It sounds like something you dreamed up in the basement with your stoner friends in high school. (In fact, you may actually have done so.) But transcranial direct current stimulation is the hottest thing to hit the improvisational health management scene since acupuncture. A growing body of evidence suggests that sticking a battery onto your head could hack into your brain’s operating system and make life generally more worth living. Think of it as Norton Utilities for the mind.
That’s not an oversimplification of the process. tDCS is literally that simple. The total cost of a treatment is less than $5 of parts from Radio Shack and a sponge. No prescription needed. No needles, no pills, no insurance companies, no weird hormonal fluctuations, no commercials saying “I’m glad [drug of choice] has a low risk of sexual side effects!”
An anarchist is not a wild child, but a mature, realistic adult imposing laws upon the self and modifying them according to an experience of life, an interpretation of the world. A ‘rebel’, certainly, he or she does not assume ‘rebellious charm’ in order to placate authority (which is what the rebel heroes of all these genre stories do). There always comes the depressing point where Robin Hood doffs a respectful cap to King Richard, having clobbered the rival king. This sort of implicit paternalism is seen in high relief in the currently popular Star Wars series which also presents a somewhat disturbing anti-rationalism in its quasi-religious ‘Force’ which unites the Jedi Knights (are we back to Wellsian ‘samurai’ again?) and upon whose power they can draw, like some holy brotherhood, some band of Knights Templar. Star Wars is a pure example of the genre (in that it is a compendium of other people’s ideas) in its implicit structure — quasi-children, fighting for a paternalistic authority, win through in the end and stand bashfully before the princess while medals are placed around their necks.
Star Wars carries the paternalistic messages of almost all generic adventure fiction (may the Force never arrive on your doorstep at three o’clock in the morning) and has all the right characters. it raises ‘instinct’ above reason (a fundamental to Nazi doctrine) and promotes a kind of sentimental romanticism attractive to the young and idealistic while protective of existing institutions. It is the essence of a genre that it continues to promote certain implicit ideas even if the author is unconscious of them. In this case the audience also seems frequently unconscious of them.
While still in its initial stages, the techniques may eventually have wide-ranging implications for everything from criminal interrogations to airline security checks. And that alarms some ethicists who fear the technology could one day be abused by authorities, marketers, or employers.
Scientists at the University College London (UCL) have found the first physiological evidence that invisible subliminal images do attract the brain’s attention on a subconscious level. The findings challenge previous scientific assumptions that consciousness and attention go hand-in-hand.
I haven’t really cared about comic book character deaths since Superman died when I was a kid, but this is a little different. Marvel killed the character off as part of a protest of the Bush administration’s policies: “Marvel says the comic story line was intentionally written as an allegory to current real-life issues like the Patriot Act, the War on Terror and the September 11 attacks.”
At Hit and Run, Dave Wiegel reflects on how much Marvel’s position has changed in 6 years: “After 9/11, Marvel released a bunch of gung-ho war on terror comix.”
Why the about face? I just remembered a piece posted to 10 Zen Monkeys about Spiderman’s apology to America. Although Captain America is an older character than Spiderman, Spidey’s more of their mascot and their most loved character. He is the perfect medium for the company own apology:
People of New York, I’ve — well, I’ve got a confession to make. I was wrong. I made a mistake. I’ve seen the very concept of justice destroyed.
I’ve seen heroes and bad guys alike — dangerous guys, no mistake, but still born in this country for the most part — denied due process and imprisoned, potentially for the rest of their lives, without a trial, without evidence.
They’re held in inhumane conditions in a place called the negative zone. The negative zone is… Well, it’s a lot like New Jersey. But…with fewer off-ramps.
We all want to be safe. We all want to know we can go to bed at night and have a good chance of waking up without somebody in a costume blowing up the building. But there’s a point where the end doesn’t justify the means, if the means require us to give up not just our identities, but who and what we are as a country.
When does the country we’re living in stop being the country we were born in? Some people say the most important thing in the world is that we should be safe. But I was brought up to belive that some things are worth dying for. If the cost of the silence is the soul of the country… If the cost of tacit support is that we lose the very things that make this nation the greatest in human history — then the price is too high.
I cannot, in good conscience, continue to support this act as it has been created and enforced. I was wrong. And from this day on, I will do everything within my power to oppose the act and anyone attempting to intimidate and arrest those who also oppose the act, in the cause of freedom.
Michael Crichton follows up his foray into anti-evironmentalism with an exploration of the biopunk underground in his new novel Next, which actually sounds pretty interesting.
Early on in Next, a court similarly rules that Burnet does not own his own cells. Unfortunately, however, the cell lines derived from Burnet and now growing in BioGen’s labs have been contaminated. Investments worth billions will be lost unless the cells are replaced from the only known sources – Burnet, his daughter, and his grandson. Given that this is a Crichton novel, the corporation is not overly sensitive about how it replaces what its executives regard as its property.
Crichton similarly fictionalizes reality in a subplot in which shady characters in a pathology lab harvest and sell tissue and bones from cadavers without consent. This sordid activity came to light in real life in 2005, when police discovered that bones were taken from the cancerous cadaver of 95-year-old BBC broadcaster Alistair Cooke and sold.
It turns out labor shortages in Colorado have become severe and the state is turning to prison labor to fill the shortages (This solution was once proposed by California Representative Dana Rohrabacher as well). So where are all the native born Americans, desperately hurting for jobs stolen by illegal immigrants?
So, in the interest of offering solutions as well as pointing out problems (or failed attempts at solutions), I’ll make a suggestion: A temporary guest worker permit program. The main advantage of such a program is that by making the solution temporary, if it turns out to be a disaster, new permits can be changed or the program can be cancelled altogether and after the permits expire, everything will go back to normal. A guest worker program would allow workers to seek legal protections without fear of being deported, and could potentially create a means to tax hitherto undocumented workers to pay for social services.
The means to a solution such as this one is difficult to determine. Public perceptions of immigrants in the US seems to be persistently bad, and politicians on both the left and the right like to talk tough about “cracking down” on illegal immigration. Most of the 08 presidential candidates favor militarizing the US-Mexico border in spite of the fact that most illegal immigrants enter the US legally (source). My suggestion is to arm yourself with the facts about immigration, write your congress people, and make an effort to correct people when they perpetuate myths about immigration.