How to Win, Part II

I am really, really impressed with the Khan Academy. In a very short while this person's work has vaulted to the top of my surflist. He's a one man show, but he's good.

So I thought I might post about winning, part II - where I focus on what people like Salman Khan, and others - are doing in the world and how this helps us win. For better or worse, Salman Khan is a scientist. He's going over the 'important' stuff, and exploring it. I remember distinctly a moment on a ski life where someone I was riding with - made fun of scientists because all of their work is so 'important'.

Our society seems to lure smart people into corrupt and highly rewarding careers. For example, if you're good at math - the banks hire you to hide their bank errors. They'll lend out money to people who barely have a credit score (and now, they won't lend money to anyone..) and then come back and when they see the loan is going bad - they'll pay young mathematicians to bundle them up into a derivative, and sell it. They'll take young, bright articulate women and use them to help transform facebook into a marketing tool - taking every conversation, every wall post - and using it to sell you soap. Utterly violating the privacy of everyone using the service. They'll find young engineers, and teach them how to tether network appliances so that their functionality violates the open, scalable element of the net - planned technical obselescence, and the inability to really use whatever it is you've got. And finally, bright legal minds are put into the pockets of big lobbyists who go on crusades to attempt to legislate the network routing policy of the internet - destroying the twenty first century equivalent of the first amendent in the process.

All of these people are 'winners'. They are prominent attorney generals, high ranking bank executivies, highly paid marketing executives, and engineers.

Salman Khan is a guy who stays at home and takes care of his child. He's a stay-at-home dad.

Can you see where this is going? I'm not up on a soapbox telling you how to live your life. I'm not saying Salman Khan is so groovy just because he posts a few educational clips - or that his website has become a resource for hundreds of thousands of people. I'm here to tell you that when you really help people - even if it's only the thing you do best, and it's only in the best way you know how - something seems to happen in the world that makes the world feel better. And that's how you know you're winning. How do you really feel?

The person at the bank who is bundling up CDO and building derivatives - knows that he or she is screwing with the living people at the end of those mortgages - he or she is aware of how screwed up the system is, when they build algorithms that pass debit card transactions over - so that when you swipe your debit card, for 30.00 at the gas station , but you've swiped for a drink for 2.00 just before - and you only have 20.00 in your account, you're going to get hit for two 35.00 fees back to back when they clear the large one first. The engineer who is seeing the internet being tied to single sites, building blu ray dvd players that only connect to four or five websites - knows what's happening. The cellphone manufacturer that builds a cellphone for only one carrier, knows they're screwing with everyone - and then we win the right to unlock them? Its like buying a door to your home - but they won't sell you a key, and it comes pre-locked. You have to hire someone to open it for you.

And yeah, in the end - there's a little twinge of recognition in all of these people. You might be one of them. So, go out and live your life - don't quit your job - just remember that you have the power to change things. And whenever you get the chance, do the right thing. If you see a toxic bank maneuver, don't let it happen. If you're working on a research team, and someone asks you to fake the research - don't. If you're tethering an appliance, as an engineer - put a backdoor in. And if you're using facebook to create some kind of marketing campaign. Tell them all that you're doing it. Let them know. Don't make them think they're on their talking to you - they're not. They're talking to corporations. And there are other things you can do. It's almost endless, and there's really no simple way to outline it. But it starts with a feeling.

Yesterday, I had a strange sense of deja vu while I was looking over my daughter's syllabus. Even thought it was enhanced curriculum, it slowly began to dawn on me that I'd seen this before. My daughter and I had a bit of a fight - she finally told me that there was, in fact, a class higher than the one she was registered. This had happened last year.

And now, we're going to have to study through the weekend - to catch up. She knew all along that she was in a lower math class - she'd done all the work from last year. Her grades were perfect. She wanted an easy A. But interestingly enough, studying through the weekend will help my son to get ready for his big exam coming up. We're even watching math videos on the blu ray. And somehow it all seems to fit together FTW