Thoughts of a Mad Man

"I have stood here before inside the pouring rain,
With the world turning circles running round my brain,
I guess I'm always hoping that you'll end this reign,
But its my destiny to be the king of pain"

Location: Cairo, Egypt

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Socialization Vs. logic

This post gonna be a little bit long so please bear it to the end. Its a story that reflects the effect of socialization upon our logic and our concept of right and wrong.


Paul is a 3 years old kid, He lives with his father and mother in a nice house in North Virgina. Since his birth his parents knew that he was different, different that kids his age and it always made them worry and disappointed about their only child

1st Episode:

Paul sat at his preschool table with five of his classmates. He was the youngest in his class. His sleeves were rolled up really far and a big smock was draped over his shoulders. A big sheet of white paper was unrolled on the table and held down with tan tape. The teachers brought out the paints, placed them on each of the tables, and the old teacher, Gray-Hair, spoke up. Paul didn't like her; her voice sounded like she smelled. Burnt-up. "The paints," she warned, "are for the paper. They are not to be used anywhere else. Everyone understand?" No one in class was really paying attention to her.There were paints on the tables and kids were already dipping their fingers into the jars.
Paul followed suit. He dipped his finger into the blue paint; it felt cold and he immediately regretted having it on his finger. He wiped his fingertip across the paper then turned his hand over and wiped it again. He gazed at his finger.The blue paint was still visible, especially in the little gaps around his fingernails. He sat frozen, staring at his fingers. The blonde-haired teacher across the table saw the look on Paul's face and stepped around the table to kneel down next to him."It's OK, Paul," she said. She smelled like flowers. "Getting a little bit messy is part of the fun." She looked at the blue streaks on the paper. "Besides," she said, leaning closer to him,"that's a nice looking sky you've got going there."
He looked out the window at the sky.The blue on the paper did look like the sky, though it needed more color. He dipped the fingers of both hands, one after the other, into the blue paint and filled in more sky. Blonde-Hair patted him on the shoulder as she stood to help out the other students."Great job, Paul," she said, walking away. "It is a good sky," he said, happily adding color after color, mirroring the scene outside the window. He added grass, plants, trees, and a bird to his creation and sat back to admire the finished product. It looked just like the scene
outside the window but it was blurry. My fingers aren't pointy enough to make the really small lines, he thought.
He looked at the student's piece of paper next to him. His picture was all wrong. There were lots of colored splotches that looked like flowers. Flowers were good, but there was no sky in his picture. He scooped up more blue paint, reached over to the kid's picture, and started adding a sky. The kid made a long, grunting sort of sound that came from the back of his throat. He must be sad because I'm not finished with his sky yet. Dad calls that impatient. He dipped into the paint again and continued to work on the sky. The kid went ballistic."Bwaaaahhhhh!" he yelled."Mine picture! My! MY! Bwahhh! Bwahhhh!" He said it all in one big breath. He must have used
up all his air because he took a deep breath when he was done and started yelling all over again. Paul glared at him. What a weird, impatient kid. Temporarily reallocating a goopy, blue hand from the painting, but keeping his focus on his work, he reached out and patted the kid's arm. It's
OK, it's almost done. I'm sorry it's taking me so long. Please stop crying.
The kid started flailing his arm around like he had acid on it or something.The teachers hurried over to the table, Gray-Hair in the lead."Paul!" she shouted from across the table."Kevin," she continued over the kid's wail, "it's OK. Paul! That's Kevin's picture!"
Of course it's his picture. I don't want it. He can keep it. I'm not trying to steal his picture.Why would I want to steal his picture when I'm trying to help him? Besides, it's all like one big sheet. How could I steal his picture without ripping it away? Adults are so silly sometimes.
Gray-Hair's voice was deeper now and sounded different, but Paul ignored her. Almost finished. Just a bit more blue. He reached for the blue paint but Gray-Hair was between them now, reaching for Paul's paints."Paul, this is Kevin's piece of the paper," she said with the deeper voice.The kid raised his arm, pointing it toward the teacher; he had somehow managed to get blue paint all over it.
Yes, yes. Kevin's paper. Gray-Hair reached in to take the paints from Paul. She's taking my paints away, and Kevin's picture isn't finished yet. He lunged for the glass jars that were now in Gray-Hair's hand, knocking over several of them as he moved in to liberate the blue from her.Time seemed to slow to a snail's pace as Paul watched the action of the paint jars.They toppled in a quarter-speed free-fall.Their rotations were incredible, and Paul saw their
graceful, balanced motion in mid-air.The paint churned, rising to the lip of the jars and then spilling over. He watched as Gray-Hair's features twisted and her limbs reached for the falling jars; there was no way she would catch up with them.There was an amazing peace and stillness about the grace of the jars, and so much chaos around the periphery as the teacher bumbled to
recover the paint. As one of the jars neared him, Paul reached out and grabbed it from the air. Gray-Hair batted at one of the others while a third bounced off the table in front of Kevin. Bap! Dit! Bap! One jar bounced, spraying paint in an arc across the table. Gray-Hair's jar skittered across the room as she swatted at it, paint spraying onto her shirt. Jar in hand, Paul sat,
amazed, as time returned to a normal pace. Children laughed and screamed.
Gray-Hair made a groaning type of noise and chaos reigned everywhere, except on the Island of Paul. On the Island of Paul, the lone inhabitant placed the one remaining jar on the table, dipped his finger into it, and continued to help Kevin.
Gray-Hair jerked the blue paint jar away from him. Her top lip was curled in disgust and the centers of her eyebrows had changed shape, angling down towards her nose. It was an interesting look—he had no idea what it meant. He was just about to resume working on Kevin's sky when a soft hand gently touched his arm. He cringed instinctively at the touch; he hated
touching.Then Paul picked up the smell of flowers and the sound of a gentle voice. It was Blonde-Hair. Paul jerked his hand out from under hers, but then relaxed.
"Paul," she said,"no more sky. I don't think Kevin wants any sky in hispicture."
Paul stopped and looked at Kevin. His face was red and tearstained, he had smeared paint all over his arm, and he was practically gagging on his sobs. He looked like he was about to pass out, throw up, or both. Paul blinked."Oh." He never said he didn't want a sky.
The parental conversation later that day was inevitable.
Paul's Dad:"Why didn't you stop when the teacher told you to stop?"
Paul: "The teacher din't say stop."
Paul's Mom:"Why didn't you stop when Kevin started crying?"
Paul:"Kevin din't say stop."
Paul's Dad:"Why did you paint on Kevin's arm?"
Paul: "I din't paint on Kevin's arm."
Paul's Mom:"Why did you throw paint at the teacher and ruin her shirt?"
Paul: "I din't throw paint."
Paul, of course, was telling the truth—the truth from his perspective. Paul's
version of the truth always collided with the teacher's version of the truth, and this left Paul's parents with the distinct impression that their kid had a problem with lying. But Paul had never told a lie. Kevin simply hadn't asked him to stop.
Had Paul's parents understood how gifted their son was they would have understood his thought process. Had they witnessed the incident first hand, they would have realized it wasn't his fault. Had Blonde-Hair stood up for Paul, things would have ended differently. Had three-year old Paul been a normal three-year old, the conversation with his parents would have been non-existent and the whole thing would have simply blown over.A normal three-year-old could not have answered his parent's questions accurately. But it was what it was. From that day forward, Paul's mug shot hung in the Teachers Guild Hall and all esteemed members were made aware of Paul's disposition. A 3d6 was thrown, the results were tallied, and Paul's character alignment got a permanent +3 inclination toward Chaotic.
Paul got a new seat, away from the other kids, which validated what he already knew: he was different. But he liked his new seat. Sitting by himself, he didn't have to deal with other kids pawing at him. Sitting by himself, he couldn't see what the other kids were working on, and he couldn't help fix what he couldn't see. Helping other kids led to trouble anyway. He sat by himself during lunch as well. This was fine, too, and even though the other kids seemed to have fun sitting together, he had more time to himself to think and to observe the world around him. It was quieter, too—he had enough trouble making it through the day, with all the background chatter he had to process, without someone gabbing at the table next to him. Paul realized at an early age that solitude made him happy.

2nd Episode:

Paul's dad was built like the aging linebacker he was. His broad shoulders and heavy gait hinted at the hours he put into the gym as a younger man, but his formidable gut suggested he had long lost the cooperation of his metabolism. He worked in a computer place where he wore a tie and was known as Chris "Buzz"Wilson; the nickname a nod to the blonde buzz cut he had worn since his bygone glory days.
Paul had visited his dad's workplace several times as a kid and he distinctly remembered the computers in his dad's office.They were off-white and ugly, and could do nothing better than draw charts and graphs and show lots of numbers. Buzz tried to spark his son's interest in computers with a game of Windows Solitaire, but the game just plain sucked.
One day, when Paul was about seven, Buzz came home with a laptop; a gorgeous, black machine he called a "Micron Tran Sport X Pee" or some such thing. Whatever it was called, Paul was fascinated. Buzz rattled off a stream of buzzwords and acronyms that described its innards: a one-sixty-six "Mega Hurts" processor, a two "gigabyte" hard drive, and thirty-two megabytes of memory. Paul had never seen anything like it before and was amazed that all the guts of a bigger computer, including the monitor, were crammed inside a package about the size of a school notebook. His dad was proud of the thing and explained that Paul needed to be very careful around it. He explained that it let him work at home, and it had most of his work files on it, and it was very important to him. And, oh, by the way, it cost like four thousand dollars.
Paul didn't care what his dad used the machine for and the concept of value wasn't yet firm in his seven-year old mind, but one thing was for sure: he had to know how the thing worked. And besides, his dad never said anything like "Now don't go taking it apart into tiny little pieces." So, that weekend afternoon, while his dad was mowing the lawn, Paul decided to take the laptop apart into tiny little pieces.
Armed with a bunch of tools from his dad's workshop, he disassembled the machine in forty-five minutes. When he was finished, the laptop was broken down into each distinct part.The whole disassembled mess covered about six square feet on his bedroom carpet. It was an impressive mess, but even after all that labor he still had no clue how the thing worked. He couldn't find the one-sixty-six "Mega Hurts" processor. He had no idea where even one of the thirty-two million bytes of memory was. He eventually found the hard drive—labeled "hard disk"—but the other stuff was just plain missing. He remembered exactly what his father had said, but either his dad was wrong about the guts of the thing or Paul had no idea what he was looking at. Either way, the parts were fascinating and, when assembled, they made just about the coolest computer ever.
He poked at the pieces for a while longer and then, with a sigh, began reassembling them. Lost in his work, he hardly noticed his bedroom door opening. But there was no missing his dad's reaction; to a seven-year-old kid, it was like the world exploded—and it happened quickly. First the whoosh of air as the bedroom door swung open, then the gargling yell and the next thing he knew he was off the floor, his back against the wall, supported only by two fistfuls of shirt collar. Dad was yelling stuff, but Paul couldn't register a single word. Paul's CPU was pegged at 100%, eaten alive by a single process called noise.There were new words in there, words he had never heard before, and the sound was horrific. Paul covered his ears to block out the assault of sound, but that was definitely The Wrong Thing To Do as far as Buzz was concerned. Releasing a handful of the kid's shirt, he pulled Paul's hand away from his ear and yelled louder, right into his exposed ear. Paul couldn't cope anymore; he had never been more terrified. He screamed and closed his eyes to counter the noise and, within moments, dad stopped yelling. Just like that.
Paul could smell his mom's scent before he even opened his eyes; she had come to begin hostage negotiations. Paul stopped screaming and the negotiations began.
"Let him go, Chris," she said.
"Not on your life. I'm gonna beat the crap out of this kid."
"Chris, you can't hit him," she said.
Paul failed to see the logic.
With his free hand, Chris pulled at his belt buckle, struggling to undo it.
"Yes, I can. And I will."
"What did I do?" Paul asked.
"What did you do?" Chris thundered.
"What did I do? Why are you going to beat the crabs out of me?"
A moment of profound silence covered the room. Paul's mom took control of the situation, realizing that the kid really had no idea what he had done.

"Paul," his mom said, "the laptop.You broke the laptop."
Paul shifted slightly. His right arm had started tingling; it felt funny. He looked down at his shirt. His dad's hand was still clenching the wad of shirt and using it to pin him to the wall.

"My arm feels funny," he said.
Chris began listing other anatomical annoyances he could provide when mom nudged the flow of conversation."The laptop, Paul.Your dad is angry because you broke his laptop."
Paul looked past his dad to the floor. "The laptop is not broken. It is disassembled."
"You destroyed my laptop. I'm gonna disassemble your little…"
Paul felt helpless and weak, but there were facts to attend to, and facts outweighed emotion. "The laptop is not broken. If you disassemble my little, I can't reassemble your laptop."
Paul's dad shifted his weight slightly.
"Chris, put him down. Let me talk to him." She put her hand on his shoulder."Chris, please."
Chris lowered the kid to the floor and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him. Random crashing sounds throughout the house suggested he was venting his fury on inanimate objects.

Paul sat down on the floor in front of the disassembled machine and studied his mom's eyebrows.
"Why did you… How?"
Paul held up a handful of tools triumphantly."With these," he said.
"But…" She trailed off as she leaned forward and reached out to touch the keyboard, the most recognizable piece of the disassembled machine. She froze an inch or so from the keyboard as if afraid to touch it. He had never before seen that look on her face; he gazed at her, curiously, analyzing her facial structure. Her eyes were wider than usual, her forehead had more wrinkles
than normal, and her face looked pale. He felt the skin on his forehead shift as he scrutinized her expression. He lifted his hands to his forehead and rubbed it gently. His forehead felt wrinkly, too, but he had no idea what it all meant. She seemed sad. He focused on her hair. He had never been much for eye contact, but he could easily spend hours tracing the pathways of her hair
configuration when necessary—it soothed him and adults called him polite when he looked at their hairlines while they talked.
"You broke the laptop," she said finally.
"The word break implies that the machine can not be repaired. I did not break the laptop. I disassembled it. Besides, Dad never told me not to take it apart. I distinctly remember him telling me to be very careful around it, because it was very important to him, but he said nothing about disassembling it."
Distinctly was a new word for him . Mom missed it. Paul shifted his gaze to her left ear.There was a hole for an earring, but she wore no earrings. Why doesn't the hole close up? It's still skin, shouldn't it heal inside?
"Paul… Do you understand why this was a bad idea?" Paul considered the question; he still wasn't sure exactly why this had been a bad idea. So he considered the moral implications of his actions and quickly realized why it had been a bad idea.
"Because I never figured out what made it work inside," he said finally.
Paul's mom blinked. He realized she was looking for more, but he wasn't sure what. He had discovered the heart of the problem: he did all this work, and didn't discover what made the thing tick. What more could she be looking for?
He waited for her to make the next move. Her other ear was pierced as well, but it had a small earring in it. She lost her other earring. I wonder if she knows she lost it.
"You lost your left earring," he said.
She blinked again and absently stroked her right ear.
"No, the left one," he said.
She stroked her left ear and her expression changed. He couldn't read this new expression, but it worried him less than the last one. He waited anxiously for her response so he could validate the results of the lost earring theory.
"I lost my earring," she said.
She looked at Paul for a moment, then looked down at the broken machine. She shook her head slightly, as if coming out of a dream.
"Can…" she began,"you fix the laptop, Paul?"
Paul understood that she was concerned about the current state of the laptop, though she seemed to get stuck on words that implied destruction.
"I should be able to reassemble the laptop," he said.
Paul leaned in, grabbed the system board from the floor, and closed his eyes.With his free hand, he traced the outline of the system board in the air in front of him, and in his mind's eye he saw the box that had been labeled as a hard disk. He opened his eyes and grabbed it from the floor.
Cable connected to the shiny box.Which way does the cable go?
He closed his eyes again. Mom sat watching him carefully. Paul opened his eyes and attached the hard drive cable. Mom continued to watch as he assembled the machine. He wasn't randomly sticking pieces together like a normal seven-year old, but was working in an orderly, efficient manner. He fitted the case together and connected the display; it was obvious he knew exactly what he was doing. It wasn't like it was a big deal.The pieces fit together logically.

"Should be OK now," Paul mumbled, tightening the final screws into the bottom of the machine. Satisfied with his work, he turned the machine over, flipped open the screen, and pressed the Power button.The two loud beeps troubled him.The machine had done something illogical. He read the screen.
"What is today's date?" he asked.
She looked at him for a moment, her face expressionless."You used every part," she said finally.
"Yes. I did.Yesterday was Friday and today is Saturday," he offered.
"Yes.Today is Saturday."
"Should I go look at a calendar?"
"The date. I need today's date."
She told him the date. She sounded sure of her answer, but her tone suggested she was in a far-off place. After a few keystrokes, the machine responded with a single beep and started its boot process.
Paul spun the laptop around and handed it to her. She looked at him carefully.
The laptop chimed a three-and-one-quarter second startup sound. She turned her attention to the machine and her expression changed again. He expected a happy look, but it never came. She was sad about the machine being disassembled, but was not happy that he had reassembled it.This was all very confusing. Paul handed her the computer and began gathering the tools
from the carpet.
"Yeah, Mom?"
"How did you do that?"
"Do what?" he asked, looking at her right ear.
"Put this thing back together."
Paul tilted his head and scanned her face.The question was illogical.The obvious answer was "I did it with tools," but that didn't seem to be the answer she was looking for.That was too obvious. He wondered if it had to do with the quantity and odd shapes of the pieces; but it was just a puzzle, nothing more.
"I took it apart and I put it together," he said. "If I take apart a puzzle I should be able to put it together, right?"
"Yes, but this is not a puzzle."
Paul looked at the laptop then closed his eyes.The snapshots of the disassembled laptop were still there."M-hmmm," he said, opening his eyes. "It was just a puzzle.A very interesting puzzle."
She started saying some stuff, but Paul didn't hear much of it. He waslooking out the window and had tuned her out.
He watched the trees outside his window; they were swaying in the wind. He loved to watch the wind in the trees. It was beautiful, and frustrating.The tree trunks swayed in circles through two axes. Flattening their movement to a single axis, the X-axis, was simple.This slow, calming sway could put him into an effective coma in mere moments, but isolating the trunks of the trees
was difficult because the leaves and branches obscured them. The branches moved in a pronounced, circular motion, and the focal distance between the tip and base of each branch was so pronounced that the movement could not easily be flattened to one dimension.The movement of the branches could only be reduced to circles.Then there were the leaves: they had a life of their own. Paul knew this was caused by the wind and that wind was caused by convection as cold air moved towards displaced warm air—this made sense to him.There was logic in the way wind worked, but attempting to apply the logic, in real time, to predict the movement of the
leaves and the trees took serious mental horsepower, and Paul just couldn't do it. But that was never his goal when he watched the trees. All he really wanted to do was reduce the (beautiful) chaos to something logical. It was an exercise he never completed, but churning on it always relaxed him.
His mom's voice had changed and it attracted Paul's attention again. She was still going on about something.There was no logic in talking to someone who wasn't listening, but she did it all the time. He thought it was funny that his mom, like most people, seemed to thrive on illogical behavior. Paul shook his head. He refused to waste CPU cycles on figuring out the human condition.
"You stay right in this spot," she said, and left the room with the laptop in hand.
Paul heard her and stayed right in that spot. Adults were clueless and illogical, but there was hard logical evidence to dissuade disobedience.
He could hear his parents talking; he couldn't hear what they were saying,
but they were speaking in normal voices. After a lull in the conversation, Paul heard the sound from the laptop again: the happy, somehow inspiring, piano sound.Then the conversation resumed.Within a few moments, his mom was back in the room. She sat on the floor across from him.
"Taking this laptop apart was bad, Paul."
Paul looked away from the window and stared at his mom.
Mental note:Taking apart the laptop was bad.
"Because you could have broken it. Do you know how much it cost?"
"Like four thousand bucks."
Mental Edit:Taking the laptop apart was bad because it cost a lot of money.
"That's a lot of money, Paul. If you had broken it, who would have paid for it?"
Paul ignored the question. It was an illogical one. "It was never broken. I disassembled it, then I reassembled it."
She knew better than to argue.This sort of thing could go on all day if allowed. After a long pause she said,"Do you like computers?"
"I do not know much about them," he sighed.The erratic conversation shift made him bristle, but he sensed a shift in his mom's tone. Something had changed.
"Is Dad going to yell more?" he asked.
"No, Paul, he isn't going to yell at you about this anymore."
"Why not?"
"He was angry about the laptop, Paul, but you fixed… reassembled it. So he's not mad anymore." Paul thought about the horrible yelling, his dad's red face, and the belt. He
looked down at his crumpled shirt and remembered the tingling in his arm. He looked over at the wall where his dad had him pinned not that long ago.
"If I had not reassembled the laptop, he would still be mad, right?"
"Yes, Paul. He would be furious and you would be in really big trouble."
"It was just a puzzle. He could have put it together, or you could have put it together. Just like that."
"No, Paul, we couldn't have put it back together."
"But Dad works with computers. All day. He could have assembled it."
"No, Paul, he couldn't."
Paul thought about that. My parents are incapable of assembling a simple puzzle.
"Why did you ask me if I liked computers?"
"We were wondering if you would like your own computer.You seem to understand them."
A gift.
"My own computer?"
"Your very own computer."
Interesting. His thoughts drifted around the events that had unfolded in his room and his gaze shifted back to the trees. "If we buy you a computer," she continued,"you have to promise to take care of it.You can't break it."
He looked intently at his mother's forehead. "I have never broken a computer," he said. Realizing that the conversation was headed through another cycle, he sighed. He looked at her forehead; it provided no insight into her thoughts. He was being rewarded for reassembling a computer. Reassembling the computer required that he disassemble a computer, which she was
instructing him to never do again. Here is a reward for doing this thing. Do not do this thing again. Adult-logic defied logic.
Paul's mom considered the answer."OK. I'll talk to your dad about getting a computer you can use.You can learn a lot from a computer. Computer people are very smart and they use their skills to get great jobs."

The above episodes are taken from Stealing
the Network: How to Own a Shadow



Blogger Gord said...

In a simple story it captures innocence prior to socialization. Moving to highlight the effects of socialization.
The genius child repressed by the overwhelming system of socialization which seeks to normalize behaviour.
Beautiful story,

"You can't imagine what your missing, if your missing your imagination" ~Albert Einstein

3:38 PM  
Blogger Refaat said...

Yup, when I read this part in the book the simplicity and the logic shocked me! his reason and rationality are flawless.

Although its a computer security book written in the form of a novel, the author is definitely a student of human behavior.

11:49 PM  

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