How ‘burn,’ became a four letter word – a study into institutional stupidity

September 3, 2010

Mercantile Guild Representative (Belfair): “Singaporedaddy, the four houses sent me to find out how it all happened. And why have we issued a “measured response.” This is highly unusual as you very well know…as it doesn’t seem to have a run out date.”

Singaporedaddy: “Yes Belfair, I expect they too would like to know.”

Belfair: “Share with us what you really know old friend…come let us walk.”

Singaporedaddy: “It is quite simple how this whole matter screwed up…have you heard of search programs Belfair?”

Belfair: “Like Google search engines?”

Singaporedaddy: “Yes, that will do very nicely for the purposes of facilitating this explanation….now consider how this search engine is constantly sweeping the whole of the internet searching out for key words like some sort of digital radar.”

Belfair: ” searching for words like house – ball – top…?”

Singaporedaddy: “Yes, Belfair something like that…only try to link more words together, for instance what is the chances of the word ‘house’ coming out in the same sentence as the word ‘white’and ‘Obama’ at the same time? Now what you need to understand is this search engine is pretty stupid, it doesn’t really care to understand beyond the context of how these words are arranged or even used; neither does it take into account parlance, speech, syntax etc.”

Belfair: “Yes go on, this is very interesting Singaporedaddy.”

Singaporedaddy: “When these words are found what happens is the search engine automatically scans the address of the person who wrote these words – it begins to access personal data information like credit worthiness of the person – does he have a criminal record etc.”

Belfair: “I get what you mean to say – let’s say, the person who wrote those words with “white”- “house” and “Obama”  in this one sentence had a criminal record – then what you are saying is it will highlight this as a possible threat?”

Singaporedaddy: “Yes and no – because in the course of a day, you would probably get thousands of false alarms about people linking these three words together in one sentence – house, obama and white – so the real question is why should this one red flag stand out from the others?”

Belfair: “OK, I am beginning to understand where you are heading now Singaporedaddy…tell me why was this ‘burn’ really different from the other ‘burn,’ then that it could stand out in such a way to deserve special attention?”

Singaporedaddy: “That is the mystery Belfair that we couldn’t quite figure out…till yesterday of course…. My point is Senator, it would have just been another day at work for those cyber monkeys had a series of coincidences not come together as they did..”

Belfair: “What coincidences are you referring too 1st officer?”

Singaporedaddy: “What I am trying to say Senator – is even if so much as one element was missing that day…for example had someone not programmed the search machine to look specifically for “burn” along side “PAP.” Or that none of the letters had not been in capital letters – then nothing would have happened…..”

Belfair: “So what you are saying was the entire process was executed by a robot? Why didn’t you tell the Council of the Wise this? It could have been important Singaporedaddy!”

Singaporedaddy: Senator we must stop here…don’t look behind you, but we are being followed….quick let us go the Temple of the Tree of Knowledge.”

Belfair: “We are living in dangerous times it seems.”

Conversation captured by an auto-bot crawler somewhere along Liberation Square in Primus Aldentes Prime – The Brotherhood Press 2010

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