Monday, January 31, 2005

Make Sense Not War

Submerged amidst the stories of the day was this one: the Brazilian government says it will jettison "just trust us" proprietary software (like Windows) in favor of "you take control" open source software (like Linux).

The bottom line is: a bright future is both attainable and sustainable, but requires a high level of transparency, a plentiful supply of timely, usefully presented global data. That's been a political ideal earning lip service, but now it's also an engineering requirement.

Oft times, money talk tends to dumb down an otherwise coherent narrative and slow its advance by keeping our attention misdirected. Once it's all about money, expect plenty of fast talk and sleights of hand. Remember the dot com revolution and how quickly any real information about the technology was submerged in BS? Hey, we've had centuries to practice and fine tune the discourse (me like the next guy -- so pay close attention (now you see it, now you don't)).

is reporting $9 billion unaccounted for by the Coalition Provisional Authority. The chaos of war provides a convenient excuse many hope will serve as their cover indefinitely. Money pads private accounts, no work gets done, the infrastructure decays, soldiers and civilians get killed, and terrorism is to blame. Welcome to the United States of America, folks -- or were we discussing Iraq?

We geeks in our open source control rooms know to keep our eyes on the prize: good clear information, circuit diagrams, blueprints, flow charts, hard core scientific models. Like, where are those generators and what are their specs, and why aren't they working? Could a neighboring grid pick up the slack? Why all these rolling brownouts and fuel shortages month after month? Because of terrorism right? Nothing to do with willful obfuscation, aiming to make out like bandits behind the scenes, to capitalize on the suffering of others, right?

Fortunately, this is not an "us versus them" story about little guys versus giants. As uplifting and inspirational as David's story might be, the fact is that many goliaths are alert to the possibilities. We could actually make this work, so why not?

Plus we geeks have a lot of street smarts and savvy. We're holding a lot of cards. We really have the upper hand in so many ways. Like, we have the Internet, we have Google. We're Morlocks after all, not Eloi, as Neal Stephenson aptly puts it (see: In the Beginning Was the Command Line -- it's worth a read).