Psychiatrist’s Journal

A fun read if you understand Chinese :).

A friend sent me the link a while ago, on the day before my math midterm, and I spent 6 hours reading it, and half an hour studying for the MT =P. Very engaging read.

It’s the journal of a psychiatrist, with transcripts of his conversations with all kinds of patients. It’s interesting to see how they all have different interpretations of what they are seeing, hearing, and feeling. They just have different world views, that’s all. Some of the stories are funny, some are sad, some are bloody, and some are just dark. All very interesting nonetheless.

A patient tried to convince the author that the world is no more than a novel he is writing, and he is playing the protagonist himself, and all other people are just his creations. All things happen according to his plan, including his 3 years stay at the hospital, to make his story interesting. But of course, while he has to endure the 3 years in their entirety, it won’t be more than a few lines in his novel.

And there’s this girl that always wears sunglasses, because every morning she wakes up, she sees a different colour in the sky, and all different colours mean different things. Blue means something good will happen, yellow means something surprising will happen, gray means it will be a boring day, black means something bad will happen, pink means people will die from a big accident or natural disaster, and red is the worst colour of all. She has only seen it twice in her life. Most colours appear like fogs, but not red. It was bright and clear. Like blood. The first time she saw it, her grandmother died, and the second time her best friend died. She now wears sunglasses so she won’t see the colours, and can live a normal life.

That’s one of the darkest ones. Left me traumatized for a while.

Another patient was sent to the hospital for “being possessed” by people around her. All of the people that “possess” her are alive, so it’s not ghosts or anything. Once in a while, she would just act like someone else, 24/7, gestures, voices, eyes, actions, habits, everything. Her bf ran away screaming when she was “possessed” by an old man.

Turned out she was just imitating other people. She spent a few years and became so good at it that people thought she was being possessed. Her goal was to get an objective view of the world. She realized that by imitating someone else to every detail, she can infer how the person thinks, by the way they unconsciously act. Every blink of the eyes, every gesture, every frown, every word. She likes to imitate old people, because that gave her broader perspectives due to their experiences and knowledge. And now, she doesn’t need to actually imitate someone to know what they are thinking, but only to observe their actions. She called that “mental imitation”. She wasn’t content with that, however, because old people still don’t give her the objectivity she wants, and she finally came to the realization that –

To see the world in its true colours, we need to see the sky with the sky’s eyes, clouds with clouds’ eyes, wind with wind’s eyes, trees with trees’ eyes, rocks with rocks’ eyes, seas with seas’ eyes, animals with animal’s eyes, and people with people’s eyes.

(translated by your’s truly)

That was one of my favourites.

And then this one =D. It’s hilarious.

Him: “First of all, don’t you agree your life, your surroundings, are all very strange?”

Me: “How so?”

Him: “Everyday you need to go to work, flirt with your colleagues, leave work, hurry home, or go to a bar, or go singing, then go home and shower and sleep… isn’t that strange?”
Me: “I still don’t see how that’s strange.”

Him: “Okay, let’s put it this way – why are you doing all that?”
Me: “Eh?…”
Him: “Get it now?”

Me: “I still don’t understand… that’s just my life.”
He had the “why are you still not getting it” look on his face. I thought I should be the one having the expression.

Him: “You are doing all those things because everyone else does them. Right? And why does everyone do them? Because we live in a society. Why do we live in a society? Because we have been doing it for thousands of years. Why have we been doing it for all these years? Because humans have been living in groups for millions of years. Why did we start living in groups? Because humans were weak, and we needed to cooperate to not get eaten by stronger animals.

Now we have advanced technology and weapons, why do we still live together?”

Thought that made a lot of sense. We are doing a lot of things just because everyone else is doing it. We should think more!

Our society is one that discourages critical thinking. We do too many things just because other people are doing it. Maybe that’s good for social stability and all that.

They are very brave people, expressing their thoughts and beliefs even if that means they will get thrown into hospitals.

Imagine if everyone starts thinking for themselves.

PS. sorry for the bad translations =P it was surprisingly difficult, to translate between 2 languages with very different grammatical structures, even though I understand both well.

Rats vs Hamsters

A purely hypothetical question:

If you are the government of a country of 10 people, 1 rich 9 starving. If you don’t do anything, the 9 starving people will die.

Alternatively, you can kill the rich person and distribute the wealth to the 9 other people (so they won’t die). Is that ethical?

(the rich guy defends all his wealth with his life, so to take it, you’ll have to kill him)

Is killing by doing nothing killing, too?

I feel there is something fundamentally wrong about how we classify things as good or evil, but I’m not sure what. Any philosopher here?

It seems like an under-specified optimization problem to me. What exactly are we optimizing for? lowest mortality? fairness? average wealth? total wealth? “happiness”?