• hickman

Big ideas 5: tech in the face of market forces

This is fifth and final installment in my long read about big ideas. Click around to find the earlier posts in this series.


This one gets at some concerns I have about what market forces are going to do to the promise of cool new tech.


We can edit genes now!

We have cracked the genome, done our first basic POCs, and will soon master gene manipulation at scale.

We will seemingly, in the next couple of decades if not sooner, master the ability to accurately map and then precisely control genetic disease triggers.


This could eradicate so many maladies, and will almost certainly be the most utopian new technology of my lifetime. But... if and when we pull that off, the technical solution will bump into a big problem: it’s more profitable to sell someone medicines for 20 years than it is to cure them with a once-and-done gene therapy. My prediction is that this will force a long-due confrontation with the fact (well, opinion I guess) that capitalism is no way to run a hospital... or a pharmaceutical company… or a society and polity aimed at the reduction of human suffering. If anything stands to create global war, it is perhaps this, even more so than oil, water, or clean air... This tech will stay prohibitively expensive, and its expense will illuminate the stark global divide between haves and have-nots, both at the personal and at the nation-state level. And if the have-not nations are smart, they'll either steal the tech or go to war for it, which would be the same only with more blood.

My take away? Honestly, it's "Uff da." I crave the coming genetic therapies, because reasons. And I cringe at the looming moral crisis about how to reconcile the promise with ROI.


Autonomous robots scare me. Autonomous robots are here, including warehouse pickers, cars, and kill-bots. This wave of automation hasn't crested, and is still growing. Its going to be huge and world-changing.


But... I’ve made enough enterprise software and seen enough “do or die” shortcuts taken to be seriously wary of software-controlled autonomous systems. I’m not worried about SkyNet, I’m worried about basic flaws, bugs, and security vulnerabilities killing me or others.


There is certainly a big and actionable play here for disrupting the way software quality is assessed—think Chaos Monkey for the masses.


And secure coding technology (aka Veracode and others) is more important than ever, but also harder to manage. Add to that the sheer pace of product feature development expected from today’s DevOps teams and you have a powder keg.


Either way, this is a big deal for the next decade, as this new wave of automation hits prime-time in my in the next 5 or 10 years… This one is in my wheelhouse. (Scratches head.) Maybe this is one to go to work on.

That’s what I’ve put together. I'll be using this framework to help myself prioritize my own projects, and would love to hear what you think.

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