Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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About me

Who am I?

Among other things: The kind of man who almost invariably answers questions like that with “If I only knew.”, “That is much too complex a question.”, or similar. (Note that the preceding statement is not entirely facetious: To the right mind, it is highly informative.)

My name is Michael Eriksson. The rest of this page is a scratch on the surface of who I am; the rest of this website is a somewhat deeper scratch.

Overview of my life

In Sweden (1975–1997)

Childhood (1975–1991)

I was born in Avestaw, Sweden, in 1975 as the first child of two officers of the Salvation Armyw. As officers in the Salvation Army are wont to do, my parents moved repeatedly in the next five or six years, with stops in Ljungbyw (where my sister was born) and Landskronaw. Unfortunately, they drifted apart and divorced, albeit amicably, at the end of this time.

Shortly thereafter, my mother moved back to her native town, Kopparbergw, with me and my sister; while my father moved to Stockholmw. Both were, as a consequence of their divorce, forced to leave the Salvation Army.

Possibly in 1984, my mother started a study of theology (aiming for priesthood in the Swedish Lutheran Churchw), which required her to spend a lot of time in Uppsalaw where she was enrolled (typically by weekend commuting). Her, successful, studies lasted some four years. Not long after the completion, she married a fellow student (and old friend from the Salvation Army), who moved in with us.

My father similarly went to university to become a Socionomw; although he chose to remain with the public transport company he worked for, even after graduation.

High school and university (1991–1997)

In 1991 I started high school in Lindesbergw, which implied a commute of roughly forty kilometers in each direction. Here I had enrolled in a natural-science program, and I experienced an extreme infatuation with mathematics, going through the entire high school curriculum in the first semester, and doing university level math in the second (after which the infatuation cooled somewhat).


Side-note:

The Swedish high school is divided into a number of different programs, both theoretical, e.g. natural science or humanities, and practical, e.g. for future electricians, bakers, or kindergarten teachers.


In 1994 I started my university studies in Stockholm at KTHw. I took mostly math, physics, and other “engineering” subjects; but additionally did roughly two semesters worth of business at the Stockholm School of Economicsw. I also ran an Internet company with two fellow students; and was active in the “film society” of KTH’s student organisation.

In Germany (1997–now)

Exchange student (1997–1999)

1997 proved a very important year: I moved to Germany to participate in an exchange student program at the TU Darmstadtw—and have lived in Germany ever since. I spent the two “official” semesters of the exchange program at the department of mathematics, and then used the possibility to write an “external” master thesis (i.e. one where the student does not do the work at his alma mater, but in a company or, as in my case, another university). The topic had something to do with Nurbsw or a similar approximation method—having picked what was on offer, to be able to stay, I had little actual interest in the topic, did the minimal work required, and forgot all about it.

Software developer (1999–2004)

After my graduation (M. Sc.) in 1999, I worked as software developer/engineer for about four and a half years, divided among several companies. Typically various webbased services, e.g. eCommerce platforms, were developed on basis of Java, Servlets, Oracle, ... Interface languages like HTML, JavaScript, CSS, etc. were obviously also constant companions; however, less intensely, because I preferred tasks on the server side, including business logic and database handling. An early important task was the writing of a billing system. Other works included WebDAV and JNDI components. I also did a fair amount of software design, data modeling, Oracle administration, and was the “resident expert” on Unix/Linux command lines and shell scripts. Comparatively soon I was promoted to senior, and had the opportunity to lead several small teams, mentor new employees, etc.

Second master (2004–2005)

Towards the end of 2003, I quit my job to begin a master in computer science. My emphasis was on theoretical computer science, including computability and complexity, with a thesis on computability with “Type II” Turing machines (basically Turing machines with infinitely long inputs and outputs, useful for e.g. theoretical studies of computations involving real numbers). However, I also took courses in e.g. database systems, computer engineering, and project management.

Business Analyst (2006–2007)

After completing this second master, I went to work as a software architect with an eCommerce company; however, on the very first day my VP suggested that I took on the role as the companies first business analyst instead. In what I must consider one of the worst mistakes of my life, I agreed. (See TODO for details.) After about five quarters in “Dilbert land”, I threw in the towel to engage in a sabbatical. (Although interrupted for a few months to help a neighbouring firm with an eCommerce project.) Not only had I worked and studied very hard for most of the preceding 13 years; but I also felt a need to think through my experiences, in particular the many problems and frustrations of the preceding year. In addition, I had reached a point in my life were I wanted to think through my life in general, explore and correct weaknesses, find out more about my inner (mental) workings, etc.

Sabbatical (2007–2008)

This sabbatical proved to be longer than I had anticipated: In many regards it was like trying to pull out a thread from a yarn ball—there just does not seem to be an end to all there was to explore: Why had things gone so wrong in my previous position? How do humans in general function? How do I in particular function? What circumstances in life had affected my development how? (And on and on and on.)

This time was of immense importance to me in that it lead me to many new and unexpected insights, helped me to a much deeper understanding of myself and others, resolved many issues I had carried around since my childhood, ...—a truly life-changing period.

I can recognize much of my experiences in Dabrowski’s concept of positive disintegrationw, although the match is not perfect. (In particular, Dabrowski has a strong focus on issues relating to ethics and values, in the accounts I have read, while these were of more tangential relevance to me during this time period.)

Software consultant and developer of this site (2008–now)

In the second half of 2008, however, I felt that I had reached a state of diminishing returns—and a severely diminished bank account. After some surprising initial difficulty, I landed a job as IT consultant; however, after about four months, the economic down-turns led to my lay-off. At this stage, March 2009, I made the dual decision of going freelance and of finally getting to work on the website I had contemplated for quite some time.

Education

My formal education (after high school) consists of a Civilingenjör/M. Sc. in Engineeringw, a Master of Computer Science, and some assorted other courses, including two semesters of business studies. IIRC, the sum is the equivalent of roughly eight years of full-time studies. (More information is available above.) In addition, I have spent large amounts of time on autodidactic studies of various kinds (see also “Interests” below). The sum of these is probably of a similar size by now.

Interests

My interests are very far-ranging and I usually find it easy to become fascinated with a new topic, making this entry comparatively pointless. However, to mention those areas where I have, at one time or another, had a truly immense interest: Computers (including computer science and software development), Language, Literature, Mathematics, Movies, Psychology, Politics. Philosophy is an area where my theoretical studies are surprisingly limited, but where I have spent sufficiently much time on my own that an inclusion might be justifiable (generally, original thinking has over time come to play an increasingly important role in my occupation with various subjects).

Hobbies

My single most important hobby at the time of writing is likely this website (although this need not be true at the time of reading). Otherwise, I spend a lot of time reading (Internet and books, both fiction and non-fiction; Wikipedia is an endless source of edutainment), watching DVD’s, playing computer games, solving puzzles (cross words, sudoko, and similar), and just thinking. Note, however, that some of these activities go through cycles of high intensity followed by complete dormancy.

Religious views

In my childhood I was, for obvious reasons, Christian. During my teens I grew increasingly more sceptical, and arrived at the view that there is no particular reason to assume that the Christian religion (or any other) would be true. The mere fact that there are many different religions that are not compatible with each other, yet all have large followings, is problematic; as is the fact that none of them has ever produced any significant scientific evidence supporting their claims—even the historical existence of characters like Jesus, the Buddha, and Muhammed, is not conclusively proven. Another major issue is the proven errors in previous versions of the christian cosmology, natural history, etc.

I note, in particular, that one of the most commonly used arguments for the existence of a higher being, the beauty respectively existence of the world we live in, is one of the strongest arguments against divine creation in my eyes. (Note that a divine creation would imply the existence, at least in the past, of a higher being of some kind; however, a non-divine creation does not automatically rule out the existence of gods.) The reason: I have a solid knowledge and/or great experience in fields like mathematics, algorithms, complexity, etc.; and I consider it entirely plausible that natural processes, based on a number of basic rules, could have lead to the current world—but would consider an intellect capable of constructing the world a far greater miracle than the world it self.

Further, even assuming the existence of e.g. the christian God, I am not automatically certain that he is worthy of worship or obedience: The claim that he is wise, all-knowing, whatnot, has, to my knowledge, never been put on a solid basis (in fact, observational evidence would indicate the opposite; and I would like to see a very good explanation for a number of phenomena, before considering accepting these claims); and the mere fact that he would be our creator is not reason enough, in and by it self. I also note that the God of the old testament (and of the medieval church) had a “Do as I say, or I punish you!” approach to obedience, which is strong circumstantial evidence against the claims to me.

(I do, however, see great value in many of the philosophical ideas in some religions.)

Political ideology

My general ideas have much in common with those of classical liberals, neo-liberals, and libertarians. However, the match is not perfect, and I feel that labels often do more harm than good. I also stress that many opposing ideologies, including even communism, contain good ideas. That some of them, say communism in the Soviet Union, developed into monstrosities, is not primarily a question of their being “evil”; but caused by the ideology being perverted, or the mechanisms put in place not being compatible with human nature. Generally, I feel that anyone with a strong dislike of (as opposed to an intellectual disagreement with) a particular ideology should make very certain that he has understood it as conceived by its creators and theoretical proponents—and not goes just by its distorted manifestation in real life (not to mention the propaganda of its opponents).

Looking closer at my own ideology, I would propose a variation of capitalism which is highly laissez-faire in most regards, but have some strong exceptions. Such exceptions would include that companies are punished heavily if they are caught lying, even by implication or misrepresentation (as e.g. in many advertisements); and that the costs of externalities should be carried by whoever has caused the externality. The government should be as minimal as pragmatically possible, taxes low, redistribution of income should be an exception (not, as e.g. in Sweden, the rule), and governmental agencies and politicians alike should be kept in tight reins to prevent wasteful use of tax money. Its main tasks would be to protect the citizens and uphold their rights, to ensure that opportunities are open to anyone willing and capable to take them, etc. (Equality of outcome, however, is a thing of evil.) “Social support” should be provided to those who actually need it; but not to the great masses. (Using tax money to support the unemployed in general would be wrong; but specific cases, e.g. people with certain disabilities, should be supported. However, even here, the main focus should be on creating opportunities, and actual money, ideally, be just a temporary help. For the great masses, private insurance, without any attempts to redistribute income, is a better option.)

As for the form of government, I would rate a representative democracy, possibly in combination with republic, above e.g. monarchy, communist democracy, and (on a national scale) direct democracy. However, the deficiencies are sufficiently large that it is dangerous to leave it unmodified. At the very least, considering the intellectual development and insight of the average voter of today, restrictions on who is allowed to vote are needed; possibly, making the right contingent on a certain level of intelligence and/or education, or the passing of a hard test of suitability. Corresponding, even higher, hurdles would apply for eligibility to seek office. (Obviously, such a system would bring its own set of complications and should be evaluated very carefully before implementation.) Other systems that may be viable alternatives exist, most notably meritocracy; however, it would need to be implemented with extreme care to avoid nepotism, corruption, choice based on pseudo-ability, etc.—quite possibly, the complications would prove to large to work around.

Various other views and opinions

The elaboration of these are one of the purposes of this website, and trying to list them all here would be both redundant and futile; however, just to mention a few of the core ideas in short: Humans are not as intellectually advanced as many of them think, be it with regard to intelligence or maturity. Similarly, they are poorly adapted to the modern world, being, in many regards, still better suited for a neolithic world (looking at behaviours, motivations, group dynamics, ...) Organisations are riddled with incompetence, irrational behaviour, and (often) intrigue. Many of the “conventional truths” of today (or, for that matter, yesterday) are false—including a sizable part of the pseudo-liberal, “politically correct”, and feminist ideas that are prevalent in e.g. the US and Sweden.


Side-note:

I do not see myself as exempt from human deficiencies above: I do try to be aware of and compensate for “neolithic behaviour”; however, I cannot guarantee that I am always successful. Further, despite having an off-the-charts IQ, I am often frustrated by my own stupidity, how I have overlooked things that are obvious with hindsight, etc. (Besides, studying math and physics on a high level can be a very humbling experience, where the student is confronted not merely with the best minds of his surroundings, but with some of the best minds of all time.)


Personality type

According to a Myers-Briggsw test I once took, I am an INTJ. Having subsequently done some reading on the topic (including going through many threads on an INTJ forume, I would tend to see me as more of an INTP (as manifested e.g. in a knowledge-for-the-sake-of-knowledge attitude or a wish for a deeper understanding of issues). Seeing that the INT part was clear-cut on the test, but the J was weakish, and that I also recognize much of an INTJ in me, the best estimate is likely INTx at this juncture.

Other tests of a similar character have had results in the same ballpark. Experiments with a tool for text analysise, e.g., mostly gave INTx for texts on this website.

See also a discussion of Myers-Briggs in more general terms.

Anagrams

After seeing an episode of House, where “Huge ego, sorry” was mentioned as an anagram of “Gregory House”, I became curious whether there was a similarly descriptive anagram of my own name. Using http://www.wordsmith.org/anagram/advanced.htmle, I found thousands upon thousands of combinations. Of these, most were nonsensical; however, there were plenty of interesting variations. A few examples (often somewhat re-arranged and altered from the automatically generated originals, which gave the words without a meaningful order):

Michael Eriksson:The original input.
A mission heckler:Whereas I am not a heckler in the strictest sense, I do tend to be very critical—be it of missions or other things.
Ikonless chimera:I am not too keen on idols, icons, and the like (in the metaphorical sense), and a chimera is a creature of the imagination (although in another sense than the one I stretch it into here).
An irksome chisel:Many people have considered me irksome over the years, in particular when I chisel away at this or that.
I nick Holmes’ ears:Hybris, I admit; however, seeing that House triggered this entry, Holmes is a natural continuation.
I am sickles’ honer:Mostly just funny—this anagram actually made sense “out of the box”—; however, I am into honing e.g. my skills and my mind, and a sickle can certainly be interpreted metaphorically in a variety of ways. Obviously, a sickle cuts, which brings us to analysis...
I am no lecher. Kiss?:No comment.
I like chess, Norma:I like chess. I hope to luck out and have a Norma read this page.
I lack ’em hero sins:Take a Pratchettian view of heroes. Possibly, I also lack some of ’em hero virtues.
Hemlock is a siren:Think “Odysseus meets Socrates” (note that neither was involved voluntarily) and throw in a bit of Sartre.

For good measure, a few variations on my domain:

aSwedeInGermany:The original input.
Ye mega-nerd swain:Greater nerds than me are rare.
Wise, enraged many:I strive to be wise, and I have at least made myself unpopular with many.
A wry dense enigma:This has often been my feeling during my self-explorations. (Whether this is particular to me, or applies to humans in general, can be disputed.)