Wednesday, 29 April 2009

If A Flying Pig Flaps Its Wings In Mexico...

Is it gullible to think that Swineflu will just fly away? Don't want to hear about it, don't want to see it, don't want to talk about just in case we attract its attention to our door?

The global reality is ramping up with the terrible news of an infant swineflu death in the USA.

It seems unlikely that we can control the chaotic consequences of the Flying Pig Effect. What was a local Mexican incident is likely to follow a typical Epidemic Curve well know to Epidemiologists and result in a Pandemic whether we like it or not.

OK, we've been given advice on how to de-risk the situation, but how can this translate into public spaces (often confined) such as planes, offices, and trains? Yesterday I sat for an hour on a commuter train with a guy coughing and spluttering, do we have the right to put a big over his head or ask him to get off the train? Does swineflu mean we need to develop new social protocols as well as health protocols.

The UK sets an historical social precedent with the Plague Village of Eyam. When plague hit the village in May 1665 the population cut themselves off from direct contact with the rest of the country. The plague ravaged the village for 16 months killing at least 260 villagers. 83 villagers survived out of 350.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Magistrate resigns in Twitter row

A magistrate has resigned from the bench following a complaint about his use of the Twitter network.The perils of being an early adopter. A clear case of gullibily believing that because you understand and feel comfortable with something then so does everyone else.This can be explained by what is called the Anchoring Heuristic which is where we assume that our view of the world is adopted almost everyone else too.

read more | digg story

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Massive Rush For University Places

image credit Sheffield Hallam University

The science of social influence predicts that the present surge in interest in university education will gather momentum.

Worries about job security and the ability to secure employment from the diminishing reservoir of jobs means that more people than ever are seeking university places. This can only drive up demand as people see university education as 'social proof' that it it is a good idea. This in turn will generate scarcity, which will increase the value of places.

So, is a university education a good idea during these uncertain times? Well if it can be funded it might be a haven away from the trials and tribulations of a stormy job market. 3 years should see you through the worst of the recession I guess. On the other hand is a university education right for you? Remember universities are places of academic study and endeavour and this comes with certain obligations and expectations. Sure many of the so called 'new' universities are climbing down from their ivory towers and providing more vocational courses. Don't be gullible and think that a university education is exclusively learning more about a subject 'in depth' and that because you know 'more stuff' that well entitle you to a job.

People still by people. For sure the university experience should develop your self confidence and self esteem, but it would be gullible too if you thought that the degree in itself will guarantee you a job when you re-surface in 3-4 years time. Just be mindful of all of the people who are thinking just like you are at the moment and armed with their new degrees they will be hunting for jobs when the economy picks up. The degree should not be thought of as a 'competitive difference' in its own right.

Be prepared to see your 'world view' change. A degree is a process of intellectual transformation, even if you study hard sciences or social sciences. You will go through periods of frustration and elation, motivation and demotivation. Crucially don't ever be duped into believing that you are embarking on a process of 'getting all the answers'. You are embarking on a process that continually confronts you with how little you know and how much there is to know.

A degree can be inspirational. Giving you ideas and thought processes that kick start you on an independent path. No more being dependent on other people's businesses for your income, no more putting your eggs in someone elses basket, no more being the the 'thing' that is cut loose after years of management rhetoric telling you 'what a valuable team player your are', or just 'how vital you are the organisations success'

A degree can help you row your own boat, and possibly even build one. If you make one good decision this year then it's probably 'don't miss out on increasingly scarce university places'. Now that would be gullible wouldn't it!

Read more:
is a degree worth anything in a recession

University Choice Resource:
Choosing a British University

Friday, 17 April 2009

A Kick In The Nuts For Harsh Torture Techniques

You might ask why is torture used? or perhaps why is torture good? why is torture bad? and even why is tirture wrong?

President Obama has said that no officials will be held to account for for harsh torture techniques This is a position that has dismayed some campaigners Nevertheless Barack Obama has made a stand and taken action to ban these techniques in future and he should be applauded for it.

Presumably by creating the category 'Harsh Torture Techniques' this means there is a category called 'Soft Torture Techniques' and that somewhere there is an official memo which defines what these are. Is it the distinction between phsyical harm and psychological harm? Perhaps not; especially if psychological distress results in physical symptoms.

Is that why 'torture by threat of nasty insect' has been banned I wonder? I guess torture is all about playing on someone's fears. So perhaps a definition of 'harsh' torture is all about techniques that induce a fear of being killed and 'soft' torture is fear of anything else that you fear, such as being tickled, or eating lemon meringue pie?

The ultimate 'soft' torture would have to be 'phobaphobia' or 'fear of fear' because as we all know 'we have nothing to fear except fear itself'. In which case no government aides need ever be prosecuted for torture because the prisoners could simply 'scare themselves sh@*tless' and confess everything without direct intervention! (Wow can this idea be patented I wonder)

Physical pain is scary and debilitating though and that's why torturers have used it rather than the psychological techniques on their own. I knew someone who worked in the British Territorial Army and as a psycholgist they specialised in 'resistance to interogation techniques'. I was fascinated to know the psych-methods they used for unlocking the prisoners mind and mouth and was keen to hear more...well, they told me...'they all talk when you kick 'em in the nuts'!

This leaves us with 'the comfy chair'. So let me torture you with laughter as you watch this classic from Monty Python.

Read More:
Abuse Isn't Torture If a Doctor Is There
2000 photos of prisoner abuse to be released April 29th 20009

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Captain Phillips Freed

image credit Blindkat

It is good news that Captain Richard Phillips has been freed.
Rescued not Ransomed too.

The Pirates have paid the price. The price of Piracy that has been paid throughout the ages. These people were gullible to think that they could have got away with it. For 3 of them their punishment was swift, and they might consider themselves fortunate given the nature of Pirate Punishment in the past.

Pirates Beware:
Navy Seal Snipers

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Will Captain Richard Phillips be Ransomed or Rescued?

Has the policy of paying ransom money to Somali pirates been an exercise in gullibility? or is Abdi Garad the Somali pirate commander the gullible one in thinking that he and his men are going to get way with it?

Unfortunately Captain Richard Phillips is caught between a rock and a hard place. A pawn in the power plays between the US Navy and the Somali swashbucklers. He may even have been a sprat to catch a mackerel? Who knows what conspiratorial reasoning lies behind the tale. There might, however, be a saving grace.The pirate threat that "This matter is likely to create disaster because it is taking too long and we are getting information that the Americans are planning rescue tricks like the French commandos did" might not arise because the Pirates are about collecting large sums of money and surviving to spend it, not dying in the process!.

If, God forbid, something does happen to Captain Phillips then the Pirates won't stand a chance of getting away with it. They'd be gullible to expect any other outcome.

So what do you reckon, ransom or rescue?

Read More:
The Other Side of the Somali Pirate Story thanks go to Saboma for this link.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

The Jade Goody Effect

There can be no disputing that Jade has had huge social influence. Her main legacy will of course be the impact she has had on the number of women ensuring they are checked for cervical cancer. As many people are aware, increases of more between 20% -40% in the number of women getting screened have been reported.

That fact certainly tells something about the 'what' of Jade Goody's influence. The Jade Goody Effect. She has also positively influenced people in other ways too. These other 'whats', such as her commitment to the welfare of her children, her confidence in making the best of the opportunities she was given, and the strength (some might say naivete, or ignorance) to speak as she found.

The intriguing aspect of the Jade Goody Effect is 'how' it worked and in some cases continues to work, and some ideas from social psychology throw some light on this.

The first is the notion of 'heuristics', the rules of thumb that we use to guide our behaviours. One type of rule of thumb has the name 'the availability heuristic'. This describes the way in which our awareness and familiarity of an event good or bad causes us to think that it is more likely to happen to us. This is why lottery companies tell us about winners, slot machines make a loud noise when they pay out, terrorists commit 'spectaculars' and so on. Jade certainly made her health experience available.

The second is the notion of 'authority' Conventionally this refers to our deference to people who have symbols and signs of authority, such as scientists and doctors with their white coats, badges of rank like titles, expensive cars, emblems, and of course celebrity.

For a significant number of people Jade was an 'authority'. Somebody who showed them that its OK to express themselves plainly, its OK to have a straightforward view of often complicated affairs, and its OK to do things your way without having to meet the expectations of what other people think is the 'right and proper way'.

Of course, there have been controversies. Some people have said these were the result of Jades ignorance and lack of education. I'd like to think of her ignorance not in the sense of its 'uncouth' meaning, but in the sense of 'un-knowing' or not knowing any better. For many this too is an appealing aspect of the Jade Goody Effect. I think Mark Twain summed up this aspect of Jade's appeal with the following quote.

"Education is the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty"

I hope the people who thought they were better than Jade ponder on this quote.

In the end we are talking about a life cut short. A person and a fellow human being. And I think that the following quotes by George Bernard Shaw give cause for reflection.

"Do you think that the things people make fools of themselves about are any less real and true than the things they behave sensibly about? They are more true: they are the only things that are true." George Bernard Shaw, Candida (1898) act 1

"What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. Never lose a chance: it doesn't come every day." George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion, Act 2

Read More:
Michael Parkinson suggests that Jade Goody was ignorant and puerile and what we're left with is a woman who came to represent all that's paltry and wretched about Britain today...she was brought up on a sink estate, as a child came to know drugs and crime, was barely educated
In response to Parkinson's analysis on the 8th April 2009 Bishop Jonathon Blake defended Jade Goody's memory by refering to her inherent gifts and untutored intelligence