Lincoln Wilcox · October 12, 2018
Former FBI Chief Technology Officer Justin Lindsey spoke to students at Southern Virginia University on Friday. His talk, titled, “Signal to Noise: Moments That Matter,” focused on how we can optimize our lives in order to maximize life’s most significant experiences.
“This talk is about finding the thing that makes you feel like you’re on the wire,” Lindsey continued, challenging students to follow their passion. “And when you find it—I don’t care if it’s sports or it’s writing or it’s computer science, you run with it, because that makes a great life.”
After working in the technology industry for several years, Lindsey was called upon to serve as the chief technology officer for the FBI immediately following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, where he helped to enhance the Bureau’s technological capabilities.
During this time, Lindsey developed his career-defining activity of signal finding, which consists of analyzing large amounts of data to find encoded signals. These “traces of reality” serve to explain the past and predict future events.
“I love finding information that allow me to see and act, and because of it I think I’ve been able to find more moments that matter in my own life,” he said.
According to Lindsey, although we spend much of our lives facing forward in order to deal with events and needs that come at us, it is also important to envision the future and then look backward to our present moment.
“I think that moments that matter when you look back are rare,” Lindsey said. “When I look back in [my children’s] lives, there are a handful of moments in which my relationship with them moved—although I live with them every day. And so, the question is, how can I optimize that?”
“If you could imagine a profession, an interest or a relationship that would change your life, I think that’s actually the hardest part of the work, because once you see the future, the present is forever changed,” he continued. “If you optimize from the future backwards, we can actually choose anything now.”
Lindsey also encouraged students not to limit their visions for the future by negative assumptions about their personal limits.
I believe very strongly that you can dream big regardless of your particular attributes, skills, health,” he said. “Wherever you think the limit is, where you think, ‘that’s all I could be,’ it’s probably multiple factors above that; it could even be 10 times that.”