Hilbert and Behavioral Relativity

Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to be dazzled. I am going to do the unthinkable and analyze human behavior with the aid of mathematics. Please save the stones and arrows for last. David Hilbert was a brilliant mathematician during late 19th and early 20th centuries. He came up with this notion called a “Hilbert space”. In mathematical terms what it means is this: in a Hilbert space of “n” dimensions any vector (a line would be a vector in 2 dimensions) can be completely expressed in terms of “n” orthogonal (independent) “basis” vectors. If this has put you to sleep please wake up, the worst is already over. One simple analogy from everyday life that can shine light on this concept is the notion of primary and secondary colors. We know that primary colors (RYB: red, yellow and blue) cannot be created by mixing other colors. On the other hand we can create a variety of other colors by mixing the primary colors in different proportions. So in this Hilbert space of color, RYB are the “independent” entities (basis vectors) from which we can make any other color. Easy, right? We can apply the same concept to human behavior. If we could come up with a set of key behavioral qualities independent from one another each human being on the planet can be described with a different mixture of the said qualities. As you can guess the difficulty here lies in coming up with a complete set of independent qualities. Since this is just a humble blog post and not a doctoral thesis I am going to use 2 qualities to illustrate my point ( I ask all of you to respond with a set of qualities to create a complete picture). Basically we are making a very simplistic assumption that our behavior is limited to just 2 qualities. Let us say that the 2 qualities are “A” and “B” where A is our ability to be selfless and B is a measure of how introverted/extroverted we are. Then all human beings can be described as x*A and y*B, where both x and y can go from a scale of 1 to 10. In case of A, 1 means the person is completely selfish and 10 means the person is completely selfless. In case of B, 1 means an extremely introverted character and 10 means a social butterfly. The cool thing about human beings is that x and y are not constants. They can vary considerably depending upon who we are interacting with and the circumstances under which the said interaction takes place. Many people would go from 1 to 10 on the B scale (introvert-extrovert) through the simple expedient of imbibing alcohol. People who have difficulty talking to strangers can be extremely garrulous in the company of their friends and family. Same person can be an introvert in one person’s company and an extrovert in someone else’s. This is equally applicable to our 1st quality A. We may choose to do a selfless act when everybody is watching and be more selfish behind closed doors. We are talking about the same concept when we say one kind turn deserves another. If somebody does a selfless act it can spur us to be more selfless. If people around us are being selfish all the time we are likely to do the same.

The main point I wanted to make here is that human behavior is highly relative and thus variable as a result. This fact alone should encourage us to not rush to snap judgements about others and be more forgiving. Another important conclusion is that our behavior will necessarily be influenced by the kind of people we surround ourselves with (what is funny here is that this is what our parents told us all along anyway). If you are ambitious about life there is no point in hanging out with people who are just going to sit around and mope all day long. You can choose to be with people who bring out the best in you or people who will bring out the worst in you. The choice is yours. Enough said.


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