The Theory on Why Important Problems Get Solved in Downturns.
For over a year a team of engineers and I worked part time to solve a 20 year problem that has been destroying democracy. While I financed the project and worked nearly full time hours, my team has had to work in sprints because it is hard to survive these days without putting food on the table even for software engineers in Costa Rica. I looked for co-founder engineers in United States, and elsewhere and as a result I have come to realize one important thing about tackling big and important problems: no one wants to touch them when things are going economically well.
A husband who has a CS degree and kids, has no interest in solving the problem of news media going out of business and electorate becoming misinformed and journalists loosing work when he can make $250k making another iPhone camera app for a company that just raised $10 million because those investors know for a fact that another camera or messaging or delivery gimmick will make money because another one did a month ago. Because clearly, the problem of fixing news media and democracy, may or may not, at least not in the short-term. At the same time the female whiz who could solve the problem for an entire world of becoming educated will post an uplifting quote about saving the world on Facebook but she won’t turn down $150k from Twitter or Google to monetize our personal information better for a company that will pour millions into another SuperPAC.
For all the talk of millennials and Gen X do on social media about caring about the world, it is a lot easier to see what they actually care about, and it isn’t hard to know as all you need to do is follow the money.
However, come downturn, when they are all being put out on the street by large and small corporations who are either loosing money or burned through their stash. Guess where they will be going? Guess who will be idealistic at that point. And guess what company will still be trying to change the world?
This is why Intel, Paypal, Microsoft, Tesla and SpaceX all came out of recessions. Now this is just a theory of mine, but my guess is it is because that was the time when the CEO’s of those companies all of a sudden had a choice of talented engineers who had no other place to go because every company that chased an easy buck had gone belly up, and the only ones still in the game, were those crazy enough to want to do something important and serious enough about using their talents to tackle the important problem our society faces. That’s when they decide to change the world in a meaningful way.
So if you are superficial but talented programmer, I look forward to your resume in about a year when the bubble bursts and you need a job. But if you are talented and you care to use your time on this earth on things that matter even when it isn’t convenient or risky: contact me, we can’t waste time as we have a world to change.