Not Paranoid At All

mad scientist, by j.j., from wikipedia

There’s the old joke:

“It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.”

And maybe “they” are. But maybe “they” are really working on your behalf, for your own good.

Firstly, the more pessimistic view: let’s consider why they’re out to get you. It’s most likely for experimental reasons. Purely as speculation, I’ll consider examples from my own life, but this is all stuff I made up just now to illustrate things for the crazy people. (It’s not like I’d ever seriously entertain these thoughts. I’m not crazy. I’m fine. I’m perfectly normal.)

My current job is in I/T and is fairly abstract, working in “application integration,” sending messages between applications and companies. For something that’s all about connections, you can feel disconnected in the middle. You’re dealing mostly with other I/T teams, and embedded deep in the machine.

When something breaks, you might get an email with a red exclamation mark, proclaiming that “trucks are waiting!” at some plant, but you never see the trucks. You never really see the business. You’re just sitting in front of a computer in a cube in a plain office building. It’s obviously all a sham. There are people in white lab coats somewhere, maybe behind that opaque glass on the wall, and they’re manipulating things and observing your reactions.

There can be no other explanation.

I imagine the experiment is complex and takes a lot of effort to set up and maintain, but then it’s rather simple to set up the conditions for a quiet day or a panicky one. See how you react to stress and unreasonable demands. It’s hard to say how many people are “in on it.” How many people around you are participating as experimenter or experimentee. You have to look at everyone with suspicion.

It’s easy to see the ruse in other contexts also. I worked as a bowling mechanic for many years, and it’s the same thing, really. Same opaque glass, similar experimental parameters with a machine that can break down, mostly under control of the behavioral scientists. Same questions about the extent of the experiment. The league bowlers are certainly part of it. Regulars coming in at regular times. There’s less certainty for open bowlers and kid’s bowling parties. These can be chaotic, and I imagine that kind of experiment is less rigorous.

Look at your own life, and how victimized you may feel. If things aren’t going your way, you might be the subject of a grand experiment. Please don’t freak out. You should be honored that science is interested in you. Bad things have to happen, or the experiment wouldn’t be very useful. You’re playing an important role.

More optimistically, if things are going well for you, it may be less an experiment, and more of a conspiracy to make you happy, or at least to take care of you. Or perhaps it’s still an experiment, but lucky for you, you’re in the “control group.” Or, for better or for worse, you’re in a “Truman Show” situation.

We’ll consider some of these alternative and not at all paranoid views another time.