For the past 30+ years technology has made an explosive entrance into the rest of the world from the West. First off, I would personally like to express my sincere gratitude for the dedication and sacrifice that many individuals went through to improve technology. This ranges from the founders of Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, and tons of other organizations. They have pushed us from an obsessively bulky computer trying to interpret simple mathematic equations, to massive super computers processing petabytes of data in minutes, interpreting / predicting human behavior, driving vehicles without assistance, etc.
I remember sitting down in front of my first computer listening to the awfully entrancing dial-up tone. Each time the tone ended in success, my world expanded just a little more into this massive world of the internet.
However, in its explosive power, it has also brought with it an overpowering movement of destructive globalization.
It's hard to see this at first glance... I grew up in the States and lived in Southern California working for some top notch advertising / web agencies. At that time I was still working with super-beta versions of NodeJS, Cassandra, and way back when Flash was hot. We, as a tech community, have come a long way since then.
I was reading this poem the other day by Robert Frost:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
These two roads, in this situation, are the Middle East and the West. Let me explain...
America is the daughter of a both freedom and post modern revolutions. They are "boundless" in their eyes. As Craig Storti puts it, "Americans [are] at Work". They desire to automate and innovate, create and refine, achieve success at any cost. They want to be creative, do things no one has ever done before, and push through all the hard times and barriers. They will say, "Nothing can stand in my way, because I have willpower and live in a land of opportunity."
There is another road, a road that sounds much different than that of the West. While it exists in other countries, I want to focus on Arabs and the road on which they walk...
Both the West and the East are walking their own roads. The West seems to be walking on the road of innovation and technology, while the East walks a road of community and war. For as long as we could remember, there has always been war in this region. Roman emperors have come and gone, Ottoman Sultans have come and gone, and even earlier civilizations and empires have come and gone.
In midst of all of these trials and conquests, there are moments of glory where Arabs have contributed great things to the world. For instance, Arabs were one of the first people groups to popularize the number "0" in our numeric systems giving us the ability to not have to write our phone numbers like (DCCVII) CMLXXXVII-VIII CDLXXII! Arabs are brilliant, and have such a value for historical innovation.
However, things have changed. In a poem by Anes Shushan, he lays out how the current state of affairs is in the Arab world:
He talks about how we are focusing on all of our differences and creating these barriers of racism, sexism, etc. He talks about following the west blindly, and how we need to see each other as human.
I was talking with my friend recently about innovation in the Middle East. He looked at me and told me that one of the cities in Jordan had made it into the Guinness Book of World Records! I was amazed and asked him what it was for --- he told me, "most internet cafes on one street."
Something happened... What made everyone want to open up the exact same shop, right next to your neighbor? Is this what creativity looks like?
There are also tons of websites that popup in Arabic that are ONLY mimicking a website from the West. Companies that only mimic companies in the West...
I think that there is an iceberg of untapped potential in the Arab world.
If Anes is right, if Arabs are just following the West blindly, then nothing will change and they will become more and more western. The West, however, is "deprecating" morals that are still held by the Middle East. Now, I argue, the Middle East has something very special to offer...
I am here in the Middle East. I want to unlock this potential. Some may say that the Middle East is walking down a the slower road, and the West is on the highway (per Robert Frost's poem). But I would argue that the Middle East is walking down a road that just looks different... It feels different... It smells different... And will have different successes that will be equal to or greater than that of the West.
How do we tap into this potential in a culturally appropriate way and not in the way an American would do it?
We are now taking the road not taken.