There's hype and then there's the Internet. The widespread emergence of the World Wide Web and the idea of a network economy have set new records for excess in overheated marketing campaigns, breathless newspaper and magazine articles, and topsy-turvy financial markets. From his perch as founding editor of Wired
magazine, Kevin Kelly has long been one of the new economy's chief hypesters. In New Rules for the New Economy
, Kelly tries to encapsulate the characteristics of this emerging economic order by laying out 10 rules for how the wired world operates. The result is a dizzying, sometimes confusing, but always thought-provoking look at the behavior of networks and their effect on our economic lives. At the root of this network revolution is communication. As Kelly writes:
Communication is the foundation of society, of our culture, of our humanity, of our own individual identity, and of all economic systems. This is why networks are such a big deal. Communication is so close to culture and society itself that the effects of technologizing it are beyond the scale of a mere industrial-sector cycle. Communication, and its ally computers, is a special case in economic history. Not because it happens to be the fashionable leading business sector of our day, but because its cultural, technological, and conceptual impacts reverberate at the root of our lives.
Kelly's genius lies in synthesizing large amounts of information in unique and interesting ways. His ability to turn a phrase is reflected in the names he gives to his 10 rules, and it makes this book a pleasure to read. Some, for example, are: "Embrace the Swarm: The Power of Decentralization" (Rule 1); "No Harmony, All Flux: Seeking Sustainable Disequilibrium" (Rule 8); and "Let Go at the Top: After Success, Devolution" (Rule 6). A few of his ideas have a kind of Teflon quality that makes them elusive and difficult to evaluate. But that's OK. Like other prognosticators of the future--Alvin Toffler
and John Naisbitt
come to mind--Kelly's job is to imagine a new world. Far from hype, New Rules for the New Economy
is required reading for anyone pondering business in the not-too-distant future. --Harry C. Edwards
From Publishers Weekly
The "new economy," posits Wired executive editor Kelly in his smart but confusing book, "has three distinguishing characteristics: It is global. It favors intangible thingsAideas, information, and relationships. And it is intensely interlinked." Kelly uses this system of fluid networks to replace traditional linear models of business interrelationships. In one "rule," Kelly unexpectedly suggests that a company's goods become more valuable as their price moves closer "to free"; in another he urges companies to abandon the pursuit of proven successes. If these claims at first appear dubious, closer examination shows that they're not without credibility. In a network economy, he argues, selling technologies cheaply increases supply and spurs demand for valuable services that use these technologies. Relying on proven successes, Kelly says, discourages companies from developing new technologiesAthe linchpin of a rapidly changing network economy. Unfortunately, Kelly builds his case in a haphazard, often overheated way, complete with empty jargon like "re-intermediation." Even when offering the more concrete observation that a network economy means that customersAnot vendorsAoften drive transactions, Kelly can't resist straying into a discussion of privacy on the Net. Perhaps the author intended his jumble to serve as a metaphor for the often overwhelming interconnectivity he describes, but readers will have a hard time working through the muddle and hype. B&w illustrations throughout. Author tour. (Oct.) FYI: Cornell/ILR's book of the same title on the changing demcgraphics of the American workforce was reviewed in the August 10 issue.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.