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.