Friday, June 26, 2009

Depression and culture

Depression is a serious mental illness that requires months and sometimes years of treatment on the path to a cure. Millions of Americans across the United States are affected by depression each and every year. Depression is more commonplace than you might think and it will not go away on its own.

Depression is reaching epidemic proportions and imposes tremendous costs on society. It is a condition that occurs at the interface of the individual and environment. Stress is the primary driver of depression but a host of other causative factors can be involved. One of them that is virtually ignored is the role culture can play in the frequency of depression. The psychologist, Oliver James, has argued that our society is making too many people mentally ill. If the trends in depression incidence are to be believed he may well have a point.

The culture we are living in has no inherent meaning, and no dialogue with nature, If we are fortunate, we may have an ocean retreat from the man-made. If we are less affluent we may make special trips to connect to nature, be it at the zoo, or the botanical gardens. But for most of us nature is absent from our daily life.

We seek solace in the physical. We buy what we don't need, because it is supposed to make us feel good. We work harder to buy more, because it may make us feel better. Safer. In the process, we become alienated from our families. We spend too much time at the office, we have too much work pressure which we hope will translate into money and purchasing power and ultimately, safety from financial anxiety.

Cities are disintegrating, Developing a strong sense of community is crucial and “culture” is one of the important elements that can contribute to such a development. As cities expand, people of various ethnicities or social groups are thrown together into sharing a crowded space, and this often either forces them to abandon their identities or forces them to cling to their identities unreasonably for what they perceive as survival. The former encourages anonymity, whereas the latter fosters divides among various groups. Neither way is positive to the development of an urban city, because anonymity may create depression.

We are living in a culture that believes that science is the only valid way of knowledge. Instincts and tradition have become left aside. We are experiencing an age of rapid change, increasingly scarce resources, growing population, cultural mixing and many uncertainties about the future.

The fact that stress and culture can be among the primary causing factors of depression makes it clear that depression cannot be defined simply as a "brain disease". That we need to attack depression from other angles such as the culture in which we live in.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Social Networks effects on society

If you are thinking a year ahead - plant seeds
If you are thinking 10 years ahead - plant a tree
If you are thinking 100 years ahead - educate the people

The number of minutes on social networks in the U.S. rose 83% in April from the same month a year ago according to Nielsen Online. The total number of minutes spent on Facebook surged 13.9 billion in April this year from 1.7 billion a year ago, making it the No.1 social network. Social networking seems to be growing at epidemic proportions; nevertheless there is practically no research done on the possible effects engaging in this activity might cause to society,

Following are some of the possible harms suggested by Professor Greenfield:

* Social network sites are putting attention span in jeopardy. If the young brain is exposed from the outset to a world of fast action and reaction, of instant new screen images flashing up with the press of a key, such rapid interchange might accustom the brain to operate over such timescales. Perhaps when in the real world such responses are not immediately forthcoming, we will see such behaviors and call them attention-deficit disorder. It might be helpful to investigate whether the near total submersion of our culture in screen technologies over the last decade might b linked to the threefold increase over this period on methylphenidate, prescription, the drug used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

* Social networking sites can provide a constant reassurance that you are listened to, recognized, and also important. Instead the face-to-face, real life conversation, which is far more unpredictable and stressful than the computer mediated one happens in real time, with no opportunity to think up clever or witty responses, exposes your voice tone, body language, and probably even your emitted pheromones (which are molecules that transmit mainly sexual and social messages that others perceive unconsciously).

* Real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitized and easier screen dialogues, in much the same way as killing, skinning and butchering an animal to eat has been replaced by the convenience of packages of meat on the supermarket shelf. Perhaps future generations will recoil with similar horror at the messiness, unpredictability and immediate personal involvement of a three-dimensional, real-time interaction.

* The sheer compulsion of reliable and almost immediate reward is being linked to similar chemical systems in the brain that may also play a part in drug addiction. So we should not underestimate the 'pleasure' of interacting with a screen when we puzzle over why it seems so appealing to young people.

Following are some of the possible benefits:

* Social networks will become people’s new communications hub. They already provides a diverse set of options for connecting with more people than ever, in chat rooms, with IM and in real time broadcasts.

* Information obtained via social networks is more trusted than non vetted information. Just like in the real world where I would probably ask my lawyer friend for legal advice, we will begin our online searches first within our social networks.

* Law of numbers, 2/3 off Americans use one form of social media or another. Social networks are becoming our filter into the big and sometimes overwhelming world of Google. Our networks will help us sort good from bad information.

*Social networking sites actually appears to reduce loneliness and improve well-being, as was reported as long ago as 2002 in the Journal of Social Issues, People who have difficulties with conventional socializing, such as those with Asperger's syndrome, experience great benefits. As for social networking sites being a poor alternative to real-world socializing, surveys reported at a conference in 2006 indicate that Facebook users mostly use it to maintain relationships with people they meet offline.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The origins of Language

So when did language begin? At the very beginnings of the genus Homo, perhaps 4 or 5 million years ago? Or with the advent of modern man, Cro-magnon, some 125,000 years ago? Did the neanderthal speak? He had a brain that was larger than ours, but his voice box seems to be higher in his throat, like that of the apes. We don’t know.

There are many not well known theories about the origins of language and many more that could be created, either here or on other information support media. Please feel free to contribute with anything you can think of and try not to repress yourself at all. Here are some samples taken from other people's ideas.

1. The mama theory. Language began with the easiest syllables attached to the most significant objects.

2. The ta-ta theory. Sir Richard Paget, believed that body movement preceded language. Language began as an unconscious vocal imitation of these movements -- like the way a child’s mouth will move when they use scissors, or my tongue sticks out when I try to play the guitar. This evolved into the popular idea that language may have derived from gestures.

3. The bow-wow theory. Language began as imitations of natural sounds -- moo, choo-choo, crash, clang, buzz, bang, meow... This is more technically refered to as onomatopoeia or echoism.

4. The pooh-pooh theory. Language began with interjections, instinctive emotive cries such as oh! for surprise and ouch! for pain.

5. The ding-dong theory. Some people, have pointed out that there is a rather mysterious correspondence between sounds and meanings. Small, sharp, high things tend to have words with high front vowels in many languages, while big, round, low things tend to have round back vowels! Compare itsy bitsy teeny weeny with moon, for example. This is often referred to as sound symbolism.

6. The yo-he-ho theory. Language began as rhythmic chants, perhaps ultimately from the grunts of heavy work (heave-ho!). The linguist A. S. Diamond suggests that these were perhaps calls for assistance or cooperation accompanied by appropriate gestures. This may relate yo-he-ho to the ding-dong theory, as in such words as cut, break, crush, strike...

7. The sing-song theory. Jesperson suggested that language comes out of play, laughter, cooing, courtship, emotional mutterings and the like. He even suggests that, contrary to other theories, perhaps some of our first words were actually long and musical, rather than the short grunts many assume we started with.

8. The hey you! theory. suggested that we have always needed interpersonal contact, and that language began as sounds to signal both identity (here I am!) and belonging (I’m with you!). We may also cry out in fear, anger, or hurt (help me!). This is more commonly called the contact theory.

9. The hocus pocus theory. Language may have had some roots in a sort of magical or religious aspect of our ancestors' lives. Perhaps we began by calling out to game animals with magical sounds, which became their names.

10. The eureka! theory. And finally, perhaps language was consciously invented. Perhaps some ancestor had the idea of assigning arbitrary sounds to mean certain things. Clearly, once the idea was had, it would catch on like wild-fire!

11. The pop theory. Gould thinks that language just popped into existence just all at once.

12. The never-ending storage theory The brain is capable to save an amazing amount of information, much more than what we have ever imagined, therefore the main task for the brain is to build proper filters to discard the non-relevant huge amounts of information, and keep only the relevant one.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Placebo effect

A placebo (Latin for "I shall please") is a pharmacologically inert substance (such as saline solution or a starch tablet) that produces an effect similar to what would be expected of a pharmacologically active substance (such as an antibiotic). By extension, "fake" surgery and "fake" therapies are considered placebos.

Maimonides recommended in his Treatment of Sexual Disorders urinating into a hollow carrot as a cure for impotence. Well into the 17th century, the London Pharmacopoeia (as much of an authority as existed then) listed among its medicinal agents such things as the saliva of a fasting man, lozenges of dried viper, fox lungs and shed snake's skin and sutures of the skull of an executed criminal among others.

In 1939, long before high-tech drugs came along to treat the chest pain known as angina, an Italian surgeon named Fieschi devised a simple technique. Reasoning that increased blood flow to the heart would ease his patients' pain, he made tiny incisions in their chests and tied knots in two arteries. The results were spectacular. Three quarters of all patients improved." One third were cured.

Forty years ago, a young Seattle cardiologist named Leonard Cobb conducted a unique trial of a procedure then commonly used for angina, in which doctors made small incisions in the chest and tied knots in two arteries to try to increase blood flow to the heart. It was a popular technique—90 percent of patients reported that it helped—but when Cobb compared it with placebo surgery in which he made incisions but did not tie off the arteries, the sham operations proved just as successful.

Some doctors belive that the placebo effect is mainly or purely physical and due to physical changes that promote healing or feeling better. So, what is the explanatory mechanism for the placebo effect? Some think it is the process of administering it. It is thought that the touching, the caring, the attention, and other interpersonal communication that is part of the controlled study process (or the therapeutic setting), along with the hopefulness and encouragement provided by the experimenter/healer, affect the mood, expectations, and beliefs of the subject, which in turn triggers physical changes such as release of endorphins, catecholamines, cortisol, or adrenaline. The process reduces stress by providing hope or reducing uncertainty about what treatment to take or what the outcome will be. The reduction in stress prevents or slows down further harmful physical changes from occurring. The healing situation provokes a conditioned response. The patient's been healed before by the doctor (or thinks she's been healed before by the doctor) and expects to be healed again.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.

When you own the copyright, you have the "exclusive rights" to: reproduce the copyrighted work, display the copyrighted work publicly, and prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work, and distribute copies of the copyrighted work to the public by sale, rental or lending.

The internet is a copy machine. At its most foundational level, it copies every action, every character, every thought we make while we ride upon it. In order to send a message from one corner of the internet to another, the protocols of communication demand that the whole message be copied along the way several times. IT companies make a lot of money selling equipment that facilitates this ceaseless copying. Every bit of data ever produced on any computer is copied somewhere. The digital economy is thus run on a river of copies. Unlike the mass-produced reproductions of the machine age, these copies are not just cheap, they are free,

The act of copying is actually a fundamental human drive. It can be seen everywhere, in everything, from fashion to linguistics to basic human development. Children are obsessive copiers. They dedicate a large amount of their time to imitate their parents, One of their principal learning strategies is copying others while doing the activity they want to be able to perform.

All new technological inventions are strongly supported by pre-existing technological inventions.It also happens with many other types of human creations.

Americans during the first hundred years of the existence of their republic did not honor/respect foreign copyrights; which implies that they where born in a pirate kind of nation, Therefore foreign countries are unlikely to be willing to respect Americans copyrights nowadays,