AUGIE MeetsIn Some Other Universe

If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Before you start e-mailing me with actual answers, lets consider what some of our most learned minds might say. Some quantum physicists, for example, might reply as follows: “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear (or observe) itit didnt happen!”

Now I dont pretend to be an expert on the subtleties of quantum physics, but to me there seems to be a great deal of logic to such a statement. After all, if an event occurs without an observer present, we have only circumstantial evidence that it occurred at all. And even if there is an observer, if that person is not impartial, we have only a skewed version of an alleged event. Theres not much to hang your hat on there.

This very sound logic applies to a lot of things–trees falling in the woods, incidents of Presidential philandering, murder suspect alibis and important industry meetings. Not surprisingly, it is the latter I want to focus on here. Specifically, Im talking about the meeting of AUGIE (ACORD User Group Information Exchange) that was alleged to have taken place during the October ASCnet User Group Conference.

Let me explain.

As many of you readers know, I have been trying for some months now to get a clear idea of what AUGIE is, what it intends to do, and when it will do what it intends to do. Ive reviewed press releases, talked with AUGIE members, visited the AUGIE Web site, and attended press conferences, but my thinking remained “fuzzy.”

I had just about given up hope of understanding the AUGIE mystique, when, lo and behold, I was personally invited by the AUGIE illuminati to attend the AUGIE meeting at ASCnet in Orlando. I wasted no time in changing the airline reservations I had already made (despite the $100 penalty and the fact that I would have to get up in the wee hours of the morning to make the flight) in order to make sure I arrived in time for the meeting.

A few days before the meeting, however, I called the AUGIE elders for details and was told I was no longer welcome at the session. I was told that some AUGIE members were “uncomfortable” with the idea of having the media present as they discussed the important carrier/agent technology issues facing the industry. Instead, AUGIE would hold a “press conference” following the meeting to brief me and other reporters on what had transpired.

Needless to say, this was far from a satisfying solution. I had gone through some time and expense to adjust my travel schedule, only to be unceremoniously ousted from the gathering.

I did, however, attend the press conference, which was little more than a public relations presentation apparently staged for my benefit alone. It consisted of several hand-picked AUGIE members giving glowing reports on the soon-to-be-sent survey of agents regarding their technology wants and needs. (One AUGIE member asked me privately, “Why are we spending all this money to find out what we already know?”)

Other members, who had previously challenged AUGIE to be accountable in delivering results, were noticeably absent from the press conference gathering.

So, while I was able to get the company line on AUGIE, I felt cheated out of knowing what the hotly contested issues were at the alleged meeting. Instead, I had to rely on the carefully worded reports of the chosen representatives at the press conference.

Where was the fire, the contention, the give-and-take of honest debate?

This situation reminds me of two 12-year-old boys getting into a fistfight. When the scuffle is broken up by some brave adult and the kids are asked what happened, the predictable reply from both contestants is–”nothing.”

I subsequently asked two AUGIE members who claimed to have been at the alleged meeting why the press was excluded. Both expressed surprise at the exclusion and could offer no explanation.

AUGIE claims that its purpose is to gather information, share ideas and play an active role in setting an agenda for working together. This meeting was supposed to have been about a free and open exchange of ideas among agents, carriers and other parties. What was so controversial, so proprietary, so embarrassing that the media could not hear it?

What is it that AUGIE doesnt want us to know?

It puzzles me. But rather than obsess over what the alleged event really meant and what was actually discussed, I choose to take the quantum approach. Since, to my knowledge, no impartial observers were there to report on it, I find it much easier to simply believe that no such meeting ever took place–except, perhaps, in some parallel universe where openness is valued.

I would have to believe, however, that in such a parallel universe, AUGIE might not exist.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, December 24, 2001. Copyright 2001 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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