Instead of telling your kids to avoid working at places with a polygraph, how about instilling some confidence and make it clear to them that if they are/become really good at what they do, they have the leverage to not put up with these things (at least in non-depressed employment markets).
That's such an arrogant thing to say if you have never been in this situation. History has long shown that when things get tough most people will fall in line and only a very few will resist. Talk is easy but actually acting is very tough and rare.
How does that person know that without having been in that situation? It's so easy to say "I'd never do that" but history is full of examples where most people just fell in line. Just look at around at most big tech companies or banks. There are a lot of people who may not be comfortable with their employer's business practices but in the end they stay because they don't want to lose that nice paycheck. I am not judging these people, they are like most of us. I am judging people who say they are different without back it up.
I still think your attitude is very arrogant. Maybe one day you will be in a situation where you can't just quit and find anther job easily. This may help you learn to have more empathy with others who are in a less privileged position than you are.
Ditto for people who brag about getting triggered by some question in a job interview that they feel is beneath them, so they claim that they got up and left the interview right then and there, as if that’s something to brag about. It’s so cringey every time some HN poster brags about immediately bailing on an interview because they thought someone asked them a dumb question.
A few things:
1) The article was a fantastic read(!), and I couldn't help but think that the polygraph is a bit of a hazing ritual that is used to measure, not truthfulness/deception, but one's eagerness for the job and system. As a said in another post, once too many people begin to question a/the system that depends on wide-scale high levels of trust(compliance), it fails.
The whole thing seemed to involve a lot of behavioral conditioning.
Example 1: Offer computer access (so that you can do your supposed job) contingent upon one complying w/ and passing the poly.
Example 2: Oh, you hate the poly and put up a fuss? Well, thanks for complying: here's a good performance review and raise.'
So long as the writer responded appropriately to the bell, he/she received a treat. This is intro-level psych.
2) Though most are not subjected to polygraphs, the experience described over all, doesn't deviate from what most employees experience, unfortunately. You mentioned a maze, and you are correct. That's why the typical work arrangement is colloquially described as "the rat race".
3) A lot of people like "grabbing their ankles," as you say. As it's been explained to me numerous times, they appreciate the "structure" or "predictability." I try not to fight it anymore. Sheep make good eatin', and I realize I should just live as such.
> ...they have the leverage to not put up with these things...
As someone who's been around the block a bit, I no longer believe this. There are too many willing ankle grabbers in world that is more interested in compliance (ego-stroking of the insecure, actually) than in achieving perfection, or even just "better than." Of course, there are exceptions, but those are few and far between, IMO. So, the author suggested one coping mechanism, just as I above offered another.
Consider...on the east coast, interview suits are the norm. Even for a coding job where you will never wear a suit, it is reasonable to wonder why a candidate refused to wear a suit for an interview. West coast, though, the reverse is true. I had quite the culture shock coming from a govt job on the east coast to a Seattle coding job.
I have anxiety and would find routine polygraphs stressful...but I also hate annual performance reviews and enjoy my 1:1s with managers. I'm sure others might look at my life and wonder why I choose certain issues as important and others as trivial.
So while I have the same reactions as you when PERSONALLY considering the named job, I'm less inclined to snap judge the author as "so willing to grab their ankles"
What I would find intolerable is the persistence of the practice despite polygraphs being bullshit. I can't work for higher-ups that I don't respect, because I'm constitutionally unable to conceal my contempt. And it would be impossible to respect higher-ups that required regular polygraphs.
brilliant use of language here, you're spot on. while i agree that the public sector can foster a passive mentality, i didn't get that vibe from the author. they were just a person trying to put up with the bullshit that accompanied a job they loved.
Unfortunately, people with far better credentials have been traitors and spies. Kim Philby, Aldrich Ames, and Robert Hanssen come to mind. IIRC, at least one was even given a pass on his polygraph test because of his credentials. Recently, Michael Flynn was a Lt General, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and National Security Advisor (to be clear, he is convicted only of lying to the FBI, AFAIK).
EDIT: Added to Flynn's credentials
> Three years later, at the start of his career as a Russian mole, Aldrich Ames passed a Central Intelligence Agency lie detector test. In 1991, he passed another, even though he was on the agency's list of suspected moles and living at a level far above his $70,000 Government salary. Last summer, Dennis DeConcini, then chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, visited Mr. Ames in jail and asked how he passed the exams. "Well," Mr. Ames replied, "they don't work."
He also wrote a very interesting letter about polygraph testing:
Why was Ames given a pass on the other signs of risk? Because of his credentials?
But if I recall correctly, he was also surprised it took so long.
> tells me I'm being deceptive and obviously support jihadi terrorism. This as I'm getting ready to leave on my 12th deployment.
- I'm sorry, what did you say? I didn't hear that?
- Oh, I thought you said that. What made you say it?
- You know that people reserve the worst criticism for themselves?
Did my original question implied polygraph tests in any way?
Obviously it does not work as a lie detector, but it’s an excellent tool for interrogation. At least that’s my conclusion.
Just answer yes and no. They’ll say you are almost done, but have an issue with one question, and want you to explain more. Don’t explain anything; just say “I don’t know“ and you are answering truthfully. Just stay relaxed, calm, and bored.
FWIW I would estimate that 85% of my colleagues that discuss their poly experience view it as the same.
It is an interrogation prop masquerading as science. The poly is subjective, as evident by the few times I have failed, re-tested, and passed. If I were lying the first time and did not change any answers, how can I pass the second time?
The author alluded to it in her writing, but all of the test administrators have read up on methods of defeating the polygraph exam. Often, the "I've never heard of it" line is a lie.
The one thing the intel community does want to screen out are rash decision makers. So it’s probably excellent measure of one’s ability to keep cool under pressure.
If that's is the case, then a nasty side-effect is to weed out the people who as a general principle refuse to put up with abuse as a basic condition of their potential job. Maybe a small deal if you're only hiring James Bond-style spies, but a big deal if you're mainly hiring analysts.
Imagine in a FLOSS project that I force all pull-request makers to read through my recursive, non-deterministic set of makefiles and fix a bug there. How many high-quality pull requests will I accept under such a system vs. simply assessing pull requests on their merit?
Of course that's not a fair comparison. I apologize to polygraph operators for it. :)
But he told me that the application process in order to get clearance would involve a nasty investigation questioning everyone who knew me about all kinds of personal things.
It seemed like a fun project that would pay decently, but it didn't make sense for me to subject myself to some kind of intense invasion of privacy or interrogation.
The other part of it is that the software was going to be used for warfare planning. And I consider war to be unethical profiteering.
In my opinion things like polygraphs and invasive investigations AND most things related to war and spying belong in movies rather than a sane and ethical world.
Do you mean all war? Or something more limited, like conflicts involving the US over the past 20 years. Or, only for the initiators of conflict. I find that line of thinking hard to justify after the most basic application to actual historical events.
Like when Finland was defending itself against Russia, was Finland attempting unethical profiteering? What should they have done instead?
The US stopping genocide in Europe with the Kosovo war, for example, was ethical. If a people or nation can't defend itself from an aggressor (eg the UNC & South Korea vs China & North Korea), it's more than reasonable that a stronger power step in to help with that defense if it's willing to do so. The first Gulf War was also an ethical intervention of 30 nations vs Iraq, to push them back out of Kuwait.
If the US was to get involved in a war every time they thought something unethical was happening would that be good? If the US made a policy to never intervene anywhere, even if trivial intervention could improve the lives of millions, would that be good?
I find that people have strong opinions about war and are happy to share them, but often don't seem to have thought them through at all. Why should either war everywhere or war nowhere make sense? Is there any room for good judgment, to weigh ethics, ability and consequences, and have a different approach in different situations?
There is an entire field of philosophy and ethics around this that has been developed in the Western world and continues to be researched and debated, called just warfare. It is actually used, at least in the US, to inform decisions about rules of engagement and legal or illegal tools and tactics. In fact it is required learning for future officers in the US military, at least in the Air Force.
This may all be true. But my personal impression is, that most wars are waged for geo-strategical reasons, and that ethical motives serve primarily in 'manufacturing consent'. I can be entirely wrong, of course.
Yes. War can be unethical but the most ethical response to an action. In practice, there are few ethical wars, which is why having any ethical conversation about war is incredibly draining and not worth it for most people: it is often sufficient to simply state war is carte blanche unethical.
Thankfully I don’t see any ethical wars on the immediate horizon.
It would also be ethical to remove the leadership of North Korea or even recently Venezuela since they actively harm their own constituents, yet it is very unlikely it would ever happen.
So in the end it is clearly calculated motives and returns on interventions. Ethical concerns are for the politicians to sell the package to Congress.
Really think about it. Is it ethical to start a war that is otherwise meritorious but that you cannot win? If you would be unable to create a good result, going to war would only add more misery to the process of getting to the inevitable bad result. This is not so 2 dimensional. You cannot say, these sets of values are parts of ethical decision making, and these other sets of values, that also impact people's lives, have no part in ethical considerations. The chances of success in a military action are a crucial component of whether it is ethical to even try it.
It is simpler to look at the results. Perhaps if the people in Iraq or Afghanistan are not better off than they would have been otherwise, and the rest of the people of the world are not safer and more prosperous than they would have been otherwise, then there was probably something unethical about the prosecution of the recent wars there.
We are just really bad at predicting the future, and even understanding the present or past. That is another ethical consideration. We should be very careful about using "ends to justify means", meaning that we do something that we know is bad for a good result of greater magnitude. The result will likely be something we did not predict, and therefore we have done a bad thing and gotten possibly a bad result as well.
The challenge would be to find a way to actually do things in the best way possible, while attaining good results. So we should avoid killing people. But if we must kill people, or even if we should kill certain very bad people (who makes those decisions?), you want to only kill the "bad" ones, therefore you should use the most discriminate weapons possible. Is it possible to do so? To achieve your aim can you use a sniper's bullet, a drone which can surveil it's target for days, or would you need to use nuclear weapons?
How would you approach North Korea, which is evil by almost any standard, when any war that lasts longer than 5 minutes results in the death of every inhabitant of Seoul?
I write all this because these are both very important and very difficult decisions. And it feels like we are not even trying. People cling to silly shallow principles and sling them around at each other, preventing the deeper discourse that should be taking place so that we can do better at dealing with horrible situations that remain in the world.
If you work on OSS, you're contributing to the military industrial complex indirectly.
If you pay your taxes, yes, you pay for schools, but you're also paying for an intelligence system and armed contingent within your country. Most HNers are contributing to NATO.
The Internet started life as a DARPA project in order to coordinate response after nuclear war.
Be a conscientious objector if you wish, just don't build stuff on the Internet and complain about how evil all things related to defence are.
And I'd be fascinated to know what forms of profiteering you consider ethical.
I don't believe that ethical thinking has to be all or nothing. Not taking some projects makes them a bit harder and more expensive to recruit for and helps you sleep better at night, if that's the sort of thing that bothers you. Not paying your taxes is something you can go to jail for, which seems like a bad trade.
Where and when I grew up that was about the worst thing that could be said of a young male. On the trip to the interview my magic magnifying mind had wondered about whether sensitivity to a question alone could cause truth to appear to be a lie. Of course the question that popped into my mind which I anticipated was the question on homosexual activity. Well, having thought about it beforehand, sure enough I reacted strongly. It was just as well because the overall interview had shown me that I didn't want to work there anyway but it was still traumatic to be accused of lying and about that in particular at that time.
For a short period of time I questioned my sexuality but can say that in the intervening 51 years there has not been one moment when I considered homosexual behavior. This is not to say anything negative about homosexuality, just how one's fear of responding to a question can cause one to respond negatively even with a truthful answer.
Times were different then and my attitude was too. I doubt I'd fear the question today given that my accepting attitude toward homosexuality in general has been normalized.
This explains that other thing I read yesterday, in a different article about the polygraph test:
"There may be something that's put on the tip of the finger that records blood flow and we also use something called a movement detector which is on the seat and picks up if you're trying to beat the test," Prof Grubin explains.
So that's not a "movement detector". It's a butt-clench detector.
That's just the level of seriousness I'd expect from modern-day sorcery with wires and computers, instead of fetishes and incantations.
once you get into some of the intermediate level buddhist body awareness studies, you won't need the butt clench to cause your muscle tenor, heart rate, body temp, and respiration to respond to your will.
Heh. In machine learning, when someone gets a "successful result" like that they publish a paper.
Unsurprisingly, these guys tend to have a lot of turn-around, and are not necessarily spending time researching their craft.
It's funny how people will mock scientology and their emeter and then look at this and say it's normal.
The airport is not the only security theater the Americans operate :)
The most interesting story is how the authorities nabbed the guy who was most dedicated to dismissing the lie-detector baloney:
His consulting work of helping people pass lie detectors was his downfall. Had he just stuck to campaigning against the lie detector and not wanting to offer services to those needing to pass a lie detector test then all would have been okay for him and he would not be having to serve one of those silly 100 year sentences that American justice demands.
Still absolutely mindbogglingly. The whole situation reminds me to much on the emperors new clothes.
Not to mention that eliminating the polygraph would require someone to admit that they were wrong about using a polygraph.
Pharmacists need to take polygraphs? I never thought about that. Is this to prevent pharmacists from dealing drugs? Is this a strictly US thing, or doe pharmacists in say Europe also take quasi routine polygraphs?
I live in Ghent, Belgium, a developed Western European nation. You can look up a lot of debate by googling "paragnost politie" and you will see results from Belgium, Netherlands, ... basically psychics, mediums and hypnotists working for / with the police.
I think it was about 10 years ago (very rough guess) when I read in an article that the local police (perhaps just Ghent, perhaps nationwide) fired the last paragnosts. In the mean while perhaps they still don't use them, perhaps they have reverted back to using them...
Intelligence and superstition form a very bad couple...
I believe the polygraph is junk, but how is it to the DIA's credit that they don't notify other agencies when an employee fails a background check?
I also think the author is taking things too personally. I agree it seems like a strange and poor requirement that you sit in a chair and be berated or called a liar for a few hours but it also doesn't seem so horrible. If this is the best the agency can do for interrogation and background checks - so be it. If you don't like doing that then find a different job.
BTW, the MMPI is completely invalid scientifically, which is obvious from researching its history. Also, if anyone is interested in beating the MMPI, by learning how to give any particular result, it requires work and memorization since there's such a large number of questions and categories, but it's possible with study.
Pharmacy in the is requires a polygraph? I didn't expect that. It's not required in other Commonwealth countries as far as I know.
"Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize."
Can you please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and follow the rules when posting here?
You've disappointed me with your disingenuous misinterpretation of my comment and I strongly suggest you no longer reply to my posts.
If you decide you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email email@example.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future.
If you don’t want nasty discussion maybe apply the guidelines to the fucking articles not just the comments.
Oh gosh please no, what an utter embarassment to read.