If the WW II generation was The Greatest Generation, the baby boomers were The Worst. My former boss Bill Gates is a baby boomer. While he has the potential to do a lot for the world by giving away his money to other people, after studying Wikipedia and Linux, I see that the proprietary development model he adopted has greatly stifled the progress of technology his generation should have provided to us. I start a book with the statement that we should already have cars that drive us around as we have had video cameras and powerful computers for decades. The reason we don’t have robot-driven cars is that proprietary software became the dominant model:
Free versus proprietary software is similar to the divide between science and alchemy. Before science, there was alchemy, where people guarded their ideas because they wanted to corner the market on the means to convert lead into gold. The downside of this “strategy” is that everyone would have to learn for themselves that drinking mercury is a bad idea! The end of the Dark Ages arrived when man started to share advancements in math and science for others to use and improve upon. Computers are an advancement comparable to the invention of movable type and while they have already changed many aspects of our lives, we still live in the dark ages of technology.
We can blame the baby boomers for proprietary software. (We can also blame them for C++ and Java, and I write two chapters detailing why they have been a total disaster for the industry. I recommend everyone use Python today.) We can also blame boomers for outlawing nuclear power, never drilling in ANWR despite decades of discussion, never fixing Social Security, destroying the K-12 education system, leading us to our bankrupt welfare state, and numerous of the other long-term problems that have existed in this country for decades, that they did not fix, and the new ones they created. Linus Torvalds is a Generation X-er, having been born in 1969. It is this generation that is coming into its own now that will invent the future, as we incorporate more free software, cooperation, and free markets into society. The boomer generation got the collectivism part, but they failed on the freedom aspect.
My book describes why free software is critical to faster technological development, and it ends with some pages on why our generation can build a space elevator in less than 7 years. I believe that in addition to driverless cars, understanding DNA, getting going on nanotechnology, and terraforming Mars, are also in reach. Wikipedia surpassed Encyclopedia Britannica in 2.5 years which is strong evidence that the problems in our world are as much social as technical. Let’s step up, work together, and make it happen!