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25 April 2016 @ 09:53 pm
Can't You Be a Shining Example AND a Horrible Warning?  
Pieter Hintjens, the until-recently maintainer of ZeroMQ and a fair bit of other open-source code, is a terrifying man, whose recent description of his clearly-fatal cancer has gained some fame. I hope to be as bloodlessly straightforward about human foibles and as curmudgeonly many decades hence when my own time comes.

He wrote a book called The Psychopath Code, which may be read online for free. It purports to be about understanding and foiling a specific group of people who are very approximately the same as might be called "psychopaths" or "sociopaths" in a pop-psych way (but not those clinical disorders, not really.)

It puts forward a few really interesting ideas, starting with such people as predators, and as defectors on the social contract of mutual altruism. Not new exactly, but an area with plenty of room for new ideas, and he has some good ones.

Interspersed with them, you'll find a variety of interesting opinions, from the lucid-but-improbable to the wildly unlikely (psychopaths develop near-perfect acting and cold reading without practice, and have Dunbar Numbers far higher than the neurotypical.)

Should you have time, I recommend a quick skim of it. It's an interesting idea. Don't take him too seriously... But if you were to pretend this was a work of Victorian Naturalism and the Psychopath was a creature that a blustery old Englishman was describing from his safari into Darkest Africa, you might find the whole more tolerable, and the lessons within more interesting.

I may just find old blustery Victorian accents charming. Fair warning.

It purports to be a description of subclinical psychopaths as a form of human predator... And actually, it mostly accomplishes that if you're willing to fudge on the details, and treat it as a warning rather than an accurate measurement.

Of course, it also purports to be a full defense against the same, and an understanding of them. Between you and me, maybe you shouldn't be quite that secure in some of the facts therein.

Even a blustery old Victorian naturalist has been known to be wrong now and again.