I went to see Moneyball today and loved it.
Because it's also a math movie, like A Beautiful Mind or Good Will Hunting, or an iconoclast movie like Citizen Kane or Tucker. I didn't make this up, my good friend from Nashville, Rex Hammock, put together a Venn Diagram review of Moneyball. I concur mightily (and thanks for the recommendations of movies I haven't seen yet).
I read the book too, and loved it. But the movie and book are different enough and Brad Pitt is a wonderful actor, and he really shines in the role of Billy Beane.
The movie makes a point that there's baseball that the fans love, the team loyalty, the love of the players, the acting of baseball, the heart of baseball. But there's also Billy Beane's baseball, the game as reality. A business of dollars and cents. Of big decisions about people's lives, and what success and failure mean. It's good to know when you're talking about baseball the drama, the stage play -- and baseball the enterprise.
This is important to think about because we're entering political season in the US. Sure, there's the stage play, the horse race -- and it's captivating. I love watching the Republican debates, not because the lines the actors say mean anything -- they don't. They're designed to convey a feeling about the person who's saying them. If you listen to the actual words, when they make any sense, and that's a rare thing -- they are often outright lies. Not small white lies, but massively huge and important ones.
The drama is the logic of the baseball insider. They think in terms of perceptions or lately "optics" (they're exactly the same thing). The problem with that view is that as with baseball, there's another side to it. The one where real people's lives are changed. Only here the numbers are orders of magnitude greater. In baseball, Billy Beane chooses to play major league baseball after high school, instead of going to Stanford, and his life changes. In presidential politics in the US, billions of people's lives can change based on the decisions we make. And trillions of dollars.
It also tends to be that way in technology too. While I was out at the movies today, the piece I wrote earlier today got over 30,000 page reads. Not too many people saw it as me rooting for the wrong team, because for whatever reason, Facebook doesn't inspire that kind of fandom. Had I been writing about Apple, I would have totally offended their fans, and would have gotten a lot of grief that I didn't get for challenging Facebook. And I got some grief from people who work at Google. As I have in the past gotten flamed by people who work at Mozilla. They don't have Apple's army of trolls, but they're willing to do it for themselves.
Again, there are a lot more people's futures at stake in this than in baseball. Sure they have nice people working on the Chrome team. They also come and go. Are they respected by their bosses? As a user, I have no way of knowing, and it's not really a wall I want to look through and try to understand. To me Google is a whole entity, not individuals. They will make their decisions the way companies decide things. And I don't think they're any better or different than BP or Exxon or one of the banks that became too big to fail. I think they're insinuating themselves between all of us, and they're going to use that position to control things, once they have it all locked down, if they ever do. That's the way business works. If you work inside Google and think it works differently, then I think you're naive. I don't think it makes you a bad person, or incompetent. My concerns about Google are not personal criticisms of you. I don't know you.
I've been building up to writing this piece for a long time, and I doubt if many people will read it, or care. But I wanted to say it. I don't think we can afford to view politics or technology as we view baseball. In baseball, I can personally insult Yankees fans, or condescend to Cubs fans, or feel a soulful affinity with fellow Mets fans, and it's all fun. Because we know it totally doesn't matter. But these other things do matter. So we really can't afford to think of it as Us vs Them. It's not Republicans vs Democrats, it's Americans deciding what we want our government to do. And in technology, it's the people of the world, in very much the model of Jefferson, deciding what we want to be. And not having corporations and their need for profit, be the sole determinant.
I don't care if the people at Facebook and Google and Apple and Microsoft et al don't like this. I'm not talking to you, I'm not even talking about you. When I talk about technology or politics (really teh same thing) I am talking to other people who might read this, whose thinking I would like to influence. So if you take it personally, your imagination is betraying you.
I'll close this one with a line I've put at the end of many stories I've published here, going back to October 1994.