back to article You geeks have inherited the Earth, but what are you going to do with it?

It's the end of the year, when the tradition is to look back at what just happened. Let's not do that. Let's take a step back and look at the wider picture, because while we've been worrying about data breaches and OS updates, we've rather missed the point. The world is living through an historically great technological …

Page:

  1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    what are you going to do with it?

    I know quite a few geeks. Some are okay, others I wouldn't trust to run a lemonade stand. Every piece of spy|ransom|crapware you encounter was built by a geek, sometimes enthusiastically.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: what are you going to do with it?

      "Every piece of spy|ransom|crapware you encounter was built by a geek"

      After being ordered by Marketing/Management.

      "sometimes enthusiastically."

      Yeah, wet-behind-the-ears new graduates are often like that ... you would be too, if you were suddenly making all of $45K/year for the first time in your life.

  2. gurugeorge

    After 15 years reading the reg this is one of the truly great pieces, perhaps the best.

    I’m reading this from my smartphone in rural Kerala. When we came on summer holidays in the 90s, we had the only television for miles, so most of the 50 people in the village and nearby villages would come to our house to watch a TV show twice a week. It would get so crowded there was never enough space on the floor for everyone, so many had to watch from outside, craning necks between iron barred windows.

    The nearest tarred road was a couple of miles away, only we had a car, even our house only got electricity in 1981. As a child I never understood why people told stories about when they were “so hungry they tied ropes around their waists”… it was only until med school decades later, the now obvious realization that compression of the stomach causes easier satiety and suppressed hunger hormones, the same principle as gastric banding/sleeving/balloons.

    Today, the blink of an eye later, everyone has smart phones. One of my dad‘s helpers, a 52 year old gentleman who is barely literate was scrolling through Facebook on his smart phone watching clips videos in the local language. One kid got a job in Saudi Arabia entirely online from posting stuff on Instagram, thereby changing his life. Pretty much everyone has a smartphone. The younger generation communicate with Instagram and TikTok thier music is entirely digital. I just saw a 20-year-old rediscover Macarena.

    (Quick detour: I was a bit of a pioneer I remember compressing an entire CD track down onto a floppy disk back in 94 and people were amazed. By 98 I had converted my entire CD collection to run off my laptop hard drive output via 3.5mm to a proper stereo and even audiophiles who’s scoffed at the thought could not tell the difference in a blind test.)

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Nice to see progress but I have some doubts whether "Scrolling through Facebook" could be called progress compared to universal literacy.

      Its one of my greatest fears is that we're replacing knowledge with a sort of ersatz version of knowledge. Its not the technology's fault, its just a tool, but the way we use those tools is what could be called "ultra sophisticated but at the same time extremely primitive" -- we excel at communications and psychology but for what purpose?

      1. jake Silver badge

        "we excel at communications and psychology but for what purpose?"

        Obvious answer ... the purpose is to sell us on absolutely useless shit, like vacations in Majorca, video game consoles, and the politician of your choice.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Farming and settlement didn't turn us from slaves to anything. They turned us from hunter-gatherers to settled populations with more complex social structures in which slavery became possible.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      I think the sentence meant to say something else, but it's not well-phrased. The sentence is this:

      "Farming and settlement turned us from slaves to masters of life support systems."

      I think it meant to say something along the lines of "Farming and settlement turned us from slaves [to the luck of finding the necessities of life] to [people who could rely on our own skills and labor to survive]." It's making a technological rather than a sociological point if I'm reading it right.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        In general hunter-gatherer societies understand their environment pretty well and have low impacts on it, partly because that mode of life only supports a low population density. Farming supports a high population density with a different skill set and even at its most primitive has a higher environmental impact.

        Both depend on extensive but different skill sets. It would be wrong to suggest that hunter-gatherers depend on luck rather than skill. Chance, in the form of external factors, can affect both. The plague hit the Western European population hard in the C14th but a climatic fluctuation had an impact of similar scale a generation earlier.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Chance certainly plays a large role in both, but you've pointed out why agriculture is more advanced technologically; using the labor of fewer people, it can support a larger society. Pretty much every technological advance has taken this form. That they have side effects, environmental, sociological, or otherwise, is not in dispute. Those can be extreme enough that they outweigh the benefits, though we get into various ethical or moral discussions if we argue where the line is.

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    The last few decades have spread computer literacy beyond anything that could have been imagined in the last few years. Although we now find our families calling on us for IT support 30 years ago it would have been inconceivable that that requirement could even exist. We now have old ladies in their 80s collaborating to write books with their laptops. It's a pity the bloody printers can't run off a couple of hundred copies without some of the pages being bound upside down but that's a separate matter.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Doctor Syntax

      The last few decades have spread computer literacy beyond anything that could have been imagined in the last few years.

      Computer literacy amongst the actual workers anyway. I still see plenty of deliberate computer inability amongst those who feel that it is their God given right to control us plebs. This varies from a complete inability to see if something is actually plugged in to total hostility at the impertinent idea that the wearer of an expensive suit, or twinset and large pearls, should should actually learn enough about things that they can read a graph to see if costs are going up or down.

      When I was learning business IT, some decades ago, I thought that these were the people I remember who felt superior to me because they got higher marks in Latin and classics. There are still plenty of those around but younger ones did sociology, psychology and proudly avoided all STEM and then got their degrees in Eutruscan pottery or something. They are the problem.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: @Doctor Syntax

        "There are still plenty of those around but younger ones did sociology, psychology and proudly avoided all STEM and then got their degrees in Eutruscan pottery or something."

        Things are less predictable than you think. None of my friends who wrote the book - another local history book as it happens - have a stem background. The oldest is well into her 80s. As it happens her husband was a maths teacher but I've seen no sign of him taking any interest in using IT. Another of our local history group, very active on YouTube, was a German teacher. In fact I know quite a few people of my age or older (and I'm long retired) whose backgrounds or interests are in the arts just use computers as an everyday tool. So too, no doubt, do your Etruscan ceramicists.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Doctor Syntax

          I like history. I read all my friends history textbooks while we were doing A levels. I come from the part of the UK with the longest history and I even watch The History Guy on YouTube and sociology has its place too.

          I just don't think that having done classics at school was my best contribution to society and I don't think that a degree in politics or journalism is the best qualification for running a company or a country (or even a valid one).

          I note that the recently retired chancellor of Germany did physics at Uni and got a doctorate in something above my head. Lets hope her successor also knows something useful. I know that our leaders don't!

    2. jake Silver badge

      "We now have old ladies in their 80s collaborating to write books with their laptops."

      We certainly do. Me Great Aunt (107ish years young and self-described computer illiterate) & DearOldMum (87, computer incompetent) spring to mind.

      Ability to use a computer as a word processor & tehintrawebtubes to colaborate doth not Computer Literacy make. It just makes you a tool user. Which is kinda what makes HomoSap HomoSap, and is hardly something to write home about.

    3. jake Silver badge

      " It's a pity the bloody printers can't run off a couple of hundred copies without some of the pages being bound upside down but that's a separate matter."

      Speaking as a printer, I have two words for you: Press Check. (Yes, I know, Bindery operations are separate from Press operations ... the point is, you want to see the first examples of the work in progress at each stage where you can keep a simple human error from wrecking the entire project.)

    4. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      We now have old ladies in their 80s collaborating to write books with their laptops.

      Fifty years ago they'd have used typewriters, without needing to be mechanical engineers. "It's possible to use our stuff without extensive training" is a very, very low bar for product design.

  5. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Great article.

    Some surprisingly shortsighted responses above. This article is spot on.

    Even if you're chained to your desk and your inbox, you're at worst a footsoldier in the vanguard of one of the most significant inflection points in history. In the last 120 years we've gone from riding horses to gene sequencing and a global wireless internet; most of that is in the last 50 years, and the rate of change is increasing as Rupert quite correctly points out. We've had technological revolutions before, but this one is... well, revolutionary.

    Assuming we survive the next 10,000 years, the late 20th Century will be talked about in their history books, so just by virtue of being here we're significant. And the fact that we work in the industry most responsible for leading this change? Decisions we make now can matter. Do we praise proof-of-work or pan it? Insist on open services, like we did for open source? Will advertising kill the web and push us elsewhere, or will it be reigned in? We have the almost unique privilege of being aware that history will be watching at least some of the answers to these. For example I'm pretty confident that in 500 years, if we're still using computer systems based on numbers, we'll still be using Unicode to represent text.

    Take a step back and look around, these are exciting times.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Great article.

      "Will advertising kill the web"

      There is still advertising on the Web?

      Huh. Who knew?

    2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: Great article.

      Assuming we survive the next 10,000 years, the late 20th Century will be talked about in their history books, so just by virtue of being here we're significant.

      Every generation likes to think that theirs is the one which made the difference and which future generations will regard with reverent awe. In fact the important times will probably be seen as the 1950s, when electronic computers became a reality, because 500 years from now distinguishing between a LEO I and a MacBook Pro will be as minor as distinguishing between an Amiga and an Atari ST.

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: Great article.

        I agree - I did mention the late 20th Century. But it's not just the invention of the transistor, it's binary logic, integrated circuits, Von Neumann architecture, 8-bit bytes, TCP, public key encryption, Unicode, the web and ... well, whatever other meta-architectural stuff is left sticking to the wall after being thrown.

        But if we're really building an industry here that will echo down the ages, we're only 75 or so years in - on that sort of timescale, these are formative years. If future generations will be building on the shoulders of giants, then like it or not some of those giants are working today. No pressure then.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ahhhhhh MUFF

    Oh, the memories...

  7. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    If One Settles for Less than Titanic Pictures, One is Destined to Sink into the Dark Deep.

    Now, the information revolution is doing the same for data, putting it to work, putting it in the hands of everyone, upsetting the status quo so fast we can barely see the shapes it makes.

    And that is only part of the picture, and a small slice of it at best, for now, the information revolution is doing the same for metadata bases, putting IT to work with and for greater intelligence, putting it in the hearts and minds of everyone, upsetting the status quo so fast they cannot shape it nor make head or tail of what can be seen and be well done with it.

    And to disagree with any of that very quickly almost immediately surely identifies one as either a person of interest to certain interesting parties or one not of any great interest to anybody or anything interesting at all ..... which makes its rapid progress guaranteed extremely stealthy along many a rich trail and tall tale and amongst a vast array of silent-as-a-mouse assets.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Clausewitz 4.0
      Devil

      Re: If One Settles for Less than Titanic Pictures, One is Destined to Sink into the Dark Deep.

      There are multiple fronts of settlements. Don't worry.

      I've saw this song from a geek website some years ago, don't remember where:

      Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of encrypted data and refined taste.

      I've been around for a long, long year, took tools from Microsoft, CIA, even NSA.

      Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my many nicknames.

      But what's puzzling you are the multiple keys to my HDs.

    3. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: If One Settles for Less than Titanic Pictures, One is Destined to Sink into the Dark Deep.

      And that is only part of the picture, and a small slice of it at best, for now, the information revolution is doing the same for metadata bases, putting IT to work with and for greater intelligence, putting it in the hearts and minds of everyone, upsetting the status quo so fast they cannot shape it nor make head or tail of what can be seen and be well done with it.

      Nah, it's TikTok challenges. Look around you. The status quo is doing very nicely, thank you.

  8. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Happy

    In 1,000 years will it be the killer bite year?

    It's about to be the Tiger Year, if the geeks change things I can't see a nicer world, I'm excited that it's going to be the Tiger Year in a few weeks, that's much more like a good world to live in.

  9. kschrock

    Wow. Ego overload.

    The IT geeks are running the world and creating utopia.

    Jeff and Elon and Sergey and Mark and Xi and Vlad are just your pawns.

    I'm impressed.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Wow. Ego overload.

      IT workers are going to inherit the Earth as much as weavers operating mechanical looms did back in Victorian times.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Wow. Ego overload.

        Something I've often found odd is that Plumbers do not rule the world. Think about it ... if they all quit, en masse, world-wide, how long would New York, London, Rome and Tokyo be fit to live in?[0]

        IT staff are the plumbers of computing.

        [0] Yes, I hear you at the back. I wouldn't live there either, but you know what I mean.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Wow. Ego overload.

      I think if you re-read TFA and then the commentard's opinions of it, you'll find that the geek's egos have nothing to do with it ... it's merely the ramblings of a journalist in need of end-of-year column-inches.

  10. Steve Button

    "impossible to imagine how the global pandemic would have played out without it."

    It's not that hard to imagine, we probably would have barely noticed a bit like the last ones (which were much worse) when Woodstock still went ahead and in 1918 when it was not exactly front page news every day.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "impossible to imagine how the global pandemic would have played out without it."

      Medical research would have been somewhat less advanced and it would have taken longer to distribute the genetic sequence of the virus. Clinical trials would have proceeded more slowly and it would have taken longer to forge supply lines. OTOH we wouldn't have the the Covidiots undermining things and arguably a few countries might have had saner, more capable governments running things. It's not easy to see how those factors would have balanced each other out.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: "impossible to imagine how the global pandemic would have played out without it."

        In 1968, four months into the H3N2 pandemic (Hong Kong Flu), we had a working vaccine and something like 9,000,000 doses had been made, and 6,000,000 doses had been distributed. People tend to forget that ...

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: "impossible to imagine how the global pandemic would have played out without it."

      In 1918 transportation world-wide wasn't exactly as easy as it was in 2018. Made a HUGE difference. And yes, the so-called "Spanish Flu" was headline news almost every issue. My Great Grandfather kept a stack of newspapers from Northern California from that time. They are eye opening.

  11. Tail Up
    Paris Hilton

    No-Buh-Dee

    nobody does rule the world... but more and more, hmm, bright and motivated individuals begin to understand it yet deeper (-;

    What they are going to do with it? What does a target do with a bullet? (hehe)

    Paris thinking, "Errm why, generally, not?..."

    1. Tail Up

      Re: No-Buh-Dee

      ps just when anybody can order the expressions of (meta)physical constants to stay in order, it means one rules the world. And, while any average or a high-ranked person can hardly rule one's own breath, their world is as disappointedly small as the length of an expression "monetary flow"....

      1. Tail Up

        Re: No-Buh-Dee

        yet only 1 vote down, hey, what's your rank? :-)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Call us back when you've actually solved some useful problem. What utterly smug nonsense. So typical of the "tech" world.

    1. FlamingDeath Silver badge

      I really like the Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov

      Though I’m not sure its something I’m advocating

      We all need to be techno-shamans, it has a better outcome, better than inequality of knowledge, which results in priestly position and followers

      1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        I really like the Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov

        It was certainly a bold attempt to combine Stalinist centralised planning with Fascist authoritarianism, but I can't say it made the system he described very appealing. Why were so many of the Golden Age sci-fi authors neo-fascist? McCarthy? Cold war generally? Bullied at school?

        Still, their position was very similar to that of the tech-über-alles gang today: Mankind had become soft and degenerate and required firm government from emotionless scientists.

  13. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    The Earth will inherit a CME (coronal mass ejection)

    Bye bye magnetic storage

    Bye bye satellites

    Bye bye modern world

    Hello, 1950’s

    Or if it goes really wrong

    Hello 12th century

  14. Fathom

    Remember the Future

    Can't claim the title of Geek as back in the 1980's one of my clients, The Financial Relations Board, told me to my face that they had decided Geek didn't fit me and that they had come up with the title, "Techno-Jock."

    With that settled, I want to give you a caution about the World you are being set up to inhabit. Technocrats, Eugenicists, Worshipers of Darkness, You know, The New World Order, are performing machinations 'behind the curtain' to pwn you royally.

    Take the time to research the dilemma carefully, then Think Globally and Act Locally to short circuit their endeavors before you find yourselves chained to your desks without recourse to determine your fate as Free Men and Women.

    Happy New Year, Good Luck with 2022

  15. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    This is all very well, but let's face it: IT in general is a God-awful mess and it's getting worse and worse.

    Crossrail is years late because the signalling system doesn't work. Successive attempts to computerise the NHS have failed, miserably. Same goes for the court system. The private sector is little better: major bank IT failures are so common as to be hardly newsworthy. Of the three main personal operating systems, one is a walled garden which only works for three or four years, one is rapidly becoming the world of eternal beta (if you're lucky) and the third is a bloated behemoth dependent on one or maybe two people in the entire world who know how it works and riddled with security errors.

    And then there is blockchain. Bitcoin consumes more electricity than Argentina and emits more carbon dioxide than the savings from every electric car in the world, all to enable ransom demands from IT people exploiting the shoddiness of other IT people's work.

    All of this is sustained by a belief that "tech" can and will solve everything, in much they way that "radiation" was going to solve everything in the 1920s and "electricity" was going to solve everything fifty years before than. Theranos and Juicero are only distinguished because their failures were public: as far as modus operandi goes they were both mainstream for the "tech" world.

    But hey, I can look up Klingon grammar on my phone. Whoop-de-friggin'-doo.

    And ... relax.

  16. Snowy Silver badge
    Holmes

    Information revolution?

    Setting everyone free or just enslaving us all?

    The amount of information gathered today on everyone would make any secret police in the past envious and rather than have to hunt for it the they get it all for nearly free and in real time.

  17. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Re: You geeks have inherited the Earth, but what are you going to do with it?

    Is fix it with IT and AI and friends, or destroy it with enemies, too alien an approach with attending applications to be considered possible and most likely highly probable as the only two really valid choices readily available to/from geeks worthy of note?

    Have you any idea how catastrophically vulnerable dismissal of such alien thinking on Earth renders one to the possibility and most likely highly probable alternate reality?

  18. Zanzibar Rastapopulous

    I've got it....

    ...and it's going in the f'ing bin.

  19. Plest Bronze badge

    Screw that! I'm proud of being called a "nerd" and "geek"!

    I was one at school 40 years ago, got pushed around a little bit here and there by other kids but now at the ripe old age of 50, I'm looking at my fat pensions and thinking about my retirement just a few years off now, all from a wonderful, well paid career in being a complete and utter "nerd" and "geek" all my life!

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022