Clever gimmicks of mass distraction yield a cheap soulcraft of addicted and self-medicated narcissists. - Cornel West
America is addicted to wars of distraction. - Barbara Ehrenreich
The #1206 “fiction” series continues …
September – 2000 – New York City
In a nondescript, 12-story building on Madison Avenue in New York, the CTO of a fledgling start-up finished his presentation. His audience, a mix of suits from Washington, DC and a few senior military officials, eyed him carefully as he walked towards his seat and sat down.
“These results are impressive”, said the military officer at the head of the table. “It is extraordinary that the algorithms your company has developed can predict human behavior as it does. What I am more impressed with, however, and what we need are the algorithms that allow you to calculate the value of someone’s Life, whether they are capable of surviving an event of immense proportions, what people could contribute after the event and whether they are worthy of being saved at all.”
He paused for a moment and then looked at the report before him again before muttering “extraordinary” under his breath.
The CTO, his nerves finally settling down after having completed his presentation, nodded in acknowledgement. “The only thing missing”, he said, “is data. All of our subjects for the demonstration provided us with the data necessary for the algorithm. The data needed to predict the necessary factors for the entire American population does not exist in the form we need it in and possibly doesn’t exist at all.”
“So”, replied the officer at the head of the table, “If we could provide you with the data, you would be able to calculate what we need? Will the algorithm ever get stale where it has no meaning or applicability if we can’t get the data to you quickly enough?”
“The algorithm will always be relevant”, replied the CTO, “Whether you provide me with data now or in 15 years, it’s all the same to the algorithm.”
The officer pursed his lips, nodded silently and then stood up.
“This has been quite helpful”, he said, “Some day we will have an opportunity to test your theory. Until then, your corporate focus will be on human productivity and not human survivability. Got it?”
Without waiting for an answer, he strode out of the room as everyone else stood up to say goodbye to each other.
July – 2015 – Camp David
The leaders of the G8 sat around a conference room table and listened intently to a voice emanating from a telephone on the conference room table. It had been a week since the urgent communiqué had been sent to them and now a week later, they found themselves gathered at Camp David to receive an update on project Copperfield.
“As we explained to you and your predecessors more than a decade ago”, the voice continued, “The many difficulties your nations are experiencing are far too complex to solve and our solution to you thus remains as relevant today as it did when it was first recommended.”
“That may be so”, said the President of the United States, “but we are starting to find the plan harder to execute as more of our citizens are becoming unhappy with the results we are producing and the message we are giving them.”
“Do you really think it is getting harder to execute?”, asked the voice.
“Damn straight”, replied the President as he leaned in towards the phone, “The explosion in social media has enabled too many people with too many opinions to swirl around us. Message containment is not what it used to be. Between conspiracy clowns coming closer to the truth than they realize and a plethora of other idiots out there, sooner or later someone is going to figure out what is going on. There are too many unsolvable problems out there – hunger, disease, wars with no purpose, GMO foods, terror, climate change, sluggish economies. You name it and we are dealing with it and yet we know that there are no answers to any of these issues. We are more or less just public relations mouthpieces keeping the people fat, dumb and happy while assuring them that we have answers to all of their concerns while the reality is that we are just killing time waiting for your solution. For all of your promises, it is me and my colleagues around the table who are being forced to deal with this stuff every day with no help from you. The so-called attraction of distraction strategy that you outlined years ago is no longer effective, which is why I feel that we are not getting any help at all.”
“No help from me?”, echoed the voice on the phone, “What exactly do you think is going on here, Mr. President?”
The President sat back and said nothing, feeling the sting of the sarcastic question.
“All we promised”, continued the voice on the phone, “is a means of separating those who are worthy from those who contribute nothing. Having done this, as we agreed, we will divide the people, with you keeping those whom you can build your future on while we get the rest.”
“And how will that be done?”, asked the Prime Minister of Canada.
“Some years ago”, the voice replied, “A small software company in New York devised algorithms that could predict human behavior based on specific events. They went on to develop algorithms that could calculate the value of each human Life, whether each Life could survive specific events and whether each Life could contribute to a new world after the events occurred. We helped the software company create the algorithms, with our assistance unbeknownst to them at the time . At the time, all they needed was data on each person, data which was not available to them.”
The room was silent.
“Good”, said the voice, “I have your attention. Now I am pleased to announce that we have the data that we need to evaluate practically every human being on the planet by running that data through this algorithm. The Holy Grail is how to convert soft, fuzzy data into mathematical data, something else we taught this software company how to do many years ago.”
The voice paused for a moment.
“With the data in hand, the algorithm is being run for a specific event as defined by our part of the agreement. Now you must do your part to make that event happen as we agreed upon. Only those who contribute to humanity in a measurable, significant way as determined by the algorithm will survive and will be at your disposal to rebuild humanity. The rest of them, the so-called chaff of society, will be given to us to use as we see fit. So in fact, we are actually doing you a favor by culling out the useless and the worthless.”
“How many will survive?”, asked the President.
“Our current rough estimates suggest about 500 million people”, said the voice, “Breakouts by nation are not available yet. I have my best people working with people who have the raw data. Once we have everything we need, we will be able to provide a better estimate. Of course, as agreed, you and your families will be safe.”
The voice paused before speaking again. “So, ladies and gentlemen, are we agreed that execution can begin?”, it asked.
The leaders around the table looked nervously back and forth.
July – 2015 – Menlo Park, California
“And so”, concluded the presenter, “As agreed, we will provide your organization with the data described in the report before you in exchange for the data elements we require. We are prepared to sweeten the deal financially if required.”
He knew that the deal was done by the greedy looks on the faces of the men and women before him.
Meanwhile, similar presentations were wrapping up in Mountain View, California, San Francisco and other key cities that were the homes of various social media giants.
Fifteen minutes later, the presenter in Menlo Park stepped out of the conference room and walked down the hallway for privacy. He pulled out his phone and sent a single text message:
Data acquired – the algorithm has what it needs.
The recipient of the text message looked at the message and smiled.
Now all they needed was the event to take place and those plans were already in place.
To be continued.
© 2015 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved
The nervous CTO described at the beginning of this post is yours truly. In the company that I co-founded that was subsequently involved in a very complex, blended M&A / IPO, we eventually became known for our work measuring human productivity.
The meeting around human survivability took place as described, with the meeting being set up by my former father-in-law (now deceased), then a retired Colonel in the USAF and an investor in my company. The algorithms created to measure the worth of a human Life, pre-emergency, during an emergency and in the rebuild that occurs after an emergency, were designed, created, tested, approved and put on a shelf as we were told to do. A copy of those algorithms was put into escrow in case our company went defunct.
While the productivity algorithms were ours from inception to implementation, my former father-in-law provided a coarse design for the survivability algorithms. Being a pilot and not a technical person, he did not create it and while he dropped hints as to its origin, he did not officially disclose its source although I believe I know where it came from. My company took the coarse design and implemented the algorithms from it.
The key tester for that software, Narender Nath, was killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11. I have written about him often, including in Yellow Shirt Day – The Importance of Tradition.
The rest of the story?
Well, that’s up to you to figure out.
Who would want such a thing to take place?
Who would benefit?
Who would be considered worthy or not as defined mathematically by a mere algorithm?
What if the algorithm is wrong?
What if the algorithm separated families and loved ones, some being deemed worthy and some not.
Who could provide the data that the algorithm requires?
As always, follow the breadcrumbs to answer all your questions.
Most of the breadcrumbs are right here in this post.
But then again, it’s only “fiction”, right?
Background Addendum – July 19, 2015
A number of people have asked me about the results of the testing of the survivability algorithm. While I no longer have the results of those tests in front of me, having returned all documents when I moved on, I recall that of approximately 2,000 people who were evaluated, approximately 135 were considered worthy of preserving.
Is that a lot or a few? I guess it depends on your perspective, your outlook on Life, your mood for the day, which side of the test results you and your loved ones fall on and whether you and your loved ones fall on the same side (worthy or unworthy).
The test subjects were never given their test result.
This series, a departure from my usual musings, is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy and large-scale technology architect.
While this musing is just “fiction” and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)
This “fictional” musing is a continuation of the #1206 series noted here.