A peer of mine, whom focuses in social media, suggested the book entitled, "The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires" by Tim Wu. My expectation was that the book would start by saying how the internet has changed the way people get and use information...because that is the way so many social media seem to start.
But, I was pleasantly surprised by the start of this book. The Master Switch is divided into five parts, the first discussing "The Rise," which discusses the history of information technology, not just the start of the internet. So, with the start of information technology, we need to discuss the phone, the radio and the TV. Some of the key highlights I took away from the first part of the book include:
- "All knowledge and habit once acquired, becomes as firmly rooted in ourselves as a railway embankment in the earth." This statement by Joseph Schumpeter, highlights his thought that the human mind is too lazy to seek out new lines of thought when old ones can serve us (page 21 of book).
- Radio had a low barrier to entry and was a very vital means of communications. Now, it isn't a vital means but it has a very high barrier to entry (page 39).
- Purpose of broadcast...According to John Reith, general manager of the BBC at the time believed that 'the medium, he wrote, must not become "mere entertainment," catering to the "imagined wants" of the listeners (page 41). This is very interesting because it seems that the majority of broadcast these days is pure entertainment.
- Another very interesting quote from Reith is "He who prides himself on giving what he thinks the public wants is often creating fictitious demand for lower standards which he will then satisfy." (page 41). This is interesting because this is what one could say today's 'news' has become - fictitious.
- Back in the early 1900's, broadcasting made its money by selling licenses and actually had a ban on advertising because of the thought that advertising would "lower the standard" (page 43). The foresight in how increasing messages, and messages that aren't 'educational' is just unbelievable.
- The phone wasn't a better version of the telegraph, but actually the first social technology (page 47). As quoted in the book, "With a telephone in the house comes a new companionship, new life, new possibilities, new relationships, and attachments for the old farm by both old and young."
- Broadcast network: Developed first by AT&T provided the power to harness economies of scale (page 76).
- Radio: "What was once a wide-open medium, mostly the province of amateur hobbyists, was now poised to become big business, dominated by a Radio Trust; what was once an unregulated technology would now come under the strict command and control of a federal agency" (page 82). This statement makes me wonder if our need to communicate fast and all the time has taken away the authenticity and quality of what we communicate.