An Oracle for NP

“The nuclear device is going to go off in less than four hours,” says Brad.

“And we don’t even have a suspect,” sighs Steve.

They look gloomily at the dingy gray wall of their lab.

“Would it help? I mean, at this point?” Brad says.

“We could torture them,” says Steve. “And find out where the device is. Then we could evacuate people and save thousands of lives.”

“Point,” says Brad.

Both of them sigh.

“What if we torture you?” Brad asks.

“What?”

“Well, it’s doing something,” Brad points out. “I mean, at least it’s not just sitting here.”

“I can see how you might feel that that might be necessary,” Steve says.

He doesn’t mean that. He’s actually retreating, just a tiny bit, while watching Brad very carefully for indications that Brad is kidding.

Unfortunately for Steve, he isn’t.

“Gya!” screams Steve, not much later. Then he babbles. Then he begins to talk. “I’ll tell! I’ll tell you anything!”

“Where’s the nuclear device?” Brad demands.

“It’s at 1010 Rue de la Forge!”

Steve pauses. He blinks. Even through the mist of pain, he’s surprised by the fact that he said that.

“I’ll send someone to check that out,” says Brad, darkly, threateningly. He does.

“It’s the truth,” says Steve. “I don’t know how I knew. But it’s the truth.”

A few minutes pass. Brad’s phone rings. He listens to it. He hangs up. Then he stares at Steve in growing wonder.

“It was there.”

“It was there?”

“It was there.

Brad shakes his head.

“Wow,” Brad says. “It must be the torture.”

“Let me try!” says Steve. He flails his shackled arms.

“Not on me!” says Brad, looking a little ill.

“Maybe on Helen?”

Experimentally, they torture Helen. “Surely, you’re familiar with Godel’s subversive theorem,” Steve interrogates. “But can you actually give a statement that’s true but unprovable within the logical framework in which we live our lives?”

“This one!” wails Helen.

Steve frowns. “Hey, is that right?” he asks Brad.

“I think so,” says Brad. “But I can’t construct a proof, offhand.”

“Ha!” says Steve.

It makes big news. Defusing nuclear devices in the nick of time always does, and the bit about Godel keeps the story alive in the mathematical journals. Soon everyone understands just what forcibly destroying a person’s mind can do.

“Can you solve an NP-complete problem in polynomial time?” harshes Associate Professor Kazer, the official torturer of the Stanford Computer Science Department.

Amelia, his best graduate student, whimpers.

“Please,” she says. “Make it stop!”

Can you?

“Yes!” she snaps.

“Give me a constructive proof!”

And she does.

It is a wave of change. Suddenly from the National Center for Public Policy issue bold new programs; and everyone who reads their reports finds themselves marveling at the simplicity and clarity of each torture victim’s thoughts.

The Fed no longer relies on archaic pre-torture economic theory. Screams point their way to the perfect rate.

The nation prospers as never before. Great towers rise. Flying cars are everywhere, fueled not by oil but by ordinary kitchen water.

And in Brad’s lab (for it is no longer considered appropriate for such people as Steve and Helen to be considered his equals), Brad whispers gently to Steve, “How can I make such pain unnecessary?”

“You can’t,” says Steve.

“I can’t? Why not?”

And there is a whimpering and a shout from Steve that subsides quietly into sobbing and to words.

“The data is the suffering,” answers Steve.

33 thoughts on “An Oracle for NP

  1. “The data is the suffering,” answers Steve.

    And in one sentence the entire of Hitherby is encapsulated.

    Pain is unavoidable so the trick is to use it to produce something useful, like flying cars and great stories. How do you produce usefulness from pain? you see the beauty that is always present in some way. If only the pain was not necessary, and the beauty was more obvious, we would live in a happier world; but ours is just not a world like that.

  2. “The data is the suffering,” answers Steve.

    And in one sentence the entire of Hitherby is encapsulated.

    I love the sea.

    You can go out and look at it. It’s infinite, wild, surging, glorious. I can stare at it for at least half an hour, just lost.

    I’ve taken pains to point out that the sea is cruel, but it’s not cruelty or suffering or pain that makes it beautiful. It’s . . . it’s what Shriekback talked about:

    It’s blue blue blue
    A colour and a surge
    Everything that rises must converge.

    What I am saying is, you must be careful not to take a legend of a world where pain is necessary to mean we live in such a world. ^_^

    Rebecca

  3. I think I preferred the original concluding line, before Rebecca edited it. It seemed less hopeless, more noble somehow. But maybe endings aren’t always meant to be liked.

  4. I think I preferred the original concluding line, before Rebecca edited it. It seemed less hopeless, more noble somehow. But maybe endings aren’t always meant to be liked.

    Hee! Which one did you catch? I changed it more than once. ^_^

    Rebecca

  5. Please tell us what the original concluding lines were? I’d really like to know.

    This one made me sad, and I wonder what the point is (not Rebecca’s point, the point within Hitherby, at the Gibbelins Tower, by whoever’s constructing this particular legend). I mean, it’s barely even a legend– it’s a pretty literal narration of what went on at Central and Nabonidus’ temple and Ella’s father’s house and a million other places, continuously in time, in Hitherby. People torture other people in order to get useful things out of them. The useful things are undeniably useful and the torture is undeniably torture. And it’s pretty obviously, at least to me, not okay. The main difference is that instead of gods, the useful thing extracted is information– truth— which makes me think that whoever’s putting this on is curious about the weight of the presence of gods in the equation. Are gods inherently unclean and inappropriate creatures– isn’ts– and if so, how does it change the wrongness of what Central does to subtract gods and add in something obviously and inherently good as the result of the suffering?

    The tortured (Steve) becoming the torturer (of Helen) also reminds me of Nabonidus.

  6. it’s a pretty literal narration of what went on at Central and Nabonidus’ temple and Ella’s father’s house and a million other places, continuously in time, in Hitherby. People torture other people in order to get useful things out of them. The useful things are undeniably useful and the torture is undeniably torture.

    Well, this is one of the areas where Hitherby breaks down as a metaphor, because in real life there is no useful thing that emerges from torture. People do it because of psychological problems, in order to punish, and in order to break people. But interrogators who actually need to get information know that it doesn’t produce reliable information, so it’s not useful. The reason that ticking-bomb scenarios and so on circulate so widely is because of political propaganda and because the U.S. is a sick society, obsessed with surveillance, domination, and punishment. That’s what all those pictures of tortured Iraqis are about; they’re not about information.

    I think that it’s fairly clear why Hitherby has this idea of gods emerging from people due to torture. It’s a metaphor for an actual psychological process of disassociation. (It isn’t only that, sure.)

    So there’s a desire to find some way in which it can lead to something good. Well, anything can lead to something good; insisting otherwise is one final way of victimizing people who’ve been hurt. But there are real problems when people start to try to generalize from there, comparing actual torture to all of the bad things that happen to people, and making it into a universal principle that harm is somehow good, especially in the context of religious ideas. I think that this is more of a problem for readers of Hitherby than for Hitherby itself.

  7. this is one of the areas where Hitherby breaks down as a metaphor

    I wouldn’t characterize Hitherby as a metaphor at all.

    in real life there is no useful thing that emerges from torture.

    Oh, nothing I said at all is meant to refer to real life or to anything but the Hitherbyverse. I’m sorry if that wasn’t clear.

    I think that it’s fairly clear why Hitherby has this idea of gods emerging from people due to torture. It’s a metaphor for an actual psychological process of disassociation. (It isn’t only that, sure.)

    I agree. But clearly there’s a reason why Nabonidus and the people at Central do this other than just because they enjoy watching people go insane from suffering. Is it just their legacy as the monster’s heirs? No– it’s a way of producing something they consider useful. Whether it is useful or not is debatable, but that’s what I’m saying I think this legend is meant to explore– if torture did produce something clearly useful, would it then be justified? (No.)

    So there’s a desire to find some way in which it can lead to something good. Well, anything can lead to something good; insisting otherwise is one final way of victimizing people who’ve been hurt. But there are real problems when people start to try to generalize from there, comparing actual torture to all of the bad things that happen to people, and making it into a universal principle that harm is somehow good, especially in the context of religious ideas.

    I totally, unreservedly agree with all of that.

  8. It’s…a very intersting piece, and as people have mentioned, very central.

    On the one hand, it -is- an exploration of the well-known fact that torture doesn’t produce reliable information — the use of the “ticking bomb” scenario at the beginning makes that very clear, even as it reverses it into “well, what if it wasn’t true? what if you -could- stop a ticking bomb just by torturing people?” The conclusions drawn — that you’d find torture becoming an accepted part of society, ties into the Hitherby mythos, but it’s also an interesting comment on society — is there anything we find beyond the pale, -even- when it’s actually of use? Remember that the Nazi researches, as despicable as they were, -did- produce interesting findings…at a terrible cost.

    Politically, of course, the contrast of the current US administration additudes on torture and on stem cells is brought to mind.

    Finally, the following paragraph is…well, chilling:

    And in Brad’s lab (for it is no longer considered appropriate for such people as Steve and Helen to be considered his equals), Brad whispers gently to Steve, “How can I make such pain unnecessary?”

    Not the “how can I make such pain unnecessary” — that’s just the natural remorse of a scientist who has created something he regrets, but the inequality expressed between Brad, Steve, and Helen. -Why- is it inappropriate for people such as Steve and Helen to be Brad’s equal?

    It’s not a question I know the answer to. In hitherby mythos, of course, this is because Brad is a monster, and Steve and Helen are his victims. In the context of the story, however? Perhaps the acceptance of torture comes with a rationalization by the torturers that claims that “we” are different from “they” (the tortured), both allowing them to torture and explaining why they do need (or rather, do not allow themselves) to be tortured?

  9. I fully understand that your (mineownaardvark’s) original comment applied only to the literal-Hitherby meaning instead of what I see as the metaphorical-Hitherby meaning, and I’m sorry that I didn’t make that clearer in my reply. But I do think that the metaphorical level exists, and that the two or more different levels aren’t quite so seperate.

    No– it’s a way of producing something they consider useful. Whether it is useful or not is debatable, but that’s what I’m saying I think this legend is meant to explore– if torture did produce something clearly useful, would it then be justified? (No.)

    I don’t think that you can ask a question without implying that the answer might not be the one you want. This is a difficult Hitherby issue — Martin, in the early entries, really is associated with thumbscrews. This was moderated a bit later, I think, as his character became more well-defined. But his current goal as best as I can make it out is still to make pain transformative, to make it into something that makes people better. That’s a difficult stance: when you see someone in pain, do you try to stop the situation, or just try to make it transformative somehow? How about before it happens? If you get too caught up in doing that, you may lose your stance that pain can be transformative; if you don’t do it at all, then there really does start to be something sinister about it.

    I’m not surprised that the last Jane-and-Martin legend has Martin saying “how does this relate to our ongoing effort to resolve the fundamental questions that are crippling my effectiveness?” Martin is still struggling with what he’s supposed to be doing. Maybe I’m wrong, and Rebecca has it all planned out, but really I’d guess that Rebecca is struggling with what Martin is supposed to be doing. Rebecca tends to write stuff about how Hitherby isn’t high art, and how it’s basically comedic and all that, and all of that is true if you want to look at it that way. But Hitherby has also taken on what I persist in seeing as sort of a healing metaphor phrased as a religious synthesis. So it has multiple roles — but they get progressively more difficult. The comedy is amusing, the plot arc may be wrapped up nicely, and the healing metaphor may work, but the religious synthesis — that’s going to be really difficult to end well. I think that what Rebecca has done with it so far is really pretty amazing.

  10. No– it’s a way of producing something they consider useful. Whether it is useful or not is debatable, but that’s what I’m saying I think this legend is meant to explore– if torture did produce something clearly useful, would it then be justified? (No.)

    I don’t think that you can ask a question without implying that the answer might not be the one you want.

    The question is Hitherby’s (as I interpret it) and the “no” is mine, so in this case the questioner isn’t trying to beg the question. :wink:

    I agree that Martin has a lot of issues with pain and torture, which you delineate really well. Which is why I think this legend is so interesting in the context of being someone at Gibbelins’ thought, and why I’m interested in teasing out what, exactly, is being explored here, and by whom.

    I think that what Rebecca has done with it so far is really pretty amazing.

    I could not agree with you more if you simultaneously quivered your lip and applied thumbscrews in an attempt to make me agree with you more, unless the lip-quivering or the thumbscrews enhanced and expanded my current capacity to agree.

  11. -Why- is it inappropriate for people such as Steve and Helen to be Brad’s equal?

    It’s not a question I know the answer to. In hitherby mythos, of course, this is because Brad is a monster, and Steve and Helen are his victims. In the context of the story, however? Perhaps the acceptance of torture comes with a rationalization by the torturers that claims that “we” are different from “they” (the tortured), both allowing them to torture and explaining why they do need (or rather, do not allow themselves) to be tortured?

    I think so. Immediately after first torturing Steve, you get this:

    “Let me try!” says Steve. He flails his shackled arms.

    “Not on me!” says Brad, looking a little ill.

    “Maybe on Helen?”

    For torture to work as an accepted part of society, there HAS to be a differentiation between the kind of people who are tortured and the kind of people who are not tortured. It doesn’t have to be “we’re innocent, they’re guilty” (clearly it isn’t here), or “we’re white, they’re brown” or anything specific and obvious; it just has to be “not me.” Not on me. On her. On them. On the other kind of people.

  12. Interesting. Well thought-through. Unsettling.

    This is for the idea that torture may be needful for the good of the nation what “Angels, Sorvins, Humans, Lancasters, Bainbridges, and Jacks” is for blaming the victim. I think this one was even more effective, however, perhaps because it ties in even more directly to the core of what hitherby seems to me to be about.

    Also, I see things that remind me of “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, although it would be impossible to write well about this topic and not remind me of that.

    One of the more emotionally effective and mentally interesting Hitherbies I’ve seen.

    -Eric

  13. “The data is the suffering,” answers Steve.

    And in one sentence the entire of Hitherby is encapsulated.

    If I wanted to encapsulate Hitherby in a sentence, I would pick a different quote. Specifically, I’d go with with either…

    Maya answers: We are attached to that which hurts us, Devadatta.

    or

    “What kind of things answer monsters?”

  14. Please tell us what the original concluding lines were? I’d really like to know.

    The one I saw was “Computation is suffering”. Made the legend seem less Lovecraftian and more like a critique of the education system.

  15. The Hitherby that begs the question: is it possible for one person to be just TOO awesome?

    OK, I’m gushing fannishly, but Puchalsky and Aardvarks beat me to the serious analysis. I read this while proctoring an exam, and only barely suppressed loud laughter.

    I note that the critique is in some ways almost Marxian, in addition to its obvious condemnation of contemporary US policy. The issue isn’t the suffering per se– what mathematician would not suffer great pains to solve an NP problem in P time?– but the division between those who suffer to produce, and those who both control the means of production and profit from it.

    To Puchalsky’s comments’ on the nature of Armerican society as sick, “obsessed with surveilance, domination and punishment” (shades of Foucault?)– I think this particular case has to do as much with a collapse of deontology as system of public morality. We lack a common reference to define ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in absolute terms. As Rebecca contended during our discussions of morality about six months back, a significant flaw with consequentialist systems is that they can be used, circumstantially to justify anything. While I remain a consequentialist, it raises the disturbing notion that utlitarianism may not, itself, be maximally utile.

    Finally: While I agree that it encapsulates a lot about Hiterby, what does it mean that “the data is the suffering”?

  16. To Puchalsky’s comments’ on the nature of Armerican society as sick, “obsessed with surveilance, domination and punishment” (shades of Foucault?)

    It’s really difficult not to think that he was on to something, given current events.

    Finally: While I agree that it encapsulates a lot about Hiterby, what does it mean that “the data is the suffering”?

    Making up a long, off-the-cuff, B.S. interpretation of something based on too little information is like my superpower. So I’ll give it a shot.

    We are beings that can compute — especially if computation is sort of a metaphor for all human thought and creativity (Rebecca appears to like this metaphor, based on her design paper for RPGs and her Ph.D.) So this could become a central idea of what humanity is, similar to a certain anti-dogmatic stand of religious thought that says that if God didn’t want us to think about religious ideas, he wouldn’t have given us the ability to think. What do people think about? Well, all life involves some suffering, unless you’re a particular type of saint, or a Buddha. Therefore one task of human beings is to find solutions to suffering. (Where “solution” means “a way of dealing with”). That’s in one way or another what Jane and Martin and all of Jane’s siblings seem to have attempted.

    It’s supported by the change from “Computation is suffering” to “the data is the suffering”; i.e. the act of computation isn’t the innately suffering part, but pain is one of the critical experiences that computation has to work on. (Parenthetically, this is an example of virtual Hitherby quantum reality, as I wrote about in the comments to “(Forward-Fill) Emeline”. The evanescent, barely seen change still leaves its trail of meaning.)

    But maybe that’s too general an interpretation. It also supports the alternative that I think that several people have already suggested, which is that it’s an analogy to the experience of making something good come out of a past experience of destructive, extreme suffering, with the usual direct Hitherby connotations.

    Of course it has all sorts of relevance to the way that people appear to believe that actual torture of prisoners produces truth (and it does produce truth about the society that does it, though not about the question supposedly being asked), but that’s not the kind of general-Hitherby interpretation that I thought you were looking for.

  17. [quote=”rpuchalsky”“>

    It’s supported by the change from “Computation is suffering” to “the data is the suffering”; i.e. the act of computation isn’t the innately suffering part, but pain is one of the critical experiences that computation has to work on.

    You read this as data (input, a prerequisite component of computation) == suffering;

    We have the edited version which suggests that computation (the process itself) == suffering.

    I had read had this as data (output, the result of computation) == suffering (emphasizing its inseperability from the result).

    So, I suppose I’m now quite uncertain as to which part of the learning/discovery act is actually being linked with suffering.

    Huzzah, for I am now significantly less clear!

  18. Adamiani, in this case I think it’s the input. The output in the story is the mathematical proofs, ways to make cars run on water, and so on. And in general, while the result of a computation can be used as data for another one, usually the data are considered to be the input.

  19. Rebecca,

    That’s the one of the most moving and terrifying things I’ve ever read.

    Part of the reason it’s so frightening is the thought that something like it might work – in the real world, not Hitherby.

    Obviously, torturing people won’t enable them to recall information they never had access to – and this story works well as a satire on those who support toture in the “War in Terror”.

    But I can see another side to it. What if there’s a guardian angel within my mind, that watches over me and keeps me safe, but (usually) keeps herself hidden from my awareness. In extreme danger, she might awaken to save me. I think she might be able to do some things that “I” (note the quotes) cannot. And I think it might be possible to awaken her on purpose – but that is a place I would rather not go.

  20. But I can see another side to it. What if there’s a guardian angel within my mind, that watches over me and keeps me safe, but (usually) keeps herself hidden from my awareness. In extreme danger, she might awaken to save me. I think she might be able to do some things that “I” (note the quotes) cannot. And I think it might be possible to awaken her on purpose – but that is a place I would rather not go.

    It gets messy.

    The evidence of the market—that is, the lack of a torture industry dedicated to drawing unusual capacities out of its victims—suggests that to whatever extent it is possible, it’s more trouble than its worth. Particularly since torturers can make good money by treating troubled kids and whatnot.

    I’d say: embrace whatever capacities are within you. Odds are, they’ll be more useful to you than to unpleasant people. ^_^

    Rebecca

  21. Adamiani, in this case I think it’s the input. The output in the story is the mathematical proofs, ways to make cars run on water, and so on. And in general, while the result of a computation can be used as data for another one, usually the data are considered to be the input.

    Linguistically, your emphasis is on a computational approach, where “data” is information used for processing. This is not an unreasonable position, particularly given Rebecca’s background; however, in a scientific experiment, the data are usually considered to be the result, the output of the process.

    It could mean– to be somewhat less poetic– “suffering is a reagent necessary for fruitful reason,” which is similar to “computation is suffering”– but, then, that was abandoned. I’m not sure that it doesn’t (also?) mean “knowing is inseperable from pain.”

    You’re right that the Emeline flicker of “computation is suffering” makes a significant impression on our understanding of this entry.

  22. Well, if the Hypothesis is “You can solve NP problems in P time” and the method is torture, the results WILL BE suffering…

    however, I think that in the real world, the data is not in a useful form… eg I don’t get to tell if my hypothesis was correct or not :P

  23. A quick comment on the title (for those readers who are worrying over the technical details). For problems in NP, we can check that the answer is correct, in polynomial time, using conventional computation methods – even if the answer was obtained in some wierd way that we aren’t sure is correct. A common objection to torture is that it produces nonsense (see, for example, the confessions in witchcraft trials). But for a problem in NP, if we get an answer – by whatever means – we can check it’s right.

    It’s a funny thing about Hitherby – the best mathematical jokes are often in the pieces that are also the most emotionally loaded. In “The Cantor”, Parvati is suffering severely from something – the hints suggest that a psychiatrist of our world would call it schizophrenia. She rails against psychiatry’s irrelevance, its inability to help her. And yet there are mathematical jokes mixed in with all this. Maybe the humour – or the abstractness of the mathematics – deflects some of the pain.

  24. in real life there is no useful thing that emerges from torture […”> But interrogators who actually need to get information know that it doesn’t produce reliable information, so it’s not useful.

    Meneme calls it a “well-known fact that torture doesn’t produce reliable information”. It is “well known” But how do you know that it’s true? I think what evidence there is suggests that it’s not true. The information torture produces may not be 100% reliable, but nor is that produced by any other method of interrogation. All such information has to be verified. But does torture produce useful information? I think it’s very likely that it does.

    the U.S. is a sick society, obsessed with surveillance, domination, and punishment. That’s what all those pictures of tortured Iraqis are about; they’re not about information.

    The pictures are about sick people acting out pr0n fantasies. The people who took them were not involved in any actual interrogation. And the people who do use physical and emotional pressure as a serious interrogation technique don’t take pictures.

    -Why- is it inappropriate for people such as Steve and Helen to be Brad’s equal?

    The answer is right there in the story: “Soon everyone understands just what forcibly destroying a person’s mind can do.” Steve’s and Helen’s minds have been destroyed; they can no longer function as researchers, but only as test subjects. (So how does Steve manage to get data from Helen? Perhaps it takes more than one such experience to destroy a mind. Or perhaps, when “they” torture Helen, it’s really Brad who’s acting as the scientist, and all Steve is capable of is to act as Brad’s Igor, asking the question that Brad formulated, and referring the answer to Brad for verification. Steve frowns. “Hey, is that right?” he asks Brad. “I think so,” says Brad. “But I can’t construct a proof, offhand.” “Ha!” says Steve.)

  25. in real life there is no useful thing that emerges from torture […”> But interrogators who actually need to get information know that it doesn’t produce reliable information, so it’s not useful.

    Meneme calls it a “well-known fact that torture doesn’t produce reliable information”. It is “well known” But how do you know that it’s true? I think what evidence there is suggests that it’s not true. The information torture produces may not be 100% reliable, but nor is that produced by any other method of interrogation. All such information has to be verified. But does torture produce useful information? I think it’s very likely that it does.

    Yes, but it isn’t as clear-cut as it is in the story.

    In real life, the torture would provide several answers, each of which could be true, and all of which could be true or untrue.

    The story is biased because every incidince of torture shown gives true results, thus it can be used even for things where the truth cannot be verified

  26. The evidence of the market—that is, the lack of a torture industry dedicated to drawing unusual capacities out of its victims—suggests that to whatever extent it is possible, it’s more trouble than its worth.

    Note, however, that “trouble” and “its worth” are valued in more than just money. The “trouble” of torturing includes the moral cost, and the psychic cost. For most people, to justify this “trouble”, the return would also have to have significant non-monetary value. Such as finding the proverbial ticking time-bomb.

    Particularly since torturers can make good money by treating troubled kids and whatnot.

    Oh, they do that. But they don’t call it “torture”, they call it “deprogramming”. Not everyone involved in that industry is a charlatan, either. There are some very good people who do it, because it works, and the end does justify the means. But it’s a very slippery area, in a number of ways.

  27. Yes, but it isn’t as clear-cut as it is in the story.

    Well, obviously. That’s why it’s a story. That’s what stories are for.

    What are stories for exactly?

    I don’t think I like your style.

  28. What are stories for exactly?

    (At least one thing they’re for is) isolating one aspect of the real world, in order to examine it without having to worry about all the other factors that make reality messy.

  29. I see.

    Still, if you cut away too many parts of the world, it starts becoming meaningless.

    Rebecca often cuts away too many parts. It makes for a good story, but, when that happens it’s useless to examine it to try and find truths about the rest of the world.

    One such story that is currently popular and has this kind of error is the Chronicles of Narnia. Good story – but isn’t realistic, so any examination of it as if it were will be flawed.

    Rebecca often gets around this by putting a story in context with other stories – but I am not able to keep all the stories straight, unlike some people ;)

    I would say that this story is too simplified to be really useful. It doesn’t mean it’s not a good story, just that examining it just leads to erronous conclusions. As such I feel that saying the story is inaccurate is a valid criticism.

  30. The evidence of the market—that is, the lack of a torture industry dedicated to drawing unusual capacities out of its victims—suggests that to whatever extent it is possible, it’s more trouble than its worth.

    Note, however, that “trouble” and “its worth” are valued in more than just money. The “trouble” of torturing includes the moral cost, and the psychic cost. For most people, to justify this “trouble”, the return would also have to have significant non-monetary value. Such as finding the proverbial ticking time-bomb.

    True, but irrelevant. The torture industry isn’t populated by most people. The qualms “most people” have don’t directly affect it.

    Particularly since torturers can make good money by treating troubled kids and whatnot.

    Oh, they do that. But they don’t call it “torture”, they call it “deprogramming”. Not everyone involved in that industry is a charlatan, either. There are some very good people who do it, because it works, and the end does justify the means. But it’s a very slippery area, in a number of ways.

    I’m not sure what you’re referring to in terms of “deprogramming.” My reference here was principally to programs such as Tranquility Bay, at which the only torturers I’ve personally known would have felt at home. This recognition has made me clearly aware that, however many programs of that sort are sound and worthy, be that 0 or 98%, there are inevitably going to be quite a few serving no other purpose than the destruction of souls.

    Did you mean to say that the end justifies the means as a general truth, or was this intended as a specific reference that I don’t follow because I don’t know what you mean by deprogramming?

    Rebecca

  31. For torture to work as an accepted part of society, there HAS to be a differentiation between the kind of people who are tortured and the kind of people who are not tortured… it just has to be “not me.” Not on me. On her…

    This statement has given me entirely new insight into both the end of “1984” and the current US political situation. Merci.

    But he had suddenly understood that in the whole world there was just one person to whom he could transfer his punishment — one body that he could thrust between himself and the rats. And he was shouting frantically, over and over.

    ‘Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!’

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