Interesting Article Round-Up

Was Homosexuality Cured?

Robert Heath claimed to have cured homosexuality by implanting electrodes into the pleasure centre of the brain. Robert Colvile reports on one of the great forgotten stories of neuroscience.

… Before being given control of the electrodes, B-19 had been shown a film “displaying heterosexual foreplay and intercourse”. He reacted with anger and revulsion. But then the stimulation sessions started, delivered via the button that felt most pleasurable to him. Over the next few days, he found that it could arouse him, and he would press the button to stimulate himself “to a point that, both behaviorally and introspectively, he was experiencing an almost overwhelming euphoria and elation and had to be disconnected, despite his vigorous protests”. He would hit the button up to 1,500 times over a three-hour session. “He protested each time the unit was taken from him,” said one of the papers, “pleading to self-stimulate just a few more times.” …

Robert Heath is a fascinating scientist, but unfortunately hasn’t been given much historical significance.  It’s strange really, according to the article he had a very wide network and impact on the New Orleans area.

The really compelling part of the article is a little ways in, as it describes the experiments being carried out with the electrodes.  The first experiments were haphazard and the results harrowing:

… The full description is harrowing. At one point, A-10 rakes his face with his hands, squirms, and complains of “going black in the head”, before curling into the fetal position and saying: “I can’t think of nothing when my brain is turning up like that. Oh, no… before I pass out! I don’t want to pass out… Oh, my brain!”

“Suddenly,” writes Berns, “the patient’s voice changes. He screams in a pitch so high it is uninterpretable. Then he starts tearing at his clothes, trying to rip off his shirt, and gets up from the gurney.

“The interviewer says, ‘You’re tearing at your clothes. Do you know you’re tearing at your clothes?’ On the verge of incoherence, in a falsetto voice, the patient screams, ‘I don’t care! I gotta do something! I don’t care. I don’t care!’ Pausing for a moment, he starts to get off the gurney again before yelling, ‘I’m gonna rip you up!’

“Several hands come into view and hold the patient down, tying his hands. ‘Stop!’ the interviewer commands. ‘Stop!’ The patient stares into the camera and hisses, ‘I don’t give a goddamn. I’m gonna kill you. Let me up. I’m gonna kill you and rip you to goddamn shreds!’” …

The idea of buttons to control our brains sounds like something out of science fiction, but there it was in these radical experiments of the past.  It’s eerie and provocative at the same time.

… He tested a ‘brainwashing’ drug called bulbocapnine for the CIA, on both animals and (although he denied it for decades) on a human prisoner, as a small part of the vast and largely illegal ‘MK-ULTRA’ programme to explore the limits and limitations of the American body. …

Probably the biggest reason he has been ‘written out’ is because he was a ‘bad scientist’.  He came under sharp criticisms about the nature of his experiments, and how they were conducted.  They were very haphazard and prone to sensationalism and spectacle.

… Harry Bailey, an Australian doctor who briefly worked with Heath on his electrode studies, accused him of picking out African-Americans for his experiments because, as he put it, “it was cheaper to use niggers than cats… they were everywhere and cheap experimental animals”. The patients would be wired up and given a little box and “just went around, ‘pop, pop, pop’, all the time, continuous orgasms”. A woman called Claudia Mullen even testified before Congress in 1995 that Heath had, when she came to him as a child patient, engaged in all kinds of unethical practices before handing her over to the custody of the CIA, where she was used as a sex slave. He has been accused of mind control, of barbarity, of “Nazi science”, of using prisoners in Charity, Jackson and elsewhere as his playthings. …

Unfortunately, the archives at Tulane and his colleagues are tight lipped.  Further interviews have been declined.

As for homosexuality, the attitude at the time is extremely different than the one we have today.  Even in the last fifteen years the idea of homosexuality as well as the majority attitude towards it has changed dramatically.

I actually believe that homosexuality can come from many different places.  In some I believe it is their very nature, and they don’t have a choice, like Maus.  But in others, I believe it is a part of their psychology and they could change it if they wanted to, it’s just most don’t.  I know for example that I would say my homosexuality was a choice, but it’s not something I’m interested in changing.  To me it seems like the patient beseeched Heath for help with his sexuality in general.

I would be fascinated to have a button on my septal region.

Who Supports Trump?

The New Yorker examines Trump, and his followers.  In one part is an illustration of a Trump follower:

… One such person stays in my memory from a rally in Fountain Hills, Arizona, in March: a solidly built man in his mid-forties, wearing, in the crazy heat, a long-sleeved black shirt, who, as Trump spoke, worked himself into a state of riveted, silent concentration-fury, the rally equivalent of someone at church gazing fixedly down at the pew before him, nodding, Yes, yes, yes. …

People talk about the Trump rallies, particularly as one specific incidence made the news, and how violent they are.  I don’t know if the average sound-bite digesting person really has any idea at how aggressive things at the rallies really can get:

… One of them, Sandra Borchers, tells me that out there all was calm (she was “actually having dialogues” with Trump supporters, “back-and-forth conversations, at about this talking level”) until Trump started speaking. Then things got “violent and aggressive.” Someone threw a rock at her head. …

I get frustrated with people on Facebook who post very biased articles and act like they are the most sane and level-headed things they’ve ever read.  Proclaiming, “If people just read these they’d understand reason and see things my way…”  This article points out:

… In the old days, a liberal and a conservative (a “dove” and a “hawk,” say) got their data from one of three nightly news programs, a local paper, and a handful of national magazines, and were thus starting with the same basic facts (even if those facts were questionable, limited, or erroneous). Now each of us constructs a custom informational universe, wittingly (we choose to go to the sources that uphold our existing beliefs and thus flatter us) or unwittingly (our app algorithms do the driving for us). The data we get this way, pre-imprinted with spin and mythos, are intensely one-dimensional. …

In the Who Are They? section of this article, the author unravels the commonalities of many supporters.  He also offers a picture of a more sane Trump supporter.  Trump supporters have boggled my mind, I can’t understand what they could possibly see in the man.  This was somewhat enlightening to me.

… The ability to shrug off the mean crack, the sexist joke, the gratuitous jab at the weak is, in some quarters, seen as a form of strength, of “being flexible,” of “not taking shit serious.” A woman who wilts at a sexist joke won’t last long in certain workplaces. A guy who prioritizes the sensitive side of his nature will, trust me, not thrive in the slaughterhouse. This willingness to gloss over crudeness becomes, then, an encoded sign of competence, strength, and reliability. …

I am astounded at the people who support Trump.  But, I tend to take things in a very literal fashion, and see things in a very black and white sort of way.  Allegedly that’s part of the condition, but it’s one I live with.  It’s served me well so far.  So it’s not odd that I had not considered:

… So, yes, there are bigots in the Trump movement, and wackos, and dummies, and sometimes I had to remind myself that the important constituency is the persuadable middle segment of his supporters, who are not finding in Trump a suitable vessel for their hate but are misunderstanding him or overestimating him, and moving in his direction out of a misplaced form of hope. …

I have asked this question on Facebook… and the response was underwhelming:

… I have been mentally gathering all those nice, friendly Trump supporters I met and asking them, Still? Even after the Curiel fiasco and the post-Orlando self-congrat fest, and Trump’s insinuation that President Obama was in cahoots with the terrorists? Guys, still, really? …

All in all Mailer sums it up pretty nice as quoted in the article:

… Mailer described what he called democracy’s “terrifying premise” this way: “Let the passions and cupidities and dreams and kinks and ideals and greed and hopes and foul corruptions of all men and women have their day and the world will still be better off, for there is more good than bad in the sum of us and our workings.” …

Multi-Tasking?  It’s A Brain Drain…

Maus is going to hate this one.  He is the ultimate ‘multi-tacker’, though I have tried to poke holes in this façade.  I’ve explained to him that he graded papers three times as slow when he had his computer with him than when he didn’t.  I’ve pointed out that he gets some stuff done faster when he isn’t distracted, but he never seems to believe me.  Or that, he doesn’t care, or that he wants it this way.  What am I to do with that?  However, the funny part of this article was this:

… Gloria Mark, professor in the department of informatics at the University of California, Irvine, says that when people are interrupted, it typically takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to their work, and most people will do two intervening tasks before going back to their original project. This switching leads to a build up of stress, she says, and so little wonder people who have high rates of neuroticism, impulsivity, and are susceptible to stress tend to switch tasks more than others. …

Maus just doesn’t seem that neurotic, impulsive, or stressed.  Maybe there is a thing to his thinking, but personally, I just can’t handle it.  I have to focus on everything I’m doing, and I often set aside hours to do things… just those things.  Well, if Maus is happy with his brain glucose levels, then who am I to judge?  But… a scary prospect is such:

… Marks also believes that technology can help protect against its own distractions, such as software interfaces that force users to take breaks every couple of hours. …

ADHD: What Are We Doing To Our Children?

Growing up I saw a lot of people prescribed medication for a diagnosis known as ADHD.  ADHD is a real issue and a real illness, as one of my best friends was plagued with awkward ADHD growing up.  But, when is prescribing medication a good thing, and when is it a bad thing?  I’ve worried about the number of cases where this medication has been used and what effect it was going to have on the future.  This article provides a bit of a snapshot of that eventual future.

… Diller wrote Running on Ritalinhis first book, during a frenzied boom in stimulant prescriptions in the mid-’90s. From 1990 to 1998 — the year in which the book was published — the number of children and adults diagnosed with ADHD rose from about 900,000 to nearly five million nationwide, he wrote. By the time his fourth book, Remembering Ritalin, was published in 2011, at least 6 percent of children in the United States between the ages of four and 17 were being medicated for ADHD. The phenomenon concerned him deeply. Diller felt the medical and mental-health communities were understating or outright ignoring the addictive nature of prescription stimulants and their high potential for abuse among those aged 14 and older. Just as alarming was what seemed like a steep rise in ADHD diagnoses and stimulant prescriptions nationwide — particularly given how little was known about the long-term effects of the drugs. “It was appalling, just appalling, what was going on with the medical industry and the drug companies,” he says. …

I’d consult my best friend about his experiences with the medication (I don’t think he’s taking them anymore, but I have no idea) but unfortunately, I don’t talk to him anymore.  That’s part of my condition myself, but it’s the way things are… and I’m not really motivated to change them.

… Medication may be the easiest way to treat ADHD, but it is not the only way, nor is it necessarily the most effective way, at least not when it is the sole form of treatment. The fact is, even after more than half a century of prescribing stimulants for hyperactivity, the national medical communities still don’t agree on the best approach to treating ADHD. …

Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock Represents!

… More than 40 years ago, Alvin Toffler, a writer who had fashioned himself into one of the first futurists, warned that the accelerating pace of technological change would soon make us all sick. He called the sickness “future shock,” which he described in his totemic book of the same name, published in 1970. …

I’ve actually read this book, many years ago.  It is an interesting read, and if you’re interested in it the link in the quote will take you directly to Amazon to purchase it.  There are many things Alvin Toffler predicted, though often in vague terms, such as today’s night clubs, or the methods of e-learning that have cropped up in recent years.

What I found the most interesting was the idea of Future Shock though.  It reminded me of that Family Guy episode where Peter makes fun of middle-aged fathers by para-phrasing, “And I throw the ball too hard because the world confuses me and doesn’t make sense anymore…”  Ever feel like thew world is leaving you behind?  (Don’t let it get to you, you might become a Trump supporter!  Just a joke, see above.)  Or that, you just can’t make sense of how anything works anymore?  You might just have Future Shock!

I also remember a man I met because of this book.  Maus and I were sitting in Silver Mine talking about Toffler and his book, and this man named Neville interrupted us and started talking to us about his experiences with futurists when he was growing up.  He linked them to pedophilia and told us some interesting stories.  Neville is interesting because he self-professedly “dropped out of society.”  I have no idea where he lives, but he wanders around the city at odd hours stopping in at various parts just to hang out.

… In Mr. Toffler’s coinage, future shock wasn’t simply a metaphor for our difficulties in dealing with new things. It was a real psychological malady, the “dizzying disorientation brought on by the premature arrival of the future.” And “unless intelligent steps are taken to combat it,” he warned, “millions of human beings will find themselves increasingly disoriented, progressively incompetent to deal rationally with their environments.” …

But has this evolved to future blindness?

… In many large ways, it’s almost as if we have collectively stopped planning for the future. Instead, we all just sort of bounce along in the present, caught in the headlights of a tomorrow pushed by a few large corporations and shaped by the inescapable logic of hyper-efficiency — a future heading straight for us. It’s not just future shock; we now have future blindness. …

Futurism is an amazing field. At one point it garnered a lot of attention and support.  The government even had a body dedicated to examining the future effects of laws… then it started becoming hokey-pokey:

… Futurism’s reputation for hucksterism became self-fulfilling as people who called themselves futurists made and sold predictions about products, and went on the conference circuit to push them. Long-term thinking became associated with the sort of new-agey “thinkfluencers” who hung out at TED and Davos, and who went by names like Shingy and Faith Popcorn. Futurism became a joke, not a science. …

In the end Newt Gingrich shut down the government agency.  It is rather unfortunate, as the article relates:

… “It is ridiculous that the United States is one of the only nations of our size and scope in the world that no longer has an office that is dedicated to rigorous, nonpartisan research about the future,” Ms. Webb said. “The fact that we don’t do that is insane.” …

Books Mentioned In This Post:

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kadar

I'm just a wunk, trying to enjoy life. I am a cofounder of http//originalpursuitssoc.com/ and I like computers, code, creativity, and friends.

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