Wednesday, April 30, 2008


The idea of getting it right every single time is not realistic. Too much pressure to make the right choice at every step makes us frustrated and filled with angst... and we are more likely not to make any of the choices we ambitiously intended at all.

This is where so many doctrines are flawed; they don't function corroboratively with pragmatism. Religion, environmentalism, science, policy... strive to be louder and more important than their ism peers, and in so doing, become campaigns of hysteria. They lose their stalwart integrity and become gritty and desperate. And as they take on this nature we, as humans, agnize the ridiculousness of abiding by every rule at every step... and most unfortunately, rather become cowed by our own fanaticism than turn to pragmatic innovation of our behavior.

If we wait for the perfect leader, nothing will ever get done. If we set out to be immediately flawless, we are doomed to fail. Deliberation is what gives integrity to a campaign, and holds it shy of fanaticism. But we are hungry for a coherent package of rules... and deliberation encourages clauses of exceptions, which teeter precariously on the stilts of innovation with which we have not yet learned to walk confidently. Why are we so pusillanimous of breaking the rules in the name of pragmatism? It doesn't seem physically plausible to be so entirely unaccepting of philosophical integration without becoming dysfunctional - without undermining our precious capacity to critically assess the balance of things.

I'm rather doomed to be a little pragmatic, and not tied to the rigidity of certain campaigns. Avoid some things generally. Pay attention. Be cognizant that I can't do everything.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

empty thoughts VII

7. Prepare for a long wind...

Experiment I: I wonder why the experimenters didn’t comment on the distance the animals maintained from each respective speaker. This seems like it would be a factor in sound-side preference because at the apex of the V-apparatus, sound waves from both high and low amplitude sound could be experienced to the same degree. So if an animal lingered near the apex of the V-apparatus it would suggest that the animal prefers a mixture of the two frequencies. However, if animals tended to spend more time at the tips of the V-arms, it would indicate a more selective preference for a particular sound amplitude over the other. It makes perfect sense that animals would prefer softer sounds, and when trained to expect that softer sound to come from a particular arm of the V-apparatus they would spend more time in that arm in the session directly following the sound-side switch. The observation that animals switched arms in order to spend more time in proximity to the soft sounds speaks to the integrity of the apparatus. It shows that animals were clearly making a sound-preference and are able to re-orient themselves relative to that sound preference.

Experiment II: Because the experimenters used the same animals for the distress call experiment as the loud/soft experiment, I think it was a good choice to test them with loud/soft stimuli first. Had animals been tested with distress/feeding sounds first, and the soft sound happened to be played from the same V-arm as a distress call, the animals may have shown preference for loud amplitude which would have been associated with the same arm as the feeding call, which would have hindered the validity of the results. It is interesting that animals do not show as drastic a preference between distress/feeding calls as between loud/soft calls. I think this may be an artifact of having been previously tested with loud/soft calls, because it seems contrary to evolutionary survival to have a sharper preference with regard to random loud/soft amplitudes than to distress/feeding amplitudes, as the latter distinction is far more ecologically relevant to survival than the former.

Experiment III: The data from this experiment are fascinating. What if the preference of humans for consonant sounds comes from the parameters of sound frequencies in our language? Especially because these participants were all (presumably) English-speaking - or at least Latin-derived language speaking – it seems that in our language, the tones we produce in sequence (sentences and longer) may have something to do with this preference. For instance, other languages which are not Latin-derived may use vowels or consonants in dissonant combinations, whereas English tends to have a very consonant flow between letters, words and phrases. Whereas tamarins, because they do not have a language of distinct vowels and consonants, but of variations in sound frequency, may not have a preference between consonant and dissonant sounds because these are both part of their typical language. I REALLY, REALLY WANT TO SEE THIS EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN USED TO COMPARE DIFFERENT LANGUAGE SPEAKING HUMANS TO ANY OTHER ANIMAL.

Experiment IV: As in experiment III, it seems likely that an explanation for the lack of preference between screech/noise control in tamarins might have something to do with their language. Humans do not communicate with screeching noises and in fact the only populations of us who seem to enjoy them are punk-metal emo kids. Tamarins, on the other hand, and many other primate species seem to use screeching variables in their communication patterns, which seems an important explanation for their lack of preference in this experiment.

As a whole, I really like this experiment design and the questions that it is addressing. It somewhat reminds me that solid research in the realm of evolutionary cognition is being done (which as you may have noticed, has thus far been forgotten...). However, I’m sorely disappointed with the lack of creative discussion of the implications of their results (as usual). There is such a huge window of consideration opened by this research about sound preferences and their correlations with behavior, language and evolutionary divergence in humans and non-human primates.

(McDermott and Hauser 2004)

Monday, April 7, 2008


"thinking of things like 'the world' and 'the highway of life' are a little too absolute to be practical. it makes trying new things too insignificant"

"we’re piping liquefied natural gas through the soil, gaseous clouds of coal dust through the pipes of lungs and greenhouse fumes through arctic walls while hot air pipes through shards of clay drenched in drought, and exacerbated monsoon seasons make new pipelines through crops and homes and fashion environmental refugees.

"immigration lines pummel through desert through mountains because poverty does not recognize boundaries and when survival is hard we fall into lines to trick ourselves into thinking that we are leaving these volatile seasons behind, but don’t think that your cultural walk is distinct from the walk of industrial revolution whose footprint stamps over the pipelines of refugees seeking life beyond inhospitable domain because we are what’s gotten us here.

"climate chaos charges in waves but waves are crashed into lines and redirected back to the sea where this all begins and ends and I feel as though if we were more directly evolved from fish we would know this – that when streamlining pipelines get dirty and breakdown they are not suitable for rebuilding our home.

"we can’t break this by putting down any more pipelines. human lines are our green sanctuary and the invincible indispensable inexorable force against the chaos of fuel. we are cultivators and innovators tide breakers and bullion bulwarks rising higher and louder than the rising tides, against the pipelines. "

- ride your bike, wear slippers, flush selectively, talk to your senators.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

empty thoughts VI

6. Hare and Tomasello (1998) speak to the differences between the way wolves and dogs respond to human gaze cues. Previous studies suggest that the ability of dogs to respond to the gaze of humans is a derivative of their ancestral skill of reading behavior of fellow hunters. Contrarily, wolves, even when reared by humans don’t exhibit such skill. The domesticated dog line has been evolving for thousands of years. It is, of yet, not conclusive as to when dog domestication began. Mitochondrial DNA says the wolf and dog lines split around 100,000 years ago. It is my perspective on this issue that for the wolf and dog genetic lines to split, there had to have been a large era of domestication that occurred first. Historical perspective entices me to infer that dogs are more evolutionarily equipped to respond to a human gaze cue than a wolf, who is more equipped to respond to peer gaze cues or hunting posture. I suppose my reaction, then, to H & T’s reference is that I don’t feel that it portrays anything novel to contribute to their article. Of course wolves don’t respond as well as dogs to the gaze cues of humans; being reared by humans does not replace thousands of years of species domestication and divergence. During their process of domestication, the skill of recognizing peer behavioral cues must have evolved to respond more directly to human (master) cues. I'm bored with their thoughts...