X-Factor

An interview with recent Government Department appointment Ethan Zorick

from PARKLIFE November 23, 1996

Zorick: Sorry I'm late, this room numbering scheme is silly.

Student X: That's a good place to start today. What do you believe to be the reasoning behind the room-numbering system at Essex, if we can even call it that?

Zorick: Of course it's a system, and a brilliantly designed one at that! The administration made a rational decision on how to number the rooms and acted accordingly.

Student X: But you yourself just said it was silly, and it strikes me as purely random!

Zorick: Ah, but only to the untrained eye. In fact there are blueprints in the nether reaches of the administrative offices, showing the exact layout. These are, um, hidden from the student body to keep you confused.

Student X: Then you are saying that there is a conspiracy at work?

Zorick: No, no. What we have here is the administration acting in a rational manner. Given the choice of either (1) letting the students know where all their classes are, and thus the students having some power, or (2) keeping the numbering a mystery, the rational choice for the administration was to maximize their security by keeping the numbering system encrypted - choice 2.

Student X: I take it from this that the faculty have access to these blueprints as well -

Zorick: No, um, the administration doesn't trust us either. I found out on the Internet. There is so much information available - when I'm not playing DOOM, that is.

Student X: Anyways, on the issue of student power -

Zorick: Once again that is not a real concept. Student power is normative, and hence worthless. Individuals have no power per se, except as part of a pressure group, in this case a student body.

Student X: You mean the Students Union?

Zorick: Precisely. The Union protests Top Up Fees, a rational act for them. This puts pressure on the administration in the formulation of their policy. So we enter a game theoretic format: the union (State A) makes a demand (no Top Up Fees) on the administration (State B). B can then either give in or threaten force. A then has the option to protest, riot, strike, whatever, or to give up if B threatens force. If A threatens force in return, B can either negotiate or return the force. Once we weigh the observable capabilities (K) on both sides, the rational choice is obvious. A makes a demand, B refuses, A threatens force, and B, knowing it has more K, goes to war.

Student X: What? War? Look, I don't know how they do things in America, but here -

Zorick: I'm not talking about the US or England. I'm discussing the REAL WORLD here and how it works. I've run regressions and logits, and my model concludes that war is the most likely outcome.

Student X: You're serious, aren't you.

Zorick: Sure. If you perform the proper test of the data sets, you come to a 95% chance of force being used in this scenario. The remaining 5% is the unknown.

Student X: So, we might call it the X-factor?

Zorick: Good comic book, that one. I prefer Superman myself. He's great for long lonely logiting nights... OK, um, I need to run now, Beavis and Butthead are on. Heh, heh, heh, heh, like, yeah. Cool!


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