, had little ability to make decisions about it." While Lewis's commentary gets a little more dense and theoretical toward the end, Next is an entertaining, thought-provoking look at life in an Internet-driven world. --S. Ketchum

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:00 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The Internet boom is making major changes in the world, making the individual king.

(summary from another edition)

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W.W. Norton

Two editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393323528, 0393020371

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