Knowing the future, brain twist?

Hi,
two weeks back I wrote about the movie Arrival. I did not really get into the problems that arise when somebody knows the future, I will try to settle this today.


Alright, lets say that you just acquired the ability to know what will happen in the future. Cool huh?

First problem, do you have free will (meaning if you can choose to do something or there is no way to actually choose anything)? Lets start with the answer: yes, you have free will. Basically two things can happen, if you truly know what will happen then you can not choose any other option which means that by knowing the future you and everybody else will lose free will if you could choose something else than what the ability tells you then it would not be telling the future. Something else could happen though, you could know all the possibilities that arise from your decisions and the decisions of others. Funny would be if you would see it for the decisions of others, then the ability would be useless for longterm predictions where people all across the globe would interconnect with their decisions (do animals have free will, which ones do and which ones do not?). You could for example see that in 40 years there are couple (a lot) of lines that go to Third World War but there would be so many people involved in changing couple of important people that you could hardly do anything with it. At the same time if your brain would be organized in the mess you would immediately know what option you need to take to optimize whatever you want to optimize. Much easier would be if everybody else lost their free will and you alone had it.

The real fun begins if you consider no free will aka determinism. You know exactly what will happen but you can not change it. Imagine standing on cross roads, you know you will turn to left, its the future and you can not decide otherwise but there does not seem to be anything that would actually prevent you from turning right. If you do it, it means that the ability was telling you exactly that from the beginning but then you would turn left…

Lets consider thought experiment:

There is a robot that has very strict type of thinking. It is standing in a hall way that splits into two corridors, left and right (it is driving towards the left). Nothing miraculous can happen there, nothing that would prevent the robot to go where it is programmed to go.

You are at the headquarters and know where the robot will turn or simply what will happen there. You tell this information to the robot and the robot will turn exactly the other way. For example you know that he will turn left. You send him the information and he according to his program turns right which means that your ability is not working and this simply can not happen, you can not tell him the direction because he would do the opposite. What will you tell him? What is the future?

There is one more line of code in the robot: if you get the information “you did not decide”, you will turn left. This is to make it harder, the future would switching between left and right indefinitely, meaning the robot would not do anything and we do not want it. The only solution that I came up with is that he will actually not decide, you will send him the information: “You will start going left but when you will get this information you will turn right. After hearing this you will turn left but when you hear this information you will turn right again…” it will continue and then it depends how the robot is made. If it waits until the stream of information halts then it wont ever decide and you will speak to him forever. If it will take the information and while it processes the next part it will start to act accordingly to it (meaning the opposite way), the robot will slowly move towards left or right. At some point it will be on the threshold which raises a problem of course and I guess there is nothing stable to tell him without destroying the ability that you gained, you know what he will do but you can not tell him.

The last part would be the same scenario as if the robot could teleport from the beginning but if you have to say the information then it will result in a paradox. In normal non-robot life you would probably run into more complicated scenarios where knowing the future would not alternate you decision which is the whole problem we are dealing with. But if you would not and your ability would HAVE TO work then… ???

BOOM!

Dragallur

Pareidolia

Hi,
today I will write about pareidolia a commonly seen phenomena. People often see familiar objects in completely random things, like rocks.


Clearly there is face in the upper middle part of the picture on the left. There is definitely sign of both eyes, of nose and mouth, thats more than one needs to SNice.svgrecognise face in something, consider the following one on the right. Do you see the black thick circle filled with yellow color, two ellipses and curved line extended in the ends? Yeah me too.

The point is that humans are great in recognizing (most often faces) in things that are actually not them. The first picture is photo of region Cydonia which is a area on Mars. It was taken in 1976 by Viking 1 and of course people thought that it was proof for extraterrestrial life! Well if you take enough photos of Mars there is high probability that some of the rocks there will resemble primitive faces.

Pick me! Some may bypass this pear for its blemished skin while others will see how eager it is to please

“I am the evidence of life on Earth, beware!”

Pareidolia does not happen only in images but also in sounds. For example there is a group of people who listen to so-called “ghost boxes” (sub category of ghost hunters). Ghost box is a box that is skimming quickly through radio channels. This creates lot of background noise and static noise with mix of what you can hear from the actual radio.. they say that the ghost can easily communicate through it.

Simplest explanation is of course that they just interpret extremely bad audio as some kind of words, plus if they listen for many hours they will eventually pop out something that will be an answer to your question, here is a link so you can consider for yourself, remember humans are great in interpreting random noise as actual words[1] (skip like 3 minutes for actual talk).

The story of the original Mars picture got stretched over many years. 2 decades after taking the picture, there was much better one taken by Mars Express as you can see below it was just the low resolution of Viking spacecraft.

There are many things that can trick us so it is not best to take the first explanation that we can think of, be sceptical and do not share if you do not know anything about it.

Dragallur

[1]The “answers” should be mostly made by random quotes from songs.

Smiley: By en:User:Mystìc – Originally created by en:User:Mystìc at en:Image:SNive.gif. Vectorized by Psiĥedelisto, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55079042

Pear: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3280816/What-photos-s-faces-suffer-facial-pareidolia.html

 

Isolation for long space missions

Hi,
so I was watching Michael Stevens’s first and only free episode of Mind Field where he was talking about isolation. He mentioned that there were experiments of people in closed systems to test how body and mind reacts to long term isolation.


In 1989 Stefania Follini was for 130 days in a cave without any visitors, she could only communicate via “internet”. She also had books to read and some small animals like mice. Her menstruation stopped at some point, she slept for about 10 hours and was awake for 20-25! Also during the visit she lost 7.7 kilograms. This is not the longest isolation at all.

NASA also did in the last few years isolation of 6 people for 8 and later 12 months. This was to test the team work of the people since they were closed together cabin fever showed up, but they did not have to cancel the mission. In 2007 Russians did experiment called Mars 500 where six males stayed together for even longet rime, 520 days, only artificial light as before, they brought with them books and games or dvds but they had limited connection with outside world.

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/hiseasgroup-uhi.jpg

Eight months in “cabin” (project HI-SEAS)

Michael Stevens on the other hand spent “only” 3 days in isolation, but it was a bit different. He was in soundproof small room with white walls, white and black bottles with food and water, sink and toilet. This had dramatically different effects. He had halucinations and could not really tell apart dream from reality, also at one point he was counting bottles and counted 6 instead of 9 😀

What are such experiments for? You want to know what happens to body if it is thrown out of its rhytm and mind too. When we are finally able to get to Mars we need people that are capable of staying in small spaceship for months and months.

Dragallur

Serious problem of mental masturbation

Hi,
just to clear things up, yes mental masturbation is serious concept that actually exists though when I heard about it first I thought that it is just some joke or what.

Today I want to talk about YouTube, Khan Academy and what mental masturbation means.


This topic is kind of connected to procrastination  and multitasking and I already wrote about those in previous episodes of “serious problems”.

While procrastination is simply avoiding some work that you know you are supposed to do and multitasking is doing more stuff at the same time (which decreases your overall performance) mental masturbation is doing intelectuall things that could seem on the first hand quite good but are actually either preventing you from doing real action IRL or making you think that you are just at your top productive.


Now let me give an example.

The way I understand this concept is in watching educational YouTube videos. There are literary thousands of them, so you can spent a lot of time like that. Try to watch some video (best more) and after few days try to recall what was their content. SciShow is for example great channel for this experiment.

They release daily videos about science. Each is something like 4 minutes long and there are over 700 of them. Mental masturbation would be if I watched 10 of them and then did not remember a single thing but still thought that I was being productive by watching educational content (this is quite intuitive, if I watch so much at the same time without thinking about it I can not remember it). Actually, most people would probably agree with me and said something like “Yo man! You are doing some serious work on internet.”

Now the pitfall is of course that it is just wasted time and you do not even know it. You could say that you remember something and that is fine but you want to remember the whole video because maybe it was some high quality stuff but you just skimmed through thinking that “yeah this is great”.

The way I first noticed this was when I watched videos and then talked about them during family dinner. Sometimes I contemplated that I do not know mere minutes after it finished what it was about, though the false great feeling was still there.

This applies to lot and lot of stuff, reading too of course. I mentioned Khan Academy in the beginning. KA is a huge project that has lot of nice educational content. Like it or not, content needs to be tested and proper testing system in Khan Academy is basicly only in math sections. The other subjects you can use just as a tool for mental masturbation.

Derek Müller from Veritasium is pretty good in his physics videos. He discusses this issue in this one:


So how can you stop mental masturbation?

  1. Start taking notes from what you read, videos you watch, people you talk with
  2. Talk with someone who is interested in the topic or she/he saw the video too.
  3. Play it/read it it more times. Repetition of the best stuff is going to make you remember it whether you like it or not.

The last advice might seem like a waste of time but as it happens it does not need to be.

Dragallur

My favorite scientists and astronomers

Hi,
so I came up with this idea of list of people that I admire in science. Those are not usually scientists most like ex-scientists who are writing, blogging, learning students and so on.


I want to start with Phil Plait also known as Bad Astronomer. Why? Because he is famous

skeptic in the science community who is leading the league against Moon hoax. When I was writing about moon landing I cited his work quite a few times. He also wrote the book Death form the skies and he was featured in Crash Course Astronomy which was pretty cool, here are some links:

His blog.

His first blog (mostly bad astronomy).

Crash Course Astronomy

Second person in my list is Neil deGrass Tyson. He is astrophysicist, also sceptic and agnostic. He makes quite often fun of Flat Earth and is pretty cool.

Video

Demonstrating the power of gravity in the response to rapper singing about Flat Earth.

Another of my favorite scientists is Bill Nye. I am pretty sure that you know this one.

Science BOSS.

I actually saw him for the first time in USA in science class but actually listened to some of his talks few months ago for the first time. While he is very popular generally I kind of liked his debate with Ken Ham.. watch it, it is worth the 3 hours when you will witness the worst kind of argumentation in all history of creationism 😉 [1]

I would add Michio Kaku but I did not see so much stuff from him so I will just leave it here.

Dragallur

[1] Check out Ken Ham memes, those are best!

Peak-end effect

Hi,
I was struggling what to write about today but finally I looked into my notes where all previous ideas for posts hide and I decided to write about peak-end effect which is something I have read about months ago though even today I think about it as something really cool. (Uhh, one sentence)

Important cognitive bias!


I found peak end when I was reading the book Organized Mind (or was it in Thinking fast and slow?). There was experiment described:

There are people in experiment. For one minute they will put their hand into bucket of water with 10°C (which is pretty cold and it hurts).

After one minute they will warm they hand back and then it continues. Another minute in bucket of 10°C water and then 30 seconds in the same bucket but with temperature secretly rised to about 12°C (you can feel the difference).

Now they asked them if they would rather repeat the first part which means one minute in 10° or the second (1 minute 10° and 30 seconds 12°) (in the original experiment the temperature may be different)

Well what would you do? Both hurt but the second clearly hurts more because it is exactly same but with another 30 seconds in which your hand will get even colder. It is clear that anyone outside the experiment would choose the first option but most if not all subjects chose the second because of peak end.


As Kahneman says, the people chose the second one because they liked the memory of it better.

The mind tends to remember ends of events and also the peaks which means both up and downs. In the experiment people remembered that the water was a bit warmer in the END so they wanted to repeat it.

Of course you can transform this situation into your life. For example I often rate my life from 0-10 points, how much I am satisfied with what I am doing here. Now every time I do it I remember how much I am influenced by the last events, the END and how much by the PEAKS (bad and good school reports, girl relationships and so on).

So yes, I think that people often make statements by the peak-end rule saying things like “my life sucks” and so on though it can influence your life in the other way, so that you think everything is fine while it may not be.

Also remember that effects like this are used by companies. It is very easy for hotel or for some holiday organization to make your feelings better when they satisfy you in the end of your visit.

Dragallur

 

 

 

 

 

Altruism does not exist

Hi,
the title is pretty self-explanatory but I can expand it. What I want to write about today is the theory of selfish gene and how it interacts with selfishness and altruism. (Btw. do not forget to check out my second blog!)


So altruistic act is the act that helps others while giving you to worse position, by this I mean that it costs you some energy for example.

What I want to say that there is apparently altruistic behavior towards those who are similar to you. Who is that? Your family.

Over all you share 1/2 of genes with your siblings and with your parents and also children, nobody can get closer to you if you wont make a copy of yourself or you have twin.

From the point of the selfish gene which is in you, it is important to stay in population and not die out [1]. This means that the gene is trying to safe other genes which may be riding in different bodies.


How does he know that there is his identical gene twin in other individual? Dawkins says for example in his book The Selfish Gene, that when there is gene for altruism in your body you will know that this same gene appears in somebody else who is also behaving altruisticly. While it is always from evolutionary point of view best to safe yourself, it is also good to safe others because they may contain the same stuff as you and that is what is important, not the outer shell which is anyway just a vehicle which will disappear after few years.

To enhance this argument I will just add: if gene is able to recognise himself in other “survival machines” then it will be more often present in future generations which is basicly natural selection.


 

You can not apply this for human behaviour because we are no longer bound only by instincts and this surely is not a way to live a life. At the same time, think over your past days about you and also people around. Do you behave altruisticly or are you hiding your selfishness behind altruism? What I see often is that people do “good” things just because they want to look like doing good things over all being selfish, what do you guys think about this?

Dragallur

[1] It is of course not important for the gene. Genes are not thinking. If the gene would not be good at staying in population it would not be there.

 

 

 

Argumentative foul: Emphasis on unknown authority

Hi,
last time I mentioned straw man as the first argumentative foul, today I will continue with the emphasis on unknown authority.


I think that this one is very very famous. Just take the following sentence.

American scientists say that apples are poisonous!

You have hears something like this, starting or ending with some authority. The last time I remember hearing it was when me and some people were talking about what is called: consciousness after death. Few were christians and their opinion is that it proves God. To make their argument stronger they said:

Even scientists proved that some people remembered things when their brain did not show any evidence of functioning!

It is kind of hard to say something against it, because scientists are authority, but unknown. The problem is that nobody else then them knew anything about the authority and it could seem kind of reasonable to believe it, because scientists must be right.

Do not get fooled.

What was their source? Did the source said the same thing? What is their definition of scientist? Why could actually such a thing be true when it collides with the rest of science?

Such an authority can be for example government, or doctors, or people who work there a long time and have experience.


 

Feel free to share you experience with argumentative foul in comments!

Dragallur

 

Argumentative foul: The Straw Man

Hi,
I decided to make some post about argumentation, this is partial because of what happened today (which was quite interesting though I will write about it a bit later) and also because argumentation is so important to me. Probably the first argumentative foul that has ever been known to me was the “straw man”.


I heard about straw man for the first time when my brother showed me some meme and there were those two words.

So I asked: “What does straw man means?”

“Imagine debating with me about God, I would be an atheist and you the one who believed in God. We would make some arguments and then I would say: Imagine old man sitting on a cloud with shiny thing around his head looking down and letting people do wars.”

This is nice example of straw man, in this situation I believe in God and the other person does not even need to know what I exactly mean by God but he says this. Creating an argument which I do not even need to believe in, making it ironic or so. This is the building of straw man, now he burns this straw man down by saying: “Could you really imagine it? This is so stupid, old man on cloud -_-.”

This is of course argumentative foul because I never said something about old man sitting on cloud, plus the person is acting ignorant. Of course you can not always see it so easily but once you know that it exists you can detect when this straw man is being build so dont let yourself be thrown down by such a thing.

Dragallur

2nd foul: Emphasis on unknown authority

 

 

Serious problem of reciprocity

Hi,
today I would like to write about giving presents, doing favors, blogging and twitter, all of those things have something special in common.


This is called reciprocity. It’s synonyms could also be mutuality or intercommunity, let me give an example.

When somebody gives you some present, it may even be unexpected or the present is really, really great, you feel like you should give it back to them to equal the values of both sides to erase some kind of “debt”. This does not need to be materialistic, I can even imagine when it could be even emotional or so. Or somebody helps you so you feel that you should do the same to him. This is reciprocity and it seems to me that it is simply everywhere.


Reciprocity does not always work in this way but it can also work like revenge. When somebody does you something bad, you will feel that you want to return it to them, to make revenge. And well revenge seems like a bad thing, so is reciprocity bad? Should we feel it and behive like it says to us?

I mean when somebody does something nice to you, you should not feel that you should do the same thing. I am not saying that you should not be grateful or so, but do not get manipulated by someones behavior even if it is in a nice manner. You should not be in debt because somebody did something you did not even ask for, imagine getting money but having to pay it back with interest without somebody asking you if you need it.

Reciprocity is a great manipulating tool and it works perfectly because we are so deeply used to it.

When I wrote that reciprocity has to do a lot with blogging and twitter I meant this:
I feel that this happens to me a lot, especially on Twitter where lot of people simply hunt down new followers to get higher numbers on their twitter. I even found an account with 25,000 followers which is not a bad number at all when I consider mine: 16.. but at the same time, the person had 24,500 people who they followed. Now if you have never been on twitter you can not imagine how it looks like but I follow 70 people, those are mostly some famous people, organizations as NASA and so on so they are very active. I get hundreds of tweets every day but if I look at it thrice a day I can get through it and look on everything they posted, most is not so important to me, so it is pretty fast. Imagine what a tide of new tweets you must get when you have 24,500 follows, you are totally flooded and every time you refresh page there are tens of new tweets.

Why those people have so many of them? Reciprocity. They give a follow to you and wait day or two, if you follow them, sometimes under the effect of reciprocity you will keep their follow but if you do not you will lose their interest. This is a clear example of reciprocity because you feel as though you should look on their account and check out their work and even give them follow while otherwise without the effect you would most probably skip them because they are too boring.


Now I was just throwing it whole down but actually it may have a normal use, even the “golden rule” in ethics is a kind of reciprocity:

One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself

Or also in international politics this is used frequently. When one state gives the other some benefits it is usually followed by the other state doing the same, because it is just fair on the international level. Or this of course may be used in negative way with sanctions.

So I am not saying that you should not follow reciprocity at all, I am just saying that you should not feel disappointed in somebody when she or he does not return your favor because you have done it in free will and they also have a free will to decide if they will return it. At last:

You will never know all the details, but you have to count on all of them

This was kind of strange post for my blog but I have been thinking about this for some time already so I decided to share it with you, thanks for reading.

Dragallur