The Real Paul Jones

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Some Triangle Futures — maybe — just if

After taking a vacation from blogging for the first time in over five years, I have more than enough to be writing about, but I thought I’d start out by posting a reply I just sent to Rick Smith of Metro Magazine who was asking about the future of the Triangle for communications, infotech and biotech and anything else than comes to mind.

My answers:

There is an old sufi saying that teaching can only happen when the time, the place and the people are all at the correct stage for learning to happen. In the case of technology leadership, you need to add resources to the list.

The Triangle got an early start betting on our universities to supply the people either directly by educating them or indirectly by providing a desirable intellectual and cultural environment to attract and keep the best.

We built the place based on the relationships among the universities and the cities of the Triangle, but we’ve yet to create an integrated transportation system to really foster the interactions that we need to lead.

Through MCNC and NCREN we have built the network infrastructure for research and teaching, but the commercial mobile networks are still spotty in their coverage compared to the areas with which we compete.

We’ve been slightly diverse by developing biotech and infotech but we need to broaden beyond those two core industries. I think there are opportunities in energy management for example that have not been developed by that will make a giant difference in the next ten years.

The time is changing and I think in our favor if the state acts bravely and invests wisely in education and lifestyle that will continue to attract the best in infotech and biotech but also in transportation, energy management solutions, and nanotech. There are significant interactions between these areas and we will see more as they develop.

We will need to continue to support schools, our universities, our parks and the arts if we wish to continue to grow and to innovate. We are competing with the Bay Area, Austin, Boston, Seattle/Portland and Boulder/Denver more than with Atlanta or Richmond or Charlotte (although Charlotte should it recover from betting far too heavily on finance would be a strong partner for the Triangle and for the State).

I could, as you know write for ages about social media, which is the open source culture pushed out into our daily lives. Ultimately that means businesses thinking about their relationships with their employees and their customers very differently — that’s where the impact is being felt and will continue to have influence. Every transaction is not turned into a payment; despite of how phone companies charge us for text messages. Some transactions and activities are about relationships as any small town business owner knows well. Expect the importance of relationships to cause some very large changes as customers continue to be able to raise their voices with strong effect — positive as well as negative.

Computer screens will continue to move to the edges of size — large as is being tested with home theatres and small as is being tested on phones and netbooks. Desktops will be pushed into special categories such as use by design groups say.

That means more mobile but also and the computing to drive moble will be over the net, over the air. The delivery of this computing, this access to usable data, will mean that we need more bandwidth. If we don’t lead the country there, we lose. But also we need innovative services to be delivered over the air to these theatre sized screens and this portable/mobile devices. These will be appropriate to the use — say audio and video for directions, say quick updates in text to voice or searchable audio and video, say location awareness integrated into many functions. That means flexible datacenters with high connectivity and efficient cheap power and cooling running effective database and visualization services.

Did I say visualization? Yes that cuts across all the categories and is an area that we need to develop along with analytics. Expect to see businesses looking for better ways to understand the data deluge that is now available to them, but also expect individuals to demand similar services which is something entirely new.

If we, as our government and industry, provide the infrastructure through proper taxation, then we will continue to have the place, will continue to produce and attract the people, will have our eyes on the time and will in the end reap the resources and rewards.


  1. Paul

    11/24/2009 at 8:44 pm

    Doc is almost right. Social media and social networking can happen on private platforms, but they need not. Take this blog or any blog that may be self-hosted or hosted on a service. But that’s not really my point.

    My point is that social media are part of a cultural practice that draws its self-conception from open source culture and its values (and Stewart Brand would say from hippie culture) which sees open participation and status based on some kind conception of merit as some of the core values.

    I wouldn’t confused culture with engineering although there are clear interactions between the two. How tools are used is culture; not the tools themselves. What is exchanged in email, blogging, virtual worlds and games, or structured (sorta) networking sites is social capital most often in the form of knowledge capital within various social networks. The sites and tools only facilitate this exchange and creation and bonding.

    Open source and free software helped establish those values as something worthy of attention, preservation and as something practical in the longer run. What Eric Von Hippel calls a Democracy of Innovation.

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