John Halperin- The Truth Machine

halperin“‘What are you thinking about?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean, what were you thinking about right then, when I asked you the question.’

‘Nothing.  I was working.’  He barely looked up.

Tilly walked to his desk.  She intended her body language to convey the expectation, unrealistic as she knew it was, that he would now stop working.

‘You don’t think when you work?’

Pete continued to stare at the screen.  ‘I think, but I don’t think about anything.  I just calculate.’

‘What’s the difference between thinking about something and calculating?’ Tilly sat on his desk, waiting for a real answer.  She decided she would sit there are day if she had to.

Finally he said, ‘When I work, I get into a ‘zone.’  My parents say a bomb could go off next to me and it wouldn’t break my concentration.’

‘Does that make you happy?’

The only time he doesn’t hurt is when he’s working?  Tilly thought sadly.  But he’s only 11 years old.

‘What kind of hurt do you feel when you’re not working?’

Pete hated talking about this, but apparently Tilly really wanted him to.  ‘It’s not physical or anything.  It’s just that everything in life’s so . . .uncertain.  Y’ know?  It’s hard to take.’

‘And the work?’

‘The work is pure.  I just focus on it and eventually solve the problem.  When I write a [computer] code or design a algorithms, I can make computers do exactly what they’re supposed to do.  I can make everything perfect.’

‘Pete reflected for a moment. That must be why I’m so relaxed with animals.  I just observe them and remember everything they do.  I can figure out what they want and learn how to make them happy, but I could never understand people that way.  Leonard tried- and look what it got him [dead].  Animals are pure, like software.  People are unpredictable, erratic, unfathomable.’


Am I spending to much time on my strengths and ignoring my weaknesses?”


“‘Uh, h-he calculate the l-likelihood that to civilization like outs could develop the technology to build a spaceship allowing travel to another solar system before that civilization destroyed itself.  The probability he came up with was .00023 percent- virtually z-zero.  I s-suspect halting the aging process is almost as complicated as interstellar travel.  Frankly, uh, I can’t imagine the human race reaching the point of conquering old age before some lunatic blows up our planet or infects everyone on it with some fatal disease.  Within 100 years, thousands of nations, religious sects, even individuals will probably have the capability to wipe out all human life on the planet.  If by some m-miracle humanity actually exists long enough for science to halt the aging process, what would be the point?  I this present form, the human race won’t survive long enough to enjoy it.  What-what we need to work on first  is a way to change our basic nature.’”


“‘Maybe the realization that if we don’t change soon, we’re all doomed.  The good news is that we now have a common enemy.  Unforntunately it may be more difficult to conquer an enemy within ourselves.’”


“In spite of his amicable demeanor, Charles Scoggins had an appalling secret.

After school, Scoggins returned to his room, where a printout was waiting for him.  Three months earlier, he had hacked into the central computer of the Bank of Boston, and he programmed his own computer to match each account against every obituary listed in the local newspapers.  Whenever an account of the deceased had been accessible only by that person, and that account-holder was neither married nor survived any children, and certain other criteria existed that minimized any chance of shortfall being discovered, Scoggins would strike.  Careful and patient, he never succumbed to reckless greed.  He would transfer just a small percentage of the account balance into an offshore bank account in the Bahamas, backdating the transaction so it appeared in the Bank of Boston’s records to have been authorized prior to the account-holder’s death.”


“‘What’s it l-like to have a g-great sense of humor?’ Pete asked David.

‘You’re both gonna think I’m not nearly as funny if I tell you what it’s like for me.’

‘Take a risk, David,’ Diana urged.

‘Truthfully, humor’s a defense, a way to survive in the world.  I has a pretty rough childhood so I had to learn a skill to dig my way out.  The skill I taught myself was getting along with people, even the kind who aren’t so easy to get along with.  I usually like people anyway, but humor’s the easiest way to get people to like me.”


“A politically incorrect satirist, H.L. Mencken, once defined love as ‘the delusion that one woman differs from another.’”


“‘ . . ..  First, ethics is becoming the most critical skill for any business owner to learn, so I’ll give you a 20-second crash course.  Make sure every plan and every judgment you make is for the long haul.  Always keep your word and never go for the quick dollar.  The real value in any business is gained by building a franchise of customer loyalty over a long period of time.  If you measure every decision by that standard, your ethics will be just fine.’”


“Human views are tainted by powerful forces including fear, greed, jealousy, vanity, love and self-interest.”


March 26, 2023- The FDA grants full approval for Neural, Amgen’s preventitive treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, the last incurable, fatal disease not linked to lifestyle.


“Love causes a person to elevate his or her beloved above the rest humanity, and that in itself is a miraculous phenomenon.  When two mentally healthy adults are in love, they care deeply about each other’s needs and wishes, but even more, or even as much, as their own.”


“‘As students, most people were conditioned to be intellectually honest [with a truth machine].  They actually had to learn how to think, rather than just temporarily memorize facts and pass a bunch of tests like we did in the olden days.’”


“If I love her, I should be capable of concentrating on her when we’re together.  It’s not like I’d forget any of the work if I put it off until later.  The work’s always there, he decided, but people are immediate.  If you lose the moment, it never returns.”


“Somehow, 10 minutes knowing exactly what he was supposed to do was easier for Pete than the previous five minutes spent wondering when Maya would be back.”