WASHINGTON—In a rambling and somewhat odd keynote speech at the Gartner IT Security Expo here Monday, author Tom Clancy urged the assembled security specialists and CIOs in the audience to seek out experts in other fields and apply their knowledge to the IT world.
"The world is full of smart people, and when you find out what some of them are doing, you get smarter," Clancy said. "Everyone knows at least one thing you can learn from them. So go learn."
Asked where he gets the information on the gadgets and technologies that populate his novels, Clancy said that its all out in the open, and its simply a matter of legwork and research. In the age of information, when virtually anything you want to know is a few clicks away, Clancy said there is no excuse for not finding what you need to do your job better.
"There are no secrets in the world. The only hard part is finding the right person to ask," he said. "If you have a phone, you can find out anything you want in under 60 minutes. With the Internet, its even faster."
The idea, Clancy said, is to not limit yourself to one subject, to broaden the scope of your intellectual activity.
"Fortune favors the prepared mind, as Louis Pasteur said. The best guys are the ones who can cross disciplines," Clancy said. "The smartest ones look at other fields and apply them to their own."
As Clancy veered from subject to subject—touching on issues as diverse as Bill Clinton, baseball, the charm of Macs, and the relative levels of corruption in Washington and Hollywood-—the Gartner analysts tasked to moderate his talk tried to steer him back to technology topics. But they had little luck.
In what amounted to more of a collection of one-liners and anecdotes than a speech, Clancy revealed himself to be a master name-dropper and a man who is perpetually unhappy with the people on Capitol Hill.
After relating an anecdote about a congressman who dismissed an experts objections to a particular technology by saying, "Dont give that laws of physics stuff," Clancy had this to say: "They dont have an intelligence test for members of Congress. But I guess thats kind of obvious."
After his monologue, two Gartner analysts came on stage and asked Clancy to sit down with them for a discussion. "I have to sit down, huh? Ill be on the extreme right," Clancy quipped.
Among Clancys other verbal gems:
- "The one nice thing about being rich and famous is you get to meet all kinds of interesting people. Actually, you meet all sorts of idiots too, but you discard them."
- "An extremist is someone who doesnt agree with you and does so loudly."
- "The president of the United States wanted to do away with Fidel Castro, and he asked the CIA to do it. They of course failed because they hired the Mafia to do it, and Castro wouldnt sit in the front seat."
- "Thats why Im a Mac driver: You dont have to know anything about computers."