Why sysadmins will inherit the earth.

Who's the king?

The age of monarchy

well originally the king was king. The monarchs reign was absolute. Considered divinely ordained, their power bestowed by God, (or the Gods) him/herself.

Japanese emperors, Egyptian Pharaohs went a step further, mad as lords the lot of them. They must have noticed the lack of any discernible super-powers every morning they woke up with a hangover. Probably that's half the reason for mutilating their servants is to prevent them gossiping about their obvious lack of hangover curing super power.

The age of religion

But for a while the religionists had the top spot.

When the some mad religious coot can deliver a vague rant, and the result is that the major global powers send their armies off to some far flung desert to die, then you know that the Monarchs absolute grip on power has slipped.

There is loads of bollocks like this, with monarchs asking permission from the pope to marry, and needing the Popes blessing to maintain stable grip on power.

The age of parliament         (or democracy, or "reason" maybe?)

Or when parliament makes all the rules.

The English civil war ended the stitch up between church and monarch to split power between them, and established the principle that the monarch governs with parliaments consent.

After this, parliament goes absolutely bonkers making rules about everything, and then the British empire takes over the whole shooting match, and makes rules for everyone else as well.

And where the British were not measuring, recording, and writing rulebooks the French were at it, a la Universel Temps Coordonné 

The age of Oil

You only have to read the wikipedia article on Henry Kissinger and middle east politics to understand that almost every international political decision and war of the last 70 years was about control of natural resources.

There is no point in even attempting an enumeration of the extent of the  influence and power of Oil, and that if you have got this far in this piece, and you don't agree then you are a fuckwit.

(That last one is a bit rude and aggressive, but it is succinct, and succinct goes a long way, its a bit like personality, in fact I should stop this sentence now)

Its pretty clear that we are not yet out of the age of Oil as king-maker, as the possibility of a war over falklands oil rights, further wars in the middle east and the Forbes most profitable companies list show.

Dawning of the age of the sysadmin

You may say, I understand the IT angle, but what about the developers?

I think that even though Linus Torvolds and Bill Gates have power, no one is obliged to use their software while there are alternatives.

There are loads of examples of attempted software power grabs, but everybody, said "NO, not for me!" and just ignored it.

Linux on the desktop is one example that the industry has been talking about for years, and no one wants it. Microsoft passport was another example of a software company trying to insert itself, and everyone just went "Not for me!" and fucked it off.

One analogy that springs to mind that contrasts developers and sysadmins, is related to an idea expressed by Mark Joshi in his guide "On becoming a Quant" though I have read it expressed in more depth elsewhere, (but I can't find the link right now) and that is that Quant programmers get paid more as their work gets "closer to the money". Hence programmers working on trading algorithms get paid more than developers working on allocation strategies, who in turn get paid more than back office systems developers.

The point is sysadmins are the closest to the money, they are the gatekeepers, the jailers, the accountants, and the lawyers of the IT world. And most importantly, they are the street policemen of the IT world.

You might pitifully wail about encryption and permissions, but basically someone has to install the encryption software, and someone has to set permissions, and that someone is a sysadmin.

But this principle spills over into every emerging facet of modern life,

  • Personal genomics is just one example of  you handing over the very essence of yourself to some anonymous sysadmin.
  • Can you imagine going into conflict with the U.S or china, without first crippling their theatre of war infra-structure? yes, get at their systems first, or nuke them. I think that would work also.
  • The search for new technology through AI is primarily a data crunching task.
  • autonomous vehicles, artificial body parts and ubiquitous networks are making us ever more reliant on sysadmins at a fundamental level.

I am sure you understand what I am getting at, which is that as we become more reliant on systems and networks, we become more reliant on sysadmins, and at some future point, your life will literally depend on your sysadmin.