January 14, 2009  ·  Lessig

From the op-ed in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal by IBM chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano, “Let’s Spend on Broadband and the Power Grid“:

We shouldn’t undertake projects simply for the sake of creating economic activity. Rather than just stimulate, we should transform.

The point could be made more strongly: If we’re lucky, we get the chance for this kind of transformation once a generation. It would be a scandal on the scale of the last 8 years to fritter it away.

  • http://blogs.cisco.com John Earnhardt

    Cisco CEO John Chambers stated much the same in an op-ed in this past Sunday’s San Jose Mercury News. He states, in part: “Our economic challenges are too dire to merely rely on Band-Aids. It’s time to broadband our economy. The innovation, the productivity and the growth that is possible with a proper broadband infrastructure is nearly limitless. The time to act is now. Doing so will not only help stabilize and stimulate a recovery but create the foundation for long-term prosperity and competitiveness.” Full op-ed here: http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_11425709

  • DB

    Don’t you think it’s a little hypocritical to support both dumb pipes and smart grids?

  • http://spaz.mindstab.net Mike Levens

    @DB; Why would it be? “smart grids” don’t aim to do any of the nasty, anti-competitive stuff that smart routers do; power is already pretty much universally billed for by the watt-hour, so electrical providers don’t suffer from the same conflicts of interests that the telcos do.

  • Rick

    Hear! Hear! An excellent piece. Thanks. Let’s hope we can get the youth on board with these concepts ASAP. They’ve got the new knowledge, the new ideas, and the energy to effect transformation that they will have to live with.
    Toward that end, let’s make sure we don’t leave our middle and lower class kids behind educationally. With the cost of higher education going through the roof in these economic times the current high school seniors will have a hell of a time getting to college. Progressives and moderates should recogize that we’re facing a near-term future in which higher education, even good quality high school education, is solely the province of the rich and famous. The result may well be (in realitively short order) a population of professionals and leaders that is disproportionately conservative relative to the general population.

  • Jardinero1

    Who’s we? I didn’t vote for transformation. How do I opt out of this tyranny?

  • http://www.asmarterplanet.com adam christensen

    Glad you saw that op ed (I’m from IBM). I agree your assertion that this point needs to be made more strongly. Though of all the ideas being bounced around on how to spend the proposed stimulus, it does seem that smart grids and broadband (in that order) have the most consensus. I’m not sure yet what exactly will come from the recommendations we gave to the Obama team, but we are optimistic the message was well received. Certainly they’ve heard from a number of people on this (like Cisco, from John’s comments above). The Gridwise alliance also published some research last week that was very consistent with what IBM, Cisco and others are seeing – that an investment in creating a smart grid would create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the first year alone.

    I’d also say that I think your estimation of this being a once in a generation opportunity is exactly right. Dramatic circumstances seem to be about the only way to create dramatic opportunities. Otherwise, all that will result are incremental improvements. And when it comes to things like smart grids… incremental changes don’t do anything.

    To Rick’s point about hoping youth understand the need… maybe this will help (a light-hearted animation we did on the need for smart grids: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gu5vis8y3I … enjoy…)

  • Rick

    @Jardenaro1: Then tell us what you DID vote for.

    @Adam: Thanks for the YT link; good video. It’s nice to see a major player thinking out of the box and beyond Wall Street. Dare I hope for corporate social conscience? Somebody pinch me! :)

  • http://xmlhacker.com/ M. David Peterson


    >> I didn’t vote for transformation.

    A lot of people voted for someone or something that didn’t win.

    >> How do I opt out of this tyranny?

    Move to Canada?

  • http://blendedpurple.blogspot.com purple

    To me, the tone of the IBM editorial was one of an industrialist fighting to get government money over his competitors.Almost everyone has access to broadband; people that don’t purchase it can’t afford it. Maybe they are talking about a universal wi-fi. But again, the same people who can’t afford broadband don’t have laptops with ‘airport’. And free universal wi-fi would ignite major turf battles across industries. The numbers listed don’t sound alarming – 14th in broadband penetration is not bad considering the size of our country. Yes, it could be better. But improving wages and wage distribution is the key.

  • http://skilfulminds.com Larry Irons

    Anything short of decentralizing the production of energy will fail to qualify as transformational IMHO…

  • http://www.socialsecuritybullshit.com Steve Baba

    Didn’t France do this in the 1980s?

    Had the best pre-Internet connectivity.

    A total waste.