A Conspiracy to Demand Excellence

Conspiracy theorists amuse me–except when I’m attempting to do real work and they call me to beg that I take their case.

Lately, the big conspiracy is that smart phone manufacturers, service providers, and the government are all conspiring to track each individual American. I called bullshit on this a while back, and I still do. Having minored in computer engineering as an undergrad, I understand the challenges of creating computer-based systems and maintaining certain historical data in order to allow the system to operate at the optimum level. Plus, those struggling with thousands (and sometimes millions) of pages of code to allow us to own gee-whiz stuff are undoubtedly going to overlook something. Lord knows, I had a hard enough time debugging 10 pages of code (I got a C- on that assignment). It is infinitely more tedious than reviewing a trial record for appellate issues.

I don’t get upset when folks run around, hair afire, screaming conspiracy. It’s all part of the freakshow. What does upset me are mistakes that compromise our ability to remain private. This is also part of the freakshow, but it can do some serious, irreparable harm.

A friend of mine, Terry Howerton, sheds some light and reason upon this situation during an interview with a TV station in Chicago. Terry is a fellow Eagle Scout, and I’ve known him since the mid-80s. Currently, he is the president of the Illinois Technology Association.

Speaking of tech, there are a lot of wannabes and fanboys out there. They are the folks who purport to understand the innards of each latest piece of tech, and they delight in showing you how you should become a slave to some gadget. Terry is not one of these. He believes that tech should work for us, but only when necessary. He thinks that tech should improve and change to suit us, not the other way around.

He is the real deal. Where many people in Chicago complain about the state of the public school systems, Terry is actually doing something about it. The magnum opus of his labors is the Chicago Tech Academy, a magnet school designed to provide opportunities to incoming high school students from low-income families.

What a novel concept. A person actually doing something to help others and demanding a high level of commitment and accountability in the process.

Oh, you might also hear him mention “mentors.” At 3:35 into this clip, he starts rolling. He characterizes it as a “hard” program. He notes the need for long hours. He requires commitment, and if a person lacks total dedication, “get out of the way.”  He talks about the necessity of high expectations. Imagine that, and he’s only talking to prospective high school students, not professionals.

Speaking to those who may lack full dedication to education and learning: “If you’re not that student [with full commitment], I wish you well, but I also wish you to leave.”

I think we’ve heard similar things from someone in the legal industry.

If you demand excellence, you’re eventually going to get it.

If you disagree, fear not. All you need to do is click your heels three times, say “it’s all a conspiracy” with each click, and you’ll find yourself back in bed wrapped in the same musty blanket that’s covered you for years.


2 thoughts on “A Conspiracy to Demand Excellence

  1. Eric,

    I disagree with the first part of your post. There is no conspiracy with respect to the tracking. Simply reality. It is far easier to do than you’d think, and modern data centers exist to house, parse, and cull through the data. The real amusing part is that journalists have just now realized this is going on and have made a big stink.

    Whether the government wants the data or is complicit in the collection of it is moot. The people who really want the data are advertisers and marketers. It is a potential gold mine. Certainly neither conspiritorial nor much of a logical leap to realize that if someone bothers to collect the data, the government (i.e., a saavy AUSA) will eventually realize that the data exists and will attempt to get access to it for some reason or another.

    If you want a smart phone, submitting to data collection is part of the cost you presently pay to subsidize the price and have access to gee whiz apps for little or no cost. This is similar to the “free” use of google or gmail. Moral of the story is just be aware of the tradeoffs you are making, because not much in this world is really free … Oh, and leave your Android or your iPhone at home when you head out on a bank heist.

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