Book Review Of "Next: The Future Just Happened" By Michael Lewis

1014 words - 4 pages

This four-chapter book describes some of the implications of the rapidly developing Internet culture. It is a collection of true Internet-inspired stories illustrating how the Internet and information technologies are changing our lives, restructuring our societies, families, and financial establishments and shaking up some long-held convictions regarding the roles that people should or should not undertake. The writer's main argument is that the Internet will significantly alter existing assumptions about hierarchies of expertise and even of age.The Internet made it possible for 15 year old Jonathan Lebed to undertake the role of a professional financial analyst and play the "grownup" game of stock market. The SEC accused Jonathan of "manipulating" the stock market by posting scores of messages on financial message boards - under a host of aliases - puffing up stocks which he had previously purchased, and selling them at a considerable profit. According to him, he was not doing anything different from "real" analysts whose business it was to make unwarranted predictions about the future value of stocks, that may or may not prove to be true. This line of argument prompted the SEC to drop the case while allowing Jonathan to keep most of the $800,000 he made using his scheme. After all, if a court would rule in favor of the kid, it would mean that the structure of stock trading - part of which is the supposed training and "expertise" of financial analysts - would collapse altogether.The Internet also made it possible for another 15 year old kid, Marcus Arnold, to present himself as a "legal expert" on, and to be ranked as #1 legal advisor by the users. Marcus, undoubtedly talented, did this solely from what he learned watching court TV!Both Jonathan and Marcus are considered as "outsiders" to the establishment - unqualified to disperse financial or legal advice - who took the role of "insiders" by virtue of the Internet. Their stories prove that the information age facilitated by the Internet is undermining the already fading notion that experts know best and thus deserve legal and financial privileges. There are tons of information posted on the net, covering just about any subject conceivable. This basic fact is disintegrating the monopoly traditionally enjoyed by "professionals" or "experts".Lewis then chronicles the birth of Gnutella, the famous peer-to-peer file-sharing program, which was written by a 19 year old whiz as a successor to Napster, giving another blow to the music industry and even to the very concept of intellectual property. The writer also describes the story of Daniel Sheldon - another juvenile from England who helped advance the code for MP3 sharing via Gnutella. Sheldon did the work "just for the glory of it", believing that there should not be intellectual property rights and that information should be offered free of charge, and supported only with voluntary tips from satisfied users. Lewis then describes how the...

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