Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tiger! Tiger!

There was an interesting article in Scientific American about the many psychological characteristics shared by successful CEOs, top surgeons, and psychopaths: "fearless, confident, charismatic, ruthless and focused".

BTW, you can see if you are a psychopath by taking the handy, online test here. I was 44th percentile for primary psychopathy (a lack of empathy for other people and tolerance for antisocial orientations) and 12th percentile for secondary psychopathy (rule breaking and a lack of effort towards socially rewarded behavior). And I did not game the test, I answered honestly, I swear.

A while ago, I was thinking about Ayn Rand, "Atlas Shrugged", and "Going Galt". First off, the whole "Going Galt" thing is such a complete crock. All you misunderstood and unappreciated executives, don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out. There are plenty of ambitious people who would be more than happy to take your jobs. I have blogged before about "The Great Man Theory" and concluded that it is completely bogus.

We are all Atlas. Every one of us, from Bill Gates to an armless, legless veteran homeless somewhere.

But the SciAm article reminded me of the thing I realized thinking about "Going Galt" -- that the main message of one of my favorite stories of all time is the exact opposite of "Going Galt". The story says that all of us have the seeds of greatness within us, and will step up if necessary, as opposed to, what, being handed "greatness" by your parents, and stepping down when you don't feel appreciated enough?

That story is "The Stars My Destination", by Alfred Bester, 1956, blogged about my me here. The anti-hero protagonist is an everyman whom events push into becoming "ruthless and focused". If you have not read this, I highly recommend it. It is very commonly mentioned as one the greatest sci-fi novels of all time. It is amazing that, despite first coming out in 1956, it still has edge. And it comes in at only around 180 pages. I include an except at the end, after the "SPOILER ALERT"s.

After review, I stand by my conclusions from "The Great Man Theory":

"If they decided to opt out, the forces of memetics and history would push someone else into the role."
So, moving into a better, more equitable world of the future, we should all us be ready at all times to tell the "job creators" who are "Going Galt" with themselves or their money, "don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out." And, "Here, have some nice new taxes!"

So psychopath/normal or alpha/beta males? I've talked before about alpha vs beta males in humans here. I think that the alpha/beta male difference is more physical, and probably has a genetic component. The psychopath behavior seems to be newer, more software/mentally based. Maybe less of a genetic component?

The title of this post is a poem of Blake's that opens "The Stars My Destination". In Britain, the novel's title was "Tiger! Tiger!".

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
And here's Gully Foyle's identity poem that he recited to himself attempting to keep his psyche from unraveling:

Gully Foyle is my name
And Terra is my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
(And death's)/(The stars) my destination
Here's another bloggers read on the SciAm article. I like his conclusion:
"The problem is keeping the psychopaths under control of people with normal moral intuition."
i.e., a strong government with strong regulatory powers. When the psychopaths have $$$ billions, nothing else will have the power to do it.

* * * * * * SPOILER ALERT * * * SPOILER ALERT * * * * * *

* * * * * * SPOILER ALERT * * * SPOILER ALERT * * * * * *

* * * * * * SPOILER ALERT * * * SPOILER ALERT * * * * * *

Here's Gully Foyle's rabble-rousing speech from the end of the book:

"You pigs, you. You rut like pigs, is all. You got the most in you, and you use the least. You hear me, you? Got a million in you and spend pennies. Got a genius in you and think crazies. Got a heart in you and feel empties. All a you. Every you...

Take a war to make you spend. Take a jam to make you think. Take a challenge to make you great. Rest of the time you sit around lazy, you. Pigs, you! All right, God damn you! I challenge you, me. Die or live and be great. Blow yourselves to Christ gone or come and find me, Gully Foyle, and I make you men. I make you great. I give you the stars."

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