Posted by n_alex
on January 31, 2004 at 2:07 PM PST
Recently, a fellow Minneapolitan wrote me and asked about the future of the American programmer. I'm a far cry from the Delphic Oracle, but I gave it a shot anyhow.
"What, exactly, do you see in the future for Java open source? How long do you think it will last? What do you see, if anything, that will take the place of the Internet? Perhaps a totally wireless Internet?"
"Also, nanotechnology seems to be the big buzzword today, and it seems to promise a lot of possibilities. Where do you see nanotechnology fitting into your map of concentric rings? At first flush, it seems to me is belongs in the fifth ring in the research category, but its application could permeate throughout all rings. Also, how far away are we from actualizing, "Beam me up, Scotty?" (I'm being a bit tongue-in-cheek here. However, how much science fiction have we already see move from imagination into reality?)"
"Regarding the job market, there has been some speculation that the traditional IT job, as we know it today, will cease to exist, and that most IT people will be independent consultants competing for contracts. What do you see actually happening?"
Friends of mine have said they won't stop writing code until they've re-implemented all of the core unix services in Java. Others have said that until there is an Open Source (non-GPL) alternative to linux that there will continue to be work for us to do, and that once the nature of the GPL license gets tested in court and the public understands more about what it does, they will want to replace Linux with something they actually own.
Or maybe not. I don't know the future. I do believe the research however,
"that 1 in 10 U.S. technology jobs will go overseas
by the end of 2004, according to Gartner. In the next 15 years, more than 3 million U.S. white-collar jobs, representing $136 billion in wages, will depart to places like India, with the IT industry leading the migration, according to Forrester Research. . . . stories about American programmers collecting unemployment, declaring bankruptcy, even contemplating suicide - because they can't compete with people willing to work for one-sixth of their wages."
If Open Source helps people channel their desire to feel useful and to do challenging and beautiful work until either the economy picks up or they pick up their lives, then I'll do everything I can to help them learn about it and to encourage them to participate in it. The American programmer is my fellow "Forgotten Man". And by Man I also mean Woman. I know too many nice and talented ladies in the field who deserve better just as much as the men.
So, you want to know what "exactly" I see in the future. Sorry. I don't see the future--but I do have a poolside view of the present. I see books on Geronimo, Drools, Maven and Groovy coming down the pipe. I see people pushing the bounds of the J2EE platform. I see discussions about replacing servlet technologies. I see Tool designers having their day in the sun. I see a flurry of spontaneous activity. Like insects moving around to warm their hives in the winter, Open Source--as science for its own sake, for the fun of it--has the potential to keep the American programmers warm enough to survive the winter we're entering.
I certainly see no reason for intelligent men and women to be contemplating suicide over the loss of a cube. There's just plain more to life than bits and chips.
What I don't see is a US bull market in technology in the near future. For all I know we could be looking at Dow 4700 by June and the Nasdaq trading at 18 times earnings. I see that happening. I just don't *know*. I'm not in this field for the job security. I'm in it because I believe there is something big at stake in it. If I wanted job security I would have studied mortuary science. I try not to get too hung up on implementation details (.NET, J2EE, EJB) because those things come and go. I'm more concerned with the overall principles (making information more accessible and useful) and applications (building a network of like-minded people to do business with).
There will be no beamings of Scotties unless someone figures out a way to get around the Heisenberg principle. Heisenberg applies to markets, too. As soon as you think you know how the market works, your new understanding of it alters it until your knowledge no longer applies.
But, on the science-driving front, carbon nanotubes can be used to make Casimir plates , and there is a potential source of unbounded energy waiting to be tapped--all around us. Nanotech has incredible potential for medicinal uses as well. So nanotechnology will likely *not* be a fad. It's just something we the "unwashed masses" don't understand very well yet .
I think the internet will continue growing. Demand for high-speed fiber optics will replace our copper networks It'll take decades to realize that, but it'll happen. I also think that spontaneously evolving P2P wireless networks will probably grow to address our need for mobility until a less expensive way to make and lay fiber networks becomes available.
How far this all applies to you and me here in Minneapolis remains to be seen. We have the University as a gateway into nanotech. Perhaps you could look into a full time job there. For the rest of it, I'm no prophet. Just a cold-eyed optimist.