Reinterpreting your career based on changing patterns in IT infrastructure

I read this piece in the context of my work in the tech industry but what really fascinates me about it are the implications its arguments could have for industry, and professional life, in general.

Key quote:

Over the course of the 20th century, each industry developed its own vertical stack – research, design, development, production, marketing, sales, service, etc. Although there were essential forms of shared business infrastructure – electrical utilities, transportation systems and telephony services – most industry sectors were much more different than alike. . . . But today, significant chunks of the traditional vertical industry stack are being replaced by an ever more powerful digital fabric of horizontal services – the IT infrastructure equivalents of energy, transportation and telephony.

The four layers of this ‘digital fabric’ are identified by CSC as follows (image below):

  • Compute/store/connect
  • Identify/secure/transact
  • Publish/communicate
  • Sense/analyze/understand


It strikes me that these four stack categories (the four lower categories on the image above) can serve to support career development strategy for those of us who don’t have obviously-identifiable professions and can inform thinking about the (potentially less stable) future for those of us who do have such professions.

We won’t necessarily go to school to become “sense/analyze/understand” experts per se (though, who really knows?) but it does help me to reflect on the fact that that probably represents the part of the stack in which I, personally, operate. I know others who clearly work in the publish/communicate part of this metaphorical stack. We each have job skills that are potentially more easily transferable between different traditional industries than between different parts of the stack.

Again, a useful construct that may provide an inkling of how changing digital infrastructure could change the professional lives of many.

Conceptualizing privacy

"Journalists, politicians, jurists, and legal academics often describe the
privacy problem created by the collection and use of personal information
through computer databases and the Internet with the metaphor of Big Brother—
the totalitarian government portrayed in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Professor Solove argues that this is the wrong metaphor. The Big Brother
metaphor as well as much of the law that protects privacy emerges from a
longstanding paradigm for conceptualizing privacy problems. Under this
paradigm, privacy is invaded by uncovering one’s hidden world, by surveillance,
and by the disclosure of concealed information. The harm caused by such
invasions consists of inhibition, self-censorship, embarrassment, and damage to
one’s reputation. Privacy law has developed with this paradigm in mind, and
consequently, it has failed to grapple effectively with the database problem.
Professor Solove argues that the Big Brother metaphor merely reinforces this
paradigm and that the problem is better captured by Franz Kafka’s The Trial.
Understood with the Kafka metaphor, the problem is the powerlessness,
vulnerability, and dehumanization created by the assembly of dossiers of
personal information where individuals lack any meaningful form of
participation in the collection and use of their information. Professor Solove
illustrates that conceptualizing the problem with the Kafka metaphor has
profound implications both for the law of information privacy and for choosing
legal approaches to solve the problem."

Internet-related Thought of the Day: E-mail is “Real Work”

Many folks complain about how their e-mail stacks up and gets in the way of their doing ‘real work.’ I think that this common refrain misapprehends the role that many of us have in the information economy: that of Information Factory Floor Workers. That is, one of the principal responsibilities many of us have is to deliver information in the right quantity, in the right manner, via the correct medium, and at the right time.

The metaphor might not be glamorous but there is real skill and judgment involved in this task. The infinite line of ‘information widgets’ coming our way down the e-mail conveyor belt may be daunting but remains (for the meantime) a key way that many of us provide value in an increasingly digitized world.

Deep internet-related thought of the day

Facebook and social media are undermining a wide range of literary skills but they are building others such as, I would argue, certain kinds of contextual understanding.  I definitely feel that my ability to interpret a series of interspersed elliptical comments, and their relationships to each other has been enhanced dramatically over the past few years, from reading comment threads on Facebook.

I can imagine that one day, when social media is itself superseded as a common form of conversation (by, say, remote brain control), that there will be many pundits ruing the deterioration of the types of literary skills that I referenced above.  In other words, future generations may come to appreciate social media for the literary skills it promotes, rather than feeling despair at those it undermines.

Our Online Selves

The Economist, on the relevance of the fact that privacy issues do not line up neatly along the right-left divide:

The fact that these issues don’t have a clear ideological colouration yet is important because they are among the most crucial issues of the 21st cen
tury. They are crucial because our identities and social selves, in this century, increasingly reside online. They are crucial because money, in this century, increasingly accrues to holders of intellectual property, particularly to those who control the ways we engage in online commerce—the very same companies (Google, Yahoo, Apple, Verizon) that hold the databases which the NSA accesses via PRISM. In this century, digital knowledge is the key to both property and power. Good algorithms and massive amounts of data are what you need to have in order to succeed in retail, to defend your country from attack, or to run a successful presidential campaign.