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Evolving Awareness

Towards Day 19 of Evolving Systems course


*re-figured conference schedule this week: Erin, Summer, Paige and Meredith on Wed. morning; Karina, Sarah, Prianna, Olivia and Aimee on Thursday afternoon.

* on Thursday, we move into part 4 of the course: Brains as Storytellers --

"The Brain--is wider than the Sky--/For--put them side by side--/The one the other will contain/With ease--and You--beside--" (Emily Dickinson).

Discussion of this poem (?!) plus two talks by V.S. Ramachandran, both available on the web:

** this weekend, I read an essay called  "Learning from Nobody: The Limited Role of Teaching in Folk Models of Children's Development," by David Lancy, who's coming to speak @ HC on Friday afternoon:

* First what's cute about it is that it calls the contemporary world's intelligentsia (='Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic") a "WIERD" society. Next what's interesting is that it calls WIERD's assumption that children learn by active teaching just plain, well, WIERD. Mostly--based on lots  of ethnography work through history and across time--children have been assumed to be self-guided in their learning, and teaching was seen as diverting the children's character and sense of autonomy: “Much of the WEIRD model has been constructed in the very recent past…a dramatic rise in time spent in child care by college-educated parents appears to coincide with increased competition for places in elite colleges."

Punch line: "the great antiquity… of extra-scholastic teaching…are predicated on models of brain evolution and human development focused on tool-making and information processing....Indeed, teaching does have some efficiencies when it comes to transmitting large quantities of information or complex processes. On the other hand, if your theory emphasises brain growth to cope with an increasingly complex social world, then teaching does not seem so helpful. Learners should deploy their attention widely…rather than focusing on just a single teacher….

"The kind of nuanced, student-centered, developmentally appropriate instruction by dedicated adults that we today take as the operational definition of teaching is a recent product of a long process of educational change….Teaching has been largely superfluous in the process of cultural transmission throughout human history….On the other hand, the current 'information' economy may be driving the ever-more demanding school curriculum. School entrance/graduation exams…provide a Darwinian environment in which parents who teach…are rewarded..."

* your 3-pp. paper on individual evolution is due Friday by 6 p.m.
Your proposals for evolving biographies include Lesley Arfin, Ludwig von Beethoven (2x), Buddha, Deng Xiaoping, Paul Farmer, Lu Xun, Mao Zedong, John Nash, Valerie Plame, Condoleezza Rice, Haruka Tenoh (or Erzsébet Bathory), and M. Carey Thomas. Can you detect any patterns in this (very small!) data set?
schu's questions:  I don’t know if we are really focusing on one individual evolution while we have to give an extension to our in-class discussion. Which is more important? Maybe when we are trying to give proof that individual can evolve, we still need more than one individual to show our point .... Collection of data is required for a relatively objective empirical observation. We can see that in the evolution of one population. But when it comes to individual, which world and principles ... are we referring to?

Let's think together about this project by comparing two sets of notes: where might the writers go from here?
*your on-line reflections,
exploring stories of individual change

nina44: the article ... tells you that babies have a preference to look at faces of their own race. Does this in a way instil in us early on some racial prejudice? Hmmm food for thought I guess.

Sarah: If we take the evidence gathered by the researchers as valid (going back to the whole can-we-really-tell-babies'-thoughts-by-their-gaze-time business), what does that tell us? I mean, is it just the simple fact that those faces clearly do not belong to mom, as babies first recognize? Does this whole thing suggest that not just racism, but fear of the generally unfamiliar are qualities we're born with? And are we really "born with" anything more than a blank slate, a brain with all of the physical and biological potential to be molded into the thinking organs we use as adults?
FluteSound4:  So what do I think of babies now?... honestly I'm a little confused. I don't want to call them stupid, but then again I don't want to call them scientists either .... like nina stated in her post, one of the articles said that babies prefer faces of their own race. So what about racially mixed babies? Would they prefer the features of the two races that they are made of?

SoundsLikeBanana: I believe that morality is learnt from society and the environment that the child is raised, and not “in the package” ... how the particular parents raised the child will affect his or her attitude ... in the case of morality they have no prior understanding of what it is. That reminds me ... about how the Chinese believe that babies see the world clearest but don’t have the words to express it.
Aimee: People are social creatures; from an early age people know to favor the people and actions that benefit them and the individuals in their social circle. Morality is purely a social construct from which religion grew .... Babies - especially baby girls - make eye contact and engage facial expressions, learning how to properly empathize with body language. Our article on infant morality showed the results of that early engagement - toddlers begin to comfort others.

Bingqing: “Brain is a kind of computer designed by evolution and programmed by experience" .... I regard evolution as something that brings about positive change in macroscopic range .... In contrast ... in personal evolution people are losing some of their abilities and ... natural goodness. Does it contradict the evolution in macroscopic scale?

Lemon Koala: babies are better than I expected. I always believed that babies are like sheets of blank paper. Everybody around them, everything happened around him has an inevitable impact on the growth of babies ... However, these two studies show babies have the initial psychological development already. I am wondering if the level of morality of every baby is more associated with the genetic information of the affections and contacts they have before they were born ... but I am sad to the diminishing potential in babies. I hope we can figure out a way to keep the period of high capacity to learn longer.

Olivia: In class, we talked about how babies are more creative than adults, and babies think more possibilities. Education seems like rules imposed on them, and it makes the possibilities shrink as a baby grow .... The interaction with other people causes us to limit our possibilities .... as we interact with others, we start to restrain that nature because we need care for others' feelings. If some words hurt others, we may not say them. Also because there are other people out in the world, we cannot do whatever we want as babies ... maybe education is a way to learn how to interact with others?

schu: if babies can think and tell the truth, how do they do that without learning to have a human logic reasoning? Instinctions?  This may suggest a totally different understanding of reasoning, which is the foundation of all laws and regulations of human society. Or maybe the power babies have is just a prompt of nature ...
Kirsten: Seeing as I have constructed an image of babies' minds being sponges, certain things did not surprise me in the articles that were meant to amaze the readers .... The method of determination of the babies confusion or interest in particular actions by way of seeing how long they stared seems like a method that is not good enough to base scientific findings on in my opinion.

cf. Aimee's video, "testing" the reality of Jesus, w/ Neil Gaiman via JulieG: I’m not allowed to travel with eight ounces of shampoo ... because of people arguing over ... gods, religions, and national boundaries, which are absolutely imaginary. They’re completely notional. They don’t ... exist. As soon as you pull back half a mile and look down at the Earth there are no national boundaries. There aren’t even any national boundaries when you get down and walk around. They’re just imaginary lines we draw on maps .... I just get fascinated by people who assume that things that are imaginary have no relevance to their lives.