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God's Lonely Programmer (vice.com)
883 points by eli on Nov 25, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 320 comments

Although the guy lives arguably outside the fringe of society, I cannot question his commitment to his project.

We tend to celebrate the successes like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerburg and then quietly go back to our daily lives, and compromise our creativity for family, wealth accumulation and professional advancement. The opinionated amongst us will debate which of their favorite value is the "right way," (If LoseTheOs got the help and settled down with his family, a partner or friends; If LoseTheOs found a job at Red Hat and channeled his energy towards Linux Kernel development...).

But choices and our commitment to these choices are what defines us. TempleOS in this regard, seems more like a work of art in the medium of code. Of course, the merit of that art is up to the beholder (and tbh, I don't think I'd have appreciated Van Gogh a priori.) "The difference between genius and insanity is measured only by success," but is the guy who doesn't succeed by conventional sense but finds his own meaning and keeps going, insane?

I wonder if he would get this much positive attention if he wasn't a Christian extremist. Would the article have conveniently left out his racism if he was, say, a militant antisemite instead of being focused on black people as he is? Would people admire his worship of a random number generator if he used it to spit out slogans of a religious text that isn't as revered as the Bible?

While his schizophrenia probably comes with very bad episodes, there is absolutely nothing that can be found in his own words allowing for the conclusion that this view is just a tourette-like symptom. On the contrary. His violence-laden hate speech is one of the constant factors defining him. Contrary to what has been suggested here he doesn't use slurs randomly and generically, either. There's a story behind his views that is just as coherent as the cute "god's own programmer" schtick.

Where his illness clearly manifests is the interpretation of random events all having a specific meaning. The radio talking to him, all the events in his life being just so that an invisible power is communicating with him, all the way down to literally a random number generator whose nature he cannot grasp. That's schizophrenia. If there was an adequate cure or means of suppressing it, this world view would completely go away.

It's more complicated to separate the man from the illness when it comes to pretty much anything else. At the very least I would be extremely hesitant to call him, as people do in this thread, an "inspiration". I'm not even sure it's safe to be in the same room with him.

Closing with a quote straight from his most recent account:

  "I spend my days clubbing retard-n$ggers. CLUB! CLUB! 
HN's majority opinion of this guy makes me more uncomfortable than his comments by themselves. I don't get how we can label this guy as being "high functioning" and at the same time sweep 99% of everything he ever says under the rug. It's either or.

He's 'high functioning' in the sense that he can produce elaborate computer software that runs fast, in other words he has impressive engineering skills. Socially he's pretty incapable. I think his offensive racist, homophobic and other offensive remarks are part and parcel of his condition because I've spent quite a lot of time reading his rants, and disagree with your claim that his use of slurs is not random and generic. It's not uncommon for him to claim that 'bill gAtes is an atheist nigger' and talk about hod God likes 'African musical rhythms and does not like white people so much' on the same day.

Yes, he does seem to use the epithet 'nigger' more than all other epithets combined, which is understandably alienating for many people. But I don't think this is ideologically rooted because it is so randomly and inconsistently applied in his writing (where it makes up a small fraction of the overall output, rather than the 99% you suggest).

Being an atheist, his output of random passages from the Bible is neither admirable nor otherwise to me - it's just statistically the most likely religious text for an American with a religious fixation to be fixated on. I've met mentally ill Asian Buddhists whose cognitive patterns are quite similar to Terry's even though the cultural referents are completely different. Extreme religiosity is very strongly correlated with some kinds of mental illness and I don't find it strange that Terry is fixated on Old Testament Bible stories where God puts in a lot of personal appearances. I could just as easily imagine him being obsessed with the Koran or some other religious text that's ubiquitous in some other part of the world.

I can't agree that he's an extremist - his (inoffensive) 'Guidelines for talking to God' [1]are pretty bland and heretodox as he eschews questions of salvation, morality etc., in favor of keeping God company (which makes sense since God is apparently a fixture in Terry's life). According to Terry, God dislikes classical music, Shakespeare, French people, and Terry's drumming while exhibiting an inordinate fondness for elephants, bears, and 1960s pop singers. You could work these elements into some sort of coherent ideological position just as you could characterize his relentless automated Biblical quotation as Christian extremism, but I don't think either position makes sense.

What's remarkable about him is not the endless stream of nonsense, much of which is offensive when it's even coherent; it's the fact that he manages to construct working things as part of his intellectual pursuits and carry on some kind of social life despite his mental circumstances.

1. http://www.templeos.org/Wb/Adam/God/HSNotes.html#l1

It's hard to disagree with that. However, being offensive (in the way that word is most commonly used) is not even my point. I also never expressed doubts about his engineering prowess. People can have significant mental impairments and still perform math or engineering tasks, though the output of these tasks is often colored by their limitations as well. He is the same way. Imagine the things he could accomplish if he wasn't in schizophrenic mode!

My point was about whether he is an "inspiration" or not. Mentally ill people can be assholes, too. It's debatable and probably an unsolvable question to which extent his badness comes from his disease, so all we're left with at this point is to simply judge him by his behavior, and maybe charitably take some factors into account in his favor. But even after doing that, I can't get to a state where I can say: "this person is awesome and a continuing inspiration to me".

The nature of mental illness makes it very hard to talk about the core personality of affected people. Their illness is a part of them, just as all of our little hangups and traumata are a part of every one of us. These properties are us in a very real sense.

On a multidimensional scale of personalities, I do judge him way more harshly than a person with Tourette's syndrome, precisely because there is meaning behind the words when he speaks them - even after I make a conscious effort to discard the instances where that meaning was distorted, there is still enough content left that I'm uncomfortable with subscribing to this person.

Ultimately I'd like to reiterate: my frustration is not with him. With this illness, he got a bad deal in life. I hope he stays safe and gets all the care he needs. I hope he can continue to find creative outlets like his operating system. My frustration is with people idolizing him in his entirety, accepting or maybe even sharing his views. I do think it's possible to admire the work a person does without subscribing to their views, but when doing so you have to work extra hard to separate the two. You can't just admire that person without reservations. Frequently, on this thread and elsewhere, no reservations were even visible. We even got people talking about how he was factually right about calling black people dumb.

Thanks for articulating that. Id o admire terry because I'm rather amazed by TempleOS and as I'm almost the same age as him I can relate to his Commodore 64 computer roots but can't hold a candle to him in engineering terms. I don't know where to delinerate the lines between mental illness, cultural context, and personality in a complex case like schizophrenia so I've chosen to leave that question ina grey area.

It would seem confirmation bias plays a part in those 'conversations'.

I consider myself a man of principle. However, there comes a point where principle is just another form of prejudice. There is little to disagree with what you're saying, but life is a lot more devious than you're making it out to be.

> There is little to disagree with what you're saying

On the contrary. There seems to be a lot of disagreement, or I wouldn't be so heavily down voted. Of course I'm not complaining about people who think my comments are trash, but I would prefer to know why they think that. And, to come full circle, I think it's telling that racist comments seem to be well received and regarded as worthy of consideration in this same thread, whereas my suggestion to draw a harsh distinction between the personal values of the guy in question and his technical accomplishments seems to court controversy.

> life is a lot more devious than you're making it out to be

I'm having a hard time seeing what the criticism is here, maybe you could clear that up. Do you mean I portrayed life as being to cheerful? Do you think I was being too simplistic? If so, where, specifically? I'm also unsure about what you mean by being a man of principle and that being connected to prejudice. What, in this context, are your principles and how are they the same as prejudices?

The world is more subtle than good and bad.

This is ofcourse subjective. I choose to believe that he is both a good person and someone who says bad things.

I however, place more value one what people do rather than what they say.

I don't think you can rightfully accuse me of making simplistic judgements after reading my comment, but you are right that my reservations are subjective. My reservations say something about me and my values.

> I choose to believe that he is both a good person and someone who says bad things.

You probably won't be surprised when I say I can't square that.

Let's for a moment evaluate a hypothetical about good and bad people, since you chose those labels. Assume you got two people. One is "a good person who says good things" and the other is "a good person who says bad things". Which of the two is a better person? Your answer seems to be: that depends entirely on the goodness part. My answer is: it also depends on the quality and quantity of the badness part. What they say is a part of who they are.

> I however, place more value one what people do rather than what they say.

Thoughts do matter. When choosing your heroes, their ideology counts.

It's also a point of debate on what counts as "doing" something on the internet. Expressing beliefs and values is as much an action in itself as writing code.

Having treated thousands of individuals with schizophrenia, bipolar and other similar severe, chronic disorders I found the article to be fascinating. It succeeded in portraying the "mindset" of the creator of the OS and giving a glimpse into his experience. It made me believe Mr. Davis really did share his deep convictions just as he described.

I've always thought having a mental disorder did not mean a person did not also have talents, just like the rest of us. "I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid" is a phrase I heard many patients say. And of course they were right.

In reading the comments posted here, one thing may have been missed. The TempleOS for all its eccentricity is also very beautiful and in its own way remarkable coherent. Mr. Davis demonstrates talent not only as a programmer, but also as an artist, points that should not be overlooked.

Ultimately, the OS is a freely-given contribution to our world and adds to the important body of work created by people with psychiatric disorders. I think it should be appreciated in that context.

Thank you for your comments.

> TempleOS for all its eccentricity is also very beautiful and in its own way remarkable coherent

As a visual designer myself, his highly-symbolic visual language demonstrates what I understand as a telltale lack of nuance common to those suffering from certain mental illnesses, but the impressive part to me is that he really maximizes it. He seems to have access to an amount of "flow" that many people would kill to harness for their own purposes (of course without its drawbacks in this case). I was wondering if this may indicate that he is receiving a level of care that is fitting for his current needs.

I would love to see many other concepts expressed and illustrated with his current visual vocabulary, but I guess limiting it to Israelite Vision is part of the tradeoff.

Would you please elaborate on this part "...his highly-symbolic visual language demonstrates what I understand as a telltale lack of nuance common to those suffering from certain mental illnesses, but the impressive part to me is that he really maximizes it"? I'm really interested in the intersection of mental health issues with various fields (I've commented elsewhere in this thread), and this is the first time I hear a review in the context of UX+{non-NeuroTypical}.

While we're at it, by "flow", do you happen to mean flow in a "workflow zen" sense [yes, I'm aware that the word zen has been abused to death :) ] know ?


I'll give it a shot :)

I was told by a doctor friend that one of the side-effects of heightened anxiety is a tendency to view things in black and white. "I'm a failure." "I am a failed human." "She hates me." "I suck at life." "That guy is so perfect and I'm not." etc. Such hyperbolic interpretations are common to teenagers, stressed-out university students, and even more so with people who suffer from chronic anxiety. I know very little about schizophrenia, but I think I recall that it is, or parts of it may be, part of the general anxiety disorder sphere. Along with OCD, bipolar disorder, and more.

One of the signs of less-than-mature visual thinking is a hyperbolically-abstract way of representing things. Sky is blue, people are torso + arms + legs + head, sand is yellow. In real life of course, the sky might use many colors from any part of the spectrum of hues--a sunset might use violets, oranges, reds, all together in a spread of gradients. The color of sand depends on atmospheric conditions (fog, erupting volcano nearby, time of day--what color is sand at night, if you were to paint it?), intermediary surfaces (rose-colored glasses). A human might have one leg (seen from the side), one big fat leg with two feet (three-quarters view), or even three arms (if you count the dark shadow that the one arm happens to be producing at the time due to the light source).

So I'm taking it for granted that a hyperbolic view is pretty much a constant current in this guy's life. It's pretty much always there, and he seems to be coping with it enough that he is not out causing damage to society (well, not physically). But along the way it has informed his entire visual language, which he relies upon in his interface design. Everything you see on screen in his creation has gone through his hyperbolic mental filter to become something very iconic. Because his disorder seems to put a lot of pressure on him to communicate, we are able to see this rich visual outcome. Even the interface chrome is a clue. There is apparently no need in his mind for a refined way to express antialiased curves or subtle lines in the interface. High-contrast, blinking characters will do. In my rather direct reading, I feel like I am seeing his brain open up. Everything goes through this threshold filter before it gets output to the screen, written down, expressed verbally, and so on. So rather than depth, we get breadth.

The sound works the same way. "This basic sound is good enough" probably never entered his mind. My guess, of course. But I'm thinking it's more like, "I am now playing a hymn".

I guess the use of the bible is a great example of this too. More culturally-refined religions that mesh very well with mankind's search for meaning tend not to be the ones that condemn people or rely on the harsh words of the old testament so much.

Whether in art, music, or religion, many of us wish we could be happy with a more basic, gets-things-done approach. We fill our movies with people who make quick, brutal decisions that most people could never force themselves to do. We may listen to hard & heavy music, but simple beats alone will never do--we crave detail, texture, gradations, refinement. We draw simple pictures, then wonder why we aren't happy with our representation of our mother's face as a simple smiling curve and two dots for eyes. These things feel like they trip us up, but our struggle with them is real and important for our maturity. To talk to an artist who creates great abstract works, visually, with music, or with words, but who cannot express his journey through life's gradations, is to hire a novelty artist; someone to whom we can only relate by tangent. I can relate to this OS creator by tangent. That tangent is my childhood; the innocence I left behind some time ago. But I have to acknowledge that I am drawn to it. I can't just let it go because I see part of myself in there, and I wonder if I am seeing in his beautifully abbreviated forms what would have happened to me if I have stayed content as that version of myself for a longer period of time. Why was I in such a hurry to see the gray areas in life? He is in a sort of flow (yes, workflow zen like, or alpha-stage like--and that's where I wonder if, since this alpha-stage, vanishing-fears, creative flow stuff is so sought after--if this stability he found to develop a whole OS rather than harass people in the streets all day is due to his home & family environment / physical needs being met) that is not so scatterbrained--it's focused. But it (unintentionally) sacrifices a closer look at reality in the process.

Well, I went a bit overboard and decided I needed to explore this a bit myself. So nothing definite, but I hope this gets my direction across. I am more of an intuitive personality type so I build thoughts starting from a hazy recollection of learning experiences that seem to align nicely ;)

I find this guy's moments of clarity amazing. I'm not very familiar with mental illnesses in any form, but it surprises me how clearly he understands how the rest of the world views him. It makes me think about what the world might be like if we reverse the situation, and the article were about the only man who can't hear the voice of God.

> I find this guy's moments of clarity amazing.

Oh, that's because:

> I'm not very familiar with mental illnesses [...]


Schizophrenics are frequently lucid. Well, a modified sort of lucid... It's as if they are rational folks for whom first principles or axioms have been shaken up, and indeed are malleable all the time.

It doesn't sound like Terry would ever think that his dinner plate would sprout legs and walk across the table. But as he stated in the article, he has thought that some dinners were poisoned.

See, the first one can't happen. The second one could technically happen. Schizophrenics aren't stupid, you know? :) But, their plausibility metrics are broken.

Regarding the plausibility of a dinner plate walking across a table: Well, it could happen if the plate is some Transformers(R) style robot, or something. It could be, if those exist, right? When a schizophrenic tells you something is true but you think it is implausible, remember: it's not implausible to them, because they are rational folks employing a different set of base assumptions than you. Walking plates are normal in a world that has Transformers(R).

Why would a rational person believe in fictional toy robots? Or even that someone wants to poison them? ...Well, once you believe in God, or time travel, or aliens, or that the universe is a simulation, or any number of "crazy ideas"... once you actually believe one crazy idea, it's all down hill from there.

But, it is generally an otherwise sane individual that is running down that hill...

Terry specifically mentioned a feeling or belief that God picks random numbers or events as a way to communicate with folks. "I can sit down with my parents and praise God and open the Bible randomly," he says, "and it will talk." All of those sorts of beliefs are rooted in some form of the following base principle: "The world is fundamentally not what the common man thinks it is." Once you think that some entity which has the power to alter individual atoms or the results of a coin toss (God, aliens, whatever) exists, then the belief that they would use that power to communicate is just a small logical step away.

[EDIT: Indeed, I just found this quote from him: God controls ALL the random numbers in yer life [...]. Every [...] random number from when you awake to sleep [...] So in his world, if you run over a nail in your car and get a flat... Well, you did something to deserve it!]

NOTE: Apparently some schizophrenic folks experience vivid, realistic open-eyed hallucinations sometimes (at the peak of a manic episode) or all the time. I don't have much experience with that. Sometimes those events coincide with seizures and events in which awareness and consciousness is lowered. I am guessing that my "these are rational folks" argument does not apply at those times (or to some people any the time).

I wouldn't classify his belief in God as a "crazy idea" in the purest sense of those words. Scientifically, a God powerful enough to create this universe could easily and rationally be powerful enough to make certain demands of said creation, one of which might rationally be that the created beings need faith in God to achieve their designed capability.

There is a wonderful uniformity to the universe that allows computers to exist. To put that uniformity on a pedastal though and declare there is no God is definitely not a rational belief one can be dogmatic about.

The notion in your first paragraph sounds like a reasonable assertion to me although it does presuppose the rather dogmatic notion that an omnipotent Creator would "demand faith" rather than "grant a gift of free will / gift of being able to forget he exists".

Well, I did use scare quotes, friend! :)

...This topic has a history of being polarizing. And it's not the topic in this thread.

"But, their plausibility metrics are broken."

I know three Schizophrenics personally, and this comment hit the nail. Interestingly, they're all really into conspiracy theories, alien documentaries and the like. Though they might not really believe, it is clearly very fascinating to them.

One of them was really into this guy, if you want an example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Sheldrake Another one, this magazine (in Danish): http://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/En_sk%C3%B8r_sk%C3%B8r_verden

Sol Robeson: This is insanity, Max.

Maximillian Cohen: Or maybe it's genius.

Once you believe in God it's all downhill from there?

I dunno, Jack. Maybe it only applies if you're also schizophrenic. :)

>the only man who can't hear the voice of God.

You may find this very interesting. I know I did. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicameralism_(psychology)

I was about the post the same thing. Jaynes' book is absolutely worth the time of anyone interested i such questions.

I've stumbled upon Terry's work a long time ago...and suffice to say he's been a major inspiration. It's a shame the majority of netizens (Yes, HN and Reddit included) can't look beyond his eccentricity and mental health issues (then again, it takes some digging and google-fu to find out the full story / context behind the man...his posts don't exactly come with a disclaimer).

Going down the rabbit hole of Googling, Redditing, finding out more about him and his story ("a one-man novel, modern x64 almost-but-not-quite-entirely-unlike-retro OS?" type of thing is catnip to my synapses), I've also come to understand a friend's schizophrenic relative a bit better. I've read accounts of schizophrenia and art intersecting, but did not understand what it is, what it's like, *, until I witnessed schizophrenia intersecting with IT, at which point the gates of empathy, admiration and fascination were flung wide open.

[/r/programming's 637 comments thread from 2010] http://www.reddit.com/r/programming/comments/e5d8e/demo_vide...

[another /r/programming thread] http://www.reddit.com/r/programming/comments/lhefd/losethos_...

His username on HN is / has been some variation on "TempleOS", "LoseThos", "SparrowOS", "TempleOSv2", etc. AFAIK all hellbanned due to un-PC comments posted in his, for lack of better phrasing, "Moments of Un-Clarity".

The irony (perhaps using the wrong word) of being hellbanned when the story of of your life's work..your magnum opus (especially in this case, an objective article that places it in context and with some background) is featured on HN's front page, makes me sad.

I consider his work to be a prime example of ["Outsider Art"] {http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outsider_art} in our field.

I wish to collaborate with him one day.

Edit: Formatting, more caffeine.

While regrettable, his hellban is entirely necessary. Almost every comment he makes refers to "f------- n------" (censorship mine). To quote one from his page of most recent comments: "I spend my days clubbing r----d-n------. CLUB! CLUB! DIE N-----! CLUB! R----D! N------! DIE!! CLUB! N-----!"

That's not really something we can have on HN.

(edit: right, asterisks are formatting here)

Inc ase people weren't aware, there's a 'showdead' option in your HN profile that lets you see dead comments and submissions, eg those from hellbanned accounts. I don't think terry's comments are so consistently offensive as suggested above but he does post a lot of stuff that is bizarre or offensive to the casual reader, so the hellban makes sense.

Other times he posts lucid informative comments on technical topics and usually someone with Showdead enabled will copy them into the thread so everyone else can see them. It's not an ideal system but it's an acceptable compromise between keeping the site usable for as many as possible without completely barring access to someone like Terry.

It would be neat if a sufficient number of upvotes could cause a comment from a hellbanned account to show up as normal. I guess this could be gamed to circumvent bans, but in Terry's case it could lead to his informative/worthwhile comments being visible to more people.

Make it a perk for high karma users like downvoting.

Also I've made a bookmarklet for anyone who wants it, which re-colors the faded comments with shades of red. In my opinion this is a much better user experience, as these comments are appropriately flagged but still readable without much effort:


Load the bookmarklets.html in a browser and then drag "Re-Color HN" to your bookmarks.

The faded down-voted comments are my least favorite part of the UI here (it's like "this comment is now 75% censored").

Inc ase people weren't aware, there's a 'showdead' option in your HN profile

Thank you. I wasn't aware of this, and I'm glad I can sidestep what has (in my opinion) at times been a too narrow moderation of these forums.

If you deal with the mentally ill you begin to see the differences between intentionally abusive behavior and behavior that's just highly erratic or unusual. Sometimes the mentally ill are dicks. But also, sometimes they just say or do things that are culturally insensitive without intending to hurt anyone's feelings, or understanding how they could do so.

While I think the above comment is offensive, it also appears to not be directed at any one person, and seems to be a facet of his mental illness. I therefore reason that this person is not trying to be abusive or racist, but is in fact suffering from a disease, and this is a symptom of it. So I don't think he should be held to the same standard everyone else is.

For example, we have flagkilling for comments in addition to downvotes that can be used to remove offensive remarks. Why wouldn't we merely let the crowd downvote his negative comments, and upvote the good ones? Positive reinforcement would actually be a useful to instruct him how to behave in a social environment such as this.

Or we could just hellban all the mentally challenged users.

Internet eugenics^W^W Hellbanning is a lot easier to justify when pseudonymity makes it easy to pretend everyone is a healthy WASP male like you are.

That said, signal-to-noise still needs to be maintained. I think the ability to resurrect a comment from the dead when the quality is verified by others would help people like Terry Davis feel less ostracized by hellbans.

"So I don't think he should be held to the same standard everyone else is."

I think you're misunderstanding how standards work. It doesn't matter if he believes it or means it to be abusive or if it's just trolling/performance art or if it's because of mental illness. Racist speech is offensive to the community and the people who repeatedly use it will be moderated.

There are people with mental illness that expose themselves or defocate in public. There nothing inherently wrong with nudity or defocation (hygiene yes but we're ok with dog poop as long as you clean it up) but these acts cross a line society has drawn. And most people will insist that such behavior not be permitted in things they take part in.

In the cases you cite, the way to deal with problem behavior usually involves medication, treatment, care, etc, but they still get to be participatory members of society.

The solution you're proposing would just lock them up in a high tower where the public could remain blissfully unaware that the mentally ill even exist, and never have to deal with them. I'd rather have to deal with somebody shitting on a bus once in a while than ostracize them and force them into a minimum security prison.

Standards are a guideline for how something should normally be. If someone is, by no fault of their own, radically outside this standard, they may require a separate standard to determine how they can be 'normal', and then find and receive treatment in order to live as close to normal as possible. Using the same standard for everyone would result in people being thrown into insane asylums for everything from anxiety to stress-induced nervous breakdown, bipolar disorder, OCD, schizophrenia, etc.

In 2012, there were an estimated 9.6 million adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. with a serious mental illness in the past year. This represented 4.1 percent of all U.S. adults. There were an estimated 43.7 million adults with any mental illness ; 18.6 percent of all U.S. adults. So yeah, I still don't think everyone should be held to the same standard, and I think treatment options should exist other than "hiding or banning from society".

When I was a kid I used to have a councilor that had Tourette's Syndrome, he was one of the nicest people and really helpful and good at his job. However every now and then he would have an attack a spitoff nearly the same vitriol F$%# N%^$#er, C$%k S%#$er etc.. after a few seconds he would recover and apologize. There really are mental illnesses out there that will make you say and do things that you don't actually believe when you're not under it's influence.


>That's not really something we can have on HN.

Arguably, we do have it on HN, by design. The effect of his ban, and his reputation as a programmer have turned him into a weird sort of mascot. It's possible that simply banning him outright would have driven him off the site by now. It certainly wouldn't have been more effort than hellbanning his accounts. But the system as it is encourages him to stay.

Everyone's talking about Terry like he's not able to see this...

Not aiming this message at you, krapp, or anyone, I just realized this while reading your message that Terry's probably read through this thread a few times. Wonder what his thoughts are on the article.

He could post his thoughts on whatever he likes, but of course, we're not meant to know what they are, or to care.

Terry is the price this community pays for its pretense at intellectual purity.

the dude is straight up racist and just because he's eccentric and mentally ill doesn't mean it should be tolerated

If you're referring to him saying "nigger" multiple times, then I think that that to him is more like a a kind of a generic bad-word to go with, and that he's not actually using it in a true "racist" sense.

Of course I agree that just using that word to insult someone classifies as racist, but so far I've never seen anywhere in his comments or rants that he actually argumented something against black people.

Quoting from the first page of @TempleOS's comments (censorship mine, of course):

I spend my days clubbing retard-ns. CLUB! CLUB! DIE N! CLUB! RETARD! N! DIE!! CLUB! N!

Regardless of his mental state, this is not content that I want in any of my online communities.

So that's what the "r---d" censor meant. I've never seen that word bleeped out before.

Right, and the sense of my comment is that this does not necessarily imply that he would not actually work and then fit nice in team with a black guy, for example. That's just how I perceive that..

I don't think he would work and fit in with any person who objects to the casual use of that term, which is hopefully the overwhelming majority of the industry.

Maybe there would be no reason to discuss about that once started working and that habit would probably sink in front of more interesting/important stuff.

One of the features of schizophrenia is creating new words for concepts without realizing how little they match up with other people's definition of those words.

For all we know Terry means nigger as referring to the religious concept of darkness and would insist it has nothing to do with skin colour.

I'm not saying that is the case here, but it very likely could be and I am saying that we're for more clueless when it comes to empathizing with people like Terry than we think we are.

Is he actually racist, or are his moments of unclarity racist?

To determine that might require face-to-face contact and since he is a diagnosed schizophrenic, it might still be unclear.

Even if the racism only comes out during manic periods, it would be difficult to parse that in an online medium. Since very few of us are trained to deal with that sort of episode, it is probably best to avoid the issue entirely.

Why not just ask?

Terry's God is only as coherent as Terry's offerings of executable code on any given day, and He mediates all of Terry's social communication.

The best way to satisfy your vuriosity is to read his internal monologue stuff, which he documents religiously: http://www.templeos.org/Wb/Accts/TS/Wb2/Rants/TAD/TADRants.h...

there's no material difference for the purposes of fostering social spaces devoid of racism

Just about all Americans exhibit some racism, although most of it manifests itself in the form of less-obvious, but still insidious, biases and so on, rather than calling people the n-word on Hacker News.

i totally agree but i don't think it serves as any kind of counterpoint to excluding people who use the n-word from participating in discussions


down with the 1%

Yes, there was a guy named TempleOS here on HN, his comments are frequently down-voted, maybe he is even hell-banned. He had some weird views and his comments were a bit off-topic.

I really like the "modern, souped-up, multi-tasking, cross between DOS and a Commodore 64" vision for TempleOS. The OS also has some innovative design choices like using the C compiler as the shell and compiling most programs on the fly. It reminds me of Lisp Machines in a way. A different vision of what computing could be like if closed-source binary-distributed software didn't exist.

I wish the source code (http://www.templeos.org/Wb/Accts/TS/Wb2/LineRep.html) were easier to read though. It's very dense with a lot of abbreviated variable names and no comments. It's the main reason why I haven't installed TempleOS yet, because of course I'd want to hack on it, and the code seems tough to learn.

It also uses physical memory, not virtual memory and no protection to prevent 'userspace' programs from modifying the kernel. I quote userspace as it doesn't technically have the same distinctions that you are used to.

This has some interesting performance implications. Specifically there is no need for a traditional "kernel bypass" when you want to work with hardware from userspace.

For instance in Linux we have stacks like the Infiniband networking stack and some userspace TCP stacks (usually based on PF_RING) that are quite a hack to build in Linux that would be "just the way it is" in TempleOS. (though it's worth mentioning that TempleOS has not networking capability, apparently Gods decision)

These sorts of operating systems were common before multi-user computing but died out because of the need to protect the operating system from it's users and the applications they may want to run.

However the world is coming full circle again. Unikernels are back, sometimes they are written in C, sometimes in OCaml (MirageOS), sometimes in Erlang (ZergVM or something I think).

TempleOS may actually provide insights for how to do these sorts of things as it's been built this way for a long time which can't be said of many other modern operating systems.

Alas, people would probably need to see past the somewhat spiky exterior (Terry himself) to appreciate his work.

He has a YouTube channel where he has some "5 Minute" code walkthroughs where he analyzes randomly selected code and its context, and tries to explain it. The few that I've watched had a fair amount of rambling, and since it's random, it's obviously not a structured overview... but still interesting.


To anyone brandishing the word 'racist' here, can you point us to any instance where what Terry wrote was not merely a rambling screed with the n-word in it, but actually racist thought. Because to me, those are different things - the former likely an excusable symptom, and the latter, y'know, actual racism.

Maybe you think it's the same. Maybe you're enforcing your zero-tolerance policy. If so, we disagree. To me it looks like a huge assumption, possibly more offensive than Terry's rants.

I could - but I don't see the point at all. Blaming him for being a racist is like blaming someone with alzheimer for being forgetful.

That's my only point: that there's correlation between his condition, and his rants, therefore we don't say, "That guy?? He 'espouses racist ideology'!!* Screw 'im!"

* (actual comment in this thread)

To call not being accepting of any incarnation of racial violence "zero-tolerance" has a really unfortunate air of dismissal to it. I, for one, am not a middle school hall monitor. There are things that a (relatively) advanced, civil society like ours should not accept. Just because you say something and may or may not mean what someone else meant does not remove the broader social context. The word is racist because of the social context and when you use it you evoke that context whether you understand it, agree with it, or not.

Edit: to be clear, my point is that evoking such an idea or meaning is violent towards others and an individual doesn't get to decide that this isn't the case. Believing you can is a hallmark of privilege.

Given that racism is a universal thing and often happens intra-minority (African-Americans and Jews are an (in)famous example), your statement would pretty much mean that just about every demographic exhibits a hallmark of privilege by sheer virtue of ignoring broader social contexts in a racial slur.

Reading this, I'm reminded of Kary Mullis, inventor of PCR (polymerase chain reaction). PCR is widely considered to be the most important discovery of modern biology, ushering a new era of scientific research after he invented it in the 1980s. He won a nobel prize for it.

Kary was a bit off though (in this case due to intense drug usage, I think). Afterwards, he went on to deny that HIV is the cause of AIDS, tried to discredit global warming, and began believing in astrology and magic.

In the end, its possible that a little bit of insanity is a good thing; that it can help someone make a profound discovery that no one else could see. Too much is obviously detrimental, however.

Not exactly drug induced or a mental Illness but Ronald Fisher, arguably the father of modern statistics, went to great lengths to prove cancer caused smoking due to his personal convictions[1].

[1] http://www.epidemiology.ch/history/PDF%20bg/Stolley%20PD%201...

Even when you're talking about geniuses it's important to separate the wheat from the chaff.

> prove cancer caused smoking

I thought you typed that backwards, but skimming your link, that is indeed what he claimed!

Throughout the span of modern history, we've had gifted creators whose talent is at a minimum intertwined if not completely predicated on their mental illness. Whether it was Van Gogh or Kurt Kobain, we've seen it consistently.

Terry is potentially one of the first if not the only creators of this type using a completely digital medium.

TempleOS is essentially a 10-year art project.

Unfortunately, in years past, we only heard (in the mainstream) from the few that succeeded, not the huge numbers of individuals that just ended up in asylums or, worse, dead.

That's not to take anything away from the "project" (as art), but let's be realistic about the possible gains we (as a society) can gain from this. My conjecture is that it would be better to try to get some help for this person.

I find it very weird that his treatment is being viewed as unnecessary due to him producing something. Any other disease and this would be frowned upon.

His disease is a sad and miserable existence. Being schizophrenic is like have everyone against you; religion is his coping mechanism not to freak out against everything, but who knows how long it's going to last.

Anyone suggesting he could get be offered a job clearly never really knew someone with the condition. I think it could be possible if he worked remotely, though.

I hate so much schizophrenia... being denied reality has got to be one of the worst conditions a person can find herself in.

I don't think treatment is unnecessary at all - I assume if he was on medication he'd be gainfully employed writing code somewhere, and potentially producing even more interesting things.

Rather I was highlighting that individuals possessing a certain artistic talent, potentially correlated with propensity for mental illness, when untreated may produce incredible works of art as a side effect.

I'm not at all saying that him or society has a net benefit from that at all, but rather it's a second-order effect that is quite different from what we often observe (and stereotype) in terms of schizophrenia and mental illness.

Purely an observation vs a judgment.

Well, everyone eventually ends up dead.

And help him what? He is happy, doing the thing he likes. He doesn't look or sound like he would need help. Forcing him to make others' dreams come true (assuming by "help" you mean get him job) wont make him happier. His activity maybe is keeping him in check. Who knows what could happen if he's denied his single thing he enjoys.

I would add William Blake to your list: clinically insane by most parameters, obsessed with religion, but occasionally capable of producing art that could melt the most hardened atheist heart.

I really liked the article. It was very respectful towards Terry and shown a deeper understanding of his life and issues he faced. It was explaining, not judging. I now have a much more complete picture of the man I know only from shadowbanned comments here on HN.

I'm a huge fan of Terry's work, because he works hard, has a clear vision for what he wants to do, and makes it happen. That's more than can be said of many self-professed hackers who never see a project to completion or are motivated solely by peer recognition.

You may disagree with the logical coherency of his goals - I for one think the "temple for God" thing is pure kookery - but he is a master craftsman, and in this context it's all that really matters. There are people who devote their entire lives to pointless things. There are people who work on supposedly pointless things, which later turn out to not be so pointless. There are people who are supposedly working on world-changing things, which really are completely pointless. In the end, you can't predict the future. Just do honest work that you feel is worthwhile, and see what happens.

(if you want to play the hypothetical game, who's to say that Terry Davis won't develop some extremely efficient low level algorithms/techniques never done before that will dramatically impact computing?)

Every time his story comes up, there are people who respond with answers along the lines of "what can we do for him? can we find him assisted employment? can we raise money for him?" etc. While these comments are surely well intentioned, they end up being mostly condescending and out of place, as if talking about a completely helpless being. But Terry strikes me as anything but helpless - based on the various interviews he's given and comments he's posted, he seems to be quite content with his situation, and that "assisted employment" is the last thing he'd want or need. If anything, this is just a further argument for reforms like basic income and better treatment of mental conditions (e.g. with better early detection).

There are also always comments expressing surprise at how one can suffer from such a mental condition and yet do complex intellectual work like low level programming. These questions are based on the premise that schizophrenia (or a similar condition) impacts your brain in such a way that would make logical reasoning impossible. But that's not how it operates - logical reasoning is largely unaffected. Like `daveloyall says in another comment in this thread [0], what's affected are a few key "first principles". For instance, if you're persuaded that you're being constantly tracked by the CIA, removing all your clothes or dismantling your car to make sure you aren't bugged are very logical, reasonable things to do. The problem is that when you're operating under premises that are shared with no one else, the resulting dissonance makes integration with the rest of society problematic. But with this in mind, it's easy to see why one could be schizophrenic and yet still be able to program or do math or weave baskets, especially if the skills were mastered before the condition developed.

Terry is a maker of miniatures [1], and I'm happy we have such people walking among us.

[0]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8658958

[1]: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2006/04/10/in-the-reign-of...

Every time his story comes up, there are people who respond with answers along the lines of "what can we do for him? can we find him assisted employment? can we raise money for him?" etc. While these comments are surely well intentioned, they end up being mostly condescending and out of place, as if talking about a completely helpless being.

He is openly racist. He can't find a job on his own, unless it's among other extreme racists. I'm extrapolating based on his online behavior. If his real-life behavior is completely different, then that's one thing, but that seems unlikely. And his online behavior is so racist that there's just no chance of him fitting into any average social situation.

His racism probably isn't his fault. It's probably a factor of his condition. But isn't that the definition of "needs help"? So shouldn't we try to ask whether he wants our help, and if so, find an open-minded employer who might listen to the situation and be willing to give Terry a shot?

That's a problem in the same way that Tourette's Syndrome often creates employment problems (some people with TS have an uncontrollable urge to swear a lot, a problem known as coprolalia - this can make it hard to get served as a customer in a store, never mind hold down a job).

You gotta treat God as entertainment, mostly. He's not prophetic in this. I caution against latching onto any particular thing He says. If I am not doing offerings, He says nonsense.

For the curious, here's a spectacular article on the subjective experience of having Tourette's: http://www.xojane.com/healthy/i-have-tourette-syndrome-and-c...

I was about to ask this on reddit, Tourette is very awkward, borderline difficult, to witness (had a few classmates suffering it) because it's really tense and chaotic, but at the same time the randomness of it make it easily dismissible on the emotional side because it's not necessarily coherent. On the other side, comments that Terry can throw are so logical, they do pop randomly, disrupting his trail of thoughts, but it's far from bursts of slang and F-word, it means something. I can't wrap my head around that.

Imagine the same random bubbling up of thought, but instead of appearing as a compulsion, it appears as a really clever idea that will change the world (e.g. a higher-level goal that will generate its own sub-goals that you then seek to achieve, etc.) Thinking about, and planning on how to execute, the idea suddenly produces a dopamine response (a feeling of passionate motivation), in the same way that e.g. planning how to get to a casino when you're addicted to gambling produces a dopamine response.

At some point, the artificial pin of the idea as "really clever" and "world-changing" goes away—but you might not even notice, if you're way down in the subgoal stack trying to solve a small part of (what you see as) the problem.

You have to actually pop back up and re-evaluate whether you still have confidence that the thing you think is a good idea, still is, before you notice that the idea was never that good in the first place and what were you even thinking.

Coprolalia: Latin for "poop talk"

It's Greek, not Latin.

I hadn't heard that term but was delighted when I paused to break it down to its roots. Shit tongues!

The verbal tics in Tourettes are impossible to hold back when they come, but commenting online is not the same as verbalising. You can choose to post, and you can choose to edit your post.

You could say that about any obsessive-compulsive behavior. Why do gambling addicts go into casinos or spend their entire paycheck on lottery tickets? Why do some people repeatedly engage in high-risk sexual behavior or make hundreds of telephone calls in a day? Couldn't they 'choose to' do otherwise, or to stop their problematic activity?

Well, no they can't. If you're in the grip of compulsion you can dislike what you're doing, know it's a terrible idea, be fully aware of the negative consequences, but nonetheless be unable to help yourself, in the same way that it's hard for a passenger in a car to exert much control over a dangerous driver. If volition were such a reliable mechanistic thing then we'd have little need for psychiatric hospitals - psychiatrists could just tell mentally ill people what they were doing wrong and call them cured.

Yeah, my impression from reading Tourettes in the context of Steven Pinker' work is that its not that different from yelling 'fuck' when you stub your toe or something. The expressive mechanism just seems to be on a hairpin trigger or tied to the wrong inputs.

I think in this case, the analogy breaks down. Its more that he doesn't see the problem his racist behavior causes, or doesn't have the mental wherewithal to see that it matters.

Not defending racism, but how I hypothesize that it happens is as such: People exist in one dynamic where it is accepted and are introduced to another dynamic where it is not tolerated. This leads to a push pull between both dynamics, where the person is constantly questioning which behavior is correct. If the individual thinks about this, and thinks themselves an individual, they may behaviorally react at the constant attempts by others at forcing a definition of behavior or control over the individual.

It's not really fair because neither dynamic has provably defined a correct way of handling social situations/definitions/behavior, because both behaviors often can be traced back to some kind of "reasonable" adaptation or "successful" adaptation which, when not confronted by an equally successful/reasonable force, can become exaggerated,distorted (not necessarily in a bad way).

The problem is some people can explain themselves in a socially acceptable manner, and others can't. People with schizophrenia are some of the least likely to be able to verbalize themselves without the fear perception that it will be taken seriously, equally, diligently - if only from traces of memories of prior experience. People with paranoia have difficulty trusting anything, whether it's the meaning of a word or the person they are talking to. Their minds operate on a different level that is disconnected (not necessarily in a bad way) from people who regularly socially engage with a reasonable level of social connection. If you can't think like a schizophrenic, how can you possibly expect them to be able to communicate themselves in a way that you can empathize with, without them accidentally forcing their own distorted fears onto you?

If you had to question every post you made assuming two worlds exist: one in which the post affects you positively and one in which the post affects you negatively, and you can't tell the difference between either because the possibilities of how reality can manifest are too numerous (or too obvious) to think about, you would constantly be stuck between deleting half your posts and posting things you aren't sure you believe. That's enough to make anyone a little crazy, simply because of the resulting ways that influences your thinking.

This can only hold under the belief (or axiom) that there is a free will.

> find an open-minded employer who might listen to the situation and be willing to give Terry a shot?

When you strip away the notion, or often the facade, that jobs are not a form of enslavement then you might be asking yourself the question I'm asking: Why would you want to do that to him? It's not like he hasn't been able to find a purpose in life to keep himself happy. Or do you really know anything about him or what his needs are to suggest a 'job' would be of any help?

That's an incredibly interesting take. Flipping the script, is it useful or ethical to find a way to help him monetize his purpose in life to his benefit?

Sure, but probably not in the form of a traditional job with an employer where he would likely endure mental trauma over mistakes being made at a job that he depends on for money.

The sad part that most people do not understand is that if he's on 'assisted living' and gets a job he may no longer be eligible for it ever again, even if it doesn't work out.

So the idea to push a job on him could actually be the death of him and what's worse: chances are good that he might even do it to his own detriment.

Edit: reduced unintended tone. ;)

Racism is not a disease that requires or even invites our help. Sure, we're open to engage in civil discussion with racist people -- even try to gently persuade them of the error of their ways. But that's about it.

We live in a society where we're supposed to cherish and celebrate the fact that we're all unique (and broken) to a great degree. Not increasingly intervene to make us all the same.

So bring on the eccentric, racist, barely-functioning people. Bring on the people with poor and lavish backgrounds. Bring on the mean-spirited, the generous, the completely strange. The more true diversity -- diversity in outlook, worldview, and experience -- the better we all are. Rough edges and outliers are fine. We need 'em.

As far as finding a job, that's another discussion. As long as he is able to feed and house himself, through whatever means? Why do I care whether he has a job or not?

> His racism probably isn't his fault. It's probably a factor of his condition.

I don't know if his racism is the result of or related to his condition. However, even if it is, so what? Why exactly does that behavior get to be overlooked as though it doesn't have a real effect on people who suffer from it? Why does he get assistance to find a job while non-white people struggle to find work in tech?

> However, even if it is, so what? Why exactly does that behavior get to be overlooked as though it doesn't have a real effect on people who suffer from it?

Many places employers are technically - though it's nearly impossible to police - in theory required to attempt to offer reasonable accommodation for physical or mental disabilities.

His behaviour does not "get to be overlooked", and certainly would pose substantial problems, but it is a reasonable question to ask if it is possible for someone to accommodate him in a way that does not put undue strain on other employees or clients.

As for your "while non-white people struggle to find work in tech", it is irrelevant to the question at hand: One injustice does not justify another.

In this case, furthermore, nobody is starting a campaign to get racist bigots jobs in tech, nor do I see any serious attempts at providing him assistance to find a job. People are exchanging a few messages expressing sympathy for a specific person with a known mental illness who has been a visible and at times admired part of the tech community for the last two decades.

I wonder if it's a similar deal to the conspiracies and finding patterns that aren't there. Mentally healthy people already have trouble with cause and effect with race issues, so instead of going "Lots of black people in jail -> The war on drugs is absurd and our justice system has problems" he connects "Lots of black people in jail -> black people are bad."

/ Not a psychologist. unless internet armchair psychology counts

"while non-white people struggle to find work in tech?", said nobody who has ever been in Silicon Valley.

What happens if you send two identical resumes to a gajillion different jobs - the resumes are identical except one has the name "James Smith" and the other has the name "Jamal Jackson".

Luckily, other people have done this for us:


Not to discredit your point, as I do believe it's still has some validity, but that study is 12 years old and I'd like to think there has been some progress since then... You know like maybe having a president with the name Barack Obama.

You figure a black person being elected President makes racists stop being racist?

'Cause I know some racists, and I can tell you that the opposite is true.

I have no doubt there are children today that are not growing up to become racist because of him. And I have no doubt there is less racism occurring, amongst todays' adults, because of him.

Hence the word "progress" and the reason why relying on decade old social studies is not the best idea.

To me, the best demonstration of continued racism, is that there's no way Obama - being half-black, half-white - would have been able to get away with self-identifying as white.

That's not really an aspect of racism. It's the way races are (poorly) defined. He qualifies as black unless we can kill the meme of races entirely, even in a world that had no prejudice.

The way races are defined is racist to begin with - that is the point - and the way it is being used to label people is explicitly used to put people down. Obama is "black" and not "white" solely because for a lot of people it is very important to label him black to be able to dismiss him. If people were not racist, nobody would e.g. care if people referred to him as white. Try referring to him even as mixed race, or half-white, and see the racists quickly come crawling out of the woodwork to make sure it is made clear how black he is.

It's a description of someone's skin color and facial features for the most part. It's not fundamentally racist, that's just the main use.

Yeah yeah, that rule of thumb is in the racist area but you can discount it and he's still obviously 'black' as much as the term 'black' has any meaning.

Anyone qualified is not struggling to find tech work right now, especially in the bay area. My company is dominated by people from China and India. White makes up ~20%.

The definition of "whiteness" in discrimination actually isn't very well correlated to skin color; e.g. Irish people until recently were considered to be "black", and in the UK, still kind of are. Some non-white people like Asians are often considered white in many contexts (like tech hiring in the USA). Try applying for a job in Beijing as a Uighur and even though your skin is whiter than Han, you are still going to have lots problems.

It is basically bias of ethnicity that transcends skin color.

> Irish people until recently were considered to be "black", and in the UK, still kind of are.

Is this from personal experience? If not, can you link me somewhere?

Do you mean sounds Irish / looks Irish / is Irish / is Catholic / something else or a mix of these?

I don't disagree with you (not sure either way tbh) but do have a personal interest.

Thank you. Now convinced. I think I just found 'black' a bit jarring as a generic 'not-white' descriptor but now I see the use.

If 'white' doesn't refer to skin color, then you are just babbling worthless information and making racism worse. You are essentially making 'white' mean 'qualified potential employees'.

I'm only stating the obvious that racial bias has historically transcended skin color even if the terms "white" and "non-white" are still used. References:


> Irish, Jewish, Italian, and Eastern Europeans with light/white skin have at various historical periods not been considered white. The changing rules and requirements regarding who gets to be in the white club are related to systems of power and privilege. This is why whiteness is defined by exclusion rather than inclusion.

> While US history quite clearly excluded Asians, Indigenous Peoples, and African Americans from the white category, Europeans have been excluded, included, or partially included in the white club depending on religious belief, economic climate, labor skills, etc.



> The racial divisions between white and Asian, once so stark and to many almost unbridgeable, are quickly fading away. Marriages between Asians and whites are increasingly common; while anti-Asian bigotry exists, it is (at least among whites) much rarer than it was only one or two generations ago. As with the experience of the American Irish, Italians, Jews, and many other groups, the Asian experience shows that racial divisions and hostilities can subside over time.

Askhistorians has a bunch of good discussions on the issue:




> I attended a lecture on this. Essentially, whiteness is a malleable concept that includes or excludes different races over time. While we perhaps naively think that "white" is based on the color of skin or continent of origin, Mexicans, for example, of entirely Spanish (i.e. European) descent are considered non-white. But they didn't use to - other than the Census of 1930, they were considered white in the early 20th Century. On the most recent census, 49% of Latinos checked "White" as their race. (Most of the rest checked "other".)

> Jews, Italians, Irish, etc., are all races that were considered non-white (which meant English in the most restrictive use of the word) to begin with, but "became white" over time. In the case of the Irish, this happened when Irish people started appearing in prominent places - sports athletes, police commissioners (the Philadelphia police department had a lot of Irish in it), politicians, and so forth. With the Jews, it happened when they too moved up the social ladder, becoming one of the most educated subgroups in America (Jews have about 5 times the average number of academic professors). I'm not familiar with the Italian story.

He apparently knows a thing or two and gets stuff done. I'd hire him.

What would you do when your black employees object to what he would say to them? The words "hostile work environment" come to mind.

I worked with an administrative assistant with Tourette's syndrome who would routinely blurt out observations about the sexual/physical characteristics of female co-workers, provoking "managers" passing by to take the opportunity to assert their inclination to be the strong gentleman and challenge this poor fellow to a fight for m'lady's honor.

It only took a moment of explanation and de-escalation to clue them in to what was going on, and the situation was defused, no matter how many more "nice tits" the administrator busted out in public.

The same mob that is going after his explicit racism here, knows that it can't handle being incited to anger. That it can't trust itself.

Who knows better than the mob?

>what can we do for him? can we find him assisted employment?

What's really funny is that, from their perspective, "helping" him involves better integrating him into the world we all accept.

But, there's nothing particularly "sane" or even healthy about that world.

There is a key difference between the worlds in question, though.

As Philip K. Dick said: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.”

Should the mentally ill not be offered ways to participate in reality, simply because we find fault with the world?

Interesting question. Is there a third option? Should there be?

Are there other ways for them to "participate in reality" other than by getting a job and contributing to the economy?

Look at the insanity in how we allocate resources and which activities we incent. People literally die as a result of our priorities.

So, should we assume that he is better off by "joining us" and contributing to that reality? I don't know. But, I don't think it's a foregone conclusion and it seems at least as important to examine that reality first.

Sorry; I think I mistook your comment for some sort of reality-relativistic sentiment by managing to ignore the context.

I agree that the most important factor here is not whether the person in question is able to work a traditional job and contribute to the economy. The way I see it, treatment and quality of life is what's important here.

Rather, I meant that he would likely be better off the closer to reality he got (i.e. the less his delusions impacted him), and that the delusional should not be patronized by allowing them their "eccentricities" and to remain in their own bubble (which now seems a moot point).

Ah, I see. No, nothing quite so deep.

Like a lot people, I do ponder the quality of reality, and I also find it interesting that I will never know reality as you or any other person actually perceives or experiences it. I can only know that there are "overlapping points of agreement", based on our senses, mental processing, communication, etc.

But, there is certainly an agreed-upon reality on which our society is built.

The help that he wants is for people to use his software. Perhaps someone could sponsor a hackathon to develop games, or other software for TempleOS.

This sounds like a really nice idea.

"And his online behavior is so racist that there's just no chance of him fitting into any average social situation."

Observational evidence suggests otherwise.

He's alive and enjoys what he does on a day-to-day basis. Who are you to decide what life he should live?

What exactly is the "help" he so desperately needs?

> What exactly is the "help" he so desperately needs?

People to write programs for the OS, thereby doing QA and submitting bug reports, I would think. :)

If you will actually read my comment, I said "ask him whether he wants help."

Or, you know, just leave him the fuck alone.

He's done alright with his life by his own measure and doesn't need the condescension of "hello you poor soul, do you need help?" (which, I'm sure, he's already heard a million times by now)

I don't think that we're really capable of judging the stability of someone's existence based on their creative output and a biographical sketch written by an apparently sympathetic blogger.

That goes for assumptions that intervention by people with a much better understanding of a person's current situation can't improve it as much as the assumption that they could or should.

>> Or, you know, just leave him the fuck alone.

Do you hold the door for a guy in a wheelchair, or let it close behind you because you fear he's gonna resent any effort to help him?

I generally try to and it is received well. Recently though I offered to help a guy with crutches get into his car he gruffly declined with "I've been doing this long enough."

So, ya never know. Probably generally better to offer than not.

No, I don't think we should leave the mentally ill alone. That's not how society works, nor how it should work.

I think we should respect their wishes, when appropriate, but leaving them alone isn't a good decision.

I'm barely able to contain my rage at this moment, so I'll make it short.

The ONLY time you're allowed to intervene is when someone's life and self image is visibly deteriorating. If it's stable, leave it the fuck alone.

I've gotten into the habit of hiding what I've got because of people like you, and judging by the downvotes I'm getting, you're not alone in perpetuating the stigma and condescension. Every single "oh but you've done so WELL for yourself!" and "if you ever need anything..." is well intentioned, I know, but also incredibly hurtful. We all have our shit in life and each of us deals with it AS WE SEE FIT. Yeah, I do things that may seem weird to you, and sometimes it gets me into trouble, but that's my prerogative.


That's all you have to say. "No, thank you. Please leave me alone." And then you're left alone.

We live in a world where we help each other. Offering help isn't a bad thing. Some people aren't as strong as you.

That's all you have to say. "No, thank you. Please leave me alone." And then you're left alone.

Perhaps it's sincere, but this sentiment reminded me of the recently-infamous catcalling video. If one random dude a week compliments a woman on her appearance, she can probably deal with it. At some higher frequency, however, the "compliments" become harassment. That may be how 'kstenerud feels about this.

I wish I could impart upon you the disempowering effect of condescension. When you "offer help" to someone who is happy with where they're at, and not in distress, you're basically telling them that they probably can't make it without you stepping in to support them. You're telling them that they, the wretched ones, are dependent upon the real people, who come down from on high to help them sort their obviously broken lives out. That HURTS. More than you could ever know.

This Terry guy collects disability and lives with his parents. He seems to be asking for help constantly by virtue of the fact that he's only surviving due to the generosity of society. Don't project your personal experience onto everyone else.

On a side note, I don't know anything about you, but judging solely from the comments in this thread, you are causing yourself so much unnecessary pain. You are the only one who controls what can hurt you, emotionally. If you are "HURT" because people offer to help, that is a tragedy. Apathy hurts. Rejection hurts. Being unable to do simple things others take for granted hurts. A well-intentioned stranger offering to help in a way that underestimates you, that shouldn't HURT.

> You are the only one who controls what can hurt you, emotionally.

While this may be true of sociopaths, it's not true of anyone else. I hope that someday you'll have a real meaningful relationship with someone else. Until then, hang in there!!

edit: snarky? yes, but if you can't sympathize with grandparent, maybe this will help.

I hope I haven't been baited into responding to pure snark literally here, but do you have any citations for the statement that only sociopaths can control who influences them emotionally? Because that sounds completely wrong to me.

He's carved a life out for himself that works. He has food, shelter, money, and fulfilling work. Why do you assume that he needs people to offer help?

What's going to happen when his parents pass away?

I appreciate the perspective. I'm here to learn and to understand. It's very difficult to understand this, but I can see how it might be true.

If that's the case, the only alternative seems to be not to offer help to anyone. Is that preferable, especially if the entire world starts behaving like that?

It just seems like "Hey, do you need any help?" can't possibly be a negative. But I'm willing to accept I could be wrong about that.

Another alternative is to treat them the same way you treat normal people. i.e. If they are happy where they're at, and their life isn't deteriorating, just assume that they've got a good thing going on and don't need your help.

> It just seems like "Hey, do you need any help?" can't possibly be a negative.

The first time, it's not a negative. After the 10th, it gets old. After the 20th, you start to wonder if something's wrong with you. Once you're through that and realize there's nothing wrong with your life, every single offer hurts because it's telling you that you're NOT ok. That actually you CAN'T handle yourself without help. It's an insult hidden behind good intentions.

I do look for ways I can help normal people. It doesn't have to be condescending, although it certainly makes more sense where there is some sort of personal connection.

Let's jump this over to a topical thought experiment.

A new programmer is hired in your office, who happens to be a woman.

She seems to doing ok in her new job, getting things done. She seems fine with it. Her boss seems fine with it. Neither her nor her boss show any signs of dissatisfaction with her work situation.

Do you go by every now and then while she's working and ask "Hey, do you need any help?" You don't habitually ask anyone else that question.

Do you see how that could be a negative? Do you understand why she might take it as condescending?

You know, when I started this discussion, I didn't expect if to lead to someone comparing being a woman to being mentally ill, or I wouldn't have said anything. Maybe this is what pg meant that "forums can't be trusted with certain topics."

You know, when I made my post, I considered you might try to defensively avoid it with precisely this tactic.

But then I decided to give you the benefit of the doubt.

I see now this was a mistake.

You said you couldn't see how "Do you need any help?" could possibly be negative. I tried to offer a scenario that could help you understand. I did so in good faith.

I don't really appreciate you turning that into an attack.

In what possible context is that a fair comparison? The former is a health issue. The latter is a social issue. They aren't comparable.

No, I wouldn't ask if she needed help. Women aren't helpless. But mentally ill people might be.

It's not a "comparison", it's a thought experiment intended to get you out of your regular thinking. Not something to be interpreted in the worst way you can imagine.

Based on what you've just said, can you see how assuming a mentally ill person is helpless can be a negative to them? As you say, asking if they need help carries the implication they are helpless.

If you observe them and they seem to be getting along fine, why assume they're helpless? Why imply that by asking if they need help?

I apologize for my extreme reaction to your thought experiment. I just have a close relationship with one particular woman who recently started programming, and I was mainly thinking like "how would she feel if she read that?" But since I'm not a woman, I guess I'll leave those sorts of reactions to other people. Plus, I really don't like making people feel bad. And I appreciate that you acted in good faith.

I understand how people might be slighted by an offer of assistance. I just thought that by definition, mentally ill people need help. It's in the name.

But this whole experience has been pretty eye-opening, so I don't know what to think anymore.

Thanks. I apologize for coming back hard on it. People online so often seem to be intentionally talking past each other. But I do see why you reacted the way you did.

To be clear, my intent was to take a situation where the condescension of the question was clear so that you could then see how it could apply elsewhere. So I picked a situation where you'd (hopefully!) have that immediate understanding.

I feel "mentally ill" is a problematic term for just the reasons you imply. Illness implies a desire to be well, and it's natural to want to help people who are ill.

Assuming someone is unhappy with their situation implies they should be unhappy with it, that something's wrong with it. And if they aren't unhappy, and they're constantly being told they should be (indirectly, through the question), you can see how it could be very frustrating and perhaps even harmful to them.

Some people do need help. Those who are obviously incapable of taking care of their basic needs.

A million years ago I dated a woman who worked as in home care for a seriously mentally ill woman. The woman being cared for had someone with her, 24 hours a day, basically making sure she didn't hurt herself and was fed and so on. The woman got to live in her own home, and the state paid for the in-home care. Which to be honest, was barely-trained college age women making like $10 an hour.

I had mixed feelings about the situation. She probably could have gotten "better" help in some sort of facility. But on the other hand, she was given the dignity of the minimal help necessary for her to get by. Does that make sense? From that perspective, I thought it was a humane thing for society to do.

I think it's the habitual nature that's the problem there. So you haven't really proposed a scenario where the initial asking is a problem.

I won't comment on the rest of the scenario because it's intentionally very different and not an analogy.

Well if you don't, then you get accused of refusing to mentor women.

More seriously, though, how about reaching to everyone who is visibly having trouble.

For example, someone who is hell banned yet posts constantly for months, is likely not getting along fine.

Just use your judgment. Terry is a very well-known figure around here. If you really want to help, the first thing to do would be to find someone who's connected to him and ask them about his life and if there's anything that can be done.

Now if you really thought they were all alone and had nobody, then you might reach out. See if they need a friend. A lot of people, that's the very best thing you can do for them. This is a rich country. There's plenty of material resources and avenues for getting material resources to take advantage of.

But that's what everybody wants to push him, like here, have this job, this will fix you. Tact, friendship, companionship, these things are in shorter supply. You offering him the former without even trying to accommodate his needs regarding the latter, is not being helpful.

There's a guy in my neighborhood who has stubs for arms. Maybe he was one of those thalidomide babies. I don't know; I haven't asked. This guy has a wife, a career, grown kids, etc. He is completely normal. The only times he asks for help is when he's going on vacation and wants to know if our kids will watch after his dog. I remember when I first met him, and I was like, woah. This guy has no arms. I kept an eye out when he was out, ready to jump in and help him out if he ever looked like he needed it, but frankly, the guy seems happy enough, capable enough, and independent enough that I sure as hell am not going to stick my nose into his life and tell him that I'm there to help. That would be tremendously rude, in my view. He's a grown man. I respect him. We're friendly. If he needs anything, I'm sure he'll ask. I may be pretty clueless about human relationships a lot of the time, but at least with my neighbor I'm not going to make disrespectful assumptions and talk down to him. Now if he was keeled over in the middle of his yard, clearly in distress, that's different. I certainly hope I'd lend whatever aid I could, but that's true whether or not someone has arms.

Sure, there's a lot of nuance, a lot of ambiguous situations where you might think you see a need and try to address it, only to make things worse as kstenerud pointed out, or you could mis-perceive a situation and not address someone's need, only to perpetuate someone's suffering like in abusive situations or something. I don't know. It's a tough call. Still, better to try to make those calls while at the same time acknowledging that you might be doing something (or not doing something) not (just) to make someone else feel better, but to make yourself feel better about yourself. Self-deception's an easy trap to fall into. When it doubt, not only do you have to do the Right Thing, but you have to do it for the Right Reasons.

Oh! I thought of another example. The other day when I got off work, I saw some other neighbors raking the leaves in my yard. Now, I know they were doing it to be nice and that they don't have a mean bone in their body, but let me tell you, I felt totally embarrassed, like here were these two completely nice people, raking the leaves in my yard because I clearly can't take care of it myself. I mean, I'm a grown assed man. I'm completely capable. And I felt totally emasculated.

And here's another example. I try to help my wife with computer stuff whenever she runs into problems. She's a former software engineer, and it totally pisses her off. She feels like I'm being condescending to her. But I'm not! I'm just trying to help! But I think I end up making her feel less for not being able to do something, and that's not right. If I do something in her life, it should be empowering, in dis-empowering.

I guess my point (and perhaps kstenerud's) is that you can "other" someone - alienate, disrespect, and disenfranchise them - in the guise of being helpful. Without really knowing someone or their situation, without having that relationship or trust or whatever, making the right call is super difficult.

(I know it's eroge, but you should check out Katawa Shoujo some time. Play it on PG mode if that's what it takes. You might find the game's different story lines insightful in the context of this discussion.)

Or we can save our righteous rage for people who aren't just trying to help in innocuous ways, and instead direct it at cops who shoot kids.

Not all conditions are equal. Paranoid schizophrenia can be quite debilitating because it affects one of the most critical aspects of human living: the ability to determine what is real and what isn't.

I agree with the points you're making, but most people suffering from psychotic conditions tend to prefer being in a lucid, non-psychotic state. It can be like waking someone up from a dream, or more often, a nightmare. Unfortunately, this can often only be done with the use of anti-psychotics, which can sometimes cause horrible side effects; in some cases so horrible they affect someone's life more than the psychosis itself.

Regardless, I don't think concern about this man's condition is condescending.

Actually there is currently a strong push in many places for involuntary hospitalization. We're slipping back to a grim time of incarceration for the mentally ill by family members who disapprove of their lifestyle. While modern facilities are not the horror they once were, make no mistake that they are not places of adequate treatment. This is going to keep people from seeking treatment in the first place knowing that once you get that label, you can be taken by force for no reason, predicated on the idea that the mentally ill have a slightly higher chance of commiting a mass shooting. Pre-crime. It is so stupid and backwards and scary. Not so easy as "Please leave me alone."


> No, I don't think we should leave the mentally ill alone. That's not how society works, nor how it should work.


> And then you're left alone.

Wait what?

If you think he poses a risk to himself or others you're free to contact the police[1]. I'm not sure what action you want to be taken when someone is showing symptoms of a mental illness?

[1] or whatever the relevant agency is for the person locally.

In that case you have to say "no thank you" every time someone new comes along and they decide they need to be helpful without any indication from you. And that can get irritating really fast. Imagine how sick tall people must be of being asked their height. Now add to that pity and condescension.

As a tall person, I actually rather quite like it!

I think that life is more enjoyable when you adhere to some simulacrum of Postel's Law:

TCP implementations should follow a general principle of robustness: be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others.

That is, when I am conservative in how I interact with others, and assume others are trying to be the same with me, it is rare to experience any sort of personal friction with them.

I guess this also relates to my belief that I am primarily responsible for if I am happy or not.

> And then you're left alone.

Until the next guy does the same thing. And the next guy. And the guy after that.

This is the Internet. Don't do something like this unless you're sure there's not a problem with 1,000-10,000 other people with the same idea do the exact same thing.

It really makes it patently obvious, when the subject is a mentally ill person that is doing well for themselves, that the agenda of the collectivist is really about controlling how other people live, and the fact that they are mentally ill, or poor, or gay, or any other special group, is just an excuse to meddle with their lives. This doesn't affect just minorities. Oh, you want to marry someone? Well, then society must decide for you how you should live through laws and paperwork.

I wish I knew how to disabuse these people from their collectivist hypnosis but as you can see from your interaction, they don't use reason - "leaving them alone isn't a good decision" is just a feel-good sentence with no substance. Collectivists are touchy-feely and just as hard to disabuse as the religious.

You're exactly right in saying that it is through condescension that they perpetuate the stigmas that their well meaning (but myopic) intentions purport to fight against. For instance, they ban the poor from competing by raising the minimum wage, then cut the burgeoning poor a check because they're oppressed. They never see they are doing the oppressing by cutting them the checks. Why? Because intention is king in the kingdom of the collective.

From the article:

> Unable to work, he collects Social Security disability

He's doing ok because the 'collective' takes care of him.

You say it as though it were a bad thing. He has money coming in, has a roof over his head, does fulfilling work, and from his description is quite satisfied with his life. Where is the problem?

It means that he needs help, even if he doesn't need offers of help, even if he doesn't need more help.

I didn't think I put a negative spin on it. I was responding to the other person's rant about 'collectivists'.

The problem is we can't all do that.

I'd love to have all that and not need to work. I also do fulfilling work for myself and so I meet all the requirements. How can I sign up to that gravy train?

I didn't know that. I'd argue that those more local to him would be in a better position to help him than the collective, which needs to pool money from all its constituents, give it to bureaucrats who take their share of it, in order to eventually make a check arrive at his inbox.

So if we really care for him, it should be eye-opening how those good intentions turned into "Everyone! Give one cent to this politician (or you'll be jailed) so he can eventually make some of this money arrive to the person that needs help". How about those around him help him? Churches want to help but current policies curb them (cue the recent 90-year old that was arrested for feeding the homeless).

Those policies aren't there to enforce some kind of state monopoly on the distribution of aid, they're there because rich people don't want to be reminded homeless people exist.

I wish I knew how to disabuse these people from their collectivist hypnosis but as you can see from your interaction, they don't use reason - "leaving them alone isn't a good decision" is just a feel-good sentence with no substance.

Why is it unreasonable to offer help to the mentally ill?

Or anyone, for that matter. "Do you need help" is something you can say to anyone, ill or not. What a horrible place it would be if the only people you can help are anyone who does not seem to be in immediate need of it.

Because it overwhelms them (anyone that needs help) with pity and condescension. If they need help they'll either ask or find a way to telegraph it to those around them. If you're one of those people then it's OK to offer help. It is not OK for society at large to offer help that way, because it ends up being counterproductive - we end up collectively helping everyone and we're all that much poorer for it.

Does he hurt himself or others? If yes, interfere, otherwise, don't.

I think you may be mixing two problems, one ideological (he is a racist), which has little to do with medicine and the other behavioural (he is "aggressive", or whatever). The latter may be a medical condition, the former I am inclined to see as a (wrong, if you let me) set of values.

> the former I am inclined to see as a (wrong, if you let me) set of values.

Yeah because mental illness allows one to think rationally about value sets.

It is very hard to disassociate his apparent views from his mental illness. If you've followed his past posts, you'll have seen the level of coherence change dramatically over the years, and so has the level of slurs and offensive language.

So it's not at all clear to me whether or not the apparent racism is ideological in any meaningful way vs. being largely a product of his illness.

He is not racist. As you said it His racism probably isn't his fault. It's probably a factor of his condition.

Does not make him a racist.

The Klan was also a product of its time and prevailing social mores, and yet no one would argue it was not racist.

My parents raised me to be a racist. It's not my fault, it's my upbringing. Any attempts to otherwise convince me are just a conspiracy brought on both those pesky inferior races.

Wanna play have a philosophical debate? Or can we agree that someone who espouses racist ideology is, in fact, a racist.

Wrong. People may say racist things without necessarily being racist.

The difference between "being X-ist" and "saying X-ist thing" is basically predicated on having a "persistent belief that X" or having a "momentary belief that X". (I'm using "belief" in the philosophical sense.)

I don't believe that you should be downvoted. If you read Paul Graham's essay http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html, it is clear that our current hypersensitivity to racism is a current moral fashion. You're not allowed to be racist, you're not allowed to think racist things, you're not even allowed to question our society's chosen approach to racism.

Which is just silly. Facts remain facts even if we don't like them. And we can't honestly discuss certain facts without sounding racist.

Here is a real example. "On average, blacks have lower IQs than whites." How careful do you have to be when saying this? Very, you could get into a lot of trouble. However this statement actually happens to be true, and repeatedly demonstrated in various places in various ways. With some bizarre consequences. For example the Supreme Court has ruled that it is illegal to make an IQ test be part of a job hiring practice because allowing it will discriminate against blacks. Don't believe me? Go read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Griggs_v._Duke_Power_Co.!

But we can't even say facts like this in public. And if we can't say it, we can't start asking honest questions why it happens. And without asking them, we can't begin having honest conversations about what we can reasonably do to address the issue. Instead we're stuck at name calling and denial of reality. (And telling people who actually are racist that they can't talk about their racism doesn't actually reduce their racism - it just increases their resentment of the larger society, which ironically they are somewhat likely to take out on the group they are racist against!)

> Facts remain facts even if we don't like them.

It depends not only on your definition of "facts", but on the interpretation of the same, and how that affects policy and decision making. For instance, these too are all "facts".

"Poor people have lower IQ's than rich people"

"Americans have lower IQ's than the Japanese, Italians, Mongolians, British, Austrians and many many others"

"More men have high IQ's than women" (more men in the top 10%)

"More men have low IQ's than women" (more men in the bottom 10%)

"As pirates decrease, global warming increases"

The real point, and something that Paul completely missed in his essay, is that we now analyse these things with a greater degree of historically-informed sophistication. Your statement could just as well read "On average, when given a written test invented by white men over 100 years ago, a sample group consisting of historically enslaved, disenfranchised and under-educated people of African heritage in the United States performed less well than a sample of their European-descended counterparts". Indeed, I'm sure that's true. The leap though to racism, which is making blanket assumptions about people based on skin colour, is completely fallacious.

I'm as sceptical as anybody of the merits of IQ as a means for assessing "intelligence", however the fact remains that it is simply a test of memory and logical reasoning. You might as well ban giving maths tests.

I think you'd agree that IQ does not discriminate based on race at all, it discriminates based on class.

It seems common in American discourse to dress class divides up in some kind of "-ism", to subvert the individualistic views that many on the right hold. Everybody wants to fix racism, but many Americans seem to treat systemic poverty with an "every man for himself" attitude.

Unfortunately this has the result of burying the issue, because even if all racism in America were eliminated, the class divide would still remain.

> You might as well ban giving maths tests.

No one banned giving any kind of test. What the case at issue found illegal was using a test that had a discriminatory effect when the employer could not demonstrate that the test at issue was "a reasonable measure of job performance", based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, wherein Congress banned job discrimination on race and placed the burden of proof on employers to demonstrate that practices with disparate impact were reasonably job related.

> I think you'd agree that IQ does not discriminate based on race at all, it discriminates based on class.

Tests don't discriminate, people do. An employer who has an overt policy of racial discrimination, who replaces that policy on the day the Civil Rights Act of 1964 goes into effect with an IQ test requirement covering the same jobs that were previously covered by the overt discrimination policy, where results on the test in question both has disparate racial results and have no demonstrable tie to performance in the jobs covered, well, its not hard at all to see that as the employer (not the test) discriminating on race, using the best tool for that purpose that they think they can get away with.

I am quite sure that Paul did not miss this in his essay. Every period has congratulated itself on being enlightened in contrast to what came just before, and every period has been right on some things and wrong on others. He is intensely aware of that, and his whole point was to be careful about current intellectual fashion.

Therefore an intellectually honest person should be suspicious of any statement that can be read as, "We were always wrong about X but now we're right." Outside of hard science, it is more likely than not that the new statement is more determined by fashion than actual evidence. Which means that after another generation or two the pendulum will swing back again and we'll arrive at a more nuanced place which keeps some actual improvements we found, and throws out most of it.

"On average, when given a written test invented by white men over 100 years ago, a sample group consisting of historically enslaved, disenfranchised and under-educated people of African heritage in the United States performed less well than a sample of their European-descended counterparts"

That is a really good way to describe the test results. I'm gonna use this from now on.

"On average, when given a written test invented by white men over 100 years ago, a sample group consisting of historically enslaved, disenfranchised and under-educated people of African heritage in the United States performed less well than a sample of their European-descended counterparts"

- or colloquially know as 'blacks'?

Its a shame we are forced to talk about situations like this with kid gloves and extreme specifics so as not to appear racist. Our society isn't going to change if we have to speak like academics to get our point across.

That's disingenuous though; the vast majority of people who want to spout "On average, blacks have lower IQs than whites" are not doing it for genuine reasons. They want to feel superior or they want to hand-wave away inequality.

Blacks on average have lower IQs because they are on average poorer, have less access to education, etc. If you test 5 yr old children and control for income, parental involvement, etc then there are no differences. So the more nuanced detailed version of that statement is that the intellectual potential of blacks (on average, in the USA) is not developed as highly as it could be, due to socioeconomic factors that are very complex, but so far as we can tell are not due to any underlying differences in potential.

Your method of making the same statement is most often used as an explanation; the equivalent of "that's how we've always done it". Mine is a more full and correct revelation that it is economic and social factors wasting the potential of bright young black kids and is something that can be and should be corrected.

It's called context kids, and no amount of complaining or smug sperglording can paper over the actual underlying motivation, despite any technical correctness. It's like complaining that black people can say the "N" word or pointing out the 1 out of 10,000 times that some black people were racist toward a white guy. I can only say "no shit sherlock". The vast, vast, vast majority of the time, if things are unequal, it is white men who benefit.

That's disingenuous though; the vast majority of people who want to spout "On average, blacks have lower IQs than whites" are not doing it for genuine reasons. They want to feel superior or they want to hand-wave away inequality.

This is true. However it is a statement that has to be addressed by anyone who wants to create actual change.

And hand-waving away the effects of inequality goes both ways. For a thought-provoking book, read http://www.amazon.com/Mismatch-Affirmative-Students-Intended... which demonstrates that simply giving disadvantaged people direct access to the same educational opportunities that advantaged people could have actually does them a disservice.

If you test 5 yr old children and control for income, parental involvement, etc then there are no differences.

Can you please cite me a study that found that?

I've seen many that finds the differences reduced. But none that finds the differences eliminated. I understand your expectation that there must be some such study, but actually looking for one may be informative for you.

And if you fail, perhaps you should think harder about the topic. If we try to raise two children, black and white, and give them the same environment, can we? Inevitably both are exposed to the same media. Inevitably both are exposed to strangers and teachers who will judge on appearance and treat them differently. So we can't create equivalent environments!

Given that fact, it would be shocking if you could make the environments actually equivalent.

Your method of making the same statement is most often used as an explanation; the equivalent of "that's how we've always done it". Mine is a more full and correct revelation that it is economic and social factors wasting the potential of bright young black kids and is something that can be and should be corrected.

How do you know that your revelation is correct when actual critical discussion has been rejected out of hand? It is my belief that the current approach has failed, and failed badly. It is my personal belief that success is possible. But I direct you back to the book I suggested above to make the point that thinking naively about it guarantees that we continue pushing solutions that are bound to fail at great cost to everyone.

"Blacks on average have lower IQs because..."

Maybe and you should state that as such.

(For the record I don't believe blacks to be inferior or whites to be superior. Nor do I care. I just don't think non-facts and postulates should be stated as facts.)

> For example the Supreme Court has ruled that it is illegal to make an IQ test be part of a job hiring practice because allowing it will discriminate against blacks. Don't believe me? Go read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Griggs_v._Duke_Power_Co.!

Perhaps you should read Griggs v. Duke Power Co., 401 U.S. 424 (1971), particularly at 436: "Nothing in the Act precludes the use of testing or measuring procedures; obviously they are useful. What Congress has forbidden is giving these devices and mechanisms controlling force unless they are demonstrably a reasonable measure of job performance."

The Supreme Court has not, contrary to your description, "ruled that it is illegal to make an IQ test be part of a job hiring practice because allowing it will discriminate against blacks", it has ruled that it is illegal to make an IQ test be part of job hiring where the IQ test is not demonstrably a reasonable measure of job performance, given that blacks scored lower on the tests, under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibited deliberate discrimination based on race, and placed the burden on employers to demonstrated that selective measures with discriminatory effect were reasonably directed at job requirements.

IOW, it is not that blacks do worse on the test, on average, that makes it illegal, but that fact combined with a situation where the employer cannot demonstrated that it is reasonably related to the job function.

(Its perhaps worth noting that the specific requirement at issue in the case went into effect on the day the Civil Rights Act of 1964 went into effect, the same day that the overt policy of racial discrimination that it replaced was discontinued.)

Yes, there is no question that Duke Power Co had racist intent.

However the measure that they hit on is actually a reasonable way of improving your interview process. There is general research to that end, and it was presented in that case. But the sample set of previous employees hired by Duke Power Co was not large enough to statistically demonstrate that fact. Therefore the court decided as it did. As a result the fact that IQ tests are more effective at figuring out who to hire than human interviews is no longer actionable by any normal employer.

There are some notable exceptions. For example the US military has enough history and experience with the ASVAB that they are able to safely use it. But very few companies are in a position to do such research for themselves.

> As a result the fact that IQ tests are more effective at figuring out who to hire than human interviews is no longer actionable by any normal employer.

If it can be established as a fact, its actionable. It can't be assumed to be a fact for the specific jobs it is applied to, however -- and while Griggs may be a leading case, that's pretty clearly the intent of the burden established by the Civil Rights Act for the employer in disparate impact situations.

> But very few companies are in a position to do such research for themselves.

Any company is in the position to do it (or pay to have it done), for very few companies is the expected benefit justify the cost, because the expected utility of general intelligence testing, even where any such benefit is rationally expected to be born out, is pretty low compared to more specific job-focused alternatives that are also easier to demonstrate are job related if they have a disparate impact.

Any company is in the position to do it (or pay to have it done)...


In order to be in a position to do it, you need to start with a sample of many thousands of people being hired into a specific kind of job, all of whom have been given the test in question, and all of whom are then judged by standardized metrics. ONLY THEN can you collect enough data to make strong statistical inferences on this issue.

The military can meet this threshold. Very, very few private employers can. And claiming otherwise is wrong.

...the expected utility of general intelligence testing, even where any such benefit is rationally expected to be born out, is pretty low compared to more specific job-focused alternatives that are also easier to demonstrate are job related if they have a disparate impact.

I do not believe this to be the case for most entry-level jobs. Can you cite specific research indicating otherwise?

> How careful do you have to be when saying this?

The issue is that in saying that, you tend to be saying that black people intrinsically have lower intelligence than white people unless you're careful to be explicit about what you mean. As it is, that's not necessarily the case - there's a lot of disagreement over whether or not IQ tests are a correct measure of intelligence over more than one culture, for a start.

The fact that IQ tests were decided to be illegal, follows the idea that you can't discriminate on factors that would affect certian subgroups without sufficient reason. For example, if you required that all employees wear no headgear, you'd be discriminating against Sikhs and Muslims. However, possibly you could require that if there were serious safety concerns. You couldn't require that all employees are OK with alcohol... unless, of course, their job actually involves alcohol. Nobody's job involves filling out IQ tests, or is directly relevant to anything on an IQ test, to IQ tests are not allowed.

> The issue is that in saying that, you tend to be saying that black people intrinsically have lower intelligence than white people unless you're careful to be explicit about what you mean.

That's an issue, I don't think it's the issue, not be a long shot. Try being very careful and explicit about what you mean, it's not gonna help one whit, you're already on the third rail as soon as the words black, white and intelligence come out of your mouth.

I don't really find people's apprehension of this subject strange.

Racist stereotypes have traditionally in large part been about difference in intelligence between "races", how some were more evolved than the animalistic others, etc. (i.e. dehumanization of "others")

Exactly. We can't even start to try to think about the topic out loud in public.

[per PG's essay] it is clear that our current hypersensitivity to racism is a current moral fashion

Is it, actually? Or is it a stance acquired after centuries of marginalization? Consider PG's examination of social issues:

Changes between the past and the present sometimes do represent progress. ... But this becomes rapidly less true as you move away from the certainty of the hard sciences. By the time you get to social questions, many changes are just fashion. The age of consent fluctuates like hemlines.

I don't expect that marginalization of entire groups of people will be in vogue again any time soon. Note that the negation of one of PG's many (LOL) weasel-worded statements ("many changes are just fashion") covers policies that were ridiculous (like women's suffrage) or barbaric (child labor and slavery).

No rational person -- PG included -- would support regressing on these issues. It's highly unlikely that his article supports your claim (or any other claim re: sensitivity on national/global socioeconomic tragedies).

Here's a counterargument: maybe the ban on racism by civilized, well-adjusted people isn't hypersensitive silliness, but the imposition of a new standard for discourse based on respect for fellow people?

> I don't expect that marginalization of entire groups of people will be in vogue again any time soon.

While we've definitely made progress towards racial, gender and sexual equality, this still happens every day, and may not be a fixable problem. Democrats routinely marginalize Republicans, and vice versa. Even those who benefit from the recent shifts in favor of gay marriage equality routinely marginalize bigamists, or polygamists. There's always a group of people not in vogue, and the way in which we deal with these things is somewhat absurdist.

The current de rigueur is for society to realize that our unjust treatment of a special group is unfair. In the 60s, it was our unfair treatment of blacks. In the 90s, it was our unfair treatment of gays. Then we work to get them declared as a protected class, and then we fight for their rights using that protected status as leverage.

Instead, we should do a better job of understanding what rights entitle us to, and then simply afford those rights to all people, whether or not they belong to a majority class, a protected class, or an unpopular minority.

Tribe mentality will always cause us to identify more with people we can more easily identify, and it will always cause us to mentally place others as being outside our tribes. Creating special rules for the disenfranchised du jour just reinforces that there will always be groups of people fighting for some form of equality.

> The current de rigueur is for society to realize that our unjust treatment of a special group is unfair. In the 60s, it was our unfair treatment of blacks. In the 90s, it was our unfair treatment of gays. Then we work to get them declared as a protected class, and then we fight for their rights using that protected status as leverage.

> Instead, we should do a better job of understanding what rights entitle us to, and then simply afford those rights to all people

Yeah, I don't think you understand the process you refer to in the preceding paragraph represents -- it represents an evolving understanding of what rights people should have (note that this is an evolving social consensus, not an evolving understanding of something which exists as an external material fact), followed by corrective efforts to address manners in which the status quo situation differs from the evolving social consensus of the desired situation. The entire idea of a "protected class" is that it is one which has in recent history been actively discrimated against in a manner which violates the current social norm, such that there is a heightened presumption that acts which have a disparate impact on that class are invalid as discrimination on that basis rather than simply incidental impacts of some permissible distinction. It is part of a process aimed at realizing and securing the new understanding of "what rights entitle us to" by eradicating residual practices that were accepted under a previous, more limited understanding.

Particularly, its important to understand that one issue is that our general understanding of what our rights entitle us to include that they generally do entitle us to discriminate according to our own personal biases, where that doesn't cause unwarranted social harm -- but the understanding of what causes unwarranted social harm is evolving.

Instead, we should do a better job of understanding what rights entitle us to, and then simply afford those rights to all people, whether or not they belong to a majority class, a protected class, or an unpopular minority.

This is just a first step. We also need to understand what the actual barriers are to progress, and address them.

Let me give a good example. A few years ago there was a fascinating longitudinal study that started with an equivalent group of blacks and whites. All educated, young, middle class professionals in similar jobs. Following them forward 15 years, the whites by and large were still middle class professionals, but a large portion of the blacks were living in poverty. Proof of racism, right?

Not at all! Their data had more detail in it. One of the factors that they were able to control for was fiscal planning. One was whether people understood the value of creating savings for themselves so that they could handle short-term challenges like a layoff. When they controlled for this factor, blacks and whites were identical. But more whites knew to do this, so they did better.

The solution to this particular problem is NOT to give blacks more opportunities and preferences. It is to make an effort to educate the black community the importance of always living within your means.

I don't see how you could possibly see any commonality between what I said and your own comment.

Racism is bundled up with a bunch of cognitive biases and low-level instincts, which makes it dangerous. People have a hard time distinguishing between a particular fact, their significantly broadened interpretation of that fact and its consequences, and a whole bunch of related non-facts that fit the racist narrative they're tempted to think. We're, apparently, collectively bad at avoiding thoughts like "Jews own the media" or even coming to conclusions like "so, let's kill all the Jews". To protect ourselves from the fragility and inaccuracy of our thoughts in relation to group identity, we stigmatize racism. Which is great, I hope we continue this "moral fashion", because the alternative is grotesque.

I agree. A racist is somebody who can be judged by their actions. There are many people who sound like racists, but who haven't done anything and are completely incapable of discriminating anybody based on their race. Interestingly, xenophobia in Western Europe is a bigger problem than racism.

When you consistently espouse racist ideology, you're a racist. Or maybe a performance artist disguised as a Kazakh journalist, but most probably a racist. It could be that he just says these things all the time for the hell of it, or it could be that he believes what he says. I'll leave determining which is more likely as an exercise to the reader.

I was mostly talking about a person who cannot actually realize that they're saying racist things (through impairment of their faculties), but I guess I kind of formulated that badly. I certainly didn't mean to be some sort of apologist.

FWIW, I was thinking of this with my original comment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU

(... but I see that it doesn't necessarily apply in this context.)

It's this sorta wording that has watered down the word "racist" and "islamophobic".

This is from a Kurd/Iranian with a muslim background living in Sweden.

This thinking is also conventionally and conveniently used by white relativist liberals living in predominately white neighbourhoods.

Not saying you are. It's just it's what I've experienced.

A lot of what's called racism is personal insults. People just look for things that describe their intended target and say them in derogatory ways.

Of course, there's real racism on all sides, which are mostly negative assumptions about how you think one will act.

I will now share some approximation conversation that I once witnessed or participated in, because I found it useful and maybe others will, too.

> [Alice and Bob debate about whether Bob is racist. Bob suspects that he is slightly racist and is looking for confirm or deny this.]

> Alice: Well, what do your black friends think about [that thing you are talking about]?

> Bob: My what?

> Alice: Happy to help.

As you say. I think that in a sense, though, your opening is the most telling:

> Terry ... works hard, has a clear vision for what he wants to do, and makes it happen.

Mania is a double-edged sword. To not let anything stop you from your goals is to be unable to doubt that your goals, or the assumptions upon which they are based, are crazy. (This is an odd thing to ponder upon, as an entrepreneur.)

There's a rising cultural understanding of what it's like to live with depression—to doubt everything, especially yourself. There's very little cultural understanding of mania, mainly because it's a much more "obvious" problem that quickly marginalizes the people affected, rather than leaving them exposed to society.

Reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend from academia.

I'd been chatting about a mutual acquaintance who was behaving a bit oddly by normal standards, continually working very long and strange hours and focusing very hard on their startup. The conversation ended something like this:

"Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that $friend has hypomania or something like that."

"Oh, really? Have they been diagnosed?"

"Diagnosed? Hah! In startupland, we don't say 'diagnosed'--we say 'funded'."

There's a spectrum. It generally goes something like Hypomania -> Mania -> Psychosis. (Though this isn't very accurate in the general scheme of things; you can be psychotic without being manic, and mania often incorporates some degree of psychosis.)

It can be pretty hard to draw the line between a "go-getter, ambitious, type A" personality type and someone experiencing hypomania. I think a lot of people out there lead successful and fulfilling lives while commonly in a state of hypomania.

As the commenter I believe you are quoting, I think you are reading a little too much into what I said. Nobody implied helplessness as a being, or that Terry should be compelled to enter gainful employment. I think it would be insane not to say that extremely high barriers to entry for someone with perceived mental health issues exist at almost any company. By "assisted employment" I mean having an employer who will try to understand his situation throughout hiring and ongoing employment. If there is some other implication to that phrase, I wasn't aware of it.

I've read pretty much every interview, story, and page regarding TempleOS and Terry's work and haven't seen anything reinforcing the rigid belief you are espousing that Terry has no interest in working. It could be true, or not - but we have no idea of staring into another human being's brain and finding out without asking them. If there's some kind of statement he's made either way, then I think we should defer to it.

> I for one think the "temple for God" thing is pure kookery - but [...] There are people who work on supposedly pointless things, which later turn out to not be so pointless.

And in fact a lot of the foundational work in science and math was done by people looking for god who discovered world altering ideas along the way. It's doubtful if there would even be a computers/Internet for us to read this without their work.

The phrase that always comes to mind when speaking of disability, and creativity in the midst of mental illness, is "better to be hated than pitied."

There is something being said with TempleOS. We don't necessarily know what it is, because the premises employed are, as parent says, so divergent from society. If all we can get out of it is some mocking laughter and some anger and frustration with the author, so be it - that's far better than to dismiss the work and then push the agenda of "help this poor hopeless person live _normally_." He should be helped where it's reasonable to do so, of course, but that is primarily a problem to be dealt with by immediate friends, family, and institutions, not a bunch of strangers poking in at random.

I like this comment, and how the author respects the craftsmanship of Terry.

For a different cultural view of schizophrenia, here's an article written by a Western-educated medicine man of the Dagara tradition:


"based on the various interviews he's given and comments he's posted, he seems to be quite content with his situation"

I too would be content with getting free money extracted from the labor of others into my bank account every month, after qualifying by acting as a spy in a series of chase scenes in a CIA thriller. Sounds like the movie had a happy ending.

I wonder if there is something the programming community could do to help him. I'm not sure what this could entail, but I'd hope there are people who would be willing to talk with him about his interests or attempt to set up some kind of assisted employment situation - he is by all accounts a very talented engineer.

One of the wonderful things about Western society is that it's got enough social welfare structures to allow someone like Terry to exist, is wealthy enough to allow them to thrive, should they want to, and enough individualism to where he's not constantly being beaten over the head with other people's demands for him to change to fit their idea of what a person should be.

As someone who has at times relied on this social largesse, I can say that attempts to do more wouldn't really have the desired effect. His is a wholly self-directed life, attempts to 'help' would take the self-directed quality out of his life that is being selected for. If you're worried for his well-being, I can say from experience that a person's subconscious mind is a lot more capable than we give it credit for.

If Terry wants to work, he will find work. His subconscious mind will proclaim through God that he is to glorify Him through this new avenue, which just so happens to be in a company in return for a salary. If he wants to do something else, he will do that something else.

He doesn't need us, and that's the real beauty of it.

I don't know if this is true. I find it extremely unlikely that the average employer would even consider employing someone with apparent mental health issues, so it's possible many people in similar situations just give up.

I don't think he should be forced to work, or even pushed to do so. But I really don't see the harm in making an offer of employment or something similar - It's not "condescending" as some other commenters have contended and implies nothing beyond what it is. If he wants to live on the social welfare that he almost surely deserves and spend his life coding or doing whatever he chooses, that's fine. I'm just suggesting that other doors could be opened.

The only place he could possibly find work is in some research lab (think MSR) or academia.

I wouldn't say you're so much condescending to him as rather underestimating him.

How would I be underestimating him? If anything, I'm underestimating his potential employers. There's a digital fossil record of what he's said online at this point, and the average hiring manager will probably just throw him out as a candidate as soon as they any of his posts, unless they take the time to understand the larger situation at play.

He's not this helpless, crazy clod, he has a network and friends and everything. His fate is not wholly in the hands of "average hiring managers".

So isn't help from friends or a professional network related to hiring EXACTLY what I described?

No, you're suggesting random people on the Internet who don't know him do it.

> His is a wholly self-directed life

Assuming he has the capacity to reject medication.

The article says he's down to one medication.

You could help him implement his demands for VMware compatibility: http://www.templeos.org/Wb/Doc/Demands.html#l1

Why are you under the impression that he is in need of help? It seems to me that he has no problem finding outlets to talk about his interests, and that he doesn't seem to desire assisted employment.

I don't think there's sure evidence either way, but I did read this line:

> Unable to work, he collects Social Security disability and spends most of his time coding, web surfing, or using the output...

I have no idea if Terry would like to work or not, but I don't see harm in someone making it possible for him by extending an offer. In addition, I think it's hard to see the huge number of TempleOS posts and comments throughout the web as anything other than an attempt to talk about his interests with people.

Not everybody needs a job in order to live a fulfilling life. LoseThos is working—he is doing God's work, as he would gladly tell you.

It's as if you didn't read the comment above where I said that "I have no idea if Terry would like to work or not."

What fascinates me about Terry is that his schizophrenia doesn't somehow prevent his ability to make something as complex as an entire operating system.

Maybe this suggests that while schizophrenics look discordant to the rest of us, there's an internal consistency that very much makes sense.

> As an undergrad he’d been hired at Ticketmaster to program operating systems.

Ticketmaster, huh! Does anyone know anything about what they were working on?

Ticketmaster in Phoenix, AZ - early times - here's a little anecdote about the bizarre culture I saw there circa 1989-90. I applied there, having an EE degree already and I was called in for an interview. The initial interview consisted of what was more or less a battery of IQ tests. There must've been 30 of us initially. Soon only a couple of us were left after everybody else was dismissed. Apparently having passed this somewhat offensive process, they took more of my time and scheduled me for a second interview another day. I don't recall any names or faces, but there they offered me a job and mentioned some "genius" guy I'd be mentored by. Before I had the honor of meeting this guy we started talking money. The "pay?" $8/hour... Even 25 years ago that was less than half what a freshly graduated engineer could easily get anywhere else in a corporate job. That alone was enough for me to politely decline the offer, but the management attitude and culture was also repulsive. I wouldn't be surprised if they were exploiting this guy at the time and he may very well have been their "genius."

In the early to mid-90s I saw a lot of strange systems building exercises. Large companies building their own email systems from scratch. Creating their own custom Windows widgets. Building their own databases from scratch.

At the time IT was more of a white-glove environment. When the only people handling it were the tools makers themselves, a lot would get done by a couple smart people in some nook or cranny of the organization.

Of course this didn't last, as state of the art enterprise software eventually over-ran them, and the experts wound up joining software firms.

Maybe he meant operating systems for automated ticket kiosks.

That's correct as I recall.

Sad that the debate got almost entirely derailed by people labeling Terry a racist.

The poor man probably doesn't even realise he is offending peoples fragile sensibilities.

I think people need to cut him some slack when it comes to language. They are just words, there is no intent.

We can condemn the behaviour while having sympathy about the causes.

Sure, but it's such a waste to even talk about it.

There is so much more productive discussion to be had.

i have had a number of experiences very similar to what terry went through. connecting computing to religion, seeing 'larger patterns' that weren't there, believing in conspiracies directed at me... it was rough.

i was lucky enough to have a few people really step up and support me when i was at the edge. it's weird reading this and feeling like i know exactly what he means when he says this stuff that sounds crazy.

here's a description of one experience i had in april 2011, a day before joining uber:


this is something i submitted later to hn, while cto of a gaming company:


i made it out of all that, though. thanks almost entirely to daily love and support from my now wife. if you have friends in a position like this - you CAN help them, it's just a crazy amount of work.

Didn't read the comments at reddit yet, but I wanted to say that a friend of mine, also in IT, had a similar experience where he started to see conspiracies everywhere, and "religion thoughts" kicked in for him as well. After some time on cure this regressed and he now even jokes about that period.

He got to work again and has a completely normal life, but in a way I can still feel something changed inside of him...

It'd be nice if I could talk about this more with you. I will surely read your comments.

sure - add me on facebook or through my blog or what have you.

I really enjoyed this window into the life of "LoseThos". I am glad that he seems to be both relatively safe and happy. I think in the long run the value his life's work will be comparable or greater than the worth of most of his peers.

How do you figure that?

I'm genuinely interested. He's made a network-less OS with a fixed, low-resolution display, that is of seriously limited utility in the modern world and (AFAICT) doesn't advance the state of the art, all as an act of worship.

It's a curiosity, but of value? Not so much.

We don't have an argument here, but rather two different ways of looking at the same facts. For comparison, I was paid rather well to add diagnostic code to large PBX systems in the late 1990's, recently I have been working on a variety of embedded projects, some for solar, some for medical devices. In 50 years, my guess is that all of my code will have fallen out of use. Most likely, so will Terry's,but there is a small chance it will hold out as a curiosity. Now we are down to one of my hobbies: What is meant by Quality? What is Meant by Value? As a side note, I think the whole project is an interesting view into how the mind works. I am very much in agreement with theories that posit very high intelligence is often intertwined with what we call mental illness. The same reduced filters that can cause so much anguish give others the ability to see hidden facts in everyday objects.

Well that is a heck of a lot more than I can do...

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