Would Mother Teresa Approve?

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From: Tom Sweetnam (savamutt@trailnet.com)
Date: Tue May 02 2000 - 09:18:17 PDT

I must admit, for a non techno-dweeb, the FoRK site may as well be written in Sanskrit for all the enlightenment one might hope to gain, but some of the strings are worthwhile struggling along with, the Popular Power startup and their "Worker" software being good examples, especially the concept of "confinement", that being the one aspect of those strings that really piqued my imagination.

I downloaded Worker purely out of curiosity yesterday, and gave it a spin last night. I wouldn't normally have given such a startup nor its software the time of day, given my own prejudices regarding its politically correct promotional airs. The very syntax is offensive to my philosophical sensitivities, "Popular Power" and "Worker" smacking of the collective Marxist mindset so popular in American academia these days, and the subliminal presentation of the company itself hitting the subconscious as:

"We're a San Francisco startup destined to save humanity with our corporate altruism, first and foremost by wiping out influenza, that's what we're really all about, unfortunately however, we must comply with the ugly reality of having to make big bucks too, which of course is a secondary consideration amongst the principals involved, including Dr. Livingston, Mother Teresa, and Saint Thomas Aquinas who, even if they are no longer alive and share no equity stake in Popular Power, still attend each and every board meetings in spirit and in principal. Amen."

Sorry for the cynacism...especially since only about...75% is deserved. I think corporate altruism is an innate responsibility of any company director who cares about the world around him, but wearing one's corporate altruism on one's corporate sleeve still makes me blanch, and using it out of the gate for the sake of vested self-interest is simply a matter of bad taste, regardless of how trendy it might otherwise appear in today's shallow public ethos.

The real dichotomy hits one upside the face after you've walked into the People Power lobby and begin registering to download your own copy of "Worker", so that you too can begin battling nasty pathogens and feel warm and gushy and stuff for all your good deeds, yet unlike the company itself, the very first highlighted option you're presented with insofar as recognition for your own unselfish charity is to remain "anonymous".

Anyway, I discussed this "confinement" aspect with John last night, my shady Russian hacker pal, and since I'm of a mind with Ka-Ping Yee, who believes there is no such thing as web security, John and I explored ways in which the current state of "confinement" might really be put to use for the betterment of mankind. He suggested that I write a series of letters between myself and Janet Reno in which I am trying to talk her out of the several acts of nuclear terrorism she's planning against minority widows and orphans...and puppies too, or that I write a series of letters between myself and Bill Gates, in which I am trying to dissuade him from financing Janet Reno's nuclear terrorism program, and that I encrypt the whole portfolio in Blowfish with only an 8 bit key, and that I then get involved in any altruistic venture like Worker, in which "confinement" is guaranteed, and then he said, considering the current state of web security, he's pretty sure the FBI would be dragging Gates and Reno away in handcuffs within about 49 hours of my signing up. Now THAT would be an act of humanity.

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