jay's old blog

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Obsolescence and taxis and uber and developers and programmers and disruption culture

There is nothing more heartbreaking and devastating for an individual than to find out that there are no longer required in the grand scheme of things. This takes many forms, in personal life, in relationships, in business and of course career. Obviously, I cannot write about the personal stuff, but from a business perspective and from a career perspective, I sure can.

For starters, check out this interesting article " Court says yes to regulating cabbies, no to governing Uber drivers " on one of my favorite technology sites, arstechnica.

In the article, there are a couple of quotes. Both the quotes are extremely insightful, but the second one, I reproduce here in its entirety.

A license to operate a coffee shop doesn’t authorize the licensee to enjoin a tea shop from opening. When property consists of a license to operate in a market in a particular way, it does not carry with it a right to be free from competition in that market. A patent confers an exclusive right to make and sell the patented product, but no right to prevent a competitor from inventing a noninfringing substitute product that erodes the patentee’s profits. Indeed when new technologies, or new business methods, appear, a common result is the decline or even disappearance of the old. Were the old deemed to have a constitutional right to preclude the entry of the new into the markets of the old, economic progress might grind to a halt. Instead of taxis we might have horse and buggies; instead of the telephone, the telegraph; instead of computers, slide rules. Obsolescence would equal entitlement.

In a nutshell, the quoted paragraph implies that the passage of time (and the consequence i.e. innovation) stops for nobody. As programmers and developers (which are two different type of people by the way) who work in the computer science industry will have to deal with the challenge of obsolescence rather frequently. A very simple example would be, the amount of RAM our computers have. When I was a student, 128 GB RAM was a big deal. Today, my own work laptop has 8 GB RAM and I frequently complain that it is not enough. Do you see how much has changed?

I talk about obsolescence constantly, and have been talking about it as long as I can remember. My students are probably bored to death with it. Now, I am doing the same thing here. This time though, I am backing my claims with what some other person is saying. If someone is reading this blog post, especially my students, I beg you. Study the scenery in front of you. feel the direction in which the technology wind is blowing. Start researching the consequences of this upcoming change. Discuss with others like you. Then, finalize a plan. A plan that tells you how you can react and adopt when the hypothetical plan becomes a very reality. When the plan becomes a reality, be ready to change and adopt. Do not let age old customs and traditions stop you from adapting to changing realities.

Change is not easy. It hurts. It affects everybody around you, and sometimes it even breaks existing professional and personal relationships. Life is about survival. Change, I am afraid, is part of it. If you are unable to change, then all will be lost.
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