Sunday, January 11, 2009

Adversity, and the potential for our future

"Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant." -- Horace

So what has a quote about adversity from the ancient philosopher Horace have to do with the future? Well, keep that quote in mind as you read the rest of this blog, and maybe you too will see why I thought it was appropriate.

Recently I came across an article on Techdirt titled "On Staying Happy" which addresses a reader's question of how the writers at Techdirt can stay so positive while constantly reporting about "corporate cluelessness, political corruption and short-sighted thinking". The writer of the article does an excellent job of pointing out that while all that stupidity and negativity is going on, there is also a lot of innovation and positive progress occurring, and regardless of those who are trying to delay the inevitable, progress will happen.

After pointing out how much the Internet has changed the world in less than two decades, the writer asks "How can you not be optimistic and excited when you look back at how far we've come in such a short time, and think about how much further we can go?", and they are right. When I look at what has happened since the early 90's, and then think about the future, I realize that there is a lot of positive potential just around the corner, and I am looking forward to it.

What is going on right now with all the financial turmoil, panic, and just plain stupidity, is just part of the process. While all this negativity is very painful (and I can personally attest to that), people must realize that there are a lot of new doors being opened that offer new opportunities and growth. Right now many industries are struggling and some possibly dying, but there are many new industries just ready to take off. One of the best examples of this is the transition from printed news media (newspapers and magazines), to the online media (web sites and blogs).

The rise of the Internet is affording everyone access to new sources of news and entertainment, and we are going through a transitional period which is definitely painful and tumultuous as is pointed out in this other Techdirt article: "Creative Destruction Happens Quickly; Those Who Wait End Up In The Rubble". Change can be painful, but when you consider the potential of the future and understand that you can participate in those changes, then future is looking brighter regardless of all the negativity.

With the pending change in administration this country is poised for some major changes, and I truly believe almost all of these changes will be positive. President-elect Obama is pushing for a major plan to rebuild this country's infrastructure (roads, bridges, and levees, and power grid) in hopes that it will create more jobs, and while I agree this work needs to be done I have to wonder what are his plans for this country's technological infrastructure?

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation offered a possible plan in their report "The Digital Road to Recovery: A Stimulus Plan to Create Jobs, Boost Productivity and Revitalize America". The ITIF believes that an investment in America’s digital infrastructure of $30 billion in 2009 will create over 900,000 new jobs in the US. This is a significant number of IT related jobs, and even if the amount required is twice what the ITIF suggests, it will still be money well spent when compared to the $700 billion spent on the TARP bail out.

The US digital or informational infrastructure will require a lot of expansion if it is going to continue leading the world in business, technology, education, and entertainment. Also in a post 9/11 world, the US must build in redundancy to it's informational infrastructure for obvious security reasons. There are a limited number of primary fiber optic backbones handling all the Internet traffic in the US, and any one of an imagined man-made or natural disaster affecting just a couple of those backbones could disable the entire Internet. Therefore there must be an focused effort to increase the number of primary backbones to insure the the ability to handle increased bandwidth and add redundancy.

Also one has to ask what ever happened to fiber to the home? Here we are just a few years away from the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, and there is still a large percentage of people relying on dial-up for access to the Internet. This is not an inconvenience to the American public, it is a disabling factor to the US economy. High speed access to the Internet should be available to every US citizen. Take a look at the Fiber to the Home Council's site for more information.

One las thing I would like to add regarding the US informational infrastructure is that I have written an article on my Urbanspelunkers blog about some enterprising companies that are turning vacant shopping malls into large data centers, which given the current economic climate makes good use of readily available real estate. Considering the number of vacant malls and warehouses in this country, it would be quite easy to convert these properties into cost effective data centers that would not only improve America's competitiveness in the global economy, but also allow for a certain amount of redundancy of facilities for improved data security.

If a concerted effort were made to improve America's data infrastructure, the beneficial results for every US citizen would be well worth the costs, and the opportunities and resources are just waiting to be utilized.

As you can see, while these are adverse times, if you have the ability to look beyond the adversity you can then see the potential for positive growth and prosperity.

** After I originally posted this blog I came across another Techdirt post that I felt readers might be interested in: Is Obama's Broadband Plan Anything More Than A Free Gift To Incumbent Providers? **

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