Since JavaOne is in San Francisco, I used the chance that I am in the Bay Area and visited a friend, that I had not seen a few years, in Fresno. We ended up hacking around and watching documentaries on DVD. One particular documentary that made quite an impression on me was Zeitgeist Addendum. You can watch it here on the blog but beware it has full-movie length.
In Zeitgeist Addendum the author evaluates how things tick today by looking at our system and the society. He starts by looking at the global financial system and how it is doomed to fail sooner or later. In the second part, someone talks about how small countries are controlled and corrupted by organizations in the worlds leading countries. It becomes apparent that this system will never change by itself. The last two parts, which I found most interesting, talk about alternatives to our current society structures. There is the Venus Project as a different society experiment. It is shown how different things are handled in the Venus Project than they are in our current society.
One of the biggest problems today is that we live in a profit orientated society. You need money to survive. Companies need to make more money every year. A lot of bad things we see in our world today are directly connected to the profit orientated society. The destroying of our worlds environment. The wars that countries fight against each other. In Zeitgeist Addendum it is proposed that the profit based system must be weakened for mankind to move on. Today, environmental friendly technology is held back or killed by competition just to make more profit. The solution to a lot of problems are not politicians but technology. How can I help?
This is where I think even as a, maybe unimportant, Java developer you can help. Because this is what we create – technology. Start being a better developer. Educate yourself. Read a book at least once in three months. This will give you new ideas, this will motivate you, this will maybe help you to be more efficient, to create more in a shorter time. Help other developers around you. Do not think about why you should help or teach them. Do not be jealous to what they have and you don't. Do not be angry why they get away being inefficient every day. Give them something back instead, from what you have learned and therefore help others to become better and more efficient too.
Automate things you are doing repeatedly and slow you down. If you spent 3 hours every week, looking at various log files, investigating why something did not work as expected - create something that will make it easier and more efficient for you. First of all, you will learn something while you do it. Secondly, if you only need 30 minutes instead of 3 hours, you have gained 2 ½ hours in which you can work on something more challenging - maybe the next MapReduce algorithm.
Support the community. Participate in writing open source software. Give answers to other peoples questions. Write a blog. Publish the super-cool code snippet you have written, so that others save time. How can this help to weaken the profit based, monetary system? Well, maybe your answer to some question, your code, your open-source plugin will be used by someone else to create better technology. Technology that will makes it possible to travel faster using renewable energies, so that we don't need airplanes anymore. Or you indirectly help to create software that examines data intensive DNA patterns and cancer can be cured.
Start using Linux. Almost everything that you do on a Windows powered machine, you can do using free software and Linux too. By using Linux and showing others (developers, family) how easy it is to use, or that it even exists, you help weakening the influence of Microsoft. I do not say Windows is bad, it is really great even. It just costs too much and Microsoft has for a long time leveraged the fact that there was no alternative. Unfortunatly an OS is something every computer needs. You cannot sell it for a couple of hunded bucks. Come on. Support the idea of free software. Imagine a world in which software is free and everyone has access to it. So many people that could help creating new, helpful technology.
Support companies creating modern technology like Google. Even though Google is a profit orientated company, they have in the last years given so much great stuff out for free. Take Google App Engine. Isn't it great to have a place that does not cost you anything, where you can put your own Python slash Java applications and share it with others? Take the MapReduce paradigm I mentioned earlier. Google has shared it with others. It can now be leveraged by till example Health Researchers for data mining. There is a backside of the coin though. Google is dominating search. The world of search is paralyzed. People are searching for contents like they did in 1999. There cannot be new development in search if everyone uses Google. Think about alternatives, even though it hurts, I know :)
You work in IT. You are making probably more money than the average salesman in your town. Think about switching to energy providers offering energy from renewable sources. This will likely costs more. It can even be that the energy is not from a renewable source at all (some people call that cheating by the way). But it will create awareness if people start paying extra for nice energy. As more and more people will hop on, companies will fully shift renewable energy. They will invest into renewable energy and it will become cheaper. Start to turn off computers when you are not using them. I had mine always running during the night. Probably because I was lazy to turn them off or I wanted to save time turning them on again next day. Save yourself some money and some non-renewable energy.
Alright now it seems to be getting too far off. Just watch Zeitgeist Addendum and think about it. I am off for JavaOne now.