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The internet refuses to forgive sins

Robin knew that the “permanent record” was often wrong. Even birth certificates and death certificates were filled with inaccurate information. Gravestones filled with fallacy. Stanford Binet IQ tests placed the score of “idiot” on 80 - 90% of Italian immigrants in the early 1900s. Robin always believed he could overcome his poor IQ score, and his misattributed parentage. He could, he thought, overcome his record, until the dawn of the internet and its utopian step-child, the World Wide Web.


Several years ago, when Robin was released from his military service, and before he tried to return to college, Robin found himself broke and without the resources to pay his rent or feed his grumbling gut. In a desperate state, Robin had his own Jean Valjean moment and was caught shoplifting food. It was a front-page article in his small-town paper and that article and the court docket case that followed it were the first things found when his name was entered into Google Search. Five years later, it still is, and perhaps always will be.


Confession may have wiped his soul clean, and the court case against him may have been expunged, but the internet refuses to forgive sins and is unexpungable. The internet had deemed him an outcast. Employers hiring, Landlords renting, schools admitting, all played close attention to the great data cloud in the sky and Robin was most often not hired, rented to, or admitted to higher education. His “Permanent Record” made him a risky bet for the majority of authoritative institutions, so Robin accepted his lot and took a job as a night janitor. During the day, he attended Community College and on the weekend he was a volunteer and recipient of the local food bank.


Robin worked hard and studied hard, but his situation did not improve. He was regularly rejected for better-paying jobs and no one was handing him a scholarship to a four-year institution until one day an overworked and underpaid Community College professor read his thesis on the “permanent record” of the internet and its effect as a modern-day caste system. Jim Charles, the community college’s only anthropology professor recognized the care and the passion in the thesis and decided he should get to know the student who had written it.


When Robin got the note that his teacher wanted to meet with him he assumed he was in trouble. He assumed he would be accused of using Artificial Intelligence to write his paper though he had not, but how could he prove that? He couldn’t.


What he discovered in the meeting with Mr. Charles was that this teacher believed him, and after a number of more meetings, he found that this teacher actually believed IN him which was all Robin ever really needed or wanted: someone to see him, rather than his permanent record. Whenever Robin met people in the future he would eventually ask them: “Who was it that believed in you”?


The answers were always worth listening to.

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