Thursday, March 27, 2008

Food Health Studies Hazardous to Health

After years of being harangued daily about how the food I eat is killing me I decided to do my own scientific study into the effect of scientific studies on the health aspects of various foods on me. I chose myself as a subject since I have in depth knowledge of me and doing research on others would involve well, work.


For last 20 to 30 years I have been told on a regular basis that various foods were bad for me. I am 38 now and I use the range of 20 to 30 years because I don't recall hearing this too much when I was a child. The studies that I can recall were on the following things:
Coffee and caffeine
Red Meat
Wheat Bran
White Bread
Sugar and Starch
Saturated Fats
Un-saturated Fats


Each of the above mentioned items have been taken their turn on the enemies list of the health food nannies. Yet each has at some point been found to have positive affects on health.

My studies have shown that we are bombarded with an endless stream of warnings day after day about how we are fat, lazy , stupid and destroying our health. If the warnings are to be believed, there are entire industries whose sole mission is to make us unhealthy and kill us.

Negative effects

From personal experience, the negative affects I experienced early on were a persistent sense of guilt and worry. A general reduction in self esteem that arose from a feeling of weakness when I would indulge in things that I enjoyed.

I have observed that as a result of these guilty feelings many people resort to a form of self flagellating masochism in an effort to perform some sort of penance for their perceived sins. One example would be the "Biggest Loser" show where teams of people participate in the most degrading humiliation imaginable at the hands of sadistic "trainers". Granted, these people are playing a game for money, but one can't help but get the impression that these people feel helpless to control their own lives. They feel guilty, inferior, weak. Decades of being constantly told that they are eating the wrong things, that they are lazy, that there is something wrong with everything they are doing in their lives have taken their toll. They go to these priests of physical fitness looking for absolution. And the priests tell them that only through working out, at levels inhumanely possible to maintain unless you are unemployed, and abstaining from all enjoyment of food, they can achieve eternal happiness.

For most of us we experience this to a lesser degree. We feel all of the feelings already mentioned. We decide to do something about it. We diet and workout like madmen and for a time it works. Then reality sets in that it is just not possible to maintain this regimen. We slip and slide back into old habits and we sooth ourselves with the food we crave. Meanwhile we are filled with self loathing. We have weighed and measured ourselves by an impossible standard and found ourselves wanting.

Industries harmed

Many industries have been harmed over the years by these periodic health scares. The baking industry for one has been been affected several times, first when white bread was considered bad and then when people were jumping on the low carb high protein train. Remember the Alar scare of the late 80's. Many fast food companies changed their cooking oils as a result of the supposed dangers of saturated fats, now these same companies are being told the oils they switched to are just as bad. Look at how the fishing industry has been hurt over the years with repeated scares regarding mercury, a naturally occurring substance that we have in our own bodies. These are just a few examples.

Long term consequences (legislation, loss of freedom)

The long term consequences are scary. We are seeing a steady increase in government control. Many cities such as New York have already tried to regulate the restaurant industry to ban trans-fats. The likelihood is that we will have some form of federally subsidized national health care in the near future. Government will use this to claim authority in regulating your personal habits. The government's position will be that we are paying for your health care and therefore it is the government's right and responsibility to regulate those activities which are determined (whether true or not) to increase the cost of health care. When the people belong to the government and not the other way around we are in trouble.

People will willingly turnover control to the government. After being brainwashed into believing that every indulgence they allow themselves is a sin, they will feel helpless in running their own lives. They will gladly turnover their lives to the government so that these decisions are no longer theirs to make. People will on the surface complain that the government has no business telling us what to eat, but, these are the same people who spend their days feeling guilty about everything they eat. The "know" in their hearts that what they are doing is wrong and subconsciously they will be thinking "I am a sinner and it is impossible for me to lead a sin free life". They will consciously or subconsciously look to the government to remove that temptation that causes them to "sin".

What possible conclusions can be drawn from this

1. These studies are an evil plot by SPs that are really PTS/SPs bent on the destruction of Tom Cruise and Scientology.
2. Nanny statists are endangering our health by subjecting us to endless studies and warnings telling us that what we are doing is wrong.
3. Nanny statists are endangering our freedom by undermining our confidence in our abilities to manage our own lives, thus inviting further government intrusion.

Proposed actions

Find ways to be happy. Happiness starts from within. Find things that work for you. The idea that you are going to spend 10 hours a week working out for the rest of your life is and eat only wheat germ and yogurt is preposterous. Stop looking for silver bullets. For Gods sake stop feeling guilty every time you take a bite of ice cream or pizza or whatever your favorite food is. Enjoy that food. Life is not meant to be lived in a perpetual state of guilt. Realize that not all of us are going to have six pack abs and that is ok. I love food. I find ways to enjoy it without guilt and still maintain my health reasonably. There is nothing wrong with me.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Why we will never go to Mars - additional thoughts

After I posted "Why we will never go to Mars" I saw this article on glasses that can find things. This is a perfect example of a technology that will profoundly change our lives. This goes way beyond finding lost items. Technology like this will record our lives. Every event from birth to death will be recorded and available for instant access. What is the next logical step for this? A smaller camera? Maybe no camera, just learn to interpret the signals from the optic nerve and auditory nerve making your own eyes and ears the camera. How will this impact criminal justice, privacy? 300 million cameras walking around recording everything? I would imagine criminal activity would become less common provided corruption of the criminal justice system does not increase.

Of course with increased regulation of the smallest details of our lives, the potential for corruption will increase. As more and more things become illegal, people will need protection from law enforcement. This is largely what organized crime does. My guess is that increased government regulation of everything from smoking and alcohol to trans-fat regulation to whatever other nanny state garbage they come up with will increase the number of people who will need some form of protection and be willing to pay for it. But I digress.

Another thing I got to thinking about regarding my original post is what will define intelligence in the future? I am strictly speaking in the ability to recognize the different intellectual abilities of people. What do we think of as characteristics of intelligence? Knowledge, skill sets, learning ability, ability to apply knowledge?

Consider, for example, this unverified quote by Alexander Fraser Tytler:

"A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship."

Before the internet, how many people had ever heard of this quote? Outside of academia, I would doubt very many. Knowing who it was attributed too would have required access to a library and a significant amount of research. Now it takes me a couple minutes to find out everything I ever wanted to know about Alexander Fraser Tytler. If everyone has access to information, knowledge will no longer distinguish intelligence. All the classic works of literature, especially those not protected by copyright will be available to everyone. And people may start to use references to these works without fear of being considered pretentious because the effort to understand the reference will be considerably less.

What about skill sets? Advanced trigonometry. Take the handy dandy glasses mentioned before. It should be relatively easy to make them recognize mathematical equations. Math was never my strong suit. Look at the most complicated trigonometric function and instantly see the solution. Want to read Spanish, look at a sentence in Spanish and get instant translation. Want to measure the size of counter top you need for your kitchen remodel, look at your kitchen where you want the counter to go and presto.

I am curious about the impact of the magic glasses on family "discussions". "I told you to get milk when you were at the store, well let me replay the conversation, oh wait , I guess I didn't. Why didn't you remind me to check if we had milk"? Don't worry guys it will still be your fault.

With regard to applying knowledge, I am not sure how that will turn out. Take the "Theory of Evolution" for example. I happen to believe there is a lot of evidence to support this and very little to support "Creationism". Some people will look at the exact same information and say only an idiot would believe in Evolution. Knowing the answers to complex trig functions and being able to apply those answers practically may be two different things. Without improving a persons mind, I don't know if you are going to be able to improve their ability to apply knowledge beyond a certain point. Improving our minds though may be an option on the table in the future at some point.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Why we will never go to Mars

Yesterday, at work, someone for fun sent me an instant message with an obscure reference to a movie. I did not know what he was talking about so I googled the phrase and in 10 seconds had a reply. He said he would have to try something more obscure next time. I replied that it would be difficult with the almost unlimited information available at my fingertips.

Why is it that almost every prediction about the future is completely and obviously wrong? Everyone focuses on flying cars, trips to the Moon or Mars and ignores completely the most obvious thing that will change. It is going to be us. We will change dramatically in the next few decades. I predict we will merge with our technology or we will be wiped out by it.

I am going to make this prediction with one caveat. I don't know how government will try to control it but I am sure it will. The future will be instant access to information. Not through your keyboard but by direct connection to, well, the internet if we still call it that. You will be able to know the name of every person you meet as well as any personal information about them. Different languages will probably no longer be a barrier. Anyplace you go, you will have complete information about the history, culture, customs, food. This is not the distant future either. We have most of the ability to do this now through our cell phones. We are beginning the next step where your cell phone is worn and responds to voice commands. The next step after that will probably be a device that is worn and responds to thought patterns. The next step after that will likely be an implanted device that responds directly to your mind bypassing your hearing. Possibly it will even bypass your vision and provide visual signals directly to your optic nerve. I am sure there will be a battle over control of information. People with means will probably have access to better information than poor people. The people who desire power and control will want to limit or control the flow of information. It is hard to predict how this will affect society. There will be very few secrets. Information known to one will quickly be available to all. How will this affect learning? I had to memorize "The Walrus and the Carpenter" in 6th grade. Would you need to memorize anything if you could instantly reference it whenever you want? What about politics, you could instantly fact check anything. This is where I think there will be a battle over control of those facts. If someone tells you that the average temperature was .5 degrees warmer last year you can know instantly if they are correct or not. Will this be a tool of instant and total information or mis-information?

Last night I saw a show on asteroids striking the earth and possible solutions to prevent this type of catastrophe. One of the silliest things I heard was the plan to send manned missions to an asteroid on a collision course with earth instead of machines because astronauts could explore and react to the environment better than robots. Please. By the time we mount such a mission, the state of robotics and artificial intelligence will have advanced to a point that it will be no contest. If the Earth is really in peril, are you going to send one or two manned missions with people who are totally inadequate to function in those environments, at enormous costs I might add, or are you going to send a bunch of unmanned robotic spacecraft on much less expensive missions with redundant missions for backup in case one fails. The idea of sending manned missions for this is so silly it is laughable.

We are never going to go to Mars. It won't happen. Our bodies are not designed for space travel. Could we send people to Mars? Probably. Could you make your car into a flying car? Probably with enough money and time. But would you if the result is a very expensive poorly performing airplane? You could take humans to Mars but it is hard to imagine a more poorly designed space traveler. Our bodies are designed for Earth's gravity and 14 psi atmospheric pressure. We require fuel in the form of food that is bulky and perishable and oxygen. We require lots of maintenance from personal hygiene and exercise to entertainment. And travel in space is no picnic. With the technology likely to be available over the next few decades a trip to Mars will likely take 5 months inside a tin can eating dehydrated food and drinking recycled water. This will be followed by several months on Mars doing much the same thing and 5 months returning to Earth. It is hard to imagine there are more than a handful of people willing to go through an ordeal like this. Our machines and technology will go to Mars, we will not. We might get back to the Moon. It is 4 days away, maybe less. There is not much scientific or economic reason to go but it is doable and with the amount of pork spending that would be involved, congress would support it. Space tourism to the moon might be a viable industry, who knows.

I think the future for us is going to be less in the physical world and more in cyberspace. You will be able to see, touch and experience Mars from Earth. In fact I doubt in the future we will do as much physical traveling on Earth as we do now. Travel for business will be less and less necessary. Travel for leisure will exist for a while yet but this will diminish if full immersion virtual reality develops. Maybe it will be possible at some point in the distant future to send our consciousness where we want to go but that is just a wild speculation at this point. It is pretty predictable though that we will be able to experience much more without leaving home in the very near future and that is not wild speculation.
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