Archive for September, 2011

Studying the trinity of delusion

In the early 1960s, social psychologist Dr. Milton Rokeach received a grant to study three institutionalized patients and how being together affected their sense of self. Each of the men thought he was Jesus Christ.

They all agreed with Rokeach that there could only be one Jesus Christ. Joseph was the first to take up the contradiction. ‘He says he’s the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. I can’t get it. I know who I am. I’m God, Christ, the Holy Ghost, and if I wasn’t, by gosh, I wouldn’t lay claim to anything of the sort … I know this is an insane house and you have to be very careful.’ Very quickly he decided that the other two were insane, the proof being that they were in a mental hospital, weren’t they? Therefore Clyde and Leon were merely to be ‘laughed off’. Clyde concluded that the other two were ‘rerises’, lower beings, and anyway dead. He took, perhaps, the most godlike tone: ‘I am him. See? Now understand that!’ Leon, who became adept at ducking and diving in order to maintain his position without causing the social disruption they all found threatening, explained that the other two were ‘hollowed-out instrumental gods’. When Rokeach pushed Leon to say that Joseph wasn’t God, he replied, “‘He’s an instrumental god, now please don’t try to antagonise him.”

This is an interesting look at how shaky the ethics of psychological studies can be, particularly during this time period. It was kind of shocking to see the justification for this type of experiment:

In the book Rokeach acknowledges that his experiment with his children had to stop where the trial of the three Christs started, with signs of distress: ‘Because it is not feasible to study such phenomena with normal people, it seemed reasonable to focus on delusional systems of belief in the hope that, in subjecting them to strain, there would be little to lose and, hopefully, a great deal to gain.’ This is a very magisterial ‘non-deluded’ view of who in the world has or has not little to lose. Evidently, the mad, having no lives worth speaking of, might benefit from interference, but if they didn’t, if indeed their lives were made worse, it hardly mattered, since such lives were already worthless non-lives. It also incorporated the bang-up-to-the-moment idea that if you want to know about normality you could do worse than watch and manipulate the mad.

Despite having gained some insight into delusion, in a later edition of his book book The Three Christs of Ypsilanti, Rokeach expresses regret at having conducted the study:

There were, he says, four people with delusional beliefs, not three. He failed to take himself into account, and the three Christs, not cured themselves, had cured him of his ‘God-like delusion that I could change them by omnipotently and omnisciently arranging and rearranging their daily lives’. He came to realise that he had no right to play God and interfere, and was increasingly uncomfortable about the ethics of his experiment. ‘I was cured when I was able to leave them in peace, and it was mainly Leon who somehow persuaded me that I should leave them in peace.’

(I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit amusement with the name changes the participants made during the course of the study. Two worth considering for your next child: Dr. Domino Dominorum et Rex Rexarum, Simplis Christianus Pueris Mentalis Doktor and Dr. Righteous Idealed Dung.)

Will there be an AGATpad tablet device?

Oobject is serving up this great collection of 12 Soviet computers from the 1950s through the early 1990s:

Soviet computer manufacture had a promising beginning with devices such as the MESM, which when it was produced in 1950 was the first universally programmable computer in continental Europe. By today’s standards, you’d have to fill the Empire State Building full of MESMs to have the same processing power as an iPhone. Later Soviet block computers were invariably based on Western counterparts with a myriad of Sinclair Spectrum clones, an Apple II based machine, PC compatibles and later on, Vax based systems from Robotron in East Germany.

My favorite is the AGAT from 1983, a machine commissioned by the USSR Ministry of Radio that was “only partially compatible with Apple.” That monitor is something else! (And so is that color choice.)

Apparently, because of the lack of a source for a 6502 processor, they initially used a “partitioned 588 series” CPU that simulated 6502 instructions. Additionally, the ROM (presumably when they shifted to an actual 6502) still had Steve Wozniak’s name in memory. The unit was primarily used in school settings and had an available “Schkol’nitza” (“schoolgirl”) package to help teachers make use of it.

Curious about the AGAT computing experience? Of course there’s an emulator available.

The Center

There’s a mid-sized city being built in New Mexico with a population of zero. Yet, there will be traffic lights, energy, and other things you might expect in a town with inhabitants. Except there won’t be any. Sounds like a Twilight Zone episode, but it’s not.

The Center will resemble a mid-sized American city, including urban canyons, suburban neighborhoods, rural communities and distant localities. It will offer the only of its kind opportunity to replicate the real-world challenges of upgrading existing city infrastructure to that of a 21st Century smart city, operating within a green economy.

“The idea for The Center was born out of our own company’s challenges in trying to test new and emerging technologies beyond the confines of a sterile lab environment,” Robert H. Brumley, Pegasus Global’s CEO said. “As entrepreneurs, we saw a global need and stepped up to address it. The Center will allow private companies, not for profits, educational institutions and government agencies to test in a unique facility with real world infrastructure, allowing them to better understand the cost and potential limitations of new technologies prior to introduction.”

Construction of The Center’s test facilities and supporting infrastructure may require as much as 20 square miles of open, unimproved land. It will be designed to represent the current mix of old and new infrastructure found in most modern U.S. cities.

The Center will provide the opportunity for “end-to-end” testing, evaluation and demonstration of new intelligent and green technologies and innovations emerging from the world’s public laboratories, universities, and the private sector with the goal of determining the direct and indirect benefits and costs the innovations tested would have on our existing infrastructure.

For example, this controlled environment would permit evaluation of the positive and negative impacts of smart grid applications and integration of renewable energies for residential, commercial and industrial sectors of the economy. Additional testing opportunities would include technologies emerging in intelligent traffic systems, next-generation wireless networks, smart grid cyber security and terrorism vulnerability.

Is it weird that I’d like to take a vacation there?

(via Engadget)