So after 14 hours in the airport, I finally made it to Portland, got some rest, woke up right on time to head into the Conference Center for the O'Reilly Executive Briefing session, starring none other than our own Michael Tiemann. I wouldn't normally write about something like this, except that there was an interesting point made by Tim O'Reilly which was expanded upon by Michael.
A question was posed to the panel about what they thought the next big thing in technology will be? Obvious answers, such as virtualization, VoIP, "the ubiquitous network," faster and flashier toys, came pouring out rapidly. Then with a bit of a pause, Tim O'Reilly offered up an answer. "We seem to be heading towards a Cassandra complex." The unfortunate truth is, we have become so good at "doing tech", we are able to foresee and predict disasters and societal impediments, but we are still slow as ever to act, and sometimes it stems from just disbelief, or more likely just not being brave enough to face the future.
Michael expanded on this by relating a story of how while working with NOAA, they successfully rolled out a new platform which allowed them to track weather changes and patterns for windows as small as five minutes. The severity and likely damages of Hurricane Katrina were predicted two weeks in advance and we still failed miserably on the most important level of the game. A few hours later, irrelatively, Spot mentioned how odd it was to watch on television how the hotel which had just hosted the first Red Hat Summit in New Orleans, where an award was given out for Open Source Crisis Management Software, was being used as a triage center for Katrina victims.
Michael closed the talk by revising his earlier answer. The next big thing in technology will be when we can effectively democratize action based on the information which we have become so adept at processing. This is the true promise of a technologically advanced society.
Dean Raymond von Dran, of the Syracuse University School of Information Management related that many of society's most pressing issues are fundamentally, information problems. Whether it be faulty intelligence in a war or a certain Senator rambling on about the Internet being a series of tubes (I'm sure the intern feeding him information was fired), many of our modern dilemmas exist because of inability or callous reluctance to react to information.
Linux and Open Source have now grown up and matured past the point of arcane popsicle stick and glue black magic and Fantasia-like wizardry concocted with crude tools. Face it. We aren't alternative anymore, we ARE mainstream. The greatest contribution of the movement has been a truly viable and robust platform for processing all the world's information. We are now at a critical juncture where we must step back and face the future. If we cannot grow up and, as Michael said, enable the evolution of societal ripostes to our most critical contexts, what have we really accomplished? Have we really accomplished anything?
Everything seems to be 2.0 these days. We, as a community say we stand for freedom and rights. My dear friends, code for code's sake is fun, but now it's time to work towards Freedom 2.0.