Sunday, March 10, 2013

donkey pyramid scheme

There's a girl in a tower, against her will. Half the townspeople, the bad ones, are glad to have her there. The other half, the good people, want to rescue her.

When the girl cries, diamonds fall from her eyes. She's attached to a device that causes her severe pain, and in doing so, produces diamonds, which are funneled down from the tower regularly and enjoyed by the bad people only. 

There's a button halfway up the tower. It's the one and only pain button, and the more it is pushed, the more the diamonds flow. If it's not pushed, there's no pain.

Logistical considerations permit only one way to produce the diamonds -- to form a human pyramid and have one person at the top push the button repeatedly. 

The pyramid itself is closed off from view with a black tarp. Sometimes the pyramiders come out and give speeches but there's no way to verify what exactly is happening. What can be seen is that the diamonds keep coming. 

Half of the pyramiders work on behalf of the good guys. The other half work for the bad guys.

The current button pusher is a good guy. But the diamonds keep coming at the same rate as before, when a bad guy was pushing the button. 

"If the diamonds keep coming, that means he's pushing the button!," cries the town lunatic. "That means he's a bad guy!"

"You fucking lunatic," says a good guy. "Of course the button pusher isn't perfect..." 

"My criticism is not that he's imperfect, it's that he's a bad guy," replies the lunatic.

"Whatever. He doesn't want to push the button but if he doesn't, worse things will happen. They'll kick him off the top of the pyramid and then a bad guy will push the button more."

"Do you have any concrete evidence to support that?," asks the lunatic. 

"He says he doesn't want to push the button. Well, he implies it, at least, sometimes."

"But judging from the flow of diamonds, he's pushing it as vigorously as the previous guy. That makes him a bad guy."

"No. Good guys can only push the pain button against their own will. Which means that the bad guy influence is strong in there, which means that the pragmatic, logical, sane approach is to try to get more good guys in the pyramid so our good guy button pusher will be able to get away with incrementally reducing his button pushing. Eventually, we'll have no button pushing and no diamonds."

"But you'll still have the pyramid? And anyway, there are already lots of 'good guys' in there. And you keep sending them in there and they keep holding up the pyramid so that a button pusher can push the button, which you admit is a bad thing to do."

"I don't know where you're going with this. I mean, OK, it's bad to push the button. But what else are we going to do? If we don't do it they'll do it worse."

"No, they won't. I thought we established that."

 "OK, smart guy. Do you have any better ideas?" 

"Yes, stop supporting bad guys."

"But I don't support bad guys' button pushing, I support their non-button pushing. By definition, I support good things."

The lunatic shook his head in disbelief. "OK, just for the sake of argument, let's say the current button pusher, who chose to be the guy who pushes the torture button, is somehow anti-button pushing. He's not, but let's say he is. Even in that case, instead of talking about how 'he can't help it,' if you really cared about the girl, you'd describe exactly how evil it is that he's pushing the button in spite of himself instead of making excuses for him. You'd actually make it more likely for him to stop if you'd just say 'button-pushing is evil and he's pushing the button.' Which makes me wonder..."

"Talking about him negatively would mess up our plan of getting more good guys in the pyramid so that he can get away with incrementally reducing his button pushing. And at least I have a plan."

"Your plan is to torture a little girl."

"What!? I'm offended. I want her not to be tortured." 

"Yes, you say that but...hey, is that a diamond necklace you're wearing?"