Two cybergurus offer a “user’s manual to the twenty-first century.”
“Our technologies have outpaced our ability, as a society, to understand them,” write MIT Media Lab director Ito and veteran Wired writer Howe (Media Innovation/Northeastern Univ.; Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business, 2008). “We need to catch up.” In this heady, immensely rewarding book, they expand on the nine principles animating the celebrated MIT Lab to craft a blueprint for success in a world undergoing revolutions in technology and communications. As a result of Moore’s law—everything digital gets faster, cheaper, and smaller at an exponential rate—and the rise of the internet, “the very nature of innovation” has changed, “relocating it from the center (governments and big companies) to the edges (a twenty-three-year-old punk rock musician and circuit-board geek living in Osaka, Japan).” New products are produced “at great scale and little cost in a matter of weeks, if not days.” The authors devote a chapter to each of their tools for using the world’s new operating system. For example, they encourage crowdfunding and using resources as needed rather than stockpiling them to exploit the reduced cost of innovation. They discuss the value of undirected discovery, the need to accept risk and experimentation (“and a willingness to fail and start again from scratch”), and the importance of maintaining “a culture of creative disobedience.” They emphasize that planning is costlier than improvisation, that diverse aptitudes trump expertise, and that human systems are most resilient at their most diverse. They also argue that responsible innovation must focus on “the overall impact of new technologies.” They describe how leading MIT researchers work at the lab, which Ito, an entrepreneur and college dropout, joined in 2011.
This exhilarating and authoritative book actually makes sense of our incredibly fast-paced, high-tech society. A standout among titles on technology and innovation, it will repay reading—and rereading—by leaders in all fields.