On myself (information for the research community)

[Oded Goldreich, May 2012]

Since my (somewhat non-standard/peculiar) personal behavior is often misinterpreted, I thought it may be a good idea to try to explain it (or rather provide my own view of it).

For starters, I would note that I am a very introvert and shy person. This may sound strange, since I often express opinions in public and behave in an ``extravagant'' (and/or self-assured) manner, but it is true nevertheless: Indeed, I am self-assured, but this does not mean that I feel comfortable with people that I do not know well. I do feel confident expressing my opinion on various matters and behaving as fits my tastes and needs, but I feel very different in other situations (including small-talk and some types of technical discussions). My solution is to avoid such (uncomfortable for me) situations. For example, when I'm in a conference I do not socialize but rather stick to my solitude (with the exception of close friends). I also avoid non-trivial technical discussions with the exception of the rare cases in which I believe that an oral discussion will work better for me than email exchange.

Indeed, you may say that I am imposing my preferences on other people, but I beg to stress that I am only imposing terms of interaction with me. I think each person has the right to impose such terms, and if the terms of two people do not match, then they may not interact. Furthermore, my terms are not imposed out of whim; they are the only terms under which I can really function and interact (rather than pretend to function and interact but actually be a zombie). Also, I wish to express my opinion that such a behavior is actually more moral than its opposite (of yielding to the wishes of others also when they conflict with your own): Making yourself an instrument to the needs and actions of others means putting them in a situation of using you as an instrument, which denies your humanity (which must always be the goal; cf. lessons from Kant). N.B.: We are talking about personal interactions!

Another feature of mine that deserves an explanation is the fact that I am very focused: There are few things that I can seriously entertain at any time, and I typically block many interesting ideas and suggestions directed at me, and focus on the things that preoccupy me at the time. Thus, I often refuse to hear technical details regarding an idea that is not related to my current preoccupations; this does not mean that I find the idea unappealing, but rather that I cannot investigate it at depth at the moment. It has to do with the fact that I'm very ``systematic'' in my thinking. At times, depending on my inner state, I may just record an idea, and at other times I may want to understand it in depth, but I typically prefer not to take the middle path of hearing details about an idea without studying it in depth (and for me such a study means learning and thinking about the idea by myself).

It is true that I'm an opinionated person; that is, I do have strong opinions regarding many aspects of professional, social, and personal life. Still, this does not mean that I have negative feelings towards people with whom I disagree. For details, see my opinion-page about disagreements.

Another warning: In general, my memory is not great, and in particular my visual memory is quite bad. So I may not recognize people I was introduced to (and even talked to) a few days before, let alone if this was a few months ago.

Back to Oded's page of essays and opinions or to Oded's homepage.