2/21/2011 1:48:22 PM
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 13 percent of the American adult population is getting treatment for a mental health problem, through therapy or medications. With these levels, it’s inevitable that quick fixes and wonder drugs enter the conversation. But can energy psychology—an immediate cure for what ails you, executed by simply tapping on acupressure points on your skin—be for real?
Albert Szent-Györgyi, the 1937 Nobel Laureate in medicine, observed that, “In every culture and in every medical tradition before ours, healing was accomplished by moving energy.” But although energy psychology (EP) has been around since the 1980s, it still struggles to gain acceptance from its professional peers. In Psychotherapy Networker, psychologist David Feinstein writes of his quest to discover whether EP is hoodoo or good medicine. Here, he witnesses it cure a woman’s paralyzing claustrophobia:
She was shown where and how to tap on a series of points on her skin while remembering frightening incidents involving enclosed spaces. To my amazement, she almost immediately reported that the scenes she was imagining were causing her less distress. Within 20 minutes, her claustrophobia seemed to have disappeared.
The tapping technique has been found to soothe other phobias like the fear of heights and negative emotions such as anger, guilt, and jealousy. As clinical evidence of these small victories comes to light, the method’s reputation is improving.
Beyond standard therapy-office ailments, EP has also proven effective on treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Psychologist Caroline Sakai led an especially moving session at a Rwandan orphanage. The results are encouraging:
Of the 400 orphans living or schooled at the facility, 188 had lost their families during the ethnic cleansing 12 years earlier. Many had witnessed their parents being slaughtered, and they were still having severe symptoms of PTSD, including flashbacks, nightmares, bedwetting, withdrawal, or aggression. The study focused on the 50 teenagers identified by the caregivers as having the greatest difficulties. All 50 were rated on a standardized symptom inventory for caregivers and scored above the PTSD cutoff. Each then received a single acupoint-tapping session lasting 20 to 60 minutes, combined with approximately 6 minutes spent learning two simple relaxation techniques. Not only did the scores of 47 of the 50 adolescents fall below the PTSD range following this brief intervention, these improvements in serious conditions that had persisted for more than a decade held at a one-year follow-up.
In the end Feinstein, an initial skeptic, is convinced:
I can’t fully express how surprised I am to find myself standing here telling you that the key to successful treatment, even with extremely tough cases, can be a mechanical, superficial, ridiculously speedy physical technique that doesn’t require a sustained therapeutic relationship, the acquisition of deep insight, or even a serious commitment to personal transformation. Yet, strange as it looks to be tapping on your skin while humming “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” it works!
Source: Psychotherapy Networker
Image by allegra_, licensed under Creative Commons.
2/21/2011 10:51:49 AM
No, this post’s title isn’t cheap shot at Mark Zuckerberg, creator of the ubiquitous social networking website. After the protracted, regime-ousting protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, new Egyptian father Jamal Ibrahim has named his firstborn daughter “Facebook”. TechCrunch obtained a translation of the Friday, Feb 18 issue of Al-Ahram (“A New Day”), the popular Egyptian newspaper that first broke the story:
The girl’s family, friends, and neighbors in the Ibrahimya region gathered around the new born to express their continuing support for the revolution that started on Facebook. “Facebook” received many gifts from the youth who were overjoyed by her arrival and the new name.
Every stripe of social media has been wed to revolution and dissent, but Facebook resonated most strongly during Egypt’s tribulation. TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis argues that “while the baby girl could just have easily been called ‘YouTube,’ ‘Twitter’ ‘Google’ or even ‘Cellphone Camera,’ it seems like Facebook has become the umbrella symbol for how social media can spread the message of freedom.”
All in all, Ibrahim’s gesture was personal and endearing. “The idea of someone naming their children after physical objects or other peculiar stuff is usually reserved to quirky Hollywood celebrities,” writes All Facebook’s Jorge Cino. “And yet, all possible jokes aside, the parents’ intention is no doubt a noble one: To thank the medium they believe helped the most in spreading their message of mobilization and freedom.”
All Facebook, TechCrunch
, licensed under
2/16/2011 4:04:32 PM
Robots, of course, are everywhere, and though some might find them creepy they're generally a lot more useful than clowns.
Maybe robots aren't actually everywhere yet, but here at the Utne Reader we seem to read a great deal about robots, and much of that reading seems to suggest that robots will soon be babysitting our children, tending to our sick, and keeping many of us company in our dotage. Some of the people involved in the robot industry, in fact, believe that we may soon see the day when robots could be our very best friends.
Like plenty of other people I am advancing on dotage with alarming speed, and I'll admit that I sometimes worry that, as a childless old man, there will be no one to care for me --let alone talk with me-- when I can no longer care for myself and get tired of talking to the walls. Except in a pinch (and it may well come to that) I can't really imagine I'd want a robot for a best friend, but I don't suppose I'd mind terribly much if a robot was around to open soup cans, speak my name from time to time, and make sure I didn't hurt myself doing calisthenics. My Utne colleague David Doody, who is also my personal physician, assures me that there is no reason in the world a robot couldn't make a dandy personal care assistant and Gin Rummy partner. He said he read a robot article that I must have missed that said that robots are even handier than crossword puzzle dictionaries and can also turn on the water in the bathtub and insure that it is neither too hot nor too cold. I wondered aloud whether it might be possible to program one of these elder bots so that it could convincingly simulate the voices of friends and loved ones, and Doody said that, yes, he felt certain this was possible. He even suggested that a robot could be taught --I don't know if that's the right word-- to discuss television shows or literature with me, if only --at least for the time being-- in a prompting, conversation-starting way (i.e. "Do you enjoy this program?" or "What was the name of Don Quixote's squire?").
Anyway, I guess I'm all for this sort of thing, and if there is going to be a proliferation of robots I can't help but hope for the peaceful coexistence of humans and robots. In science fiction novels I read when I was young, the robots always seemed to be portrayed as either slaves or combatants, and I think it would be an encouraging, progressive step if we were able instead to truly embrace them as helpmates.
In the January 21st issue of The Chronicle Review there was a story about a woman named Sherry Turkle who is some kind of scientist at M.I.T. (She's also the author of a book called Alone Together). I guess you'd have to call the article a "cautionary tale," in that Turkle started out sort of starry-eyed about robots and their potential; so much so, in fact, that there was an early moment in Turkle's career when she developed a "schoolgirl crush" on a robot.
"Imagine standing in front of a robot, gazing into its wide, plastic eyes, and falling in love," Jeffrey R. Young writes of that early moment.
You can read the article yourself, but suffice it to say that these many years later, now that all of us are inching closer to being able to fall in love with robots, Turkle is no longer so keen on the idea of "sociable robots." She now finds the notion that a man might one day marry a robot --an idea put forth by David Levy in a 2007 book called Love and Sex With Robots-- repellent. What David Levy is saying, Turkle contends, is that "for someone who is having trouble with the people world, I can build something. Let's give up on him. I have something where he will not need relationships, experiences, and conversations. So let's not worry about him."
Turkle then wonders, "Who's going to say what class of people get issued something? Is it going to be the old people, the unattractive? The heavy-set people? Who's going to get the robots?"
Who's going to get the robots? might seem like a pretty good question, although my assumption would be that the people who can pay for the robots will be the people who are going to get the robots. But I'm guessing the kind of robots we're talking about here --the kind you could marry, for instance-- are going to be pretty expensive, so maybe there will eventually be government-issued robots for people like me.
Ultimately, Turkle strikes me as a bit of killjoy. "We may be drawn to machines like this robotic seal," she says in the caption to a photo of her snuggling with a robotic seal, "but they can never deliver on their promise."
That sounds to me like the sour grapes of a woman who's had her heart crushed by a robot.
Source: The Chronicle Review
Image by Joamm Tall, licensed under Creative Commons.
2/16/2011 1:14:55 PM
Couples have more options than ever when choosing the right contraception for their relationship: There are pills and patches, IUDs and surgeries, shots, diaphragms, and sponges. Recently, researchers have even made significant advances in the development of male contraception. All of the choices make the latex condom seem rather, well, old-fashioned—which is good reason for prophylactic pushers to give the condom a 21st century makeover.
Sir Richard’s, a condom startup whose slogan is “Doing good never felt better,” donates one condom for every condom bought on the shelf. The company has a clever ad campaign, to boot. Sir Richard’s, reports Fast Company’s Cliff Kuang, “is advertsing its wares not by promises of hair-pulling, nail-scratching pleasure, but rather economics. Simply put, it costs so much to have a damn kid that you better not have one by accident.” “Suggested Retail” stickers on the product packaging remind shoppers that a child's diapers cost more than $1,000 per year and that a Bugaboo stroller retails nearly $900. The company’s street advertisements mention the cost per year of sending a kid to college; in a stark font, the posters are inscribed with reminders like “The Dalton School - $35,300 per child/per year.” Ouch.
New York City recently unveiled a smart phone application called “NYC Condom Finder,” which uses your phone’s GPS to locate the nearest free-condom dispensary. “Considering that there are 3,000 such venues throughout the city,” writes Good’s Cord Jefferson, “it’s unlikely a person would ever be very far from a gratis prophylactic.”
One legitimate concern, applicable to both Sir Richard’s and the New York City Department of Health initiative, is that these marketing tricks may only resonate with affluent consumers, ostensibly those who’ve already received plenty of sex education and can afford smart phones. “[W]e’re seriously doubting that many unexpected parents end up with Bugaboos and tuition bills from Chapin,” writes Kuang. “Smart as the [Sir Richard's] campaign is, it probably needs more than a little of the everyman touch to truly be relevant. After all, having a kid is expensive, no matter if it’s a silver spoon or a tin spoon in their mouths.” In an ad campaign from a few years back, Trojan took that everyman approach and reminded men that if you’re not serious about contraception, you’ll get thrown into the pig pen.
Sources: Fast Company, Good
Image courtesy of Sir Richard's.
2/15/2011 11:18:35 AM
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month, technology journalist Evan Ackerman was the first person in the U.S. to walk in a robot suit called Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL). The exoskeleton was created by Cyberdyne, a Japanese company that envisions the suit assisting physically disabled people, though the company has been contacted by the U.S. Army, which may be interested in testing the suit, according to a story on IEEE Spectrum’s Automation Blog. Apparently all you have to do once inside the suit is think about moving and the suit takes over:
The suit works on intent: the user needs only to "think" of moving his or her legs—the suit does the rest. That's because the brain sends signals to the muscles of the legs, and the sensors detect them.
“Once I figured out how to stop trying to walk in the suit and just let the suit walk for me, the experience was almost transparent,” Ackerman said.
While the first video below is pretty remarkable—one can easily see the potential for a great amount of good for those who struggle with mobility—the second video shows where this technology is inevitably headed. Even as modern warfare moves farther and farther away from the actual battle field, those soldiers still on the ground may soon resemble those future warriors in a movie from the 1980s about humanity’s demise.
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