Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thank You Mr. Obama For Giving Us Something To Work Towards

Why were the late '90s so awesome? Technology! For a period of about three years I was on the technology bandwagon back in the '90s. I jumped aboard the great technology innovation train about midway in '96, and I rode it for a while. Granted, I wasn't a programmer or developer. Actually I was in sales, but I could also build, repair, and upgrade them. Regardless of my vantage point, nobody is arguing that the speed at which the PC is evolving has slowed way down in the past decade. Well, maybe the last 2/3 of the decade. At any rate, tech isn't what it used to be.

What was cool about the computer revolution was that it was moving fast and it allowed us to do all kinds of things we had never done before. Do you know how many scanners I sold to people because I happened to mention that they could start digitizing the family album? Or photo printers that I sold because I pointed out that once they had digitized the family album, they could then reproduce those treasured old photos themselves? I also sold a crapload of PCs just based on the fact that they could play the latest games. These days the former example is a given since computers are capable of doing everything, and the games have moved to consoles.

I always refer to this decade as the zeroes. I mean aside from quaking in our boots that we were going to get hit by terrorists again, what have we been working towards? Sure, a lot of people jumped aboard the housing bubble before it popped. A lot of people jumped aboard the finance bubble before it popped, but none of that was blazing new ground. OK, we built houses. People bought houses. People loaned money, took a cut, insured the houses and the loans, etc. But were we actually focusing society towards building anything new? I would argue that we haven't and as a result of this and some of the most lousy leadership this country has seen in a long, long time, we were really just drifting forward on the momentum built up over the previous decade. Obviously we have run out of momentum so it's time to start building something new. has an article about how companies are turning their sights towards green technology. In addition to that, they're in the process of passing a new energy bill that will make traditional energy consumption more expensive for the average American. Translation: become more efficient or pay through the nose.

So what will this mean in terms of finding something new for us to set our collective sights on? You guessed it. The next wave of cars will be hybrids, or possibly fully electric. Our next washers and dryers will be designed to use power more efficiently. The same is true for all of our appliances. And what about other things we can do to get each household further self-sufficient? If they keep making solar panels more efficient, people will start installing those instead of traditional roofing. This in-turn, will eventually drive the prices of solar panels into the traditional roofing price range. I don't know about everyone else, but I'd personally love it if I could start producing my own energy instead of continuing to pay the local electric monopoly their monthly extortion.

I also predict that in addition to this being a cost-cutting measure, it will eventually become a matter of prestige. Just like it was once cool to get the upper end Pentium machines so that you could play the latest video games, it will become cool to make the household as energy efficient as possible. Imagine getting together with the neighbors and having bragging rights because you only had to fork over fifty dollars to the power company!

This desire to make things more environmental has been around for decades, but the difference is that now, thanks to a presidential mandate and a new law that's going to sucker punch everyone in the wallet, there's an actual reason to develop this technology. Of course this will create a whole host of new jobs all the way from research and development all the way down to sales. I think this has the potential to turn a recession into a boom, and it might just be the type of boom that becomes so essential that it's the next great American industry.

I'm not exactly known for my optimism, but this is something that I'm actually looking forward to. Save money, make money, and do so in a way that's good for the planet! When was the last time the three of these things aligned in that manner?