When I launched Mooreslore for Corante in 2002, I was purely interested in technology. I think Hylton Jolliffe thought he was getting a nice little blog about hardware, with lots of comparisons of GHz and Gbytes. (The picture is from Tom Tomorrow’s blog. Why I’m picturing George Bush here will become clear. But hang with me.)
But I have always been a futurist at heart. When I started in this business, in Houston in 1978, I obsessed about the coming oil industry crash. That happened practically the day I left, June 1, 1981, and the town remained mired in depression for most of the succeeding decade.
I launched myself as a freelance under the name "Have Modem, Will Travel" in 1983, and was rewarded two years later with a post at Newsbytes, where I eventually settled in as telecomm editor, and occassional editorialist.
The Interactive Age Daily, which I launched after Newsbytes, was the first daily Internet coverage to launch alongside a magazine. Unfortunately the magazine closed less than a year later, and so did the next one I joined for CMP, NetGuide. By 1997 I was out of work.
My response was to do what I’d done in Houston, get on top of the coming boom and play Cassandra. I had covered Internet Commerce extensively at NetGuide, was even photographed in a suit and fedora, holding a sheaf of dollar bills. But I knew most of what I was seeing was phony, and said so.
This did not help me when the crash happened. You can date it. My 45th birthday, January 12, 2000. That was when AOL decided to merge into Time-Warner — that at least was the date of my next newsletter. I called it the Worst Deal Ever.
And it was.
I have learned that it does not help to be right. It doesn’t get you past the hard times, not really. And people resent you while they’re enjoying yourself, if you’re sitting over to the side muttering, "this can’t last." They think you’re a party-pooper.
My obsession became broadband, especially wireless, and the possibility that Wireless ISPs might compete with the Bells. I even spoke at an Agere kick-off conference in December of that year on all the ways broadband might be delivered, using Agere chips of course.
By 2002 I was looking for something for that broadband to do, and I started writing about what I called the World of Always On. What I meant was that wireless broadband should become an application platform, as the PC and Internet had become application platforms. Sensors would measure the condition of your home, the air, your body, would tell you where your stuff was, and the network would then tell you how everything was. This is just beginning to happen, but with frustrating slowness.
So I began looking at why progress was so slow. Early this year Gordon Cook invited me into a group he was putting together about the phone-cable duopoly, celebrating the arrival of Bruce Kushnick’s great e-book "The 200 Billion Scandal." This blog was launched for that book.
What I learned over the next few months was it was all politics. The Bells had hot-wired the political system for their own benefit. And as I looked around I saw other giant companies which had done the same thing.
This is not good. Killing Social Darwinism by guaranteeing certain
people or companies a free ride is like inviting death to the center of
your culture. We need social mobility, not just for people but for
companies. If wastrals like George W. Bush — or his progeny — are
guaranteed places at the head of the table, and if corporate wastrals
like AT&T are guaranteed the same, then we can’t compete. We’re
trading what won us the Cold War for the Soviet hand which lost it. And
it won’t take 45 years — it seems at times as though we’re in a car,
heading for a cliff, and the idiot behind the wheel has the accelerator
mashed to the floor, and he’s laughing maniacally…
And we can’t wake up. But we will. Probably at the bottom of the gorge.
Societies don’t die. They just get depressed. They falter and new
leadership takes over. Their people become poor. Things stay bad until
people get tired of being sick and tired, until they start competing
again, until their young people grow up and start doing for themselves.
That’s my next story. How we go over the cliff and what happens next,
exactly, is unknowable. But how we got here, and our past falls, offers
Clues that can lead to lessons for today and tomorrow.
So if we’re a political blog (for now) so be it.
Hope you’ll come along for the ride.