Cringely on Egypt

I’ve been following the Robert X. Cringely columns since the 1980’s. He’s a well-connected and astute observer of the technical scene. This week he has an interesting take on the use of technology in the Egyptian revolution. He notes that most of the tweeting was about the protesters, not from the protesters. His position is that, like Europe in 1848 (Le Mis‘ anyone?), the regimes in the Middle East are corrupt and sedentary and ripe for revolution, and technology isn’t a major driver in the events.

Europe of the mid-1800’s was frozen in the form defined by the Congress of Vienna of 1815. After the paroxysm of the Napoleonic Wars, the rulers were all for peace and stability – and no-one worried about what the peasants and bourgeoise wanted. Things simmered quietly for over thirty years before exploding. Fast forward to the mid-1900’s and we find the world of the Middle East frozen in the form defined by agreements made after the paroxysms of the two world wars. Regimes were imposed, not elected, and the resulting corruption and peasant discontent may finally have cooked off sixty, not thirty years later. The delay is likely due to the impact of the Cold War.

So, in the Middle East and North Africa today, technology is an enabler and a recorder, but it may not be a driver. Revolutions are happening because the time for revolutions has come. As Heinlein said “when it’s time to railroad, people start railroading.”

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