Super Cities №208 — The World's Software Utilities

Brendan Hart

The world was supposed to crash the second 1999 became 2000.

At that very moment, when nines became zeros, computers everywhere would no longer recognize basic commands. Planes would be grounded. Banks would be unable to extend loans. Business systems would crash. Modern society would be a hellscape.

None of that happened. We moved on to Nickelback, MySpace, and Al Qaeda.

If the internet faced a similar threat right now, it would target Github, the world's software utility.

The most successful companies – Spotify, Cruise, Stripe, Facebook – and important organizations (e.g., NASA) store their source code on Github.

It is not hyperbole to say that the capitalist world's secrets live in code on Github. Microsoft paid $7.5 for Github's singular value as a software arms dealer. As Satya Nadella said at the time:

As every industry – from precision medicine to precision agriculture, from personalized education to personalized banking – is being impacted by technology, the developer community will only grow in numbers and importance ... Developers are the builders of this new era, writing the world’s code. And GitHub is their home.

As cities become "smarter," and people move their lives online, technology utilities – data, mobility, payments, food, health – will become more common and more powerful.

When done right, these utilities will do for people what Github did for developers: create enormous value by lowering costs, increasing ease-of-use, and generating better outcomes.

But for these very reasons, utilities will be prime targets.

Most of the scare will be Y2K hype, but we should be concerned about the technology infrastructures that enable, say, public transportation, water, and exchanges of data.

In the 21st century, utilities – both public and private – are society's hard shell and soft underbelly.

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