Don’t take your red pill with seawater
February 20, 2013 § 12 Comments
For some reason, people come to the Internet with high expectations of finding solutions to their problems.
In certain situations that is a reasonable expectation: if I am looking for DIY instructions about how to replace the sync/charge connector on an iPhone, or if I want to find out about concealed carry laws in Virginia, or if I need a concrete plan to taper someone off of benzodiazepines safely, the Internet will frequently provide better, faster, and more comprehensive information than what we would get by talking to an Apple “genius”, a local cop, or a doctor.
But sometimes we are talking about less narrowly scoped problems, and sometimes there isn’t a good solution. Sometimes the Kobayashi Maru scenario is real, not a simulation which can be cheated. Even if a good solution exists finding it requires that we first, without prejudice toward particular solutions, understand the factual situation. That makes agreement on the factual situation precedent to any discussion of solutions; solutions which, we must acknowledge at the outset, may not exist at all.
When everyone in the lifeboat says they want to drink the seawater and you tell them that drinking the seawater is no solution, that it will actually aggravate the problem, they’ll often ask what alternative solutions are on offer. Some might suggest what is in the gasoline cans as an alternative. Still others may propose that some people should be sacrificed and that the survivors should drink their blood.
The people on the lifeboat may not want to hear that none of the solutions on offer are both morally acceptable and actually help to solve the problem. They may even think that there is something morally questionable about a person who suggests that this is the case.
But someone with the conceit of believing that he has taken the Red Pill – which is a cultural allusion to seeing the real world as it actually is, and accepting that often painful reality – had better be ready to accept that many of the solutions on offer aren’t going to work out the way that wishful thinking proposes. The more difficult the problem, the more likely it is that the ‘solutions’ on offer are in fact impractical, will not achieve the hoped-for results in fact, and/or are morally unacceptable.