I read and enjoyed the forthcoming book, An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government and Other Goliaths, by InstaPundit scribe Glenn Reynolds. Then I asked Glenn some questions about the book, which he kindly answers below.
An Army of Davids is a primer on a number of trends in technology, business, culture, politics, bound together by the idea that individuals are increasingly empowered to do things once the preserve of large organizations, aka Goliaths to the Davids of the title.
The most obvious example of this trend is blogging, since Glenn writes an enormously popular weblog, and weblogs have demonstrably rearranged the media foodchain. But there's more, from nanotech to rocket science. It's a smart book, but not dry or overly difficult. Reynolds,a professor of law at the University of Tennessee, columnist for Tech Central Station and contributor to any number of publications, is a lucid and fluid writer, a popularizer who throws in plenty of useful analogies and plain-English explanations.
Regular readers of InstaPundit will recognize many of the topics in An Army of Davids. I was interested in the interplay between writing the blog and writing the book, so I asked Glenn about it. Did blog posts drive chapters, or did research on the book drive the blog, or both?
Both. Some of the book comes from blog posts and TCS columns; some blog posts and TCS columns done while I was writing came from the book. It's nice in a way, because it lets you test-drive ideas and check them against reader feedback, something that did change my take on some issues. It's sort of like having an Army of Editors!
One false conclusion readers might draw from the book -- one Reynolds does not make himself -- is a replacement fallacy, i.e., once all us little guys are powerful then big organizations simply go away. In an era of megastores and high-tech research -- not to mention an Internet that began life as a huge government project -- that's clearly not the case. I asked Glenn to address this potential misunderstanding.
I try, in fact, to explode the simplistic big-vs-small dichotomy. As the eBay example illustrates, there's still a role (a big one!) for big organizations, but their nature is likely to change substantially. And your examples illustrate that: "The Internet" is the product of Big Gov, but most of the actual value on the internet, as I note in the "horizontal knowledge" chapter, is the product of lots of loosely coordinated individuals and small groups. Overall, yes, I think it's symbiotic and additive -- I tried hard to avoid blogger triumphalism and its various triumphalist cousins, though that was probably a mistake from the standpoint of marketing: I think books that make sweeping statements like "The era of big organizations is over" probably do better than those that are more nuanced . . .
Reynolds is an optimist, as am I, but not a utopian. I asked how his outlook accomodated the grim evidence that human nature does not necessarily improve with material circumstances and technology -- if we're not headed toward a Gibsonesque techno-dystopia, won't reality stay a little too real for much of the world's population in any imaginable future?
Well, as I noted in a blog post, the Cartoon Wars kind of illustrate that. The Jihadist movement (and Iran) are operating as the eBay to a lot of smaller operators who organize riots, etc., around the world. (Also see my discussion of Dumb Mobs in the book). You empower individuals, but the assumption -- which I make explicit in the book -- is that most individuals are basically good. If you think otherwise, well, then you'll take a much darker view, which would be justified if the assumption is true.
While Reynolds has risen to fame in part because of his staunch support of the Iraq war, he is not an ideologue and this book is not a political tome. It does reflect -- even celebrate -- a small-L libertarianism that I share and so find wholly salubrious.
An Army of Davids will be published in early march. You can order a copy now at Amazon and other fine booksellers.