Why technology needs openness

January 18, 2012
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Today the primary sponsor of the much maligned SOPA and PIPA bills abandoned their efforts. Yesterday sites like wikipedia went dark in oppositions to the bills. Google, Facebook and many major technology companies protested the bill as well as many of the NY Tech Meetup. The main point of contention was that the bills were extremely vague and many felt it would give undue power of regulation and control over an industry that needs openness and lack of restrictions like it needs oxygen.

Important Note: I am not a deregulationist. Lack of control of the internet does not hurt anyone. Lack of regulation of financial firms and markets, airlines, mining companies, etc can certainly hurt people.

Why does openness and lack of restrictions help technology?

Technology is based on ideas and creativity much the same as art and music. When art and music are confined to a particular style and modality, there is a limit to expression. For example the Dark Ages did not see radical development of creativity and styles. New art and music took centuries to develop. The Age of Enlightenment saw many new composers and artists and a divergence of art styles as different as Impressionism, Cubism and Surrealism.

Likewise, software and technology are based on creating from ideas and on the people who have gone before you. For example, creating a website with a user login is extremely easy now. Just install WordPress and bang, you have a new website with login capabilities. 10 years ago, it would have taken 6 weeks of development from an expensive programmer to create a website with a login system. So by using freely available software you can focus on business logic and what matters rather than re-inventing the wheel.

So instead of focusing on restricting the internet, we should be focusing on something far more important: education. Countries like India, China, Russia, and the Ukraine get it. They invest a ton of money in technology infrastructure and education. That is why so many tech jobs in the US are populated by H1 visa holders and not American citizens. Instead of wringing our hands about piracy, intellectual property and the like, we need to be jumping to the forefront and creating new technologies and businesses. And the foundation of those possibilities are educational opportunities and encouragement.

Finally I saw some heartening news. Mayor of NYC Michael Bloomberg is going to learn how to code! And if the Mayor can do it, so can you! CodeAcademy signed up almost 100K people for a New Years resolution of learning to code. As a society we should really focus how we educate kids and what we focus on. Last I checked, school is not cool. That is a reflection on the education process not on the kids. Our educational system is extremely outdated. Its still based on a 1950s mass production model where a single person (the teacher) had the answers and imparted them to as many people as possible (the students). But now the answers are everywhere and can be accessed at any time. Perhaps we can think of a better method of education.

Our economy is not going to survive off of manufacturing and agriculture like it did once. It has to be off of high intellect jobs. We do need more technology professionals. But tech skills can be brought to virtually any profession from law to medicine to art and music. And now you can learn at Code Academy as well.

Have some fun and check out Code Academy – it might show you that coding is not so mysterious and you can do it too!

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