I’ve said that grease yakas aren’t real. They may, however, reflect a reality. There is common abuse of women and crime and people don’t trust the police or courts to sort it out. In that atmosphere I think people are taking advantage of the fear, and innocent people are getting caught in the crossfire.
Archive for the 'Cognitive Science' Category
In short, because we’re connected. Because we live together. Because we need each others help. There are a few studies detailing why we’re altruistic, but few explaining how. To that I would posit, because we have an identity and a face. For example, we went to this alley bar in Mount Lavinia that actually serves a decent lunch. On the way out our car was boxed in by two guys. This would often be a problem, but this time it wasn’t. People were so nice that it left me confused. Why?
I was reading an article on the brain and modern distractions, on my phone, but half way through I was thinking I should tweet it. I was in the midst of watching Infernal Affairs on surfthechannel.com and had not yet had breakfast. I only now finished the article, and that after numerous interruptions. I’m not sure I’ve retained much. On bit is that “Behavioral studies have shown that performance suffers when people multitask.” Multitasking all the time, I have to concur. In many spheres I find that we’re being driven towards a world of quantity rather than quality. For me many simply means media, in news and film and conversation I’m having more but not necessarily better. Indeed, it gets harder to push for better when it seems like the demand – in music, film and arts – is for the fast, cheap and easily reproduced.
Clay Shirky has an interesting article on why complex business models collapse rather than gingerly scale down. Like Sri Pada, it is easier to climb up than climb down. In evolution there is the idea of peaks and valleys in a fitness landscape. That is, one can climb a particular peak and follow that to its logical conclusion. There may, however, be other options in the landscape. Instead of legs we could have evolved some flying apparatus, for example. But it’s too damn late now. If all the land disappeared we wouldn’t have time to climb down from our local peak and climb another one. Plus there is no particular evolutionary mechanism for getting less adaptive, even temporarily. Often you just die.
They (those magical scientists) have measured quantum effects on a large object. That is, they’ve gotten a small paddle to both vibrate and not vibrate. This is interesting in that quantum physics is weird, but I really dug this quote: “if trillions of atoms can be put into a quantum state, why don’t we see double-decker buses simultaneously stopping and going? Cleland says he believes size does matter: the larger an object, the easier it is for outside forces to disrupt its quantum state. “The environment is this huge, complex thing,” says Cleland. “It’s that interaction with this incredibly complex system that makes the quantum coherence vanish.” It is as if reality really is a consensual hallucination.
Jonah Lehrer wrote about an interesting study on power, and hypocrisy. Basically, people were split into high and low power groups. The high power group tended to cheat more (at dice) and simultaneously moralize more. In other studies people tended to behave the most like ‘assholes’ (and I quote) when they were in a position of power and isolated from other people, and thus empathy. Basically, power makes people more selfish, probably because they can get away with it without the usual social checks and balances. “Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner has found that, in many social situations, people with power act just like patients with severe brain damage.”
I was watching this very interesting story about the Daily Show’s trip to Iran. It’s a simple trip that just shows the common humanity between Iranians and Americans. I think, indeed, that most people in the world are default friends. We are all pretty hospitable to guests. On a personal level we all kinda get along, but things get so messed up between nation states. Why?
I studied Cognitive Science in University and took some classes at the Montreal Neurological Institute. One brain we studied in great detail was this dude HM, who couldn’t form new memories. He died today. Peace the spork out HM. They removed areas of his brain near the hippocampus, where memories get consolidated, and he simply lost his RAM, effectively. Hard disk was OK, but everything new got wiped. As in, we heard stories about the Doctor walking in, introducing himself, walking out. Comes back in later and HM is like ‘Hi, who are you?’. Made it entirely impossible for him to live a normal life, but led to huge breakthroughs in neuroscience. Again, peace the spork out HM. In exams full of obscure Latin anatomy you were the only dude I knew.
Was talking to Sanjana about a number of things, including flaming and hate speech online. By chance I saw a very relevant article in the Times today. As I said to Sanjana, “I think part of the problem is anonymity. I donâ€™t tell people to fuck off in real life cause my identity and my place in this culture means something to me. A lot of perfectly sane people are complete sociopaths on the road, when theyâ€™re hidden behind a windshield. No one walks like that. I think what we call civility is heavily dependent on facial and non-verbal communications, which simply doesnâ€™t exist on the Internet.”
So, I ended up in the Phillipines. I don’t much like travelling, but Nokia is footing the bill to promote their NSeries Convergence phones (which I freaking want now), so why not. The phones are like high end blogger-geek chic, which is just my thing. The NSeries is all Flickr integration and GPS navigation and WiFi connectivity on the run and the corporate guys are cool to talk to. However, the main content is food, wine and dancing girls. A big corporate wedding to help you cooperate. Today one of the other Sri Lankan journos got profoundly sauced and ended up demanding rice and attempting to eat a steak in one chew, directly off the plate. I took him upstairs and made sure he got to sleep. Sin men, as the gf says. Anyways, I love the smartphones, but we’ll get to that in the next post. This is about the Phillipines and press conference type things in general, like the cool stuff you find in hotel rooms.