Sunday, April 19, 2009

Final Post

Why did I stop writing this blog? I still had about twenty draft posts that I was going to write up at some point. The reasons?

I got lazy. I stopped caring. It didn't achieve anything. I had better things to do. Only about 10-15 people read it somewhat regularly, which was OK, but not enough to stroke my ego. And work reduced my energy levels.

One final post - something a psychologist once wrote of the shitness a human can sink in to.

The fun and pleasure world reduces the individual to a basic biological status. The experiences which bring him satisfaction may seem unique to him, but when viewed objectively are not that much different from those accessible to the rest of the human race. The world of psychological rest embraces ordinariness and revels in it. The ability to dwell in a world which has no standards save the reaching of tranquility can be described as complacent in submissive personalities and lazy in dominant personalities. Complacency is characterized by a rigid rejection of depth and conceptual thought, giving access to an easy flow into little and sometimes busy activities which have guaranteed patterns of simple accomplishment. Laziness is characterized by a rigid rejection of goal directed vigor and manipulative mastery, opening the door to an easy receptivity to surface feeling and simple sensuality, guided by guaranteed gratifications.

Conventional individuals find the stress of the search for truth and right overwhelming. One remedy they have available is the attempt to dwell permanently in a simplistic world structured by fun and pleasure mechanisms. Their only psychological goal is to protect their inner state of tranquility and calm. Their perception of the surface world usurps their recognition of the entire psychological scene. They are constantly resting themselves, but they are not resting from anything important. It can be said that they are attempting to rest from the fatigue and boredom which infiltrate the fun and pleasure world when warmth and pride are not equally developed in the personality.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The final word on John Edward

No, this post isn't dedicated towards ridiculing John Edward's beliefs. That'd be easy to do.

OF COURSE the dead don't actually 'exist', much less communicate things (except metaphorically through the evidence that their decaying bodies provide to the forensics!). I was more interested in the question of whether John Edward actually believed that he could speak to the dead. This question is now, perhaps, answered. So is he a liar preying on fools, or just a fool?

I think the Sydney Morning Herald's "Good Weekend" section provides a clue. In the weekly column, they ask various people the same questions every week. When John Edward was asked what his earliest memory was, he stated that he remembers his entire one-year birthday party vividly.
The problem, of course, is that this is entirely impossible. One-year-olds simply don't have the necessary areas of the brain developed to commit what they experience at their one-year birthday party in to their long-term-memory.

So what stands out is that Edwards is the kind of guy who can easily convince himself of that found to be logically or empirically impossible. Of course, it is glaringly more improbable, absurd to convince yourself that you can talk to the dead than that you could remember events from when you were a one-year-old. But we can just put him in the idiot basket, which is a lot more generous than what you could otherwise say about him.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

China trip



Thought I'd do a quick post on my China trip


A few of the more politically loaded comments.
** The Chinese have intentionally distorted the meaning of the word propaganda. Take, for instance, this sign that I saw at a Chinese art gallery in Shanghai. It read (under the heading "The Responsibilities of Ming Yuan Cultural Activity Centre":
"We expect we can provide more platforms about fashion issuance and new production propagandize to the society and the corporation".

This isn't just a dodgy translation, the way the word is used on sources like CCTV more generally neatly represents how the Chinese broadly conflate the English meaning of the word "news" with "propaganda". By stripping the word "propaganda" of the insinuation that it is a form of information that is biased and intended for political gain, the word is rendered powerless, and the Western criticisms of Chinese news media are left impoverished. When Chinese readers stumble across articles written by Westerners that claim that Chinese TV is full of "propaganda", they must be bewildered or bored and agree as a matter of course. Of course their news is propaganda, they might say, it is presented to them and acknowledged as propaganda, it's just that the word has a different meaning for them than for us. And the false equivalence between words and misinterpretations of them seem to be expanding on news sources like the Global Times.

** In Shanghai, the lights placate the people. The Oriental Pearl Tower is functionally reminiscent of East Berlin's old "TV Tower", which tried to display the strength of Communism and presumably its imminent takeover of the world, given that it could create tall towers and stuff. Plausible, right? It reminds me of the dancers in North Korea

** No cinemas in China showing western films due to censorship. The rubbish rhetoric in the west is all true....there's no freedom of thought in China. This is the one arena in which I worry about the decline of American power and wealth and so the decline in their ability to project this power and freedom across the world. What the world needs is an empire which perfects the "low-maintenance" approach to life, preserving freedom whilst not being too materialistic and encouraging selfishness.

Anyway, I didn't go to China to observe the political situation. I went because I was fascinated to see the place. I would love to return for much longer and improve my Mandarin.
Obviously I was impressed by the Wall, the Forbidden City and Tiannenmen, Shanghai's architecture, the food, the acrobats, the shiny new buildings and efficiency. But for my own diary purposes, these are some other things I'd like to remember.

** The Singing minorities of Guilin. My guide started singing to us, explaining that she was part of a minority reknowned for its singing. Many people from their culture still selects boyfriends and girlfriends on the basis of singing ability. Other minorities have funny customs of their own, such as stomping on ones feet if you are interested in them romantically.
Guilin, aside from the beautiful limestone caves and mountain scenery was also known for its snails stuffed with pork, and its fish drenched in beer
** In Xian, we had a strange dining experience with the manic girl feeding us. Literally. She hovered over us as we ate, giggling and trying to practise her English on me. Many young people all over China come up to practise their English on you. They will stalk you, but they're friendly, and if you humour them, they'll show you around the city to places you wouldn't have gone. This girl then would enthusiastically take some of my food with a spare pair of chopsticks and put it in my mouth, then pour my coke in to my mouth.
** The singing in the streets. Especially in Shanghai. Its wonderful to see the elderly residents singing and dancing. This is one of the last remaining socialist-style things of the street life. Some of these old people are so incredibly flexible - you should see them juggling a shuttlecock in the parks. Youtube that!
** Shanghai's ban of hooting, the cab drivers visible struggle to overcome their desire to hoot.
** Me and my mum going to a Peking Opera, while the Chinese were all going to see Cinderella

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Quote

I don't like the word 'evil', partly because of the heavily supernatural and religious connotations it has (I prefer a scientific, analytical approach to studying the various problems plaguing humanity and think we learn much more this way!), but I like this quote:

"Evil is humanity turned against itself and so conflict and contradiction are fundamental to its nature".

I find the statement quite applicable in our modern judgement of Communism. Communism sought, through brutally-enforced naivety, to bend humanity to behave more altruistically than we are perhaps naturally inclined to. This could lead us to have contempt for, and ultimately to hate ourselves and to be willing to commit atrocities to improve what mankind is.

A Human Being Died That Night

...a book By Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela about her interviews with Eugene de Kock, the so-called "Prime Evil" killer of apartheid South Africa.
Highly recommended. She gets in to her subjects head extraordinarily well, apart from some incidents in which I think she doesn't understand because she's not male and doesn't understand male sexuality.

Anyway my comment about the book for readers: South Africans tried to pretend that nothing was wrong after Apartheid. By jailing the big guys, they tried to isolate the dog behaviour to just a few people, and so the blame was concentrated rather than diffused, where it belonged. What was really happening though, was that the population was disowning its popular leaders, the ones who did all the dirty work which the rest of the population was grateful for.

Blackwater

How did it get to the stage where instead of the Army or the Police doing domestic security or invading other countries / defending ones own country, we now have private companies like Blackwater waging wars, and being paid 5x what regular Army servicepeople would be paid to do so?

It is just so incredibly dodgy that you have private companies now being enlisted to defend the Army or a country's VIPs, and you have civilians of other countries being killed by private security contractors, and legally, this is all acceptable. These dodgy-ass motherfuckers also don't have the same rules apply to them than do other registered killers.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Counterfeiting

Reading about how sophisticated the counterfeiting operation has become for many electronics products. The thing is though, if these products really are practically so identical to the real ones (leading manufacturers to have to use high-tech methods to leave signature traces, like a sort of serial number), then is this such a problem? I mean, if the counterfeits of say a computer processor are so professional that they're otherwise indistinguishable from the real thing unless the owners etches a serial number on the chip in nano-sized writing.....then perhaps as consumers we should be happy to be using counterfeits. If it's still profitable to be doing this, then perhaps the investment that the company made in its innovation process wasn't so great, or perhaps something which others can easily do shouldn't be protected by such strong patents. And the counterfeiter is playing a role in driving down prices through enhanced supply. Obviously when it comes to counterfeiting cash, this is a slightly different matter, though.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hedonism

I object to the way that hedonists are portrayed by religious people (and many a moral philosopher).

Firstly, to begin with the facts - pleasure is a fundamental motivator for human beings. The whole way we are raised is to reward us for our compliance with parents, teachers at some times by making us feel good about ourselves for doing so, and to punish us for our transgressions.

We're given sweets and other things which appeal to our senses (food rewards or entertainment rewards), some of us are given games consoles or barbie dolls or taken on holidays if we work hard at school. The list grows.. At other times, we're given the room to think independently, but again, its within the framework of punishment vs reward, because this is inevitably how most humans are motivated to learn. Only when parents do a good job at this do children become self-motivated, internalising their motivation, and becoming self-disciplined.

Anyway, moving right along!!! A lot of people seem to think hedonists simply only do things which gratify them immediately. In the simple picture that is painted, the Hedonist just eats junk food, laughs at others' misfortunes or anything else that provides a quick laugh. The Hedonist supposedly acts on a whim elsewhere, turning up late to work because sleeping in feels good, or cheating on their boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse with whoever they feel attracted to on the spot, for immediate pleasure. The Hedonist archetype also supposedly just consumes drugs all the time because they bring immediate pleasure, and is generally lazy and screws people around for their own short term pleasure. The Hedonist is assumed to be generally unscrupulous and immoral in all ways, unless it coincides with personal pleasure.



The above picture is ridiculous. Hedonists can and do engage in activities which reduce their short term pleasure, but provide them with other forms of pleasure. Hedonists will work hard and with commitment in their professional lives as well as in their relationships, discounting the short term for future pleasure. Hedonists are amongst the biggest givers to charities, and amongst the most socially proactive and politically conservative at many times. Hedonists come from all walks of life, and that is because everybody is a hedonist to some extent, and not all hedonists are selfishly hedonistic. It is just that some people are able to think beyond the present day, and others are not able to.

American Idol

This American Idol show makes me want to projectile vomit. My parents watch it incessantly, so I have to hear the contestants melodramatic howls in some of the rooms at home.
I don't know what disturbs me more; the contestants, or the fact that my parents (and millions of other Australian adults) are watching a TV show designed and marketed for 12 year old girls. Or those 12 year-old girls themselves. They're devotees, they watch Australian Idol, they watch American Idol, they'd probably watch Saudi Arabian idol if Saudi Arabia allowed idolatry.
I also heard one of the judges describe a contestant as 'original', and 'inspiring' because he sung a great old song in a new way (for the record, in a way which is completely inexpressive of the mood of the original song and is entirely inconsistent with the lyrics).

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Everyone says I sold out

People say others have sold themselves out to this or that.
Can't one buy oneself back?
We use money to buy time, affection, fame, and other things. Not that I am planning to, but why can't we buy ourselves back the freedom to create a personality, a lifestyle, a change of job, a change of perspectives?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Anti-Philosopher Philosophy

I'll be doing a series of postings about my growing hostility towards the concepts created by many philosophers over the millenia.
I'll take issue with a number of words [including consciousness, rational, immoral, justice, fairness, freedom, subjective, reality, belief] and use my scorn for these words to build a larger case against the practitioners of various philosophical traditions, the Western analytic one being that with which I am most familiar.
The aforementioned words are all exceptionally vague 'suitcase' words, as are their duals; unconscious, irrational, moral, unjust etc. They are supposed to refer to a lot but ultimately lead us in to blind alleys.

Take the word consciousness - we are not 'conscious', there is no single, first-person experience. Consciousness is only mysterious if you fail to realise that it refers to a lot of different things which are simultaneously occurring all of which we have (confusingly, for serious thinkers, but usefully, for laymen) called consciousness. The whole idea of their being a single Experiencer inside our brains which is conscious is a throwback to the idea of a soul, and indeed, the masses aren't able to think beyond simple concepts like the soul or consciousness. If we examine the concept of consciousness it is clear why the concept of soul was simple, irreducible, and shrouded in mystery, eternally so; and yet it seemed like an indispensable concept. However, if we are to be smart about it, we realise that there is no single element which experiences the irreducible sensation of redness, or the irreducible smell of garlic. There is no singular entity which writes a novel, has a child, lives life, though we may name it. There is no Me and no You...except for a conceptual Me, and the concept of there being a single Me or You breaks down under closer examination. Just like there are instruments which can print on a piece of paper that it detects red light incoming, our brain is [note that I'm using a metaphor here, not a simile!!] simply thousands of serial and parallel instruments for detecting light, instruments for talking, instruments for pumping blood, instruments for self-repair. Like all other machines, we're simply a bunch of inputs and outputs with much computation and digestion in between. What you could call "I" is a compound of instruments, parts of machines which can perform a variety of functions from self-reporting errors (it could be emotional issues, or stomach pains) to writing poetry and solving mathematical problems. The 'first-person experience' is a nonsense concept if taken seriously, and a useful communicative tool if understood properly. The dualism here is conscious vs non-conscious, and people who think that creatures are either conscious or nonconscious must of course struggle with the question of whether or not a spider is conscious. Those who then propose that consciousness comes in varying degrees have understood the situation slightly better, but have failed to realise that this demonstrates that consciousness simply refers to the simultaneous operation of many processes, and different machines have different levels of complexity. It is not the case that consciousness is a good, unfairly derided concept, which isn't invalidated by the grey areas at the periphery of its applicability, for instance, to a spider. It is that consciousness is a poor concept, which is better replaced by understanding the components of this concept, and realising that some of the components of what we call consciousness are present in some machines, and not in others. There is no mystery to consciousness, none whatsoever! The only problem here is the inability of a large number of people to think and speak of themselves as machines, to understand how they are constructed, and to have some knowledge of what different parts of their bodies, especially their brains, do. When you learn to, and practise, understanding yourself as a machine, there is absolutely no confusion whatsoever left within the concept of consciousness. Philosophers run in to the same problems that anyone from any discipline does if they take too seriously the concepts that they have created. People somehow stunningly forget a very basic truth about language; we attempt to segment the world in to discrete packages, that is, by naming things. That's all well and good, it is essential for communication and for practical living; however, it introduces an essential inaccuracy - the world is continuous and not composed of categories, nor does nature appear to operate with respect to the categories we have chosen. This presents a myriad of difficulties, but it is amusing that therefore people should be truly troubled about whether or not something belongs within one category or the other and quibble endlessly about it. This inaccuracy isn't so evident provided that we stick to basic categories. Or of course, as scientists do, we can form specialist clubs of people who use and understand technical categories, which can be adapted over time. This necessitates that others will not understand the concept, and they will continue to use other, older words, which are less successful in communicating certain things. There's little confusion over what is a tree, but more about what is a reptile, and more about what is a theory. Nobody is suggesting that we should stop naming things, however, one has to be able to stand back and be able to judge how useful a concept is, and it is scientists' disapproval of words like consciousness which gives rise to their eventual split from philosophy.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Observatory

Sydneysiders, go to the Observatory. Me and the gf went last night, the clouds cleared up just in time, and it was great.
It's an awesome thing to see, amongst other things, Saturn and its moons (it looks exactly as it is depicted in junior science books, you can see its rings). They've got a telescope whose motor is controlled by a computer program; and the astronomer just clicks on things that he can show you on that night.


Random fact; did you know that when galaxies collide and swallow each other up, the individual planets/suns hardly ever actually collide? It just screws up their orbits and stuff!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Random Cont

OK so occasionally I do weird things. This weekend, I travelled around Sydney's train system for the fun of it, just reading books, relaxing, looking out the window, observing the scenes and the people. I like to know what's happening around the city, to see it changing, to think about what it all means.

Sydney continues to explode in terms of area, spreading out like a vast, poorly-designed organism. Funny how some suburbs are leafy, peaceful and quiet (like my own), and right nearby, there's concrete Banlieus reminiscent of East Germany or the troubled parts of Paris! And mansions on one side of the train tracks; run down old weatherboards with picket fences on the opposite side! Unfortunately, too, businesses of certain types are concentrated in certain areas, to which you must go to get a decent deal.
Like many an ill-conceived ideology, our society is reliant on growth and expansion to ward off social ills. For now, there's no problem - unemployment, at 4%, is the lowest it has been at 33 years. Everyone is working furiously to support the expansion, as well as to secure some sort of position of status in an increasingly crowded city. Well, I'm not working hard for this, but yeah, apparently, that's what people are doing.There's an incredible energy in many parts of the Sydney. One of the places I stopped at, Cabramatta, was once ridiculously dangerous, but its large immigrant populations of Vietnamese, Chinese, Macedonian and others in recent times have appeared to be living peacefully with each other. Looks like there's lots of good restaurants there, which haven't been reviewed in the Sydney Morning Herald. I am presuming that this is because the readership primarily doesn't live in those areas, but this is a shame, I'd love to try some of them out.Really though, the diversity in Sydney is remarkable, unparalleled. There's substantial groups from 100+ countries well represented in various Sydney suburbs.

Meanwhile the train system itself isn't coping with the expansion. It's pretty funny though; bored station attendants at some suburbs repeatedly play certain announcements; for example, ones about making sure you use the brakes on your pram effectively. At other, more dangerous stations, they constantly remind people that there are alarm buttons on the station platforms.People don't care much about public issues anymore; people are too busy or concentrated on their own personalities. People are too busy moving in to new, fast-expansion areas like near Rhodes and Wolli Creek. And why wouldn't they?
One wonders what is going to happen when the growth stops to all these industries....

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Started Work

So I'm learning to become a market maker. The learning curve is steep, the pace furious, and the work challenging and interesting. It's consuming other aspects of my life at the moment, but it's a great opportunity, an excellent company and workmates, and I'm enjoying it. I did write a lot of posts which were only saved a while ago, but it should be a while again, probably a few weeks, before I start actively blogging again.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Emotions

Are neither good nor bad. The concept of an emotion being negative or positive was a stupid and destructive concept.
Emotions are our motivation engines. Yes, we are sometimes motivated to do things which may or may not be in our best interest, if you can clearly define what is in one's best interest. Some might say, for instance, that rage is a destructive emotion as it may motivate us to commit violent acts, and land us in jail (plus all the damage to the victim(s)). But all emotions have grades and purposes, and trying to prevent them is stupid; we can only manage and control their effects on our behaviour. Only when we succeed in crushing our "negative" emotions do we realise what function they served, and allow those emotions back in to our lives. The human species needs rage, jealousy, depression, resentment and hatred to function. Obviously, our judgements on the appropriateness of emotions depends upon the context in which they are experienced, but there is room for our darker sides as well as the lighter sides, so those stupid religious radio stations which only emphasise being positive in reaction to anything that happens are just confusing people.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Metaphors of the day

It's honestly strange that I've only recently realised this recently...
I guess it is very easy to fall in to the trap of believing that we are processesors of words as symbols with intrinsic meaning, rather than embodied organisms thinking using our bodies! When one is speaking in their native tongue, you could so easily make sense of the words you speak by resorting to abstract concepts. Why not, everybody does it. But it ultimately conceals the truth.
You could forget that your brain actually developed out of scratch, and that it primarily relied on its early visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile senses to make sense of the world, before your "abstract thinking" regions even developed.

Here are some nice ones that prove we think with our bodies :)

INTIMACY IS CLOSENESS: "We're close"
AFFECTION IS WARMTH: "She greeted me warmly"
IMPORTANT IS BIG: "It was an big day for me"
ORGANISATION IS PHYSICAL STRUCTURE: "How do these theories fit together?"
HELP IS PHYSICAL SUPPORT - "Support your local charity" etc etc

THINKING IS MOVING:
"I'm stuck thinking about yesterday". "My mind was racing".
"I've been pursuing this topic for a while now". "I follow what you're saying". "How did you reach that conclusion?" --or sight-- "I see what you mean"

EMOTIONAL STATES (or responsibilities) ARE LOCATIONS / WEIGHTS:
"I'm bordering on depression"
"She's weighed down"

THOUGHTS HAVE A PHYSICAL STRUCTURE:
"That idea has many sides to it". "That is a sweet idea" (is it an accident that we eat lots of sugary food, and say that things are 'sweet' today?)
"Something doesn't smell right about that theory"
"He swallowed that idea whole"
"That idea is too much for me to digest"


Another interesting, related fact
** People who have been moving forward in a queue are more likely to interpret "Wednesday's meeting has been moved forward two days" to mean that the meeting is now to be held on Friday, while those who have not been waiting in a queue are more likely to think that the meeting will now be held on Monday. Weirdness.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Back around Christmas

Been on a roadtrip up the east coast of Australia with a group of people for about 2 weeks so far.
Currently in Cairns, which places me about 2800km north of Sydney - should take about 3 days to drive back. What fun that is going to be....

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Chaser Song

"The Chaser's War On Everything" song caused a lot of controversy when it mocked people who had died in living memory...saying that Princess Diana "had dirty arab semen inside of her", saying that shock radio host Stan Zemanek's "views were as malignant as his brain" [he died of brain cancer], and that racing champion Peter Brock "was an arsehole who pumped lead in to the atmosphere".

And so in that tradition, I'm going to question what's going on in the head of Ashley Baker, who died fighting for the Australian military in Afghanistan. Sorry to his family for their loss, but let's see what somebody sees at the top of a summary of Ashley's likes:
Ashley's top band: Rammstein
His two favourite movies: Romper Stomper and American History X.
More than a little bit of fascination you had there with the Nazis.
I can just picture you sitting there getting in to the songs whose words you probably don't even understand, and identifying with the characters in those movies.

Friday, November 30, 2007

I


This post is about why I've become disillusioned with Philosophy generally. I've got major issues with its approach as a discipline. With each of its branches. Philosophy might always be around...and doing it was rewarding for me; it helped me to analyse statements, clarifying my thoughts tremendously. And I do "love knowledge". But now I'm more interested in science, onto whose turf Philosophy illegitimately wanders.
I often wondered why philosophy books appeared in the same section as religious books. I thought it was because both tried to answer similar questions, albeit differently and often with mutual suspicion and intolerance, much like those between competing religions. I no longer see as great a distinction between their methodologies and habits, and I see science as something else entirely to philosophy and religion.
I don't consider it an accident that so many people, infant and adult alike, ask themselves these eternal questions at some point, but many adults find that there are problems with these eternal questions. Rarely do I see philosophers question their various methodologies as often or as seriously as I see them arguing over qualia, ethics, art, empiricism or determinism.

Firstly there was my recognition of the complete failure of philosophers to make sense of the way that the world works. This failure is shared with each and every religion. Over the millennia, only recently-developed scientific methods have added to the store of human knowledge and predictive power. Philosophers, like religious people should take this failure of their discipline/ideology/religion to discover facts about how the world works enormously seriously. Philosophers should be wondering why they're making no more progress on their eternal questions about the universe and the experience of life through their metaphysical arguments than religious people did for countless blood-soaked millenia. Or why they've spectacularly failed to create values out of thin air and alter human behaviour, as religion has failed to ground ethics in the Will or nature of God, and has failed to change human behaviour. Philosophers; now turn your attention to your inability to uniformly validate the scientific-mathematical method as the only successful route towards understanding nature.

What ultimately makes philosophy powerless is that philosophers courageously but futilely attempt to use language techniques alone (mostly populated by scientifically outdated concepts and other archaic words) to wrestle with their eternal questions. They do not experiment or observe nature uniformly - like religious people, they're biased towards using intuitively appealing, often introspective approaches cloaked up within a quasi-logical framework, legitimised by convenient but ancient natural language terms. Conceptual confusion abounds in philosophical discourse. The greatest symptom of the problem of using natural language is evident in Descartes' Error, or dualism, from which Western Philosophy has been suffering for a long time. Abandoning it would merely be acknowledging the superiority of the empirical approach. This tendency of the human brain, infused with language, to think using the word "I", has been one of the major sources of confusion over the years, which have led philosophers astray in so many of their questions. Using such a word with such obvious connections to the false notion of a soul, it is not surprising that philosophers scratch around in conceptual confusion. Witness the philosophical debates about free will, ethics, art the like and you see the problem with "I". Read about memetics and you start to see the general scope and power of evolutionary theory and its analogues first to kill the concept of God and then the idea of the soul, and then the human "mind", leaving only the brain. Always at the cutting edge of science, we see reductionist thinking.
Another good step would be to recognise that just as the physical difference between colours of the rainbow are merely different wavelengths and not completely different things (radically different colours, as we perceive them) (and we use our sensory systems to feel, so philosophy is no better equipped to study our phenomenal experiences than are any other disciplines), there is no real distinction between mind and body. The movement of our bodies affects our thinking!! For example, when rotating an object mentally, we do it worse if we're rotating our hand in the opposite direction to when we do it while rotating our hand in the same direction to which we're mentally rotating the object. The act of thinking about an object rotating, which occurs mostly in the visual thought area, is affected by inputs from the sensor-motor cortex which reports about hand movements. Similarly, self control is object control "The boxer picked himself up from the canvas". Self-control is being in one's normal location: "I'm besides myself with anger". Causing the self to act is the forced movement of an object "You're pushing yourself too hard", and self-control is having the self together as a container "She's falling to pieces". Self is an essence that is a found object'"He's trying to find himself in India". Even the Declaration of Independence in the United States invokes our understanding of the Newtonian independence of free bodies. It is no accident that we talk like this. Right from our births, our thoughts are dependent on the use and perception of our whole body. Those who've had fewer sensory systems eg the blind from birth think quite differently. Yes, our visual systems, like our sense of smell, affect our thoughts in many different ways! So no brain-in-a-vat could ever think like a brain inextricably attached to a body like ours could.There are no disembodied minds, no independent, questioning souls, no "I's", unless you are as much your body as you are your mind. And as for "consciousness", whatever this is supposed to be seems to be the tiny, fleeting recollection of whatever happened in the last 500ms, a fragment of your mind's powers to analyse other people briefly turning to analysing themselves, and entering and cycling around in the short term memory and other parts.

The English language needs to adapt to use as much scientific terminology as best it can or the knowledge generated by English-speaking peoples will slow, and their works will fade in to irrelevancy faster without the aid of new scientific words. Why do we not read Ancient English books anymore? [Well, some people read Bronte, fewer read Milton, and fewer still read 5th-century literature..]. Why do English monolinguals not read Modern French books? Same answer.We don't read things if....insert a million reasons OR If we cannot understand the author. Which is the case for Modern French and Ye Olde English books, as Modern French and Old English are both different languages to English. Sure, modern speakers of English can understand some Old English, but modern speakers of English can also understand some French through their English vocabulary alone...Even if ancient England did more strongly resemble the world that we live in today (which couldn't occur in any real sense without an accompanying change in the vocabulary used by its citizens), the book wouldn't be intelligible to us...because Old English people speak a different language...because the world has changed and language is used to communicate things, many of which are about the world [we also talk about things which aren't part of the world, such as Santa Claus and God]. I find it depressing that the best authors of today will likely be practically unintelligible to readers in the 23rd century, and not so at all to those later. Likewise, words like "kidney" will cease to mean anything concrete after humans have evolved different kidneys thousands of years down the track. So we should reduce knowledge wherever possible and practical to more basic terms. That is, Chemistry books of today will be of more use to doctors of the next century than will Biology books. And physics books will be even more 'timeless' than Chemistry books because of their superior generality.
SO WHAT FILLS THE VACUUM WHEN WE STOP DOING PHILOSOPHY?
- Epistemology could somewhat be replaced by theories and empirical studies of perception, linguistic theory and anthropology (that is, they'd each contribute in the "epistemological vacuum" that would follow)
- Ethics could somewhat be replaced by social and political sciences like psychology as well as by Economics
- Metaphysics simply will collapse on its arse; we have physics, chemistry, biology, history and the like
- Aesthetics; hmm. Art, Music, Dance, Drama, literary theories

******
I don't exist. I'm not conscious! Sometimes, "I" could be hungry, at other times "I think that X", at other times, "I'm absent", or tired, or happy, depressed, or 'conscious', or asleep, or funny. The word "I" has stopped making sense to me and I often actually get confused when I use the word now. Although not here. "I'm hungry" seems to make more sense nowadays compared to "I like X, Y, and Z" or, worse, "I like the idea that X, Y, or Z". "I" is supposed to be the way I remember many things (by relating things back to me), and the way that I make sense of everything that goes on or that went on in my brain. It is all-encompassing and infinitely vague term. It has become unavoidable to use such words, although lately I've done so more successfully when I've wanted to without thinking anything was wrong, and avoided confusion. I won't attempt to do so with this post.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Myergh

Exams. 6 of them. Back 27th

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Memory

What'd you do yesterday? Last Tuesday? What were you like two years ago? Five? As a child? How many memories can you bring to mind between the ages of 5 and 10? We hardly remember anything, and it's quite scary.

We think we do, but tests show that our memories are absolutely awful.
It's true for all memories; procedural, semantic. Implicit, Explicit.
We remember less than 10% of the fraction of things that we studied very hard at during university. We forget most faces and names.
It is said that we remember what is important, but this is also mostly wishful thinking. We remember STORIES which we made up about what is important. We don't remember almost any meaningful event accurately (much less scary and dangerous ones), it's just that we repeat, adapt and rehearse stories of the event and our lives to ourselves over and over again, so we remember the stories.

To recall your memories better, be in the same state that you were when you encoded the memory. If you were drunk when studying, get drunk for when writing the exam and you'll probably remember more.
Those who learn lists of words underwater recall those same lists better underwater than on land. Those with bipolar disorder remember things they learnt during a depressive episode better during their next depressive episode than when they're on a manic high. So to recall more, be in a similar setting, time of day, frame of mind and energy level.

Schema-consistent information is also remembered better: Old stories are adapted eg the "black substance that came from mouth" from horror stories of old became "foamed at the mouth". Canoes become boats.
People who witnessed a bank robbery were more likely to later recall that the robber was acting "weirdly" and say that he had a moustache. People first recall their attitude and emotional state during the event. Second, they justify that attitude to the audience of today. Thirdly, they reconstruct the memory from these attitudes.
This is partly how false memories are made, of which we have a surprising abundance. If you ask kids that have never been lost in a shopping centre an average of 7 times whether or not they can remember being lost in a shopping mall, on average, they'll start to say that they can remember it happening once. We use a vividness heuristic (how vivid something is) to judge whether or not our memory is of a real or imagined event, so the longer we imagine something for, the more vivid and hence real it appears to be later.

Lastly, some pointers on if you want to remember something:
- Chunking. You do this all the time, eg with phone numbers 9437-8756 is easier to remember than 94378756 . Now chunk the chunked bits, optimal size 4. You could chunk any type of material
- Translate it in to your own natural mental, idiosyncratic inner language
- Make the information somehow significant to your identity
- Labouriously try to connect the information to everything else you know. Do it cross-modally by connecting it to sights, smells, sounds, and ideas.
- Rehearse it all day. Rehearse it periodically over a long period of time. Set up reminders of it everywhere
- Pnemonics, songs etc. There are people that can't speak that can sing full songs. That should be quite fascinating!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Szasz

What a quirky, brilliant old psychologist Szasz was.
Now I don't agree with Tom Cruise that the whole movement of psychiatry is somehow 'evil', but basically every industry is infused with the profit-making incentive and an evolution of more ancient activities.

You might've thought before that there's something a little odd about the numbers when it is said that 5% of people are allegedly suffering from disorder A, while another 3% are from disorder B and another 6-10% from disorder C. By these numbers, everybody, it would seem, has at least about 10 disorders, and some people have >50.
Now I'm not saying that there aren't an incredible variety of ailments, of things that can go wrong with the human body - things which go "wrong" causing pain or biological dysfunction. But the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) used by psychologists has a history of calling every normal human condition (and things which don't affect functioning) a disorder. Until 1973, homosexuality was classed in the DSM as a mental disorder. Masturbation was also said to be a symptom of insanity! The DSM continues to say that behaviours deemed socially unacceptable are in fact disorders...

It's also important to disentangle "moral"/un-scientific statements from real science. It's true that being fat reduces your life expectancy somewhat, but not by a lot. Historically, a lot of the digust obesity is not based on health concerns (as it might've been for lepers) but based on religious-moral paradigms - for example, thinking that eating too much was sinfully greedy and therefore should be avoided, even if it didn't really harm the subject anyway.
In fact, prior to Kraepelin's classification system, everyone a tiny bit different was "mad", and it was caused by the devil. Electro-convulsive-therapy, it was thought, could be used "to harm the evil spirits inside". Not surprising, when you consider that the Medical Model that most humans were supposed to be using when they thought up their 'scientific' theories was an extremely superstitious/religious one...I mean in most of the world, exorcisms to drive away "evil spirits" are still being performed! In the 21st century!



If you're on the same page as me, you might like this quote from Szasz:

"Mental illness...is a myth, whose function it is to disguise and thus render more palatable the bitter pill of moral conflicts in human relations”...
I disagree with this, because he is saying that ALL mental illness is a myth, and I don't think ALL mental illness is a myth. I don't want to be seen to be playing-down the reality, that a lot of people have crippling disorders...but a lot of "mental conditions" are just concepts created to make profits off people in the form of drugs and/or consultations, or to control them.
What is more primary, pervasive, perpetual and problematic is struggle between humans cloaked up as morality, not mental disease. The vast majority of us are organisms which function incredibly well, and there are reasons why we feel supposedly 'dysfunctional' or 'negative' emotions such as anger, jealousy, spite etc. Here, medicine is acting in the service of social control, not our understanding of nature. It is is unconstrained by the requirement pertaining to all good science, which is to be concerned with fact and entirely ethically disinterested, not concerned with values. "Science" concerning value systems is religion, not science.

And Szasz again:
"The struggle for definition is veritably the struggle for life itself. In the typical Western [movie/novel] two men fight desperately for the possession of a gun that has been thrown to the ground: whoever reaches the weapon first shoots and lives; his adversary is shot and dies. In ordinary life, the struggle is not for guns but for words; whoever first defines the situation is the victor; his adversary, the victim. For example, in the family, husband and wife, mother and child do not get along; who defines whom as troublesome or mentally sick?...[the one] who first seizes the word imposes reality on the other; [the one] who defines thus dominates and lives; and [the one] who is defined is subjugated and may be killed.

Also, Rosenhan's study in 1973: Eight well-adjusted people acted as patients, presenting themselves for admission at psychiatric hospitals, reporting that they were hearing noises/voices...they otherwise told the truth about themselves. All but 1 diagnosed were diagnosed as schizophrenic, and then hospitalised and prescribed medication. Perhaps to be expected. But what was interesting was that the psychiatric staff interpreted all of their otherwise normal behaviour as being somehow "insane"...

The Little Red Schoolbook

It's amazing that a book that would be largely uncontroversial today received so much attention in the early 1970s. I mean, can you imagine, a book which explained to kids what sex actually involved. Australia was so much more a conservative place.
t's funny to hear how over the ages people have justified censorship on the grounds that people are somehow incapable of processing material deemed to be morally questionable...they really thought this book was going to tear apart the fabric of society and turn kids in to monsters. But then again I suppose some of the people who hated that book probably do think that kids nowadays are monsters
***
"What do you mean by 'it began as a joke' ? It was the joke that was brilliant!"

Richard Pratt

So the court says that Richard Pratt's company Visy ripped off Australians to the tune of $700million by fixing the prices of carboard boxes.
This really ought to outrage you a lot more than it probably does. Just about everything you buy has travelled through one of his overpriced cardboard boxes at some stage, so you've been paying through your eyeballs for everything.
But then the powerless court fines Visy $36million. Quite a return on his investment for Pratt, isn't it? Make $700 million, lose $36 million...it's a no brainer. Pratt should be in jail for a long time (without the possibility of managing a company afterwards), and he should've had to return the $700 million plus about another $700 million and interest on the lot...and then to start prosecuting everyone else aware of what was going on.

What's ironic though, is that it is ultimately EVERYBODY ELSE BUT PRATT that will pay the $36 million, because Visy will simply put up the price on its cardboard boxes. Although I guess Pratt also has to buy things from Boxes so he probably pays a couple cents to himself.
***
"A person today has no heart if they've never been a communist before, and has no brain if they're still one"

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Trips

As of last year, I had been to 26 countries, but I had not travelled much within Australia, except along the East Coast (usually to the same places, involving a lot of alcohol and/or other substances) dozens of times. Now obviously the remote, the mysterious, the inexplicable is more interesting and stays with you for longer, but my shunning Australia as a tourist destination had become unforgiveable.
I've recently done two trips, so for all my international readers [Quite a lot in Turkey and Japan for some reason], I'll explain where I went and what I did.
My first trip was to Australia's red centre [Alice Springs in the Northern Territory and surrounding areas] on The Ghan train which left from Adelaide, capital of "The Defense State", South Australia. Australia is a very arid country; 2/3 of it is covered by desert., and the Red Centre is so named because it is filled with red rock, red sand, red sunsets and (where they are successful) red animals. And green spinifex, which we'll ignore. It is a beautiful area which contains Ayers Rock, the most incredible rock in the world. A gigantic clump which formed from a now-eroded mountain range. I recommend that all go here, as you see the Olgas too (one of the 7 natural wonders of the world).
Many Australians are unaware that Australia was originally inhabited by up to 690 different Aboriginal tribes, which spoke a staggering 250+ distinct languages, many of which are completely different. Most Aboriginals (sensibly) lived along the coasts, but those that couldn't eeked out an unlikely existence in a climatically extreme area. People often mock the Aboriginal people because their way of life didn't change for a long time (they did not invent many of the things that European settlers did). However, it should be pointed out that (aside from the small numbers of people on the coast) the Aboriginals couldn't grow crops due to the irregularity of rain, and struggled just to survive...Most of their artwork and myths are related to the scarcity of water and available food and how to find it. They also have some judicial autonomy in some regions, so tourists...behave yourselves. One wrong move and the Australian Court may give the Aboriginals the right to deal out tribal justice to you, which could involve spearing your leg...or, if you were Aboriginal and had earnt a death sentence but ran away, killing your next of kin [mother, father etc].

My second trip was to Melbourne, in Victoria. I also went along the Great Ocean Road (a road built by WW2 vets whom the government had to do something with), which has some beautiful views of the coast (including the Twelve Apostles).
We passed towns which hold races where drunk people swim from a lighthouse to a pub at night, past the towns like Torquay where US soldiers based in Australia invented surfing after WW2, and where 'surfing' clothes brands like Billabong and Rip Curl started up.
There was a town, all of the buildings in which burnt to the ground during fires, except that of an Austrian engineer who had specifically designed his house to survive a fire. Sitting on the veranda of his odd Bahaus home as the fire consumed everyone else's home in the town, he must have felt vindicated.
The Aboriginals came up again too. There was a convict and four fellow-escapees from prison who wandered around. This convict's four fellow-escapees became so desperate that they voluntarily returned to prison. The convict staggered on, walking through the town 1 hour's drive from Melbourne that is now Geelong. After falling unconscious, he woke up surrounded by Aboriginals, who nursed him back to health. He spent 30 years amongst the Aboriginals. then, 30 years on, the British recognised him as the escaped prisoner. In return for not going to prison, he helped translate the Aboriginal language in negotations in which the Aboriginal people sold the entire plot of land that is now Geelong to the British for a sack of hay. The Aboriginals had not understood the concept that man can own the land. They would be exploited because of this.
Another random fact: "Fair dinkum" is an Australian slang term which roughly means "Do you mean that seriously?" It came from Chinese goldminers who came to Australia in the 19th century goldrush, who used to excitedly shout "Den Kum" (sounds like 'dinkum'), which means "Real gold" in Cantonese, so you can see where the inquiry about the sincerity of the speaker comes from. Ok I'm as bored as you are. -- update, no, this language fact is apparently not true. folk etymology. but i'm leaving it in because it sounds funny.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Hirschhorn

A tribute to my retiring History of Maths lecturer, Mike Hirschhorn. (He also takes a whole bunch of other Maths subjects and is widely known at UNSW). He's an old-fashioned, old stubborn dude who is even better than myself at mental arithmetic, knows a lot, and you have to admit, he's an arsehole, but he's pretty funny too. I especially like it when he mocks essays written by students in my class. He goes "What kind of idiot wrote this? He says that trisecting an angle HAS BEEN LABELLED AS IMPOSSIBLE. Who LABELLED the problem as being impossible? Did somebody take a labelling machine and label an A4 sheet of paper containing the problem as impossible?" If you can imagine that kind of anal annoying but funny person.
****** "To avoid congestion, commuters are advised to distribute themselves along the platform.."

Which One

Some say that a person simply knows who they are. To another, that person is closed to change. And so we ask: "Have you considered..." and we hope for the best

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Another SBS series

Next in the series of crazy, excellent SBS TV shows; it's a series called "Why Democracy".
One episode, called "For God, Tsar and Fatherland" features a fat man swimming in his freezing swimming pool while his servants do petty chores inside his sprawling castle and garden. He has convinced them that they need his religious guidance and that Imperial Russia needs a strong Orthodox faith to defeat the Imperialist, rotting West. The fat man illuminates, proving (quite convincingly) that God's soul is not democratic and (less convincingly), that therefore a society which doesn't recognise the necessity for an inherently hierarchical order in human society will inevitably crumble....Quasi-scientifically, he says that because successful wolf packs have this absence of equality, so too must humans follow God and then Tsar, and religion understands this "basic fact". I must that the plausibility of his argument [that religion allied to nationalism might prove a strong opponent to an increasingly divided, atheistic West] scares me a little. And also, within Western countries, those in the shrinking religious minority have more and more elitist, co-operatively inspired power than the rest of us divided atheists...look at the influence of the Christian far-right in USA and Australia especially. Oleg, a lawyer, is one of the adults oddly taken to this re-education camp by his ageing mother.

It is true that Russia is growing again, and the fat man has me thinking about the fact that more religiously observant societies tend to be poorer. Somebody once said that religion was only for the poor, weak or disillusioned, although now I think religion (at least in the modern world) causes the poverty which breeds national weakness and personal disillusionment, which reinforces the drive towards theocracy which then perpetuates the misery. Chicken and egg, and all chicken-or-egg problems have the same structure of solution...I suppose in the west the chickens are fewer and the eggs are easily broken.

Hey religious people out there, if citizens in a society are not striving for understanding and mastery of all things material (science)...in any case, what is non-material anyway? :p AND hoping for the most efficient acquisition of all things material (through capitalistic competition), it's not surprising that you should fail to obtain the material things which you desire, and so not surprising that your country lacks wealth and so global hard (military) and soft (cultural) power.
And down below, a man in Iran protesting against the Danish Mohammed cartoons holds a sign saying "Freedom of Expression Go To Hell" and in the backdrop, the words "Down with the USA" have been literally carved in to the wall, presumably an officially-funded artwork.


See whydemocracy.net -- The 10 questions posed by "Why Democracy?" are:

Who would you vote for as President of the World? What would make you start a revolution? Can terrorism destroy democracy? Is Democracy good for everyone? Are dictators ever good? Who rules the world? Are women more democratic than men? Why bother to vote? Is God democratic? Can politicians solve climate change?

Crazy Things

This post is dedicated towards the absurd scenes (newstainment) beamed in to our homes from SBS television. I don't mean to be cynical, I do love SBS, and it and the ABC are the only quality free TV stations.

On Forreign Correspondant, we are shown video of prisoners in a chronically overcrowded Philipino prison run despotically by the inept, cosmopolitan brother of the pretty Eurasian Cebu Governor, Gwen Garcia. Garcia has ordered these prisoners (many of whom were transferred there after spending up to 10 years STANDING due to lack of room in prisons WITHOUT TRIALS) to DANCE 2 hours a day. They're now dancing to a musical, led by transvestite murderers, who rock and shake to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and other 80s songs.
Now that is exactly as Michael Jackson would have intended it to be.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

When Sense is Nonsense

Religious people like to "make sense" out of random tragic events; the events assume a cosmic significance, or become part of the divine plan of a God.
Likewise, conspiracy theorists create conspiracies because it makes more sense to them that a big event should be caused by a powerful human agency; it is not comforting to realise how little control humans have over many events.

In doing so, these religious people and conspiracy theorists are creating a LOSS of sense...it takes sense to realise that many processes in the world are random, and therefore to truly understand.

**
Bipedal genital displays to strangers are now considered an offence rather than a courtship ritual legacy

Monday, October 29, 2007

Democracy

I notice that a lot of people confuse the concept of democracy with the state of freedom from various forms of oppression [Hardly unexpected, for the neural networks in our brains are basically just elaborate systems of association maps which correlate the firings in our brain which constitute different concepts, memories, emotions and other thoughts...].

Some countries are relatively democratic and the citizens enjoy relative freedom from oppression (Australia, Canada, Sweden etc). In other countries, citizens enjoy freedom from oppression, but live in a non-democratic environment (something closer to Hong Kong), and, in other countries, citizens are neither particularly free, nor is there a democracy (eg Saudi Arabia, Sudan). I admit that there is a strong correlation between freedom from oppression and the level of democracy in a country, but it is still isn't useful to conflate the two concepts.
Dictionary definitions of democracy tend to usually mention "majority rule", or the rule of representatives elected by the people and for the people. An incredibly vague definition when you think about it, but good enough for most purposes. Basically, we think that each person should at least have an equal say in determining which party is elected, come election time.

Surely this involves political parties not being allowed to accept donations from the public? From any type of institution, donations clearly motivate politicians not to govern in the interests of the general body of people, but on behalf of those that they receive money from, and especially those which helped them be elected. It's stupid, and it's certainly doesn't foster democracy. I don't know how the hell this practice could ever be justified, it doesn't smoothe the practical functioning of any democracy. But what irritates me is how easily people are seduced by gushing speeches from politicians about how great our democracy is, when, in fact, some citizens clearly have a far greater say in how the country is run than others by virtue of their greater wealth.

Even if you falsely believed that you had a say in who was elected, if you're poor you've got absolutely no chance of influencing the policies that the winning party actually implements when it gets in to power. All you can do is lodge a protest vote at the next election, which will simply hand power to another party who will also only listen to those that give it money...not a lot of voting power you have there, unless you've worked or bought your way to a position where you can donate money or advise the government....just like in Communist states where everyone tries to work for the government because of the priviledges one receives.
If you want to celebrate the fact that you live in Australia instead of in Saudi Arabia or Sudan, do so because you are relatively free from oppression in Australia, and enjoy a higher living standard in Australia. It is irrational pride to celebrate the democratic nature of our country, because we, like just about every other democratic country, have never been particularly democratic. Not that it's necessarily stupid for some to have more say than others; experts in science or history or anything else have to have more input on most matters than regular people (and perhaps the motivated deserve more influence than the apathetic), but the practise of donations [bribes] must stop.

While we're at it, it should be made illegal for political parties of any type to spend public money on advertising. It's so annoying to see the hundreds of millions of dollars pour down the drain in the lead up to the Australian election on politicians trying to get themselves re-elected.
There's no conceivable reason why citizens would want to pay to watch propaganda, unless that propaganda was bankrolled by people who want certain politicians to get in because they'll work for their agenda. And at the Ministry of Truth website, there are some good suggestions for making politicians more accountable for proven misinformation about facts. Another interesting website: http://web.inter.nl.net/users/Paul.Treanor/democracy.html

How strong is our democracy? Stronger than in say, Egypt, or Sudan, or China. But perhaps that's not enough to be proud of it, particularly if it may be weakening. Let's make these changes, and take further incremental steps towards a better democracy...

**
Scared monkeys hold each others' penises. I can't help but find that really weird

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Gross National Happiness #2

As mentioned before, whilst I agree that there's more to quality of life than total income, it would be absurd to measure Gross National Happiness and try to improve it.



I'm constantly amazed to hear people questioning material wealth, citing the true fact that while we've grown richer, we've not grown happier. So what? Increases in human life expectancy from 40 years to 80 years today weren't accompanied by an increase in happiness either. Does that mean we should go back to living 40 years only? Once again, what justification is there to try to change the status quo? And why would leading a less material life as humans have done in the past make us any happier?



As an aside, human happiness levels are invariant over time and circumstance; even the gravest of misfortunes tends to cause only a temporary decrease in happiness, after which the person returns to their baseline happiness rating (which has remained in the 7.2-7.3/10 range since people started measuring in the 19th century). Likewise for events such as winning the lotto. We didn't evolve to be happy, we evolved to survive, and in all likelihood, those who were always very happy wouldn't be very good at surviving, especially when the ones they're struggling against can be very determined buggers.

It seems to me that the average citizen could be poor and score a 7.3/10 on happiness, or be richer and score a 7.3/10 on happiness...it is up to us to decide whether the average person is wealthy and a 7.3/10 or poor and a 7.3/10.

****
Sigmund Freud said the Irish cannot be psychoanalysed, and clitoral orgasm was a sign of madness

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Immortality

Our bodies are sinking ships, and we like to salvage things from sinking ships before they go down. So we pass on our genes while we're alive, so that they don't go down with the vessel.

I've often wondered what profound changes human immortality would have for society. It is equally valid to wonder what profound changes would have to occur in society for us to figure out how to become immortal; I'll leave that to the science fiction writers.

In the meantime, being immortal would almost certainly reduce our incentive to have kids. As we live longer, we have kids when we're older and older. If we become immortal, we could always throw our genes off the sinking ship that is our bodies another time. Just as consumption goes down where there is deflation, why create a dependent NOW if our ship is not sinking but perhaps even being upgraded?

A great deal of people would do it anyway; it'd be strange, as a 900-year-old parent, to have kids who are 850, 700, 200 and 50 years old respectively. What would the concept of maturity mean when you have 700-year olds being taught by 800-year-olds? What would responsibility mean? Would there still be any social order to speak of? What would progress mean? [A sticky concept even today!] More disturbingly, what would people aim for? Thousand-year plans? Revolutionaries and conservatives alike mightn't be so happy to work towards anything in particular.
My best guess would be that the concept of a family would no longer make sense at all, and that we'd kill ourselves well before we turned 850. I'd also be betting humans wouldn't do so well as a species.
Anyone else like to speculate?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Role Models

I try to avoid ever hearing A Current Affair and other trashy "news" [entertainment] and "public affairs" [modern-day-sermon] shows.
But unfortunately I did hear one today, about how sportsmen (interpret: some sportsmen...and nobody knows what proportion of all sportsmen) are supposedly not being good role models to children, by doing drugs and drinking excessively or being mysogynistic and otherwise evil.
My brain races. I'm not saying I support mysogyny, or that I'd necessarily love my child to be a alcoholic sportsman, or a clean sportsman, or anything else.

What the fuck is a role model? Is a role model a rugby-league player in the first place, or is a role-model supposed to be a brilliant scientist, a model on the front cover of a woman's magazine, or a Nobel Peace Prize winner? Presumably, to many, different kinds of people can be role models, by striving towards some hypothesised True Good or Goods, which apparently come in abundantly different forms and so are brought about differently.
Did role-models study hard and avoid doing drugs and alcohol? Or did they do a lot of weed and LSD like The Beatles did? Are they conformists, like many brilliant scientists, CEOS, and artists? Or should we be looking for inspiration at the more eccentric, nonconformist scientists/CEOS/artists?
Do role-models have more money or fame, like Hollywood stars, or more power, like politicians, or can Grandad with his false teeth be a role model?

The concept of the role-model is full of shit. The concept of a role-model is a moralistic, preachy way of imposing your own system of morality on to somebody else, by expecting them to live some life which you think is ideal, supposedly as a shining example to your kids. You can glorify all that is average, has 2.3 (I think 1.4 now) children etc, but don't pretend that you're doing it in the service of the young and fragile, or the old and fragile, or any other demographic. You're fighting for what YOU believe in, what you value, and it has nothing to do with the public good, and might have banned The Beatles.
Perhaps you should teach your children to find their own way, and not to create Gods in the form of you (and/or your spouse), or of sportsmen or moviestars or anybody else. Many children are too young to know for themselves whether or not it's appropriate for themselves to do drugs, and when. But if you are a parent who really really wants to prevent their children from doing drugs, you could do so even if your kids know that many sportsmen do take drugs. That is their choice, and they are as much subject to the law as you are, even if you are a hardened cynic.
Recently, it was exposed that the dude who will probably be Australia's next Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, had visited a strip club when he was younger. Who knows exactly what character fault this was supposed to expose, but I would suggest that all the hypocritical moralising was entirely stupid, irrelevant, and a waste of time and energy. Those are my values.

But then if you're not a good enough parent for your child to look up to you or to take seriously what you say, then you've probably got enough problems of your own already...
Well there's my anti-sermon sermon of the day. Now go and do what you want, everybody, but then, most people don't like prison, so try to avoid that.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

When Judges Err

Haha Judge Judy is funny, and generally, being smart, a good debater. She was wrong about one thing though. That cute little dog that attacked that cute little kid wasn't a poor little defenseless dog as she had said. To be sure, dogs have the ability to defend themselves against small children. That cute little dog took matters in to its own hands (or teeth), and took assertive, confident, and ultimately righteous steps to defend itself against the annoyance of that little girl poking at it with a stick, as her temporary cut attests. After all, the dog was in the right, and the cute but sadistic little girl was in the wrong.

The Schizophrenia Of Losing One's Faith

The old religious person in you dies, causing discomfort for the person, or even to more than one of the people inside of you, who has a dying individual inside himself/themselves.
Religion is an enormously powerful, well-adapted memeplex (combination of self-perpetuating ideas, habits, imitations, compulsions, social customs and expectations), and it, being enormously powerful and encompassing of the identity to which religion so expertly attaches itself, was very difficult to extricate. When one does, a great part of one's identity dies, and another is born; I'm just glad I managed to do it sooner rather than later, so that I developed a much stronger identity than that of belonging to this or that religion/tribe, dependent on just another person, or in this case, non-entity, for my fulfillment and to govern my thought.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Changing the rules before China rules

I like my own type of study on nationalism. Ask people to rate different countries out of 10. How much they like them. That simple.
France? 7/10, they say. Romania? 4/10. Germany? 8/10. Ivory Coast? 3/10.
What about China? What do you give it?

At APEC, some legitimately expressed their dislike of George Bush, which I happen to share. But where was the protest against leaders other than Bush who have committed far more heinous crimes? And where was the pressure on countries like China to change the conditions for its own citizens? I welcome Beijing to balance the power of Washington, but ultimately, I'd prefer to live under the autocratical rule of the USA than China.
Issues under which world governments are likely to unite in order to pressure China.
Environmentalism, Equality, Human rights, Corruption and Governance, Good Institutions, Safe Products.
The stress should be to change, but slowly...we cannot force these things on China overnight, and the prosperity of the whole world is dependent on the prosperity and stability of China.

In the mean-time, is there really a decline, a decadence in our own societies which threaten their ongoing viability? We're so dependent on our cheap imports from China! Where will the next great factories be? And it seems to me that 1860-1939 was where such a great flurry of important scientific, philosophical and economic work was done, and more is being outsourced offshore all the time. Obviously since then, we've also had the computer and Internet revolutions, but standards seem to have dropped according to longitudinal studies, with the exception of amongst skilled migrants.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Language Again

I continuously am fascinated by language.


Somebody once told me that I should be grateful to the English because they helped my native tongue conquer the globe, so that now I can communicate with so many people. I might've learnt the language of another conqueror or English anyway, but knowing English is advantageous over being say a Russian monolingual. I will learn more about the roots of this language.
"The adventures of English" TV show was fascinating and taught me more about English, which is a West Germanic language not a Romance one like French or Italian.
What makes English a superior language is that it has grabbed words from so many different languages, and this in term glorified English society and continuously legitimated the Monarchy, although stealing huge quantities of Gold from Spanish ships also probably was indispensable for British survival, just as a mosquito or lead piping probably brought down the Roman Empire.

English coevolved mostly with French following the Norman invasion of 1066 in which rich French people all ate the produce of the English, who became a slave race. Most of the wealthy Englishmen (who also spoke French) died at the hands of the black plague later, which is why fewer Brits know French now.
English has grabbed many German and Scandinavian words too, as well as mathematical ones from Arabic, and scientific ones from the Latin as well as other Romance languages.
It is fascinating to trace the roots back to Olde English, where Northern England people seemed to be speaking German. Or to hear the varied dialects of English spoken in Singapore or in Africa by the Iron Ladies of Liberia, or in different corners of any city by Italian or Chinese or Lebanese people (strange how it varies!). And to see the physiological changes produced by speaking a certain language.

Many Old English words narrowed in meaning - "wasten" for apple disappeared, and the word "apple", which used to refer to fruit in general, came to refer to apples only. A codger was a man that handled birds of prey, and now any old dude could be a codger. Weird indeed.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Overempathising

Is just one kind of multiple-personality disorder?
I, like Douglas Hofstadter, am a strange loop!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Logic

Men have often claimed an exclusive provenance over reason, and probably conspired over the centuries to frame emotional processes as being opposed to reason. Logic was (and still is) said to be 'cold' and supposedly always uninspired, dispassionate. This seems to be to be:
a) total bullshit; the opposite to rationality is irrationality (not emotion) and emotions motivate us, whereas reasoning processes allow us to think through, among other things, how to achieve the things that we are motivated to achieve.
This error abounds within Western philosophical traditions as well as introspective or 'spiritua'l approaches and is just another demonstration of the unscientific approach to studying the brain. Yes, I know one of those Scottish Philosophers (Locke?) said something about man's reasons being slave to passions, but of course none of them got too much closer to the truth than that and even said philosopher somewhat conflated all the concepts anyway.
b) a recipe for people attempting, futilely, to act as automatons.

Yes, average female 'logic' can be seem emotional and irrational compared to average male 'logic', and I imagine that the converse is true. Women are supposed to be empathisers and men systematisers. Men may be more explicit in their logical reasoning processes, but women claim to be able to justify their reasoning processes as thoroughly, although sometimes admit using processes of judgement that they aren't aware of. Females more often use demonstration to justify their actions - what she does quiets the baby, while the father is left behind wondering why, rationally, what she did worked.

*******
Some people used to sign the song "here comes the fat controller" whenever a certain member of staff walked past at my school. Does anyone remember Thomas the Tank Engine? What was the Fat Controller like? Was he supposed to be some sort of evil capitalist or something that bossed the trains around? Sad I can't remember such things. Funny that as capitalism does become further entrenched, obesity levels do rise...gives some truth to those old propaganda drawings which depicted all bosses as being fat!!!!

Thought experiments are dead

Metaphysical impossibility is physical impossibility...And so, another treasured part of the philosophers' toolbox is discarded.

The conclusions of thought experiments are not valid if the thought experiment couldn't actually take place (even if only for technical but forever unavoidable reasons), because there's something about the fact that the laws of physics conspire to prevent the hypothetical situation taking place that also invalidates the conclusion and assumptions of the thought experiment

**

Primes are like irreducible thoughts

Friday, October 5, 2007

Learned Helplessness

We're apathetic about politics because we've learnt our helplessness, as a dog might. It follows that people will only become politically active if they are powerful or could be powerful; where they can see or could imagine that they do have influence and the ability to change things (if only by changing the opinions of others). The unabomber was certainly a madman, and a criminal. But he was right that people need to be involved in "the power process" more than they are today. Perhaps had he been he wouldn't have committed the crimes that he did.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Moral Lessons

My mum once said to me when I was very young that I should drive slowly when, one day, I get my licence...because, even if I was obeying the law, I'd feel terrible for the rest of my life if I ran over somebody by accident. I remember solemnly agreeing at the time.

It took me longer than it should have to disagree; it'd be insanely unhealthy to feel terrible for the rest of my life if I accidentally ran somebody over while obeying the road rules. Sure, I'd probably have flashbacks to it, but I'd like to think that I could reappraise the memory and adapt, even if I accidentally ran over 10 people! It'd be unhealthy anyway to dwell on it forever even if I WERE breaking the rules at the time. But then perhaps my mum knew that her moral lesson, however convoluted and strange, had an expiry date on it...only I don't think it survived even to that date.

**** If you don't see who the asshole is in the room, it's you. ^^^^?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Chaser Stunt

It's old news, but I'm adding my bit about it.
I thought it was damn funny, and served its purpose.
Did it make it to the news in your APEC country?

Russian Tankers and Machinery

Had a psychedelic dream of flashbacks to when I was in Cuba, and I saw an old Soviet cement mixer still in operation, slowly chugging its way up a steep incline, pollutant spewing through its exhaust pipe as its socialist messages inscribed on the mixer spun. The mixer must've been 50 years old, and the 25-year-old Russian Ladas, their steering wheels now reduced to the bars underneath, sped past it angrily.

Socialist realist art, I have to say, is awesome stuff; I'd like to see its productio n well past the death of the ideology. The stark, 2D characters, their red fists impossibly holding children as their smiley, cold faces beneath the sun turn proudly towards sleek tanks somehow tiptoeing through fields blooming with flowers

Vagueness

Vagueness, I love it. One of the harshest criticisms that we can make of another person's mind is that the thoughts within it are vague..."not thought out well"...'unsophisticated' by virtue of an impoverished vocabulary or a variety of other ailments.
But I love vague people. Through their vague utterances and the less-vague responses of people, I learn more about how they, and their peers and parents think. To be more specific (less vague?..hm. maybe not), I learn about what associations most people make. Less vague people often work with the same assumptions and associations, but cloaked up in more sophisticated language.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

This sentence is false

One of the supposed paradoxes of logic - if

"This sentence is false" is true - then it is false - which presents a contradiction. But if it is false, then it is true, which also presents a contradiction.
"BUT WHICH ONE IS IT?"
There are thousands of other examples of the same structure - some which involve combinations of sentences, some of which refer to others. Etc.

I have a problem with their logic...
What exactly, the fuck, does the above sentence refer to? To the SENTENCE? A sentence is a string of words, and if it doesn't make reference to something real or representative of something real - like a tree - or a concept - then it may just be a MEANINGLESS sentence. Does a meaningless sentence need to be true or false? I don't think so.
In any case, the sentence doesn't make sense, because the statement which it attempts to say is FALSE is...empty. No logical statement is by itself a contradiction - false and true simultaneously. We need to work with premises and statements of fact and then test whether other sentences are validly implied by the above, or not.

Glossary Game

Something I play when I'm bored in psych class...

See how well you can define things in the glossary...

Hey you learn a few things. Like how to think about the terms precisely and economically, and you get to anticipate what terms probably mean and see how right or wrong you were.
Just a quirk.

Perfect Victim

Crazy - This woman was abducted when she was 15, and kept in a dungeon for 20 years as a sex slave (amongst other things) - repeatedly tortured psychologically and physically, and kept barely alive. The man and his accomplice wife who captured her would take her for walks on a leash in their gigantic backyard. Gradually, she became convinced that she was the legal property of her tormentor, and when the couple let her roam around the town 20 years later (telling her to be back by that evening), she obeyed, knowing nothing better. Years later when out on the town she realised that she was a slave, somebody finally managed to convince her that this was not legal, and she allowed the memories to come back...

Fascinating and sad how deeply confused people can become over time.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

But Life

Often we think "Hey, I'd like to do this now, BUT..." or "I'd like to see you now, BUT..."

Obviously, we're not entirely free to do what we want to do when we want to do it...we can allow some spontaneity in to our lives, but many things require a great degree of planning, and this has various, often unanticipated consequences for one's own happiness.

Life and other mundane things are the "but"

I often think when people talk about their "soul"and things like that (or spiritual needs), they're talking about those high-order needs like self-actualisation - reading, the development of a distinct and strong personality, the achievement of one's potential.
Eating and drinking and sleeping and shitting are usually thought of as not connected to the "soul" or "spirit", because the soul or spirit (for me, the brain that wants to think when it wants to think) longs to not be dependent on anything, not to be living bound up in flesh, to be waiting for a paycheck to clear or to work just to allow one to work more rather than to live.

This is also why when people are too busy with life that they tend to complain that there is a spiritual void in their lives. It is just not being able to focus on things that one WANTS to focus on, and when they want to. Those on a spiritual quest might find that void filled with a little more more free time in which to think. To use their brains. If they haven't forgotten how.

***

Capitalismis a good slave and a bad master

The Poor

Grow or decline not in strength, certitude or spirit, but in numbers only.

Revolutions don't happen quickly, only change does. When people talk about "The Russian Revolution" or some other event confined to a time period of a few years, they're talking about changing circumstances in Russia, not a change in Russians.

Human behaviour in all its potentialities is invariant over the short-term, but changing circumstances and political realities create a strong illusion that human behaviour is highly variable...unless one wants to narrowly define human behaviour as just whatever they happen to be doing in some corner of the century.

What I'm interested are revolutions in the way that people think. Take the Darwinian Revolution...that has been taking place for more than a hundred years.... or the possibility of real changes in our genotype. and the consequent effects..

Free Will

Confusion, illusion, error, self-deceit and deceit all rolled in to one.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Maternalistic and Paternalistic Societies

What exactly is a maternalistic society and how would I know if I were in one? Refer to the past if you must, but try to imagine it as an adaptation to or restructuring of the world today.

Experiment with dog

Haha, I pretend that one of his toys is having sex with the other, to see his jealous reaction. Having a dog is endlessly fun. Trying to work out what is going on in his little head, how he feels about things, and how he will react is always amusing.
And cruel.
For every one of my experiments (even those that give the dog food), the dog is wondering why he must jump through such strange loops to get the food which I deliberately entice him with, making him so jealous!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sport

People screaming. People, often those who feel powerless, feeling part of something bigger, being outraged or sad or joyous. The mania and the passion of the crowd and all the ridiculous behaviour that it creates. People crying because their team lost. Hey, I've been passionate before about Australian Cricket Team/Newcastle Utd/Rugby Team/Hockey Team/Swimmers etc etc etc (list goes on forever)...but tears...because your team lost? Gimme a break! The Game more important than life? No way!

I'm rediscovering the joys of playing sport after a long period of laziness but being a spectator usually doesn't do it for me.
Except for Rugby Union.... Go The Wallabies!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Lawyers

Which professions primarily involve an optimistic attitude, and/or idealism, aside from, say, some roles in the UN?

I was thinking that lawyers can and must be "pessimists", in a "poor mood" because they have to be able to anticipate everything that could go wrong in a contract when advising you.
The one that catastrophises the best and anticipates every single snare and disaster is the best lawyer

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Banana Smell Everywhere!

Can somebody explain this???

I ate a banana 4 nights ago, and I've been smelling banana ever since. Everywhere. Not only at home. It's a strong smell, and it's ALWAYS there. When I go to sleep and wake up and when I'm at uni and at the movies and even when I'm eating other foods, I'm smelling banana. All the time.

This is the third time this ever-present-smell thing has happened, and each time, it has involved banana - last time it lasted for about 6 days.
It's doing strange things for my memory too - am constantly remembering things that I did during the last 'episode' of all-present banana smell. I'm busy trying to enjoy myself now so that I'll have good memories for next time...
Btw, I've not had any traumatic events occur in my life involving a banana

Efficiency

No, people, email does not make life 'easier'; that we can instantly communicate with anyone anywhere does not make life easier overall.

No technological fix will permanently make life easier - this is because life is a competitive game..Any invention which increases our productivity (letting us do what we could do in eight hours in two) will only raise the expectations of us, and we will still work 8, but accomplish much more perhaps. Anybody who tries to achieve the same number of things in two will be destroyed by those willing to work as long or longer than before.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Strange Crime

Excerpts from a dictionary of crime:
-A man who would hold pre-pubescent girls at knifepoint on their way home from school, ordering them to take off their shoes and socks. He then licked their toes and ran off
-The panty bandit - a man who would rob stores, order women to take off their panties and run off.
Read about the Panopticon!

Ignorance

Often enquiring about the certainty of another's opinions shows very quickly how ignorant they are; there are some people who believe very strongly that we (and/or humans) know a lot, and others who are sure we know very little.

And others have no idea what exactly, the fuck, "knows a lot" or "knows little" means.

United States

When I went to study in the USA, what I found odd was the vague familiarity of America. It's people and the way of life. Obviously America is varied (although not as much as most countries are, perhaps). But nothing was very foreign, and some things seemed more familiar than their 'equivalents' in my home country, Australia. For example, the archetype of "the nerd" in Hollywood movies such as "Revenge of the Nerds" seemed more easily recognisable in America than at home. Such is the power of Hollywood to alter one's identity.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Random

I think parts of the brain of the human species are going to atrophy as we use them less and less. Apart from all the things which we'll probably add to the human brain, natural processes might leave us unrecogniseable to people living today.
What abilities do you think might go first?
Memory?

Posts to come:

Psychology: Anxiety disorders, Adolph Hitler's personality, associations, dieting, masochism
AND
The UN, hosts in Japan, crowd behaviour, informal "preference surveys" (ratings) of different countries, fund managers.

Also, it's about time I got stuck in to religion; my attitudes to it have been obvious but I'm yet to explicitly comment on it.
- The presence of religion in language
- Environmentalism as a new religion (Paying to make oneself carbon neutral is like paying the church to forgive you for your sins..)
- Evangelicals

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Late nights

It's 2am, and I'm doing a heavy gym session and listening to Stargazer, by Rainbow. One of the earliest metal songs. I'm in a pretty manic mood, fluctuating wildly. Very unusual for me.

In the heat and the rain
/With the whips and chains
/To see him fly
/So many die
/We built a tower of stone
/With our flesh and bone
Just to see him fly/
But don't know why
/Now where do we go?
...
Take me back/
You, give me back my will
I imagine a Mayan worship scene and a human-invented God, nourished on the blood of sacrifices.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Weirdness Of Dreams

I used to keep a dream diary. Just read some old ones.
Ah, the weirdness of dreams

3/6/03: I am on ski trip, although I resemble myself now, not as I looked on ski trip. Andrew, the excitable “Jumbaroo Fun and Games” camp leader is behaving strangely. He approaches me slowly with an increasingly insane, deeply upset look on his face. I suddenly become aware that I am desperately close to the edge of a massive cliff. I actually pause momentarily to consider why we’re situated here…is today abseiling? His continuing approach forces me to disregard the circumstances, at least temporarily, and return to the reality of the situation. I become angry. Angry at the inattention I have just paid toward the urgent danger that he poses to my safety. In those seconds in which I had stopped to contemplate, he could’ve done anything. I tense myself, facing him. He cannot verbalise the reason for his state of distress. His jaw moves erratically, but only squeaks come out. People crowd around us, in a circle. They seem to be analysing my movements, rather than enquiring about what is wrong, or attempting to resolve the dangerous situation. My perception is that the overwhelming ‘opinion’ of the crowd is against me. I cannot qualify this opinion. Surely, I’m not responsible for Andrew’s frenzied state! I stare at him straight in the eyes, and then effortlessly toss him over the vertical cliff. He seemed to be weightless; my impression was that he was a bag of hot air. While in the air, he twists around. As he disappears, his body shape suggests he is meditating. He reminds me of a Buddhist monk. Why is he so calm, as he hurtles down?

6/8/03: I am at a concert of some kind..possibly Metallica as I recently bought a ticket off eBay (real life). The people who accompany me are the most unlikely Metallica fans; Terry, Dani, Danny. There is a metal framework stretching up high in to the sky (in an Eiffel Tower like fashion). All those at the concert are tugging on to the tower, however with no apparent fright of the fall that might occur at any moment. There is a pool below, but it would not provide safety as it is full of people. People are playing volleyball from ‘floor to floor’ on this metal tower. The smell of chlorine and summer warmth seems to be everywhere. Water seems to be streaming down from the top…..I adventure to the top and find that there is ANOTHER POOL at the top…I go up, and open a door through which I climb in to it…water does not come down on me as I open this trapdoor. At the top, is a “private party”, many of the girls are topless. I am glad to be at this party. Wakes up.

Weird indeed. I accept that some dreams give us insights in to our subconscious thoughts, but most of them are just random thoughts swirling around.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Growing up

Some people will inject themselves with botox more and more frequently
Have facelifts more and more frequently
Die their grey hair more and more frequently
Exercise frenetically to keep in shape
Continue to buy clothes that young people buy
and a myriad of other things to deny an obvious fact - that one is ageing.
I accept that some people still "feel young" or have a lot of energy, but what I'm talking about is people who've not grown up, matured, or those whose ego otherwise rests on them being able to do what young people can do. There are a lot of adults who refuse to grow up emotionally and intellectually; others still cling to tooth-fairy-esque notions of God or live in sharp moral worlds inhabited by God and the Devil, cops and robbers and other things.

Wouldn't it be easier to just accept ageing and do so gracefully?
To accept that your role in society and your behaviour will accordingly change?
Wouldn't that make it a little less hard when your turn to die comes? Or are you just preying for a way to reverse the signs of death too?

Addiction #3

Why is kicking an addiction hard, beyond the physiological reasons? Say, for example, a caffeine addiction. Caffeine enables a lifestyle that is impossible without it. One can do more of whatever one pleases. The cost, of course, is the come-down (although this can be made to fall at convenient times), as well as health risks eg kidney failure. Part of why kicking the addiction is hard is because you have to sacrifice the lifestyle benefits, and change your habits, and perhaps even your work/life balance...it's not only the chemicals themselves!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Psychology

Ah, Psychologists. The power to help humans or to manipulate them towards almost any ends. How sad it is that we can so easily be understood and manipulated by marketers, psychologists, politicians with an innate (or learned, heh) understanding of human psychology etc etc

Had a lecture was about Variable Reinforcement: If you reward a worker after them doing something 60 times, they'll invariably take a short break after doing it, then get back to working towards their next reward. Likewise if you reward them after every 180 times, except that they will break for longer; usally more than 180/60=3 times as long as before. But make their rewards arrive at uncertain intervals (eg sometimes twice in a row, sometimes with a gap of 100 in between), and they will break for almost no time. This is part of the reason why gambling is so addictive!!
There is such a fine science to the way in which certain pokie machines, for example, will reward people, to keep them on the track towards destruction (others simply pay-out according to a fixed probability-generating mechanism).
On that note, 21% of the world's pokie machines are in Australia. We really are a nation of losers.

Another one I've noticed: If a journalist simply states that public opinion is "overwhelming" on some matter, it influences people enormously. This is because (most) people don't generally like the idea that they disagree strongly with all their friends, and the rest of society. eg after publishing an article saying that "an overwhelming majority of Australians support gay marriages", experiments suggest people who have just read this article will profess more support for gay marriages than those that didn't read the article (although many who don't will lie in both scenarios, this is controlled for).
Some other funny ones
-- The man who works out why he left his wife AFTER he left her
-- You can help your chances of getting a job by imitating everything that an interviewer does during the interview. They lean forward, so do you. They talk faster, so do you. They lean back, yep, you've guessed it, you lean back. Just repeat his tone, direction etc.
A pity though that psychology, like other fields, often ends up serving the moral agenda of its practitioners.

*******
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjGkRFFBd0A