Why UBI Should Become A Key Issue For Political Platforms

It’s estimated that about 7 million jobs will be lost due to automation over the next 10 years. Many of these jobs are cashier and general retail jobs. Already, Walmart has stores that are completely cashier-free. The savings in having automation is partly what drives these advances.

Many people worry about lost jobs. And the people hit hardest–if we don’t do something–is and will continue to be low wage earners.

A UBI is a solution that nips this right in the bud.

It’s time for UBI to become a more mainstream idea.

I first read about UBI over 8 years ago in graduate school. Back then, it was an idea in the philosophy world that didn’t seem to gain much traction. I liked it, however. So much so that I became an advocate for UBI, having volunteered for Basic Income Earth Network and written about the success of UBI-like programs used by Native American tribes.

Most of the arguments for UBI fit nicely within the capitalist framework. So don’t let anyone tell you it’s a form of socialism or communism. There are various proposals to funds a UBI and current estimates are that a UBI–one that really only covers basic needs–would be about $800-1,000 per person per month.

This is not nearly enough to live The American Dream, but it’s enough to keep people from going hungry.

There’s plenty of justification for UBI. The idea has been fleshed out enough over the years that there are more than enough arguments for it.

The real questions are those yet to be asked and answered, such as: At what age does a UBI begin? 18 years old? Or working age (16)? How will a UBI be funded? Exactly how much should a UBI be?

 

 

 

Some Normative Reflections on AI

We expect artificial intelligence (AI) to be smart. We may even expect it to be smarter than us. Technology, after all, has an aura of intelligence around it in general and AI, perhaps, even more so.

I want to examine some of the underlying normative aspects applied to AI. In particular, I want to ask: if our goal is to simulate human beings, shouldn’t we look for things such as flaws in thinking, bias, and, maybe even more controversial, psychological disabilities?

Currently in the United States, about 1 in 4 people have or will experience psychological disability. That’s quite a lot of people with quite a lot of “symptoms.” It’s still very taboo to talk about psychological disability. It’s perhaps worse to be seen as “endorsing” it.

However, a very brilliant philosopher of mind once told me that, “If you understand schizophrenia, you understand the whole of the human mind.”

Perhaps that is so. It does seem to people who try to “unlock the black box of schizophrenia” are trying to peer into the deepest parts of the human psyche. However, many attempts to open this black box using a biomedical model seem to have failed. That leaves us, then, with psychosocial accounts of psychosis, of which I am currently persuaded.

Famously, some philosophers have argued we simply cannot program for natural language. As AI becomes more and more real, it seems these arguments may be invalid. Moreover, others have argued we cannot program wisdom or emotions. These things, too, seem to be coming closer and closer to our understanding.

What I want to look at, however, is the attempt by some to create “superhumans” with AI. These “superhumans” do not necessarily need emotion, they don’t rely on bias at times, and they simply do not experience psychosis. These are considered “flaws.”

If the goal is to simulate humans, these efforts, of course, fail. If the goal is to create an uberman, they may succeed.

I want to question the assumption that we should be creating “superhumans” when we create bots. I want to argue that creating a genuine human mind artificially is not only “good enough,” it may be better than our superhuman efforts.

The human mind is still something that researchers still look at, examine and query about. It is amazing–even with its “flaws.” Consider my example. My mind has, at various times, produced visual, auditory and tactile hallucinations. We still do not know how these things precisely occur. If we did, we’d have a “cure” for so-called schizophrenia.

Current psychosocial theories suggest that people who experience psychosis are far more likely to have experienced trauma. We know, then, that trauma, such as child abuse or neglect, is highly correlated with the experience of psychosis. If trauma is the cause in some people, we still don’t know how the mind produces hallucinations. Making a bot, then, that can not only experience the harshness of trauma, but can, if all the horrific conditions are met, produce hallucinations, would be a feat in understanding not only the human mind but the bot mind.

Why program for “vulnerabilities,” you may ask? I attest that when people experience psychological disabilities, like psychosis, they are a testament to the fact that something, whatever it is, has gone horribly, horribly wrong. In other words, there has been some deep transgression that has caused the mind to produce what we consider “abnormal” activity. Users of AI–or, perhaps, fellows, friends and partners to AI–need to see these things produced in order to know that something has gone horribly wrong.

What this means is that we will have to treat AI the same way we treat humans both legally and ethically. A transgression toward a bot would be the same as a transgression toward a human.

If you are looking, then, to create an uberman that you can do with as you wish, who will be at your beck and call, who will fight for you, learn for you and do your various bidding, you may not want to consult me.

If, on the other hand, you see humans as “good enough” as they are–even with their “flaws”–and you wish to produce more of them, learn about them and replicate them in the form of hardware, I’m the person you’re after.

 

Transcending My First Memory

I’m going to share with you some things that have been kept quiet in my family for many years. It starts with my first memory. My first memory is of my dad beating my mom. It’s a sad memory and I’ve rarely told it to many people. I can still see my mom, in desperation, trying to fend off my dad.

We never talked much about abuse in my family, but it regularly occurred. It’s time to shine a light on this and move forward.

I am a survivor of traumatic neglect and a witness to domestic violence and child abuse.

I was a quiet and somber child, very observant. I rarely got in trouble. I also experienced a lot of anxiety.

At about the age of 8, I was asked by a judge who I wanted to live with–mom or dad–as my parents went through a divorce. I picked my mom. I thought this would be better and in some ways it was. However, my mom soon married another abusive man, who not only chased her around the room with an ax, but who also abused, in various ways, my two younger brothers.

As a bystander, as a child, I didn’t know what I could do. But when the man my mom married came into my room and told me to pull down my panties, I knew what to do. I pushed him off the bed. But there was little I could do to prevent the abuse happening to my mom and brothers. Occasionally, the man my mom married would want us other kids to participate in abuse and torment. I always refused.

The man my mom married died in a blizzard. I’m sure this was sad for my mom, but it was liberating for me. I attended his funeral and, when a box of Kleenex was passed to me, I looked at it like, “What do I need this for?”

However, I had to live with my dad again for a while. It was during this time I experienced neglect. I was about 12 years old. Although my dad sometimes cooked–and I remember the things he did cook–there was often very little in the fridge. I remember ketchup sandwiches. I even remember stealing money from my dad to buy food from Taco Delight.  Some of my friends’ parents noticed these things and reported them to my mom, who was doing her best to tie up loose ends with the man who had died in the blizzard.

When I was about 13, while living back with my mom, I experienced my first bout of extreme sadness. It was depression.

At 14, I became pregnant. I also moved to a different state–Florida.

Florida has a law which states that every county has to have a school for teen parents. I attended one–now called The Chiles Academy. Of course, I gained a high school diploma, but I also took parenting classes and learned about various kinds of abuse and neglect. I tried to raise my daughter differently from how I was raised. I went by the book. I never, ever wanted her to experience the things I experienced.

My time at The Chiles Academy was great. My relationship with my daughter, I think, was great. After four years–and after meeting many different politicians and leaders–I graduated with a high school diploma.

I decided to go to college. I applied for Daytona Beach Community College (now, Daytona State College). I did fairly well in all my classes–except Math. However, I decided I was ready to transfer, so I applied to Stetson University. I was accepted.

Being a non-traditional, working class, commuter student at Stetson was, well, different. I didn’t come across many other students with my background. Very few of them could related to the experiences of being a young parent.

And, all the while, I was barely treated for the abuse and neglect I experienced growing up.

However, even though I didn’t make too many friends on campus, I did find solidarity and support in the campus culture. Many Stetson faculty, staff and students are involved in the community and social justice activities. I got involved in social justice issues.

I wrote two theses: one on facial affect (for psychology) and one on colonialism (for philosophy).

Not long after I graduated undergrad, my dad got sick with cancer. I had to travel back to Texas to deal with his death.

Soon, I applied for graduate school at the University of North Florida. While there, I did very, very well in academics, teaching and research.

Still I had not gotten help for my abuse.

I had learned to be distant from my feelings. I didn’t take time to process things and transcend them. However, I spoke out about injustice toward anyone else whenever I could. This was empowerment for me. It was as if I was making up for all the times I couldn’t do anything for my brothers and mom. I sometimes wonder if other people who are passionate about social justice are survivors like me.

While in graduate school, I had my first experience of psychosis. Of course, the current routine is: drug them up and hospitalize them.

I wasn’t seen as a survivor of horrific things who had accomplished so much. I was seen as a “schizophrenic.”

New research sheds light on the traumatic experiences people have which lead to psychosis. Instead of seeing these as “ill people” with an “incurable brain disease,” we should look at them as potential survivors of domestic torment and adversity. After all, if you don’t think I experienced adversity, you don’t know the statistics on teen moms. Merely graduating high school is a very real accomplishment for people with my background, let alone going on to college and grad school.

If you glance around my portfolio, you’ll find I have indeed accomplished a lot. My most recent accomplishment is what I’m doing now: transcending my negative childhood experiences.

 

 

On Stigma

Stigma–or, rather, discrimination–regarding mental illness is very common. Most people, alas, are unaware of the stereotypes and biases they hold in their head regarding mental illness.

I have been an advocate against stigma and discrimination for several years. I’ve seen far too many instances of bias and discrimination. I couldn’t help but be an advocate.

I have volunteered with organizations and have watched others grow. The organization I am currently watching–and it’s one to look out for–is Students With Schizophrenia. Founded by Cecilia McGough (Penn), Students With Schizophrenia aims to assist and help college students diagnosed with schizophrenia. Look for Students With Schizophrenia at a campus near you.

Does Finding Truth Require The Right Attitude?

I’ve become laid-back in my old age. I think I’ve also become more receptive to truth. In my quest to treat and think about schizophrenia, for example, I’ve turned in my old, piercing, rigorous mind and exchanged it for a more humble yet adventurous attitude.

In the world of academia, we often find disparate conversations going on. We find scholars who are unable to communicate with non-academics–but, worse, we find academics unable to communicate with each other.

Since I’ve always taken an interdisciplinary approach, I have tried my best to keep up with conversations in many areas of study. Interdisciplinary work is difficult. One reason why is because one has to become a translator of academic jargon–from psychology to philosophy–and then, for me, a translator from academic jargon into ordinary language.

I do my best, as any translator does, but I may miss the tiny nuances when I translate into ordinary language.

These piercing minds–which I used to possess–give us these conversations. It’s an attitude toward truth that most scholars have which constructs towers of babble upwards towards to heavens.

As I mentioned previously, I’ve taken a different approach to truth these days. I’m fond of pragmatism–in a nutshell, what is true is what works. Pragmatism is a world-centered approach. It isn’t looking for some abstract truth-in-the-sky. It is looking for truth in the world.

But is there a specific attitude one must have in order to be receptive to truth? I think there may be. One must, first of all, be an adventurous explorer, willing to try new things. In my quest for treating schizophrenia, for instance, I have had to be open to trying new medications, seeing if they work, and trying new therapies. I even prayed and undertook an exploration of Christianity because Christian psychology can re-structure cognitive processes. My exploration and willingness to try new things will be proven to work for me if my symptoms diminish over the long term.

In addition to being an explorer, one must have the attitude of a shred of skepticism, too. I know that treatments that may work for me may not work for everyone. I have to discuss progress with other people with mental illness and explore large-scale studies to see whether my treatments work for others.

Notice I focus on what works for me. Whatever works is what is true. Truth is what happens to an idea I may have. My idea becomes true just when it works.

I don’t think I need to have the piercing mind, engaged in the harsh minutia of conversations in academia in order to find truth. I just need the right attitude and the ability to explore.

Philosophy Is Dead! Long Live Philosophy!

Stephen Hawking said at Google’s Zeitgeist conference that philosophy is dead. Hawking said that philosophers (who, ironically, developed science) haven’t kept up with recent developments in science.

But is this true?

There are certainly particular philosophers who haven’t kept up with science relevant to their area. However, there are top philosophers of physics who know about the work being done in experimental physics. To boot, when I took metaphysics, I learned about theories in physics.

What’s more, when I was a graduate student, there was a whole hot, new area called Experimental Philosophy, which includes both traditional philosophy and experimentation.

And I certainly got doses of science in my moral psychology courses, for example. There is tons of research in recent years drawing upon work in social psychology, cognitive psychology, situationism, and more. In fact, a few months ago, I spoke with a philosopher delving into the literature on situationism.

I think Hawking needs to reach out in order to gain an interdisciplinary approach–an approach I have always appreciated and undertook. Philosophy and science can interact well together. And, after all, philosophy gave birth to practically every area of study. So, let’s not throw it out just yet.

I Was A “Very Stable Genius.” Then I Developed Schizophrenia. Now, I’m An Unstable Genius.

Ask anyone who worked with me. I was 100% philosophy, 100% of the time. Effort and study creates genius. And I think I was one. A stable one, too.

I was in the middle of my graduate thesis when madness creeped up on me. It began slowly, with things I could handle, like derealization. Then, one day, I cracked. I was triggered by something in an e-mail to me. I responded by joking about it, but it really put unwanted thoughts in my head. I didn’t know how to handle unwanted thoughts, so I tried pushing them away. Little did I know that when you try to push unwanted thoughts away, they just become stronger. This quickly escalated into OCD with psychotic features–then schizophrenia.

I was full-blown mad. Again, ask anyone who was around me at the time. I was also a full-blown genius. The current going theory is that people who experience the kind of anxiety I experienced, while being top-performers, are the best of the best.

I don’t think I’ve lost any cognitive function, which sometimes goes along with schizophrenia. And I’ve been studying ever since I was diagnosed. As I said, effort and study makes genius. That, along with flexibility and imagination, gives you people like John Nash, an unstable genius.

I’ve seen memes recently mocking the president for calling himself a stable genius. Perhaps he is. I certainly haven’t mocked him for saying this.

But it’s important to understand a two things: (1) genius is about work. One doesn’t typically become a genius by not investing time into one’s area of expertise. (2) there is nothing wrong with being a little unstable. I have been known to become psychotic. So has John Nash. Each of us has accomplished things in life–and he is what many would think of as a true genius.

What many people are worried about is whether the president will do something rash in his alleged instability and, for example, bring us to war. He could. But he could also just be performing Madman Theory, which would not only scare some of us, but also our enemies. Either way, instability does not necessarily equal violence, so trying to guess the probability of the president pressing the button is currently, with the information I have, all for naught.

 

Identity And Your Career

I think one of the most detrimental things one can do is identify with their career. I find so many people who do identify with their career. When they lose a job, when they retire, they lose their sense of identity.

When one thinks in terms of oneself as how one sells one’s labor, one is really doing a disservice to oneself. It also makes one extremely vulnerable in that it makes one less flexible. Flexibility, as Jonathan Lear argues in Radical Hope, should be the virtue one aims for in our society. Flexibility gives one the ability to reach beyond one’s current or past way of life and imagine something new and different. It’s the key virtue that lends itself to creativity and imagination in forms of life.

Of course, there’s advantages for your employer for you to identify with your career. If you are so invested in your career that you wholly identify with it, you make a good cog in the working machine. The problem, for you, is: what if the machine stops working or changes direction? What if you have to change careers or forms of life for some reason? When that happens, as it has been known to do, you will suffer an identity crisis. Instead of being able to knuckle down and move on with a different form of life–reaching for different thick concepts–you will be stuck in your old way of thinking while the world moves on without you.

So, do not place your identity in your career.

Gut Feelings: Problems For AI May Not Be With The Brain

According to recent theories, the gut and the brain are constantly communicating. This communication is so important that certain functions attributed to the brain may indeed also depend on the gut.

Having solid gut health has become an important topic in many areas, including mental health.  And, indeed, gut health may help with higher order cognitive functions and more.

The problem with current theoretical understandings of AI, then, is that it doesn’t seem to take into account that the brain is fully embodied and connected with other organs, for which it depends, as well as the gathering information from the outside world.

A recent hypothesis I heard, for example, posited that if one could create a synthetic brain, one would have genuine AI.

I want to suggest that if we really want a genuine AI, we will have to go a few steps further and create a whole synthetic human body. We may not be able to get there just yet, but if we do, we will have truly artificial intelligence.

 

Re-Tracing The Trail Of Tears: My Undergraduate Thesis

I have thought about placing my undergraduate thesis online, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. As part of my research for my undergraduate thesis, I re-traced the Trail of Tears. I visited the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and then followed the trail to present-day Oklahoma, visiting the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

After visiting Oklahoma, my daughter, her father and I went to visit family in Texas. My daughter’s father took a bunch of pictures of the time we were traveling. The above is one that sums up how I felt being photographed.

 

Philosopher-Soliders

John Rawls did it the traditional way. In Ancient Greece, often a person had to serve in the military before becoming a philosopher. While the two–philosophy and the military–may seem incompatible, I think they are most compatible. I will argue that, more than things like AI, we need thinking soldiers.

John Rawls, of course, became disillusioned in the military. But it has been argued that some of his best ideas–and his ideas are great–are rooted in his military experience.

The tradition of serving in the military before becoming a philosopher goes back, as I mentioned, to Ancient Greece, where Socrates served. Socrates went on to become the father of western philosophy.

When I taught philosophy at the University of North Florida, I often had former military people as students. They were wonderful.

I was a Blogger for the Florida Student Philosophy Blog, too, and recall reading an article about thinking and the military. The military, it was said, is not a place for thinking.

I want to argue we need philosopher-soldiers in the military. While it may seem that a highly organized structure, where people merely take commands, is a great way to win, I believe in this century, to make a lasting and incredible impact, we need thinking soldiers.

The military, it has been argued, shouldn’t be a place to think. After all, thinking can get us in trouble. Think of Chelsea Manning, who did think–and unleashed classified materials upon the world. However, in a military where people like Manning are not only not shunned but are the norm, the ideas that come from these minds can aid in winning.

In order to get thinking philosophers, we need to apply ancient theories to the soldier. We need, in short, courses for them in philosophy, taught using the Socratic teaching method.

The Socratic teaching method is ideal because it encourages the individual to think–and think for themselves. Far more than any other weapon we currently have, there is no replacing an active and imaginative brain. We need soldiers skilled in, at minimum, informal logic, basic argumentation, analyzing evidence and cognitive biases.

There is no need for the United States to be afraid of developing soldiers in this way. The mind, when dedicated to the truth of things, is always a winner.

 

A Series Of Misunderstandings: Political Communication In The Contemporary United States

People use signs, signals, actions and words in order to communicate. In the United States, I’ve been increasingly worried that we are starting to use different languages to communicate with one another. I don’t mean Spanish and English. I mean our whole landscape has become so polarized and many of us live in such information bubbles that we have started “signing” in different ways, often misunderstanding one another.

This is a more charitable view than one which states we are intentionally ignoring, poking at, etc., each other.

I initially started thinking about this when I started a #DefendDACA rally. The rally turned out to be an awesome event, being televised across Central Florida. It really wasn’t my doing that the rally turned out so well. I had other, quite wonderful, organizers who made things happen.

But what opponents don’t/didn’t understand is that it takes a lot of hard work and effort in order for such an event to take place at all. I should know.

So, when you see a group of people protesting, you can assume that some of them missed work to do so, some of them had to travel a certain distance, and many other things. In other words, they have to overcome life in order to protest. That’s saying something.

The rally I organized was so successful–with many other rallies taking place across the nation on the same day–that our events made national headlines and generated a conversation about DACA recipients. That’s also saying something.

At the time of this writing, however, the president is saying he will protect DACA recipients if and only if he gets his border wall built.

So the events that have been scheduled since the rally I organized are coming down to a negotiation that will probably not fly on the part of DACA Defenders.

Let me say it again: it takes a lot of effort and work to participate in a rally. If you see successful rallies all over the country, that’s really, truly saying something.

But many opponents of DACA recipients have said things like “Get a job!” to folks who rallied. (To be clear, nearly all DACA recipients already have jobs!) It’s as if they are now speaking a different language–a language in which the effort, time and sacrifices made by protesters is scoffed at or not even acknowledged.

As I survey these actions across the country, I have just had to wonder whether some things, like various propaganda, have left people on the Right speaking a whole other language than people on the Left. This language doesn’t understand the concept of protest, making protests on the Left ineffective (if they are trying to persuade people on the Right).

That we are talking past each other now has real-life consequences. DACA recipients will be protected or not, a border wall will go up or not, depending on how we understand one another.

As someone who has only recently started to live in a Leftist bubble, I can say that many people on the Right nowadays simply do not understand–or take time to understand–arguments from the Left. Yet, I know of scholars devoted to studying the Right, so we on the Left get a translation of what’s going on, which keeps us up to speed.

We are now a fractured nation, speaking different political languages. It doesn’t have to be this way, however. We can become fluent in the language of the other, but it’s going to take some work.

My Rose-Colored Glasses: The Future of AI

Over the past few months, I have made contact with several experts in AI. This includes programmers and philosophers. I’ve come to these individuals with questions about the future of AI.

I initially became interested in AI because of universal basic income theory. Some argue that AI has and will continue to take jobs away from humans and, thus, a universal basic income will be a necessity. Then, I became independently interested in the topic.

There are those who argue that AI will never become fully intelligent. They argue it’s just not possible for an AI to pass the Turing Test, for instance.

Then, there are those who argue that AI will indeed become intelligent–and will take over the world!

I’m in neither of these camps. I favor a universal basic income for reasons independent of AI and its progression. I think, for example, it’s simply time in human history to try this new policy. Being a slave to wage labor is, in my thinking, old-school and barbaric. I think we will eventually get there, too.

It’s with the same optimism that I approach AI. I don’t envision a dystopian future, filled with killer robots. I see a world where AI can develop fully and become intelligent in some of the best senses of the word. In fact, I look forward to new bot-friends who can tell me about their new theories of ethics and political philosophy!

My view may be a minority view. If science-fiction tells us anything, I should probably expect something more sinister. But I don’t. Of course, there will be bots of different purposes and some of them may kill. But one purpose–one need that must be filled–is the human need for connection. And one way of connecting is to have enjoyable, intellectual conversations. So, I look forward to a bot who can be my friend–in almost an Aristotlean way.

You Should Hire “The Dangerous Ones”

I recently came across this quote by Queen Victoria:

There are segments of society who think people like artists, philosophers, the intelligencia and general freethinkers are dangerous. I won’t argue at length on this point. I personally think that while these people may be creative, innovative and overall hell-raisers, they are not what I would call “dangerous.” I have several of them as friends and acquaintances, and I feel perfectly safe. However, after having talked with people who think they are dangerous, I come to this conclusion: If you think we’re so dangerous, hire us!

There’s a precedent for this, too. The government and various companies hire hackers, for example, in order to perform needed tasks. Over time, the value of these kinds of people has become well-known.

So, if you’re looking to hire someone, hire “the dangerous ones.”

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Be At Peace

Despite the fact that I have been exhausted for the past couple of weeks, I have, in general, been at peace with myself for several months now. You may not think that a person who fell from grace when they developed schizophrenia would be at peace. But I am. In fact, I’m more at peace than when I was an aspiring professor, a TA, an RA, making straight A’s in difficult courses, and so on.

When I was in academia, I was often surrounded by critical eyes and subjected to harsh judgements. Even though it may sound silly, I often thought: Am I too fat? Am I too ugly? Am I smart enough?

I don’t know that my standards have gone down at all. But I have learned that having ambition, being excellent in what one does, and having aspirations does not mean one has to be harshly critical and judgmental. I have, in short, been around a lot of assholes who cloak their asshole-ness in terms of being intellectual. I’m certainly not saying everyone I’ve met in academia is like this, but it’s been too many for me to say it’s just happenstance.

Part of this learning to be at peace, coming to terms with myself and accepting myself as I am has been a result of going to counseling. I have a very excellent counselor. She has taught me to be more in touch with my feeling and emotions while not giving up my brain.

The result is that I’ve been able to connect with people in ways I hadn’t been able to connect before. And this has often led to interesting intellectual conversations and connections.

These days, I’m interested in a lot of things. But one thing I’m interested in is quelling our desire for harsh competition, negativity, and harsh judgements and instead focusing on cooperation and care. I have found—and evidence shows—that cooperation, not competition, leads to more fruitful results, anyway.

Quote of the Year

I read a lot this year. Probably too much. I also wrote a lot. Writing is therapeutic for me. One quote I came across this year sums up my position this year–and probably for years to come. It’s from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Emile:

I am not a great philosopher, and I care little to be one. But I sometimes have good sense, and I always love the truth.

This year, with the release of my book, I said my farewell to philosophy and academia.

 

My Prized Possession

I worked on the book Reading Barnard Williams (Routledge Press). I edited the work of Martha Nussbaum and Carol Rovane. The Editor of the whole project, Daniel Callcut, called me “a superb research assistant” in the acknowledgements section of the book. He also gave me a copy of the book, which he inscribed a comment to me on the first page of the book. I keep this page framed along with my prized possessions.

It says, “Jennie, One of my smartest students…ever. Good luck with everything and very fond best wises, Dan”

On Trusting Yourself, Knowing You Are Not Trustworthy

There’s a good article here about the biases we all hold. I mean bias in the psychological sense.

I learned a lot about bias as an undergraduate, and tried to root out as many as I could over the years. I can’t say that I’m perfect (who is?), but I think I’ve gotten better.

I thought this related interestingly to my work on schizophrenia because I want to take seriously people’s narratives about what they think caused their psychosis, and what happened when they went psychotic. But I also want to take into account that we are imperfect when it comes to these things. We tend to overestimate bad things that happen to us, for example. Still, I think it’s important to take the agent seriously.

In practicing the biopsychosocial model, interviews with the client are paramount. However, other data is collected, such as interviews with other people, school records, and so forth. This, I think, is good. It takes into account the individual, and also refers to other data so we can glean a picture of what possibly caused the illness in this particular case, and what treatments we should apply for health. This is a strength for the biopsychosocial model.

After reading about bias, you should be skeptical about yourself. If you aren’t you didn’t take the data seriously. But there are ways to reduce bias, and it’s good to apply them. This could make a better place for all of us. This means you don’t have to remain skeptical of yourself. But it does mean you need to constantly work on yourself.

If you live in a constant state of skepticism about yourself, that’s probably not healthy. But a light dose of skepticism is good.

On Striving within a Culture

I was thinking about how people strive for things.

Aside from basic survival, and other basics of life, most of out strivings are within a context and a culture. For example, I wanted to be a philosopher, and, currently, most philosophers are associated with a university. So I learned the game of the university. I learned how to teach, how to conduct research, who are the important people in the field, and what the major university departments are. My goal, like anyone’s was to do well in philosophy.

But even as I thought about things that weren’t necessarily tied to my culture, these embedded rational decisions were within the context of a culture and, importantly, with the context of an institution. Institution, here, I use broadly, in the sense of being institutionalized.

Most of out strivings are embedded in this way. These are socially constructed realities within which our reason applies itself.

For example, I was just reading a bit about the prestige bias within philosophy. People from prestigious departments are more likely to get hired at prestigious departments. Many people strive to work for a prestigious department, but few do, and it seems that the bias is towards people who are already prestige-affiliated.

But for me, as an now an outsider, it seems to me that these longings and strivings are embedded within a large university-industrial-complex, which I am not a part of. I’m not saying it’s bad to strive in this way, or that that system is a bad thing. I’m just saying the things related–such as where one applies for a job, that one applies for a job, what one wears to interviews, that one goes to the APA, and so forth–are embedded within a constructed system.

I think most of our strivings are embedded in this way. Our reason is often “applied” within a context and culture. This doesn’t make it any less rational, but it does seem that we may be fooling ourselves if we think, normally, that we are applying reason to the thing-in-itself.

Neuroskeptic on Swedish Study

Everyone’s favorite neuroscientist, Neuroskeptic, comments on an interesting study which involves adoption and schizophrenia.

I’ve mentioned that schizophrenia is currently considered a bio-based illness. And I am doing research on the biopsychosocial model, which states that schizophrenia can have multiple causes. But, of course, the biopsychosocial model is not in fashion right now. The research dollars go to what’s trendy, and Engel is not trendy right now. (No matter how much social science evidence we may have.)

This study looks at children who had ill biological parents, and were adopted. It found a decreased risk in developing schizophrenia.

Do take a look at Neuroskeptics’ blog post, and consider reading his blog more often! (I have been a reader since grad school.)

Justice at Both Ends: Preventing and Treating Psychotic Disorders through Social Justice

Introduction

It seems like a cruel joke. People who are already in disadvantaged positions are, on top of that, vulnerable to brain disorders. Then, the society that produced the disadvantage (poverty, racism, sexism, etc.) stigmatizes the person for having an illness.

I want to be transparent here. I am diagnosed with schizophrenia. I live openly with my illness. I am also trained as a philosopher. I had my first psychotic break in graduate school, where I was studying ethics and political philosophy. My doctors told me to apply for disability, but I wanted to work. After a series of various jobs and hospitalizations, I finally applied for—and was granted—SSI. The day I was granted SSI, I cried. It had been an extremely rough ride.

One of the jobs I applied for, and kept until I was hospitalized, was as a case manager. As a case manager, I was trained to treat people in a holistic way. I was to look at each client from a variety of perspectives. But, also, I was trained to advocate for justice for my clients. That’s what I want to focus on here.

Theory and Practice

I want to set aside the theories of justice we learn about in school for a minute, however important and interesting they are. Although my academic training is mostly in philosophy, I have also done an assortment of different work. I have had time to think about—and live out—the issues I am discussing. So I’m not going to apply any certain theory of justice to the problems I am discussing. Besides, Bernard Williams would think applying a theory to a problem the way that is often done would be really uninteresting. And, of course, I want to be interesting.

I am also not going to get into a debate about psychiatry versus psychology. Brain versus mind. I think training as a case manager was good experience for me in diffusing that dichotomy. I am trained to deal with both medicine and psychotherapy, as a case manager. And I am trained to think about the soul and the brain, as a philosopher.

However, I am going to refer to schizophrenia as a brain disorder in this paper. Because that’s what it is, whatever, ultimately, causes it. There is something going on differently in my brain when I am psychotic. I’ll set aside issues of dualism, materialism, and so forth, and let other philosophers better trained in that area deal with those issues.

I am also going to set aside cultural differences. Although there has been interesting anthropological work on the differences in the expression of psychosis, there is also consensus that psychosis occurs in every culture. What I will focus on, however, is treating psychotic disorders in the United States. That’s where I live and am best trained.

“What happened to you?”: Social Causes of Schizophrenia

We know that social factors can be a cause in brain disorders. For example, Holocaust survivors are at an increased risk of developing schizophrenia. There is, we may say, only so much a mind can take.

This does not discount other factors involved in developing brain disorders. However, I want to discuss various abuses and forms of disadvantage at play in developing psychotic disorders.

Prior to taking up research specifically on psychotic disorders, I did a great amount of research in Native Studies. Native Studies is an interdisciplinary field, and I had to learn and read in many different fields—anthropology, psychology, sociology, history, law, criminal justice, philosophy, to name a few. In the social and psychological work I read, it was clear that the effects of colonialism had an impact on the minds of indigenous people. They are at an increased risk for many illnesses, including brain illnesses.

This informed my early notions of brain illness: that it’s mostly social. So, when I became ill, I didn’t know what caused it. (It could be, however, that I have, in fact, experienced a lot of hardship, and was prone to developing a psychotic disorder.)

I eschewed psychotropic medications, and psychiatry in general. I was held, for periods of time, in hospitals and told to be “compliant” (to take medications). I sought out therapy, however, and had a few wonderful counselors. Counselors, I knew, treated things differently. They are not medical doctors shoving, as it were, pills that caused me horrible side effects down my throat.

Eventually, however, I was given an antipsychotic that both managed my symptoms and didn’t cause side effects. I am now a firm believer in taking the appropriate medication at the appropriate dosage, along with therapy, case management, and so forth.

One of my good friends, who, for reasons to protect them, will remain anonymous and vague, works for the military. This is not a delusion. They really do work for the military, and they are not the kind of person you would imagine an ethicist would associate with. The fact is, it’s their job to kill people efficiently and effectively. They are not a soldier. They make the plans that others carry out.

Let’s just say that this person knows how to inflict all kinds of torment on people. (This does not carry out into civilian life.) This person once asked me the most important question anyone ever asked me about my illness: “What happened to you?”

They wanted to know what kind of torment, abuse or disadvantage I experienced that made me have schizophrenia.

I wanted to tell them that I was a teen parent, who had to fight for her education, and was treated very badly by, especially, conservatives as a teen parent. I was told I was going to Hell, and funding for my high school, which was my joy and hope in the world, was always threatened.

I wanted to tell them that I had experienced sexism in the field of philosophy that made me very uncomfortable.

I wanted to tell them that I experienced a lot of sexual harassment when I was working as a teaching assistant.

I wanted to tell them that academia is not made for parents, especially teen parents.

I told my counselor instead.

Stigma

There are at least three kinds of stigma: (1) Self-Stigma, (2) Other Stigma, and (3) Stigma by Association. The literature discusses each of these.

Self-stigma is when a person internalizes the stereotypes and “othering” the society holds about them. They may think they are, in fact, a bad person for having schizophrenia. They may think they are at risk for committing violence. They may think they should be punished, or closely watched. This can cause a person to have low self-esteem, live “in the closet,” and not seek treatment.

Other stigma is when people who do not experience psychosis have negative views and discriminate against people with psychotic disorders. This can include not wanting to date a person with schizophrenia, not wanting to have conversations or be friends with people with schizophrenia, and not wanting to work with people with schizophrenia.

Stigma by association is when people who are associated with a person with a psychotic illness feel shame about having that person in their family, school or workplace. They may lack education about people with brain disorders, and there is evidence that proper education about these issues can lessen stigma by association.

Stigma can lead to discrimination by making people treat one differently. As someone who has dealt with gross amounts of stigma, I can say that people have treated me as a potential threat, a wild-eyed disarray, and needing to be “compliant” and tamed. This, even when my symptoms, which have never been threatening, were at bay. Stigma leads one to “see” you differently. It leads to bias in how your actions are interpreted.

I have learned to deal with stigma by living openly and “calling it out.” I risk all kinds of things doing this, but it’s the only thing I know to do.

Justice at Both Ends

We may live in a world where luck is involved, but there’s luck and there’s luck. We have the ability to change our world, to make things better for other people and ourselves. We have the ability to reduce the amount of negative luck people experience. For example, if we alleviated poverty, there would be fewer brain disorders, just as if we reduce child abuse, there would be fewer cases of child PTSD. If we want to reduce the amount of brain illness in the world, we need to be committed to justice.

At the same time, there are people who do and will continue to suffer. For those people, we need justice at the tail end—we need justice for people with brain disorders. This means making people feel OK with accepting government benefits, increasing government benefits so that people with brain disorders are not living in poverty, and, of course, reducing stigma.

I hope I have made a case for justice before and after psychosis.

World Philosophy Day

Today is World Philosophy Day. The U.N. put out a statement regarding the celebration of this day.

I studied philosophy for several years, and still keep active in the field by being on the editorial committee of an academic journal.

I remember my first philosophy professor, Dr. Rob Brady, at Stetson. He was a dear man, and I recall him saying, “There is nothing beyond philosophy.”

He said this when we were discussing the definition of philosophy, which is an endeavor itself.

But I remember thinking that, if philosophy encompasses everything, that’s the major for me! And, it’s true, there is a philosophy of everything.

Indigenous Studies

I started researching indigenous studies as an undergraduate. I did my senior thesis on Native American colonization. I developed some great friendships and gained excellent experience. I have written, given lectures, and invited talks on indigenous studies. I am acquainted with top scholars in the area. One of them, Steve Russell, wrote a very interesting book on the subject: Sequoyah Rising. When he was writing the book, he asked me to go over part of the manuscript. I did. I also gave him some feedback, and was credited in the acknowledgements section.

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Six Years Ago

It’s hard to believe that it was six years ago that I was working on the book Reading Bernard Williams. I was privileged to edit some really great essays, and gain valuable experience in editing and writing. Although the editor, Dr. Daniel Callcut, was kind enough to give me a hard-copy, I bought the e version recently and read it. The copy that Dr. Callcut gave me had an inscription in it that I keep framed.

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Academia.edu

As many who know me know, I worked in academia for quite some time. In fact, I still do. I am on the editorial committee of an academic journal. But that’s not all. I am also on Academia.edu. This is a great site in which I can follow academic topics I am interested in. I can also follow the work of people who inspire or provoke me. I have uploaded some of my academic work there, and will do more in the future. If you are an academic, I encourage you to go to Academia.edu to see whether you would like to set up a profile. If you do, let me know. I will follow your work. I am interested in most everything.