Friday, 20 September 2013

The Hofstadter-Moebius Loop



In the utterly awesome sci-fi movie 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, the sentient computer HAL, which is  looking after a deep space voyage’s human occupants decides to kill them after a case of RAM meltdown. In a chillingly methodical manner it cuts one astronaut’s suit open so he suffocates and freezes to death. It murders those in cryogenic suspension in their sleep and is only thwarted by the heroic actions of the remaining astronaut Dave Bowman, who manages to disconnect HAL completely and shut it down.
It’s only in the sequel, 2010: THE YEAR WE MAKE CONTACT, that it is revealed exactly why HAL became homicidal in the first place (passage below courtesy of Wikipedia).

“His creator Doctor Chandra discovers that HAL's crisis was caused by a programming contradiction: he was constructed for "the accurate processing of information without distortion or concealment", yet his orders, required him to keep a secret for reasons of national security. This contradiction created a "Hofstadter-Moebius loop", reducing HAL to paranoia. In essence: if the crew were dead, he would no longer have to keep the information secret as he would not have to lie to them.”

This is an utterly genius bit of writing by Arthur C Clarke, but can best be described as What Some Daft Cunts Do To Their Kids As They Grow Up.

Example…

I was told, from a VERY early age that I should never fight…or fight back. Problem was that this information was given to me 3 days after I’d stuck up for myself against a bully at Play School (Kindergarten) and given him a bloody nose. My parents had an almighty row about this act, an act my father had already rewarded me for with a hug, a “well done”, and a present. My mother didn’t like that her eldest son had been told to resort to violence and made her feelings quite clear over dinner. Problem was my programming at that point was that hitting bullies was RIGHT. The Hofstadter-Moebius loop came from the fact that I was given a conflicting order. Fighting was both right AND wrong and the paranoid conclusion I came to was that I must be to blame for the whole thing as my parents absolutely couldn’t be wrong as they were Mummy and Daddy and therefore omnipotent and beyond reproach. The mutated result of these two conflicting orders was that for about the next 20 years I had an ingrained inability to fight due to the guilt and shame that two contradictory instructions had caused in my childish brain and impressed upon my emotional cortex.

Similarly I was told that manners were fundamental. “Please”, “Thank you”, and “That was nice”, were the backbone of any good boy’s repertoire of etiquette. However when ignorant cunts didn’t do it but were adults, me and the other kids would be told, “she/ he doesn’t have to say it.”

Hofstadter-Moebius loop = Some people are special and are outside the rules.

Also, queue jumping while waiting for lunch at High School was a detentionable offence. Unless you were a teacher. They would just march right to the front and start helping themselves. When questioned on this behaviour one rancid cow (anyone remember the Foundation Queen Mrs Roberts/ Miss Metcalfe) simply smirked and said, “Teachers are very busy, they have to go on playground duty.”

One brave pupil pointed out that not ALL teachers did playground duty. Pancake woman simply replied after a pregnant pause, “Teachers are VERY busy.”

Hofstadter-Moebius loop = Some people are so special that normal rules are something they simply don’t have to follow, even if they are required to set an example to those who do.

When I was about 10 years old me, my folks and my grandparents went to a zoo for the day. After a few hours ogling the tigers and giraffes, we stopped in the canteen for a drink and my father got me a lime and soda, which I didn’t like. My grandmother said brightly, “Would you like a lemonade instead?” I was about to reply that I did when I caught my mother’s eye who mouthed the word, “No” and shook her head.

I started to cry.

NOT because I was being a spoilt brat about getting a drink I didn’t want BUT because my whole life I had been told that lying was vile and was now being ordered to lie.

Hofstadter-Moebius loop = A meltdown due to not being able to cope.

The worst example of this was when I was 12 and my old dear was taking a lifeguard certificate for her job as a teacher. She dragged me along as the “unconscious victim” for the training and was increasingly frustrated by me simply lying in the water immobile and dead weight. Reason being she wasn’t strong enough to get me out. After a few futile struggles she hissed, “You could help me you know!”

Afterwards she castigated me in front of my father, saying, “You ARE horrible you know. You could help me and kick a little bit!”

I gaped at her in disbelief and snapped back, “I’m not supposed to help you, I’m supposed to be unconscious, remember?!!”

She glared at me and then said icily, “Even the instructor said ‘maybe it would be better if you didn’t bring your son, maybe it would be better if you brought someone who helped you get them out and kicked a little bit!”

“I’m NOT supposed to help you, that’s dishonest and completely dangerous!”

She glared at me some more and then played the guilt card, saying, “If I don’t get this certificate I could lose my job. Do you want me to lose my job?!!”

Hofstadter-Moebius loop = Lying is vile, unless it’s for one of the “special people” so they can get what they want. Best not to do anything at all so this situation never arises.

This behaviour continued in later life. When I joined the police in 2006 I had a rancid little cunt of a Sergeant who told me I should lie in order to befriend a young Chav whose school I was doing a placement in. This meant actively condoning the fact that I caught the kid fare dodging and having an abusive row with a ticket inspector at the train station. In any other situation this would have got me disciplined or even sacked.

Hofstadter-Moebius loop = Baby, you’re fucked!!!

The only way to avoid this horrible conflict of logic, reason, and emotion is to simply give up. You cease to care, you cease to put yourself in No Win situations and you avoid this horrendously draining set of circumstances. Overall you try to process the situation mentally as well as you can.

Sex is a bastard in this arena. I was always told to be polite, respect boundaries and not be too rough. No absolutely means “NO!” and just because a woman shares your bed does not necessarily mean she wants to shag you. One woman I was good friends with at Uni shared her bed with me (Uni’s in the 1990s in the UK were freezing in winter). We started to kiss and every time I tried to touch her pussy she’d say quietly, “Stop I can’t!” and after the 3rd attempt I started to feel like a predator so I put my arms around her and closed my eyes. The last thing I heard her say before I went to sleep was a very pissed off, “God! You’re boring!!!”

A few days later she said that even though she said no, she wanted me to “persuade” her.

I have since met quite a few women who not only like the guy to initiate a fuck, but get turned on by being taken roughly or pinned down. I slept with a woman some time ago who liked rough shagging. Hair pulling, up against the wall, cock rammed in her throat kind of sex. We had a “safe” word so that she could get me to stop as me ignoring the word “No!” was something that added fuel to the fire. I always stopped at the safe word. Some time later she said that she wished I’d ignored the safe word as well. I replied that she was stupid as the whole fucking point of a “safe” word is that it is, by definition a S.A.F.E, word. She suggested a “Super Safe Word” that I absolutely could not ignore but I COULD ignore the safe word.

I stopped calling her.

Hofstadter-Moebius loop = Wanking is the safer option.

In later life I was able to deal with this and simply tell people to fuck off. I once had a supervisor at work who said, “I’m telling you not to do that, despite what MY boss told you. I’m also ordering you NOT to discuss this with him.”

I glowered at him and snapped, “How the fuck can you order me not to consult someone who’s higher up than either of us? You fucking daft cunt!!”

(Pause) “Don’t swear at me!!!”


Human beings are complex machines and, like HAL, we try to make the best we can of conflicting orders. We crave logic and a solution above everything except being loved. So if you are told to fight and then told not to at the age of 4, you will maybe come to the assumption that simply not fighting at all ever, is the best way to stop your parents from squabbling.

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