Mikey Dickerson to SXSW: Why We Need You in Government
The U.S. Digital Service
2312

This may be the most eye-opening, jaw-dropping article I have read in years, perhaps even decades.

I like that you did not let the work you are doing swell your head. Ex: “The whole system had worked as normal and produced the expected result, which was a web site that was overpriced by hundreds of millions of dollars and did not work, at all.” It shows insight and maturity well beyond your years, the kind that most of us can obtain only after years and years of on-the-job training and failures.

Your humility is heartwarming. However, what bothers me about what you have done and hope to expand is that most people who want to work for the government seem to have far different motivations than you do. I have no doubt that you are interested in making life better for all of us. And that leads me to wonder what disasters could result if you were to “improve” the operations of the CIA or the military.

I am still able to sleep at night knowing how incompetent they presently are. There are so many in government who feel that, by getting to where they currently are, they must have some kind of special virtue. I know of very few government employees who could publicly declare: “ On one hand the company does not need me; there are thousands of other engineers that are as good or better.” They would immediately fear losing their cushy job and inflated benefits package.

So, have you stopped to ask what happens if you improve the operations of those sectors of the government that see every problem as a nail and currently have “need” for only a BETTER hammer for whatever problem they encounter? I have no problem hearing you say, “All of these are design and information processing problems and all of these are matters of life and death to millions of CITIZENS and all of them are things you can “fix” if you choose to. However, right now, many — dare I say “most”? — Americans feel that if we could only get more accurate drones, we can “fix” things in Afganistan. If we can only slap the “Syrians” or the “Shia” around long enough and hard enough, we can “fix” whatever it is that is causing us problems over there. They see problems in foreign policy as “problems that other people have,” and not as problems that may have been created by anything the US does. What do you think when you hear otherwise intelligent people say things like, “We just need to get over THERE(Ukraine, for example) and clean things up…”?

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