Ruling the Waves : From the Compass to the Internet, a History of Business and Politics along the Technological Frontier

by Debora Spar


This is a book about technology, and about rules. It is about what happens when technology moves faster than governments, creating markets that--for some time at least--have no rules. It is a book about the pioneers who thrive in a world of chaos and the governments that eventually rein them in.
Beginning with the development of the compass in the early Middle Ages, Debora Spar, a Harvard Business School professor, takes the reader back in time, looking at a series of technological revolutions that promised, in their time, to transform the worlds politics and business. She tells tales of the printing press and maps; of telegraph, radio, and satellite television; of software, encryption, and the advent of digital music. At each of these junctures, she suggests, technological innovation leads both to a wave of commerce and of chaos. Entrepreneurs such as Samuel Morse and Rupert Murdoch carve new markets from the emerging technology and proclaim that the old rules no longer apply.
And for a while they are right. Pioneers plow into the world that technology has wrought, leaving governments gasping in their wake. But eventually--and inevitably--even cowboys realize they need rules: rules of property, rules of coordination, rules of competition. The erstwhile pioneers thus turn to government, lobbying for order and setting the stage for the next wave of innovation.
Spar is a gifted storyteller, so each chapter of Ruling the Waves reads like an adventure tale. But the real excitement of the book comes from the underlying patterns she articulates, and the parallels she draws between historical events and our own tumultuous times.

  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780156027021
  • ISBN-10: 015602702X
  • Pages: 416
  • Publication Date: 01/07/2003
  • Carton Quantity: 9999
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Reviews
  • Beginning with the development of the compass, Ruling the Waves examines a series of technological revolutions that promised, in their time, to transform the world's politics and business. With Debora Spar's gifted storytelling, each chapter reads like an adventure tale as she recounts the histories of the printing press and maps; of the telegraph, radio, and satellite television; of software, encryption, and the advent of digital music. At each of these junctures Spar suggests that invention led to both a wave of commerce and of chaos.

    Entrepreneurs such as Samuel Morse and Rupert Murdoch carved new markets from the emerging technology and proclaimed that the old rules no longer applied. And for a while, they were right. But eventually--and inevitably--even cowboys need rules: rules of property, rules of coordination, rules of competition. The erstwhile pioneers thus turn to government, lobbying for order and setting the stage for the next wave of discovery.

    A fascinating history of business, Ruling the Waves is also an original, thought-provoking analysis of the parallels between past innovations and inventions and our own tumultuous times.

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  • PRAISE FOR RULING THE WAVES

    "[An] intriguing and well-crafted new book . . . Truly illuminating."--The Washington Post Book World

    "Engaging capsule histories of the growth and eventual control of (maritime) piracy, independent radio broadcasting, encryption, and use of the Internet."--USA Today

    "A beautifully written book . . . Spar puts cyberspace in its place."--The Economist