Archive for the ‘research’ Category

a boy, alone, shadows, crafted by leaves, filtered sunlight, these empty days, with no obligations, wandering wonders, of the world, this moment, heart pounding, he runs, chasing the hunted, hunted by a hunter, swift, silent, silence, look right, look left, up, swerves, he whirls, the unknown still unknown, dusk, rods and cones, mesopic optics confused, blue, green, dark blood, drips slowly, drop, surrounded, he flees, raised among the markets, he retreats, returns to them, passing tree upon tree, dodge, duck, jump, hide, sprint, back back back, to the artificial, light, light of man, man’s lit streets, beasts cannot roam, the ones created by nature, disallowed, too afraid, unable to survive, this maze of brick, steel, dung, motive means, rigid paths, paved more, less, to drive, anonymous exchange, eye of God, attempts, a reminder, that indeed we do trust, that, which isn’t, what, a boy, should know.


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On the last day of 2010 I picked up lewis’ book “the great divorce”. I have no idea why other than I think he’s a creative writer and it was less than 200 pages.

The book was a thrill to read. Just great writing. Fast, fun, efficient. Oh, and evocative. However, the main morality is a pain to me. Not because of the end morals, but the justification of those morals. Sure none of us should be too selfish, too pity sucking, and too self-respecting.
That said, we need not be that way because the promise of heaven nor “eternal joy” nor “true love”. Life is just easier if you’re not a jerk nor a pity party.

Lewis presents an enticing view of heaven and Christianity.  Salvation through the surrender of self to God and everything is
awesomely straightforwad! Unfortunately, the history of Christianity and the stories in the bible simply don’t paint that simple of a picture.

(and, oh, that’s not the way the world works. )

I won’t deny Lewis’ idea that ‘it’s all good’ and we all have flaws that will be forgiven and forgotten is very appealing. It’s just not a serious position. You
have to suspend too much of your intellect to take this story as a serious philosophy to order your values around.

There is a small gem in this book for me.  Lewis seems to paint a world view devoid of personal responsibility, which is likely the
right position in the grand scheme of things.

Read the book and let’s talk!

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Historically, the search for a way to describe the mechanics of what is going on out there in the world and how it impacts what is going on with organisms [sometimes referenced as “the mind”, personality, cognition, consciousness, intuition, etc.] is that the fields of psychology have always used metaphors, similes, and analogies, in part, because most of the areas morphed out of philosophy, religion and literature.

Clearly for Descartes, mechanisms [particularly clocks and hydraulics] were big at the time and from there it wasn’t a stretch to embrace the naturalistic model, then the disease model, then the computer analogies, all the while not letting go of the metaphors, analogies, and similes that preceded it.

Yes, don’t forget the impact of the 70’s drug culture on 40+ years of speculation on consciousness, the inner self, higher self, etc.

The outcome of much of the theory and speculation was increased awareness at the cost of precision.  All three influences are with us today as embedded vernacular, imagery, and rationales’ applied to the understanding of organisms.  We still embrace the vernacular and the idioms of Freud as if they were true, valid or valuable.  At another level, these approaches are embraced and morph as needed because there is little to replace them that the populace could cling to considering Western Judo-Christian history, laws, and sometimes even a bully Western philosophical interpretation of all matters. The terms, concepts, etc., work because they explain behavior to many that are clueless and communication-less without such pop-snarkness, having otherwise to depend on greater superstition, folklore and ‘commonsense’ explanations than they currently do.  Said more succinctly, while the theory of mind may keep us from looking at the causes of behavior, it has some value, more than other Freudian alternatives or those endless literature dumps proposed by philosophy, theology and sociology.

As metaphors are wont to do, they work to make intangibly complex relationships more tangible, understandable, usable and communicable.  Science has not had a history of doing that well either so the result is there is little pragmatic value change in understanding what the heck is going on out there and ‘in’ there if science doesn’t make cases well enough.

The lay vocabulary we end up using is residue that provides consistent, sometimes vivid equivalents for concepts until the understanding of relationships and patterns can get sorted out.   A MAJOR problem comes from the reification of those terms like mind, need, motivation, personality, evil, addiction, intuition, etc., such that they are never scientifically challenged or shown to be what they are; a trail of metaphysical left-overs from philosophy, theoretical speculations and dependence on analogies, similes, and metaphors.

Unfortunately, the metaphor has become reified to the extreme by the world’s citizens and, through the conditioning we all used to get an education, became the reality of what it was a ‘place holder’ for. We’ve all seen it over and over: what had been an incomplete story-like example became the “thing” studied, described, interacted with before suddenly becoming raison d’être.

There is no bridge between pragmatism and articulated science.  If one can’t use what science provides people – even academia – will embellish what they have and use it it as they have for centuries.   Traditions allow us to avoid the constant assessment tasks that are needed.You know the old saw,

insanity is doing the same things over and over and expected the results to be different’ (-Einstein or W. Deming; take your pick) 

By embracing those states that come to keep us comfortable and un-questioning, only those events we subjectively or theatrically sense as catastrophic will generate uncomfortable questions that when answered will make a difference.

Thus, for you to entertain changing your sense of how anything works, business, families, social networks, corporations, football teams, etc. (you get the idea) you’ll need to get fired, get shunned, get de-friended, get passed over, lose the Super Bowl, and many other things equivalent to a kick in the ass.  When that happens, most of us change our perspective a wee bit after we get up… others just continue to blame or claim the world is evil, unkind, gone mad, filled with greed before setting out to get restitution, get even or get a lawyer.

How’s that last option working?

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Here’s my top 10 most pressing questions in life.

  1. Can you be satisfied and functional AND integrate the idea that there is no universal meaning?
  2. Is ignorance bliss?
  3. How long will it take for us to give up on free will?  will we ever do that?
  4. Will technology take over for athletic skill in all sports? if it does, will we enjoy it all the same?
  5. What’s the next big thing after the Internet?  will we recognize it when it happens?
  6. If there is a formal limit to knowledge, is there a point in knowing anything at all?  see question. 2
  7. why do people assume “intelligence” in the human sense is a better strategy?  the dinosaurs survived hundreds of millions of years without this “intelligence”.  or did they?
  8. If the universe expands to the point where observers on earth cannot observe any other object in the universe that isn’t on earth or near to it, will observers consider our scientific theories myth?  or will we beat that unobservable future with technology?
  9. Can you have thoughts without language (verbal or other symbolism)?
  10. What is time? no, really.  what is it?

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Business Week has a really great article about the value of basic research in R&D Labs to future economies.

Many of the classic scientific research labs, such as Bell Labs and RCA Labs (now Sarnoff Corp.), were started and funded by companies with virtual monopolies and very strong, predictable cash flows. They were able to embrace the uncertainty and serendipity of pure research in the context of their business. But such companies don’t exist today. With the increasing focus on shareholder value that began in the 1990s as global competition heated up, Fortune 500 companies could no longer justify open-ended research that might not directly impact their bottom line. Today, corporate research is almost exclusively engineering R&D, tending more toward applied research with a 3- to 5-year time horizon (or shorter). IBM, Microsoft MSFT, and Hewlett-Packard HPQ, for example, collectively spend $17 billion a year on R&D but only 3% to 5% of that is for basic science.

The End of Labs

The End of Labs

It’s not just a shame, it’s actually a very bad strategy in play right now and for the future.  I once remarked at company retreat I was at that often a company or industry matures so much that it’s only strategy is to invent just for the sake of inventing, with the idea that completely new revenue streams might evolve.  I was quickly slapped down by a major executive, “We need to work on things that can be commercialized now.”  I knew then the fate of that company would be mostly an arbitrage of wall street expectations.  And that’s exactly what it, and 1000s of other companies have become.  This is also why this particular recession is so painful – most companies have no institutional ability to innovate.  Two decades of chaising the near term exit, the 30% stock market rocket shot leave industry stagnant.

Know one knows what the next big idea is.  And no one will figure that out without basic research.  And by big ideas, I mean things like the printing press, the Internet, germ theory, genetics, the Wheel.  You know – THE BIG STUFF that powers generations of commerce.

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Emotion research is now routinely referenced as a part of an evolutionary substrate. However, explicit experimental evolutionary analyses of emotions remain rare.

The implications of natural selection for several classic questions about emotions and emotional disorders should be the focus of research programs that are stagnant with 19th and early 20th Century hypotheses that cannot be proven but are failed to be dismissed by those doing research in the area marring if not diluting the term ‘social scientist’.

Emotions are NOT special modes of operation or unique states shaped by natural selection. They ARE conditioned artifacts of centuries of classical conditioning between flight or fight related contingencies that then are conditioned using conditioned products of those states to set up additional pairings that come to elicit response once related to fear, threat, escape from danger, avoidance of peril, and other euphemisms of exhaust [with all the physiological and nervous system components apparent as if a real threat or escape from isolation were present] from contingencies involving wide swings in homeostasis. They are conditioned most assuredly and supported by the environments (including people) that have notions [history in context] of similar states.

Collectively they are, or they make up, a large scale of response parameters [behavior sets] that may have or potentially do increase fitness by learned adaptations to challenging situations that occurred over the course of the individual’s history and were taught to generations over the course of that tree’s evolution. Some societies are almost devoid of emotional content while others are mired in emotional waves as a ‘tradition’ or a cultural response to the vagaries of life’s changes.

In all cases emotions are valenced.

Valence, as used here means the property along a continuum (positive – negative) of an event, object, or state. Ambivalence here would refer to no particular valance based on the context or history of the organism. No, valences are not just for humans but are represented differentially by any organism that displays changes in affectations based on behavior.

Valence is not an absolute property of any identified emotion but is relative based on context and history. Selection shapes each case where contingencies that have influenced fitness in the past shape expression. In situations that decrease fitness, negative emotions are useful and positive emotions are harmful.

Selection has partially differentiated subtypes of emotions from generic precursor states to deal with specialized situations: our communication of internal states that are not available to view by the outside world. This communication of subjective states – emotions – has resulted in untidy associations that blur across dimensions rendering the quest for simple or objectivity futile. For some social scientists this state of affairs doubles their efforts. For others, the recognition of emotions as exhaust is good enough for both communication and but also the redirection of research time and effort on things, events and states that lead to a better understanding of what’s going on in the world. Non-scientists use the same approach to make their course corrections only those sets of changes lack a unique vocabulary to allow communication and efforts to be reinforced effectively by the environment.

Selection has shaped mechanisms that control the expression of emotions on the basis of an individual’s appraised value of a state based on the past and the current context. This is the conversion of data to meaning. This meaning of events, etc. is the synthesis for the individual to use in evaluation of subsequent conditions – some of which may be related to avoidance and some of which may be related to acquisition of reinforcers whether they are goals, etc. or states of existence.

The prevalence of emotional disorders can be attributed to several conflicting values [also conditioned in us all] and valences that go with them as factors that contribute to something being a ‘disorder’ [negative] or a ‘passion’ [positive].

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Across all mediums, advertising $$$ is off 2.8%.

Of course, this is in line with the overall economy so it’s not totally surprising.  Advertising typically lags because the budgets go in so early into the spending season.

A recession in ad spending that goes well into 2009 is going to crush many an Internet company, more than a few agencies, and a lot of traditional media companies.  Oh, by crush, I mean put them out of business for good.

Unless you work on the ground in the advertising world it’s hard to understand just how devestating the recession is especially when consumption of media will always be going up.  That means there will always be more supply of advertising impressions and the cost of media businesses are NOT coming down.  With the ad spend so far down, the prices on this oversupply of inventory is highly depressed further adding pressure to a broken model.

Many people ask me what I think then is going to work with media companies… well, I’ve said it before… media companies have to SELL SOMETHING REAL, not just ads.  Not just an impression.  Sell DVDs, sell shoes, sell licenses, sell special events… anything.  The ad rates simply will not cover the costs of running these media companies.

Oh, and if we thought 08 numbers were bad, just wait for q1 2009 when we will see the real effect of ad budget cuts.

Yes, I’m being a bit DoomsDayish.  Because there’s not a lot of runway left for folks and if they aren’t finding a strategy to cope by now, game over.

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