The Philosopher’s Abacus

July 4th will be the three-year anniversary of Ribbonfarm. I normally celebrate with a retrospective-plus-roundup, but this year, I thought I’d do something different. I am not entirely sure what you guys get out of my writing, but for me, the act of writing this blog has clarified, reinforced and (for better or worse) hardened a certain philosophy of life. This philosophy is a set of coupled choices on a set of either/or spectra. The best visualization I could come up with is something I call the philosopher’s abacus. Here’s a picture (feel free to share, pass along etc.)

I believe the abacus represents fundamental genetic constraints that define a life-philosophy design space. I believe it is nearly impossible for humans to transcend the abacus. Let me explain how it works.

How the Abacus Works

I share with Lord Kelvin an inability to visualize ideas except in the form of mechanical models. The abacus is a set of spring-linked beads on a curved wire frame. If you move all the beads to one end or the other, you get a set of relaxed springs: there is no internal tension or conflict to manage. If you choose any other configuration, the effort it will take to maintain that philosophical stance is proportional to how much you stretch the springs.

I am reluctant to label the left and right sides, but I suppose you could call them “manic-depressive truth-seeking” and “deluded happiness-seeking.” The left is creative-destructive, cat-like, Nietzchean, Dionysian, Taoist and Saivite. The right is preservation-focused, dog-like, Aristotlean, Apollonian, Confucian and Vaisnavite. The great divide I am trying to capture has occupied philosophers, comedians, bureaucrats and dictators of all ages, so there is very little original here.

Rather satisfying to me is the fact that I feel comfortable classifying, towards the right, anyone who claims the abacus can be transcended. So from where I stand, towards the left (the picture roughly reflects my own position), the abacus is unfalsifiable, and therefore self-contradictory, since it could be metaphysically delusional. It also makes me doctrinaire, and incapable of listening seriously to the abacus-rightists. I have spent a couple of decades trying earnestly to be open-minded, and am starting to enjoy being close-minded, hidebound and narrow for a change.  I suppose I’ll be among those headed for the guillotine when the revolution comes.

By the way, right and left here refer to the abacus drawing. The political right/left divide does not correlate at all to this picture. I have met both Democrats and Republicans who are abacus-left and abacus-right.

Where does the abacus come from? I believe it comes from genetics. Darwinism manifests itself in human behavior as an uneasy balance between our social natures and our competitive natures. Everything we do comes down to it.  Genetics even drives our philosophical imagination. I know a lot of you will itch to challenge both this foundational premise and the specific ideas I have baked into the abacus visualization. The idea that truth and happiness are fundamentally opposed, and that happiness rests on a foundation of delusion, is a position that a lot of people will strongly object to. But let’s not have that argument on the Ribbonfarm birthday week, okay? I have written, and continue to write, in defense of this picture. This whole blog is in a sense an ongoing defense of this picture. So we can continue the arguments as we go along (the next Gervais Principle piece is going to be about this stuff in particular).

I just picked seven spectra to put on the abacus, but there are others you could add obviously. For example, if you wanted to throw in a couple of more biological spectra you could add (reading left to right), promiscuity-monogamy and fasting+gluttony vs. moderation on there. Slightly higher up, you could add introversion-extroversion. But I am primarily interested in the structure biology induces, many degrees removed, in philosophy.

I’ve placed the control-pleasure “primary drive” spectrum in the middle because it is the force that enslaves you to your true nature. That bead, I believe, cannot be moved much by nurture. All the other beads also have default at-birth positions, but can be moved around a bit by nurture. If you are control-driven, you will end up living a truth-seeking life in some sense. If you are pleasure-driven, you will end up living a happiness-seeking life. Wherever you position the beads, you pay an ongoing cost through some mix of manic-depression and delusion.

I spent a long time fighting the abacus. I believed there are achievable states of Buddhahood that allow you to transcend the abacus; that truth is reconcilable with happiness or some acceptable cousin (such as ‘transcendental calm’ perhaps). I’ve concluded that the there isn’t. I believe you’ve got to pick a side. Those springs get loaded with unbearable tension otherwise. As you age, your ability to move the beads diminishes. It also takes less effort to keep the beads in a configuration that contains some tension. Perhaps you could view that as the wires rusting with age, so the beads get locked in place by friction rather than deliberate effort.

And there is a certain kind of peace in this acceptance. I can’t be sure, but I don’t think it is the same kind of peace that all those who flock to ashrams and spiritual retreats seek, and sometimes claim to have achieved.

If you want to compute with the abacus for yourself, go right ahead. You don’t need instructions. The thing is easy enough to sketch. Just sketch your own. Ponder, don’t take too seriously. You can temporarily escape the tensions in your internal springs by laughing at your sketch.

Happy Third Birthday, Ribbonfarm

It’s been a good year. I moved from the D-list to the C-list, got my first Google $100 advertising check, crossed 2000 subscribers, incorporated as a business, started my second product (the Be Slightly Evil email list) and made great progress on my book. But most importantly, Ribbonfarm is starting to fulfill the purpose I hoped it would. There was some deliberate symbolism in my choice of July 4th, 2007 as the launch date. In three years, Ribbonfarm has become my main source of philosophical independence. It has helped me escape partly from the condition Thoreau described as “the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.”

If you like writing, you should blog. Writing has never been a more philosophically rewarding activity in history.

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter


  1. I discovered your blog a few months ago and it has become my favorite. Your essays consistently surprise me. They make connections and explore concepts that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Happy birthday. Or, perhaps, true/manic-depressive birthday.

    Your contrast of truth and happiness reminds me of a quotation from Sir Walter Raleigh: “Whoseover, in writing a modern history, shall follow truth too near the heels, it may haply strike out his teeth. ”

    Even when not writing history, the truth is generally a kick in the teeth. A certain amount of self-deception is necessary to live happily. People without power need to imagine some control over their lives in order to avoid despair and frustration. People with power need to imagine the sufficiency of their own virtue and good judgment to avoid guilt and paralysis. This probably ties in with the Gervais Principle.

    Interesting trending bias. A rightabacist (coinage alert), in terms of primary drive, finds it easier to slide deeper into delusion. A leftabacist is trapped by knowledge and can’t unlearn the hard and depressing facts of life. In terms of main cognitive mode I find myself trending pragmatic and wishing for the comfort of optimism. Ain’t gonna happen.

    • Returning to this comment, this particular line interests me:

      “People with power need to imagine the sufficiency of their own virtue and good judgment to avoid guilt and paralysis. ”

      This has been in my subconscious for a long time I suppose, but I’ve never stated it so baldly or thought through the implications, so thanks for highlighting that. In a way, exploring the “be slightly evil” theme is to acknowledge the insufficiency of any one individual’s virtues. Even if it is yourself. Whether being slightly evil serves to inoculate against, or tempts you into, greater evil, is something I think I’ll find out before I die.


      • That statement comes from personal experience. I was on the board of a large local food cooperative when everyone else took a step back and I became president. I varied between being acutely aware of my limitations as a leader/manager and being acutely aware that everyone around me had equal, if not greater limitations.

        My father, a retired judge, advised me to collect as much information as possible, make my best judgment, and move on. He had learned to accept the fact of his own fallibility. What he required of himself was not perfection, but due diligence.

        This subject is part of why I call myself a structuralist. I’m not interested in political personalities. I’m interested in the structures that placed them in positions of power and the structures that constrain their actions. Being human, we get caught up in personalities and narratives when we really should be looking at rule sets. Also the meta-rule sets that determine the rule-making process. This is our protection against delusion. Of course, the rule makers are somewhat delusional as well. The best we can do is inject as much scientific method into it as possible and take the asymptotic curve as close to reality as we can.

  2. Stefan K. says

    Having more tension makes someone interesting. Tension is not only a cost; the benefit is a source of surprises. Like failing to sustain empathy, and able to quickly switch back to predation.

    I’m wrestling with the image of Buddha responding to this thing. The typical Buddhist is on the right, but a Buddhist is not a Buddha. A Buddha might deny the existence of beads and strings, but that doesn’t help a career- or dinner choice.

  3. Beautiful metaphor for positions, flexible but not too much, stretchable springs connected to a bead, moving impacts other spectra but springs harden with age, capturing the nature and nurture possibilities… damn good. Okay, that was a birthday present. Probably created a little twang toward Happiness before springing back to Truth :-)

    Let’s move on to comments!

    Yeah, like we needed telling that the picture roughly reflects your position.

    Transcendental calm, by definition, doesn’t reconcile truth and happiness but… um… transcends that dichotomy. It’s a dimension where they are the same. Or not. Doesn’t matter. Stefan K’s thought experiment on Buddha reading this post is brilliant and captures this transcendence (and its non-utility at the dimension of this conversation).

    Candidate additions to spectra (too many would make it worthless):
    -Argument and Belief (Knowledge Mode)
    -Alternatives and Satisficing (Problem Solving)

    Here are some Laws of the P-Abacus (am sure Ribbonfarmers can enrich this):
    -Growth requires nature-given configuration of beads to move
    -Moving once and moving in the opposite direction to a lesser extent usually indicates maturity
    -Rapid movement of one bead without commensurate movement of connected beads could be a response to a crisis

    • Transcendental calm, by definition, doesn’t reconcile truth and happiness but… um… transcends that dichotomy. It’s a dimension where they are the same. Or not. Doesn’t matter.

      How do you distinguish transcendence from just numbness?
      I see Buddhism as an interesting bag of mental tricks but I am highly dubious of the “spiritual” claims (like those of any other religion BTW).

      More praise to Venkat anyway, yet another excellent post.

      • Are you attached to emotions?

        Transcendence (IMHO) is the acceptance and release of emotions without attachment, quite far from numbness, which seems like a deep denial of emotions – fear possibly.

        There’s a story about a crying monk…somewhere….

  4. Canute, Stefan, RG:

    Thanks for the b’day wishes and builds on the abacus idea. For once, I don’t have a whole lot more to say, or responses… in some ways, this picture represents the edge of my thinking :)

    I’ll probably wake up in the middle of the night sometime next month with an idea sparked by one of your comments though.


  5. Now I’m going to spend my holiday weekend meditating on the abacus, which already suggests that I’ll tend leftward as a truth-seeking manic-depressive.

    Venkat, I thank you for Ribbonfarm. Your writing, which I will presume mirrors your thinking, is a wonderful synthesis of so many sources that then breaks open new categories of thought. I am almost always profoundly provoked by your posts. I just picked up Albion’s Seed from the library and look forward to plunging in because of your insights. I wish you much success in the years to come.

  6. Totally unrelated to this blog. Mistakes in Matt Ridley’s book –

    • Thanks! Haven’t yet read his new book… looking forward to it. He does seem to have gone into dangerous territory with this one.

  7. I find it interesting that you label the left side as “True”. I realize you named it as “being true to oneself”, but as I see it, cat-like people are the most likely to be seen as false and players by other people (if they don’t play it right, that is). Maybe the conception of truth itself should be in the abacus, although I don’t know how to name this dichotomy.

    Anyway, congratulations for the blog. This is surely one of the best food for thought there is.

    • Actually I don’t mean “true to yourself.” I don’t really know what that means. I mean it in the more commonplace sense of trying hard to see the world as it is (whatever that means) rather than as one would wish it to be.

      On a related note, a friend posted this about feline behavior: The fundamentals of feline behavior. Skimmed, and plan to read it in depth.


      • Something wrong isn’t right with your link. :P

        Actually, what I meant with “being true to yourself” was exactly what you said, I just didn’t find the right words at the time.

  8. Reminds me of the old question – would you rather be happy or right? My standard smart-ass answer is ‘both’, which is just glib, not considered.

    The abacus is a great thinking tool, but I think that people can occupy more than one position on the ‘spectra’ at once – the fore-brain consciously perceiving ‘happier’ scenarios, and the hind-brain nagging about more ‘truthful’ scenarios.

    • I think taking an average of fore/hind brains would be a good enough approximation of this situation in most cases. If someone truly occupies 2 positions separately, it sounds more like a clinical condition to me, like multiple personalities or schizophrenia or something.

  9. I would like to better understand your truth / happiness dichotomy. Above, you explained your version of truth (seeing the world as it is), which I can identify with. But happiness is something I’ve been trying to figure out. My current perspective is that the answer “happy” to the question “how do you feel” is actually contentedness. Nothing’s bothering me, therefore I’m “happy” (content). In my mind, that fits well with the association you made to delusion. People who delude themselves are more likely to be content. And people who find truth (even accidentally) are likely to respond in either a manic or depressive way. But where does that leave happiness? If you meant contentedness, what is real happiness? If my interpretation is not what you intended, where did I misunderstand?

    I really enjoy reading your thought-provoking writing. It helps me see the world differently. Thank you.

    • I think ‘happiness’ and ‘contentedness’ are at the same level of abstraction and I doubt we’ll get very far trying to nail the idea down at that level. That’s a recipe for going round and round.

      I actually don’t think ‘happiness’ (unlike ‘truth’) is a philosophically meaningful concept. Which shouldn’t be surprising because philosophy is ostensibly about ‘truth’ to begin with. Looking for the ‘true meaning of happiness’ is rather like looking for the ‘happiest kind of truth.’ (the latter, on our planet, is usually known as ‘seeking religion’).

      You should expect this ambiguity if there truly is a dichotomy. Maybe there is an uncertainty principle here. If the concept of ‘truth’ is very clear to you, ‘happiness’ WILL seem like nonsense. It does to me. And vice versa.


      • What do you mean when you say “truth is a philosophically meaningful concept?” Do you mean that it should be philosophically well defined or something else?

  10. Maybe there is an uncertainty principle here. If the concept of ‘truth’ is very clear to you, ‘happiness’ WILL seem like nonsense. It does to me.

    My own explanation of this conundrum is that happiness comes from the feeling of “doing the right thing”, whatever the right thing happens to be in your current social environment (it’s all about social acceptance, “love” and group bonding), but unfortunately even the tiniest modicum of intellect (seeing “truth”) reveals that the rationalizations behind the norms (any norms) are bogus, thus the discomfort.

  11. jld, I’m surprised that happiness is defined by the people around you. You must be more social than I am.

    Venkat, I appreciate your response. Dismissing the search for happiness as ‘looking for religion’ and therefore diametrically opposed to truth isn’t realistic. I respect that happiness seems like nonsense in your quest for truth, but that doesn’t meant that there can’t be truth about happiness (or an effective way to experience happiness). I think the dichotomy you actually see is rationality versus emotion. They certainly operate in different spheres (and different parts of our brain). They are, however, both real.

    Having said that, I now read your abacus differently. I see it as the tension between rationality and emotion. Thank you for the clarification. Do you see an “ideal” abacus reading? What would a stable or well-balanced individual’s abacus look like?

    • Im surprised that happiness is defined by the people around you.

      Not the people “around me” at any given moment, but all the people living and deceased up to ancestors centuries and even millennia ago who shaped up the social values around me and defined (for the most part) what’s good and beautiful versus bad and ugly.

      You must be more social than I am.

      Not at all, I have an INFP profile and this is may be what gives me the ability to see those things more clearly (the fish itself doesn’t know that he is living in the water).

    • I think jld is actually correct. Happiness IS actually fundamentally a social thing. But this is a complex point that I won’t attempt to argue here. In a way this is the “truth about happiness” that you want, but it is deeply unsatisfying to those who want to place happiness on a pedestal.

      I don’t think truth-happiness can be reduced to rationality-emotion, so I don’t agree with your reading of the abacus.

      Truth-happiness is a deep and fundamental dichotomy which takes a lot of effort to transcend. Rationality-emotion is an obviously false one, since emotion is actually a part of bounded rationality (as the very phrase “emotional intelligence” suggests). Rationality in the calculative, cold sense that you seem to mean, is actually irrational as we’ve discovered over two centuries. Irrational “cold rationality” plus emotion = deeper rationality. Emotions serve to modulate rationality in useful ways through filtration, time sensitivity etc. The mitigate the effects of the bounds of pure calculative rationality. And of course, emotion is real. It is biologically, measurably real. Neither truth, nor happiness, is real in that sense.

  12. One point that needs to be explored more, is why one would put delusion opposite manic depression rather than just its usual opposite clarity.
    Someone already commented, that the truth shows us our faults, and lack of virtue. Another aspect for truth seekers is the amount of time, effort and emotional investment involved in building up our models of the world (or some specific aspect of it). And then noticing the faults, and having doubts about different things. When one has access to a huge range of different viewpoints, as we do these days, doubts in our models can become more frequent. I guess, both these ways in which truth affects us could be put under the label ‘need to be secure’.
    Claims of being able to transcend are usually related to awareness – of whether this need to be secure is operating in the foreground or in the background. Is it similar to a sense of discomfort one feels from time to time? Or one could imagine after truth seeking being applied to the manic depressive feelings themselves, the need for the security and the thought processes involved being just as clearly in sight as normal everyday objects.
    Logically, it is not at all obvious that truth-seeking leads to depressive thoughts without further human motivations in the background. So it makes sense to look at these motivations. What is not clear to me is how realistic is constant awareness, and whether these depressive feelings remain once our motivations are in the foreground instead of the background.

  13. hk: the link between depression and realism is fairly well-known (see for example wikipedia on depressive realism).

    (added 5 minutes later): The classic exposition of this idea is of course Voltaire’s Candide (which I have not read) and the character of Pangloss.

    The details are controversial though.

    My evidence for extending the connection to manic-depression is mostly anecdotal (from such things as the ‘highs and lows of research’ and other truth-seeking (at least on paper) activities).

    Ben: by ‘philosophically meaningful’ I mean it seems to lead to substantial philosophical conversations. As opposed to something arbitrary that yields no philosophical insight. For example, I don’t think there is/can be a “philosophy of ice cream” that is meaningfully distinct from a general philosophy of hedonism or something. “Happiness” discussions seem to me to always end up in shallower “philosophy of ice cream” type waters.

  14. The fact that whether somebody is really, truly happy or not cannot be completely established by external rules and must necessarily take into account what the person feels (and says so) has been brought out well in Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness. His book, incidentally, is more interesting and hilarious than his TED video might indicate.

    Another book that contains a lot of material about research on happiness and compares it with ancient wisdom from a variety of scriptural sources is Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis.

    On a lighter note (but truthfully) I happened to read Haidt’s book and felt happy, then I immediately read Gilbert’s book and felt definitely closer to the truth about happiness but a little less happy.

  15. Just to clarify my point above, I am not questioning the empirical link between depression and truthseeking so much as emphasising other motivations in the background which cause the truth to be depressing. As a thought experiment, one could imagine a robot designed to seek truth (bracketing how feasible AI is for the moment) but not find it depressing because say it doesn’t have the need to know that it is in control, everything is going well, its previous actions were morally right, or that its previous models were correct.
    One might say these extra human motivations are with us, and a basic part of our nature. It might be so but it is logically an extra assumption for truth seeking to lead to depression. More importantly, if someone is already on the left side of the abacus, one might as well apply truth seeking, to bring these backround thought processes to the foreground. This, of course, wont change events in the real world like earthquakes but there is the possibility that some of the links between truth and depression are based on more delusions that haven’t been uncovered.

    • This is a very subtle distinction you are bringing up.

      My tentative answer to your robot thought experiment is this: truth-seeking is basically the building of mental models. As Murray Gell-Mann (I think) said, the sole justification of these models is that they are expected to work. By “work” he meant predictive capability and falsifiability in the usual sense of course.

      But the point is that truth then reduces to model-testing behaviors — observations and experimentation. But somewhere in what we choose to observe, or how we choose to test, there is an intention informing our actions. All models are purposeful in that sense. There is no disinterested, objective scientific model. So I don’t think we can invent a disinterested scientist robot, even theoretically. It will need intentions to focus its attention, to know what models are interesting to build, and how to test them.

      But that’s the start of a possible answer, not a complete and certain one.

  16. Truth and depression are most definitely linked and certainly have evolutionary fitness benefits: The bright side of being blue: depression as an adaptation for analyzing complex problems.

    OTOH happiness seekers are astoundingly daft!
    Yet happiness (or at least happiness craving?) must have some fitness value too, I have yet to see some thoughts on this which would go beyond the trivial.

    Another “coincidental” freshly issued related link: Treat Your Mind as You Would a Private Garden.

  17. This suggests a method for happiness:

    1. Construct a good story for yourself.
    2. Delude yourself into believing it is true. Get immersed.
    3. Enjoy.

    What I’m wondering is, might there be a remote chance that we can achieve #2 while retaining an ability to switch every now and then back to the view that it’s “just a story”, just so we don’t lose sight of truth?

    I guess the skill to do that would be similar to the one actors and LARPers use to get immersed.

    But maybe I’m just trying to have my cake and eat it too…

  18. TempoHighHai says

    has any rightabacus human ever visited this post?

  19. Wow, this makes me think about The Matrix in a whole new way. That movie has so many layers.

  20. Kudos on a great post and a great model.

    I was thinking whether it might make sense to add additional springs to the left and right of each bead – to connect the bead to the left and right sides of the abacus. Those springs (the tension in them) would represent the biases of the environment you find yourself in. So, for example, an optimist living in times of famine or epidemics would feel a high level of tension in the spring that connects his “main cognitive mode” bead to the left.

    So, it is not just the tension in the springs connecting the beads to each other, but the springs that connect the beads to the environment that would determine the overall stress or “effort” necessary for an individual to fit within its environment. Further, IMHO, the tension in these springs is stronger than the up-down springs.

    Of course, as the environment changes, the tensions would change there, too. Your objective, then, becomes: find an environment where your left-right springs are relaxed in addition to the up-down springs. (Alternatively, you could try to move your beads to adjust better to the environment, but I think the former is much easier to do, IMHO.)

  21. I really do like you philosopher’s abacus, mainly because I am a bit of a computer geek and was studying the evolution of the computer and came across the abacus as a counting tool, developed initially in the East, I believe.

    The dichotomy of your truth/happiness abacus is fun to play with, and in my view very similar to other this/that, ying/yang, systems. ie the Tao Oracle. The binary zero/one or the mood of depression/euphoria of being bipolar, or what you call manic/depression. It’s like playing “what’s the opposite of . . .” with my 4 year old niece. It can go on and on. It’s always rewarding playing with children. They have such an imagination, and are so creative.

    What do you think of left brain/right brain thinking, spoken by Jill Bolte-Taylor on TED.COM. I haven’t yet read her book. I have a right brain preference, which makes me quite creative, including painting, writing, and making things, inventing things etc.

    But then I discovered that I am also very good at other things, like creating a computer system that will be of use to the mentally ill, and begin to bridge the enormous gap between mentally ill and “so called” mentally well. I don’t mean to be a smart-arse but this is all part of “truth”. Truth equals what is happening. Your abacus is about what you DO with the painting of yourself in the abacus. Do you achieve more ? are you more balanced as an individual ? If you answer YES, then the abacus is right for you.

    I am a classic dreamer, right brain, right abacus. Emotional Intelligence is high percentile. This doesn’t matter. What matters is what I do and does THAT have a positive affect on others. You would label me in as deluded. But helpful.

    While in delusion, I don’t harm anybody with my Happiness Trap so then no harm is done.

    For your information my MBTI is ENFP, while the David Keirsey model classifies me as a ‘Champion Idealist”.

    While you mention buddha, who has a beautiful expression of delusion and reality, it is also relevent that as individuals we consider our past life experience. How much of “what we do now . . . ” is an expression from our past lives. Refer Many Lives Many Masters by Dr Brian Weiss.

    I will call it quits now and close by saying that what you are doing with RibbonFarm is extremely important, and very helpful, as it opens up discussion between you and all the blog readers. Thankyou very much for your fantastic work.

    Dichroism – a property possessed by many doubly refracting crystals of exhibiting different colors when viewed in different directions.


  22. So, I’ve seen several references here to Buddhists who would do this or that… however, a dedicated practitioner would attempt to say to the abacus that all things percieved are not reality. If you percieve happiness, or isolation, control or pleasure you are misdirected no matter what. Reality is neither manic depressivly truth seeking nor delusionally happy, it just is. Dwelling on whether or not you understand truth vs happiness (or the darker sides of the two) is missing the point of breathing, eating, living – all of which just ‘are’.

    Happiness is a construct of the human mind and perceptions, as is isolation.

    Guess I’m not getting the point of toying with this.

    Switch on; light. Switch off; dark.

  23. Alexander Boland says

    I just got a weird idea for an alternative based on your “pick three” model. Your model had some truth to it (no pun intended), but something felt missing. What if it was a triangle of “truth | pleasure | validation” (i might replace “vaildation” with “control”, but then agian, “control” may very well be the same thing as “truth” how you phrase it.) Anyway, here’s where it got interesting:

    Truth + Pleasure: Loser
    Pleasure + Validation: Clueless
    Truth + Validation: Sociopath