What Geeks Do | News | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

What Geeks Do 

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The trouble is, humans are fallible. As much as we hate to admit it, we make mistakes'sometimes with major consequences.

Computers are designed to help us accomplish our tasks with less effort, so it’s not surprising that they also help us make very bad mistakes'with great efficiency. At the touch of a button, you can wipe out a company’s financial records or inadvertently send a “private” love letter to everybody in your office.

Ask a normal, non-geeky person how a computer works and she’ll chirp, “It’s easy! You just click here and type in your account number.” Ask a geek, though, and you’re likely to get long, drawn-out explanations involving arcane terms like “latency” and “gigahertz.” Be careful, though'once he discovers you don’t know the difference between RAM and a hard drive, his eyes will roll right out of his head.

Since geeks are the only ones who know what’s going on, we must rely on them to protect us against ourselves. But can we trust them? After all, they’re the ones who got the most “swirlies” in high school. They spent so much time trapped in gym lockers, it’s not hard to imagine they used that time devising evil plans for wreaking havoc and exacting their revenge on the world.

Of course, it’s fine as long as they confine their revenge to ex-football jocks'such people deserve whatever an empowered geek can dish out and, since their high school glory days are long behind them, there’s little they can do to defend themselves. “Accidentally” cancel his subscriptions to Sports Illustrated and Lusty and Busty? Sure! Alter database records to replace them with Honcho and Martha Stewart’s Living? Even better!

Small malfeasances like these are harmless and help a geek blow off steam. But what happens when a geek becomes so internally tortured, so twisted and emotionally crippled, he forms a vendetta not just against ex-jocks, but against humanity itself? What does a geek do when he forms a “Professor Chaos” persona and vows to destroy everything America stands for?

He could go to work for Diebold.

Diebold Election Systems is one of two privately owned companies controlling 80 percent of our country’s elections. Diebold makes voting machines that help prevent voter error.

Some people, however, worry that the “voter error” Diebold is helping to prevent is the error of electing any candidate other than a Republican.

CEO Walden O’Dell makes no bones about his ties to the GOP political machine, and was famously reported to have promised to help deliver Ohio’s electoral votes to President Bush in the 2004 election. On Election Day, voters in heavily Democratic districts waited up to 12 hours to cast their ballots, due in part to malfunctioning Diebold machines. And, as O’Dell promised, Diebold machines delivered the state’s electoral votes to Bush despite exit polls projecting a victory for Sen. John Kerry.

This was enough to make any conspiracy theorist’s Spidey-sense tingle, particularly after similar stories emerged from California.

The idea that O’Dell may somehow have used his position to fraudulently deliver the presidency to the Republican candidate may be nothing more than a paranoid fantasy, but the fact that nobody outside the company is allowed to view the source code running on the machines'which would allow impartial geeks to reassure voters that Diebold really is on the up-and-up'will only ensure that conspiracy theories will continue to flourish in future elections.

Now that Diebold’s going to be running elections here in Salt Lake County, it could be time to break out the aluminum-foil hats.

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More by Brandon Burt

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