Synopses & Reviews
“The amount of knowledge and talent dispersed among the human race has always outstripped our capacity to harness it. Crowdsourcing corrects thatbut in doing so, it also unleashes the forces of creative destruction.”
First identified by journalist Jeff Howe in a June 2006 Wired article, “crowdsourcing” describes the process by which the power of the many can be leveraged to accomplish feats that were once the province of the specialized few. Howe reveals that the crowd is more than wiseits talented, creative, and stunningly productive. Crowdsourcing activates the transformative power of todays technology, liberating the latent potential within us all. Its a perfect meritocracy, where age, gender, race, education, and job history no longer matter; the quality of work is all that counts; and every field is open to people of every imaginable background. If you can perform the service, design the product, or solve the problem, youve got the job.
But crowdsourcing has also triggered a dramatic shift in the way work is organized, talent is employed, research is conducted, and products are made and marketed. As the crowd comes to supplant traditional forms of labor, pain and disruption are inevitable.
Jeff Howe delves into both the positive and negative consequences of this intriguing phenomenon. Through extensive reporting from the front lines of this revolution, he employs a brilliant array of stories to look at the economic, cultural, business, and political implications of crowdsourcing. How were a bunch of part-time dabblers in finance able to help an investment company consistently beat the market? Why does Procter & Gamble repeatedly call on enthusiastic amateurs to solve scientific and technical challenges? How can companies as diverse as iStockphoto and Threadless employ just a handful of people, yet generate millions of dollars in revenue every year? The answers lie within these pages.
The blueprint for crowdsourcing originated from a handful of computer programmers who showed that a community of like-minded peers could create better products than a corporate behemoth like Microsoft. Jeff Howe tracks the amazing migration of this new model of production, showing the potential of the Internet to create human networks that can divvy up and make quick work of otherwise overwhelming tasks. One of the most intriguing ideas of Crowdsourcing is that the knowledge to solve intractable problemsa cure for cancer, for instancemay already exist within the warp and weave of this infinite and, as yet, largely untapped resource. But first, Howe proposes, we need to banish preconceived notions of how such problems are solved.
The very concept of crowdsourcing stands at odds with centuries of practice. Yet, for the digital natives soon to enter the workforce, the technologies and principles behind crowdsourcing are perfectly intuitive. This generation collaborates, shares, remixes, and creates with a fluency and ease the rest of us can hardly understand. Crowdsourcing, just now starting to emerge, will in a short time simply be the way things are done.
From the Hardcover edition.
"What Im certain about is that Big Data
will be the defining text in the discussion for some time to come."
—Forbes.com "The authors make clear that ‘big data is much more than a Silicon Valley buzzword. . . No other book offers such an accessible and balanced tour of the many benefits and downsides of our continuing infatuation with data."
—Wall Street Journal "Brilliant . . . an elegant and readable primer."
—New Scientist "Plenty of books extol the technical marvels of our information society, but this is an original analysis of the information itself—trillions of searches, calls, clicks, queries and purchases....A fascinating, enthusiastic view of the possibilities of vast computer correlations and the entrepreneurs who are taking advantage of them."
—STARRED Kirkus Reviews "This book offers important insights and information."
—Booklist "‘Big data [is] one of the buzzwords of corporate executives, tech-savvy politicians, and worried civil libertarians. If you want to know what theyre all talking about, then BIG DATA is the book for you, a comprehensive and entertaining introduction to a very large topic....Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier offer up some sensible suggestions on how we can have the blessings of big data and our freedoms, too. Just as well; their lively book leaves no doubt that big datas growth spurt is just beginning."
—Boston Globe "Every decade, there are a handful of books that change the way you look at everything. This is one of those books. Society has begun to reckon the change that big data will bring. This book is an incredibly important start."
—Lawrence Lessig, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, and author of Remix and Free Culture "Big Data breaks new ground in identifying how todays avalanche of information fundamentally shifts our basic understanding of the world. Argued boldly and written beautifully, the book clearly shows how companies can unlock value, how policymakers need to be on guard, and how everyones cognitive models need to change."
—Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab "Big Data is a must-read for anyone who wants to stay ahead of one of the key trends defining the future of business."
—Marc Benioff, Chairman and CEO, salesforce.com "An optimistic and practical look at the Big Data revolution — just the thing to get your head around the big changes already underway and the bigger changes to come."
—Cory Doctorow, boingboing.com "Just as water is wet in a way that individual water molecules arent, big data can reveal information in a way that individual bits of data cant. The authors show us the surprising ways that enormous, complex, and messy collections of data can be used to predict everything from shopping patterns to flu outbreaks."
—Clay Shirky, author of Cognitive Surplus and Here Comes Everybody "This brilliant book cuts through the mystery and the hype surrounding big data. A must-read for anyone in business, information technology, public policy, intelligence, and medicine. And anyone else who is just plain curious about the future."
—John Seely Brown, former Chief Scientist, Xerox Corp., and head of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center "The book teems with great insights on the new ways of harnessing information, and offers a convincing vision of the future. It is essential reading for anyone who uses — or is affected by — big data."
—Jeff Jonas, IBM Fellow & Chief Scientist, IBM Entity Analytics
Why does Procter & Gamble repeatedly call on enthusiastic amateurs to solve scientific and technical challenges? How can companies as diverse as iStockphoto and Threadless employ just a handful of people, yet generate millions of dollars in revenue every year?
"Crowdsourcing" is how the power of the many can be leveraged to accomplish feats that were once the responsibility of a specialized few. Jeff Howe reveals that the crowd is more than wise-its talented, creative, and stunningly productive. Its also a perfect meritocracy, where age, gender, race, education, and job history no longer matter; the quality of the work is all that counts. If you can perform the service, design the product, or solve the problem, youve got the job.
But crowdsourcing has also triggered a dramatic shift in the way work is organized, talent is employed, research is conducted, and products are made and marketed. As the crowd comes to supplant traditional forms of labor, pain and disruption are inevitable, and Howe delves into both the positive and negative consequences of this intriguing phenomenon. Through extensive reporting from the front lines of this workplace revolution, he employs a brilliant array of stories to look at the economic, cultural, business, and political implications of crowdsourcing.
A revelatory exploration of emerging trends in “big data”—our newfound ability to gather and interpret vast amounts of information—and the revolutionary effects these developments are producing in business, science, and society at large.
Financial Times Business Book of the Year Finalist
“Illuminating and very timely . . . a fascinating — and sometimes alarming — survey of big datas growing effect on just about everything: business, government, science and medicine, privacy, and even on the way we think.”
—New York Times
It seems like “big data” is in the news every day, as we read the latest examples of how powerful algorithms are teasing out the hidden connections between seemingly unrelated things. Whether it is used by the NSA to fight terrorism or by online retailers to predict customers buying patterns, big data is a revolution occurring around us, in the process of forever changing economics, science, culture, and the very way we think. But it also poses new threats, from the end of privacy as we know it to the prospect of being penalized for things we havent even done yet, based on big datas ability to predict our future behavior. What we have already seen is just the tip of the iceberg.
Big Data is the first major book about this earthshaking subject, with two leading experts explaining what big data is, how it will change our lives, and what we can do to protect ourselves from its hazards.
“An optimistic and practical look at the Big Data revolution — just the thing to get your head around the big changes already underway and the bigger changes to come.”
—Cory Doctorow, boingboing.com
About the Author
VIKTOR MAYER-SCHÖNBERGER is Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at the Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University. The co-author of Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We, Live, Work, and Think, he has published over a hundred articles and eight other books, including Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. He is on the advisory boards of corporations and organizations around the world, including Microsoft and the World Economic Forum.
KENNETH CUKIER is the Data Editor of the Economist and co-author of Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think. His writings on business and economics have appeared in Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, the Financial Times, and elsewhere.