“How does the brain go beyond processing information to become subjectively aware of information? The answer is: It doesn’t…In this theory, awareness is not an illusion. It’s a caricature. Something — attention — really does exist, and awareness is a distorted accounting of it.” NYT: Are We Really Conscious?
in 1996 or so i saw noted biologist E.O. Wilson give a talk in which he said we would soon see the signs that we are in midst of the next mass extinction and that not many species would make it through. to him the evidence was clear ( and even him admitted ) and a bit of a bummer. now almost 20 years later, new research published in science confirms we are in earth’s sixth mass extinction and “…more broadly, it suggests that if we are unable to end or reverse the rate of their loss, it will mean more for our own future than a broken heart or an empty forest.” understated to say the least. [ via dangerousmeta ]
neonicotinoid the class of the insecticides linked with colony collapse disorder through a growing body of research including a smoking gun molecular mechanism are now being investigated by the european food safety authority which suspects “two neonicotinoid insecticides – acetamiprid and imidacloprid – may affect the developing human nervous system…” how common are they? the USDA “…has detected imidacloprid on roughly 22 percent of the conventionally grown produce samples it tested.” 60% of broccoli! the president of the ottawa river institute has written a great article on how neonicotinoid are used and other adverse effects. maybe a good time to go re-read the excellent UN report recommending that we “Wake Up Before it is Too Late” and transform global agriculture with less dependence on fertilizer and other inputs and by supporting small-scale farmers and strong local food systems. ( relatedly, new research shows nitrates from fertilizer overuse slowly leach into groundwater for at least 5 decades which is much longer than previously assumed ).
reinforcing research which concluded we have grossly underestimated both the scope and the scale of animal intelligence and dogs are as conscious as human children, australian professors echo the theory of multiple intelligences and report that humans are not smarter than animals, just different. indeed new reptilian research suggests that “… “intelligence” may be more widely distributed through the animal kingdom than had been imagined…” and even the lowly insects can can learn to recognize human faces.
the harvard business review blog covers research from the university of sydney that finds that, “…enclosed private offices clearly outperformed open-plan layouts…” the guardian has better headline writers with their coverage of the study, “Open-plan offices were devised by Satan in the deepest caverns of hell”. the findings support previous research which found, “…collaboration-friendly environment with minimal cubicle separations “proved ineffective if the ability to focus was not also considered,” according to a new study by the design firm Gensler. “When focus is compromised in pursuit of collaboration, neither works well.”” if only robert probst inventor of the cubicle could see the current open office designs. he died regretting his contribution to what he considered a “monolithic insanity.”
panpsychism is not exactly a new theory but neuroscientist christof koch has been refining the idea with three decades of research and concludes that consciousness arises within any sufficiently complex, information-processing system. relatedly, “google no longer understands how its “deep learning” decision-making computer systems have made themselves so good at recognizing things in photos.”
the “right brained/left brained” lay theory of brain lateralization has been on the ropes for awhile and the results of a new two year study confirm that there is no such thing as ‘right-brained’ or ‘left-brained’ personality types. maybe the title to “drawing on the right side of the brain” (which is a great book regardless of the limits of it’s central metaphor ) should be changed to drawing on the top of the brain. whether right or left or top or bottom, all the current brain theories you can imagine are deeply linked to the the computational metaphor which is, of course, merely a metaphor.
studies show that people with long commutes( 45-90 minutes ) are 40% more likely to divorce and have to earn 40% more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to work. while the average commute in the U.S. is 25.4 minutes, 8% of workers have a 60 minute or longer commute and 3% have 90 minute or longer commute with a quarter of the extreme commuters living in the Washington D.C. area. it would be interesting to research the effects of unpredictable commutes on divorce rates and pay.
update: important clarification, earning more money doesn’t create more satisfaction, it
previous research has indicated we have grossly underestimated both the scope and the scale of animal intelligence so i suppose it should come as no surprise ( and certainly no surprise to “dog people” ) that brain scans show that dogs are as conscious as human children. original article, “dogs are people, too”. no word on cats but i’m not holding my breath there’s intelligent life to be found in the cat world ( i jest! ).
the topic of woman in computing and the gender gap is so established and recognized that it has its own long and detailed wikipedia entry which somehow fails to mention the irony that programming in particular was viewed as “lowly”, feminine, clerical work and most early computer programmers were women. the programming field was once stereotyped as female. a researcher reveals how “computer geeks” replaced “computer girls” and now women make 49 cents for every dollar men make in silicon valley.