Review: The Mobile Wave

4 Star, Change & Innovation, Information Society, Information Technology
Amazon Page

Michael Saylor

4.0 out of 5 stars 5 for Elegant Simplicity, 3 for Dumbed Down,July 12, 2012

For a guy who once said he was worth $600,000 a hour, I was expecting a great deal more. This is a Classic Comic for the masses–now I used to own all of the Classic Comics [for those under 60, these were the Great Books of Western Civilization, in comic book form, all the rage in the 1960's].

The author starts off by saying that everything is becoming software, but there is no mention of Marc Andersson's famous article, “Why Software is Eating the World” (Wall Street Journal, 20 August 2011), and across the book I notice other inconsistencies. I conclude this is a book researched and written by staff to the signed author's general specifications. It is a good outline, and worth reading, but it is also disappointing. This is not the book that Michael Saylor could have and should have written. Having said that, I give the staff high marks for a clean intelligible coherent book good enough for the 80% that do not think about these topics very much.

The central premise of the book is that mobile plus social equals radical change; that application hand-helds (as opposed to cell phones) are hugely disruptive, and that if we have 5.3 billion with phones right now (out of 9 billion plus), imagine what happens when everyone has a cell phone.

As it happens, I have imagined this. I funded Earth Intelligence Network (501c3) before I lost everything in the crash, and we specifically conceptualized a path to OpenBTS, Open Spectrum, all the other opens, that gave the five billion poorest free cell phones and cell service for life, educating them “one cell call at a time.” We also spent a great deal more time thinking about the reflections of Herman Daly (e.g. For The Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future) and C. K. Prahalad (e.g. The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits, Revised and Updated 5th Anniversary Edition. Crowd-funding/sensing/sourcing plus Open Source Everything Plus True Cost Transparency and Truth equals a prosperous world at peace.

The book in eight lines (and a very thoughtful book at the elementary level):

01 Destruction of paper
02 Instant entertaining
03 Intelligent wallet
04 Showroom world
05 Hyperfluid social networks
06 Worldwide medical care
07 Universal education
08 Jumpstart emerging world

I am moderately irritated to see the fulsome discussion of how the automated spreadsheet changed the world, with no mention of Mitch Kapor.

I like the itemization of the big changes between pre-history computing and application hand-held computing:

01 Touch
02 Widely affordable (wrong–he's thinking like a rich white kid — five billion can NOT afford smart phones, and neither can the southern nations, absent Sir Richard Branson finally paying attention to “The Virgin Truth” concept).
03 Battery life (to which I would addambient energy)
04 Instant on (and no idiot Microsoft song)
05 Applications (never mind the lack of data)
06 Apps store
07 Sensing world nearby

The chapter on paper is ho-hum, reminds me of the term papers that one could buy back in the 1970's. He talks of the Gutenberg Project, which I admire (Dr. Greg Newby is now working that) and Google's digitization, which I despise because Google is trying to claim ownership of what it digitizes–the main reason they got thrown out of Boston.

The chapter on entertainment covers photography, games, gambling, movies, mobile TV, and shared media such as YouTube. Again, this is a book written with the one billion rich in mind.

The chapter on the intelligent wallet bring together the move from bar code to Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to Near-Field Communications (NFC), talks about identity protection, anti-crime advantages, and the best part, mobile keys that can have all kinds of conditions attached to them. Also mentioned is a universal loyalty card and the rise of global banking that comes with the death of physical branches. Personally I think we are headed toward more local banks.

I certainly agree with the book's observation on how retarded the law is in relation to changing expectations of privacy and the need to changing standards to protect individuals from ubiquitous surveillance by other citizens, never mind the government.

The chapter on social networking is alone worth the price of the book. This is the best and most cogent treatment I have read, discussing:

01 Personal broadcast system
02 Social coordination system
03 News filtering system
04 Direct conections with and among consumers
05 Distributed sensory system
06 Harnessing wisdom of the crowd (no real grasp of the collective intelligence literature)
07 Universal identity system

The medical chapter is interesting but very lightweight. My own step-father just got hit with $375,000 in bills above and beyond what insurance would pay, and I am very distressed that I did not have a chance to get him to India, knowing nothing of where his health was going. Medical records, telemedicine, hospital at network, portals for deaf and blind, global medical network, Third world solutions. The chapter does not touch on the much larger reality: that health is a four-part matter comprised on personal lifestyle, environmental health, natural and alternative cures, and honest cost-effective medical (pharmaceutical and surgical) remediation. There is no mention here of the study, “The Price of Excess,” that documents that one half of every health dollar in the US is waste.

Education is a good chapter in this book but it does not go nearly far enough–again, this is a simplistic book written to a low denominator. New textbook concepts, active learning, nobel lecturers reaching billions, one to one learning, breaking college costs, global education, all good. I know Saylor himself knows that smart devices will come with their own repair manuals, that call centers can educate the poor one cell call at a time, that regional multinational information-sharing and sense-making grids will change everything about politics, socio-economics, ideo-cultural, techno-demographic and even natural-geographic.

There is also nothing in this book about how education, intelligence, and research must be harmonized in all languages across all domains all the time. Put another way, this is not a book the Director of the National Science Foundation needs to read.

The final chapters are disappointing. There is so much more that could have been covered — to include the thoughts of others who have taken the time to write books, not just Op-Eds that can be found online.

On page 233 the book observes that the mobile revolution is creating an upheaval requiring new rules and new cultural dynamics. Then the book plops.

Am sitting here thinking how best to close this. I am sighing, wishing that Saylor would bring a few people together — including the Range Networks team that provided OpenBTS to Burning Man, Branson, David Winberger, myself, a few others — and actually come up with a prototype for doing what needs to be done, breaking completely with the industrial era grid-lock and the congressional corruption that kill all we try to do now.

Here are eight more books I particularly admire, followed by my two general lists of reviews easily found online with all links bank to Amazon pages, and my signature line, where I am allowed to mention my latest book.

The Exemplar: The Exemplary Performer in the Age of Productivity
The Knowledge Executive
Infinite Wealth: A New World of Collaboration and Abundance in the Knowledge Era
Information Payoff: The Transformation of Work in the Electronic Age
Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century
The Tao of Democracy: Using co-intelligence to create a world that works for all
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge
Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room

Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Positive)

Worth a Look: Book Review Lists (Negative)

Robert David Steele

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