The Devil’s Code by John Sanford was published in 2000. Fourteen years ago.
Clipper II was an Orwellian nightmare come true, a practical impossibility, or a huge joke at the taxpayers’ expense—take your pick. It was designed in response to a fear of the U.S. government that unbreakable codes would make intercept-intelligence impractical. And really, they had a point, but their solution was so draconian that it was doomed to failure from the start.
The Clipper II chip—like the original Clipper chip before it was a chip designed to handle strong encryption. If it was made mandatory (which the government wanted), everyone would have to use it. And the encryption was guaranteed secure. Absolutely unbreakable.
Except that the chip contained a set of keys just for the government, just in case. If they needed to, they could look up the key for a particular chip, get a wiretap permit, and decrypt any messages that were sent using the chip. They would thereby bring to justice (they said) all kinds of Mafiosos, drug dealers, money launderers, and other lowlifes.
For those too young to remember, the Clipper chip was a real thing. The NSA was a real thing as well.
Word got around, and the word was that the NSA was rapidly becoming obsolete. Once upon a time, agency operatives could tap any phone call or radio transmission in the world; they could put Mao Tse-tung’s private words on the president’s desk an hour after the Maximum Leader spoke them into his office phone; they could provide real-time intercepts to the special ops people in the military.
No more. The world was rife with unbreakable codes—any good university math department could whip one up in a matter of days. Just as bad, the most critical diplomatic and military traffic had come out of the air and gone underground, into fiber-optic cable. Even if a special forces team managed to get at a cable, messages were routinely encoded with ultrastrong encryption routines.
The NSA was going deaf. And the word was, they didn’t know what to do about it. They’d become a bin full of aging bureaucrats worried about their jobs, and spinning further and further out ot the Washington intelligence center.
And if the NSA was becoming obsolete, might their solution look something like what we have today?
Back in August +George Kopp invited me to tag along as he and Jack Dobson (along with Lorna Domke) shot some aerial video from Jack’s drone copter. George gave me the unedited video to play with. The piece above runs 2 min 30 sec.
If you asked 100 people “Do you consider yourself a success?”, I’d expect 90 of them to answer one of two ways: a) Yes b) Depends on how you define success. (Which sounds like “no” to me)
During my working years (I never thought in terms of ‘career’) I don’t recall thinking in terms of success. My defining question was “Am I enjoying what I’m doing?” Yes. I did, I am. Did I have a system? I would have said, no, I was just lucky.
Reading Scott Adams’ How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big got me thinking about success.
“The best way to increase your odds of success — in a way that might look like luck to others — is to systematically become good, but not amazing, at the types of skills that work well together and are highly useful for just about any job.”
Adams provides a list of skills in which he thinks every adult should gain a working knowledge.
- Public speaking
- Business Writing
- Design (the basics)
- Overcoming shyness
- Second language
- Proper grammar
- Technology (hobby level)
- Proper voice technique
In the book he makes his case for each of these skills. As I read, I evaluated my own knowledge of these skills.
- Public speaking – Got my BA in Speech and Theater, taking lots of public speaking course along the way
- Psychology – a course or two
- Business writing – several books and some courses
- Accounting – almost zero knowledge
- Design – Yeah. Spent the last 10 or 15 years creating and websites for the company and clients
- Conversation – co-hosted daily radio show for a dozen years. Hundreds of interviews
- Overcoming shyness – college and community theater; 10,000 hours of airtime on the radio
- Second language – nope
- Golf – nope
- Proper grammar – writing courses, public speaking, radio, all contributed
- Persuasion – a couple of course in college; wrote countless radio commercials
- Technology – geek wannabe. Got the computer/internet bug early and never lost it
- Proper voice technique – see above
Turns out I had a pretty good handle on 9 of the 13 skills in Adams’ list. Not by design, mind you, just luck. Looking back, however, I can see how these skills combined and overlapped to make me well-suited to the work I wound up doing.
I can here all those zippers coming down, ready to piss on any idea that has Scott Adams’ name on it but I’d challenge you to read his book first. This little bit is just one idea in a couple of hundred pages.
I read a butt-load of management books during the first half of my working life but stopped after reading The Dilbert Principle and seeing myself lampooned on every page. Never read another management or self-help book, until this one.