a troubling topic on my mind

it’s been over a year since i blogged, but i felt compelled to get back into it, after some reading i’ve been doing in the past few weeks.

every day, i wake up, get my kids off to school, and then try to get some work done. on a good day, i manage to sneak in a workout or get a good long walk going.

but in reality, work takes up most of my time. and what is that work? i split time between a few projects. like almost all work, these projects have cycles – some days are more interesting; some are less. some projects can be more interesting than others, while some are commercially phenomenal, but hold little interest for me outside of the pure work function of them. my work is almost exclusively in software, specifically web-based software to solve business problems.

and this is where the troubling topic first emerged.

if i’m only helping to solve business problems, am i ignoring the world’s problems?

it turns out, i’m far from the first person to ask this question. people on quora have been debating real-world problems since 2012. the summary arguments basically come down to:

  • not interested
  • there’s no money in it (cf. silicon valley people are just in it for the money, and are just greedy)
  • some companies are, but aren’t talking about it or aren’t on the web
  • silicon valley companies are solving real problems, just not the problems of the poor

and this last one really bugs me. consider, for instance that:

  1. mPesa is definitely helping solve a real problem for disadvantaged people.
  2. it’s a technology offering that clearly could have been built by silicon valley people (or this type)

in fact, while silicon valley is kind of ignoring these problems, it has gone ahead and made itself a bunch of enemies. what should be expected? trickle down clearly doesn’t work, as pointed out by planet money on npr. so while silicon valley continues in the newest bubble cycle, those working in lower-wage service industries are suffering from the overall price increases brought by new wealth.

and yes, i am, in a way, part of the problem. this is why my most interesting and exciting project is open-source data tracking and analysis. our goal is that any organization, from the poorest municipality to the wealthiest corporation, can learn from data to improve lives, outcomes, experiences, processes or whatever.

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