I recently listened to a talk given by Iqbal Quadir, founder of Grameenphone, at the Long Now Foundation in 2008:
In the early nineties I had a budding investment career, that’s where I discovered a decentralising force – namely Moore’s law. Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel, observed in the mid sixties that every eighteen months microchips, the brain of the computers, go down in price by fifty percent. That means every thee years, namely twice the time of eighteen months, every three years prices fall by 75% to one quarter. Which means every six years it becomes one-sixteenth. And every twelve years, it becomes 1/256th. And you add another three years, let’s say every fifteen years, it becomes about 1/1000 to one.
So microchips are actually marching towards poor people.
And it’s also potentially a decentralising force, but I didn’t know how to make use of computers in a country where there’s a lot of illiteracy and so therefore people couldn’t quite use computers even if they’re becoming cheaper … perhaps they could be utilised, but I didn’t know how to use them because computers are mostly made for literate peopleIqbal Quadir at the Long Now Foundation
The march towards the poorest
In the decade since Quadir gave this talk, we’ve seen this happen – and in the development of new interfaces (and particularly smartphones) we’ve seen computers marching towards the less-educated too. This is good news.
Overall, we’ve seen this happen with basics like clean water and sanitation and clothing, with education and information, and with healthcare and entertainment. More on this tomorrow.
The question that occurred to me as I listened to this talk, though, was “what’s marching away from the poorest?”
My guesses are… land and space? An unspoilt natural environment? Community?
Or are these moving away from all of us? Would love your thoughts – I’ll update this post with links and references below.