“First Word,” by Jim Louderback, PC Mag, 16 August 2006, http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,2003207,00.asp.
“The US economic/social sourcecode vs. the minimalist bootstrap,” by John Robb, John Robb’s Weblog, 25 August 2006, http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/johnrobb/2006/08/the_us_economic.html.
Strategist John Robb compares states to system components such as Windows, terrorism to web-apps such as google and flickr, and decides that states just don’t matter anymore
The globalization we see is organic and minimalist, like the Internet. It is a mistake to conflate it with the US rule-set. The US is very much like Microsoft with its 30 million lines of code in Windows. It’s cohesive, closed, and proprietary and much (but not nearly all) of the benefits of its use flows back to the owner. However, you don’t need Windows or the US model to use the Internet or Globalization. It is neutral, open, and minimalist.
But does the analogy hold? Is it true that system-level components do not matter?
Hardware and Operating Systems Matter
Back in the early nineties, the launch of a new Intel CPU was cause for celebration. Productivity climbed, new capabilities were unleashed, and everything ran faster. But around 1997, that started to change.
I blame it on the Internet. Innovation shifted from the desktop to the Web, as interface and usability took a back seat to the network model. The big challenges were mostly server-based.
So far, so good. al Qaeda and the Gap as a “server” for terrorism… I can dig it…
Well, I’m happy to announce that chips sudÂdenly matter again. Never has it been more important to get the latest and fastest from Intel or AMD.
This is a big deal because our computing needs are growing by leaps and bounds. The Internet has become a visual, interactive media. Video and audio are now ubiquitous, which means that transcoding, converting media from one format to another, is suddenly paramountâ€”especially for iPod and handheld media fans. More and more computing cycles are needed to encrypt and decrypt our data and to execute our multilayered security programs. We love Google and Yahoo! so much that we’ve invited them home to live with us, and their desktop search tools are hungry enough to bring both my ThinkPad and my hand-built Shuttle PC to a screeching halt. What’s more, Windows Vista will need a superfast processor in order to shine.
Here is where Robb’s analogy falls apart. Human progress is based on social connectivity – transcoding from experience to action. As our societies and networks become increasingly complex and meaningful, the “system-layer” architecture of states becomes increasingly important. That is why verticalization of power is associated with the success of civilizations.
Chaotic, anarchic environments do not breed terrorism and do little to threaten us. This is why the Conglese Liberation Front has not succeeded in flying planes into any buildings. What problems we do have are spawned by bad states — bad CPUS — not consequences of regime-neutrality. Terrorists are out-competed by blackmarket businessmen, and an organization that tries to split its core competencies between terrorism and business shares the fate of any organization that is in the middle of the road: roadkill.
States are like operating systems or CPUs: they matter. If you don’t believe that, try running google maps on a System 7 or an 80386.