The knapsack problem How to write a book / P and NP / leaving home
Anna went immediately to Alex without ever paying attention to her friend, who were sitting right in his lap, and leaned close towards him, “I need a cigarette!” she said, disregarding, or even enjoying the fact that Catherine would have to stand from her comfortable position at the lap of her boyfriend order for him to pull out his pack, and when went on shouting and waving her hands, making me feel at loss when I remembered our previous, very pleasant conversation. There was something very theatrical in her gesture, and it seemed like she was doing it regularly judging from the way in which Alex immediately proceeded to give her what she wanted while Catherine just ignored her with a grimace that showed boredom and turned to me instead, “Ah, Alex, you brought a friend, hi Alex’s friend,” she said and then asked me for my name, at which point I decided to tell them the story about how I was grounded for painting my name on my room’s door when I was little and how I then made it to one big “X” sign. “‘X’, that sounds a bit lame, the symbol is too overloaded with meaning, don’t you think?” Catherine said when she heard the ending. But before I had time to clarify that my point wasn’t to adopt the letter as a nickname Anna entered the conversation: “You have no taste, it’s awesome!” with which, although she said it just to annoy her friend, cemented this nickname for a long time.
We went on gossiping and drinking the whiskey that Catherine had brought, and Anna went on insisting (although neither Alex nor Catherine seemed to share her sentiment) how awful everything in the facility was and how she wanted to get away from it, until neither them, nor even myself could stand listening to her any more - a fact which I, at some point, decided to express by standing up, pointing to a whole in the fence right next to us which I had noticed earlier and saying “Fine, let’s go.” This act left everyone in silence, making it apparent that none did get it as a joke. “Yeah, very funny, but I don’t want to have a private spanking session with Stella,” Anna responded, but then Catherine cut her in a way analogous to the one in which Anna had cut Catherine a couple of minutes ago, as if she wanted to avenge her: “Why, what is she to do, kick us out?” and then she elaborated, explaining that as long as we are with her, we can do anything we want and would have no issues, as the amount of money that her parents pay for her time there made either our exclusion, or even any form of more severe punishment, highly unlikely. She went on to elaborate that this was the main reason why the private education was at the state that it was, while finishing up Alex’s bottle of whiskey, “The issue is that the quality of education is not all that important for economic growth, especially amongst the upper class. In capitalism such institutions (she meant educational institutions) are marginalized up to a point where they exist only because of tradition,” she stayed silent for a minute and then she appeared to remember what triggered her monologue and stood up from the bench, “So we can’t get punished. Let’s make use of this privilege, it is one of the few ones that we have!” and she stood up and crossed the fence. Anna seemed devastated at first, not only from the way in which Catherine had cut her, but from the fact that she had to break the rules to remain with her. Later I would learn that Anna, although seemingly detached from reality, actually felt a very strong need to identify with someone else from it, a need that was probably inexplicable to her as it was to us.
I asked Catherine about what she meant by saying that not being punished is one of the few privileges that she had, as I already knew she was super wealthy by that time, “Well, being part of the upper class has its privileges, obviously, but you only get them if stay in it, for which you must adjust every aspect of your lifestyle - maybe you adjust it for the better, but still it is done against your will. Like, imagine that you are stuck in a very beautiful place, but which, (like this one) is covered from all sides with fences, up to a point where it feels like a prison to you. If we concentrate on the fact that it is beautiful, then being there would count as privilege, but if you view it like a prison, you’d have almost no privileges save for the fact that whenever you see a hole in the fence you are free to escape for a little, before they find it out and patch it up.” I didn’t respond anything to her (probably because she only left me a little time before she stuck her tongue in Alex’s mouth), but I was impressed by the way she explained to me (simply and without showing off). I thought that she really knew where I was coming from when asking the question, and for a second I felt really good.
“So let’s go,” Catherine said and we all went, breaking the exit rule, each for their own reasons: Catherine, because in her own words that breaking rules and not getting punished was the only privilege she had. Anna, because she preferred to trash her principles than to have them, but not to have somebody to share them with. Alex, because he probably had no concept of rules at all, or if he had, it was quite different than ours. And me, because a few minutes later I had remembered a silly childhood memory in which I broke the rules for no reason at all and which I wanted to understand/recreate.
While I was crossing the border, I remembered a thought that I had a few weeks ago, related to the differentiation between discreet and continuous mathematical models which I got when reading the proof of proposition one of Newton’s “Principia”, where, in order to be able to compute the influence of continuous forces, the author imagined that these forces are not in fact continuous but operate on discreet bursts for a really short time (you might say that this is the concept behind calculus, basically). This passage (wanted to warn you that this book contains some super heavy abstract nonsense, but it’s too late, isn’t it?) gave me the weird idea that the world by itself was inherently continuous, and that discreet events and quantities are actually just some abstractions that we people invented to make sense of it. Taken to a higher level, this idea implies that going through the fence was not an event that happened at some exact point in time, but rather a long process, with no beginning and end, and that the event of going through the fence was just the point in time when my mind understood what was actually happening. Note that I don’t just mean that the event was predetermined, like we have no free will etc., but rather I am saying that eventhough we are able to alter reality through our actions (and even if sometimes we can even do it in ways that we can call predictable), our understanding of it (the world) might still might be flawed, fragmented, and such that we can only gain some deeper insight about what’s really happening partially and through some very sublime form of intuition. Our fantasy (the ability to make up and switch between different explanations) is, according to this theory, nothing more than an instrument for self-deception, due of which we are often left with the impression that we have more control than we actually do - we can even believe in concepts and ideas that fail us, saying things like we are right in principle or just blaming the world that it doesn’t confront to our perceptions, while in reality, no concept is correct and all of them would fail us sooner or later.
So, since the results of our actions cannot be predicted, we might as well just do anything we want.
The knapsack problem How to write a book / P and NP / leaving home
Meeting my roommate Alex / Picking friends / Who am I / How switching places would solve both of our issues
Hallway Church and Turing / Being stupid
X Nerd stereotypes / How I got my nickname / Establishing connection with my younger self
Good company Social code / Anna / Catherine
Fence Outside / Not being punished / Discreet and continuous models
Outside This or nothing / The moon / Fractals / Me and Alex / Explanations / Is the world mathematical
What are we in for Anna's kinky alter ego / Marijuana
What are we in for contd The conformist choice / Taboos / Dichotomies /Marijuana
Back to the facility Anna and Cathy / Trying to be like other people / Sleeping with Anna
The sleepover Anna's childish behavior / Critics / Boring robots / Adoring Anna
The sleepover contd Irony / Heroes and deserters / Retreat to where? / Real and ideal / Choices
Us and them The uncut book pages / Envy
Sex Anna's fantasy / What makes us weird / The establishment and being normal
Cigarettes Alex's good night sleep / About me and Alex again / Sex and love / The proof that P does not equal NP