A collaborative search for wisdom, at Middle Tennessee State University and beyond...
"The pluralistic form takes for me a stronger hold on reality than any other philosophy I know of, being essentially a social philosophy, a philosophy of 'co'"-William James
How Plato's Cave got this guy to quit his "dream job"
Earlier this month, I left my position as editor of The Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal—what I once called my dream job—to join Oracle’s communications team.
My friends were stunned. “And what’s Oracle again?” they asked.
Which is exactly why I joined Oracle—not to educate my friends, but to get closer to the people who make and use technology. Not everyone needs to know what Oracle does. But they do need to understand how technology made by companies (including and often especially by Oracle) is changing the world. I want to help create that understanding.
As editor of CIO Journal, I enjoyed unparalleled access to some of the most interesting people in the IT industry, and some of the brightest business and political leaders around the world. But increasingly, it felt like I was a denizen of Plato’s cave.
You know the allegory—prisoners in a cave are chained from birth in such a way that all they can see are shadows on a wall projected from behind them, providing their only experience of reality. Plato argued that for most of us, our interpretations of reality are based on an equally fettered experience.
That’s a reporter’s vision of the world—subjective, two-dimensional, and limited by what people choose to share (even in the most intimate circumstances).
Journalists are at least twice removed from the essence of what they write about. Our readers are even further removed.
Meanwhile, technology is changing everything—including ourselves. The days of the Singularity—Ray Kurzweil’s idea of human and machine merging into one—are easier to visualize than ever.
But while it appears as if technology is the driving force in the world, it’s the people who use it who really count. Those are the people who interest me, and whom I want to understand more fully: the marketing manager who wants to get better at targeting her messages, the sales manager who wants to help his team get more productive, the doctor who wants to provide more accurate diagnoses, the city manager who wants to save taxpayers money and provide them with better services—these are the people I want to meet, the heroes whose stories I want to tell.
We are all of us on a Hero’s Journey, leaving our native lands and then returning with magical new powers that enable us to do good. Today, the magical power is technology; and each native land, each company, each problem, is unique—and are the stories I want to tell.
Economists Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee warn that humans are being displaced by advances in artificial intelligence in a growing number of fields. That’s one of the challenges of the ongoing technological revolution—ensuring that people remain the drivers and the beneficiaries of technology.
Technology is becoming the life blood of our society, and how we make use of it will determine what kind of lives we and our children live. Whether we harness software to improve medical care, prevent terrorist attacks, or help businesses create more wealth—or whether we allow technology to divide us more sharply and ultimately destroy us—is the defining issue of this generation.
I could continue writing about these issues from the safety of my cave, relying on others to project images on a wall for me to interpret. Instead, I’ll join one of the greatest technology companies in history and see for myself.
At the end of the day, writers serve to inform, to provide cautionary tales, and to inspire people to go beyond what they thought themselves capable.
In Plato’s view, philosophers were the ones who freed themselves from those chains and saw the world as it really is. I have no such pretensions, but I also don’t want to watch technological evolution while imprisoned in a cave, forced to take someone’s word for how it’s made and how it’s used. I want to observe it for myself, and to tell each hero’s journey of technological discovery. Including mine.