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The Laws of Disruption: Harnessing the New Forces that Govern Life and Business in the Digital Age Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 13, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465018645
  • ASIN: B003NHR6XQ
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,393,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Andrew Lippman, Director of the Digital Life program at the MIT Media Lab
“Larry Downes’ Laws of Disruption is important reading for all of us. It provides valuable guidance for confronting innovations and reacting to them with vision and responsibility, and eye-opening examples of the failures that result when we don't.”

Paul F. Nunes, Executive Research Fellow, Accenture Institute for High Performance

“There is no one better than Larry Downes to explain to us the complicated interaction between law and digital life, and what it all means for business. In The Laws of Disruption, Downes brings to life how industrial age law is leaving today’s companies in the lurch, and how tomorrow’s businesses and business leaders will usher in a new age of lawful innovation, content creation, and content ownership, one that will deliver meaningful rights to companies and ordinary citizens alike. Ignorance of the law is no excuse—not knowing the Law of Disruption in today’s rapidly digitizing world could prove fatal.”

Dan’l Lewin, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Corporation

“The convergence of information and communications technology is fundamentally disruptive—we’ve known this for a long time. Downes’ model helps clarify where, and how, to pay attention.”

David Hornik, General Partner, August Capital

The Laws of Disruption is a must read for entrepreneurs. Many of the most interesting venture backed technology companies to emerge in the last decade (e.g. Google, Skype, YouTube, Facebook) have been products of the Laws of Disruption. Larry Downes’ book may well serve as the guide to my next great investments.”

Tim Wu, Professor of Law, Columbia University and co-author, Who Controls the Internet?
“Critical reading if you want to understand the last ten years—and be ready for the next ten.”

The Conference Board Review
“Downes offers a guided tour of what’s happening and what’s next, what’s legal and what’s not, and how all of it is likely to impact individuals and businesses. Laced with examples of how conflicts and shifts are playing out in real life, the book looks beyond typical strategic advice, offering a fresh and valuable perspective.”

Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2009
“The Internet is our own era's big disrupter. We already know how it has changed our habits and ways of doing things. Mr. Downes says that its long-term effects on society will be even greater. . . .there is no doubt that a lot more disruption lies ahead.”

Financial Times, November 7, 2009
“. . . Downes eloquently expresses the problems that many industries face and shows how using old laws to maintain the status quo is futile. The digital revolution is here and we will make sense of it – somehow.”

About the Author

Larry Downes is a noted expert on information technology, strategy, and law. He is a partner with the Bell-Mason Group, a consulting firm focused on corporate innovation and venturing, and is a nonresident fellow at the Stanford Law School Center for Internet & Society. He has written for a variety of publications including the Harvard Business Review and USA Today. He lives in Kensington, California.


Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
At any rate, Disruption is a good read and raises several excellent points.
Charles Lewis Sizemore, CFA
"The technology we are concerned with is the transformation of information into digital form, where it can be manipulated by computers and transmitted by networks."
Robert Morris
The key point that Mr. Downes makes in his book is that the majority of consumers essentially ignore and no longer respect the concepts of privacy and ownership.
R. Keahey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Adam Thierer on January 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Laws of Disruption" is the closest thing you will find to a genuine cyber-libertarian manifesto these days. But Downes isn't a rigid ideologue; his skepticism of government regulation of the high-tech economy is based more on practical considerations and the fundamental law of disruption: "technology changes exponentially, but social, economic, and legal systems change incrementally." Downes says this law is "a simple but unavoidable principle of modern life" and that it will have profound implications for the way businesses, government, and culture evolve going forward. "As the gap between the old world and the new gets wider," he argues, "conflicts between social, economic, political, and legal systems" will intensify and "nothing can stop the chaos that will follow." In this sense, "The Laws of Disruption" reads like an addendum to one of Alvin Toffler's old books on technology and futurism in that Downes is essentially walking us through the practical consequences of life in a "post-industrial society."

In terms of what it all means for public policy, Downes doesn't so much fear legal and regulatory over-reach the way many cyber-libertarians do. Rather, he thinks most regulatory schemes just won't work. In essence, he is a technological fatalist or consequentialist: Progress happens whether we like it or not, so get used to it! Thus, the "laws of disruption" he articulates serve primarily as "Just-Don't-Bother" warnings to over-eager government meddlers. "The best way to regulate innovation is to leave it alone," he counsels.

In terms of structure, The Laws of Disruption resembles "Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness After the Digital Explosion" by Abelson, Ledeen, and Lewis.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Larry Downes is the co-author with Chunka Mui of Unleashing the Killer App: Digital Strategies for Market Dominance 2000), in which they provide a brilliant analysis of how "a new good or service that establishes an entirely new category [can] by being first, dominate it, returning several hundred percent on the initial investment." As they explain, the primary forces at work in spawning today's "killer apps" are both technological and economic in nature. "The technology we are concerned with is the transformation of information into digital form, where it can be manipulated by computers and transmitted by networks." Digital strategies are needed to achieve market dominance. They suggest several, each worthy of careful consideration. For me, this book has two great values: It helps us to understand what a "killer app" is and can accomplish; also, for those lacking a "killer app" and without much chance of possessing one, it suggests how to increase and enhance the appeal of what one does have, such as it is. Given a choice, of course, anyone would prefer to have a "killer app" when proceeding into an uncertain future. Lacking one, there are still opportunities to recognize...and to pursue. Most companies will not dominate but can survive if committed to the appropriate strategies. For them and their leaders, this book could well be the difference between life and death.

In The Laws of Disruption, Downes asserts that there are three laws of digital life. Together, they comprise "the laws of disruption."

Moore's Law: In an article published in 1965, Gordon Moore (the founder of Intel) claimed that the number of transistors on his company's chips would double every year or two without increasing their cost to users.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli HALL OF FAME on May 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Business strategist Larry Downes, author of Unleashing the Killer App, is much more specific than most authors about how digital technologies are changing the world - and why technology will advance even more and have more impact. While he addresses numerous issues that have received lots of attention already, Downes also looks beyond the headlines and the obvious implications of digital technology to examine the root causes of change. He pays informed attention to the law and legal structures. He also draws parallels between the digital revolution and the social changes wrought by other technologies, showing how such change ripples through the economy. He presents his findings as nine "laws of disruption," which, somewhat confusingly, are the change agents of the "Law of Disruption." This forward-looking book is fun, lively and useful. getAbstract recommends it to executives who are trying to plan for a shifting future and to those intrigued by digital technologies or social structures.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bradley A. Pritts on November 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Downes provides a number of insights on the disruptions to law and regulation due
to the mismatch between the rapid pace of technical change and the (relatively)
glacial progress of the legal system.

The book considers nine "laws" of the information revolution, and discusses details
of how these phenomena relate to existing and emerging laws. Several highly relevant
areas include the handling of personal information; regulation of IT/ Internet/ communications
providers; internet crime; and patent/copyright law.

I believe that Downes gives well-reasoned comments and perspectives on these areas. In most of
the chapters, he offers predictions or recommendations; in others, the conflicts and
concerns are discussed with no clear path for resolution. To be sure, the problems are

In general I think Downes' work is well thought through and presented at a level that
is accessible to the non-lawyer. This would be a critical title for those in IT
businesses, including those traditional businesses heavily influenced by IT
(such as financial institutions).

One bit of irony - in the chapter on copyright, Downes states "Intellectual property is a
fiction, if not an oxymoron" (p. 217). He argues for considerable expansion of "fair use"
and other relaxations, if not elimination, of copyright protection. Nonetheless he
copyrighted the book itself, rather than offering it into the public domain!
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More About the Author

Larry Downes is a Internet industry analyst and speaker on developing business strategies in an age of constant disruption caused by information technology.

Downes is author of the Business Week and New York Times business bestseller, "Unleashing the Killer App: Digital Strategies for Market Dominance" (Harvard Business School Press, 1998), which has sold nearly 200,000 copies and was named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the five most important books ever published on business and technology.

His new book, "Big Bang Disruption," (co-authored with Paul F. Nunes), argues that the nature of disruptive innovation has changed, and presents twelve new rules for innovators in companies large and small to take advantage of the new opportunities of better and cheaper technologies.

He writes regularly for Forbes, the Harvard Business Review, CNET and The Washington Post.

Downes is Project Director at the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy. He has previously held faculty appointments at The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, Northwestern University School of Law, and the University of California-Berkeley's Haas School of Business, where he was Associate Dean of the School of Information. From 2006-2011, he was a Fellow with the Stanford Law School Center for Internet & Society.