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Breakpoint: Why the Web will Implode, Search will be Obsolete, and Everything Else you Need to Know about Technology is in Your Brain Hardcover – July 23, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Stibel, brain scientist and entrepreneur, compares the Internet to the human brain as a network, and, as with all networks, the Internet is approaching a break point, along with many technologies and businesses that rely on it. Yet, as in nature, the break point will bring better things because “the fittest species are typically the smallest. . . . The unit of measure for progress isn’t size, it’s time.” We learn that post-break-point technology networks (he cites the Internet, the web, and Facebook) are just tools to further connect humans more deeply while encouraging and enhancing equality, since social media promotes democracy. The author contends that technology networks must encourage growth at all costs and avoid monetization too early, which requires patience but also requires “shifting gears” once the break point is reached. He suggests that “technology is on the verge of creating the types of things habitually reserved for humans: consciousness, intelligence, and emotion.” A fascinating book with important ideas for a wide range of library patrons. --Mary Whaley

From Kirkus Reviews

Brain scientist and entrepreneur Stibel (Wired for Thought: How the Brain Is Shaping the Future of the Internet, 2009) offers a provocative view of the future of the Internet.

Drawing on an understanding of the behavior of natural networks ranging from ant colonies to the human brain, the author notes that all successful networks develop in the same way. After a period of enormous growth, they reach a breakpoint, or pivotal moment, when they have overgrown and begin to decline. They then enter a state of equilibrium, in which the network grows not in quantity but in quality: Ant colonies exhibit greater intelligence; the brain grows wiser. Arguing that the Internet mirrors the brain (in effect, it is a kind of brain), Stibel writes that the Internet is approaching, but has not yet reached, a breakpoint; instead, its carrying capacity has been extended with broadband technology. To continue expanding at its current meteoric pace, it will have to evolve to use different energy sources, such as a chemical system, to increase the amount of information it can handle. In time, the Internet will hit the breakpoint, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. “Just as the brain gains intelligence as it overshoots and collapses,” writes Stibel, “so too may the Internet.” The author conjures a future online world that is smarter, denser and more relevant, relying on links with depth and dimensionality—the same kind found in a brain at equilibrium. Stibel applies his approach to a consideration of many issues, arguing that forced growth caused MySpace to collapse and may yet do the same with Facebook; that specialized apps will eliminate the need for search engines; and that eventually, there will be a unity of mind and machine, with two networks coming together as one.

Lucid and authoritative.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; F First Edition, 1st Printing edition (July 23, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1137278781
  • ISBN-13: 978-1137278784
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #688,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James Beswick VINE VOICE on July 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Breakpoint is one of those rare popular science books that's able to present a complex and intangible subject in a light that's fascinating, intriguing and completely engrosses the reader. I was given an evaluation copy and couldn't put it down - over the course of a two day period, I managed to use every spare moment to read more to the point where I was disappointed when it was finished. If you enjoy Steven Pinker, Matt Ridley or Mary Roach, author Jeff Stibel is in the same class in terms of making theoretical scientific concepts exciting, and illuminating hidden connections between seemingly disparate topics. Breakpoint provided my conversation pieces for a solid week after reading - after all, who doesn't want to discuss ants, cannibals, sea squirts and the difficulties of learning a second language as an adult?

The author is highly effective at presenting his thesis slowly and deliberately and leading the reader to the same conclusions which seem almost incredulous from the front cover. Before starting, I would have thought that predictions of the demise of Google Search and Facebook were completely insane, whereas now I see them as inevitable. The overarching observations about the way biological and man-made networks function are absolutely astonishing and though they are obvious once you see them, they clearly dictate the performance and behavior of such networks we use every day. The book explains the natural limits that prevent an extra lane on the highway from fixing traffic problems as well as the unseen but significant overhead in retaining excess capacity after growth (the Breakpoint of the title).
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Format: Hardcover
Breakpoint is one of the most well-researched and thought-provoking books published recently, in my opinion. The concepts about networks are truly fascinating and present some interesting potential applications to organizations such as Facebook, the internet, etc. Even if you don't agree with every assertion--and I admit that I did not-- you'll be glad that you challenged your thinking.
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Format: Hardcover
As one of the other reviewers said, this book is not exactly what I expected when I first read the cover. It was actually better than expected. I would have never made the connection between the brain, an ant colony, and the web-- but it's quite a fascinating concept. Good book for college students who are studying sociology, psychology, anthropology, computers, engineering, etc.
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Format: Hardcover
As Jeff Stibel explains, "growth is a core tenet of success. But we often destroy our greatest innovations by constant pursuit of growth. An idea emerges, takes hold, crosses the chasm, hits a tipping point, and then starts a meteoric rise with seemingly limitless potential. But more often than not, it implodes, destroying itself in the process." In a word, it has experienced a breakpoint. That's the bad news. The good news, however, is that self-destruction need not occur. "This book is not about failure, or even about breakpoints. It is about understanding what happens after a breakpoint. Breakpoints can't and shouldn't be avoided, but they can be identified. It turns out that all successful networks go through a breakpoint, but some fail, but many succeed spectacularly...Growth is nit a bad thing unless it becomes the [begin italics] only [end italics] thing. Studying biological systems is perhaps the best way to understand the complex networks that humanity has created."

This last passage frames the nature and extent of Stibel's subsequent discussion (Chapters Two-Eleven) during which he suggests lessons to be learned from natural phenomena that are relevant to human networks in general and to the brain in particular. Several of these lessons will be of special interest and value to business leaders who are challenged to achieve and then sustain profitable growth with fewer resources and in less time within an increasingly more volatile competitive marketplace. For example, lessons to be learned from colonies of ants and termites about residential design/construction/maintenance, division of labor, renewable food sources, communication, preventive maintenance, climate control, and collaborative response to crisis.
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Format: Hardcover
A really cool book by a really impressive entrepreneur! The author Jeff Stibel takes us through the intersection of technology, business and science to reveal how patterns in biology and brain science apply to real world challenges like how to grow a business and how to identify break points in networks. Really fascinating stuff, an easy, addictive read, and it actually applies to challenges many business owners face in their careers. Great stuff! Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
I downloaded this book the minute I heard it was from Jeff Stibel -whom I respect as an entrepreneur and brain scientist. Did I regret this snap decision? Certainly not.
A fairly quick read -not because it's short (256pp.) but because it is written in a very engaging way. If you are interested in learning about networks, internet trends, and a bit about the brain (and you should!) -then you'll find this book really fun and informative. Some really cool predictions, analogies, and facts to think about.
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