Is neuro-skepticism in danger of going too far?
Neuroskeptic points to a recent meta-study of neuroimaging critiques conducted by Martha Farah at the University of Pennsylvania. The blog highlights Farah’s conclusion:
Inferences based on functional brain imaging, whether for basic science or applications, require scrutiny. As we apply such scrutiny, it is important to distinguish between specific criticisms of particular applications or specific studies and wholesale criticisms of the entire enterprise of functional neuroimaging.
In the first category are criticisms aimed at improving the ways in which imaging experiments are designed and the ways in which their results are interpreted. Uncontrolled multiple comparisons, circular analyses and unconstrained reverse inferences are serious problems that undermine the inferences made from brain imaging data. Although the majority of research is not compromised by any of these errors, a substantial minority of published research is, making such criticisms both valid and useful.
In contrast, the more sweeping criticisms of functional imaging concern the method itself and therefore cast doubt on the conclusions of any research carried out with imaging, no matter how well designed and carefully executed. These more wholesale criticisms invoke the hemodynamic nature of the signal being measured, the association of neuroimaging with modular theories of the mind, the statistical nature of brain images, and the color schemes used to make those images seductively alluring.
As mentioned earlier, each of these criticisms contains an element of truth, but overextends that element to mistakenly cast doubt on the validity or utility of functional neuroimaging research as a whole. None of the criticisms reviewed here constitute reasons to reject or even drastically curtail the use of neuroimaging.
Full Story: Neuroskeptic: Brain Scans: Don’t Throw Out The Baby With The Dead Salmon
The full paper is here.
(via Boing Boing)
Today in Drones: Weed Farms, Wi-Fi Hotspots and Graffiti
For the drone spotters out there:
The Independent: Shropshire criminals ‘using unmanned drones and infrared cameras to find illegal cannabis farms’ – and then steal from the growers:
One such man, an unnamed 33-year-old, told the Halesowen News that after finding a property with a cannabis farm he and his crew either burgle or “tax” the victim.
“They are fair game,” he said. “It is not like I’m using my drone to see if people have nice televisions. I am just after drugs to steal and sell, if you break the law then you enter me and my drone’s world.
“Half the time we don’t even need to use violence to get the crop. Growing cannabis has gone mainstream and the people growing it are not gangsters, especially in places like Halesowen, Cradley Heath and Oldbury.”
Wired: Darpa Turns Aging Surveillance Drones Into Wi-Fi Hotspots:
A fleet of surveillance drones once deployed in the skies over Iraq is being repurposed to provide aerial Wi-Fi in far-flung corners of the world, according to Darpa.
RQ-7 Shadow drones that the Army flew in Iraq for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions are now becoming wireless hubs for connectivity in remote conflict zones where challenging communication environments can mean the difference between being ambushed and getting reinforcements.
Wired: This Open Source Graffiti Drone Will Give Cops Nightmares:
“What does it mean that I’m able to be throwing these strokes up and across a canvas that is 30 feet wide and is suspended 25 feet in the air?,” he asks. “Painting in these ways just wasn’t previously possible.” Much in the way that smartphones have become an extension of our minds, Katsu wonders if drones could someday serve as a commonplace way to extend our physical selves. Of course, in that sort of drone-filled future, you’d have to imagine that cops would have their own drones, too–anti-graffiti UAVs that chase rogue robot artists through alleyways and across rooftops, or else just clean-up quadcopters that scan walls for illegal art and clean them autonomously with high-powered water weaponry.
Plant Breeders Release First ‘Open Source Seeds’
A group of scientists and food activists is launching a campaign Thursday to change the rules that govern seeds. They’re releasing 29 new varieties of crops under a new “open source pledge” that’s intended to safeguard the ability of farmers, gardeners and plant breeders to share those seeds freely. [...]
These days, seeds are intellectual property. Some are patented as inventions. You need permission from the patent holder to use them, and you’re not supposed to harvest seeds for replanting the next year.
Even university breeders operate under these rules. When Goldwin creates a new variety of onions, carrots or table beets, a technology-transfer arm of the university licenses it to seed companies.
Full Story: NPR: Plant Breeders Release First ‘Open Source Seeds’
As the article notes, seed companies also often sell hybrid seeds, which don’t produce identical offspring — think of it as a biological “DRM” system for seeds. It’s sad that “open source” isn’t the norm in agriculture.
Mindful Cyborgs Interviews Douglas Rushkoff on Presentism
We’ve used the phrase “Present Shock” to describe what Mindful Cyborgs is about since the beginning. So obviously it was great to talk with Douglas Rushkoff, who coined the term in his book of the same title last year.
During the interview, we talked about presentism, e-cigarettes and the “male period” dictated by the lunar calendar.
Download and Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Present Shock, Corporitism, and Life in the Digital Media Enviroment
Sleep is the answer for nearly every ailment
Researchers have known for some time that sleep is critical for weight maintenance and hormone balance. And too little sleep is linked to everything from diabetes to heart disease to depression. Recently, the research on sleep has been overwhelming, with mounting evidence that it plays a role in nearly every aspect of health. Beyond chronic illnesses, a child’s behavioral problems at school could be rooted in mild sleep apnea. And studies have shown children with ADHD are more likely to get insufficient sleep. A recent study published in the journal SLEEP found a link between older men with poor sleep quality and cognitive decline. Another study out this week shows sleep is essential in early childhood for development, learning, and the formation and retention of memories. Dr. Allan Rechtschaffen, a pioneer of sleep research at the University of Chicago, once said, “If sleep does not serve an absolutely vital function, then it is the biggest mistake the evolutionary process ever made.”
Full Story: Time: It’s Time to Pay Attention to Sleep, the New Health Frontier
(via Alex Holmes)
Mindful Cyborgs: What Would the Web Look Like if We Built It Today?
On the 25th anniversary of the web, Alex Williams and I talked about what the web might look like if we it were built today. Would it be more like an API than a protocol? Would it have a payment system baked in?
Download and Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Episode 28 – Diasporic Destiny for the 21st Century Mind
Copra Issue 1 Now Online for Free
The first Michel Fiffe’s beautiful Suicide Squad inspired indie comic Copra is now online for free.
Mindful Cyborgs: The Trial of Humanity
This week Alex Williams, Chris Dancy and I talk about the “app backlash,” touchy subjects like marginalization and what Chris calls the coming “Trial of Humanity.”
Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes Do Webcomic for the BBC
The Key is a short, wordless webcomic by Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes and published by the BBC.
Fundraiser for an Essay on Technology and the Occult
As long-time readers likely know, my own interest in things magical and occult has largely dissipated. But I know many of you are still interested the intersecton between technology and magic, so a project by my friend Damien Williams may well interest you. He’s raising funds to write a lengthy essay called “Techne: The State of the Art”:
I’ll show what happens when magical ideas intersect with modern technology, looking at things like AI, and why “artificial” might have been a poor choice of adjective. I’ll consider questions like, “What is it that drives humanity to create technology in our image?” “How can stories like the Golem, the Homunculus, or the Tulpa,” (and we’ll get to those) “help us in our search to create AI?” and “Might perspectives such as Jungian psychology’s take on alchemy provide us with tools to better engage our world?”
I’ll also examine the use of cutting edge tech in modern magical practices and vice versa. Musicians, roboticists, and authors who weave magical intentions through electronic music, who use magical theory in the programming of their creations and who see in our world, something like the fulfilment of Arthur C. Clarke’s line that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
You can back the project on Inkshares, a crowdfunding site for the written word.
(I missed it, but Technoccult interview alum David Forbes recently raised some money for an essay of his own about the history of far right politics in science fiction that sounds absolutely fascinating)