‘Scientific’ studies on cannabis.

This may look like a post about cannabis, but in reality it is more a blog about scientific method. There is a lot of discussion about legalising cannabis of late, and a lot of action along those lines in some nations. Surrounding it is a lot of “science” showing what effect cannabis may have on people’s health.

Sadly, despite being in respected, peer reviewed journals, and newspapers with high reputations, most of the “science” does fall very squarely into the area of pseudoscience. I do not need to name and shame particular researchers, because a few basic facts are all you need to be able to understand where they have failed.

The first fault is due to the need of scientific theory to reduce the number of variables as far as possible. Chosen subjects for studies should not be unusual in nature, they must be average, in order to represent the average population. If you were to conduct a study only on people who weighed over 20 stone, you would naturally expect there to be different results than if you were to conduct a study on people who weigh under 10 stone. In these two separate cases, there is a reasonable cause to suspect that cannabis could make a person over 20 stone feel more lethargic, whereas a person under 10 stone could become more energetic and active. This is just an example based upon the fact that people under 10 stone frequently become more active in response to various environmental factors, while people over 20 frequently become less active. A simple illustration that neither grouping has the nice and average nature, that will not ruin a statistical curve.

The real problem of reducing variables comes with the cannabis itself. The number of varieties of cannabis is immense. Common or garden hemp is a variety of cannabis for a start. It has high levels of CBD and almost imperceptibly low levels of THC, and is thus claimed to have no psychoactive effects. However, in response to the rise in use of CBD, breeders have responded by developing strains of cannabis that have many times higher levels of CBD, but still have almost nonexistent levels of THC. Though, before the rise in medical cannabis and CBD use, breeders spent a lot of time developing cannabis so that it would have incredibly high levels of THC, and incredibly low levels of CBD.

Cannabis as a natural plant, without various levels of cannabinoid being raised or lowered massively, could be expected to have a rough balance between THC and CBD. Some breeders identify that high THC can have negative effects unless tempered by approximately similar levels of CBD, so have produced plants that increase both these substances, in equal measure. This naturally creates plants that have fewer of the side effects that might be created by an imbalanced level of cannabinoids.

In addition to the THC and CBD, there are also terpenes that affect the flavour and colour of the plant, and also contain substances that further alter the effect of the plant. Some varieties are grown to look purple, presumably because it looks pretty, but also because it smells and tastes, more like lavender, and unsurprisingly also holds some of the qualities of lavender. Part of the relaxing effect of many herbs is contained in their terpenes, so when a plant smells a particular way, it will alter the effect that the plant has on consciousness. Considering that cannabis is largely spoken of as enhancing, and increasing the feelings of the user, it is probable that a relaxing terpene, would become even more relaxing in combination with cannabinoids.

The cannabinoids themselves are not as simple as just THC or CBD; there are also THCA, and CBDA, CBN, CBG, CBC, THCV, or CBDV. The list goes on. Cannabinoids alone have been numbered at over a hundred. The levels of variation and complexity in cannabis plants, are clearly going to be impossible to even come close to understanding in any ordinary scientific study.

If an experiment were to be conducted with only one specific named variety of cannabis, then it would have far greater value. For instance, if a study was conducted on only the variety ‘Northern Lights’, then you could determine the probable response to Northern Lights, in a particular set of circumstances. However, that information would probably be partially, or even wholly incorrect if the conclusions were to be applied to another specific variety, ‘White Widow’. Northern lights has a tendency to energise a person, and make them feel creative. Using it will probably put a smile on a person’s face, as they bimble about the place, tidying up, cleaning stuff, building things, painting, etc. Potentially a very effective variety if you are open to depression. White Widow has a different tendency, which is to relax and take a seat for a while, perhaps lie down. If you are depressed, it could be an absolute nightmare, as you found yourself unable to get up and do all the important things that need to be done in your life. Instead you are relegated to a sedentary position, where your depression can really get its claws into you.

For decades, consumers have really just had to put up with what is available. Unless one has access to a Dutch coffee shop, or a Californian dispensary, the typical range of choice is ‘take it or leave it’. This has led to a very lazy understanding of the plant, and to be fair in a time when it is still illegal, this lazy understanding still means something, because the choice remains, take it or leave it. With the increase in legal medical use in the States, the number of varieties are being developed constantly, and as quickly as a study can be produced to show that cannabis induces psychosis, a new variety can be introduced to the market, that reduces anxieties, raises confidence, increases energy, and sharpens the mind. Or alternatively, a variety might be introduced by a less scrupulous breeder, that makes one feel the need to lie down and stare at the ceiling to watch all the bizarre imagery from the darkest corners of the mind, as it intrudes on daily life.

Despite having hundreds of varieties of cannabis plants, each with subtle, or very noticeable differences in effect, our scientific studies, seem to be mainly focussed on three distinctions. 1) Hemp, with no CBD. 2) Traditional cannabis with low levels of CBD and THC. 3) Modern cannabis, with high levels of CBD and THC. Even if the studies do give us usable information, they are so incredibly vague as to be useless for everyday discussion amongst lay people, about the actual plants being grown and sold. One that someone pointed out to me this morning, was looking at the effect of Skunk-like cannabis. This is a term that has no specific meaning. Skunk-like simply means modern and strong. It tells us nothing about whether the variety chosen was higher in THC or CBD, or whether the two substances were approximately equal.  It doesn’t even tell us if they only used one specific variety.  Such studies do nothing to address the other hundred odd cannabinoids, nor the terpenes, and rarely do studies consider that even if the plant was magically homogenous, the effects would be different for people with different health conditions.

A parallel situation is clearly seen in other plants, where people have quite happily accepted that difference in make up, can have different effects. I like sage and onion stuffing. Sage is a common herb in English cooking, but the sage variety, Salvia Divinorum, can send people into completely different mental realities if it is smoked. I also love a bit of Basil on my pasta, but if Holy Basil is used instead of standard garden Basil, then you are spiking your pasta with a sedative. Throughout the plant kingdom we are well aware of the different effects that different varieties and species of plants can have, yet in the incredibly complicated world of cannabis, our ‘scientists’ are attempting to pretend that the variables they wish to cut out of their experiments, just aren’t there in the first place.

That is not science. I’d love to go on, and I am sure there are books’ worth of material in this subject, but for one day, this is the point I wanted to make. All these studies make something good to chat about on breakfast television, or in the tabloids, but they do not deserve the status they are given.

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Prediction number Two: The rise of paganism.

Prediction number two: The rise of paganism.

I suppose this is another relatively weak sounding prediction considering that paganism, in Britain at least, has been rising steadily over the last century. However, I would consider that to be something like an orientation century for the pagan religions as they return to the mainstream.

Paganism of course was the order of the day before the birth of Christianity. Christianity’s big brother Judaism was clearly the foundation on which Christianity was built, so could be said to have been the beginning of the move away from general paganism. However when you hear about the qabbalah, and such, it is clear that Christianity was doing something new, which is of course continued in Islam.

I am sure there are a load of analyses, about how the Roman empire co-opted the teachings of Christ, because they realised how easy it would be to control people, if everyone had the same belief and had the same god. As a very military culture, the value of Christianity would have been recognised incredibly quickly. I would love to know how many books in the Vatican archives are on the very subject of political control, a how to guide.

Monotheism has certainly proved effective as a tool that can keep an entire population on path, in a quest for global domination. The problem is that having now completely covered the planet, and being faced with our monotheistic brother Islam, the place kind of feels like a bit of a powder keg. We have used up all the resources, we have held onto this belief that we must fight to protect our way of life, and maintain things in the manner they have always been, despite the fact that we once lived in vast flat expanses of empty wild land, while nowadays we float through space, clinging to the surface of a small rocky sphere. The lost lands are gone now. We cannot gain freedom and space again by continuing to do the very thing that led to us overpopulating the land, polluting the air and water, cutting down all the trees and killing the animals. All those things will run out, and we can’t stop that by destroying them more quickly. Obvious logic you would think, but a lot of people seem to be operating without this realisation.

Monotheism is not a suitable religious structure for our future. I am a Christian, although I am probably invited to few Christmas parties and the like, on account of making people feel uncomfortable with a talk of the return of the old gods. The thing about Christianity is that it is great if you want top down control, get everyone on the same page, and wipe out all disagreements. A fantastic way to run an efficient military culture. Had Jesus realised this, I think he might have advocated a lot more bad language, as he might have said, “for fuck’s sake, I am not getting through to these bloody people.”

Paganism doesn’t have the same certainty. Even if your god does give you a command, if your god has two brothers, and a big sister, who all disagree with him, then suddenly it gets trickier keeping an entire army focussed on the same goal. People need to make their own decisions. There is no, “I shall do as my country demands, because that is the will of God.” There is a lot more “I would do as my country demands, but my country’s god is a bit of a dick, and his brother says that if we don’t go to war, we can do a fantastic trade in baklava. Plus his sister hooked me up with some vestal virgins, you know what I’m saying?”

Paganism is perhaps not the best thing in a very competitive world then, because it is easy to get dominated when you are quaffing ale and singing of Valhalla, but your neighbours are focussing on being ordered, perfected, precise, and uniform.

“Competitive world” is of course the essential crux of the issue. We do live in a competitive world, but if reports are to be believed, probably not for a great deal longer. We seem to have two options. One is that we must stop trying to grow, expand, compete, put all of our resources into ensuring the two dozen or so richest families in the world continually gain more and more, even if it means sacrificing all life on the planet; and instead, if we must compete in anything, get competitive at stopping our species from dying out long before the end of this new millennium. At present, continuing on our current trajectory, we are soon going to be extinct. However, there is always potential for people to wake up and fix stuff, though, I think we are a long way past the stitch in time point.

Sadly, as we are rather fond of our religions, it is clear that there are some stumbling blocks with overcoming our reliance on them. Naturally a lot of scientific types will say we can just drop them all. In theory, they are right, and I agree with them; in practice that is so hilariously not an option, unless you want to build a helluva lot of expanded gulags, and invest massive amounts of money into mental health services. Great idea in principle, but scientists are very quick to imagine that a lot of our flaws are caused by a failure to look at things in a scientific and objective manner. They are completely right about this of course, but they fail to see the cause. We are all a bunch of monkeys in suits. Good luck telling us to be scientific.

Luckily we are not alone. The algorithms of life itself have certain rules. One of them is when the shit hits the fan, life ducks. Life offers solutions to the problems mankind creates. Mankind sees the solutions, and thinks, “Oh, that’s new. I don’t like that. I think I had better write a new law to make sure that doesn’t pop up again.” Take homosexuality for instance. One of God’s or nature’s most incredible plans to deal with overpopulation. I have to give some kudos to the big guy on this one. What an incredible solution to the burgeoning Malthusian crisis. It is funny that though it has been maligned and looked down upon for centuries, it was only when we really began to damage ourselves with overpopulation that they really started to try and crack down on people not breeding. The death wish humanity appears to have, is clearly quite strong.

As far as overpopulation solutions go, I like this one. Some of the more flamboyant men in pink suits around the place, really brighten up my day. If you spend much time in Cirencester, you know exactly who I am talking about. But when it comes to God’s decisions about the best way forward to take society, reality, existence, and humanity, the standard modern wisdom is that God doesn’t know what he is talking about, and all decisions on church policy should default to what those batty women who are always hassling the vicar think.

So this brings me to my prediction, which I have already made, throughout this whole page. I do not have a specific date. This is just a general trend, but with environmental concerns, issues with inequality, which lets face it clash so badly with Christian philosophy that it is absurd it is allowed. The sense of encroachment of other cultures and mutually exclusive religions. Simply following logic, you cannot have two mutually exclusive things occupying the same territory and doing the same job. You need to have give and take. The monotheists say there is only true God. When you know what they are referring to, they are not wrong, but they seem to miss, that in all their cases, it is the same God. It has all the same defining qualities, plus a proviso that prevents there being any other God, but that one God. That is game over. That player got all the pieces. So why is there still conflict?

Who knows why there is still conflict? Who knows anything? Not anyone who lets their gods do their thinking for them. Gods are there for guidance, support, strength, truth, justice. There is only one thing that gods are not there for. That is the control of human beings. That is one of the first things we are told. Free will is paramount. God can not interfere to control your lives. You have the free will to follow your own path, and that is what God wants you to do, without being controlled by God. So how does religion think we should exercise this free will? Well we have a list of ten rules. DON’T BREAK THE RULES. Wait, what happened to the free will thing you were just mentioning? DO NOT QUESTION THE COMMANDS OF GOD!

Clearly there has been some misunderstanding?

Now, I’m cool with all this personally. I am not uncomfortable with God. I am hugely aware that God, and the gods of pantheons, are not remotely the same thing. You can go out drinking with Thor and Loki for instance. You can spend an afternoon having a laugh with Poseidon. This is possible because while on the one hand, they do not exist in the manner that God does as an eternal concept, they have a solid fictional and cultural presence, that can take a lot of strength from the actual God (which if it exists in the physical world, does so most strongly as that motivation inside us to keep going because it is good to do so). The minor pantheon deity is kind of like an agent or representative, a character that can be animated. A personal projection that can access the strength that monotheists try to reach more directly.

Now obviously, rather than making up fictional characters to keep us company in our existential angst, it is more logical to accept that they are fictional, whatever cultural gravitas they have built up over the millennia, and instead, just focus on that inner point of strength that we are all trying to reach inside ourselves. However, if you are not happy, you need company, if you can’t hear the words, you need someone to talk to you. For all we hear about the love of God, and joy and intellectual understanding that we each have an ability, to access our inner drive to excel, and our inner motivational endorphin systems, this doesn’t help, if when faced with God, we do not feel that joy. It is probably still somewhere, but we are lost. Confused. For all that minor deities or angels are largely personal projections and cultural constructs, at least the minor deities will sit down and be people for you, if you can access them.

Having just emerged from a century in which Jung and Freud had huge impacts, we know the value of counsellors and psychiatrists. At this point in time, we now know that for the vast majority, a monotheistic god, is little more than a rejection of the imagination, and a sterilisation of religion. Society is breaking because monotheism has in a number of respects been a dismal disappointment. Most of humanity isn’t ready for it, and a major problem is that for many, who are ready, they are still able to gain benefits from minor pagan deities.

There is a really good reason for rejecting the pagan deities, and that is because if you don’t have pagan deities, you can’t accidentally end up believing they are real, in the manner that they have been created by artists and writers. However, that was the thinking of two thousand years ago. We are a more mature species now. We use things that aren’t real all the time. Some people know all the characters in Eastenders, as though they were real people. They don’t think they are real people, but they can still inspire us, and make us cry. Minor deities are at the higher end of that scale of fictionality. Two thousand years ago, people might have thought Eastenders was real. They didn’t have televisions, so they didn’t know any better. They could have easily been fooled into thinking Zeus was an actual giant man god thing.

We know damn well that we are not that gullible and stupid any more; and people very rarely have that kind of confusion now; and to be fair, if there wasn’t Eastenders, or deities, or whatever, those amongst us who feel our sanity unravelling, will just unravel it on something else. Like writing to the government about the ants that are trying to take over the local town or something.

I’ve gone on longer than I intended, but there you have it. A rise in paganism. It just seems ludicrous that we can reach this stage in our cognitive revolution, learning how to use tools to build more tools to build space rockets, and the like. Yet the stigma over our primitive nature in the past, prevents us from seriously considering the use of tools, our ancestors constructed for the strengthening or our inner selves. Of course they built crappy tools. They were primitive people, but we are not primitive people. We could build good tools to do the same tasks, and we could polish them and perfect them. The thing that stops us is that half of us cling to monotheism because even considering paganism, could send us to hell; and the other half of us consider modern man to be an enlightened, secular, being; so clearly our ancestors were primitives and should be dismissed for their stupid ideas. After all, who needs minor deities, when you have risperidone. It is an attitude that Darwin would remember well.

For the reasons I have outlined above, and doubtless, numerous other reasons too, we will see an increase in paganism, relative to monotheism. I will be surprised if it increases relative to general godlessness, and despair, but we can at least hope.

Phonies.

Phonies appeared, but they were quickly disappeared again. Holly Go-Lightly had her thing for phonies. Salinger having brought them most greatly to prominence. But Salinger shut himself into a prison of self censorship. Perhaps increasing the strength of the curse on his work. The phonies themselves, seem to have been quickly shuttled through the reception rooms and put off site and out of sight. Nowadays though Holly is as big a flake as she ever was, Salinger has been told to shut up by the forces of nature, and the phonies have carried on happily back to their day job of global domination and subjugation of the weak. Though I daresay some are probably just baristas, or deliveroo drivers.

None of us are free of blame on this one though. We are all phonies. Or we are dressed as phonies, in our regalia from the Spring Emperor’s New Clothes range. Just as, any clothed person is underneath completely and utterly naked; when you remove the lies, everyone is genuine. Maybe our genuineness might be a bit skinny or weak under the huge weight of illusion we pile on top, but we all are at essence, the same person, a general joie de vivre and motivation, that maintains our survival, but deep down at our essence, there is a flicker of light that wants to play and be happy. If that is not how it feels, then you probably shouldn’t have had such a heavy dinner, or you could do with a nap, get clean of drugs, forgive yourself for that thing you think you did. You didn’t. Whatever clouds your light is only temporary.

The way we clothe our psyche is a beautiful skill, but because we pretend we do not, we pretend our mental furniture is ourself, and not just something we slip into and out of, we do not understand how to use it. To an outside observer, giving an innocent adult, access to a wealth of culture bears a similarity to giving a five year old the contents of a movie company’s costume department. The child walks around in gigantic stilettos, with a coat trailing along behind them on the floor, a captains hat on their head, and maybe half a dozen colourful ties. All the different affectations that the child thinks, “this makes me look really impressive”. While I don’t disagree, it is a lot like seeing the efforts made by J.K. Rowling’s wizards to fit in with the muggles.

It is nice that they feel they look impressive, it is just such a shame that the captain’s hat they wear doesn’t really give them any real air of actual authority, and with most phonies we have to deal with, the tendency is to just smile, nod, and take the money. Possibly muttering that the dickhead can now fuck off until next wage day. The ties, just show an affinity for numerous groups and organisations who are tolerant of phonies on account of how they really couldn’t justify such large premises otherwise. All the matters of pride, the representations we make of ourselves to the world are more like the tattoos that gangsters wear. This tattoo shows you are a thief, this one you are a murderer. A tattoo of a bow tie shows you can’t be trusted, etc. This tattoo shows you are an arsehole, this tattoo shows you pay inadequate wages, this tattoo shows you treat other people like crap, this tattoo shows you favour low taxes, and a yearly purge, etc, etc.

Unlike the tattoos, phonieness is something that can be dropped. Even someone whose life experiences have left them with a severely distorted version of reality, completely out of tune with all other people, can at the furthest extreme, take an ice cream scoop and remove offending brain areas. A rather extreme example, the more common method is to dissolve the brain in alcohol.  It might seem to a lot of people that being true to themselves is hard to do. In some ways it is, you can tell that by the fact that so few people ever are true to themselves. To be fair from a certain perspective it can be difficult, but it need not be. It is like walking into a darkened room. If you know where all the furniture is then you can walk straight in with no worries. It is not a dangerous situation. If you don’t know where all the furniture is though, you might hit your shin on the coffee table, trip over the armchair, and knock over a vase; so there is perhaps good reason for caution, but the same can be said of any unknown situation.

The masks we put over ourselves are further accentuated by the lenses through which we view everything. We are not at all honest with ourselves, or to ourselves.

However the reason why I assert it is not as difficult as people imagine, is that we actually expend effort to create a lot of our illusions. It does not feel like it because we are good at doing it. We’ve had a lot of practice. Due to a combination of factors, including lazy students, I have actually developed an ability to explain business law for up to four hours at a time, I could probably go a solid 8 hours, but even doing just four hours we need numerous breaks because it takes a lot of effort to make knowledge stick in the head of a lazy student. Far easier when the student isn’t lazy.

Now, as anyone who knows anything about law, or teaching will tell you. This is clearly a stupid and useless ability to have, and I could have better utilised my endurance learning to love Wagner or something. Nevertheless, humans are well made for endurance, and the older we get, the better we get at it. When we are also practiced, I think there are a huge number of us, who could literally, if forced, do the thing that is our talent, and continue to do it, and not stop doing it again, until that point at which breathing, and the heart themselves stop; Like the cursed dancing shoes in fairy legends.

The one thing that we are all, almost perfectly rehearsed in, is pretending to be who we pretend to be, not just when we pretend to be an important head of industry, or a wise teacher, but also when we pretend we are feeling insulted, or happy, or jilted, justified, etc. After 50 years of pretending to be anything other than open and vulnerable, we all learn to get real good at pretending. Nevertheless it is something we are actually actively doing. All that is required for us to allow ourselves to see and project truth, is to just shut those bits off. Not even shut them off. Just don’t pay attention to them, and they will go into sleep mode.

I do make it sound overly simple there, and in my defence, it is kind of overly simple, you just need to learn how. When you consider that not paying attention to your inner lies, is something akin to not paying attention to notifications coming in on your phone, we know we can do that, just by not picking up the phone, but my god that can be difficult. With things inside the mind, it is clear that practice is going to be needed to be able to shake it off, and lets not forget that circumstances aren’t always good for experimenting with removing any of our personality default autopilot modes.  I believe that the inner truthful version of ourselves has its own autopilot mode, because once the state is reached, it makes things glide, smooth and easily, rather than needing any extra focus or attention.  Instead it opens up a facility of far easier focus and attention.

Nevertheless, it is a matter of simply not doing something that we waste mental effort on, so logically, given that nature does seek efficiency, it should not be that difficult. Of course, having said that it is not that difficult, it took me about a year of constant effort to work out how to do it, and then another twenty years to start believing I wasn’t actually all that bad at doing it. There are probably easier ways though.

At present my perception of my own phonieness is oddly objective. The phonieness is still there, but I can see I am full of shit when it appears. Maybe another twenty years, and I won’t be a phoney at all, but phonieness is like having a pet parrot that insists on flying free to do what it wants, and then at some point when you are trying to be genuine with someone, it will swoop down onto your shoulder, and whisper in your ear, and you will probably say something at that point, which will make you seem like a complete and utter dick, because c’est la vie. Hit and a miss. Next time you want to say something genuine, just check your right shoulder as you do, to make sure there isn’t some great big phoney load of bollocks sitting on it.

Prediction number one: the end of Apple -ish.

I said I was going to make a prediction. I did have something else to post, which was going to interfere with that, but somehow here I am getting it together.

My first prediction is a doozy. Popular discussion topic too, I’ll warrant. Because it includes modernity, the computer industry, big business, environmentalism, poverty, all sorts of things. It is Apple computers. As a first prediction I am clearly treading into gnarly territory, but there are a few reasons I am calling this one.

When Steve Jobs died, he passed the reigns to Tim Cooke. Given that Steve was famously into the perfection of his design, and Jonny Ive was his compadre in this, plus the two had worked together for so long, it would not have been unfeasible for Steve to pass his mantel to Jonny. I will admit that would have been especially unorthodox, and lets face it, Jonny is really needed for design too badly, so it did make a lot of sense to go with Tim Cooke.

Tim is a numbers man. A great counterpart to Steve. With Steve’s eye for aesthetics and his vision and drive, it is obvious that the next piece of the puzzle for success in business, is going to be the addition of a man like Tim. This has actually worked out spectacularly well so far, and I think much of this comes down to Steve preparing Apple to survive according to his will, for some time after his death.

That period has largely, if not completely come to an end by now, and things are beginning to go downhill. This is not reflected to any great extent within the shareholder base, because shareholders are pretty unimaginative, and they don’t say goodbye to money without being 100% certain. Either that, or they have a time line in mind, like I do myself.

Tim has focussed on profit through less design, which is an approach I appreciate, because I hate getting a new phone and finding I need a bigger pocket. Though he did admittedly make the phones bigger, so poor example. It is the sensible approach, and it is what most people in his position would do, as you can see from all the other computer companies in the world who have someone working in the same position. It is not what got Apple where Steve left it though.

I think this could have been Steve’s intention though. He wanted to leave a strong and successful company, because no one wants to build something that falls apart as soon as they die, that is no legacy. However he does so to maintain his reputation, and arguably Steve’s reputation is as a design genius. So while Apple surviving can be done with any good leader, it is imperative, that the new leader cannot overshadow the design sensibilities of Steve himself. This is a good reason to not choose Jonny, and a very good reason to choose Tim. The perfect person to maintain the glory of Apple, but not usurp the glory of Steve. I feel this is the way that Steve would have moved.

Now it is all beginning to fall apart. Jonny Ive may not be going far, but he is clearly at odds with the approach to design that Tim has taken. After all, if you are the most proclaimed designer on the planet, even honoured by the royalty of your nation for that talent, then you do not want to be sitting in the Apple design studios, twiddling your thumbs because they have not needed a new design for two years.

Jonny leaving, alone is not a great problem, particularly as he is not going far, and it is probable he will remain largely loyal to the company. At most it is probably little more than an omen. However, other approaches that have been taken by Tim to try and increase profit whilst disadvantaging the customer might be more damaging. In an ideal world, you will have all of the products Apple holds within its ecosystem. Such as whichever back up method Apple are currently recommending. Many years ago,they had time machine, though I believe that is long gone now. Whatever way the task is currently performed, it is a very wise idea to back up, because their most recent innovation has, according to Louis Rossman, removed the ability for a third party repairer to fix certain problems, meaning that if you relied on third party controllers, they would not be able to recover any data you have lost. However, it has long been the case that if you can, or do, take a computer to Apple, their advice is often that your hard drive is going to lose its data, because I believe the problem is usually solved by simply replacing the whole part, and throwing the old part away. Difficult to recover data that way. Rossman has spent a great many years, basically being annoyed by Apple, to tell the truth, I think when he is not making videos, he is probably usually going to be annoyed by something. Ironically a character trait that was also possessed by Steve Jobs. Though Louis is perhaps a fair bit more altruistic. If you do not keep everything regularly backed up, you will lose everything, unlike on a standard computer, where you will only lose everything if the hard drive itself is the part that broke, and in that case, there still may be a work around. Or even if it is any other mac from a previous year, then you could still get a third party repair. If you do not purchase a good Apple approved back up system, they will punish you.

Of course the continued path of unrepairability, and the forced need to keep producing more and more disposable objects of inadequate technology, is something that has worked for Tim, and it is his nature as a numbers guy, to find the highest number he can receive at the cost of the lowest number. In our current cultural climate, it seems as oblivious as doing anything that will provoke massive horror and outrage. i.e. it is not a vote winner. With extinction rebellion kicking up such a fuss, and numerous other environmental movements getting a big boost from the sudden spotlight, it is very risky to basically look at environmental sustainability and laugh in its face.

The additional game Tim is playing with just throwing out random huge numbers every year instead of pricing according to ordinary logical criteria, is something he has pushed far further than I imagined possible. The customer base is good. Though it must be observed that inequality has received a negative spotlight as well recently. Not as strong as the problem with the environment, because everyone needs an environment to some extent, but not everyone cares about equality. Nevertheless, that will also see some back lash. I can’t see Apple’s success continuing untrammelled, if they keep inventing such good reasons for it to fail.

All this brings me to my prediction. It is a bold first one, because people have been making claims about Apple for so long, and Apple have basically laughed and thrived. So aside from predicting the end of the world, this is possibly one of the best companies to destroy my reputation for accurate prediction on. Luckily I have no reputation, so risking destroying it on day one is perhaps not such a huge risk. Nevertheless I shall be cautious. Also this is not a prediction for soon, as in quickly ring your stock broker. This is a prediction to keep an eye on. This is a wariness, that you should wait for a particular moment before once again making a judgement. Of course if I am too conservative, and Apple has gone bankrupt by next week, then I guess that just sucks, though I would still call it a win-ish.

With that in mind. I think we have a date of approximately two years from now. That would make it 2021, though I am also in a mind about 2022. My original prediction was going to be that towards the end of 2021, perhaps as the orders are going out for the end of year rush, at xmas, that would be the time at which Tim Cooke would be beginning to get the feeling that things are not going according to plan. It will be that time, at which, if he is ever going to develop a drink problem, he will find it most in fitting with his need to drown his sorrows. The huge advantages Apple had, won’t exactly have been squandered, but they will no longer be available. At an outside, I will allow myself the freedom to push it as far as the end of 2022, but no further because a friend of mine, who is foolhardy enough to risk his reputation and predict the end of the world, tells me it will be in November 2023. That is not a view I endorse, but it is a good random barrier to my prediction getting too vague.

I’m going to chance my hand as a seer.

I have decided to start prophesying the future. That Nostradamus seems to have knocked up a pretty good success rate. Warren Buffet hasn’t done too badly either. And Ray Kurzweil is the reigning king. I kind of feel that Russell Grant has fallen a little at the way side, but that is probably more about poor marketing, and the demise of light frothy breakfast entertainment, that made you want to wake up in the morning. It may be that Russell is really a powerful sorcerer, who predicted the events long before they unfurled. He may have seen a world where the media wanted the slaves to wake and eat their breakfast in anxious misery. Get your woolly jumpers out of here Brandreth. Did someone say Piers Morgan was in the canteen? Go and fetch the bastard; that’ll bring us one step closer to the apocalypse.

I am not sure how Russell would have done in the days of the apocalypse that we are entering. I don’t know if his friendly and jolly demeanour is quite what is called for when you are facing down the end of civilisation. I think that is fair to say. No one has really been civilised for quite some time, so we have to be on the verge of the end of civilisation. The two kind of go hand in hand. Not so much like bread and cheese, but more like bread, and the other slice of bread. On account of there being no bread for any sandwich at all. Though there is still some hard cheese.

My forecasting technique has so far mainly comprised of drinking wine, and reading the news. I do seem to be uncannily accurate though. Goodness knows how accurate my scientific approach could be if I throw a pack of Tarot cards into the mix, burn incense, analyse the patterns that Tetris blocks fall in, and watch the stars. Maybe I won’t be the next Nostradamus, but I reckon I could probably do as well as most hedge fund managers.

So far, I have been successful in making numerous accurate predictions, but unfortunately due to the method involved, I never wrote them down, and can’t remember what they were. You may think this sounds like a load of bull, and I predicted you would be thinking that. However, those predictions were in the past, and the past is not what I am about. Predictions of the past are no good whatsoever. Anyone can do that. I’ll keep you updated. I’m afraid that I haven’t put much thought into a prediction for now, because I have been busy writing up this, but briefly; something really really awesome is about to happen. Just wait and see, you are going to be so surprised.

The darkened eyes of John Wick’s rage

I decided I ought to address this issue because there seems to be a lot of confusion about it online. It is something I have wondered about before, but it was seeing the film ‘John Wick’ that eventually convinced me to try and find out why it is that people’s eyes can turn black when they are angry.
If you haven’t seen the film ‘John Wick’, it is about an assassin who finds himself drawn out of retirement in a search for revenge. John, who is played by Keanu Reeves, is seen to have eyes that are not particularly noticeable, until that is, the anger hits him, at which point they become black, and pretty much stay that way for the rest of the film.
Having seen eyes like this in real life, I felt unhappy with the typical explanation. In most places online where this is mentioned, straight away someone will pop up with the explanation that the fight or flight response causes a release of adrenalin, which increases the size of the pupil, and thus gives the impression that the eyes have turned black. This answer always seems a bit smug to me, as though it is the full explanation, and the person to give the explanation is completely right, because they have stuck with the main scientific explanation that is spread throughout the web, by other people who are similarly smug in their superior knowledge.
Clearly, I do not agree with this explanation. I am not saying that their explanation is wrong. In fact I am certain that it probably is a part of the effect, but it does not explain the entire phenomenon. The question is never, ‘What makes people’s pupils so large when they are angry?’ The question is rather, ‘Why do people’s eyes turn black when they are angry?’ Anyone who has seen this in real life, knows that this is not a case of large pupils; this is a case of darkened eyes like those of John Wick in the movie.
Large pupils are something that is common in people who have taken LSD, or in people who have had eye drops administered by their optician before an eye exam. Large pupils can also be caused when someone sees something they like. In general, large eyes are clear, friendly, and attractive. Whereas, the eyes of someone who is enraged, are not attractive. To many people, they are the eyes of a demon, looking out at them, from what was previously a normal human being. As a metaphor, this does work well.
It is known that the eyes of guppies turn black when they are angry. [This Fish’s Eyes Turn Black When It Gets Mad – Ed Yong. 4/6/2018].  As they are fish, the colour of their eyes would be caused by chromatophores, rather than the melanocytes of mammals. However, the evolutionary development of the symptom could equally create the same kind of effect in any other creature as it does in the guppy, regardless of the actual cause of the changing colour/shade. The theory is that the guppy (which apparently has black eyes by default, but only reveals them when angry) is able to deliver the message that, yes, it really is as angry as it seems. It is not bluffing; it has something to anger it, and you’d better step out of the way. Any creature which could develop that level of anger would clearly have an evolutionary benefit in exhibiting the genuineness of that anger, and any creature faced with it, would have an evolutionary benefit in avoiding anyone with that kind of anger. There is no reason to think it is unreasonable for humans to develop similar mechanisms.
Discussions in abuse support groups have also dealt with the question, and have also received the answer that it is caused by enlarge pupils. There is no fooling these people though. They have often spent years of being faced on a daily basis, by what seems to be a monster, possessed by a demon. They know that these eyes bear no similarity to the enlarged pupils that are so attractive and alluring that women in the past have used ‘eyebright’, a.k.a. ‘nightshade’ in order to induce them. The difference between the sparkling eyes of a mere enlarged pupil, and the cloud of darkness in the eyes of an abuser is very obvious. It is a soulless look, that has been described as reptilian, shark-like, and demonic.
The eyes are often described as being the windows of the soul, and indeed, they may actually be considered the windows of the brain.  They can allow diagnosis of neurological conditions by examination of the retina. Of all the access points to the inside of the skull, it is not difficult to see why the eye could be considered the closest thing to being able to literally look at someone’s brain. They are so internal, that they even have lids to close over them to protect them from the outside world.

In the instance of the larger pupil theory, the pupil acts as an actual window that light can travel through. [Your Eyes Really Are the Window to Your Soul – D. Ludden PhD 31/12/2015] This is why the larger pupils have that brightness that is lacking in the instance of the dangerous and the angry. The eyes of such people, do not have that openness. They have a closed off, clouded, absent look. That is because their eyes’ colour could indeed by partially caused by pigmentation, as it is in the case of the guppy.
In 1998 an experiment was conducted in which rabbits were observed to develop darker pigmentation in eyes treated with latanoprost.
[Prostaglandin-Induced Iris Color Darkening An Experimental Model G.L. Zhan et al Arch Ophthalmol. 1998;116(8):1065-1068] Latanoprost performs essentially the same role as prostaglandin, which was named after the prostate, when it was first isolated within semen. Prostaglandin can be viewed as creating hormone like reactions in the body; e.g. constriction or dilation in vascular smooth muscle cells, regulation of inflammation, brain masculinisation (in rats)  [Microglia are essential to masculinization of brain and behavior K.M. Lenz et al. J Neurosci. 2013 Feb 13; 33(7): 2761–2772.] , and dilation of blood vessels, and control of blood flow.
What we are looking at is referred to as adrenergic innervation.  [Iris colour and relationship of tyrosinase activity to adrenergic innervation A.M. Laties & A.B. Lerner Nature volume 255, pages 152–153 (08 May 1975)] The effect of the prostaglandin is similar to the effect of adrenalin, and testosterone. The subject loses his temper, the physical reactions create a hyped up fighting machine with increased bloodflow, and heightened inflammatory healing factors. The difference between prostaglandin and the traditionally understood hormones, is that prostaglandin is not secreted by glands in response to stimuli, it exists all over the body, so is presumably far more readily available for quick response. So, while the experiment in rabbits was conducted over a lengthy period of time, it is possible that a similar reaction could potentially be observed far more quickly. According to anecdotal observation, this actually is the case.
In Zhan’s experiment, it was seen that the effect of the latanoprost was greatest on the periphery of the iris, and particularly when the iris was darker towards the pupillary sphincter. Thereby giving the impression of a greater uniformity to the eye with an increased pigmentation. If the fight or flight response does increase the pupils’ size, then this would combine with an already dark sphincter of the iris, and an increase in darkness on the periphery of the iris, thus generating the impression of the clouded darkness of a ‘demonically possessed, soulless, and angry person.
Julie Fast speaks from experience when she discusses the recognition of bipolar dysphoric mania in the subjects’ eyes.  [3 Clues to Recognize Bipolar Disorder Mania in the Eyes. How to notice the signs that your loved one or client may be manic. – J.A. Fast.] At the time of writing, in 2017, Julie was working at the Southern Methodist University, in the hope of gathering enough data to be able to identify dysphoric mania by visible expression in the eyes, thereby removing the stigma associated with bipolar disorder, by demonstrating physical effects that are tied to the disorder. She states that she has grown able, through practice, to detect the first signs of dysphoric mania in her own eyes. Though as anyone who has been in the same room as a bipolar patient in a dysphoric mania, it is often not that difficult to detect.
There is hope for those who are afflicted with this problem. Naturally there are the usual drugs that are offered to bipolar patients, which can include anti-depressants, psychotropics, anti-convulsives, etc; and by no means am I suggesting that you should not take the advice of a professional; after all, this is just a blog. The suggestion that occurs to me is far more simple, and is a good first step, or emergency measure, if you have not yet been diagnosed, or if you are in a situation where you are unable to get medication. I have already mentioned that prostaglandins have an effect on regulation of inflammation. The connection with bipolar, and the anger side of the equation in darkened eyes, is also connected with inflammation,  [Bipolar Disorder: Role of Inflammation and the Development of Disease Biomarkers – A. Muneer. Psychiatry Investig. 2016 Jan; 13(1): 18–33. Published online 2015 Nov 20].
A connection has also been found in some instances of depression with inflammatory markers  [Depression and inflammation: Examining the link Current Psychiatry. 2013 June;12(6):24-32 – M. Almond]. A possible emergency treatment is therefore available to almost anyone, barring allergies. The thing that interferes with the development of prostaglandin, and with the inflammation found in bipolar disorders, and depression is simple aspirin  [What are all the things that aspirin does? This fascinating but simple and cheap drug has an assured future – R. Flower. BMJ. 2003 Sep 13; 327(7415): 572–573.]

Naturally there are alternative anti-inflammatories. Ibuprofen being another common example, or diclofenac. A natural practitioner might suggest sour cherry juice, or tea made from willow bark, due to its salicylic content. It also opens up possibilities for prevention by natural means such as alteration of diet. Removing aggravating factors that could contribute to inflammation, such as excessive sugar consumption for instance, would be a possibility. In essence, there is an explanation for the darkened eyes of rage, and a possible solution in treatment of the physical aspects of the body-mind connection. And whatever it may look like, there are no demons in sight.

References

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/06/guppy-eyes-they-feel-the-anger-between-you-and-i/561899/

https://www.dailystrength.org/group/physical-emotional-abuse/discussion/when-their-eyes-go-black

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/talking-apes/201512/your-eyes-really-are-the-window-your-soul

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/talking-apes/201512/your-eyes-really-are-the-window-your-soul

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaophthalmology/fullarticle/263361

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3727162/

https://www.nature.com/articles/255152a0

http://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/prostaglandins/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/take-charge-bipolar-disorder/201708/3-clues-recognize-bipolar-disorder-mania-in-the-eyes

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4701682/

https://www.mdedge.com/psychiatry/article/76288/depression/depression-and-inflammation-examining-link

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC194070/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0039625797800021

In Defence of Free Speech (actually that is a lie)

 

Free Speech

Free Speech is something that is seriously misunderstood, largely I suspect, because of people who use free speech arguments to justify their abuse of free speech. Free speech is fundamental to the US constitution, and it is often attributed to Voltaire, that he had said “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Throughout most of the 20th century, this was widely believed to be an accurate quote, but in what is almost an irony, the creation of the internet has led to people being better informed, and it is now widely known that this is a mis-attribution, due to carelessly used punctuation in a book called ‘The Friends of Voltaire’, written in 1906 by Evelyn Beatrice Hall. She is even recorded having written elsewhere that it was a sentence of her own creation. What Voltaire himself had said was with regard to a book by the philosopher Helvetius, ‘De L’esprit’, which was publicly incinerated following condemnation by the College of Sorbonne, and the Parliament of Paris. According to Hall, Voltaire’s actual words were,‘What a fuss about an omelette!’ This is largely well known now, and can be found, explained in fuller detail on the quote investigator website.

The phrase ‘What a fuss about an omelette!’, is certainly less evocative. Without the bit about defending to the death it doesn’t come across as such a fervently held belief that someone might include it in any kind of constitutional rule. It certainly appears from this information, that Voltaire merely considered the matter to be below the threshold at which a person can justifiably become angry about something that someone has said. The use of ‘omelette’ as a metaphor implies that there are uses of free speech that surpass ‘omelettes’. If this book burning was a fuss about an omelette, then there must be other metaphors for other uses and abuses of free speech.

‘De L’esprit’ was a book concerning the nature of mind. If that as taken as the starting point and evokes comparisons to an omelette, then presumably a less contentious issue, such as the best time to harvest crops, might be a fuss over spilt milk; and a more contentious issue, such as explicit criticism of a nation’s dictator, might be a fuss over burning an entire dinner for a large gathering. In any case, the metaphor does imply the existence of other metaphors, because Voltaire appears to have been considering the fuss on a relative basis. For a better understanding it would probably be best to go directly to Hall’s book, though given the confusion her mistake has made, perhaps that is not the best of sources on the opinions of Voltaire.

The three examples given in the last passage all share one thing in common. They are all usually based in some form of subjectivity; they are all things about which people may have varying opinions. In those sort of circumstances there is a strong value to free speech, in that people cannot be forced to hold different opinions. Even if they keep quiet about them, they are still their own opinions, a part of their own psychological make up, and something that should not be forced out by someone else’s opinion. There are many instances in which free speech is abused, not to share opinions and ideas, but in ways that are clearly abuses. The jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes is widely quoted for his example of shouting “Fire!” in a crowded movie theatre, which would clearly be an abuse of free speech with potentially harmful results. The statement was obiter dictum, meaning it creates no binding legal precedent, in the case U.S. v Schenck, which was later overturned. An excellently researched and detailed explanation is given by Trevor Timm, who works on free speech and government transparency with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The article can be read in full on The Atlantic website;  I advise reading it because it gives an alternate viewpoint to my own. However I might add, that Timm’s conclusions show a poor understanding, clearly based on the ideological stance his career has developed around him.

The problem with what Timm says is that he states that the idea one shouldn’t shout “Fire!” in a crowded movie theatre, is something that people should stop spreading around, because, although it was stated in a court case, by one of America’s finest legal minds, it is not relevant because it was merely obiter dictum, and because the court case was overturned. I am in agreement with Timm that the decision in the case was a bad one, and it was correct to overturn it; I also agree that the statement was merely obiter dictum, but I do not agree that puts it in a position of irrelevance. Whilst it certainly did not create binding law in a court case, it is still clearly correct. Later in the article Timm speaks about an incident involving the free speech discussion, in which the damaging speech was caught by more informed observers, and any likely damage was prevented. This was then followed by the resignation of the original disseminator of the false information. Timm seems to be saying that because everything worked out ok in that one instance, this is evidence that speech does not need to be restricted, regardless of any sensible person having no difficulty in seeing that a great many people could crush each other in a crowded movie theatre, before anyone could discover that there was no fire in the building.

Another misunderstanding in the article is that Timm quotes Gabe Rottman’s statement regarding Wendell Holme’s assertion, that it’s “worse than useless in defining the boundaries of constitutional speech. When used metaphorically, it can be deployed against any unpopular speech.” Gabe Rottman is legislative counsel at the ACLU Washington legislative office. As such he will also have an agenda to further the protection of free speech; however, in this particular statement, he is correct. Wendell Holme’s “Fire!” example is worse that useless in defining any boundaries. Boundaries, by their very nature, must logically surround the thing for which they act as boundaries. The example of shouting ‘Fire!’ cannot do this, because it is only one example. If it defined the boundary of going beyond allowable free speech, then what relevance would it have for instances that are completely unrecognisable as having any relationship to shouting ‘Fire!’ in a crowded movie theatre? What if the theatre was completely open air on a sunny afternoon where it would be obvious what the nature of the alarm was? What if the theatre was a beach theatre, where all the chairs were floating in the sea? This might be a rather silly example, but it is not beyond the bounds of reason. Though if you do decide to set up a beach cinema with floating seats, then I hope you remember where you got the idea, and hopefully offer me some free tickets.

So Rottman is correct that the example is worse than useless for defining limits to free speech; and it is a statement that has been used against unpopular speech. His entire opinion can be read on the ACLU website. Rottman explains the ruling of the currently standing rule on free speech in the American court system, Brandenburg, which is in contrast to the Schenck case. “The court held that, to be unprotected “incitement,” speech must meet three requirements. The speaker must intend to cause violence. The violence must be the likely result of the speech. And the violence must be imminent.” Helpfully he also gives a source for this sentiment in the shape of John Stuart Mill who pointed out that while it is acceptable to say that corn sellers are starving the poor, if you say it to a mob carrying pitchforks and flaming torches outside a corn seller’s home, then it is no longer acceptable. Of course there are going to be confusing distinctions that can be made here as well.

What is meant by ‘intention’ for a start? This might seem obvious to an ordinary person, but we are in the world of legal cases here, and things are not as obvious as they are in daily life, because they need to cover all eventualities. Law deals with intention, recklessness, and negligence. In real life intention is simply what a person wants, or intends to the result to be; in law it also covers whether a person makes the statement whilst not caring one way or another about the result, or makes the statement thinking that it probably will cause that result, but says it anyway, even though they are not deliberately aiming for that result. Perhaps they are just ‘intending’ to make a bit of money for a public speaking engagement outside a corn seller’s home. They walk away counting their money, while the mob is watching pop corn pouring out of the window of the burning house.

Whether the result of the free speech is ‘likely’ to be caused, is another complicated question. In whose eyes must it be likely. I might think “Well, obviously what was going to happen.” but the person expressing themselves might have no idea whatsoever. The person expressing themselves might have fully known that the result was not just likely but inevitable, while the court might not even piece together the links themselves. Or the court might think it is likely, and nobody else can fathom the depths of their thought processes. I am sure the law will have a particular subject in mind. In England, the example of the relevant observer is often the average man on the Clapham omnibus, though in some cases, such as those concerning company directors’ actions, the subject becomes the average company director in that particular industry. An interesting difference of opinion on likelihood might well arise when comparing the likelihood as considered by a shop assistant, compared to the likelihood as considered by a chess grandmaster, who is used to thinking about multiple possibilities, far in advance.

Whether the violence is imminent or not is also not that clear cut. It might have seemed obvious in the days of John Stuart Mill. It may have also seemed obvious in the days of the Brandenburg case. But both those instances predate the world wide web. If someone said something inflammatory in a newspaper, or a pub in those days, it has a different quality to someone speaking in real time on a streaming platform. In that instance a listener might even send a message to the person, and enter into a conversation with them, whilst simultaneously sharpening the prongs on his pitchfork before heading to the house of the corn seller who lives next door to him. Naturally this would not be known to the speaker, but it still muddies the waters in any philosophical consideration of the validity of rules regarding free speech.

This brings me to my main point of contention with the example of Voltaire. Even if he had made the statement attributed to him rather than fluffing some statement about omelettes, it would be impossible for him to consider the implications of untrammelled free speech in the age of the internet. If a person is going to defend anything that is done on the internet, then they are going to need to know what the internet is. To Voltaire the limits of a person’s utterances might have been a rather thinly distributed book that few people would read. I daresay a book with the title “De L’esprit” would not even be a particularly good seller nowadays, in the era when almost everyone can read, and it can easily be translated into multiple languages. Voltaire would probably never have imagined that one day almost everyone would be able to turn on their computer, and instantly be reading quotes that are misattributed as being by him.

And this brings me to my second point of contention with ideological free speech. It makes no distinction between truth and lies. This is particularly pertinent today as the political classes and businesses are putting huge amounts of effort into misleading us and lying to us. Only a few short years ago businesses and politicians were quite cautious about how they lied to us. Now though, politicians have realised that when they only need to fool enough people to stay in power, they can tell complete lies as long as they know that they can fool the ones whose votes they need. It is no longer relevant that their lies are transparent to other people. Truth is no longer absolute, truth is now democratic. Businesses do not have it as easy as the politicians do. They are still subject to rules regarding false advertising, and misleading statements in making contracts. However they are still cunning enough to get away with a lot. An example that springs to mind is the ‘unlimited data’ that was advertised on internet services. This had a number of definitions in contractual small print, but none of them correlated with the actual dictionary definition of ‘unlimited’ as understood by ordinary people. Disturbingly the skewed definitions of ‘unlimited’ all stand up when considered by the law. Though it must be remembered that false advertising, and misleading statements in contracts are still things that are legislated against, so telling people that buying a ferrari from your company will definitely mean you will pick up a hot chick tonight, should theoretically not be allowed. That is a poor example because a complaint would be defended against by pointing out that this is just the sort of thing people say in adverts, and everyone knows not to take it seriously.

The problem is that some people do take things seriously. It is not even as though them taking it seriously doesn’t have a larger social impact. When enough individuals take something seriously, when it is all a pack of lies, designed to influence them, they make political decisions based upon their newfound understanding, or belief. Thus politicians get elected on the basis of things that have clearly not been done, or are not going to be done. If a candidate took you to one side and told you that the previous incumbent had broken into your house and stolen all your spoons, and that by contrast he would not only get you a new set of spoons, but he would also do all your washing up every day while he is in office, that might incline you to vote for him if you believed it. If he convinced everyone, then he would get into power, but he couldn’t do everyone’s washing up. Note even if he had a dishwasher. Once again this is an extreme example, but this is what is now happening at elections. Politicians no longer put forward examples of their intentions during their time in office. While they purport to be doing so, it certainly seems in many instances that they are often simply saying things that no reasonable person, including themselves would ever believe, as long as that reasonable person was in possession of the facts at any rate. However, when the facts have been democratised there is no way of saying what they are. Free speech and democracy are sacrosanct, so if a vote is taken that 2+2=5 then that is it, in many people’s logical framework’s, that is now a fact. This might seem absurd, but only to someone who can do basic maths. If a person does not know how to add 2 and 2, then they do not know that the sum is 4.

This is where things currently stand. Newspapers do not make money out of telling the truth; they make money out of getting readers, which they do by any means they can, which includes telling lies. When I was a kid there was one newspaper in Britain that reported a double decker bus that had been seen on the moon. A lot of people easily saw that as a lie, but some believed it. Most newspapers aren’t as blatant as that, but they do nevertheless mislead people in order to influence their actions.

A great many people in the English speaking world will know exactly what I am talking about. In Britain in particular people should be even more aware, as it has been demonstrated that we have one of the most distorted and biased press systems in the first world. Worryingly a great many people will have no idea whatsoever what I am talking about. They will not realise that they are being lied to. A great many people might think that most of the lies are just mistakes, or that most of them are actually true. A great many of these people will be using the misattribution of Voltaire to defend their right to be lied to. They will be using it because they know that Voltaire knew exactly what he was talking about with regard to freedom of information in the internet era. The will know this, because they have been misinformed, and they have been lied to.

While it might sound as though I am proposing something radical by speaking out against free speech, I must be clear that there are very solid limitations on the measures I think need to be taken. There are already a great many limits, when you consider that free speech is also referred to as free expression. Child pornography is banned everywhere; any pornography is banned from being shown to children. Worryingly, Timm and Rottman give the impression that there is legal precedent that shouting “Fire!” in crowded movie theatres is currently legal in America. This however, it just an impression, though I don’t know for certain that there are any explicit rules against it. Expressing yourself by shouting out that the end is nigh, at three o’clock in the morning outside your neighbour’s house is also something that is limited by the law. There are already limits. I just propose that things that are demonstrably untrue should be outlawed.

I am not talking about things like climate change. While most scientists agree that climate change is real, and most of them agree it is anthropogenic, there are still some who disagree; so climate change is something that can’t be asserted as being factual, even if it is. A great many conspiracy theories are more tricky to deal with. Most people know the Earth is not flat, but a surprisingly large number of people still think it is. The problem arises where the question is asked, whether we only think it is not flat because we have been fed misinformation. Of course that is not true; it isn’t flat, but some of the other conspiracy theories are not so easily dismissed, nor so wholly irrelevant to anything that is likely to have an impact on your life. Regardless of how easy it is to prove the Earth isn’t flat, it is not really going to affect us if a lot of people think it is; just so long as they aren’t working at NASA or somewhere like that.

As the impact on our daily lives increase, the necessity to prevent damaging beliefs also increases. In America the belief that Trump is a man of the people, who is working hard to protect ordinary working class people from the elites is something that is seriously affecting the political landscape. If it is true then that is ok. If on the other hand we have been lied to, and he is actually a corrupt and stupid billionaire who is out for his own best interests and his ego, than that would be a different matter. Likewise in England, the belief that a trio of incompetent plonkers who want to leave Europe, might have enough financial control that they can redirect billions of pounds into the health service, might lead trusting people to vote for a future that the incompetent plonkers cannot even understand themselves because they are so economically illiterate. However, if they aren’t incompetent plonkers then perhaps they have convinced the people to do the best thing for the nation (Although I did write this with a straight face, I assure you, that face was metaphorically in my palm). In Britain the major problem is that whether the plonkers are incompetent or not, their promises of money for the NHS were demonstrably lies. They had no ability to divert that money, the money probably didn’t really exist to be diverted in real terms. They don’t even particularly give the impression that they even want to keep the NHS in existence, let alone give it any money to help it. They are subject to a potential pending court case at present for their lies, but the fact is that this sort of thing should not have happened in the first place.

There are clearly balances that need to be made. There is a world of difference between some bloke down the pub saying he think that the Prime Minister is planning to give money to the health service, and the Prime Minister appearing on live television to announce her plan to give money to the health service after her re-election. Likewise there is a huge difference between some idiot writing a blog (this isn’t self referential), and a major newspaper with a circulation of millions writing a front page that tells the readership the Polish are stealing all their jobs and they should be sent back where they came from. Free speech should be something that is is free because it is valuable and respected. When it is clearly being used to lie to the public for devious and Machiavellian ends, it should not be anywhere near as free. In fact it should be incredibly costly for anyone who seeks to subvert our political institutions, our laws, and our society.

A poem for Theresa May.

 

What do you think you are doing TM?
In the commons, Thatcher’s den.
That ancient seat in halls of power;
The island with its gothic tower
Where sits the bell that chimed the hour.

Now silent, its a dark omen
How long until it rings again?
So many British people cower;
Your Brexit deal’s turning sour;
Your government’s a hopeless shower.

Why did you want to be PM?
Ordering our union’s end
Do you think you’re doing well?
As this country turns to hell.
Don’t you hear the death knell
That rings out from the silent Bell?

Would you do it all again
within the silence of Big Ben?
Or can it be you do not feel,
that you are creating a deal
to impact on the common weal?
The bell above you will not peel

a joyful call to all Britain,
telling all the voting public when
we’ll tell the union goodbye.
Though most of us still can’t see why
our leader’s too weak to defy

the dwindling group who want an end
But have not planned what to do then.
They’d rather see our country die,
And gladly accept any lie,
Out of the papers that they buy.

Westminster rose out of a fen;
In spirit it sinks there again,
but this time dragging us all down;
Every county, every town,
Into the dark wet murky brown.
We, Britain, and the people drown.

A Brexit solution

Brexit, the pressing issue that is currently dividing a large amount of the British public actually has a solution available to the remain side that does not seem to have been considered by many people. A point of disclosure that you should know if you are not already aware is that I would very much prefer to remain in the EU. Having said that, this post is not intended to rehash the reasons why Brexit is a bad idea. The news does an adequate job of highlighting that every day, plus there is no shortage of academic study on the likely effects to the economy. I am even willing to concede there may be some advantages to Brexit and that Brexit could be potentially be handled in such a way that some of my chief concerns might be dealt with in a manner that will make me feel a lot better about the whole thing.

Having said that, I still remain a committed europhile and find it hard to believe that it has come to the point that the government is happily accepting a flawed referendum in order to justify continuing the Brexit process despite the serious lack of support they received in the general election.

Personally I believe there must be some machiavellian thinking within the inner depths of whitehall, and the plan is to avoid leaving the EU altogether. As it is the place of the government to protect the British public and to run the country in an effective manner, maintaining our world position it should be self evident that the government would not allow us to make such a disastrous decision to throw away our considerable influence in the EU when it gives us no advantages. Of course it is possible that the seat of power is occupied by people who do not have the wit to understand their duties, but despite the appearance that this is the case we much hold out hope that they do know what they are doing, or that they have the wisdom to realise they need to find a solution to the evident disaster that we are currently being pulled into as surely as a comet that has been caught in the gravity of a black hole.

The question is, how could the government pull themselves away from this course of action. If the country was run by Angela Merckel then the likelihood is that she would have been advised long ago of the deleterious effects of this course of action; she would have accepted this, and she would have backed out. That does not seem to be a problem for Merckel. In Britain there is a different culture though. As we have the disadvantage of the massive direct and indirect influence of the Murdoch press, politicians are very wary of u-turns, or flip flops, or whatever term is currently being bandied about the media. In Britain realising your are wrong and changing direction is not an option. In Britain if you realise you are wrong then the main option that a politician will choose is to plough on ahead anyway and hope that something will turn up. We are governed by a bunch of optimistic political Micawbers. Clearly as nobody is always right, even myself, this attitude of ignoring the fact that as mistake has been made, will, not may, but will occasionally lead to a great deal of problems that are only justified on the childish notion of saving face.

So the solution to the entire Brexit problem is a case of saving face. At this point our government is not able to make a u-turn. This may be something that is not understood on the continent. It may be possible that the culture there does not realise there is a British tendency to continue forwards and never say die. If there is this lack of insight on the part of the EU combined with the unfortunate fallacy of British superiority then we are looking very much at a situation that appears to be an unstoppable force meeting an unmoveable barrier.

There is a way out of this though, which is why I hope that there is a machiavellian scheme being developed by the government. That should be the way in which politics is conducted so my fingers are crossed that they do realise this. In order to prevent our country from falling into the disastrous situation that appears to be ahead of us it will be necessary to win the support of those who object to remaining in the EU. There are certainly flaws with the way the EU is run and the leavers are right to realise this. Before the referendum Yannis Varoufakis made regular appearances in the media arguing that we should remain in the EU so that we could force the implementation of changes to create a better system. It is not only the British leavers who think the union has problems, it is a feeling that runs throughout the EU. If it wasn’t for the example of economic disaster and political incompetence we are displaying to the rest of the EU it is probable that political actors such as Marine le Pen might have achieved power and be moving their countries towards leaving the union as well. Our example has created a fear that has led the European leave contingent to rapidly lose the impetus they were developing.

The only way the leavers are likely to be swayed enough to give a reason for Britain to remain part of the union is if the union fixes a sufficient number of its problems that it becomes something very different to what we voted to leave. If a family voted to leave a house because it was too small, their reason would disappear if a large extension was built that expanded the size of the house. In that instance it would make sense to stay in the house, it would no longer be too small. Similarly if the EU changed so that the impression was created that we would be leaving something other than the entity we voted to leave then there would certainly be a justification to think again about whether it was what we really wanted.

Some of the problems that people worry about are easily resolved without having to make changes to the way the EU works. Immigration was a factor that bothered a lot of people. We already know that immigration can be seriously limited under the rules as they currently stand. The home office simply needs to implement those rules. Another problem that people disliked was the notion of losing control to the European Court of Justice, This was never a serious issue as the court is basically only advisory and has little more authority than it would still maintain even if we were to leave the union. A simple change in perspective will solve a lot of the problems that led to the choice of many leave voters. However aside from internally solving the problems that we are able to change there is still the issue of saving face and avoiding the accusation of having made a u-turn.

At present though, we are in a unique position that we actually have a massive amount of leverage to create positive change within the union. In the past when prime ministers have tried to negotiate to create a more favourable relationship with the EU their main motivation has been simple to get something for Britain from the EU. That would all be very well for Britain but it has quite clearly failed to impress the British voters and it has earned us a reputation throughout Europe as being quite frankly, a little annoying and entitled. Despite this the EU does actually wish to maintain our membership. The EU is weakened by the loss of a principle member state. Their loss will of course be nowhere near as disastrous as our own loss, and they also have to appear to not surrender to our demands. If they do then there are another two dozen or so nations that might also start kicking up a fuss.

Both parties recognise that they will both lose out from Brexit but on our side, we can’t back out and on their side they can’t give in. The only solution we have that is acceptable to both sides is that Britain should use its leverage to achieve change that will benefit the EU as a whole. In the past we have used less leverage and achieved small successes for selfish purposes. If we instead focus on solving European problems that are recognisable to other nations, the sort of things that are highlighted by Yannis Varoufakis then the British public will be given the impression that we have achieved a great victory. We will be part of a union that Britain has shaped to be something better than the union we voted to leave. The EU will also not have lost face because the changes that are implemented will have benefitted the union as a whole. They will probably be changes that would have been made anyway in time, so all we will have done is helped to push them through more quickly. The important things are that the EU will not have been made to look as though it has lost in front of its member nations, so there will be less likelihood of others threatening to leave in order to make selfish gains; and that Britain will have succeeded in achieving positive changes that will make the government look powerful and clever in front of the voter base. I may be a labour supporter but I must admit that such a victory by the conservatives would be a disaster for labour and would probably lead to the government actually looking like they know what they are doing, and may well secure the conservatives a second term, particularly if they are able to pull off the trick towards the end of an extended Brexit negotiation.

Diversity in all things

I am convinced that there are a number of rules that are able to be used in multiple different fields to explain things and to aid in making the right choices. I don’t plan on going into all of them now because I haven’t tried to put together an exhaustive list; I have simply noticed them coming up again and again in life. The one I have noticed is particularly relevant to current events for the last year or so is the rule that strength is found in diversity.

If you are growing a crop, or indeed any kind of garden you may not realise it but the ability of your garden to thrive will be greatly increased by diversifying the plants that you wish to grow. If you have a solid block with only one type of plant in it you will find that as soon as a pest realises how tasty that plant is there will be nothing there to distract that pest. You have made a nice big clear patch of tasty food that is going to attract creatures who will swarm across that area and finish off the whole lot unless you employ all sorts of unpleasant methods to get rid of them.

If you instead have a patch that mixes up a load of different plants then your garden becomes stronger for it. Spurges will deter things that move through the soil, lavender deters many flying pests, nettles make an attractive meal for creatures that might otherwise go for your brassicas. Simply having any plants there can act as a hiding spot for your plants so that pests don’t even realise they are there. Beyond pests bare soil allows water to evaporate off into the air while plant cover can keep the water in so that your other plants can benefit. Even amongst those farmers who do grow a single crop on a piece of land to all exclusion of other plants it is well known that over a four year period diversification in the form of a rotation system keeps the soil healthier.

The rule pops up again in regard to pets. If you have a pure bred dog then you can take it to dog shows and it will look beautiful, etc, but any dog breeder knows that pure breeds have disadvantages that mongrels don’t have. Any faults in a breed are accentuated by being bred into a breed over successive generations. A common complaint in a lot of dogs I have known is weak hind legs, and shortened lifespan. Dogs that have a diverse range of DNA derive greater strength from it. That is a central principle of evolution.

Greater diversity in DNA leads to all sorts of advantages as we take the strengths of both of our parents and hopefully leave the weaknesses. That is why we don’t marry our brothers and sisters. It is not because they are so annoying, it is because their genes are too similar to ours. Without diversity we risk the danger of unpleasant results in our children.

The rule is also clear in investment. If you have invested all your money in housing then a drop in house prices is an utter disaster. If instead you have invested partly in housing, partly in bonds, partly in stocks, partly in antiques, and partly in private business adventures then a loss in any of those areas, while unfortunate is not going to irreparably damage your finances. That diversity is your strength; that is what keeps you afloat in the midst of disaster.

In the running of a business there are also similar advantages of diversity. When building a team for a project you want to have all skill sets represented in order to be able to get the best results. You need people who are good at leading, but if you had nothing but leaders your team would see a lot of conflicts, you also need people who are good at following. You need people who are good at coming up with ideas, but you also need people who are good at putting those ideas into actions. You need people who can get a lot of work done quickly, but you will also need people who are good at ensuring fine details get the attention they need. All these qualities are unlikely to exist in the same person so you need the diversity offered by many different people in order to form the strongest team.

If I racked my brains I could probably come up with many examples of diversity being a form of strength in many different situations. That would detract from the central message I want to get across. The problem today is that people do not realise how important the strength of diversity is. In America over the last few days we have had neo-nazis marching against the diversity that comes from different races sharing a common land. In Britain we are living through the extended process of Brexit because people think that being part of a community of like minded nations makes us weaker instead of stronger.

Personally I support remaining in the EU, but that is because I recognise that diversity gives strength rather than weakens us. There are certainly flaws in the system but those are things to be fixed. Thanks to the diversity of the EU nations it is unlikely that issues will remain unfixed; anything that favours one nation or group above the others will find opposition from the nations it doesn’t favour. If you want to see what comes from losing that diversity then the economic losses being seen in Britain at present are a good place to start looking.

I don’t have a crystal ball to see the future, but I have books on history, sociology, biology, etc, etc. I have too many books to be able to read them all to tell the truth. Those books allow me to see what has been and what currently is. From seeing how things have worked in the past it gives a reasonable impression of what is likely to happen in the future. Where we lose diversity we create gaps in our defences. We need to fill those gaps in order to strengthen ourselves; we can’t build a wall with only bricks, we need mortar as well.

Thankfully there are people fighting to create greater diversity. We have more women becoming politicians, or judges, we have young black women making strides in entering universities like Cambridge which were once homogenous groups of white males. However wherever there are people trying to increase diversity there is also opposition. People need to realise that increasing diversity doesn’t just benefit those new elements that we allow into our societies and groups; increasing diversity benefits all of us. Even when it appears to give individuals disadvantages they didn’t previously have, it also gives those individuals a stronger environment in which to live. It increases competition and makes their world a better place because of that strength.