Bubbles

Large numbers of people joined the companies and culture that participated in the venture-capital-fueled dot-bomb, which was believed to be created by the vast potential that the Internet had to change many aspects of human interaction, business, and culture. For many, this personal involvement in discovery was the rationale for their participation. It turned out that the Internet does alter a great deal, but much more modestly and incrementally than was supposed then. The end of the boom created a large group of people, versed in technology, who no longer had a transformational, exciting focus in their work. The rebirth of the boom most recently has led to some of the same feelings, artifacts and parties, but this time instead of some illusion that there is nowhere to go but up there is the assumption that at some point the party will end, but still the enterprise is somehow one involved in ‘changing the world.’
Many have looked for a similar transformational experience in creating technology to help developing nations (as seen at the TED conference in 2002 with Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway device, demonstrating a water purification device). Others have joined politics (as documented in the _New York Times Magazine_ in “The Dean Connection,” in which many people have traded their devotion to creating new interactive software for electing Howard Dean). An older, but similar group of ex-liberals called the “neoconservatives” created a set of thinking about American power that informed much of the drive to invade Iraq; George Soros points out in _The Atlantic Magazine_ that this has the qualities of a “bubble” of American political power that was based on false precepts, and has now collapsed.
The drive to be involved in an enterprise that is personally meaningful and connected to helping others is a strong, and undoubtedly good, one. Working long hours and pouring oneself wholeheartedly into a community of others that share your passion for a single goal is powerful stuff. But despite the appeal of transformational events and communities, the larger world is often ignorant of the desires of a few people or the beauty of their dreams. In the case of faith in technology in general, a desire to solve the problems of the Middle East with American power, and especially in a project to defeat George Bush, those who wish for success need to combine their elaborate plans with more rigorous checking-in with those that are not part of the special group, or else they will suffer the same broken hearts as the dot-com boomers and many, many others before them.

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