Challenges of (some areas of) neurological diversity

A few days ago, I saw a neuroscientist whose name I won’t mention tweet about the “dark triad”, which is not an existing condition but an old-fashioned police term that works well in books and films.

He followed it up with a tweet on “snakes in suits”.

If he was someone’s abused husband, I would have understood, but coming from a scientist who is supposed to be working toward greater understanding and solutions, it was disappointing.

And I haven’t even mentioned yet that he was talking within the context of women and attraction, (not in a scientific way).

“Hollywood here I come” he may have been thinking?

Neurodiversity is a multidimensional space. It includes autism, dyslexia and synesthesia, but also whether you are good at languages or music or maths.

The videos below give you an idea of some of the more challenging aspects of neurodiversity.

There is a TED talk in which a neuroscientist mentions that psychopathy can result from being exposed to too much of certain chemicals (hormones) during pregnancy (in utero). (If someone can tell me which TED talk it is, I’d be grateful. I’ve been trying to find it again. I think it may have had a New Zealand connection or something like that. It was a talk by a man.)

There are also indications that psychopathy can result from severe child abuse.

Some people will read this as an “excuse” and will say that not everyone who has a horrific childhood will go on to do terrible things, which is true, of course.

Repetitive horrific abuse – cruelty – can affect a very young, developing brain. Does not have to.

It is also true that some psychopaths make up that they were abused, scientists who know about this stuff say.

The good news is that we used to think that neurons were not capable of healing or even forming after a certain age (young adulthood). That is not true.

The science and medical knowledge of the brain have lagged behind on the science and medicine of other organs, but are catching up.

That the brain has much greater plasticity than we were aware of may mean that one day we will be able to fix broken brains. Not by stuffing people with pills but by stimulating the brain to do things differently.

We are all our biology. I cannot even order my brain to become a speaker of fluent French or Spanish overnight or turn myself into a composer. I am fairly neurotypical (boring, yes) and I cannot order myself to wake up with a psychopathic brain. So why do we keep expecting the reverse?

There is, however, a lot of great stuff we will learn and be able to do with the brain in the future and that will be good news for all of us.

Warning: These videos contain triggers, notably the fourth one.

This last guy, he intuitively and instantly gives me the creeps. That is not the kind of guy I would ever want to encounter anywhere. That is the kind of condition we clearly urgently need to find solutions for.

Perhaps we will one day be able to diagnose those particular children at birth and coax their brains into forming the parts that contain compassion and “brakes” in neurotypicals.

If you wonder why I talk about this kind of stuff, well, I learned a few things the hard way after I came to the U.K. and I am still learning a lot the hard way, not necessarily always because I choose to but because I have to.

In addition, I’m often driven by scientific curiosity and I like learning more. The more you learn, the more questions you have.

I found that a lot of the problems with some forms of neurodiversity seem to be created by neurotypicals, just like society has created many hindrances for people who use wheelchairs and mobility scooters but also because we have bad mental health hygiene.

We brush our teeth obediently, but we don’t do much for our mental health. If people with narcissistic personality disorders (NPD, which is not the same as being called a narcissist) can knock us off our feet so easily, maybe we neurotypicals could look into how we could become a bit more stable.

People with NPD are always on an emotional seesaw, as far as I can tell. One little thing we say or do can cause them to start lashing out at us verbally because what we did or said undermines their sense of security.

We neurotypicals could learn how not to get flustered by someone else’s verbal torrents, perhaps. We could learn how to observe those verbal torrents as if it were the tide rolling in or out or the breeze making the leaves of a tree rustle.

Instead, we feed the torrent and sustain it and reinforce it.

(You can see this in “I, psychopath”.)

I know that these are very easy words to write but hard to put into practice for most people.

A second type of problem is also created by neurotypicals. If you watch “I, psychopath”, you will eventually get to a section in which Sam Vaknin explains what he did to the son of a holocaust survivor. A child. It was a form of what is known as sadistic stalking.

Even if you’re an adult victim, if you try to explain this kind of experience, you are the one who will be considered the problem. That way, society victimises the victims further and rewards and supports psychopathic behaviours.

Now you may need to watch this:

Experiences are personal

It is easy to think that many males may have a habit of invalidating women’s experiences.

But what also sometimes happens is that some takes another person’s experience and wants to own it, define it, take it away and completely bulldozers over the other person’s experience.

A few days ago, I saw a post online about some confusion about children who are merely young being “diagnosed” as having ADHD.

Another one of these “FFS!” moments.

Those naughty naughty kids! How dare they and oh, how incredibly SMART of the researchers in question to see that young children were  being put in boxes and being accused of having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.</sarcasm>

In the same discussion, I saw an educational psychologist moan about the difficulty of properly diagnosing children in a way that really annoyed me, but mostly in hindsight (as went for the topic of the discussion).

I have meanwhile identified why the comment annoyed me so much.

There was zero attention for the children, or even for only one child, in the comment. It was all about this psychologist’s need to be able to put children in the appropriate boxes.

If you do that, you steal a child’s experience and make it your own, to serve you. It focuses on what you need, not on what the child needs.

In doing so, you deny the child its own experiences, don’t you? You tell the child that his or her experiences don’t matter, as long as people get to put the child into a box, that that is all that matters.

To some degree, you are robbing the child of its own childhood.

The fact that children are being misdiagnosed as having “ADHD” because they are young almost seems to indicate that there is no such thing as ADHD and that people (psychologists?) are looking for problems that aren’t there.

Maybe they do that so that they can ignore more difficult problems that do exist. Why else would adults, and notably psychologists, do something as bonkers as this?

Or maybe it means that psychology is an utterly useless profession.

Maybe it means that standardized designer babies really are around the corner, with the option of creating children who never fidget and never run around and never dance or jump or scream.

(Just tossin’ a few options around.)

Not all scientific and technological progress is good

I am currently benefiting greatly from n-acetylcysteine (NAC), a substance that was developed not much later than the drug thalidomide talked about in the video below. NAC was patented in 1960 and launched onto the market in 1968.

Now watch the video. Graphic WWII images. Viewer discretion required.

I am posting this because it is time for everyone to start asking many more questions and developing and spreading their own opinions about the use of techniques like CRISPR, without instantly being called a luddite.

 

 

 

Poverty damages children

In my inbox this morning, as part of BPS Research Digest, an overview of the effects of poverty.

The British Psychological Society:

https://digest.bps.org.uk/2019/12/03/the-psychological-impacts-of-poverty-digested/

Turns out that poverty can be really bad for children, ruin their chances in life. I talk about this in my course, in the lecture on whether it is better to be tall than to be short. The factor that makes the real difference appears to be childhood nutrition.

But not only can poverty affect your brain, it also often makes other people treat you as if you aren’t a fully-fledged human being. Many belittle you or even ridicule you – and that does not help, in my experience. It does not help when the message “you’re stupid, you’re stupid, you’re stupid” gets hammered home over and over and over again.

There is this blind assumption, for example, that if you visit a foodbank, you can’t possibly have anything to contribute to society. After all, you’re “stupid”.

The fact that you’re poor is not the result of how “stupid” you are.

It’s the result of luck, or rather, its absence, as I’ve posted before. Pure chance. Poverty can be the result of having tripped over that wobbly pavement tile. (Or a hacker. Or a disgruntled employee.)

 

“Led by donkeys” has finally come to Portsmouth!

https://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/politics/boris-johnson-seeks-to-heal-wounds-after-calling-portsmouth-a-city-full-of-drugs-and-obesity-in-infamous-insult-1-8978726

https://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/politics/new-prime-minister-boris-johnson-faces-fresh-call-to-say-sorry-to-portsmouth-after-calling-the-city-full-of-drugs-and-obesity-1-9010776

MP slammed over ‘fat city’ slur
Outspoken Conservative MP Boris Johnson has been criticised for labelling Portsmouth as a city full of drugs and obesity.
The comments were made in Mr Johnson’s motor column in men’s magazine, GQ.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hampshire/6521603.stm

I had already been adding my own version.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1200355500363321345

Boris Johnson:

“Shut this down! Shut this down!”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_gestures

https://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/top-stories/boris-johnson-cut-off-gesture-to-nick-ferrari-1-6400780

I refer you to my previous post. Britain has a massive amount of deep poverty. A shocking level of poverty for a western country. Many of those people are chronically ill or disabled. Was it their fault that they weren’t born with a diamond-crusted golden spoon in their mouth?

Boris Johnson (my translation):

“Fuck those many millions of people, and fuck their kids too. It is simply too easy to make money off them for ourselves if we keep them poor, so for god’s sake, let’s keep them poor and powerless.”

And stupid and blinkered, Mr Johnson?

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_care_in_England

I repeat, social care is for:

children or adults in need or at risk, or adults with needs arising from illness, disability, old age or poverty

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Does your company benefit the world?

The UK has a particularly extreme form of capitalism, I read this morning. Is this news to you? It wasn’t for me.

These are the views of Colin Mayer, the author of a report on the future of “the corporation”. He is a professor at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.

According to him, various global crises such as the disastrous impact our activities have on our own habitat and the increasing inequality, certainly in the UK, are forcing us to remind ourselves what the purpose of business is.

To make money?

No.

If you go back in history, you will find that business as well as money once began as a way to address our basic needs.

Take the case of Peter, who was great at making boots and Carla, who was very skilled at catching fish, whereas Paul, Jenny and Chris had a wonderful apple orchard.

People particularly needed boots in the winter, but when lakes and rivers are frozen, fish can be harder to catch and you won’t see many apples on trees in mid-winter.

So instead of all these people needing to do all of these things, Peter would give a pair of boots to Carla, Paul, Jenny and Chris who promised to provide Peter with fish and apples.

And instead of all of these people needing to remember who they promised to provide with boots, apples and fish later, they came up with little notes they handed each other and that is part of the story of how money came about.

As a maker of boots I could, for example, exchange a promise of a basket of apples from Jenny for a promise of a catch of fish, if I had my own apple trees, but my neighbour didn’t but my neighbour had a cousin who was an excellent fisherman. So my neighbour could then take the note to Jenny and receive “my” basket of apples.

This is also part of the story of how the concept of business came about.

You began a business because you were good at something and dedicated and you were providing something worthwhile to everyone around you.

At some point in the past, this mechanism became increasingly skewed, particularly in the west, which had this great urge to impose its ways and views on people in other parts of the world as THE way to live, the ONLY way to live.

Many members of indigenous tribes around the world would disagree, I bet.

Capitalism. The accumulation of goods and money for the sake of accumulation, at any cost.

The cost turned out to be that we are slowly but surely making our own habitat unsuitable for human life.

Sure, we have become better at beating old-fashioned infectious diseases, but we have also been boosting an increasing number of new and old afflictions of which the incidence is increasing.

We have a global depression epidemic, which is a major cause of “disability”.

The various kinds of air pollution we unleashed are making an increasing number of people ill in all sorts of ways, and it does not just concern respiratory health.

Bioethics experts who suggest tweaking asthma genes to curb only one aspect of this are hopelessly out of touch with reality, partly as a result of a major flaw in their logic, namely linear thinking. “If I press this button, the ceiling light will go on. If I press this button again, the ceiling light will go off.”

The cost also includes modern slavery. Millions of people and millions of children are slaves. You can find them working at hotels and at universities, among other places. They’re all around you.

We don’t notice them because hey, extreme capitalism is the only right way to live, right? So we have learned to accept these costs as unavoidable collateral damage.

So we are increasingly making more money so that increasingly more money can and has to be spent on dealing with the problems caused by the business of making more money. That is the real circular economy.

But these costs to people, to the planet and to its many other inhabitants are not inevitable.

Is it hard to turn this tsunami of destructive business approaches around? Oh yeah.

But the tiny house and van life movements are proving that extreme capitalist views are crushing people, and are no longer contributing much to our lives.

The tiny house movement and the van life movement are also sparking new businesses that cater to these movements but don’t buy into the dogma of extreme capitalism.

So, if you want to put sanity back into your business, what should you do?

Differentiate yourself. Don’t blindly do what your government tells you to do and consider that enough. Don’t meekly follow everyone else’s example in your industry. Set the standard higher for yourself.

This also goes for local government. City councils and county councils.

Lead.

Fight, flight or freeze

You often hear people mention the biological fight-or-flight response to all sorts of threats and how this still keeps kicking in now that most threats in our modern lives are no longer physical, which means that the action-readiness – to fight the sabertooth tiger or run away from it – never gets converted into physical activity.

That’s what often causes a great deal of unhealthy stress, the kind that sets these destructive biochemical cascades in action that are so hard to stop. That is also one reason why it is good for people to exercise and to dance, particularly the way Meredith Grey and her friends used to do on Grey’s Anatomy when their stress levels had become too high.

Shake it off, shake it off, oh oh.

A few days ago, I read that freezing is a third option in that same scenario, as part of that same old mechanism.

Freezing is something that politicians and business leaders often do when they’re under attack. When people sling mud at them. They stick their heads in the sand, pretend nothing is happening and wait for the problem to blow over.

It does not come across as strong and noble, does it? And it is not wise from a PR perspective either.

Most of us prefer to be action heroes of one kind or another.

But I can’t help but wonder whether the freeze response could be less stressful for the body. It probably does not prime the body for action as much as the fighting or fleeing response does.

Freezing is a state of physical paralysis, though, so it also strikes me as one of powerlessness. Is it also one of less awareness? I am not prone to freezing, but the one time in my life that I did freeze, which was in my teenage years, people had to push and pull me into physical activity.

Yeah, it comes across as negative, as less powerful, but if you work with it and learn to use it as an alternative to the usual fight-or-flight response, you may end up having the calm of a zen Buddhist when everyone else is running around like headless chickens and stay healthier. (That is not the same as sticking your head in the sand and pretending it isn’t happening.)

That takes time to develop, though.

So in the meantime, dance. It is either that or cry.

I just realized that this – dancing it out – has probably kept me sane for decades because I probably already did this as a teenager. I danced with headphones on at all hours, also cheerfully exercised to music at all hours. I started running when I was still in primary school.

I stopped doing both of them some years ago. Not good.

 

 

Why Britain is doomed

Because many rich Brits are callous, break the law and lie just about non-stop, many Brits who were not born with a silver spoon in the mouth believe that in order to be financially secure, you have to be callous, break the law and lie just about non-stop.

Financially secure = being able to support yourself, buy food, heat your home, clothe yourself and look after other basic needs and not have to live in fear and stress and poverty.

I can take a short-cut here and say that many Brits who were not born with a silver spoon in the mouth believe that in order to be financially secure you have to be a proper Tory.

But success is not about spinning as many lies as you can and screwing as many people as you can and getting away with it.

Lying does not make you smart or clever. It makes you dishonest.

Brits lie a heck of a lot. (In ways that disadvantage others, I mean.) It was one of the first things I learned after I moved to the UK and one of the biggest disappointments. How this began? I was supposed to have a working landline and broadband set up when I got here in December 2004, but the same people who had repeatedly lied to me about the letter that they had supposedly sent to me in August or September had lied about that too. I’ll spare you details.

(I’d set up “Reliability r us” to deal with some of this, except nobody here would believe me.)

Skip forward.

This morning, I saw a video on Twitter showing an aggressive thug in a black hoodie, a Tory MP who was going on about problem tenants (the kind of person he came across as, in my view).

He was referring to people who make the lives of other tenants around them very unpleasant. While I know from my personal experience that some tenants in Britain get set up by others so that they acquire an undeserved reputation for being problem tenants – if you have connections in the police, you’re golden – but some tenants really do make the lives of other tenants around them very difficult.

Criminalising everyone involved – which Tony Blair introduced, I believe – or turning them into slaves as Lee Anderson proposed is clearly not the solution.

This afternoon, I received an e-mail from “Generation Rent” in which this had been twisted into a different truth, with no links in the e-mail (although the Daily Mirror was mentioned), as follows:

That quotation is correct and disgusting. (I haven’t checked it word for word, but it does ring true.)

However, “Generation Rent” had twisted this into a story about all tenants (people who pay rent instead of mortgages).

That is a lie and that is just as disgusting as when Tories do this kind of stuff.

He had not been “caught” either. He had made a video, deliberately.

In addition, Generation Rent was asking tenants to go talk to the local political candidates and added:

That sounded pretty patronizing to me and also as potential undue influencing or coercion. Mind you, I would NOT have thought that at all if I had not spotted how they had spun the Lee Anderson thing, in proper Tory style (and that would not have happened if I hadn’t caught that video on Twitter this morning).

I wrote to them and got a load of hogwash about homelessness that did not sound sincere.

So who is Generation Rent?

Fucking hell. Does that mean that it is a commercial outfit wanting to win property management contracts??? Or what?

No, that is not what they are but why the hell are they trying to emulate Tories?

So many people here are trying so hard to be a good Tory without realizing it!

I refer back to the start of this post.

(Generation Rent contacted me a while back, asking me if I wanted to speak to a journalist. It’s probably good that I didn’t reply. Also, I don’t think that I could have contributed anything useful. For starters, I am a migrant. Migrants only make up a small proportion of the renters in Britain, so my input wouldn’t have been highly representative.)

Brits have to learn how to set their own moral compass and stop following the Tories as examples for what to do and how to behave in order to be “successful”.

Until that happens, Britain is doomed.

 

See? I knew it! (Or: Why the UK’s class system is stupid?)

You’re not stupid or flawed. You merely weren’t lucky.

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/610395/if-youre-so-smart-why-arent-you-rich-turns-out-its-just-chance/

Goes for scientists too.

“The team studied three models, in which research funding is distributed equally to all scientists; distributed randomly to a subset of scientists; or given preferentially to those who have been most successful in the past. Which of these is the best strategy?

The strategy that delivers the best returns, it turns out, is to divide the funding equally among all researchers. And the second- and third-best strategies involve distributing it at random to 10 or 20 percent of scientists.

In these cases, the researchers are best able to take advantage of the serendipitous discoveries they make from time to time. In hindsight, it is obvious that the fact a scientist has made an important chance discovery in the past does not mean he or she is more likely to make one in the future.”

Need a chuckle? (sorry – but it’s funny)

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What is wrong with Poole, Christchurch and Bournemouth

Its council – along with at least 59 more in the UK, so I understand – treats the results of the UK government’s enduring efforts to push and keep as many people as possible in deep poverty as “antisocial behaviour” on the part of people who live in poverty.

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What “minor gangsters” and “Chinese bodies” have in common

They are one of “them”. A mere observation. (I have no solutions.)

The “minor gangsters” were Irish musicians and about half of the “Chinese” were Vietnamese, apparently.

(Rory Stewart sees himself as the future mayor of London. I don’t.)

I appreciate the gesture Essex Police made – bowing their heads and taking their hats off – though. We need more of that. Even if was done for PR reasons, it still sends the same message to society.

Tragedy, grief and resilience – not pity

I posted this video when I reached 5:39 and I’d already said “Yeah!” several times! People sometimes truly suffocate others to death with all their pity, with their stifling doom-and-gloom predictions, stopping them from moving on.

But the opposite happens too, of course.

Only you can determine how you will overcome something that happened to you and what the appropriate time for grieving is.

A psychologist, a long time ago, noticed that I seem to be pretty good at what this talk tells me is “benefit finding” (looking for the silver lining, the plus, no matter what it is). “You’re a true survivor!”, she exclaimed. It felt good to be told something like that. And it’s another thing to be grateful for, too.

One of my weaknesses may be that I get bogged down when I pay too much attention to people who tell me that I should be stressed or miserable or worried (or worse, that I am not worthy and should be ashamed or embarrassed over something). You’re supposed to talk about how bad things are. Not about what’s good and nice and wonderful, and fine and cool and okay.

You’re considered silly and childish and immature when you still see the wonderful in little things.

Benefit finding is one of the things Brits aren’t good at, at all, because what they call “whingeing” (an exclusively British word) is part of their culture. (British culture is a strange thing. I’ve learned that some of its peculiarities have resulted from the Brits or English wanting to follow the stoics, which somehow turned in people not acknowledging their own emotions but pushing them down and pretending that what happened didn’t really happen. Many Brits are not very good at relaxing and just being, but this also seems to go for many Americans these days, in a different way.)

The third trait that she mentions I find much harder (but I wrote this at the beginning of when she started explaining it). It’s not always clear in advance whether something is going to harm you or help you (such as, in her case, go to the trial). My solution for that? I ask myself if there is at least one good thing that I can get from it. This can be simply “satisfying my curiosity”.

Some people may call me naive when I give something (or someone) the benefit of the doubt, for the mere sake of finding out whether I was wrong or right about something (or someone). I sometimes attend events that I don’t think will bring me anything at all – just to see if perhaps I was wrong about that. And sometimes, I end up being wonderfully surprised by what I find. The unexpected. At other times, it brings me some form of learning.

I’ve forgotten what the first trait was that she mentioned, so that didn’t resonate strongly with me.

Can YOU still justify supporting Facebook?

Facebook has just added one more feat to its long history of appallingly unethical actions.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/oct/04/facebook-exempts-political-ads-ban-making-false-claims

It began with the mood manipulation experiments for which the affected users had given no consent.

I thought that this would have major consequences for Facebook.

I was wrong. People just shrugged. They made fusses over Starbucks instead.

So Facebook took it further and further. It meddled in the US elections. It meddled in the UK’s Brexit referendum (the Cambridge Analytica scandal). Its boss gave governments the finger by not showing up for hearings. It paid kids to give it access to their entire digital lives.

And now this. Can you still justify using Facebook (and Instagram, and WhatsApp)?

I can’t.

 

Be like water

Part of the zen approach to life is to be like water, to go with the flow (and not see yourself as the water drop but as part of the water). Water can be gentle and soothing or powerful and instantly destructive, but the gentle trickle can accomplish lasting change – as any limestone can tell you – while the destruction wreaked by loud manifestations of water often gets repaired pretty quickly.

Water adapts to its surroundings, takes the shape of what it finds, does not insist on being anything else.

I know (of) someone who is like the sea, made up of many individual waves of dark and light, among and under which many sea creatures play and lurk. He sees himself aptly as a work of art, of light and shadow. The brain is infinitely more fascinating than beauty, he says, as beauty fades and changes and loses its appeal, but the workings of the brain continue to intrigue.

Most people, however, only get to see the cute little seal who waves one of his flippers at them, and are oblivious to the rest of him. What they don’t know either is that he does not choose to be this way. It is simply what he is and like water, he goes with the flow, adapting himself to the circumstances, but he is also the rock in the middle of the stream that watches and influences the flow of the water around him.

Throughout my life, I have found that in times of turbulence, most people around you will rapidly flow away along the path of least resistance to seek easier surroundings. (I said “most people”, as not all will do this.)

When all you have to rely on is yourself, you may have to be like the rock and not allow yourself to be swept away or swept along. This, then, will cause sand grains and pebbles and smaller rocks to snuggle up, finding shelter behind you, in your wake, for a while.

We’re all like the water and like the rock at times, and at other times, we have no choice but to be like the pebble that seeks shelter behind the rock to get some rest and recuperate.

Eventually, each rock turns into smaller rocks, then pebbles, then sand grains, only to be turned into massive rock again later. And then the cycle repeats itself.

We are all different, yet we are also all really the same.

From the Tao Te Ching:

The supreme good is like water,
which benefits all of creation
without trying to compete with it.
It gathers in unpopular places.
Thus it is like the Tao.

The location makes the dwelling good.
Depth of understanding makes the mind good.
A kind heart makes the giving good.
Integrity makes the government good.
Accomplishment makes your labors good.
Proper timing makes a decision good.

Only when there is no competition
will we all live in peace.

Also from the Tao Te Ching:

Water is the softest and most yielding substance.
Yet nothing is better than water,
for overcoming the hard and rigid,
because nothing can compete with it.

Everyone knows that the soft and yielding
overcomes the rigid and hard,
but few can put this knowledge into practice.

Therefore the Master says:
“Only he who is the lowest servant of the kingdom,
is worthy to become its ruler.
He who is willing to tackle the most unpleasant tasks,
is the best ruler in the world.”

True sayings seem contradictory.

Send this man a birthday greeting, please

Thanks.

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The vilification of pigeons

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-49256251

Anyone who has one or more pet pigeons can tell you that assuming that pigeons poop all over the place, non-stop, is just as ridiculous as assuming that humans poop all over the place, non-stop.

We are a mammal species. 

We took pigeons from their (sub)tropical sea cliffs and spread them all over the world. Pigeons are immensely intelligent creatures. In many ways, they are smarter and more capable than humans.

In addition, birds have been on the planet immensely much longer than humans, and look what WE have done to the planet. Here are two must-watch documentaries:

An interesting watch

Prior to this, I knew a little bit about Aaron Swartz. That little bit probably boils down to “i knew the name, and knew it was something tragic, but I thought he was a HACKER”.

That it turned wrong for him after downloading tons from JSTOR – JSTOR, people! – was news to me, and I find myself deeply shocked and taken aback. If we continue to do this kind of thing to bright people, what the hell are we doing to the world? So let’s applaud the bright youngsters instead of criminalize them just because they are smarter than most of us.

Certainly still in the days that pertain to the stuff that was in JStor, the scientific publishing situation was even more dramatic than this documentary reveals. Scientists often had to PAY to publish their articles AND they still had to hand over copyright too, usually.

The institutions that produced the research were paying large sums of money to give their scientists access to the damn databases, too. (This was my job for a while and just about each year, some journals had to be axed for budget reasons.) Many scientists and most students working at universities were and probably still are not aware of this at all.

As a self-employed person carrying out studies for others, I’d run up costs of up to EUR/USD 2000, off the top of my head, just for access to databases and papers, for a decent-sized study. I had paid access to Ingenta and to STN (probably still do). Jstor was a minor player, operating in the fringes, as it only had back issues, no current papers, and not that many journals (and I seem to remember that many or most of them were free, too).

Though scientists having to pay to publish – on top of peer review and everything – has been decreasing, it seems to have been taken over to some degree by scientists now having to PAY for it if they want their articles to be open-access: available to the public.

Bottom line? Sounds like they mainly wanted to get back at Aaron Swartz for Pacer (and also for Wikileaks, though he had nothing to do with that). God forbid citizens should know what their governments are up to and how their own laws are being used and developed, eh? Never mind reading a few scientific publications.

I found watching this profoundly shocking. So shocking that I cried. You’re warned. Now watch.

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