Friday, March 31, 2006

An Army of Davids

An Army of Davids, by Glenn Reynolds, is the "Small is Beautiful" of the Internet generation. The book has been extensively reviewed; Mr Reynolds links to these on his blog An Army of Davids is really two books, I feel : the first section describes the economic changes wrought by the decline of the big corporations, yet how the Internet is enabling "laid-off" employees to invent their own cottage industries and, in the process, become liberated and empowered. The second part is a review of the future of science and technology, again pursuing the "small will win" theme by featuring developments such as nanotechnology. I felt this part of the book was least successful. The first part, however, is an articulate analysis of the Internet society; of bloggers as a "pack" not a "herd". (The examples, however, as in the second part of the book, are selected to make the point.) It is fascinating to read about the evolution of the Web in ways that nobody could have predicted or planned 10 years ago. Why can one find any piece of information on the Web? Not because anyone planned to put it there in some massively expensive, long-term, mass-digitisation project, but becuase lots of individual people were enthusiastic enough about some piece of information to put it online. And this collection of what he calls "horizontal knowledge" is how Mr Reynolds sees the Internet enabling individuals to evolve in a kind of globalised self-expression; we can all become musicians or film directors or published authors or journalists (or, of course, terrorists), without requiring the resources of big corporations, or suffering their bureaucracy (but lacking their health-care plans). Powerful concepts, far more of them than I can summarise here. I highly recommend reading this book -- certainly the first half.