Monday, June 14, 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

NewScientist: The Advantages of Autism

3 comments:
It's about time this stuff gets into the mainstream!

MICHELLE Dawson can't handle crowded bus journeys, and she struggles to order a cup of coffee in a restaurant because contact with strangers makes her feel panicky. Yet over the past few years, Dawson has been making a name for herself as a researcher at the Rivière-des-Prairies hospital, part of the University of Montreal in Canada.

Dawson's field of research is the cognitive abilities of people with autism - people such as herself. She is one of a cadre of scientists who say that current definitions of this condition rely on findings that are outdated, if not downright misleading, and that the nature of autism has been fundamentally misunderstood for the past 70 years.

Medical textbooks tell us that autism is a developmental disability diagnosed by a classic "triad of impairments": in communication, imagination and social interaction. While the condition varies in severity, about three-quarters of people with autism are classed, in the official language of psychiatrists, as mentally retarded.

Over the past decade or so, a growing autistic pride movement has been pushing the idea that people with autism aren't disabled, they just think differently to "neurotypicals". Now, research by Dawson and others has carried this concept a step further. They say that auties, as some people with autism call themselves, don't merely think differently: in certain ways they think better. Call it the autie advantage.

How can a group of people who are generally seen as disabled actually have cognitive advantages? For a start, research is challenging the original studies that apparently demonstrated the low IQ of people with autism. Other studies are revealing the breadth of their cognitive strengths, ranging from attention to detail and sensitivity to musical pitch to better memory.

More recently, brain imaging is elucidating what neurological differences might lie behind these strengths. Entrepreneurs have even started trying to harness autistic people's talents (see "Nice work if you can get it"). "Scientists working in autism always reported abilities as anecdotes, but they were rarely the focus of research," says Isabelle Soulières, a neuropsychologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, who works with Dawson. "Now they're beginning to develop interest in those strengths to help us understand autism."

The fact that some people with autism have certain talents is hardly a revelation. Leo Kanner, the psychiatrist who first described autism in the early 1940s, noted that some of his patients had what he termed "islets of ability", in areas such as memory, drawing and puzzles. But Kanner's emphasis, like that of most people since, was on autism's drawbacks.

Today it is recognised that autism varies widely in terms of which traits are present and how prominently they manifest themselves. The cause remains mysterious, although evidence is pointing towards many genes playing a role, possibly in concert with factors affecting development in the womb.

A single, elegant explanation capturing all that is different about the autistic mind has so far proved elusive, but several ideas have been put forward that attempt to explain the most notable traits. Perhaps one of the best known is the idea that autistic people lack theory of mind - the understanding that other people can have different beliefs to yourself, or to reality. This account would explain why many autistic people do not tell lies and cannot comprehend those told by others, although the supporting evidence behind this theory has come under fire lately.

Verbal cues

People with autism are also said to have weak central coherence - the ability to synthesise an array of information, such as verbal and gestural cues in conversation. In other words, sometimes they can't see the wood for the trees.

The idea of the autistic savant, with prodigious, sometimes jaw-dropping, talents has taken hold in popular culture. Yet savants are the exception, not the rule. The usual figure cited is that about 1 in 10 people with autism have some kind of savant-like ability. That includes many individuals with esoteric skills that are of little use in everyday life - like being able to instantly reckon the day of the week for any past or future date.

The reality is that children with autism generally take longer to hit milestones such as talking and becoming toilet-trained, and as adults commonly struggle to fit into society. Only 15 per cent of autistic adults have a paying job in the UK, according to government figures. The mainstream medical view of autism is that it represents a form of developmental brain damage. But what if that view is missing something?

The first way in which Dawson challenged the mainstream view was to address the association between autism and low IQ. In 2007, Dawson and Laurent Mottron, head of the autism research programme at the University of Montreal, published a study showing that an autistic person's IQ score depends on which kind of test is used. With the most common test, the Weschsler Intelligence Scale, three-quarters of people with autism score 70 or lower, which classifies them as mentally retarded, as defined by the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases. But when the team administered a different, yet equally valid, IQ test known as the Raven's Progressive Matrices, which places less weight on social knowledge, most people with autism scored at a level that lifted them out of this range (Psychological Science, vol 18, p 657).

Dawson believes her personal connection to this field of inquiry gives her unique insights. Recently, she began wondering if autistic strengths might already have surfaced in research settings, only to be buried in a literature dominated by the view of autistic people as damaged goods. "No one had ever thought to ask: What cognitive strengths have been reported in the literature?" she says.

After reviewing thousands of papers and re-examining the data, Dawson says she has found dozens that include empirical evidence of autistic strengths that are cloaked by a preoccupation with deficits.

Take, for example, a 2004 study where autistic and non-autistic people did sentence comprehension tests while lying in a brain scanner (Brain, vol 127, p 1811). The autistic volunteers showed less synchronicity between the different language areas of the brain as they performed the task. The authors speculate that this could explain some of the language problems seen in autism. Yet according to the results section, the autistic group did better at this particular comprehension task than the control group. "The researchers use the higher performance in one area to speculate about deficit elsewhere," says Dawson.

Attention to detail

Evidence for autistic advantages is also coming in from new studies. One strength derives from an aspect of autism that has long been seen as one of its chief deficits: weak central coherence. The flip side of an inability to see the wood for the trees is being very, very good at seeing trees.

Psychologists investigate the ability to aggregate or tease apart information by showing volunteers drawings of objects such as a house, and asking them to identify the shapes embedded within it, like triangles and rectangles. Numerous studies have shown that people with autism can do these tasks faster and more accurately. And that's not just with pictures; autistic people also do it with music, in tasks such as identifying individual notes within chords.

Maretha de Jonge, a child psychiatrist at the University Medical Centre in Utrecht, the Netherlands, who has done such studies, explains that "weak" in the context of central coherence doesn't have to mean inferior in daily life. "Weakness in integration is sometimes an asset," she says. It can be useful to filter out external stimuli if you are writing an email in a noisy coffee shop, for example, or are searching for a camouflaged insect in a rainforest. Recasting weak central coherence as attention to detail and resistance to distraction suggests a mode of thought that could have advantages.

Other autistic strengths are harder to paint as disabilities in any way. For example, Pamela Heaton of Goldsmiths, University of London, has shown that people with autism have better musical pitch recognition.

On the visual side, a few autistic savants who are immensely talented artists are well known, but recent studies suggest superior visuospatial skills may be more common in autism than previously supposed. Autistic people are better at three-dimensional drawing, for example, and tasks such as assembling designs out of blocks printed with different patterns (Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, vol 39, p 1039).

Brain scans indicate that this may be because people with autism recruit more firepower from the brain's visual areas when doing such tasks. They may even use their visual areas for other thought processes. Mottron's team found that people with autism were completing the reasoning tasks in the Raven's IQ test by using what is usually regarded as the visual part of the brain, along with more typical intelligence networks (Human Brain Mapping, vol 30, p 4082).

Many researchers note that people with autism seem hypersensitive to sights and sounds. In 2007, based partly on this finding, Kamila Markram and Henry Markram and Tania Rinaldi of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne set out a theory of autism dubbed the "intense world syndrome" (Frontiers in Neuroscience, vol 1, p 77). According to this, autism is caused by a hyperactive brain that makes everyday sensory experiences overwhelming.

One of their planks of evidence is autopsy findings of structural differences in the brain's cortex, or outer layer. People with autism have smaller minicolumns - clusters of around 100 neurons that some researchers think act as the brain's basic processing units - but they also have more of them. While some have linked this trait to superior functioning, the Lausanne team still framed their theory as explaining autism's disabilities and deficits.

Mottron's team has published an alternative theory of autism that they believe more fully and accurately incorporates autistic strengths. Their "enhanced perceptual function model" suggests autistic brains are wired differently, but not necessarily because they are damaged (Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, vol 36, p 27). "These findings open a new educational perspective on autism that can be compared to sign language for deaf people," says Mottron.

While Henry Markram maintains that autism involves a "core neuropathology", he told New Scientist that the intense world idea and Mottron's theory are "aligned in most aspects". "Of course the brain is different, but to say whether the brain is damaged or not depends on what you mean by damaged."

What other cognitive abilities make up the autistic advantage? More rational decision-making seems to be one - people with autism are less susceptible to subjective or emotional factors such as how a question is worded (New Scientist, 18 October 2008, p 16). Still, until the idea of the autie advantage gains ground, the full range of autistic strengths will remain unknown.

Yet the idea seems to be taking root. When speaking at the TED conference in Long Beach, California, in February, professor of animal science Temple Grandin, who has autism, was cheered after quipping that Silicon Valley wouldn't exist without the condition. She also claimed the tech-heavy crowd was probably stacked with "autism genetics".

Galling message

Perhaps it will prove impossible to draw all-encompassing conclusions about the advantages and disadvantages of a condition described as a spectrum. Autism includes brilliant engineers, music prodigies who can't unload a dishwasher, maths savants who can't speak, and other combinations of talent and disability.

It is important to note, however, that the concept of the autie advantage has not been universally welcomed. A number of researchers, as well as parents of autistic people, are leery of too much emphasis on autistic strengths. They fear it could lead society to underestimate some people's impairments and the difficulties they face.

That outcome could threaten funding for badly needed social services and therapy programmes. As one researcher who did not want to be identified put it: "Michelle Dawson's first-hand experience is valuable. But her experience doesn't necessarily map onto other people's."

For a parent struggling with a child who cannot feed or use the toilet themselves it must be galling to hear that the condition may be advantageous. Yet other parents may be equally fed up of hearing uniformly negative messages about their children's potential. Perhaps only by considering the advantages of autism as well as its disadvantages can those affected reap better opportunities in life.

As far as Dawson is concerned, what matters most is evidence. Last year, at an autism conference, she presented a poster on her work. "When people looked at my results, they said, 'It's so good to see something positive!' I said that I don't see it as positive or negative. I see it as accurate."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Autism Speaks Attacks Ari Ne'eman? Christ Almighty!!!

1 comment:
This is truly disgusting.

When President Obama nominated Ari Ne’eman to the National Council on Disability, many families touched by autism took it as a positive sign. Mr. Ne’eman would be the first person with the disorder to serve on the council.

But he has since become the focus of criticism from other advocates who disagree with his view that society ought to concentrate on accepting autistic people, not curing them.

A hold has been placed on Mr. Ne’eman’s nomination, which requires Senate confirmation. Whether the hold is related to the criticism of Mr. Ne’eman (pronounced NAY-men) and what it might take to lift it is unclear.

But Mr. Ne’eman, the 22-year-old founder of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, seems to be a lightning rod for a struggle over how autism will be perceived at a time when an estimated 1 in 100 American children and teenagers are given such a diagnosis.

Mr. Ne’eman is at the forefront of a growing movement that describes autism as a form of “neurodiversity” that should be embraced and accommodated, just as physical disabilities have led to the construction of ramps and stalls in public restrooms for people with disabilities. Autism, he and others say, is a part of their identity.

But that viewpoint, critics say, represents only those on the autism spectrum who at least have basic communication skills and are able to care of themselves.

“Why people have gotten upset is, he doesn’t seem to represent, understand or have great sympathy for all the people who are truly, deeply affected in a way that he isn’t,” said Jonathan Shestack, a co-founder of the advocacy group Autism Speaks, whose mission is to help finance research to find a cure.

Mr. Obama’s seven other nominees to the council were confirmed this month. But parliamentary procedure in the Senate allows one or more members to prevent a motion from reaching the floor for a vote by placing an anonymous hold on the action, which an official with knowledge of the proceedings said had been done in Mr. Ne’eman’s case.

The hallmark of autism is impaired social interaction, but the disorder can take an array of forms. Some people may hurt themselves or be unable to speak. Others may be hyperarticulate but unable to parse body language or facial cues. Some may have cognitive disabilities; others may have savant skills.

Mr. Ne’eman declined to be interviewed, citing the pending action on his nomination. But in previous interviews with The New York Times and other publications, he has argued that those most severely affected by autism are the ones who benefit least from the pursuit of a cure, which he suggests is unattainable anytime soon. Instead, he says, resources should be devoted to accommodations and services that could improve their quality of life.

Historically, the kind of genetic research supported by many parents of children with autism, Mr. Ne’eman has said, has been used to create prenatal tests that give parents the ability to detect a fetus affected by a particular condition, like Down syndrome, so that they can choose whether to terminate the pregnancy.

“We just think it makes more sense to orient research to addressing health problems or helping people communicate rather than creating a mouse model of autism or finding a new gene,” Mr. Ne’eman has said.

A senior majoring in political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Mr. Ne’eman himself has a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism.

Mr. Ne’eman, who grew up in East Brunswick, N.J., has said his condition caused him to be bullied in high school. His social anxiety was so great, he sometimes picked at his face until it bled. He was eventually transferred to a school for students with developmental disabilities.

He founded his self-advocacy organization, which has grown to have several chapters across the country, in 2006, and he served on New Jersey’s Special Education Review Commission, where he wrote a report calling for legislative action to end the use of aversives, restraint and seclusion on students with disabilities.

Mr. Ne’eman also became a critic of Autism Speaks, the largest advocacy group in the country, organizing protests last fall over a fund-raising video.

But the split among autism advocates, suggests Lee Grossman, director of the Autism Society of America, may simply reflect the unmet needs of a growing population, for both research into potential treatments and for programs to support jobs and independent living.

“We have this community out there frustrated and bewildered and reaching out for any assistance, and that makes us battle-hardened,” Mr. Grossman said. “We need to reframe the discussion. From our perspective, it’s great to have a person on the spectrum being nominated to this committee.”

So NT parents are allowed to speak for their autistic kids but fellow autistics are not? What kind of disgusting reasoning is THAT?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Nicholas Taleb Blames Financial Crisis on Aspie Finance Analysts?

1 comment:
Link

I don't know how to respond to this abject stupidity.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Reuters) - Did the financial system blow up because it was built and largely operated by people with many of the characteristics of a mild form of autism called Asperger's syndrome?

As explanations for the crisis go, it's on the extreme side but forms an interesting counterpoint to the "blame the looting bankers" story line.

People with Asperger's, a mild form of autism, are characterized by, among other things, a deficit of "theory of mind," essentially the ability to understand that other people have different beliefs or knowledge than themselves. Nicholas Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan, has written that a lack of theory of mind left many in positions of responsibility without the ability to conceive of and guard against black swans, which are rare, high-impact and hard to predict events.

There were, after all, a remarkable number of people blaming "hundred-year storms" for the crisis, which was at least in substantial part caused by an over-reliance on risk management controls and models that proved to be far too narrow. There was a love of data and a refusal to conceive of the data being not wrong, but incomplete, which led many to cling to their models of how the world was working even as it fell around them. Remember all of those reassurances that problems in subprime were "contained"?

"Note that the very same people who attack me, on grounds of political correctness, for discussing Asperger as a condition not compatible with risk-bearing, and its dangers to society, would be opposed to using a person with highly impaired eyesight as the driver of a school bus," Taleb writes in his typically provocative style.

"All I am saying is that just as I read Milton, Homer, Taha Husain, and Borges (who were blind) but would prefer to not have them drive me on the A-4 motorway, I elect to use tools made by engineers but prefer to have society's risks managed by someone who is not affected with risk-blindness."

As someone with a family member with Asperger's, I think there is a lot of truth to what Taleb says, though perhaps he expresses himself too gruffly. A love of data and models and an unwillingness to engage with ambiguity that can often mean missing the big picture are characteristic of both Asperger's and of the global financial system circa 2007. This is a far different thing from blaming the crisis on people with Asperger's, which Taleb does not.

Actually, and here I am fishing in shallower waters than Taleb, there are elements of a typical Asperger's personality which are extremely useful in guarding against manias and bubbles.

THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES

People with Asperger's Syndrome are largely immune to social pressures; they often do not recognize them, or if they do, dismiss them as silly. They can be, in many ways, like the child in the Hans Christian Andersen story "The Emperor's New Clothes." In the story the emperor is sold a new suit made of a fabric that supposedly will be invisible to anyone who is not fit for the position they hold. The suit is a fraud, but the emperor, afraid of being one himself, pretends to be able to see it. Everyone else plays along until the emperor meets a child who calls it as he sees it and pierces the illusion.

Typical people, in order to make the numberless decisions they are forced to make with only limited data, rely heavily on taking their clues from what other people are doing -- following the herd. This has a certain efficiency but, as people place a heavy weight on what others are doing, leaves them open to be swept up in manias or bubbles.

This is true for individuals buying houses in 2005 because "everyone knows they will only go up" and it is true for fund managers making "momentum" investments in dotcom stocks. Fashion, for most people, is a powerful faculty-numbing force; just leaf through some old magazines and check out what people were wearing round about 1971.

For people on the Asperger's spectrum this is far less true; regardless of what people are talking about at cocktail parties, they won't believe that we can all grow rich by buying up one another's houses, nor will they take assurances from "authorities" as the final word. Having less fear of looking stupid than the rest of us, they will stand by what they perceive. They are also, at least in my experience, far less likely than the average person to hold a position cynically; because it benefits them rather than because they believe it.

That might not be the only type of person you want in a financial system, but those are some pretty valuable characteristics for a fund manger or banking regulator.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Autistic Woman Raped By Teen In Broad Daylight – No One Helps

1 comment:
There are no words to describe how evil this is. WTF is WRONG with people?

TOLEDO, Ohio – People frequently claim that we are losing our humanity, and generally I would disagree, but stories like this one make me throw up my hands in defeat. An unnamed 26 year old woman was walking down the street in broad daylight when she was attacked by 15 year old Anferney Fontenet. Anferney pulled a pair of scissors on the woman and threatened to cut her if she screamed- then proceeded to rape her in public. Cars (Cars reviews) drove by, beeping their horns, and apparently a few motorists called 911 – but not a single driver nor citizen walking on that street even stopped as the woman was sexually assaulted. Anferney stole the woman’s cell phone as he fled the scene of the crime. Police have said that perhaps people didn’t realize they were witnessing a rape, that perhaps they thought it was consensual- but perhaps at least ONE person could have stopped to make sure! “I’m ticked off because people were doing nothing. Just driving by. What kind of humans are we becoming?”, the victim said to a local newspaper.

What kind of humans indeed- as the victim dragged herself from the ground, she even asked a passing pedestrian to use his cell phone to call for help, who kept on walking. To top this horrific story off, the victim is a resident of an Ohio group home, as she is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and Asperger’s syndrome. The police were able to catch Anferney at his house, were he confessed to and was arrested for rape and robbery. Anferney may be the perpetrator of this crime, but every single person who drove or walked by and did nothing as a woman was raped right in front of them is guilty as well!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Daryl Hannah ("Kill Bill" actress) Says She is Blacklisted by Hollywood because of her Asperger's

6 comments:
Link

Actress Daryl Hannah (Kill Bill) claims that at the beginning of her career she was "blacklisted" by Hollywood studios because she suffered from Asperger's Syndrome.

The illness limited social interaction and made it very difficult for her to do film promotions since it required talking to lots of people.

She said: "I never went on talk shows, never went to premieres. Going to the Academy Awards was so painful for me. I'd almost faint just walking down the red carpet. I was so socially awkward and uncomfortable that I eventually got blacklisted."

"Studio executives would call me but I'd be too shy to call them back. So after a while a couple of studios literally told my manager that I was blacklisted."

Despite first starring in films like "Splash," "Roxanne," "Wall Street" and "Steel Magnolias," she eventually had to settle for many straight to video projects.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fun Dungeons and Dragons Alignment Quiz

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Your result for The Alignment Test...

Neutral-Good

94% Good, 46% Chaotic
Plane of Existence: Elysium, "Blessed Fields," "The Happy Hunting Grounds". Description: The plane of peace. Notable Inhabitants: Guardinals - noble immortal humanoids with bestial features.





Examples of Neutral-Goods (Ethically Neutral, Morally Good)




Cloud Strife (FFVII)

Boogenhagen (FFVII)

Mother Theresa

Ghandi

Sidhartha Gautama (the Buddha)

Gandalf

Bilbo & Frodo Baggins

Samwise Gamgee

Indiana Jones

The Dali Lama

Ben (O-Bi-Wan) Kenobi

Luke Skywalker

Harry Potter

Hermionie

Dumbledore




Often goes along with the laws and desires of the group as being the easiest course of action, but ethical considerations clearly have top priority. May pursue quite abstract goals. Often aloof and difficult to understand.




Will keep their word to others of good alignment

Would not attack an unarmed foe

Will not use poison

Will help those in need

May work with others

Indifferent to higher authority

Indifferent to organizations



Neutral Good "Pure Good"

"Benefactor"




A neutral good [person] will obey the law, or break it when he or she sees it will serve a greater good. He or she is not bound strongly to a social system or order. His or her need to help others and reduce their suffering may take precedence over all else. Neutral good [people] do good for goodness' sake, not because they are directed to by law or by whim.



This alignment desires good without bias for or against order.



Other Alignments and Tendencies (Tendenices are what you would more often sway towards; esp. for Neutrals):

0-39% Good, 0-39% Chaotic: Lawful-Evil

0-39% Good, 40-60% Chaotic: Neutral-Evil

0-39% Good, 61-100% Chaotic: Chaotic-Evil

40-60% Good, 0-39% Chaotic: Lawful-Neutral

40-60% Good, 40-60% Chaotic: True Neutral

40-60% Good, 61-100% Chaotic: Chaotic-Neutral

61-100% Good, 0-39% Chaotic: Lawful-Good

61-100% Good, 61-100% Chaotic: Chaotic-Good
Take The Alignment Test at OkCupid

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Bit OT: A Good Political Essay I ran into.

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As a Libertarian Socialist this essay I ran into appeals to me.

The Matrix is one of the greatest metaphors ever. Machines invented to make human life easier end up enslaving humanity – this is the most common theme in dystopian science fiction.

Why is this fear so universal – so compelling? Is it because we really believe that our toaster and our notebook will end up as our mechanical overlords?

Of course not.

This is not a future that we fear, but a past that we are already living.

Supposedly, governments were invented to make human life easier and safer, but governments always end up enslaving humanity.

That which we create to “serve” us ends up ruling us.

The US government “by and for the people” now imprisons millions, takes half the national income by force, over-regulates, punishes, tortures, slaughters foreigners, invades countries, overthrows governments, imposes 700 imperialistic bases overseas, inflates the currency, and crushes future generations with massive debts.

That which we create to “serve” us ends up ruling us.

The problem with the “state as servant” thesis is that it is historically completely false, both empirically and logically.

The idea that states were voluntarily invented by citizens to enhance their own security is utterly untrue.

Before governments, in tribal times, human beings could only produce what they consumed -- there was no excess production of food or other resources. Thus, there was no point owning slaves, because the slave could not produce any excess that could be stolen by the master.

If a horse pulling a plow can only produce enough additional food to feed the horse, there is no point hunting, capturing and breaking in a horse.

However, when agricultural improvements allowed for the creation of excess crops, suddenly it became highly advantageous to own human beings.

When cows began to provide excess milk and meat, owning cows became worthwhile.

The earliest governments and empires were in fact a ruling class of slave hunters, who understood that because human beings could produce more than they consumed, they were worth hunting, capturing, breaking in – and owning.

The earliest Egyptian and Chinese empires were in reality human farms, where people were hunted, captured, domesticated and owned like any other form of livestock. Due to technological and methodological improvements, the slaves produced enough excess that the labor involved in capturing and keeping them represented only a small subset of their total productivity. The ruling class – the farmers – kept a large portion of that excess, while handing out gifts and payments to the brutalizing class – the police, slave hunters, and general sadists – and the propagandizing class – the priests, intellectuals, and artists.

This situation continued for thousands of years, until the 16-17th centuries, when again massive improvements in agricultural organization and technology created the second wave of excess productivity. The enclosure movement re-organized and consolidated farmland, resulting in 5-10 times more crops, creating a new class of industrial workers, displaced from the country and huddling in the new cities.

This enormous agricultural excess was the basis of the capital that drove the industrial revolution.

The Industrial Revolution did not arise because the ruling class wanted to free their serfs, but rather because they realized how additional “liberties” could make their livestock astoundingly more productive.

When cows are placed in very confining stalls, they beat their heads against the walls, resulting in injuries and infections. Thus farmers now give them more room -- not because they want to set their cows free, but rather because they want greater productivity and lower costs.


The next stop after “free range” is not “freedom.”

The rise of state capitalism in the 19th century was actually the rise of “free range serfdom.”

Additional liberties were granted to the human livestock not with the goal of setting them free, but rather with the goal of increasing their productivity.

Of course, intellectuals, artists and priests were – and are – well paid to conceal this reality.

The great problem of modern human livestock ownership is the challenge of “enthusiasm.”

State capitalism only works when the entrepreneurial spirit drives creativity and productivity in the economy.

However, excess productivity always creates a larger state, and swells the ruling classes and their dependents, which eats into the motivation for additional productivity. Taxes and regulations rise, state debt (future farming) increases, and living standards slow and decay.

Depression and despair began to spread, as the reality of being owned sets in for the general population.

The solution to this is additional propaganda, antidepressant medications, superstition, wars, moral campaigns of every kind, the creation of “enemies,” the inculcation of patriotism, collective fears, paranoia about “outsiders” and “immigrants,” and so on.

It is essential to understand the reality of the world.

When you look at a map of the world, you are not looking at countries, but farms.

You are allowed certain liberties – limited property ownership, movement rights, freedom of association and occupation – not because your government approves of these rights in principle – since it constantly violates them – but rather because “free range livestock” is so much cheaper to own and so more productive.

It is important to understand the reality of ideologies.

State capitalism, socialism, communism, fascism, democracy – these are all livestock management approaches.

Some work well for long periods – state capitalism – and some work very badly – communism.

They all fail eventually, because it is immoral and irrational to treat human beings as livestock.

The recent growth of “freedom” in China, India and Asia is occurring because the local state farmers have upgraded their livestock management practices. They have recognized that putting the cows in a larger stall provides the rulers more milk and meat.

Rulers have also recognized that if they prevent you from fleeing the farm, you will become depressed, inert and unproductive. A serf is the most productive when he imagines he is free. Thus your rulers must provide you the illusion of freedom in order to harvest you most effectively.

Thus you are “allowed” to leave – but never to real freedom, only to another farm, because the whole world is a farm. They will prevent you from taking a lot of money, they will bury you in endless paperwork, they will restrict your right to work -- but you are “free” to leave. Due to these difficulties, very few people do leave, but the illusion of mobility is maintained. If only 1 out of 1,000 cows escapes, but the illusion of escaping significantly raises the productivity of the remaining 999, it remains a net gain for the farmer.

You are also kept on the farm through licensing. The most productive livestock are the professionals, so the rulers fit them with an electronic dog collar called a “license,” which only allows them to practice their trade on their own farm.

To further create the illusion of freedom, in certain farms, the livestock are allowed to choose between a few farmers that the investors present. At best, they are given minor choices in how they are managed. They are never given the choice to shut down the farm, and be truly free.

Government schools are indoctrination pens for livestock. They train children to “love” the farm, and to fear true freedom and independence, and to attack anyone who questions the brutal reality of human ownership. Furthermore, they create jobs for the intellectuals that state propaganda so relies on.

The ridiculous contradictions of statism -- like religion -- can only be sustained through endless propaganda inflicted upon helpless children.

The idea that democracy and some sort of “social contract” justifies the brutal exercise of violent power over billions is patently ridiculous.

If you say to a slave that his ancestors “chose” slavery, and therefore he is bound by their decisions, he will simply say:

“If slavery is a choice, then I choose not to be a slave.”

This is the most frightening statement for the ruling classes, which is why they train their slaves to attack anyone who dares speak it.

Statism is not a philosophy.

Statism does not originate from historical evidence or rational principles.

Statism is an ex post facto justification for human ownership.

Statism is an excuse for violence.

Statism is an ideology, and all ideologies are variations on human livestock management practices.

Religion is pimped-out superstition, designed to drug children with fears that they will endlessly pay to have “alleviated.”

Nationalism is pimped-out bigotry, designed to provoke a Stockholm Syndrome in the livestock.

The opposite of superstition is not another superstition, but the truth.

The opposite of ideology is not a different ideology, but clear evidence and rational principles.

The opposite of superstition and ideology – of statism – is philosophy.

Reason and courage will set us free.

You do not have to be livestock.

Take the red pill.

Wake up.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lots of people and Sensory Overload

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Yesterday I went to a monthly supper club held by CCRI, the non-profit that hires my staff, at Bennigan's and I almost had a meltdown because there was so many people and it was WAY too crowded, and the food took forever because there was one waitress taking orders for 50-odd people. UGH!!!