Big Data, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Federal Data Gathering Centers

By | Jesan Sorrells Blog, Old Posts

Ain’t gonna need to tell the truth. Tell no lie. Everything you think, do and say is in the pill you took today.”–Zager and Evans

There is a direct line between the rise of GMO’s, the enthusiasm with which “Big Data” is being adopted, the coming of Google glasses and other wearables, the prevalence of Federal Government “data centers” (7,000 at last count) and the ubiquitousness of cameras on stoplights, street corners, and in city parks.
This line overlaps with mobile device tracking, police and the NSA monitoring your cell phone calls and Internet searches, and the coming of “the Internet of Everything.”
This line is followed ever so casually, by the prevalence of laws and policies designed to provide a benefit (i.e. the Affordable Health Care Act, among others), but that tangentially allow larger and larger private and public bureaucracies to burrow deeper and deeper into personal behavior choices that we make on an individual and societal basis.
The intersections all meet at a point of behavior monitoring, or “nudging,” of private individuals into buying acceptable products, acting in acceptable ways and making sure that everybody else does the same.
In the arena of conflict resolution and peace building, we here at HSCT find the idea of behavior management or behavior monitoring by large, faceless, entities to be–well, “creepy” (as the kids are wont to say as they Tweet out every instance of their lives looking for connections)–and authoritarian.
Dare we say, all of this progress smacks of Orwellianism.
Now, before we are accused of wearing tinfoil hats and searching the skies for black helicopters, we have an “early adopter” curve for you to make our next point.

Now, early adopters are the people who will buy the I-phone when it’s brand new and will probably buy the first pair of Google glasses at $200 a piece.Your folks in the middle–the early and late majority– are most of us.  They will buy a smart phone from Wal-mart two years from now and only because their friends all have one, so “why not?”

Your third group is at the end of the curve. The laggards are the people we all know who still have VCR’s and will never buy Google Glasses because they’re either paranoid about Big Brother, or they just don’t care.

The anti-GMO people…
The anti-CCTV camera people…
The guy who drives around town distributing a mimeographed, weekly paper, out of the back of his car which is full of garbage and may or may not have an animal in the back.
These are your laggards.
Moreover, it is the behavior, choices and conflicts that this group of people present, that confounds, distorts and affects bureaucratic “thinking” and policymaking, and leads to more and more talk of “the Internet of Everything.”
Now, mugging people of their autonomy, independence and free will and limiting choices, stands in opposition to peace, in our opinion.
The right NOT to participate is the most sacred right in the Constitution.
This sacred right, to go off on one’s own, creates conflicts with other individuals and societies.
However, peace is NOT the absence of conflict.
The false promise of all of these technologies is that by everyone, everywhere, at all time, having their behavior, choices, ideas, attitudes, conversations and thoughts, confirmed, conformed, reformed, and reconstituted, for the benefit of the lowest bidder; that somehow, that act of “tamping down” the unruly nails, will ultimately lead to some sort of man made Utopia.
That is NOT peace.
That is TYRANNY.
Let us all become vigilant watchmen on the walls for peace.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Advice] On Grit

By | Jesan Sorrells Blog, Leadership Theology, Marketing for Peace Builders, Old Posts

I hear that he is a man with true GRIT.” – Mattie Ross, True Grit, 1969

Grit doesn’t get talked a lot about in a society that prizes the easy and the compromising.

It is tough to be uncompromising in such a societal structure.

However, to paraphrase from the film Braveheart, it is easy to admire uncompromising men, without actually doing the hard work of joining them in their pursuit of doing the hard thing.

The definition of grit is clear:

  • Sand, gravel
  • A hard sharp granule (as of sand); also :material (as many abrasives) composed of such granules
  • Any of several sandstones the structure of a stone that adapts it to grinding
  • The size of abrasive particles usually expressed as their mesh
  • Firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger
  • Capitalized: a Liberal in Canadian politics

The fourth definition is the clearest one for our purposes here.

Grit has come to the forefront in the last few years as the idea of inherent talent has begun to take a beating from the likes of evolutionary biologists and post-post-modern philosophers.

In its clearest form, grit becomes a holdover from a simpler time, when talent was not as valued in the Western world. Instead, traits such as perseverance, persistence, courage and spirit were once lauded as virtues.

As the 20th century rolled on by, and as we entered the vaunted “Atomic Age,” grit became valued less and less.

And, with the rise in the latter part of the 20th century, of computing, analytics, the Internet, and other faster and faster methods of accomplishing what used to be slow, and grinding (like an abrasive piece of…well…gravel) grit was less and less talked considered as an important character trait.

But, my how the worm turns: As the holes in our education system have become more and more exposed in the opening years of the new Millennium, grit has made a comeback–becoming a touchstone for encouraging children to develop perseverance, resilience, persistence and to avoid quitting early.

But grit is still scary. Deep in our heart of hearts, we would rather succeed through ease of talent versus the scary, hard thing of work, taking hits and developing a thick skin.

The story we consistently tell ourselves about resiliency, persistence and grit is one of no fun, delayed glory and little riches.

In a world of instant connections and instant gratification, who wouldn’t quit and avoid conflicts in their lives if that were the alternative?

But maybe, that’s the only alternative that matters. Maybe the only alternative is to pick a position, be uncompromising, and grind it out.

Maybe the only alternative is to be a person with true grit.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: