Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it

Perhaps the most famous example of telecommunication fiction is the broadband telecom bubble of the 1990’s. An interesting book on this subject is Broadbandits: Inside the $750 Billion Telecom Heist. One can find a huge amount of information on this topic on the web. This story has to do mostly with non-wireless communications (except for the fixed wireless broadband fiasco), but  there are  useful lessons to be learned from it about the potential dangers of “wireless fiction”. When the gap between the claims made about technologies and reality becomes too large, bad things happen.

The telecom bubble is only one of many well known economic bubbles fueled by the tremendous power of fear and greed. One of the classical books on this topic is “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” by Charles Mackay. You can download the book from here or here. The first chapter “The Mississippi Scheme” opens with the quote:

“Some in clandestine companies combine;
Erect new stocks to trade beyond the line;
With air and empty names beguile the town,
And raise new credits first, then cry ’em down;
Divide the empty nothing into shares,
And set the crowd together by the ears. –Defoe.”

The book, which was first published in 1841, does not deal of course with modern technology delusions. However, each time I read the book I am struck by the similarity between the events it describes and events unfolding today. As Yogi Berra used to say “it’s deja vu all over again”.


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