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OVERCONNECTED: The Promise and Threat of the Internet Hardcover – January 4, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Social media observers and economic historians will be most intrigued by Davidow’s thesis regarding the perils of our overconnected world. Shying away from the typical focus on Facebook or Twitter, he offers a serious, thought-provoking study that looks at everything from Three Mile Island to the Iceland banking crisis, and explains how they are related. Davidow points out that financial “booms, busts, swindles and contagions” are nothing new, but with the role of the Internet in our personal and professional lives, the connected way we do business means that financial markets are far too dependent on each other to separate in moments of crisis. From automated underwriting of mortgage loans to instant loan approval, the financial sector has not only become more efficient, it has also speeded up to a degree that allows no time for care or caution. We are literally moving faster than our ability to control what we do. While it might seem overly simple to blame technology for our current woes, Davidow builds a solid case for the price we pay for super-efficiency. --Colleen Mondor


"[Bill Davidow] shows how the unanticipated effects of the Internet are distorting economics, politics, and individual lives."  --James Fallows, National Correspondent for The Atlantic

"Davidow argues compellingly that connectivity without coordination is a formula for chronic instability, and that hyperconnection without coordination is a formula for mega-catastrophe."
--David M. Kennedy, Pulitzer-Prize winning author

"[Davidow's] agile command of such a wide range of contemporary political and economic issues expands each page into a new, stimulating area of inquiry and original insight." --Stanley B. Prusiner, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1997

"I don't think I have ever read a book with more 'ah hah' moments. The book is brilliant, original, sobering and fascinating." --John Shoven, Director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research

Every policy maker, politician, and businessperson should read [Overconnected] to gain a deeper understanding into how the Internet will transform government, the economy, and our lives."
--Bill Bradley, Former U.S. Senator

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Delphinium; First Edition edition (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1883285461
  • ISBN-13: 978-1883285463
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,405,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Bojan Tunguz HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on April 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
We live in an increasingly interconnected world. To some extent this observation has been true for the past few centuries, as the incredible rise of transportation networks dramatically reshaped our sense of locality, distance, and connectedness. However, the rise of the Internet has given a new, and many would argue, exponential impetus to the connectivity that is all around us. There is no shortage of books and articles that are giddy with excitement about this, and I myself am a big fan of this trend. Thanks to Internet I've been able to connect and re-connect with countless friends around the globe, and the opportunity for entertainment, information and communication on the Internet seem to be boundless. Finally, the rise of smartphones has ensured that many of us are constantly connected no matter where we are. Nonetheless, this "overconnected" life that we lead leaves many people feeling uneasy, or even worried about what this all means for the way that we live, work, and interconnect with each other. In the overconnected world it is increasingly hard to keep all our roles separate from each other. It has become important to step back and reconsider all the implications of the growth of connectivity, and William Davidow's book "Overconnected" aims to do exactly that. It is written as a cautionary tale about many disasters that have been fueled by the overly connected information world that we live in.

The book is very well written and is accessible and thought provoking. The impetus for its conception seems to have been the bursting of the housing bubble in 2008 and the consequent financial and economic crash. Since 2008 gallons of ink have been spilt on "explaining" what really caused this crash, and Davidow comes with his own explanation.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By margaret on April 10, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There were economic crises long before the Internet existed, but the Internet has created an environment where crises are more frequent and more powerful. Like a strong wind blowing over a wildfire, the hyper-connectivity fostered by the Internet exacerbates, expands and accelerates small incidents, turning them in to major events.

This is the theory that drives William Davidow's latest book, "OVERconnected: The promise and Threat of the Internet." Davidow argues that economic bubbles, manias and crashes as the result of thought contagions-- ideas that spread like diseases. The more highly connected the environment, the faster and further ideas can spread. If an idea spreads far enough it may begins self- reinforcing and spin out of control, driving the economic system faster and faster in one direction. This is known as a positive feedback loop.

In the past, the government or cultural institutions of a society could intervene to slow or stop a run-away feedback loop. But in the current over-connected environment, changes are so rapid that these institutions are overwhelmed and unable to cope. As a result, the entire global economic system is more crises prone than ever before.

Davidow provides a dozens of historical examples of how positive feedback loops create economic crises. He then explores how the interdependencies spawned by the Internet contributed to the 2008 economic meltdown in Iceland and the United States. He briefly touches on how the Internet has threatened consumer privacy, enabled the outsourcing of American jobs, and destroyed the printed newspaper industry. And finally, he proposes several possible solutions to lessen the economic risks associated with over-connectivity and the Internet.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Nancy L. Sonnabend on January 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
OVERconnected is a brilliantly written, informative book with an important message, written by one of the pioneers of modern technology. The examples of connectivity that at first seem unrelated to the promise and threat of the internet are beautifully explained so the reader can easily grasp the connections. OVERconnected is an education of how we got where we are, what are some of the problems we have already encountered, dangers that lie ahead and suggestions to deal with them. This is a must read - especially for those in finance, government and business.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By H. Rodkin on January 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Bill Davidow's newest book, Overconnected, addresses a situation too many people have overlooked for too long, i.e., the tremendous amount of information available to people in a very quick time frame, and often their consequent reactions often without serious consideration to consequences. Too many people seem to believe the paradigm in which they operate has only been accelerated rather than also enhanced with significantly greater data inputs.

As a teacher at the university level, I am going to use this book as "must reading" for all my MBA candidate classes in the hope it will better prepare people for effective and reasoned judgments in their business careers. Further, as a member of the alumni council for my undergraduate college, I have already referred this book to our communications committee, a group trying to understand the value and impact of today's newest communications systems, as it looks at altering ways to communicate with alumni.

This book is certainly a must read for 21st century thinkers and doers!
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