Saturday, March 03, 2012

Shinzen Young at the University of Arizona in 2009

The U of A hosts a small group called the Arizona Meditation Research Interest Group (AMRIG) organized around Al Kaszniak, a psychologist at the University who has done a lot of work with meditation and spiritual aspects of health. The AMRIG has hosted a series of speakers over the 3 years of their existence, with Sharon Salzberg coming next month.

The very first one, from 2009, featured a five hour lecture by Shinzen Young - there is a bit over an hour of audio available for download. What they have included (as I am listening) seems to be the teaching parts and not the experiential parts.

11/01/2009-- First part of the audio for Shinzen Young's four hour lecture.

11/01/2009-- Second part of the audio for Shinzen Young's four hour lecture.

11/01/2009-- Third part of the audio for Shinzen Young's four hour lecture.

11/01/2009-- Fourth part of the audio for Shinzen Young's four hour lecture.

11/01/2009-- Fifth part of the audio for Shinzen Young's four hour lecture.

What Is the Self?

This is a very short and cool video from the Science and Nonduality channel on YouTube.

What Is the Self?
Join the exploration: Science and Nonduality

SAND Europe - 29th May - 3rd June, 2012, Doorn, The Netherlands
SAND USA - Oct 24th-28th, 2012, San Rafael, CA

Mystics in all ages and cultures describe the self as infinite, stable and ever-present phenomena. Modern physics describe the world as a self-moving, self-designing pattern, an undivided wholeness, a dance. We, as a society, relate to the self mostly as an individual, unique, time bound form. Our common sense, as individuals and society, hasn't caught up with this picture and it still based on long-held biases and stories. The Earth is clearly round but we still act as if it was flat...

We live at the dawn of a scientific revolution, every day brings new findings from a wide range of scientific disciplines about what it means to be human. Modern science now gives us the detailed descriptions of the mechanisms our brain needs to construct what we call the self.

Could it be this illusionary image of ourselves as separate beings that is keeping us in this perpetual state of anxiety, scarcity, fear, dissatisfaction and leading us, as a society, at this very delicate point in evolution?

Video by: Zaya and Maurizio Benazzo

Egidijus Gecius - Mindfulness as Using Kahneman’s ‘Fast and Slow Thinking’ Skillfully

If you have not read Daniel Kahneman's most recent book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, I highly recommend the book (and thanks to a regular reader of this blog who gifted me with a copy!).

In this article from The RSA, Egidijus Gecius looks at Kahneman's model of fast and slow thinking in relation to mindfulness practice, concluding in part that mindfulness is one effective way to close what the folks at RSA call the aspirational gap - the space between who we are and who we want to be as human beings.

More importantly, however, he examined the relationship of mindfulness to the two systems Kahneman outlines in the book – the super fast, automatic, intuition-based System 1 (S1) and the agentic, reasoning-based, and much slower System 2 (S2). Read the article for his take on this (with which I am in full agreement).

Here is my brief take:

We might think of S1 as the part of our brain that works beneath our awareness, without our active involvement (this is the part of the brain that causes so many neuroscientists to dismiss free will as wishful thinking). This allows us to do an incredible number of things without having to focus our attention on those tasks.

One downside of how our brains work is that S2 can be not only the rational and aware part, it can also be the irrational part working from cognitive distortions or faulty beliefs.

One of the benefits of mindfulness practice is that it can help us bring more of those S1 functions into our consciousness, into S2, giving us greater control over our thoughts and behaviors, essentially increasing the degree of our free will. By closing this gap, and having greater access to the maps and schemas created by S1, we are better able to  examine those cognitive distortions and faulty beliefs in S2 and bring them into agreement with the experiential maps in S1.

Mindfulness as using Kahneman’s ‘fast and slow thinking’ skilfully

March 2, 2012 by
Recently I attended a mindfulness training day and instead of actually doing the practice, which is about spending less time in my heads and more in the real world, I found myself  analysing the training itself. I was sitting on a meditation cushion and doing old-fashioned left-brain-type analysis. I found myself making different connections between mindfulness and brain-related sciences. I thought I had found some interesting links between mindfulness and Nobel-prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s ‘fast and slow thinking’. This led to me to believe that one way of looking at mindfulness is a skilful engagement of Kahneman’s both ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ thinking. Also, sitting on that cushion I came to believe that mindfulness is an important part of closing the RSA’s ‘aspirational gap’ to become more of a person one wants to be.

According to Kahneman, we can think about our brains as having two systems – super fast, automatic, intuition-based ‘system 1’ (S1) and effortful, reasoning-based, and much slower ‘system 2’ (S2). Most of our daily decisions are produced by S1, are automatic and are based on habits. They require little attention or effort. S1 allows us to become experts by allowing us to make very fast and good decisions through gaining experience, e.g. driving a car in heavy traffic while maintaining a conversation. You can try to imagine the chances of you being able to do that by having only read lots of books about driving (i.e. by having only engaged reasoning-based S2). What S1 is great at is tapping into our vast experience and packaging a multitude of calculations in a sense or intuition.

This sense is an integral part of making good decision informed by our experience. It has been found that people who don’t feel emotions struggle to make even the simplest decisions. This intuition bit is where mindfulness training becomes very useful. From time to time I find myself for various reasons being stressed and caught up in all sorts of unhelpful thinking. I may think I really screwed up or about the consequences that may follow. This not only distracts me from focusing on the real problem (disturbs reason-based S2 thinking) but also obscures my ability to ‘read’ my intuition.

What mindfulness allows me to do is to see through the forest of emotions and maintain connection to this intuition, leading to better decisions. What it also allows me to do is to become aware of unhelpful thinking patterns in S2 and not to take them at face value. Another dimension of mindfulness is openness to experience, be it pleasant or unpleasant experience. This openness stops vicious circles in their tracks, the circles of getting stressed about getting stressed, about getting stressed…

For these and other reasons I hold mindfulness to be an integral element of RSA’s neurological reflexivity that allows closing the ‘aspirational gap’. One must be aware of one’s conditions manifesting moment-by-moment in order to allow this awareness to transform the effect of their conditions. This moment-by-moment attention paves way for different decisions, which in the long run have the power to change our habits.

Sitting on that cushion and having made such links for a while I felt a bit too excited to meditate properly. I had to use some mindfulness to calm my analytical mind down and come back to the cushion. This also served as good exercise on the long path of becoming more of a ‘skilful user’, a master if you will, of my own mind and less of a slave of its unhelpful patterns.

Related posts:
  1. Thinking, fast and slow
  2. Mindfulness (5): Is ‘a bit’ enough?
  3. Mindfulness(2): What is it?
  4. Mindfulness(3): Doing and Being
  5. Mindfulness(4): Huxley’s Reminder Birds
  6. Mindfulness(1): Teach us to Sit Still

TED Talk - Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts

The other day I posted the summary of this talk, and now the full talk is available. Enjoy.

Susan Cain: The power of introverts
In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.

Our world prizes extroverts -- but Susan Cain makes a case for the quiet and contemplative.

~ Susan Cain is a former corporate lawyer and negotiations consultant -- and a self-described introvert. At least one-third of the people we know are introverts, notes Cain in her new book Quiet. Although our culture undervalues them dramatically, introverts have made some of the great contributions to society – from Chopin's nocturnes to the invention of the personal computer to Gandhi’s transformative leadership. Cain argues that we design our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions for extroverts, and that this bias creates a waste of talent, energy, and happiness. Based on intensive research in psychology and neurobiology and on prolific interviews, she also explains why introverts are capable of great love and great achievement, not in spite of their temperaments -- but because of them.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Parallel Paths: Neurotechnology and Meditation

Ms. Deborah DuSold (Upasika Sujata), Dr. Larry Honig, and Dr. John Yates (Upasaka Culadasa) present to AZ Meditation Research Interest Group (at the U of A) on 12/2/09.

If you are in Tucson, or nearby, the AMRIG is bringing Sharon Salzberg to town for a three-day event (two talks and an all-day retreat) on April 12-14.

Don Beck on the The Master Code: The Hidden Dynamics that Shape Individuals, Design Organisations and Transform Societies

Nicholas Beecroft (Future of Western Civilization) recently interviewed Don Beck about his forthcoming book, The Master Code: The Hidden Dynamics that Shape Individuals, Design Organizations and Transform Societies. The aim small in this discussion - simply to ponder the future of Western Civilization.

I included the basic info below - there's more background on Beck at the site.

Don Beck on The Master Code: The Hidden Dynamics that Shape Individuals, Design Organisations and Transform Societies

Posted On: February 22, 2012

Dr Don Beck interviewed by Dr Nicholas Beecroft on “The Master Code: The Hidden Dynamics that Shape Individuals, Design Organizations and Transform Societies” and the Future of Western Civilization. Don wrote the following introduction to this interview:

“The real question deals with the “Rise and Fall and then Rise” of Western perspectives on “civilization.” I have often wondered why the so-called “Western Civilization” appeared to ascend in terms of complexity to “commanding heights” during the last few hundred years. This does not mean at all the “Westerners” are better humans, or should dominate any other social or geographic grouping. The work by Alfred. W. Crosby in ‘The Measure of Reality:Quantification and Western Society 1250-1600 offers one reason. This activity replaced many of the myths, superstitions and fables with hard facts, the scientific method, and rationality. This was especially apparent in the field of medicine. It help give rise to the Age of Science and the birth and spread of the 5th Code of modernity. Add into the equation the stability, discipline, high ethics and ordered thinking from The 4th Code, and you have the Puritan value system. This is neither magic nor arrogance but does explain the transitions from pre-modern to modern. The English language helped, as did the strong and positive growth themes inherent in both Jewish and Christian thought. The celebration of life, in the present, and the hope of a heaven in an afterlife, can be strong elixirs.

This does not mean everything was perfect and Civilization emerged as we climbed the ladder of “success” and material gain with all the displays of abundance. But it does suggest that this world-view also contained a repair kit in spite of failures and negative consequences to the rest of the world.

Western Civilization continued to leap into new manifestations to add “post modern” to the evolutionary flow. And, in my view, that is the critical aspect of its over all code. Adam Smith clearly combined morality and a purpose filled society as a foundation for his promotion of the “invisible hand” that will raise all the boats. But we have also learned that if such a ‘hand” extends from a sleeve full of greed, corruption, and wasteful extravagance, lit will self-destruct, as it has in recent decades. Same goes with simplistic versions of the 6th and humanitarian code that, alas, disrupted the critical contributions of the 4th (traditional-sacred) and 5th (materialistic-secular) which, when in balance, do the heavy lifting of populations as they deal with fundamental challenges and threats, producing sink holes in human emergence. Known as ‘political correctness,” it provide a false picture on what diversity really means. Our 21st Century society is full of examples. There is far greater expressions of caring and human sensitivity within the 7th and 8th Level thinking patterns.

Yet, I firmly believe that the codes within Western Civilizations will now re brand themselves, re calibrate their range and scope, and adapt their essential components in a positive manner within the language, culture, religions and traditions of the entire Earth Society. Herein lies the power within the 7th Code, the capacity to re frame the 1st Tier assemble of adaptive intelligences while generating The Master Code, designed to deal with global issues that confront us all. When Professor Clare Graves spoke of the “momentous leap” of human nature, this is what he had in mind. We all have serious work to do. New world views await us as we climb the emerging peaks of our own conscious evolution. When the whole Spiral-full of value systems are engaged in dealing with these global issues, we have an opportunity to impact the whole in new dimensions and functions. The siege of ‘perfect storms” now needs the brilliance of new sun rise, with new aspirations, effective tools, and a new and fresh spirit of humanity.”

~Dr. Don Beck 22nd February 2012.
The Spiral Dynamics Group
Global Center for Human Emergence

“It is time to get the entire global system set right by respecting all of us who exist in clans, tribes, empires, holy orders, cultures, enterprises, communes, natural habitats and are spread along the various trajectories of change. Imagine a global Intelligence that, much like a metaphoric Air traffic control system, can keep up with and direct our many life forms which are dispersed in different altitudes, moving in different directions, at different speeds, with different capacities, and all with multiple bottom lines and priorities.”
~ Extract from “The Master Code” (published later in 2012)

The RSA - Humanity 2.0 presents this video from The RSA - a discussion on the place of humanity in a post-human world.

Humanity 2.0 from The RSA on

Humanity 2.0

Join Steve Fuller, Rachel Armstrong, China Mieville and Andy Miah as they ask: how will we ascribe status to human life in a ‘post-human’ world?

Our high-profile panel of speakers explore the hidden agendas behind our values and attitudes toward the place of ‘the human’ in today’s societies, and debate what must now be a key issue for the 21st century.

Rachel Armstrong

Dr Armstrong is an interdisciplinary researcher who has trained as a medical doctor and tutors fifth year MArch students in the modification of biological systems for their technical dissertations at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL.

She has also collaborated with international artists such as Helen Chadwick, Orlan and Stelarc who engaged with the technologies of extreme body modification and the impact of extreme environments on biological systems in projects that exemplified her broader interest in the way in which the environment can directly shape organisms through biotechnological interventions.

Her work currently focuses on the development of Metabolic Materials for Living Buildings where she works in collaboration with international architects and scientists.

Steve Fuller

Steve Fuller holds the Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick, UK.

He is acknowledged with founding social epistemology and has published over 17 books including Kuhn vs Popper and The Intellectual. His latest book is Humanity 2.0: What it Means to be Human Past, Present and Future (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

Andy Miah

Andy Miah, BA, MPhil, PhD, is Chair of Ethics and Emerging Technologies in the Faculty of Business & Creative Industries at the University of the West of Scotland, Fellow of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, USA and Fellow at FACT, the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, UK.

He is author of "Genetically Modified Athletes" (2004 Routledge) and co-author with Dr Emma Rich of "˜The Medicalization of Cyberspace" (2008, Routledge) and Editor of "Human Futures: Art in an Age of Uncertainty" (2008, Liverpool University Press and FACT). Professor Miah's research discusses the intersections of art, ethics, technology and culture and he has published broadly in areas of emerging technologies, particularly related to human enhancement and the philosophical and ethical issues concerning technology in society.

China Mieville

China Miéville is the author of several works of fiction and non-fiction. 

His novels, which have won the Arthur C Clarke, Hugo, World Fantasy, British Science Fiction and British Fantasy Awards, include Embassytown, The City & the City, and Perdido Street Station.  His non-fiction includes Between Equal Rights, a study of international law. He teaches Creative Writing at Warwick University.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Contemplative Mind in Higher Education: Techniques for Teaching Contemplation in a Distracted Era

Cool talk from The New School for Public Engagement, featuring Jean Gardner, an associate professor of social ecological history at Parson, The New School for Design.

Contemplative Mind in Higher Education | The New School for Public Engagement

Jean Gardner is an associate professor of social ecological history at Parsons, The New School for Design. Her lecture is titled Contemplative Mind in Higher Education: Techniques for Teaching Contemplation in a Distracted Era 

Sponsored by the Creative Arts Therapy Program at The New School for Public Engagement |

Michael S. Gazzaniga - How Mind Emerges from Brain (Brain Science Podcast 82)

Here is another excellent (and new) edition of the Brain Science Podcast. In this episode, Dr. Ginger Campbell speaks with Michael S. Gazzaniga about his new book, Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain. As always, this is an excellent discussion - and for those with no time to listen, there is a transcript available.

In his latest book Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain respected neuroscientist Michael S. Gazzaniga explores how the discoveries of neuroscience impact how we see ourselves as human beings. After providing a brief review of 20th century neuroscience, and even some of the work from the past decade, Dr. Gazzaniga concludes that nothing neuroscience has discovered changes the fact that "we are personally responsible agents and are to be held accountable for our actions."

Gazzaniga's position contrasts with those who think that recent discoveries show that the brain creates the mind in solely "upwardly causal" way, and who argue that since much of what our brain does is outside our conscious awareness or control, we should not be held responsible for our actions. Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain presents what I think is a convincing argument against this common position.

In the latest episode of the Brain Science Podcast (BSP 82) I present a detailed discussion of Dr. Gazzaniga's book.

Episode Transcript (Download Free PDF)

Subscribe to the Brain Science Podcast: itunes-badge-30 zunelogo-70 feed-icon32x32 mail-sticker-tiny


Related Episodes:

  • Links to episodes of the Brain Science Podcast that are mentioned in BSP 82.
  • BSP 81: Interview with Patricia Churchland about the brain and morality
  • BSP 53: Discussion of Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?: Philosophical and Neurobiological Perspectives on Moral Responsibility and Free Will by Nancey Murphy, Warren S. Brown (Also BSP 62)
  • BSP 35: Discussion of Mirror Neurons
  • BSP 66: For more on Scrub Jays
  • BSP 3: Memory and the use of animal models
  • BSP 38: Interview with Jeff Hawkins
  • BSP 47: Brain Evolution
  • BSP 74: "Small world architecture" in brain networks (Olaf Sporns)
  • BSP 75: Interview with David Eagleman (arguments for legal reform)
  • BSP 76: "Choking" with Dr. Sian Beilock
  • BSP 56: Interview with Eve Marder (implications of muliple realizability in neuronal circuits) 


An introverted call to action: Susan Cain at TED2012

It seems TED 2012 is underway, and while the videos are not yet available, TED is posting detailed descriptions of many of the talks. This one by Susan Cain seems very interesting - I look forward to hearing the full talk.

If you are an introvert, as I am, I think you will find this a very cool article.

An introverted call to action: Susan Cain at TED2012

Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, is an introvert. So as she gets up to present from the TED2012 stage, bag in hand, it is not a comfortable experience. But it’s an important one, and that’s the point.

Her family grew up reading — they would read together and bring books on trips. That’s how they were social. She tells a story of going to camp at age 9. Her mother packed her a bag full of books to read quietly, the normal thing her family did on vacation, thinking camp would be the same, “I had a vision of ten girls sitting in a cabin reading books in their matching night-gowns.” But when she got to “Camp Rowdie” (as they spelled it), she was ridiculed the first time she read her book, for not being social and outgoing and not having enough camp spirit. So she put her books away, and didn’t get them out for the rest of the summer. (And she drives the point home by putting her bag under a table.)

She has, she tells us, at least 50 stories like that. 50 ways, little and small, where the message was clearly sent: being an introvert is wrong.

And that bugged her. Cain felt — had an intuition — that as an introvert she had value. But she didn’t know how to articulate that at the time, and so she became a lawyer. She wanted to be an author, but all her internalized notions about what is good made her reflexively choose the profession associated with extroversion, choose to go to a bar rather than a nice dinner with friends.

That bias, she claims, is everyone’s loss. While the world certainly need extroverts, it also needs introverts doing what they do best. It’s a bias that has no name. To understand it, we need to understand that introversion isn’t about not being social, it’s not being shy, it’s about how someone responds to stimulation. While extroverts crave social interaction, introverts are much more alive while they’re alone. Cain brings in her thesis with the insight that, “The key to maximizing talents is to put yourself into the zone of stimulation that’s right for you.”

It’s a simple-sounding lesson, but a very difficult one to really get, and act on.  As she points out, we’re living in a culture that increasingly values groupthink. We believe that creativity comes from a very oddly gregarious place. In the classroom, where Cain and her fellow students used to sit in rows, and to read and work alone, students are increasingly put in groups and asked to be committee members — even for solving math problems or creative writing. Kids who prefer to work alone are seen as problem cases, and graded accordingly. Teachers report, and believe, that the ideal student is extroverted. (“Even though introverts get better grades, and are more knowledgeable.”)

And it’s the same in office environments. Introverts are routinely passed over for leadership roles. That’s a real problem because research has shown that, as leaders, introverts are more careful, much less likely to take outsized risks, and are more likely to let creative and proactive team members run with their own ideas, rather than run over them or squash them — something that should be an ideal trait in the modern office.

Indeed, says Cain, some of the most transformative leaders in history — Eleanor Roosevelt, Ghandi, Rosa Parks — were introverts. Each of those described themselves as quiet, soft-spoken, or shy. That quietness had a special, extraordinary power of it’s own. People could tell that these leaders were there because they had no choice, because they were doing what they thought was right.

Of course, Cain loves introverts, and no one is purely intro- or extroverted. We all fall somewhere on that spectrum. But most of us recognize ourselves as one or another, and “culturally we need a better balance, we need a better Yin and Yang between these two things.”

Solitude, as Cain says, is a key to creativity. Darwin took long walks in the woods and turned down dinner invitations, Dr. Seuss wrote alone, and was afraid of meeting the kids who read his books for fear they would be disappointed at how quiet he was. Steve Wozniak claimed he never would have become such an expert if he left the house. Of course, collaboration is good (witness Woz and Steve Jobs), but there is a transcendent power of solitude.

Indeed, most major religions have seekers, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, each went into the wild to learn. No wilderness, no revelation.

And the things we’re learning from psychology affirm this. We can’t be in a group of people without instinctively mirroring each other, and groups follow the most charistmatic person, even though there is no correlation between being a good speaker and having great ideas. (Hesitant, then full laughter from the TED crowd.)

But why are we getting it so wrong? Part of it is our history. “Western societies have always favored the man of action over the man of contemplation. Well, ‘man’” On top of that, people are moving to cities and new places, and instead of working with people they’ve known their whole life, they have to meet and impress new people. That leads to a way of thinking that values being outgoing and charismatic.

Again, she is not talking about eliminating teamwork. Those same religions all teach love and trust, and we need that more than ever. But the more freedom we give introverts to be themselves, the more freedom they’ll have to come up with their own creative solutions.

Cain steps back to her suitcase and offers to tell us what’s in it now. It turns out to be: “Books!” Three, in fact: Milan Kundera, Margaret Atwood and Eumonides. Those, it turns out, are her grandfather’s favorite authors.

Her grandfather was a rabbi. He lived alone in a small Brooklyn apartment filled with books, and it was Cain’s favorite place. He loved to read, but also loved his congregation. He read constantly, and he “took the fruits of his reading and would weave these intricate tapestries” for his congregation. And yet, as he talked, he had trouble making eye contact with the same people he had led for 62 years. Late into his life, when someone called him, he would end the conversation early, for fear he was wasting their time.

And when he died at age 92, the police had to shut down the street because of the throngs of admirers who wanted to pay their respects.

Following in his example, Cain wrote her book. It took her seven years to write; seven years of reading, researching, thinking — total bliss. And now that it’s done she needs to go out in the world and talk about it. That’s not something that comes easily, or comfortably to her. But she’s excited about it, this “year of speaking dangerously,” because she thinks the world is on the brink of change in how we treat introverts.

To help that along, she has three calls to action:

1) “End the madness of constant group-work.” (The audience applauds.) Offices need chatty conversations, and great spaces to make serendipitous interactions. But we need much more privacy, and more autonomy. The same is true — more true — for schools. Yes, teach kids to work together, but also how to work alone.

2) “Go to the wilderness, be like Buddha. Have your own revelations.” You don’t have to go build huts in the woods and be isolated, but we could all stand to unplug and be in our heads for a time.

3) “Take a good look at what’s inside your own suitcase, and why you put it there.” Extroverts, whose bags might be filled with Champagne bubbles and sky-diving kits, grace us with the energy and joy of these objects. Introverts probably guard the secrets of their suitcases, and that’s cool.

“But occasionally, just occasionally, I hope you will open the suitcase up.. because the world needs you and what you carry.”

In a sign that she’s right that change is coming, almost the entire auditorium, introvert and extrovert alike rises to give a standing ovation.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jean-Luc Godard Films The Rolling Stones Recording “Sympathy for the Devil” (1968)

One of my favorite Stones songs sounding very different than I remember it. Another very cool offering from Open Culture.

Jean-Luc Godard Films The Rolling Stones Recording “Sympathy for the Devil” (1968)

February 25th, 2012

For anyone who enjoyed yesterday’s post, Jefferson Airplane Wakes Up New York; Jean-Luc Godard Captures It (1968), we’re resurrecting a golden oldie from the archive. Read on and you’ll see why . . .

In 2008, Martin Scorsese brought the Rolling Stones to film with Shine a Light. (Watch the trailer here.) But a good 40 years before that, another giant of modern cinema had a similar notion.

Jean-Luc Godard, one of the founders of New Wave French cinema, directed Sympathy for the Devil during the tumultuous summer of 1968. The film is part rockumentary, part advertisement for left-wing ideals that were alive at the time. (There’s no real way to sugarcoat that.) Above, Godard takes you inside the recording sessions of the Rolling Stones’ classic, “Sympathy for the Devil.” As the clip goes on, you can see the song unfold.

One of our readers adds some more details:
There are two versions of this Jean-Luc Godard movie. The original version (director’s cut) is called “One Plus One”. In this first version Godard didn’t put the whole song in the editing because he wanted to make something reflexive and not an advertisement for the Rolling Stones. The producers were very angry and made another editing; their version is called “Sympathy for the Devil.”

What makes us human? An Economist, Philosopher, Evolutionary Biologist, and Two Psychologists Offer Answers in Recent Books

From the Times Higher Education blog (UK), Matthew Reisz reviews five new books that try to answer the question of What Makes Us Human?
Those are some seriously heavyweight authors for a brief article of this type.

Here is the meat of the article, called Hearts and Minds:
In all of these books, one can point to moments of stridency and showmanship, even a pleasure in polemic, which occasionally leads the authors to try to convince us that black is white. Yet all are dazzling displays of impassioned scholarship. All combine first-hand research evidence with jokes, personal anecdotes and references to popular culture in a way that manages to be entertaining as well as informative. Kahneman has described Thinking, Fast and Slow as the first of his books aimed at a mass audience, and all five publications demonstrate how well many leading academics can communicate with a broad readership when neither constrained by the research assessment exercise nor unduly plagued by self-doubt. Read one of them and it is almost impossible not to be carried away by a sense that one has now grasped some fundamental truths. The only problem is that they can't all be right.

Both Kahneman and Trivers believe we are in some fundamental sense divided against ourselves. The former notes, for example, that the "heuristics that guide citizens' beliefs and attitudes are inevitably biased" and can only be overcome by tremendous effort. Yet he seems fairly relaxed and forgiving about these flaws: "Considering how little we know, the confidence we have in our beliefs is preposterous - and it is also essential." Furthermore, his is a strikingly chaste book, which probably devotes more space to our choice of insurance policies than our choice of sexual partners.

Trivers has a much more tormented view of the world, offers woeful tales of his women troubles and seems wryly pessimistic about the chances of self-improvement: "As individuals, we can choose whether to fight our own self-deceptions or to indulge them. I choose to oppose my own - with very limited success so far." Furthermore, since he is keen to relate everything to the core evolutionary issues of survival and reproduction, he keeps returning to the battle of the sexes. He suspects that the genes we have inherited from our mothers and those that come from our fathers are at war with each other - an idea that he confesses first occurred to him "when I was trying to poison the minds of my three daughters against their mother's people". Such elaborate arguments about genes slugging it out within us are precisely the sort of thing that Prinz is determined to discredit.

Trivers' book is a million miles away from the can-do spirit of Baumeister and Tierney's, which argues that "willpower, like a muscle, becomes fatigued from overuse but can also be strengthened over the long term through exercise" (even a shot of glucose can usually help). And if they believe that individuals can dramatically improve the quality of their lives, Pinker thinks that the human race has already done so. Although evolution has implanted in us the "demons" of revenge, sadism and evil as well as the "angels" of reason, self-control and empathy, the angels have been firmly in the ascendant since the end of the Second World War, and particularly since the collapse of the Soviet Union - and he has the statistics to prove it.

It is perhaps inevitable that a big book on human nature also ends up as a kind of self-portrait, and it is not difficult to discern major differences between the authors' temperaments, values and politics.
Baumeister is a conservative in outlook, who hopes to "combine the best of modern social science with some of the practical wisdom of the Victorians". The secret of child-rearing is apparently: "Forget about self-esteem. Work on self-control."

Trivers is a born member of the awkward squad who feels that a book on deceit is as good a place as any to lash out at Nazis, Israelis and US foreign policy. With the Soviet Union no longer around to "provide a counterweight to rapacious capitalism", the post-Cold War era has "seen intense American wars, an accelerated shift of wealth to the already wealthy...and gross thievery by the wealthy and their agents leading to near economic collapse". Pinker, meanwhile, sees the same period, with its decline in violence, as one of unprecedented good fortune.

Several of these authors offer theories about why serious scholars often disagree so fundamentally (or, more cynically, why their opponents keep getting things wrong).

Kahneman suggests that "a weakness of the scholarly mind" is "theory-induced blindness: once you have accepted a theory and used it as a tool in your thinking, it is extraordinarily difficult to notice its flaws". Successful scientists require "the ability to exaggerate the importance of what he or she is doing", which can blind them to alternative perspectives. Disciplinary divisions impose further blinkers, so that economists and psychologists often seem "to be studying different species".

Trivers is far more outspoken. As he has got older, he explains, he has begun to "care less about appearing the fool, so I am willing to live with a higher ratio of foolish thought to true insight in my statements". He seems equally unconcerned about who he might offend, dismissing whole disciplines in a couple of sentences.

Pinker also thinks he knows why many people find it hard to believe his positive narrative. In much of the world, he points out, "customs such as slavery, serfdom, breaking on the wheel, disembowelling, bearbaiting, cat-burning, heretic-burning, witch-drowning, thief-hanging, public executions, the display of rotting corpses on gibbets" and so on have "passed from unexceptionable to controversial to immoral to unthinkable to not-thought-about" during what he calls the post-Enlightenment "Humanitarian Revolution". The good news is that most of us are unlikely to be hanged, drawn and quartered. But it can be hard for people to believe that humans have made any progress when they watch atrocities every night on the television and the horrors of the past are largely forgotten.

The social sciences, Trivers tells us, would benefit from "an explicit, well-tested (biological) theory of self-interest" - which is why we find only "a few honest historians". Economics is not a true science, although it "acts like a science and quacks like one", since its vague notion of "utility" is not rooted in biology. Most psychology consists of "competing guesses about what [is] important in human development, none with any foundation".

But more interesting than this disciplinary one-upmanship is the general point that Trivers makes about human arguments. They "feel so effortless because by the time the arguing starts, the work has already been done. The argument may appear to burst forth spontaneously, with little or no preview, yet as it rolls along, two whole landscapes of information lie already organised, waiting only for the lightning of anger to reveal them."

Reading all these books gives one the exhilarating and disorienting sense of visiting five different intellectual landscapes. All are fascinating, although everyone will find some more familiar and congenial than others. But where do they give an accurate picture of the world and where are they distorted by disciplinary tunnel vision or by their authors' prejudices?

Perhaps someone will eventually produce an even bigger book, offering an aerial view of all the separate mountain plains. Until then, we might as well enjoy the scenery.
 Read the whole article.

NIH - PTSD: Treatment and Prevention

Interesting talk - except that exposure therapy can sometimes make PTSD even worse. The good outcomes for this approach that I have seen are in combat veterans, and even that is questionable in my opinion. I wonder if the medical establishment will eventually join the rest of the psychological community in recognizing that behavioral interventions generally do not work as anything more than a short-term band-aid? 

PTSD: Treatment and Prevention

Click here to watch the video. Or you can download the video at the link at the bottom of this post.
Description: BSSR Lecture Series

In the US, approximately 70% of adults will experience a traumatic event and 20% will develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Both civilian and combat-related PTSD are major public health concerns with long term medical and mental health sequelae. Initial but transient PTSD symptoms may be considered part of the normal reaction to trauma, as they occur almost universally following severe enough traumas. In contrast, those who suffer from chronic PTSD show decreasing PTSD symptoms in the first month following trauma, which then remain fairly steady across time. They do not worsen; they just don't extinguish their original fear reactions. Therefore, PTSD can be viewed as a failure of recovery caused in part by a failure of fear extinction following trauma. Exposure therapy follows the same paradigms as extinction training and has received more evidence of its efficacy for treating PTSD than any other intervention. In this lecture, PTSD will be reviewed and treatments for PTSD will be discussed, with data on the efficacy of each, including exposure therapy (both imaginal exposure and virtual reality exposure therapy), EMDR, and pharmacotherapy. These are treatments for chronic PTSD. An important goal is secondary prevention, trying to intervene for those at risk in an attempt to prevent the development of PTSD. In the same way that there are rapid ED-based protocols for stroke or heart attack, we envision a personalized ED-based rapid intervention protocol that may prevent the development of PTSD following trauma. In translational research based on basic, preclinical, and clinical models for the consolidation of fear memories, pilot data with 137 emergency department (ED) patients seen an average of 11-12 hours after trauma exposure, randomly assigned to receive 3 sessions of exposure therapy beginning in the ED or assessment only, will be presented and discussed.

Author: Barbara O. Rothbaum, Ph.D., ABPP, Emory University School of Medicine
Runtime: 01:11:22
Download: Download Video

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pierre Côté - The Relative Happiness Index

  Interesting . . . . You test your own happiness at the RHI website.


Can happiness be a science? Can we actually qualify happiness with scientific notions instead of esoteric ones? How can happiness be useful? Are women happier than men? Is Montreal a happier metropolis than Quebec city? What can we learn from happiness? Brace yourself for Pierre Côté, the creator of the Relative Happiness Index, who is ready to answer all of these questions and more!

Speaker: Pierre Côté
Marketing and communication senior consultant
President and founder of the RHI (Relative Happiness Index)
Participant in the TV series Castaway Cities

Join us for this unique tech talk on The Relative Happiness Index (RHI), a unique social observatory tool.

A bold visionary and very sensitive to the social reality, Pierre Côté founded in 2006 the Relative Happiness Index. The main objective of this index is to develop from happiness a real and a scientific variable that will be useful to establish a judgment or to evaluate a society, a community or a group of people.

An independent social observatory tool, the Relative Happiness Index, through the forty inquiries realised since 2006, surveyed no less than 70 000 Quebecers by asking over 800 questions.

The Pierre Côté experience and his profound knowledge of Quebec's society acquired through the Relative Happiness Index makes him a unique consultant. As such, he's regularly invited by the media to share and explain the results of his researches and to comment on different aspects of society.
This is from their website - it offers some definitions for what they are looking at trying to measure.

Abstract Concept or Tangible Reality?

[ A Selective and Relative Notion ]
[ Happiness: a Social Paradox ]
[ Happiness: Aptitude or Attitude? ]
[ Personal Assessment ]

A Selective and Relative Notion

According to French author and politician André Malraux, "happiness is for imbeciles," in the sense that it is utopian to believe that anyone can attain an absolute state in a relative world. It follows that only an absolute imbecile could believe in achieving it some day.

"We should die when we're happy," opined singer Jacqueline Dulac, in clearly demonstrating the difficult, even impossible, quest of attaining perfect happiness and the ultimate value of this state.

While many philosophers, intellectuals, and researchers have given their opinions on the issue of happiness, they agree on only a single point: happiness is subjective and relative. And it's because happiness is so subjective and relative that so much discussion and debate has focused on defining it and, to a greater degree, on determining the various methods for attaining it.

Happiness: a Social Paradox

Today, happiness appears to be turned more outwardly than inwardly. Moreover, the view of success that society imposes on us is such that saying you're unhappy is like admitting your life has been a failure. Undoubtedly, this accounts for the paradox that, while the great majority of people tend to consider themselves happy or very happy, everyday life gives us an increasing number of signs to the contrary.

Many thinkers criticize today's consumer society and its various requirements for its focus on having rather than being and on the obligation to perform, as if quality could only be achieved by quantity.

Some even claim that the many pleasures of modern society—artificial, sensational, and ephemeral—mask the true quest for happiness, push the individual further away from a minimal but essential spirituality, and reduce happiness to a simplistic, materialistic, and quantifiable notion.

Happiness: Aptitude or Attitude?

Is achieving happiness related to an ability that each of us has to accept or reject life as it is? Do some people have a greater aptitude for happiness than others?

Abraham Maslow, the father of humanistic psychology, believed so. He identified two fundamental factors defining this aptitude for happiness: solving concrete problems rather than withdrawing into one's self and avoiding social norms and conditions.

Moreover, Maslow positively stated that happiness is achieved through a higher degree of self-actualization.

There are many other models and theories that advocate striving for and focusing on the "here and now" to attain a certain level of happiness. In fact, any activity whatsoever that requires concentration here and now brings us closer to this state, with the objective being to recreate these conditions as often as possible in everyday life. This attitude then becomes a kind of philosophy and happiness takes root in all kinds of small daily gestures.

Happiness can also be expressed through "cosmic participation" which is the feeling of taking part in something bigger than yourself, something that both surrounds and contains you. This refers to the very meaning of life and to a much more spiritual definition of happiness.

From a more existentialist standpoint, can happiness only be achieved after death? Some people think so and that our time in this world is only a preparatory step. Such thinkers consider that the journey, not the destination, is what counts.

Nevertheless, most intellectuals and thinkers agree that happiness does not occur by itself: it requires personal work. The world we perceive in our minds is not the real world. The discrepancy between the two is what makes us unhappy. It's never good to maintain dissonance and illusion. We need to strive to ensure that the world in our minds resembles the real world as closely as possible.

Personal Assessment

So, is happiness an abstract concept or a concrete reality…or does it is way back and forth between the two? Certainly, it's not easy to demarcate, delimit, or, even less so, define. The Relative Happiness Index (RHI) doesn't aim or claim to do so. The assessment of happiness, however, does interest us when it is firmly rooted in the individual's perception of him- or herself and his or her life.

And who knows, you might find elements on this site that help you in your personal development.

Happy browsing!

The 10th Biennial Toward a Science of Consciousness, April 9-14, 2012 (Tucson, AZ)

The full program has been released for the 2012 Toward a Science of Consciousness Conference, and aside from Deepak Chopra being featured, it looks like another very interesting year of plenaries and individual sessions.

ONLINE Registration

POSTERS by Session                                           

Toward a Science ofConsciousness is a biennial conference held since 1994 in Tucson, Arizona, and known for rigorous, interdisciplinary approaches to essential questions of how the brain produces conscious experience, the nature of reality and our place in the universe.

This year, Toward a Science of Consciousness will be held at the luxurious, eco friendly Loews Ventana Canyon Resort Hotel. An estimated 600 participants from around the world are expected for the program which will include Plenary and Keynote Talks, Concurrent Talks, Posters, Art Tech Health Demos, Exhibits, Social Events, Side Trips and Pre Conference Activities. The program is below; For further information and registration see


1:45 pm to 4:10 pm, Kiva Ballroom
Conference Opening, Plenary 1: War of the Worldviews    
Deepak Chopra, Menas Kafatos, Leonard Mlodinow, Susan Blackmore

4:30 pm to 6:35 pm, Rooms TBA, Concurrent Sessions 1 to 8 
(1) Panpsychism and Neutral Monism
       Blamauer, Turausky, Rangarajan, Coleman, Wallace
(2) Higher Order Theories
       Weisberg, Gennaro, Delancey, Bernier, Sebastian
(3) Agency and Emotion
       Shepherd, Faw, Howard, Dow, Heavey
(4) Attention in Psychology and Neuroscience
       Dinis, Cheng, T, Noel, Carmel, Stevens
(5) First Person Methods and Phenomenology
       Hurlburt, Hough, Shear, Woodruff-Smith, Mangan
(6) Biology and Consciousness
       P. Sahni, Gupta, Harrington, Beran, Craddock, Adams
(7) Foundations of Quantum Mechanics
       Pylkkanen, Keppler, Atmanspacher, Theise, Awret
(8) Science of Meditation: Sharp, Bhamidipati, Bellomo, Roy, G.Weber

6:45 pm to 10:00 pm:  Opening Reception, Kiva Plaza

8:30 am to 10:40 am, Kiva Ballroom
Plenary 2: Searching for Consciousness
Melanie Boly, Antonio Zadra, George Mashour

11:10 am to 12:30 pm
Plenary 3: Attention Without Awareness?
Robert Kentridge, Jesse Prinz

2:00 pm to 4:10 pm
Plenary 4: Fractal Consciousness   
Biyu Jade He, Peter Walling, Stuart Hameroff

4:30 pm to 6:35 pm, Rooms TBA, Concurrent Sessions 9 to16
 (9) Dualism and Modal Arguments
        Robinson, Boutel, Williford, Brown, Barker
(10) The Self and Unity
         Kobes, Horst, Corabi, Combs, Mudrik
(11) Extended, Embodied, and Social Consciousness
         Schlicht, Krueger, Seeman, Carruthers, Bruno
(12) Neural Correlates of Consciousness
          Keller, Xu, Tamori, Brogaard, Proulx
(13) Cross Modal Perception
         Seaberg, Coseru, T. Weber, Judge, L'Hote
(14) Evolution and Free Will
         Mohan, Markan, McVeigh, V Mathur, Lent
(15) Altered States of Consciousness
         Martin, Whitmarsh, Garcia Romeu, Peres, Jandial
(16) Science and Spirituality
          Klein, Delorme, P. Satsangi Sahni, Weidenbaum, R Satsangi
7:00 pm to 10:00 pm, Grand Ballroom Foyer
Poster Session 1 (Presenters TBA) (See Website)

7:00 pm to 10:00 pm, Room TBA
Art Tech Demos  (See website)
Taylor, Loeth, Gluck, Kostiner, Seaberg, Shapero, Foster, Day

7:00 pm to 9:30 pm, Room TBA
Consciousness Video games, 2nd Life
Gackenbach, Doyle, Murzyn, Garvey, Martin, Walters, Rubin

9:45 pm  Music and Comedy, TBA
Vanda Mikoloski, The Conscious Comic                                             
S. Whitmarsh, S. Nelson

8:30 am to 11:00 am, Kiva Ballroom
Plenary 5: HOT NOT? Higher Order Thought
Ned Block, David Rosenthal, Hakwan Lau, Victor Lamme

11:30 am to 12:50 pm, Kiva Ballroom
Plenary 6  Keynote: Identifying The Brain's Awareness System: Lessons from Coma and Related States
Steven Laureys

(Afternoon Free; Side Trips: Sabino Canyon Hike, Biosphere 2, Jeep Tour,
Sabino and Mt. Lemmon Tour, Desert Museum and Old Tucson Studios, Self-Organized Workshops)

7:00 pm to 10:00 pm Conference Dinner, Flying V Restaurant

8:30 am to 10:40 am, Kiva Ballroom

Plenary 7: Echolocation and Consciousness
Daniel Kish, Lore Thaler, Cynthia Moss
11:10 am to 12:30 pm, Kiva Ballroom

Plenary 8 Keynote 2: Feeling the Future
Daryl Bem
2:00 pm to 4:10 pm, Kiva Ballroom

Plenary Session 9:  The Explanatory Gap  
Kevin O'Regan, Anthony Jack, Philip Goff

4:30 pm to 6:35 pm, Rooms TBA, Concurrent Sessions 17-24
 (17) Phenomenal Concepts and Phenomenal Knowledge
          Pitt, Butler, Shargel, Sundstrom, Hellie*
(18) Philosophy of Perception   
          Farennikova, Arsenault, Olaguer, Knight, Kidd, Crutchfield*
(19) Foundations of the Science of Consciousness
         Molyneux, Kozuch, Mogi, Peressini, Marable *
(20) Disorders of Consciousness
         Suntharanganon, Fankhauser, Gusarova, Crosby, Gottschling
(21) Sleep Dreams
         Kahn, Gackenbach, Peimer, Glanzer, Murzyn
(22) Space, Time and Scale
         Maier, Bieberich, Dayal, Lloyd, Saroka,
(23) Education and Consciousness
         Sarath, Pappas, Mathur, Oved, Ahuja
(24) Nonlocality and Consciousness
         C. Brown, G. Schwartz, Moreira, S. Schwartz, Scott

7:00 pm to 10:00 pm, Grand Ballroom Foyer, Poster Session 2 (Presenters TBA) (See Website) 

7:00 pm to 10:00 pm, Room TBA, Health Demos
Baldwin, Alfaki, Brugnoli, Ilundain Agurazza, Graur, Trousdale

10:00 pm to 11:30 pm, Room TBA
Consciousness Poetry Slam, Zombie Blues, Talent Show 

9:00 am to 11:30 am, Kiva Ballroom
Plenary Session 10: Time and the Brain
Moshe Gur, Eve Isham, Ronald Gruber, Geoff Lee *

12:00 am to 1:20 pm, Kiva Ballroom
Plenary Session 11: Consciousness and Hallucinogens
Katherine Maclean, Robin Carhart Harris

(Saturday afternoon Free, Self Organized Workshops,
Tennis Tournament, Hikes, Golf, book  early)

7:00 pm to ???, Saturday evening, Location TBA, End of Consciousness Party



Pre Conference Workshops

9:00 am to1:00 pm  
     Neuroscience of Music 
     Cross Modal Consciousness, Synesthesia
     Pranahuti Aided Meditation
     Survival of Consciousness After Death Hypothesis

2:00 pm to 6:00 pm      
     Exploring Frontiers of Mind Brain Relationship 1
     Cross Modal Consciousness, Synesthesia 2


1:00 pm to 5:00 pm, Grand Ballroom
Forum on Eastern Philosophy and Consciousness
(Open to Conference Registrants)

MONDAY, APRIL 9, 2012    EVENING DINNER and WORKSHOP (ticket required)

5:30 pm to 7:00 pm, Kiva Plaza
 Dinner with Deepak Sunset Buffet

7:00 pm to 10:00 pm, Kiva Ballroom
Special Workshop Deepak Chopra MD, FACP
Consciousness: The Ultimate Reality


Pre Conference Workshops

9:00 am to 1:00 pm
Functional Neuroimaging of (Un)Consciousness?                                 
Philosophical Overview of Theories of Consciousness
Quantum Consciousness
Exploring Frontiers of Mind Brain Relationship 2
Pranahuti Aided Meditation


Exhibitors, Sponsors
Journal of Consciousness Studies
The MIT Press
Oxford University Press
India Society of Southern Arizona
DEI Dayalbagh Educational Institute
The Chopra Center
The Center for Consciousness Studies
YeTaDel Foundation

On behalf of Program Committee
David Chalmers 
Stuart Hameroff
Uriah Kriegel
Abi Behar Montefiore

Department of Anesthesiology
University of Arizona College of Medicine
University of Arizona Medical Center
Stuart Hameroff MD, Director
Abi Behar-Montefiore