America’s Future Dominance in the Global Economy

Part 1:  English Language Dominance Over Software

When I began my career in the 1980s, the U.S. economy was sending mixed signals.  In some ways, it seemed to be roaring back, yet many Americans believed that we had lost our global economic competitiveness.  Some even thought the Japanese were going to take over many of our facilities.

There was reason to be concerned. The Japanese invested $20 billion directly into the U.S. economy in 5 years, we had movies like Gung Ho, and in 1989 the Mitsubishi Estate Company of Tokyo bought the Rockefeller Center.

Then there was an inflection point, driven a lot by the PC revolution and by software. Microsoft had been founded in 1975; Apple Computer was founded in ’76, and Oracle was founded in 1977.  These were to become three great companies in our time, yet in 1980, they were just embryonic. They all grew to be forces and then became public in the latter part of the decade.

Out of this success, something unintended happened. The Western World began to prevail over the rest of the world mostly because of its dominance in software. The software advantage was, in large part, due to the genetic superiority of the English language for writing software, compared to pictographic based alphabets of kanji and simplified Chinese. Continue reading

Voter ID Laws: Mobile Technology and Tomorrow’s Presidential Election

With the U.S. presidential election tomorrow, it’s inevitable that people are debating the enforcement of voter ID laws.

Yet it’s quite clear to me that every identification system on earth, from a Social Security card in the U.S. all the way to the national citizen cards in Europe and the Middle East, will soon be rendered obsolete.

In five years there’ll be five billion people with smart phones.  So some time in the next five to ten years people that run countries, banks, governments, organizations and yes, elections, will realize that once you can use software on a smartphone to validate one’s identity, present forms of ID systems will go the way of the horse and buggy.

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Why Fantasy Trumps Science Fiction

The mobile wave is a battle for the future, which means that it will require not only engineering and creativity, but also a taste for fantasy.  Some people think that science fiction helps to explain the future. But for me and many other software technologists, it’s actually fantasy that draws us in.  Let me explain.

When I was growing up, I loved reading both of these genres, and in fact they tended to be lumped together, not just in the bookstore and library, but also in the popular imagination.

Now, three decades later, I see a distinction, one that has become clearer during the course of my career.  Science fiction is about extrapolating creatively in Newtonian space.  It’s about examining what happens in the world of faster-than-light travel and warped drives.  It’s about asking how would you play basketball on Mars and could you fly on the Moon?  And it’s about designing how big the wings would have to be for such travel, and what would the air pressure be, and how would you design the container?

Don’t get me wrong.  Those are all really good exercises for engineers.  But if you design software, a better exercise is reading about elves, dwarves and magic spells.  That’s because in the fantasy world, I can caste a spell on a car key such that my kid can’t use it at night. Or I can actually zap the key to 37 people, but then take it back whenever I want.

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Breaking the Curve of College Costs

I grew up in a middle-class family. My father was an enlisted man in the Air Force. When I graduated high school, our family’s net assets were $3,000—and I went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where the tuition was $10,000 a year. I couldn’t possibly have attended without substantial grants. I could have gone to a community college or a state university, but without Air Force financial aid, MIT would have been out of reach. So rather than impoverish my parents, I indentured myself to the Air Force to attend and graduate from MIT.

Michael Saylor MIT

Today, far too many families are making an enormous financial reach – and impoverishing themselves – to provide their children an opportunity for a higher education. Tuition has risen almost twice as fast as inflation since the late 1950s, by an average of 7.25 percent per year (compared to inflation’s 4.35 percent). So families don’t just struggle to pay for college; by the time students graduate, if they do graduate, they are deeply in debt.

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Welcome to Michael.com

By Michael Saylor

We’re living through a technological revolution led by the mobile wave. Mobile technology is profoundly impacting many industries, from education, to farming, to entertainment, to healthcare, to banking and beyond. Soon, it will dematerialize half the global economy into software. It is only the beginning, and we have already seen products and services like maps, cameras, music, books, libraries, keys, and credit cards become software. This is good, but it is only a small part of the larger revolution. As a technologist, I am extremely excited to be living through this pivotal moment in history.

At its core, mobile technology empowers individuals. It empowers entrepreneurs, doctors, students, patients, farmers, developing nations, and much more. In five years, I predict that there will be five billion people with smartphones and 10 billion tablets in use; five billion people with real-time information at their fingertips; five billion people connected with a global voice; five billion people with the ability to learn 12 languages and perhaps get a Ph.D.

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Tablet Rasa: Tablet Computers and the Silent Revolution in Education

Watching the Chicago teachers strike was like being stuck in a time warp, taking me back to my Midwestern youth of more than 30 years ago.  Back then it seemed that teacher strikes in the fall were as common as the pumpkin stands popping up on the side of the road.

This year, however, the Chicago strike gained so much attention because it was so rare, comparatively speaking, to see teachers in one of nation’s largest school systems forming picket lines.  But 30 years from now, such strikes will be rarer still, perhaps even non-existent.
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Technology Fails Until It Succeeds

For 2000 years, people tried to fly and nobody could. From Icarus to Da Vinci,  everybody wanted to design a flying machine. Jules Verne dreamed about flying machines.

Despite these dreamers, nobody could fly. In 1902, an educated man would have told you the million reasons why people will never fly. Yet just one year later, in 1903, the Wright Brothers flew.  We went from nothing to a steep learning curve and then, from 1903 to 1969, we went from not being able to fly, to putting a man on the moon. It was a meteoric advance in technology and it’s no surprise.

Probably one of the richest men in the world for 30 of those years was Howard Hughes of Hughes Aircraft. His wealth was substantially based upon aviation technology.  That  was the advancing technology of the time, the technology that failed until it succeeded, and then advanced until it hit a wall.

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