The Master Switch

By | April 17, 2020
The Master Switch

The Master Switch looks at media industries and their dominant companies of the past 150 years. It’s a long and elaborate tale of the old Bell System, AT&T, Paramount Pictures, RCA, et al.

In the book, the author outlines a recurring cycle in which a particular industry starts off in a state of chaos with many companies competing for the right to provide people with the means of receiving and/or sending information. The chaos period is short-lived and eventually a monopoly (or a very tight oligopoly) emerges to dominate the industry. Rinse and repeat for other industries. The book’s title thus reflects the author’s fear that the flow of information is controlled by a single entity.

Wu seems to believe that new regulations will keep the openness and creativity of the internet intact. However, in view of wiretapping scandals and other invasions of privacy by the regulators (i.e. government of the day), placing your trust in regulators to do the job may well be misplaced. His tribute to Google is also baffling given how the internet behemoth of our time has employed similar tactic used by RCA’s David Sarnoff to redefine copyright and intellectual property customs to its own advantage.

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