Comments: I Am Part Of The Problem

-- Sorry, what?

Posted by NomadUK at June 29, 2009 07:15 AM

last week i had a 45-minute midday bus commute and the bus was full of teenagers about half the way. by chance the last day the bus ran an entire schedule slot late so there were twice as many teenagers. there was approximately four times the noise. M-W, no singing. Th, multiple songs, front and rear of bus, sometimes linking up and separating again. M-W, none of them looked at me reading my textbook. Th, they were fascinated and interrupted me to ask about it even though i had earphones on. they were -- very funny.

every once in a while i read how culture is what happens when you stuff people in a closet and close the door, right? not only will they invent lightbulbs, they'll make up songs to express their joy at no longer being in the dark, or something.

i really liked this bit about density and individualism in the rich world...
http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2009/06/how-activists-make-or-break-radical-innovations.html?cid=6a00d83451b33869e20115713bb824970b#comment-6a00d83451b33869e20115713bb824970b

i guess i would say specialization, crazy wealth, and sheer numbers are more distracting than media ... but then i've been trapped on the net for 20 years (or 7 computers) ... i'm a victim.

Posted by hapa at June 29, 2009 07:39 AM

When have societies ever not been fragmented against themselves? Castes, collegia, guilds, gangs, these are ancient.

So I guess, I agree that we will eventually destroy ourselves, because "All our lauded technological progress — our very civilization — is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal" (Einstein).

But there's certainly no unique pathology of violence or "disunity" in us that was not in, say, ancient Babylon.

Posted by Cloud at June 29, 2009 10:09 AM
But there's certainly no unique pathology of violence or "disunity" in us that was not in, say, ancient Babylon.

Cloud, do you think that environment and culture has enough pull to rewire the brain? IOW, do we think differently now vs. Babylonians. Not do we think about other things, but are the neural pathways formed chemically uniquely by our culture?

(If I sit in front of a computer jacking off all day to porn, would my brain develop differently from an agrarian or did they have similar endorphin highs in similar quantities?)

Posted by angryman@24:10 at June 29, 2009 11:17 AM

Actually, our chemical pathways are probably pretty much the same as they were 100k years ago, but what has changed is that we have been domesticated, like livestock. The only novelty is that as a species we've managed to do it to ourselves, but otherwise we do quite literally behave like sheep. Read "Rogue Primate" by John Livingston.

Posted by john at June 29, 2009 11:27 AM
Actually, our chemical pathways are probably pretty much the same as they were 100k years ago, but what has changed is that we have been domesticated, like livestock.

"Pretty much the same" is a tough thing to quantify considering the number of pathways. I'd think that the brain mass over the last 2K has probably increased due to availability of nutrition and education so I'm thinking it would be changed at least courtesy of that.

But I was actually thinking more along the lines that things that you learn -- specific things -- actually do change the pathways and interconnections.

NEWSWEEK: The most convincing scientific progress in psychiatry in the past decade has had little to do with genomics. It is the rigorous, scientific verification that certain forms of psychotherapy are effective. This is perhaps not surprising. One of the major insights in the modern biology of learning and memory is that education, experience, and social interactions affect the brain. When you learn something and then remember it for a long time, it's because genes are being turned on and off in certain brain cells, leading to the growth of new synaptic contacts between the nerve cells of the brain. Insofar as psychotherapy works and produces stable, learned changes in behavior, it can cause stable anatomical changes in the brain. We are now beginning to measure such changes with brain imaging. If a person with obsessive-compulsive neurosis or depression undergoes psychotherapy—and if the treatment is successful in changing behavior—the treatment will cause a reversal in the biological markers of these disorders.

Even without direct manipulation, adaptation takes over and rewires what works and what assists the necessities in a culture so that it becomes the norm.

Eventually, porn addiction dictated that the internet would be created.

Posted by angryman@24:10 at June 29, 2009 11:47 AM

Careful though, adaptation isn't hereditary, any more than exercising gives your children bigger muscles. Human domestication (like some animals actually) is like obesity. Our instinct to seek out sugar-rich foods (e.g. like ripe fruit) is genetic, but what is recent is our ability to feed ourselves so much processed corn syrup that we no longer even bother to eat fruit. The same applies to our behaviour--our instinct to live in groups and understand interpersonal relationships is genetic, but we have created a culture that pushes all our buttons automatically so that we are no longer required to actually function as social animals.

Posted by john at June 29, 2009 12:13 PM
Eventually, porn addiction dictated that the internet would be created.

Well, the internet was created by computer nerds.

Posted by darrelplant at June 29, 2009 12:24 PM

That excerpt from Newsweek is comic gold. I'm sure the APA is doing standing backflips. Next you know, they'll tell us that Americans will be better off if they all go to Fed Govt mandated "psychotherapy" to be conducted by someone hand-chosen by His Barackness.

It's easy to lie to readers about scientific matters when American public schools don't teach science well enough to function at a 2d grade level of knowledge.

Posted by Juan Seis-Olla at June 29, 2009 01:47 PM

that's quite a find. sr. ouziel reads like the lady on "the simpsons" who frets about how somebody needs to think about the children, only with bigger words.

Posted by grimmy at June 29, 2009 01:55 PM
It's easy to lie to readers about scientific matters when American public schools don't teach science well enough to function at a 2d grade level of knowledge.

I'm not going to dispute that. Perhaps I gave it too much credence based on the bioline in the article.

Kandel, professor of biochemistry and biophysics at Columbia University, won a Nobel Prize in 2000 for his work on the molecular basis of memory. He is the author of In Search of Memory.

The sad part is they could actually make up all kinds of good shit, add a convincing author bio to it and I'd probably believe it.

This may have been the issue edited by Stephen Colbert? :-)

Posted by angryman@24:10 at June 29, 2009 02:04 PM

Nothing in the Newsweek quote is particularly controversial. He's talking about physical changes that take place in the brain based on learning and experience. Same as with exercise, nobody disputes that your muscles will actually get bigger. Nor for that matter that someone who undergoes physiotherapy and rehabilitation after and injury can change the physical structure of their bones and muscles. So it is with the brain--some types of behavioural problems can be "fixed" in an analogous way. Some can't--you can't regrow a missing finger by doing hand exercises.

That's a separate question though from genetic evolution. Just like exercise can't turn someone into Mr. Universe who doesn't have the right genes, or studying can't make someone smarter, it's our genes that determine what sorts of things we CAN learn and what sorts of instinctive behaviour we have, just like it determines which muscles will actually be there to work out in the first place.

That's what I meant way back in my first comment about our "pathways" being pretty much the same. That doesn't mean we still use them the same way.
We have the same underlying capacities but we stimulate them in different ways.

Posted by john at June 29, 2009 03:09 PM

@ Cloud, do you think that environment and culture has enough pull to rewire the brain? IOW, do we think differently now vs. Babylonians.

I don't suspect I've an educated opinion here as far as neurology goes.

I observe that, yes, the Industrial and Information eras are producing human behaviors that in many ways are truly unprecedented in Earth history. Nevertheless, us being "a mass of isolated individuals, which is held together by norms and regulations, bureaucracies, military and police, and concepts such as the nation state..." is hardly among the novelties.

Posted by Cloud at June 29, 2009 09:30 PM

The brain does seem to be incredibly malleable, mainly in childhood of course, but even into adulthood. I'm fascinated by the conjecture that thought patterns observed in cult members were the norm in ancient "God-king"-oriented civilizations.

Because of this, I would rule out neither Star Trek utopia nor Nineteen Eighty-Four dystopia in the centuries-timescale future, though the latter seems more likely.

Posted by Cloud at June 29, 2009 09:51 PM

"Well, the internet was created by computer nerds"

Specifically, by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The greatest intelligence-gathering device ever invented.

Posted by Oarwell at June 30, 2009 09:33 AM

Actually DARPA is research, not intelligence.

Posted by Don Bacon at June 30, 2009 10:19 AM

No, the internet is the intelligence-gathering device.

Posted by john at June 30, 2009 10:59 AM

Intergathering the intelligent net.

Posted by Oarwell at June 30, 2009 01:25 PM

Keichu, the great Zen teacher of the Meiji era, was the head of Tofuku, a cathedral in Kyoto. One day the governor of Kyoto called upon him for the first time.
His attendant presented the card of the governor, which read: Kitagaki, Governor of Kyoto.
"I have no business with such a fellow," said Keichu to his attendant. "Tell him to get out of here."
The attendant carried the card back with apologies. "That was my error," said the governor, and with a pencil he scratched out the words Governor of Kyoto. "Ask your teacher again."
"Oh, is that Kitagaki?" exclaimed the teacher when he saw the card. "I want to see that fellow."

Posted by I do not recommend this site at July 1, 2009 12:19 PM