January 10, 2019

"And that was his plan. He was going to live his normal life as if normal 'was living in darkness for the rest of my life.'"

"He had 720 hours and absolutely no distractions – and he’d use that time to improve himself. 'How can I give myself a better sugar scrub ... how can I stretch it deeper, how can I be more calm, how can I be more patient?' he says.... With so much time and only himself for company, Alati’s thoughts were a source of entertainment and a lifeline. 'The thoughts would just come to you, and if you don’t make sure that they go in a good direction, they can spiderweb out of control and lead you to a bad place,' Alati says....  '[Prisoners in solitary] are not given a bathtub with sugar scrubs, and essential oil and food, and a yoga mat. They’re not given that stuff, so if I didn’t have that stuff, and I wasn’t actually free and I wasn’t being paid, that’s why [it would be a] punishment.'...  When he finally emerged, the noise and commotion was overwhelming.... Friends and family surrounded him, and social interaction was 'a bit of a culture shock.' He was surprised by the number of choices he had and that social niceties needed to be observed. 'I knew how to do everything – I just forgot,' Alati says. 'I can’t just start doing push-ups on a bathtub in front of people. I can’t just start walking around with no underwear.'"

From "Hallucinations and $100,000: the poker player who shut himself in a pitch-black room for weeks/Rich Alati had a six-figure sum in his sights. As long as he could survive 30 days in the dark with no human contact" (The Guardian).

ADDED: Alati had control: If he could stay in, he'd get $100,000 and if he came out he'd lose $100,000. That's $200,000 of incentive, for a 30-day effort. The other guy, Young, could only wait and see what Alati would do. Young's advantage was that he didn't have to do anything difficult, and he might win $100,000. One alternative was that Young could communicate by audio with Alati and make an offer to end it earlier. And that's what happened, with Young paying $62,400 for Alati's 20 days in the bathroom.

Was there any real danger that Alati would lose his mind? If so, Young faced the risk of having to feel bad about what he'd lured Alati to do, and Alati risked suffering that would extend beyond the 30 day period. But Alati also stood to gain from the 30-day experience. There was the enforced meditation in solitude and the chance to see what visions grow in darkness. And then there was all that physical exercise. You'd do a lot of push-ups and sit-ups. It would be fun to look at yourself in the mirror after all that, no?

34 comments:

rhhardin said...

He started reasoning like a woman.

rehajm said...

As Vegas prop bets go that one seems relatively tame. Eric Lindgren's four rounds of golf in a day in the Vegas heat was pretty amazing...

Fernandistein said...

No need to subject yourself to The Guardian

"Rich Alati won $62,400 from fellow professional pro Rory Young after surviving 20 days in a pitch-black room with no contact to the outside world.

The original bet was for $100,000 and 30 days, but the two came to a settlement on Day 20."

stlcdr said...

“...but these guys in solitary confinement get nothing”

Freedom. After what he talks about, he still doesn’t get it?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

So...I get to avoid human interaction, and someone will pay me to do it? Where do I sign up?

stlcdr said...

This is also one persons experience in pampered darkness, without human contact (which wasn’t true). Some people can go, and desire, months without human contact. Some can go their whole lifetime in ‘darkness’.

Maybe if he was truly in a dark cell, with no choice of coming out, no pampering...perhaps there would be something there.

Ann Althouse said...

The door was unlocked. He could have walked out at any time. I think Young's best hope was that at some point — at ANY point — Alati might impetuously or mindlessly or hallucinatingly open that door.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The door was unlocked. He could have walked out at any time.

That is the case for most of our personal prisons

BudBrown said...

This seems like some big law firms dream - 720 billable hours.

tim maguire said...

After 20 days, I expected I';d have settled in to a rhythm and would stick it out for the extra $38 Gs.

I'd be interested in reading a 1st person account if he could recreate his state of mind over that 20 days.

SayAahh said...

The "4" rules: You can go 40 days w/o food. You can go 4 days w/o water. You can go 4 minutes w/o air. But you can only go 4 seconds w/o hope.

He had hope. At 720 days it would end.

SayAahh said...

720 hours.

tim maguire said...

stlcdr said...
Maybe if he was truly in a dark cell, with no choice of coming out, no pampering...perhaps there would be something there.


That would be an interesting, Camus-like, addition to the terms--that for those 30 days he thinks it really is going to be the rest of his life. Then, after 30 days, the door opens from the other side and it's over. What if he decided not to walk out? If he got so comfortable in his dark isolation that he chose not to come out, or was so fearful of what was on the other side of that door that he couldn't summon the courage to walk through it? At least not right away.

tim maguire said...

Time travel would be necessary to do it right. Future you could enter into an agreement to imprison past you for 30 days and past you does not know why or where or for how long.

SayAahh said...

Try a terminal illness.

William said...

I could be locked in a dark room for a finite period of time if I knew that the time span was fixed and that, at the end of the time span, I would have a significant pile of money. Money was one of mankind's greatest inventions. It's great, not just for motivation but also for helping you maintain sanity and balance in an unfeeling work environment..

William said...

I've had worse jobs than this guy, and they lasted longer than twenty days.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

If I was the guy on the outside, I'd set up something that announced the time remaining, once every hour. Start it off accurately, so that it corresponds to the guy inside's initial perception. But then stretch the time between announcements, so that by the end second day it's two hours between each "hour" announcement, by the end of the third day it's four hours, etc.

Make it seem like time is passing much slower than it actually is.

robother said...

Darkness retreat is a thing in the Tibetan meditative tradition (and, I assume, other spiritual traditions). The retreats I've heard of are typically 10 days, and at least for Western students, involve brief daily interaction with a Meditation Instructor, who can pull them out if he thinks its getting too weird. You definitely hallucinate, pretty much everyone right away hallucinates a visual reality of the room and its features that may bear only slight resemblance to the real one. Seems like most people (at least sighted people) need that.

Megaera said...

I guess no one reads Chekov any more, or someone would have recognized the scenario.

rehajm said...

If I was the guy on the outside,

You’re even more twisted than I imagined.

We should hang out.

Leland said...

Other than the isolation from people and entertainment, it really seemed like an easy win. He gets running water, in door plumbing, restaurant food, and the certainty that he could back out at any time.

His only risk was failing to deal with isolation and boredom.

Consider the notion of 8 hours of sleep. 240 of the 720 hours is all about wanting isolation.

Roger Sweeny said...

Recently watched an old Twilight Zone episode, "The Silence." A man takes a bet to remain silent for a year, and so they can check, has to stay in a room full of microphones. The better keeps trying to get him to come out partway through and you can probably guess how it ends.

You can get the full episode by googling "Twilight Zone The Silence".

Roger Sweeny said...

The Chekhov story is "The Bet".

tommyesq said...

"Rich Alati won $62,400 from fellow professional pro Rory Young after surviving 20 days in a pitch-black room with no contact to the outside world."

That's only $130 an hour, or about $260,000 per year - nice money, but not a big enough amount to do crazy things to get it.

EDH said...

"Strange things happen to the head here.

Put all hope out of your mind.

And masturbate as little as possible, it drains the strength.
"

Amexpat said...

After 20 days, I expected I';d have settled in to a rhythm and would stick it out for the extra $38 Gs.

He can't get into any rhythm because it's dark all the time and he's getting fed at irregular intervals. This in some ways is tougher than solitary in prison. There's no circadian rhythm and no sense of time passing.

Mark said...

That's a punk move by Young, and one I think is a breach of the bet that Alati be in total silence. One that should require him to pay double.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

The YouTube guy vsauce lived in solitary for 3 days with bright lights on the whole time: Mind Field episode 1: Isolation, but I don't think he got $100k out of it.

Yancey Ward said...

I am pretty sure I could do it if someone offered me $100K to try, but I would not have taken the bet as structured in the story.

Yancey Ward said...

Poker players love prop bets, though.

wildswan said...

He engaged to have an intense emotional experience with unknown consequences for no particular reason in that it wasn't something that he always wanted to try or that he trained for. Maintaining a poker face was the only training he had and winning a lot of money by betting was his chosen way of life. It seems it was enough. It's a strange story.

FIDO said...

This was a Russian story. 'The Prisoner'?

A man bet a million that he could spend 10 years in total isolation without human contact. He got books, food and musical instruments.

The other bettor tried to murder him because of downturns in the market but the man inside had developed his mind so that money no longer interested him.


Ah! It was 'The Bet' by Anton Chekov. And it was 15 years.


So this is the reality tv version of an old Russian story.

FIDO said...

One could argue that 'Groundhog's Day' was also written under the influence of The Bet, except that the protagonist, isolated by 15 years inside his temporal bubble, found a far more cheery destination than the Russian hermit.

But Bill Murray could press the flesh. Our young lawyer could not, and hence headed into Gnosticism and Cynicism.