Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

links for 2010-09-03

  • So, why is it that we care so much about the BP oil spill than what happens on a daily basis in the Amazon? Here’s what we know about human caring and compassion. First and foremost, it is based on our emotions rather than our reasoning. Joseph Stalin said, “One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.” Mother Teresa said, “If I look at the masses I will never act, but if I look at the one I will.” In oil spill terms: We see pelicans and turtles mired and dying in oil, and we want to cry. We hear about families who have had their homes ruined and their livelihoods horribly affected or even destroyed, and we sympathize with their helplessness and want to do something to help them recover. Our compassion isn’t necessarily proportional to the magnitude of the catastrophe. It depends on how much of our emotion is invoked.
  • A new study on back pain… [found that] “adults with chronic back pain found that those with some lifetime adversity reported less physical impairment, disability, and heavy utilization of health care than those who had experienced either no adversity or a high level of adversity…… The data suggest that adversity-exposure also may protect against psychiatric disturbances that occur with chronic back pain…” I am not suggesting that everyone goes and get some more experience in adversity — just to prepare ourselves in case something bad will take place in the future. But, it is interesting to realize that negative experiences influence our adaptation, and this way also on our ability to deal more positively with new negative circumstances.
  • Email, Facebook, and Twitter have greatly enhanced the ways we communicate. These handy modes of communication allow us to stay in touch with people all over the world without the restrictions of snail mail (too slow) or the telephone (is it too late/early to call?). As great as these communication tools are, they can also be major time-sinks. And even those of us who recognize their inefficiencies still fall into their trap. Why is this? I think it has something to do with what the behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner called “schedules of reinforcement.”
  • New research shows that mentally stimulating activities such as crossword puzzles, reading and listening to the radio may, at first, slow the decline of thinking skills but speed up dementia later in old age. The research is published in the September 1, 2010, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
    (tags: neuroscience)
  • Oddly unsatisfying article on the impact of streaming media on pornography. Not unsatisfying because of the lack of video embeds; but other than arguing that piracy has exerted downward wage pressure (which I suppose isn’t a surprise), it’s not a particularly smart article. Particularly notable is the absence of a discussion of how amateur DIY stuff has emerged as a challenger to the pros.
[To the tune of The Velvet Underground, “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” from the album The Velvet Underground & Nico (a 2-star song, imo).]

1 Comment

  1. Scientific-technological revolution and the historical consciousness.

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