Summary of “The Secret History of Fort Detrick, the CIA’s Base for Mind Control Experiments”

They may have died without knowing they were part of the CIA’s highly secretive program to develop ways to control minds-a program based out of a little-known Army base with a dark past, Fort Detrick.
That’s because Detrick, still thriving today as the Army’s principal base for biological research and now encompassing nearly 600 buildings on 13,000 acres, was for years the nerve center of the CIA’s hidden chemical and mind control empire.
Directors of the CIA mind control program MK-ULTRA, which used Detrick as a key base, destroyed most of their records in 1973.
The CIA concluded, must have developed a drug or technique that enabled them to control human minds.
Allen Dulles, who ran the CIA’s covert-operations directorate and would soon be promoted to direct the agency, considered his mind control project-first named Bluebird, then Artichoke, then MK-ULTRA-to be of supreme importance, the difference between the survival and extinction of the United States.
Under the arrangement’s provisions, according to a later report, “CIA acquired the knowledge, skill, and facilities of the Army to develop biological weapons suited for CIA use.”
Taking advantage of this arrangement, Gottlieb created a hidden CIA enclave inside Camp Detrick.
While CIA scientists and their former Nazi comrades sat before a stone fireplace discussing the techniques of mind control, prisoners in basement cells were being prepared as subjects in brutal and sometimes fatal experiments.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Human culture and cognition evolved through the emotions”

Darwin’s revolutionary understanding of the evolved nature of human emotions has been neglected since.
Are emotions truly universal? Some historians and anthropologists argue that we learn our emotions from our cultural experience, and that they are thus constituted by very particular circumstances.
Recently, the biological basis of human emotions has come into question by thinkers who focus largely on higher-level emotions and our cultural narratives about emotional life.
In her book How Emotions Are Made, Barrett argues that emotions are conceptual events, and our emotions, such as anger or sadness, are very fast mental constructions – almost like real-time, miniature theories about our experiences.
The manner in which historians and anthropologists study emotions will indeed help contemplation and explanation of these more cognitive, discursive and culturally bounded feelings, but there is also room to study how these rarefied emotions might be developmental outgrowths of interactions between mammalian affective systems at more basic levels.
The clear implication of tying the experience of emotions to the possession of concepts is that all animals and babies do not have emotions because they lack language.
These seven emotions are universal in humans, but they are filtered through the three layers of mind, creating tremendous diversity.
Understanding the affective roots of culture and cognition and the precise role of emotions in mind will allow us to avoid an unhealthy return to both behaviourist and Cartesian agnosticism about animal consciousness.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why More Knowledge Won’t Make You More Successful”

In today’s startup climate, it’s tempting to think that learning more will strengthen your competitive advantage.
Because what matters is not how much you learn, but the ability to home in and apply what you learn strategically.
According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, a hierarchy of learning objectives used by K-12 teachers and college instructors, the highest level of learning happens when we create – generating, planning and producing original material or ideas – using new knowledge.
That’s probably why the world’s most successful entrepreneurs intersperse knowledge acquisition with creative experimentation – to immediately put their learning to use.
With a beginner’s mind, you not only identify blind spots in your knowledge, you learn to approach new areas with humility and curiosity.
We learned to eat, to crawl, to walk and to talk because of an innate interest.
By returning to the pursuit of those things that genuinely interest us, we can learn more effectively.
When it comes to learning, sometimes less is more – because less quantity can mean more quality and increased efficacy as a leader.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Consciousness Began When the Gods Stopped Speaking”

In the beginning of the book, Jaynes asks, “This consciousness that is myself of selves, that is everything, and yet nothing at all-what is it? And where did it come from? And why?” Jaynes answers by unfurling a version of history in which humans were not fully conscious until about 3,000 years ago, instead relying on a two-part, or bicameral, mind, with one half speaking to the other in the voice of the gods with guidance whenever a difficult situation presented itself.
By giving consciousness a cultural origin, says Christof Koch, chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, “Jaynes disavows consciousness as a biological phenomenon.”
Jaynes emerged after three years, convinced that animal experiments could help him understand how consciousness first evolved, and spent the next three years in graduate school at Yale University.
One-Book Wonder: Although Julian Jaynes, who died in 1997, never completed another book, “The Origins of Consciousness in Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” will carry his name into eternity.
John Updike wrote in The New Yorker that when Jaynes “Speculates that until late in the second millennium B.C. men had no consciousness but were automatically obeying the voices of gods we are astounded but compelled to follow this remarkable thesis through all the corroborative evidence he finds in ancient literature, modern behaviorism, and aberrant psychological phenomenon such as hypnotism, possession, glossolalia, prophecy, poetry, and schizophrenia.” Photo from Princeton University.
The picture Jaynes paints is that consciousness is only a very thin rime of ice atop a sea of habit, instinct, or some other process that is capable of taking care of much more than we tend to give it credit for.
Eric Schwitzgebel, a professor of philosophy at University of California, Riverside, has conducted experiments to investigate how aware we are of things we are not focused on, which echo Jaynes’ view that consciousness is essentially awareness.
Dennett, who has called The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind a “Marvelous, wacky book,” likes to give Jaynes the benefit of the doubt.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Everything About Niksen, The Dutch Concept of Doing Nothing”

Now there’s another Northern European trend that’s being embraced as a way to combat our increasingly busy and often stressful lives: niksen.
The Dutch concept is as simple as, well, doing nothing.
Niksen “Literally means to do nothing, to be idle or doing something without any use,” says Carolien Hamming, managing director of CSR Centrum, a coaching center in the Netherlands that helps clients manage stress and recover from burnout.
Whereas mindfulness is about being present in the moment, niksen is more about carving out time to just be, even letting your mind wander rather than focusing on the details of an action.
These potential health effects might be enough to encourage even the most hectic and overburdened among us to consider carving out time to practice niksen.
Another benefit of niksen is that it can help people come up with new ideas, according to Veenhoven, who is also the director of the World Database of Happiness, an archive of research related to life enjoyment.
Some “Gateway” practices to niksen could be taking a walk in nature or writing a letter of gratitude, she suggests, as a way of easing into what true downtime feels like.
Of course, it’s not practical to practice niksen constantly – we can’t do nothing all the time.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Are you really the ‘real’ you?”

The show Alex appeared on, Faking It, had a simple set-up: each week a participant with an archetypical identity would be tasked with learning a skill that jarred with that identity.
Something about Faking It changed Alex’s mind about what his “True” self was really like.
Alex, from where he sits now, is especially well-positioned to see how internal narrators can tamper with the evidence.
It’s a moment of genuine tenderness in a show about faking, but what nobody remarked on was that Alex’s East End accent hadn’t slipped the whole time.
Almost as soon as Alex got home, he realised his old life wasn’t going to stick.
In the end, I think Alex’s experience shows us just how strange it is to think of changing our minds about ourselves as a rational process.
The traits and preferences and perspectives Alex now takes to define himself didn’t exist to be discovered when he was wondering who he really was; they were made in and by the decision to walk away.
Berenice, the girl who monstered Alex in his first kickboxing lesson, married Tony, Alex’s mentor.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Neuroscience Has a Lot To Learn from Buddhism”

Can training the mind make us more attentive, altruistic, and serene? Can we learn to manage our disturbing emotions in an optimal way? What are the transformations that occur in the brain when we practice meditation? In a book titled Beyond the Self, two friends-Matthieu Ricard, who left a career as a molecular biologist to become a Buddhist monk in Nepal, and Wolf Singer, a distinguished neuroscientist-engage in an unusually well-matched conversation about meditation and the brain.
Such intellectual constructs cannot replace two millennia of direct investigation of the workings of mind through penetrating introspection conducted with trained minds that have become both stable and clear.
Singer: What you have to learn then is to adopt a much more subtle approach to your internal emotional theater, to learn to identify with much higher resolution the various connotations of your feelings.
In the beginning, it is difficult to do it as soon as an emotion arises, but if you become increasingly familiar with such an approach, it becomes quite natural.
Let us perhaps briefly recapitulate how the human brain adapts to the environment because this developmental process can also be seen as a modification or reprogramming of brain functions.
Once these developmental processes come to an end, the connectivity of the brain becomes fixed, and large-scale modifications are no longer possible.
In brain scans, one observes that different brain structures take over when skills that are initially acquired under the control of consciousness become automatic.
To become a real expert seems to require then at least as much training as is required to become a world-class violin or piano player.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Neuroscience Has a Lot To Learn from Buddhism”

Can training the mind make us more attentive, altruistic, and serene? Can we learn to manage our disturbing emotions in an optimal way? What are the transformations that occur in the brain when we practice meditation? In a book titled Beyond the Self, two friends-Matthieu Ricard, who left a career as a molecular biologist to become a Buddhist monk in Nepal, and Wolf Singer, a distinguished neuroscientist-engage in an unusually well-matched conversation about meditation and the brain.
Such intellectual constructs cannot replace two millennia of direct investigation of the workings of mind through penetrating introspection conducted with trained minds that have become both stable and clear.
Singer: What you have to learn then is to adopt a much more subtle approach to your internal emotional theater, to learn to identify with much higher resolution the various connotations of your feelings.
In the beginning, it is difficult to do it as soon as an emotion arises, but if you become increasingly familiar with such an approach, it becomes quite natural.
Let us perhaps briefly recapitulate how the human brain adapts to the environment because this developmental process can also be seen as a modification or reprogramming of brain functions.
Once these developmental processes come to an end, the connectivity of the brain becomes fixed, and large-scale modifications are no longer possible.
In brain scans, one observes that different brain structures take over when skills that are initially acquired under the control of consciousness become automatic.
To become a real expert seems to require then at least as much training as is required to become a world-class violin or piano player.

The orginal article.

Summary of “On Monks and Email”

To accomplish this goal “Meant taking the weaknesses of their bodies and brains seriously.”
They used complex visual mnemonic techniques to help structure complex information in their mind’s eye.
They deployed heavy labor and moderate diet to keep their physiology in an optimal state for mental work.
Even the monastic renunciation of worldly goods and relationships supported concentration: the fewer things going on your life, they reasoned, the fewer things to distract you while trying to think about God.
Except unlike our deep working medieval forebears, the modern knowledge work organization seems to care little about cultivating and supporting this fundamental activity.
We hook people up to email inboxes and Slack channels because it’s convenient.
Few organizations think seriously about thinking, which, after all, really is the fundamental value-producing activity in knowledge work, just as divine communication was the metaphorical money-maker for the pious medievals.
It requires, for lack of a better word, more serious attention.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why Doesn’t Ancient Fiction Talk About Feelings?”

Heavy readers of fiction showed the highest level of brain activity.
In a study led by Raymond Mar, voracious readers of fiction were better than lighter consumers of fiction at making nuanced social judgments based on limited information-for example, deciphering complex emotions by looking at photographs of people’s eyes, and using subtle cues in videos of social interactions.
A slightly more practical attempt to demonstrate causality was undertaken by David Kidd and Emanuele Castano; in their experiments, volunteers were randomly assigned to read a single text of either literary fiction, popular genre fiction, or nonfiction before taking a test of their ability to identify complex emotions based on photos that were tightly cropped around a subject’s eyes.6 The results showed that those who had read the literary fiction text had higher scores than the others, suggesting that certain kinds of reading can stimulate mental processes that are relevant to identifying the emotions of others.
Consistent with the hypothesis that such texts can train social intelligence, heavy readers of fiction showed the highest level of brain activity in the mentalizing network during reading.
Fong, K., Mullin, J.B., & Mar, R.A. What you read matters: The role of fiction genre in predicting interpersonal sensitivity.
Kidd, D.C. & Castano, E. Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind.
Does reading a single passage of literary fiction really improve theory of mind? An attempt at replication.
Tamir, D.I., Bricker, A.B., Dodell-Feder, D., & Mitchell, J.P. Reading fiction and reading minds: The role of simulation in the default network.

The orginal article.