Palantir, that CIA-funded, Silicon Valley creephouse that funnels in humanity's data and spits out... more data... has a lot of secrets. We don't know exactly which parts of the government it works for, or what it does for them. But we do know one of its execs thinks he's locked in a Lord of The Rings battle between good and evil.
Shyam Sankar, Palantir's Director of Forward Deployed Engineering, hit Quora to explain the company's strange "Save the Shire" motto. Turns out, it's exactly as jingoistically Tolkien as it sounds—and even dating to 2010, is revealing for today:
Save the Shire, simply put, means to make the world we love and treasure a better place—to protect it from terrorists, fraudsters, cyber spies, etc. through our software. The name Palantir comes from the Lord of the Rings (LoTR). A Palantir was a magical seeing stone that essentially let you see what was happening in lands far off (the Middle Earth equivalent of making sense of the world). The Shire was the home of the Hobbits. As you may recall from the story, the hobbits were reluctant heroes who didn’t seek adventure or to leave their comfortable and idyllic Shire—they only did so because of existential risk (the forces of evil wanted to destroy the Shire and the Hobbits). And so these very short humanoid like creatures contributed to the mission in important ways. They were unconventional and odd looking warriors, but they were all heart and fought valiantly for the forces of good.
And so for this motley crew of computer scientists in Silicon Valley, removed from the happenings of DC, Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Colombia, the Horn of Africa, Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Pakistan, and many others places where the forces of evil conspire against us and place humanity under many forms of existential threat including terrorism, proliferation of nuclear weapons, large scale humanitarian disasters, mortgage fraud of enormous scale used to raise money for organized crime, cyber espionage (even against the Dalai Lama), and many more forms of malfeasance, we see it as incumbent upon us to do what we can with the skills we have to “Save the Shire”… we build very powerful software that allows the modern day equivalents of middle earth warriors in every discipline be more effective against the adversary.
Pros of working for Palantir: delicious catered meals, on-site chiropractor. Cons: a boss who seriously paints you as the "modern day equivalent of middle earth warriors." Or maybe that's a pro.
Image by Jim Cooke