“First principles” thinking flirts with insanity

We know that some brilliant people are crazy. Musk is one of them, according to some observers. We’re destined for Mars, eh? We’re living in a simulation? The Tesla factory will soon resemble an alien dreadnought? Oh cut it out, man.

With that in mind, read this passage from someone considered equally brilliant in his field, and equally nuts. No, a lot MORE nuts. Well, you decide. Is this Muskian first-principles reasoning gone kooky, or is it just kooky?

See if you can guess the writer, without cheating with Google. His identity might not be clear at the beginning, but will become clearer near the end.

Throughout my life it has in fact been very difficult for me to get used to the disconcerting and flabbergasting “normality” of the beings who surround me and who people the world. I always say to myself, “Nothing of what might happen ever happens!” I cannot understand why human beings should be so little individualized, why they should behave with such great collective uniformity. Take such a simple thing as amusing oneself by derailing trains! Think of the thousands of kilometers of railroad tracks that cover the earth, in Europe, America and Asia! And what a negligible percentage of those who have a passion for derailing trains ever put it into practice, as compared to the number who have a passion for traveling! When the train wrecker Marouchka was caught in Hungary this was regarded as a sensational and unique event. I cannot understand why man should be capable of so little fantasy. I cannot understand why bus drivers should not have a desire once in a while to crash into a five-and-ten-cent store window and catch a few toys on the fly for their wives, and amuse the children who happened to be around. I do not understand, I cannot understand why toilet manufacturers do not put concealed bombs in the flushing compartment of their products which would burst the moment certain politicians pulled the chain. I cannot understand why bath-tubs are always made in approximately the same shape; why no one invents taxi-cabs more expensive than the others fitted inside with a device for making artificial rain which would oblige the passenger to wear his rain coat when he got in while the weather was fine and sunny outside. I do not understand why, when I ask for a grilled lobster in a restaurant, I am never served a cooked telephone; I do not understand why champagne is always chilled and why on the other hand telephones, which are habitually so frightfully warm and disagreeably sticky to the touch, are not also put in silver buckets with crushed ice around them.”

So then, maybe a factory resembling an alien dreadnought isn’t so crazy after all, at least in the context of this post, eh? In a few years, we might see exactly such a spectacle. Will we remember Musk’s reference to it from 2016? Probably, given the persistence of memory.

2 thoughts on ““First principles” thinking flirts with insanity

  1. Nøderak says:

    Marx? Herman Melville? plz enlighten


  2. Nøderak says:

    Aha, Dali!


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