Thursday, May 27, 2010

Good and Evil

I recall that when I was considering applying to Moscow State University, part of the the entrance exam in Philosophy was: the examiner placed a black cube in front of the audience and asked the applicants to write down as many arguments that the cube was black as they could. In the middle of the exam he reversed the task. Now they had to prove that the cube was white.

I think that it is one of the greatest misconceptions of our civilization that things have to be presented in a binary code: one or zero, yes or no. What if it is both? One of the aspects I love about my job is that in most cases there is no right or wrong answer. Humans are more complex that digits or logical constraints. You cannot program someone or describe a personality in terms of objective functions and decision variables.

This song from one of my favorite musicals (Jeckyll and Hyde) speaks directly to the issue of what is good and bad, right and wrong, black and white:

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