The New York Times bestseller. "His book is a wake-up call at a time when many believe the net was a flash in the pan."― BusinessWeek With his knowing eye and wicked pen, Michael Lewis reveals how the Internet boom has encouraged changes in the way we live, work, and think. In the midst of one of the greatest status revolutions in the history of the world, the Internet has become a weapon in the hands of revolutionaries. Old priesthoods are crumbling. In the new order, the amateur is king: fourteen-year-olds manipulate the stock market and nineteen-year-olds take down the music industry. Unseen forces undermine all forms of collectivism, from the family to the mass market: one black box has the power to end television as we know it, and another one may dictate significant changes in our practice of democracy. With a new afterword by the author.
Michael Lewis, the best-selling author of Liar’s Poker, The Money Culture, The New New Thing, Moneyball, The Blind Side, Panic, Home Game, The Big Short, and Boomerang, among other works, lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife and three children.
Michael Lewis has written another incredibly entertaining book about people exploiting the the latest technologies. A teenager becomes a target of the SEC, for attempting to manipulate the stock market. When confronted by a bunch of SEC officials, the boy simply throws their logic back at them, showing them that their criteria for "manipulation" are nonsensical in today's environment. Another teenager becomes one of the most respected dispensers of legal advice on the Internet. A youth develops peer-to-peer file shaping, for use by companies like Napster. Some guys in a garage develop the technology for TiVo. The developers persuade the big television networks that, despite the ability to skip ahead across commercials, the technology could actually help increase their viewership and profits.
Michael Lewis is a great author. His stories are convincing, entertaining, humorous at times, and informative.
This is an excellent book that rationally examines the Internet and the social change it has invoked. Rather than just bemoan and whine about the impact, Lewis has bothered to investigate the reasons for the myriad changes. His book should be required reading for sociology and business classes. He has a sarcastic wit yet keen insight into the radical shifts that have taken place, and he speculates on what the future might bring.
Central to Lewis's observations is the idea that the Internet has altered the relationship between the "insiders" and the "outsiders": between those who formerly controlled information and its flow to their benefit i.e., those who try to define what that information is, and those who have always been denied access to that power and information because of youth, lack of formal education, or lack of capital.
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." On the Internet, a boy barely in his teens flouts the investment system, making big enough bucks to get the SEC breathing down his neck for stock market fraud. What really makes them mad is that he has beaten them at their own game. When being accused of "manipulating" stock prices, he throws their logic back at them, asserting that that's the whole point of the stock market, that without manipulation, there would be no stock market. He watched stocks being hyped by professionals at the behest of companies and to the benefit of their own portfolios, in a world where companies cared more about their stock's value than the products they produced. A Blomberg study revealed that amateur predictions were twice as likely to be correct than those of stock analyst professionals.
Markus, a bored adolescent, too young to drive, became one of the most respected legal advisors on Askme.com. His legal expertise came from watching myriads of legal television shows and from searching out the answers on the Internet. Ironically, his information appears to have been correct, and even the head of the American Bar Association admitted that most legal counsel is simply a matter of dispensing appropriate information. The story of how Askme.com got started is in itself instructive. It was designed by a software company to permit corporations to create an intranet that provided the capability for anyone to ask a question and anyone else in the corporation to provide an answer. Thus the information flow would change from the traditional top down pyramid model to a more pancake-shaped environment where information moved horizontally. It could be a bit unsettling for some people to see a vice-president get assistance from an assembly line worker, but the results were much more profitable companies, so the software became quite popular. The only concern prospective customers had was whether a product could withstand heavy usage, so the designers created Askme.com, a public site where people could ask questions of others. It became so popular that it was getting 10 million hits per day, and experts were vying for top rankings from those they assisted. Markus was so accommodating and his information so reliable that he was once asked by a "client" to provide the defense in court. Fortunately, his mother wouldn't drive him to court, but he supplied legal briefs and other legal documents that were accepted. The pyramid flattening to a pancake has become a metaphor for all that is happening around us.
Gnutella, the famous peer-to-peer software, is also examined as an example of the new relationships that have arisen from the ubiquitous nature of the Internet. It, too, demonstrates how the social order has been reversed and prestige redistributed. The corrosive effect of money, the lessening of gambling as sinful, and the devaluation of formal training in the exchange of knowledge ("casual thought went well with casual dress,") are additional side effects.
Lewis writes so smoothly. His observations are often funny as he describes people's behavior and familial interactions. The Internet has provided a window through which even youngsters, like the teenage investor, can "glimpse the essential truth of the market -- that even people who call themselves professionals were often incapable of independent thought and that most people , though obsessed with money, had little ability to make decisions about it." It's also clear from his examples, most illuminatingly the interviews with the SEC and the parents, that most adults have no idea what's happening around them, and that these youngsters are becoming proficient at the same tools available to the "experts." Lewis's observations, in my experience, are valid, but whether they are entirely due to the Internet is problematic. Certainly, anyone can set him/herself up as a consultant merely by making speculative announcements publicly and then charging huge fees regardless of whether the information is appropriate, valid, or even false. We are surrounded by silly, self-esteem-building, "creativity" workshops that are singularly lacking in content and substance. We are told that all we need do is have a little passion for something in order to be successful. Competence has little to do with anything any more.
I remember a call from a father inebriatingly asking why it was necessary for his son to take certain courses - Shakespeare was one of them - that the father and the boy deemed to be unnecessary since his son was already making so much money in the stock market. My explanation that one of the roles of a multi-faceted education was to create a compassionate and informed citizenry fell on stony ground. Clearly, the only value this family had was monetary.
Lewis is one of the more entertaining business writers out there. His hands on experience as a trader at Salomon Brothers gives a unique "been there done that and know what I am talking about" type of perspective. His best writings are on financial markets - Liar's Poker, The Big Short - and his devastating portraits of Eurozone casulaties in Vanity Fair. Despite his abundant talents, he navigates less certain terrain when he writes about the world of high-tech. His New New Thing and The Future Just Happened are entertaining accounts highlight the bizarre and whacky shennanigans of the New Digerati. I confess to a distinct collegiate bias, preferring the musings of Stanford-bred authors Po Bronson and Guy Kawasaki. They were educated in Silicon Valley, grew up in the business and offer more insights with a tinge of that unique Stanford humor one observes in undergraduate life and in the antics of the Band. Lewis just isn't crazy enough to write the best copy about high tech, but nonetheless this is a decent read with stories about unique individuals cashing in on the new technology.
Michael Lewis is one of my favourite writers. In this short quick read, he covers how technology can immediately transform an industry. The book starts off strong, covering how a 14 year old teenager turned eight grand into 800 grand through utilizing the internet to promote stock picks. He then discusses how a 15 year old teenager provided legal advice through a website and gained the confidence of a legion of fans. He then discusses peer-to-peer file sharing and its impact on digital property rights. He covers TIVO's video recording transformation of the television and advertising industries. He begins to lose his focus after this and meanders through a few different issues and fails to provide a proper conclusion to his thought process. I give this book a 3.5 stars, it started off strong and slowly petered out.
Interesting look at a book about the beginning of the internet going mainstream. I didn't realize that the book had been written in 2002. It was fun reading about the first teenager to be charged by the SEC or the teenager who answered law questions on AskMe.Com. The invention of TiVo was also interesting to me. Obviously some of the book was dated, but overall I enjoyed it.
A thoroughly engaging book with the author taking on the role of a story-teller. Michael Lewis provides a fascinating view of the people behind the turmoil caused by the internet. The pyramid to pancake theory was an eye-opener and goes a long way in showing how 'outsiders' have been empowered by the reach of the world wide web. It made me wonder if there's a limit on how many masks we have to smear on to help us cope with life. The obsessive need to update our profiles online, however, only goes to show you can be whoever you want to be in the virtual world. A liberating reality but crippling all the same when you think about our changing dependencies. Nevertheless, the internet has handed back power from a chosen few to whoever is ready to take it on. That can only be for the better. A realization that will dawn on you when you read this book.
there's a good lesson in reading books about the future written in the past. perhaps I would have liked this book when it came out but it seems so dated - the fun parts were the aspects of human behavior gleaned from the portrayal of the people within.
I have read many books by Michael Lewis, and have generally liked them. "Next" was written in 2001, so I finished it about 17 years after it was written. Since the book is about the many changes that the Internet has made to the world, it was interesting to see if what Michael Lewis perceived in 2001 has continued to ring true. And I have to say that the trends he saw seem to have continued. Perhaps the biggest message in the book is that the Internet has flattened the hierarchy. People, including 15 year-old kids, are using the Internet to make fortunes investing, to manipulate the stock market, to dispense legal advice, to disrupt the old music industry, and to discern habits of people in the privacy of their homes. It seems inevitable that new technology and ideas will displace older ones, and that young whiz kids will invent new ways of doing things. It is useless to fight this change; far better to embrace it and find ways to make it work for you and others. The concepts that Lewis put forth in 2001 still seem highly relevant today, although in many cases the technology has advanced far beyond what he was aware of. I found the book both enjoyable and enlightening, and will continue to read Michael Lewis.
This was interesting to read well after when it was published in 2001. In some ways, the future laid out in some of the anecdotes has already happened and seems antiquated, i.e. ask.com. In others, we are still working out how to achieve critical mass on some of the networked capabilities of the internet. Certainly the data gathering talked about in the Tivo section has blossomed and is fully being used by businesses to target consumers. It would have been fun to catch this one when it came out and the ideas were mostly new. However, any Michael Lewis book is always an enjoyable experience.
I really enjoyed this book. Essentially, this is a book about how new technologies, mostly the internet, have interrupted and changed the world that we have grown accustomed to. A few examples:
The law profession is increasingly being pushed towards business-ization and commoditization. LegalZoom.com and lawyers advertising their services and the huge number of people getting legal advice from answers websites like askme.com are some examples.
The finance world is turned on its head as brokers become redundant or useless with etrade and scottrade doing the same action cheaper and without conflict. The 'whisper numbers' are twice as accurate as wall street analysts projections and come chiefly from people in chat rooms.
TiVo and DVR are upending the advertising world and changing entertainment and television. Here he makes a good point that the 'old guard' technologies can co-opt the upstarts and slow their progress. Once upon a time, DVR remotes used to have a "FF30" button that allowed you to skip forward 30 seconds. They don't now, due mainly to pressure from television, advertising and big advertisers primarily by buying the new technologies off.
Michael Lewis wrote the books Blindside, Liar's Poker and Moneyball. You can't go wrong reading one of his books and will never be bored.
While not quite as raw informative as Lewis's prior books, Next is a fantastic, short read. Lewis identifies the nuances of the ways that internet is changing society. However, unlike so many hokey, feel good pieces, he demonstrates how this is upsetting the balance of "things" and the ways in which these "things" are playing out in the landscape of existing norms.
Instead of thinking of the possibilities of where science can take you as other books about the tech advancement do, Lewis asks the question, can the existing upper crust handle it? Is the world capable of accepting merit based advancement. Or has - instead - the world become some ingrained with the "way things are" (systemic) that the child who screams the emperor has no clothes will be overcome by systemic recourse.
In the current environment the question is a very good one. Does the child who puts out stock reports that are little better than that done by "professionals" really someone who should be harassed by the SEC? Do the laws protect those companies with failing business models in the face of advancements that actually promote sharing of information and discourse?
Ever want to know what had just happened and was about to happen--ten years ago? Here's your book! Michael Lewis catalogs several bizarre delights from the formative years--have they begun to end yet?--of our beloved Internet. We meet the first 15-year old to be charged by the SEC with stock manipulation, discover the Manchester youth who dreams of the next Napster and helped to promote peer-to-peer computing (that's bit-torrent, n00bs), and consider the ramifications of a little, black box called TiVo on the $50 billion television industry. Lewis is in typical top form, playing with the ripples on the edge of the pool as everyone else leaps without looking, carefully cataloging the state of things for the autopsy that's sure to follow.
Keep in mind that this book has to be graded on a curve because it's about the internet but was written in about 2000-2001, and the internet has changed since then. It's simply not fair to expect Michael Lewis to cover every topic and impact of a technology that was changing rapidly then and continues to evolve in unexpected ways. For what he's trying to do, which is capture the motion at the time and indicate some of the extraordinary impacts, he does a great job. But don't read this book to try to understand anything about the use of the internet, internet commerce, ChatGP, or anything else current. For example, it's quaint today that he has a section on a rock band that is doing great because it has an email list of 25,000 fans. Some kid gets 100,000 Instagram followers overnight these days.
The book is highly entertaining and fast-paced. I read it while waiting for a plane flight. I could read it again in a few weeks and find it just as enjoyable and likely pick up on more of Lewis's sarcasm and subtleties than I did in this fast read. But his style is smooth that you can't help but read fast. He is a master at making complicated things sound like casual dinner conversation. This takes doing a deep dive into a subject and going back to it on multiple occasions, after absorbing more information and gaining perspective. He's really good at perspective.
However, this book has flaws. It seems like it's an analysis of the way the internet is changing major institutions in our lives, such as investing, law, and intellectual property. But it doesn't really have sufficient depth to provide those insights. It's just a series of anecdotes strung together with great facility. Anecdotes are enjoyable to read, but they're not the big picture.
Occasionally, Lewis gives the big picture, and he's quite good at it. For example, he uses the words of the first person he profiles, Jonathan Lebed, as well as his own phrasing, to explain that Wall Street investing has always been biased towards the insiders, and that stock analysts always are incentivized to lie on behalf of the corporations that pay their salaries. The internet, coming on the heels of two decades of cable TV investment advice, finally exposed those lies. It showed that the alleged experts aren't right more often than the outsider, less educated masses. Lewis nails the hypocrisy of the Securities and Exchange Commission of the 1990s on the spot. They want to stop unauthorized stock pickers, but the truth is they don't have a leg to stand on because these guys are just telling the truth as they see it, often by using public information that the compromised, insider analysts pretend isn't there. Lewis does the same thing in section two, when he tracks down a teenager who became a go-to legal expert despite his "training" in the law being Court TV and quick internet searches. Lawyers went ballistic about his practicing law without a license, but what he was actually doing was simply applying common sense and sharing a little bit of research, but doing it for free instead of for $250/hour.
So the anecdotes enable Lewis to reach the big picture, to some extent. But I think he overreaches in the sense of saying that it's all about teenagers stepping into roles that adults used to hold. He spends a lot of time claiming that young teens are the true drivers of internet change because they don't have old habits to break; they just adopt what's out there and make it better. On the surface this makes sense. And there are a bunch of anecdotes to support his thesis, including also people like Edward Snowden, a big leaker of US surveillance secrets, a decade later. But there are tens of thousands of adults working on internet stuff as well, and they have done remarkable things. The stuff that kids do is individually amazing, but it's not the game-changers. And I think Lewis probably knows this because he also writes about how these mavericks get coopted by the establishment, which buys their expertise for millions (now hundreds of millions) of dollars.
However, I'll give Lewis credit for realizing the limitations of his method. He comments on this in an addendum written in 2002, that is, a few months after the 9/11 attack, which he said knocked out all interest in his book. He says that he couldn't come up with one or two themes to represent his anecdotes and that he believes the entire sphere of internet technology is moving too fast to categorize. He was right, just as he was right that people would probably graduate from getting their media through TV and then a computer to a faster, enhanced cell phone. Here we are.
Still, the breathless globe-trotting of the book gets on my nerves a bit. In that sense, it's like the business magazines where the author cut his teeth doing profiles of the rich and famous. It's the fantasy that lone wolf geniuses, working alone for 20 hours a day, are the key to the future. They're not. They're mostly out for themselves, and their aims are very parochial, often malicious. We've seen the destructiveness emerge more severely since Michael Lewis wrote this book, though he was smart enough in the book to worry about that stuff. I look forward to more of the author's work on cutting-edge technology, business, and culture because he's able to get to the right place and find the right people very effectively.
Very enjoyable read. I think this is where Michael Lewis found his writing style that lead to The Big Short, Moneyball, and Flash Boys. He did a great job of summarizing the new world of the internet boom, and those that positioned themselves uniquely in this environment. I found this journalism very impressive because he hit on phenomena that are very prevalent in today’s day. For example, he discussed the teenage kids who became stock market wizards and a false online attorney. Nowadays stocks are readily researched and sold online exclusively, and cat fishing with job credentials is always prevalent. I liked how they discussed the music industry and the world after Napster. It radically changed the power that labels had over artists because artists were able to get their music out faster, and by developing an online following, they were able to prove their value to record companies faster, and quickly engage with their fans. It showed a lot of companies who had to adapt to consumers having access to the depths of information that they’ve never had before. He also predicted that each person would have a device like we do with our cell phones today. In this new age of AI, there are things that we can take away from this book. Position your company to be as flexible as possible to maximize the advantages with new generation changing tech. If you don’t, others will, and you will fail. Those others are typically start up companies who are more nimble to change. Big organizations have to find ways to do that
Interesting food for thought, though (obviously) a bit dated. The premise of the book is how the Internet has changed (and is rapidly changing) society. He uses "Internet" when he really means "the World Wide Web," since it was the Mosaic/Netscape browser that opened up the internet to everyone. But anyway...
Lewis is describing facets of modern America, with some snark, but on the whole in a very judgement-free manner: this is what we've become. But the thing is, we only become this if we allow ourselves to become it, in the same way that you're likely to become part of the American obesity epidemic only if you go along with the crowd and eat the Standard American Diet (SAD) of processed foods and soda. Sure, Jonathan Lebed could make hundreds of thousands of dollars on Internet-facilitated pump-and-dumps on penny stocks...but only because there were literally thousands of idiots willing to believe anything he said, without a shred of evidence, and become his willing victims. As Mencken famously said "No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby."
Where Lewis most obviously missed the boat--not his fault, but still--was on the Internet and politics. He speculates on the ability of the internet to move America from a representative to a direct democracy, when in fact the main impact has been to remove all intermediation from public discourse. Now we can have uninformed opinions, as well as outright lies, competing in the marketplace with researched news, in near-identical wrappers. Fact checking has been replaced for most people with "do I want this to be true?" Welcome to the future.
Anyway...I found this kind of depressing overall. I've been writing software professionally for nearly 35 years, and while I love technology and computer science, I think the Internet is as good a proof of Sturgeon's Law as anything you're likely to find.
This would have been a great podcast, very episodic, and yet tied by a theme that runs through the book. Essentially the theme is that the internet was the wild west, and young people were the only ones flexible enough to understand how best to take advantage of it in the early days. It's obviously a dated perspective, but the stories are entertaining, even if its unlikely that Lewis’s overall point is actually entirely poignant. So, I guess that’s my overall view on the book, it has a few interesting stories, and Lewis’s writing is always entertaining and enlightening. However, most of it is hopelessly lost in time, with the perspectives and worries seeming silly in hindsight, especially the portion on Tivo, which I found unintentionally funny. It comes out then as a solid idea "how did the internet change the economy", but ends up as a couple stories roughly related to that topic. I like Lewis as an author, but that doesn't make this a good book.
Lewis’s opinion on the outsider/insider relationship was moderately interesting, especially as a way to understand capitalism. He sees the outsider as one who attacks the system until the system offers them a good enough job for them to turn into the insider.
Interesting perspective on progress in technology and the internet in pre-9/11 2001.
There are some interesting insights, such as the manner in which generational change takes place, and how outsiders go about becoming insiders.
Google the names in the book to see where these people are today. The results are interesting.
The book got a lot of general ideas right about what the future, at the time, might look like (that the internet would allow for a democratization of information and force radical change in large chunks of the economy, for instance).
It also makes it very evident about just how much change has taken place in a relatively short period of time. In a book about the internet from 18 years ago, there is no mention of current industry leaders like Google, Netflix or Amazon, though all existed at the time. The subject and value of peer-to-peer networks is mentioned, but social networks are not. Facebook and Myspace wouldn't be founded until 2004.
This edition does have an epilogue, written in 2002, that references the 9/11 attacks and talks about how that has already had an impact on his writing.
I thought this book was written recently because I didn’t recognize the Lewis title, but it was written back in 2002. Nonetheless, it was a fun read about the impacts of technology which continue to this day. He gives stories about how a few kids leverage the internet to enter the adult world, much to the chagrin of the SEC and lawyers around the country. Technology radically increases speed and access to information, renders geography obsolete, and flips generational wisdom on its head. All of this changes how we do marketing and politics – after all, in the words of McLuhan, the “medium is the message.” This book both addressed institutional creative destruction (TiVo’s effect on the television industry) and individual displacement (16 year old kid gaming the market, giving legal counsel). More broadly, it’s interesting to think about how the so-called Age of Information has changed and challenged knowledge institutions to adapt to new technology (law, stock market, middle-man fields [travel, housing], seminary training).
I read this book in the year 2021. It was good to go back in past and read then, about what future holds for you and see whether it really unfolded in front of you.
A paragraph from the book - As society and the problems that face it become more and more complex and machines become more and more intelligent, people will let machines make more of their decisions for them, simply because machine made decisions will bring better results than man made ones. Eventually a stage may be reached at which the decisions necessary to keep the system running will be so complex that human beings will be incapable of making them intelligently. At that stage the machines will be in effective control. People won't be able to turn machines off, because they will be so dependent on them that turning them off would amount to suicide.
Now this was written two decades ago, but it is so real in today's context.
It was very interesting to read this book, nearly 20 years after it was published, at a time (COVID19, spring 2020) when people all around the world are stuck communicating mostly through the Internet, using programs such as Face Time, Skype and Zoom. In many ways, the more things change the more they seem to stay the same. Michael Lewis has a marvelous way of stringing the stories of individual people together in a manner that enable us to see much larger truths. Even though the book is now "hopelessly out-of-date", I recommend it. If nothing else, it is fun to meet such interesting people. One wonders what some of the "children" who populate the book are doing now.
This book, like most of the authors books, has stood the test of time very well. I found the epilogue at the end quite instructive as it gave an insight into the mindset of the author and into the way he endlessly critiques his own style, which for me is what makes him such a good writer. The book does not really hang together as one narrative as other of his works do, but it is massively insightful and particularly the section on advertising towards the end of the book, awfully prescient of our data driven future with data providers harvesting our information for advertising purposes.
There's always the risk of reading a book about the future that is now nearly 20 years old. I think Lewis' reporting and writing holds up well, albeit only up to a point. The last third of the book kind of trails off, and that would have been the case for me 20 years ago as well. I don't think there was enough time between his previous book -- the New New Thing -- and this one to gain real insight into the Internet boom. It felt rushed to completion, looking for some larger truth that was difficult to glean in light of that day and age.
I always enjoy Michael Lewis. This was about how what's coming next is discovered/developed by outsiders. They rebel about the status quo and develop something to stick it to the man. But what happens is that the man then throws money at the rebel. As soon as the rebel accepts, they are the man. And so a new rebel must come along. The book explores a few of these past rebels. I found it interesting. But then, I like to do taxes. Go figure.
Rating: 3.5 Next isn't as good as the Big Short, but it is still solid. In Next, Lewis examines the lives of four teens that came of age in the late 1990s and early 2000s and each disrupted an existing industry. His thesis is that, because kids have less invested in older technologies and identities, they are better positioned to embrace new technologies and put them to use in ways that the establishment does not think of and actively resists.
OK, so it's a little bit dated, but actually not really, especially compared with things like "The Innovator's Dilemma". The conclusions are still timely and it's more of a "blast from the past" than something to throw in the "yesterday's news" category.... And it was seriously prescient about trends that continued. It's a quick read/listen and worth the time if you like to look at how successful business decisions are made, and where all the most disruptive ideas come from.
Hello world, behold new possibilities. When technology falls into the cracks of human ambitions and grey areas, what could wrong? The host of characters we meet in this book are at the bleeding edge of the brave new world, eating away at the future with unsated hunger in the present boundaries. A legal expert from watching TV and googling? Well why not? Everyone's an expert now, if you got bandwidth!
By accident this is the third book I finished reading this week on the topic of social implications of advances in information technology. It's actually a very far-sighted book considering it was published in 2001 because it feels very current. The ending fell short to me with 2 conspiracy theorists but then again I may be the old-timer who's already a step behind progress.