Everything our team does involves mapping tools provided by ESRI. So when ESRI’s Founder, and CEO, Jack Dangermond, flies 3,000 miles to give a talk in DC, the least I can do is train over on the Red Line, since Jack and I have discussed using maps to show politicians what their constituents want.
Jack likes to call himself a geezer but don’t let that fool you. Longtime high achievers do that to warn less proven aspirers that he’s not done yet. We geezers gravitate toward each other, and Thursday night, I felt like he was speaking directly to me in the 2nd row, and the record reinforces that impression:
Suns of Anarchy
With a backdrop of a sun-baked landscape, Jack repeated his frequent theme, that he founded Environmental Systems Research Institute to help solve the environmental problems surfacing in the 1960’s, publicized by Rachel Carson and others. He’s full of optimism as he celebrates ESRI users’ amazing advances in Geo-Enabled Decision Support Systems (DSS), giving us all the information we need to make great decisions. But there’s always a deep wistfulness as he speaks of how far we still have to go, and the sense that we should be so much farther along by now–that there’s a kind of systemic anarchy keeping us from acting on the facts in front of us.
Geezers like Jack and me accumulate frustration every decade, watching old mistakes repeated by new people for new reasons. That’s why his heart speaks so loudly when he talks about the geocentric issues we’ve deferred. In the question period, I suggested that the DC tech community should lead an effort to tear down the wall separating 21st century DSS from our 18th century Political Iteration SNAFU Syndrome, that the problem is that lawmakers don’t know the difference between a server and a waiter.
Later, Jack and I and Jeff Peters discussed that wall, as it dawned on me that I’d got it all wrong RE how ESRI and our NewGov Foundation should work together. I’ve assumed that ESRI will obviously want to support our work, since it’s purpose-built to transform policy by surrounding politicians with issue-driven constituents. But we should invert that: Why shouldn’t we donate our Certified Constituent Services (CCS) to the ESRI toolkit?
Decision Support Systems are the GitHub of policy development. What’s missing from government is the next step in the work flow: an efficient “Commit” feature, where the Keepers Of The Code commit the new, improved, agreed-upon code base, overwriting the old. ESRI’s DSS makes short work of developing the logic that should quickly commit new code to our laws. But on Capitol Hill, Incumbents stretch out the Commit period for years, while they and their enablers transform logic into anarchy.