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Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Reluctant Prophet

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead & rotten, either write things worth reading or do things worth the writing. - Benjamin Franklin

I recently searched for references to my blog entries and found many, in other blogs and even newspaper articles. Quite frankly, I did not expect to find so many references. Was I ever wrong!

Admittedly, my search required the use of web-based translation tools and a variety of search engines. I only invested a few hours of weekend time on the task so there could certainly be many other people reading what I write and passing it on to others.

Here is one of the more stunning revelations:
Monk, Bihar, India 002
In China and Italy I am called a "prophet", whoa! It seems my revelations about human behavior, politics, and especially technology, are so far ahead of everyday conversation that they deserve special mention. Many writers used one or more quotations from my work to initiate long treatises on the future. One Chinese newspaper columnist declared that I must be a worker in one of the most secret U.S. military labs. An Italian blogger suggested outright that I am a prophet with access to information that is not available from any other sources.

For the record, I have never been an employee of any government. I have consulted for many of the three-letter agencies in the U.S. government. Oh, I taught some secretaries in the Haitian government how to use WordPerfect, again as a consultant only.

These discoveries jogged my memory of days long past. In the 1980s I travelled regularly throughout rural and urban India speaking about the coming Internet Age. Some speeches were attended by hundreds of people eager to learn about this new global network. Other talks attracted only 4 or 5 curious listeners. In every case, the Indian people that attended my talks quickly understood that new fast data connections to the West could be a real source of income for India. I strongly urged many Sikh and Jain businessmen to connect to new VSL phone lines as quickly as they could. Teleconferencing, customer support, and computer program writing could be accomplished anywhere the connection was fast enough, I insisted.

I kept in touch with many participants from India long after returning to my project in Haiti. E-mail made this easy and affordable, at least at my end of the connection. (I had my first business e-mail account in 1982. I received my first Internet e-mail in 1983 when my employer connected their network to a global business network.) My e-mail correspondents went on to form some of the largest outsourcing firms in South Asia. This remains an important accomplishment in my career despite how some people in the U.S. feel about outsourcing.

The idea of being branded a "prophet" in this day and age strikes me as both interesting and troublesome. Prophesy is a rather dubious description for a person like me that simply researches the most advanced technologies available and shares that information freely. There are too many religious connotations to the word "prophet" for me to ever be comfortable wearing such a moniker. I understand how the idea arises but I do not like the places it takes some thinkers.

I do understand a great deal about where today's technologies will take society. In some cases what I have learned disturbs me so much that I refuse to share my discoveries anywhere expect my private journals. In other cases I have dropped a revelation, oops, an insight or two here in this blog. For example, my series Will Google Become God? led readers down a strange path strewn with all kinds of future uses of massive computing power. In other cases, for example my system of integrating all forms of battlefield surveillance into a single real-time solution for military use, is deliberately being left on the cutting room floor. Nevertheless, the Pentagon is working on a program called "AngelFire" that incorporates two or three of the ten sources and concepts my OverSight system would incorporate. I remain a silent prophet in that case.

Information is a powerful tool. In the right hands it can help feed millions and permit free speech in places where dissidents are routinely executed. In other cases though, certain information can be used to empower corrupt leaders currently using torture, kidnapping, and disinformation to transform entire nations into submissive flocks of sheep. In those cases you can rest assured this "prophet" will remain silent until long after the despots go back to their lairs to lick their wounds in private.

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