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Sometimes I hate being right

Back when "Halting State" had just come out, I began having "Halting State moments"—flashes of deja vu when aspects of a work of near-future science fiction began cropping up in the news.

Now I'm having Rule 34 moments:

"At one major investment bank for which I worked, we used psychometric testing to recruit social psychopaths because their characteristics exactly suited them to senior corporate finance roles."

Here was one of the biggest investment banks in the world seeking psychopaths as recruits.

From The Independent: Brian Basham: Beware corporate psychopaths - they are still occupying positions of power.

Paging the Toymaker ...

(Alternatively, as Vladimir Lenin remarked, "what is to be done?")

307 Comments

1:

That's very efficient. Rather than using subjective means to identify folks who fit into the corporate culture -- aka, guys who are like the ones they already have -- they use the most advanced psychometrics to assure themselves that no decent people might be mistakenly hired.

Seems very progressive, technocratic, and efficient. What's the problem here? Maybe we should institute such testing for politicians, just to reduce the risk of inefficiency due to any actual human beings being elected to office.

The dream of the 1930s is here.

2:

The Dick Fuld quote in the Independent article puts me in mind of Steve Ballmer's infamous rant about Google. Ever notice he looks a little like Hannibal Lecter?

I'm glad I use Linux...

3:

Ok, check that one off!

I knew there was a reason we kept that sociopathy geneset at the 5% level.

Do you have a scorecards somewhere of ALL your Rule 34 predictions? Must be at least 20 in there.

What year does the higher ed thingie happen?

4:

Historically, psychopaths have been useful.
Presumably they still are.

5:

"At one major investment bank for which I worked, we used psychometric testing to recruit social psychopaths because their characteristics exactly suited them to senior corporate finance roles."

Dammit! Charlie, I also hate it when you're right. :)

6:

Fuck it, no more Mr. nice guy, I say go ahead, profile the hell out of politicians and bar anyone who fits the authoritarian personality, in it's leader or follower iterations as they have been experimentally proven to be zero-sum gamers who run anything they touch into the ground.

Also, Larry Niven got there first, his latter days ARM world police recruited paranoid schizophrenics, and when they became scarce due to eugenics, they chemically induced the condition. :)

7:

Has it occurred to you that that's a rather authoritarian sort of thing to say? :-/

8:

Please explain "useful". Maybe you meant simply in successful to a minimal extent given the context with other personality types?

Parasites continue to exist -- to call them "useful" seems lax usage.

9:

Well, we could ask politicians to undergo psych testing (by some trusted, impartial body) and release the relevant part of the results, just as (in the US) most Presidential candidates voluntarily release their income tax information. And voters could refuse to vote for those who don't.

11:

For those who haven't read it, I'm talking about authoritarians as defined by Bob Altemeyer in his book, readable here

I guess the truly paternalistic despotic thing would be to disenfranchise authoritarian followers, since they're the ones who keep voting the psychos into office.

12:

In Florida, the state decided to drug test welfare recipients. Unsurprisingly, the failure rate was so miniscule that the cost savings by making folks with drug problems homeless was more than eliminated by the costs of drug-testing.

The joke immediately became that Floridians should demand drug testing of legislators. There were many hearty laughs over that by legislators, LOL's and the sort of primitive sarcasm that can only be seen on the web sites of 14 year old girls discussing the cultural mores of their parents generation.

So, sure -- "withhold" your votes. Politicians in most jurisdictions are simply terrified of that. Absolutely. Voters are consumers -- they're not the customers, but the product.

13:

"Please explain "useful"."

Useful if you want orders executed, along with people.
Soldiers who are quite prepared to kill anything they are pointed at. Executives willing to follow orders, no matter what they are.
Consider one of the great Viking heroes - Egil Skallagrimsson
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egill_Skallagr%C3%ADmsson

"At the age of seven, Egill was cheated in a game with local boys. Enraged, he went home and procured an axe, and returning to the boys, split the skull of the boy who cheated him, to the teeth."
There is also an addendum occasionally mentioned that it was at this point his parents knew he was going to be a great warrior.

14:

Hmm, I'm not sure that Rule 34 could claim a prediction on this. We've known about the informal recruiting of psychopaths to corporate positions for years. IIRC, Michael Lewis referred to this effect concerning interviews at Salomen Bros. in Liar's Poker.

Certainly we've seen CEO's recruited for their extreme... ahh "tendencies". The 1980's seems to be the starting point for the current wave of these types, or at least they become much more visible. "Politeness" (or ongoing journalistic access and potential advertising) seemed to prevent anyone from actually saying what these people were.


15:

There's a difference between informal recruiting and deliberately going out and headhunting psychopaths.

16:

I call bull. People with a clue about this stuff know that (a) you don't set out to hire psychopaths, because you can't build teams around them, and (b) psych testing like that does not give useful predictive results on individuals - professional researchers use these tests on larger groups not individuals.

Just saying, you shouldn't believe everything you read in the papers.

17:

You're calling the HR departments of investment banks clueful?

(Also: I don't think anyone who was clueful would want to recruit someone who maxes out the psych inventory for socipathy. But someone who checks some of the boxes -- enough to suggest ruthless determination -- may be usefully motivated to work by a sufficiently juicy carrot. Then you point them at the target and pull the trigger.)

18:
Then you point them at the target and pull the trigger.

And pray they don't turn around and come back at you.

19:

There's a difference between informal recruiting and deliberately going out and headhunting psychopaths.

Headhunting psychopaths makes it sound like they are in short supply and need to be ferreted out. I would agree that generally psychopaths try to camouflage themselves, so that might be necessary. But in the corporate world, word gets around pretty quickly about what people are like and what they do. The euphemisms used as a proxy for psychopathic behavior are well understood because executives know what they are looking for. Unfortunately it is increasingly people like themselves - a good idea if the general plan is looting (can't have anyone with a conscience balking over that).

OTOH, I am aware we can become a little glib at calling people psychopaths (or sociopaths) based on some behavior we don't like. When I was at business school, there was a certain indoctrination to allow one to think about mass layoffs as being good (to "save the company", of course!). I can't help feeling that this was very akin to training infantrymen to stick bayonets in the bodies of the enemy, not a natural action for most people.

20:

So in what kind of employment should we keep the psychopaths? If they are 5% of the population, then that is too much to keep on the dole or locked up.

Is it not positive that we can allow handicapped to be usefully emolyeed.

Investment banking should be quite ideal for that kind of people. You just need to keep them in check through a very big stick.

21:

So "useful" means "useful to other sociopaths"?

That's not a terribly useful definition. Sociopaths aren't "useful" in the generic sense that a hammer is useful. What you're describing is a stable dynamic, not "usefulness".

Parasites are "useful" to themselves and to other parasites. They are part of the ecosystem -- but they're not useful in an engineering (aka, meaningful) sense. They are simply stable components -- like syphilis.

22:

Rather off topic, but...
Just saw a news segment about potential Republican candidate Michelle Bachmann's new campaign commercials comparing her to Thatcher, and calling her "America's Iron Lady". More like Silly Putty.
Sorry, couldn't help myself.

23:

Investment banking should be quite ideal for that kind of people. You just need to keep them in check through a very big stick.

No. And what stick?

Investment banking encompasses a lot of areas. The big area in the 1980's was M&A. The rewards were so high that it attracted a lot of people who would do anything for money. Which resulted in lots of useless M&A activity, destroyed companies, generated lots of spin off wealth for the ecosystem, e.g. junk bonds.

As Bud Fox found out when Blue Star Airlines was being carved up, Gordon Gekko was doing it "because it was wreckable".

I met a few of these people when I was in banking in the 1980's. In London their ruthlessness was masked by politeness. In New York, they wore it like a badge.
They'd probably be regarded as wusses today. :(

24:

To steer it back on topic. Would you characterize Gingrich as a "borderline" psychopath?

25:

Useful to the society of the psychopath when times are tough and other people's goods need pillaging to survive, or those "others" need to be ethnically cleansed or exterminated. Consider Rome.

26:

"As Bud Fox found out when Blue Star Airlines was being carved up, Gordon Gekko was doing it "because it was wreckable"."

You don't need a psychopath for that, or indeed anything where the Human consequences of the action are far removed or hidden. I doubt the pilots dropping bombs in Afghanistan have a comparable number of sleepless night compared to ordinary soldiers who do the killing up close and personal.

27:

Borderline?
Of course, you could make an argument about nearly anyone who thinks they'd be a good president as fitting that description.

28:

So how do you separate the obsessive do-gooder from the psychopath? because one of the major traits of mega-success is obsession and single mindedness to the exclusion of almost everything else.

29:

True, investment banking is a lot of different things. What I considered suitable for psychopaths is the type of pure investment that are focused on figures and individual competition. But these days that is probably automated through machine trading. So the poor psychopaths will no longer be needed, replaced by asbergers...

30:

In my experience you will find most psychopaths in a company to be located in sales: "Meet your target or fuck off - now get out and sell"

31:

Reminds me a bit of the recent news article about a police department administering IQ tests to potential recruits and rejecting the high-scorers...

32:

Here is what I forsee...

Imagine a cheaply available genetic test for Sociopathic genes ( Not perfect I know).

You could just pick a hair off his seat and test him on the sly, then publish that.

What If the genetic profiles of Politicans become widely publicised ? Would you still vote for them if you knew they were susceptible to Sociopathy ?

33:

I have worked with a lot of sellers and my experience is that most are very emphatic. They need to be this to be able to understand the customers need and to build a relationship.

A psycopath seller would probably be able to fulfill the first sales target, but the quality of his sales portfolio will soon start to slip.

34:

Seriously? Other people's goods "need" to be pillaged and others "need" to be ethnically cleansed?

You're talking about simply nonexistent conditions. Nonsense -- dadaist fascist babble. Lebensraum bs with no basis in economic reality.

Consider Rome, where the lifespan and health of people were continually reduced by its "need" for expansion. The sociopaths improved the conditions for a tiny elite of sociopaths in exchange for impoverishing most of the Mediterranean, enslaving a huge chunk of the human race that had been previously free.

In fact, when times are tough, that's precisely when the excess that allows sociopaths to flourish is gone. There was no mass ethnic cleansing during famines in China. Europe committed genocide when it became richer than it had ever been.

Sociopaths are apex predators. They're not "needed" by their prey -- they're a sign of the health of the prey, of excess.

35:

"What If the genetic profiles of Politicans become widely publicised ? Would you still vote for them if you knew they were susceptible to Sociopathy ?"

And what if it turned out that psychopath politicians were more effective at getting things done?

36:

"You're talking about simply nonexistent conditions. Nonsense -- dadaist fascist babble. Lebensraum bs with no basis in economic reality."

Most societies through most of history have been incredibly violent. One estimate of the deathrate from violence in technically primitive societies is up to 30% of males per generation. That makes WW2 pale into insignificance.

37:

According to Altemeyer's findings, there's almost nothing the leaders can do which will dissuade their followers from supporting them. It actually explains a lot.

38:

@32 Spam? Translates as "The best passenger transportations across Kiev and Ukraine".

39:

Ah, I see that's gone now.

40:

That's an interesting claim: what is your evidence that politicians don't care about large groups of people who will vote, but not for politicians who support certain things? That was how the Christian right got so much power in the US in the 1990s; people organized congregations to vote reliably, and to vote on the basis of certain hot-button issues. On the other hand, candidates to office don't care about people who won't vote for anyone.

Dirk: More effective at getting what done though? Sociopaths are selfish and take needless risks, so while they have advantages in some areas they have disadvantages in others.

41:

What If the genetic profiles of Politicans become widely publicised ? Would you still vote for them if you knew they were susceptible to Sociopathy ?

The problem is that it might be true that these are only people interested in running. Except for the ones who think they know what's best for everyone. Very few politicians don't have something of a streak wanting to tell others how they should live their lives. Or generate power for themselves.

42:

are THE only

43:

Consumers started avoiding companies that were hostile to the environment and these companies had to change or lose market share/profitability. It took a while but it did happen. It should be possible to launch a similar campaign re: corporate psycho/socio-paths. In North America some of the most popular TV shows are 'psycho/socio'-centered crime dramas, so the general public is aware of the potential harm such personality types can do. (You could say that such a campaign is already underway at the child/teen level in schools with bullying/teasing now taken seriously.)

Regarding politicians, it shouldn't be too hard to find some qualified psychometricians to 'administer' the Ohare Test based on observed (documented) behavior. After the results are vetted by the panel (because there can be considerable variation in any psychometric scoring) send them to public media including political satire/journalism shows such as Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and 60 Minutes. To make this a more interesting test, the psychometric panel should 'administer' the same test to some former presidents - the good (e.g., Lincoln, Eisenhower, Roosevelt), the bad (Nixon, Harding, Bush Sr.,) and the 'incompetent' (G.W.Bush, Gerald Ford.

44:

"Dirk: More effective at getting what done though? Sociopaths are selfish and take needless risks, so while they have advantages in some areas they have disadvantages in others."

Nixon v Carter?

45:

I killed it on sight: there may not be an entry in the moderation policy relating to using non-Latin scripts, but I don't think there need be. If someone coming out of the blue like this posts entirely in Cyrillic, or Kanji, or something else not related to the default alphabet of this neighbourhood, I figure there's no particular need to pause to decrypt their exact meaning.

Очень Хорошо?

46:

And in a similar vein: Clive Boddy (2011) "The Corporate Psychopaths Theory of the Global Financial Crisis", Journal of Business Ethics 102:255-259:

47:

And what does the high rate of violence throughout history have to do with anything?

We're talking about sociopathy here -- personal violence is a completely different phenomenon than anonymous, anti-empathic violence.

Regardless, it's still irrelevant. Even if you were describing a sociopathic phenomenon, the "need" for sociopaths to counterbalance other sociopaths is an abuse of "need".

We can agree that in large-scale societies sociopaths can be successful. That's completely distinct from "need".

Once again, deer don't "need" lions. They are just a fact of evolutionary dynamics.

48:

СМЕРть Cпаммеры, as Abakumov would have put it.

49:

Beware the consequences of using psychology to weed your population.

Take this for an example- a guy who repeatedly violates DRM restrictions on software and media. Naughty naughty, send him to trial?
Or...is that failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest; consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations; lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.
You broke the law, didn't pay for your music, and didn't express remorse? Why, those are the required three of seven DSM-IV criteria for sociopathy (via Wikipedia)- this fellow needs long-term care and supervision to ensure he doesn't harm again!

50:

"hat's an interesting claim: what is your evidence that politicians don't care about large groups of people who will vote, but not for politicians who support certain things? That was how the Christian right got so much power in the US in the 1990s; people organized congregations to vote reliably, and to vote on the basis of certain hot-button issues. On the other hand, candidates to office don't care about people who won't vote for anyone."

I gave you one example -- Floridian politicians laughing off most people's revulsion at the asymmetry of their set up. Usually folks aren't so embarrasingly obvious.

Politicians care about eyeballs. The model is the same one in advertising -- to manage the behaviors of masses. Their opinions and thoughts are irrelevant -- cheap and easy emotional manipulation and carefully controlling the discourse are much more predictable methods than trying to convince people and respond to their personal intellectual desires and demands.

You bring up the Christian right's ascension to power in the US -- I say you've completely misunderstood a marketing campaign that has sold the brand of "Christian Evangelical Voter" without concretely advancing the agenda of those people. Abortion rights are the same place they've been for 30 years now. The role of religion is almost identical as it was for decades, with in fact a slight move away from religiousity.

Where is your evidence that that was some kind of grass-roots spontaneous formation? In fact, you can find groups such as "The Family" predating that movement by three or four decades, laying the ground work for that brand.

Where is your evidence that politicians care about the opinions of voters who vote? Through-out the West, polls find that voters as majorities, often 90% or more, were against their countries involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet, mysteriously, we saw only a few cases where that even became an electoral issue at all. Very mysterious, indeed, if politicians care about voters opinions -- indeed.

We see "socialists" and "conservatives" in country after country advance the identical technocratic programs, while creating "brand distinction" by identifying with particular social networks, arguing over fairly small secondary issues that in no way impinge on the major economic and political agenda.

It's all Pepsi versus Coke. Is Pepsi really "the taste of a new generation" generation after generation? You're really showing those Coke folks how you're hip with your Pepsi, eh? Coke bastards!

FoMoCo! GM!

Consumers are not customers.

51:

The high rate of violence means that those who have no empathy or compassion can make fine killers. And if your side does not have similar, you are at a disadvantage.
It's not a trait that has been selected against, as one might expect if psychopaths had no survival advantage, esp within a social setting.

52:

So in what kind of employment should we keep the psychopaths? If they are 5% of the population, then that is too much to keep on the dole or locked up.

They're not 5%; they're somewhere between 0.5% and 3% depending on where you draw the line. Also, most high-functioning sociopaths are able to fairly effectively emulate normal human behaviour; they're somewhat cold and manipulative but they're not an actual threat to society.

The problems come when you get sociopaths in positions where they have authority over other people. They don't have built-in brakes against abusing authority or bullying those around them: it's that empathy deficiency again.

(Finally there's the small percentage who are actively violent and predatory. But they tend to get locked up -- and indeed account for a disproportionate demographic among prisoners serving long sentences -- because they aren't good at forward planning because they're not afraid of adverse consequences.)

53:

"Once again, deer don't "need" lions. They are just a fact of evolutionary dynamics."

Or, to run with this metaphor, deer who have lions on their side will do better than deer who don't.

54:

"Imagine a cheaply available genetic test for Sociopathic genes ( Not perfect I know)"

You do know that genes program for proteins, right? Not for high-level phenotypes, right? That genes aren't additive -- that you can get the same phenotype from multiple protein distribution, and the same protein distribution can lead to different phenotypes with small environmental tweaking?

Genetic diseases are a few big knockouts, which doesn't imply that you can do the reverse -- map from genes to features. I can pull a single screw out of an engine -- that doesn't mean that the failure I see is caused by the screw being responsible for that feature.

It's not "not perfect" -- it's a complete misunderstanding of genetics to think that a complex phenomenon can be tested as a "propensity" from genes.

Which byte in my computer codes for the internet?

55:

This would be a more convincing argument if not for the fact that, for the past century, most casualties inflicted by modern military organizations in symmetric warfare were inflicted using crew-served weapons at long range (or beyond visual range) -- artillery, machine guns, bombers.

You don't need a psychopath to dial in an artillery strike on an enemy village -- just a group of well-trained soldiers with peer group loyalty and an ethos of obedience to lawful authority.

56:

"it's a complete misunderstanding of genetics to think that a complex phenomenon can be tested as a "propensity" from genes."

But is psychopathy a complex phenomenon?
Certainly the brains of psychopaths show up differently on scans.
http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2011/11/29/scans-reveal-differences-in-psychopathic-brains

So we have one potential test. It may well have a relatively simple genetic basis

57:

True, but that is a very modern phenomenon.
150 years out of 100,000 is not representative, and given the strong possibility that the modern world will all end in tears, the next 100,000 might very well look like the last.

58:

No -- they won't, except due to some chromosomal linkage of other "deer" genes with "lion" genes. The lions will spread to the other deer populations over the long term.

No deer "gains an advantage", except for deer that are adapted to being prey. It's entirely possibly that the "deer that start with no lions" will end up being the relative deer winners, if they develop prey adaptations faster than those with "lions on their side".

Of course, everything that is, is somehow tied to the logic of the entire system, even if it's merely as an epiphenomenon. But the links are often counter-intuitive, and they rarely fall into normal social language.

59:

"The problems come when you get sociopaths in positions where they have authority over other people. They don't have built-in brakes against abusing authority or bullying those around them: it's that empathy deficiency again."

Considering the Stanford Prison Experiment, Abu Ghraib, child abuse cases, and I'm sure many more examples people could round up, you can get the same behavior out of perfectly normal people.
Give someone authority over others and eventually they'll probably give them a thwack or two, out of frustration if nothing else.
Ask yourself a question- if you were walking around with a device that would allow you, perfectly anonymously, to give someone a painful electrical shock...how long before you used it? Guy parks in the handicapped spot? Zap. Cuts in the queue? Zap. Rude to waitress? Zap. Etc.

60:

I like it - I want one!
I can be an anonymous aversion therapist, just doing it for the common good and seeking no reward other than the satisfaction of a job well done.

61:

"You don't need a psychopath to dial in an artillery strike on an enemy village -- just a group of well-trained soldiers with peer group loyalty and an ethos of obedience to lawful authority."

Similarly, you don't need a sociopath to sign a piece of paper and put a few thousand people out of work. Loyalty to the company/shareholders and a strong desire to optimize stock performance is probably motivation enough for a perfectly normal, reasonably compassionate person.

Trick is, you can make a strong case that they're morally right to do it- making the same stuff with fewer people is the story of industrialization...if the original Saboteurs had their way, would we still be stuck with hand-made goods...which would be rare, horriby expensive, and result in a much much poorer society.
Lack of a mechanism to transition workers from one job to another is a problem...

62:

If we don't believe in ghosts, of course any significant mental difference is going to be reflected as a brain difference. That doesn't imply that the process is simple (or complex for that matter).

However -- fMRI is largely crap. The statistics were debunked a few years ago, when the correlations were shown to be higher than the auto-correlation. They don't do good controls, they use tiny sample sizes, they collect "good" data by eye out of huge masses completely destroying the statistical validity of the research.

It's astrology. There's no reason to believe that the interesting computations we want to look at are the most energy demanding ones. My CPU is rarely cycling through key calculations, but mostly repetitive support library crap that hasn't been optimized out.

63:

"150 years out of 100,000 is not representative"

But we don't have 100,000 years of data. Almost all the data on violence is from agricultural societies or societies that interact with agricultural society.

We have no damn idea -- pro or con -- about the rate of violence 50 kya. The hunter-gatherer communities which those numbers come from (say the Yanomami) are on the outskirts of vast agricultural, urban societies that trade with them, interact with them (even if indirectly), have taken the most productive land, and so on.

Who knows what the rate of violence would have been on the Aegean coast 75kya at low population densities? Or among folks on the banks of Lake Texcoco 13 kya? You can't compare those numbers with small populations on the outskirts of Brazilian society, or the endemic warfare between city-states 5kya.

64:

fMRI is largely crap

Here's the classic paper on that topic: Neural correlates of interspecies perspective taking in the post-mortem Atlantic Salmon: An argument for multiple comparisons correction.

Subject. One mature Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) participated in the fMRI study. The salmon was approximately 18 inches long, weighed 3.8 lbs, and was not alive at the time of scanning ...
(Warning: PDF. But well worth reading!)

65:

It's not a new phenomenon: Aristotle's student Theophrastus described forms of psychopathy in The Unscrupulous Man. For example, the description of a psychopath is a glib, pathological liar with no remorse or guilt for his actions.

66:


"Brian Basham is a veteran City PR man, entrepreneur and journalist."

Heh. This has made my day.

Brian Basham is an individual whom you should be very careful about when you read anything that he writes. At least Kelvin Mackenzie has character to make up for that time when he used the coffin of Anne Diamond's dead baby as a front page photograph. Should Journalists be checked for whether they are psycho/sociopathic in the fashion that bankers are? In the age of phone hacking, why not?

He was British Airways's secret PR manager during the Dirty Tricks affair of the early 1990's. He was paid £46000 by Sir Colin Marshall, BA's chief executive to compile materials on Branson and brief against Virgin to journalists.

Partly as a consequence of his actions, Branson subsequently sued BA for libel, winning one of the biggest settlements for such in the history of UK law. Under these circumstances, should you trust anything that he writes?

I love the idea that a man like him now sees fit to lecture people upon corporate bosses and their morality.

67:

I wonder if this explains compensation in these orgs? I'm no shrink, but as I understand it a psychopath doesn't understand rewards/consequences well. Perhaps it has to be dumbed down to a simple number that he or she can understand. And maybe these outfits truly were worried about the demand to lower bonuses to these people, not because they were worried that they would lose them, but that they would lose _control_ of them.

68:

I wish I could remember the name and author of a sci-fi short story I read in the 1970's where social psychopaths were recruited into marketing companies. Intelligent people with anti-social tendencies were screened and hired to work for a secretive ad agency on marketing projects, one of which was to devise a snack food that stimulated the appetite, leading to more snack food consumption and morbid obesity.

The catch in the story was that these people were actually being isolated and interned to work on mock projects that would never come to fruition, thus sparing the world from psychopathic people.

Unfortunately, we must have let the inmates out to work for Yum! and Frito-Lays, thus inflicting products like the infamous "Double Down" on our increasingly pneumatic consumers.

69:

If you ever remember the title/author, let us know - sounds interesting.

70:

Something from Thomas M. Disch perhaps?

71:

This is not at all surprising. Outside of the prison population, bankers form the largest by proportion group of psychopaths in society.

Lack of empathy seems to correlate with making the kind of decisions that make banks money.

And we let these people control the money supply!

See- the Brain Damaged Investor in the Wall Street Journal for example.

http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB112190164023291519,00.html

72:

> (a) you don't set out to hire
> psychopaths, because you can't build
> teams around them,

Senior corporate management typically don't work in teams. In all of the examples I'm personally conversant with, each operates his own department as absolute ruler.

"Teams" generally stay down at the grunt level, where employees are disposable. Use them once, flush, get a new set for the next project.

73:

Questions of ethics aside, very few politicians fit the authoritarian profile, rather they are very good at using the authoritarians to get what they want (iirc, that book has a chapter on dominators that goes into it).

74:

The sad thing is just how good Nixon - one of the most ugly-minded, prejudiced, crooked politicians of the last century - looks compared to some of our recent presidents.

75:

That reminds me of a feature of Arther C Clark's universe in "songs of distant earth". Namely that the only hard requirement of being president was that you didn't actually want the job. It was considered a necessary burden and chosen by lottery, like jury duty. Anyone who wanted to be president was disqualified. (I don't think it was explained how this personality trait was ascertained.)

76:

There's plenty of data on violence from 50k BCE, or at least that range. Most of what we have is bones after all, and violent deaths tend to be very obviously violent deaths (broken bones, blade marks etc) when you look at a skeleton.

Though any return to pre agricultural infrastructure would reduce the population by about 7 billion, so I don't think it matters much in terms of predicting the future.

77:

I'm kind of surprised that nobody has mentioned drones yet. I wish I had the exact link handy, but I recall reading an article about how drone pilots had at least as many "sleepless nights" as traditional soldiers. The disconnection from being present physically is leavened by the realization that you're killing people from afar, and the evidence is even more in your face than it has been for the past few centuries or so.

78:

Yeah, I forgot the actual term Altemeyer uses for them, I meant ban the dominators from office, or disenfranchise the followers. This was the defacto state, I think, before the religious right got organized, most probably thought of politics as sinful and did not participate, or aligned themselves along inherited party loyalties.

This discussion is making me think of my uncle, who is a high level exec at $MAJOR_AIRLINE and who allegedly swung at my dad with an axe in a moment of anger, and admits to almost setting a kid on fire while playing when he was young. He is apparently valued for his ability to make snap decisions and has been around the world as a kind of hatchetman downsizing staff wherever he went. Hmm....

79:

"He is apparently valued for his ability to make snap decisions and has been around the world as a kind of hatchetman downsizing staff wherever he went. "

Every HR dept needs one

80:

Speaking of predictions, I know this isn't exactly IT but transparent AR video glasses have been hitting the news for the past few months... I think that qualifies as "Halting State comes true", doesn't it? First the Epson goggles, then the Lumus thing, and now Google X... it really looks like the first phase of a paradigm shift (they're still kinda bulky, expensive and useless).

81:

A friend of mine from the former Yugoslavia was in a university postgrad artillery company (a bit like the British TA, or the US ROTC) who was ordered to shell a civilian village - he was the only member of the company to go AWOL rather than obey. These are intelligent, cosmopolitan and imaginative people - although their orders were psychopathic, the men carrying out the orders generally weren't.

With modern weapons, it's not just easier to kill people, it's harder not to.

82:

This scenario was 'imagined' in Philip Kerr's "Philosophical Investigations" (yes, a play on Wittgenstein there..).

In the novel, there's a genetic test that can identify people who have a predisposition for psychopathy. Of course, a man whose job it is to 'round up' these folk happens to find his name on the list, and chaos ensues...

Brilliant..

83:

I thought it had long been realised that management, and particularly upper management, was nest of psychopaths and functioning sociopaths? Certainly with the ones I've had to deal with it was something of a norm (there is one I will cheerfully dance on his grave). I can only assume bankers are worse.

The question is: are there are companies that prey on these corporate psychopaths? Since they have control of money and have identifiable, exploitable, traits - there should be an extensive ecosystem of predators for such predictable prey.

High level consultancies, PR agencies, etc. are all fairly obvious - but there must be more out there, using the psychopaths within organisations to leverage corporate scale activities.

After all, why pay top dollar for a company if you can bring it low and pick up the bits you need for a song? One psychopath, prodded with the right inducements, is quite capable of acting in your interests on a large scale.

Who needs "Inception" when they've taken an amoral cuckoo into their own nests, who just needs the right prompting?

84:

There are also businesses (call centers are what I'm familiar with) that specialize in convincing other businesses to outsource jobs to them (for far less money to the employees and a specialty in dodging labor laws/union busting) end result is frequently *more* expensive though (training a new employee every 6 months gets expensive, even compared to healthcare and sick days), assuming they provide the promised service at all, usually most of the staff hasn't learned to do their job right yet, and has no plans to stay at the job long enough to do so.

85:

Let's see: back in 2009, a rather clever blogger posts on The Gervais Principle, about how business is organized into three classes: sociopaths at the top, clueless middle managers, and losers at the bottom, where the middle management serves to defuse the frustration of the loser minions, so that they don't blow up at the schemes of the sociopaths running the show. It's actually more complex and funny than that.

Then, last May, Jon Ronson (of The Men Who Stare at Goats fame) releases The Psychopath Test, wherein he explores the uses and abuses of the Hare's Psychopath checklist (PCL-R). In one chapter, he explores how psychopathy (as judged by a high test score on the PCL-R), is 4-5 times more common in upper management than it is in the population at large.

Then, surprise surprise, someone decided that, hey, something like the PCL-R can be a useful guide to finding sociopaths who will succeed in upper management.

I *love* the logic. Oh yeah. It's pretty much the same logic the CIA used to say that the Soviet Union would take over the world in the 1990s, but hey, it's logical, so it must be right. Isn't logic always right?


86:

Oh yeah, forgot the science fictional aspect.

Here's a plot anyone can use, if they wish: someone creates a virus that will cure psychopathy. It gets loose and becomes infectious. It is not lethal, and works exactly as advertised.

What happens to human society? Will it even exist without monsters. Or will it become...a utopia?

I guess it depends on whether Charlie or Peter Watts is writing the story...

87:

From TV we have the well thought of Series "Profit" all about a Psychopath in the work place, well worth a watch if you can get a copy.

From the Movies we have the Documentary "The Corporation" which applies a personality test to companies actions and finds low and behold that they are Psychopathic.

88:

I just remembered that there's something a little like this in The Space Merchants where an advertising executive explains that if you have enough billions of people to choose from, for whatever unpleasant task you may have you can find someone whose particular mental disorder makes them happy to perform.

89:

Another sfnal example - Avram Davidson's story "No Fire Burns" - all the way back to 1959.

90:

Basically if you're not in a hurry you can always find a Luca Brasi if you really need one.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luca_Brasi

91:

"So in what kind of employment should we keep the psychopaths? If they are 5% of the population, then that is too much to keep on the dole or locked up."

Interestingly enough, that's pretty close to the figure that, allegedly, the bureaucracy here in Australia has determined to be the optimum level of unemployment in a "healthy" economy. Supposedly major government policy (and the action of the Reserve Bank, which sets official interest rates in response to the state of the local economy) is derived from keeping unemployment around this point - too low or too high are both bad, and avoided like the plague. This confounds the general populace, who can't see why we *need* any unemployment.

So perhaps we have a use for these psychopaths after all - permanently put them on the dole, and use them to keep the wheels turning in a different way :)

92:

"The problem is that it might be true that these are only people interested in running. Except for the ones who think they know what's best for everyone. Very few politicians don't have something of a streak wanting to tell others how they should live their lives. Or generate power for themselves."

So then perhaps we should explore the option of randomly selecting citizens to government instead...

93:

Hilarious. Almost as funny as the classic paper "Ray Tracing JELL-O® Brand Gelatin" (gzipped postscript file). And that reminds me of the paper I heard of in the late '60s that claimed detection of human-looking EEG signals from a bowl of Jello. So I looked, and lo and behold: alpha waves from lime Jello.

94:

Similar to the logic the CIA used to get from "We know how to train our own soldiers to withstand Russian 'extreme interrogation' techniques" through "We know how to train our operatives to use 'extreme interrogation' techniques" to "Our operatives are allowed to use 'extreme interrogation' techniques". A shorter version of this principle of logic was discovered by my older son at age 4: "I can if I can."

95:

"Similarly, you don't need a sociopath to sign a piece of paper and put a few thousand people out of work. Loyalty to the company/shareholders and a strong desire to optimize stock performance is probably motivation enough for a perfectly normal, reasonably compassionate person."

No, that is not normal or reasonable. It may be necessary to save a corporation on occasion, but the only way it could ever be considered normal or reasonable is if you think that corporations matter.

The bit about stock performance is the give-away - dismissing some employees to save the jobs of more employees can be construed in a good light (necessary evil), doing so for the sake of the (theoretical) value of a piece of paper cannot.

96:

The argument for an optimum unemployment level is a partial echo of what I was taught was the reason for market speculators.

People are looking for new jobs. Businesses are looking for new employees. And finding the right job or the right employee takes time. So people are always going to be unemployed. But it depends on there being jobs available and on prospective employees (with the right abilities) being available.

On a stock exchange (this was in the days before computerised trading) there is the same need for somebody willing to buy and sell.

It seems that both the stock markets and the labour markets have become much faster these days. Jobs don't last. Shares are trades instantly, maybe multiple times in a day. Both these things change the numbers. If it still takes a week to change jobs, and the average job only lasts for half the time, does unemployment appear to double. Does the instant computerised repeat trading between speculators mean anything significant? Are such things as the volume of trade a meaningful measure?

At the end of the day, how much money is earned from the company, and how much as a financial equivalent of Cerenkov Radiation, wealth (instead of energy) bleeding off in shock waves from high speed transactions moving faster than the natural speed of a working market.

97:

Not new news. You could see it even before a not that long ago a Brit study based on paper said they made good middle management and politicians. But its good to see someone is still watching. I am not still not sure about Bush. The way he talks could be some kind of ADD. But the way he acts?? It seems that the biggest politicians over here are some kind of sociopath. And the more they get away with the farther they go, right?

98:

Nestor @ 11
Like Hick Sanatorium, do you mean?

Anura @ 12
And if you withold your votes, you can garuantee that Hick Sanatorium will get in, because the Tea-Partyers WILL go out & vote for it!

Dirk Bruere @ 28
Like the demented Albanian dwarf, "mother" Theresa, do you mean?
shudder

C @ 59
NO
Disagree strongly.
Stanford, etc showed up that SOME people are "weak" (or alternatively "strong") and will abuse others.
NOT all of them.

David L @ 89
Oh do come on!
This was recommended behaviour by Machiavelli - get a brutal henchman to clear out an area of resistance, then execute him, for exceeding instructions, and present yourself as an enlightened Prince.
Machiavelli had watched Cesare Brgia do exactly that in the Romagna - look it all up. Gruesome.

99:

Unfortunately I think that this kind of buffer only works if there is mobility between the unemployed and the employed categories. So unless you can turn on and off psy-chopathy then it will not work.

It should also be noted that we here in Norway we currently only have 3.3% unemployment. There are employers that complain, but I think it works just fine for me.

100:

I do feel I must step in to this discussion, as I feel it is becoming close to a witch hunt and a treat to human diversity.

Our milk has turned sour; it must be that grumpy old woman. Our banks is failing or being too greedy, it must be those psychopaths.

I think we all can agree that we would rather prefer avoiding psychopaths around us, and especially in our reporting line…But should we as a society start up large scale testing to weed them out? What are you planning to do with those that test positive? Burn them at the stake? Lock them up? Isolate them socially? If you plan to do this you would probably need a psychopath to head your program for weeding them out…

It is fairly easy to come up with examples of where we would like to avoid psycho-paths. But there is no fun in doing what is easy; I challenge you to come up with some examples of positions where we can safely make use of psychopaths in a way where they can contribute to the greater welfare of their follow human being!

101:

The bit about stock performance is the give-away - dismissing some employees to save the jobs of more employees can be construed in a good light (necessary evil), doing so for the sake of the (theoretical) value of a piece of paper cannot.
Arguably, the "stock performance" is exactly the mental soothing needed by the more empathic people in finance. There are deep and wide beliefs in finance that say it's actually good for everyone (in the long run, you know) if they get to loot.

Shareholder value, restructuring, creative destruction, all kinds of Darwinist analogies. Most people in finance will tell you such excuses when their actions seem on the surfaceto be simply destruction-for-profit. And AFAICT, they mostly really believe it.

Even there, it's only a minority that is really, truly comfortable with looting. The rest either spins a tale how they are actually providing a hidden benefit that the stupids outside can't see, or they leave the business.

102:

doing so for the sake of the (theoretical) value of a piece of paper cannot.

By law US corporations are to be run to maximize shareholder value. Anything else has to be approved by the shareholders. Now in practice this gives the board and officers broad discretion, but it does rule out full employment over shareholder value.

103:

Un-Employment.

At rates above 5% or so in the US things are starting to get bad. But when you start getting much below that number inflation will start to set in at rates that will cause pain to most people due to rising wages to keep and recruit needed people. But if you're employed in a sector that's not being squeezed then you get into a real hurt as overall prices go up but your pay doesn't.

But this is much easier to talk about in the past tense than to come up with a future range that works well. As another poster noted, the speed of job turn over affects this. Plus the ease or difficulty in moving to a new job. How easy is it to sell and/or acquire housing? And so on.

Having a government group picking the range and working to hold the number in that range strikes me as a long term fail unless this group is full of some really smart people. Which usually isn't likely in government operations like this. Or maybe Austria is different.

104:

I think I'm going to use that one, if you don't mind.

105:

"...although their orders were psychopathic, the men carrying out the orders generally weren't."

It's relatively easy to give such orders if you never personally see the result. And those on the receiving end are "just obeying orders". That's how an organization can act in a psychopathic manner without any psychopaths involved. It's all just numbers.

106:

The issue with unemployment is that you need labour liquidity. If the average tenure in a job tends towards 4 years, that corresponds to 200 working weeks. Suppose folks average two months (8 weeks) between jobs -- either because they choose to take a month of unpaid vacation between end/start dates, or because it takes them 2-4 months to find a new job after previous employer goes bust -- then you've got an average of 4% unemployment, just from the slack time between jobs.

So you can't stick your psychopaths in that gap; it doesn't exist.

However, if we know who they are we can distract them. For example, postulate a social network optimized for feeding lulz to trolls. Throw a bit of money at it as a honeypot. And run bots that look sufficiently like neurotypical folks to a psychopathic predator that the real headcases spend their time trying to play with the bots' heads (and occasionally con them out of a small quantity of their savings -- think of it as a lottery for psychopaths -- which in turn reinforces the attractive aspect of the network; predators can find prey there and sometimes a pay-off).

It should be possible, if Facebook were willing to cooperate, to set up a ghetto for sociopaths that would funnel their impulse to dominate in a harmless direction. And given that most of them don't want to spend their lives in jail (any more than the rest of us do) it should provide an adequate release for most of them. (Especially if they don't know what's going on ...)

107:

I'd dispute the idea that it was "recommended" by Machiavelli; there's a good case to be made that "The Prince" is satire, especially when you compare it to the rest of his (considerable) political writings. Machiavelli was a big believer in the benefits of a solidly founded republic with (what would now be) constitutional defences against the kinds of tyranny described in "The Prince".

108:

" someone creates a virus that will cure psychopathy. It gets loose and becomes infectious. It is not lethal, and works exactly as advertised.
What happens to human society? "

My prediction - nothing.
Our corporate machinery is already set up to be psychopathic. Actual psychopaths are no longer needed.

109:

To expand a bit.
If the only criteria for a business is profit, that is an automatic way of creating a psychopathic organization. Real psychopaths on board is just an unnecessary luxury.
The same applies to government, but the argument is more diffuse with multiple variables that ameliorate the effect somewhat, esp in democracies.

110:

What happens if they go away?

Would we still have Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, US Steel, etc...?

I spend most of the 80s working for a small software company that was able to cash out and make the founder about $15 million. (This was before it was a big deal to give stock to employees in start ups. Oh, well.) Now I've never met Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, or you pick someone with a reputation for being an SOB who built a tech company into something really big. But I did get to know the guy who started the company where I worked. And for a while I thought of him as a friend. But later I (and others) came to the conclusion that he was totally amoral with no empathy for anyone. And much of how he deal with people matched what I've read about SJ, BG, LE, etc...

So to rephrase, without people with these personality attributes, would we have their companies? And if now what would our tech world look like now?

111:

should we as a society start up large scale testing to weed them out? What are you planning to do with those that test positive? Burn them at the stake? Lock them up? Isolate them socially?

Excellent question. And you're right, it's a really bad idea.

I think what we should look for is two things; firstly, screening the prison population who are incarcerated for having committed violent crimes, and secondly, looking for signs of sociopathic institutions.

The first group -- not all violent crimes are committed by psychopaths. Not all psychopaths are violent criminals. But those who are represent a demonstrated threat, and the recidivism rate among them is supposed to be high. I think there's a case for holding this group separately from the general prison population (in no small part, to protect the ordinary prisoners), and to see if it's possible to provide training or treatment that reduces their recidivism rate. This is important, as they don't respond the same way to rehabilitation/punishment as neurotypical people.

The second issue -- organizations that selectively promote sociopaths or that pursue sociopathic goals are dangerous to society at large. You can identify them by their behaviour; looking back at Enron, for example, or the trading desks of some of the investment banks prior to 2008, the signs are visible. More controversially, chunks of various political party operations clearly prioritize party loyalty at any cost; some military and intelligence organizations behave in a manner that is frankly questionable (e.g. the black prison network operated by the CIA; "extraordinary rendition"; et al). Court-martialing some low level grunts like Lynndie England doesn't fix problem institutions like Abu Ghraib Prison.

(NB: Abu Ghraib should have been bulldozed and the ground salted to prevent anything ever growing there as soon as the coalition forces occupied Baghdad. That place was already an atrocity site; using it post-invasion was about as reasonable as if the US occupiers in Germany in 1946 had decided to put Dachau and Buchenwald back into use as prisons. With the original staffing roster and procedures ...)

112:

IIRC Dachau was used by the allies as a prison

113:

I think you're kind of beating around the issue that someone else pointed out earlier.

Successful senior managers in many places exhibit behaviour which contains a number of indicators for psychopathic diagnoses according to DSM-IV. This is, in part, a problem with non-experts (including me) reading the DSM-IV, in part a problem of the institutional structures that rely on senior managers to make seemingly harsh decisions for 'the greater good' where greater equates to 'in line with the company's bottom-line' in this case and probably due to the fact we don't people well, we see a particular facet of them (Steve Jobs to use one example, is supposed to have been quite charming to visitors and loving and supportive to his children, as well as someone to avoid in the lift at work and capable of making grown engineers cry regularly).

But it's also quite clear that not all organisations behave in the same way - compare Apple to Microsoft, Apple to all the beige box PC manufacturers and Apple to the other smart phone manufacturers:

It looked for a while like Apple was going to die and Microsoft rule the world - now, although it is still there and dominant in some niches, it is more and more looking as if it's the size of the fight in the dog rather than the size of the dog in the fight.

The other manufacturers produce a (potentially bewildering) plethora of devices that seem rather similar, with small tweaks here and there to specs. You couldn't reasonably list all of the devices from a single manufacturer on a sheet of standard printer paper (letter or A4). You can reasonably comfortably write a list of ALL Apple products they're selling on a post-it note, unless you've got really big handwriting. You can't quite manage all the variations with extra RAM, upgraded video cards and like, but it's still not a really huge list. There was some serious analysis I read yesterday... will the iPad3 come in 3 forms (SD and HD or retina display) and sell alongside the iPad2? The analyst suggested it's unlikely, because Apple doesn't like carrying 3 products in similar ranges.

It's a very different approach and surely suggests some differences in internal systems and possibly personality profiles?

While I'm not convinced profit is the best (and I'm certain it's far from the only) way to measure success, Apple's peculiar model is strikingly successful in terms of their bottom line.

114:

Steve Jobs to use one example, is supposed to have been ... someone to avoid in the lift at work

The account I've heard is that if he met an employee in the lift he tended to ask them questions about their work. Which could turn difficult, because he listened to their answers and followed up any signs of trouble relentlessly.

Now, that could be interpreted as psychopathic behaviour, but I'd view it more as extremely thorough, dedicated management: using even spare seconds of 'dead' time to keep an eye on the ship. (On the other hand, if he was sexually assaulting employees in lifts? That'd be unambiguously pathological.)

will the iPad3 come in 3 forms (SD and HD or retina display) and sell alongside the iPad2? The analyst suggested it's unlikely, because Apple doesn't like carrying 3 products in similar ranges.

They currently sell the iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4, and the iPhone 4S. In fact, the Goldilocks formula ("baby bear, mamma bear, daddy bear") has consistently been their recipe for the past decade: in any given range there's a low end product, a medium range one, arguably-overpriced premium product.


115:

Chris @ 106
For a very interesting short period (1502-03 IIRC) Machiavelli, Ceasare Borgia & Leonardo were engaged in aprallel, tiding through Italy.
Fascinating book on the subject - how they came together, and why (Leonardo was ordered to, and so was M) what happened then, and afterwards.
M secretly admired Borgia's skills, whilst deprecating the man ....

116:

There's plenty of data!

Yeah, right -- because folks who live in family bands create vast cemeteries that correctly sample the variety of deaths.


The naivete is astounding.

117:

"And if you withold your votes, you can garuantee that Hick Sanatorium will get in, because the Tea-Partyers WILL go out & vote for it!"

I didn't know I had multiple votes for president. Interesting take on how the electoral system works -- that somehow an individual is comparable with a brand.

Isn't this what Bertrand Russell called a type error, like saying "Polynesians are a happy people"? This is a very important factor in social structures like democracies failing -- folks tend to make basic logical errors which allows their manipulation en mass.

I bet Obama is just terrified that I may withhold my vote... On the other hand, he may need to worry about the marketing methods he's used, which suggested a facebook generation approach, but have turned into a Coke generation approach (e-mails demanding money that in fact don't create an "interactive experience")

118:

Great! Have fun with it.

119:

Obama needs to worry about everything he hasn't done, and everything he has

120:

"By law US corporations are to be run to maximize shareholder value. Anything else has to be approved by the shareholders. Now in practice this gives the board and officers broad discretion, but it does rule out full employment over shareholder value."

Not even that, as I understand it. The shareholders who lose the vote can sue the company if it doesn't act to maximize their profits.

The officers and board have broad discretion in that they don't need to show that -- they just have to defend against be accused of not acting to maximize shareholder value, a much more ambiguous standard. The burden is on those suing. With arguments over the time-frame of maximization, risk management versus growth and such -- you can quickly reduce it to the usual legalistic casuistry where only clear human decency is banned.

As long as you can show some evil, you're covered in court. God -- I hate theology, errm, the law.

121:

Sociopath/psychopath or not, the key difference is transparency. Jobs lived his life very much in the public focus. Regardless of whether you agreed with his way you were in no doubt about what his way was and therefore capable of making an informed decision. Sociopaths who wield as much power but do so behind locked doors, away from the public's sight - ala the ones who caused the financial crisis - are the dangerous kind.

If sufficient people didn't like what Jobs was doing they could just take their money elsewhere and the market would self correct (and indeed, when there was a danger of that happening, as with the move towards DRM free music, he was quick to react and keep in line with what the market wanted), but when dangerous actions are taken in private and the shareholders don't care to dig too deeply while they're reaping short term benefits you have a recipe for long term disaster.

122:
However, if we know who they are we can distract them. For example, postulate a social network optimized for feeding lulz to trolls.

This honeypot seems like a teenager trap rather than a psychopath trap. Of course, the difference is largely cosmetic, teenagers being somewhat psychopathic is normal.

123:

Belated reply on abnormal specimens in the news:

Gingrich is not a sociopath, he's a narcissist. The ethics investigation that got him kicked out of Congress found, among other things, a collection of notes describing his "primary mission" as, among other things, "definer of civilization", "teacher of the rules of civilization", and "leader (possibly) of the civilizing forces". (And yes, he meant it --- google "Gingrich doodles" to see the whole stack.) It doesn't get more narcissistic than that.

A more likely specimen of sociopathy is the former financier in the race, Mitt Romney. And it's not clear he's even trying to hide it. His public persona is so blatantly artificial that it's in the uncanny valley (see "Romney-bot"). He's put animal cruelty on the record himself (strapping a carrier for a terrified dog to the top of a car). And the defining characteristic of his rhetoric is that he will say whatever the audience in front of him wants to hear, never mind that he was saying exactly the opposite to a different audience not long previous. That last bit has lead to some absolutely hilarious attack ads, as one might imagine, but they haven't been nearly enough to kill him yet.

124:

The lift questioning was apparently so intense, even in a short ride, that people were advised not to use the lift so as not to get caught.

And one of the early projects after his return (I think the Cube) he is reputed to have made the engineers cry repeatedly by sending it back with criticisms that they felt they couldn't solve.

Not necessarily sociopathic behaviour, I agree, but then the rest of the post is meant to be illustrating "Think Different" internally applied too.

125:

"describing his "primary mission" as, among other things, "definer of civilization", "teacher of the rules of civilization", and "leader (possibly) of the civilizing forces".

Sounds like me and Zero State.
I'm never short of an opinion. The fewer facts, the more opinions.

126:

I always liked one of the throwaway comments from Eddings' Tamuli series. Off the top of my head it went something like :
One country had a goverment that always turned a profit. Once elected, the polititian had all their personal assets transferred to the state, to be returned on completion. If by the end of their successor's term they had made a *real* profit, they were given a bonus, if not, they paid extra taxes. They were then ineligible to be elected for some period after. Best bit was the army was there to make sure they stayed in the job, since running the country was the one job no one wanted to do. And everyone voted to ensure that they were less likely to get landed with it.

Completely impractical in real life, but amusing as a thought experiment.

127:

One reading of this story is that he meant it descriptively - they later realised that their recruitment process was, in fact, selecting psychopaths, rather than setting out to select them.

Given the powerful stigma against mental illness, I suspect this is more likely. SFnality begins when you decide to quietly cover it up rather than completely redesign the process.

Subthreadedly, the Soviets did actually re-commission Buchenwald as, well, its original mission - a brutally harsh detention camp for political prisoners located conveniently to receive detainees from a major city.

128:

Sheckley's "Ticket to Tranai" as a libertarian utopia where psychopaths are not a problem

129:

An important distinction on this thread that's come up is the difference between sociopath -- the plastic personality that reality doesn't feel empathy -- and the narcissist -- the self-centered a-hole who feels the suffering of others and revels in it precisely because it magnifies him.

Both can adapt to certain kinds of leadership roles. They are different -- and the vast majority of people who fit these orientations are at the bottom of the barrel -- but a few can find a great niche.

As a matter of personal communication, narcissism is a more common affliction of the top politicians in the US. They actually do feel your pain -- and they love the way it makes them important and powerful.

Newt, the Clintons... everyone but Romney and Perry, who simply lack a soul.

I wonder though, whether sociopaths are actually less dangerous than narcissists. It may be self-limiting.

130:

"By law US corporations are to be run to maximize shareholder value. Anything else has to be approved by the shareholders. Now in practice this gives the board and officers broad discretion, but it does rule out full employment over shareholder value."

This is a somewhat incorrect generalization. I'm a corporate lawyer and I do this for a living.

Corporations in the US are organized under the laws of one of the fifty states (or in some narrow circumstances such as certain kinds of banks, under federal law). The law governing the fiduciary duties of the directors and officers varies from state to state. For example, under Delaware law, the so-called "Revlon" line of cases requires that under certain circumstances, if a corporation is "in play" (i.e., that a sale of the corporation is inevitable), the duty of the board of directors is to take measures to maximize the value received by that corporation's shareholders. But under other circumstances, those duties don't apply.

Under the law of other states (like Pennsylvania, for example) the duty of the board of directors is to the corporation itself, and not to the shareholders-- and the corporation statute expressly authorizes the board to consider the interests of other constituencies (such as employees, creditors, and the communities in which the corporation's facilities are located) in addition to, or even trumping, the interests of the shareholders. While most large corporations are incorporated in Delaware of reasons (the margin of this page is too small for an explanation), there are plenty of large corporations incorporated in other states: Exxon in New Jersey; Westinghouse and Hershey Foods in Pennsylvania, and so on.

It should be noted that as a practical matter, these so-called "alternate constituency" statutes are really intended as a mechanism to allow the incumbent management of a public company to resist a hostile takeover (notwithstanding that the hostile bidder's offer may be at a premium to the trading price of hte shares) and thereby keep their own jobs.

131:

Narcissists are one of the nastier sociopath 'flavors' since they'll go out of their way to make life hell for others. Other types of sociopaths are more likely to 'cut & run' if their plans aren't turning out, narcissists probably because they take everything personally are willing to 'wait & destroy'.

From Wiki - " ... narcissistic personality disorder is a mental illness characterized by a lack of empathy, a willingness to exploit others, and an inflated sense of self-importance. ... Some experts believe a disproportionate number of pathological narcissists are at work in the most influential reaches of society, such as medicine, finance, and politics."

132:

Jobs that are high risk or dangerous also attract these personality types because either they really get off on or are completely unphased by the danger. Stereotypical jobs include: surgeons, bomb-defusers, test pilots, and some types of scientists.

133:

To me, there are three interesting factors here:
--The cops' 10-80-10 rule
--Psychopathy/Sociopathy (I'm not sure there's a sharp difference between the two)
--PTSD

The 10-80-10 rule is supposedly an old police rule of thumb: in a given, potentially criminal situation, 10% of the people will do the right thing regardless, 10% of the people will do the crooked thing regardless, and 80% of the people might do either, depending on the circumstances. The point here is that a few people are truly evil, a few people are saints, and most people are somewhere in between. Whether this is strictly true, I don't know, but with psychopaths allegedly making up 4-5% of the population, it might be. This number is also similar to old reports about the number of warriors in a general population: the idea that 10-20% of the men will always fight, but most of the rest will run away.

Psycho and sociopaths: as noted above, I'm not sure there's a huge difference between the two. Are they all monsters? Probably not. But it's also possible to keep a tiger as a pet. The issue in both cases is socialization. I don't particularly know how you train someone who lacks empathy to get along without it in an empathic society, but I'm pretty sure it's doable, and it might even happen in a majority of cases. I'm also quite sure that it's possible to screw it up royally.

PTSD: This is the interesting one. I'm certainly not an expert, but I wonder how much PTSD is caused by forcing non-psychopaths to act like psychopaths, especially in battle. I don't have the answer, but given how many drafted soldiers refuse to fire at an enemy firing at them, and given the extremes of boot camp, I do suspect it's a problem.

That's the interesting question to me about how a cure for psychopathy would play out, especially if it was an involuntary cure such as a contagious virus.

On the one hand, we'd lose many of the monsters, and dictators would be rare and probably easily overthrown. We'd also have a hard time retaining soldiers and possibly special forces. We might have fewer wars, and they might not last so long.

We'd also see the biggest corporations disintegrate. Unlike Dirk, I don't think that a psychopathic rulebook can force normals to act as psychopaths indefinitely, any more than I believe that empathic soldiers can kill many of their enemy without ultimately suffering from PTSD. There's already evidence that, given a choice between bankruptcy and things like mass layoffs, normals can choose bankruptcy to avoid the pain. Right now, they can hire a sociopath to make the painful cuts, but if that option is closed to them, what then?

If we lost all sociopaths, would we lose all strong leaders? Would we lose society-changing innovation? That's where it gets more interesting. I'm pretty sure the answer is no (was Gandhi a psychopath?), but I do think society would change profoundly. It's possible that the change would be for the better, too.

134:

"If we lost all sociopaths, would we lose all strong leaders? Would we lose society-changing innovation?"

No. But if we eliminated the obsessives and the semi-autistic we might.

135:

On the theme of sympathy for the devil: pity the poor psychopath who suddenly grows a conscience as an adult. That's gotta hurt.

136:

Are psychopaths and sociopaths made or born? There were some studies recently that compared the experience of childhood abuse as resulting in similar long-term changes in the brain as PTSD in soldiers. Anti-social behavior is also linked to heavy metal exposure and probably a variety of other environmental factors.

So a society that promotes strict authoritarianism backed up by corporal punishment and reckless disregard for the environment (hmm sound familiar) is going to reinforce or at least perpetuate psychopathy. Unfortunately despite being maladaptive for the group it can be personally advantageous, unless/until the psychopathic behavior destroys the group entirely.

On a related idea, I was reading a theory as to why all embryos develop from a single cell. The theory was that fetal development requires that all the cells act from the same script; if a cell is "selfish" (acts to maximize its own survival) and does not go along then the process collapses. Complex life only works if all the cells start from the same non-selfish DNA.

137:

Remember, the idea that psychopathy can be cured by a virus is a fantasy... Otherwise, you're probably partially right. Still, I strongly suspect there's a genetic component, or at least, an epigenetic component. Here's why:
--Not every abused child grows up to be a psychopath. I'd go so far as to say that most do not, although I'm really not sure.
--It does appear to run in families to some degree (witness Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un).
--The general problem with training soldiers to kill on command, and the suffering of many but not all ex-soldiers. This is probably also true of murderers.

My simple-minded guess is that, as with autism spectrum and schizophrenia-spectrum disorders, we're probably looking at a phenomenon with:
--multiple states
--multiple causes
--both a genetic and an epigenetic component

The only reason I suggest that a vector-borne cure is possible are things like Toxoplasma gondii, where infection changes behavior through altering production of dopamine. In fact Toxoplasma might be a better vector than a virus, come to think of it. Imagine infecting all the cats those evil geniuses stroke...

138:

That's what happens to Nitrine in Flaky pastry.

It occurs to me that the glass ceiling in business and politics may have more to do with the relative scarcity of female sociopaths than actual discrimination. If so, gender quotas may work in unintended consequence fashion to reduce the number of such personalities in the pool.

139:

If we lost all psycho/sociopaths, we'd probably lose the worst 'leaders'.

The point is that these individuals feel that only they are entitled to lead and often this is their only leadership qualification - not any excessively superior technical, business or people skills (apart from charisma). Normal people often dislike pursuing a leadership role because they fear the responsibility inherent in authority positions. Psycho/sociopaths pursue leadership because they want authority unfortunately they are completely blind to the attached responsibility.

Wonder how many evangelicals also score high on Hare's scale.

140:

I'm NOT going to post this in the Spam Thread Charlie ..even given the obvious ' Warnings To The Wise ' that flow from that Thread.

BUT, folks hereabouts may not have Noticed - Given that it has been The Season of .. HERSELF and Others Beating me about the ears with the Season of God -WILL and Inflatable Santa Effigies that cause one to leave ones Little Folding Knife at Home .. that Harry Connolly, who Our Host did Host a while ago as a Guest Pro, and whose books he does rather like, has an E-Book ..yes well, all right for once I wont spit in a ritual fashion as befits 'Not A Real Book '.... but at least you can print it out! Thus I may have to buy the New Laser Printer that the Lady-friend HINTS is desirable, though SHE may well have to wait for duplex printing till Windows 8 and SSD drives demand that I replace my Old Dell that is out of 3 year Warranty now ...There There PAT PAT !! Dont DIE, you can make it see if you don't PC dear.

Anyway ...Here it is ..the latest " Twenty Palaces " book " Circle of Enemies " was pretty good ..darker and subtler that it's predecessor and giving strong hits of interseting ' Hunt The MacGuffin ' series development so the predecessor to the series should be pretty good. ..


' When Ray Lilly was 13 years old, a handgun accident landed his best friend, Jon Burrows, in a wheelchair and turned Ray into a runaway and petty criminal. Fifteen years later, Ray returns home after a stint in prison; he’s determined to go straight, but he knows he can’t do that without making peace with his old friend.

What Ray doesn’t expect is to discover that Jon has just received a mysterious cure–not only is he out of his wheelchair, he seems stronger and faster than… well, pretty much anyone. Worse, his cure has drawn all sorts of unwanted attention: the media are camped out on his block, the police are investigating him for insurance fraud, and weird shadowy figures have begun to draw closer, figures who clearly do not mean to do Jon any good.

Can Ray atone for the biggest mistake of his life by protecting his oldest and best friend? What’s more, should he? '

Moderation will have Fun with This if I've got it wrong ..


http://www.harryjconnolly.com/blog/?page_id=5822&shopp_pid=1

141:

DAMN !!! Just Looked back to the Harry Connolly blog to look up wherein to forward my previous post only to discover ...


http://www.harryjconnolly.com/blog/?p=5488


" (Update to this post: I’m shutting down comments because it’s been over a week and they’re still coming. What’s more, I don’t really want to keep talking about it. Thank you.)

(Second update: Disabling new comments hid the old comments, which I didn’t want, so comments are back on again.)

Yep. It’s true. Based on the sales of Circle of Enemies, Del Rey has decided not to offer me a contract to write more Twenty Palaces books. "

This is clearly an ongoing and very ..swampy, pitfall laden area where non but the wise Fear To Tread and clearly we are in A Time of Changes in Publishing. Certainly I have no wish to cause Offence to The Profession of Letters through my own ignorance ..I don't mind causing offence where it is needed and deserved but not by reason of personal ignorance.

This is Our Hosts Soap Box and it is Up To Him who gets , gets, err ..STROPPY !?? Hereon or who might make suggestions that might be Out of Order, but, I suggest Charlie ..with the utmost Trepidation .. that you might like to consider this issue for a future Blog Post ?? But in the Mean Time ...OH BUGGER !!!

142:

Sociopath's who make money seem to have a fan club here. The thing to remember is they care only about themselves. They make good middle managers. People who have know Sociopath's see little sign that they are good at everythibg running from the top. People with bad legs can't run good. People with bad minds can't think good. When they run things, things get worse.

We have Psychopaths, you have Sociopath's. It has more to do with exact definitions than two deferent things. I think Sociopath is better.
Un-employment in the States is a lot more than the official 5%. Ronnie and the sociopath's who can with him, knew they would fix things. So when un-employment jumped up they used deferent numbers to figure un-employment. This was a fix, it made it so the pre-GOP can't be compared with now. The old numbers are still there, but nobody wants to know.

143:

Ah ..the good old " Nature V Nurture ' Argument.

Anyone who has stood in a Quasi Legal ' Friend to The Accused ' Role or/in some form of Negotiation as a 'Representative ' will have experienced the Joys of meeting the gaze of a representative of Human Resource Management/Flak Catcher for the Executive and received the Unspoken Message of ...

'Why ? Why are you bothered by this little Persons Plight? Why is Anyone Bothered ? but Why are YOU who are Plainly TROUBLE on Legs- and Thus to be Avoided and feared - Bothered ? No matter I'll recite exec platitudes and see what happens. '

Psychopaths are where you find them but take some comfort in the fact that they do have opponents ...


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/6582091/Empathy-can-be-inherited.html

Mind you being the Opposition to the Bad Guys didn't stop me from deciding that, after my Second Bout of major Clinical Depression, a Third would probably be one too many.

My last Public Defender Job before early retirement from Tech Support in Higher Education in the U.K. involved Two Academics who each wanted me to represent them in a Disciplinary Hearing called by Our Employers ....and Each Male/Female HATED the other with a Terribly Academic HATRED - and neither did mind if I represented the other provided that I also represented Him/Her whist neither could be persuaded ..and at my best I was Bloody good at persuasion .. that the Real Enemy was the Directorate that was anxious to use them collectively as scapegoats for a major Academic Snafu which was causing ructions with their students and which could affect the reputation of the Institution and its ability to recruit High Fee Paying Students.

As far as I can recall Perry Mason wasn't called upon to represent both sides of a difficult criminal case.

Phooey! I thought of another Approach that got them out from under and cost yet another Acting Head of Dept of that time his /her prospects of promotion.

But does that make me an Evil Person ? Well that depends on which side of the fence you are standing on and whether or not I am Your Evil Person of Choice doesn't it?

144:

No comment.

Let's just say that I think Harry's publisher made the wrong decision, for the wrong reasons. He also had a spot of terrible luck insofar as Borders went into final liquidation the same week book #3 was published (thus denting everyone's advance bookstore orders) and there was a really bad weather event that screwed up logistics ... resulting in his first week/month sales figures cratering.

I'd much rather his publisher had doubled down and sprung for three more -- it took something like 5-6 books for Pterry's Diskworld series to really start selling, IIRC -- but in the middle of a recession, at a balance-sheet led company, that's asking rather a lot.

145:

SF reference--Pirrie in Christopher's NO BLADE OF GRASS. He's a handy rifleman in a Britain where firearms are rare, follows the leader, is awarded a woman (who more or less volunteers so she can be in a group and help her own survival), and conveniently dies during the final battle so the leader has no real rival later on. He appears to have no trouble killing anyone that is a threat to the group, and is 'different' enough that the volunteer woman is urged to carry a knife for self-defense by the leader's woman (sorry for not remembering their names).

Leaders find them helpful just as long as they are devoted to the leader and don't ask for too much once they've won. The Emergent leadership in DEEPNESS IN THE SKY by Vinge is also obviously sociopathic-based.

But the cost to the society that harbors them can be very high indeed.

146:

"...Perry Mason..."
Brings back memories.
One thing I have noticed with courtroom drama is the tendency for the good guys to be the prosecutors instead of the other way around. Perception of crime?

147:

Without knowing the circumstances in more detail it's rather hard to say if you were acting evilly or not.

If you'd shot the acting HOD, even if she/he really deserved execution (always a dodgy statement in my mind) then evil - yes. If you removed someone that causing significant problems for two otherwise capable teachers, potential future problems for the institution and we accept generally that teaching in school/college/university is a "good thing" then removing the person most disruptive to teaching is not an evil act. If you acted to make your life easier at the cost of a good administrator, then probably evil. There's a few assumptions in there, I think I've got them all explicitly stated.

Of course the acting HOD you got sacked would probably disagree - but even if we assume she/he is incompetent they probably wouldn't accept this and would call you ungrateful, spiteful and other things.

I ended up, a few years ago now, having to not rehire someone. No one would make a formal complaint against him, but several people passed informal comment. When it's informal comment about borderline sexual harassment the decision to not rehire becomes quite easy. Sacking him would have been a much more interesting exercise without formal complaint. He hates me for not taking him back but I can live with that. Behaviour that's borderline harassment to nervous learners in high risk groups - not acceptable by my standards. If that makes me evil, so be it.

148:

... hmm .. an amgydala transplant perhaps?

149:

Kronk by Edmund Cooper is about a "cure" for violent behaviour that is spread as a STD. Obviously, like most good SF, it doesn't end well.

150:

There's a(n in)famous book on the subject, "Snakes in Suits", so far I was assuming it's about spotting psychopaths so you DON'T HIRE THEM.

151:
Gingrich is not a sociopath, he's a narcissist. The ethics investigation that got him kicked out of Congress found, among other things, a collection of notes describing his "primary mission" as, among other things, "definer of civilization", "teacher of the rules of civilization", and "leader (possibly) of the civilizing forces". (And yes, he meant it --- google "Gingrich doodles" to see the whole stack.) It doesn't get more narcissistic than that.

Iow, Gringrich thinks of himself as the orangutan Lawgiver from the original Planet of the Apes sequence ;-)

152:
And one of the early projects after his return (I think the Cube) he is reputed to have made the engineers cry repeatedly by sending it back with criticisms that they felt they couldn't solve.
Not necessarily sociopathic behaviour, I agree, but then the rest of the post is meant to be illustrating "Think Different" internally applied too.

This sort of behaviour isn't restricted to government officials, police and military, or the corporate boardroom; apparently this trait shows up in some of our more well-known artists and auteurs. Remember Fitzcarraldo? (Of course, Herzog is German, so maybe you could argue that sort of obsession is more a matter of national character than a personal trait.) Or how about Hemingway, who according to one observer was the most even-tempered man he'd ever met - always dead drunk mean? Picasso and his well-known cruelty?

The list goes on and on . . .

153:
"If we lost all sociopaths, would we lose all strong leaders? Would we lose society-changing innovation?"
No. But if we eliminated the obsessives and the semi-autistic we might.

But but but I was told by lots of people that innovation is all about genius, imagination, creativity. Divine sparks cast off by our betters. Do you mean to say that it's not?

Die, you heretic! ;-)

154:
Iow, Gringrich thinks of himself as the orangutan Lawgiver from the original Planet of the Apes sequence ;-)

Works for me. A pompous asshole character in a cheesy 70's SF movie. Definitely not Hari Seldon.

155:

Ideas are ten a penny - even good ones.
Here's a little ZS essay I wrote to inspire the troops:
http://www.facebook.com/groups/zerostate/doc/278657838826755/

156:

On a related idea, I was reading a theory as to why all embryos develop from a single cell. The theory was that fetal development requires that all the cells act from the same script; if a cell is "selfish" (acts to maximize its own survival) and does not go along then the process collapses

Please not to be calling that a theory. A theory requires that it is possible to be falsified, while not actually having been falsified. When the very premise is known to be untrue, any conclusions drawn from it are likely to be a waste of time.

If you want to know more, then go look up 'chimera'. One of the more fascinating cases was that of Lydia Fairchild, a woman who on having paternity tests done on her children, was found not to be their mother.

157:

> Would you still vote for them if you knew they were
> susceptible to Sociopathy ?

Would anyone else be running?

158:

I guess I should have used an explicit sarcasm tag; as an official mathematician guy I've long since discarded 'brilliance' for 'lots of work'. In fact, there were several guys in the program who, while arguably better at math than most of us, were there when we came in and still there when we left. Couldn't concentrate on anything for more than a few hours at a time apparently. Even if it was their supposed meal ticket.

Btw, I can't see your link because I don't have a Facebook account and I don't intend to get one any time soon.

159:

> And what if it turned out that psychopath politicians
> were more effective at getting things done?

But at getting *what* done? No, thank you. If given a choice I prefer the other guy (without even knowing his platform).

But that's assuming, of course, that the other guy isn't also a sociopath. That's looking quite unlikely this election cycle, so instead I'll probably vote for someone else. It won't do any good, but neither would voting for a sociopath.

N.B.: I know you said psychopath, and I relabeled it to sociopath. Strictly speaking, I'd prefer a psychopath to a sociopath, but they'd either one be pretty bad. Many psychopaths, however, and perhaps most of them, wouldn't be able to get the legislators to cooperate with them. Sociopaths are a bit sneakier, and so can do more damage.

160:

"Btw, I can't see your link because I don't have a Facebook account and I don't intend to get one any time soon."

http://transhumanpraxis.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/just-do-it-the-zs-ethos/

161:

One thing I have noticed with courtroom drama is the tendency for the good guys to be the prosecutors instead of the other way around. Perception of crime?

In the US we have "The Good Wife" where the defense tends to be the good guy. At least on a relative basis.

162:

> Un-Employment.
>
> At rates above 5% or so in the US things are starting to
> get bad. But when you start getting much below that number
> inflation will start to set in at rates that will cause pain
> to most people due to rising wages to keep and recruit needed
> people. But if you're employed in a sector that's not being
> squeezed then you get into a real hurt as overall prices go
> up but your pay doesn't.

The catch here is that they keep redefining what is meant by unemployment. I think that it's not down to the point where if you haven't found a job within 6 months they no longer consider you unemployed. You just aren't counted.

This is analogous to how they keep redefining the money supply. (I know even less in that area, but some of my frieds were quite dismayed a couple of years ago when the stopped releasing the M2?? money supply figures.)

Additionally, the way they calculate inflation is nearly total fiction.

163:

"They make good middle managers"

That's not quite true.

They are good at getting middle-management jobs; they are single-mindedly determined to achieve whatever the incentive structure rewards them for achieving, and they will avoid doing things that the incentive structure might discourage.

Or rather, they will take great care to avoid *appearing* to do anything that the incentive structure discourages, while doing anything - anything at all - that gets them closer to the rewards.

That is to say: the incentives and targets and review structures need to be very carefully set up, because the assumption that "decent chaps don't do that" won't stop a sociopath short-cutting, short-circuiting and short-changing their way to the objectives that are *actually* rewarded.

All the way to the CEO's office and the two-comma bonuses, the cover photo in Business Weekly, the outsourcing, the class-action suits for birth defects, and the eventual financial collapse in which the secret political donations turn out to be a gold-plated 'stay out of jail' card.

If the structure and the supervision are exactly right, and they work, we have a determined and ambitious candidate who doesn't do very well at team-building. He can motivate - deception works, for some; negative motivation works, for some; sociopathic manipulation works, for a while, for many; and he'll definitely weed out underperformers - but the lack of empathy will tell in the morale, the willingness to 'go the extra mile' when it's really needed, and in the high staff turnover.

Critically, he'll fall behind the neurotypical at the core task of the Middle Manager - acting as a buffer between workers, and the upper echelon of sociopathic senior managers who would ring up at 3:00 AM and scream at a key worker for not being at work on Sunday, and then simply fire the entire project team in a tantrum.

Instead, they get to scream at the middle manager; and he, in turn, must placate the tantrum and mediate these unreasonable demands in a way that keeps normal human beings healthy and productive. While not, himself, being fired; and not moving elsewhere; and not turning into a sociopathic loner after the withering of his social life, the divorce and the sleep-deprivation, and either burn out or fall into an adaptive psychosis that fits him perfectly for promotion.

There are, of course, people who choose to maintain a work-life balance and a sense of humanity. They are called *junior* managers, or 'the guy who left to work someplace else'.

They are also called 'selected for redeployment' and "Oh yeah, him, he turned up at the loss-making company we out-competed and bought out in 2009. Yeah, the first person his replacement fired, day one of the takeover".

Also: I work in a bank... Did you ask?

Saw the same stuff (worse, actually) in retailing, in a software house, in an IT consultancy (far worse); and (worst of all) in the grindingly-destructive and utterly sociopathic professional successes of my (briefly) fellow medical students.

It's the same everywhere, right?

166:

That is REALLY cool!
I've tweeted it, and its been retweeted.
It would be interesting to put on that kind of makeup and stroll around the City of London. I wonder how long it would take for the police to grab you?
Maybe I'll try it next time I'm in London and report back.

167:

I think even Dilbert got into the act, although I don't have a link. There's a one-off cartoon about a guidance councilor telling a rather odd young man that he could become a surgeon or a psycho-killer, based on his aptitude test scores.

That said, I don't think ambition or arrogance are equivalent to psychopathy or sociopathy. They're more the outcome of what Buddhism calls the three poisons: greed, anger, and ignorance. People and groups can get into a world of hurt by incorporating any of these as core values.

The elimination of psycho/sociopaths from human society is probably at the level of providing affordable reproductive health care to women. In a society where pregnancy can be lethal (or a death sentence for a woman over forty--I'm thinking of 19th Century Europe and US here) and abortion is mostly unavailable, conservative sexual mores make a lot of very grim sense, especially for women. Provide contraception, prenatal care, and good obstetrics, and quite a lot of freedoms become possible.

Similarly, elimination of psycho/sociopathy could provide a lot of freedom we currently don't have. At the very least, it would affect the structure of armed forces, law enforcement, and corporate life-cycles. The fun part is to come up with plausible but non-obvious outcomes. Think of all the newly cognitive normal prisoners locked up, trying to convince society they're now safe. Or the executive who loses her killer instinct just as the company balance sheet goes pear-shaped.

168:

Echoes of Bruce Sterling's shirt from Spook Country.

169:

Um ... your zapper would be sort of the opposite of Larry Niven's Tasp device. Now what if you could carry both? Oh the power!

170:

"Anyone who wanted to be president was disqualified." Algis Budrys used a similar idea somewhat earlier, if I recall correctly.

171:

A farther twist: competing viruses. For example, one to induce religious feelings in the nonreligious; and another cure the religious of their delusions....

172:

The Toymaker actually required a lot of overhead. Recruitment, training, and 24/7 support. What I've seen of regional sales reps and troubleshooters is they are people who don't need a lot of support. Was the Operation's business model ultimately viable?

I've seen narcissists and I've seen sociopaths. The narcissists are much worse. You can trust a sociopath to at least work for corporate profit, the narcissists just want to get their jollys from tormenting people no matter how much destruction it causes. (OK, maybe that was a sadist with narcissistic characteristics, but..., I've seen others and they all inhale vociferously)

There are places and times when you need a low-down dirty rat bastard SOB to run things.

The article was mostly anecdotal. The one concrete example was Lehman, which failed. Not a good argument for hiring sociopaths.

173:

"Additionally, the way they calculate inflation is nearly total fiction." I think everything you said is right and I can prove much of it.

174:

Furthermore:
The Toymaker wasna verra good at feigning normality. If he gave Dorothy a hug and a kiss before throwing her out she might not have felt so abused. Easy move to fake.

Speaking of sociopathic management, Angleton?

175:

Angleton is a long way from being a typical person in quite a few respects, but I'll point out that he could pass for a high-functioning psychopath in many ways. He understands the advantages of being part of an organization, is ready to use extreme methods when necessary, and has no observable guilt about dropping the hammer on someone who's attacked him. In these he is less a psychopath than a mentally healthy soldier.

He might not test out as a psychopath at all; he displays, apparently with sincerity, some fondness for things outside himself - his proteges at work, his organization, humanity in general, and so on. This may be simply an understanding that alternatives are worse, but how excited do you get about many of the abstract things you approve of?

He would score differently on tests now than when he first arrived in his current position, but most people change over time.

176:

But Angleton has a good excuse; it's not his upbringing, it's his nature. In fact, his upbringing is the only thing that makes him at all human.

177:

And it's a good thing indeed that he's had such a good upbringing.

But then, you could say the same for any of us, even without Angleton's disadvantageous background.

Having thought it over, I'm not sure he really qualifies as a psychopath in most ways (these days, that is, not at first). Certainly he's ruthless with enemies - indeed, he does not admit having the tiniest atom of ruth - but that's a part of his job. When dealing with coworkers and underlings, he does not jerk them around for his amusement. I've had worse bosses myself. We don't see him yelling at folks who can't fight back, changing his rules on a whim for his own amusement, or generally getting his jollies by making trouble for others. Whatever else he may be, Angleton is much better at acting like an ordinary human being than the Toymaker, who as Man Mountain points out really blew it at a critical moment.

178:

Sounds about right. Question, can a person with normal levels of empathy function as a manager in a contemporary corporate entity?

179:

Dirk @ 154
Some of us can't read "Facebook" and don't want to, either!
OOPS! - saw the later post - thanks.
As for "Zero State" I must admit I'm very suspicious - looks millenarian to me, though the wider realisation that "left/right" is NOT the same a libertarian/authoritarian needs to spread.
OGH knows about this, and has commented on same in the past.
See also Here and here, too ...
Comments, please?

Nile @ 162
NOT in this country, nearly so much, at any rate.
Instant dismissal must "show cause" - in fact ANY dismissal after a year (two years?) employment must "show cause", and, if necessary stand up in court
.

Dirk & Blue @ 164/5
Please note also Cory Doctorow's suggestion of "bright" IR-LED's which swamp a lot of recognition systems. As long as no-one's aiming a drone at you, that is ....

Dan Goodman @ 170
Not a virus, but I though quite lot of work ahd been done in this field.
It is apparently quite possible to deliberately produce "religious" feelings with the correct electromagnetic stimuli, thus showing the whole religious mania thing to be a fake.
I wonder why that interesting set of findings get ignored?. One of the first in the area was a Dr. M. Persinger - but I suspect the field has moved on since then.

Scott-Sanford @ 174
... no observable guilt about dropping the hammer on someone who's attacked him
Why should he?
I believe the phrase is "Bought & Paid for"

180:

I've done the political compass thing a couple of times. Turns out I'm roughly libertarian left. As for ZS being millenarian, I suppose it might look that way. We decided that since we are insignificant we could start with a blank slate and put together something idealistic. It's still evolving, but the rate is slowing down as we converge on some kind of optimum consensus. The launch of the pan European political party should mark one end point of that trend

181:

I don't know a lot about "normal corporate culture" (and the little I do know suggest it varies with sector and probably country too) - but I think the answer is yes.

Good teams generally require a mix of skills and attitudes, which would include empathy levels. The manager that goes in and kicks up a storm and yells at people needs a counterpart so that when there is a genuine need for a moment of empathy - a partner dying, or a parent, that sort of thing where the best response is not 'you're fired' - there's someone approachable who can sort out how to offload work onto colleagues without ruffling feathers and reassure the person in need that it will be OK if they take a few days to sort everything out.

It might be interesting to examine a collection of large companies and see what the mix is though. I suspect, if there's a good measure of empathy, normal society to see a bell curve, managers to show, on average, a shift to the unempathic. Probably a significant one. Possibly actually a double-bump with a bell-curve around the unempathic end, and a small cluster of empathic outliers. (Not truly bimodal, but that kind of thing.)

182:

Looks like someone already spotted this, but the Red Army did indeed use Buchenwald to hold Nazis from the area (Thuringia) for a few years after the war. 5000 died of starvation and neglect.

I'm racking my brains to find out who wrote the short story about a company psychologist who selects for criminal tendencies in hiring. One worker, Joe Clock, the shrink grooms for knocking off company managers and executives, clearing the way for said shrink's climb up the management ladder. Clock bumps off a detective, relieving the shrink of a huge worry. Then he bumps off the shrink.

It might have been J.G. Ballard or Norman Spinrad who wrote it. So, I'd say this is an occasional short story trope.

183:

The Toymaker wasn't middle management or a sales rep; the Toymaker was an entrepreneur with the backing of a rather special venture capital/incubator outfit. Not the same at all. Their goal is to use the Toymaker to establish a new (and highly sociopathic) corporate entity. Juxtaposed against Dorothy's ethics auditing shtick, the counterpoint should be obvious. (Did you spot the little lecture about why criminal enterprises tend to be less lucrative than legal ones -- the contract enforcement and self-insurance overheads that they can't out-source to the state?)

184:

This suggestion sounds rather like the setup for "Jipi and the Paranoid Chip" (which read)...

185:

Yes, absolutely they can: it just depends on which contemporary corporation they pick.

186:

I think even Dilbert got into the act, although I don't have a link. There's a one-off cartoon about a guidance councilor telling a rather odd young man that he could become a surgeon or a psycho-killer, based on his aptitude test scores.

The actual joke was that the tests showed he liked removing vital organs from helpless people. "This makes your ideal career choice either surgeon or serial killer. How do you feel about other people?"
"Other people are meaningless insects."
"Hmm, that doesn't actually narrow it down very much."

187:

I've done the political compass thing a couple of times. Turns out I'm roughly libertarian left.

Everyone who does the political compass quiz comes out as libertarian and somewhere clustered around the centre on the left-right axis. You'd have to be Adolf Hitler to come out as anything but libertarian. The political compass quiz isn't an honest and unbiased assessment, it's a recruiting tool tuned to convince people that libertarianism is a centrist ideology that they can feel comfortable with.

188:

Well, I'm libertarian on social issues but definitely favor reigning in Big Money to a far greater extent than is done almost anywhere now.

189:

Charlie @ 186
Are you sure about that?
I would not expect any of the brainwashed morons who voted for Hick Sanatorium would come out libertarian, given the erm religious conditoning to absolute social control ??

190:

I don't see that. The Toymaker was establishing a distribution channel for an existing enterprise. Very different from what entrepreneurs do, and who tend to be very independent people.

Of course criminal enterprises are less profitable than legitimate ones - they can't offload functions like contract enforcement on constituted authority. They only survive because their product is illegal.

I suspect the real development of the market for of Toymaker-type products will be a distributed, sparse network mediated by blacknet. See meth labs and moonshiners for examples.

191:

most even-tempered man he'd ever met

See also Admiral King, the most even-tempered man in the US Navy - he's always furious!

Anyway. The great Chris Lightfoot designed an empirically based political survey years ago - you can take it here. Very sadly, though, the ultimate development of it with YouGov at politicalsurvey2005.com has gone missing (replaced by Chinese spam) and all that's left is this blog post.

192:

I'm not 100% certain of it, but it gives a certain whiff to my nostrils -- I've compared notes with other people who've done the quiz and basically anyone who isn't a hardcore authoritarian gets roped into the "libertarian" area on the graph. Whereas the left/right bits are somewhat more accurate.

193:

But the nature of the Toymaker's stock in trade was such that he also had to establish local manufacturing facilities, as well as distribution. And insurance and accounting operations, for that matter. You can call him a franchisee, if you like, but there's more to it than simple distribution, and he has a lot of autonomy in deciding how to approach the problem of Maximizing Shareholder Value in his assigned region.

194:

"... I though quite lot of.
It is apparently quite possible to deliberately produce "religious" feelings with the correct electromagnetic stimuli, thus showing the whole religious mania thing to be a fake.
I wonder why that interesting set of findings get ignored?. One of the first in the area was a Dr. M. Persinger - but I suspect the field has moved on since then."


This happens in Alastair Reynolds Chasm City. sociopathic Sky Hausman, using a psychotic dolphin and some unpleasant electronics.

It seems for the brutal competetive decisions, the tendancy inevitably is to dehumanise the process in large corporations. It's the survivalist, zero sum game, nature of much business that encourages and selects for the ruthless trates. not that I'm anti competition but if we iliminated all psychopathy, we'd still have a problem I think.

195:

Europe is odd in not having a class of merchants alongside classes of peasantry, warriors, and the religious. Contrast with India or the middle east, or the complete lack of embarrassment the Chinese have over being wealthy. Instead of the colorful image of a middle eastern trader, we have people who dress in cloth suits of armour. We've uneasily adapted the warrior class to take on the role of capitalist as well, only accepting the accumulation of wealth insofar as it is a means to acquire noble brute power.

196:

This post reminded me of a PK Dick story (Clans of the Alphane Moon) in which tribes descended from mental patients, with each tribe representing a particular form of mental illness such as paranoia, schizophrenia, etc. took roles in the society. So for example The Paranoids were in charge of defence. Since the social psychopaths aren't going away any time soon, I wonder what the most productive place is for society to place them in. Maybe putting them in senior positions in corporates within very competitive capitalist marketplaces is a good thing? Are they gravitating to the place where they can do the most harm, or where they can have the most influence?

Of course I'm also reminded of the role of the Vampire in Blindsight.

197:

Hard to find someone who'll disagree with "I think people should basically be free to do what they want as long as they don't bother others overmuch."

Now, you add _details_ and it's hard to find anyone who does agree with that.

198:

I do believe you are simplifying things a lot.
Regarding western Europe, the point was that in the medieval period right up to the last century or two, the main warrior class was the owning class, the functions of fighting and owning land and people were mutually supportive. However over time a mercantile class grew up who accumulated money. Especially in the UK, one of the ways of dealing with this was for the mercantile class to move into the owning class by buying land and titles and marrying their children appropriately. So there were different classes, it is just that the boundaries were more porous than in other parts of the world (The actual mobility in the later medieval period was a lot higher than many
people think)

Note also the classes of religious who existed at that time and afterwards.

So in this country the industrial evolution took place with the involvement of both the owning class and the mercantile class, making a fruitful union that persists to this day. Meanwhile, the class boundaries multiplied in a fractal manner and yet remained somewhat porous, along with a redirecting of the martial spirit towards administration rather than violence. The true medieval martial class was the owning one, and their task has generally been to support the state which gives them their protection and administer it and the conquered lands, and fight when necessary.

So even without discussing the rise of the workers and the complexities inherent in the educational system, the existence of the church of England which is de facto a class of religious people, your comment is rather too simple.

Also I can't actually work out what your point is.

199:

I think his point is the same kind of people who would in olden days be swinging an axe into your face are the ones running the business world?

Personally I think human personality and behaviour is a lot more mutable and situational than we normally realize, we need to set up the system to mold desirable behaviour as a side effect.

Of course the system isn't so much set up as spontaneously grown, and we've proven quite bad at artificially building them in the past...

200:

On the other hand, the idea of a libertarian left horrifies some self-identified Libertarians, who don't understand how someone could share their concern for individual liberties but not their economic philosophy and attitude to the state. If http://www.politicalcompass.org/ is a recruiting tool for American libertarians, it doesn't follow the party line in all respects.

You might enjoy http://politics.beasts.org/ which derives its axes from a survey of Britons in 2003 and 2004, rather than from first principles like Pournelle or politicalcompass.org does.

201:

Say what? The classic castes include the intelligensia/priests (Brahmins), warriors, craftsmen, farmers, and everyone else. Merchant traders were classically in the everyone else category, and not just in India, because they didn't necessarily belong to anyone or any place. They were vagrants, which made them suspect.

Obviously, you get some interesting variations in who rules (the priests or the warriors), whether the farmers owned their land (freemen) or not (serfs), and whether the crafters ranked above the farmers or below. Even in Medieval England, there were quite a few variations in status, both within and between classes.

Still, prior to the rise of modern capitalist traders, the GUILDS were the primary trading and crafting organizations, and they did quite well for centuries. Modern production arose in a time when the guild system was breaking down: masters acting as upper management, journeymen unable to rise to master's status and forming their own journeymen guilds, guilds fighting hard against innovation, and so forth.

Still, during the high Middle Ages, the guilds provided quite a lot of town organizations. Each guild might have financed a church, supported their members when they became disabled, even provided for part of the militia defense of a town and paid for the upkeep of part of a town's wall. They also did some fairly advanced things such as owning and managing woodlands that corporations no longer do, but that's a separate issue.*

*The blacksmith's guild in one English town owned a large woodland outside the city. They coppiced it for charcoal, and harvested the wood sustainably for centuries on something like a 10 to 20 year rotation, to keep their furnaces going. This is one way for a company to secure fuel without using fossil fuels.

202:

If memory serves the role guilds served and the way trade worked was a constantly evolving thing in the middle ages and beyond, there was not really a steady state

203:

Just tried beasts.
Seems I am as pragmatic as Thatcher and just to the left of Blair. Seriously inaccurate IMHO.

204:

At a recent team-building seminar the consultant showed performance results based on team leadership styles: teams led by high EQ managers performed best - consistently so. Metrics included $ales, number of projects, number of days delays, cost over-runs, etc. Companies examined were all from among the F500, so not that many banks/financial orgs.

Best team performances showed a relatively strong positive correlation with 'job/employee satisfaction'.

205:

Charlie @ 191
( & Alex @ 190)
Then it needs tweaking to give a more accurate picture, no?

@ 200
Perhaps people should look at the organisation of the oldest(?) corporate-guild structure on the planet - certainly the one with the longest continuous history, and still going very strong.
The City of London - to quote Wiki:
In 1132, Henry I recognised full County status for the City, and by 1141 the whole body of the citizenry was considered to constitute a single community. This 'commune' was the origin of the City of London Corporation and the citizens gained the right to appoint, with the king's consent, a Mayor in 1189 and to directly elect the Mayor from 1215.

The Livery Companies still exist, and recently, new ones have sprung up - Airline Pilots, for instance.

206:

Yep ..a Franchise Operation is how I read it ..a bit like ' The Body Shop ' really but with a different sort of, er ..' personal services ' product? After all what Do you buy the man who has everything? I thought that it was a perfectly viable Business Model and I did spend rather a long time professionally employed in Business Management Education and consultancy...but that doesn't make Me a Bad Person.

For quite a way through the book I thought that The Toymaker might be a sort of ' Waldo ' ..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldo_%28short_story%29

Or rather He was a Remotely Controlled -re-wired Human - device that had some degree of autonomy but was actually operated and controlled by by an old time S.Fictional traditional - electronic/human brain in a jar type thing - A.I. or semi A.I.

207:

Dirk, according to that poll I am somewhere between Ken Livingstone and Tony Benn (on the left/right axis) but as pragmatic as Michael Howard. Some mistake, surely?

208:

Well, I'm sure that if we were put in charge of this country we would make such changes that what Thatcher and Blair achieved would pale into insignificance. Britain would never be the same again, from top to bottom.

209:

"If I was dictator ..."

Huh. That could be a lengthy blog post. Except the potential for pissing off potential readers would be nearly infinite ...

210:

I think a lot of readers would love to read The World As It Should Be According To Stross :)

211:

BTW, would you be interested in your blog readers suggesting new blog topics?

212:

Perhaps not. I was in a room with Michael Howard for the first time a few months ago. I was struck by ... his pragmatism. Even found myself nodding along at one point, which I wasn't expecting.

214:

Just something I was thinking about in bed a while back.
I like to run SF fantasies in my head to get me to sleep, and this one seems interesting. It concerns the time traveller from now, going back to around 1860 and making his fortune with all that future knowledge. Except it might not be so easy. Especially if a couple of caveats are added. First, you get transported back *now*, with no preparation and just the stuff in your head. Second, you drop into (say) London 1860 Terminator style - totally naked. Now, I have a fairly wide ranging knowledge of scitech but it's not obvious to me how I could persuade someone important to give me money for what I have in my head. For example, I could describe how a jet engine works, but getting the blacksmith to knock one up is a different matter. Similarly, I *once* knew Maxwell's equations, but not now. Ditto relativity theory and answers to questions that were not even questions at the time, none of which would impress given my need for hand waving to fill in the gaps. The only thing I could think of was urea formaldehyde plastic - if only I could get someone to lend me a lab and the materials. Definitely not trivial for a naked man in 1860 London. In short, almost all my knowledge does not contain enough detail to convince someone of that era to back me with loads of cash and a research team to fill those tricky gaps. And I won't even think of explaining microprocessors and Java.

215:

1. You sneeze.
2. 99% of humanity dies of influenza.
3. ?????
4. PROFIT!

216:

The main character in Tim Powers' the Anubis Gates finds himself in roughly that situation. He does not fare well. He is a literature professor though.

I am apparently between Tony Blair and Charles Kennedy politically, which is OK I guess, but a smidgen more pragmatic than Maggie Thatcher. I... don't know how to feel about that.

217:

Yes, that was my point. Psychopathy is more appropriate to a guy with a sword than to a merchant.

My understanding of the Indian caste system was based on a casual conversation with a young and charmingly idealistic brahmin computer scientist, but I may have misunderstood some details. [...wikipedia...] My point would be that India distinguishes Vaishya, who might be land owners or traders, from warrior Kshatriya. The medieval European model combines these classes, the deal between land owners and the king being that the land owner will supply some number of knights when needed.

Fast forward to today, and we have economics based on a game theory that usually assumes psychopathy as the default human condition. It's not impossible to imagine an alternative world economic system grown out of some other culture that emphasises relationship building and mutual profit.

218:

Well that is clearer, but given your observations about mutability of humans and also the gene flow between social classes due to intermarriage, status change over generations and bastardy, the assertion is somewhat overblown. Mind you with social mobility headed rapidly into paralysis and a system setup to apparently reward nasty behaviour best, it hardly makes much difference.

Re. transported back in time, in theory I should have a good chance because I'm a chemistry graduate with an interest in historic science and technology and actual lab experience. So I would stand a reasonable chance of improving a number of industrial processes and make a living that way. I wouldn't even bother about telling people about quantum mechanics, but might stand a chance at noticing good investments to make which will pay off in 10 years time.

219:

If I were dropped in London back about 1810 I think an hour would be long enough for me to show Henry Maudsley how to build a three axis mill. Five minutes would be enough for me to convince him of why. Of course I would be dead within the week from lack of insulin so it wouldn't be profitable trip for me.

220:

206/8/12
I'll come back tomorrow about that!

221:

> Everyone who does the political
> compass quiz ... You'd have to be
> Adolf Hitler to come out as anything
> but libertarian.

Say Heil to the King, baby!

You need to widen your circle of acquaintances, Charlie... and I'm considered "moderate" for the groups I normally run with.

222:

Dumped back into Victorian London, naked or otherwise. I don't think I'd fair well. One of your dreaded arts graduates. Could maybe talk about computers and 20C technological / scientific discoveries from a general theoretircal layman's POV. But no good at maths, so couldn't show the workings to the relevant minds. At 2330 on a Thursday night, I can't immediately recall any detailed poilitically useful information I could sell to the right parties, either. Maybe I could try and preempt post modernist minimalist sculpture or play avanguard guitar medlies but, it's not really what you'd call an earner...


To be serious. I know there are plenty of peple a lot smarter and capable than me. I can see many of them posting here . But in general terms, we're so socially reliant on the distribution of specialised information and skills, it would be impossible to be a sort of stand alone seed for rebooting civilisation. Assuming you'd want to bump stuff up to a comparative contemprory tech level. (not that's exactly what the premise was but anyway.)

223:

We all need to buy this t-shirt


(Link is to a web store, not affiliated with it, I think this is ok as per the previous post on such stuff)

224:

I definitely want to hear what the world would be like if Stross were World Supreme Leader! (It would also be a cool subplot for a book - some planet run by a very Stross-like figure who was the Supreme Servant of All Very Humble Citizens.)

225:

It's not precisely that humans are psychopathic, it's that the math is tractable with game theory and/or Homo economicus assumptions. Simple, easy to understand, and wrong, as H.L. Mencken first observed.

The problem you describe is the what bedevils symbiosis research, it that it's difficult to draw boundaries or parse relationships in simple terms that lend themselves to accurate theories. Still, it really is the default for most human interactions, and probably most non-consuming biological interactions. It just doesn't lend itself to simple math.

226:


Historically, psychopaths have been useful.
Presumably they still are.

I'm convinced a lot of military heroes or warriors were psychopaths. They have different fear responses and perform better under pressure...

Also, the percentage of people who claimed to have enjoyed combat in WWII (5%) is remarkably similar to estimates of the number of psychopaths..


(Alternatively, as Vladimir Lenin remarked, "what is to be done?")

Lenin would have ordered Cheka to round up a hundred psychopaths, then shoot them to put the fear of Lenin into them..

If he wasn't on the 'path spectrum, I'm Karl Marx..

227:

I'm currently involved in a "hilarious" argument on facebook where one of my friends equated Zero State with Pol Pot because he also used the word Zero in some of his writing. AGH

228:

The math is very tractable, seductively elegant. Applicable to many phenomena in which evolution is involved. The "selfish gene" and all that. It's the reason we're colonies of genetically identical cells (which was mentioned somewhere upthread), etc etc. Became popular during the MAD years of the Cold War.

If you will excuse me donning my crazy-hat for a moment... I have a fairly simple way to extend game theory to get around some of its limitations, which is to assume the players can read each other's motivation. It then sometimes becomes a useful move to change your motivation.

Plotting out a game tree with this extension is no harder than in normal game theory. I've written a little game along these lines in which the players use falling in love as one of the possible moves. They manage to come up with some rather brutal variants -- unrequited love is sometimes a useful strategy, as is doing something that determines the outcome before falling in love. Real madness, as opposed to MADness, also becomes a viable strategy -- threats are no longer limited to those plausible for a rational self-interested actor.

I've treated reading motivation as a block box, but obviously it is a tricky and unreliable talent. Psychopaths can fool it... for a little while.

229:

You have a write up on all this? I'd love to see it.

230:

Remember that the axis names at politics.beast.org are arbitrary; what I think the axes are is “the two variables which do the most to predict the responses of people who answered this survey in 2004.” What I like about that one is that it explains its methodology; it also makes less specific predictions to shoot holes in (don't get me started on politicalcompass' scores for North American politicians).

I don't recognize any of the names of British politicians which Lightfoot uses as examples, so I can't judge the results. Unfortunately, he no longer exists to explain them.

231:

Philip K. DIck wrote a novel (The Solar Lottery) about a future system-wide society based on Game Theory. He made a big point of just how psychopathic it was.

And if you want to go beyond Game Theory to mathematical notions of cooperative behavior, see Robert Axelrod, especially The Evolution of Cooperation. Turns out there's a fundamental difference between the one-off and the iterated Prisoner's Dilemma. Defecting isn't such a successful strategy if you're going to have to do it again.

232:

Not sure what I said to offend, but my last post is being held for moderation. There weren't any links in it, and the only proper names were of a science fiction author and a scientist.

233:

I think the SF writer's surname could have triggered some sorts of filter. I'm not sure about the scientist, but I am not going to take a chance on naming the town in North Lincolnshire with a steelworks.

234:

Psychopaths are useless in any modern army.

Modern armies want social cohesion, the willingness to save your buddy's life even if you risk your own, the capacity to have empathy for a larger group of soldiers which will lead you to obey orders, and so much more. All these are absolutely essential in modern war and psychopaths don't have it. Same thing for leaders. They have to give back what they get from their men.

There is totally, absolutely no room for a psychopath, anywhere, not even in war occupations often thought of as a killer's favourite.

In old films or in bad recent films you see snipers working alone. In a modern army sniping is done as a team with a minimum of two persons, the marksman and the spotter. The sniping rifle thus becomes a crew served weapon, with the responsibility for the shooting being spread among the group. The shooting becomes an act to defend your buddies against the bad guys, instead of a potentially remorse filled action.

This is the case for occasions where soldiers actually get to see the enemy.

It is not the case for pilots (or plane gunners or bombardiers) or sailors, and comrade Lenin was in a situation similar to pilots and sailors. He did not need to be a psychopath to just sign the execution orders for thousand of "enemies of the people". And from the many biographies I have read on him he was certainly not a psychopath.

235:

1860s London. Hmm...paper clips, Fuller Domes... aspirin from willow bark (how hard is this qua dosage, variation, etc.? This might be a Charlie question) Clinical trials? Quality control? Assembly lines? Management processes?

I've got more of an engineering background. Pretty healthy, but more asthmatic than I used to be (would be a serious problem in 1860s London or any big town) and blind as a bat without contact lenses. I think we've been here before. It's the flip side of fantasies about living in a Mad Max (or A Boy and his Dog) world. Or Africa in a region where there's civil war.

IIRC, nuclear disarmament between the US and USSR (and Russia for awhile) was an example of the iterated Prisoner's Dilemma. I chop up a nuke, you chop up one.

Speaking of systems involving people, a well-designed one should assume there's always someone bending or breaking the rules or even gaming the system, and it should be robust enough to tolerate a low level of such but while exposing serious violations. Sociopaths would be the unpaid gamma testers of such a system.

236:

A mean SOB may or not be a psychopath. But psychopaths usually can't function well enough to gain and keep power. Not without someone with more power keeping them from messing up. I can't see how psychopaths have been useful. Their minds are crippled. What they do is for themselves and then only in the short run. They gain pleasure from showing their power by upsetting things.
The army may make them. With enough time in action (not that long)98% get PTS. And 2% are psychopaths. They are useless and dangerous. When they are found out they put them on the streets with little help. At our VA hospitals you see this.
Lenin put them in the Cheka

237:

One question occasionally asked on sniper courses.
You take your shot, miss the target and kill a child standing nearby. What is your response?
The correct answer is "adjust the aim and shoot again as soon as possible".

As for the usefulness of psychopaths in the modern army, rather a lot end up in special forces where it does get up close and personal. The then Home Secretary at the time of the Iranian embassy siege was briefing the SAS teams about it and asked "Any questions?". Apparently he was rather shocked when one of them was "When do we get to kill people?"

238:

I think you and Alain are talking about different points on a spectrum here.

There's probably a point where somebody is sociopathic to an out-group while still functioning normally for the in-group. He cares about his buddies, tries not to be crazy towards "civilians", and has no remorse about killing the "enemy".

It's the people who can't make the distinction who are dangerous.

This sort of pattern is also recognised as a developmental stage. It's partly why a child is not automatically responsible for their actions, in a criminal court. (And that pattern of developmental stages may be partly an artefact of who psycholgists use for their research. If university students are seen as an elite, as superior, and get used as experimental subjects by psychologists, does that bias the results?)

One of these days, an Army wife is going to be in court over the murder of her husband. With the psychological effects of active service being more apparent, the arguments over a self-defence plea could get lively.

239:

Yes - psychopaths who "fit in".
They are smart enough to go through the motions and realize that their team's success is their success. Game theory.

240:

they are at all levels and can make your life hell http://www.shiftjournal.com/2011/06/30/spotting-psychopaths-in-the-workplace/

241:

My grandfather was in the trenches in WW1.

My father has, in the last few years, started telling stories about which suggest that my grandfather was not that nice a guy. Some of the tales are consistent with PTSD. Some of them might have that as an element, and combine with somebody a bit lost in the changing technology.

Hypothesis: a lot of British social and political life over the last century has been influenced by WW1-caused PTSD. Not just the people who were in military service, but the people back home. And the generation who were too young for that war, got their own dose, 1939-45.

It's suggestive that politics started to change as the WW2 generation was supplanted. Margaret Thatcher was sort of half and half: she went to university in 1943 avoiding what might be called "war work".

242:

A Blackadderish though:

It would be better if a business school graduate, wishing to move his drinks cabinet nearer the CEO's office, used Federal Express.

243:

I don't recognize any of the names of British politicians which Lightfoot uses as examples, so I can't judge the results. Unfortunately, he no longer exists to explain them.

Try me.

Thatcher I'm sure you're aware of -- former Conservative PM, radical free marketeer by the standards of a country which in 1979 had about the same Gini coefficient as Sweden today. Socially small-C conservative, less reactionary than most of the current Republican presidential contenders are (or are pretending to be for the evangelical base).

Tony Benn: old-school Labour technocrat and senior cabinet minister during the 1960s/1970s, subsequently marked an anchor on the left as Labour drifted to the right -- radically anti-war/anti-imperialist in his later years, socially liberal (for someone who's now in his 90s).

Ken Livingstone -- labour left-wing firebrand in the 1970s, 1980s head of the Greater London Council (and thorn in Thatcher's side), had a very respectable run as Lord Mayor of London in the 00's as an old-skool Labourite and thorn in Tony Blair's side, before being beaten in a mayoral election by Boris Johnson. So: right of Thatcher, left of Blair, more socially progressive than either, more economically collectivist than either.

Charles Kennedy -- was leader of the LibDems before a cunningly engineered coup ditched him and began the rightward drift that led to the party being captured by Orange Book libertarians like Nick Clegg, who was subsequently co-opted into playing the Mini-Me to David Cameron's Dr Evil in the coalition.

Any more?

244:

Peter @ 239
Spot on
And the link
Been on the recieveing end too.
I suppose the absolute classic case is Orde WIngate, who should have been sent to the bin, or shot, even BEFORE WWII .....

245:

A little bit more detail on the idea:

http://www.logarithmic.net/pfh/tpog

Also, if you install PyGame you can play the game :-)

brucecohenpdx@230, iterated prisoner's dilemma is a way for psychopaths to cooperate. Cooperation ceases the moment the end of the iteration is known.

246:

Slight correction - Lord Mayor is an annual and wholly ceremonial office, held in the City of London only. Ken was, and Boris is, elected Mayor, with executive powers over (some of) the city as a whole, though rather less in the City.

247:

Willie Whitelaw (the then-Home Secretary) served from 1939 to 1946 with the Scots Guards; landed in Normandy in July 44, fought with them through to VE-Day (including Op VERITABLE). Won a Military Cross, operating in an environment where the casualty rates were on a par with the Somme.

I wonder about the source of your story...

I also doubt the prevalence of psychopaths in Special Forces, unless you're talking about 1970s Argentina. Certainly the SAS seem to stress the ability to operate as part of a team, and they reject those who can't handle it. The ones I've known have definitely not been psychos.

In the British Army, there is a certain amount of psychological profiling in order to _reject_ "danger addicts" from certain jobs; the bomb disposal types have apparently always done this, and apparently the covert surveillance specialists took a while to get their profiling right (to the extent that in the early days, allegedly 50% of those coming back from a plain-clothes surveillance tour in Northern Ireland were spending time in psychiatric care).

248:

The correct answer for the sniper's mistaken shot is "Relocate to a previously prepared safe harbour and reassess your tactical situation". They do not take an immediate second shot unless the circumstances are very unusual such as countersniping from a bunker or other prepared position where a support team can keep the opposition off your back.

An SAS or other Special Forces soldier never operates as a "lone wolf". The only exception is escape and evasion and even then they do this in teams if possible; two people have a better chance of getting out of a dangerous situation than one since they can do watch-and-watch when resting/sleeping, help each other out in case of injuries etc.

249:

I remember a show a couple of years or so ago that basically said through the recorded history of the firearm, enlisted armies to WWII found about 5% of the soldiers actually shot usefully, 35% would shoot but aim to miss, 60% wouldn't shoot at all. Those 5% were labelled in the show as having psychopathic tendencies* - being willing to knowingly kill strangers. I remember this because the numbers yell to anyone with a genetics background single-locus genetic effect. I remember some other bits, like the reason they pick 12 men for a firing squad was to have a decent chance that at least one person actually pulled the trigger and shot the condemned man.

Since WWII (Vietnam, Korea, etc.) training for soldiers has changed to 'harden' them to shooting people rather than targets, and the numbers shooting at people has risen dramatically. So have PTSD rates - shell-shock in WWI was nasty enough but nothing like the prevalence of PTSD after the Gulf Wars, Bosnia etc.

It will be interesting in 20 years time, to see if there's a fall as children raised on fairly realistic 'killing other humans games' (Call of Duty, Battlefield etc.) prove to be more inured, less, or about the same to the killing of real humans.

The modern British Army is a rather different kettle of fish. It's a volunteer organisation that can, and does, turn away potential recruits it considers unsuitable for any number of reasons. It, in addition, can and will steer people away from particular career paths on psychological grounds.

If we ever go back to a situation like WWII with conscription, it will be interesting (definitely in the Chinese proverb sense) to see how that screening works with the need and the increased numbers.

* Please note, that's the language of the show as I recall it. It's not the same as the prevalence of diagnosed psychopaths in society. It might** be similar to number diagnosed + number of those who function well enough to blend still and/or those that escape detection and diagnosis for other reasons. It would be interesting to see in today's army and marines what proportion of soldiers are in the "have tendencies but function well enough to blend" category. They can blend with the team, support their squad, follow orders, etc. but add to that an inherent willingness to be a killer and the like. It almost certainly won't be 100% but it might be quite high, certainly in front-line fighting units.

** Let me stress might. Obviously you can't guess how many people have tendencies and escape detection because they function well enough, move often enough to get caught, are "good" enough to never be noticed and so on.

250:

@heteromeles:
I bought a book of post-apocalyptic short stories a couple of years back called "Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse", and the story written by Stephen King is an interesting examination of such a scenario.
A great book by the way that I highly recommend.

251:

Chrlie @ 243
To which I might add ....
Thatcher:
Unfortunately, worse then C paints her.
Deliberately encouraged unemploymnet is some areas that COULD have been improved/saved, because they were voters for the "other" (Labour) party.
Benn:
Stark, reving bonkers, until recently, showing signs of sanity these days - almost Thatcher in reverse.
Livingstone:
Was VERY effective & popular Mayor of London, until he started to lose the plot. Last election was close, & it's my opinion that he threw it away, by garuanteeing that no educated woman, or atheist or agnostic was goning to vote for him. By supporting an islamicist (Al-Qardarwi ??) who openly agreed that women were inferior and killing Jewish children was OK. Ken has bee asked to recant, but won't.
Which is why I predict that the next Mayor of London will be the current one ....
Boris ("BoJo") Johnson:
Deliberately plays the amiable buffoon. Actually very sharp operator, and socially very liberal. Got some nasty money-gouging friends, though.
Kennedy & Camoron:
Agree about coup against K. Disgree with C's analysis of Camoron - he likes to play "nice guy" but I think he'll fail eventually. Reminds me of Neville Chamberlain.

Eloise @ 249
Of course, those numbers change if your "opposition" have done something really unpleasant, or you have, yourself had a "life-changing" experience which you were lucky to survive.
The latter encourages the attitude that the "other" gets it, not you, IF it comes to that possiblity - and I can speak from personal experience.
The former was seen in WWII in some areas, especially in Burma, and the very late stages of the war in Europe, when Nazi atrocities came to light.

252:

Returning vets from Afghanistan and Iraq are a major population where I live. The Marines, especially, tried using games like Doom to condition recruits to killing. I don't think it's been formally studied yet, but the prevalence of PTSD among recent veterans tells me it didn't work.

Also, the drone pilots currently fly 1-2 shifts in a war zone, then go home to their family at night. They are also reportedly experiencing a lot of trouble, even though they are flying a console and not physically in the battle zone.

The bottom line is that the idea of humans as killer apes is a myth. It's far easier to train most humans not to kill each other than to train us to kill. There are a few who can kill without remorse, but they seem to be a fairly constant minority.

If we define psychopaths as people who kill without remorse, I don't think that all or even most special forces types are psychopaths. One reason I think that is that, in the last few years, a number of Navy SEALs have lost it (suicide, committed assaults, etc), in ways that suggest they're suffering too.

One place we haven't talked about here is gangs, and tribes (such as headhunters) that operate under gang-like rules. They're not all stone-cold killers, and I wonder whether they suffer from PTSD too.

253:

"The correct answer for the sniper's mistaken shot is "Relocate to a previously prepared safe harbour and reassess your tactical situation"."

My example was not hypothetical. It is an actual question from a sniper instruction course. It was used to weed out those not suited.

254:

I recall that 5% claim, and considered it rather low.
Back when I was playing soldiers it never even crossed my mind *not* to shoot someone who was the enemy.
That 5% is presumably why special forces are so effective. They are volunteers who definitely want to get into the fight.

255:

Thanks. I recognized Thatcher, Blair, kai hoi tyrannoi, but I have enough trouble following politics in my own country (and the bit of American politics that anyone who reads the papers and surfs the internet picks up) that I don't know much about political celebrities in other modern countries.

According to beasts, I'm somewhere around Charles Kennedy which seems vaguely reasonable.

256:

I suspect that the program you saw was discussing a book by David Grossman (a US Army Lt Colonel) called "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society". This in turn made heavy use of S.L.A. Marshall's 1947 study "Men Against Fire".

Grossman's main point was that killing was unnatural for humans; and that (for the most part) soldiers needed to be conditioned to do it. They also needed to be handled appropriately afterwards. IIRC, his figure was that about 2% of soldiers were unaffected, and that this mirrored the rough percentage of "unempathic types" in society (i.e. sociopaths).

Dirk@254 - Special Forces aren't effective because they have a higher-than-normal number of sociopaths in their ranks; they're more effective because they train "better" - they have the time, the resources, and the mentality to rehearse, and rehearse, and analyse, and try, and analyse, and rehearse, and rehearse... and because they are able to select their membership (i.e. reject the poseurs and the lazy).

One of the most irritating aspects of fiction's treatment of soldiers is the perceived desire for militaries to have "soldiers that will obey any order". Given that in WW2 the Allies had to deal with Axis Forces that did just that, the concept of an "illegal order" was certainly drummed into me as a 1980s-vintage recruit; and apparently the Bundeswehr take it very seriously indeed...

257:
iterated prisoner's dilemma is a way for psychopaths to cooperate. Cooperation ceases the moment the end of the iteration is known.

Please read Axelrod's work. Your statement is a very incomplete analysis of the operation of Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma. Even in the simplest cases, cooperation of one party may only cease as long as the other party doesn't cooperate. Moreover, populations consisting of cooperators and non-cooperators reach a stable state with the majority remaining cooperators as long as the initial number of cooperators is a large enough minority.

258:

I've known several Special Forces veterans, both during the Vietnam era and recently. None of them were sociopaths, a couple of them were rather empathic people.

And I've known one stone psychopath, a white man who, in 1966, claimed to have gone in to the Watts riot in 1965 to hunt down and kill black people. Whether he did or not, the claim itself says a lot about him.

259:

Dirk, with the best will in the world, what do your experiences have to do with the larger statistic?

I'm pretty sure you're younger than "playing soldiers" with WWII training - so you were probably trained in a regime designed to enable a high proportion of soldiers to shoot people. Even if you are in your late 80's or older, you could be one of the 5% that is willing to kill, presumably in the highly functioning and undetected part rather than the incarcerated/hospitalised part. Comparing an individual to a population like that is just silly.

The statistic could be junk - I have no raw data to analyse and no desire to try and collect some. But "it wasn't like that for me so it must be wrong" is really bad science.

Martin #256, you could well be right. The TV show wasn't my normal fare and I don't have a lot of wider interest in the subject. I know they were talking about it being based on several studies.

260:
Charles Kennedy -- was leader of the LibDems before a cunningly engineered coup ditched him and began the rightward drift that led to the party being captured by Orange Book libertarians like Nick Clegg, who was subsequently co-opted into playing the Mini-Me to David Cameron's Dr Evil in the coalition.

Ah. This is just the sort the sort of subject that's hard to research on the internet. Could you give a capsule summary of this particular coup? Was is some sort of coordinated last-minute change in the procedural rules? Was he duped into admitting a sleeper into the inner circle? You make it sound like it was anything but the raw brute force application of gobs of money.

Having my own fund of stories about the maneuverings of rascals on my own bit of turf - the sort of thing that everyone knows but never gets printed in the local rag - I'd be interested if your gang came up with something novel. Or if it was a distinctly British thing ;-)

261:
The bottom line is that the idea of humans as killer apes is a myth. It's far easier to train most humans not to kill each other than to train us to kill. There are a few who can kill without remorse, but they seem to be a fairly constant minority.

Or perhaps it's just that you can't jump from one set of mental attitudes to the other at the flip of a switch. Yet Another Story Idea: Young men raised from birth to be affectless killers in an amoral society are drafted and sent to foreign lands where they have to be empathic and communal to survive. When their tour is over and they come home, they exhibit the same PTSD our soldiers do :-(

Iow, humans are plastic . . . but not that plastic. That reminds me: wasn't there a Dark Night comic from the 90's where the Joker turned out to be not insane, but super sane? And that his labile personality was actually a beneficial trait that made him better adapted for living in an urban environment?

OMG - will the Joker's descendents end up with two left hands? Not a connection I'd normally make. But it's a crossover I'd definitely pick up and read for a page or two at least :-)

262:

As with 'operent conditioning '? ...


" The training process involves hundreds of repetitions of this action, and ultimately the subject becomes like Watson's rats in the Kerplunk Experiment, performing a complex set of voluntary motor actions until they become automatic or reflexive in nature. Psychologists know that this kind of powerful operant conditioning is the only technique that will reliably influence the primitive, midbrain processing of a frightened human being, just as fire drills condition terrified school children to respond properly during a fire, and repetitious, stimulus-response conditioning in flight simulators enables frightened pilots to respond reflexively to emergency situations."


http://www.killology.com/art_beh_solution.htm


But, even so, you have to realise that under conditions of battle and or survival there are people who will naturally follow the operent conditioning pattern without formal training.

My Grandfather volunteered at the start of the First World War and survived the entire war in the trenches at the front line with the Durham Light Infantry- even got a medal for gas injury - and he didn't do that by hesitating when confronted by the enemy at bayonet length.

Mind you, even without operent conditioning, personal combat on the battle field can be strangely complicated by the soldiers wish to survive the folly of his commanders.

Apparently my Granddad would tell my Mum Horror stories about The Great War to End All Wars but, when I was a boy, he wasn't keen on talking to me about his experiences. Mind you he did once tell me that there was a reason why Young Keen as Mustard Second Lieutenants had such a lethally high casualty rate and that it wasn't necessarily the Enemy that did for them. Think of 'Fraging ' ..


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fragging

263:

In a competitive, meritocratic system people who desperately want power and are prepared to do anything to get it will, other things being equal, rise to the top.

Hence the psychopath -- you have to be one to want it that badly and devote your whole life to it when you might be having fun or relaxing instead. Very intelligent, very unpleasant people will inevitably rise to the top.

Trying to prevent this is like trying to sweep back the ocean with a broom; the -same sort of people- will end up in charge of any organization you set up to enforce a screening mechanism. It's automatic.

The only way to avoid this is to avoid meritocracy itself; assign positions by lottery or by hereditary succession.

264:

I honestly don't know if it would count as operant conditioning - although I suspect so. I'm only being cautious because I don't know what the training is like and was like in enough detail.

For example, I would have thought the older style training was good enough operant conditioning to make soldiers shoot on command but the evidence suggests otherwise. The new training is not longer, doesn't seem to involve more repetition etc. from what I gleaned from the hideously sketchy view of a TV documentary - it seems to be that just the appearance of a target as a soldier rather than a target shooting target is enough to manage this change from a small proportion shooting to kill to a large proportion.

It seems like a subtle distinction, but perhaps they're being conditioned to shoot human-shaped targets and that transfers to the battlefield.

Pre-firearms, a lot of training involved sparring, personal interaction, lots of hacking at pells in roughly human shapes and the like - perhaps inadvertently they also conditioned their troops to fight humans better than was managed from muskets to WWII.

265:

"Dirk, with the best will in the world, what do your experiences have to do with the larger statistic?"

Well, I first came across that when I was playing soldiers in the mid 70s. It was in a book called "War on the Mind" by Peter Watson in 1978. Since then there have been a number of other claims:
http://www.military-sf.com/Killing.htm

I suspect the WW2 percentage was low simply because most soldiers did not want to stick their head up and expose themselves. Basically, they had no interest in being there. They were, at best, mostly civilian conscripts with less than 3 months training. Ideologically motivated volunteer units would have had far higher kill ratios eg Waffen SS esp when the enemy had been dehumanized. I would expect, for Americans, that killing Japanese would probably have been easier than killing people who looked just like them eg Germans

266:

I remember a show a couple of years or so ago that basically said through the recorded history of the firearm, enlisted armies to WWII found about 5% of the soldiers actually shot usefully, 35% would shoot but aim to miss, 60% wouldn't shoot at all.

I'm fairly certain that the WWII stats I read had 10% or 20% would actively shoot. And my recolection is that it was from some non fiction writing of Jerry Pournelle. But as it was about 20 years ago or so my memory is a bit fuzzy. But he apparently was in jobs in and out of the military where he would have access to such stats.

And I wonder if civil war solders matched those high non shooting numbers. When lined up next to each other with guns that flash and smoke it would be hard to pretend to not be shooting.

267:

Bruce, I'm familiar with the evangelical rationalist genre, have read several descriptions of the tournaments Axelrod ran, am familiar with the link between evolution and game theory and, to save some time, am familiar with kin-selection.

In carefully chosen circumstances, these simulated psychopaths happen to behave nicely, but it's very very fragile. Let's consider just one little tweak: the players know that the length of the tournament is 200 rounds. Clearly tit-for-tat-but-defect-on-round-200 will beat tit-for-tat. Next year the entrants wise up to this, but some clever bastard comes up with tit-for-tat-but-defect-on-round-199. You can see where this is going.

In the real world such a being would never sacrifice itself to save a stranger's child, as doing so would cease the iteration. This is a view of humanity in which heroism is at best a lucky accident.

268:


I remember a show a couple of years or so ago that basically said through the recorded history of the firearm, enlisted armies to WWII found about 5% of the soldiers actually shot usefully, 35% would shoot but aim to miss, 60% wouldn't shoot at all.

That is based on SLA Marshall's utterly, utterly discredited & fabricated 'research'. Dave Grossman elaborated on that, but he has been proven to be wrong numerous times.

Here is the best review & criticism I've seen
http://www.journal.dnd.ca/vo9/no2/16-engen-eng.asp


I've known several Special Forces veterans, both during the Vietnam era and recently. None of them were sociopaths, a couple of them were rather empathic people.

You people are completely missing the point. The only obvious sociopaths are the incompetent, dumb ones who can't really control themselves.

Imagine you have no conscience. Would you *advertise* the fact that you could kill & fry a baby for breakfast, rape and then eat her mother for lunch, and then sleep as soundly as a kitten?

You'd have to be very, very stupid to do that.
Smart psychopaths are not obvious, and are very, very hard to spot. In fact, you can't spot them without adminstering some pretty specialized testing.


The bottom line is that the idea of humans as killer apes is a myth.

A prime example of wishful thinking. Have you looked at murder rates through history, or have you noticed the research suggesting that only ~1/3 of males who ever lived procreated?

Let angry males off the leash, remove the threat of retaliation and blood will run inches deep in the gutters.

Jesus F.Christ. We're omnivores by nature, always have been, with very little evidence of carrion-eating.

From that necessarily follows that a good number of humans are well adapted to killing.

269:

> Basically, they had no interest in
> being there. They were, at best,
> mostly civilian conscripts

The cultural gap between 1939 and 2012 may be wider than you think.

270:


enlisted armies to WWII found about 5% of the soldiers actually shot usefully, 35% would shoot but aim to miss, 60% wouldn't shoot at all.

Imagine a situation. You're a member of a Wehrmacht platoon that's somwhere deep in Russia. Following a brief artillery bombardement, your trenches are being charged by several companies of buzzed (vodka was given out before charges), angry Soviets..

Would you
a) shoot to kill, in the hope that the charge stalls and you won't end shot dead, or worse, ran through with a bayonet..
b) shoot to miss, relying on others to stop the charge
c) run, which would mean betraying the men you've spent the last year of your life with, and very likely an execution for cowardice.

In any other situation, where soldiers are
a) in danger of being shot by enemy
b) able to shoot back
self-preservation dictates that they'll do their best to kill the enemy or drive them off before the enemy kills them.


SLA Marshall's 'research' could've only been swallowed without gagging by people who were unwarrantedly starry-eyed where human nature is concerned, or more likely, people who were convinced there is no human nature, and that we're born as blank slates..

271:

You're offering a brief and intense encounter. I believe the numbers more accurately model the "sitzkrieg" battle type. You're in your trench. The enemy is over there in his trench. Occasionally somebody pokes his head up and shoots off a round in the general direction of the other side. This goes on for days, weeks, maybe months.

This goes back at least to the US Civil War with firearms, and probably thousands of years in pre-gunpowder siege warfare. I can easily believe that in these conditions most soldiers passed most days without actually using their weapons.

272:

S M Stirling @ 263
As in the Solzenytsin story "For the good of the Party" ??
Contrariwise, how come then, that many large companies / corporations / guvmints have people in charge who are NOT psychopaths, just really competent at their jobs?

TRX @ 268
Noit quite
The desire to stop the Nazis in this country at least, was a lot stronger than you may realise. The grim resolve that people had to pick up the pieces for the politicians' failings.

[ And my horrible fear that we may have to do it all again, since Nazism is alive and well, and calling itsef one or other form of islamicist - women are inferior, kill all the jews, "lebensraum", the "West is decadent" etc - I do hope I'm wrong ]

ALL:
"Numbers shooting"
Take it back a bit, think of medieaval battles, where the killing was either up-close & personal, or if you got in the way of the grey-goose flock really unpleasant.
Henry Vth's French campaign took 2 million+ arrows with it into the field, and at Agincourt (I think) NO Fernch knight actually made it to the English line ...
Or the Battle of Towton, English civil war of the Roses, over 25 000 dead in half a day - 1%+ of the country's population at the time.
Erm ....

273:

Also, the drone pilots currently fly 1-2 shifts in a war zone, then go home to their family at night. They are also reportedly experiencing a lot of trouble, even though they are flying a console and not physically in the battle zone.

They actually switched to "drone pilots serve a tour on-base" for exactly that reason.

274:

Kennedy was well known among his associates to be somewhat fonder of a bottle of whiskey than was necessarily prudent -- from before he was elected party leader. But what crow-barred him out of the seat was a concerted press campaign (in turn assisted by selective whispering about his drink habit). The immediate replacement, Menzies Campbell, was a temporary fixture -- at 62 he was possibly too old to lead a British political party, so after unfavourable media coverage he resigned, Vince Cable took over as leader pro tem, and another leadership contest was held -- so in the run-up to the 2009 election a leadership contest was held in which, oddly, only Orange Book free marketeers got much of a look-in.

TL;DR is there was an awful lot of behind-the-scenes whispering and media campaigning to churn the party leadership until the right (right wing) candidates ended up in the high chair.

275:

The only way to avoid this is to avoid meritocracy itself; assign positions by lottery or by hereditary succession.

Working hypothesis: the use of a randomly selected jury in a trial is a mechanism to thwart psychopathic behaviour by judges. Which in turn is a useful adaptation for a society because it reduces the risk of a public backlash against oppression.

(Which is not unknown: see Judge Jeffreys: "On 18/19 September alone [1685], he issued 144 death sentences." Special occasion -- in the wake of a rebellion -- but nevertheless. Alternatively, see Ayatollah Khalkhali, who didn't have the handicap of needing a jury ... I should note that opposition to the Stuarts outlasted Jeffreys, and Khalkhali failed to solve the Kurdish Problem.)

276:

There is another factor, esp before automatic weapons and "spray and pray". Actually firing an aimed shot takes time, and you have to be exposed to the enemy. It may only be a few seconds, but it seems like forever if there are bullets snapping about. I suspect that most conscript soldiers would not do that.

277:

"Also, the drone pilots currently fly 1-2 shifts in a war zone, then go home to their family at night. They are also reportedly experiencing a lot of trouble"

Now, I find that very hard to believe because I do not think I would experience such problems. Too much of a disconnect between shapes on a screen and real life.

278:
Working hypothesis: the use of a randomly selected jury in a trial is a mechanism to thwart psychopathic behaviour by judges. Which in turn is a useful adaptation for a society because it reduces the risk of a public backlash against oppression.

I hadn't thought of this in this way - but it is an interesting hypothesis. Given in the UK the system is entirely random - when you're called, then if you're on the 15 names chosen, and then if you're on the 12 called by the clerk of the court, that's it - and the US system involves extensive quibbling and pre-selection, what does your hypothesis suggest would happen with abusive judges?

And given the UK jury system (admittedly very rarely) finds for some definition of "justice" rather than "the law" (the Hawks to Indonesia vandalism trial being one I remember) do you consider it ever manages to alter the path of the British legal system significantly?

279:

"...do you consider it ever manages to alter the path of the British legal system significantly?"

Yes.
The govt scrapped the "no double jeopardy rule"

280:

Oh, it gets it right a little more often than that: for example, yesterday. (TL;DR: the first Obscene Publications Act trial in quite a long time -- the jury returned a "not guilty" verdict on all charges because the definition of "tends to corrupt and deprave the viewer has changed somewhat since the advent of the internet). And I'd like to note that the "British" legal system is actually two systems -- the English-Welsh one and the Scottish one, which again does things differently.

281:

I've always liked the sound of that charge.
"Have you been out corrupting and depraving people again?"

282:

My bad about England-Wales and Scotland being different, I do know that, and even complain when others get it wrong.

Hadn't heard about the obscenity trial. I'm not sure I regard it as quite that groundbreaking - hardcore gay sex isn't my cup of tea, but I don't think most reasonable adults would consider it tending to corrupt and deprave from the description.

IMO it's a case of the law (despite the comments near the bottom) being well written so that as the culture changes so does what's counted as obscene. I dread to think what a list from 1857 would ban and I'm pretty sure that even a list published in 1964 would be horribly out of date 48 years later. But asking a jury of today's population, we get a good read on what's obscene and what's not, even if various self-proclaimed moral guardians will be outraged.

283:


You're offering a brief and intense encounter. I believe the numbers more accurately model the "sitzkrieg" battle type. You're in your trench. The enemy is over there in his trench. Occasionally somebody pokes his head up and shoots off a round in the general direction of the other side. This goes on for days, weeks, maybe months.

The numbers were supposed to be for combat US forces in WWII, which were hardly ever engaged in 'sitzkrieg'.

Also, if only 5% of German troops (~100% 1800 K troops, out of that 5% is ~100K )on the eastern front ever shot to kill, that'd mean the kill-happy 100K killed a 100+ men each over the course of the war. Total soviet KIA's were 10 000 K.

But I see that even in this supposed den of rationality, commenters discount and pretend data they can't explain away doesn't exist.

Humanity is overrated and unsuited to civilization, a another victim of the Peter principle.

If the Conjoiners of Reynolds's stories existed, I'd kill to join them.

284:

People make mistakes. And although I'm no longer advocating the research about the 5% (which was actually 25% according to wikipedia, and is controversial in an area I freely admit I know little enough about that I'll say I don't know which side to believe as both seem to have very vested interests), I am tempted to wonder about pots and kettles and calling each other black.

If Soviet KIAs were 10M (a total that 2 minutes on wikipedia suggests is rather inflated) with 8.8M KIA, MIA and POWs, 6.3M KIA or dying of wounds) you're assuming in your calculation that they're all killed in direct infantry conflict. How many were bombed, shelled, blown up by mines, killed in/on tanks etc? It makes the numbers killed per "killer" fall.

And since the more "successful" serial killers often have 30+ murders of which they are convicted (and can be thought to have committed well over 100) while evading capture and so on, how many would be reasonable for someone willing to shoot to kill in time of war?

286:

Cullis: But I see that even in this supposed den of rationality, commenters discount and pretend data they can't explain away doesn't exist.

WARNING: Please refer to the moderation policy on politeness. This is your yellow card. (If that comment had been directed at a specific individual by name, you'd be being unpublished/deleted at this point. Instead, consider this a warning.)

I was under the impression that the psych stats for combat you're discussing relate to small arms, while from WW1 onwards the majority of casualties in wars between industrial powers were inflicted by crew-served weapons (where the soldiers don't get to see the targets as individual people); by WW2 the ratio of crew-served to direct casualties was something like 10:1, if I remember correctly.

287:

"Unlike traditional pilots flying manned aircraft in a war zone, the pilots operating remote drones often stare at the same piece of ground in Afghanistan or Iraq for days, sometimes months. They watch someone's pattern of life, see people with their families, and then they can be ordered to shoot.
Col. Kent McDonald, who co-authored the report, says the Air Force tries to recruit people who are emotionally well-adjusted, "family people" with "good values."

Sounds like a perfect job for psychopaths - just watch these people and kill them when ordered to.

288:

Warning accepted.

I was under the impression that the psych stats for combat you're discussing relate to small arms, while from WW1 onwards the majority of casualties in wars between industrial powers were inflicted by crew-served weapons

10:1

Unfortunately, you are off by an order of magnitude. Roughly 50% casualties in WWII were caused by artillery fire. Rest is probably 30% MG fire, 20% rifles/smg's. Interesting that this data doesn't mesh with this tactical wargame I play which has accent on realism. (there it's 25% artillery at best, 50% machineguns, 25% ordinary infantry). I'll go ask at that forum..

Machineguns may be crew-served, but the machinegunner himself has to aim at his fellow humans.

289:

" ... how many would be reasonable for someone willing to shoot to kill in time of war? " ..


Meet, Simo Häyhä " The White Death " ..


http://www.mosinnagant.net/finland/simohayha.asp

290:

References would also be useful in any such discussion.

291:

In the US Army study the GIs said they could not see any one to shoot at. And a lot of them saw no reason to put their heads up so they could be shoot. I don't think caring about people who put them in that mess and wanted to kill them had much to do with it. I think there are people here, who are thinking without facts. Well that's what humans do.

292:

That's very true. Unless there are fixed lines and defensive positions its all confusion and noise and "rumours" of the enemy. Nobody wants to stick their head up to find out what's going on just in case the enemy is better informed than you are.

293:
IMO it's a case of the law (despite the comments near the bottom) being well written so that as the culture changes so does what's counted as obscene. I dread to think what a list from 1857 would ban and I'm pretty sure that even a list published in 1964 would be horribly out of date 48 years later.

As I understand it - and I freely admit this is yet another subject where I'm not as informed as I probably should be - there's a fundamental philosophical difference between Usian law and British law. To wit, here on this side of the pond we tend to honor the letter of the law over it's spirit, whereas back East it's just the opposite. This, I am told, is the big driver (modulo the obvious reasons) for the pages and pages of dense legalese surrounding even the simplest transactions and regulations; if some condition isn't specifically included/excluded in the contract, taking advantage of that fact is completely kosher in our legal system. I don't hold with it myself. I had to confiscate a student's phone a few years back when they kept texting during lecture period. When she complained and said that my syllabus only prohibited talking on the phone I replied that there's nothing in my syllabus that says you and your buds can't come to class with colanders on your heads and pelt each other with cucumbers, carrots and cauliflower; did she honestly expect me to explicitly include that in my list of prohibited activities?[1] Yes, when you're in a position of authority it's easy to make the case for going with the spirit rather than the letter of law, to argue for doing away with all that red tape and going for the so-called "common sense interpretation".

Otoh, going with the British option - spirit over the letter has it's drawbacks too; I won't deny that giving the authorities the latitude to interpret the law using their parochial notions of "common sense", "morality", etc. hasn't lead to some rather spectacular abuses, e.g. arguing criminalizing homosexuality because "it's just common sense that it ain't natural". Said abuses being in fact the chief reason cited for adopting the Legalist approach.

[1]That one got a laugh out of the class - and at her expense instead of mine. First rule of teaching is to pit your students against each other in these situations as opposed to being so heavy-handed that they turn against you as a group. Don't laugh. Some of my fellow pedagogues (mostly middle-aged white dudes) either don't get this or do but then rear up on their hind legs and say they aren't about to let a pack of lazy good-for-nothing kids dictate how they conduct their class. Sigh.

294:

I've noticed that a number of commenters here seem to assuming a cause and effect relationship between killing people and and suffering from PTSD - i.e. You get PTSD from killing people, and only that, and if you don't, you must be a psychopath. This is not the case.

PTSD is caused by stress aka psychological trauma. There can be many causes for this stress. Killing other human beings who you feel empathy for is certainly one of them. Being shot at, shelled, and otherwise being put in mortal fear is another. Homesickness, getting dear johned by post, dealing with superiors, all are stressful to one degree or another. These stresses are not additive, they are multiplicative, which means that adding apparently small stressors can have a big effect to someone who is already near their limit. And the overall effects are cumulative, it builds up over time. Put anyone in continuous combat for long enough, and they'll break (even if they never kill a soul). Hence tours of duty.

Everyone has their own limit of how much stress they can take before they become affected. Some people break easily, others are apparently untaxed by anything. One of the reasons behind the drill instructor shouting and hazing and so on of boot camp is an attempt to make it stressful enough to find and weed out those recruits who would not be able to handle the stresses of combat for long.

The key to avoiding PTSD is to reduce the stresses a soldier suffers. The navy tries very hard to prevent their submariners getting messages about deaths of friends and family, or being told that they've been dumped, whilst they are on deployment. Soldiers are trained in realistic environments to accustom them to the sights and sounds of battle when they know that are in a safe environment, so that when they are in battle for real, it won't be as stressful. When being trained to kill, the targets are as realistic as possible, and they are trained to see the actual people they are shooting as just more targets (this is where those drone pilots had problems). Essentially, something that has become normal is no longer stressful, or at least is less stressful. Get shot at for long enough, without getting PTSD, and it will become normal enough that you no longer find it stressful (in theory...in reality, most people tend to break before that happens - but you can become used to other, less stressful things more easily).

Psychopaths will, of course, not find killing other humans stressful. That doesn't mean they won't suffer from PTSD. Unless they are totally uncaring of their own safety, they will find being shot at, or continuously waiting to be shot at (a different and much more prevalent stressor) as hard as anyone else, and it will have similar (though not necessarily the same) effects. Conversely, someone who goes through several tours without getting PTSD isn't a psychopath. They're just very good at handling and managing stress.

I should note that PTSD is certainly not restricted to members of the military. Survivors of terrorist attacks, survivors of car crashes, abused spouses or children, people who have had loved one die whilst they themselves were perfectly safe somewhere else and unaware until later...these and countless other examples can all suffer from PTSD as a result of their experiences.

Boy, that post went on lot longer than expected. Apologies for the lecture.

295:

"Unless they are totally uncaring of their own safety, they will find being shot at, or continuously waiting to be shot at (a different and much more prevalent stressor) as hard as anyone else, and it will have similar (though not necessarily the same) effects."

This bit isn't quite right - not that psychopaths can't suffer PTSD, but they don't respond to stress or even physical pain the same way that normal people do.

Their inability to respond normally to their own stress is apparently physical, and might actually be why they can't relate to others a meaningful way.

296:

...Machine guns may be crew served, but the machine gunner himself has to aim at his fellow humans...

Not so. If you're operating Medium and Heavy MGs, they are generally tripod-mounted. Rather than being used like a rifle, in the defence you aim them at a patch of ground that has to be crossed. Once set up, they can be fired at night or in poor visibility; in WW1 the Vickers guns were even used for map-predicted indirect fire.

By WW2, operational analysis revealed that medium mortars were a more efficient use of soldiers and logistic support. Having said that, a British infantry battalion still has both a mortar platoon and an MG platoon; each has it's advantages.

297:


Not so. If you're operating Medium and Heavy MGs, they are generally tripod-mounted. Rather than being used like a rifle, in the defence you aim them at a patch of ground that has to be crossed. Once set up, they can be fired at night or in poor visibility; in WW1 the Vickers guns were even used for map-predicted indirect fire.

That was WWI. There were very few instances in WWII where lines were so static, or so heavily defended.

I've read a good deal on WWII history, and due to tank use and better doctrine, static, trench warfare like in WWI happened only infrequently, mostly in sieges or places that had really bad terrain.

In the US Army study the GIs said they could not see any one to shoot at.

Which study?
SLA Marshall has been revealed to have fabricated data to suit his theories. No one ever has corroborated his data.

Veterans, if confronted with David Grossman's theories dismiss them as nonsense. A study among Canadian WWII officers yielded the results that if anything, men shot at the enemy too eagerly and wastede ammo.

Also, not one officer complained about men not firing effectively enough and were overall satisfied with their riflemen and their ability to halt german counterattacks. Had 75% been slacking off, and many not firing at all, someone would have noticed.

From the review of Grossman's book:

Take, for instance, where Grossman’s work touches upon animal behaviour. One of his central claims is that human behaviour under stress is really no different from that of any other animal.7 He takes as proof the assertion that animal species do not kill within their own species, and that “...when the fight option is utilized, it is almost never to the death.” Instead, he claims, animals go through a process of posturing and non-lethal combat that is supposedly vital to the survival of the whole species, preventing needless** death and allowing young males to live through early confrontations to pass on their genes at a later time.8 Grossman is referring to natural selection, of course, but apparently he has a flawed understanding of how this process actually works. Natural selection in biology is a deeply selfish mechanism, and it is fundamentally about the best-adapted individuals surviving to pass on their own genes. In the natural evolutionary process, there is a struggle for reproductive advantage within a species, and victory usually goes to individuals best adapted to their circumstances.9 There is no genetic imperative in living things to care about the survival of the species as a whole. Organisms are not as altruistic as Grossman believes, and animal behaviour is shaped by maximum survival and reproductive success of the individual or its close kin, and not of the species.

**this would only be true in species where males do a great part of offspring-raising. Species where that isn't necessarily true, males often fight to the death. Among humans, monogamy is a recent development, and there is research claiming that only 1/3 of males who ever lived procreated.

298:


That's very true. Unless there are fixed lines and defensive positions its all confusion and noise and "rumours" of the enemy. Nobody wants to stick their head up to find out what's going on just in case the enemy is better informed than you are.

So, if nobody wants to stick their head out, no one would? As if an army was some kind of kindergarten :D?

Officers of course had no power to make their troops do anything, even in armies (Red Army) where they could summarily execute soldiers for cowardice or disobedience? I believe disobeying an order is a very serious offence in all militaries.

Ever heard of recon troops, or scout detachments?

Soldiers drew lots, were picked or volunteered, and then were sent to creep up towards enemy positions to find out what's going on.

299:

Ah, "recon". The equivalent UK abbreviation is "Recce".

When I was the officer commanding our battalion's Reconnaissance Platoo,; my best man commanded our Machine-Gun platoon. Yes, I have an understanding how both Medium MG and Close Reconnaissance troops are employed; the nice men at the School of Infantry were quite insistent on that very point... The Close Recce Commanders course was "character building" :)

My point stands; a Medium MG on a tripod is a crew-served weapon. When firing on a target, it isn't aimed like a rifle.

You should also note that SLA Marshall's book applied to US troops (who trained using bullseye targets) rather than other armies (who didn't). Other armies conditioned their troops in different ways, with different results.

300:

"The only way to avoid this is to avoid meritocracy itself; assign positions by lottery or by hereditary succession."

You could try to avoid it, or you could just temper it until it's useful- the rest of us lazy asses who would prefer to sit down and enjoy life just need to periodically get up and make sure there are "insurance" systems and limits in place to make sure that overachievers don't break too much, and reward systems that give them lots of goodies for doing beneficial stuff, and then we get to sit back down again.

To put it in caveman terms, that crazy guy with the spear fetish is okay...as long as you make sure he's pointed at mammoths and cave bears. Lots of mammoth meat for the tribe, the number of cave bears drops off a lot, and sooner or later he's going to get eaten or mammoth-stomped. Win-win.

301:

That's not so applicable in guerilla warfare, which has been the norm since Vietnam. Quite often most soldiers do not see the enemy, although they will hear the gunfire and probably know the rough location. That's when arty and airstrikes do the most killing

302:

That depends to some extent on local terrain. It was very true in Vietnam, at least in the lowlands where vegetation is dense and sight lines are a few meters in most places. Even in the mountains, which aren't very high, the trees tend to be thick. By contrast, the highlands of central Asia are pretty bare; most cover is rocks and knolls and such, which makes it harder for guerilla's to enfilade an enemy unit (not impossible, just harder, and often at greater range).

In Vietnam, small VC units would often risk moving into clear areas in order to set up mortars to fire on fixed bases (of which there were many). They'd fire a stick from a mortar or two and then run like hell, often being gone before the last rounds landed. I haven't researched tactics in Afghanistan, but I'd be surprised if the Taliban, for instance, didn't make use of indirect and ranged fire wherever possible, and I'm sure that the US and UK forces do so as well.

303:

You might be interested to read this article, published by the Royal United Services Institute, and written by a former Lt Colonel in the infantry. Simulated games are not realistic in regards to the accuracy of individual weapons, particularly in the hands of the average soldier. You'd be surprised at how little marksmanship training goes on in armies; there are so many competing demands on the available training time.

http://www.rusi.org/downloads/assets/Real_Role_of_Small_Arms_RDS_Summer_09.pdf

Note the focus on improving training; note the dates of the referenced articles.

304:

I haven't researched tactics in Afghanistan, but I'd be surprised if the Taliban, for instance, didn't make use of indirect and ranged fire wherever possible, and I'm sure that the US and UK forces do so as well.

From a marine sniper who was there about a year ago.

The marines had rules about you could not fire unless you could see who you were shooting at if the target was around civilians or similar. So many times the marines this guy was with would come under fire from slits in window shutters and such. And while the sniper could put a bullet into the slit he wasn't allowed to do so.

And since these were at distances of 1/2 mile or more they had to think hard before approaching the village or group of buildings under fire so they could maybe fire back if they got close enough.

They also take fire from the slopes of mountains. And they get to try and decide if it's worth the climb up a hill side a goat would think was a suicide climb. Since the target might have gotten to their position by coming over the other side and just waited for someone to come by below.

305:

That sounds like a reasonable set of Rules of Engagement for counter-insurgency work. It's nice to know that the PBI has got the right end of the stick, especially with the drone attacks being a lot less controlled. I guess that's the difference between soldiers who have to deal with the consequences of their actions among the population and the spooks who are hundreds or thousands of miles away and only care about target acquisition and destruction.

306:

I guess it might be worthy for someone who could very well be diagnosed as sociopath if not for lack of criminal record and a decent capacity for forward planning to contribute something to this rather un-compassionate discussion of sociopaths :-)

For starters, people like me don't have an urge to harm other people.
I might not feel much about harming people, but since I don't feel much about harming people, I won't do that unless some urgent need arises.

You can sleep well knowing that, even in absence of police, I won't stab you simply because that means that I will have to do a hell of laundry job to get the stains out and it generally sounds like an awful lot of fuss. You can rest assured that I won't rape you simply because subduing and beating and raping someone (let alone addressing the issue of various retaliation events) sounds like a lot of work, and I'd rather be nice and get consensual sex with far less effort, far less risk, and far greater sustainability.

Yes, I don't really "feel" for "people", but that doesn't motivate me to harm people.

You should be wary of those who actually get some kind of pleasure from harm, or perhaps sincerely believe that harming you is actually a way of helping you, far more than you are wary of people who simply don't "sweat it" and don't regret much, if anything, ever.

As for "usefulness" of sociopaths, since I am employed legally and lucratively, I guess my services are needed. Perhaps our society on organizational level is so antagonistic, internally and externally, that it needs people who comprehend the suffering of other human beings only in a distant, academical fashion.

Perhaps States and Corporations (which are very much like mini-states with citizenship rights of their own) are sociopathic super-organisms infested by humans and their shrill sensibilities, with their peaks of obsessive love and violent hate, seeking to rid themselves of this infection (just kidding, of course, but IMHO that's a fun thought to ponder ;-) )

307:

Things like sociopathy are considered to be cluster of related symptoms, as opposed to some cluster of symptoms with a well-defined causal relationship with some other cluster of symptoms (this is a distinction between a syndrome and a disorder, though the terms are used interchangably even by professionals and so it's typically a purely pedantic point). A key distinction between syndromes and disorders in the context of human resources is that at sub-pathological levels the symptoms that would otherwise be indicators of some pathology are actually useful.

Many of the traits of sociopathy are desirable for a wide range of careers, insomuch as they characterize the extremes of normal variances in behavior. Likewise for things like autism or obsessive compulsive disorder - which in some other context may well be pathological. Toymaker is an example of a false positive -- he's clearly not subpathological, though he passes as subpathological in some circumstances.

I suspect that any mechanism by which particular sets of personality attributes are optimized will be gamed. Pathological sociopaths will slip through the cracks and be brought into positions that seek subpathological levels of sociopathic personality traits. However, being unaware of such attributes seems likely to make such 'mistakes' even more common. It makes sense, within a certain subset of models of free market economics, to bring in sociopaths for the good of the many (a set of models I don't personally subscribe to), but it's far less likely for someone to claim that bringing a sociopath into representative politics is a good idea in terms of the effects upon the hoi polloi, despite the fact that sociopathy is useful in that context.

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