Dr. Francisco Miraval

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October 14, 2018

8:36 PM

How will you communicate with an artificial intelligence 100 times smarter than you?

This is a real, serious question: How are you planning to communicate with an artificial intelligence 100 times smarter than you? And that difference will last only up to the moment the artificial intelligence 100 times smarter than you develops or builds a new artificial intelligence hundreds of times more intelligent than the previous one.

I must say I am not talking here about science fiction or, much less, about a conspiracy theory. Too bad I have to clarify that. Also, I am not talking about a distant future or about research happening inside a dark, unknown laboratory. In fact, this is something happening right here, in Colorado, where I live.

During a recent presentation at the Da Vinci Institute (near Denver), Steve Kommrusch, a PhD candidate at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and local coordinator of the Institute for Research of Intelligent Machines, said the IQ of the new artificial intelligence will be several times the average IQ of today’s human beings.

So, how big will that difference be? The new artificial intelligence, said Kommrusch, could achieve an IQ of around 10,000, while the average IQ in the United States is around 100. In other words, the new artificial intelligence will be 100 times more intelligent than we are.

Of course, we are just talking about IQ level here and not about the ability to access and process information, which, by the way, it is also higher in artificial intelligence than in humans.

It is good to mention that the IQ of some of the modern geniuses, including Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, varies from 160 to 190. It seems just a handful of people reach an IQ of 200, with some reports of very few people above that number, but still below 300.

According Kommrusch, the new artificial intelligence will be as distant from as regarding intelligence as we, humans, are from the ants.

The issue of different levels of intelligence was explored the movie Forbidden Planet (1956), where the most intelligent human was just a “moron” (the word used in the movie) compared with the (fictitious) Krell, who, in turn, were unable to understand the super intelligent machine, of planetary size, they created.

So, how are we going to community with that kind of artificial intelligence? Perhaps a better question is: how will that super artificial intelligence communicate with us? Perhaps we will be seen as a pest, just as we see ants as a pest.

Half a century ago, this debate was a theoretical one, presented to the people in the context of science fiction. Today, it is debate happening in an academic context and presented to us by scientists and philosophers.

In the meantime, we ignore the issue, in the same way ants ignore everything about space travel. I am not suggesting we will crush like we crush ants. I am saying we don’t even know what is actually happening to us. And, we are honest to ourselves, we really don’t care to know.

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October 14, 2018

8:35 PM

¿Cómo te comunicarás con una inteligencia artificial cien veces más inteligente que tú?

La pregunta es seria y en serio: ¿cómo te comunicarás, o cómo te entenderás, con una inteligencia artificial cien veces más inteligente que tú? Y eso sólo hasta que la inteligencia artificial, precisamente por su alto nivel de inteligencia, construya o desarrolle otra inteligencia artificial cientos de veces más inteligente que la primera.

Debo aclara que no se trata ni de ciencia ficción ni de teoría de conspiración. Y es una lástima que haya que aclararlo. Tampoco se trata de algo que se espera en el futuro lejano ni de algo que ocurre en algún lugar secreto o desconocido. De hecho, es algo actual y que sucede en Colorado, el estado donde vivo.

Durante una reciente presentación en el Instituto Da Vinci (cerca de Denver), Steve Kommrusch, estudiante de doctorado en la Universidad Estatal de Colorado en Fort Collins y coordinador local del Instituto de Investigaciones sobre Máquinas Inteligentes en esa ciudad, afirmó varias veces que el coeficiente intelectual de la inteligencia artificial superará al de los humanos.

¿Cuán grande será esa diferencia? La inteligencia artificial que ahora ya se está desarrollando, sostuvo Kommrusch, tendrá un coeficiente intelectual de 10.000 puntos, comparado con coeficiente intelectual promedio de 100 puntos en Estados Unidos. Es decir, la inteligencia artificial será cien veces más inteligente que nosotros.

Y eso es sólo en cuanto al nivel de inteligencia, no en cuanto a la capacidad de acceder y procesar información, que también será (de hecho, ya es) superior al de los humanos.

Cabe mencionar que el coeficiente intelectual de algunos de los genios modernos, como Einstein y Stephen Hawking, se ubica entre los 160 y los 190 puntos, con muy pocas personas llegando a los 200 puntos y nadie que se haya medida con certeza por encima de los 250 o quizá los 300 puntos.

Según Kommrusch, la nueva inteligencia artificial estará tan separada de nosotros en cuanto al nivel de inteligencia como nosotros lo estamos de las hormigas.

El tema de los niveles de inteligencia ya se había explorado en la película Planeta Prohibido (1956), en la que la persona más inteligente entre los humanos era un simplón comparado con los (ficticios) Krell, que su vez, con toda su súper inteligencia, jamás pudieron entender a la inteligencia artificial planetaria que ellos mismos habían creado.

Entonces, ¿cómo nos comunicaremos con esa inteligencia artificial? O quizá la verdadera pregunta sea esta: ¿cómo se comunicará esa inteligencia artificial con nosotros, de la misma manera que nosotros nos comunicamos con las hormigas?

Hace medio siglo, ese debate era teórico y enmarcado popularmente en el contexto de ciencia ficción. Ahora, es un debate real en el contexto académico, en el que científicos, ingenieros y filósofos buscan respuestas.

Mientras tanto, nosotros seguimos tan ignorantes de la nueva realidad como las hormigas lo están de nuestros viajes espaciales. Eso no significa que no vamos a sobrevivir. Eso significa que no estamos conscientes de las verdaderas dimensiones de la realidad. Pero. si somos honestos, nunca lo hemos estado ni nos interesa estarlo.

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October 7, 2018

9:37 PM

The better the question, the better the answer

Francisco Miraval

When I was still a college student, my mentor (Dr. Armando Vivante) consistently decided not to answer my questions, saying I didn’t know what I was asking because, had I known it, I would never asked what I asked. It took me many years to understand the wisdom of that approach.

That memory came back to my mind when I recently read (where?) that the size of answers we get in our lives is determined by the size of the questions we ask. If we ask irrelevant questions, we are going to receive irrelevant answers, if we get an answer at all.

Contrary to that, if we ask significant and comprehensive questions, then we will receive significant and comprehensive answers. Unfortunately, I think we live at a time when questions are no longer asked to receive answers, but precisely to prevent answers. However, that doesn’t mean we should not ask questions.

One of the best examples of asking questions for the purpose of advancing knowledge (and not just to confirm what we already know or to point out mistakes in what others say) is, of course, the questions Socrates used to ask, causing consternation, and rightly so, among those talking with Socrates.

Those were honest, multidimensional questions forcing those talking to each other to discover aspects not yet discovered in what we say or believe, as well as becoming aware of unanticipated consequences of the ideas and beliefs we blindly follow.

It is interesting to know that, after questioning so many people, Socrates concluded that wisdom consisted in acknowledging his own ignorance. Today, however, we openly confuse wisdom and ignorance and arrogant ignorance is proclaimed as wisdom.

For that reason, our questions are smaller and smaller regarding expectations and reach. Those are questions no looking for answers, much less unanticipated options. The questions are now unidimensional and therefore all the answers are only “Yes” or “No”, “correct” or “incorrect”, acceptable or unacceptable, with nothing in between.

So, what would happen if we were to stop “downloading information” and decide to be open to true dialogue, refusing to participate in alternating monologues where nobody has any intention of listening to the other person?

What would happen if we could once again ask questions of such a size that the answers could not be anticipated or calculated, but they need to be created in the context of the same dialogue that created the questions?

Perhaps we will then understand something my mentor told me many years ago and that only later understood: the question is more important that the answer, and if you know what you are asking, then you already have the answer. But we don’t even know what to ask.

At the same time, in our everyday lives, we keep asking small questions and getting small answers, those answers that pretend than just a few seconds (yes, few seconds) we will understand complex issue. But, our “everyday life” is just a fiction we create precisely to avoid asking big questions.

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October 7, 2018

9:36 PM

Cuanto mejor la pregunta, mejor será la respuesta

Francisco Miraval

Cuando yo todavía estaba estudiando en la universidad, mi mentor (el Dr. Armando Vivante) se negó consistentemente a responder mis preguntas, argumentando que yo no sabía lo que estaba preguntando porque, si lo hubiese sabido, entonces yo no hubiese hecho esa pregunta. Me llevó años entender la sabiduría de ese enfoque.

Recordé aquellos intercambios al leer recientemente (pero ¿dónde?) que la dimensión de las respuestas en nuestra vida está determinada por el tamaño de nuestras preguntas. Si nuestras preguntas son pequeñas o irrelevantes, las respuestas también lo serán o no habrá respuesta alguna.

Por el contrario, si las preguntas son significativas y suficientemente comprehensivas, entonces las respuestas también lo serán. Lamentablemente, creo que vivimos en una época en la que las preguntas ya no se hacen para obtener respuestas, sino precisamente para impedir las respuestas.  Pero no nos exime de hacer preguntas.

De hecho, uno de los mejores ejemplos de hacer preguntas con el propósito de avanzar en el conocimiento, en vez de sólo confirmar lo que uno ya sabe o tratar de demostrar los errores del otro, son aquellas preguntas que Sócrates no se cansaba de hacer y que tanto molestaban (y con razón) a sus interlocutores.

Se trataba de preguntas honestas, aunque multidimensionales, que obligaban a descubrir aspectos previamente no detectados en lo que se decía o lo que se creía, así como a tomar consciencia de las consecuencias no pensadas de las creencias o ideas a las que uno se adhiere.

Lo interesante del caso es que esas preguntas llevaron a que Sócrates entendiese que la verdadera sabiduría consistía en el reconocimiento de la ignorancia propia, contrariamente a lo que sucede hoy, cuando la ignorancia se confunde con “sabiduría” y arrogantemente se proclama como si lo fuese.

Por eso, las preguntas, cada vez más empequeñecidas en su alcance y expectativas, ya no buscan respuestas ni están abiertas a opciones no anticipadas. Las preguntas se han vuelto unidimensionales y todas las respuestas se reducen a un “sí” o un “no”, correcto o incorrecto, aceptable o inaceptable, sin matices ni alternativas intermedias.

Pero ¿qué pasaría si dejásemos de simplemente descargar información y realmente nos abriésemos al diálogo en vez de participar de monólogos alternados en el que ninguno escucha al otro porque no hay intención alguna de escucharlo?

¿Qué pasaría si volviésemos a hacer preguntas de tal tamaño que sus respuestas no pueden ser ni anticipadas ni calculadas, por lo que sólo podrán ser creadas por medio del mismo diálogo que generó las preguntas?

Quizá entonces entenderíamos algo que mi mentor me dijo alguna vez, aunque sólo tiempo después lo entendí: la pregunta es más importante que la respuesta y, si uno realmente sabe qué preguntar, entonces uno ya tiene la respuesta. El problema es que ni siquiera sabemos qué preguntar.

Mientras tanto, en nuestra vida diaria, seguimos con preguntas y respuestas pequeñas, a la vez que la “vida diaria” es cada vez más la ficción a la que nos aferramos por no querer enfrentarnos a las grandes preguntas.

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September 30, 2018

9:38 PM

We forget the past, ignore the present, and distort the future

Last week, for different reason, I spoke with several persons in high positions in their organizations, including CEOs, college professors, community leaders, and religious leaders. During the conversations, it was clear the don’t know the past, they barely understand the present, and they distort the future. Even more worrisome, they are unaware of that.

I must say that, obviously, I do the same thing regarding the past, the present, and the future. Perhaps, only perhaps, I am a little, just a little, more aware of my own ignorance of what already happened, what is happening, and what is about to happen. And I know I filter all reality through that ignorance.

Also, perhaps I am just deceiving myself thinking I am “more aware” than others about our perception of time and reality.

Whatever the case, if the person in charge of community projects know nothing about the community, the person in charge of youth programs is neither young nor connected with young people, and the person in charge of ESL classes barely knows English, you must think you are living in a psychedelic version of the Orwellian world.

Don Quixote was right when he saw giants that nobody else saw. After all, who wants to see windmills when reality is meaningless? At the very least, those imaginary giants move us to a Quixote-like action, to discover new worlds previously closed to us. But, what’s the connection between Don Quixote and ignoring the past, the present, and the future?

There is no connection, or, alternatively, everything is connected. Spanish writer Enrique Santin once said that “You remember the past. You live the present. You think the future.” Unfortunately, we are not doing anything like that.

First, we ignore the past. And what we call “past” is only the present version of what some people think happened before. In most cases, the “past” is a nostalgic reconstruction of what happened used to justify the present. Even worst, we don’t know even that distorter version of the past. We forgot the past and we forgot that we forgot.

Regarding “living the present”, our lives seem to be very similar to the undesirable monster described and anticipated by Kafka in his Metamorphosis. We have reduced “life” to be just an obsolete cog in an increasingly complex machinery. “Life” became a mere accident. In fact, that’s what many people think and feel.

Regarding the future, many people don’t realize that what they perceive to be “the future” is already happening. Based on that unrecognized ignorance, they are sure that “the future” will never arrive, because something or somebody (God, the government, big corporations) will stop it from happening. Yet, that “future” they are so sure it will never happen (artificial intelligence, for example) is already here.

Having forgotten the past, we live in a meaningless present which we want to perpetuate to recreate a past more unreal than Don Quixote’s giants, thus leaving no room in our minds, hearts, and wills to think the future.

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September 30, 2018

9:36 PM

Desconocemos el pasado, desvirtuamos el presente, distorsionamos el futuro

La semana pasada participé de conversaciones con personas en puestos importantes en la comunidad (empresarios de alto nivel, académicos, directores ejecutivos, líderes religiosos) quienes una y otra vez demostraron desconocer el pasado, desvirtuar el presente y distorsionar el futuro y, aún más preocupante, sin ninguna consciencia de que eso es lo que hacen.

Obviamente, yo hago exactamente lo mismo con respecto al pasado, al presente y al futuro, aunque creo que con un poco más de consciencia de que mi ignorancia de lo que pasó, lo que pasa y lo que pasará matiza mi entendimiento de la realidad. E incluso esa “consciencia” quizá no sea otra cosa que un deseo o un autoengaño.

Sea como fuere, si la persona a cargo de proyectos comunitarios no sabe nada de la comunidad, la persona a cargo de programas para jóvenes ni es joven ni tiene contacto con jóvenes y la persona a cargo de las clases de inglés ni siquiera domina ese idioma, entonces uno se siente viviendo en una versión psicodélica del mundo orwelliano.

Don Quijote tenía razón cuando veía gigantes que sólo él veía. Después de todo, ¿quién quiere ver molinos en una realidad que ya no tiene sentido? Por lo menos, los gigantes imaginarios motivan a la acción, a la quijotada, a descubrir mundos que de otra manera permanecerían cerrados. Pero ¿qué tiene que ver esto con ignorar u olvidar el tiempo pasado, presente y futuro?

Todo y nada a la vez.  El escrito español Enrique Santín afirmó alguna vez que “El pasado se recuerda. El presente se vive. El futuro se piensa”. Lamentablemente, nosotros no hacemos ninguna de esas tres cosas.

Ante todo, desconocemos el pasado porque lo llamamos “pasado” es sólo la versión presente de lo que algunos consideran que sucedió antes. Y en la mayoría de los casos ese “pasado” es sólo una nostalgia de lo perdido o una justificación del presente. Aún peor, ni siquiera estudiamos esa versión del pasado. Nos olvidamos del pasado y nos olvidamos del olvido.

Y en cuanto a “vivir” el presente, si “vivir” significa transformarse en ese monstruo indeseable que tan bien describió y anticipó Kafka en su Metamorfosis, si a eso hemos reducido la vida (ser un engranaje cada vez más obsoleto en una maquinaria cada vez más compleja), entonces “vivir” no es nada más que un mero accidente. Y muchos así lo creen y así lo sienten.

Con respecto al futuro, muchas personas ni siquiera saben que lo que ellos consideran “futuro” ya sucede en el presente. Y, por esa ignorancia, afirman que ese futuro (que ya llegó) nunca va a llegar porque algo o alguien (Dios, el gobierno, las grandes corporaciones) no lo va a permitir.

Y entonces, atrapados en un presente sin sentido y habiéndose olvidado de un pasado que nunca conocieron, buscan perpetuar el presente para recrear un pasado más imaginario que los gigantes de Don Quijote. Por eso, ya no les queda lugar en sus mentes, corazones y voluntad para pensar en el futuro.

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September 23, 2018

7:34 PM

What can’t we see when we see what we see?

When I was a child, I wanted to learn how to play chess. I didn’t progress beyond the basic moves, but one day I was playing against another child and suddenly several people gathered around the table. I didn’t know why. They were smiling at me. A few minutes later, the mystery of the gathering was solved.

I lost that chess match, as I did so many other times. Then, one of the spectators came to me and said: “You almost won, but you didn’t see it.”

He explained that I was just one or two moves away from defeating my opponent, but I never saw those movements and, therefore, I never made them.

That story (a true story) came back to me after a recent meeting with a person who wanted my opinion about a certain issue. I was intrigued, not by the request, but by the fact that person assumed I had something of value to say about that issue.

Regardless, I listened to a long presentation of the problem and during the presentation the person said again and again “I see this” or “I see that.”

I didn’t share any opinion. I simply asked him, what do you stop seeing when you see what you see? What can’t you see in seeing what you see?

For example, the light from the sun is so bright that we can’t see the stars. The stars are still there. They don’t “disappear” only to “reappear” when the sun “disappears”. The same light which allows us to see many things causes other things not to be seen. We can only become aware of those other things when the intense light is dimmed or blocked (an eclipse, for example.)

Something similar happens when we focus all our mental “light” on something: we can clearly see whatever the focus of our “light” is, but, at the same time, we stop seeing many other things, a whole universe of things interconnected with whatever we do see.

Perhaps that’s why some of the best solutions and some of the most creative ideas arise precisely when we are not paying attention to the problem. And, on the other hand, focusing all our energy on one issue could be counterproductive.

From a similar perspective, Hegel said that what is known, precisely because it is known, it remains unknown. We all have things in our homes, things we see every day, yet we don’t know what they are. And, of course, we have people in our lives, people we know, but, in a sense, they still remain unknown to us.

So, how many times we were defeated just because we focused all our attention to what we saw (the chess pieces on the board) and not on what we didn’t see (where the chess pieces should have been to win)?

Because we focus only on what we see, we often live “in a future which never becomes present”, German poet and theologian August Niemeyer said two centuries ago.

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September 23, 2018

7:33 PM

¿Qué dejamos de ver cuando sólo vemos lo que vemos?

Cuando yo era niño y estaba aprendiendo a jugar ajedrez (excepto por lo movimientos, nunca aprendí, dicho de sea paso), un día me encontré jugando con otro niño y repentinamente se agruparon varias personas junto a la mesa, sin que yo supiese por qué. De hecho, se sonreían y hasta me animaban. Poco después, el misterio quedó resuelto.

Perdí esa partida, como tantas otras, y uno de los inesperados espectadores me miró y me dijo: “Estuviste a punto de ganar, pero no lo viste”.

Según pude entender, me hubiesen bastado uno o dos movimientos para derrotar a mi adversario, pero nunca vi esas opciones y, por eso mismo, nunca las implementé.

Aquella historia (verdadera) regresó a mi mente tras el reciente encuentro con una persona que buscó mi opinión sobre un cierto tema. El pedido me intrigó porque, después de todo, esa persona asume que yo puedo aportar algo valioso al entendimiento del tema, pero no es así.

Sea como fuere, acepté escuchar la descripción del problema y, durante esa descripción, la mencionada persona repitió una y otra vez: “Yo veo esto” o “Yo veo aquello”. Y luego llegó el turno de compartir mi “opinión”.

No opiné, sino que simplemente le pregunté: ¿Qué dejas de ver cuando ves todo lo que ves? ¿Qué no ves por enfocar tu vista en lo que ves?

Por ejemplo, la luz del sol es tan brillante que nos impide ver las estrellas. Eso no significa que las estrellas no estén allí o que sólo “aparezcan” cuando el sol “desaparece”. Solo indica que la misma luz que nos permite ver ciertas cosas nos impide ver otras y solamente tomamos consciencia de esas otras cosas cuando la intensa luz disminuye o se bloquea (como en un eclipse).

Algo similar sucede cuando enfocamos toda nuestra “luz” mental, nuestra energía mental, en un tema: todo lo que vemos lo vemos con claridad, pero, por eso mismo, dejamos de ver todo un universo del que el tema en cuestión forma parte.

Quizá por eso, en muchos casos, las mejores soluciones y las ideas más creativas surgen precisamente cuando no le estamos prestando atención a un tema. Por el contrario, concentrar toda nuestra energía mental en un solo punto puede ser contraproducente.

Desde una perspectiva similar, Hegel decía que lo conocido, precisamente por ser conocido, no es conocido. ¿Cuántos objetos hay en nuestras casas que vemos todos los días, que sabemos que están allí, y que, sin embargo, siguen siendo desconocidos? ¿Cuántos “conocidos” hay en nuestras vidas que en realidad son perfectos desconocidos?

Aún más, ¿cuántas oportunidades de triunfar que estuvieron a nuestro alcance hemos desperdiciado por enfocarnos en lo que vemos (las piezas de ajedrez sobre el tablero, por ejemplo) en vez de ver lo que no vemos (a dónde podrían moverse esas piezas, por ejemplo)?

Por eso, por sólo ver lo que vemos, gran parte de la humanidad vive con frecuencia en “un futuro que nunca llegará a ser presente”, decía el poeta y teólogo alemán August Niemeyer.

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September 16, 2018

7:22 PM

Sadness, death emerge among the common thoughts of children and teens

A few days ago, I was exiting a local store when two elementary school students, clearly brother and sister, where walking right there and talking to each other. For a few seconds, I heard their conversation before they just walked away.

“I am sad”, said the boy, probably around 10.

“Is that sadness like when somebody does or sadness because something bad is about to happen?”, asked his sister, perhaps only a couple of years older than her brother.

After listening to that conversation, I had to stop for a few minutes and reflect about the question and the answer. Initially, it made no sense to me. Only later, after thinking for a while, I was able to continue with my activities.

I asked myself several times in what context a conversation between two young siblings walking home after school can justifiably focus on sadness, and, even more worrisome, on a recent death or an imminent tragedy.  

The face of the boy, who all the time looked down to the floor, and the tone of voice of the conversation revealed the boy and his sister were having a serious conversation. No laughs. Not even a smile. The conversation was not the prelude to a joke and I didn’t detect any kind of exaggeration in the question asked by the sister.

I must say than when the boy said “I am sad” I immediately thought he had problems at school, perhaps of low grade at a test, or a discipline issue. O perhaps one of his friends move away and he/she is no longer attending that school.

However, when the sister connected what he brother said to a question about death and tragedy, it was clear that the sadness of the boy was unrelated to any school issue, but a kind of existential sadness. He felt his own being was being threatened. Her sister knew and sensed what he was talking about.

What can cause a young boy and a young girl from an elementary school in Colorado, United States, to feel sad because their own being is in danger?

Sad to say, there is a long list of possible causes, from school shootings to the increasing impact of the opioid epidemic, to the uncertainty about employment opportunities, because, regardless how well the economy is doing, almost half of the people in the country can’t make ends meet or are very close to be in that situation.

That may have been the case, but I don’t think the boy was thinking about shootings, opioids, or economy, but about something deeper, more personal, and even more visceral, as his sister understood. Something closer to death than to life.

That was extremely worrisome, because in Colorado suicide, not car accidents, is the main cause of death among children and teenagers. And a growing number of children in this state now decide to take their own lives, even children as young as 6.

My goodness! What kind of horrible social monstrosity have we created?

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September 16, 2018

7:21 PM

Tristeza, muerte se entremezclan en las mentes de niños y jóvenes

Al salir recientemente de una tienda, me encontré con dos estudiantes de una escuela primaria, claramente hermano y hermana, que estaban conversando entre ellos y que, por eso mismo, me permitió escuchar su conversación por unos pocos segundos antes de que se alejasen de mí.

“Estoy triste”, dijo el niño, probablemente de unos 10 años.

“¿Es una tristeza como cuando alguien se muere o una tristeza como cuando algo malo a pasar?”, le preguntó su hermana, quizá sólo un par de años mayor que el niño.

No pude menos que detenerme y pensar durante algunos minutos lo que yo acababa de escuchar. Sólo después pude seguir mi camino.

Me pregunté una y otra vez a mí mismo, pero sin obtener una respuesta clara, en qué contexto se justifica que cuando un niño de 10 años afirma estar triste la mejor pregunta que le puede hacer su hermana es si esa tristeza se relaciona con una muerte reciente o con una inminente tragedia.

Tanto el rostro del niño, que nunca levantó la vista del suelo, como el tono de voz de la conversación revelaban que se trataba de una conversación seria. No había ni risas ni sonrisas. No parecía el preludio de una broma por parte del niño ni, eso sentí, una exageración por parte de la jovencita.

Debo confesar que cuando el niño dijo “Estoy triste” inmediatamente pensé que su siguiente frase sería algo relacionado con la escuela, quizá una calificación baja, o alguna sanción disciplinaria. O quizá alguna pelea con un compañero o un amigo que ya no iba a esa escuela.

Pero cuando la jovencita conectó la expresión de su hermano con una pregunta sobre la muerte o sobre una desgracia, quedó claro que la tristeza del niño dejó de ser una mera circunstancia escolar adversa para transformarse en una tristeza existencial. Algo amenazaba su propio ser. Y su hermana lo captó perfectamente.

¿Qué puede hacer que un niño o una niña todavía en la escuela primaria (en Colorado, en Estados Unidos) sienta tristeza porque su propio ser corre peligro?

Lamentablemente, la lista es larga e incluye desde tiroteos en las escuelas hasta el creciente impacto de la epidemia de opioides, hasta un alto nivel de incertidumbre laboral que hace que, a pesar de la bonanza económica, la mitad de las personas en este país no cuenten con los recursos necesarios como para satisfacer sus necesidades mínimas, o estén cerca de llegar a esa situación.

Todo eso es verdad, pero no creo que el niño en cuestión estuviese pensando en tiroteos, opioides o economía, sino en algo más profundo, más personal, más visceral, y, como bien lo intuyó su hermana, más cercano a la muerte que a la vida.

Y eso es lo que me preocupó, porque en Colorado el suicidio supera a los accidentes automovilísticos como la principal causa de muerte de menores de edad. Y cada vez son más los niños/as que toman esa irreversible decisión.

¡Por Dios! ¿Qué clase de horrible monstruosidad social hemos creado?

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