I recently read The Power of Pull by John Hagel III – in short, it’s a hokey book about how the Internet has changed the world. Usually I’m a complete sucker for this kind of material and I’ve happily read no fewer than 15 books with practically the same exact message (including both of Gary Vaynerchuk’s books, which I loved). However, there was one thing about this book that really annoyed me: The Power of Pull is absolutely brimming with sweeping generalizations about the human condition.
Allow me to explain exactly what I mean. If you go to Amazon and request to preview a random page from this book (http://www.amazon.com/Power-Pull-Smartly-Things-Motion/dp/0465019358 if you want to play at home) I guarantee that the page you find will contain some variety of plural pronoun abuse.
On my first try I got page nine and found this sweeping generalization:
“Push programs have dominated our lives from our very earliest years. We are literally pushed into educational systems that are designed to anticipate our needs…”
On my second try I found this gem on page 169:
“We live in personal ‘ecosystems’ – our local communities, our extended networks of friends and associates, and, increasingly, virtual networks and communities that dramatically amplify our reach.”
It’s true that I like to think about all humans as being fundamentally more similar than different – but when it comes to specific aspects of our educational histories or personal networks it’s outright ridiculous to assume any sort of baseline common experience. It only compounds the issue that these broad statements are presented unqualified – tacitly asserting that anyone who has not been personally affected by new technology is somehow less than human.
Part of me feels that the increase in books about how the Internet has changed the world – and the declining quality of these books – is supporting the inflation of a second Internet bubble. I suppose the question is: why do I keep buying them?