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Cloud or No Cloud, the US is Doomed

Time to Lay Off the Cheetos, Actually and Intellectually

"It is important to stress that we see a one-year cyclical bounce in U.S. economic growth as a result of these monetary and fiscal policy measures, but also, that structural issues remain unaddressed, including the persistence and nature of elevated unemployment and extremely high public and private debt levels," Saumil Parikh, a managing director at a major bond trader, said in recent comments published in the Toronto Globe & Mail.

This article further noted that "analysts predict the U.S. economy will slow again in 2012...the U.S. economy will struggle to reach 3 per cent for several years starting in 2012."

Translation: We're doomed!

Reasons for Pessimism
The US economy is not coming back anytime soon. Three decades of a rusting industrial base, an incresingly morbidly obese population, along with consumer spending habits that are unique in the world--and the world's dependence on them--have conspired to lay the US low, in a way that may not be fixable, ever.

Add to this the very unhealthy global habit of dependence on US military might--the US military budget is about 40% of the world total and larger than the next 30 countries combined--and it looks like Lady Luck has finally left the table.

I was struck by a pair of articles that appeared next to one another in the Manila Bulletin in mid-December: one noted that 90% of Filipinos were optimistic about their economic prospects in the coming year, while the other noted that 90% of Americans were pessimistic about theirs.

Per-capita income in the US is about 30 times that of the Philippines, even when adjusted for the lower cost of living in the latter. Ingrained corruption and poverty, maddening traffic, and dominance of all things by a very small number of families in the Philippines can make a Westerner throw his or her hands up in despair.

Yet the Philippines is the optimistic place, a place that has seen much progress in recent years (particularly in building out its IT infrastructure and job opportunities related to it).

In contrast, Americans know their country is in big trouble. The quote that started this article refers to Christmas shopping in the US that was higher than forecast, shining a little bit of light into a room that's been very dark for the past two years. Additional light seems to be coming from Wall Street, which had a good year.

When Does the Cavalry Arrive?

But the Wall St. results seem to be based on some very short-term thinking that aimed to boost profits after a disastrous 2009, rather than any sort of long-term planning. And in the past, we could count on technology to ride to the rescue, regardless of what was happening on Wall St. at any particular time.

Maybe Cloud Computing can do this. Let's all hope for this, because the US is no longer the most competitive place on earth, nor the healthiest, best educated, most innovative, or leader in any category in any recent survey I've seen. This is not only bad news for the US, but for the world. If the US cannot lead, who will?

I see no prospects of leadership from the US Congress: Senate leadership involves a pair of uninspiring hacks, and the House has swapped out an idealogue for an apparent alcoholic. When it comes to technology, expect more talk of Internet kill-switches and other ways to control the Web rather than anything remotely positive.

Leadership may emanate from the White House, from a President who was savvy enough to appoint a "CIO-in-Chief" who continues to tout the Cloud's potential.

Not Pretty and Not Too Smart

Yet there continues to be someting ceaselessly tawdry about how the US presents itself to the world, not only through its political debate, but through its entertainment and major television media.

On the first score, I was struck by a laughable contrast of values during the recent Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito fight in Dallas: we saw the Philippine national anthem sung by a beautiful young woman in formal dress and demeanor (who sang beautifully), followed by three young American women in classless Dallas Cowboy cheerleader outfits (who at least sang well), followed for some reason by some guy grabbing his crotch and "singing" soporifically about something or another.

As far as US TV media are concerned, the less said the better. It's worth noting that if you can get the CNN International or Bloomberg feed while traveling outside of the US, you won't be embarrassed about your country. If things kick back to the regular CNN feed or any other US network, it's time to find the BBC, Deutsche Welle, or anything else. It's also time to wonder what's happened to America.

A new low occurred on Christmas Eve, when two CNN newsreaders couldn't handle the demands of covering Santa's journey (they had trouble placing the Philippines and other countries within, you know, Asia), but did fill a few minutes of airtime with the sort of unintelligible babble that will surely keep any aliens who watched it from visiting Earth, out of fear of being contaminated by stupidity.

How Are Our Friends Doing?

Meanwhile, the Eurozone has been under great pressure recently. But as a BBC commentator recently pointed out, its biggest economy, that of Germany, has been an ironic beneficiary of all the Euro-trouble; German manufacturing success is so pronounced that if there were still a Deutsch Mark, it would now be valued so highly that the latest German economic miracle would've died on the vine.

So the troubles in Ireland, Greece, and elsewhere have kept the Euro's value low enough to continue German economic might and to keep the zone's collective head above water. A counter-example may be provided soon enough by Switzerland, a country that is not part of the Eurozone and which has a currency so strong that it's driven the price of a simple cup of coffee to almost $8 US. I'll have to pass on that Patek Philippe watch, thanks.

Tech Might Help Here

Technology may be able to come to the rescue in Europe, which does not have the US's fatal trade weakness with China--the Eurozone imports less than a third as much from China as does the US, and German exports to China are about 80% of its imports.

Although Europe's 20th-century was historically abysmal, the old place is making a comeback in geopolitical importance as a counterweight to the foreign misadventures and cultural insipidity from the US.

In the face of excruciating economic pressure, its countries remain steadfast in maintaining their modern tradition of expensive citizen safety nets (helped in no small part by minor defense budgets). Something has to give, some new efficiencies simply must present themselves here. I would hope that the efficiencies of Cloud Computing can therefore present themselves in a major major way over the next few years, at least in the enterprise computing sphere.

One can hope for rational discourse on this topic throughout Europe, if current political discussions are a guide: for example, none of its nationally elected politicians seem to believe that humans shared the earth with dinosaurs.

Moving Further East...and South

In Asia, North Africa, and to some degree Latin America, Cloud Computing is the key for countries to catapult their way out of developing-nation status. One can only hope that the entrenched elites and sclerotic bureaucracies in these parts of the world are slapped into awareness of the opportunity.

In this vein, a recent exercise I started called the Tau Index sought to find the most aggressive IT deployers in the world. North Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia as a whole were the big winners.

Sadly, there did not seem to be a correlation between democratic institutions and IT-driven economic progress. One can hope that such a trend is underlying and will emerge.

One can also hope that the United States, somewhere along the way, emerges from its Cheeto-infested intellectual and actual diets, to become the leader it once was.  Otherwise, as this article stated in its opening paragraphs, we're doomed.

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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