Sunday, September 07, 2008

Everybody's Got to Eat

So it's no secret that I'm a fan of Mythbusters right? Well I'm always tootling around online looking for interesting articles and stuff about Mythbusters and Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman in particular.

Earlier this week I found this video posted on Boing Boing:

It's part of an appearance by Adam at The Last Hope convention, a convention for hackers. Now hackers don't just mean those awful people who maliciously hack into other people's computers. Hackers are people who like to pull stuff apart and see how it works, modify it to do things that it wasn't intended to do in the first place. You know those people who like to pull appliances apart just to see what's inside? That's a hacker. I'm a bit of a hacker myself.

The question of course was would Mythbusters investigate RFID (radio frequency ID) more.

And Adam tells the story of how Texas Instruments and the big credit card companies intimidated the representative from Discovery Channel and Tory Bellici and the story was shelved, it just won't be done on Mythbusters. Quite understandably, Discovery Channel is reliant on commercial corporations for it's revenue, and if they are being threatened legal action and loss of their revenue... they're going to back down.

And then a couple of days later, Boing Boing posted this article from CNET News. In simple words, it's Adam retracting what he said at the Last Hope convention regarding Texas Instruments and the credit card companies.

Can anyone say "balls in a vice"?

Adam has copped a LOT of flak for this whole saga. From people suggesting he was lying or making up the story he told at the convention, to those saying that if the story is true he was stupid to tell it to a room of about 500 people, to people suggesting he sold out by retracting the statements he made at the convention.

Now I personally believe he was telling the truth as he knew it when he told that story. He doesn't have much of a poker face Adam, and there is no artifice or falseness about his manner when he tells the story. He's relaxed, clearly relating an anecdote.

I also believe that he was pressured into retracting the story that he told. Be it from Discovery Channel, Beyond Productions (the company that produces Mythbusters) or even by legal actions from either Texas Instruments or the major credit card companies. But from what I know of Adam Savage, the statement given in the article is NOTHING at all like him, it's formal and clearly a very carefully prepared statement. Something tells me Adam has made the decision very carefully to back right away.

Now seriously, who can blame him? Ok yes, if he is being pressured he is backing down in the face of big business, but like every other one of us, he has to keep his job, has to put food on the table and pay the roof over his head. He has a name he has to keep clear. I also know that he has a wife and young family.

Not to mention that this could also affect his colleagues at Mythbusters, even Beyond Productions. If Discovery Channel has said "Retract that or else", then not only his job could be on the line, but the whole Mythbusters series, which means not only the on screen folks in himself, Jamie Hyneman, Tory Bellici, Kari Byrom and Grant Imehara, but the countless other people who work behind the scenes.

To me, Adam has done the wise and probably honourable thing to just back right away.

But that said... it was probably a very stupid thing for anyone to put pressure on him to change his story. Because it has meant that it's got a lot more people talking about it than if it had just slid by, and a lot more people asking questions about WHY the Mythbusters shouldn't be exposing just how safe and secure RFID technology is.

And as someone at the convention said... there are 5000+ people there who do not have contractual obligations preventing them from investigating the technology right there... and many more who have seen all this on the internet.

Poor Adam, he's probably feeling very much like this all over again:

That's Jamie slapping him, trying to bust the myth that a slap in the face will sober you up. For more laughs, watch this one of Adam trying to sober up by running on a treadmill:

High speed cameras rock! I love that Jamie (on the right, with hand in pocket and stop watch) doesn't move a muscle through all of that.

Oh and if you want to see the whole series from The Last Hope, I've made it into a YouTube Playlist: