Update: I can’t help but feel embarrassed by what I wrote below. At best, it seems we were misled about what Ahmed “invented”. At worst, it was entrapment on behalf of Ahmed and his father for personal gain. Alas, doesn’t feel right to pretend I didn’t write this. For me, it’s an important lesson in the dangers of getting caught up in the Internet rage-mob.
Fourteen year-old Ahmed Mohamed from Irving, TX was arrested after bringing a homemade clock to school.
He wanted to proudly show off his electronics skills to his teacher. “I made a clock. It was really easy, I wanted to show her something small at first. But it took a wrong point and they thought it was a bomb, so I got arrested for a hoax bomb.”
He was taken to a juvenile detention facility. He was fingerprinted and interrogated. He was not allowed to call his parents. They didn’t know about his arrest until he had been released.
I expect they will have more to say tomorrow, but Ahmed's sister asked me to share this photo. A NASA shirt! pic.twitter.com/nR4gt992gB— Anil Dash (@anildash) September 16, 2015
It was a small metal pencil case with a bunch of circuitry inside.
I suppose it looks like a bomb if your only exposure to DIY electronics is TV and action movies. Also, if the kid’s skin is brown.
Ahmed was booked on the charge of a “hoax bomb,” even though he never claimed it to be that. The police spokesman said, “We have no information that it was a bomb. He claimed that it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”
No broader explanation.
I was reminded of a 2010 interview from Mark Zuckerberg (15:00 mark) from just after The Social Network (aka The Facebook Movie) came out, and he was asked about the movie’s inaccuracies:
Where do you wanna start? I mean, I don’t know. It’s interesting what stuff they focused on getting right. Like every single fleece and shirt I had in that movie is actually a shirt or fleece that I own. You know, so there’s all this stuff that they got wrong, and a bunch of random details that they got right.
The thing that I think is actually most thematically interesting that they got wrong is – the whole framing of the movie, kind of the way that it starts is, I’m with this girl who doesn’t exist in real life, who dumps me, which has happened to me in real life, a lot – and basically to frame it as if the whole reason for making Facebook and building something was because I wanted to get girls or wanted to get into some sort of social institution.
And the reality for people who know me is that I’ve actually been dating the same girl since before I started Facebook, so obviously that’s not a part of it. But I think it’s such a big disconnect from the way people who make movies think about what we do in Silicon Valley – building stuff. They just can’t wrap their head around the idea that someone might build something because they like building things.
Maybe the saddest part of Ahmed’s story was the quote immediately after the incident that, “He’s vowed never to take an invention to school again.”
Fortunately, I was reminded of Zuckerberg’s interview after I saw that he had invited Ahmed to visit Facebook.
And that was just after this tweet from the President of the United States:
Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great.— President Obama (@POTUS) September 16, 2015
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