Impulse Control and Drug Use

An interesting study attempting to correlate impulse control and drug use.

Here are my problems with this article (accepting that it is a report of the research and not the research paper).

1) It implies that a different brain network allows for an increase in drug taking because of the lack of impulse control. If this were true, why only drug taking? Also the inference here is that this difference in the brain is the causal factor, but ignores whether or not this is nature (would happen regardless), or nurture (happened as a result of the way the child was raised).
2) It implies that the ability to stop yourself from pressing a button part way through the act of pressing it is similar to taking drugs. I find this to be a huge leap.
3) The title suggests their is a definite link between brain networks and teen drug abuse, but this was not evidenced in the article, although it was referenced a few times.

Another thought I had was that many years ago there was a test of kids (very young) who were given a lolly (or something) and told that if they hadn’t eaten it by the time the adult came back in, they could have a second. Those who ate it without waiting were labelled impulsive while the others were labelled something like impulse resistant. They were then tracked for many years and those who were able to control their impulses were found to be successful while those who couldn’t usually had far less success in thier lives. It was decided in this study that impulse control was the factor that lead to success or not, however it wasn’t established whether parenting had anything to do with the impulse control, whether nature or nurture or both.

I see this article making the same error. However as a preliminary study, it is interesting.

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-04-huge-brain-networks-teen-drug.html

The Storm of Alternate Science

A while ago I bumped into Tim Minchin’s YouTube wonder, Storm.

Part of the poem states “Do you know what they call Alternative Medicine that works?”


“Medicine.”

By extension, do you know what they call magic that works? Science.

This prompted me to think quite heavily about my view of paganism, magic, the world, wonders and how I see my spiritual, tree hugging hippie views where I always seek to not be contained by other peoples views and limitations in contrast to, well, what the world would look like if magic did exist and it is called science.

Arthur C Clarke stated “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Consider our science and how people of five hundred years ago would view it. They would call what we do now magic. Flying through the skies? Magic. Talking to people on the other side of the world? Magic. Seeing what people are doing beyond the horizon? Magic. Making houses taller than the trees? Magic. Healing the sick from near death, or even bringing them back from the dead? Magic. Just because the explanation makes sense to us now does not make what we are doing any less amazing and wonderful. It is just that we have refined magic down to things that work and that we mostly understand and we call it science.

There are two dichotomy views incorporated in science and magic. On one side, believing only in what science has proven and rigidly denying what it has not is just as foolish as the flip side of believing in an idea despite evidence to the contrary. Both can be harmful and dangerous. A balance must be achieved between these two false dichotomies.

So here is my balance. It may not be yours.

* If science has investigated an idea and dis-proven it, then accept that it is dis-proven. If it has not dis-proven an idea, then it is fair game, but also doesn’t necessarily mean that it is true either. A non-dis-proven idea just means that either it hasn’t been tested yet (there is only so much time and resources), or the current batch of tests were insufficient to give a real conclusion. Or it could be the idea is true.

* Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence. If your “why and how” includes something very odd rather than something down to earth, then it is probably wrong because it is unnecessarily complicated or too big a leap. Look for simple, earthly, likely answers that don’t require a supernatural solution. These mundane solutions may seem boring, but they are far more likely to be true and usable. One of the side effects to finding external supernatural solutions to problems is that you can’t do anything to alter them, dissempowering yourself from affecting your world.

* Science tests the validity of ideas that explain the world. Just because the why behind a correlation turns out to be wrong doesn’t mean the correlation does not exist or is not linked in some way that the idea failed to pick up on. However returning to the first point, if the idea you had was proven to be wrong, then accept that this idea was wrong. Similarly if science shows that there is no correlation, then accept that this is probably also correct.

* Science is a finite field of possible solutions, built on a couple of basic assumptions that have been rigorously tested and are likely to be true. This has some interesting implications. Firstly, the limited set of basic assumptions only allows science to consider a certain space for valid ideas and it assumes that anything outside of that space is invalid. This is not true, however the further away from the science field a proposed solution is, the morel likely it is to be in error. Not all true basic assumptions are included in science. It only slowly increases its idea space after rigorous testing by many, which gives credence to an increase in the base assumptions and thus the science field of answers. This means that while truth can be found outside of science space, if it is not true it will quickly be proven to be false, while if it is true it will create an actual crisis of science until science adapts and includes that idea. This crisis of science (usually in a small limited field, since “science” is a collection of fields) is often not portrayed in the media at all (what is dark matter really? Is the universe made up of strings, bubbles or foam? Do neutrino’s travel faster than light, or is the speed of light in a vacuum not quite what we thought it was?), and any crisis that public media discusses (climate change, evolution, genetically modified food) is generally made up and without real substance (as in – that climate change is a crisis of science is made up, rather than climate change is made up – to be absolutely clear, climate change is real, the crisis is with the world and political groups, not with the scientists).

* Medicine leans heavily upon science, but is also an art because not all people are the same. However if you want to know what will probably work, ask a doctor and believe that they are probably right. The odds are highly in the doctors favour about how your body will react to various illnesses, drugs and so forth. By the same token, the philosophy of medication is not necessarily the best philosophy for all human experiences. For example, if I have a broken arm, I want a doctor to fix it and I trust the doctor will give me the best advice, medication and treatment. This is not a thing that bodies tend to differ on in any significant way. If I have diabetes, I would rather try to manage the symptoms by changing my life style first and relying on drugs as my back up. If I have a mental condition, I would rather seek a solution by changing my life style first and rely on drugs as my back up. Often doctors will reach for the script pad before suggesting that you change your life. This is mostly because people refuse to stop hurting themselves with the lifestyles they have chosen, so it is quicker to give you medical relief than argue with you to minimise self harm. I prefer to argue with you.

* If you find that you are denying researching a topic when you refuse to listen to an expert, then you are choosing to be ignorant and ignorance can be dangerous to both you and those around you. If this is the case, then wake up. Either do the research and become an expert or believe the expert. An expert is someone who has studied for at least 10, 000 hours – usually a 4 or more year course in a recognised science. If you don’t like the expert you have found, find another. However if the average expert is giving you the same story, either you need to become an expert yourself, which means spending 10,000+ hours, or accept that they are probably right. Now work with what you know is probably right rather than what you would like to be right.

I remind you that this is how I have reconciled things. I know that I still hold onto unproven non-scientific thoughts and that is okay. I often look to see what options I have beyond the suggested scientific list, knowing that science gathers more and more evidence for hypotheses, turning them into theories and eventually laws every day. The idea I have that is not on the menu tonight may be on it tomorrow night.

When push comes to shove though, I go with what I know will work most repeatedly. And that, folks, is what is defined as science.

Who Am I? Who do I want to be?

I use to think that finding out who you were was the way to go forwards. It was the way to discover where you are starting from and become enlightened about what you should do. That the “me” part of me was the important thing that leads my life. Often this questions asks us to isolate ourselves from things that we find meaningful, such as jobs, roles and emotions. How do we define red without talking about colour, wavelength or packets of energy?

The immortal and action generating aspect of “me” may be true, but to try to find and define that is a fruitless task. It implies that the “me” is unchangeable and constant. It denies change.

Instead I should ask “who do I want to be?” Or more to the point “what kind of person do I want to be?” I may come up with a couple of trite answers such as “rich” and “successful”, but what I’m really looking for is “kind”, “responsible” and “happy”, or other some such meaningful answer. The types of answers that I come up with will tell me far more about who I am than those other isolating questions.

I could go on a long monologue and talk about how you define “rich” and “successful” and turn that into kind, responsible and happy, but really I feel like cutting straight to the chase. Very few people want to be “mean”, “nasty” and “dangerous” without a flip side that says “safe”.

Once you know what you want to become, the next step is identifying how to get there. Contrast that to what you are now – are you kind, happy and responsible? The things you are not are the things to change. It is much

So, what kind of person do you want to be?

The Blog Conundrum

To Blog,or not to Blog, that is the question… or perhaps the question is why do we Blog, and what is the better method? As I see it, there are four main reasons to use social media.

1) To sell things to people

2) Social diaries

3) As a forum

4) To influence people

Selling things to people can take two primary forms. A) Advertisement revenue – This requires people to visit your page, which means enticing people to click on a link, that leads to material people are interested and getting those advertisements to load. The purpose of your blog is to generate page views. B) Buying things that I advertise – Your aim is to get people to like what you have created and go buy it. Page views are lower since you gain direct dollars from those who buy from you. What you are trying to generate is actual clicks to purchase, which could be a quantity or quality purchase based system. As a business, the number of people you can share with is optimised for quantity rather than quality.

Diaries are the original idea of the B-Log, although not so much in the petty “I had a shit morning” way. The B-log was all about keeping a more rich and emotive record of the project you were working on. These days the project is your life. Because sales is not the point, it is more about the people you are interacting with. I believe people have discovered that the number of followers is indirectly proportional to quality. That is, the more people you have in your list, the less you care about them and the more noise to your signal. Minimalism has become very popular, such as limited short blog posts or limited small numbers of followers. Both of these are mechanisms to make your posts mean something. That doesn’t mean that it works though.

Informal Forums are very popular. That is finding other people interested in the kinds of things that you are interested and getting to know them via the social media. Formal forums are very regulated and off topic or immature writing is often treated poorly in order to keep the site pure. In social media this is not directly regulated, but rather the regulation is more in the format of people cutting you from their list. This is a bottom up regulation verses a top down regulation. Lists, circles and specialised social media have become the means of keeping track of who is in which forum. Some social media engines are better for some kinds of sharing of ideas than others, such as photography or coding. Much of this depends on the quality of the sharing tools incorporated into the social media itself.

Social media is a powerful tool to Influence people. The priority is to sway as many people as you can to your perspective. To do this you need as many followers as you can get and you need to keep their interest engaged.

You could argue that you are trying to sell ideas, so it is similar to the first purpose of the list. I would argue that the methodology is different. Revenue raising requires streaming people towards sites that you can sell through while influencing people does not require a redirect. The influencers will have disparate tool that the same concept is copied and pasted to. It may redirect to a single specialised blog location, in which case the posts are tailored to entice people to click on the link and explore the site to understand more of this idea. This later version is more efficient for the influencer to create, but may loose quite a few people who don’t wish to click the link and want the relevant information here and now.

The optimal influencer will tailor their message to the format of the blog medium they are posting to. Short snappy sound bites, impressive pictures, titles and headings where appropriate and catchy content are the tools of the influencer. The primary aim is to get as many people to follow you in as many social media as you can and keep their engaged interest.

I believe that Google Plus is trying to be all these things to all people. I believe this is the order of its success.

1 – Selling things

2 – Influencing people

3 – Forums – connecting specialists

4 – Diary – connecting those who actually know each other

As a social blog, Google Plus has a two way fundamental flaw. The first direction is the number of people you can follow with the reverse being the number of people who follow you. While circles can manage this, the sheer number of people whom you can have cluttering up your stream is massive. Why follow people you don’t want to … um, follow?

The signal of your friends becomes buried in the noise of your list, unless you only follow those few who you care about. This is not a socially successful model because we humans always want one more. Some social media artificially limits those whom you can follow imposing a need to contemplate quality over quantity, such as PATH. Google Plus as a system encourages quantity over quality and requires the user to manually choose quality rather than automatic quantity. How often has a “friends cull” been used in various other social media, or a post about difficulties in managing ones circles been posted about? Quite often I believe.

Circles are easy to manage when the number of people being followed is few. How many people do you actively follow vs passively? I suspect the ratio is quite extreme.