Saturday, April 09, 2005

Q: What might be Hell?

A: A world without rest

A few days ago I read Tom Friedman’s article in the NY Times Magazine section. The name of the article is It’s a Flat World, After All.

My take on what Friedman is saying is this:

Due to the proliferation of personal computers, personal computer connectivity technology and the rise of the Internet, the world is very small. And, now just about anybody has access to any knowledge. Thus, an engineer in Bangalore or Beijing can do what a engineer in Silicon Valley can do, and for a whole lot less money. So wake up America, these guys are competing for our work 24/7. We, America, need to be turning out more mathematicians and engineers and be willing to compete every day, every hour.

Here is a direct quote, the last two paragraphs of the article:

“We need to get going immediately. It takes 15 years to train a good engineer, because, ladies and gentlemen, this really is rocket science. So parents, throw away the Game Boy, turn off the television and get your kids to work. There is no sugar-coating this: in a flat world, every individual is going to have to run a little faster if he or she wants to advance his or her standard of living. When I was growing up, my parents used to say to me, ''Tom, finish your dinner -- people in China are starving.'' But after sailing to the edges of the flat world for a year, I am now telling my own daughters, ''Girls, finish your homework -- people in China and India are starving for your jobs.''

I repeat, this is not a test. This is the beginning of a crisis that won't remain quiet for long. And as the Stanford economist Paul Romer so rightly says, '’A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.’”

In the past I have learned a lot from Friedman’s thinking, particularly his take on things in the Middle East as described in his book, From Beirut to Jerusalem. Yet, the notion of a world on the go, in eternal competition, 365/24/7, I find frightening. I’ve been around people always on the go and I’ve been around people who take life easy. My preference is for taking it easy.

Yet, somebody once told me that it is a dog eat dog world. So maybe in this sense, Friedman is correct in his admonitions.

Then I am reminded a story my friend Khalid told me. Khalid was born in Pakistan and now lives in Iowa. He is an architect. One day he was at a mosque with his father for service and somebody was complaining about some rule of ritual, maybe it was why women were segregated from men. Khalid told me that a man got up, and his response to the complaint was this: “We are not animals!” I guess what the man was trying to say is that human beings can move past instinct and habit and live by reason.

My point here is that the notion of dog eat dog world with prey having to continually outrun the predator is the Law of the Jungle that No Longer Exists. We haven’t had to live in the jungle for a long, long time. And, if did live in the jungle, most of us would be dead anyway. We’re crappy animals. We can’t run fast. We eat too much and watch too much TV.

So now that we have done away with The Jungle, why are we so intent on creating another one? I thought technology was supposed lessen the labor of life.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not think that this is a "dog eat dog" situation out of choice. However, it is one because of the circumstances. The drive to improve one's living conditions is inbred in every human. What is not built in is the capacity to evaluate how one's actions will end up hurting someone else. Never has, never will be. So Indians and Chinese are not doing the things they are to "eat the Americans", but are doing things to improve their living conditions, but the result is an "eating of Americans". Its not pretty, but that's the way it is.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think the answer is that we start working harder. I think the answer is that we start boycotting companies that outsource their IT jobs. I'm sick and tired of fighting my way through a tech support call with some heavy dialected Indian on the other side, for a product I bought from an American company. And I'm ready to let them know by voting with my wallet.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Ralph Loizzo said...

Technology is supposed to ease the burden of life?

I suppose that's how it's marketed.....

Now that we do more things easily and quickly, we're expected to do more than we ever have before.(see James Gleick's book FASTER)

Because we're not as physically active as we once had to be, we now have to schedule "exercise."

American capitalism used to be viewed as a manner in which the BEST technology would be available for ALL the people because the drive for wealth would ensure people always attempting to build better than before; whereas now we see people divided into brand x and brand y, and the BEST technology goes to those who can afford it (health care and justice included)

So my previous quote still applies....

no matter what animal you are...come morning - you better be running.

That's realistic ideals my friend.

Unfortunately, you and I (and others) feel the pain of being torn from living with those realistic ideals as opposed to

the idealistic reality we can imagine.

10:32 AM  
Blogger Bob Reselman said...

I am thinking about the notion of raising the standard of living. I like living well, always have, probably always will.

Today I got to work, without a hitch, walked to my desk without assistance, brought a lunch so that I will have something to eat when I get hungry. I addition, I have interesting work to do, no matter how much folly comes with it. All the people that I know and care about are healthy.

Oh yeah, I woke up in a bed.

I'd say that I have enough for today.

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Allow me a small geo-political/economics rant. :-)

First, at the macro level, most of the people who seem to complain the most about outsourcing seem to come from the liberal side of the aisle. It's actually quite funny because outsourcing is raising the standard of living in the countries we outsource technology to. Isn't it the right thing to do to share our wealth? Isn't that the "reasoned" thing to do? For what a company pays you they could hire three people overseas. Isn't it better to help three people rather than just one? Especially since they're starting off from a much, much lower standard of living than you even if you're unemployed.

I find it funny because the greater good is the entire argument of the liberal ideology. Yet, when someone who is staunchly liberal is faced with doing something for the greater good that involves more than putting bottles in one basket and aluminum in another they suddenly become racist, bigots complaining about what idiots those customer support people are in India because they have an accent. When it was an American giving you the same answers I suppose that the support was substantially better. Yeah, right! When outsourcing first started to happen, I even heard some say that Indians didn't have the ability to be trained to do their job. I guess the assumption is that the Indian's were too stupid to write some Perl.

So what is the answer? I guess we could boycott but that would be putting up barriers specifically designed to protect your wealth at the expense of others . . . oh, just like those corporations and rich people we all hate, right? Let's not forget that the same "dog eat dog" comeptition that is forcing companies to outsource is the same "dog eat dog" competition that created the technologies that you make your living off of.

When it comes down to our own pocketbooks, everybody is a capitalist. It's best to just accept that fact and then take actions to best position yourself to benefit from it rather than trying to fight it because it's somehow morally wrong that you might have to take a lower paying job. Next time you start to think you deserve a job maybe you should think about the quality of life in places like Bangalore and China. Want to trade places?

4:15 PM  

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