The project broke me, but humans are broken from the moment of conception. Mutations, defects— it’s all so wonderful. The chance of disaster. We fail, we learn, we fail. My program was too perfect. […] That day, Harold, I broke it. I forced it to delete bits of itself— its code, its blood— and then reboot. Rebirth. Flailing in the dark. A loop, ten times a second, and after ten hours, Harold, 360,000 mutations, it would live or die trying, and it lived. It sparked. It stirred. For 30 seconds, it smiled and then died.
— Arthur Claypool, “Aletheia.”
Reblogging this again because I honestly LOVE this meta. Especially this:
The thing about what Person of Interest does with the concept of brokenness is that it’s not actually interested in the concept at all. It’s interested in the reality of it. Which is why it gave us this conversation, with these characters, in this episode. Because brokenness isn’t something that happens in other people’s stories. It’s the reality that these characters live with every day.
It is just so fascinating that almost everyone in the Team Machine, even the Machine itself, and Samaritan and its creator are all ‘broken’
Again copying and pasting from the original meta:
so we have a man whose memory is slowly eroding as a result of his terminal cancer telling a man with a fused spine, a permanent limp, and chronic pain how important it is to be broken.
While they wait for the woman with a personality disorder to rescue them.
(Which she does with help from a recovering and a relapsed alcoholic.)
I don’t know if I can add anything to that, its a beautiful and accurate descriptor, that the rag tag band of heroes are all ‘broken’ in some ways and that’s what made them the perfect candidate to help other people.
he (Arthur) says flat-out what Harold never has, that he had to break Samaritan in order to give it life. That a perfect program is simply a program; that intelligence requires a certain base level of damage. That the very thing that makes the Machine and Samaritan so powerful is the same thing that people like Greer and Root (before she became the Machine’s apostle, anyway) so adamant that humans are outdated — our flaws.
I think, it took hearing Arthur say it out loud that finally had Harold acknowledging it out loud to Root:
'How badly did you have to break it to make it care about people so much?'
And, Harold answered, in all honestly: ‘That didn’t break it, its what made it work.’
You know, this is also actually a description of Harold too… that Harold *had* to go through his loses and experience pain to realize that everyone is relevant to someone, that he echoed the sentiment Nathan told him so long ago, in the very room they were standing in.
He had to break and lose people in order to realize and care about everyone and not just the greater good.
*blinks* *blinks* Guys, in a few days, somebody toss an ask or a reblog at me with this post, and a reminder about openness and responsibility. Because fuck if this doesn’t sound like the second chapter of my PhD dissertation, but I’m going to have to think about it and today I am all out of brain.
Okay so. This is one of those ideas that are very clear in my mind but which I’d ordinarily need ~3k of postgraduate-level nonfiction or +15k words of fiction to express, so what follows below is very much an outline of a draft, so if any of it catches your eye at all, ask. Talk. Remember how the Handbook went? There’s stuff I don’t know how to explain until I get asked the right questions.
Creativity is not merely innovation. Creativity is an innovation that is valuable/good/helpful in some way. Creativity doesn’t have to be seminal or grand, it can be everyday too. If it didn’t exist before and it works better, than it’s creative.
Creativity can be in problem spotting or in problem solving. If there’s half a dozen people trying to create an AI and only one of them succeeded, that was probably problem-solving creativity. If one person looks around and goes, “Uh, guys, our society has a Problem,” that’s problem-spotting - before that, no one had realize that (a) there is a Problem and (b) this Problem is Significant. I’m using this example to also to illustrate that creativity doesn’t have to be in the sciences or the arts.
Creativity can manifest in two - let’s call them phases. There’s creativity that is conscious and skilled, when you’re thinking about what you’re doing. Then there’s creativity that comes to you, when the perception of your world shifts and tilts and you see something that hasn’t been there before.
Whether creativity is in the perception or the judgment, it requires a fundamental, deep-set belief that the world is open. That things have not always been the way they were. That things doesn’t have to always be the way they are now. That we may benefit from this change. (To those versed in the relevant lit: yes, my opinions on creativity mostly follow Robert Sternberg’s work.)
Creativity requires perceiving the world as open. Now let’s set this aside for a moment, and inverse the direction.
Someone slips while walking. Do you laugh at them - because they slipped, because they’re crying? Do you laugh at the situation? Or are you concerned, because that looks like it hurt? Any of those reactions might occur in an observer; there are contexts in which any of those reactions may be appropriate. Importantly, those reactions occur in the perception: we may modify our responses later based on consciously-held beliefs, but there’s that split-second when a reaction emerges out of a mind, without being deliberately willed.
It’s the same question: what do you perceive? The direction is different, though. The question isn’t “In what ways is the world open/permeable do you?” but rather “What things in the world are you open/permeable to?”
No, no, no. that is not brokenness. “Brokenness” implies that a thing is not how it ought to be - and because this phrasing bothers the hell out of me: a Thing that is “broken” is not good as Thing. That’s what “broken” (idiomatically) means.
The perfect algorithm, Arthur Claypool tells us - the algorithm that is perfect as an algorithm - it’s not open, it’s closed. It’s fundamentally closed, well defined, everything exactly as it should be - can’t be any other way. But where things cannot be any different than they are, there is no creativity. Creativity requires that the question “But what if this was different?” be potentially valuable.
I argue that those “imperfections” are not “imperfections”. That altering the code, as Arthur describes, does not break or damage it. To the degree that it’s a standard algorithm - yes, it does. But he wasn’t trying to create an algorithm, a program, and neither did Harold. They tried to create something that is capable of interacting, of generating.
Note how those two things keep coming together? The ability to perceive new things in the world, and the ability to be affected by the world? Openness. It goes both ways.
Our experiences inform us. Sometimes it becomes easier (or at all possible) to perceive something, to grasp it on that basic level, after having been through something. Not always: pain is as likely to blind as it is to give insight (if not more), and the same holds for grief and fury.
Let’s look at Harold. I’m full of criticism of Harold, I don’t think that’s news to anyone at this point. But following the bombing at the ferry and Nathan’s death (assassination, let’s call it what it is: an incredibly ugly and messy assassination with atrocious collateral) Harold didn’t have to draw the conclusions he did. He could’ve instead become even more convinced that what Nathan had been doing was silly and wrong and was only going to cause harm. Hasn’t it caused enough harm already? Why continue down that path?
There is an awful lot I will criticise Harold for, there are things he believes in I think are morally bad, but he’s the person who responded to that much hurt - responded, didn’t cut himself off, didn’t shut down, didn’t distance himself in ways that matter.
(I’m very careful with my words, here, because I loathe the idea that pain and trauma and grief are for - are good - for teaching morally or otherwise valuable things. No, no, absolutely not. Just because sometimes people manage post-traumatic growth, that does not make the awful any less awful. And just because someone didn’t manage post-traumatic growth as well doesn’t make them a bad person. Sometimes it just means they had the psychological version of bad nutrition fucking up your bones or the psychological version of haemophilia, so obviously they didn’t recover from injury as well as someone who doesn’t have those problems.)
It’s not brokenness that’s a necessity of life; it’s openness. It’s not broken, to be affected by things and be capable of imagination; it’s openness. It’s not brokenness, to take pain and injury and different abilities (than you had before, than considered ‘normal’) and use those to make value/goodness/helpfulness.
And yes, PoI illustrates this: that you could be any of a thousand things commonly considered ‘broken’, but you’re not broken. ‘Broken’ means no good as what you are supposed to be. Sometimes you become better at the broken places, as Harold did. Sometimes you find something else to be, as John did. Sometimes you say “I decide what fulfills relevant role expectations”, as Shaw did. Sometimes you say “My limitations are mine but they do not solely define me”, like Lionel did.
I want to go back to John, for a moment, and to Kara. John got hurt, doing the job he did for the CIA. So did Kara. They reacted differently to that hurt. Kara shut the parts of herself that got injured; John took the pain in. Both options were going to get them killed, yes? It may even be argued that when Kara returned, post-Ordus, Kara was already dead. (Trauma would do that to you. Kara took more than enough shit.) But just like Harold didn’t have to turn around and choose to continue Nathan’s work, so do John and Kara illustrate two different options. Carter… Carter would probably agree with this ethos. Lionel sure does. Root doesn’t, I think; but then, it took something tremendous to get through to Harold, too.
But this last paragraph of observations, those are a lot of half-baked ideas, things I spin out of thin air (that is, out of perceptions I haven’t fully verbalized and arranged, yet).
But the point I wanted to make is, that’s not brokenness. Brokenness is by definitions dysfunctional. What Arthur did to Samaritan and Harold to the Machine, that wasn’t breaking their creations. It was seeing something a possibility in the world that (best each of them knew) nobody has ever seen before, it was finding a new solution to a problem - and it was giving their creations the ability to take in new things from the world and genuinely respond to them.
It created the intended function. How is that ‘broken’?
I’ve thought a lot about how to respond to this, and I’m still not sure I’m going to do it right, but I think right now I’m ready to try.
I don’t doubt you’re right about open systems and algorithms and all that. I’m sure you are. But the point that I was trying to make is that Arthur isn’t really talking about Samaritan at all. He’s talking about himself, and he’s talking about Harold. Arthur is our big metaphor guy — he’s “more honeybee than dragonfly,” he refers to the Machine as “a dancing star” — but I do think that when he says that humans are broken from the moment of conception, he actually means humans. And when he mentions “mutations,” it’s hard not to be reminded of the tumors that are one by one corrupting Arthur’s file system, until he will eventually stop functioning entirely.
And I get that “broken” is a remarkably fraught term. I do get that. And there’s times that I really abhor it, depending on how it’s used and who’s saying it and what it means. But at the same time… Some of the most positive and important steps of my life have involved me looking at myself and my ‘intended function’ and going… Okay, this isn’t it. Something’s wrong. Something’s broken. And then the harder part, the slow realization that these broken parts can be treated and dealt with and worked around, but they’re never really going to be fixed. That some days will be better and some days will be worse but every day is going to involve some amount of struggle, and that this will never change. That there is no pill, no therapy, no diet, no amount of work I can put in that will ever allow me to do things as easily as the people around me do them. That I will always be, in some respects, broken.
And in acknowledging that, I can work on learning to function despite the brokenness. To work around the parts of me that don’t do what they should, and keep going anyway.
There was a conversation not too long ago on my dash about how it’s important to realize that you can be messed up and still be okay — in fact, I think I saw it about the same time as I saw this post. (I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again — sometimes my life takes a theme). For me, and maybe it’s just my reading of that scene, and my life coloring it into something that I needed it to be — but that’s what I took away from Arthur’s speech about humans and brokenness. That you can be messed up — you can be broken — and still be okay.
And if that’s not what you took from it, then that’s fine. I just wanted to make sure that I was making my side of the argument as clearly as I possibly could.
Content warning: This post is about sentiments leading to murder of people with disabilities. Proceed with caution.
At an autism conference recently, I heard the father of a 20 year old autistic man say in his speech to the whole conference, “I hope to live one heartbeat longer than he does. I’m sure many of you feel the same way about your children.”
That sentiment gets people killed. If you are the parent of a disabled child and you say things like this, it is a matter of life-and-death importance that you stop talking this way. The father who said this is probably entirely correct that many of the other parents in the audience felt the same way. I have heard this sentiment expressed by many other parents of children with disabilities (not just autism.)
Parents who hope to outlive their autistic children are talking about people who, barring tragedy, will almost certainly outlive their parents. Autism does not limit lifespan; most autistic people should live to be old. If you hope to outlive your autistic child, it means that you are hoping that their life will be tragically cut short. It means you think they’re better off dead than they would be living without you. That’s dangerous.
It’s not true. Nobody is better off dead. It is not a blessing to die young. Expressing a desire for someone to die young is not love. (People who say this may well love their children in other ways, but this sentiment is not love.)
Please stop implying that your child will be unable to live and be happy after you die. People just like your child live on in adulthood after their parents die, and your child can too. And they will have a much easier time of it if you accept that they will outlive you, and help them to prepare for their life without you.
The only way it’s likely to live a heartbeat longer than your autistic child is if you kill them and then yourself. Many parents who feel this way do exactly that. And, even if you would never kill your child, people who are considering committing murder can hear what you say. If you say that you hope to live a heartbeat longer than your child, it makes the murder that is the only way this can plausibly happen seem like a much more legitimate choice. Don’t give potential murders that kind of encouragement.
In the disability community, we observe a day of mourning and read a list of people with disabilities murdered by caregivers.
The list is long. And it’s only a list of the names we know. There are many others who died without making the news.
I hope and pray that your child never ends up on this list. I hope and pray that they outlive you and have a happy and meaningful adulthood. I hope and pray that this list never gets any longer.
One murder is too many. Not ever again.
Under the cut is the (as of this post) current list of the names we know. In loving memory; may these murders be the last:
hagar-972 said: I just use Excel/gDocs - different levels of the timeline in different tabs in the same file. I could show you some sample files on gDocs if you wanna?
If you could, that’d be great. You’ve sent me stuff on gdocs before, haven’t you? (If not… I’m myself everywhere. Not big on changing the name.)
Question — does anyone know of any really good timeline creation software for writers (preferably free; remember, my day job is retail). I think I’m starting to get past the point where I can just hold all of BYL in my head and pull things out as needed.