background preloader

The Behavioral Sink

The Behavioral Sink
Cabinet and the author regret that a previous version of this article omitted its sources. To readers who are interested in learning more about Calhoun's research, we highly recommend "Escaping the Laboratory: The Rodent Experiments of John B Calhoun and Their Cultural Influence" by Edmund Ramsden and Jon Adams, LSE Department of Economic History, 2008, to which this article is indebted. How do you design a utopia? In 1972, John B. Calhoun detailed the specifications of his Mortality-Inhibiting Environment for Mice: a practical utopia built in the laboratory. Every aspect of Universe 25—as this particular model was called—was pitched to cater for the well-being of its rodent residents and increase their lifespan. Four breeding pairs of mice were moved in on day one. Calhoun’s concern was the problem of abundance: overpopulation. Mouse utopia/dystopia, as designed by John B. But Calhoun’s work was different. So what exactly happened in Universe 25? Wolfe wasn’t alone. John B. John B. Related:  Social PerceptionThinking and Behaviour

Death By Utopia John B. Calhoun relaxing in Universe 25 In the late 20th Century, John B. Calhoun decided to make Utopia; it started with rats. He bought the second floor of a barn, and there he made his office and lab. 2.7 metres square with 1.4m high walls. Society broke. The outside of Universe 25 The purpose of the experiment for Calhoun was to examine a pressing problem, overpopulation. After day 600, the male mice just stopped defending their territory, listless mice congregated in the centres of the Universe. The ‘beautiful ones’ withdrew themselves ever so quietly, removing themselves from the sick society. In the end the population sank, even when it was back down to a tolerable level none of the mice changed back. Poster for dystopian film Soylent Green In a time where people worried about the dangers of people gathering in cities it confirmed their worst fears. This purpose of the experiments was not to portend some imminent doom for humanity, in fact Calhoun was trying to be positive.

Don Hertzfeldt Explores Brain-Uploading in the Oscar-Nominated Sci-Fi Short 'World of Tomorrow' It’s impressive that World of Tomorrow is one of the best films nominated for an Oscar this year given that it’s only 16 minutes long. It’s even more so considering that the movie is almost entirely exposition. Don Hertzfeldt’s animated short, which is now available on Netflix, is a beautifully told tale of sci-fi horror with the feel of a melancholy bedtime story. Its hero is a little girl named Emily who gets a phone call from her future self—sort of: The Emily calling from 227 years ahead is a clone, the third such copy made from a previous Emily and given her memories. Hers is a copy-pasted brain, and she has a long story to unravel. World of Tomorrow is a wonder of ping-ponging dialogue: Clone Emily, in a monotone, describes the dystopian future to “Emily Prime” (voiced by the 4-year-old Winona Mae), who gleefully burbles childish nonsense in response to her future “self.” The idea of copy-pasted brains, of course, lends itself best to more apocalyptic fiction.

Weirdness on TV gawker Last month, Isaac Fitzgerald, the newly hired editor of BuzzFeed's newly created books section, made a remarkable but not entirely surprising announcement: He was not interested in publishing negative book reviews. In place of "the scathing takedown rip," Fitzgerald said, he desired to promote a positive community experience. A community, even one dedicated to positivity, needs an enemy to define itself against. There is more at work here than mere good feelings. The word, as used now, is a fairly recent addition to the language, and it is not always entirely clear what "snark" may be. In her essay, Julavits was grappling with the question of negative book reviewing: Was it fair or necessary? The decade that followed did little to clear up the trouble; if anything, the identification of "snark" gave people a way to avoid thinking very hard about it. But why are nastiness and snideness taken to be features of our age? Stand against snark, and you are standing with everything decent. Mr.

Crawley mum: 'It would be fun to be a granny at 27' Crawley mum: 'It would be fun to be a granny at 27' 12:10pm Wednesday 11th July 2012 in News FAMILY: Amy Crowhurst and her children Alfie and Destiny Britain's youngest mother has said she would be happy for her daughter to get pregnant at 12. Amy Crowhurst who got pregnant at the age of 12 said she would be happy if her daughter became pregnant at the same age. Ms Crowhurst, now 22, said: “It’d be fun being a gran at 27.” Amy had Alfie, now nine, in 2003 and Destiny, now seven, four years later when she was 16. She added: “Having sex at 12 is fine if you feel ready and aren’t pressured. “If she (Destiny) had a baby at 12, I know she’d cope and I’d be happy for her. “Having kids young was the smartest thing I ever did. The former Thomas Bennett Community College school pupil lives in a three-bed council house in Crawley and claims benefits. She said: “When I see girls I went to school with having babies now, I’m so glad I got it out of the way. “Plus they’re fat and I’m a size six.

Is Google Making Us Stupid? Illustration by Guy Billout "Dave, stop. Stop, will you? I can feel it, too. I think I know what’s going on. For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. I’m not the only one. Bruce Friedman, who blogs regularly about the use of computers in medicine, also has described how the Internet has altered his mental habits. Anecdotes alone don’t prove much. It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of “reading” are emerging as users “power browse” horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. Thanks to the ubiquity of text on the Internet, not to mention the popularity of text-messaging on cell phones, we may well be reading more today than we did in the 1970s or 1980s, when television was our medium of choice. Reading, explains Wolf, is not an instinctive skill for human beings.

Queen's diamond jubilee: a vapid family and a mirage of nationhood. What's to celebrate? | Polly Toynbee The mighty royal jubilee bells will toll their way down the Thames on Sunday on a floating belfry leading a thousand boats, echoed by pealing church bells all down the riverside. Who could miss the spectacle of a hundred tall ships serenaded with Handel's Water Music played by a floating orchestra? The more outrageously glorious the performance, the more preposterous its purpose. There at the heart, in the dead centre of all this pomp and circumstance, is the great emptiness, the nothingness, the Wizard of Oz in emperor's clothes. The louder the bells, the more gaping the grand vacuity. How close to religion it is, with all the same feudal imagery, God as Lord and sovereign, sovereign anointed by God, knelt before in a divine hierarchy of power ordained by laws too ineffable to explain. Every country needs its founding myths, its binding identity rooted in a valiant story that rarely stands up to historical scrutiny. The Republic protest takes place at City Hall at 1.30pm on Sunday

How dreams predict the future by making sense of the past | Aeon Essays Perhaps the most famous dream prediction comes from the Bible. Pharaoh dreams of standing by the Nile. Seven sleek, fat cows emerge from the river, followed by seven scrawny, ugly cows that eat the plump, succulent ones. It has to do with the way the brain works; it doesn’t passively receive information about the external world but, rather, actively interprets that information and looks for patterns in it. Some patterns are deterministic and logical. Some patterns are much less obvious. For example, I am a research academic with limited teaching hours. A less obvious predictor is an invitation to have coffee with an interesting colleague. What has all this got to do with dreaming? While awake, we are good at spotting logical, deterministic patterns. Several experimental studies demonstrate this. In 2009, Denise Cai, a psychologist at the University of California, and colleagues administered tests in which words appeared to be unrelated. Get Aeon straight to your inbox

I have had enough of irony | Suzanne Moore The ultimate faux-pas is not laughing at someone's artfully told joke. Especially when it's a huge in-joke, but stuff it! I did not find the Eurovision song contest in any way funny or joyful. Forgive me, for I have sinned against the law of irony. Instead of loving the whooping Twitter snark and the "witty" live blogging, I committed a veritable thought crime. Instead of thinking "This is so bad it's good", I thought, "This is so bad it's execrable": a futile exercise that people are trying desperately to make "fun". Compulsory fun may be the anti-Viagra of actual pleasure but it's everywhere. OK, me! Every tabloid trifle, every titillating bit of pop culture naffness, is respun via clever ironic takes. Irony is not new nor an invention of postmodernism. When camp goes mainstream, though, it loses its power, thus Graham Norton was shipped out to Azerbaijan to be snippy. Quite possibly, for this is the age where everything is not just of itself but about itself.

Your brain does not process information and it is not a computer | Aeon Essays No matter how hard they try, brain scientists and cognitive psychologists will never find a copy of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in the brain – or copies of words, pictures, grammatical rules or any other kinds of environmental stimuli. The human brain isn’t really empty, of course. But it does not contain most of the things people think it does – not even simple things such as ‘memories’. Our shoddy thinking about the brain has deep historical roots, but the invention of computers in the 1940s got us especially confused. To see how vacuous this idea is, consider the brains of babies. A healthy newborn is also equipped with more than a dozen reflexes – ready-made reactions to certain stimuli that are important for its survival. Senses, reflexes and learning mechanisms – this is what we start with, and it is quite a lot, when you think about it. We don’t store words or the rules that tell us how to manipulate them. Humans, on the other hand, do not – never did, never will.

Do we really give introverts a hard time? 27 March 2012Last updated at 12:50 ET By Vanessa Barford BBC News Magazine In a group situation, it's not necessarily the talkers who have the best ideas It is often assumed extroverts do best in life, but according to a new best-selling book, introverts are just as high achievers. It claims there is a bias towards extroverts in Western society. So do we discriminate against introverts? Barack Obama, JK Rowling and Steve Wozniak. They might not immediately stand out as introverts, but according to Susan Cain, American author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can't Stop Talking, they are. That is because she says, contrary to popular opinion, introverts are not necessarily shy or anti-social, they just prefer environments that are not over-stimulating and get their energy from quiet time and reflection. Conversely, extroverts need to be around other people to recharge their batteries. Continue reading the main story Extroversion and introversion Continue reading the main story

Related: