It is not just our Western habits and cultural preferences that are different from the rest of the world, it appears. The very way we think about ourselves and others—and even the way we perceive reality—makes us distinct from other humans on the planet, not to mention from the vast majority of our ancestors. Among Westerners, the data showed that Americans were often the most unusual, leading the researchers to conclude that “American participants are exceptional even within the unusual population of Westerners—outliers among outliers.”

Given the data, they concluded that social scientists could not possibly have picked a worse population from which to draw broad generalizations. Researchers had been doing the equivalent of studying penguins while believing that they were learning insights applicable to all birds.

Not surprised. Do read the rest.

When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.

Friedrich Nietzsche (via hienny)

Same goes for hungry, sick, dehydrated and drunk, and if you’re any of these things regularly enough, you’ll start to be defined by these ideas all over again, because everything feels insurmountable when you’re too physically drained to process anything properly.

(via meta-maieutics)

I’ve been reading Proust Was a Neuroscientist. Jonah writes about Walt Whitman, who (ahead of his time) thought of mind and body as inseparable (as we now know, via neurology) and how ironic it was that when he died, his body was found to be entirely sickly — ravaged by neglect. Typical artist.

It was just amazing to me that you could have a little more or less of some chemical and your whole worldview would be different,” he recalls, smiling with boyish wonder. “If you can switch a chemical and your personality changes, who are you?

The $1.3B Quest to Build a Supercomputer Replica of a Human Brain | Wired Science | (via wildcat2030)

Yes! But not only part of your personality. Chemicals are intertwined within systems, so there’s no such thing as a gene-for-this-or-that-alone. Change your mind, change your body.

Braintrust contains a lot of interesting information about this.

Biologists, Neuroscientists,

Hypothetically, what would you say to someone asking the “chicken or egg” question about neural chemistry: Does neurologocal/chemical/genetic information precede personality/responses/disposition or is it simply an expression of metaphysical “events”?

For example, those who believe in soul or karma and reincarnation, usually are more partial to the latter answer. For them, “chemistry” cannot possibly add up to the complex phenomenon they witness, therefore they accept the metaphysical answers more readily.

For a scientist, there may be other reasons to question “what came first,” but a metaphysical preference isn’t one of them. I wonder how valid the question is right now, for the scientific community.

It seems to me that we don’t yet know exactly how things add up to what we witness, and yet Evolutionary theory gives tells us that things were not even as organized as this, before. So the idea that there are some metaphysical absolutes that govern behavior seems a little silly, seeing how much behavior has changed over centuries and how much it differs between species (so long as we don’t take the anthropocentric stance, and do value the “morality”/experience/behavioral patterns of other species instead of casting that information aside and believing the “humans are special and endowed” paradigm.)

But back to it — how would you answer?

News inhibits thinking. Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time. News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you. They are like viruses that steal attention for their own purposes. News makes us shallow thinkers. But it’s worse than that. News severely affects memory. There are two types of memory. Long-range memory’s capacity is nearly infinite, but working memory is limited to a certain amount of slippery data. The path from short-term to long-term memory is a choke-point in the brain, but anything you want to understand must pass through it. If this passageway is disrupted, nothing gets through. Because news disrupts concentration, it weakens comprehension. Online news has an even worse impact. In a 2001 study two scholars in Canada showed that comprehension declines as the number of hyperlinks in a document increases. Why? Because whenever a link appears, your brain has to at least make the choice not to click, which in itself is distracting. News is an intentional interruption system.

Asked: You don’t believe it’s possible to influence our lives via our will?

OS: Never said this.

And what I mean by “never said this” is that I may have said something like it or perhaps even those words exactly, but my meaning when I say these things is loaded —

I don’t approve of the whole “Secret” phenomenon that encourages people to think believe that they have control over their lives via magical/supernatural/”energy”-related phenomena.

Thought influences action. It influences chemistry. It influences processes, and thus what an individual system notices, what they focus on and carry out and look for.

Thought is definitely powerful, but let’s think about why that happens and how, and find out more about it… not just chalk it up to magic*.

That’s all I’m saying.

*Nor attribute it to wave-particle duality &/or quantum physics.

But if he is indeed mad, then he has some reason for being so. If you will take my advice, gentlemen, you will not worry about it.”

There was a short silence while the Ministers puzzled this out. “You mean to say he might have become mad deliberately?” said one in an incredulous tone.

“Nothing is more likely,” said the Duke.

“But why?” asked another.

“I have not the least idea. In the Peninsula we learnt not to question him. Sooner or later it would become clear that all his incomprehensible and startling actions were part of his magic. Keep him to his task, but shew no surprize at any thing he does. That, my lords, is the way to manage a magician.
Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

…real sharing is conscious sharing, a recommendation to read or not to read something rather than a data exhaust pipe of mental activity.

…what’s at stake is “intellectual privacy,” [Richards’] term for the idea that records of our reading and movie watching deserve special protection compared to other kinds of personal information.

“The films we watch, the books we read, and the websites we visit are essential to the ways we try to understand the world we live in,” he says.”

“Intellectual privacy protects our ability to think for ourselves, without worrying that other people might judge us based on what we read. It allows us to explore ideas that other people might not approve of, and to figure out our politics, sexuality and personal values, among other things.

Neil M. Richards
JD, privacy law expert and professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.
via { Privacy perils of social reading }
May 11, 2012


I’ve been struggling with this, in some form, since first publishing artworks online in the early 2000’s. How much of the “data exhaust pipe of mental activity” do I want to publish? How much is necessary, desired, safe? Where’s the line between my self and my public avatar?

When Twitter and Foursquare were born, I declined altogether — I have no desire for people to know what my physical self is doing and thinking and where I’m doing and thinking it, every minute on the minute, no matter how non-private or mundane or benign the activity is anyway. The fact that there are now services, like Klout, that measure the amount of data any given person excretes, comparatively rates them based on that, and that this rating can apparently { have an effect } on one’s social/professional standing is sort of alarming.

Balance. Every “submit” or “create post” or “like” is considered. Certainly there are some intellectual properties I’d rather keep to myself, but I’ve also found comfort in time-stamped publishing: for a content creator, it can be a source of protection if used correctly.

Imagine: you arrive at the party; you recognize no one; but immediately your internal antennae-and-computer begins to swap mind-files; within seconds the new acquaintances are scanned; you “know” everyone you see; you know who wants to sleep with you, work with you, laugh and/or be friends with you; you know everyone’s curiosities, intentions, memories - everyone’s brain is “naked”… Fully informed, you enter and mingle. Total disclosure in a 100% universally psychic, telepathic, omniscient, transparent world? Before you obliterate my imagined utopia, consider the time-saving benefits. Casual sex? No one has to waste words flirting with impossible candidates. Employment interviews? Over in quiet seconds, as experience/compatibility/work ethic are electronically examined and accepted/rejected. Marriage partner? Might take longer, up to a half-a-minute. Private files that are usually off-limits are opened to peruse priorities like “long-term loyalty,” “patience,” interest trends,” and “annoying habits.

100% Honest, Transparency, Disclosure - is this the future that we want? | World Future Society (via wildcat2030)




I began to “consider the time-saving benefits” but had a hard time not obliterating after “Casual sex? No one has to waste words flirting with impossible candidates.”

Problem: Minds change. Humans change based on new inputs & interactions. A seemingly impossible candidate can become attainable, but you wouldn’t know it from first impressions of their thoughts about you. In fact, knowing those thoughts at all could ruin something potentially beautiful down the line.

Hell, what I thought of the person I love now, before knowing him, has become a funny, shared story. I don’t think it would’ve worked out in this “naked brain [dys]topia”.

Our mouths may be strange, messy, and occasionally full of shit… but our culturally-defined niceties and “dancing around the subject” evolved to such ridiculous complexities probably because they’re more of a help than hindrance.



(via Wikipedia)

The Google effect is the tendency to forget information that can be easily found using an Internet search engines such as Google, instead of remembering it.

The phenomenon was described and named by Betsy Sparrow (Columbia), Jenny Liu (Wisconsin) and Daniel M….


It’s true. I have it… bad.

I’ve always felt that I’m terrible at explaining things in speech, in person… like the other day when I tried to explain what The Singularity Institute is/does, or the time(s) I’ve tried explaining the LHC to someone who doesn’t know about it. It’s like: “Err, well, it’s this giant thing in Switzerland and it collides stuff to find this important particle which would be so awesome for science…!” SO BAD!

But surprisingly, I find I’m much better at it in writing — even when disconnected from the internet, laying ideas down in a semi-permanent manner helps because they’re no longer floating around [somewhere just out of reach above your head]. Once you’ve anchored a few things, it’s easier to connect and tether the rest to them!

The “Google effect” will not be our downfall so long as we find a way to repeat (teach!) the important information, & thereby retain it better.