From Computers to Software

The first part of my working life was as an Electronic Engineer – which began when I graduated from U of Illinois in 1959. Electronics was about vacuum tubes, and with the coming of the transistor, we became obsolete.

I was working in the New York area then, and my wife insisted that we move to California. This switch, from the East Coast to the West Coast became permanent. We had grown up halfway between them, but abandoned the Midwest completely. There was nothing there for anyone with ambition.

The next part of my working life was from 1980 to 2000, when I worked in the Computer Industry, in California. At first, we just called it High Tech – but it gradually became apparent, that it was about the Computer – and especially the Personal Computer. This was clearly the next big thing – and tons of money flowed its way. And where there was money – there were jobs!

We did not know what we were doing – the invisible hand (the personification of Greed) told us what to do – and we did it! We set to work, building companies – and then destroying them – over and over. I watched in amazement – but no one else saw anything unusual. That was just the way things were. And we were told (very sternly) not to notice this.

This was the worst Zeitgeist possible – and we were to reap the whirlwind from it.

Thirty years later, this is becoming obvious – the world is in bad shape, because we have made it that way. Politically, this is represented by the appearance of Trump. He did not come, all of a sudden, from nowhere. The force behind him has been building for some time. People knew they had been treated badly – and they are now were going to get even – and destroy what had destroyed them.

The one part of our world, that is beginning to realize what is going on is – Software. Software is built by people, and if people do not function very well (if they cannot work together) bad software results. And since the world now runs on software – the world is strongly affected also.

Let me run our time machine backwards – until the middle of the 19th Century, when the wheels came off our wagon. We were hit by too much change – in the form of invention after invention. And the horrors of WWI, the Depression, and WWII resulted.

Perhaps we now have the tools to solve our problems – in the form of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

But are we smart enough to use them?


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