Citizen Musk was King, Poor Citizen Musk

Consider this, people rode around on horses, lived in huts, read by firelight, and pooped in holes in the ground for thousands of years. People were still living by firelight, riding horses, and pooping in holes in the ground less than 150 years ago. The first electric lighting system went into service in 1883, about the same time that indoor plumbing came into being. The first commercial cars appeared about 50 years later in the early 1900’s, and a couple of decades later, we were flying on commercial airlines. The first commercial computers were a couple of decades later in the 1950’s as were the first commercial jets. In 1969 we landed on the moon and the 21st century took off. Finally, the world wide web came into being in 1990. All of these advances were propagated through the inventiveness of a small group of smarty pants inventors that created electric lights, the internal combustion engine, and the modern computer. The point I’m trying to make is that we went from pooping in holes to landing on the moon in about 100 years. With such monstrous advances in such a small mount of time, what is going to happen in the next 100. I won’t be there, but I am excited and anxious about the changes and the impact of those changes.

Most of the folks reading this blog were actually there at the beginning of the digital age. Also, many of those same people are completely clueless about most things digital, while our kids and grandkids have only known the digital age. Those same kids and grandkids spend some not insignificant amount of time tutoring their elders on the nuances of email, news readers, Twitter, Facebook and the like. “Mary, Grandpa is into the Twitter again and spouting off at the world!”. There are a few of us old people that were there and involved at the beginning of the digital age, and you know who you are. We were the ones that hooked up the cables, wrote the software, developed the hardware, and established the first protocols for communicating with one another in this wondrous digital age. Don’t expect a pat on the back from the rest of the world, as all that digital stuff is now accepted as having always existed. In fact some (many?) would say “Thanks for nothing”.

All of the changes that I have just identified were caused and enabled by people of means. People with lot’s of brains, lots of money, and lots of time on their hands. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Howard Hughes, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos are all names that come to mind when we think about who has shaped the last century. So my opinion is that the same sorts of people will continue to make all of that happen. You’re probably wondering about the title of this article. Well, Citizen Kane was a movie, starring Orson Welles, that depicted a monstrously wealthy media mogul who ruled the world by manipulating the media and those around them. He suffered through the stock market crash of 1929 and sold his media empire. On his deathbed he utters the words “Rosebud”, but no one has a clue as to what he is pining about. It turns out that after ruling and manipulating the whole world, his final memory was his happy childhood riding his snow sled that was named “Rosebud”.

What’s the next big thing that’s going to cause the next big jump forward? I don’t know, but I do have some ideas. I suspect that the next big advance will be in computer software, e.g. Artificial Intelligence. When machines can start making decisions, collecting data, and manipulating that data hundreds of thousands of times faster than any human, I believe that the end is near. As of this writing, Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, has just acquired Twitter, one of the most influential social media tools in the world. I don’t know about you, but I definitely see the parallels with Citizen Kane. What happens when Artificial Intelligence meets Social Media. As my dear old mom used to say …. “We’ll see”. A verse from the Bible comes to mind as I contemplate our future being in the hands of a small cabal of very wealthy and powerful individuals. All I can say is “remember Rosebud?”

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?