Michael Lewis has a knack for tapping the business zeitgeist. In Liar's Poker, he exposed the brittle core of the money- and status-obsessed 1980s. In The New New Thing, he captured the vision and the outsized ambitions of Silicon Valley venture capitalists. Now, in Next: The Future Just Happened, Lewis explores a new frontier defined by the fringe dwellers of the Web: teenage misfits, social deviants, hackers, and pseudoentrepreneurs.
Lewis has returned from his trip to the edge with at least two profound insights. First, technology is redistributing prestige. Thanks to the democratization of the Internet, we're in the midst of a "status revolution," he writes. A new class of achievers — passionate amateurs who are motivated by pure interest, not self-interest — is toppling the professional monopoly.
Which brings us to insight number two: "Capitalists have become edgier, because it pays them to be edgier," Lewis writes. He cites people such as venture-capitalist-cum-social-theorist Andy Kessler, a Wall Street dropout who looks for opportunities in the conflicts that develop between insiders and outsiders: Madison Avenue creative director versus email spammer; public-school advocates versus home schoolers; Microsoft versus Linux.
The future no longer belongs to an entrenched elite, Lewis proclaims. Status has become ephemeral for all.
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A version of this article appeared in the August 2001 issue of Fast Company magazine.