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How small the world is getting

I have read the Psychopath Code by Pieter Hintjens.

Before I proceed, I would like to pay tribute to the living man Pieter Hintjens, whose work can be found in hintjens.com.

Pieter is, primarily, a software engineer. The guy has survived cancer five years ago. The disease has returned, and Pieter, after considering everything (his cancer has metastasised), has made his mind up: he will perform euthanasia, in due time… and talked about it in his last (as in his final as well as most recent) post in his blog. You can go read it. If that is not enough to spark respect and some interest for him, then know that he writes books and makes them available in various schemes, including free pdf copies.

Back to the book. I have to remind you, the guy is not a psychiatric professional (there is a disclaimer in his book). But, for whatever reason (mentions personal experience), he decided to write a book on psychopathy. In a reddit thread, his ability to write a book on such a sensitive and difficult topic is severely questioned. Luckily, I read the book first and the thread second. I could not stop reading the book, and I had a hard time to give much time the reddit thread. The thread mostly discusses him – his authority to write a book on psychopathy. The book, I actually liked and found it, at the least, intriguing. But it was growth inducing as it gave me a new perspective.

Early on in the book, Pieter says: “I wanted to explore psychopathy-as-an-adaptation”. I know that the approach is not newly introduced to the world in this book, but it was new for me. And, this line alone makes the book a whole lot valuable for me. I’d say that this is a perspective that I’m better off knowing. I appreciate this line in two contexts: 1. environment may induce predatory behaviour. If that is so, then we may reduce destructive behaviour by correcting the environment. Actually, gives me hope that individuals may be saved from the vice of predatory behaviour with proper behavioural therapy – making them aware of the effect of the environment on their behaviour. Not my call to make though, given my professional background is not psychiatry. And, 2. once the kind of environment that is prone to encourage predatory behaviour is identified, an individual is better able to stay ahead of destructive individuals and cope with the effect of interacting with them, should one find themselves in such an environment. And even better, one would be better able to chose the kind of environment to avoid.

Now… Yes, I do recommend the book. It is a great book. It is the reason I will read Pieter’s other work not related to the C programming language. But, I also have some criticism.

Rationalization – when one tries to retrofit the past events to a logical explanation. I think this also is a very likely fallacy when one tries to give a detailed explanation of how emotions follow one another. In the later parts of this book, Pieter ventures to do exactly this. That is all good and dandy, and may fit many people’s experience. But, I think that, strictly speaking, this is quite shaky. The mapping of emotions to the names we use for them may be quite unstable. Rationalization, as a logical fallacy, is bound to happen when one tries to do such a classification of such vague concepts as emotions. I am not saying that the fallacy has been done, or that it has not been done… as a matter of fact, there are so many pieces and interrelations identified there that I’d not claim to have identified the fallacy given that I only read the book once. But, that is as much as I can examine for criticism on the book.

Finally, I liked the book. I am now reading his Culture and Empire. I am also reading his blog posts. There is advice he has to share with software engineers. He also has a book on a piece of software (a messaging system that he has built, 0MQ) that can come in handy in your project as a software developer when working in distributed systems. I think he has lived a productive life. I respect that.

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