Victor Rozek's award-winning and thought-provoking "Out of the Blue" column was consistently one of the best things to read in any IT publication on the market. We are pleased to add his voice and thoughts about the computer industry and the world at large in this column, which runs once a month in The Four Hundred. That's Victor above with his other half, Kassy Daggett.
July 19, 2021 Victor Rozek
Currency has always been the product of mass hallucination. From shells to spices, bottle caps to urine, what people decide is valuable, and what they are willing to trade life energy for, is as varied as imagination and circumstance. (In case you’re wondering, clean urine is used in prisons to pass drug tests and can be bartered for goods and services that are best left unnamed.)
All that is required for a currency to have value is that enough people share the same delusion. And suddenly, little pieces of paper with numbers and the faces of departed presidents (and lesser …Read more
June 7, 2021 Victor Rozek
Another day, another questionable announcement from the CDC. This time it was a guideline suggesting that vaccinated people need not wear masks in most circumstances; a pronouncement that many experts found to be both ill-advised and premature.
Nonetheless, many heard it as an invitation to return to normalcy. Long-suffering restaurant and bar owners exhaled for the first time in many months, and everyone seemed delighted just to see the bottom half of their friends’ faces again.
One group in particular was unabashedly eager to return to the pre-pandemic past: CEOs. Newsweek reported on a poll conducted by the Best Practice …Read more
May 24, 2021 Victor Rozek
In last month’s article, I expressed ambivalence about our increasing reliance on technology and its growing dominance even as it slips ever further from our control. The challenge presented by a host of computer technologies is how to maximize their benefits while minimizing their potential for harm. And the more powerful the technology, the greater the temptation to weaponize it.
I closed the article with the following statement:
We are already using artificial intelligence on an enterprise scale. It won’t be long before it’s used on a planetary scale. Computer intelligence is evolving much quicker than human intelligence. According …Read more
April 19, 2021 Victor Rozek
Former business professor Aaron Levenstein once said: “Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is interesting. But what they hide is vital.” Unlike the bikini wearer, however, statistics are bloodless, void of experience, and often boring. Except of course to statisticians.
Broadly speaking there are two types of statistics: the ones that make your eyes roll to the back of your head, and the ones that make your eyes pop out of your head. This is the latter, courtesy of economist Robert Reich. Reich calculated that in 2020 Jeff Bezos’ net worth rose by $2,378 every second! You read …Read more
March 15, 2021 Victor Rozek
We’re running out of chips. I know what you’re thinking: We absolutely, positively cannot run out of chips. They’re a staple of life in the time of Covid. How will I scoop my guac, you ask? How will I maintain my sodium levels? And what’s the point of salsa without chips? For that matter, what’s the point of binge watching without binging?
Not to worry. Take a deep breath, exhale, do a deep knee bend. It’s not potato or corn chips we’re lacking – it’s computer chips, and they’re way too small for scooping guac.
As we know, computer chips …Read more
February 22, 2021 Victor Rozek
There is an intense debate within the print and electronic media about the future of the 1st Amendment. At core is the question: At what point does free speech become antithetical to a free society? And what, if anything, should be done about it?
The answers to these questions call for great nuance and even greater caution. Is it even possible to fine-tune one of the foundational principles of our Democracy, while simultaneously preserving it? When does enthusiasm become incitement? What’s true and what’s false? What constitutes ignorance versus willful manipulation? What’s the dividing line between news and propaganda? And …Read more
January 25, 2021 Victor Rozek
It was Paul Newman who said: “If you find passion in one area of your life, it will bleed into all the others.” Apparently the same can be said of incompetence.
Two years ago Michael Lewis wrote a book called The Fifth Risk. Its premise was singular and prophetic: “What are the consequences if the people given control over our government have no idea how it works?” That, as he meticulously documents, was the case four years ago when the incoming administration—which did not expect to win — was unprepared to govern. It failed to fill many key federal posts …Read more
December 7, 2020 Victor Rozek
This time of the year, I generally write a predictive piece about IT trends and outside influences likely to impact the profession in the coming year. Three years ago I wrote an article titled As I See It: Disruption. In it, I posited that IT would have to contend with three main sources of disruption: major weather events, the impending demise of net neutrality, and widespread security breaches from what has become an international hacking industry.
I was right on two of three counts. Net neutrality is still limping along. But perhaps I was more prescient than I thought: …Read more
November 9, 2020 Victor Rozek
I started working at the age of 15 for a ship chandler on the San Francisco docks. Like many entry-level blue-collar positions, there wasn’t any talk of job descriptions or performance expectations. Basically, some burly guy told me what to do, and I did it.
Over the ensuing decades, however, I’ve had a goodly number of white-collar jobs replete with detailed job descriptions, project goals, and deadlines, all anchored by the assurance of regular performance evaluations. None of it materialized exactly as advertised. In a dynamic, rapidly changing environment, what you end up doing is often not precisely what you …Read more
October 19, 2020 Victor Rozek
In 1729, responding to English indifference to chronic poverty in Ireland, Jonathan Swift wrote an essay called A Modest Proposal in which he suggests the Irish could sell their babies to the English gentry as food, thus addressing both the problem of Irish poverty and, presumably, the lack of meat variety in England. (I shouldn’t have to say this, but given the bizarre QAnon belief that elites actually drink children’s blood, it should be noted that Swift’s proposal was, you know, satire.)
Well, with the country starting to resemble 1729 England updated for inflation, it’s time for another …Read more