Sebastian Tor

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Sebastian Tor
Posted over 1 year ago
Faith Jegede: What I've learned from my autistic brothers
It's not just about normality and diversity, as Olawole points out below some of the world's greatest minds suffered from some form of mental illness, and creativity and genius are constantly linked to bipolar disorders, autism or depression - I guess what Faith said about being extraordinary is perhaps the key, it is as though nature were trying to compensate for its shortcomings in one area with other gifts. Maybe the real challenge lies in harnessing all the creative potential in individuals that are categorised as having 'special needs', and often seen as a burden rather than a resource. There's a great video here http://iai.tv/video/order-out-of-chaos with a psychiatrist and a playwright who talk about the workshops they run, which are aimed at just that kind of harnessing/creativity.
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Sebastian Tor
Posted over 1 year ago
Emma Teeling: The secret of the bat genome
Fascinating talk! As Emma points out escaping death, staying alive and young for as long as possible, has always been a recurrent theme in human history, and perhaps our greatest desire. And how utterly amazing that the key may lie in a species that has been demonised and reviled for centuries! Someone argued in this thread that fighting the ageing process should be a priority for all governments, I'm not sure I entirely agree, but it's interesting no one has pointed out the obvious link between not ageing and immortality - if you push the principle of fighting decay to its logical conclusion, aren't we just trying to stay alive forever? Aubrey De Grey talks about living forever here http://iai.tv/video/defeating-aging and it's a scary thought and perhaps one for philosophy rather than science!
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Sebastian Tor
Posted over 1 year ago
Matt Killingsworth: Want to be happier? Stay in the moment
I wholeheartedly agree with much of Matt's assessment - 'mind wandering' as he calls it is often the way in which our anxieties and insecurities assert themselves. Although I'm sure this is breakthrough research in the scientific domain, it is a basic tenet of meditative practice. I practice secular mindfullness meditation which has been proven to increase our capacity to cope with stress, ease the symptoms of anxiety and depression and as well as allow individuals to be calm and focused. Mindfulness encourages participants to focus on the present moment and develops their ability to maintain awareness of their surroundings, themselves and not get carried away in the stream of thought. My real qualm with Matt's assessment is that what we are defining as 'happiness'. The questions that follow are legion: is this always a desirable state? Can we really in any way accurately quantify happiness using an app? Richard Schoch speaks on exactly this point in the video 'The Myth of Being Happy'. http://iai.tv/video/the-myth-of-being-happy I think that the chasing of happiness, or the image of happiness that we project can often be the cause of severe discomfort and pain.
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Sebastian Tor
Posted over 1 year ago
Faith Jegede: What I've learned from my autistic brothers
Interesting that a lot of the conversation on this video focuses on what we consider to be the 'normal' state of human behaviour. It seems that modern medicine has become fixated on normalising the human state by creating some unachievable mean to which all individuals shouldn't deviate. Of course, conditions such as autism do have a direct effect upon an individual's ability to interact with the world around them, however if we're talking more generally about mental disorders then it seems that often the effect of identifying catagorising individuals as 'different' has the effect of otherising them. This might be helpful for treatment etc, but it also disnfranchises them from the group of the mentally 'capable' and 'well'. There is a great debate on this topic that posits the notion that we are in danger of medicalising normal human behaviour and the panel discuss the possible negative effects of this on our ability to relate to one another and concieve of ourselves as a cohesive society. http://iai.tv/video/taking-over-the-asylum
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Sebastian Tor
Posted over 1 year ago
Emma Teeling: The secret of the bat genome
It's animals such as these which remind me why we should be doing everything in our power to protect as many known species around the planet as we can. These fascinating, beautiful creatures are just another example of the mind boggling coolness of nature. Polly Higgins goes as far as to suggest that we should introduce crimes against earth, or 'ecocide' into the law. http://iai.tv/video/the-fifth-crime It's an interesting idea that has been tried in a couple of South American countries. Its central tenet is that the earth has the rights of an individual such as the right to be free from harm. Those who think this is an outlandish idea need only look at the origins of corporate law. The same principle applied in the late 19th century when the law had difficulty in deciding how to interact with corporations: they were afforded status as a sort of 'giant person' with laws that allowed them to be treated as a whole entity. In short, love bats - hate ecocide.
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Sebastian Tor
Posted over 1 year ago
David Pizarro: The strange politics of disgust
It's fascinating that the study of human sensuality and basic bodily reactions are now the focus of a such attention in the scientific world. It scares me that many of the basic reactions and opinions I engage each and every day of my life might be less under my control than I thought. Interesting to consider this in the context of the mind vs the body. For a century we have been keenly focused on the mind as an entity whose function is almost separate to the gritty viscera of bodily experience, but it is becoming ever more increasingly clear that the two are vitally connected. There is a fascinating talk in this very subject - mind versus bodily experience here: http://iai.tv/video/sensuality-and-deception. Appropriately enough it's called Sensuality and Deception. I think it draws out much of what David is saying into the wider implications of engaging with sensual experience.
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Sebastian Tor
Posted over 1 year ago
Yasheng Huang: Does democracy stifle economic growth?
Although I think this is an excellent talk and I admire Yasheng's thesis, I'm just not convinced that China won't be the dominant economy in the coming 20 years. All the evidence is pointing toward the contrary, and China is the word on the tip of every economist's tongue. Infrastructure is important, yes, the nature of government is important, yes, but only time will tell which state ends up becoming the dominant economic power in the area. There was a fascinating talk the other day which touched upon a similar issue. It posits that the West might not be able to maintain economic growth in the face of the rising east. The panelists make simlilar socio-economic observations to Yasheng. It's definitely worth a watch: http://iai.tv/video/the-best-of-times
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Sebastian Tor
Posted over 1 year ago
Rory Stewart: Why democracy matters
I feel that Rory's message is an admirable one. I am British and as a resident of these fair isles I can confirm the fundamental flaws he points out within the system of UK democracy are endemic. Take into account the past 10 years of British politics - Tony Blair taking the UK to war with Iraq under false pretences, MPs shown to be defrauding the taxpayers out of money, international media outlets demonstrated to have terrifying sway within the heart of the political system... It all amounts to a litany of betrayls that have visibly shaken the trust of the population in the efficacy, honesty and integrity of UK politics. My question to Rory, and to any others who feel they may be able to provide an adequate answer, is this: if we to encourage politicians to be honest and to reinforce the fundamental tenets of democracy, how would this be achieved? It seems to me that democracy itself is lagging behind the world it attempts to govern. In 30 years the computer has become vital to our very existence, the internet has been born, propogated and integrated into every walk of life and we are now capable of connecting with one another and absorbing information in ways which were never possible and have created a dramatic shift in the way relationships - both between individuals and government with population - are being conducted. Maybe greater transparency is simply inevitable? Here is a debate which uses as its proposition the opposite of Rory's claim, i.e. is Democracy disposable? http://iai.tv/video/after-democracy Some fascinating ideas packed into the video and it really makes you question what YOU value most about the democratic state you inhabit. For anyone interested, I also thoroughly recommend a British satire called The Thick of It which provides a deliighfully acerbic insight into the world of UK politics.
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Sebastian Tor
Posted over 1 year ago
Doris Kim Sung: Metal that breathes
Organically inspired engineering certainly seems to be the future. Why spend endless hours attempting to summon these sort of intelligent designs from the ether when millions of years of evolution has already produced some of the most efficient and simple systems imaginable? Rachel Armstrong proposes a similar future for 21st century architecture which involves the integration of synthetic biology and engineering. http://iai.tv/video/designing-life She posits that we could create semi 'living' buildings which would be greener, simpler and self-maintaining. Whilst clearly Doris Kim Sung's own proposal is more practical in its imitation, rather than integration of biological processes into structural design, I think that both have great potential. Wouldn't you love to see buildings that emit more oxygen than CO2, that require no energy to heat, that are capable of processing their own waste and generating their own electricity?
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Sebastian Tor
Posted over 1 year ago
Lee Smolin: Science and democracy
I think Smolin gestures toward a very pertinent argument that must be had about the scientific establishment as a whole. Science is, in the most part, a 'democratic' institution. The system of peer review ensures that the community as a whole can dictate the rules of the game and how the future of any given discipline develops. However, I would argue that in the case of scienctific disciplines, as opposed to governance, that this form of democracy can actually stifle the primary raison detre of scientists - to discover, illuminate and understand the natural phenomena of the universe. To explain, those outside the establishment are often shunned from the community until they have managed to jump through the appropriate hoops to appease their peers. This is useful in sheilding us from bad science, but also results in the exclusion of more innovative ideas and individuals who think differently. This isn't to stay that science is static, of course it moves forward through the emergence and recession of different ideas - however it can have a homogenising effect on the general shape of these ideas. When this is the case, it results in a myopic disciplines that are unable to allow the free flow of new and creative thinking. There is a debate here http://iai.tv/video/the-eureka-moment in which this is discussed between a maverick scientist and his contemporaries. Definitely worth a watch. It's frightening how deepyly attached some individuals are to the current shape of the establishment. I'd love to hear what thoughts anyone else has on this topic?