iStock_000004765983XSmall.jpgIn case you missed it, the financial and political leadership of the United States is busy right now on a little emergency debug project: recode Global Capitalism 2008 before the whole damn thing goes fail whale.
The Programmer in Chief said in the White House Rose Garden this morning, “This is a pivotal moment for America’s economy,” flanked by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Since these guys are kind of old, not working for options (they already own the stock) and don’t like having to work weekends, the rewrite is going to be expensive: a trillion dollars. That’s even more than Google’s worth.
[from the AP:] “I figure it will be at least half a trillion,” Shelby, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, said in an ABC television interview of a plan being put together by US authorities.
“But if you look at what the Fed has already done, and the extension of power to Treasury to deal with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, I believe we’re talking about a trillion dollars,” he said.
Senate Banking committee chairman Chris Dodd said: “I’ve been here 28 years. To listen to the language of last evening, we maybe were days away from a complete meltdown of our financial system.”
I don’t know if the new rewrite is going to go over like the recent redesigns of Facebook and Twitter, but I do know two things are going to be generated in copious amounts: fear and opportunity.
There’s lots of fear to go around – will you have a job Monday, will people still be subscribing to your web app, will the rewrite work? What if the whole damn global thing just… Stops. Working?
It’s kind of like living in a city that could be a terrorist target (and what city isn’t?), or the good old days of Mutually Assured Destruction with enough ICBMs a hair trigger away from launch to turn Earth into a dead mudball (they still are, by the way). You’d better get used to the fear – it’s not going away soon.
And there’s opportunity.
Whatever shakes out in the rewrite, whoever makes off with the most dough (round up the usual suspects…), I think there’s going to be a lot of rethinking going on. Getting hit with a (financial) tsunami will do that. Rethinking means change, and change is opportunity.
A lot of people – say 3 billion – are going to be incentivized to just maybe look at things a little differently over the days, weeks and years as the rewrite gets deployed. That might just create an opportunity for your startup or microISV that wasn’t there before.
You can wait for the wave to pass, to see what everyone else thinks of the rewrite, but by then most of the opportunity will have dried up.
Instead, maybe – just maybe – you can find opportunity this little rewrite job is going to open up and leap into it. Maybe you go splat. But just maybe you don’t. The costs of trying today are lower, and the rewards are greater and faster than ever before. Opportunity is scary too – you just have to live with the fear and get on with what you need to do.
Are you going to ride the top of the wave, or let your fear freeze you until the wave comes crashing down on your head?


  1. I like the perspective of your post. I wrote a similar piece a while ago, drawing parallels between legislation and code, called Refactoring the System:
    There’s also been an interesting post at RRW on the current financial crisis:
    Something I’d like to point out is that the current situation shatters the prevailing republican ideology that’s been driving policy lately, and I say “republican” as opposed to “conservative” because it hasn’t been at all “fiscally conservative”:
    What the right-wing pundits have been preaching, that “regulation is evil”, and “the market knows best”, has been proven to be catastrophic when followed to its extreme. The market always operates within a system of constraints imposed by governments, and when those constraints are removed, things start to spiral. For years investment banks and lending intuitions had strict requirements in the amount of assets they had to back their loans. These rules were established to prevent another great depression. But over the past few decades lobbyists for these industries have had more influence in legislation and have successful removed these checks and balances, resulting the house of cards we have today.
    Bush’s presidency was the first time in decades that the republican’s have run both houses and the executive, and for the first time we can see the true affect of their ideologies. The period of growth after the dot-com burst was the first ever that the middle class’s income actually dropped. And with all of these bail outs, by the end of his presidency Bush will have effectively doubled the national debt to $10 trillion. By international standards, Obama and Clinton are moderate in terms of economic policy. Their philosophy is characterized but balance, sensible regulation that doesn’t inhibit growth, and tax policy that doesn’t cause a spiraling income inequality.

  2. Many have written on the fear side of all of the financial events over the last week; few have written about the opportunities that will also come, including those on the stock market.
    Nice catch.

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