The Null Device

A Canadian psychologist estimates that 1 in every 100 people is a psychopath. The vast majority of psychopaths, mind you, are not serial killers, but ordinary people like you and me, only incapable of differentiating between right and wrong or feeling any remorse for their actions. This trait makes them ideal predators:
He calls them "subclinical" psychopaths. They're the charming predators who, unable to form real emotional bonds, find and use vulnerable women for sex and money (and inevitably abandon them). They're the con men like Christophe Rocancourt, and they're the stockbrokers and promoters who caused Forbes magazine to call the Vancouver Stock Exchange (now part of the Canadian Venture Exchange) the scam capital of the world. (Hare has said that if he couldn't study psychopaths in prisons, the Vancouver Stock Exchange would have been his second choice.) A significant proportion of persistent wife beaters, and people who have unprotected sex despite carrying the AIDS virus, are psychopaths. Psychopaths can be found in legislatures, hospitals, and used-car lots. They're your neighbour, your boss, and your blind date. Because they have no conscience, they're natural predators. If you didn't have a conscience, you'd be one too.

While psychopathology may be considered a defect by most, it can actually be an advantageous mutation in the cutthroat world of business; advantageous, that is, for the psychopath and nobody else.

How can you tell if your boss is a psychopath? It's not easy, says Babiak. "They have traits similar to ideal leaders. You would expect an ideal leader to be narcissistic, self-centred, dominant, very assertive, maybe to the point of being aggressive. Those things can easily be mistaken for the aggression and bullying that a psychopath would demonstrate. The ability to get people to follow you is a leadership trait, but being charismatic to the point of manipulating people is a psychopathic trait. They can sometimes be confused."

While theprevalence of psychopaths is 1 in 100 in the world in general, one researcher maintains that the figure is 1 in 10 among executives.

Because psychopaths are neurologically different, they cannot be cured, though they can learn to fake remorse and spout insincere words of contrition, in order to get out and reoffend. As such, there is controversy on how to deal with them; whether to execute them (in the US, diagnosis as a psychopath is an argument for the death penalty), to lock them up even when they have not committed a crime (as in the UK), or to attempt to cure them by appealing to their self-interest. Wonder whether they've tried Clockwork Orange-style aversion conditioning. (via Plastic)

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