Biking in to work the other day I heard an underwriting pitch from IBM, touting its new campaign, or slogan, or website, call it what you will, for "A Smarter Planet." Oh boy. Now we’re going to teach the planet new tricks, show it where evolution has fallen short.
Don’t you guys get it? It’s not the planet that lacks smarts, it’s the human race. We should learn from natural systems, pattern human society on systems that work, are sustainable and don’t foul their own nests. (Semirelevant aside: Paul Hawken just gave a lovely commencement speech to a group of graduates in Portland. Among many interesting things he said was, Do you realize that humans are the only species on the planet that do not have full employment? Worth pondering. The whole speech is quite wonderful and uplifting in fact.)
So I went to the IBM site for the smarter planet and it’s not as bad as I feared.
In fact, it’s about making various human endeavors—health care, transportation, and so on smarter, and who can argue with that? Chock full of graphs and charts, very slick. One thing caught my eye. It says that it costs eight times as much to have a person renew her driver’s license in person as it does for her to do it on-line. And that reminded me of another snippet from this morning’s deluge of news: Governor Arnold, desperate to keep California from going broke, says we can save $300-some million by doing away with textbooks in the public schools and moving the books on-line. Something deeply disturbing about that.