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Geezer's Law of Twistiness

by geezer in Paris Wed Jan 6th, 2010 at 05:25:04 AM EST

ARGeezer's recent burst of insightful contributions has moved me to write once again on a familiar theme, but with hopefully deeper insight, and a few grins.


                                                    Geezer's Law of Twistiness

I assume, in the face of determined opposition from the post-modern denialists, that there exists a reality that underlies our perceptual reality, and that it is composed of highly persistent processes from natural science, as well as an ecology of processes of a social and economic nature that persist on a shorter but more or less significant time line.

I assume that the processes of governing, education, commerce, foreign policy, etc. interlock and are represented by a largely fabricated world that diverges from the real one- the reality described above- and are the world we see and deal with on a real-time basis.  These divergent perceptions  -twisted subsets- exist and are created for a purpose. They are often conflicting and require energy to fabricate and maintain. This energy cost increases geometrically as the distance from reality increases. The distance imposes a limit to the degree of distortion and time period that can be maintained without collapse. Dialectically, if the twist is great enough, the whole fantasy structure can collapse, or can become twisted loose from the underlying reality, and just drift free, bubble like, and can become self-maintaining. The former case is called, "Twistback". (Apologies to Chalmers Johnson).
In the latter case, just see Altemeyer, Robert, "The Authoritarians", or just google "Republican Party".

My proposition, Miller's tounge in cheek "Law of Twistiness", is therefore simple: (some will say simple-minded. I hope so.) The cost to maintain a divergent reality increases geometrically with it's distance from reality. There is a critical mass in twist, beyond which the thing bifurcates,  and all bets are off.

Twist resistance comes from:
A) Reality Leakage
B) Competence Resonance.
(For example, the design and installation of a sewer system requires technical competence and social skills that tend to create problem solving mechanisms that will, willy-Nilly, eventually resonate with and be applied to other areas of human existence, causing---subversive reality discovery. Could it be that shit shippers learn to detect (bull)shit better- develop a nose for it?.

Twist assist (torque multipliers) comes from:

A) Human desire for a less disturbing neighborhood than reality, with gates,
B) Political (economic- it's the same) control over information sources,
C) Second-order twists that prohibit or severely limit perception of forbidden but obvious relationships, even if they leak into the discussion.

Nested twists. Holy shit.

A perfect example is the pseudo-debate over health care in the US, where almost all the pertinent data as well as the underlying relationships was twisted out of the political and public dialog.

Take for example ARGeezer's recent discussion of unemployment rates, (nod to Zero Hedge) and the twisted reality that is represented by the official numbers. One examines the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, then one looks at the dough spent on unemployment compensation, and there should be a relationship that's pretty comparable, relatively linear. Not so.
Any dunce reporter working for the WAPO should tumble to this glaring difference, and probably has, but the usual control torque is likely something like this: "If you publish the real numbers you'll create a panic, crash the market, sink the ship of state, cause continental drift to accelerate till Asia collides with and overrides Europe, and your circulation may be adversely affected to boot. Not to mention your personal job prospects, when you start looking for a new one." The result is silence.
But it takes energy to strangle off reality leakage. Take Dean Baker's dogged persistence in flogging the MSM on their refusal to mention, or perhaps even perceive, the housing bubble. It takes time and pressure to choke off real discussion, and the commenters who escape and speak are legion, mostly in the blog world. Had Baker and others not kept at it, Ben Bernake probably would have sailed through confirmation. Now they gotta work hard for it. It's easy to see why an armada of pronouncers and propagandists, with Obama at the top of the pile, diss the significance of traitorous reality dabblers like bloggers as unserious dilettantes.
The nested twist here is the persistent notion that "Change you can believe in" or the BLS data ever did or was intended to reflect reality. The very existence of such an overtly twisted definition as the US "official unemployment measure" shows an intent other than to inform.

So how much energy goes into twisting? And is there an end point- a critical mass of sorts, where all that inconvenient underlying more real stuff just erupts from the basement door, like a burst septic tank?

A subject for another day. Perhaps for someone with a different twist on all this.

Display:
Brilliant Diary, geezer.

It's the flow of information and knowledge that redresses reality leakage, I think. Why I am so optimistic - nay, Utopian - in my outlook, is that I think the direct instantaneous connections of the Internet allow closer access to the patterns of Reality.

We can bypass the overlay - and the twist and energy loss - of the fabricated layers exemplified by the 'financial capital' constructs and the huge parasitic vampire squid economy it enables. I am convinced that, as you put it, the whole fantasy structure is collapsing.

How to replace it?

Reality Basis, I think.

When looking Towards an Economics of Common Sense I was travelling down that path, based on my own experience, observations and analysis - in attempting to outline - at least to my own satisfaction - a Reality-Based Economics. This is based upon the assumptions that it is the use value of Location, Energy, and Knowledge that in fact underpin the "Real" economy. factors of Production, if you like.

Since then, I've continued to act upon my analysis, on the premise that if I'm right, and the consensual mechanisms I identify are indeed optimal in connecting us directly with these underlying bases of value,, then they will be adopted, in an emergent process.

Reality-based community - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality--judiciously, as you will--we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

That empire is gone, I believe, killed off finally by Chinese economic power, but I believe that consensual  reality-based policy development - like action-basis for learning - is the only way to go.

So, having judiciously studied for a while, I am going to continue to act, and hopefully create realities on the ground with others working to a common purpose, at least a few, I think, to be found on this site. I shall report progress - if any - from time to time, and if I piss off anyone - and it is all too clear that I do - well, sorry, guys.

We all IMHO may be history's actors. I salute you, geezer - you exemplify everything good about this site.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Jan 6th, 2010 at 07:52:36 AM EST
There's a critical speed at which events take place that are unique to those events.

For instance with real flocking - birds, say - there is a narrow range of speeds at which a flock can move as a self-organized aggregation. It is partly dependent on the physical abilities of the individuals/species, but also dependent on the speed of interaction as individuals visually adjust their position relative to the flock - in order to remain part of the flock.

Up until the widespread use of mobile phones, the speed at which people with a grievance against say, government, could organize themselves into a 'flock' was slow enough that 'authorities' could discover the organization and timing of the process, and take measures to protect themselves.

After group SMS, a 'flock' could organize very rapidly. Not by mass messaging, but by the principle that if you text 10 people within 2 minutes, and each of those 10 people text another 10, then a lot of people will know about it within 30 minutes. So may the authorities  find out (there is always leakage), but it will be too short a time for them to react.

This is the connecting up of local 'cells' -a cell being friends, family, colleagues, neighbours etc. A 'bird' maybe ;-)

And yes, one cell may initiate the messaging, but it might be any cell - group 'sense' is in operation. The bird that spots the corn on the ground and turns to fly toward it, is a momentary leader among a flock of potential leaders.

Your 'patterns of reality' are seen here.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 6th, 2010 at 08:47:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
google Howard Rheingold Flash Mobs.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 6th, 2010 at 12:44:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jep, I know a practitioner of the flash mob / carrot mob esoterica - a former dot.com whizzkid who surfed the wave successfully and walked away with the elusive spondulex before it crashed on the shore. I was grilling him on the subject at a conference in the autumn.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 6th, 2010 at 01:03:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting. Thanks to you and Sven.
Sven, got a link?

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Jan 6th, 2010 at 11:24:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Carrotmobs

"How organized consumer purchasing can change business"

In contrast to stickmobs, who organize to withdraw purchase of particular products of particular corporations. An updated boycott using www to assemble enough signatories to make a real dent in sales within a short period, and perhaps in only one locality.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Jan 7th, 2010 at 05:20:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Watched the movie.
Whoa! What a great idea!
A family joke is the airhead Parisienne cruising the sidewalk with cellphone stuck to her hear, utterly oblivious to everything else-

As always, there's more to it.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Jan 8th, 2010 at 03:32:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...Parisienne cruising the sidewalk with cellphone stuck to her hear

LOL

Whether intentional or a typo that is a marvelous bit of word play.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Jan 8th, 2010 at 02:29:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Whether intentional or a typ"

I'll never tell.
Take the money and run.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Jan 12th, 2010 at 02:39:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Coming from you, that comment makes my day.
Thanks.
"It's the flow of information and knowledge that redresses reality leakage, I think."
That flow IS reality leakage. In my half-humorous model, reality leaks IN, not out. The quote you chose is very familiar, and indeed represents a failed reality, though many have not yet tumbled to the crash. I believe it failed because of a fundamental misunderstanding: an overestimation of the distance that narrative and framing can drag policy away from that underlying reality before the cost in blood, treasure, energy, etc. of propping up the fantasy just becomes unworkable, and  policy based on it therefore becomes unworkable.

Even with very tame- supine, in fact- media, reality leakage is washing away the old illusions fast. That's our job, I think.

"I am convinced that, as you put it, the whole fantasy structure is collapsing."

Yes, but it's also bifurcating, at least, and the residual pieces threaten to take down the whole house.
The collapse was the Republic collapsing, and it's over, done, dead.
The fragments look to me to be encasing themselves in a bubble- the Obamanauts seem likely to develop a dingbat core that's just as impervious to that inward reality leakage as the right wing, and perhaps as dangerous.
The Empire is doing just what history suggests is the frequent outcome for such predators- metastasizing into a nation of warrior-predators, flailing about trying to halt history, and eventually stripping the treasury of resources and/or the field of combat of useful prey. As you point out, might just get it's ass kicked, too, by a Chinese boot.

War is an ultimately understandable story, however false. And a story dear to the American heart. Particularly since nobody has carpet-bombed us recently.

I see a plethora of new enemies- the Bolivarian attempt to rebel, the Yemeni front, and many new ones such as a rebellious Mexico if the US grip on the perfumadoes slips further.
I anticipate a return of the draft and a wartime command economy, perhaps after the next crash.
Consider that the American People may welcome such comforting discipline, such clear-cut cartoon villains.

Chris, your ideas, which are close to mine in many ways, have their best chance in the Latin world, if it lives. The energy is there, the political ossification so advanced that the old structures and power groups seem to me quite fragile.
The FMLN still controls nearly 80% of the land area of Colombia, and all those new bases are a clear response to the Bolivarian revolution's very real successes.  

As for action, my life has been filled with lots of it. I'm swamped at present with just saving my ass and my family. I'm afraid I'll have to leave that to the rest of you for the present. Don't misunderstand--I'm not done yet. Just gotta write that big-selling book, or take up subsistence farming- and that leaves little time. You, and the rest of the ETopians gotta save the world, I think.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Jan 6th, 2010 at 10:16:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
geezer in Paris:
Chris, your ideas, which are close to mine in many ways, have their best chance in the Latin world, if it lives. The energy is there, the political ossification so advanced that the old structures and power groups seem to me quite fragile.
The FMLN still controls nearly 80% of the land area of Colombia, and all those new bases are a clear response to the Bolivarian revolution's very real successes.  

Your reference to this area is interesting, because I have been observing with great interest the stirrings of ALBA and the SUCRE not to mention Chavez's Petrocaribe project.

I think something might come of all this - a regional Clearing Union? - and by one of those strange coincidences I have a direct line into the top of one of the relevant Central Banks.

Interesting times - and anything I can do to help your personal battles, just let me know.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Jan 6th, 2010 at 12:37:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks very much for the offer. I believe it's a real one. Time will tell. I actually have some ideas, and I'll speak to you again on that, e-mail.
As for ALBA, SUCRE and Petrocaribe, yes. There's an idealism there, a hunger for change, and the willingness to slap some petrodollars on the table to jump-start the process. I long to dive into the area and get some sense of, on a grass-roots level, what the real-economy people think and feel. Ivonne is native-fluent in Spanish, and ---dear God, I'm tempted.
Nicaragua under Ortega seemed to be like this- that's why, in my opinion, Reagan was so determined to murder the post-Somosa infant nation that was succeeding so brilliantly at first.
"Populist" is now a perjorative term in Washington, and has been twisted to elicit an image of a witless mob stupidly careening about the economic landscape breaking things. In Ortega's Nicaragua the reality was rather like Venezuela today- a somewhat chaotic but idealistic policy machine with many talented people, a group that actually worked often, and produced huge, widely praised increases in literacy, reductions in poverty, improvements in health care, small community developments such as tiny but highly efficient and reliable hydroelectric projects that powered up hundreds of small isolated communities. Real Change. Contrast this to the US health care reform fiasco.
Fake Change.

Might we say, Chump Change?

Sadly, I think the same forces that did in Ortega, at the cost of so many young lives, remain a very powerful element in the Latin American equation. Hence the US buildup in Colombia, and the covert support for the oligarchs at the helm of the USS Honduras. And Obama seems utterly unable to grab the wheel.  

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Jan 6th, 2010 at 10:49:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
WAGeezer. Maybe not.

First - Sven - are you recruiting geezer in Paris for Bonk?

Second - I attended a conference in Portland a few months ago, called Econvergence.  There was a large co-op contingent, and I went to a couple of presentations by a Mondragon unit from Montreal (Quebec). Mirta and I are in the final stages of planning a Spring trip to Europe, and I'm considering a stop at Mondragon HQ. Any opinions as to whether or not?

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Thu Jan 7th, 2010 at 05:52:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"First - Sven - are you recruiting geezer in Paris for Bonk?"

Bonk?  Hm. Does this require a helmet?

Got one.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Jan 8th, 2010 at 03:58:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Consider including the Miller boat in your itinerary, Paul.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Jan 8th, 2010 at 04:03:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"I'm considering a stop at Mondragon HQ. Any opinions as to whether or not?"

We have considered seriously moving the boat to Toulouse, on the canal de Midi because of the proximity to Spain, and the Mondragon/Basque country-


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Jan 8th, 2010 at 04:23:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Twistocracy, or Applied Twistology

Neoclassical economics is the idiom of most economic discourse today. It is the paradigm that bends the twigs of young minds. Then it confines the florescence of older ones, like chicken-wire shaping a topiary. ---- Mason Gaffney

So contemporary economics consists largely of a topiary garden and those economists who have managed to escape the chicken wire are considered the real freaks! ("Hey, if I am an elephant, he is a giraffe and she is a camel and we are all rooted in place, how the hell can we take seriously some mere man wandering about where he will?)

Wonderful diary, GiP!  Even if it was inspired by one of my apparent mis-takes. (I thought one of the topiaries was a horse, but it was intended to have been a donkey.) In my own defense I will note that the perception was based on my own understanding that I was in fact wandering about a topiary garden. As it turned out Tyler identified it as a donkey and Cat thought it ridiculous that it could ever be a horse. (Ever indirect, Cat never actually said that, but, to poor literalist me the implication was clear.) But one thing IS clear---I WAS wandering about a topiary garden. So if the topiaries laugh at any of us, as they will, it really has no sting, as they are the topiaries, rooted in place, and we can move on.

Our task is to get a critical mass of people to realize that we are allowing figures in a topiary garden to tell us how to organize our lives. Then the garden can be dedicated as an outdoor museum, complete with proper interpretation. It would be the only humane thing to do. The topiaries would strongly protest were we to attempt to remove the chicken wire.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jan 6th, 2010 at 12:08:47 PM EST
 "Even if it was inspired by one of my apparent mis-takes."
Inspiration is. I'll take whatever comes my way.

 "So if the topiaries laugh at any of us, as they will, it really has no sting, as they are the topiaries, rooted in place, and we can move on."

The key is to pick up your feet now and again, just to make sure there aint none of them little rootlets sprouting out, whenever you stand still a bit too long.

Thanks.


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Jan 6th, 2010 at 11:02:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I haz moar lttrs 4 u. ESSA s/b ARRA throughout. That's AYE - ARRA - ARRA - AYE.

BAI

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Thu Jan 7th, 2010 at 06:49:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, well, the protests are already reaching an ear-splitting pitch, as reality leakage dissolves the chicken wire.  

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Jan 8th, 2010 at 04:06:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Seems to me that there's a complication in that people are involved. For example, religion. The myths and structures and whatever are made up, with no connection to physical reality, but people still believe.

So isn't there always going to be a certain level of background noise that isolates whatever we do in economics, politics, and even science from physical reality?

by asdf on Wed Jan 6th, 2010 at 11:44:23 PM EST
Of course. The fact that Language is involved, above all.
Sapir-Whorf, as a start.
From Wikipedia:
"The linguistic relativity principle (also known as the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis) is the idea that the varying cultural concepts and categories inherent in different languages affect the cognitive classification of the experienced world in such a way that speakers of different languages think and behave differently because of it."
Aint even the same world, cognitively.

Abstractions of reality (if you believe in reality) are necessarily noisy. But there IS a connection to reality, or not very much of our shit would work.
I'll allow as how totally twist-based stuff can work for a while, if belief is strong and widespread enough, but reality leakage will still bring it down, if it's far enough out there. The American Republic, as envisioned in the declaration of independence for example. Died pretty much right away. Took ill with the constitution for the wealthy landowners, and truly died when the corporation was declared a person. See there? Nested twist, again.
A zombie empire.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Fri Jan 8th, 2010 at 04:57:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Might want to take a look at Social Decision-Making: Insights from Game Theory and Neuroscience.

Teaser Quote:

By combining the models and tasks of Game Theory with modern psychological and neuroscientific methods, the neuroeconomic approach to the study of social decision-making has the potential to extend our knowledge of brain mechanisms involved in social decisions and to advance theoretical models of how we make decisions in a rich, interactive environment.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Fri Jan 8th, 2010 at 04:06:09 PM EST
I was following the thread nicely and getting it, until this post's reality collided with mine and I lost track.  I guess my reality can no longer expand to more than three $50 words in one sentence.  (;

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Sun Jan 10th, 2010 at 01:56:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Talk to Jerome.

I sent a carton of ATinNM's Magic Decoder Rings® to pass out at the last ET-Meet Up.  Not my fault you didn't get one!

:-)

Basically it's saying:

Neuroeconomics uses Game Theory, psychology, and neurology to investigate how economic decisions are made.  Neuroeconomists are busily beavering away trying to figure out what it is they are trying to figure out and how to know when they find it.  This is all done in a "rich, interactive environment" since a poor, static environment is soooooooooooooooooo 19th Century.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Jan 10th, 2010 at 02:25:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As long as your magic rings haven't anything to do with this bit of 530 million neuroscientific failure.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Jan 10th, 2010 at 03:14:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Behavioral Genetics is a bit of mess at the moment.  Schizophrenic studies in Scandinavia, notably Denmark, have proven the nurturing/genetic ratio is 20:80.  Giving rise to the consensus there is something to the idea one's genetic inheritance influences one's behavior; How and to What Extent is a puzzlement, and no mistake.

BG ain't ready for Prime Time.  Have to segue over to Neuroeconomics to see why some people thought dropping $560 million was a Good Idea.

 

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Jan 10th, 2010 at 03:34:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh - Neuroeconomics.

I thought you said Necroeconomics.

My mistake. Sorry.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Jan 10th, 2010 at 03:43:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll restate my very simplistic understanding:

  • Your genes decide how well you make factories for biochemicals, and how well these factories make biochemicals.

  • Learned behaviours require hardwiring between neurons, turning them into networks.

  • Hardwiring requires the presence of biochemicals to trigger the process of new connections.

  • The amount (and possibly quality) of these biochemicals produced in responding to stimulii influences the building of learned behaviours.

But, as you have pointed out, there is a cumulative feedback process in which the stimulii (and previously established responses/behaviour) change the way the factories work.

Some well known behaviours never occur because the threshold of learning is never reached. About 11% of Chinese have a genetic 'peculiarity' that means that they cannot process alcohol beyond the stage of toxicity. The first drink they take will make them ill. They will not repeat the experience, and thus never become alcoholics.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Jan 10th, 2010 at 04:07:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Turns out it's a wee tad (meaning: a whole bunch) more complicated.

Genes code for proteins: neurotransmitters, hormones, and the enzymes that make and break them down.  Each of these are built out of amino acids, so a gene is a 'shopping list' of amino acids that determine the function (and chemical shape!) of a protein, when the cell finally gets around to making it, AND a set of instructions.  The gene doesn't actually make proteins.  Instead enzymes "unzip" the DNA, an RNA 'photocopy' of the gene is constructed, and it's that photocopy that is whizzed off to the 'factory.'  When it reaches the 'factory' other enzymes cut the RNA apart so the 'factory' knows which protein has been called for, how to make it, and the 'factory' uses that Information to make it.

OK, that's groovy but WHY was THAT sequence initiated?

A protein came floating along that was produced by a 'factory' that was told to make that particular protein when the RNA 'photocopy' of another gene told it to.

THAT protein was produced when Yet Another 'factory' was switched on by RNA ... & so forth and so on ... continuously.

Prof. Sapolsky (Stanford) has observed:

Genes no more give instructions than telephone books.

You cannot understand genes without understanding their regulation by the environment.

Where "environment" is both the biochemical 'soup' floating around inside the human body (and how you think about it and how you feel about it at any instant) and the external world (and how you think about it and how you feel about it at any instant).  And both have feedback loops within themselves and to/from each other.

To make it more interesting, a neurotransmitter - say - will have different affects and effects on human behavior depending on which ... uh ... "part" of the brain it is running around in.  Dopamine, for example, is the "Pleasure" neurotransmitter and controlled by the levels of glucocorticoid (a steroid) released during stress.  Under short term stress this makes you feel good and helps you remember better.  Under long term stress, in the hippocampus (conscious memory,) it decreases Long Term Potentiation - makes you forget stuff, while in the amygdala (Flight.Fight/Fear¹) it goes on making you remember stuff better so you react quicker, so you are more sensitive to ever lesser amounts of stress so you develop PTSD ... and you don't know why.

Both kinds of memory (conscious and hardwired,) it turns out, is a neural network at the first levels of processing.  After about one or two levels - depending on what part of the brain is doing the processing - the signals merge into an undifferentiated mass of neurons where a shift to Associative Memory processing is made and the rest of the processing completed.  Meaning we have no idea how it works so we throw some polysyllabic words at it & hope no one notices.  

Genes are certainly an important part of this and it is certainly true genes are Inheritable.  There are some serious caveats when researching Inheritability of Personality, and, thus, Behavior.

Prof. Zuckermann, Psychobiology of Personality ISBN 0-521-01632-0 on the heritability of of personality traits:

1.  Heritability depends on the reliability of the phenotype measure.  

  1.  Heritability can vary from one time to another.  [citing mores, sexual permissiveness, as examples]

  2.  Heritability can vary from one population to another.

  3.  Heritabilities apply to populations not to individuals.

  4.  One cannot generalize from heritiabilities within populations to the source of differences between populations.

  5.  Heritability is an imprecise statistic and requires large ns for stable results.

Thus the presence of a gene is indicative of ranges of potential behavior yet by no means are genes determinative nor, to make things fun, are they necessary.  Environment is just as prima facia indicative of actual, or potential, behavior.  And, as one can't eliminate molecular biology from behavior, one can't eliminate behavior from molecular biology.

¹  And Fucking.  This is a beneficent inheritance from some Tournament Sex practicing ancestor.  And one reason why sex is so 'iffy' in humans.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Jan 10th, 2010 at 06:55:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 "Heritability is an imprecise statistic and requires large n's for stable results."

We been growin' large n's for a few generations, it's just necessary to pick the fruit.

OTOH, there's no evidence possible that we are the crown of creation, and haven't overshot our niche grandly, and terminally.

Why, it could even be possible that the event of comprehension of our own doom, through intelligence, is the necessary and sufficient perquisite of doom in a species sense. See Boskops. Maybe they spent all their lives essentially waiting for Godot.

Intelligence may require religion and its end games.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!

by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Sun Jan 10th, 2010 at 07:57:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Marshall Sahlins, the anthropologist, has one of the best developed structuralist descriptions of culture and its interaction with reality - and of the problems that can emerge when there are rather severe gaps between the two.  His book on Captain Cook, though controversial, presents this in about as comprehensible form as you're likely to find in anthropological theory.
by Zwackus on Sat Jan 9th, 2010 at 01:43:48 AM EST
Waiting for Foucault, Still A small, pocket-sized book by Sahlins. Published in 2002 by Prickly Paradigm, along with other works is now available for free online(in pdf). The link is available at the end of the Wiki article on Sahlins, but I could not get it to embed. A knowing, humorous survey of the various branches of academic social anthropology originally delivered as an entertaining after dinner set up for the Huxley Lecture by Marshall Sahlins for the Fourth Decennial Conference of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the Commonwealth, Oxford, 29 July 1993. Now in an expanded, fourth edition.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 9th, 2010 at 02:23:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The link is either broken or the publisher is kaput-- I found the little book at Amazon for 9 euros. Would like to download it, but Prickly Paradigm Press seems to have pooped out.
Sounds like it's the sort of thing I'd like.
Thanks.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Jan 12th, 2010 at 03:06:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Original Affluent Society -by Marshall Sahlins

Hunter-gatherers

Hunter-gatherers consume less energy per capita per year than any other group of human beings. Yet when you come to examine it the original affluent society was none other than the hunter's - in which all the people's material wants were easily satisfied. To accept that hunters are affluent is therefore to recognise that the present human condition of man slaving to bridge the gap between his unlimited wants and his insufficient means is a tragedy of modern times.

There are two possible courses to affluence. Wants may be "easily satisfied" either by producing much or desiring little The familiar conception, the Galbraithean way- based on the concept of market economies- states that man's wants are great, not to say infinite, whereas his means are limited, although they can be improved. Thus, the gap between means and ends can be narrowed by industrial productivity, at least to the point that "urgent goods" become plentiful. But there is also a Zen road to affluence, which states that human material wants are finite and few, and technical means unchanging but on the whole adequate. Adopting the Zen strategy, a people can enjoy an unparalleled material plenty - with a low standard of living. That, I think, describes the hunters. And it helps explain some of their more curious economic behaviour: their "prodigality" for example- the inclination to consume at once all stocks on hand, as if they had it made. Free from market obsessions of scarcity, hunters' economic propensities may be more consistently predicated on abundance than our own.

Destutt de Tracy, "fish-blooded bourgeois doctrinaire" though he might have been, at least forced Marx to agree that "in poor nations the people are comfortable", whereas in rich nations, "they are generally poor".

Paradise Lost? Since Jacob stole Esau's birthright? Charles Sellers, in The Market Revolution, noted that while there were numerous stories of whites running away to join Native American societies, there were no stories of Native Americans running away to join white society, and rural, frontier aspects of that white society were far less oppressive in the early and mid 19th century than any that can now be found, save for those that are doing the oppressing.

Talk about twistedness!  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Jan 9th, 2010 at 02:40:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You guys are what keeps me coming back here.
 Every time I think I'm lost in a hall of mirrors, one of you shows me--Sahlins.
Somewhere, in another reality, I read a study that suggested some pretty radical things about "feudalism"- to wit:
The annual hours of labor required to cover your subsistence and your feudal obligations to the principality that collected it's share of the take were far less than the hours we work today, on the average. Mass warfare, as it became a more widely admired action sport, went from the need to equip a few armored dingbats (nights) to impressing herds of cannon fodder, changed the equation, and mercantilism finished it off.
Anyone remember who did the work, or where?

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Jan 10th, 2010 at 03:18:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Zwackus provided the reference to Sahlins.

The Preacher long ago noted: "Every increase in understanding brings forth an increase in sorrow."

I will propose a social corollary: "Every increase in organization brings forth an increase in oppression."

This will remain the case until and unless enough people awaken sufficiently to bring about a change of governing principles from the current, which serve the elites and exploit the citizens, to one that selects elites so as to serve citizens.

Come the day!

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jan 10th, 2010 at 01:07:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Since it has happened before, it can happen again. The source of hope.

One could write a lot of good books on when it happened, and how it slipped away. It's the slipping away part that has been rather neglected, I think.
It occurs to me that the fact that History is strongly colored by the chest-beating of the last ape standing may be changing, and the fact that current events (nascent history) are so thoroughly documented in images and from so many points of view may be the birth of a more real history, rather than it's demise.

Peter Linebaugh and Markus Rediker are a couple old geezers who do their part. Along with Zinn.
"A Many-Headed Hydra"

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Jan 12th, 2010 at 03:41:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a difference between an hour shoveling dung, and an hour of counter at Starbucks. Especially with medical care, you last a lot more hours. Mike Rowe and Dirty Jobs notwithstanding.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!
by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Sun Jan 10th, 2010 at 07:47:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True. Still, my view of the value, or pleasure inherent in, menial work has changed a hell of a lot over the last decade or two. Having lived in both worlds, I'll take the shovel.
The real point is that, for example, the "Dark Ages" were quite different than the story, "The Dark Ages", and may not have really existed at all. The real dark ages were the early industrial revolution.
Wage slavery is a real accepted reality, just has a slick PR package, but is twisting into the old Skinnerian story where, as in WWII, it becomes a moral obligation to sacrifice for the "common victory over the evil terrorist enemy". Too far from the truth to survive?
Dunno.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Jan 12th, 2010 at 02:54:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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