Wednesday, February 1, 2017

We Must Think and Act as One Planet

Over the past few days, several journalists have asked me to comment about travel bans, immigration policy changes, and trends in isolationism.

My opinions are my own and do not reflect any official position from my employer or my academic affiliation.

Here are my observations

1.  Information Technology is global.   We hire the best talent regardless of nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or race/ethnicity.   Having worked in 75+ countries in my adult life, I can say that innovation crosses all boundaries and cultures.   It’s just as likely that next big breakthrough will come from EMEA as it is from APAC.  I cannot imagine restricting the flow of collaboration among academics and technology professionals from any country.

2.  I was born in 1962.   My grandmother described that for much of her life drinking fountains were separated based on race.  Other relatives have talked to me about the controversy of electing John F. Kennedy, a catholic, as president.   My mother was one of the first female law school graduates from her school.  As a society, we’re moving past issues of classifying people and limiting their roles.  2017 is not  a time to divide the world into “us” and “them”

3.  In my youth, Fedex (overnight shipping) did not exist.   Software could not be downloaded.   Communication was by paper letter.   At this point in history there are no barriers to instant communication and information sharing around the world from every person and culture to every other person and culture.

4.  Many of the skills that have made me successful in life are now completely obsolete.   I could type very accurately and produce flawless sheets of text on my Smith Corona.   I could search the card catalog at public libraries and read literature very fast to find salient facts and quotes.   I could memorize large amounts of information - a kind of human Hadoop.    Today, no one needs such skills.   Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and Netflix skills are much more valuable.   Automation has completely changed the job market.   Immigrants are not taking away jobs, but the evolution of work itself has led to the “rust belt” and the closing of US factories.    It’s naive to believe that building a wall or restricting the flow of people will bring back the jobs at the “plant” of the 1970s to middle America.

5.   I am a first generation American.  My mother was born in Latvia.   My father’s family is from Prague.   What makes our family, which immigrated in the 1950s any different from a family trying to immigrate in 2017?   An immigrant is an immigrant regardless of the country of origin or time period.   If we blocked Steve Jobs’ family from immigrating out of Syria, Apple would not exist.   Is that what we want?

The bottomline is that we’re a global economy, dependent on each other for resources, ideas, and innovation.    Throughout the world we’re seeing globalism being abandoned in favor of regionalism.    Many believe that by dividing the world into the haves and have nots, we’ll improve the situation from some while diminishing the situation of others.   Some will win and some will lose.   This is very short sighted since we’re only one finite planet with finite resources.   We need to think as one planet, one people, and one species.   Rhetoric, demagoguery and populist rabble rousing may seem appealing in the short term but they do not address the critical problems we face today - climate chance, environmental destruction, and a population that exceeds the carrying capacity of the available resources.

My role in 2017 is to serve the world around us, embracing all people, and openly sharing ideas.   I will not criticize the officials in the current US administration but I will criticize their ideas.     The era of US leadership is fast coming to an end and building walls will only accelerate our demise.   I look forward to a future when we all recognize that our work is the successful future of a unified human species, not a return to a past that can never exist again.

1 comment:

Unknown said...


Thank you for once again articulating reason and wisdom in your statements about immigration and America. I admire your ability to write truths in simple English. The best to you and your family. An HIT colleague - Kate Galambos RN MSN