The New New Thing

Your grandad remembers Jim Clark as a great F1 racing driver. As famous as Fangio, Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart, or Senna. Further down the (time)line, another Jim Clark was a famous entrepreneur, the guy who was behind Silicon Graphics (who remembers?), Mozilla and Netscape (vague memories), and a health company called Healtheon (long defunct).

Michael Lewis, whose new book The Big Short has been a well deserved success, now part of a swarm of subprime debt movies following on the recent offering by Oliver Stone, hung out with Mr. Clark in his heyday. Lewis and Clark reveal their antics in the book which titles this post.

One of the enduring quotes from Jim Clark used a breakfast analogy to translate business investment:

The chicken is interested, the pig is committed.

The new new thing is the world marketplace, instant information, global communication. Like atomic energy, this new(squared) thing is capable of great good and substantial evil. We can relate to that, because it’s the very essence of human nature. Of you. Of me.

I’m watching the chattering classes revisiting the Egyptian revolution again and again (and again). Mubarak is holed up at Sharm-el-Sheikh, but the transitional government is still the gerontocracy, so I’m unconvinced that this will all have a happy ending. The strongman is gone, replaced by the head of (his) secret police, and the military which backed the regime. This is the wierdest revolution I’ve ever seen. I’m told a pessimist is an optimist with experience.

The Portuguese equivalent of the Hitler Jugend, back in the day.

Despite my cynicism, I rejoice in this first step, while wondering if it is headed toward the edge of the cliff. It’s six months to September, and in the fall I’ll come back and eat my words.

So the net, cell phones, all the amazing things that have made this decade the dawn of a brave new world of distributed computing, made it possible for the common people of Cairo to keep the faith, organize themselves, defeat state-run TV (how well I remember it), and go to first base. In some ways, it served to educate the people, or at the very least to inform. Don’t forget that the key to totalitarian states is control. Of education, information, and association. State-run media are designed to turn people into zombies.

And yet in countries where kids have every opportunity that the Egyptians (and so many others) lack, i.e. the privileges of free speech, original thought, and access to any and all information, that same digital access is threatening the essence of higher education. 

Not only do some young people feel that it’s okay to copy your wisdom from Google or Wikipedia, but it’s all the rage to get your work done by someone else. Tom Wolfe writes about it in I am Charlotte Simmons,  but that’s the classic story of a college jock farming out term papers to a nerd.

But now the whole thing has gone viral, and it’s big business.

How about this quote?

Hi guys,

Not sure if I’m posting in the right place, and not even sure how much it would cost, but I’m currentlty undertaking a instrumentation and control engineering degree, but for my dissertation I’ve been given the task of creating a program that will communicate wirelessly between computers (fairly straight forward for people who know what they’re doing). But just wondering if anyone can recomend any places to have it created/annotated and possibly with a paper with it. Typical dissertation stuff I assume.

Any help wouod be greatly appreciated as I’m starting to struggle with the workload.


My heart bleeds for the poor guy. I guess if you can’t spell “would” you should steer clear of instrumentation, control, and engineering. If you dig deeper, you come across sites like (I won’t hyperlink it so you have to type it out) which will even write chapters of your Ph.D. thesis.

On their home page, you are enticed by the following message:

 The professional writers and researchers at can handle your assignment whether you’re in graduate school working on your thesis, at a college or university writing a term paper, or even in high school writing one of your weekly assignments. We can write persuasive papers, argumentative essays, speeches, and just about anything else!

I love the next bit:

Our affordable sample essays and term papers should only be used as examples for your own essay or research.

What a relief!

I also love the FAQ. Feverishly anxious on the issue of “How do I know your writers will not plagiarize?” the overwrought student is reassured:

All of the custom essays ordered from are original. Our writers are screened, educated professionals that are serious about this business and have no interest in plagiarizing someone else’s work.

Pity those exalted principles don’t apply to their clients!

Now I’m beginning to wonder if my weekly post couldn’t benefit from someone that is serious about this business. Maybe this whole post was written by my screened and educated avatar. Like the Turing test, where the perfect machine is one which, in a conversation, is indistinguishable from a human. I think Alan Turing was rather optimistic about humans, given the evidence above.

My father always said that it takes as much time to do something badly as it does to do it well, and I’ve found that in general terms he was right. Even if it’s quicker to copy, cajole, or steal what you need, after you’ve factored in the real cost, you’re losing money. Maybe in your new job it becomes clear that you don’t know what you’re doing, or a bad piece of work loses you marks in an exam, or perhaps a contract bid. Maybe you just lose face.

The fun thing is that there is a war out there among these “professional writers and researchers”, with a number of accusations of scams where the “students” are conned into parting with their cash only to find that they’ve been taken for a ride by evil plagiarists and incompetent essayists. Oh the shame! And in truly global fashion, some of these guys are in the Ukraine, or various other faraway places. And who do you complain to? Your parents? Your professors? Oh woe is me.


One Response to “The New New Thing”

  1. Phil Says:

    Hilarious, sad, and true….

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