Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Same language

From a reader:
For 32 years I've been on a search to quantify my difference from others. I've been in therapy for ADD since I was 4 and on methylphinedate aka ritalin. I've developed a way of speaking and acting that I thought was unique. A bumbling, fresh-out-of-school therapist, by total accident, showed me who and why I was. You see, in my search for knowledge of myself, I actually ended up outing myself to him, even though at that point I didn't even realize there was something to "out".

I had always been diagnosed Schizoid Personality Disorder, with a laundry list of other diagnoses from a laundry list of other doctors. The problem was that I never really fit with some of the defining identifiers in any given diagnoses. The lack witted therapist made mention of how some of the things I described had an antisocial ring to them. He was right. It was almost as if I had memorized the bulletpoints and were reciting them back word for word.

This was all unintentional. However, I believe it to be the best of accidents. After having struck a chord with his comment, I immediately came home and went straight to my computer to absorb information on the topic. I came across your site after wading through clinical information, which is useful, and personal propaganda sites, which are not so much except to reinforce they socio/empath difference; the after effects of the storm.

I want to thank you. I've always felt alone, truly. As well as different. I always fought with my nature to try and fit in, and it worked, sometimes, for a while. I realize now that being able to even fool myself is an indicator as to how powerful and intrinsic my sociopathy is to my nature. Since reading your site practically cover to cover, I feel powerful, less alone. My vision is clear. With my new perspective I've been re-living past situations and interactions in my mind and I can see exactly where each game piece was and why. Finding a place and a group that I belong to, that I fit into, has been one of the driving forces in my life. I think the lack of this feeling played a part in making me a sociopath. Now that I know, what I am, I can stop fighting myself.

I have joined the forum. I will join in and make comments on the topics to come. I am glad that you are able to afford the type of treatment that I cannot, and that I have access to that vicariously through the forum. I am also fooling around with the idea of writing a book and would greatly appreciate your collaboration in this. You see, even though I'm american and I gather you live across the pond, we speak the same language. Not just the vernacular, or the verbiage, but the context, the imagery. We use the same simile's and idiom's. This was the major point of connection for me, sure the other things fit nicely, but reading you is like reading me, like you are in my brain. It was predictable, fascinating, and intensely comfortable. For these reasons I think we would work well together on this project.


Ps. Sociopathic Songs of the Day. Fall-out Boy's "Sugar We're Going Down" and "Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying" if you'd like a break down of lines into 'path Id be happy to oblige, but I don't really think you of all people will need me to do that.For 32 years I've been on a search to quantify my difference from others. I've been in therapy for ADD since I was 4 and on methylphinedate aka ritalin. I've developed a way of speaking and acting that I thought was unique. A bumbling, fresh-out-of-school therapist, by total accident, showed me who and why I was. You see, in my search for knowledge of myself, I actually ended up outing myself to him, even though at that point I didn't even realize there was something to "out".

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Mentalist

From a reader:
Here's yet another little "you're a psychopath" TV diagnosis that I thought would amuse you:

This time it's from The Mentalist. I think there's this sense out there that anybody who is confident, self assured, willing to break the rules to get what they want and not lose any sleep over it must sure be a psychopath. Or maybe a "heroic psychopath". Whatever the hell that means. Why does the character have to be a psychopath though? Do people believe that anyone who doesn’t meekly bow before social convention must be a psychopath by default? Does the viewing audience that comprises dumb America really buy that? I probably just answered my own question...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Psychopath myths

From Scientific American, author of the book "50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology," Scott Lilienfeld, discusses some myths and misconceptions about psychopaths. Some of the highlights:
  • Few disorders are as misunderstood as is psychopathic personality.
  • Research also suggests that a sizable number of psychopaths may be walking among us in everyday life. Some investigators have even speculated that “successful psychopaths”—those who attain prominent positions in society—may be overrepresented in certain occupations, such as politics, business and entertainment. Yet the scientific evidence for this intriguing conjecture is preliminary.
  • Psychopathy seems to be present in both Western and non-Western cultures, including those that have had minimal exposure to media portrayals of the condition.
Here are the myths:
  1. All psychopaths are violent. Research by psychologists such as Randall T. Salekin, now at the University of Alabama, indicates that psychopathy is a risk factor for future physical and sexual violence. Moreover, at least some serial killers—for example, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and Dennis Rader, the infamous “BTK” (Bind, Torture, Kill) murderer—have manifested numerous psychopathic traits, including superficial charm and a profound absence of guilt and empathy. Nevertheless, most psychopaths are not violent, and most violent people are not psychopaths. . . . Regrettably, the current (fourth, revised) edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR), published in 2000, only reinforces the confusion between psychopathy and violence. It describes a condition termed antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), which is characterized by a longstanding history of criminal and often physically aggressive behavior, referring to it as synonymous with psychopathy. Yet research demonstrates that measures of psychopathy and ASPD overlap only moderately.
  2. All psychopaths are psychotic. In contrast to people with psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, who often lose contact with reality, psychopaths are almost always rational.
  3. Psychopathy is untreatable. . . . Although psychopaths are often unmotivated to seek treatment, research by psychologist Jennifer Skeem of the University of California, Irvine, and her colleagues suggests that psychopaths may benefit as much as nonpsychopaths from psychological treatment. Even if the core personality traits of psychopaths are exceedingly difficult to change, their criminal behaviors may prove more amenable to treatment.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The six fingered man

Society requires conformity. It enforces this conformity from early childhood. Anyone who falls outside the norm is snuffed out and beat down. Thus humans are trained to be able to sniff out weakness, imperfections, and harmful elements from society and eliminate them. But how do we distinguish between harmful imperfections and beneficial evolutionary mutations?

Society seems certain that particular differences are bad, e.g. autism and personality disorders. As the autistics and aspies argue effectively, wouldn't a world filled with auties function just as well if not better than a world of neurotypicals? People argue whether "special accomodations" are warranted for certain disabilities, but "special" is defined based on individual perspective. As one autie argued, if you were blind you might think that street lamps are an unnecessarily expensive "special accomodation" for the sighted.

When confronted with difference, the neurotypical automatically thinks flaw and/or threat. While double jointed, webbed flipper feet might be fine on Michael Phelps, as a general rule parents want "normal" children. But what is so good about "normal" anyway? Take for instance their precious empathy. As Adam Smith pointed out in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, humans can "feel for each other," but those feelings may be inaccurate or incomplete, and in any case emotions shouldn't be relied on to make decisions. As summarized by wikipedia:
If we sympathize with the feelings of another we judge that their feelings are just, and if we do not sympathize we judge that their feelings are unjust.

[Smith acknowledges that] it is not possible to sympathize with bodily states or "appetites which take their origin in the body."

Passions which "take their origins from a particular turn or habit of the imagination" are "little sympathized with". These include love.

In response to expressions of anger, hatred, or resentment, it is likely that the impartial spectator will not feel anger in sympathy with the offended but instead anger toward the offended for expressing such an aversive.

Of grief and joy, Smith notes that small joys and great grief are assured to be returned with sympathy from the impartial spectator, but not other degrees of these emotions. Great joy is likely to be met with envy, so modesty is prudent for someone who has come upon great fortune or else suffer the consequences of envy and disapprobation.

Smith makes clear that we should take very good care to not act on the passions of anger, hatred, resentment, for purely social reasons, and instead imagine what the impartial spectator would deem appropriate, and base our action solely on a cold calculation.
And Smith's observations regarding conformity:
Each "class" of things has a "peculiar conformation which is approved of" and the beauty of each member of a class is determined by the extent to which it has the most "usual" manifestation of that "conformation": "Thus, in the human form, the beauty of each feature lies in a certain middle, equally removed from a variety of other forms that are ugly."
If being social means to hate difference and to hate the different, then I am proud to be antisocial.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Young love (part 3)

Four months later, after she learned that I was going through a hard time, we began to speak again. She seemed more firm in her resolve that we would never be together again, and insisted that she was over me...while insisting that I move in with her, calling me sweetie, saying I love you all the time, sending me poems about how much she missed holding me, talking about raising kids together. Eventually we got into an argument because she would randomly be angry at me and never explain why. In the end, she told me that there wasn't even a good reason. She just felt that way. And she would lash out. Having pep talked myself into the idea that I was worth more, I gave her an ultimatum to treat me right, or leave. Later, I apologized, figuring our fight could be fixed that way. She blocked me on facebook and replied to my message and forwarded her response to my father, saying that she never wanted to see or hear from me ever again.

She also posted a facebook status that I was stalking her when I wasn't. She called me disturbing and pathetic, claiming that she didn't want to lose sleep at night worrying about what I might do to her friends.

We haven't spoken since.

I'm angry. I'm hurt that I got treated like his and that she didn't get what she deserved. Why wasn't she hurt? I'm still not over her. I can try to repress my feelings for long periods of time...and then I burst, like I can't keep it under control. I just miss her so much sometimes. I beg and plead with whatever I feel like I can with a god I don't even believe in to have her come back to me, or to at least let me fall out of love. I'm kind of nervous to even go back to college next year because of the fact that I see the Northeast as her "territory."

I'm trying to work on it in therapy and it's not as effective as I'd like. My therapist thinks she was borderline with a nice, thick and heavy coating of narcissism. I've never ever been attracted to a girl, which was something that made the relationship so weird. I wasn't even attracted to her at all, but she seemed to complement me so perfectly at times, that I dismissed this HUGE detail. I think that this just further suits the profile. In fact, I like guys-a lot. Given the fact I had PTSD, it seems like I was a prime candidate for further victimization.

My question is this: Do you think that she is a sociopath, or not? What do you think about her and the relationship?
M.E.: I actually think that there is a decent chance that she is a sociopath, although your therapist's theory is interesting as well. A lot of sociopaths have a parent who is a narcissist. She sounds very changeable, which is also associated with other personality disorders, but for whatever reason I am not getting a borderline vibe from her. She seems in control of what she does, but not really aware of what exactly she is doing (or at least all of the ramifications of what she is doing). I think that behavior is consistent with a young sociopath, but then again I am not familiar with young borderlines. If you imagine that she is just playing at love, experimenting with what love means to her and other people, reveling in the power and control and intense feelings she is having, that could be consistent with a young sociopath, or a lot of other things of course.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Young love (part 2)

The next school year, she wasn't there, and to make up for it, we contacted each other everyday, for hours at a time. And things got weirder. When I asked her questions, she was vague, or would lie. That summer, her parents had started to get a divorce, compounding her strange behavior. She began to see a therapist, whom she seemed to become obsessed with. she would begin to defend her own crazy actions with whatever her therapist had said. She even told me at one point in a fight she didn't care what I thought and didn't have to because her therapist said so. Throughout our relationship, she had admitted her anger was often irrational and unjustified, but would then say that that didn't matter and it was ok. She would sometimes say she knew me best and that i knew her best. When we played games (which I eventually stopped doing), she would tell me she was analyzing how I thought, seeing my strengths and weaknesses. She often admitted to being abusive, saying I deserved better. Every time I tried to get space though, reminding her of this fact, she would become furious.

Despite all of this, there were moments when she was very loving and truly seemed to care. She even reported to my school I was suicidal after I told her I had suicidal thoughts. Would a sociopath do this? This was towards the end of our relationship, and we had been having some major problems. My PTSD was going untreated. I felt horrible, I couldn't deal with the world, and with our relationship. But I still felt like I would do anything I could to save it, to save us. A week later, I was kicked out of school, single and on my way back home to a shitty school.

When she broke up with me, she simply said that she was going to try and move on, and said that she didn't think that we were right for one another. Strangely though, two days before she had been insisting we were perfect for one another. The same day she broke up with me, she was talking about us living together and having kids. No fights happened between us between that time and the time that we broke up.

I begged for her to come back, pleaded and asked why she wanted to end things. She wouldn't address any of it. She got angry when I brought up-even when she sent me seven e-mails a day asking me how I was, where I was, saying that she loved me and calling me sweetie. When I addressed that, she would become furious, saying i was crossing boundaries by bringing up a topic that she didn't want to talk about at all. She even refused to read that one e-mail all the way through. Our fights became worse-she would call me pathetic, telling me she didn't want me, and that it was all a mistake. The situation was like a pendulum swinging back and forth between two different extremes with increasing frequency.

After three weeks, I couldn't take it anymore, and cut off communication.

The pain was so bad. I ate almost nothing for two weeks. I cried all the time. I felt miserable. I couldn't understand any of this. I still don't.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Young love (part 1)

From a young, female reader:
So, I think that I was very close to someone who is a sociopath, but I'm not sure. I'm writing to you seeking closure on this issue. We haven't spoken in over a year, and I'm still reeling from, what I perceive to be, abuse. I loved her, and still love her very much, despite everything that she has done to me.

She had a very abusive childhood-her mother is a narcissist and her father, while brilliant (he's a professor at Cornell), seemed to have Asperger syndrome. When we first met, she was a bit strange. She seemed to be observing me, rather than interested in friendship. In fact, one of the first time we hung out, I fell asleep for two hours. And she just watched me.

She would follow me around-and I was dealing with some very deep personal issues at the time-so, I didn't mind. It seemed to be a comfort, if that makes any sense. Soon enough, we became very close friends at a boarding school in NY. She didn't hang out with very much people-in fact, only me and one other friend. Many people suspected that she liked me-and I couldn’t deny the possibility of this to myself, but I certainly did to everyone else-it was too strange.

Well, one night, I asked her if she did have a crush on me. She looks away for a minute, and then looks back at me, replying that no, she didn’t. Venturing further, I asked her if any of the issues I had told her about were at all important to her. She then replied no. Becoming anxious, I asked her if she cared about anything. She looked at me dead on, with empty, eerie eyes. "No."

I felt hurt and angry that I had opened myself up to her. How could she have used me like that? I expressed these feelings to her, and she insisted, unflinchingly, that she still did not care. The next day, I went back to her, and she insisted on holding me for a little bit in exchange for getting the answer I wanted. After precisely ten minutes, she admitted that she was in love with me...but that she still didn't care about me. I felt so many mixed emotions. I told her that that's not possible. She either loved me and cared, or didn't care at all and therefore, didn't love me. But never having been in a situation remotely like this before, I chose to believe the former, rather than the latter. I wanted to be loved and I needed the support I felt that that could provide. Not to mention the fact that I wanted to solve this problem. I wanted to show her she was wrong, that she could care about something or someone.
Overtime, we became very close. We spent every moment together. When we were together it was perfect, like floating on a cloud. I never wanted to be with anyone else or spend my time with anyone else. For her, it was even worse. She would wait anxiously while I was in the shower, and hated being apart from me. She was very vocal about this too.

As much as we couldn't seem to get away form one another, there were tons of fights. She would call me names, press boundaries (sexually and emotionally-she would read my dairy, go through my papers, just violate my privacy completely). When we were in fights, I felt like I was being abandoned. Even when I had done nothing wrong, she would make me feel like i was the culprit of all of our problems. Moreover, she seemed moody and strange to everyone else. People always warned me to stay away from her-they claimed she was dangerous, crazy, dishonest, mean and horrible. Even teachers would warn me against her. When she was in a bad mood, or angry, she would lash out completely.

But when she was ok, she seemed to be the perfect match for me. She would call us soul mates, saying I was her other half, that she couldn't function without me, needed me and that I was the only person who could make her care. She told me she would love me forever, even if we ever broke up and that she could never feel the same around or about anyone else.

Eventually , I came to his point where I couldn't stand the idea of life without her, but i would ask myself this: "Why is it that I can't stand my life as it is, now, with her?" I decided better the devil I know than the one I don't. Don't get me wrong...I was completely in love with her.

So I stayed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


From the questionable Tilda Swinton, currently starring as the mother of a sociopath in the film We Need To Talk About Kevin, from The Guardian:
"Years ago, when James Bulger was murdered, every newspaper front page was talking about evil. At that point, having suppressed it for years, I remembered when I was four or five, I tried to kill my own brother. He was newly born and I was disappointed, because he was the third boy. That was enough as far as I was concerned.

I went into his room to kill him, saw some ribbons from a bonnet going into his mouth, and began to pull them out. And I was discovered saving his life. So I had this strange reputation - my brother's savior - and no one knew I wanted to kill him. It took the Bulger case for me to remember that I'd seriously wanted to."

"Whenever there are children killing children, or perpetrating great acts of violence, there's always this word 'evil' pulled out of the top drawer. Not even the bottom drawer. It's a very quick response. And I'm always struck by it, because from the age of four and a half I have known that it ain't in no drawer. It's at closer hand. Isn't that the triumph of civilisation? That we manage not to be monstrous?"

"Does one ever feel it," she says, "or is one simply monstrous? I mean, I've been monstrous, I think."
The rest of the article is interesting as well.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sociopath as entrepreneur

One of my mentors just asked me, "What made you who you are." It was meant to be complimentary. The implication was that I am better than a lot of my peers. Particularly my mentor is impressed with how I seem to understand many more aspects of the dilemmas we are working with than some of my colleagues.

I guess you could call it an ability to think abstractly, or an increased awareness of the mechanics--a more intimate knowledge of the behind the scenes action that is motivating so much of what we look at. It allows me to Bayesian update like mad, like an excel spreadsheet with hundreds of inter-working, interdependent formula, but capable of adjusting in an instant based on new information.

My mentor actually calls it "alien." Again, he means it to be complimentary. He subscribes to the theory that great thinkers and entrepreneurs tend to be "aliens," people who are not really part of their culture. Aliens live parallel lives with different mindsets than the majority. They're readily able to think critically about the world around them because it already seems foreign to them. There's no effort in trying to maintain distance or perspective regarding the problem. The distance has always been there. The distance will always be there because that is the way the alien interacts with everything in the world.

My mentor thinks I must be an alien because my smart ideas are not just smart, they're groundbreaking. Even the way I explain my ideas to others is alien. It's like I am trying to translate my ideas into a language that others will be able to understand. The effort I am making to communicate is apparent, like figuring out how to instruct someone to hike from point A to point B when I had just teleported there instantly. My mentor thinks that you simply cannot teach people to think this way. You can open their mind and teach them some tricks, but they will never think fluently this way the same way that an "alien" would. I laughed off his comments, saying that I have plenty of stupid ideas too. "Well I do too," he responded, "we all do. That's part and parcel of risky thinking."

Here's an example of "alien" entrepreneurship, Tony Hseih, head of Zappos. From the NY Times:
At times, Mr. Hsieh comes across as an alien who has studied human beings in order to live among them. That can intimidate those who are not accustomed to his watchful style. “I have been in job interviews with him where you are expecting more, and it can be awkward silences,” said Ned Farra, who manages relationships with other Web sites for Zappos. “He is not afraid of it. It is almost like he is testing you.”

Mr. Hsieh said that he surrounds himself with people who are more outgoing than he is, in part to draw himself out. “My view is that I am more of a mirror of who I am around,” he said. “So if I am around an introverted person that is really awkward. But if I am around an extroverted person I will be whoever they are times point-5.”
Outwitting the system is something Mr. Hsieh has honed from a young age. In addition to describing his youthful business ventures (worm farms failed, personalized photo buttons succeeded), “Delivering Happiness” recounts a history of scam artistry. To fool his Taiwanese-born parents into thinking he was practicing piano and violin, he recorded practice sessions and played them back on weekend mornings.
Jason Levesque, another Harvard friend who worked at LinkExchange, recalled Mr. Hsieh’s self-effacement. When inviting friends to play a video game, “he was obviously the best at the game, but he would sort of hide that in order to get everyone to play,” Mr. Levesque said.

Like Mr. Zuckerberg’s, Mr. Hsieh’s success has been built in part on his ability to anatomize the way people crave connections with others, and turn those insights into a business plan.
Mr. Hsieh, who professes fascination with dating guides like Neil Strauss’s “The Game” and pontificated on his theory of the evolutionary futility of sexual jealousy, said he does not date. “I don’t usually define dating or not dating, together or not together,” said Mr. Hsieh, nursing another tall shaker of wine at the Downtown Cocktail Room. “I prefer to use the term ‘hang out.’ And I hang out with a lot of people, guys and girls. I don’t really have this one person I am dating right now. I am hanging out with multiple people, and some people I hang out with more than others.”
“I think of everyone I know in my life, he’s the best at not feeling jealousy,” she added. “But I think he’s human, whether anyone believes that or not.”
This is not the first time I have been called an alien. It is not even the first time that I have been called that with a positive or value neutral connotation. I never know what to say in these situations. I agree with them, obviously, but in terms of explaining to them why I might have grown up with the mentality of an "alien" in a foreign world...? "It's a mystery," I tell them. But it's not. It hasn't been a mystery since I became self-aware, or maybe since I learned of the term "sociopath".

Monday, November 21, 2011

Guest post: schizophrenic sociopath

From a reader:
Schizophrenic sociopath: a joyous autoportrait of Pabaisa
And they worshiped the dragon [the prototype of Pabaisa] which gave power unto the beast [the archetype of Pabaisa]. And they worshiped the beast, saying: "Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"
- The Revelation of John, 13, 4
Pabaisa – the Immoralist, the Antichrist, the Anarchist, everything, that is opposed to civilization, the breaker of codes and rules; the man with the strength of a giant and the brain of a child; the soul contract Terminator and the wish fulfilling Mephisto. Pabaisa imagines himself as a green-skinned, sharp-toothed, bird-of-prey-nosed, hatty, sabotted and with dingy purple dusters, even if no one is afraid of him outwardly and react to his grotesque smile neutrally. The blind, who don’t see the accursed wickedness and consider him as a friend. The feelings of abandonment, terror and lost identity spring from the degenerate’s inner being, his projection of himself as a despicable demon, who looks at his own reflection in pond like Narcissus, and cannot see himself truly, so he rolls away from his Olympian mountain of solitude and seclusion, and engages on a journey through dark, naked forests and barren, scorched deserts, searching for something, which would give him an identity, an understanding and a shelter. The beast does not look aggressively in reality, even on the contrary, like a sociopath, like all the rest, maybe even a perfect replica of a human. The intra-speciary predator is unfazed by the hunters in this regard.
The problem of Pabaisa‘s sexuality: Pabaisa is only partly a man. At least, he doesn‘t perceive himself as one. Due to accidental meiosis and gene selection, his body was born as a man. Pabaisa doesn‘t see himself as a woman, either. There is no hidden desire to be a woman, no secret jealousy. For all he knew, it didn‘t matter, if he‘s a man, a woman or both. Things like sex and sexuality didn‘t matter, from an abstract perspective to life; he could become any with the circumstances. He was a man, but he could easily become a woman any time he wished, if he felt, that the circumstances demanded it. The mastery of disguise.
First metamorphosis: Schizophrenia and split-personality disorder. Five different voices in his head and 1 = ½ + ½, or A = B + C. A as the state before Lucifer gets thrown out of Heaven, like a pure state, B and C as different embodiments of “evil”, annihilators of “good” and destroyers of life, i.e. chimeras and killers with the thirst for power and the hate for weakness. Question: Why? Answer: The man’s becoming a half-man, or two half-men, was prompted by his genius-overman flight to the skies of brilliance, which was replaced by anti-genius, when he flew too high to the Sun, or madness, and burned like Icarus. The absence of identity, family, friends from birth or losing them along the way. Adam without his Eve, or the inability to hide from humanity without his species representative. The Colossus B is Pabaisa’s A part, which doesn’t want an identity from the start, being the universal bodily brutality in the world of objects. The Titan C is Pabaisa’s A part, which wants an identity from all his heart, despite the consequences, being the conscious identity-subjectivity seeker. From appearances alone, one would say that here exists an extreme complex duality and conflicting characteristics, despite this, they both are nihilistic psychopaths, who, due to an open intimacy, love each other more than the lost A, the last connection with humanity, which they forged.
It seems, that monster’s C only goal, like some kind of ambitious animal, who is playing God, is to give others power, or value, maybe he even wants to create a race of snakes. Save himself by saving his saviors? Still, when the vampire extracts and reaches the other person’s zenith of happiness and the height of potential, when there is no place to climb higher, for him that person becomes a bore and he feels incomplete, which makes him act with cruelty and kill the parasitical person from hunger. On the other hand, the giant B is bathing in nihilistic conscious revelations about the indifference of the universe and the relativity of values, by which he tries to justify his murders. Cerber C didn’t want an identity connected to physical activity, which will never satisfy him, but with intellectual; he wanted an identity, which embodies everything he is opposed to, so he searches out the aristocrats.
Second metamorphosis: Narcissistic possession of a Prince. Prince is not as much of an ogre’s fruit of labor, as that, which Nietzsche claimed to be as soul-awareness transformation’s third stage. In short: 1. The camel – memory. 2. The lion – will-to-knowledge. 3. The child - wisdom. In this case, Prince is something of a “second childhood”, radiation of will-to-live and the forging of new values. Prince to the devil is everything, which he desires by his understanding of identity at that time: a status in society, political power, money, reactionary disregard for the sheep morality, wide connection circle, etc. The creature endures his hunger and postpones this inevitability for a long time for the means to an end, but one thing is missing – the War ambition, the natural evolutionary development condition, the only Art form of the ruling elite. The seven-headed, ten-horned and ten-crowned behemoth rises up and swallows up his Father and Mother, the King and the Queen, burning everything behind him and searching for a greater height, a new order within himself, which would shake the whole foundation of the Earth. The barbarian should not be held responsible for the killings of other people, because it is in his nature to be the Machiavellian, to be the blond beast-of-prey, devouring the lives of others.
Third metamorphosis: Re-integration into one person. The need to become singular: the pianist’s cut off arms, the drowning man's oxygen, the thirsty man’s water need. I am you. You are me. We are one. Prince is the outcast. We always were a monster, with a human side, which desperately clung to an identity, to save ourselves from drowning. The dragon with his identity as a Prince and as a Kreator gulps down the centaur without an identity. The active nihilism overcomes the passive nihilism. The monster, with a monster’s hunger, with a monster’s appetite, munching his other half from within. Pabaisa in a poisoned garden of Eden, knowing and wallowing in his own death, was made wild and totally uncontrollable, to satisfy his every desire, to realize his every ambition with unconditional commitment. And only then the Leviathan experiences his second true suffering, - having in mind, that the first one was the absence of identity, - not by killing his family and humanity, but whilst assimilating his other half, his primordial anonymity. The formless, faceless, nameless mammoth of a Prince, in the past only thinking of himself as un-and-in-human, feels a human, an all too human, familiarity with humanity, as if being a slave to the collective unconscious programming, which doesn’t have any uniqueness, personality or individuality, as if all the memory was implanted into his robotic brain – the gargoyle, who achieves cold intellectual empathy, the Satan, who finally kills God and outgrows the nameless humanity and its identity, swallowing it and making it his little, dirty dog-bitch. Ego-centrism as a whole humanity’s ego. Not power through wisdom, but the “real” world’s transcendence, which is denied to the rational mind. My name is Titas, for I am many.
Mutant A, troll B and savage C in the consequence of all the metamorphoses become phoenix A again, who has no identity, because it is stolen from the Prince, and made his own. The achieved pseudo-identity results in an existentialist tragi-heroism: after finding an identity, a meaning of life, Moby Dick understands, that the identity is the reaction between him, the other person and the whole world, that there is nothing, who could call him by his name, his meaning of life effectively disappears. The eternal incognito, a walking corpse and the super-cannibal in the end returns not even there, where he started, but into a negative sequence, because the beauty of the identity has disappeared, leaving only a heart filled with choking terror and disgust. The last man standing syndrome: will-to-life and will-to-power as will-in-itself, the loss to the world is its conquering. And so stands the Prince of princes, saying to himself, that if he is made of the parts and characteristics of dead people, then, basically, he is a person, but because they are dead, he never himself is alive. What scares the most – the paradoxical hunger in Pabaisa’s eyes and a satisfaction with his fake identity. Nobody stands on top of the world, except the highest alpha predator, who doesn’t have any dreams or hopes, who exists alone only to write himself an ending, then he will stop wandering and not knowing eternally his unbelievably mysterious soul, ignorant of boundaries and fears, but constantly fighting within itself. The realization, that you cannot become “a fake somebody”, but you can become “a true nobody”, the last prophet of the nihilistic truth of the universe. The wind became stronger, its screeching howl louder, and the air colder, as the demiurge’s eyes ached, while he was smiling into the Void.
Question: What is meaning of the story? Answer: No meaning. The worthlessness of efforts. To acquire, what is wanted, but to understand, that it doesn’t mean anything. To see, that there is no difference between good and evil, well and bad. Finally, a man can become anything he wants according to his wishes. He doesn’t have to take the walked-out road. He has a freedom of choice… People are like dice, they throw themselves in the direction of their own choosing.
Moral: If you admit your ontological uniqueness, identity becomes unimportant.
Sincerely, your friendly neighborhood Pabaisa.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sociopathic children

I always want to ask concerned parents -- would it really be so bad if your son or daughter was a sociopath? Sure, they might not be able to ever love you the way a meek little thing would, but the kid will take care of himself, even do very well for himself. As one blogger puts it:
Given that lack of conscience is a great benefit in getting on in the worlds of business, politics and everyday life, won't many neuro typicals actually *want* a sociopathic child as charm and social status are so highly valued by them?
Assuming you do have a sociopathic child and would rather not, what would you be willing to try to get your child to act normal? Would you be willing to do as this author suggests and encourage fear within your child?
Do not work too hard to discourage him from being fearful. Especially avoid placing him in situations where he has to face and conquer his fears on his own. For example, some people like to teach kids to swim by throwing them in deep water where they will either "sink or swim." A bold, athletic child would likely learn to conquer is fear of deep water and swim if placed in this situation. He would also receive training in being tough and ignoring his fears. This is not a good lesson for the at-risk child.
The author goes on to describe how her sociopathic child developed a fear of the dark and how that was used to curb his behavior:

One evening, when my son was 31 months old, he played with a motorized toy he really liked. It was time for dinner, and I told him he had to put the toy down and sit to eat. I gave him a chance to put the toy down on his own and go to the table. When he refused, I took the toy, picked him up and put him in his high chair for dinner. He threw an enormous tantrum and could not be consoled, even though I told him he could have the toy back after dinner. My usual strategy is to ignore these tantrums and allow them to burn themselves out. This time though, the crying and screaming was very loud and showed no signs of abating. His sisters complained that they could not enjoy the meal because of his behavior. I got up and moved the high chair, with the thought of just moving it far enough away to allow us to eat in some peace. Well, my son thought I was going to move him in the DREADED DARK PLACE! He said, "No mommy, no, I scared dark!" I said, " If you don't want me to move you away form the table, you will have to quiet, and eat your dinner." Miraculously, the tantrum stopped. Not only did the tantrum stop, but also he was so happy at not being banished to the dark place that he started to play and laugh with his sisters. He ate very well at dinner that night. He also completely forgot about the beloved motorized toy.
Parents of sociopath children, is this something that you would do with your child?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Caught red handed

A reader wrote:

I was reading the comments of this post and I found this comment: "Q) Can a sociopath genuinely cry?" That was interesting to read, because one of the reasons why I sometimes feel like I am not a sociopath is because I do cry, I do feel lonely, I do feel pain and sorrow, and sometimes I feel guilt as well. It is strange, because I know that I can feel other people's pain, for example if someone has been rejected I can remember what that feels like and feel sorry for them, or imagine pain and feel sorry for someone. I can also turn this off, and just pretend to feel for them, console them externally and on the inside I will be working out some problem, or observing the interaction. I question whether my guilt is sincere as well, because often I will only feel guilty if I am caught for something, and if I am not caught or the action is not traced back to me, I walk free.
I thought, this must be common among all sociopaths, but how often do normal people feel this as well? Would empaths feel bad about something even if there was no chance that they could be caught? Do they keep experiencing only this sort of shame until they're socialized into a conscience? I really am curious.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mass manipulation (part 4)

I am manipulative and intentional about the way I write the blog. I never respond to comments or questions in the comments. Part of it is the Taylor Swift tactic of not trying to defend yourself but rather allowing others to make your arguments for you. Taylor Swift didn't have to confront Kanye West--people rushed to her defense to do it for her and it was infinitely more effective that way. Similarly, I never feel like I have to defend or justify myself or anything I say. People frequently defend my positions, or if they don't it doesn't matter. It costs too much to try to defend yourself (or even clarify something you've said), and there is no point I would want to make or image of myself that I would want to project that would be worth the potential fallout.

Another part of not replying in the comments (or anywhere publicly) is that I want to be able to speak to individuals how they want to be spoken to, without fear of alienating others in the process. I can be very friendly or very mean in email exchanges with people--from sycophantic to menacing. I don't want side effects of those conversations spilling over into other interactions because it will limit my future ability to convincingly be whatever I want in any particular situation.

Finally, I don't reply in the comments because I feel like it chills discussion. If I was active in my own comments section, fewer people would comment. They would be waiting for someone else (me) to say their thoughts for them. Some might be afraid to say something and have me contradict them or disagree. If I have something to say, I say it in a post. Otherwise I don't want anybody waiting around to hear my opinion on something. As it is, other sociopaths are ruthless with the people who (they think) put too much stock in things I say. It would be much worse if I interfered with the comments section as well. I don't want issues I discuss on the blog to always degrade into a war of personalities. Plus, I have found that silence is one of the best ways to elicit information. And I think part of the reason the blog is appealing is the diversity of very freely expressed opinion.

I selectively disclose information about myself for strategic reasons. For instance, I never talk about my gender or even strictly about my ethnicity or other demarcating personal characteristics. I hope by doing so that I will be a blank slate and people will be able to project their own ideas onto me. I want to be like Kim Jong-Il or Obama, a figurehead, a receptacle for people's hopes, dreams, fears. I want people to directly relate to the blog--to think of the sociopaths they love in their lives or the sociopaths they hate. If I got too specific about anything, the illusion would be broken. Instead I stick to generalities (like Kim Jong-Il and Obama) and let people fill in the blanks in whatever manner they feel inclined. When people write to me and say that I seem to describe perfectly their own experiences, either as a sociopath or as someone who has known a sociopath, I know I have been successful.

I am pretty good at choosing a particular featured photo for each post to set the mood. Sometimes they have an underlying meaning or reference to the blog post, sometimes they're random but I use them anyway to give the illusion of something deep but unstated.

I know people like to criticize or rally so sometimes I publish something for the sole purpose of galvanizing readers or provoking discussion/fights/ridicule. It keeps people blood thirsty and/or engaged.

As anyone noticed anything else?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mass manipulation (part 3)

From Vice Magazine, Columbia Law Professor Tim Wu about the trade off between having power and giving up power to a "trusted" entity, and how many (most?) would rather give up power than have the responsibility that comes with that power.

It would be foolish to assume that anything is unbiased, that anyone can operate without some conflict of interest. The problem now, as our tools become ever more essential to everyday life, ever more pervasive, and ever more complex, is being able to even detect those biases.

But here’s another conundrum to punch into your question-answering sites: do we even care about this? As long as we’re able to make our cheap phone calls, send our free emails, watch our free videos, and get our free content, why should we bother? Why regulate for “network neutrality” if the system works fine the way it is?

The question is hard to answer because we don’t have a way of calculating how much “free” really costs. And, as Wu argues, as much as we like to talk about freedom, we also really like other things like convenience, speed, and comfort. Our technologies and the companies that make them are really good at providing the latter. It’s not so clear, he says, where the former fits in.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mass manipulation (part 2)

I was reading a New Yorker article about Taylor Swift's masterfully orchestrated rise to fame (again, apologies that it is not publicly available). The key seems to be authenticity.
Swift is sometimes called a twenty-one-year-old 2.0--the girl next door, but with a superior talent set. She has an Oprah-like gift for emotional expressiveness. While many young stars have a programmed, slightly robotic affect, she radiates unjaded sincerity no matter how contrived the situation--press junkets, awards shows, meet and greets.
The car door opened, and Swift got out to chants of "Tay-lor! Tay-lor! " Easing herself onto the sidewalk, she proceeded to the base of the stairs, and struck a pose before a phalanx of cameras: a sultry, fierce expression, one hand on her hip, her eyes narrowed, her head cocked back. She seemed to age ten years.
She is in the midst of her second world tour, and every show begins with a moment in which she stands silently at the lip of the stage and listens to her fans scream. She tilts her head from side to side and appears to blink back tears--the expression, which is projected onto a pair of Jumbotron screens, is part Bambi, part Baby June.
"Swift is a songwriting savant with an intuitive gift for verse-chorus-bridge architecture that . . . calls to mind Swedish pop gods Dr. Luke and Max Martin," Jody Rosen wrote in Rolling Stone. "If she ever tires of stardom, she could retire to Sweden and make a fine living churning out hits for Kelly Clarkson and Katy Perry."

Like Parton, Swift writes autobiographical songs, a technique that, in the Internet era, is a clever marketing device.
Swift is tolerant of her fans' interest in her love life, as she is of gawkers who approach her on the street. "It's human nature!" she told me. While she doesn't talk about dating in interviews, she helps amateur sleuths along, using capital letters to spell out coded messages throughout the lyrics in her liner notes that indicate which boyfriend the song is about. Swift has an affinity for codes and symbols. Onstage, she shapes her fingers into a heart--"I did it at a concert one time, and people screamed, so I just kept doing it," she said--and appears with her lucky number, 13, written on her right hand in Sharpie. More recently, she has been scrawling lyrics, such as U2's "One life, you got to do what you should," on her left arm; deciphering the references has become another fan activity. Swift's ability to hold her audience's interest reflects, in part, a keen understanding of what fuels fan obsession in the first place: a desire for intimacy between singer and listener. She told me that the best musical experience is "hearing a song by somebody singing about their life, and it resembles yours so much that it makes you feel comforted." Her Web site includes video journals and diary-like posts to her online message board, which Swift does not outsource. Her fans, who call themselves Swifties, respond with passionate testimonials--"i would drink her bathwater"--and confessions about their own crushes: "Jake. Jake.Jake. Jake. I can't say it enough. I just love the sound of his name."
Laughing all the way to the bank

Swift's aura of innocence is not an act, exactly, but it can occasionally belie the scale of her success. She is often described using royal terminology--as a pop princess or, as the Washington Post put it recently, the "poet laureate of puberty." In the past five years, she has sold more than twenty million albums--more than any other musician. And, in an era of illegal downloading, fans buy her music online, too. Swift has sold more than twenty-five million digital tracks, surpassing any other country singer, and she holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest-selling digital album, for "Speak Now." Forbes ranked her as last year's seventh-biggest-earning celebrity, with an annual income of forty-five million dollars--a figure that encompasses endorsements, products (this month, she releases a perfume with Elizabeth Arden, which is estimated to generate fifty million dollars during its first year of sales), and tickets. Her concerts, which pack both stadiums and arenas, regularly bring in some seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars a night.
I do a lot of consulting. Each time I show up at a new place, everyone is suspicious of me, looking for reasons not to like me or see me as a threat. It takes a while to build up a rapport with them. At first I am very straightforward, efficient, and professional. I don't want to seem presumptuous, but nor do I want to seem overly available, as if they are on my same level. Because I am talented at what I do, they quickly start respecting me. People become interested in me as a person--what makes me so good at what I do. They develop little crushes on me, which I feed with the selective disclosure of more and more personal information--that I am a musician, that I have a unique background, little stories in which my modesty prevents me from name dropping, but from which it is apparent that I have unexpected credentials/experience/connections. I am never explicit about anything, I make people work for it--draw their own (unavoidable) conclusions, which makes the information seem all the more authentic and valuable to them. Less is more, but I also don't want to seem standoffish. As long as they ask, I will disclose some interesting tidbit to continue to whet their appetite for M.E.

Now if I had shown up on the first day of my consultancy touting my credentials, talking about my personal life, nurturing people's crushes, it would be disastrous. Every once in a while I forget and make a joke too early, show familiarity too soon, and have to immediately back off again with a renewed period of neutrality, but I've gotten better. Now it's like cooking an old familiar recipe.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mass manipulation (part 1)

Recently I attended an "air your grievances" work meeting. I was only tangentially related, but was called in out of an abundance of caution or some other nonsense reason. People started asking questions and within minutes were erupting in angry accusations. Although each person's grievance wasn't much on its own, the sheer number of them surprised everyone there. People were incensed against management who remained heedless to the most pressing concerns (albeit other people's concerns), rigidly refusing to adapt any of their policies. Everyone left riled up with grievances that they never knew they had before. I thought this was absolute idiocy. I can't imagine a meeting being run more poorly. The idea that if people could only get together they could come to sort of an agreement is absurd.

When I have little insurrections in projects that I run, I target the biggest complainers individually. I schedule a meeting or write them a quick email saying things like, "I noticed that you seemed really frustrated by x." I let them talk for as long as they need, commiserating with them without necessarily committing to any particular position, i.e. not trying to overly justify or entrench myself in any particular position nor agree with their own position. As part of the commiserating, though, I focus on their feelings, "that must be so exhausting," or, "I understand, it's very demanding." I try to use words that sound sympathetic but also make the problem sound either surmountable or something that should be expected from such an important/valued position/employee. I figure that most people just need to vent, but I am also trying to subtly shame them, implying that they are being a crybaby and that they should toughen up. By isolating the potential instigators and stealing their thunder, I never give them the chance to speak publicly and gain support. Without a chance to speak publicly, everyone else is left knowing only about their own particular struggles, assuming that it may have more to do with their own personal failures than a larger institutional failure. Assuming that maybe theirs is an isolated incident, they don't divulge their shameful failure to their colleagues and the mutiny never reaches the necessary tipping point of participants.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sociopaths in the news: Jon Roberts

From a book review by the NY Post:
Jon Roberts was a made man, a drug smuggler, a killer. He hobnobbed with OJ Simpson and Ed Sullivan, rubbed shoulders with Pablo Escobar and Carlo Gambino, and made enemies out of John Gotti and Ronald Reagan.

He tortured college students for fun, helped snuff-out “mob accountant” Meyer Lansky’s stepson and admits to brutalizing his ex-girlfriend with a belt when she tried to leave him. He flooded the country with cocaine in the 1980s.

Regrets? He has none.

“So would you call yourself a psychopath?” The Post asked him on Friday.

“Well, that depends on how you define psychopath,” Roberts said.

“A lack of empathy or remorse.”

“Well, then, yes I am,” he said. “I enjoyed my life. How many other people lived the life I did? Maybe that Bernie guy, but who else?”
Among other indulgences, Roberts whose run-ins with famous people of all types made him a sort of self-styled "“Forrest Gump of crime and depravity,” claimed to have "drugged Ed Sullivan (here with Jayne Mansfield) and tried to blackmail him with a prostitute." The most memorable quote from his father was "“The evil path is the strong path because evil is stronger than good.”

Why can't all sociopaths be this glamorous? ;)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fencing: A sociopath sport?

Im considering taking up fencing, based on the following from the Wikipedia article:
At the most basic level, fencing revolves around the opening and closing of various lines of attack and defense. In order for one fencer to hit, the other must make a mistake and leave an "opening." Fencing tactics rely on a mixture of "open-eyes" opportunism and deliberate "set-ups", where the opponent is systematically fed false information about one's own intentions.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Another view (part 2)

Your story of the socipath woman who was persecuted by the Aspies really struck a chord. I was bemused by your confusion at why such a person would approach Aspies for help understanding neurotypicals. To me it's entirely reasonable and even brilliant: Her style was probably wrong, but she was groping in the dark. The thinking would be simple: "Neurotypicals don't understand me. I thought I understood neurotypicals but now I realize I don't and a lot of my life has been fucked up because I misunderstood shit. Here is a group that gets together and strategizes on how to deal with neurotypicals. They may be able to help me." That's not dumb dude, that's way fucking smart. Aspies and socios should be able to offer each other all sorts of insights, actually, as any two people looking at the same problem from different perspectives will often help each other. Both could help each other overcome where they are weak, and also identify where they are stronger and better than neurotypicals.
I suspect extremely sadistic sociopaths (i.e. deriving strong pleasure from inflicting suffering for one reason or another--enjoying the sounds of screaming and the sight of blood spurting and the feeling of power caused by cruelty) are probably dangerous to the point where they probably need to stay watched at all times. But otherwise, I begin to suspect that if more sociopaths "outed" themselves a whole hell of a lot of them could be made useful to society and have happier, more productive lives for themselves.

Why should you care if you're more helpful to neurotypicals? First so you don't have to hide; hiding may be fun sometimes but is probably exhausting much of the time. Also, because you can have a life you just plain enjoy more and which allows you to accomplish more of your goals in straightforward, no-bullshit fashion.

A cynical stereotype would be to say that we use you when killing and other nasty business needs doing, but that's ridiculous oversimplification; a person lacking empathy could do all sorts of positive things that aren't in the least bit destructive, and wherein lack of empathy has no more particular value than the inability to see the color red or a tendency to be easily sunburned; just not relevant. A socio who has fully concluded, "it is in my rational self-interest to help people in ways X, Y, and Z, and to not engage in A, B, and C" could be a tremendously productive in all sorts of fields where their sociopathy would be irrelevant. In other areas, it could be an outright asset in an endless number of subtle areas where your blunted or nonexistent empathic reponse would allow you to clinically analyze and recommend in areas where other people's emotions cloud their judgment. If I were a manager I'd probably want at least one of you on my team, and not necessarily for "dirty work." I don't need "dirty work," I need someone who thinks dispassionately and logically and can see shit other people can't. At minimum, you'd be the guy to tell me in a business negotiation, "Stop with the goody-goody reasoning with that guy. He doesn't care. You're just irritating him." Or better yet, "You don't know how to deal with this guy, I do. Just let me do it. I'll close the deal, watch."

If you are a sociopath, for whatever reason you have a blunted or nonexistent sense of empathy. Although this has multiple ramifications, in the end that's all it amounts to. It may amuse you to know that I discussed this with a very serious-minded Christian (Catholic) friend and he said (at first to my surprise but not now) that indeed, there's absolutely no reason a sociopath could be not just a good Christian but an outright Saint; his basic line was "emotions are overrated, it's actions that matter. It doesn't matter how you feel about it, it's what you DO that counts."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Another view (part 1)

From new reader Dean Esmay:
Hi. I run a fairly popular blog and occasionally I do interviews. I've been writing about sociopathy/psychopathy lately; for a wide variety of reasons the subject fascinates me but has only come to my focused attention recently. FYI, I am not sociopathic to the best I can determine; remorse and guilt are far too familiar to me. I also have a son who is autistic, and I have strong aspie tendencies--although in atypical fashion, one of those oddballs who's somewhere on that spectrum but not clearly identifiable.
My recent reading on the subject of psychopathy has shocked me out of a few metric tonnes of preconceptions. Not your blog alone but definitely your blog has been impressive and at times mind-blowing. I've been reading you rather voraciously. At first you creeped me out pretty bad but the more I read the less so. Before reading your blog, other reading on the subject led me to see a parallel (not link, but definite parallel) between this condition and the aspie/autie spectrum. When I saw that you also perceived a connection it confirmed I was onto something. I doubt the conditions really are related any much more than writing and painting are related--in other words, sort of but not really. But they clearly share some common traits.

I had presumed that a sociopath/psychopathic had to be evil; now I have had a near-total rethink. You may not be comfortable with the terms "good" and "evil" but I pretty much use them in the Judeo-Christian sense and am comfortable with that language; I sense you can work with that without too much philosophical hairsplitting for now. My take at the moment is that sociopathy mixed with sadism (deriving pleasure from deliberately inflicting suffering) is probably going to generate a dangerous and quite evil person, and sociopathy mixed with stupidity and lack of self-awareness is probably going to generate a highly destructive personality (to self and/or others). But it does not follow that sociopathy all by itself is malignant. Potentially malignant of course, but who in this world is not potentially malignant? It is not as if sociopaths invented lying, cheating, backstabbing, and so on.

I suspect that among the high number of socipaths in prison, the majority are the stupid or non-self-aware kind, who can probably be helped with self-awareness and psychological training that focuses not on feelings but on rational self-interest: "Look, you have this limitation, this form of emotional color-blindness. It has contributed to many of your problems. But if you focus on these specific things, these specific behaviors, even if they're uncomfortable or alien at first, you are likely to have a far more rewarding life." I don't pretend I can list what all those things would be, or what all the strategies would be, but I think that sociopaths themselves, working with neurotypicals and other types of "neurodiverse," could learn to do this exact thing, just as dispassionate study of autism and asperger's has done so much to help people in that sub-population. (They haven't just been helped by "awareness," although that has been helpful; identifying useful coping and constructive life-strategies has done a lot, as has early diagnosis and better forms of intervention).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Staying hidden

It's hard to remain anonymous, unknown. In my real life and online it's difficult. There are so many little things that can tip people off, so many mistakes you can make. For an explanation of just how easy it is to find people with just a few datapoints, I recommend this fascinating New Yorker article about attempting to unmask the founder of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, unfortunately not available to nonsubscribers on the site but you can try googling for the full article. Here are some selections:
Kaminsky ticked off the skills Nakamoto would need to pull it off. "He's a world-class programmer, with a deep understanding of the C++ programming language," he said. "He understands economics, cryptography, and peer-to-peer networking."
"Either there's a team of people who worked on this," Kaminsky said, "or this guy is a genius."

Kaminsky wasn't alone in this assessment. Soon after creating the currency, Nakamoto posted a nine-page technical paper describing how bitcoin would function. That document included direct references to the work of Stuart Haber, a researcher at H.P. Labs, in Princeton. Haber is a director of the International Association for Cryptologic Research and knew all about bitcoin. "Whoever did this had a deep understanding of cryptography," Haber said when I called. "They've read the academic papers, they have a keen intelligence, and they're combining die concepts in a genuinely new way."

Haber noted that the community of cryptographers is very small: about three hundred people a year attend die most important conference, the annual gadiering in Santa Barbara. In all likelihood, Nakamoto belonged to this insular world. If I wanted to find him, die Crypto 2011 conference would be the place to start.
Nakamoto's extensive online postings have some distinctive characteristics. First of all, there is the flawless English. Over the course of two years, he dashed off about eighty thousand words—the approximate length of a novel—and made only a few typos. He covered topics ranging from die theories of the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises to die history of commodity markets. Perhaps most interestingly, when he created the first fifty bitcoins, now known as the "genesis block," he permanendy embedded a brief line of text into the data: "The Times 03/fan/2009 Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks."

This is a reference to a Times of London article that indicated diat the British government had failed to stimulate the economy. Nakamoto appeared to be saying diat it was time to try something new. The text, hidden amid a jumble of code, was a sort of digital battle cry. It also indicated that Nakamoto read a British newspaper. He used British spelling ("favour," "colour," "grey," "modernised") and at one point described something as being "bloody hard." An apartment was a "flat," math was "maths," and his comments tended to appear after normal business hours ended in the United Kingdom. In an initial post announcing bit-coin, he employed American-style spelling. But after that a British style appeared to flow naturally.

I had this in mind when I started to attend the lectures at the Crypto 2011 conference, including ones with titles such as "Leftover Hash Lemma, Revisited" and "Time-Lock Puzzles in the Random Oracle ModeL" In the back of a darkened auditorium, I stared at the attendee list. A Frenchman onstage was talking about testing the security of encryption systems. The most effective method, he said, is to attack die system and see if it fails. I ran my finger past dozens of names and addresses, circling residents of the United Kingdom and Ireland. There were nine.
How important is it that he hides?

Nakamoto had good reason to hide: people who experiment with currency tend to end up in trouble. In 1998, a Hawaiian resident named Bernard von Notllaus began fabricating silver and gold coins that he dubbed Libert}' Dollars. Nine years later, the U.S. government charged Notllaus with "conspiracy against die United States." He was found guilty and is awaiting sentencing. "It is a violation of federal law for individuals... to create private coin or currency systems to compete with the official coinage and currency of the United States," the F.B.I, announced at the end of die trial.
The moral of this story is that it is very hard to not have a presence, online or offline, that would eventually lead to your detection. Trying to keep stuff unknown is a good general strategy, but I think the only chance of real success is poisoning the well with disinformation.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Guest song: Perfect Liar

From a reader:

I’m drawn to the scent of sin and pa~ssion
To pay for it I swore to live and bear a cross forever more
You stumble, mess up again, you know you’re lea~ving me dry
The honey from the flower that blooms at night, what’s that, is it too bitter for you?

I am on full alert
Do~n’t let me get hu~rt
Leave me in good repair, ‘cause I’m a girl you gotta share

All~ the sins that I have piled up
All~ the skins that I have grinded on
I~f you looked between the gaps you sometimes could see
The sca~rs

The face that hides behind this gorgeous mask
Is something that you’ll never need to ask
It doesn’t matter, ‘cause I’ll lie to you anyways
Till you go insane

Your car with tha~t bla~ck paint job
You really think I’m so shallow that I’ll be satisfied with that?
But sti~ll, at night I will let you do with me what you like
And in return, just tell me one decent joke to make me laugh, well, can’t you do that?

I~ll pull out my fangs
Ligh~tly bite on your skin~
But you don’t mind because you’re such a masochist at heart?

There are too many men for me to say
I could just pick and toss them all away
That little fantasy about me you try to hide
It’s fa~ke

I o~bey you like a helpless dog
And through my cat-like eyes I laugh along
You really think that you’ve got me locked onto your leash?
Well, thi~nk again

Thi~s scenario that I’ve devised
Is like that drama where the boyfriend dies
So hold on tight to your false illusion o~f me
And rest now

All~ the sins that I have piled up
All~ the skins that I have grinded on
I~f you looked between the gaps you sometimes could see
The sca~rs

The face that hides behind this gorgeous mask
Is something that you never need to ask
It doesn’t matter, ‘cause I’ll lie to you anyways
Till you go insane

And with a skillful cut that’s cleaner than even those that past etched into me
I’ll finally emerge, show you what’s behind the shell
Take that secret with you to hell
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