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Trillions: Thriving in the Emerging Information Ecology Hardcover – September 25, 2012

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Editorial Reviews Review

From the Authors: The Top Ten Business Take-Aways from Trillions

Peter Lucas
Peter Lucas

1. Pervasive computing is the next information technology paradigm. Connectivity is the seed of this change. Major high-tech players will disappear and new ones will be born overnight.

2. Your current business risk in information technology may be much higher than you think. The dominant IT technologies and practices--including cloud computing--are inadequate for the coming pervasive computing paradigm. They will not scale gracefully into a "trillion-node network."

Joe Ballay
Joe Ballay

3. We need to move beyond open source and move towards open component ecologies. Simple stable components--sometimes hardware, sometimes software--will be layered together and will create new forms of value that will compete in market driven feedback loops.

4. The good news is that trillions is a very big number. New revenue streams in the form of high-volume micro-transactions will become viable. New business models based on little bits of information collected over vast networks will rule the day.

5. Complexity is inevitable, but bad complexity will kill you. Consider how you can foster beautiful complexity in the form of hierarchy, modularity, redundancy, and generativity. Nature and evolution are the best teachers.

Mickey McManus
Mickey McManus

6. Design for Generativity and Emergence. Use architectural thinking as the foundation for your work. Then get in the practice of building dynamic simulations--even if made from sticky notes and disposable cameras at first--of your entire business ecology early and often.

7. Design is not a paint-job or product styling or user-interface "look and feel." Properly understood, design is the whole shooting match. If your organization isn't design literate you risk becoming a dinosaur lumbering among agile predators running around at your feet.

8. Make your products and services human literate. Human beings are vastly more complex, subtle, and important than machines. We've spent a half-century believing that people should become "computer literate." That's precisely backwards. Computing should become "human literate."

9. Computing needs to fade into the woodwork so that humans living their lives can come to the foreground. Think of ways you can use connectivity and computing to hide and tame complexity for your customers. They don't really want to think about computers, they want to think about doing their jobs and living their lives.

10. Explore ways that you can simulate and foster strange bedfellow relationships now. Consider what could happen if you harvested and shared all the information your current products could capture or "know." The value is inestimable.


“This book provides a refreshing, insightful guide to how companies can prepare for future technology innovations and thrive in this emerging information age.  Summing Up:  Recommended.  Business and computer science collections serving upper-division undergraduates and above; general readers.”  (Choice, 1 July 2013)


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (September 25, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118176073
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118176078
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.9 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #792,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By zzzz on February 21, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Am I the only person who hated this book? I had expected something forward-looking and thought-provoking with explosive ideas. That was the impression I came to this book with. I did not expect a commercial for the company the writers belong to, MAYA. I didn't expect that, and I resent that I was subjected to it. I didn't expect a book that was long on subjective retelling of history and short on forward thinking. While I sat plodding through this incredibly dry book I couldn't shake the image of three curmudgeons walking backwards, eyes firmly planted on the past, taking occasional fearful glances over their shoulders towards the future.

All of the other reviewers thought this was an incredible book. I don't know why. Honestly. I read the thing. At least I READ the first 30%. After that I skimmed past the 'history' and tried to find the nuggets. I wanted to find the good ideas and to be inspired. I certainly wasn't. This book made me mad.

I don't typically write reviews. I read them. In this case, based on all of the other comments about this book, I want to throw in at least one note of caution. Get a look inside this book if you can, before you buy it. I feel like a sucker for having bought it purely based on the glowing reviews. But it was the book itself that I am annoyed by, and I am fresh from it.

Spoiler alert, this book has one idea: it proposes a peer-to-peer cloud architecture with all pieces of information given a unique ID like an IPV6 address (but not an IPV6 address). Every message, object, person, and concept would be assigned an ID that would be indexed in some Google-type servers. A copy of an email, for instance, might exist on a dozen devices but the ID would identify all copies as being the same object.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jill H. Wellman on October 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I couldn't put the book down.

Everyone knows that computers (including the small ones in refrigerators and TVs) are ubiquitous. The authors project that within a few years there will be Trillions of computers -- hence the title: Trillions: Thriving in the Emerging Information Ecology.

Using the metaphor of a serious mountain climb, the book starts with a view of the "trillions mountain" from our current "PC peak." I flash back to the Everest-climb books of the 50's with their intensive surveillance, planning and preparation. Making trillions of computers a good place to live isn't a day's sprint to the top.

Trillions, the book, is both broad and "deep enough." Broadly, it integrates disciplinary ideas from biology, economics, ecology, industrial design, and technology. It is "deep enough" to let me follow the discussion with coherent understanding, but not so deep as to drown me. The book is organized, not by subject-matter topics, but by the mountain-assault metaphor. The reader follows the assault path, getting new information as needed.

The prose is beautiful and lively. Reads like an adventure story, not a scientific volume. The photos, drawings, and sidebars add sharp illustrations that are always informative and often hilarious.

A serious and important book, this is also a wonderful read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dan Droz on October 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Trillions is one of the smartest, most thoughtfully written books I've read in along time, extending the idea of pervasive computing to include a new vision for an information ecology where hardware and software evolve as a network of interconnected fungible elements. The authors have managed, through great story telling and an interdisciplinary understanding of economics, business, design and technology, to make complex ideas seem both obvious and surprising. They've balanced accessible language with quite forward thinking and nicely combined each of the authors' perspectives and inputs. Especially significant is the emphasis on 'design as science' with a fundamental problem solving strategy, critical to future business success, rather than simply a technique for product differentiation or user delight. Trillions should be a 'must read' for designers, business leaders, entrepreneurs and others who see themselves playing a role in managing complexity and defining applications in the information ecology to come. (Also, the video's great too).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By G. Hirsch on November 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My clients and I like thinking about the future - it's important to business strategy, and a challenge to envision your industry's future and prepare to capitalize on it. So, for the holidays this year, I'm sending each client a copy of Trillions. This book is about preparing for the inevitable moment when everything in our lives is connected through the Internet. For forward-thinking companies, this means significant opportunity.

The central premise of Trillions is that, in a short time, everything we make will be connected (phones, laptops and TVs are only the beginning). We'll expect a trillion microprocessors to share instant access to trillions of files. Trillions explains that, while there's no way to avoid the complexity to come, we can minimize its cost and pain by using principles of good design. But this, according to the authors, will require the web to be re-engineered - from an architecture of hyperlinks and URLs, to an ocean of information objects whose identity has nothing to do with their locations; and from the client-server model that has made cloud computing a major industry, to a new P2P framework, dissociated from its music piracy roots.

The trillion-node network does seem inevitable, whether the authors' reinvention of the web happens or not. I would have liked the authors to attempt to tackle a few dicey policy and technical questions about their envisioned information commons. Nonetheless, Trillions does its job: it will get you thinking about the new business models and technologies that may emerge from this, and the role your business or profession could play in that world. I recommend Trillions, not to find the answer to every question, but to start connecting the dots.
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