Saturday, September 29, 2012


Vanity Fair carries a fawning profile of President Barack Obama. Among the many vignettes it contains, one immediately caught my attention. Obama found in the Oval Office some bookshelves filled with china. Apparently, his predecessor wanted to illustrate his  faux self-depricating point that you don’t need to be an enthusiastic (or even competent) reader in order to become President of the United States. Obama was mildly shocked, so he ordered his staff to throw the plates and dishes out. What did he put on display as a replacement?
No, not books. President Obama’s office now includes as part of its decoration the originals of a few famous patent applications. He seemed particularly proud of having one such document there – Samuel Morses application to receive a patent for the model of the first telegraph he built in 1849. Pointing to it, Obama told Lewis: “This is the start of the Internet right here.”

President Obama’s detractors have criticized him for many perceived failings. Being overly apprehensive about technology, however, can hardly be one of these. So he was perhaps the top public official  best suited to preside over the rapid expansion by the United States intelligence services and military into drone operations – that wonderful merger between proto-robotic warfare and real-time actionable intelligence. 

P.S. If the word "nerd" still sounds a bit derogatory, perhaps it shouldn't. Case in point: David Brooks classic column on the rapid social ascent of that once oppressed tribe, "The Alpha Geeks." It can hardly be surprising, then, that many self-described "nerds" or "geeks" have in recent years embraced these once belittling labels as a badge of honor and well deserved self-esteem.