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Social Developments and Evolution

As I do not know where I will end up, one of the things that I like to think about is the business models of internet startups and how technology has changed culture.  I believe that the major cultural change since I have been born is the creation of the internet for the general public.

As a disclaimer, I was born in 1985 and grew up using computers.  I don’t think the internet had a lot of impact on culture until it was available to the general public.

Additionally, I think web 1.0  was useful because it served as an extended public library.  The potential of the internet did not exist until web 2.0 where individuals began to easily produce content.  The rise of web 2.0 allowed for the development of all of the social networking sites, such as facebook, that we all use commonly.  Both web 1.0 and 2.0 were significant in many realms, I will not discuss the potential economic implications of these developments.  Instead, I want to write a few paragraphs about the role that these changes have in our social development.

I believe that our social development mirrors our evolutionary development.  This is to say that the same types of changes can occur in both our biology and our social structure.  In evolution, there are two main theories about how we progress genetically.  The first is a linear analysis in which we slowly change to a more advanced form.  We also have punctuated equilibrium.  Punctuated equilibrium are quick changes in the evolutionary direction of a species.  In my mind, these occur because of quick changes in which the organism is evolving.  These quick changes suggest that there are a multitude of niches that an organism can evolve into.  Consequently, the species available evolve to fill these niches.  These two process are not opposed, instead, these process can co-occur depending upon changes in the environment of the species.  When there is a significant change in the environment punctuated equilibrium occurs.  When it is just normal fluctuation linear change occurs.

To relate this to our social structure, we can look at the internet in it’s 2.0 version.  The distinction between web 1.0 and 2.0 was shift from generated content to a focus on user generated content.  Web 1.0 was a digitization of our libraries.  We no longer had to visit a place that had existed for generations for knowledge.  Web 2.0 is different.  I think that the development of web 2.0 serves as a device that is one of the factors that would initiate punctuated equilibrium.  The best example of this, in my mind, is twitter.  Here, the purpose of the network was to generate short content from all users to be communicated to anyone that was in his or her network.  This change is reflected in the societal shift to viral marketing as a preferred method and by the IPO of Twitter.  The changes to our society, which we are currently close to reaching its tipping point, are unknown.  I do not know what will come out of it.  I do, however, know that the millennials will play a substantial role in the transformation of the future of our society and our business models.  We are the generation that grew up with these changes.  I said that I did not want to discuss my opinions of business, but simply, the models are probably outdated.

 

The Importance of Language

I have been asked a few times lately if I think boredom has a facial expression associated with it.  Research suggests that it does not have a facial expression.  More intriguingly though is to look at the relationship between between communication and the emotions.  Research (e.g. Ekman) has suggested that the facial expressions related to emotion exist in order to communicate an individual’s internal state to coordinate group actions.  Many of the emotions that we communicate have existed for many generations.  The term boredom, in the english language, was only recorded in literature by the late 19th century.  As far as emotions or affective sates, this is relatively recent.  This means that we have not evolved linked physiological responses such as facial expressions to represent this state.  However, we have other abilities that allow us to determine whether an individual is bored or not, namely theory of mind.  This higher level process allows for us to use both context and an individual’s misfit between our expectations of an appropriate response in that context to determine if an individual is bored.  In other words, when we expect to be interesting in a conversation, and we do not have the necessary signs of interest, then we can infer that an individual is experiencing boredom.

New Side Project

With a need for distraction I wish to write about the thing I seem to do the most these days.  I build, rebuild, and modify massive datasets.  I am about to start explaining how.  I look forward to this distraction.

Data Collection Complete

Finally…

Another Update

I am still running subjects non-stop for my dissertation. I will be done soon. At this point I have written two data analyses written. I either expect to have two experiments (planned) or given recent findings I may have just a single experiment (unplanned). I will know next month.

Update

Still in the process of running subjects for my dissertation.  My mind is sharp, but tired.  I am likely to write philosophical here for a while if I ever get a chance to update as it is merely something different.  I have been thinking lately on the relationship between boredom and language, boredom and modernity, boredom and dissociation, and the meaninglessness of modern existence.

“It is not we that speak language but language that speaks us.” – Heidegger

Autism and the Autonomic Nervous System

Right now my mind is focused solely on the parasympathetic nervous system and autistic spectrum disorders after a conversation with my mother. I have other posts I will try to make shortly.

Repeated Measure Data Analysis and MLM

So I just gave a talk on repeated measure data analysis.  I will post the slides.  It follows:

Repeated Measure Final

Dissertating and Random Thoughts

I am typically absent for periods of time but I have been more absent lately because I am in the process of working on my dissertation, which has consumed my life.  My dissertation is looking at the physiological correlates of boredom in two studies.   I was initially just attempting to characterize the autonomic response related to the experience of boredom.  This is what I defend against.  However, and increasingly so, I have become absolutely fascinated with some of the tertiary projects around my dissertation.  In trying to characterize the I created a nosological frame that assess the standard things associated with boredom.  Of special interest at the moment are attentional networks and dissociation.  More will follow.

Thoughts From SPR – A Delayed Post That I Just Found

So I have not updated in a while.  I have also not written in a while so I am assuredly rusty.  Aside from being busy, conferencing at SPR, and generally being pensive about the prospects of the future, I find myself musing on the relationship between altruism and negative emotions.

I have long argued against the possibility of a truly altruistic act.  My arguments draw on evolutionary psychology where the frequency of altruistic acts increase with genetic relatedness.  This serves almost as the group attempting to work together for the benefit of their shared genetic material.  They also deal with the motivation for altruistic acts.  I generally pose the question of whether you act altruistically towards another, especially unrelated, individual because you are happy to help them or you would feel guilty not to help them.  In either case you gain some direct benefit from helping another individual affectively, whether it is an increase in a rewarding sensation or a decrease in an aversive sensation respectively.  As such, whether you give away one’s own resources or risk one’s safety for another individual you gain ground affectively.

Likewise, I found myself arguing about the relative importance of negative and positive emotions last night.  I strongly feel that the negative emotions are more evolutionarily important.  They protect us from aversive stimuli that pose an immediate or proximal threat to one’s safety.  To relate it back to the motivation of altruism, we act altruistically in order to prevent negative affect.  They motivate a change in the response to an environmental situation to increase the fitness of the organism.  However, positive emotions have never interested me.  They reward behavior in order to make an individual perseverate in a behavior.  However, organisms naturally maintain a course of action until they achieve a goal unless they an environmental stimulus acts upon them making them react.  This, again, is negative affect.

So the question was raised last night about affect and motivation.  The example was put forth of a thirsty mouse.  Thirst, while not an emotion, is a drive for the animal to act to seek water, which amounts to a change in course for the organism.  When the mouse then consumes water, reward centers in the brain are activated.  As such, is the reward a reward from the escape from thirst or is the reward in itself intrinsically motivating.  This is analogous to negative and positive affect respectively.  Do the positive affective states represent rewards for the release from negative affect or are the positive emotional states in themselves intrinsically motivating?  This brings me round to altruism.  I don’t believe that altruistic acts are possible because the importance of the act is to prevent negative affect.  So, the question becomes do affective states follow the same pattern as altruism where the priority is the release from or prevention of negative affective states with positive affect being the reward from release?  I don’t have the answer, but some day I may.



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