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Sonic Boom: Globalization at Mach Speed Hardcover – December 29, 2009

3.6 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Gregg Easterbrook on Sonic Boom

Probably the international recession is ending--so what comes next? A Sonic Boom is what comes next. Dramatic global economy growth is likely to resume, especially in the developing world, where growth is needed most. Prosperity should start back upward. Goods and service will continue getting better and cheaper. That’s the boom part. But job anxiety and economic insecurity will accelerate, too. Even as the global economy recovers, we may not feel especially good, because economic change will keep coming faster. That’s the sonic part. A sonic boom is powerful, but also nerve-shattering.

History teaches that when some crisis interrupts larger trends, as soon as the crisis concludes, the larger trends resume. Before the international economic crisis that began in late 2007, the larger trends were robust global growth and rising economic insecurity. Look for both trends to resume in a Sonic Boom world.

Many aspects of a Sonic Boom world will be wonderful. Faster, cheaper communication; easy global access to information and knowledge; rapid innovation, including for green energy; increasing freedom, especially women’s freedom; greater awareness of other cultures. Women’s freedom will itself double the world’s supply of ideas! And the more we know about each other, the less nations and cultures will fear each other, meaning militarism should decline.

But the same forces bringing about better products at lower prices, and improved communication and cultural exchange, will make jobs less secure. It’s not just autoworkers in Indiana--soon everyone everywhere will feel insecure about his or her source of income, even if the economy is basically fine.

And does globalization drive you crazy? Then brace yourself: globalization has barely gotten started. A decade from now, the world will be far more globally integrated. That’s good (ease of communication, improved understanding of other cultures) and bad (businesses will come into and go out of existences even faster).

Here are some important considerations for the Sonic Boom:

  • Network effects are just getting started. You may already be sick of the Internet--but it’s still in infancy. We will soon be more globally linked than today.
  • Universal high school must be replaced by universal college. A century ago, school was mandatory until age 16; adjust for rising life expectancy, and school should now be mandatory until age 23. In a technological world, college is far more valuable to a nation than petroleum; the United States needs a sweeping commitment to everyone attending some college.
  • The Microsoft Word Test. I typed a misspelling of "Ljubljana" on my laptop, and Word provided the correct spelling. You know where Ljubljana is, don’t you? You’d better--it is becoming an economic player. In the Sonic Boom era, any nation or city whose correct spelling is recognized by Microsoft Word is a place that may cause economic commotion by, oh, tomorrow morning.
  • The Super Bowl of Stress. It’s approaching. Stability is the underdog!

A chaotic, raucous, unpredictable, stress-inducing, free, prosperous, well-informed and very smart future is coming. Sonic Boom provides a guide to what to expect--and how to cope.--Gregg Easterbrook


From Booklist

Easterbrook is the author of six books and contributing editor to the Atlantic Monthly and the New Republic. In his previous book, The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse (2003), he argued that, by all standards, American life has been getting better and better for generations, and compelled us to utilize our prosperity to improve the lives of the disenfranchised around the world. Here he extends his theory to the now-familiar territory of globalization, showing how since World War II the greatest nations of the world have put more of their resources into economic growth and less into military spending. According to Easterbrook, this has all been fueled by reductions in import tariffs and relaxed trade restrictions. Although the current global downturn puts a chink in the armor of his case, he still claims that the larger trend will continue to put pressure on nations to reduce violent conflict, increase the rights of women, and convert to free-market democracies. Easterbrook’s power of economic positive thinking allows the reader to step back from the gloom and look at the larger picture. --David Siegfried
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 243 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (December 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400063957
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400063956
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,838,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey Phillips VINE VOICE on February 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a long time fan of Gregg Easterbrook, I really wanted to like Sonic Boom. After all, it has a catchy title, and the subtitle even rings true (Globalization at Mach Speed). However, much like the articles he writes about the NFL on Tuesday Morning Quarterback, a lot of the book approaches information-like substance but fails to close the deal.

As others have written, I read the entire book and I'm still not sure what a "Sonic Boom" is. It seems to create conditions of significant change, and to happen in may places where growth is occurring rapidly, but I can't say I'd recognize it if I see it. In many of Gregg's articles about football coaches who punt on fourth and one, he claims they are chicken. Well, if you have a major thesis but fail to adequately define it, that seems fairly similar.

Next, the book is written with a lot of interesting insights, specifically based on cities that indicate a trend or a major change. Erie, Pennsylvania is used as an example of a city that boomed when the railroads grew, but failed as the railroads moved to a single track size, which Erie fought. Standing athwart the gates of history and holding back change hasn't worked well historically, and didn't for Erie. But is that news? Silicon Graphics failed to see that the graphics accelerator would simply become part of the operating system and is now headquartered in Chippewa Falls, while Google occupies its original headquarters. Tragic tale? Yes, possibly. Shenzhen China grows from a small fishing village to one of the largest ports in the world. Interesting information, but what to learn from it?

The book is full of interesting stories and ideas that indicate that change is accelerating, and that the shifts don't necessarily have to be bad.
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Was really looking forward to this one, but there is such a lack of legitimacy to the bold statements made about both the future and the past that I couldn't take it seriously at any point. If a history professor would go through and remove the painfully obvious weak points, I've love to try it again. It's a disappointment because there are plenty of valid and exciting points made that get drowned by the euphoric statements about the near future and false claims about history. Damn!
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The current media false narrative is that times are bad and it is a bad time to be alive, and especially American.

Sonic Boom does a great job of shining the light on all of the good news and proving with facts that in fact we are healthy, wealthier, safer, more educated, have more freedom, more information, and more opportunity than at any point in human history - it is truly a great time to be alive. Now it is not all just pie in the sky optimism, he does go into depth about the challenges and increased stress, but all in all it is a much more optimistic view then "The World is Flat"

One of my favorite books I have read in sometime, interesting and optimistic. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
While the book should be a welcome respite of positivity in the current negative economic climate, it lacked substance enough to make the argument for hope feel persuasive. The author never really refutes others' arguments. His idea of a rebuttal is "Maybe, but I doubt it." He uses this phrase repeatedly, which he seems to think is enough. It's not enough for me to be convinced, though. He also doesn't seem to understand that correlation does not equal causation.

There are plenty of interesting tidbits of facts, but the author never adds them up to make an argument. I'm not even sure what he wants to argue for, except maybe that the future will be better than the present. That is almost certainly true in the very long run, but he seems to think the economy will improve instantaneously and spontaneously. So far, the facts are not on his side.
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Easterbrook discusses the speed of change of business and society. Most of his observations are based upon solid statistics. It's an interesting book to read for the insights into future trends and the analysis of past trends.
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The is a fact-filled book that reads not like a compendium of information, but like an expose of the realties of current life. Easterbrook provides a practical portrait of the process of Globalization.

I still hear some complaints or rants against globalization. But this book makes clear Globalization is not an option. It is not a trend we can or should stem. It has already happened. The statement of denial that still tries simplistically to pit the US against the world ignores the realities that have been developing for a century.

Laying It Out
The author explains how the phenomenon developed and lays out key components to enable the reader to understand what has happened, what is now going on and what to expect. You will learn a lot of details about our current world and the problem facing us and our technology. Or the problems presented to us by our technology.

This is a thorough and thoroughly readable explication of a complex topic. I appreciated that Easterbrook does not try to over-simplify Globalization. He just easily deals with a multiple dimensions of the phenomenon in an competent and understandable manner. Forbes magazine has described Gregg Easterbrook as "the best writer on complex topics in the United States." You will likely agree after you finish this intriguing volume

Easterbrook's smooth and clear writing style lays out the portrait of the current economic-political mesh of international networks that are deeply established. There is no going back. The brush strokes are wide and fast here, and the book moves quickly, at Mach Speed like the title's characterization of the process of Globalization.
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