Saturday, October 31, 2015

Animal Placebo

If it were not hard enough to define what consciousness is, then comes the issue of whether animals have extended consciousness, or self-perception. And then which animals. A very rudimentary test seems to be the mirror test where an animal is marked with a mark only visible in a mirror and humans monitor for mark grooming behaviors in front of the mirror.

Why dwell on this vexing question when much smarter and specialized minds already tried? I was not trying I swear, but I just heard about some medical research in mice where the results were broken into three groups: Mice that got the medicine, mice that did not get anything, and mice that got a placebo.

I said voila! If researchers had the need to create a mice placebo control group, or circularly if the results between the placebo and the untreated mice were different I thought that would settle the issue. A small step for mice a huge step for mankind.

Intuitively the placebo effect has to be based on consciousness even if there is no consciousness definition.

But when I checked the facts I am not that sure. The documented rodent placebo effect is more conditioning type of effect a la Pavlov, not so much a mouse being told "take this pill and see me next week".  And the dog placebo effect reported by veterinarians is biased by human placebo, namely the owners fall for the placebo their dogs are taking and believe the dog's condition has improved. That in itself is revealing of a Placebo that is purely mental and unrelated to any anatomical response, as it occurs outside the subject being treated.

Disappointing, but fear not, we will not leave empty handed. At the very least I can offer a testable consciousness definition as: "A mental process subject to the Placebo effect".

Paradoxically can we claim we humans are smarter than animals when we fall for Placebos while animals do not?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Salt Pillars

There was a four lane bowling alley in my childhood, the Carrasco Bowling.  It was a few blocks from the house we rented for the summer. The long idle summer of us children. We roamed the Bowling Alley many times, we rented their special shoes and rolled the bowling balls with our two small hands a couple of times. As a child I did not understand why the place was bombed and reduced to rubble before the following summer.

Analyzing the recent past is not easy judging by the discord and vitriol associated with competing narratives. This was the Cold War coming to a theater near me. A few blocks away to be precise. It was a message to the oligarchy said the perpetrators, one of which became the country's president a few years ago. Being the past so nonsensical and so immutable makes me want to find refuge in the future instead. 

May be that was the reason Mrs. Lot was warned not to look back. Six words state what happened when she looked back, yet I found nineteen different English variants, and many pages of commentary on that simple event.

One of them of note:
"But Lot's wife looked back longingly and was turned into a pillar of salt."

where longingly implies the problem was looking at the past, not just back at a physical place.

A pillar of salt, what a great metaphor for the paralyzing danger of dwelling in the past.

There are two ways of avoiding looking at the past. One way is being young and having no past to look at. The other way preached by my father is staying busy,  the opposite of the long idle summer of a child.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Standing on the Shoulders

When it comes to making discoveries standing on the shoulders of giants helps us see farther.  Standing at the grave of giants I miss the view and I miss the giant.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Nobody is a Villain

In the joke the officer tells the child visiting the precinct that all these pictures on the wall are of people wanted by the police, and the child asks why didn't the police catch them when they took their pictures... Same here, I had no chance to take her picture. This lady made me break the strict rule of using only pictures taken by myself. For this story I had no choice.

If I ever learned anything about self perception it is that nobody is a villain in his own mind. Not even the smiling lady you see here, 

She is a well educated lady from Barueri (Sao Paulo) in Brazil. She is an outspoken critic of Brazil's corruption and is even vocally asking for the impeachment of the president Dilma Rousseff. But in her own mind she cannot be the villain that cheats in one of the many ways the era of e-commerce and airbnb allows one to cheat. 

Alessandra rented a country house through her well verified airbnb identity for the best weeks of the southern season, only to send some friends instead of Alessandra Daloia herself. These friends used the property for two nights while searching for alternate accommodations, accommodations closer to gambling and night life. Alessandra Daloia Souza cancelled the reservation while creating bogus excuses about moldy swimming pools. The brazilian males abandoned the property, never contacted the owner, and sheepishly screened phone calls from then on. 

I already knew that nobody sees him or herself as a villain, but Alessandra upped the ante.  She painted herself as the victim while filling her mouth with anti-corruption diatribes. Maybe airbnb should have a Hamlet test to screen out the lady that doth protest too much, methinks.