A friend of mine, Kevin, is a photographer. An exceptional photographer… He’s one of those infuriatingly gifted people whose talent just oozes out of him. He can’t take a bad photo. Because it’s always been so effortless for him to take great shots, he’s been careless about his work. He started shooting photos when film was mainstream and he was able to take the most amazing shots with just a crappy Polaroid. I told him many times that he has ‘the eye’ for great shots. As photography transitioned from film to digital, he took to it like a baby to a breast but he had virtually no understanding, nor the slightest interest in how computers, technology or the Internet works.
Kevin got a decent digital camera and since the image results are immediate, he was shooting photos constantly, and in the same careless way he approached everything in life, a few of his best shots somehow ended up loose on the Internet, and he had no idea how. These few shots ended up on all the image search web pages with no copyright restrictions, which meant of course, his photos had been used a number of times in successful ads but he got no royalty payments for it. He just blew it off…
This was back at when digital photography was rapidly moving mainstream and the iPhone was introduced. He was young and lived somewhat of a Bohemian lifestyle so his attitude was: “Aaahh, who cares? I still have the ‘eye’ man, like you always say! You gotta have ‘the eye’ to take good shots, right?”
I shook my head realizing that ignorance truly is bliss…
But a couple of things happened over the intervening years that changed his attitude completely: Digital photography of ever-increasing quality and resolution, became unbiquitous, as well as push-button software to transform mediocre photos into professional-looking shots.
The other thing that happened, which was a number of years back now, is he met a girl, a girl who was far more sensible than he was. Through osmosis, I suppose, her being realistic and practical finally began to sink into his unaimed arrow soul, and their relationship got serious and he finally started thinking about his future.
We hadn’t talked in about a year or so but of the blue, he called me on his brand new iPhone Xmax, and the first thing out of his mouth is: “These fuckin’ phones man! Why do they even call this a phone? It’s a fuckin’ camera that you can use to call people and tell ‘em what a great shot you just took with your “phone!” They make it so any idiot can take a good shot!”
I said, “ Hey Kev, ‘hello to you’ too. You gonna tell me you didn’t see this comin’? I’ve been telling you for years that you could make a good living selling your shots if you’d take it seriously and act like a professional.”
As if he’d had a financial epiphany, he declared: “Hey, man, I just realized I am getting totally, royally ripped off!”
Kevin went from being uber-casual about his photos to completely paranoid. He told me, “Hey man, I really need to get serious about this. I gotta start protectin’ my shit. I need to talk to someone about uhh, whaddaya call it? Watermarking? Right? And I gotta figure out how to secure my computer and all that shit…”
I told him I agreed and recommended a good IT guy with expertise in security and intellectual property, who could fix him up.
Kevin called my reference and they guy came out to his house and checked the computer. He found malware, adware, trojan horses and three or four viruses. He explained they had been there for years and were undoubtedly the source of a few of his photos ending up out on the Internet. He told him he was actually very lucky.
He gave him a quote to get his PC up to muster. Kevin wanted reassurance that after he was done, his PC would be 100% secure. The IT guy looked at him and said, “Well, there’s only one way to make your PC 100% secure…”
Kevin told him, “Fine, do it. I need it to be 100% secure man! I’m gettin’ ripped off!!!”
“OK…” said the IT guy. He turned back to the computer and began the process of removing all the malware, adware and viruses. He took one final last step to secure the PC and turned around and told Kevin he was done.
Kevin was amazed. “Wow, man. Just like that huh?”
The IT guy replied, “Just like that…”
Kevin told him he’d write him a check. The IT guy said “Hey, it was pretty easy. You’re not tech savvy, there’s no charge this time…”
They shook hands. Kevin was thrilled. He called his now fiancé about his PC being secured and felt the need to flaunt his new attitude of maturity and took her out to dinner and a movie. They had a great time and Kevin spent the night at her place. He got up the next morning and Renee, his fiancé had already left for work. He took a quick shower, and left to go back to his place.
When he got home, he fired up his PC and waited with excitement to use his newly disinfected, sparkling sterile PC, but something was wrong. He opened his email but got a message that he was not connected to the Internet. He was puzzled. He fired up web browser and got the same message. He was not connected to the Internet.
Kevin went from gleeful to infuriated. He called the IT guy. All he got was a voicemail message saying that he would be out of town for a week at a technical conference and to leave a message. Kevin was livid, so naturally, he called me…
Kevin explained everything and I wondered what was going on. I sent the IT guy a text asking him what the deal was. He texted back: “He wanted his PC to be 100% secure. So I gave him just what he asked for…”
I chuckled to myself and texted back: “Got it. Thanks…”
I went over to Kevin’s place and sat down with him and explained what the deal was.
“You asked him to make your PC 100% secure, right?”
“So, what’s the problem? Your PC is totally secure. It’s bulletproof.”
Kevin, completely exasperated, started pacing and whined, “But I can’t get on the Internet! How the fuck can I get anything done, how can I make any money if I can’t get on the Internet!”
“You asked him to make it 100% secure and it is. If you connect to the Internet, it’s impossible to make it 100% secure…”
Kevin replied, almost hysterical, “Impossible?!”
I calmly replied, “Impossible…”
I could see the gears spinning in Kevin’s head. He gestured with his left hand, pointing, “So… I can be 100% safe and secure, but to do that, I have to be completely isolated, right? Cut off from the rest of the world?”
I replied, “There is a ZERO chance your PC will get a virus if you’re not connected to anyone else.”
Kevin bantered back, “But if I’m not connected to the Internet, then my PC, me… I’m worthless. If no one knows I’m here, or even if they do know about me and they wanna buy some of my stuff, I can’t sell it to ‘em!”
“You have to decide what you’re willing to live with: Taking a small risk in exposing yourself to viruses, but you can make a good living, OR, you can be 100% safe and secure, and worthless…”
Kevin sat down and said, “OK. I get it…”
“Kev, as you get older, you’ll realize that when it comes to many of the important things in life, there are no perfect solutions, only trade-offs. There are NO guarantees, no returns, no refunds. To let the world know who you are and what you have to offer, you have to expose yourself to dangers like viruses. There is nothing you can do in life that’s 100% risk-free, except to cut yourself off from the world…”
Kevin replied with uncharacteristic wisdom: “Then I may as well be dead, right?”
I chuckled and replied, “I guess that’s right. Either take the 0.1% risk you could die where you might catch a virus. The virus might make you sick. The virus might possibly even kill you… OR, take ZERO risk and be 100% invisible; non-existent, which, like you said, you may as well be dead…”
Author’s note: In trying to “mitigate” the small chance of catching a bug that then has less than a 1% chance of getting seriously sick or even dying, we are doing 100% guaranteed damage in the process, with a far higher cost than the virus itself. One cannot experience life without risk. Let’s all grow up, face real life and the real world.