May 07

interlockingHands.jpgMy friend Noah and I were pondering some deep thoughts this weekend and came to simple yet powerful thought experiment:

Look around the room you are in right now and ask yourself how many human hands are responsible for making the stuff that’s around you?

It sounds childishly-silly at first pass but seriously, try this experiment. Consider that every object in the room in which you are sitting was put together by either a person or a machine- but even the machines that automates the production of the tiny filaments in the light bulbs above you were at some point engineered and assembled by human hands. The cotton gins that culled the fibers which make up the carpet under your feet were assembled and then driven by people. The sand that went into the concrete poured into the foundation under the building you are in, that too was dug and then crushed by someone. You can carry this thought experiment out indefinitely. In fact, barring the natural features of the land around you, everything in your immediate vicinity was directly or indirectly assembled by a human being.

I think about the more abstract implications of these ideas with respect to what we’re building with JumpBox:

  • the Ubuntu operating system underlying each virtual appliance we make – the product of hundreds of developers contributing their intelligence
  • the virtualization technologies upon which JumpBoxes run – each company has between 20-2000 employees with who-knows-how-many involved in developing and marketing these platforms
  • the Open Source applications and components – by definition, collaborative works from many volunteers donating their time
  • the physical machines upon which this stuff all eventually runs – designed and put together at some point by people
  • the wires over which the electrons travel to make these applications accessible to their users – placed by humans
  • The logical extension to this experiment is to consider the question, “who will benefit from my work?” How many unseen people whom you will never meet will utilize the product of whatever it is you do each day? We see the notification emails that come in when a JumpBox is registered and we see entities like “Harvard Business School, Mayo Clinic, US Patent and Trademark Office.” I like to think that somewhere, a medical researcher who otherwise couldn’t have set up a wiki is using JumpBox to collaborate with colleagues on an important project, and that our hands will have a small part in helping advance their work. Or that when the defense contractor asks us for the ability to bundle his own application on a JumpBox and redistribute it, we become a cornerstone ingredient to a foundation upon which important buildings can be constructed, like the sand in that concrete. It gives you that warm fuzzy “we’re-all-in-this-together-type-feeling.”

    Then again maybe guys like Noah and I just think way too much about this type of stuff ;-)

    One Response to “How many human hands”

    1. Amen Sean. If I was to critize the general american attitude, it is that we seem to easily forget that we are not alone in this world. The chain of connectivity that links the textile mill worker in Sri Lanka, and the CEO on wall street wearing the fine suit is much much shorter than we think.

      Certainly even more so now that the world is flattening. Do things with a purpose of serving the greater good, and it comes back to you in huge multiples.

      Another deep thought for you… next time you are stuck in traffic on the freeway, try to ponder all the individual human stories of those around you. It is a world shrinking exercise.

    Leave a Reply

    preload preload preload