In 2001 I wrote an essay that was published on the IDG conference web site as part of the once popular now defunct Agenda conference (executive conference put on by IDG). Over the past seven years what has really changed? Are we better off then we were then. I’m seven years older and not sure if I feel better off now verses then. We need to change the agenda again.
Here is what I posted on Sept 11, 2001…
The Agenda Has Changed!
By John Furrier
On September 11, 2001 I turned on the TV in the early morning on the West Coast and watched as the disaster unfolded. For the next 72 hours the devastation and resulting roller coaster of emotions consumed my life. For me–like for everyone else–things are different now.
As I was preparing to attend my fifth AGENDA I was writing an essay about the role of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in the new Internet economy while sprinkling in some colorful stories about past AGENDA conferences and industry lore. I realized that the agenda for all of us had changed.
In an instant our world changed, and it will change the attitudes and actions of governments and industry. The question is, how will the changes sway the course of our industry? Which decisions should government and the industry make? How far will the changes go? Are we prepared for that?
The answer is, we have to be. There is a new agenda.
Today’s technology is at a crossroads between today’s “wild west,” anonymous, “anything goes” Web environment and tomorrow’s secure, monitored, accountable computing environment. Unity between government and industry is essential for developing new standards that ensure freedom and security for all who participate in free societies. If industry does not participate, government will. The agenda has changed.
Our industry has always valued the entrepreneurial process–idea, technology, financing, development, customers, profit, and investor liquidity. In the new agenda we must discuss what needs to be done. We must prepare for all the scenarios of using technology. We must balance the current rights and freedoms with new levels of security and policy for free individuals.
At AGENDA we will all ask questions. How can it be that we live in an era where doomed passengers recognizing their fates were able to call family members once the planes were hijacked? The “real time” information that those heroes received on United Airlines flight 93 saved countless lives in Washington, D.C. The real irony, however, is that although people on that plane were able to say their last goodbyes, we don’t have the software and interconnected systems to inform us that the plane had been off course for 30 minutes or more before crashing. Conversely, people in New York City couldn’t use their mobile or office phones and had to rely on email and instant messaging.
Let’s face it; we don’t have a real-time interoperable software environment. Our Internet environment is reliable and “always on,” yet we don’t have the software advances and interconnected intelligence to make these systems work in real time. The prospects for real-time software technology today are light years behind the advances in global telecommunications and networking. We need secure standards in order to develop real-time interoperable computing.
The right software technology should have prevented or at least notified the authorities of those hijacked planes. We need new security solutions. Maybe we should adopt simple schemes like we see on sites such as eBay– schemes where you get colored stars and you’re reliable and trusted. Seriously, we should be issuing secure digital identities for every American and have a kind of Mobil Speedpass for travelers. We need a policy that is a balance between cyber-surveillance and individual freedom. We need software that can connect various systems and networks together. We need to do more.
Comments in the industry support the need for better technology and thinking. Tim Berners Lee responded to the events by saying, “The Net could have done better….I’d like to see the Web integrated with peer-to-peer protocols to make the whole infrastructure more resilient.” We need to accelerate our development of software and security technologies. We are at ground zero of the information technology and security era. The agenda has changed.
The private sector and governments must take an inventory of where we are as an industry and assess where we are going. People are saying that New York City should build the World Trade Center bigger, better, stronger and higher than ever before. We in the computer industry should, must, are obligated to, need to, and are called to mirror that point of view and build a bigger, better, stronger and more secure industry than before. For the leaders of our industry this is a time for inspiration, leadership and action.
We have a moral imperative and social responsibility to work together. We as an industry must re-architect and build the policies and technologies to go beyond our current view. Many problems will arise from these past events; solutions will rise as well. They must come from one united industry striving for prosperity, new breakthrough ideas, technology innovations, and profit–through the necessary prism of winning a war and keeping our society safe. We must demonstrate the leadership and courage to make it come true.
The agenda has changed.
God bless those families who lost friends and loved ones on September 11, 2001.
Palo Alto, California