04 October 2007

Solving world poverty

KB is taken by surprise as I sneak behind him and tap him on his shoulder.
Me: KB whassup ?
KB: Huh...whoz that ?
Me: Don't jump, its just me.
KB: You scared the s*** out of me man.
Me: KB, I have been thinking all evening....
KB: (Oh here he goes...) Yeah, what ?
Me: We tend to analyse and solve almost all problems in the IT landscape. The field is so full of problems, but we essentially come up with smart solutions, don't we ?
KB: Like ?
Me: Just to give you one example, remember how we used to have this problem with unused server hardware lying in data centers, so people invented server virtualization. Now virtualization is the coolest thing.
KB: Ok, I get that. But what is the problem though ?
Me: The peeve that I have is that the real world is teeming with problems, and yet we don't have smart solutions that can solve those problems in one global sweep.
KB: (Bunches his eyebrows) OK, so ?
Me: So....we need to solve some real world problems man.
KB: We ? As in you and me ?
Me: Yeah, we gotta stay ahead and solve real problems too.
KB: Give me an example of what you want to solve.
Me: Sure..let me think, Ok, how about abolishing world poverty.
(KB falls down from his chair and rolls over with laughter.)
Me: I am serious man. You think I am kidding ?
KB: Ok, so how do you propose doing that ?
Me: Ok, there are about 6 billion people on the planet. A majority of them are poor. A disproportionate minority of them are stinking rich. So rich, that they could use currency for toilet paper all their lives and not even make a dent in their stash.
KB: Yes true, you know the blog next door, is run by such a guy. You should stop by one day and meet him.
Me: Yeah, maybe someday. (Hey, what are you doing reading the blog next door ?)
KB: And you were saying...
Me: Yeah, the dis proportionality of wealth. So my solution is pretty simple actually. Don't wait on the charity of the rich, thinking that it will trickle down to the poor. Use the power of open source. Open Source has revolutionized the way the IT world builds applications and products. Open source thrives inspite of the fact that majority of learned and rich people in the world would not spend time contributing to such open source work. But massive things get accomplished. Take for example, the Linux OS, the Tomcat Server, the JBOSS server. You name it and we have built it.
KB: That is a very keen observation.
Me: So, as an analogy, why can we not apply such open source solutions to solve world problems ?
KB: But how ?
Me: Well I don't know. Maybe like the X prize foundation's work, we could start open source projects that create solutions that indirectly will contribute towards solving world problems like poverty.
KB: Oh man, you are serious aren't you ? I was just playing along thus far, thinking you were kidding about this whole thing.
Me: Man, you bet I am serious. One example would be the creation of open source technology that increases grain production, produces easy fabrication machines that create objects given raw materials. For example, a machine that fabricates roofing material, with everyday waste or some stuff like that. Open source makes these inventions, patent free, so no royalty money is collected.
KB: Oh come on man, this is real life, not software. All these things that you talk about need physical resources and hard cash.
Me: Yeah, thats what the detractors of Open Source said too, when it was in its nascent stages. Look at whats happening now. The likes of IBM, Sun, even Microsoft are contributing and pitching in time and resources towards such projects. If you build a momentum, large corporations will follow. Look at where the X Prize foundation is going these days.
KB: Hmmm, as someone once said "You ain't so dumb after all !"

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