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The Worst Apology Ever: A 12-step guide to what not to do in court

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When Socrates went to court in 399BC, the charges were odd, the sentence was death, and he has 500 jurors as his audience. The 'Apology' that he gave remains one of the finest examples of what not to do.

(These slides come from a talk I did via video conference at work, while drinking a glass of wine. True story.)

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The Worst Apology Ever: A 12-step guide to what not to do in court

  1. 1. A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION The Worst Apology Ever. Athens, 399BC
  2. 2. 3 familiar things about ancient Athens 1. Olympics 2. Democracy 3. Jury duty A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION Mmmmm….free food… WTF is up with Kim Dotcom? Can’t we just toss a coin?
  3. 3. A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION Socrates • Taught Plato, i.e. founded Western philosophy • World-class shit-stirrer • Taken to court in 399BC, due to afore-mentioned personality trait
  4. 4. A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION The Socratic method Hey, you’re smart, and I’m dumb. Can we chat so I can learn from you? Sure, sounds fun. Can you tell good stuff from bad stuff? Yep, easy…
  5. 5. A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION …3 minutes later… But what does ‘good’ actually mean? Stop asking that. … You’re a dick, Socrates.
  6. 6. A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION …decades later: Oh no! I’ve antagonised people so much that I’ve ended up in court. LOL
  7. 7. Meet the jury: 500 angry men A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION Is this the Kim Dotcom trial? No, he’s hiding in a country that no-one’s discovered yet.
  8. 8. A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION The charges • Inventing new gods • Making weak arguments appear better than strong arguments • Corrupting the youth Are those even crimes?
  9. 9. A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION The sentence Death by poisoning But if he’s guilty, Socrates gets to make a counter-offer, and the jury choose
  10. 10. A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION The Apology • Written by Plato, quoting Socrates • Recounts the entire trial • Illustrates what not to do in court, in 12 easy steps
  11. 11. What not to do in court A 12-step guide from the greatest philosopher ever A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION 1. Attack your opponents Illiterate Totally insolent and incredulous Contemptuous Your indictment must have been a joke
  12. 12. What not to do in court A 12-step guide from the greatest philosopher ever A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION 2. Attack the entire jury, and their parents More frightening are the accusers who filled your ears with stories when you were children, and you couldn’t think.
  13. 13. What not to do in court A 12-step guide from the greatest philosopher ever A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION 3. Humblebrag about how a god called you the cleverest man on the planet I may seem to be boasting a bit, but… …the Oracle at Delphi actually said that there’s no-one wiser than me.
  14. 14. What not to do in court A 12-step guide from the greatest philosopher ever 4. Say you’re on a mission from god A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION I thought: ‘it’s a riddle’, and I made my business with the god my first priority.
  15. 15. What not to do in court A 12-step guide from the greatest philosopher ever 5. Insult all the smart people in town A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION So I approached a wise individual - a political expert - and examined him. He appeared wise, but wasn’t. Well, that made him hate me!
  16. 16. What not to do in court A 12-step guide from the greatest philosopher ever A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION 6. Repeat step 5, just to be sure So I went on to someone else, supposedly wiser, and reached the same conclusion… …and became an object of hate for him.
  17. 17. What not to do in court A 12-step guide from the greatest philosopher ever A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION 7. Insult everyone else There was nothing for me to do but approach everyone with a reputation for knowing something. A great superfluity of people who think they know something, but actually know very little. Or nothing.
  18. 18. What not to do in court A 12-step guide from the greatest philosopher ever A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION 8. Play the victim A lot hatred from a lot of people will convict me – the malicious slander of people in general.
  19. 19. What not to do in court A 12-step guide from the greatest philosopher ever A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION 9. Then get all righteous and brave A person who’s of any use shouldn’t take dying into account.
  20. 20. What not to do in court A 12-step guide from the greatest philosopher ever 10. Compare yourself to heroes and demi-gods, like Achilles A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION Achilles looked down on death and danger! (Just like me!) You’re a dick, Socrates.
  21. 21. What not to do in court A 12-step guide from the greatest philosopher ever A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION 11. Claim to be a war hero I risked death when commanded against Sparta at Potiaea or Amphipolis or Delium* *maybe
  22. 22. What not to do in court A 12-step guide from the greatest philosopher ever A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION 12. Call yourself ‘god’s gift’, literally Far from defending myself, I’m defending you, so that you don’t make a mistake with the god’s gift to you by casting your votes against me.
  23. 23. A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION The verdict
  24. 24. A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION The verdict GUILTY: 280 NOT GUILTY: 220
  25. 25. Sentencing • Socrates gets to propose an alternative to death • Which means he gets to talk again A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION • And this is my favourite bit
  26. 26. A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION Sentencing A 1-step guide to screwing this bit up, too What penalty shall I put forward? The one I deserve? I deserve something good. Nothing fits better than to be fed better than those who win at the Olympics. Because I make you happy.
  27. 27. A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION The verdict
  28. 28. A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION The verdict: Death Can’t take a joke
  29. 29. A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION The verdict: Death It’sC aan ’fta tiark ree as juoklte.
  30. 30. The moral of the story A JADE SOFTWARE INNOVATION • If someone annoys you, get together with 499 of your peers and kill ‘em. • But he might end up starting a 2,500-year long philosophical tradition that makes you look a bit unwise.

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