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A mail that I sent to a close friend. Read on……

I was just in the process of a serious conversation with my Uncle and dad da. Thought i need to tell you this. This is really an accumulation of all the experience that I have had in college. I have been wanting to tell you this for sometime. Guess I am inspired enough right now.
I really think that this is the right time to tell you this since you are pursuing your post graduation abroad.
I am of the opinion that academia is the place to be in future. I am getting more reasons to believe everyday that this is true. I have listed out the reasons below

The Future is Open
I am a true believer that Open Knowledge is here to stay. Open Souce is only a subset of Open Information and Open Knowledge. The reason that Open source has taken time to catch fire is cause of the marketing and money power of the capitalists in comparison to researchers and academia that promote it. So dont compare the growth of Open knowledge to Open Source.

However on the other hand when it comes to Open Knowledge, the domain is not just limited to researchers and technologists but even to common man. Take for eg:- A housewife who discovers a new formula to remove a stain were to make this knowledge Open, the need to purchase a stain remover can be removed/reduced. This means that such a radical change will not just turn the economy Topsy Turvy but will simply change the way people lead their lives itself.

There is a necessity to think of whether we will have the infrastructure to support such a system. But with the current working model of the Internet(in the form of blogs, personal websites, social networking sites) in place, its getting easier to publish knowledge every single day.

Power and Money are going to Opposite ends:-
I am truly limiting myself to India when I say this or am I? Today, in a place like India where I live in, it is typically an assumption that power resides where money resides. True there are going to be arguments that there are “social activists” who are powerful, yet do not have the money that some others do, but what percentage of the population are social activists? My simple inference of power in people is as follows. If there is something that you have that a only small percentage of the population has, thats the place power tends to reside.
Now lets apply this to money. Someone who has 1 crore rupees in Ccoimbatore is a powerful man. But in Bombay, that is what every 6th person makes per annum. Now in a growing economy like India, the earning power of the average man has increased(at least in cities). This means that the amount of money that you have to possess for any substantial power to be associated to it has increased multifold.
The way I see it, ten years down the line, most parts of India, or atleast those that one would want to settle down in will be filled with people who have a substantial amount of money. As per the law that I have stated above, power distribution among these people is not going to be based on their bank balance.

What else then?
As far as I am concerned the economy in technology works as follows.
There are the academia and research personnel who are the actual inventors of these technologies and the industry is simply a beneficiary of this fundamental. Take for example RoR(Ruby on Rails). This was primarily a product of the Carnegie Mellion Lab that later on Thought works adopted. It could be true that TW paid a heavy price as royalty/usage rights. But its nevertheless a beneficiary.
This means that academia have remained the poor ones and the industry got richer.
Now as per the Open Knowledge factor that I have written above, knowledge is something that is going to be Open and freely available. This means that something that is intellectual property that a researcher patents is not going to be of truly economic value. However researchers in large are used to not being too rich. However technologists are. Now since a majority of these technologists are going to be pretty rich, its going to be quite unnatral for nature to vest power in their hands. The only other option would be to vest it in the hands of the academia and research personnal who come one level above in the economy chain.
In other words, the industry will continue getting richer and less powerful(individually). The academia will remain poor but will actually control the economy. This is where the power will be vested.
What are the industries that will actually be hit?
Like any other period in History, I believe that the industries that are capable of change are the ones that will survive. No prizes for that. Now take for eg a Company that manages assets or a financial management Company. What they typically do is to come and tell you something that you already know and charge you for that too. These are simply reassurance mechanisms that people need to ensure that their resources are headed in the right direction. Now in an Open Knowledge environment, consider how this will change things. The challenge in the above business itself is for the Finance manager to compile the information from the customer, apply to his database of experience and tell him the best investments to make. In other words, data collection and bridging the gap between them and the customer is what really the challenge is. The rest of it is by far an automated process that involve questions that can be answered binarily.
Now there are 2 closed sources of information here.
1. The company’s database of experience.
2. The customer’s assets

Just think of a situation where any one side in this becomes available.

  • If the company is willing to divulge its database, the customer no longer needs its services. This is an implication that the company has simply been offering his Database as a service.
  • The customer divulging his assets(sensitive due to privacy concerns)will mean that there will be a host of companies that will offer him the service with differing results, offers and commissions.
  • The second scenario in particular– Consider Google will simply offer Free Financial advice in returning to post the advertisements (say of a Bank) during the process.
  • These are the radical changes that open information can bring in simply  because the meaning of Intellectual Property and Knowledge as a service will change. This will mean the restructuring of several businesses. All this for the benefit of the customer.

Whats the challenge?
Lets get to a more intellectual frame of mind. In India we are yet to see a generation of successful professionals retire. When I say successful, I mean to say monetarily in terms of what a fresher from a good college makes at Infosys today. Now when the time actually comes, I want to ask these people something. What is it that you have done for most part of their lives? Are they going to tell me. I have been a loyal employee to Infosys, helped the company grow to new heights and made a million bucks. I am rephrasing that to “I helped Infy grow”. the question is”So what?”
Now just think about what someone who is an entrepreneur or a researcher or faculty can say. “I have taught the world’d smartest students. They come back to me every day of the year”. Or “I have established a flourishing business from scratch. I have employed and have gotten fifty families to survive by providing employment”. Both can say ” I have been a powerful person”.
My dad’s immediate retort when I told him this was “Take for eg Mr.X. He is the HR Head of D. He can say the same thing of having provided opportunities to so many thousands.”
Really? Is anyone from a technological business ever thankful to their HR managers for having recruited them 2 years into their jobs? Everyone there knows that the company recruited him/her simply because the company needed them or saw them as someone who can contribute to their businessg. Nobody pays for nothing.
What are the choices?
Choose between power and money. True, there will be a bit of power associated to having some money always. But believe me the amount of money that it takes to possess this power will be quite insanely high. So if you want to be a professional make sure yur in the top 2% of the money makers.
Academia will possess this power that comes at the price of providing their knowledge without monetary gains. They will control the economy.
Entrepreneurs will be powerful for being proiders of opportunity.

So decide, If yu think yu can make “enough” money, pursue a professional career.
Or if yu think yu can be “noble” enough to provide free knowledge, teach.
Or take a risk to venture.
Think about what I have said. It provided me a lot of clarity.


Regards,
M.Ashwin Raghav


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4 Comments

  1. Interesting thoughts man.
    Yu really think the academia must settle for not having any money?

  2. Good compilation. I might have to disagree with few points but I can digest most of it…

  3. Very interesting thoughts. Obviously yur an open source person. SO no surprise hearing this from yu

  4. Good one.. I agree and disagree on your points and ‘laws’ “ashwin law”.. 🙂 we ll take it offline when am back… 🙂


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