Friday, January 27, 2012

Deep thoughts

One of the major problems of the Left is that it fails to understand the difference between building infrastructure, which the government does well and technology birthing which the government can sometimes do well and picking what companies to support which is known as crony capitalism and as Solyndra showed, the government is lousy at.

Notice that I moved from the affirmative “does” to the possible “can” to “the government is lousy at.”

I note the Internet. Government sponsored much of the early research in the name of national defense. (I guess all you peaceniks didn't like that!) Government was also instrumental in establishing worldwide standards and protocols.

At that point private industry took over... you may have heard of IBM, Microsoft and Apple (among others) to develop hardware and software that did what people wanted.

The next question was, how do we connect all these computers to each other?? Again private industry took over and developed SONET lightwave transport, DWDM systems and fiber optic cable to carry the signals. You may have heard of ATT, ITT, Northern Telecom (Nortel) and Cienna among others. Then we had the local telephone companies, GTE, Continental, PTI, Century, Ma Bell and the inter city transport companies, Level 3, Quest, ATT also among others.

At the same time the government expanded their previous deregulation of the network with the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and there was an explosion of capability and capacity and a lowering of prices unprecedented in the modern world.

The Internet, made possible by Government assistance, was made affordable by private industry. Many companies were started. Many failed. But the market was successful in allocating enough money to allow enough companies to succeed that I now can get local voice service, long distance voice service and 1.5 MB high speed Internet service for around $65/month all delivered over one wire into my home. If I want it I can get 200 or so TV channels via cable or beamed to me from space for an additional $75/month or so. And in many places that has become part of the same wire that has phone service.

At one time we had one TV in the living room, den as we moved up the economic ladder, with first two and later 4 channels. The medium was the message and no one thought of challenging the words of someone speaking to us over such a magic device. But more channels brought more opinions and we are now all “Commentators.” We now have four small sets in various rooms plus a 52 inch screen in the den. My wife likes Fox and watching houses being renovated. I prefer Turner Classic Movies.

We occasionally meet in the kitchen or, in the case of the Vols being on TV, the den.

Cellphone service was also impacted because if you could set at your desk and talk to the world... Then you needed to be able to talk to your customers while waiting to board a flight at the airport. And as technology expanded, you also needed Internet access. My Grandson, and millions like him, talk, text and surf the net from an instrument that has a thousand times more memory than the first computer I had or the telephone switching systems we sold.

The other day we were having lunch at the local Perkins. A few tables over was a family of four, all with their cell phones, all silently texting or playing games. If that is the new nuclear family then the atom will soon be split.

Do we communicate because we exist? Or do we exist because we communicate? As all new husbands and wives soon understand, there are things we shouldn't know about each other. A bit of mystery enhances the dream. But no matter. We are here and if an old man worries about what we will become he can be happy knowing that there is less hunger and disease than when he started the trip.

Was getting here sometimes painful? Yes. When cartographers in medieval times came to the end of the world they knew they would write on the unknown lands, “Here there be Dragons.” Of course there were no dragons but the world changed and some people became rich and successful. Others died in the attempt. It was an uncertain time but the result was a better world with more freedom and more wealth for more people than those explorers gazing at the maps with “Here there be Dragons” written across their destination could ever dream of.

We are making a new jump. One that may well be as vast as anything we’ve yet done.

Some have became just successful. Some people lost nice secure jobs and they didn't make the leap.

The question becomes, what do we do to help those who didn't succeed? And that is the issue that now is dividing us as a country.

"Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them." - Karl Popper

“It’s the presumption that Obama knows how all these industries ought to be operating better than people who have spent their lives in those industries, and a general cockiness going back to before he was president, and the fact that he has no experience whatever in managing anything. Only someone who has never had the responsibility for managing anything could believe he could manage just about everything.” - Thomas Sowell in Reason Magazine