Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What Hath They Wrought?

As you can see from the time stamps below, I don't often venture over here, but from time to time there are things I'd like to write down that are not a few characters long or-heaven forfend-require linking to more than one source.  This requires exactly two, though given free reign I shudder to think where one might end up.

The herd of cats that is my "selection" of news feeds delivered two public resignation letters this morning. One you've probably heard of, from a man at Goldman Sachs. The other, from a now ex-Google employee,(hit paragraphs 1, 3-4-5, 8,9, skim the rest) is burning through the tech news this morning and may or may not crossover into the mass media.  They are connected in two ways, as I see it, both of which raise questions.

The first question is "Why does a search on Google for 'Goldman Sachs Resignation' return four HuffPo links and a USA Today link before it finally lists the original NY Times article?  In what world do these search results avoid choking the life out of the worthwhile content that drives people to use your search product?"

The second is perhaps more serious. What did these guys think they were doing?  Or maybe the question is how were they able to avoid knowing what they were doing.  What makes these two resignations notable is that by most measures these are two of our best and brightest.  We have here products of the finest schools, survivors of two legendarily competitive hiring processes.
One has recently learned Google is an advertising company, the other that Goldman Sachs is primarily in the business of making money for Goldman Sachs.
How did this happen?  These are not Benjamin Braddocks or Holden Caulfields, these are people extremely accomplished in their careers leaving pay packages in the multiple six figures by writing letters of a tone usually reserved for the second-to-last-scene in a John Hughes movie.

This situation has had me remembering those talks one saw on tv alot from 2009 through 2010 about how to some up the previous decade and wondering:

Were the Aughts the Decade of Lying to Ourselves?

There were some doozies in there.

  • WMD's
  • Iraq was a 9/11 participant.
  • 40 year old men can just naturally get way better at baseball.
  • Housing prices will always double every 4 years.
  • Complicated new banking  products are a great idea and the banks are totally handling it.
Some believe these were all calculated campaigns of disinformation. I am not that cynical anymore and also find that line of thought uninteresting.  Instead, I look at that list and see a bunch of situations that a well meaning person who had the best of intentions could desperately want to be true due either to decisions they'd already made or decisions they feel they need to make.  Not James Bond villainy, Shakespearean villainy and/or heroism, depending on the play.   This is where it ties into those resignation letters.  Were these two clearly bright young men and the decisions they made about where to spend their careers just doing the same thing the country was doing as a whole, creating a fictional version of their reality in order to justify the far more lucrative of options?   

It's not something I think I can answer, but I thought the question was interesting, as was the fact all these fictions had similar life spans.
A note about the title of the post: It is, of course, a reference to the first message Samuel Morse sent on his new technology the telegraph.  "What hath God wrought" he sent, ascribing to an outside force the credit for something he had spent years building himself.  I meant to weave it in in a clever way, but have spent too much time here already with many things to build myself.