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Next: The Future Just Happened Paperback – May 17, 2002

3.9 out of 5 stars 123 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

If you've ever had the sneaking (and perhaps depressing) suspicion that the Internet is radically changing the world as you know it, buck up. No wait, buckle up--it is. While some people celebrate this and others bemoan it, Michael Lewis has been busy investigating the reasons for this rapid change. Employing the sarcastic wit and keen recognition of social shifts that readers of Liar's Poker and The New New Thing will recognize, Lewis takes us on a quick spin through today and speculates on what it might mean for tomorrow.

Central to Lewis's observations is the idea that the Internet hasn't really caused anything; rather it fills a type of social hole, the most obvious of which is a need to alter relations between "insiders" and "outsiders." In Next, Lewis shows how the Internet is the ideal model for sociologists who believe that our "selves are merely the masks we wear in response to the social situations in which we find ourselves." It is the place where a New Jersey boy barely into his teens flouts the investment system, making big enough bucks to get the SEC breathing down his neck for stock market fraud. Where Markus, a bored adolescent stuck in a dusty desert town and too young to even drive, becomes the most-requested legal expert on Askme.com, doling out advice on everything from how to plead to murder charges to how much an Illinois resident can profit from illegal gains before being charged with fraud ($5,001 was the figure Markus supplied to this particular cost-benefit query). Where a left-leaning kid of 14 in a depressed town outside Manchester is too poor to take up a partial scholarship to a school for gifted children, but who spends all hours (all cheap call-time hours, at least) engaged in "digital socialism," trying to develop a successor to Gnutella, the notorious file-sharing program that had spawned the new field of peer-to-peer computing. Lewis burrows deeply into each of these stories and others, examining social phenomena that the Internet has contributed to: the redistribution of prestige and authority and the reversal of the social order; the erosive effect on the money culture (both in the democratization of capital and in the effect of gambling losing its "status as a sin"); the decreased value we place on formal training (or as he puts it "casual thought went well with casual dress"); and the increased need for knowledge exchange.

Lewis's observations are piercingly sharp. He can be very funny in portraying ordinary people's behavior, but remains thorough and insightful in his examination of the social consequences. He notes that Jonathan Lebed, the teenage online investor, had "glimpsed the essential truth of the market--that even people who called themselves professionals were often incapable of independent thought and that most people, though obsessed with money, had little ability to make decisions about it." While Lewis's commentary gets a little more dense and theoretical toward the end, Next is an entertaining, thought-provoking look at life in an Internet-driven world. --S. Ketchum --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

utting an engaging and irreverent spin on yesterday's news, Lewis (Liar's Poker; The New, New Thing) declares that power and prestige are up for grabs in this look at how the Internet has changed the way we live and work. Probing how Web-enabled players have exploited the fuzzy boundary between reality and perception, he visits three teenagers who have assumed startling roles: Jonathan Lebed, the 15-year-old New Jersey high school student who made headlines when he netted $800,000 as a day trader and became the youngest person ever accused of stock-market fraud by the SEC; Markus Arnold, the 15-year-old son of immigrants from Belize who edged out numerous seasoned lawyers to become the number three legal expert on AskMe.com; and Daniel Sheldon, a British 14-year-old ringleader in the music-file-sharing movement. Putting himself on the line, Lewis is freshest in his reportage, though he doesn't pierce the deeper cultural questions raised by the kids' behavior. As a financial reporter tracing the development of innovative industries like black box interactive television and interactive political polling from their beginnings as Internet brainstorms, Lewis reminds readers that the twin American instincts to democratize and commercialize intertwine on the Internet, and can only lead to new business. In the past, Lewis implies, industry insiders would simply have shut out eager upstarts, yet today insiders, like AOL Time Warner, allow themselves "to be attacked in order to later co-opt their most ferocious attackers and their best ideas." (July 30)Forecast: Lewis's track record, a major media campaign and a 12-city author tour through techie outposts will make this hard to ignore. As a breezy summer read, it's fun enough, but those looking for profound business insights will be disappointed.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (May 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393323528
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393323528
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #176,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Old elites beware! Your time is up! Become the new elite today! That's the message of this intriguing, fascinating, and thought-provoking look at what's already happened on the Internet.
I not only thought that this is the best book about the social effects of the Internet, I also think it is by far Michael Lewis's best work.
This book deserves many more than five stars as a result.
The original idea was simple. There are all of these people making a big splash on the Internet as individuals. Let's go meet them in person and find out what's really going on. Believe me, it's different from what you read in the newspapers or saw on television. With the aid of a researching crew from the BBC, Mr. Lewis found that the cutting edge of the Internet revolution was going on with 11-14 year olds. Soon, it will probably drift lower in age.
Because the Internet lets you play on a equal footing and assume any identity you choose, youngsters with guts and quick minds can take on major roles. Usually, their parents have no clue until adults or major authority figures start arriving on their doorstep challenging what the youngster is doing or seeking personal advice.
The core of the book revolves around the stories of Jonathan Lebed who used chat room commentaries to help drive his $8,000 stake into over $800,000 in less than three years, Marcus in Perris, California who became Askme.com's leading criminal law expert based on his watching of court TV shows, and Justin Frankel who became an important developer of Gnutella for filesharing while having trouble getting an education in school.
Mr. Lewis makes the point that these youngsters weren't doing anything that their elders don't do in other forums. Yet the established authorities deeply resented and challenged them. Mr.
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By A Customer on July 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"Next" is an exercise in technoeuphoria---the Internet changes everything and the kids are leading the way. In trying to make his point, Lewis takes anecdotes and individual examples and claims that they present the whole picture. It really seems that he has not got outside the reality distortion field that helped to create the Internet bubble that has burst with such devastating effects. The technology, of course, is here to stay but it may be more evolutionary in its impact at this point than revolutionary.
Jon Katz, a technophile who writes for Slashdot, would seem to agree that Lewis has gone over the top in this one. In his recent review of the book in the Wall Street Journal, Katz writes: "Partway through "Next," I grew uncomfortable with Mr. Lewis's familiar absolutist fervor. The popular media have always tended to portray digital culture in binary terms of alarm (pornographers, hackers, thieves) or of hype (everything will change forever). Mr. Lewis seems to be falling into the latter trap. For all his skill and confidence, he's bought into the heavy breathing about technology and its impact on society."
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Format: Hardcover
In "Next: The future just happened," Michael Lewis opens by stating that in the long run the Internet will become invisible and ubiquituous and no one will think of the social effects anymore than they think of the social effects of electricity. This is a rather obvious statement if one thinks about it: the reason that electricity has had zero social effect on me is because it has been a part of every facet of my life for my entire life. This is the idea that Lewis sets out to explore through stories that he has investigated. The stories are quite interesting, but are not interestng enough to make this book worth the read.
The first chapter, entitled "The Financial Revolt," tells the fascinating story of Jonathan Lebed in great detail. The story stretches for the entire eighty-page chapter and relays the inside scoop on the 15-year old kid that made $800,000 by going into chat rooms and giving financial advice. Lewis's analysis of the Lebed story is that stock prices respond to the public's perspective. Lewis also hints at what might be the future of the stock market: millions of small investors plugging becoming in essence professional analysts, generating little explosions of unreality in every corner of the capital markets. But Lewis fails to further explore this idea, providing many pages of story, but no bang to back it up.
The book follows the pattern of the first chapter: a long, very detailed, interesting story with very little analysis. But the book is only four chapters, so really you're only getting four stories. Marcus Arnold and his rise in legal advice on AskMe.com is discussed in chapter two, Lewis's point being that if one reduces the law to information then anyone can supply it.
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Format: Hardcover
This is NOT one of those tedious and hyperventilating books pompously declaring that the Internet has made all human knowledge before 1996 obsolete. Aren't we thankful for that? I know I am.
This delightful book insightfully reports some of the ways our world culture is changed and re-ordered because of the way the Internet has flattened the structure and availability of information. Mr. Lewis uses the image of a pancake versus a pyramid. That is, through the web anyone can be an expert and everyone can communicate with everyone else. Privileged positions are evaporated. As he illustrates with several of his vignettes, not only does no one on the Internet know you are a dog, they don't know that the stock trader or the person dispensing legal advice or social theory is a fourteen or fifteen year old typing away from some nook in his parents' house.
Mr. Lewis digs deeper than most and his writing has color and bite that is often laugh out loud funny and makes his points vividly. For example, he digs out the facts and tells a more complete version of the teenage stock trader who was forced by the SEC to pay a quarter of a million dollar fine. By interviewing Lebed's parents, his accusers at the SEC, and the wunderkind's teenage fellow traders, the author let's us see how the adults flounder in trying to understand what is happening to their world and how the youngsters breath this stuff so naturally they don't even see the revolution they are waging.
I think Mr. Lewis's point that the kid wasn't doing anything actually malicious is spot on and that the real "crime" is that he was using all of the tools available to him more proficiently than the old elite.
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