Monthly Archives: July 2010

The paradox of values

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According to John Wareham in The Anatomy of a Great Executive (pp. 41-42)

The Paradox of Values. Most people cherish what they imagine to be an almost sacred right to hold and live by a system of values that springs from invalid and conflicting beliefs. They do so, believing that to live in accordance with one’s beliefs bestows integrity, gives meaning to life, and makes us free. The exact opposite, however, is more likely to be the case. People are mostly prisoners trapped within the cage of their own beliefs, yet unaware of any restraint.

He also says

The earlier our values are acquired, the greater their power. Early values become the voice of conscience.

According to Danny Elfman

We shape ourselves like clay from someone else’s dream.

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The dark side of love and self-sacrifice

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According to Jesus

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

But research by Carsten De Dreu shows that the brain hormone oxytocin, the “love hormone”, encourages in males not only self-sacrifice in defense of the group, but also paranoid preemptive attacks in defense of it.

According to Jeremy Hsu

“The most important practical implication is that we should stop treating oxytocin as a panacea for distrust and conflict,” De Dreu pointed out.

In other words, giving oxytocin to everyone in the world won’t necessarily usher in a new era of peace and prosperity. It might even spur more paranoia and conflict between different groups or nations.

“Giving soldiers oxytocin might make them more cooperative towards their comrades, even willing to self-sacrifice,” De Dreu said. “But it should [also] make them more likely to launch a preemptive strike against the competing army, with conflict-escalation being the most likely consequence.”

“That orb is red, I should turn something off”

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According to Tom Geller in “Beyond the Smart Grid”, CACM 53(6), 2010, pp. 16-17,

One example of how such data is being used is found in Oberlin College’s campus resource monitoring system. The environmental studies program monitors electricity use in each of the college’s dorms, in some cases with multiple sensor points per dorm. Administrators make adjustments to discount nondiscretionary expenditures, such as a kitchen in those dorms with cafeterias, then take a baseline reading to determine typical usage. Data from dorms’ current energy use is displayed in three ways: on the Web at oberlin.edu/dormenergy; as building dash-board video displays throughout campus; and as color-changing orbs placed in several campus locations, including the dorms themselves.

Finally, Oberlin College runs an annual dorm energy competition and gives prizes to the dorm with the greatest reduction from baseline use. Henry Bent, sustainable technology research fellow partly responsible for maintaining the Oberlin system, is especially enthusiastic about the orbs. “Numbers and dials and graphs are fantastic, but you want something that you can see very quickly at a glance,” Bent says. “I just know when I’m on my way to the bathroom, ‘Oh, look, that orb is red, I should turn something off.'”

According to Clive Thompson, regarding the Ambient Orb

That’s the power of “ambient information,” which tries to combat data overload by moving information off computer screens and into the world around us. […] We’re more likely to act on a subtle but continuously present message than an intermittent one we’re forced to stare at.

The fixation on brain chemistry

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According to Robert Langreth

Whether or not optogenetics itself becomes a therapy, Deisseroth hopes he will help psychiatrists move beyond the simplistic concept that mental illness is caused by depressed levels of brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. This approach has led to drugs like Prozac. But the fixation on brain chemistry is stifling progress, he believes. It ignores the way the brain really works: as a high-speed data processor. “This idea that psychiatric diseases are due to altered levels of neurotransmitters can’t be the case,” says a frustrated Deisseroth. “Yet it is the dominant paradigm in psychiatry.”

The rich and successful understand contracts

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According to Carol Pogash in “Biggest Defaulters on Mortgages Are the Rich”

The rich and successful often come naturally to this sort of attitude, said Brent T. White, a law professor at the University of Arizona who has studied strategic defaults.

“They may be less susceptible to the shame and fear-mongering used by the government and the mortgage banking industry to keep underwater homeowners from acting in their financial best interest,” Mr. White said.

According to a commenter

Businesses do this all the time; they abandon investments that don’t turn out right. Major real estate firms do this with multi-billion dollar properties, and the mortgage companies know this. We are just seeing the same thing happening on a smaller scale. It is dishonest for the mortgage companies to insist people pay a ridiculous mortgage (that the banks willingly wrote), while acknowledging that large businesses do the same thing. Just like the homebuyers, they made a bad investment when they wrote those mortgages, and they have to suffer the consequences.

Speaking just to you — to the person you want to be

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According to John Simpson

Right from that moment I understood what it was about Nelson Mandela that made people worship him. It wasn’t just the humility, it wasn’t even that extraordinary forgiveness and lack of bitterness. It was the way he looked you straight in the eyes and spoke just to you – to the person you wanted to be, perhaps, rather than the one you actually were.