Monday, 31 January 2011

Cracks showing

So, as I knew would happen, I've not been the most sane lately.  Not too bad.  It's very much tied in with my physical well-being.  My blood pressure rose to the point that a med student friend almost drove me to the hospital there and then when she measured it.  My resting heart rate was over 90, compared to 50 normally.  Mind racing.  No concentration.  Physically shaking, with many people in work asking me if I'm cold... perhaps I am some of the time, my homeostasis seems to be a bit off generally lately.  I'm also incredibly tetchy.  My normally infinite self control is very thin at the moment and I have snapped at a few people... it must be terrible to live on aggressive impulses like that all the time.  People like that should be locked up ;)

I thought I may as well go to the doctor so I did my research beforehand and bonded with him over his favourite TV program and the car he'd just bought, to ensure he took care of me and wouldn't put anything in my notes I didn't want.  So now I've been given some beta-blockers which have taken my heart rate and BP down.  I'm still shaking though, and weirdly the insomnia is now fine at night (getting to sleep before midnight sometimes!) but now I'm waking between 4 and 6 and not getting back to sleep - that has never happened before; once I'm asleep I have never had a problem staying asleep.  I've slept through a smoke alarm, in a noisy pub, and in the back of a helicopter doing low level maneuvers.
More test results tomorrow, hopefully ruling out anything very bad.  96% likely that it is just a manic phase combined with work stress, combined with no weed to slow down my mind, combined with not enough sleep.  But that 4% should be ruled out - e.g. liver/kidney/thyroid/adrenal gland problem.  I should be very disappointed if it turned out I were mortal after all!   ;)

Sunday, 30 January 2011


If there is a god who created us, then it was She who gave our species the divine gifts of reasoning, intelligence, and free will.
Surely the biggest sin against this god would be to not use these gifts and to just have blind faith in superstitious rituals and some old text that is full of contradictions.
If there is a heaven, it is the atheists who get in. 

Monday, 24 January 2011

Scientosophy - A New Religion

What was there before the big bang? God? Then what came before God? This is a major problem for the world's religions and one only my proposed religion - Scientosophy - has the answers to. 

The abiding state of truth in the universe is one of consistency. It is not possible for two statements to contradict each other and for them both to be true. Every explanation for the origin of the universe is either contradictory or incomplete (i.e. you can always ask "and what caused that?"). If an explanation is happened upon that is patently complete and consistent, then surely that must be the truth - Scientosophy.

The basic premise is that in the future, human knowledge and technical know-how evolves to the point where we are able to formulate a way to create a big-bang, a universe. We would be able to position the start point of this universe anywhere within our own space and time. As it was created inside our universe, all the same dimensions and laws of physics would hold in it as do in ours. The key understanding now is that this new big bang gets positioned at the same point as our big bang! It isn't a second universe, it IS our universe. This creates a closed loop in time, thus avoiding any causality problems. We have become our own creators.

A good religion also needs a purpose, and by golly does this one have a purpose. To ensure humans reach the stage of intelligence to pull this feat off we need to encourage selective breeding - smart people should have more kids,and stupid people should have fewer. As the uberintelligent head of the religion I would, of course, have mating privileges with any of the Scientosophy women I choose, and any of them can choose to have AI from my seed. 

The reason it is important to reach the universe creation point as soon as possible, and not just hang around happy that it will happen some time, is due to the question of free will and determinism. Before we create our universe we are stuck in a time loop and so can't be sure of our free will. The sooner we can precipitate the loop point, the sooner we free the whole of humanity (and any aliens out there) from the slavery of determinism and allow us to be truly conscious - individual pioneers in the brave new world.

Of course, some of the Scientosophy rituals involve hallucinogenic drugs; I wouldn't want anyone thinking too clearly about how likely these religious tenets are, even if they are eminently more plausible than those of any religion I can think of!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Failure of existing religions

Why is there something rather than nothing?  By 'something' I include space and time themselves, not just things that exist within them.
I don't know.
Nobody does.
Nobody ever will – any explanation would utilise logic and laws of physics, both of which are 'something' and so the explanation would be bootstrapping.

Positing 'god' doesn't get around the question – the posited god is a 'something', and raises far more questions than it answers.

So get over it – accept that there are unknowable things and don't be scared by it.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Positive Action Vs Action by Omission

You are standing on a railway bridge and see a runaway carriage on one side, around a bend, careering towards five workmen on the other side.
There is no chance that they will see it in time or hear it coming, or hear your warning cries, due to their hard work with loud tools.
A fat man is also leaning over the bridge shouting to the men, and you can see that his bulk would derail the carriage (you don't believe you are hefty enough) and save five lives if you just give him a bit of a push down onto the rails.

Do you do it? The vast majority of people would say no; that actively killing someone is far worse (x5 worse? x100..?) than passively allowing someone to die. If you do nothing and they die then it is fate and you can't be blamed, whereas you most definitely would be blamed if you pushed a fat bloke off a bridge!

Is it possible for an emotional person to decide that the 'right' thing to do would be to push, and yet still know they would feel guilty if they did?  If they then didn't push, would they feel guilty about not doing what they thought was 'right'?

What would I do?  If I could do it anonymously with no chance of society judging me for it (they aren't qualified to judge me!) and sending me to prison, then I would.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Who am I?

I am not neurotypical (NT). However I am not easily put into any particular box. Below I will try to explain how I think and the various boxes that I have researched.

1. I don't have a conscience
skype chat recently with a friend I've come 'out' to:
GB: so you never feel guilty?
Res: nope
GB: weird, as an overly emotional person in a negative sense, this intrigues me
Res: i experimented when i was younger
GB: by doing what?!
GB: !?
GB: ahhh
Res: torturing and killing a frog
GB: aw, that's mean!!
Res: then a bird
Res: then a cat
GB: noooooo, i have a cat!
Res: then i stopped...
GB: my cat is awesome
GB: how the fuck did you catch a bird?
Res: i figured i'd move up the evolved sentience scale in case my guilt only kicked in at some point...
Res: i shot it with a catapult. fucking awesome shot
[p.s. I kept the cat's collar for a couple of years as a reminder/trophy, then threw it out one day on impulse]

2. I lack empathy and emotion
In fMRI scans, the same area of a normal brain is activated when a person watches someone being hurt as when they themselves are hurt. The response is demonstrably different in certain disorders and people with damage to particular areas of their brain (due to a cancer exorcism or an accident). I do sometimes wince slightly when I see someone hit in the crotch, but I am unaffected at seeing someone else's emotional pain – can someone empathise with an emotion they have not felt?
Another skype chat:
Res: I'm not sure I feel love, the way other people do anyway, but i can feel in-love. raised heart rate. lightness in my chest. thinking about them all the time.
Res: but that's all physiological associated with hormones etc.
GB: i think that too!
GB: i only enjoy being with someone at the start
Res: if my parents died in a car crash my first thought would be what a pain it would make my life organising the funeral and dealing with people trying to be sympathetic
GB: that makes me sad!
Res: pros and cons...
GB: sad for them too
Res: they'd be dead. so why/how would they care ;)
GB: no, now!
Res: well i'm not gonna tell them am i !
Res: lol
GB: but the fact that you think this behind their back!
Res: but if they never know what is the difference?

3. I am intelligent and self aware
I excelled at school with little/no effort. I graduated top of the class in a physics masters. I studied physics because I wanted to know how the world worked – as if perhaps it would lead to an understanding of 'why?'. I also read a lot of philosophy, but quickly discovered only the ignorant worship the famous philosophers – some good ideas but only interspersed into embarrassingly stupid ones. I've been an amateur psychologist all my life; due to lack of emotion I needed to understand how to fit in and act normal. Only relatively recently have I actively researched aspects of psychology.

4. All social interactions are learned and driven by an objective
Not just what I say and my general demeanor, but all aspects of body language – stance, facial movements, voice inflections, gesticulations, etc are all conscious decisions. Of course, I am also constantly aware of others around me.  This can become very tiring.
With certain groups of people (I am careful that they don't overlap) I am seen as the life of the group, with others I am the introverted shy physicist. With new people that are meaningless to me I will most likely either charm them because we have a mutual friend I need to maintain a mask for, or I will treat them as a plaything to entertain me – saying or asking something that takes them out of their comfort zone so I see them either squirm or demonstrate their lack of intelligence.  I especially like to play with the religious.

5. I have a lot of self control
I took up cigarettes at school to test my will power. I smoked ~10 a day for 6 months then gave up. I honestly don't think it possible for me to be addicted to anything (other drugs tried, not just cigs!).

6. Everything is a conscious cost/benefit analysis
I think NTs have this calculation in their unconscious and then the result is passed to the conscious mind as a feeling. I think that my neural wiring gives access to the raw calculation process instead of the feeling.
For example, I have friends that I value. I mean this literally. They not only provide interest to me, or partake in activities I find interesting, or provide a safety net that I know I could rely on should I need it, but they also provide a means for me to appear normal. I cultivate these relationships in a conscious manner but if the demands on me (the cost) look like they will outweigh the benefits to me in the long term then I will engineer a separation of our friendship.

7. I would prefer to be 'good' than 'bad'
Part of my [slightly narcissistic] self image is that I am more worthy of life than most people – I do good things because I choose to, not because it is my instinct, not because I would feel guilty if I didn't, and not because my religion demands it of me. I believe this makes me a better person than others. I am more alive. It is hard to tie down this definition of 'better' – and I am aware that any definition I come up with would be self fulfilling to suit my needs...
I am always quick to be helpful - it is a good strategy because not only do I feed/reinforce my superior self-image, but because the help I give usually costs me very little (emotionally nothing!), but the cost to an NT would be large – thus the potential reciprocal benefit to me (directly, or indirectly by others finding out about my 'selfless' act) far outweighs my cost.

The DSM-IV defines:

Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g. exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
    I am more important than most people, who are but sheep following their instincts and who get excited about shoe shopping. Is this not simply reasonable rather than delusional? I do not need to exaggerate achievements to impress.
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
    No, no, no, no, and yes – of course I seek ideal love...
  • Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
    I am certainly special, and NTs cannot hope to understand my thought process. However that is due to their neurophysiology, not anything to do with their status.
  • Requires excessive admiration
    No. I really don't need attention or admiration.
  • Has a sense of entitlement, i.e. unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
    This ties in with 1. and 3. and instinctively I do not feel rules apply to me.
  • Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e. takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
    Yes.  But everyone does, I am just conscious of it.
  • Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
    Yes... but I'm not unwilling to identify with the feelings of others – I can recognise the signs very well and behave taking them into account.
  • Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
  • Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
  • I do not live in the grandiose fantasy world that NPDs construct. I do not feel the need for admiration. However some of the other traits certainly strike a chord, and I do place great value on myself.

    Sociopathic Antisocial Personality Disorder
    Characteristics of people with antisocial personality disorder may include:
    • Apparent lack of remorse or empathy for others
    • Persistent lying or stealing
      No... it is rarely necessary to lie to achieve what I want and if I lie there is a chance of being caught in it. If I need to create a rapport with someone in a one-off situation I will not hesitate to lie to create the rapport. I don't habitually steal, though have done on occasion.
    • Cruelty to animals
      Certainly capable. But I don't gain pleasure from it so don't tend to. Perhaps if I'm in a bad mood and bored and there is opportunity.
    • Poor behavioral controls — expressions of irritability, annoyance, impatience, threats, aggression, and verbal abuse; inadequate control of anger and temper
    • A history of childhood conduct disorder
    • Recurring difficulties with the law
      No.  Arrested twice, but nothing major.
    • Promiscuity
      Until the past few years above average, due more to being considered handsome and thus having more opportunity presented than to my seeking it out.
    • Tendency to violate the boundaries and rights of others
      Boundaries, yes – to provoke an interesting response.
    • Aggressive, often violent behavior; prone to getting involved in fights
      No. Though I partake in mixed martial arts training.
    • Inability to tolerate boredom
      Inability? Too poorly defined.
    • Poor or abusive relationships
      No.  Unless you count the one with a BPD girl.
    • Irresponsible work behavior
      No.  Though there is a temporal element to this.  After ~4 years it becomes very difficult to maintain the veneer of responsibility.
    • Disregard for safety
      Yes. I don't wear a seatbelt, have crashed a hang-glider, pushed dangerous snowboarding limits...
    Other common characteristics of those with Antisocial Personality Disorder include superficial charm [Yes], shallow emotions [Yes], a distorted sense of self [By definition I cannot judge this], a constant search for new sensations (which can have bizarre consequences) [Yes], a tendency to physically or verbally abuse peers or relatives [No], and manipulation of others without remorse or empathy for the victim [Yes]. Egocentrism [Yes], megalomania [No], lack of responsibility [Lack of feeling responsible], extroversion [Apparent, but I'm really an introvert], excessive hedonism [it's not excessive if I'm still alive and have kept my life together], high impulsivity [Yes and no... instinct is to be impulsive, self control mostly stops my being so], and the desire to experience sensations of control and power can also be present. [umm better than feeling powerless and under someone else's control...]

    The problem is the people diagnosed with a disorder are the ones with no self-control (usually an assessment before their trial...). Therefore lack of self control becomes part of the diagnosis. The parts of sociopathy that do not apply to me are the parts that are due to lack of self control; the thoughts and thought processes fit me pretty well.

    Schizoid Personality Disorder (SPD)
    The World Health Organization's ICD-10 lists schizoid personality disorder as characterized by at least four of the following criteria:
    1. Emotional coldness, detachment or reduced affection.
      Shallow affect... so yep.
    2. Limited capacity to express either positive or negative emotions towards others.
      Not really, if I do feel positive or negative to someone I have no problem letting them know.
    3. Consistent preference for solitary activities.I do like my alone time, but as I spend time with friends/family perhaps 5 out of 7 days a week I don't think this can apply to me.
    4. Very few, if any, close friends or relationships and a lack of desire for such.I have a few close friends, close enough to discuss shit like this with.  I am in a healthy loving relationship.
    5. Indifference to either praise or criticism.
      No.  I see praise/criticism more from the point of view of my narcissistic side - if someone praises me I'm thinking I deserve it and that person did well to recognise it.  If someone criticises me it bounces off because they are inferior and don't know what they are talking about.
    6. Taking pleasure in few, if any, activities.
      Shallow affect will do that...
    7. Indifference to social norms and conventions.Not a simple answer.  I don't feel like I am part of mainstream society and I don't feel rules apply to me.  I adhere to social norms and conventions most of the time because I have to to appear normal!
    8. Preoccupation with fantasy and introspection.
    9. Lack of desire for sexual experiences with another person.

    Autism Spectrum Disorder
    I am a physicist, and have non-typical emotions, so of course I must suspect e.g. Aspergers. However, I have no trouble reading other people's emotions and no trouble imagining what another person's response to a situation will be when they are given different information to work from than me. The questions in the AQ test mostly don't have a simple answer so it's hard to score it. However, I do like rocking sometimes :)

    I'm also co-morbid with Cyclothymia which is essentially a lower amplitude bipolar disorder:
    Dysthymic phase [yes yes yes... apart from the guilt obviously]
    Difficulty making decisions; problems concentrating; poor memory recall; guilt; self-criticism; low self-esteem; pessimism; self-destructive thinking; continuously feeling sad; apathy; hopelessness; helplessness; irritability; quick temper; lack of motivation; social withdrawal; appetite change; lack of sexual desire; self-neglect; fatigue or insomnia.
    Euphoric phase [yes yes yes... except it's more aggressive thoughts than behaviour]
    Unusually good mood or cheerfulness (euphoria); Extreme optimism; Inflated self-esteem; Poor judgment; Rapid speech; Racing Thoughts; Aggressive or hostile behavior; Being inconsiderate of others; Agitation; Increased physical activity; Risky behavior; Spending sprees; Increased drive to perform or achieve goals; Increased sexual drive; Decreased need for sleep; Tendency to be easily distracted; Inability to concentrate

    Both phases involve difficulty sleeping, which is the bane of my life. I certainly notice things like my speech and thought speed changing drastically in different moods.
    I exercise a lot, and exercise is the best treatment for any depressive mood disorder. In a typical week I would do >6 hours' strenuous exercise. If I don't do this for whatever reason (e.g. Injury) I go downhill. That is why I often push on with exercise even when injured, when physically I should give it time to heal. Last May I had my collarbone broken during a brazillian ju-jitsu match and by not letting it heal properly it was still a little sore for months after.

    So in conclusion, if forced to define the complicated cocktail of co-morbidity that is me, I would say that my thought processes are mostly sociopath, with a generous dollop of NPD, and just a dash of Aspie and SPD; baked in with some cyclothymia.  
    My high self control precludes me from ever being diagnosed as a sociopath, and that combined with being non-delusional precludes an NPD diagnosis.  I can identify a little with aspies but I am not one.  I am still romantically idealistic, even though this post and my previous one on love may not give that impression.

    I am a special snowflake and I don't need a label.

    Monday, 10 January 2011


    Within 24 hours of the challenger space shuttle disaster a psychologist asked over 100 students where they were and what they were doing when they heard what had happened. About 2½ years later he asked them the same questions. Only 10% gave the same answers.
    People will readily accept the possibility of someone else's memory being false, and at the same time have absolute faith in their own memory (and beliefs). Arrogance.
    So basically my position is that I am capable of questioning my own beliefs (and regularly do!). The opinions and conclusions I come to are therefore better thought out and more likely to be correct than the vast majority of other people's opinions. This is a logical position to take. The arrogant ones are the religious people and the people who don't admit the possibility of their brain playing tricks on them.

    I'm often accused of being arrogant in my dismissal of religious beliefs.

    I'm sure you will agree that it would be possible to gather together a group (large – over a hundred, anyway) of people, of equal intelligence and education, who all have (equally strong) religious beliefs that are incompatible with the religious beliefs of everyone else in the room.

    In this group of equals, religion makes each and every one of them stand up and try to shout over the top of everyone else, “I am right, and everyone else is wrong”.
    So, I ask you, who is really the arrogant one – I, who understand that my brain can play tricks, and dispassionately analyse the evidence before coming to my opinion, or the person with religious beliefs?
    Or maybe I'm just NPD ;)

    Wednesday, 5 January 2011

    I Can't Get No Sleep

    Deep in the bosom of the gentle night
    Is when I search for the light
    Pick up my pen and start to write
    I struggle, fight dark forces
    In the clear moon light
    Without fear... insomnia
    I can't get no sleep
    Deeper still, that night I write by candle light
    I find insight, fundamental movement, uh
    So when it's black this insomniac take an original tack
    Keep the beast in my nature under ceaseless attack
    I gets no sleep
    I can't get no sleep
    I only smoke weed when I need to
    And I need to get some rest
    I confess, I burnt a hole in the mattress
    Yes, yes, it was me, I plead guilty...
    But there's no relief
    I'm wide awake in my kitchen
    It's dark and I'm lonely

    Oh, if I could only get some sleep,
    Creaky noises make my skin creep

    I need to get some sleep
    I can't get no sleep....

    I've gone through occasional bouts of insomnia ever since I was a teenager. In the past few years they have lasted longer and been more frequent. This is why I've started this blog now, and why the address is 'The Fall of...' I can feel my grip on the world slipping, and I have twice in the past year (never before) been afraid, properly afraid, for my sanity. Before that I had no idea what it might feel like, what thinking would be like, if I went insane. I have now been close enough to smell it.
    I'm pretty confident I can stay on the right side of the fence; I've only been close when I've had a fever combined with a lack of self-medication, and of course combined with insomnia. By self-medication I mean smoking skunk and/or drinking. If I stop smoking and cut down on drink for about 3 or 4 weeks, my mind starts dancing around – I think and talk fast, and feel mentally sharp. It is a good feeling to feel mentally sharp and have more social energy, and the extra physical fitness from not smoking weed is also very much valued (I'm fairly sporty).
    The trouble is that after about 4 months of this – and there is an increase in the mental sharpness over that time – I will most certainly enter a stage of really bad insomnia caused by having great difficulty stopping thinking for long enough to fall asleep.
    At that point I start to self medicate, and the cycle starts again.
    Due to the escalation of the cycle frequency and much worse insomnia over the past few years it is time to try something different. Not quite sure what yet, but I've got a couple of months to decide...

    Monday, 3 January 2011


    Is it desirable to be on-time? YES.  Should an intelligent person's estimation of any quantity, time included, become more accurate the more times the estimation is made? YES.  So why are people late?  It's because they are allowed to get away with it - there is no incentive to increase their time-keeping accuracy.  How many times have YOU in response to “sorry I'm late” said, “don't worry about it” etc. DON'T - you are encouraging this selfish antisocial behaviour and making it more likely that they will be late for me tomorrow!  Although at times I have gone into a bit of a rant at someone who's been late, or simply left after 5 mins of waiting (not always practical), it is often necessary to be a little bit more polite.  I have taken to saying, “perhaps you had a good reason”, and moving on.  And perhaps acting on behalf of karma at a later time.  I most definitely do not excuse it.


    When considering the merits of a situation, different people will consider different scales of consequences.  The scale in question is usually time, but I'm sure you can think of others.  For example, when deciding whether or not to smoke a cigarette, someone may weigh up the short-term benefit of it satisfying a nicotine craving, with the long-term effect of it ruining their health.

    Although there is no a priory reason to view a long-term benefit as being preferable to a short-term benefit, it does seem to me to be logical if my happiness level is not below average at the time.  If my happiness level is reasonably high, and I am in the situation where I can choose between an immediate or a deferred benefit, it seems logical to defer it – my happiness is at an above-average level without it, so I may as well defer it so there is a chance it can increase my happiness at a later time when I'm down.  I save it for a rainy day, so to speak.

    Everything in the world is consistent with everything else. It's not the case that I think 'everything happens for a reason', but everything is interconnected in many ways.   The way things are interconnected means that it is difficult to view anything as 'bad'.  There have been two huge climate changes in human history – the two ice ages.  During these times many animals became extinct. Most animal populations were, at best, decimated.   Were these 'bad' events? It is during times of great change that the evolutionary pressure on adaptability (a huge component of intelligence) is at its greatest.  Without these two periods of extreme climate change, which caused mass extinctions and decimated the human population, we would not have become the intelligent beasts we are today.  Skulls examined through our history show the dramatic change in brain size that these times precipitated.   The forest fires in California that caused much media coverage a while ago are a natural thing – the Californian redwood NEEDS a forest fire for its seeds to germinate – and so I can't think of the forest fire as being a natural disaster.
    It's another reason that I suspect the whole premise of morality is wrong.