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Not for experts, nor for the naively uncritical
on February 9, 2000
I just finished Kevin Kelly's book, New Rules for the New Economy; it is provocative--"trenchant," as it says on the book jacket. I should preface my next remarks by saying that I'm glad I read the book and will recommend it to certain of you. Some of what Kelly says is compellingly true, and of that part, some of it was relatively new when the book was first written. At the same time,...
I guess it is hard to show what you know in relatively few pages. As a writer, Kelly is clearly his own worst enemy. He uses cryptic graphics that sometimes convey a lot, sometimes convey nearly nothing. He writes oddly--his language is often imprecise, and since he is sort of terse, that occasional vagueness is pretty deadly. Often, too, he reduces what he has to say to sound bites. I'm wary of people who do that. They might be smart, they might be covering up dumb. They oversimplify, and usually end up sounding partly goofy. In this case, some of what Kelly says is sufficiently goofy that I don't know whether he is unaware of what has been written, doesn't understand what he has read, or doesn't believe what he has read.
If you know what you are talking about, you are likely to be interesting. I think Kelly might be an interesting guy. He's no academic, but he's an educational omnivore. He shows evidence of having read some serious work in technological forecasting--but evidence, too, of not having read deeply on the subject. For example, he appears to be unaware of much of econometric and psychometric--that is, measurement--literature, and some of his statements make it appear that he is unaware of fairly well-known literature pertaining to diffusion and substitution in high-technology markets. At the same time, he appears to be intellectually and professionally very much in the center of the transformation of our economy from industrial to informational.
I thought the book was thought-provoking. I recommend it primarily for the relative newcomer to information-economy writings, with the caveat that readers will have to identify for themselves facts, opinions, conjectures, overstatements, baloney, and a few really good ideas.