For the Week of October 24, 2005
Young people are naturally entrepreneurial.
I have two in my house. One wants to be a lawyer. The other isn't sure what she wants to be. But both work very hard, they are on the lookout for opportunity, and when something comes along they grab it.
I wish one of them knew PHP.
An aging society naturally has fewer people who will grab for a chance, who will move, who are willing to learn new things in order to make something happen. As the pool dwindles, many young people start getting old habits. They grow lethargic. They want to be shown. They want a guarantee. We see it in Japan, we see it in Europe, we see it in the U.S.
Younger societies aren't like that. A young worker who knows they are nothing special is going to work their butt off for a chance. India and China have wildly different political and economic systems, but both are filled with such young people. These societies also have leaders who are hungry, and who have given these same people the tools they need to better themselves - broadband, broadly-based education, economic liberalism.
The Americas also has an army of such people, but our bigotry stands in the way of taking advantage. The best policy for Latin America right now would be to encourage investment in education, and in broadband, so that the people we are going to import anyway have the skills to do more than blow our leaves around.
That won't happen. So economic leadership in Latin America is being seized by Brazil, which has embraced open source, which has embraced the promise of broadband, which has embraced education, and which has a huge supply of very hungry young minds eager for a chance, in any language, to show what they can do. Brazil is now doing to the U.S. in agriculture what China is doing to us in manufacturing, and increasing numbers of open source projects are based there.
Education and youth are the keys to economic growth in the 21st century.
As I write this I am desperately looking around for some of the hunger I still have, and some of the skills I wish I'd gotten earlier in my career. I need a hungry, American with PHP and database skills who can make sure the trains run on time for the project I'm working on.
I'm not that guy. My skills lie on the right-side of my brain, not the left. I thought I had someone, a man just a decade younger than I, but it appears he's too old, too set in his ways, too interested in guarantees, in process, and in delay to jump at the chance being offered.
As noted earlier I have watched my two children go through the U.S. education system, both public and private, and I have seen first-hand how it has failed. Routine, tests, rules, and bigotry have robbed American public education of the excitement it had when I was young. My daughter basically lost her 5th grade to bureaucratic inertia, within a small private school, while my son lost his 7th grade to a public system which was more interested in discipline than in teaching.
Partly as a result, my daughter was ready to settle for a life petting cats until very recently, when an amazing man named Dean Kamen came into her life. She has never met him, of course, but he came in anyway, through his organization called USFirst. Through the First robotics program she learned she had the chops to organize a business, to market, to be part of a technical team, and to win.
She was a minor figure on that team because she lacked talent, but now she's a senior, and a veteran, and she's learning a bit of electronics by working on a real robot. She spends nearly three extra hours at school each afternoon, the best hours of her day, and weekends too. She hasn't had time for what she is "supposed" to be doing this fall - checking out colleges - but she's hungry, she's learning, she's growing, and if it takes a year of junior college for her to figure out a direction, she'll get to college with a hunger to learn, rather than a yearn to party.
The American education system sucks the life out of kids. It's the only part of our society which is run like a 19th century factory, with tests taking the place of the time study men. It has actually gotten worse over the last four years, ever-more stultifying, ever-more regimented, and as a potential employer I am ashamed of the results.
The point is we have a dwindling supply of assets, we're wasting those we have, and we're spending our future on lottery tickets. I can guarantee what the results are going to be, lives far more challenging and difficult than we would want for them.
I have seen the best minds of my generation lost to religion, to fads, to fat, and to the brain-dead politics of blaming victims for their own problems. I am, frankly, ashamed of most of America's so-called "Baby Boom," and what we have done to our dear country, to our children, and to the world.
I'm going to keep looking, keep trying to turn things around, because this is the only life I have. And this Christmas I'm sending a fat check to Dean Kamen. You should, too.
I've got a new job. I'm now editor of Atlanta voic.us, a Web start-up aimed at building a community Web platform with a real business model. I'm also all alone in writing the Open Source Blog for ZDNet. (When this started there were three of us.)
My last non-fiction book, "The Blankenhorn Effect" won the Computer/Internet category in the 2003 Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards. Write me for a PDF copy of my latest novel, "Baptists are for Dunking."
On my Mooreslore blog I've written a new novel, "The Chinese Century." It's a story told in real-time, with real characters, but entirely fictional, dealing with the consequences of the falling dollar. I'm beginning a sequal, "American Diaspora," exploring the themes of the first book but with more fictional characters. It's a true alternate history, but set in the present day.
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Best of the Week
The user interface we've used for a long time now is broken.
The Macintosh interface has been around, in one way or another, for 30 years. It has been the dominant computing interface for 15 years. Jakob Nielsen, the King of Internet Usability (my title for him), says it is time for this to change.
Quite simply it's an attention hog.
Rights are not given. They are seized. In order to seize them, people have to stand up and demand rights. They have to be willing to suffer in order to expand rights.
Cramer is scared, which should scare you. I don't know about any of these outfits, but there's a trend here. They're not from the U.S. They deal in hard assets. They're hedges against our inability to sell new debt and the inflation that would result from that.
The American Diaspora
ZDNet Open Source
Clued-in is Jeneane Sessum, perhaps the best blogger in Atlanta.
Clueless is building any Web site as something other than a database.
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