Correlation and Causation

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If you have a group of fish in a tank, they will correlate your proximity to the tank with feeding events. Every time you come close to the tank, they get prepared for their meal by getting close to the food inlet because they know that you’re going to feed them. But after a while something interesting happens. The fish start spending longer periods of time around the food inlet in the tank when they get hungry, falsely thinking that this will attract the food. This happens because the fish have mixed between correlation and causation of the owner coming close to them and them hanging around the food inlet. They think that it is when they come close to the food inlet the owner will come close too, because they only understand the correlation of the two events and not the causation of one to the other.

And with some more time you start feeding the fish when you see them around the inlet because it reminds you of feeding time. This correlation and causation confusion on behalf of the fish completely reverses the roles between the powerful owner and the weak fish where the owner starts going nearer the tank whenever the fish get closer to the food inlet not the other way round as in the old days.

If Pavolv’s dog learnt to start drooling before hearing the bell, because it mixed between the correlation and causation it could have compelled Pavlov to feeding it out of pity, similarly reversing the role of the master and the slave which is actually common in the world of dogs and cats with the delusional masters who turn into their pet’s slaves.

The mixing of causation and correlation has also reversed the role of the master and the slave in the social human world. Karl Marx predicted a revolution by the workers against the ruling classes. The revolution happened, and because the proletariat thought that their victory correlated with Marx’s prophecy, they were further empowered and they became self righteous and created a communist dictatorship, hence making the slaves masters again. They didn’t know that it was the prediction that caused the revolution at the first place; and that what happened wasn’t in fact a correlation. But thanks to this confusion, the slave became the master again. 

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The Dirty Tricks of Moral Systems

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Moral values evolve to preserve individuals and species. They evolve through intricate methods that have been debatable among many biologists until our current day. Regardless of how they evolve though, it’s the consensus that moral systems are there because they help the species. It is impossible for an ethical value to be predominant in a society without serving a purpose at the time when its most popular. Some ethical values however lose their function over time and it takes a few generations after that to repeal them; which explains the existence of moral systems that are not useful at times.

Incest is a practice that has been not unpopular in lots of cultures in history, notably the pharaohs in ancient Egypt. Incest, although still practiced at individual levels, is predominantly unacceptable in any culture on Earth at the current time being. Because of the undesirable effects that incest brings on to offspring, moral systems evolved to repeal it. The systems worked at first perhaps by criminalising it and very gradually did these systems start getting engrained in the public psyche. People not only avoided it but developed genuine feelings of disgust and revulsion of the actual practice. It is argued that this feeling of disgust has become so profound that it is actually ingrained in our own DNA by now. Although the vast majority of people are revolted of the practice of incest  per se, laws banning it continue to exist against it although being virtually useless now.

As climate change is becoming a pertinent issue that is threatening our entire existence, moral practices will start to evolve to counter these threats. Vegetarianism and Veganism are on the rise whilst scientists are warning of the huge impact of cultivating farm animals and cattle upon our atmosphere. Meat eating is starting to become, like never before, an immoral practice to relatively large sections of western societies. The trajectory that meat eating is taking is similar to the one incest took many thousands of years ago. It starts to become unacceptable amongst a class of people who are thought by the general public to be radical, and whilst this class of people grows, laws banning the practice will start becoming effective and gradually people will start developing feelings of disgust and revulsion of meat eating. It is important to notice that the reasons that compels people to be vegetarian and revolt them from meat eating, such as compassion with animals, are not necessarily the reasons vegetarianism is useful; and are not the reasons these feelings have evolved. It simply is a dirty trick created by the human mind to achieve a selfish human need.

Eating meat in 1000 years from now might a have a similar status to incest. Extremely disgusting and repulsive but yet with laws banning it despite the fact that the majority of the public don’t need these laws to stop them from eating it at the first place.

The New Dinosaurs

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Fossil Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs. American Museum of Natural History, NY.

Dinosaurs, although going extinct millions of years ago, have left a bold and clear mark on planet earth. Millions of fossils and preserved bones that allowed scientists of our time to unravel a lot of the details of their intricate lives. Their different species and habits. We now have museums with restructured dinosaur skeletons that attract hundreds of thousands of people every year. People are always fascinated about creatures that preceded them.

Just like other complex species, we as a human race are going to go extinct soon too. We’ve had a ball, living for hundreds of thousands of years since our oldest ancestors who started developing conscious minds. But it’s very easy to foresee how we’re going to leave the planet. Once we are extinct, other mammals and plants will find a huge niche to grow and thrive, just like what happened after the extinction of the dinosaurs. Evolution will lead to the development of fascinating creatures, possibly with a much more intelligent conscious mind. Those new creatures that will evolve millions of years from now are going to study earth’s history like we did. They will find evidence of dinosaurs from millions of years ago, but they will also find evidence of these remarkable creatures that altered the structure of earth like never before. Millions of tons of materials that must have needed some complex intervention to create, such as plastic. High radiation levels and concentrated amounts of Urinanium and Plotonium and Silicon that could have not existed at that concentration by chance only. They might even find very odd shaped debris which are the remnants of old satellites orbiting earth in space; those too could not have come by coincidence. Scinetists of the future will consequently conclude that there must have been some form of a semi intelligent life that existed on this planet at some point. But why did they disappear? That is going to be the question that keeps the future scientists awake at night. Most scientists will agree that there has been a very rapid spike in earth’s temperature at the time of the human demise, probably due to an asteroid hitting earth, that led to the extinction of all of these creatures called humans. Just like what happened with dinosaurs. The rapid increase in temperature has led to floods that drowned lots of people and those who survived the floods died of the utter levels of heat. This occasion will have a mark in geological history, a mark that ended the human age, just like an asteroid ended the Jurassic age millions of years before this.

One day, their cleverest will reach the Eureka moment. The spike in temperature didn’t happen because of an asteroid hitting earth. It actually happened because of humans themselves who went through uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels that eventually led to an uncontrolled rise in earth temperature. They will even figure out that some humans were intelligent enough to figure out that this was going to happen and warned others from it but no one listened.

There will be restructured human skeletons in the natural history museums of the future. A small sign fixed to the wall beside them noting the story of how humans destroyed themselves by carbon dioxide emissions. The sign will also note that there were some humans that were intelligent enough to warn of what’s coming. That for me is a good enough reason to campaign for the restriction of the use of fossil fuels even when we have hit the point of no return and any further actions now might be too late. A mere mention and acknowledgment of intelligence on a sign in a museum that will be constructed millions of years from now is worth doing a lot of things for.

Of Cells and Men

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Each cell in the human body has its own life. It starts from a predecessor,  it grows old, it replicates and it always dies. Just like us. From the single cell’s perspective, all what matters, is its well-being and longevity. It also lives in a community and interacts with fellow cells. They just think that they’re living in a magnificent universe of numerous creatures like themselves. They  know that there are million of millions of them and that the universe they live in is insanely large. What most of them might not realise is the gestalt. That they are just there to maintain the life of a much more complex organism.
We should be aware not to give in to the same illusion. We are merely cells interacting together to serve the existence of a very complex organism that we are just too primitive to comprehend.

Just like there are different types of cell in an organism’s body, there are different species in our ecosystem. Whilst bacteria could represent one organ in this ecosystem, human beings might be representing a different organ in it.

The importance of programmed death in individual cells is vital for the survival of the organism. Millions of cells will perish in your body on daily basis to give space for the new fresh generations to join in. Death, for the dying cell, and for its friends and family, is a tragic incident – but the individual human should be very thankful to the fact that these cells are dying in the millions every day. It takes one cell. Only one cell, to hack the programmed death mechanism and deactivate it to achieve some form of immortality. In everyday life we call this process of cell immortality a cancer. A terrible disease which results from the selfishness of one cell with a massive ego who thought to itself one day that it doesn’t want to die. It hacks that built in mechanism of death and it replicates rapidly leading to the fast death of the entire human, if no treatment is offered. Treatment essentially revolves around the execution of the selfish cells.

Imagine people developing technologies that wold turn them immortal. That would simply be humanity, or perhaps life as we know it getting cancer. And who knows what would happen then?

It is true that death is the best invention of life. You should fear immortality just as much as you’d fear cancer. And celebrate death as it happens to you and to your friends and loved ones around you.

Democracy and Equality in Medicine

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The health system in each country is always a contentious point of political debate. National and public health services are a great service for the public; however some will argue that such services are prone to be corrupt and incompetent due to the lack of competition and incentive. Equally though, with a privatised health service, only the rich will be able to afford medication and the country could be burdened with high disease levels that ruin lives and reduce the collective productivity of the population.

An ideal system would be one which has the best of both worlds: A competent, respectable and serious health service that keeps being pushed to the edge to perform as well as it could, but one that is also available for the entire public regardless of their wealth. How would this be achieved someone may ask?

Well, think of the political system in selecting people who run the country. People achieve power, in a proper democracy, based on their merit which is derived from the approval of people which is transparently displayed through an election process. Many people by the way may know very little about how a certain political system affect their lives positively or negatively on the long run, but they do still vote, and democracy is still the least worst system we have.

In medicine, the lay person has much better judgement about the competence of their doctor, or their health facility, than they do about the competence of their politicians. This is because that lay person will have a first hand experience with their doctor, unlike their experience with their political representatives. How did that doctor treat them, how quickly did they diagnose them and how well did they get: Easy questions that turn the patients to the best judges when it comes to their doctors.

Imagine serious annual elections where all patients are encouraged to rate the doctors that have treated them in a public process. The higher the health professional’s rating is, the better their salary becomes, with lots of extra incentives for those  truly outstanding vote levels. The process is public and incompetent doctors will be shamed before they’re out of the field. This system will work by totally eliminating the inadequate physicians whilst encouraging the capable ones to keep up the good work. It will guarantee both a high competence level of medical staff who are continuously pushed to their limits whilst making sure the health service is not privatised.

Only then will the doctors put their patients first and give them the best possible treatment they could; the incentives and deterrents created in this democratic medical scheme are much more powerful than those created in a privatised system; because they include the public element of shaming too.

A Jupiterian’s Account of Planet Earth

 

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A group of aliens concluding their search for life on planet earth

The inhabitants of earth, and possibly most other planets, are generally extremely arrogant and dangerously limited. Earth citizens have the audacity to claim that a planet like jupiter is very unlikely to support (intelligent) life because of its extreme weather, high radiation levels and the soaring atmospheric pressure levels. Planet Jupiter is mostly gaseous but with a solid core.

Well, here is what i believe is a Jupiteran scientist’s account of Planet earth (translated and adapted to English):

The odds of finding life on planet 6772 are drastically low. The planet has an extremely thin atmosphere with atmospheric pressures so low, not very dissimilar to those of outer space,  that would cause the  instantaneous death of any organism that ventures into its realms without hydrogen protection. The temperatures there are agonizingly cold allowing for the formation of huge amounts of  hydrogen dioxide (H2O) in a liquid form, which is the reason the planet looks mostly purple in our telescopes. H2O is severely corrosive and lethal; its fumes which are abundant in 6772’s atmosphere can cause instantaneous death to any known life form after 2 or more Jupiterian seconds of contact. The temperatures are some times so cold, the liquid water turns into a solid form, called ice. The atmosphere also contains high levels of the toxic gas oxygen which is known to vigorously react with our genetic materials. The gravity is too weak and the radiation levels are way too low to generate the required energy for the development of any  intelligent, or for that fact unintelligent, life forms. We still don’t possess the technologies that allow us to venture into the extremely hostile environment of 6772, but our odds of finding life on the sun where there is an abundance of pure hydrogen, and where surface temperature levels might be just right to support the evolution of life as we know it.

Brain Altering Technologies

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The development of communication technology is growing at speedy rates and our understanding of the human brain is increasing pretty quickly too. It’s no big news that very soon, very possibly in our life time, we will possess electrical tools that can alter the human consiousness and possibly feed it information at instantaneous rates. The first prototypes will be simple though : they will illicit basic brain reactions that have been known to be altered using chemicals.

Altering the human conciousness is a process that has been happening for millenia with the application of psychoactive drugs from mescaline peyotes to cannabis plants. The electrical tools that will alter the brain will differ in their abilities in that they are more specific and efficient.

I would imagine that as these brain altering technologies (BATs) are being initally developed industrially for medical and other uses, they will leak out and the internet will buzz with rogue dealers selling electrical equipment that make you feel full so you lose weight, others that simulate intense orgasmic sensations and some will be selling equipment that give you that buzz before you hit a party. The use of these equipment will be shrouded with risk as they interact with delicate brain machinery that could go wrong. And there will be a new Pablo Escobar, an unrelenting business mogul who dominates the international empire of illicit brain ‘enhancing’ equipment as he prefers to call it. The establishment will fight the technology as hard as it can; research funds in that domain will suffer massive blows and progress of brain altering technologies will come to a halt due to the notorious war on BATs. Illicit drugs as we know them now are going to be a thing of the past with emergence of biotechnology that could achieve what no current drug could.

The establishment will use terrifying stories to intimidate the public from experimenting with brain technologies: An interview with a woman with a pixilated face and a pitched down voice describing sobbingly how her brain was hacked 13 times at the same night when she used a bogus mind altering chip, another crippled man describing how he snapped his spine as his orgasm generating chip got stuck and could not be deactivated for the enirety of 37 minutes.

The discrepancy between the potential of these technologies and their actual applications in life is going to be mind boggling.

The Multiple Personalities of Man

 

 

All people will change. Just like their appearance, their personality also will. I don’t believe that change is only a process that happens over long periods of time. We are very different people even at different parts of the same day. Look at your perspective before you go to sleep, and when you wake up. People set alarms at night expecting they are calling themselves to wake up the next morning. This generally fails, or at least doesn’t go according to the plan that has been set a few hours ago. This is simply because once you go into deep sleep, you would have just killed the man you were, and with waking up, someone new emerges. And that person will generally prefer to stay in bed for a few more minutes, or hours, unlike your predecessor who confidently set these alarms at night. As the day goes through, that new born personality will mature and by night time it would fall into the same mistake as its predecessor. It will always think that it will simply go to sleep and wake up again. But no, a personality lives for one day only where it matures and then dies once deep sleep is triggered. But every generation that appears every morning will recollect the cumulative experience acquired by its predecessors over time throughout the day.

Personalities do also radically change throughout the day sometimes. A man’s perspective on life and living could dramatically differ in the seconds separating between lust and satisfaction; people become entirely different under the influence of chemicals that vary from anti-depressants to psychedelic medicines, and man will also radically change in response to a radical change in their total assets.

Something though remains constant, and that is not the personality of man, but rather the cumulative experience that all these personalities have independently acquired. And it’s experience, not personality, that make a person who they are.

We’re in it together

mozzie-with-temple-and-churchScientists some times take the idea of focus a bit too far. They focus too much on a certain issue and they get trapped in their own bubble. It takes courage, and sometimes a slight amount of insanity to burst that bubble and look at the bigger picture.

Malaria is a devastating disease that kills hundreds of thousands of people every year. Malaria can only be transmitted through mosquitoes. Seems obvious to most that eliminating the mosquitoes would solve that problem, and it actually might very well do solve it. Scientists have been working for decades on a potent poison that could kill all the malaria transmitting mosquitoes but to no avail; there are still just as many mosquitoes now as there have ever been.

However, let’s think about it from the mosquito’s point of view. Malaria is a devastating disease that causes the death of millions of mosquitoes every year. Malaria can only be transmitted through human beings.

A rogue mosquito might suggest that eradicating all human beings could stop the spread of the disease amongst its own species, but it will also fail, just like humans did in the past. One mosquito would think, only if humans could find a medicine that eliminates malaria in their own ranks, our lives would be spared too.

Humans didn’t yet find an effective cure for malaria in humans. But they might be looking in the wrong place. Maybe, finding a cure for malaria in mosquitoes  is simply much easier than curing humans suffering malaria. Eliminate Malaria in mosquitoes and it will spontaneously disappear among humans. Killing mosquitoes didn’t work. Helping them out in their own fight against Malaria might very well do – and then we would have eradicated the disease.

Sometimes we need to help our worst enemy to achieve peace in our and their communities. This doesn’t only apply to our dynamic with mosquitoes, but with each other as a human race too.

When you’re good, you don’t need to be useful.

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Watching these polished men playing snooker made me think: what is it that attracts people to watch and enjoy such games? And Why do people enjoy watching sports even if they didn’t play them.

Any sport will be enjoyed by people because of the inherent appreciation of skill and competence that humans have to each other. In a world where incompetence seems to be the norm amongst a lot of its inhabitants, the observation of the pristine performance and the shining abilities of people is a unique experience. It’s a process of observing the best that the human mind could offer : it doesn’t matter what kind of game it is, as long as it includes a competetive skill that differentiates people. The game itself doesn’t matter no matter how boring it might seem.

Create the best computer simulation of a football game if you want. The quality of such a game, no matter how great it is,  will never attract people to watch it with the same enthusiasm. The only thing that might attract them to watch it is the admiration of the brains behind creating such a simulation. People enjoy watching long computer games being played sometimes but that’s only because of the admiration of the abilities of those who hold the controllers.  Not because of the content of the game per se. Getting two computers to compete in any game, even if such computers dramatically outperform humans, is not going to attract any attnetion beyond the admiration for those who design such engines that can play such games.

Humans have an inherent desire to admire skill. Because excellent skill is a rare commodity. Whether you are Lionel Messi, Roger Federer or Gary Kasparov you’re attracting the same form of respect and attention from people. Not because you are doing something useful. But because you are displaying something extraordinary. The context is completely irrelevant when it comes to what’s extraordinary.