Book Breakpoint

Why the Web Will Implode, Search Will Be Obsolete, and Everything Else You Need to Know About Technology Is in Your Brain




  • Innovative


Anthills, Facebook and your brain have much in common, says entrepreneur and cognitive science expert Jeff Stibel. All three will thrive or die according to the same laws that govern networks. If you understand and can harness networking, Stibel argues, you can make better decisions in complex situations and be prepared for changes to come. Stibel sometimes lets anecdotes and analogies carry his arguments. Most of the time, however, those arguments are vivid, original and useful. getAbstract recommends his insights to readers interested in networks, futurism, the Internet, sustainability and making better decisions.


Networks, Nature and Patterns

In 1944, the US Coast Guard took “29 reindeer to St. Matthew Island” in the Bering Sea. By 1963, the initial 29 reindeer had grown to 6,000. When a Navy photographer arrived in 1965, all but 42 had died. The reindeer had overgrazed the island until it “was covered with reindeer skeletons.” If St. Matthew’s weren’t an island, the reindeer would have moved on when they overgrazed their habitat, or predators would have kept their numbers in check. Instead, the reindeer bones serve as a warning about “overload” – pushing a system past its limits.

All systems have their limits, yet society is “conditioned to believe that bigger is better” in all domains. Many people and companies run into the same paradox because growth is fundamental to success. But networks that keep trying to grow without limit will kill functions that once were innovative and successful. Explosive growth eventually hits a “breakpoint,” when success and utility plummet. Systems should grow as fast as they can until they reach breakpoint. Then, they should shift their focus to stability while enjoying economies of scale.

To learn about breakpoints, watch ants work together...

About the Author

Jeff Stibel is president and CEO of the Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corporation and chairman of BrainGate.

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