26. October 2017

The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

The Master Switch is a comprehensive and well written history of the information industry. Author Tim Wu presents its development through the lenses of its participants. Inventors, media moguls, artists and government regulators all find their place in Wu's tale.

Wu describes “the cycle”: an ideological battle over how to handle information technology. On one hand you have believers in closed, well controlled systems. For them a closed system guarantees quality and best serves users; even at the cost of some content and technology censorship. On the other hand are those who believe in open, un-censored systems. These are essential against the stagnation of technology and limiting content creation. The cost here being a greater quantity of low quality content to sort through.

Wu sees merit in both approaches but makes his opinion clear that in history “open” beats “closed”. In fact he fears that the internet may be moving towards a closed environment. What makes the book so current is the ongoing battle in the USA for “net neutrality”, a term coined by Tim Wu himself. Net neutrality is quite a counter intuitive idea: by being liberal with Internet Services Providers, government regulations enable ISPs to close the system through their own internet traffic and content availability regulation.


Review by Julio Prina