The New Face of the Silicon Age

[L]et’s face facts, she could do your $70,000-a-year job for the wages of a Taco Bell counter jockey – she won’t lose any sleep over your plight. When I ask what her advice is for a beleaguered American programmer afraid of being pulled under by the global tide that she represents, Jairam takes the high road, neither dismissing the concern nor offering soothing happy talk. Instead, she recites a portion of the 2,000-year-old epic poem and Hindu holy book the Bhagavad Gita: “Do what you’re supposed to do. And don’t worry about the fruits. They’ll come on their own.” | This is a story about the global economy. It’s about two countries and one profession – and how weirdly upside down the future has begun to look from opposite sides of the globe. It’s about code and the people who write it. But it’s also about free markets, new politics, and ancient wisdom – which means it’s ultimately about faith. —Daniel H. PinkThe New Face of the Silicon Age (Wired Magazine)

Wired is the idealistic champion of Silicon Valley culture. While the quality of the writing is always top-notch, one rarely finds in the pages of Wired any serious criticism of technology — and certainly none of the Slashdot “the government is taking control of your lives, datum by datum” variety. Pink writes himself into the story a bit more than I would prefer, but I do appreciate the way he paints himself as the devil’s advocate on both sides. I feel a lot of pain for the very good CS majors who are now graduating into a world that is very different than it was in 1999 (or so) when they entered college with a career path in mind.

Still, something lurking in the darker parts of my English major soul remembers the sneers of the “toolies” who, even before they got their diploma, bragged of their $50,000 job offers.

The Africans and Irish and Poles and Italians and Norwegians and everyone else — including the Indians — who came to America in search of a better place took the less desirable jobs. This led to inevitable conflict with the working class Americans, but after a generation or two, the newcomers turned into what Archie Bunker might call “regular Americans” who were themselves threatened by the next wave of immigrants. This has been an ongoing part of American history. Just look at the names on America’s olympic rosters or the faces of people wearing American military uniforms.

But now, the jobs in question are highly desirable positions, and — more shocking to America’s future — people don’t even have to leave their home country to do it!

I was surprised and pleased to see Wired publishing a lenthy, literary, and insightful examination of the American reaction to this particular side-effect of the new global economy. The U.S. auto industry lost business to Japan in the 80s, which caused a wave of “buy American” protectionism; and in return, Japan became a tremendous consumer of American culture. If I were truly interested in economics, I would of course have listened to the e-school toolies and ditched my English major; but upon reflection, Wired Magazine publishing an article with a sympathetic angle on global outsourcing shouldn’t be any real surprise. Because, from the look of things, Wired Magazine has read the writing on the wall, and expects to sell a lot of subscriptions in India.