Wall Street Journal, 20 August 2011
This week, Hewlett-Packard (where I am on the board) announced that it is exploring jettisoning its struggling PC business in favor of investing more heavily in software, where it sees better potential for growth. Meanwhile, Google plans to buy up the cellphone handset maker Motorola Mobility. Both moves surprised the tech world. But both moves are also in line with a trend I’ve observed, one that makes me optimistic about the future growth of the American and world economies, despite the recent turmoil in the stock market.
In short, software is eating the world.
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Secondly, many people in the U.S. and around the world lack the education and skills required to participate in the great new companies coming out of the software revolution. This is a tragedy since every company I work with is absolutely starved for talent. Qualified software engineers, managers, marketers and salespeople in Silicon Valley can rack up dozens of high-paying, high-upside job offers any time they want, while national unemployment and underemployment is sky high. This problem is even worse than it looks because many workers in existing industries will be stranded on the wrong side of software-based disruption and may never be able to work in their fields again. There’s no way through this problem other than education, and we have a long way to go.
Phi Beta Iota: This is a very detailed, very thoughtful strategic overview. Readers may remember that Stephen E. Arnold anticipated all of this in his three books now known as The Google Trilogy. There are two sucking chest wounds in the above very positive vision for the future of America: 1) education sucks and the industrial-era system is simply not producing enough wizards at math and science–China has more honor graduates from high school than the USA has graduates of any and all high schools; 2) Open Source Software, Open Spectrum, and Open Data Access are not getting the traction they need to be scalable. Right now the USA is headed toward a software repeat of Wall Street financial crime, with the “cloud” being the digital equivalent of Wall Street stocks and sub-prime mortgage derivatives. What is crystal clear to us is that the USA desperately needs three things soonest:
1. A draconian overhaul, a reinvention, of education.
2. A massive GI Bill equivalent for everyone displaced by the software world, to train them for a second life within the software world.
3. An Open Source Agency to be the national proponent for Open Source Software, Open Spectrum, Open Data Access, and Open Source Intelligence.