A friend of mine is very smart, smart enough to graduate CalTech mathematics and make a living designing computer chips that operate faster than anything ever before created by man. We were discussing cognitive computing (think Dr. Watson of Jeopardy fame) and how it will be applied in everyday life. One of the current applications widely employed on Wall St is called Algorithmic Trading. It is a type of transaction where computers trade securities with little or no human input. This form of financial commerce has become so competitive and lucrative that many firms have migrated their computer servers next to and within the walls of major exchanges. The reason is simply that each foot of cable is equivalent to 1 nanosecond of order delivery time. 1 nanosecond. Their motivation is simple, money. My friend designs the chips that these computer servers require for faster transactions and none of this would be possible, not the trading, not Dr. Watson and not my good friend’s chosen field without one simple common denominator, motivation.
You see, it is my opinion that the only thing preventing us as a self- governed people from elevating our nations stature in the world is our misuse of motivating forces within government. The private sector’s profit motive drives participants to beat a competitor by nanoseconds to capture 1/32 of a point on a security and yet we cannot find the motivating forces to rebuild infrastructure, improve education and health care delivery.
It is easy to spot and hammer down nail heads that stick up in plain view. Government employees who are perceived to be overpaid, firemen, police, teachers and even our elected representatives appear to be ready for the hammer, but I must remind you that they are citizens too with the same vote you and I have.
So the One Trillion dollar question isn’t who do we nail down, but rather how do we motivate participants within the public service to do the right thing within their individual organizations? Government cannot be operated like a corporation simply because if it is doing its job right, it will produce no profit. So money should not be the motivating force.
Maybe all we need to do is realize that money, budgets and deficit spending are not the arguments to be made when addressing our nation, our state, our county and our city budget woes, but rather we should be addressing pride of service, pride of work and pride of purpose. Otherwise, we may find ourselves getting nailed down not by our own hammer, but by someone else’s.