Elizabeth Moon, a well-known science fiction and fantasy writer, got invited as a guest on a BBC radio show called The Forum. Mostly it’s a discussion show, but there’s also a feature where each guest should come up with some crazy, wacky idea and talk about it for 60 seconds. This portion of the show is “The Sixty Second Idea.”
So yeah, in typical geeky style, because she was thinking about the identification of dead and unconscious persons, probably because she works with horses tattooed with numbers in the mouth to prevent theft and fraud, and probably because the story of a lost and unidentified child is at the heart of her first and current fantasy novel series, she picked the crazy idea of a universal ID system for humans, with the ID applied at birth.
What she didn’t realize was that The Sixty Second Idea is also a promotional feature on the BBC radio websites. On the webpage, these are presented not as crazy theoreticals shot out there for fun and funniness, but as things seriously advocated and pushed by the person. And of course they picked a scary graphic and so forth.
So now, the sensible and libertarianish Ms. Moon is being presented on Slashdot as some kind of totalitarian wannabe. And of course someone has quoted Revelation. Of course they have.
Argh argh argh argh argh. I hate this kind of thing. And I especially hate it when fellow geeks can’t detect when a geek has been put in a bad situation by not sussing out what the mundanes want to do. I’m a different brand of geek. I’m pretty socially oblivious, but this is one of the few areas when I can tell what’s going on with people. Sort of Murphy’s Law vision. I’m Epimetheus for certain categories of fan kerfuffle.
Oh, well. What can’t be cured must be endured.
One of the ironclad social laws of all humanity, geek or not, is that nobody really wants to hear you throw out a really wild idea, and they will always blame you for it and assign ownership of it to you, and they will come up with a worse version in their own head and still assign ownership to you. Anything that happens that is vaguely connected to the idea will also be your fault. Forever.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t come up with wild ideas or throw them out into the world. But it does mean that you should always expect to be attacked for them. Even more, if it turns out to be a good idea.
But if it’s a profitable, moral idea with no bad consequences, which becomes widely accepted, it will never be your idea ever again. 🙂