We Are None Of Us Imposters: An Allegory

974 Words. Plan about 4 minute(s) to read this.

Sitting in the conference room, I looked up at the whiteboard covered in a clever design. I hadn’t understood the design immediately, but then as my mentor explained it to me, I comprehended the brilliance of it.

“That was…that was clever. Really. Elegant even. I never would have come up with that on my own. I learned something from you today, and I appreciate it. Thanks for taking the time.”

“Oh, I can’t take credit for the design. I got most of it from this book here. If anything, the credit goes to the author.”

And so I took a look at the book, and searched online for the author’s name. Her information popped up in my browser, and I sent her an e-mail.

“Thanks for the design you recommended in your book. It’s very clever, and we’re going to be testing it for use in our company. I think you’ve solved some problems for us. We really appreciate it.”

After a few days, her reply came back.

“Naturally, I’m happy that the book is a benefit to you, but honestly, that design is a reflection of an interview I had with a research team. They did all the heavy lifting and the homework to finalize the design that I shared. If anything, the credit goes to them. Here’s their contact information. I bet they’d love to hear from you.”

It turned out they were on a university campus close by me, so I got in the car, and the professor leading the research group was happy to see me.

“Yes, that project was a fun one. We really got a lot out of the effort. We worked hard with a variety of companies to define the constraints. We also received a government grant for the work.

But really, a vendor made it all possible. One of their distinguished engineers was a former student of mine. He had the seed idea and brought it to my attention, and even arranged for a hardware contribution for us to run our tests on. I recommend you let him know how it’s impacted you so positively!”

The distinguished engineer in question was also happy to chat with me. Over Skype, he shared his thoughts on the design.

“It really was marvelous how the university team brought my idea to life. You have no idea how happy it makes me to see that idea grow into usefulness in a production environment. But you know what really inspired me to come up with that idea? Believe it or not, I was reading a book on chip design.

If I hadn’t read that book, I never would have had the idea to begin with. So, while I appreciate your thanks, I just can’t take the credit. Really, you should talk to the author of that book on chip design. He is very old now, but he was a real pioneer in the field! An inspiration to many of us in tech.”

The author of the book on chip design lived deep in Silicon Valley, where he’d made his long and storied career. I arranged to give him a call, and at the appointed time, he picked up the phone. I shared my story, explaining how it lead to him.

“Well, who’d have thought my old book on chips would have brought me this call! I accept your thanks, but in a way, I don’t know what to say.

What’s strange is that I never felt like a very capable engineer. I’ve always lived in awe of silicon. The properties we discovered back when I was a young man came at the right time and place to enable the many changes we’ve seen in our world.

But I didn’t make the silicon. That was done by the Maker.”

“The Maker? I…don’t think I understand,” I responded, fearing that the old man’s mental acuity was suffering the ravages of time.

“The Maker makes all, and it is to the Maker that we owe our thanks. None of us really do anything. Well, that’s the big picture perhaps, but it’s more complicated than that. When you speak to the Maker, you’ll understand.”

This was a bit perplexing, and so I asked the obvious question.

“Where will I find the Maker? How can I speak to him?”

“The Maker is not one to be found, but fear not. The Maker will find you. And once again, you’re welcome for how I helped you, no matter how distantly. You really made my day!”

And so, I waited many days, wondering about the Maker, and about the sanity of the old chip designer. My curiosity began to fade as the daily concerns of life returned to their normal place.

I had almost forgotten the riddle of the Maker, as I stepped alone onto the elevator one morning to take my place amongst the cubicle dwellers. Halfway to my floor, the elevator stopped. The door did not open. No buttons lit. There was no sound of mechanical stress. The elevator simply…stopped. Before I could react, there was a voice.

“I am the Maker. Through deep time, I have made all.”

I was startled, naturally. But I also sensed that the voice spoke truly. In fact, I had never been more sure of anything before. I responded to the Maker.

“Then you are the one I wish to thank. The design was exquisite. Elegant. It will serve our company well.”

“I do not need your thanks. Yes, I have made all. There is nothing new under the sun. None are truly original. None can make as I have. And yet…”

The Maker paused, and then continued.

“Everyone is a maker. None are the imposters they think themselves to be. You see, we each create special knowledge, observing the world through the lens of individual experience. Therefore, delight and enrich others with your own unique perspectives. They are yours. You have made them.”

The Maker’s voice was gone, and the elevator continued on its way.


Ethan Banks writes & podcasts about IT, new media, and personal tech.
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