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Saturday, March 26, 2005

A higher-order logic

As Crazy Diamond suggests, I am asking myself "what was the twisted logic...", and one of the answers that I'm developing is that the logic seems all too simple. It's cold, mathematical reasoning, but it's old school. Judges are like computer programmers following simple algorithms. Simple algorithms about how to live life, or, rather, how others should live life or be forced to die. You don't want a computer programmer telling you how to live; I can say this with some authority because I've been one for many years. It seems to me, if one is going to have this kind of limited computer programmer mentality, one should at least consider expanding one's mindset a wee tad and look at fuzzy rules, part of the branch of mathematics known as fuzzy logic. This is what gives us such a smooth ride in modern elevators. I don't have that sense here. I feel like I've been jerked up and down at every floor whenever I turn on the news.

What would the fuzzy rule(s) be here? Please see my previous posts, but I would say something like: if the husband considers his wife to be a dead and her body an incommunicative vegetative form not worth bothering with, but the parents consider her to be alive and want to take care of her as they did when she was an infant, then shift care away from the husband and onto the parents. I'm sure others could come up with some good ones as well. Such overarching principles as always erring on the side of life can be applied. These techniques do not require a lot of processing power. You could do the calculations with the processor found in an old video Pong machine unearthed from a landfill and have power to spare.

My point is that it is well within the capability of a human being to take all apects of a situation into consideration in accordance with deep principles, and not be so enamored of following such primitive IF-THEN-ELSE rules as our legal system seems to be so fond of doing. I guess it's a complicated and scary world out there, and it's nice to have simple rules and legal decisions to hold on to. But sometimes you need to apply the full range of your humanity to solving problems. Not as an Asperger's-riddled programmer/judges dealing with thousands of lines of executable code/laws. We know that such people are "made deeply anxious by any change in routine" . We also know that such people are prone to dig in their heels when challenged. They "will become more rigid and stubborn if confronted" . Missing here is a deep, human empathy--such impairment being what characterizes autism spectrum disorders such as Asperger's, which are sometimes referred to as "disorders of empathy." It's good to remember here that these disorders shade into normal and that people who have them can appear to be very high functioning. But I would not argue for removing their ability to "feed"--to economically sustain their own livelihoods-- even for the most severe cases.

3 comments:

Crazy Diamond said...

I agree with your point, that simple legal rules will likely end in simple injustice. It seems to me in this case that important safety guidelines were simply ignored. Maybe a Computer Science analogy would be that the virus protection software got turned off.

No matter the system, if all the rules are known, someone can find a way to coopt the system to their own ends. That's one reason it's so important to add the human element beyond the strict legal phrasings and procedures.

In a computer setting, how can the system detect if one or more users has been locked out? And how can it be corrected? I'm just thinking that basically the Schindlers had no real access, just a fake login bot that spit back "denied" after every appeal.

bethtopaz said...

True, true-- this is what has been haunting me and others -- Larry King asked the question, Bill O'Reilly asked the question -- those are only two I can think of offhand, but I know there are others. If .... then. The fact that the simple logic was not seen and followed blows my mind. Ordinary people could see this -- why couldn't the judges -- or, more correctly -- why wouldn't the judges? If Michael no longer felt he could care for Terri, or no longer wanted to or just wanted to move on with his life, and IF the parents and siblings had an overwhelming desire to do so, THEN why not let that happen? IF it had truly been Terri's wish that she would prefer death over life in the situation such as she found herself in, which Michael insisted he was only trying to fulfill, why hadn't she told others (parents, friends, etc.) and/or written it down? Michael's dedication to this "wish" of Terri's, which was never in writing, seemed illogical and inexplicable to me. It defied all reason and my only conclusion was that he had other motives. It couldn't have been money for money was offered to him if he would only surrender his guardianship to the parents, so what was the driving force behind it? That's the question I want the answer to. I think I know why -- due to his behavior and the circumstances surrounding the date of her initial incident -- he was extremely controlling and intimidating and she had been seen to have bruises, which she always explained away - and she also confided to her friend that she wanted to get a divorce and was very unhappy in her marriage to Michael. Something is rotten in Denmark.

skyanchor said...

Something is indeed rotten in Denmark. I think you’ve brought up all good points. If I may add, even if it was Terri’s wish not to be kept alive, which was not firmly established to say the least, does anyone really know what they’re going to be feeling when such a time comes, and might one not change one’s mind when actually experiencing such a situation up close and personal? Might not some people’s motivation be in not being a burden to their families—families who would willingly take care of them? The bitter irony here--the thing that really goes beyond--is when those same families are so traumatized by their loved one’s treatment and are all-the-while being treated terribly themselves (as has happened here) that the patient cannot condone such treatment towards those that she loves. It’s not hard to imagine what Terri might have said, what she might indeed be saying from beyond the grave: “HOW CAN YOU HURT MY PARENTS, MY BROTHER AND SISTER THIS WAY? THIS IS *NOT* WHAT I HAD IN MIND! I DO NOT AGREE TO THIS! MY FAMILY IS IMPORTANT TO ME! IF YOU CARE ABOUT ME IN THE LEAST, YOU WOULD NOT SO RUTHLESSLY ABUSE MY FAMILY!”