Last night I was reading the viewers comments on an “Economist” article about the war in Afghanistan. There were many comments by viewers from different parts of the world, from America, Japan, India, China, Pakistan. They were discussing the futility of war and debating their ideas. I was amazed how technology has made it possible for people from all over the world to exchange ideas and discuss opinions online and instantly. This was unthinkable merely 20 years back. I was reading this while taking break from working on our latest product (I am an engineer at Infinera, a leading manufacturer of optical switches). This new feature that I am working on will make the internet faster, cheaper and better. Then suddenly it hit me that my work is directly contributing to this amazing phenomenon of global communication.
Today we take the Internet for granted and tend to think of it as a tool to pay phone bills, transfer money or buy air tickets. All these things are very important because they optimize our usage of natural resources thereby reducing the strain on Mother Nature. But the Internet is much more than that. Its bigger contribution is communication and ability to exchange ideas. It is used by Arab revolutionaries to organize protest marches, it is used by pacifists to stop politicians from starting wars, it is used by charitable organizations to collect money that fights hunger and eliminates disease. And we help in all these efforts by making the Internet available. How much more gratifying can someone’s job be? When people ask me why I don’t donate for charity or do voluntary work for the underprivileged, I do not have a good answer. But now I realize that my work helps more people than I can ever dream of by doing such voluntary activities. Agreed I get paid for my work. But nonetheless, it has more impact than any charity work that I can do.
Karl Marx and Adam Smith tried to create a more just and humane world with their revolutionary ideas. Their intention was noble and their vision was revolutionary. But they could not achieve it because they did not have the necessary tools to make that change. What these visionaries could not achieve, we, a ragtag army of Indian software engineers, are achieving. We are helping to make the world more just, more humane, more egalitarian, more harmonized than ever before, one bug at a time, one feature at a time. Our work is helping people to stop war, eliminate disease, fight hunger, uproot injustice, every day, every hour, every minute.
The Internet has more impact on our society that any other invention in human history. Fifty years from now, people will look back and see what a change our work has brought to human civilization. It is more profound than any other period ever. And we are the foot soldiers of that revolution. So let’s take pride in what we do. We are making this happen, with our blood, sweat and tear. (May be not! We don’t sweat because we work in air-conditioned offices, we don’t shed blood and I have never seen any software engineer crying for work. May be some :)