Critical Thinking with the Genius Club

Critical Thinking with the Genius Club

A lack of critical thinking is responsible for the success of every con that reaches epic proportions. We must think critically to protect ourselves from evil geniuses.

If you have ever been to the Genius Bar at an Apple store, then you’ve experienced the true level of mental prowess of a self-proclaimed genius. My own lived experience makes me very wary whenever someone is calling themselves a genius.

A self-described genius is a con-artist more often than not, and part of their con is convincing you that they know something valuable that you could never understand with your mere mortal levels of intelligence. Con artists are often geniuses at ripping people off, but they are rarely geniuses at what they pretend to be. If they were, they wouldn’t need to con anyone.

For a masterclass in deception on an epic scale, watch HBO’s new three-episode documentary “Telemarketers,” which depicts one of the great frauds of the last century. A scheme that successfully ripped off hundreds of millions of dollars from the elderly under the guise that their donations were going to help the families of fallen officers and veterans.

Now the characters in “Telemarketers” have started a new genius club for car dealers. Probably violating their settlement agreement with the FTC, the same cast of characters is now milking car dealers by convincing them they are genius trackers of online data and the only geniuses alive capable of harmonizing analytics across the automotive industry. Without their impossibly complex work how would your mere mortal mind ever know where your traffic and leads are coming from?

Recently a long-term client asked us to install some code. Turns out they had joined this new genius club. They were told that by installing the magic genius code that their website would load faster. Certainly, I was intrigued, this is a core advantage that we bring to the table as we take great care to make sure our sites load as fast as humanly possible. If there is a way to make a website load faster, I am beyond interested. So, I asked our resident actual geniuses to evaluate this magical code snippet and what they found is a lie. The code provided to our client by the genius club is blocking code, which means that is does not load in parallel and the website must wait for the magical genius code to load.

Interestingly, while our client was told that the code was intended to make the site load faster, our team was told that it is just tracking code, which it is. After we installed their magic genius code, I requested a meeting with one of the head geniuses that started the new genius club. He obliged. I asked him how adding blocking code speeds up the website. He proceeded to explain to me that they are packing up the entire site, including all of its images and assets, and then re-serving it to the web through their own content distribution network. This answer is so mind-bogglingly stupid that I am shocked they are getting away with this. Of course, this is also a total lie. Even if that were possible, it would only slow down the loading speed as it would be adding many more steps into the process of serving the pages. We also know that this is a lie because it is front-end code, so we can see exactly what it is doing.

Their magic genius code is a piece of blocking JavaScript that opens a hidden window on the page, collects your customer data and stores it in their systems. Presumably, they are selling your customer data since they give the magic genius code away to “over 200 tier-three marketers” that they are actively duping in a giant slack channel. Often the genius of a con is in its scale. This was true of the epic fraud depicted in “Telemarketers,” as more people fell for it the more “legitimacy” it gained. As a con grows, at some point people stop thinking about if it is a fraud or not because so many other people are doing it too.

A lack of critical thinking is responsible for the success of Bernie Madoff’s investment fraud, Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto fraud and every con that reaches epic proportions. We must think critically to protect ourselves from evil geniuses. Our defense is thinking critically about the realities of the world we live in. Consider this a public service announcement and then take a moment to think about this critically: We cannot change the people around us, but we can change the people around us. Cheers.

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