What happened to the idealists?

Douglas Coupland’s Jpod has been doing the rounds in the office of late. I enjoyed MicroSerfs, so approached Jpod with excitement.

Frankly, I’m disappointed.

It’s not the writing – I ‘ve enjoyed pretty much all of his books. It’s not that the books are similar in approach and style (they are) but rather the contrast in the lives of the characters.

Overall, MicroSerfs was optimistic. The characters in the book were using their talent to make the world a better place. The technology in Jpod is cynically created to make the most money. I finished MicroSerfs feeling good about what I do for a living; I’m stuggling through Jpod as it slowly destroys that feeling.

Let’s set aside whether this contrast is intentional – I don’t want to discuss what Mr Coupland is trying to say. What I want to get across is something that I have felt for a while and which Jpod merely reinforced:

The IT industry is becoming more and more cynical.

Perhaps this is a function of its age and maturity; perhaps it has more to do with the complexity of modern IT solutions; perhaps it is that we have accomplished so much so quickly that progress can only become harder and slower.

When I started working, the University for which I worked was only just embracing desktop computers. I was involved in promoting desktop PCs and workgroup servers to departments and it was an exciting time. Throughout my career there, I was involved in the creation of new services that were intended to make people’s lives better, easier, simpler, more efficient, and I got a great deal of satisfaction from it.

I still get satisfaction from delivering those kind of solutions, and I like to think that myself and my colleagues here at Black Marble still aim to make the world a better place through technology, in our own way.

I’m less convinced that the rest of the world still feels that way. What do you think?

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