Morning Ed: Mindspace {2018.08.01.W}

[Ms1] Well, duh!

[Ms2] In all likelihood, those in positions of authority would probably rather these people just be depressed.

[Ms3] Whew. Nothing good comes from any alternative.

[Ms4] James Suzman writes about some bushmen, the hidden hand of envy, and what we can learn about ourselves from them.

[Ms5] We may be self-absorbed, but we’ve got our reasons.

[Ms6] Ahhh, the universal bias of bias.

[Ms7] Check out the CIA’s report on French Post-Modern philosophers.

[Ms8] There is nothing so obviously and unambiguously good for us and necessary as sleep, and we know this as well as we can scientifically know anything and yet we still order our society in the direction of deprivation.

[Ms9] Okay, but who do we talk to about increasing our hard drive space?


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Will Truman is a former para-IT professional who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

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55 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Mindspace {2018.08.01.W}

  1. Hell, tech support, I’d like to defrag my brain. Is there an app for that? What do you mean I should just reformat my disk and use ext4?

    ETA This should be threaded as a reply to Mr. Cain’s comment here.

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  2. Ms6: Nothing makes me happier than someone named Ditto doing meta-analysis (which is sometimes accused of not being sufficiently original as to count as research).

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  3. Ms4 is interesting, but should probably be presented within some context. There is currently a pretty big debate over just how ideal the life of hunter gatherers were/are and how much or how little hierarchy their societies involve. And there is even a more narrow debate specifically about Kalahari bushmen, with some folks believing that they lived a completely separate existence until very recently and others arguing that the bushmen were actually somewhat integrated into the larger world of the Kalahari. In the latter view, the bushmen’s sparse lifestyle was largely the result of occupying the bottom rung of a larger society.

    I don’t know enough about the topic to have an informed opinion, but I am very skeptical about presenting this ideal picture of a society almost completely without hierarchy.

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    • I find that piece interesting from the perspective of social hierarchy. It seems such a powerful and natural part of humanity, I’m interested in seeing what purposes it serves, and what happens if it is absent in a society.

      Obviously, this isn’t a full answer, just a data point.

      It’s clear that human beings aren’t lobsters, with an unthinking drive to exercise dominance. Humans are capable of holding all drive in meta consciousness, and exercise some direction and control. And I feel that dominance behavior is critical to larger society’s ability to organize and direct itself toward goals that smaller groups or individuals could not manage.

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        • Yeah, I guess that Peterson is easy enough to mock and I don’t really care for the reactionary politics that surround his ideas. But if I understand his basic observation correctly, it’s that there are an awful lot of people who have a combination of a great desire to change the world, but who have very little efficacy in their own lives, and that combination is a recipe for deep unhappiness accompanied by general feelings of inadequacy.

          Maybe that’s pat, but it also happens to be one of the most profound things that I’ve heard from any so-called public intellectual in recent memory. The idea that people who are routinely ineffectual in their own lives have the requisite knowledge or ability to go out and transform the world anew into something better may be the most destructive animating myth of the contemporary world.

          Also, as someone who spends an inordinate amount of time doing therapeutic things for my aching lower back, I can say that learning to stand up straight is one of the most useful things that you will ever do.

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          • If Peterson just stays within modern therapy techniques he is pretty standard and fine i think. His self help stuff seems useful to some people and isn’t controversial. It’s his ego and complete lack of understanding when he has no clue what he is talking about that leads him bad places. And his Jung stuff…..geez.

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            • I’ve found that a lot of people who are experts in one field (or even part of one field), or otherwise really grok one subject, tend to have a really high opinion of their competence in another.

              They tend to want to jump to top-level ideas, bypass fundamentals, and often badly re-invent wheels already discarded for inefficiency.

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              • Two thoughts. Seems to me a lot of that can be attributed to a “one tool” mindset, where the tool which allowed a person to become an expert is (mis)used in fields which require a different tool set*. I also think the property of being an expert is something a community of people determine rather than an individual via subjective evaluation, but if their expertise is self-proclaimed or becomes part of their identity they’re more likely to fall into the “one tool” mindset.

                *As an example, there are experts in the subject of sovereign citizenship who you may believe** are completely nuts, but viewed as experts in that field nonetheless. Tool selection and use and so on seems relevant here.

                **Or not. How would I know?

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                • Shorter way of saying that: only people who self-define as an expert in one field will believe they are therefore an expert in another. Lots and lots of experts actually stay in their lane. The vast majority, in fact.

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      • Clear hierarchy and chains of command can sometimes or often make things run as smoother organizations.

        I’ve done some work at small-d democratic organizations. It takes forever for things to get done and decisions to get made because everyone needs to have their say. If factions develop, it can destroy the organization because there are strongly held views, often bad faith and mistrust between factions, and competing visions to move forward. I’m generally for consensus but sometimes you need someone or a small group of people to make an executive decision.

        There is plenty of disorganization and disfunction in many hierarchal organizations as well though.

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      • All humans are born into a social hierarchy of parenting, whether it be by an individual parent or a group, with or without gender assumptions. To survive, the infant must be fed, sheltered and kept safe from predators. This seems like a basic building block of any social order and I didn’t see any mention of it other than a reference to the risk of a small kin-group breaking-up.

        At least in pastoral-nomadic cultures families are connected by kinship relationships that they can call on for support and assistance; the degree of kinship between groups is known and in some cases even a fictitious connection is given substance.

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        • Absolutely, and the need for dominance from parent to child is seldom disputed. What’s interesting is how humans scale up these relationships past kinship, and past even fictitious kinship (which I take to be adoption) into a sort of “pseudo kinship”, or even a fully instrumental dominance relationship. For instance, my boss gets to tell me what to work on when I’m at my job, but has no say in what I do on my own time.

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          • I wasn’t particularly thinking of adoption, but more the situation where the Tribe of Jay and the Tribe of Shaw have long had fair relations and accommodations, and this situation is ascribed to a common descent from beyond living memory. It’s not clear whether the described relationship is real or notional. But for many pastoral nomads, the difference between some relation and none can be whether raiding and plundering is acceptable. So scaling the idea of family to others is mostly likely to keep the peace and may not necessarily sharing of resources or mutual defense.

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    • [Ms4]

      For all the author’s desire to pump up the “success” of this system, it’s flaws are absurdly extreme. They’ve eliminated inequality at the cost of making everyone grindingly poor. If no one can get ahead, no one gets ahead.

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      • This is why I specifically said that the claim needs context. Because the pro-hunter-gatherer crowd would argue that our perception of them as “grindingly poor” is inaccurate. Their contention is that hunter-gatherers manage to have fairly successful lives and high levels of reported happiness while working only about four hours a day for their necessities and without any formal system of hierarchy or private property.

        I am skeptical of that claim, but like I said too uninformed to have a strong opinion.

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        • Survivorship bias and/or setting a very low bar for what “success” needs to mean.

          I wear glasses. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve benefited substantially from modern medicine. I’m sure various family members would be dead without that.

          I could go on in other fields. War with other cultures would be grim. I’m not sure what individual/minority rights look like in that sort of situation.

          My expectation is if we lose the happy talk and start measuring things objectively, it’d get bad.

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  4. Ms9: You joke, but neuroprosthetics is an active field of research. Mostly to compensate for acquired deficits due to injury or illness, but the idea of an implant that can improve memory capacity isn’t that far-fetched.

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    • Anecdotally, the bigger problem seems to be indexing, not bulk memory. When my wife was singing regularly, she often remarked that she knew the first verse of hundreds of songs, but could remember the second line only by going through the first line. Myself, I’ve often found that I have trouble remembering a particular event until I’m given the right prompt. Not an original thought, of course. In Heinlein’s Howard Families stories, there are several references to the long-lived members of the Families learning techniques for organizing and indexing memories.

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  5. Ms2: Ah, nicotine.

    I am reminded of an essay at SSC (and I can’t find it! It’s ticking me off!) that talked about how it was weird that drug abusers who went to raves were able to figure out that X and Ketamine were effective depression treatments but Science still had no real idea how to treat depression in general.

    Nicotine is one hell of a self-medication. Pity that tobacco smoke is so noxious.

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    • Found it.

      There’s a morality tale to be told here about how the War on Drugs choked off vital research on some of the most powerful psychiatric compounds and cost us fifty years in exploring these effects and treating patients. I agree with this morality tale as far as it goes, but I also think there’s another, broader morality tale beneath it.

      Suppose that neither ketamine nor MDMA were illegal drugs. Ketamine was just used as an anaesthetic. MDMA was just used as a chemical intermediate in producing haemostatic drugs, its original purpose. Now the story is that, fifty years later, we learn that this anaesthetic and this haemostatic turn out to have incredibly powerful psychiatric effects. What’s our narrative now?

      For me it’s about the weird inability of intentional psychopharmaceutical research to discover anything as good as things random druggies use to get high.

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      • I think the headline is a bit off. Conventional pharmaceutical research isn’t “worse than chance” – it’s just has a slower timeline than the pleasure-puritanism-prohibition event chain.

        Things that get you high clearly are effective at something relevant to the mind’s functioning. What exactly and how all the effects pan out aren’t clear yet, but if the thing is also reasonably safe as far as users not dropping dead on the regular or having their kidneys fail after a year or two of use, people will gravitate toward taking it to get high.

        Which then engages the mechanism of reflexive prohibition. Doesn’t matter if it’s not causing any particular demonstrable harms, people are deriving pleasure from the ingestion of a chemical so it must be banned.

        And then it’s too late to find out the details of what else the substance does other than make you temporarily high – even though that high is a potent indicator that there is a there there, a promising research direction. So now pharmaceutical companies are stuck, as the article notes, trying to find something that works the same as ketamine but doesn’t get you high – even though there’s nothing inherently wrong with taking your weekly antidepressant also being fun in its own right.

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        • Point is, that’s the opposite of random – “does it get me high” is a very efficient triage method for whether a substance is of interest for psychiatric benefit, and also an effective method to predict whether it’ll be banned before that interest can be investigated.

          I mean, I could name a number of substances whose use, over the years, has been beneficial to my mental health. Most of them illegal, all taken because they get you high, all totally unsurprising and obvious when I subsequently read about their unfolding promise in psychiatry.

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          • Occasionally, a tweet goes around that says, paraphrased, “shout out to all those guys who died figuring out which mushrooms killed you, which ones were good for supper, and which ones got you high.”

            On one level, the hippies are a modern version of those guys.

            Perhaps we’ll eventually shout out to the ravers.

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            • Charles McIlvaine, after serving as a Captain in the Union Army went on to become on of the foremost American mycologists. Much of his knowledge came from his ability to eat inedible and poisonous mushrooms with little or no ill effect. This earned him the nickname “Ol’ Ironguts”. He describes the origin of his interest in mushrooms in his book One Thousand American Fungi.

              A score of years ago (1880-1885) I was living in the mountains of West Virginia. While riding on horseback through the dense forests of that great unfenced state, I saw on every side luxuriant growths of fungi, so inviting in color, cleanliness and flesh that it occurred to me they ought to be eaten. I remembered having read a short time before this inspiration seized me, a very interesting article in the Popular Science Monthly for May, 1877, written by Mr. Julius A. Palmer, Jr., entitled “ Toadstool eating.” Hunting it up I studied it carefully, and soon found myself interested in a delightful study, which was not without immediate reward. Up to this time I had been living, literally, on the fat of the land – bacon; but my studies enabled me to supplement this, the staple dish of the state, with a vegetable luxury that centuries ago graced the dinners of the Caesars. So absorbing did the study become from gastronomic, culinary, and scientific points of view, that I have continued it ever since, with thorough intellectual enjoyment and much gratification of appetite as my reward. I hope to interest students in the study as I am myself interested.

              For twenty years my little friends – the toadstools – have been my constant companions. They have interested me, delighted me, feed me, and I have found much pleasure in making the public acquainted with their habits, structure, lusciousness and food value.

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