Monday, September 20, 2010

Not Stupids and Loonies

The 1967 Hugo Winner, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein, tells the tale of a revolution instigated by the residents--Loonies--of the moon, a sort of penal colony. The uprising is partially led by Mike, a computer, and a group of "not stupids", people who Mike is fond of because they have no problems accepting him as a friend.

The book was not necessarily my mug of Chai, but I did receive a certain amount of enjoyment from it. While a lot of people over the years have quoted from the book the phrase “There is no such thing as a free lunch,” my favorite was “not stupids.” To me “not stupids” is a fun phrase for describing people who are willing to think outside the box. It also makes me chuckle about how people on both sides of a controversial issue will point at people on the other side and refer to them as stupid. You would think that they would be able to find some common ground in the fact that both are all stupid.

I am neither a history nor world politics buff, so I am grateful that the book helped me to stretch my boundaries and look at the way revolutions come about. The description of how covert organizations are formed and preserved helped me to understand terrorism better. While I think of myself primarily as an individual, I am also a citizen of the world, which seems to demand at least a token attempt to understand it. I could imagine how people felt in the 1960’s when they read this while the Vietnam War raged on. How empowering.

I did manage to find one quote my analytical brain found attractive. This is on problem solving:
From somewhere, back in my youth, heard Prof say,” Manuel, when faced with a problem you do not understand, do any part of it you do understand, then look at it again.” He had been teaching me something he himself did not understand well—something in math—but had taught me something far more important, a basic principle.

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