Memory is not what I thought it was

“Many people believe that memory works like a recording device. Memory works a little bit more like a Wikipedia page: you can go in there and change it, but so can other people”

So says Elizabeth Loftus an American cognitive psychologist and expert on human memory*. And she walks her talk with an impressive array of research.

She was consulted by Harvey Weinstein who asked her: ‘How can something that seems so consensual be turned into something so wrong?’

Memories are reconstructions; they are not literal representations of what actually happened … (memory) is highly malleable and open to suggestion.

She has also shown that false memories can be embedded by leading questions and psychotherapy.

In a 2013 TED talk entirled “How reliable is your memory” she reported that one project had identified some 300 people who were convicted of things they didn’t do, based on DNA analysis. Three quarters of the cases were due to faulty eyewitness memory.

The implications for eyewitness based testimony and the validity of repressed memories are huge. It means that single witness evidence should not be regarded as sufficient evidence of truth, unless there is other direct evidence to support it.

In the US, some states refuse to prosecute cases based on recovered memory testimony and some insurers decline cover to therapists on recoved memory malpractice suits.*

Testimony from Professor Lucas in the two headline inquiries in Australia into rapes by a Minister or in a Minister’s office may well be enlightening.

But sadly, the outcomes of those inquiries have already been decided, without the need to hear evidence.

In my view, the sooner we get rid of juries, eyewitness evidence and judges the better: we need to promote universal surveillance, compulsory truth serums and lie detection and use a computer to evaluate the evidence.

*Wikipedia – Elizabeth Loftus

What about undersea sustainable cities?

Story suggested by Bob a.k.a. Tinker Connolly Monday 15 March

The continent of Atlantis was an island
Which lay before the great flood
In the area we now call the Atlantic Ocean
So great an area of land, that from her western shores
Those beautiful sailors journeyed
To the South and the North Americas with ease
In their ships with painted sails…

Hail Atlantis! Way down below the ocean
Where I wanna be, she may be

or

Under the sea
Under the sea
Darling it’s better
Down where it’s wetter
Take it from me

It seems crazy to be talking about settling Mars when there is so much space under the sea.

In modern times, it was probably the intrepid underwater pioneer Cousteau and his Conshelf research habitat built under water in the 70’s that sparked interest in the possibility of living underwater.

 Under sea habitation could alleviate over-population problems, or guard against the possibility of natural or man-made disasters that render land-based human life impossible.

Skylab has clearly demonstrated that it is possibleto survive for long periods out of the atmosphere. The difference with underwater is increased pressure as opposed to no pressure.

The pressures at any deeper than 1,000ft (300m), would require very thick walls and excessive periods of decompression for those returning to the surface, but there is plenty of sea bed above that level.

Energy can be generated harnessing wave action or placing solar panels on the surface.

The air composition needed to sustain the aquanauts depends upon the depth of the habitat. Current habitats use compressors to constantly push fresh air from the surface down tubes to the habitat. Growing plants using natural or artificial light could be used to generate a fresh supply of oxygen, or other methods could be developed to produce oxygen.

There are hotels which have underwater modules.

Water can be created using condensation or desalinisation. Depending upon the size of the colony, human waste could be treated and released into the environment.

Homes with undersea modules have been developed

A number of ideas and proposals are under consideration and undersea mining and marine fish farms are significantly large industries.

The sea is being recognised as an opportunity for expansion. Let us hope we can clean up pollution before we start living there. And keep it clean. And minimise our impact on a different eco-system….

Any bets we can do that? Thought not.

The drowning of rational debate

(This is a shortened version of an article by Chris Kenny which I endorse. I am somewhat guilty of irresponsible utterances and hereby undertake to try to be better)

Twitter digitises and broadcasts the public debate equivalent of a teenage graffiti and vandalism rampage. And yet it shapes debate; our mainstream media and politicians look to the digital world for instant opinion polling and guidance about where to take their narratives and policies …

It is amplifying and weaponising the crudest and most inane elements of society and inviting them to dumb down our public square.

Our battered and impoverished public debate will not improve unless we learn to talk to each other. For a civil society to exist and political debate to be useful, people need to be able to hear ­alternative arguments, avail themselves of all relevant facts, and learn to deal politely with people who do not agree with them.

Far too many people waste their time shouting digital abuse at each other, or regurgitating views they agree with from accounts chosen by the faceless match­makers of the Facebook algorithms, instead of reading, discussing or learning.

The digital revolution was going to democratise the media, personalise democracy and mobilise the truth, but instead it has polarised and emaciated the media, dragged politics into the mire of anonymous bullying, and fostered deceptive memes, fake news and pile-ons.

At its core is a lack of accountability. The enticement of being able to post widely and often about anything — without submitting to editors, curators, lawyers or peers — encourages bravado and aggression, and it fosters an impetuousness that ­values gut feelings over facts, and devalues the time and effort required to get across the facts.

This freedom could liberate debate; but instead of letting a thousand flowers bloom, it shares the scrawls of a thousand dunny doors. People are unthinking enough about what they post without the added shield of anonymity — requiring people to post under their real names, with proof of identity, would not eradicate the problems but it would improve the situation.

The headline or the topic is enough for these people to slur or condemn; often egged on by hysterical opinion leaders such as Kevin Rudd …

…. thanks to social media; more conservatives are forced underground. … social media has weaponised the assault against anyone right of centre.

The woke love the following and adulation of social media …. until they cross a line, make the mistake of speaking sense or asking a salient question, then they experience the rule of the leftist lynch mob.

Public debate becomes coarser, more out of touch from the mainstream, and less tolerant of differing points of view. Soon the stage is vacated by all but the screaming green left, and those who will appease them.

Chris Kenny Weekend Australian 13 March 2021 

Rational debate drowning in the social media swamp

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics/rational-debate-killed-in-the-sewer-of-social-media/news-story/bd066d99571f6d35b67d95ae1c494b4a

life without the fruit of the vine

Story suggested by Christina Forsyth Thompson 6 Mar Sat

This is  a topic very close to my heart at the moment as I have given up alcohol for Lent.

Fortunately, by tradition, I follow the Lent rules applied by my father. As he was a Papal knight he  is unimpeachable as a guide.

The rules are no alcohol on every day of Lent which of course excludes Sundays and other Holy days, such as family birthdays. It being Sunday and my brother’s 80th birthday, I am drinking a beer as I write this, and I shall have another!

Giving up for Lent is not as hard as it sounds as it is a choice and a virtuous one too, so glory can be claimed.

Also, apparently there are a number of benefits attached to not drinking, according to some articles I read after Googling “life without wine”. 

A recent article by an Australian (she must be reliable) on stopping drinking  alcohol contained the following testimonies:

  • the depression and violent outbursts which had haunted me for decades gradually ebbed away
  • Pleased to discover it was easy, I felt a lot better, and I was more productive and positive.
  •  The first thing I noticed a few weeks in is how happy I felt all the time. Just content and relaxed.

and my favourite … I’m a rural Irish single person who hasn’t had a drink for about fifteen years, and I must admit that it’s led to me having a very solitary life, but I’m almost never in trouble, and I used to always be. 

and one with a ring of truth: I used to have a booze-free month every year. I stopped doing it because I had to accept that those months were invariably the most joyless, miserable, depressing, empty months of the year.

All I can say is beware of fake news.

Any student of history will tell you that Prohibition by law is just stoopid; people hate being told what they can’t do, especially if they have been doing it for a long time.

Surely the Prohibition era in the US,  less than 100 years ago,clearly  showed that such a move is very bad for a country. It lost the US federal government a total of $11 billion in tax revenue, while costing over $300 million to enforce. 

The law that was meant to stop people drinking instead turned  many of them into experts on how to make it.

The growth of the illegal liquor trade under Prohibition made criminals of millions and exponentially accelerated organised crime. 

So the folly of an outright ban on the sale of alcohol is monumental.

Maybe they did learn about the effect of prohibition…?

The crass stupidity of politicians who do this in the light of history is obvious. But you can’t tell pollies they are stoopid. They know that, but as we all know there is no cure for stoopidity.

I am sorry, I can’t go on with this and avoid allegations of being indelicate, unprogressive, intolerant and rednecked. They are all true.

But it irks not being able to say what I think … or drink if I want to.

The ups and downs of immigrating

All my bags are packed

 I’m ready to go …

Taxi’s waiting, he’s blowing its horn,

Already I am so lonesome I could die

‘Cause I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again …

That about wraps the downs. They hit immediately, like jumping out an aeroplane door – you realise you really don’t know anything about parachute landing.

Doubts are huge and the final rituals of departure are agonising.

The children are with you and it doesn’t help them to see your snot en trane – so you have to pull on a brave face and smile.

Immigration is a bureaucratic odyssey of queues, forms, fees and fretful clerks. Fortunately my wife is calm and patient; if it had been left to me we would have been extradited immediately!

For years after you get there, you watch aeroplanes flying west, wistfully. You wonder whether you did the right thing, you feel you have denied your heritage, abandoned your roots and you long to return to your siblings – even though you usually fight with them after a few days together!

The ups are realised only years later, when we saw our children graduate, intelligent and independent and unscarred by the dichotomy of the society we had left, with only happy memories of the land of their birth.

We really enjoyed the high ups of immigration after our second immigration – this time in search of the sun, to a bigger land where our children were settling. This time we were on our own and free to choose without having to leave family too far behind.

Those that stayed were close enough to visit. Our dog came with us.

There was little pain on leaving and happy anticipation of the new promise of The Lucky Country.

So I suppose your emotional buoyancy depends on why, when and where you go and what you leave.

The security and calmness of your new world compared to the degradation, dishonesty and deceit of where you started, is consoling.

It is a gentle emotion, not raw like the verlang for tuisland, which lingers.

Story proposed by Linda Owen Guy and Rose Glen

The occasional cloud

I am my own doctor

(* click on the underlined texts for some vibes, ek sê)

I discerned the easy embrace, the clinging infiltration.

It was easy and almost soothing, maybe like drowning…?

Then I looked up and saw the blue sky and felt the fresh day.

And it slunk away, spurned like a jackal in the face of a lion.

It will return for a sniff once or twice; such is the beast.

But I have its measure and offer scant sustenance for its cloying ploys.

I rejoice that it was sooo easy – all I did is look up and breathe!

The cur crept in on the tail of some lazy thoughts:

what a drag it is getting old and the pursuit of happiness is just a bore.

Mick Jagger sang it in 1964, would you believe!

Anyway, mother’s little helpers have been discredited.

But it isn’t really a drag, because you don’t feel old, (unless you fall over).

You may be gray and slow and can’t run, but that’s just your body.

You are your own doctor, because you choose how you feel!

Some easy ways for good health:

Never forget blue sky

Sleep is the single most important thing your brain needs for optimal functioning.

Exercise – all regular physical activity increases blood circulation and levels of many different neurochemicals and hormones in the brain

Sunlight: It is known that sunlight can affect serotonin levels …and may also influence dopamine.

Massage – boosts serotonin levels by as much as 30% and increases dopamine, activates endorphins, improves sleep, and decreases the stress hormone, cortisol.

Meditation –  can increase concentrations of dopamine in the brain’s cortex.

Deciding – The act of intentionally making any decision has been shown to cause positive changes in attention and increase dopamine rewarding activity..

Setting and achieving goals – When you achieve a goal, dopamine is released. Dopamine is not only released when you cross the finish line. You get dopamine boosts at each step along the way, which helps to keep you motivated.

Habits – Habits, both good and bad, become the routine in your brain through repetition and dopamine release. Unfortunately, bad habits are the ones that often give you lots of dopamine. However, when you perform a habit – even a good one – you get a dopamine reward and it gets further wired into your brain, giving you more motivation to do it next time.

Petting a dog – Studies show that simply petting a pooch increases dopamine and endorphins.

Yoga – Yoga has been shown to increase dopamine levels – plus it reduces stress, increases oxygen to your brain with deep, slow breathing, and ups soothing GABA. Yoga helps ease depression and stress in many ways.

https://www.thebestbrainpossible.com/

snoopys secret

The paradox of Remembrance

My cousin recently admired a wreath of white poppies placed by veterans for peace – a thought provoking demonstration.

Every year on Poppy Day I remember friends who died futilely in a colonial bush war and those scarred and embittered for life by the perfidy of Albion and the ever changing values of human kind in that little war.

I remember the father of a friend who some twenty years after ceasefire, succumbed to his anguish over his survival but his tank crew’s incineration at El Alamein.

I am moved to tears by the tributes and honour and respect shown by people of the world at the tombs of countless unknown warriors and ponder on the glory of war.

What jarred me this year as I read Facebook tributes for ancestors with the echoes of Last Post ringing in my ears, was this one: In memory of my grandfather, Arthur Imaginary, machine gunner 2nd Batt Intrepids, died 15 Mar 1915.

I wondered how many widows and orphans were the harvest of granddad’s machine gun.

…and this is only one side!

Talk about yin and yang: we glorify and honour someone while others mourn his military proficiency.

In every war, all soldiers are told God is on their side – I don’t think God takes side, S/He just keeps score. Surely priests know that?

My scepticism is also aroused by the coincident utility of military honour for all the -isms and -ists and -iots.

The iron duty imposed by the popular poem is hard to deny:

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

I am the product of generations of soldiers; my father, uncles, grandfathers and my son all served in wars in distant lands.

I cannot deny that I believe in and admire soldiers. I guess that means I can’t believe that people can live in peace.

In Flanders fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Oh so many…

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae (1872–1918)

A leap year

2020 is a year that leapt into the future at a time when the future was rushing towards us. The pandemic caused everyone to take a leap into the unknown to avoid terrible consequences.

Bureaucracy has been disemboweled, opposition politics have waned, instant communications have proved their worth, snap decision-making and civic obedience have became the norm.

All of a sudden, many employers have discovered they don’t need offices and they can trust employees. Teachers have enabled remote learning in numbers. The hidden dangers of cheap, off shore manufacture have been uncovered.

What are the implications?

The cruise liner industry will need to re-tool: perhaps they could be used as prisons like the sheer hulks of old. The universal basic income has suddenly attained reality. The economic imperialism of China has been unmasked.

First world countries are going to have to learn how to manufacture without cheap labour, third world countries will have to learn to establish their own industries without First World money.

The possibility of direct communication and mandating of representatives could eradicate the roadblocks and pork barrels of party combinations

Hopefully, the opportunity is taken to accelerate the new clean, renewable energy options and eliminate fossil fuel machinery, promote secure digital transactions with blockchain and return our elderly to our homes.

The industrial revolution we are experiencing will flower out of the Covid recession. Many people will lose jobs and have to transition to new careers.

We have a golden opportunity to strengthen the fabric of our society.

Those people expectorated from their careers by the new technological advances can stay at home and look after their elders and keep a closer eye on their children, instead of placing them in homes and child care.

The death traps we have designed to contain our inconvenient elderly relatives should be abolished. Attention also needs to be paid on the effects on our children of child care from babyhood.

Forward looking government will happily pay in-home carers instead of fund old age homes and child care centres.

So we have a real chance to re-build our environment and our families – let’s not misstep the leap.

Do white lives matter?

Have you heard of Senekal in the Orange Free State?

A young farm manager in the district was beaten to death and his body was hoisted on a pole in his fields by his murderers, who were stock thieves.

“… he was tortured to death. All his bones were broken. He was cremated. He was not even buried”

Over a thousand local farmers, gathered outside the Magistrates Court where the alleged murderers were to appear after arrest. The intent was to register strong protest, but things got out of hand. A Police official was manhandled, shots were fired and a Police vehicle was toppled and torched. Ho hum …. just another of many similar incidents in the world today..?

One slightly different aspect was that the farmers were all white people and the alleged criminals, Police and other officials were nearly all black people.

Many white farmers have been murdered in South Africa leading to claims that it is a politically targeted genocide. This is a topic kept burning and aggravated by the white right wing.

For years white farmers have said that they are under siege, being killed on their properties – seemingly without much state intervention.

The government’s response has been that crime finds its way into everyone’s home (which is true). And that they are doing what they can to fight it ( but farmers keep getting murdered).

Statistics suggest that the majority of victims of crime are black. Black people are the majority and are disproportionately exposed to some of the factors that fuel crime – inequality, poverty and unemployment [1]. Unemployment is estimated to be over 42% (Bloomberg).

Most large farms in South Africa are owned by white farmers. They often have large homesteads and numerous employees. The homesteads are remote and the trappings of apparent wealth must be tempting to the destitute, desperate and criminal.

South Africa is a tale of two countries and it does not take much for problems to become tribalised. It is a sign of the tensions that are always simmering just beneath the surface.[2]

After all, apartheid was the crucible where identity politics activism gained legitimacy and momentum.

Is this gruesome murder not another George Floyd type moment? A minority group claiming prolonged targeting and victimisation by an oppressive majority.

Will we see the BLM and Antifa activists come out to join the next protest – maybe they will mimic Seattle and take over the city centre of Bloemfontein?

Somehow I doubt it – in the twisted rationale of the Identity politics creed, white is wrong and black is always the victim….

So real outrage notwithstanding, the fact that it is expressed solely by whites undermines the legitimacy of the protest and presents a threat to the delicate balance in race relations and government’s ability to balance conflicting demands.

Alarmingly, these protestors expressing their genuine outrage and fears are likely to be leveraged by those on both extremes of the political spectrum seeking confrontation, which will serve their political interests.

Sadly it is not the virtuous outrage and exercise of democratic protest that will be seen, but the similarities to white lynch mobs of the Deep South US in the last century and the armed anti BLM protestors more recently…

The South African Police have never been known for their skill and subtlety in controlling mass demonstrations as Sharpeville and Marikana amply demonstrate.

We must brace ourselves for tragedy.

If the next protest included black farmers and black employees it would not be discounted as a protest of a previously privileged class bewailing discomforts long suffered by most of the rest of the population.

It is past time that all South Africans realised that they are a community, not parts of a community, each with different views of history.

Instead of looking back in anger, look forward with resolve.

I’ll say it again! All lives matter!


[1] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-54441374

[2] Ibid

The Social Dilemma

 Be afraid, be very afraid!

I suspect some of you think I am a bit of a drama queen or a wolf-crier. Maybe both – but I urge you to watch The Social Dilemma, it is currently on Netflix.

Especially if you have children.

This documentary presents the views of a number of people who were intricately involved in designing Facebook, Twitter, Google, Pinterest and other mainstream social media.

Reviewers have said this film is the “single most lucid, succinct, and profoundly terrifying analysis of social media ever created”

“(it) carefully details the skyrocketing levels of depression among children and teenagers; the flat-earthers and white supremacists; the genocide in Myanmar; the Covid misinformation; [and] the imperilling of objective truth and social disintegration”.

Harvard University professor Shoshana Zuboff speaks quite clearly about the profit -making orientation of digital companies like Google and Amazon (which) represent a new form of capitalist accumulation that she calls “surveillance capitalism

 Surveillance Capitalism “unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data [which] are declared as a proprietary behavioural surplus, fed into advanced manufacturing processes known as ‘machine intelligence’, and fabricated into prediction products that anticipate what you will do now, soon, and later.”

These new capitalist products “are traded in a new kind of marketplace – behavioural futures markets.

Through the lens of surveillance capitalism’s economic and social imperatives, she lists many issues that plague contemporary society including:

  • the assault on privacy and the so-called ‘privacy paradox’,
  • behavioral targeting
  • fake news
  • ubiquitous tracking
  • legislative and regulatory failure
  • algorithmic governance
  • social media addiction
  •  abrogation of human rights
  • democratic destabilization, and more are reinterpreted and explained

As I said: be afraid….