Housing First and Housing Initiative of Florida

I specialized in ethics when I studied philosophy. There’s many aspects of ethics and one of them is adequate housing.

I’ve recently written about housing here. It’s not an issue I’ve covered a lot on my blog, but it’s an issue I’ve discussed elsewhere quite a bit.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, NPR did a yearlong report on the need for housing and housing first initiatives. Housing first initiatives, in general, see the need for independent, safe housing as prior and separate to others things, such as mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment. Housing first sees housing as a basic right for individuals and doesn’t pre-suppose treatments or other “strings-attached” when it comes to getting a place to stay.

I’ve been an advocate of housing first for several years. Now I’ve decided to do something about it. I’m starting a nonprofit to help at-risk individuals gain a pathway to homeownership. You can check us out here.

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.

 

 

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.

New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. However, the New Year coincided with some changes in me. They aren’t resolutions, but they are a general direction I’m taking my life. They range from pretty basic to seemingly difficult. They are as follows:

  1. Don’t date assholes.
  2. Go to the library more.
  3. Create a new idea.

I’m doing well on the assholes part. I think that I should date someone who deserves me, my love and what I can bring to the table. I am enough. I am more than enough. I don’t need someone. And I’m willing to wait for the right person, if the right person ever comes along.

I’m also doing well on going to the library. I’ve checked out 5 books since the New Year. This should be something I can keep up because I love reading.

Creating a new idea is more difficult. I genuinely love learning, studying and learning about other people’s ideas. This would have been around the time I would have finished a PhD had I not gotten sick. So I figured I’d do something I would have done had I finished: create a new idea. It’s a tall order. But, even if it’s a small idea, I’ll take it.

Again, these are not technically New Year’s resolutions. They are just the way my life is unfolding and it happens to be around the same time as the New Year.

Slow And Steady Wins The Race?

Back when I was a TA, I got really, really good at thinking on my feet. Super good.

Time has worn on and I find myself preferring slow deliberation these days. I don’t think this is a sign of lacking intelligence, either. I think of it as both gaining intelligence and wisdom. We tend to prize quick thinking. But quick thinking can get us in trouble. Reflexes vary, of course, and can be trained. But I think our society, which can tweet in an instant, has become more and more biased and less seeking of truth due to the reliance on quickness over slow deliberation.

Take, for example, a conversation I had prior to Christmas with an expert on AI. I’m still thinking about the ramifications of that discussion. I may have a few brief thoughts, but nothing well-formulated just yet. I will talk to people about it, think it over more, and so forth, before I come to a safe conclusion.

The theory is that reflexes, if not heavily trained, are ridden with emotion, bias and other things. The more time we have to mull something over, the more likely we are to weed out those things.

One problem is that, for many people, there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to deliberate. I suggest: Take a walk. Cut down on your TV time. Heck, cut down on your social media time–to spend time reflecting. We may just become a better society because of it.

On Citizenship: The Problem With Birth Tourism

You’ve probably heard about the growing trend in Russia (and other places) for pregnant mothers to give birth to their children in America. This is, of course, not a very new idea. Some see it as exploiting a loophole. These folks ask: what can be done?

Well, there’s several possibilities. Here’s a few:

  1. Do nothing. Let these families give birth to their babies and do as they wish. This could lead to many possibilities, including closer ties with other countries and the breakdown of America as a global empire.
  2. Track the families of the babies to ensure they are not threats or foreign agents.
  3. Change our citizenship requirements. This would mean changing the constitution.
  4. Extend citizenship over certain countries. This would possibly be a colonial move, but it could be framed in a more positive light.

There are different ways of forming citizenship requirements–and this is something I’ve thought quite a bit about. You see, I’ve done some work on Native American issues. I gave birth to a Native American child. She gets dual citizenship–in both the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the United States. This is because she meets the citizenship requirements of both governments. As for me, I get no benefits from Choctaw Nation. I will never be able to get Choctaw citizenship because Choctaw Nation uses “direct lineage” or “blood quantum” as the requirement for citizenship.

My daughter gets to be a citizen of the United States because, in 1924, the United States granted citizenship to all Native Americans.

This was an interesting move. Some Native people wanted to be U.S. citizens, but others did not. This unilateral move is what finally gave Native Americans the ability to move forward as full citizens of the U.S. But it wasn’t all sunshine and roses.

Tribal nations are currently colonized by the United States. They are considered “domestic dependent nations.” As such, they have limited jurisdiction over their territories.

What does all this have to do with Russia? Well, if it turns out this is some ploy to defeat the United States, it’s clear that this will not work. The United States can unilaterally declare all Russians to be U.S. citizens. This would put Russia on par with tribal nations.

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.