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.
May 11, 2020 Victor Rozek
If you are retired, or currently not working, but happen to have outdated IT skills and want to Make America Great Again by going back to work and risking your life for the economy, your government has a deal for you.
Apparently, one of the inadvertent side effects of the current pandemic was to expose just how awful and antiquated the government’s computer systems are. In a country otherwise blessed with leading-edge innovation and unparalleled high-tech capability, COBOL is still being used – to a lesser or greater degree – to run the unemployment insurance programs in all but 16 …Read more
May 4, 2020 Victor Rozek
I got tested today. Four ordinary words infused with extraordinary dread. They’ve now become part of a new language of fear, along with “cough,” “fever,” and “difficulty breathing.” A persistent sore throat and a slight fever that flared briefly a few days later, was enough to concern my doctor. She told me to come in the same day I called to complain about my throat and did a drive-by swabbing. When I arrived, she was waiting by the curb, helmeted, gloved, and gowned, like something out of Andromeda Strain. Another masked doctor stood behind her at a safe distance counting …Read more
March 9, 2020 Victor Rozek
Twenty years ago, I developed an addiction. Not to one of the usual recreational substances, but to Aaron Sorkin’s writing. The West Wing was like no other show I had ever seen. It had gravitas. It explored issues of significance. The dialogue was crisp and quick. The characters had range, from funny and wise, to playful and profound. For the first time since I began watching television, I didn’t want to miss a single word.
It aired at a difficult time for the country. The Bush administration was in the process of orchestrating two major wars, the housing bubble, and …Read more
February 24, 2020 Victor Rozek
A friend of mine was dating a woman he met on social media who became frustrated because their relationship wasn’t “deep” enough. It eventually floundered which was unfortunate because outside of his primal fear of commitment, he is basically a nice guy with extensive interests and bountiful skills. I suggested, in his defense, he explain to her that although he may not be deep, given his wide-ranging pursuits he could be thought of as shallow but wide. This apparently didn’t assuage her concerns since they are no longer together, but it is indicative of two things: The disposable nature of …Read more
January 13, 2020 Victor Rozek
The Constitution and the Bill of Rights contain many fine words but “privacy” is not among them. At best the right to privacy is implied in the 4th Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure, and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment that protects against the arbitrary denial of life, liberty, or property.
One would think that the systematic and deliberate tracking of our movements would constitute an unreasonable search and seizure or, at the very least, an infringement on our liberty. But the founding fathers could not have conceived of a technology that digitized human beings …Read more
December 9, 2019 Victor Rozek
You would have to be of a certain age to remember how excited and optimistic users once were about computer technology. It all seems Paleolithic by today’s standards, but those heavy boxes and bulky monitors were wondrous tools and novel toys in their day. Technology transformed us into Harry Potter and a personal computer became our magic stick.
My first computer was a PS/2. No, not a PlayStation, an IBM Personal System/2 that boasted a whopping 2 MB of RAM and 20 MB of disk storage – who could ever need anything more? It also contained a VGA graphic cards. …Read more
November 11, 2019 Victor Rozek
When Guttenberg first started cranking out Bibles, the religious authorities who dominated life and discourse in the 15th century were cautiously optimistic. Not only could it save monks years of lugubrious work copying and illustrating the volume, but they assumed this new technology would be used solely to propagate a Medieval version of approved speech.
But of course that didn’t last long.
Since its Feudal inception, communication technology and free speech have always had a turbulent and tenuous relationship. The easier it became to disseminate information, the more efficient the spread of heretical, seditious, and unpopular ideas. And the more …Read more
October 28, 2019 Victor Rozek
Unlike relationships based on mutual regard, if you have issues with your job, your job doesn’t care. It’s just there, waiting to get done, by you or someone else. Nothing personal, just business.
It’s more of a one-way relationship, with all of the emotional highs and lows experienced by the employee. And while managers have three options for dealing with undesirable workers: fix, move, or fire; employees have but one option for dealing with undesirable jobs: quit.
But even when the workplace becomes intolerable, people often contrive to get themselves fired because they don’t have the courage to stand up …Read more
September 30, 2019 Victor Rozek
I don’t recall high school being a particularly joyous experience, but it wasn’t debilitating either. It was mostly leaden, with an occasional splash of color, spiced with alternating doses of bravado, awkwardness, and frustration. It wasn’t optimal, but it seems remarkably benign compared to today’s reality. A recent study of kids in an affluent Silicon Valley high school “found that 54 percent of students displayed moderate to severe symptoms of depression and 80 percent displayed moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety.”
Beyond the very real anxiety-inducing possibility of getting shot in the classroom, Daniel Markovits has another explanation for the …Read more
September 23, 2019 Victor Rozek
The more entangled I become with technology the more restless I feel when I’m away from it. The nervous system gets accustomed to the stimulation, the steady drip of dopamine from the little validations, the comforting illusion of wide-ranging intimacy, the ease of attachment without exertion. The Internet is fast food for lazy, twitchy synapses. And I’ve become conditioned to crave it.
Like an alcoholic past due for a drink, I look around for my digital bottle.
It’s on the coffee table. A swipe of a finger and I have access to a distorted world of dramatic headlines, lurid images, …Read more