Regina Saphier: The Century of the SelfPosted: November 21, 2020 Filed under: English Text, English Video | Tags: Anna Freud, Sigmund Freud Leave a comment
Regina Saphier: The Century of the Self
What is the series “The Century of the Self” about? (The Century of the Self, BBC, 2002, 4 part series, 4 x 60 minutes) To me the series is about how Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays (as a PR professional), and one of Freud’s six children Anna Freud, and even Hitler (in his political PR) used the famous Austrian neurologist’s psychological insights and methodology (plus the PR insights of Freud’s nephew).
Yes, indeed, Hitler adopted Freud’s and Bernays’ knowledge of the human psyche for the purposes of mass political manipulation, therefore Freud’s insight became a weapon of mass destruction. Since there were no goods to satisfy desires, goods were replaced by the ideal of “serving the nation”. “The Century of the Self” is about how Freud unknowingly built the psychological toolkit of the persecution and genocide of his people.
Later, his over psycho-analyzed daughter, Anna Freud went out of her way to develop a generalized psychological theory of the “American society”, to prevent anything even remotely similar to the Holocaust. She wanted people to have emotional tools to keep their unconscious desires under control (her goal: instead of experiencing, people should control and suppress their impulses). This approach (obviously) backfired.
It is especially important to notice that while the US government financed the development of therapies and educational methods that would result in suppression of emotions, US enterprises invested in psychological research to increase sales (making people hyper focused on fulfilling their desires), and both did that at US universities! Astronomical budgets were spent on the generalization of two opposing impulses. Nobody could quantify the suffering this complex and contradictory brainwashing had on millions of unsuspecting people. This brainwashing is ongoing and you can easily notice this when you open a magazine and pages after pages contain luxury sweets, gourmet foods, weight loss programs, and models who obviously have extremely low BMI.
Suppress or indulge, that is the question. People in the eastern parts of the EU had a sudden high dose of this contradictory brainwashing after the borders were opened. And this horrible impact clearly shows up in people’s behaviors. In my opinion, treating uneducated and unprepared people like this is a criminal act, because experts are using psychological insights against the masses that individuals don’t possess, while those clueless individuals were instrumental during the market research process in focus groups.
The series tells the story how PR and the focus group method of psychoanalyst Ernest Dichter were combined to support the elections of Clinton and later Blair. Clinton’s reelection was achieved by the analysis of the desires of undecided voters (not only based on statistics, but also based on psychology and targeted questionnaires). This “desire-mining” resulted in Clinton’s success. Freud’s psychoanalysis applied to politics. Later Blair used the same method, but he even believed his own narrative that was based on the desires of his voters (after simply having copied the desperate Clinton campaign’s questionnaire based method, because it apparently worked). Simply put, the two politicians narrated what people (based on the targeted questionnaires and focus groups) wanted to hear. This approach is obviously morally wrong, because voters don’t always desire what their real needs are. The best example: The condition of the railway system in the UK did not show up as a primary need, but when the service became noticeably terrible politicians were immediately blamed.
I agree with Robert Reich! (Note: It shows the humanity and kindness of his family that in Northampton his sister Ellen once gave me her own apartment for a few days when I worked for CTY of Johns Hopkins University in 2002.) According to Robert, who for a while served as the secretary of labor during the Clinton administration, a politician who aims to fulfill irrational desires has no mandate. Bill Clinton responded by saying that if he doesn’t get reelected he can’t do anything. This is why Robert Reich quit politics and Clinton’s personality clearly got (even more) distorted by the pressures of his desperate steps.
It has always been my opinion (let us imagine me as a cute toddler with my curly brown hair having this opinion already) that mass democracy is a distorted phenomenon. It is still lacking even in societies with the best education systems, because humanistic and rational decisions would be needed and those require waste interdisciplinary knowledge, understanding of systems, and maturity, and that should be true for each and every member of a society. This requirement isn’t present in 90% of individuals, not even if many of them are degree holders. In my opinion elections aren’t decided based on rationality because humans aren’t rational beings. The Obama campaign wasn’t based on rationality either. It was based on the fondling of desires.
In Hungary for example in 2014 it was the general disillusionment in relation to Europe and the national inferiority complex that was easy to be used in an economically and socially ruined, vulnerable and backward country. People voted in larger numbers for the one who narrated what they wanted to hear, even though they knew that it wasn’t true. Most Hungarian citizens don’t know much about the world, because most people can’t speak any languages and most of them use the internet for idiotic activities. And every party should be ashamed of their behaviors (even today).
So, this series is about how the famous and infamous talents of the Freud family influenced the history of the XX. century (and even the XXI. century). And a particular representative of this influence is Anna Freud. This woman had enormous social and psychological impact… However, sadly she wasn’t a healthy human being! After having been over analyzed by her own father in relation to her depression and eating disorder… after having been addicted to masturbation… she remained a virgin until her death… She clearly got stuck in a personal emotional hell of not being able to be an authentic woman with well integrated impulses. From one extreme to the other. According to a relative, Anna Freud was a very cold adult. Based on her father’s theories and methods she suppressed all of her sexual impulses for life. She became the main servant of her father’s oeuvre.
As a famous therapist she for example used the four children of a billionaire divorce to develop her methods to divert societies, like the masses of the US, in a “good” direction. Based on her theories and advice the CIA developed a national method to teach people how to follow norms and how to suppress their unconscious and unwanted desires.
Parallel to this Edward Bernays was working to kindle, manipulate and legitimize on a mass scale impulses (almost turning them into a right): to smoke, to have an expensive car, fancy clothes and anything the average heart desired… or suddenly believed to desire, need and even deserve.
Again, this high profile and contradictory brainwashing went on and on. Companies were screaming at people to live their deepest desires, while the state whispered: suppress your desires. Hm… Just what could be the reason behind the massive number of depressed people in the US. And not only in the US… Anna Freud was so blind to her own mistakes that not even the fact that one of the four siblings she experimented with died of alcoholism and another committed suicide in her house in London during a psychoanalytical program. This was the horrific result of her distorted, emotionally stunted, left brained, analytical “love” for humans.
It is important to mention that Edward Bernays didn’t like people, he could only handle large crowds, and never believed in democracies. He was most likely a psychopath with zero compassion, or a sociopath with very limited empathy. His skepticism was based on the theories of Freud. He used this knowledge to lead people by their noses… or more specifically by their psyches.
According to the daughter of Bernays it was a terrible experience to have a father who assumed that everyone was an idiot. Such fathers are smiling or snarling depressed monsters, who maintain their unstable self confidence by constantly trying to destroy the self worth of their child and wife (notes by me: these types of people are mostly sociopaths and narcissists with some ability to feel anxiety… psychopaths don’t care about other people’s feelings at all… unless the person has acquired psychopathy… but these people all mostly look at others as means to their ends). Instead of building up their family members’ souls, they aim to destroy them while experiencing a perverted joy. In my opinion these people are extremely dangerous and as of today can not yet be cured and should be avoided (it is OK to have compassion for them, but it is also vital to keep a very healthy distance from them). People who look down on others never ask for help and never change their narcissistic point of view. To me this looks like severe brain damage that distorts such mentally ill people’s perception.
According to Wilhelm Reich’s daughter (no relations to Robert Reich), not much good can be expected of people like Anna Freud, who became asexual as a result of her father’s analysis. The woman who determined child psychology remained childless, as a result of the paternal trauma that she never faced up to. This should be emphasized because this is a horrific constellation. Anna Freud was an emotional wreck who was destroying a society among the most vulnerable. She systematically brainwashed children on a national level based on her own delusions. I seriously don’t understand people who respect Anna and Sigmund Freud. The father was a monster who played with people’s psyche, while his daughter determined the nature of child psychiatry in the developed world, and caused unimaginable damage to millions of people. I am sure she also did some good things, but as an heiress and as an internationally influential mental health professional she made sure her work and her father’s work is only seen in a positive light. She controlled all of the publications. Sigmund Freud turned away from people when he was an old man. We should turn away from Sigmund Freud.
Anna Freud acted out of a compensatory, yet delusional love for humanity. She suppressed her female impulses, first to serve her father’s creation, and second to “serve” the children of others. Bernays wanted to cynically control and manipulate the masses by making them believe that they are free, and able to achieve their dreams, fulfill their desires. Consuming goods is going to occupy their minds and entrepreneurs are going to become rich. The terrible motto of Bernays was essentially: “Consumption makes you free.” Anna Freud’s motto: “Freedom isn’t a goal, adapt at any cost, suppress your primal and human impulses.” These are already wrong on their own, but devastating when forced on an unsuspecting society at the same time.
The age of needs was replaced by the age of desires, created by Freud and Bernays. Freud provided the theory, while Bernays unethically and unscrupulously implemented these theories in the business world. Societies the world over are suffering from these tragic mistakes since the 1920s. Bernays and Anna Freud ended up in the large scale business of controlling the masses.
Those people who opposed Anna Freud, like Wilhelm Reich, fell out of favor (W. Reich went mad, his life and traumas predestined him to lose his mind, and he died in a prison in his sleep)..Those who criticized Anna Freud believed that the individual shouldn’t be blamed for their impulses. Rather it is the social context that pressures them to do the wrong thing. This destructive social pressure is what people should break free from (this is what people need help with). In the age of network analysis we now know that this is true on many levels. This means that instead of the externally and artificially induced desires, people should access and experience their true selves (whatever that means…). However, the true self is shaped by the surrounding society. If the society is sick, has the wrong values, that makes the individual sick. In a healthy society the same person would be most likely healthy.
Unfortunately, I am not surprised by these organized mental health crimes against humanity (add to this the criminalization of healing psychedelics). There is an interesting experiment that perfectly demonstrates the extreme influence psychological interventions can have on people (controlling the masses versus releasing the individual). In a US convent nuns participated in an experiment that increased their individual awareness… To put it simply: The convent was soon disbanded.
The women who had to look and behave as similar as possible suddenly became individuals. The question is: When they left the convent and underwent another brainwashing, were they happier people as consumers? The freedom of shopping can’t be the optimal freedom of people. But is there a true freedom of will? Doubtful, because people are social organisms. Humans (supposedly) are just one type of organism living on Earth… in the Universe… in the Multiverse… The individual got trapped by “modern” and artificial social pressures and is now empty… has everything… or believes to have nothing… and is therefore unhappy. Alone as an individual… reduced to the level of the consumer who thinks that products exist to show his or her uniqueness as an individual. But those products exist to make investors extremely rich and influential.
The endless stream of goods is there to serve the desires of the investors. But are those people happy? I don’t think so! There are many artists who could see and show the empty lives of the 1%. I also had multiple opportunities to witness this emptiness. For example while studying at Columbia University I participated in 12 group psychotherapy sessions of a famous Manhattan psychotherapist. An average human being can’t imagine the shallowness, the snobbism, and the emotional destitution of rich people of Manhattan. I was a total outsider, an international student, and I knew that these people were the prisoners of this expensive therapist. Buñuel’s movies came to mind…
These were my thoughts after I watched The Century of the Self many years ago. The mini series is in itself a manipulated version of reality. It is how the director wanted to represent Sigmund Freud, Edward Bernays, Anna Freud, Hitler, Clinton, and Blair. Individual subconscious processes… artificially inflated desires versus suppressed desires. Sales, genocide and emptiness. We have a shocking century behind us, and now we live in the era of social media manipulation… The movie is the story of the confused self and ego. Every character in this series was talented, influential and severely damaged.
In Zen Buddhism it is a fundamental idea that we create the world with our minds. I agree with Gábor Máté MD that it is also important to consider that first the world creates our minds (and most people in the developed world are traumatized and disconnected and many people will be helped by psychedelic therapies). People are looking for their own selves… a concept… a feeling… Not many people know how it feels to be a human being in a healthy community and society. We are healthy when we are in flow, we learn, we create, we grow and help others. We are healthy when we are in a healthy connection with ourselves and with others. The goal is not to own things. The goal is to help decrease suffering. Aim to be a better human being and build strong and loving connections with each other. Stop focusing on yourself. Start focusing on helping other people, while also taking care of yourself.
Watch the Century of the Self:
Regina Saphier: The Jordan Peterson (Psychedelic) ExperiencePosted: July 9, 2020 Filed under: English Text, English Video | Tags: IDW, Jordan Peterson, Psychedelic Therapy, Trip Treatment Leave a comment
Jordan Peterson is a controversial Canadian clinical psychologist and psychology professor. He is also a best selling author and a member of the IDW. I think he is a very troubled and very talented human being. While he would so intelligently talk about the historical use of psychedelics (see video below) and how this relates to spiritual development and clinically proven healing of mental illnesses, he (in other videos) would warn against their use… and then he takes the prescribed and dangerous Benzodiazepine for his own anxiety (he also struggled with depression in the past)… and that action almost killed him recently, because his body developed a dependency. Instead of asking for a psilocybin trip treatment in the Netherlands his irrational fear kept him in the super dangerous and detached realm of psychiatry. He could have cured his depression and his anxiety with one or two psilocybin trips and a good trip guide. Instead in his “left brained” hyper rational blindness (Avidyā), devoid of his intuition, he almost killed himself. His example says it all. This is why psychedelic therapy should be a separate field, distinguishing itself by being in touch with nature and human intuition, while also being scientific and spiritual (but not religious). Once a Jordan Peterson type of person understands the difference and stands up in support of this new field, he will be healthier, a more adept leader and a true healer. This is my personal opinion.
If you share my post, please share it with his excellent lecture on psychedelics, healing and spirituality:
Jordan Peterson – The Shamanic Experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gaGKdYBG6E
Regina Saphier: Becoming a Psychonautic PolymathPosted: February 10, 2020 Filed under: English Audio, English Text, English Video, Uncategorized Comments Off on Regina Saphier: Becoming a Psychonautic Polymath
Regina Saphier: Becoming a Psychonautic Polymath
When I was a teenager one of my teachers asked me what I am going to become when I grow up. And I responded that I would like to become a polymath. At the time I didn’t know that I could also become a psychonaut. Looking back, I am sure many polymaths were also psychonauts. In the end I became a sort of introspective “intellectual hedonist”. I am interested in many things and I love to share my knowledge with other people (but I am not going to save you the hard but beautiful work of self directed learning… if something is unclear there is the internet to explore… most of what I know: I noticed, read, heard or watched online).
Magic Mushroom Therapy and the Psychedelic Renaissance
If you have never seen the documentary DMT: The Spirit Molecule and if you never listened to the narratives of the clinical research volunteers of the famous study (or if you never had any “spiritual” experiences), you probably have no idea that your everyday reality is only a very narrow niche in the Universe (by spiritual I mean anything from a lucid dream to a near death experience). We should be really grateful to Rick Strassman MD who is basically one of the initiators of the psychedelic renaissance of our time. His volunteers after receiving intravenous DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) traveled to other universes, encountered entities and communicated with them, and in this altered state of mind some of them even lived alternative lives. Those who understand the topic know that DMT does not cause addiction. On the other hand it has a fascinating ability to open the mind and despite the short duration (only a few minutes) and the clinical setting the volunteers ranked the experience as one of the most important experiences of their lives. If people were as curious as me they would also react like this: “I would love to see this for myself at least once during my lifetime.” Sadly, most people are not as curious as me. Luckily for me, these days there are clinical studies happening in the UK too and perhaps one day I could become a volunteer in a DMT study.
As an interesting side note by the mild geek that I am, also during the early nineties as part of the series “Star Trek: The Next Generation” the famous episode called “The Inner Light” was broadcast. In that episode Jean-Luc Picard, the Captain of the Starship Enterprise while experiencing the projected memories of an alien civilization lives 40 years within a few minutes on an unknown planet. I also have to add, that these days serious people are debating whether we live in a base reality or in a simulation. Statistically our chances of living in a base reality are slim! Also related is the fact of neuroscience that our reality is a personal hallucination composed of the impulses that enter our brains. In this context the DMT experiences of the volunteers are especially interesting.
This video (below) contains a refreshingly interesting and creative chat about the topic of simulated reality. Artificial Intelligence expert Lex Fridman interviews philosopher and cognitive scientist David Chalmers.
A common theme of the DMT experience is that the new dimensions are more real than reality itself. Without any exogenous compounds I also had a few similar experiences, therefore I know what these people are talking about. It is possible because DMT is also produced by the human body. In my case two types of emotional conditions resulted in spontaneous, astonishing and memorable spiritual experiences: as a teenager meditative, focused listening to classical music with headphones in the darkness alone, and during my later years mourning triggered some extraordinary and beautiful experiences (but only after the death of people very close to me… the death of my dogs who were also very close to me did not trigger any spiritual experiences, despite the deep pain of having lost the perfect and conflict free love of my dogs). I am not religious, therefore I did not think of angels and gods, but the completely materialistic explanations appeared shallow too (materialism is also a kind of belief). During meditation I am able to stop the inner chatter and I feel very peaceful (I am only a beginner, but meditation already helped me tremendously to survive difficulties). I exist and I notice the “suchness” of things.
Learn more and see clearer!
Although I am an open minded and curious person, I had a similar take on psychedelics as Michael Pollan for a long time. I highly recommend his famous articles called: Trip Treatment and My Adventures with the Trip Doctors. In part it is his making that harmful prejudices are decreasing against beneficial psychedelics. According to Timothy Leary: “LSD is a psychedelic drug which occasionally causes psychotic behavior in people who have not taken it.” This is a brilliant observation. However, it is important to be careful with psychedelics! For example if you have one or two special genetic mutations you can end up having a very serious psychotic break when using marijuana (but this is rare). Set and setting are very important and psychedelics are not for everyone.
In this video Joe Rogan (a multitalented american who knows a lot about psychedelics… don’t be misled by his meathead look… he is very intelligent, curious and loves people) talks with writer Michael Pollan about psychedelics.
Fun fact: I am watching Joe’s one-on-one chats regularly and YouTube thinks that I am a man! Just because of the smart, curious people I am watching on YouTube the algorithm assumes that I am a man. I can tell based on the advertisements (for months I got all sorts of suggestions for men’s soaps and shaving creams for example). YouTube’s algorithm is clearly sexist! LOL Someone should tell Joe that more women are watching his show globally than he thinks (and also more and more children probably… so perhaps watch the language Joe… I know you can do it…). In fact probably more women are on YouTube than YouTube thinks.
I never smoked (I refuse to let that toxic mix enter my lungs), I almost never drink alcohol (I am not a fan of alcohol, but an excellent Port wine after dinner or a cold beer during the summer can be nice), and I did not try cannabis ever, not even when all four of my travel companions tried it during my teenage years in Amsterdam. I was the living monument of sobriety all my life. Of course people thought that I was nuts. I admit, I am definitely not neurotypical.
My father was a regular drinker and that bothered me a lot. My mother rarely drank alcohol and she was also bothered by my father’s evening drinking (he drank beer, wine and strong drinks… not too much… but very little already made him insufferable… thankfully, he was never physically violent). When they turned middle aged, both of them quit smoking and both of them were very paranoid about addictive substances (my father was unable to see that besides drinking, compulsive collecting of objects is also an addiction related to brain chemistry… I on the other hand could very clearly see that I am going to inherit a shocking amount of objects… and that was no dream, rather a nightmare… I am not interested in owning objects, especially not so many objects… I have always been more interested in what happens in people).
Obviously, parental influences, lack of information and my peer pressure resistant character resulted in my categorical rejection of psychedelics until about 10-15 years ago. I lumped them together with dangerous hard drugs that cause addictions. Today, I know that I was simply uninformed. One day I met someone (sadly, he died young because his heart stopped due to chronic stress… he knew a thing or two about suffering) who explained to me that the use of mind altering substances goes hand in hand with human suffering and creativity… and that went on for thousands of years. At the time (due to a burnout) I was also suffering tremendously, but I still did not use any exogenous substances. I am not the pill popping type. I applied science and self directed learning to become functional again.
Suffering, learning, and the decision
I spent the last 15 years (among other things) suffering with my parents while they struggled with three different cancers plus a relapse. The lowest point of this horrible time period came when my mother died of cancer, a few weeks later my extraordinarily talented, highly intelligent and remarkably kind partner (who suffered from depression since his childhood) died of sudden cardiac arrest (his body could not take a lifetime of chronic stress any more), and finally a few months later my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and he died within three months. Many people would break under the pressure of so much suffering, stress and pain if three of their loved ones died within 8 months. I did not break. My own strength surprised me too, but I could feel that I was in a lot of pain. I still did not become addicted to alcohol, pills, or any other types of drugs.
I experienced unimaginable amounts of suffering and I lost my loved ones who were my family. I meditated and consciously managed my energy to be able to survive those years. Meanwhile, I continuously studied psychedelic therapies. For years it was clear to me that this is going to be the right path if I need help (not the expensive, time consuming and slow talk therapy, neither alcohol, nor pills). By the time meditation, gardening, chats with friends, and laughter yoga weren’t enough to help process all the tragedies and to be able to move on with my own life, I knew exactly where to turn once I make my decision. I knew the place where I could try the psychedelic therapy legally, safely and effectively.
My trip to the Netherlands
Based on my personal experience in the Netherlands I can safely say that everything the international clinical studies are saying about the beneficial and healing properties of psychedelic therapies is TRUE!!! Magic mushrooms for example are safe and effective healing organisms, when used in an appropriate setting and with the right mindset (this is what “set and setting” means).
To be afraid of magic mushrooms and their psilocybin content is like blaming the sponge, the vinegar and the water when a mindless idiot falls from a window while cleaning it during icy weather from the outside. (Based on this people actually should be very very afraid of alcohol, after poor alcoholic grandpa is hit by a truck while biking home.) If the window cleaning moron stood indoors, there wouldn’t have been a serious accident… Also, obviously, nobody should try a psychedelic on the balcony of a skyscraper. (The same way you should not bike around on public roads while under the influence of alcohol.) During my own magic truffle trip I was completely conscious, and I was in a safe and legal setting. When I opened my eyes everything looked normal, but I also definitely did not take the heroic dose that Terence McKenna was talking about (I added a video below with 24 hours of Terence). The DMT in ayahuasca and the psilocyn (produced by our bodies upon ingesting psilocybin found in magic mushrooms), are so called substituted tryptamines. Psilocyn in high dose could trigger a very DMT like hallucination, once attached to your serotonin receptors.
Our entire being functions based on such molecules. The experiences of our human existence are the results of chemically and biologically continuously modulated states of minds. In essence every individual, in their own brains, during every moment, hallucinates his or her personal universe. In case this personal hallucination is functional, the human being is able to live in relative harmony with his or her environment (this harmony can be based either on inner strength and knowledge, or on mindless conformity). We talk about mental illness, when the individual’s personal hallucination isn’t in harmony with the consensus “reality”. It is also possible that the individual’s “reality” hallucination is the truth, and the consensus “reality” is delusional. Just remember the case of Giordano Bruno… Society decided that it was best for him to burn to death because he was too sophisticated and knowledgeable for his time… his world view was much more developed than the consensus “reality” hallucination of his time. The cowardly and power hungry politicians (including the politicians of any church) have always been terrified of courageous, independent and intelligent people. It is not easy for the human mind to figure out truth and reality. According to Zen Buddhism our lives are only illusions, and we enter the path to enlightenment once we are able to see this and we begin to thrive to decrease the suffering in the world.
A trip around psychedelics
Initially, I was interested in the therapeutic impact of psilocyn in the human brain, especially the successful elimination of existential anxiety in terminally ill cancer patients, and the stunningly effective treatment of (otherwise) treatment resistant depression. Today I am also interested in the amazing healing properties of ayahuasca. The problem is not that one day we are all going to die, and until than life has a lot of suffering in store for us. This is life. The problem arises when we are not in an appropriate mental and emotional state to put up with this, deal with it, make good decisions, while we also relate appropriately to ourselves and to others (in relation to these I highly recommend the Zen Buddhist world view… I don’t agree with everything but it is a usable toolkit for life).
Sometimes one experiences too much stress and it is an intelligent idea to find a solution that is clinically proven to support trauma processing and helps regain one’s balance quickly, effectively and without adverse reactions. It won’t do anyone any good for the traumatized person to wait until a clinical depression develops, because if that happens society has to pay for a long term, debilitating and expensive antidepressant treatment, or for a drug/alcohol rehab again and again… And yet this is what happens and this is what is legal… Note: Now we know that many psychedelics can help people quit their addictions, even the long term types. What is legal, might not be morally acceptable. And things that are morally unusual, sometimes those are the right solutions.
A few decades ago it was believed (and it was clearly a delusion) that babies don’t feel pain. This is why babies were operated on without anesthesia. What barbarism! But at the time this was legal. This is what the medical community believed in. The torturing of infants was clearly a morally and medically unsustainable practice. And yet at the time those who were criticizing this barbaric practice were condemned. Today, the same is happening with people who know that it is not magic mushrooms that are dangerous, rather it is alcohol that is killing a large number of people. It takes a long time for the truth to saturate the social fabric.
For now I don’t feel the motivation to actually travel to Costa Rica or Peru to participate in a few ayahuasca ceremonies (unless it is a retreat with people like Dr. Gábor Máté or Dr. Rosalind Watts…). There possibly are other, closer options. For example, apparently, ayahuasca isn’t illegal in Italy. Also in Italy, right now it is legal to personally grow, harvest and use a small amount of cannabis. So, some Italians are trying to approach this topic with tolerance. Of course even in Italy audacious politicians keep telling the lie that all drugs should be banned because all are dangerous (sadly, many are using this topic to accumulate political capital… it is especially interesting, because people of more conservative orientation have much more active amygdalas, as opposed to more liberal people… and it is particularly the more conservative people who are more open to political fearmongering who would benefit most from the healing power of magic mushrooms… those who suffer most from their fears are unable to see that politicians only make things worse and increase their fears and push them further away from the very things that could ease their anxieties and pain… conservatives are supposed to be more into community building… but by coloring psychedelics as dark and evil things conservatives often do divide and hurt people).
In the Netherlands ayahuasca use is illegal since 2019. In 2008 magic mushrooms were also made illegal, but due to a legal niche truffles (the underground growing parts of magic mushrooms) are not illegal. Truffles of haute cuisine and psychedelic truffles shouldn’t be confused! Magic truffles contain all you need for a healing psychedelic trip. In Spain and in Austria the home growing and personal use of magic mushrooms is decriminalized. People should always carefully analyze the legal situation before making any decision in their particular environment and at a given time… for example if you are a US citizen and use mushrooms in Denver or Boulder in Colorado, you are ok, but if you are a tourist in the State of Colorado with a US federal visa, you could get in trouble for possession… So, use your brains people and be very aware of the local laws in any case and know about any possible law that could impact you at the time of use. Also in the US where more and more states decriminalize or legalize psychedelics, two churches legally use ayahuasca and those church members are measurably healthier people compared to the general population.
Entheogens and gods
When the goal is religious or spiritual ecstasy, we are talking about the use of entheogens. During human history hallucinogenic plants and mushrooms obviously contributed to the birth and development of religions. Sadly, instead of being intimate places of self-development and healing, today churches are mostly institutions of political brainwashing, devoid of authentic, deep and transformative spiritual experiences. In these institutions people are worshiping remarkably narcissistic, distant and psychopathic gods. You have to beg them, you have to fear them, they see everything… but they don’t give any fucks about you… you still have to admire them… you have to praise them… and you have to bring all the sacrifices (including your money)… Very familiar… typical self-absorbed and selfish male images… and you “just” have to blindly trust and believe in them. Tragically, millions of people still buy into this story, because due to their fears and culture they don’t have any other spark of wit. Society, the local culture, the school system and most families don’t bring up children to create their own independent and constructive world views, rather most children are brought up to be conformist adults maintaining the status quo. Therefore people reach for Jesus and alcohol, depending on what is on the shelf in the cultural pantry, because these components are at eye level and easy to pick. Anything else would require conscious, thorough discovery, learning and effort, but time and attention is not dedicated to these. Fact is, you can live a morally exemplary life without believing in god.
For example in the country where I live now alcoholism is a national tragedy. Yet alcohol is not prohibited (of course prohibition would also not do anything good). Any adult can drink as much as they like and just in this country tens of thousands of people are killed by alcohol per year (here the number of drug related deaths are incomparably less… I am going to tell you the ratio at the end of the article). For example many idiots are driving while being drunk. (Idiot in my dictionary means an individual who is suffering from ignorance.) Everyone knows that alcohol can ruin you even while you are sitting on the couch (it can destroy your liver and your family), it causes addiction, it alters the state of your mind, it does not heal your nervous system, rather destroys it. This does not stop people from imbibing excessively to the detriment of society and their own self. Similarly, masses of people belong to shallow and flashy churches, instead of looking for love and active compassion independently within to be able to relate to others through these positive emotions.
Churches that use ayahuasca in my opinion are positive phenomena. They represent the middle ground. There is true spiritual experience in their religious practice (gaining and holding on to political power is not their primary goal). Jesus (had he existed in accordance with today’s christian consensus) would have told people the following: Stop pretending that I am your guru, don’t admire me, use my teachings, take care of your self and others. Take off the copies of my dead body from all the crosses. Enjoy life. Eat magic mushrooms. Magic mushrooms exist to heal you, and to help you to turn to each other with loving kindness. That is the essence of my teaching.
Things that are good for you are prohibited!
Whatever would heal the individual and society (for example magic mushrooms) are prohibited in many countries. Their use is punished. This is simply a tragic mistake! The hysterically rejected hallucinations are similar to colorful migraine auras, for example interesting geometric visuals, and in addition they are harmless when used in a safe setting with the right mindset. I know that large amounts are able to trigger some really scary experiences, but these are part of the process, and everyone gets the trip they need (again: set and setting are fundamental). In the right setting you can work through the experiences. A bad trip isn’t more dangerous than a nightmare (when people use psychedelics in an emotionally and physically safe environment). You can learn from a nightmare too. Even a difficult trip can be elevating and your return can be euphoric. Emotionally some phases can be difficult, but these are part of the healing, and I am ready to face my feelings. It was one of the best decisions that after thorough research I opted for psychedelic therapy and traveled to the Netherlands.
In this video Joe Rogan talks with one of the world’s most interesting mycologists. Paul Stamets in this interview for example tells us how as a teenager he tried magic mushrooms and how the heroic trip (he cluelessly ate too much of the mushrooms) unexpectedly cured his stuttering. I regularly watch Joe Rogan’s multi hour chats with some fascinating guests. (One can learn a lot by watching YouTube!) Joe Rogan is a martial artist and a stand up comedian.
A trip around my receptors
After a long theoretical preparation my practical decision to travel to the Netherlands was quick and spontaneous. I could tell that my pain was too much in relation to the tragedies and a generalized anxiety started to manifest itself. I knew that this wasn’t me. When a person experiences too much stress and trauma, the organ in his or her skull becomes more or less dysfunctional. The brain is an organ just like for example the liver. When the liver has to process too many toxins, it becomes damaged. At the same time the liver has amazing regenerative capacity. Before a particular point of no return it can be cured. The brain has very similar amazing regenerative capacity. People of the 21st century should finally understand that the brain is an organ and when it becomes dysfunctional there are many ways to heal it (but the solution is not necessarily in the hands of the pharmaceutical industry). Furthermore, the brain is also part of a bodily and social system.
I know that a Zen Buddhist would have recommended a few more years of meditation to nicely heal my traumatized brain, but I would like to feel better right now, I would like to be creative and productive now, and I want to be a helpful, pleasant and entertaining company for others now (instead of becoming a burden). The Jesus believers (bless their hearts) would have recommended prayer and the regular and long term ingestion of some “natural” remedy (something mind altering… like 5 htp… a precursor of serotonin… it fits the same system in the brain as psilocyn that our brains make out of psilocybin… psilocyn beautifully connects with our serotonin receptors… if the result is not a hallucination rather a better mood it is still an altered state of your mind… a better mood compared to your bad mood is an altered state of your mind…).
Thankfully, I have never been the kind of person who is impacted by peer pressure. I didn’t smoke pot just because everyone else did. I don’t drink just because everyone is drinking. And I am not going to limit my practice to meditation only just because a group of people and their leader only believe in meditation (and some of them don’t like to admit that many of them have LSD to thank for their first spiritual or religious experience… Rick Strassman tells this story in his book DMT: The Spirit Molecule). I search for my path and follow it. Even an acquaintance tried to stop me, who as a psychotherapist tried magic mushrooms many many years ago but had bad experiences. Based on my research it was clear to me that he used magic mushrooms inappropriately, but sadly he still could not see that. This is why he (with the best of intentions) repeatedly tried to talk me out of my plan to get better or heal myself effectively and quickly. I would have been a huge idiot if I listened to him! While I knew that I am on the right path, naturally I also had some anxieties, because I was planning to try something exiting and new, in another country, with a trip guide I have never seen before.
When I was younger, I used to travel a lot, but due to the tragedies I have not left my native country for a long time. Terribly difficult years are behind me. I am grateful to my old friend who happened to travel to the Netherlands for work that he arranged everything for me and supported me throughout my short journey. I needed a respectful, tolerant, balanced, helpful, reliable and intelligent person who knew the area. He was the one. I made the right choice.
We did not travel to Amsterdam, rather we booked two very nice hotel rooms in a smaller town (I told reception that the rooms should be close to each other due to health and safety reasons and that did the trick). My room even had a functioning fireplace and I used it all the time! Before my journey I had to fill in a long questionnaire for my trip guide to know my story, and I also had to participate in an online intake interview. Traveling itself had an immediate healing effect on me. I really needed to be in a new environment. My trip guide arrived the day after my arrival. She traveled from Amsterdam to the small town to support me. She was a lovely, strong, kind woman, much younger than me. Instead of a businesslike greeting handshake we hugged one another as if we have always known each other. I am dyslexic, so I kind of missed the part where I was advised not to eat things that contain fat. I had some bacon and an egg for breakfast (thankfully, I did not drink coffee and alcohol). So, we postponed the start of the trip with one hour to avoid any problems and everything went well.
It was really hard for me to eat the fresh magic truffle. It has an unpleasant taste. It was easier to eat it with coconut water. (Interestingly, the rather boring coconut water became really pleasant during the trip. At the same time the lovely taste of the mango was gone during the trip!) If I ever ingest anything like this again I am going to make a tea out of the truffle bits. A few minutes after I ingested the first bits of the truffle I became very relaxed. Next, I felt kind of weak. So, I was headed to my bed. I was tripping in another country in a darkened hotel room with a stranger in the armchair. With my travel companion (who had to work that day) we agreed that he comes back to the hotel in the afternoon and if I don’t contact him until 8:00 pm he comes in and rescues me. Thankfully, everything went just fine. (My friend worked about 15 minutes away from the hotel, so in case of an emergency he would have been back in no time. Of course I also had travel insurance.)
The magic truffle that I ingested supports introspection and emotional processing. Initially, I observed something like a multidimensional serpent lantern. Its surface was covered by embers emitting colorful light. It was beautiful! I had a pleasant feeling, I was curious and I felt calm.
After a while I felt the onset of a panic like feeling and it gradually grabbed my body. This was very unpleasant… and it just would not pass. This is when my guide set on the edge of my bed, held my hand and started to talk to me. She told me that these feeling are deeply embedded in the body and if I face them I am able to process them. She asked me if I am able to let myself experience these feelings. I responded by saying that yes I want to face these feelings and I would like to let them go. I don’t want to suppress my feelings. The uncomfortable inner phenomena lasted for minutes. It was draining and subsided gradually.
I know from my readings that psilocyn has a very specific impact on the amygdala in the right hemisphere. After the trip I kept thinking about the uncomfortable feeling that had neither verbal nor visual information attached to it, that it could have been related to the fact that normally there is no speech center in the right hemisphere, while the amygdala has a lot to do with anxiety and fear. The unpleasant panicky feeling that I experienced a few times during the trip could have been related to the fear or anxiety memory of past experiences… the bodily feeling on its own… without any of the specifics. Apparently, these were emotionally manageable feelings because they were gone during the trip and no grim flashbacks were left behind. (When someone encounters unexpected, forgotten and severe past traumas it is especially vital to have a skilled, calm and compassionate trip guide present. Thankfully, I didn’t experience anything severe.)
Later, after my trip was kind of over, my trip guide told me that middle eastern men are so detached from their own feelings that they need five trips and (compared to the amount I ingested) twice as much truffle to be somewhat able to access and process their feelings. This explains a lot of why women in many of those areas are in such a horrible situation. The brutal suppression of women equals the forceful suppression of authentic feelings in those societies (by the way, the West also has some very similar issues…). I didn’t suppress my feelings. A few times I cried so powerfully that my ears were filled with tears. My trip guide focused on me, when necessary supported me, and she let me experience my feelings. When I laughed she laughed with me. This intense and flexible therapeutic presence isn’t possible within the framework of traditional psychotherapy. Traditional psychotherapy also isn’t capable of what magic mushrooms are able to do to the brain in one or (ideally) two sessions. Contemporary clinical studies (for example by the Centre of Psychedelic Studies at Imperial College London) show that psilocyn drastically lowers the activity of the DMN in the brain. This triggers a rewiring of the brain. The brain begins to heal itself.
DMN: Default Mode Network
The DMN is basically the conductor network of your brain that sets the tone of your existence when you are awake. When your brain does not work properly, the DMN coordinates the dysfunctional activity. When due to magic mushrooms (or regular meditation, artistic creation, and other activities that require concentration) the impact of the DMN becomes minimal, the brain begins to regenerate, because new connections automatically build up between different, even distant parts of the brain. The network that represents the regenerative activity is the task-positive network in the brain. It is basically the network of the flow state. Once the trip is over the brain remains in this more effective state of functioning and this regenerative process (I can tell you from my first-hand experience) continues during the next few days and weeks.
After I returned home my generalized anxiety (in a milder form) returned for a few days, but one day it was suddenly gone. Note: Unfortunately, later symptoms can come and go when you are unable to legally access magic mushrooms and psychedelic therapy from time-to-time in your own environment. For anxiety, depression, OCD or PTSD and so on patients should be able to have free and legal access in their own countries to these mental health tools as needed. In the end you should be able to access these anywhere you go when needed. The therapy should be used to regain balance and to eliminate the disturbing symptoms. The goal, depending on the issue, is curing, healing or symptom management. The goal is basically the repair and the maintenance of a healthy balance in the brain.
Many of my OCD symptoms were gone too. I did not ruminate. I became more open to new experiences. I noticed my creativity returning. I was suddenly able to do the things that I planned to do for a long time. I could tell that a more optimal me started to manifest itself. This I must say is an amazing feeling! Immediately after the trip I was euphoric. It was a kind of afterglow (your mood can slightly fluctuate for a few days because the trip impacts your serotonin system, so a good trip guide will give you supplements for a week). In the evening I was tired and felt a bit down. The next day I felt fine. I was glad that I had this new experience, but I also felt like this was enough for a very long time. A week later I had the feeling that one day I am going to go for another trip because the first one helped a lot. But there is no chance for addiction! The main result was that my psychological flexibility increased even after one trip. This is amazing!
Forbidden self-healing ethnobotanical homeworks
Legal, so called “merciful killings” by medical pain relief
It is stunning how schizophrenic my fellow natives are when it comes to mind altering substances, or healing plant medicines. It is forbidden by law to use magic mushrooms, LSD, DMT containing ayahuasca, cannabis, MDMA and so on. Basically, anything that carries the possibility of knowledge, creativity, spiritual and personal development, physical and emotional self-healing is illegal. At the same time it is not forbidden, rather legal and customary to prescribe drugs that cause hard core addiction and death to terminally ill cancer patients by medical doctors. By the time relatives realize what is going on, their loved ones already and legally obtained addictive and destructive drugs. In the end very often within weeks or hours this is what kills them not the cancer, because they simply stop breathing. In my opinion as a result of the so called “modern” medical treatments a large number of cancer patients aren’t killed by the cancer, rather by the chemotherapy and the prescribed hard drugs! Sadly, I could’t convince my mother that she should not accept another chemo when her horrible cancer returned (her first chemo treatment already almost killed her and it destroyed her body and mind), because it won’t help, rather it will be harmful (and sadly, I was right). I would have given her eg.: a legal cancer vaccine in Germany (personalized immunotherapy), and psychedelics in the Netherlands (these are all forbidden and unavailable in my country). These would have made it possible for her to live without paralyzing anxieties and depression (that was triggered by the cancer and the chemo) for many months or even years. Her doctors gave her chemo and at the very end morphine. They definitely significantly shortened her life and they also caused tremendous suffering to her, to my father, to my partner and to me. I am the only one who survived this torture. In the US there is an obvious opiate crisis, while luckily more and more states decriminalize or legalize the personal (recreational or self-healing) use of psychedelics. By self-healing of course I don’t necessarily mean self-curing, rather many times it is about intelligent physical and emotional symptom management. But sometimes it could even mean self-curing.
Meet Rosalind and Gábor, two experts I came to appreciate the most while learning about psychedelics
I could mention a lot of names, but my favorit psychedelics researching therapist is Dr. Rosalind Watts who is one of the brilliant minds at the Psychedelics Research Centre of Imperial College London. In her LondonReal interview she told her story how she went from being skeptical to being absolutely convinced that psychedelics are there to heal people. Her childhood friend as a young adult developed severe depression and she decided to travel to another continent and experience an ayahuasca ceremony to heal herself. Rosalind did not know anything about ayahuasca and she tried to stop her friend from carrying out her plan. Rosalind’s friend thankfully ignored her opinion just like I ignored my psychotherapist acquaintance’s advice to forget about the therapeutic use of magic mushrooms. Rosalind’s childhood friend returned and was cured of her depression! This happened many years ago and she is still healthy. This experience and Michael Pollan’s “Trip Treatment” article guided Rosalind towards psychedelic psychotherapy. Today, as a world famous researcher and therapist she completely believes in this method because she witnesses every day how people are healing even from treatment resistant depression. Following the amazingly positive impact of Michael Pollan’s publications, more and more famous people reveal their experiences and talk about their healing with psychedelics.
With one click you can watch the first part of Rosalind’s interview via YouTube below. Or following registration you can watch the full interview for free on the LondReal website. The interviewer Brian Rose has a very interesting story and I enjoy many of his multi hour chats with some fascinating people. Joe Rogan and Brian Rose are intelligent, talented and highly successful global representatives of a new type of independent and long form media (Note: Brian Rose behaved in an unacceptable way during the pandemic… I am kind of sorry for his guests… and viewers… he clearly had the opposite of an ego death during his ayahuasca ceremonies… Meanwhile Joe Rogan remained his authentic self. Thank You Joe!)
Another favorit of mine is a Hungarian born Canadian medical doctor who believes that severe illnesses (like cancer) and unprocessed traumatic life events are connected (based on the bio-neuropsychosocial model), and people can be helped with ayahuasca. I agree, there clearly is a connection. After Dr. Gábor Máté published his book “When The Body Says No” (it is well written, but due to the topic not an easy read), following his lectures more and more people started to ask him if he knows anything about the healing properties of ayahuasca. People assumed that he knew, because he as an MD used to work with drug addicts, but those poor souls used addictive and destructive hard drugs, not the healing psychedelics that don’t cause addiction (there is a major difference between the two groups of substances). At the beginning he kept saying that he does not know anything about ayahuasca, because he really had no idea about it. After a while he became really annoyed by these questions. Finally, he thought “perhaps the universe is trying to tell me something” and ten years ago he tried ayahuasca himself. These days he regularly travels to the rain forest (at age 75!) to participate in healing ayahuasca ceremonies and he experienced its physically and emotionally transformative properties in others too. I also agree with him that in the future when in the appropriate setting and with the appropriate mindset trip treatments could also help schizophrenics and people with bipolar depression. His compassionate inquiry method should be part of the curriculum at every medical university and teacher or therapist training institution.
I think Tim Ferriss made one of the best interviews with Gábor (note: when Gábor says “8 years old”, he really means “8 months old” … he was a Jewish baby during the Holocaust in Hungary in 1944).
Epigenetic trauma hypothesis, possible psychedelic cure
Over ten years ago I read an article about a specific protein’s level being lower in lab mice that were not groomed by their mothers properly (were neglected or bullied), compared to mice that were properly taken care of by their mothers. As a result of the early negative experiences the mice showed defeated behavior, were anxious, gave up fighting easily, in other words they were depressed. The lack of love and appropriate care resulted in constant failure and humiliation, and it wasn’t their own making. Further research showed that the genes responsible for the production of the protein (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor) were “clogged up”. In their vicinity there were too many methyl groups. The researchers tested multiple compounds that decreased the amount of methyl groups and increased the amount of acetyl groups on the specific chromosomes. The long term impact of the early trauma was wiped out within weeks and the behavior of the traumatized mice became completely normal! Sadly, the article does not even mention the possibility of psychedelics as possible test compounds.
The immediacy of the positive impact made me think that these two topics are somehow related. What if psychedelics impact genes and chromosomes and increase the production of important proteins and other compounds in the brain (and all over the human body) that are necessary components of healthy adaptive functioning in humans too?
I’m not a scientist and I didn’t do any detective work in relation to this thought experiment but: What if it’s true?
My hypothesis is that beyond the beneficial impact of the lowered activity of the default mode network, psilocyn, DMT and other psychedelic molecules cause quick and constructive genetic changes in the brain and this is why the healing individual is so suddenly able to experience his or her optimal personality traits. Because you are what your genes are manifesting (plus, what society is successfully planting into your body and mind). I would love to examine the level of this protein before and after psychedelic use in mice and in people. I immediately started thinking about renting a lab, hiring a few people and researching my hypothesis, but because psychedelics are illegal in my country it would be very very difficult to receive permission to do this type of research, despite the fact that I would pay for it myself. In case the protein level is significantly higher after psychedelic use, that would show that for example magic mushrooms have a direct healing impact on an epigenetic level. This finding could speed up the medical use of psychedelics and could quickly decrease human suffering on a very large scale.
Thinking further along these lines it is easy for me to imagine how stable serotonin levels in people living in healthy communities could have a serious balancing impact on a genetic level. It is definitely not an accident that during the research of longevity it wasn’t diet, rather it was the presence of a healthy and strong community that was typical of centenarians’ lives. The good community was the main common theme, not the super healthy type of food ingested on a regular basis. It is also the lack of community that causes the western mental health crisis. A healthy community does not mean a perfect group of people. People need communities that lovingly sustain them without violence. In order to create such communities people need help. We have to heal ourselves to find each other and create healthy, sustaining and sustainable communities.
While working on the English version of this blog, I spent some more time thinking about this process and I came up with another possible explanation. What if it is not directly psychedelic compounds that tweak the genetic settings of the protein production in the brain, but rather it is the heightened activity of the task-positive network upon the psychedelic impact, or meditation, or artistic activity, or sports and so on. Meditation clearly helps maintain the quick positive impact of psychedelics in the long run and so does belonging to a healthy, active and loving community.
Possibly both ideas could be true. Psychedelics could have a direct impact on methylation and acetylation on a genetic level (all over the body), and other constructive activities could maintain and stabilize the healing impact by down regulating the default mode network, allowing regeneration and maintaining psychological flexibility during flow activities made possible by the heightened activity of the task-positive network in the brain. We should also look at the connection between psychedelics, the task-positive network and the parasympathetic nervous system. This feels like the regenerative axis connecting nature, body and mind.
The closing thoughts of the completely independent long form blogger
Sadly, very few people are able to afford a professional psychedelic therapy in the Netherlands because it is expensive. (Note: It is problematic that the company takes absolutely no responsibility if anything bad happens to you.) Based on my thorough online research and after one personal experience (that is fading into the past) I believe that using psychedelic therapy for self-healing isn’t wrongdoing, but making this option illegal or inappropriately regulated is a very counterproductive idea. My native country is full of traumatized people who are suffering, and it is forbidden to them to effectively heal themselves, and they are permitted to escape into alcoholism and to ruin themselves and their families. We can rest assured that the Dutch people gladly spend the income generated by the sales of psychedelic substances. I’m also sure that the good people of Colorado in the US feel the same way about the high income generated since psychedelics are more available. Psychedelics should be legal and their therapeutic use should be regulated. People would feel better, be healthier and through the recreational revenues would also make more money. Win-Win!
What surprised me very much is how uninformed Dutch people are about this topic. My trip guide told me that airb&b guests should for example expect lower ratings if their hosts learn about their psychedelic use while renting. My trip guide’s acquaintances are also very often shocked when she explains her job. This means that Dutch people are not as liberal and well informed as one might expect. Imagine how conservative the Hungarian majority is… In both cases the problem is obviously lack of information, lack of knowledge, and the presence of deep seated prejudice. This means that even the Dutch government and media are doing a really bad communication job in this area. Much better communication is needed! In Hungary the situation is much much worse. Even among the highly educated population one is able to observe complete ignorance, fear and prejudice. In everyone’s best interest, in order to make the much needed and urgent healing of people all over the world possible: Please, open your eyes! Knowledge is all over the internet.
A message for the few paranoid readers: I am completely independent of governments, institutions, business and any nonprofit organization. I am an independent individual and this blog post contains my well informed personal opinion. Because of my personality, I follow the law and I encourage others to do the same. On the other hand the law should be adjusted to the scientific advances and the needs of the people. Psychedelics clearly work. They have neuroregenerative and inflammation lowering effects (both are supported by serious international clinical research). Psychedelics support the understanding of others and ourselves (when the right intentions are set). They should not be included in legal texts that are defining and banning substances that are dangerous and have no healing properties. It is also grotesque to make a wild mushroom illegal. It is part of nature and it isn’t even poisonous (and interestingly the ones that are, aren’t illegal…). DMT is also part of nature and the human body. Psychedelic molecules exist in order for us to heal and improve. Dear reader, the more resistance you feel against this topic, the more you would need a few bits of magic mushrooms.
Despite having had access to the psychedelic treatment through the free market of Europe (also in part as a result of these being illegal in Hungary), I am against the for profit exploitation of this mind opening therapeutic modality. When it comes to recreational use, I am all for business. Psychedelic therapy should be provided by the states for free. Magic mushrooms and other healing psychedelics should be legal to grow at home or purchase in shops. After a few therapeutic sessions (when needed) people should be able to use them independently. Obviously, a serious educational campaign is also necessary. Based on the amazing results of the leading international clinical research groups, change is inevitable. Resistance is futile! Why not make the change in a smart way.
Let me share what the most famous Hungarian toxicologist Dr. Gábor Zacher told during an interview: Every year in Hungary 30 000 people (of the approximately 10 million) are killed by alcohol, and only 40 are killed by hard drugs (and not by psychedelics). 750 times more people are killed by alcohol and it is still legal… Psychedelics don’t kill anyone, rather heal people and are illegal… This is an unsustainable and horrific situation.
After having lost all of my close loved ones in this country and because most of my friends live in other countries, nothing really keeps me here. I am again able to move to another country (where laws are more intelligent, where people like me are appreciated, and where the society is healthier). I am gradually letting go of everything that I own in Hungary. Despite this I would like to help decrease the suffering of people in Hungary. This is why I wrote this blog in the first place in Hungarian. With the new English version I would like to help people globally. Thank you for your attention!
Mesmerizing bonus! Below you can watch visuals that are typical of DMT trips.
Regina Saphier: Advising Cancer Patients (the European Perspective of a Patient Advocate and Adviser)Posted: August 14, 2017 Filed under: English Text | Tags: Cancer, Cancer Immunotherapy, Cancer Vaccine, Medical Games, Medical Robots, MRI guided HIFU, Oncompass, Participatory Medicine, Precision Medicine, Proton Radiation Therapy, Turbine Leave a comment
Regina Saphier: Advising Cancer Patients (the European Perspective of a Patient Advocate and Adviser)
Yes, I know, when you look at my LinkedIn profile, there are so many things on it, and yet you would not think that this is also something that I do. But I do it. I have done it for over a decade, and not because it is fun to read about cancer, but because I like to help people stay alive and I am able to ask good questions and am OK with reading complicated research papers (sometimes the summary, the intro or the conclusion are perfectly enough, but other times I have to read for hours to really understand a method and/or procedures). I like to explain things as well, and I prefer to write because a written explanation is always there for people to consult. Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, I am not a clinical researcher, I am not a diagnostician, and I can’t cure you of any illness. I am just a human being who does not see a key service that people need… so, I do it for them… a guide who helps desperate people understand what their doctors are saying and find out what doctors are not saying. I help people fight for their lives more efficiently when I am able to.
Infantilization of patients in the era of readily available high level online knowledge
The really good ones were all female!
First, let me talk about the good doctors I encountered. Fortunately, I encountered a few bright, open minded, emotionally intelligent, introspective and cooperative doctors. I even had a female doctor congratulate me when I told her how I diagnosed an illness that was unusual and it was later confirmed by lab results (I had to behave like a detective, pick people’s brains, read online, and I had to push for tests… it was’t easy). I also had a doctor in Europe who asked me for full articles that I downloaded from Harvard University’s server. I had a particularly brilliant doctor at Columbia University. She was fun, smart, and was always willing to explain everything to me. I had a doctor (also in Europe) who was even happy to explain the technology she used. She told me that I was the first patient ever who asked her to do that. All of them were female doctors! The really good ones were all female. (It is interesting, because I have no female friends. All of my friends are male and highly intelligent. So, it is surprising that when it comes to doctors, I prefer women. Note: I once read that female doctors are simply better. It is probably because of better social skills and listening skills. I am not saying that male doctors can not be good. All I am saying is that I have never seen them. Sitting in your office and administering medication and ordering lab tests is not what I consider the job of a good doctor. It is so much more complicated.)
There were doctors who were professionally famous but as human beings those were often the worst (I would naturally be kinder to a horse or a dog than those people were to me… those were mostly male doctors). In the age of medical AI it is your humanity that will be important, not your medical data driven memory… even your medical experience driven diagnostic skills will be less of a priority after a while. If you want to remain a doctor and become a really wonderful one, develop your emotional and social skills, focus on your communication skills, be comfortable with technology (like AI), plus learn to embrace and utilize the fact that more and more people are acquiring knowledge online. If you dislike their sources, direct them to the right sources. Be their guide in the medical jungle that you know better. Listen to their personal patient narrative, that they know better.
I posted this in 2016 as a status update on facebook:
Here is what I think:
This is the age of The Idiocracy in the age of unlimited and available knowledge…
And the age of The Out of Touch Intellectual and Political Elite in the age of unlimited connectivity…
My opinion hasn’t changed a bit!
How it “works” now
Most people just accept what their doctors are telling them. I am not that kind of person and most doctors hate that. I am looking forward to the day when I am going to have my own medical AI to prevent, treat or even cure illness (without having to see a human doctor). Unfortunately, most doctors today adopt a mindset that is based on viewing patients as “the other” (this is an international phenomenon and it is not new… in fact this horrible attitude is hundreds of years old). So, to me the expression: “patient” describes a submissive, child like “know nothing”. This to me is military grade bullshit. An archaic hierarchy based mindset created the idea of the “patient”. The doctor is “the know it all” character of this type of medical story. So wrong! And it is not even true! Most medical doctors are not scientists and are often terribly misinformed, yet super arrogant!
I would like to live in an era when all people are well educated and highly able to interact with medical technology. I just witnessed how a cancer patient had to wait months to get properly diagnosed and she is still not getting her treatment. Why? Because her oncologist is not willing to cooperate (not open to questions) and now even went on holiday, and because the patient behaves like a child… let me be more specific: she is forced to behave like a child by her passive-aggressive medical practitioner (plus, she is hardly able to understand the most basic explanations, because she was never educated in this area… and she did not educate herself in this area… so, a lot of time goes by without actual diagnostic and treatment related progress).
How it should work (in my opinion)
If the process would be automated I could have helped her faster without human doctors. Press two if you already had cancer… Here is how it should work in my not so humble opinion:
Press three if you are inoperable… Press this or that if you are not willing to receive chemo… Please, proceed to this and this specialist for a surgery free biopsy… Please, watch this video to understand the risks associated with biopsies… Please, go to this menu if you would like to speak to someone regarding your personal risk based on your medical history… Please, make an appointment in this menu for an MRI and a PET/CT. Please, request a lab test, including genetic testing. And a few days later: This is the type of cancer you have. These are the types of treatment combinations you can receive in your country, within the EU, in the US, in Asia, or anywhere in the world. These are the commercially available options. These are the clinical studies you could be eligible for. Here is where you can start registering for treatments. Here you can read full medical articles on PubMed. Here you can find patient readable summaries of the articles on the medical wikipedia. This is how much the different treatments cost. This is the most cost effective treatment for you. Here is your big data and AI based outcome analysis for all the treatment combinations. This is where you can receive financial support. This is the surface where you can raise funds online for your treatment. Thank you for selecting this noninvasive surgery in Italy and this cancer vaccine in Germany. Please, watch this video regarding the risks involved and here is the explanation how this is a safer method compared to another. Here are the clinic’s safety statistics locally, regionally and globally. Please, select the doctor you would like to see at our clinic. Here is your doctor’s performance rating. Here you can order your EU insurance card. Here you can contact your doctor via skype. Here you can book a medical flight and a medical stay in a nearby hotel or in our own hospital based hotel room. Here you can interact with patients like you.
Yes, I want this all to be online, and globally integrated. I want this to be a smooth service, like any other good service. I want as much stress be removed from the process as possible.
More about how it works now:
Doctors often behave like badly trained policemen. It is a bit like racism! I am telling you, it sometimes feels like I am talking to a white supremacists male police man while being a black female driver on a deserted country road, or something like that. I am white, but I can imagine the generalized anxiety and trauma such people cause innocent and vulnerable citizens. This best describes the atmosphere many doctors create while “serving” you. It often feels painful when I am interacting with a doctor. It is physically painful and it gets my sympathetic nervous system going… and that is directly damaging to a patient’s health, medical outcome and trust. So, doctors with this mindset should know that their behavior directly generates distance, stress, pain and a hostile environment that often results in more illness, instead of a cure in the first place. Many years ago I read the confessions of a doctor who only realized how she was hurting her own patients when she herself ended up being a patient. She could not believe the dehumanizing, insensitive, disrespectful and ignorant behaviors of her colleagues while she was a patient.
How can there be any trust when your doctor is not respecting you, does not see you, does not appreciate you as a complex and evolved human being or is even afraid of you because you are well read and are asking valid questions? Of course trust cannot be built this way! These people treat me as if I am reading homeopathy related articles (I think homeopathy is bullshit), when really, I am reading PubMed and similar advanced medical sites, that are there for medical doctors, smart nurses, diligent patient advisers and intelligent patients to educate themselves. And yet, I am treated like an idiot, with all the prejudice a human doctor can accumulate about a patient with higher education, fluent English, international experience, and the ability to understand the scientific literature that doctors are also supposed to read (but often don’t even have access to those databases or don’t have the language skills to understand the articles… it is everyday reality in Hungary for example, that doctors have no access to the latest medical literature and/or can’t read in English… many hospitals don’t have enough nurses, doctors, medications, appropriate technology and no toilet paper and no soap… even the furniture is falling apart… the rooms were not painted for decades… imagine that… and Hungary is part of the EU…).
Yes, indeed, I feel the abyss between the everyday realities of our dystopian present and my perfectly implementable utopian future.
Excuse My French!
So, in my experience, doctors switch to cognitive empathy instead of affective empathy and some even enter the realm of transient psychopathy coupled with professional denial. This behavior is next rationalized (by medical professionals as a group) as normal behavior, and vulnerable patients are often (excuse my French) fucked by this atmosphere, because even the nurses help maintain this by saying things like: “Yes, we know that he is insensitive and has no people skills, but this is why we are here… to compensate for his lack of sensitivity and empathy…” and she goes on being insensitive herself… In this insensitivity bubble (surrounded by desensitized medical professionals) patients suffer in silence. (Patients sometimes even display symptoms of a sort of “medical Stockholm syndrome”… identifying with those people who basically torture them in a horrible medical system, saying things like: “I know how difficult it is to work in such an underpaid, stressful environment”… when really, all you see, is that a particular doctor was never trained to be polite, kind, able to listen and empathize…) All the traumas patients accumulate during years of medical (mis)treatments can and will result in PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Generalized anxiety and stress related disorders undermine a patient’s chances of survival. When (due to past experiences) someone’s cortisol level jumps high just by thinking about having to go to a hospital, that will decrease that person’s life expectancy. And if you look for the most lethal conditions in humans, cortisol imbalance and chronically high cortisol levels are one of the most lethal conditions.
I am describing the atmosphere that leads to mistreatment, cruelty and humiliation. I used to trust doctors when I was younger and naive. But when I got seriously ill in my thirties and I encountered the above attitudes and doctors’ inability to help me and unwillingness to cooperate with me (there was even this obvious disapproval… and get this: even scolding for my informed questions), I discovered that most doctors simply cannot be trusted and often, you are on your own when you are ill. Literally, on your own, because your family (most likely) has no idea how to read scientific literature and don’t have your curiosity, stubbornness and grit to learn about medicine (if you have those features, you might not be 100% lucky in your ignorant human network… smart kids are bullied in schools and smart patients are bullied by doctors).
Patients also like to treat doctors as the “other”. “The doctor knows.” “The patient does not know.” This is a nineteenth century or even older attitude and “agreement”. Totally outdated! This is why I started to read the medical literature that doctors are supposed to be reading, as well as many patient blogs that knowledgeable patients write about their experiences. Unfortunately, I have not yet found the enlightened doctors to work with in my own personal environment. At the same time I reject unenlightened doctors. I have seen how “health care” and “healing” resulted in completely ruined bodies and souls. When a patient looks and feels like he or she was tortured by someone at the end of a treatment, plus his or her family was ruined by the experience… is that medicine or barbarism? This situation of rightfully rejecting medical barbarism could even kill a patient, no matter how informed he or she is, because such patients are disgusted by doctors who dehumanize and disrespect them. I am not a patient! Rather “impatient”! If I have to respect you as a doctor for your knowledge and time, should you not respect me, my knowledge, my time and my life? Look at me! I am a human being just like you!
What is special about my position as a patient adviser and advocate is this: Most oncologists are specialists. They are following a protocol and only read about their specialty locally (if they read at all…). But when you are a volunteer patient advocate and adviser (plus sometimes a patient yourself) with a global mindset, you read about many different illnesses and all sorts of treatments, even experimental ones, and even about treatments that are not yet mainstream and cost an exorbitant amount of money. “Multipotentialites” (everyday “polymaths”), like me, we read about everything under the Sun. Most doctors hate that and we will be bullied by doctors. This is absolutely wrong!
A bit about volunteer patient advocates and advisers
Patient advisers and advocates are often volunteer “medical sherpas”. They don’t really want to go where you go, they don’t have your problem, but out of love and with lots of empathy they pick up parts of your problem and carry parts of the burden for you, so you don’t have to. Such people will explore new paths of hope for you while you are asleep. Will explain medical procedures when you don’t understand, and remind you of the right questions you should ask your doctors. We do the heavy intellectual lifting to lighten the load of the struggle for patients and for doctors as well. We listen, do research, we network and search for answers, and explain. We translate the jargon. If you like, we repeat things ten times until you understand. We encourage you to be assertive. We tell you to expect more. We also tell you about the limitations and we don’t pretend that life is endless. We hear you and acknowledge your limitations. We know that every patient has a different endgame as well. Some want to try every possible treatment, no matter where it is. Some don’t want to be treated abroad. Some want to have a few good last years. We want you to make an informed decision for yourself. We never force you to do anything. It is your life.
A new type of medical training
It would be interesting to train doctors in a new way… Have them train like debate teams. When learning to debate, people learn to argue in support and against something. The same way, doctors should be trained to argue their positions from both a medically trained doctor’s perspective and from a well read patient’s perspective, and even from a completely uneducated patient’s perspective. This would help even those doctors with impaired empathy to improve their communication skills and would gain insight into patients’ anxieties. Even if you are a surgeon with psychopathic traits and zero affective empathy, you can learn to believably pretend to empathize and so put your patient at ease. An anxious patient with high blood pressure in surgery is at risk. If you can get your patient to trust you and relax, the surgery will be safer.
Artificial Medical Intelligence and the future of self-guided health care
I am one of those who believe that AI will be our highly personalized health care provider. Those adults who are well educated will be most able to access superior medical services to prevent illnesses by using medical AI first (and the eight year old girl who grows up while interacting with AI fluently… You know the scenario when a kid is constantly scolded: “Why are you always playing with your AI…?” and then one day: “Oh, did you just save your grandmother’s life with your AI???” But, of course, I am not talking about basic Artificial Narrow Intelligence. I am talking about either medically specialized Narrow Intelligence or later Artificial General Intelligence used in medicine and much later Artificial Superintelligence… it will feel like god to many people…)
Prevention will be the primary goal. Medical AI will be the first line of support and most human medical appointments will be done online. Most surgeries will become noninvasive. In fact the day will come when people will not believe invasive surgery by humans was a thing. I even suspect that hospitals will one day be completely obsolete. So, one day, hopefully, my medical learning capacity, my openness to technology and my AI interactive skills will be helpful when trying to figure out a treatment for myself and others and I would not have to go to a doctor’s office at all. I could just consult with several pre-selected doctors globally. Send me the medicine in the mail or let me print it. There should be more medical education in high schools (and online) and all people should learn how to make sense of clinical research papers (until this part can be completely taken over by medical AIs). People should not be so dependent on doctors and their very limited skills, questionable humanity and finite time. Your health is too precious to search for the right doctors for years! You should not have to go bankrupt during a treatment. Your family members should not get sick of the stress your prolonged care causes. Adults shouldn’t have to behave like helpless little kids while being treated within a questionable healthcare system.
Advocacy and advising people in practice (a mini case study)
I advise people voluntarily for free (and I avoid confrontation with doctors left over from the nineteenth century… not even the twentieth!). I do not advertise this activity. I help people with information. I support their decisions by summarizing the discovered possibilities beyond the local medical protocol. For example when a family friend had cancer I decided to search for a clinical trial for him (he did not want to be treated abroad) and when I found the right one, I gave his wife a phone number to call and explained the process. He had metastatic lung cancer 10 years ago (with bone metastasis). Luckily, he was a genetic match for the study I suggested (after picking other people’s brains for days). He lived an additional 5-6 years because the new treatment worked for him (in Budapest!). Today, an additional 5 years of survival could mean a possible cure that is under investigation now… but perhaps becomes a fully available, genetically targeted cure in 4 years for example.
Combination therapies (based on genetic testing and imaging)
It is important to note that today, cancer treatment does not mean one standard for all. Treatments are combined for individual needs. You can have:
- Herceptin if your breast cancer is Her2+ (Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 positive breast cancer patients are a minority among breast cancer patients, but have a very good and specialized treatment option… however, live with an aggressive type of cancer that is likely to return, precisely due to the growth factor receptor, that is also the target of the special treatment),
- Arimidex if your cancer is hormone sensitive,
- Proton radiation therapy if the cancer is in an area that does not move during treatment (proton radiation can be better targeted and causes less damage),
- MRI guided Ultrasound Surgery if you do not want a surgeon to cut you open, and a
- Cancer vaccine to help your own immune system fight the cancer.
You can have all of these combined. Cancer is tricky. Today we are still in the “kill” paradigm, but one day the “return the cancer cell to a normal cell” paradigm will most likely rule.
This list is actually a fresh one I compiled for a patient with recurrent breast cancer that metastasized into her adrenals 5-6 years after her first diagnosis and treatment. Her prognosis was really bad, but she is still alive after 5 years! For her type of breast cancer it is extremely unusual to have adrenal metastasis and due to her general condition, she is inoperable. Now, even the biopsy was tricky. In the treating hospital (the leading one in the country) her doctors were unable to even imagine the biopsy without invasive surgery. She had to go to another hospital to see a specialist for ultrasound guided biopsy (no invasive surgery was needed for the adrenal biopsy!!!). Her oncologist only suggested chemo (I informed the patient, that chemo might spread her cancer without surgery… also, a biopsy could spread cancer cells), Herceptin (in my opinion, it should have been started within a month after her metastasis was diagnose, yet months later she is still not being treated) and Arimidex (also helpful). Her oncologist did not say anything about commercially available proton radiation therapy, MRI guided ultrasound surgery and personalized cancer vaccines in the European Union. I told her about these.
When necessary, I also look for top surgeons internationally (e.g.: for colon cancer), and possible treatments for adrenal cancer, like the personalized cancer vaccine (for the patient with adrenal cancer). When I do this research, I regularly pick other people’s brains internationally and read many articles to help patients and their families. But I never tell people what to opt for. I only research, list the options and explain them (and their possible combinations). The decision making is the patient’s personal task.
I think there should exist independent advisory teams for each patient in highly demanding situations. If you have never been ill, if you never had a relative who was ill, if you are a doctor who never experienced illness as a patient or family member, you have no idea from a patient’s perspective and from a relative’s perspective how terribly demanding it is to be ill, find your way in the maze of medical institutions, understand lab results, question your doctor’s opinions and suggestions, read, learn, be a caretaker, take care of yourself, work, be a mother, a father, and look for better treatment options (often internationally). People are fighting for their lives in a dehumanizing and confusing system! And you are lucky if you have the funds to finance the shocking expenses.
Advising cancer patients is a side project I do because I am able to. So, why not? Right? I wanted to write a summary blog about several of the possible treatments that people usually don’t get information about from their run-of-the-mill oncologists (below I am going to add a long section about treatments and medical technologies). Getting the best information really should not be a matter of chance in the age of the internet, AI, big data, citizen science and epic, interactive, multiplayer online games! There is so much information out there that could be useful to many people. I even have a concept of a medical science game for this purpose, for citizen scientists and even professional scientists. Saving a real human’s life in an online game would be much more epic than killing an avatar in an online game! In fact I am already working on this game idea!
OK, now that I managed to vent, I am going to talk a bit about the cancer treatments I encountered or revisited during the last couple of months (and this is just a short list, because I read at least a dozen articles regarding cancer treatments by the time I get up every day):
Personalized cancer vaccines (Example #1)
Cologne, Germany, European Union
Immunologisch Onkologisches Zentrum Köln (IOZK)
Click to access iozk_patient_info_2017.pdf
VOL-DC (Viral Oncolysate Loaded Dendritic Cells) or NDV/DC Immunotherapy (Newcastle Disease Virus/Dendritic Cell Immunothrapy)
You should have seen the different ways in which I attempted to explain the brilliance behind this safe treatment. I went from the scientific summary to the theater method: I portrayed the beautiful dendritic cells as ballerinas in tutus going swimming in the tumor specific antigen swimming pool in the lab (made possible by viruses), and later showing off the antigens like glitter to the T cells in the body. In turn the T cells are hopefully able to kill the cancer cells, because the cancer cells can no longer hide. I can see this in my head as an animation. I seriously tested every possible explanation level to get the message to the patient who is a female close to 70.
I heard about this method on the radio and did a few days of research. First, it sounded too good to be true. You just waltz into an office in Cologne, get tested and if your immune system is in good shape and if you have tens of thousands of euro in your bank account, you can get this extremely safe cancer treatment that might extend your life by years… and in a few cases even clinically cure some people. If you are lucky, this way, your own immune system will be able to kill the cancer. No toxic materials are used.
The patient, because she is inoperable, decided to go see if this would work for her. During the travel preparations she had an accident. She fell and hurt herself badly (in front of a building where she had to go in person to get her EU insurance card!!!). She still got the airplane tickets and was in Cologne within a few days with her husband. She wants to live!
I really don’t understand why this clinic does not send healthy, fit, medically trained employees to travel to such patients internationally. I mean, people in their late sixties should not have to travel up and down internationally to find the right treatment! Again, making everything convenient for the doctors, and stressful and dangerous for the patients. The patient should rest and his or her stress level should be kept minimal, yet it is the patient who has to go everywhere and wait hours and days for some attention (while risking accidents and infections). And in this case we are talking about a private European clinic in Germany!
Anyway, the results showed that she could benefit from the treatment. However, the clinic made a huge mistake! They promised to send the results in two weeks via e-mail. Instead, for some absolutely unclear reason, there was promise after promise for 5 weeks! Imagine how a patient (who is basically terminally ill without the appropriate treatments) feels while this is happening. The trust is gone! You run to Cologne, spent thousands of euro on airplane tickets, hotel nights, blood tests, and you are made to wait over twice the promised time period and that without any explanation and without any apology from your doctor! I mean, this was clear service error. This is unacceptable! The least those people should do is refund the money. Who would want to be treated by a clinic that behaves in such irresponsible and disrespectful manner? All I can say: Shame on IOZK! If you were the ones able to save this patient, if you wanted to save this patient, how could you treat her like this? Don’t you understand that you are in the business of trust, communication and saving human lives? It is very possible that this patient will live a shorter life because she can no longer trust you and can’t accept your treatment. She now thinks you are selling a hoax and I can’t blame her (even though I know that your method is medically valid). I personally think that the lab results were valid, useful and the treatment could work. But I can no longer expect this patient to trust IOZK. Obviously! And why do I have to write angry letters to a private clinic in Germany to get the lab results that cost the patient 3000 euro 5 weeks earlier? As if we have unlimited energy… (What are these people thinking?)
I could see from the results that the patient’s adrenal cancer was HER2+, so Herceptin will be an option again. But because she could not trust the results sent by IOZK, she had a biopsy that was/is not without risks. The biopsy reinforced the blood test based results. But with all the enormous effort by her, by her husband and by me, how is it possible that it took so long to get her these results? She was diagnosed during the spring and it is now August and she still did not get any treatment. What kind of medical system is this??? What are her doctors doing??? And now, because it is the summer, her oncologist just went on holiday! Yes, now that she knows what treatment she needs, she still has to wait! This is abnormal and unethical!!!
Personalized cancer vaccines (Example #2)
Suddenly, another personalized cancer vaccine turned up on my radar in Düsseldorf, Germany. I did not yet explore this one further, but I put it here for people who are interested:
NEXTGEN ONCOLOGY GROUP
Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Hans Bojar
This is from the website:
“The NextGen Oncology Group concerns itself with the further development of precision oncology treatment. Since tumors are as individual as a fingerprint, cancer treatment can only be successful if it takes this individuality into account. Using highly innovative procedures, we determine a patient’s molecular fingerprint. Pan-genomic gene activity analysis, next-generation mutation analysis, and many other procedures are the technologies necessary to personalize treatment.
The standard cytotoxic chemotherapy has long since been overtaken by the intelligent, personalized targeted therapies that are now at the heart of scientific inquiry.
Modern, molecular-genetic technologies are the basis that allow identifying individual treatment targets. The recent development in cancer vaccines has also raised high expectations and hopes. By analyzing the entire human genome, a tumor’s individual mutations can be determined. This then allows creating absolutely personal vaccinations which are as individual as a fingerprint. These new therapeutic options will significantly change the treatment of tumor diseases in the years to come.”
Another type of immunotherapy: Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-Cell Therapy
In this case new receptors are added to patients’ own harvested and later re-injected T cells. Very promising method, but can be more dangerous than the personalized cancer vaccines.
From the wiki article:
“Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), (also known as Chimeric immunoreceptors, Chimeric T cell receptors, Artificial T cell receptors) are engineered receptors, which graft an arbitrary specificity onto an immune effector cell (T cell). Typically, these receptors are used to graft the specificity of a monoclonal antibody onto a T cell, with transfer of their coding sequence facilitated by retroviral vectors. The receptors are called chimeric because they are composed of parts from different sources.
CARs are under investigation as a therapy for cancer, using a technique called adoptive cell transfer. T cells are removed from a patient and modified so that they express receptors specific to the patient’s particular cancer. The T cells, which can then recognize and kill the cancer cells, are reintroduced into the patient. Modification of T-cells sourced from donors other than the patient are also under investigation.”
News regarding metastasis prevention:
This is also interesting and relevant:
Johns Hopkins researchers say they’ve unlocked key to cancer metastasis and how to slow it
From the article:
“When the tumor reaches a certain density, the study found, it releases two proteins called Interleukin 6 and Interleukin 8, signaling to cancer cells that things had grown too crowded and it was time to break off and head into other parts of the body.”
“The team then tested two drugs known to work on the Interleukin receptors to see if they would block or slow metastasis in mice. They found that using the two drugs together would block the signals from the Interleukin proteins that told the cancer cells to break off and spread, slowing — though not completely stopping — metastasis.
“The drugs the team used were Tocilizumab, a rheumatoid arthritis treatment, and Reparixin, which is being evaluated for cancer treatment.
The drugs bind to the Interleukin receptors and block their signals, slowing metastasis.
Though metastasis was not completely stopped, Jayatilaka said, the mice given the drug cocktail fared well and survived through the experiment. She said adding another, yet-to-be-determined drug or tweaking the dose might stop metastasis entirely.”
Do the most extensive genetic testing possible!
Keep this in mind when your outdated oncologist tells you that no extensive genetic testing is necessary:
Clinical impact of extensive molecular profiling in advanced cancer patients
From the article:
“Extensive molecular profiling using high-throughput techniques allows for the identification of actionable mutations in the majority of cases and is associated with substantial clinical benefit in up to one in four patients.”
Highly targeted cancer treatments are here for very specific mutations!
A New Cancer Drug Helped Almost Everyone Who Took It
From the article:
“… the DNA of his tumor was sequenced, and he was entered into a clinical trial for an experimental drug called larotrectinib. He felt better within a day. Within 72 hours, he no longer needed a cane. Within two weeks, he was walking around Manhattan on his monthly clinical trial visits, playing with his kids and eating like a champ.
Laurie’s experience isn’t unique. Results in the first 50 patients treated with larotrectinib are being presented today at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the biggest gathering of cancer doctors.”
“Loxo Oncology was founded in 2013, the brainchild of an oncologist named Joshua Bilenker, who was then working as an investor at Aisling Capital, a private equity firm. Between 2004 and 2006, Bilenker had served as a reviewer in the oncology division of the Food and Drug Administration, working on applications for new uses of cancer drugs like Rituxan and Herceptin.”
FDA Clears First Cancer Drug Based on Genetics of Disease, Not Tumor Location
From the article:
“Merck & Co’s immunotherapy Keytruda [pembrolizumab] chalked up another approval on Tuesday as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the cancer medicine can be used to treat children and adults who carry a specific genetic feature regardless of where the disease originated.
It is the first time the agency has approved a cancer treatment based solely on a genetic biomarker.”
“The accelerated approval was for solid tumor cancers not eligible for surgery or that have spread in patients identified as having a biomarker called microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficient (dMMR).
Tumors with those traits are most common in colorectal, endometrial and gastrointestinal cancers, but may also appear in cancers of the breast, prostate, bladder and thyroid gland.”
There are many promising new, targeted treatments
Immune checkpoint inhibitors to treat cancer
List from the site:
“PD-1 inhibitors: Examples of drugs that target PD-1 include:
PD-L1 inhibitors: Examples of drugs that target PD-L1 include:
Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer
Novel technologies and emerging biomarkers for personalized cancer immunotherapy
From the article:
“These therapies are revolutionizing therapeutic concepts and changing the standard of care for cancer treatment. Immunotherapy is now widely accepted as a key component of the therapeutic strategies to control and potentially cure cancer. Moreover, immunotherapy has the potential to cure or convert cancer from a fatal disease into a non-life threatening or chronic disease. The concept of a “clinical cure” is emerging as a description of long-term tumor control. The broad potential for a clinical cure is now being extensively explored by both mono and combination cancer immunotherapy.”
Modern, highly targeted radiation therapies
Heidelberg Ion-Beam Therapy Center (HIT)
Heidelberg University Hospital
From the site:
“Ion beam radiation, also referred to as particle radiation. Protons and heavy ions are positively charged atomic nuclei (particles). Protons are positively charged nuclei of hydrogen atoms. Heavy ions are positively charged nuclei of atoms with a greater mass (at HIT, carbon, oxygen and helium ions are used). Ion radiation guarantees the highest possible precision. In addition, heavy ions have greater clinical efficacy than conventional irradiation with the same dose of photons.”
RINECKER PROTON THERAPY CENTER (RPTC), Munich, Germany
From the site:
“With Proton Therapy higher dosages in the tumor are possible and at the same time there are significant less side effects.”
Let the video explain:
RINECKER PROTON THERAPY CENTER: Proton Therapy
This method is effective in tumor cells with somatostatin receptors. Lutetium-labelled peptides are used to kill the cancer cells. If you like to know more, here is an article:
Lutetium-labelled peptides for therapy of neuroendocrine tumours
From the article:
“Treatment with radiolabelled somatostatin analogues is a promising … tool in the management of patients with inoperable or metastasized … tumours.”
Noninvasive ultrasound surgery
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) guided high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) surgery could beautifully complement cancer immunotherapy. Did you know that MRI HIFU was invented and developed by a Hungarian doctor? He lived and worked in the US. Unfortunately, he passed away recently. And did you know that Hungarian hospitals refused to purchase an MRI HIFU machine a few years ago? It is a wonderful tool! It is available all over the world! It is in the early stages of development as laparoscopy was over 10 years ago… It is very promising! Of course Hungarian idiot decision makers did not want one!
So, I discovered the brilliant entity called:
Focused Ultrasound Foundation (in the US)
And their website has the most comprehensive search tool if you would like to search for a HIFU treatment in a country by organ treated! Currently the database has 588 treatment sites globally!!!
It lists several Italian institutions offering commercial HIFU treatments for kidney tumors (no word regarding adrenal tumors…).
- Careggi General Hospital, Florence Italy
- Cisanello Hospital of University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy
- European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy
- Rome American Hospital, Rome, Italy
- Sora Cancer Centre, Sora, Lazio, Italy
Always consult specific websites and it is best to contact the institution directly via e-mail or phone!
EUROPEAN INSTITUTE OF ONCOLOGY, Milan, Italy
From the site
“IEO [Istituto Europeo di Oncologia] is the most advanced developing Center in using HIFU technology for cancer treatment in the West. HIFU is a cutting-edge, non-invasive technology, developed in China* for destroying cancer without scalpels, irradiation or needles. Interventional Radiology in IEO has the largest number of HIFU cancer treatments in western countries.”
*There are several different types of HIFU equipment globally.
Clinical trial and medical science resources:
From the site:
“ClinicalTrials.gov is a registry and results database of publicly and privately supported clinical studies of human participants conducted around the world.”
From the site:
“PubMed comprises more than 27 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites.”
EUROPEAN SOCIETY FOR MEDICAL ONCOLOGY
The leading European professional organisation for medical oncology
Apps, Labs, Data, Image Analysis, In Silico Testing and Artificial Intelligence
Now about a research tool and service that could support treatment related decision making
The Oncompass app
On this site, patients and doctors can look up clinical trials ranked by relevance for specific cancers and doctors can also add their own experiences with treatments immediately! It is free! This is a Hungarian app of a molecular diagnostics company (Oncompass), but its users are global! I just discovered it recently (I tested it a bit, but I did not use it for treatment search). Could make the search for a treatment or even a cure so much easier! Plus, it empowers e-patients and helps doctors expedite info sharing regarding treatments globally!
Note: Today it is not (yet) the state delegated oncologist in Budapest, Hungary (where healthcare is not up to EU standards) who tells a patient that there is for example LOXO 101 in an open clinical trial (e.g.: in Denmark) and that Loxo Oncology takes patients for free (!) to international locations, for free (clinical trial related) treatment with one of the safest and most successful cancer drugs in development (it targets a select group with a rare genetic mutation… and for those with the mutation it is apparently amazingly effective and sometimes even curative even in very advanced cases). It only helps a very small group of people globally with a very specific mutation, but those people see amazing results and Loxo Oncology is looking for them! This isn’t something that a regular oncologist shares with you and you do not even know how many facts are not being shared with you that could potentially save or prolong your life! It is the multidisciplinary long-form blogger and digital artist (me, Regina Saphier) who will dig this up online (and not with the free Oncompass system that I just discovered recently… perhaps one day I am going to use that one too, but it is very difficult to register a patient in it without the cooperation of the oncologist, the patient and other doctors).
I immediately noticed that the Precision Medicine Calculator (by Oncompass) has no registration and login option for friends, family, patient advocates/advisers and other caretakers. Yet, in many cases, in such stressful situations, it is this support network that helps patients find answers. And I can’t believe how many internet domains Oncompass has… at least 4… it is really confusing. But I appreciate the idea of this free and global app. It “just” has to work well now, and for that people need to know about it and people have to use it (and it regularly needs to be improved).
Oncompass Medicine is one of the companies in Hungary that does oncogenetic testing (another superior genetic sequencing service is provided by PentaCore Lab). At Oncompass
58* 600 genes are tested when searching for a cancer treatment, and there are specialized support options beyond the lab work and that is very important. (*Update on October 19. 2017: Oncompass recently started to analyse 600 genes and the full exome of patients!!! Ask for the Oncompass All Dynamic Program!!!). At PentaCore Lab, 400 oncogenes are sequenced (Vivaton 400). Duna Medical only tests 65+27 genes. In the US there are tests with hundreds of genes (similar to the Oncompass All Dynamic Program and the PentaCore’s Vivaton 400 panel in Budapest). When personalized cancer vaccines are developed for a patient, the best thing is to have the entire genome sequenced (by entire I mean even the healthy genome). That helps you find the best treatment targets.
There is so much information all over the place, that both patient networks and doctors need a reliable decision support system. If I could make decisions about this, I would even make medical AI based Enlitic available to patients and their networks as well. There are patients and supportive people in those networks who could enhance care by using Enlitic. https://www.enlitic.com
You might have noticed that I mentioned several Hungarians in this blog post. So, why stop now? There is a brilliant AI based drug discovery start up in Hungary called:
“Increase your laboratory success rate and reduce
time to trial with AI guided simulated experiments.
Turbine identifies complex biomarkers and designs effective
combinations by simulating millions of experiments each day.”
When I noticed Turbine, I did not have to think at all to know that this is brilliant! I wish this young company was advanced enough to permit patient side access to the system. Just imagine getting in silico hints about possible drug combinations that could help someone. Sometimes even drugs that are not cancer related can have a positive impact. Turbine, Oncompass and PentaCore Lab should create a partnership…
By the way, not only do patients need help finding the best molecular treatments, but people still need to find the best possible surgeons as well (etc.). I had to do such a surgeon search over ten years ago and the world’s best surgeon for the Hungarian patient was in the UK. That is still not an obvious thing that people can easily find online (You need statistics, like: How many such operations does that surgeon perform per year? How about his or her error rate? The top surgeon had a zero % error rate for a digestive system cancer and he used his own method that he was teaching during some of his operations… Go for that level of expertise, if you can! That is the safest.).
On top of that we also need insurance companies to realize that care is now global and this market has to be serviced globally, with locally acceptable fees.
Note: Oncompass Medicine also has a fee based, international cancer treatment research and cancer patient support service! It is the same kind of global cancer treatment research and cancer patient support that I am doing, but I do it for free. While I do this occasionally, Oncompass does this all the time and has excellent resources and a global network. If you can, it is probably a good idea to hire them. I don’t know how good they are. Let me know if you have any experience with them!
I am a big believer in self guided online learning. And so I coined the term: “self guided online health care”. Imagine having a personal robot that is connected to a medical AI. The patient could simply ask questions of the robot, it would connect to the AI and based on the lab results (a patient has at home or online), the AI could suggest different treatment options by scanning and comprehending the globally available medical research and treatment data. (I personally would prefer a more advanced, multitasking robot companion, or no robot, just the AI via my computer, tablet or smartphone.)
The Robot Will See You Now — AI and Health Care
A.I. VERSUS M.D.
What happens when diagnosis is automated?
My Game “Theory”
As I mentioned before, a global multiplayer online game could be developed for citizen scientists and medical students (even for doctors). By combining the available resources, a new level of information sharing could be achieved in a uniquely motivated network.
In both cases the data entry is one of the most problematic areas. Lab results should be both human and machine readable. People who e.g. play EyeWire or Foldit could be on-boarded in a new game that is about hunting treasures like life saving medical treatments around the world and building alternative treatment plans for patients. It is doable! And I am working on it! Let me know if you would like to fund it!
Precision medicine is simply not possible without participatory medicine. Demand better care! I know that it is easy to expect and really hard to do. But every little positive change adds to the chance of an actual paradigm change! I hope you find the right doctors and the most appropriate treatments for you, your loved ones and your community members.
You can connect with me via Facebook and LinkedIn. I am happy to help. No matter where you are from, no matter who you are: If you need help and if I can help, I will help! Pay it forward to others in need when you can. My time, energy and resources are limited, so please, respect that when you ask a question (note: I understand if you feel the need to explain the context). Thank you for reading my blog post! I hope I could help with at least a little something. Find many more blog posts on my three different blog surfaces in a multitude of subject areas! Live long and prosper! 🙂
Regina Saphier: Finding the Valley of the DragonPosted: April 15, 2016 Filed under: Digitális Művészetem, English Text, English Video, My Digital Art | Tags: Amalfi, ArtRage, Atrani, Camera Obscura, Caravaggio, Cézanne, David Hockney, Derain, Escher, Google Earth, Google Street View, Károly Patkó, Róbert Berény, Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 Tablet, San Vito, Sándor Ziffer, Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka Leave a comment
Regina Saphier: Finding the Valley of the Dragon
Károly Patkó’s so called “San Vito” (see reproduction below) wasn’t painted in San Vito (in my opinion) and nobody ever noticed? I am sure the painting’s title would have been corrected by now had anyone had a clue about the real location. This is the story of my artistic process today, combined with the story of finding the correct place of creation of a well known Hungarian painting. Above you can see my own rendering of the Italian village where in my opinion Károly Patkó actually painted his picture.
My research process
You might think that I just grab my stylus and tablet, start ArtRage and begin to paint as if in a trans state. But that is not my process. I do a lot of research before I start sketching and painting. For example I research paintings, colors, styles, artistic periods and movements, artist bios, cities, villages, particular locations, spacial experiences and I compose my inspiration of the many impulses. I like to start painting when I can no longer wait to create because I so clearly see what I want to realize.
During such a research process in 2015 I discovered a specific location of a Róbert Berény painting and I created my own rendering from another angle, plus I wrote about the process. I keep making other discoveries as well. For example I discovered purely visually where Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka created two of his paintings in Taormina (“Full Moon over Taormina” and “Blossoming Almonds in Taormina“), in spite of the fact that this location is not in the visible vicinity of the ruins of the ancient Greek theater (that he also depicted there). Explore the location of the paintings via: Google Street View… Sadly the amazing pink villa is gone and the blue building is in ruins… The picturesque vista that once was is forever lost, but we have two paintings to help us remember.
Good things happen when a curious artist can not find the vista of a Patkó painting in the settlement stated in the original title
Recently I studied some Hungarian artists like Sándor Ziffer and Károly Patkó. After having noticed Ziffer in one of my paintings (I noticed his impact on my colors and atmosphere on my Roquebrune painting), I wanted to intentionally be inspired by Patkó, so I picked his “San Vito” painting. I looked at the particular “San Vito” via Google Street View (in fact I ended up looking at several places called San Vito) and I was surprised to realize that this Patkó painting has a clearly incorrect title. “San Vito” could not possibly depict San Vito!
My motivation to paint this village only grew when I had this in mind: I am the only one in the world right now who could intentionally create a somewhat similar digital painting from a slightly different angle in my own style. This is a familiar and reoccurring opportunity in my life! (Remember Monaco and Róbert Berény? I was able to find the place and paint it from a different angle. It was so much fun!) I just started to paint and research inspirational locations recently. How many paintings have the wrong location, the wrong title or no known and specified location at all (that could be discovered)?
(By the way, just as a side note: Károly Patkó died 75 years ago this April. 1941 killed so many talented artists I remember… Károly Patkó, Amrita Sher-Gil, Vilmos Aba-Novák, Virginia Woolf…)
Because I did not want to use the Patkó painting as my only visual input, and wanted to see the actual village, I kept searching for the real location. For some reason I was convinced that there should be a village that looks like the one on Patkó’s so called “San Vito”. Supposedly this has always been the title of the painting and that is really bizarre to me. Yet, there could be several explanations… for example Patkó used his own travel sketches to create his final tempera versions… it is possible that he himself gave the wrong title… hard to believe but possible… However, in many instances titles are given by other people once the artist is no longer alive… and art historians and art dealers are often superficial when coming up with a title… (eg.: in one case I could tell that a painting depicting a bridge in Paris with the title “sunset” was actually a “sunrise”… I just looked at it and knew instinctively that the title is wrong and it really was… I could show it on Google Street View within minutes).
How did I find the correct location of Patkó’s painting?
It was actually not that difficult, but I had to be persistent (and I was). The key components that I focused on were: a sea side Italian village among high mountains, apparently in a very narrow valley, a beach road on a viaduct, an isolated building on a very small beach and a particularly typical white building in the upper right corner with prominent terraces. (When you look at the most likely San Vito on Google Street View, you can clearly see that it is characteristically flat, broad, and the beach is rather long. Does not even resemble the village on Patkó’s painting. We know that he traveled to San Vito, it is in his bio, but the correct village that I finally discovered is not mentioned in his biographies that I looked at online.)
Next (based on the spacial experience on the Patkó painting, plus based on former travels and online research) I decided that while San Vito is at the Adriatic Sea, the place I am looking for must be on the Tyrrhenian Sea shore. I looked at several villages there, but I could not find it immediately. There were some similar places, but I knew that I had to keep searching.
I decided to stop looking at Google Earth and Street View for a while and went back to my usual inspirational Google Image search for the area to find the next best place to paint until I find the location of the Patkó painting. And interestingly that is when I stumbled upon a photo of Atrani on the Amalfi coast. And I knew immediately that I discovered the village where Patkó actually painted his “San Vito”! The aerial image was small, but the spacial structure was obvious.
The correct title should be “Atrani“… or “The Valley of the Dragon“.
This below is an interactive image, you can move it around to see Atrani today. I positioned it so that you can see the side of Atrani that was depicted by Károly Patkó. (At the end of this blog post I also included a composite image of Atrani in the past when the beach building was higher than the road.)
As soon as I had the time and as soon as I looked at Atrani from every possible angle, I grabbed my tablet, opened ArtRage and created my own architectural rendering of the village! It is a slightly abstract anachronistic juxtaposed homage to Patkó, Csontváry, Escher and Derain. It could be called: “The Turning Road at Atrani” (seriously, I hope you see these on Patkó’s painting: the turning road, the water and the gig with the three horses… and the man on the gig… and the water carrying figure on the road… and the people under the bridge-like viaduct… all references to Derain’s L’Estaque)… or “A Pink House in Atrani Below the Road” (because of Csontváry)… or “The Escheresque Cubes of Atrani” (Escher did actually draw Atrani and played around with the many cubes in the village)…
Coming up with a title and an artistic movement
You might assume that it is easy to come up with the right title of a painting, but that is also not the case. I spent hours finalizing the title… from the simple location name to the more magical one to the totally philosophical I had half a dozen different titles. At one point I called it: “Possibilism and Eternalism in Atrani”. And with that title I came up with a name for my own artistic movement: Possibilism. It exists as a cultural, human geographical terminology and basically covers the fact that geography is only a minimal limitation for cultural development. Cultural development is mainly determined by social conditions. When I transformed Possibilism into an artistic terminology I added the ever evolving internet and technology… plus I extended this terminology to geographically unlimited artistic creation (no matter where you are, you have the means to be anywhere online) and phenomenally flexible cultural evolution (you have the option of internalizing and even influencing another culture without being in that particular cultural or social environment).
I researched the village online. Initially the building on the Atrani beach was higher than the road, but the third floor was demolished after a while and in the 1950s the road was broadened and so the road is now literally above the beach building. While Csontváry’s beautiful pink villa in Taormina did not survive (and that made me very upset), Patkó’s beach house at Atrani is still there, even if a bit smaller and partly covered by the road. I remember how happy I was to see that in hyper developed Monaco the houses that Berény depicted were almost perfectly preserved in the harbor. Just the same, I am glad that the good people of Atrani maintained the beauty and authenticity of their village. This is where Eternalism joins Possibilism… Me culturally enhancing the story of Atrani from my living room couch (in another country) and also enhancing my own cultural heritage (Possibilism of the internet age) combined with the philosophical assumption that my digital painting’s possibility existed eternally in Atrani and only apparently came into being during the last couple of days (at least the possibility has always been there and only now do we recognize the manifestation … the same way the possibility of Patkó’s painting has always existed… think of a caveman sitting in front of a cave… that creature at the campfire cluelessly poked the building blocks of a futuristic society with a stick… the possibility of everything that exists today already existed within and without… the same way today we walk around knee-deep in yet unrecognized possibilities… for example we could ensure a dignified life to every human being alive, this is only a matter of joint mental effort, because the resources are there… the smartest individuals are however still trying to figure out how to enlighten all people about this and make the obvious possibility manifest itself as our everyday reality… clearly almost everything is dependent on our joint imagination… so, possibilities are not dependent on time, possibilities are apparently eternal, a time sequence is only relevant to the manifestation of the eternal possibilities… while space itself does not appear to be changing much during humanity’s existence… I could almost touch Patkó’s shoulder in Atrani while he is drawing, even though I did not exist yet when he was already dead… this is how I conceptualize my artistic Eternalism. When you notice a possibility and act upon it, you become the channel of manifestation of something eternally possible… ). But why don’t I stop driving the less philosophically inclined readers mad right here and right now…?
Pantkó’s Atrani, his inspirations, the secrets of artists and the ever lasting series of homages from artist to artist
If you compare Patkó’s painting with the real place (Atrani), you will notice that he changed the composition by eliminating the middle section of the residential layer… he virtually pushed some of the buildings from the left to the right to place them in the middle. He turned a broad landscape view into a tall portrait view. I think he did these because he found the series of arches on the left more interesting and wanted to make the middle section architecturally more homogeneous with the buildings on the right side. The mountain tops never looked like that in reality, he probably improvised, but the agricultural terraces above the buildings are correct. I am not sure about the colors of Atrani in 1931, but Patkó mainly opted for blues, greens, white and brownish colors… However, in this region blues and greens are less common on buildings. His version is in many ways removed from reality and yet the village is perfectly recognizable. While sketching Atrani he was standing above the viaduct, at or under the Collegiate Church of St. Mary Magdalene.
Artists influence each another and remember each other. I happily discovered how Derain’s L’Estaque painting impacted Patkó’s art… so, I disagree that his art was mostly inspired by the Italian tradition… Cézanne and Derain were definitely among his role models.
In my opinion this is not the only painting where he remembers André Derain’s The Turning Road in L’Estaque. Here are two other Patkó paintings that remind me of Derain: “Goose Girl by the Brook” and one of the “Subiaco” versions: women are washing clothes under a bridge and a coach driver is crossing the bridge.
Are we a 100% sure that Károly Patkó never went to L’Estaque? Alternatively: Where did he paint the “Goose Girl by the Brook” in 1928? His 1926 “Still Life with Apples” was clearly inspired by Cézanne… Of course one does not have to go to a particular place in France to be inspired by it… I know that. Patkó could have painted this canvas anywhere… even at Lake Balaton… based on a reproduction of Derain’s canvas. Anything is possible.
In his book (and in his two part BBC series) David Hockney talks about how old masters like Caravaggio used the Camera Obscura, concave mirrors and lenses when sketching and painting. There were trade secrets that made the artistic process more precise and faster. According to Hockney’s research concave mirrors were used as early as 1420… the artist worked in a Dark Room (Camera Obscura), while the model sat in strong sunlight outside of the Dark Room… Caravaggio apparently switched from the concave mirror to the more advanced lens in 1595… and in 1839 photography was invented. That means that between 1420 and 1839 artists gradually and secretly transitioned from freehand sketching to freehand tracing, and after 1839 artists regressed back to freehand sketching and painting that were the norm before 1420. Those who used concave mirrors and lenses were skilled artists, even appeared to be amazing magicians to less insightful people, and were most definitely shrewd businessman, deploying every possible contemporary technology to create the most lifelike and exciting images while optimizing their working conditions and maximizing their profits. Artists returned to the methods of the pre-mirror time period again as a reaction to the invention of photography. Today, in the age of digital photography, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and robotics, the task of the artist is no longer the creation of a lifelike visual experience, rather the task is eg.: the visual representation of human emotions. Impression, expression, fauvism, playing with light, color, atmosphere and space. In this age it is also absolutely self evident that more and more people are painting with digital tools. The intelligent and creative artist is open to every possible new tool his or her era has to offer. It is not the mirror, not the lens and not the digital tool that creates movements and marks. The artist’s personal and spontaneous neurology is what creates art in a larger social and cultural context, while channeling a universal and endless stream of possibilities.
Homage from artist to artist… a natural instinct that goes on forever. In many cases you don’t have to go to a particular location “to feel” or “to see” the place, especially today! However, the way I see it, the famous location of Derain’s fauvist painting is lost, just like Csontváry’s pink villa… these places live on in sensitive people’s unique art. Atrani (in the valley of the River Dragon) is a particularly lucky village that mostly maintained its original charme and is also enriched by artistic creativity.
As of today I am suggesting a new title and a new location for Károly Patkó’s “San Vito” painting. It should be called: “Atrani“.
Regina Saphier: Unique Digital Art Experience in PaintingPosted: September 1, 2015 Filed under: English Text, My Digital Art | Tags: 1905, Apple iPad, art, art history, ArtRage, Berény Róbert, David Hockney, digital art, digital drawing, Digital Fauve, digital painting, Early 20th century, Fauve, Gergely Barki, Glenn Gould, Google Art Project, Google Cultural Institute, Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Street View, Ingmar Bergman, Magyar Vadak, Monaco, Róbert Berény, Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Tablet, Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 Tablet, Van Gogh, Wacom Cintiq 27QHD Leave a comment
Regina Saphier: Unique Digital Art Experience in Painting
Above: Vincent van Gogh: The Starry Night (1889) … I added his brush stroke details at the top and bottom of his painting. Notice the 3D appearance of the pigment. Some segments are even chipped… these details are beautiful and yet not observable by the naked eye… We need digital technology to show them online… I love to look at these details on the Google Cultural Institute’s Art Project page… click the image to be able to zoom into this beautiful painting and explore the texture. You can hardly expect any museum to let you touch a Van Gogh and look at it with a magnifying glass from up close.
This essay is about digital paintings, “classical” paintings, about the outdated, power and oppression based, elitist terminology of “uniqueness” and the elusive concept of “the original”… about what is “authentic” and what isn’t on the art market… about ever changing values, perceptions and the subjectivity of “market value”… about the best for a few, or the excellent for everyone… about the definitely original and the possibly original selling for the same amount on the global market… about Google Earth and Street View as artistic inspirations and amazingly as tools of an art historical discovery that I made during the process!
What matters is not the medium, not the surface… rather, it is the neural experience of the creator and the observer… The key is the merging and the synergy of experiences.
What is original? Artistic versus market value.
In my humble opinion, art “happens” between the brains of the creator and the observer, more specifically, between their brains, neural networks, synapses, neurons, the physical features of photons and the surface of the medium. The medium of representation or creation itself is marginal when it comes to artistic quality. According to David Hockney (one of the most important contemporary artists today), it is “the hand” that matters. I say, it is the personal neurology that matters. I think we are talking about the same thing, I am just a bit more scientific. And that personal neurology is what makes something original to the owner today (not the canvas and not the oil). However, the untrained (and sometimes even the highly trained) observer is easily fooled by skilled forgers and so it is really hard to say what it means to have the original. It appears that believing that something is original satisfies most people. So, it is the belief that matters.
Estimating the market value of art is a completely different problem. Or is it? It is not about how artistic something is, not about the fingerprints of the specific artist’s hands (it is not about the artist’s hair in the oil on the canvas), not about how original it is as the result or product of a creative process (from a qualitative point of view). The financial or market value depends on the joint narrative, the PR of the seller and the psychology of the buyer.
An original oil on canvas Van Gogh on the museum wall shows less of the artist’s “fingerprints” (or hair for that matter), than a HD digital photo that permits unbelievable zooming into the artist’s brush strokes. I am sure Van Gogh would love to try digital painting after seeing his own brush strokes digitally magnified. He would see how brilliantly expressive it is. Also, many of his paintings would still be visible instead of being under another painting because he had no money for a new canvas. I would rather have more Van Gogh paintings, even if digital! Again, it is not the medium, it is the neural and visceral experience that matters!
So, we have belief and narrative behind the artistic and the market value. Both are phenomenally subjective. Humans are able to form beliefs, values and narratives in relation to digital art and anything else in life. It is how we function. Both traditional and digital art depend on acquired preferences and value systems. In the age of Bitcoin you can easily attach market value to digital art. In the digital age you don’t necessarily have to own the “one and only” original.
Originality in music, literature and cinema
Think of music
If you want to think about the incomprehensibility of the term “original”, think of classical music, think of Bach and the Goldberg Variations (a variations based composition that Glenn Gould recorded twice, both before and after he stopped playing to a live audience… he stopped because of his fear of airplanes and hatred for his audience… the youngish version was recorded in 1955… next he stopped flying in 1962 and recorded the old version in 1981 in a state of the art studio, just a year before his death). You can obviously not have Bach in your living room to play for you. You would need Glenn Gould to come and play if he were alive, but he is as dead as Bach at this point. Plus, in the end even a Glenn Gould concert was hard to find… even when he was still alive.
With visual art, next to having Van Gogh sit in your garden painting your almond tree (impossible), the next best thing today is owning his original Almond Blossom painting (also impossible) he created for his brother’s bedroom when his child was born, a few months before Van Gogh died.
In music, what is original? Bach playing his own composition for you directly? Not possible. Glenn Gould playing his own youngish interpretation of Bach in a concert hall? Young Glenn Gould’s impetuous studio version? His meditative version he recorded as an old man? Or is the original the music scores noted by Bach’s hand on paper? And how do you define originality when you purchase the Goldberg Variations by any artist as a file? (I always preferred listening to classical music alone with my eyes closed, to sitting in a concert hall in bright light on an uncomfortable chair with strangers I never wished to see… except of course that unique Sviatoslav Richter concert in Graz, Austria two decades ago… he played in a darkened room at night and only a candle was burning on the piano… that was all the light during the concert… I loved the experience!)
While I developed this essay, when I reached the idea of music, I opted for Glenn Gould as an example instinctively. And suddenly I found that he actually also contemplated musical and any kind of artistic originality and authenticity, precisely because he basically became the technical director of his studio recordings after he discontinued his concert pianist career. Interesting to find that he also came to the conclusion that there is a “pathetic duplicity” when people go from hysterically celebrating a painting as original to hysterically hating it once it is scientifically shown to be a forgery. I agree with him. While I dislike deception, aren’t overpriced art, luxury product marketing and romantic love all based on (self) deception?
Think of literature and cinema
What is original and unique? Take Ingmar Bergman’s “Scenes From a Marriage”. Is his script “the original” that he wrote within a few months? His miniseries that he directed? The book that contains his story? The stage adaptations? Initially, all people had in the past was the story teller, and later the theater with people on the stage. Next, as more and more people could read, there was the book. In the modern days the movie theater was invented. With the book and the cinema the story teller and the actor did not have to be present in real time. Today you don’t have to be present in the movie theater, you don’t even need to watch television, you can listen to an audio book, read on your kindle and watch films from files at home. What is original and unique? In every case it is your personal experience that is unique, as you lose yourself in the artist’s projected experience. The medium does not dominate your experience, even if reading a book, listening to a reader, or watching a film are different types of experiences. Independent of the medium there will always be your very personal experience.
Is something original if you have to pay for it (a little or a lot), or is it still original when you get it for free in an era of unconditional basic income in the future? Keep thinking: What is really original in an endless universe? Just how original is Earth itself in a Galaxy of hundreds of billions of stars, in the Visible Universe of at least a hundred billion other galaxies?
Power and leadership in the digital age
Originality and authenticity are outdated social constructs of a snobbish and power hungry elite who are also digital immigrants and often technophobes. The digital natives only nowadays begin to have a voice.
Here are the words that represent and describe the old and fading concepts of originality and uniqueness in my opinion (in art market terms of paintings these are not about talent, nor about personal creativity): money or funds (financial value, financial agreement based on an object that was created only once by someone well known and celebrated), status quo, elitism, common belief, (artificially created) scarcity, narrative (real or manipulated), PR (always manipulated), subjectivity, impressionability (lack of knowledge), self deception, perception, attitudes, the illusion of objectivity, illusion in general, changeable social and personal values, social and individual psychology (the need to fit in and/or build an identity), acquired preferences (based on own networks), oppression, exploitation, despotism, wealth, egotism, selfishness, questionable power and influence, competition and success of the few at the expense of the many, emotions and ever changing culture(s). This is where we are coming from.
As the digital natives with new, enlightened and timely values become leaders, these words and concepts will hopefully begin to fade during the next couple of decades.
The equal market value of the “definitely” original and the “probably” original
Let me give you a completely contemporary and fresh example how passing time, changing values, skillful PR, impressionability, acquired preferences, egotism and scarcity create inflated market “value” and also increase artistic “value” perception. It could be any artist, so the names in the story are not important. My goal isn’t gossiping, my goal is to be able to give you a raw example.
The artist was born in Hungary, yet she is regarded as one of the most important Indian painters (her mother was Jewish Hungarian, while her father was Punjabi Sikh). She died young in India (she was only 28) and most of her paintings are either in museums or in family collections. Most of her paintings are in India. Few of her paintings are in Europe, but these are in much better condition, due to the climate. For decades her art did not have much global market value (her highest prices a few times were around a few hundred thousand dollars), until an ambitious, talented and middle aged Hungarian gallery owner decided to acquire her well documented self portrait from a Hungarian family member (the old man, who as a little boy knew the artist, took care of the painting for decades, and this ensures authenticity… this historic detail adds value). The gallery owner took the painting to Sotheby’s and set down with a dedicated professional team. The networking started and a well crafted PR story unfolded targeting rich Indian men…
The created narrative was that here is this phenomenally talented and sexy, pretty young thing with her red lips and beautiful gaze who died in her prime after having studied in Paris, and just before she could reach her artistic peak in India. The narrative worked, the painting was sold for nearly 3 million USD in New York in 2015, surprising even the extremely ambitious seller and the highly experienced team (and also angering the son of the old family member who sold it to the Hungarian gallery owner). And the power game begins, behind the scenes for now… to the point of the gallery owner supposedly trying to suppress articles on the internet regarding the record sale! (Just how much of an ignorant and egotistic despot are you… man…?) And to the point of the original owner’s family supposedly taking legal action against the gallery owner. How lovely! It is morally puzzling to me why the gallery owner did not offer a joint sale of the painting in the first place. It is also unclear to me why the original owner did not go to Sotheby’s directly… (I mean, he is fluent in English.) Just why do I have this uneasy feeling that this story is based on exploitation, even if in local terms the original owner probably received a nice amount of money…?
This is what happens when the market value of something is artificially and suddenly inflated. This has nothing to do with artistic value. This story of “value creation” unfolded without the knowledge of the supposed global “authority” of this particular lady artist’s work in India, a family member, who has never met her in person. He was stunned when he got the news. An old, mediocre artist, who is basically recycling his aunt’s art… So, when suddenly the aunt’s self portrait was sold for millions of dollars in the US without his knowledge and without his “royal” assent, he found himself insignificant (despite his many inherited paintings by his aunt suddenly having a record market value… his inherited collection in India was suddenly at least six times more valuable, because of this one sale in New York that he did not even know about).
Next thing you know, another self-portrait by her, out of nowhere in France pops up and now the old Indian relative is asked for approval before the Christie’s auction in London (probably via e-mail). To the best of my knowledge (and rest assured, I have not read this complex story anywhere, rather I harvested information from my network) he simply looked at a photo of the newly discovered and completely undocumented self-portrait (it wasn’t published anywhere and nobody knew it existed) and gave his immediate validation that it is definitely original. Just like that. Long distance. Almost like a clairvoyant. WOW! This, and only this nuance made the major sale possible in this case! He has not known about the painting beforehand, he did not hold it in his hands, he also isn’t an art historian, neither does he occupy himself with the chemical laboratory analysis of the pigments or the review of X-Ray imaging results of the deeper layers of the painting. In the golden age of technology, he simply looks at a photo and “knows”. Yeah, “right”…! And the painting that was not even documented in this so called connoisseur’s detailed and heavily illustrated book about his aunt (full of her letters and paintings, and her narcissistic father’s photos), was sold for over 2.5 million USD in London in 2015.
Without the sudden and rather superficially issued consent by the Indian relative, because this painting was latent until recently (unlike the other, well documented and well known painting sold by Sotheby’s in New York), nobody could have sold it in a major auction in London at Christie’s. Her market value was absolutely expected to go up, but not as suddenly and not as high as this. But now her art is at the top of the female Indian painters’ market value short list (within a few months), based on two early self portraits sold in the US and in the UK. The definitely original and the probably original sold for almost the same amount, there were only two hundred thousand dollars between the two final bids. Imagine when the old owners of her paintings begin to pass away in Europe or when some of her more mature work hits the market in India (her paintings can not be taken out of India, so once you take her art from Europe or from the US to India, that is it, it stays there).
Here is the extra grotesque part!
There is a heavily researched painting in Hungary that was acknowledged to be her painting by many experts and even a family member. The painting was exhibited in one of the major museums in Hungary. All sorts of tests were done, including X-Rays, different types of photographs (ultra violet light, infra red light, high definition, etc.), pigment analysis and so on. Yet, it cannot be sold at any auction in New York or London, because get this: based on photos alone (!) the Indian family member decided years ago that it is not his aunt’s work. Again, just by looking at photos. He never examined the painting itself and never explored the research material. But even if he were to examine it in person, he admits that he is not an expert. He does not issue an expert’s statement, no matter what. Yet, a multi million dollar sale depends on his superficial and subjective opinion. Is this what should determine what is original or unique today? Definitely not! Yet it is what is happening.
Technophilia and Technophobia
“Technophilia (from Greek τέχνη – technē, “art, skill, craft” and φίλος – philos, “beloved, dear, friend”) refers generally to a strong enthusiasm for technology, especially new technologies such as personal computers, the Internet, mobile phones and home cinema.” (wikipedia)
“Technophobia (from Greek τέχνη technē, “art, skill, craft” and φόβος phobos, “fear”) is the fear or dislike of advanced technology or complex devices, especially computers.” (wikipedia)
Technology is constantly evolving while the human intellectual and aesthetic evolution appears to be slower. Most people lack the intellectual independence to make up their minds about something new (and also about most of the old as well). People seek out opinion leaders (not necessarily true and reliable experts) to know what is original, what is valuable, what is authentic. That is rather sad but true. Most people aren’t independent thinkers, yet many assume an individualistic pose.
Anything can be artistic or original (if you like). If you have an oil on canvas Hockney, a montage Hockney, or a digital painting of Hockney, all of them were created by his hand, his brain, his neurology. And in each and every case the medium is also part of the end result (but only one part… it is not the key aspect of the artistic value and should not be a key aspect of the market value either in the twenty first digital century). Emotionally the impact will be the same if you have the right values and a high quality product. It is the values, the psychology, the narrative and the quality that matter, not the medium. You will see and feel what he wanted you to see and feel… a UK landscape in LA’s bright light for example… no matter what the medium is, if the product comes with a high quality.
Today, a digital painting’s market value, for example a monumental digital Hockney’s (even if it is made of smaller parts), might be determined by the fact that he has decades of contemporary success behind him, that he was invited by the Royal Academy of Art in 2012 to display his digital paintings and that each monumental digital painting was printed only once, so only one exists or only a limited number of them exist (depending on the agreement). It does not matter if it was painted on canvas, paper or on an Apple iPad or on a Samsung Galaxy Tablet Note 10.1 or a Note Pro 12.2, or perhaps on a jaw dropping Wacom Cintiq 27QHD Creative Pen and Touch Display for 2800 USD… plus 400 USD for the Ergo stand and 100 USD for a more capable Wacom pen… all together my dream tool is approximately: 3300 USD… I think that is without software… (note: software for android devices is much cheaper than for windows or apple products).
A demo of how the Wacom Cintiq 27QHD is used in animation:
Digital artists, who come after Hockney, don’t have to walk the same path, because he represents the transition from traditional contemporary art to the digital contemporary realm. The fact is, anyone could reach some level of artistic value. However, if you have some sort of classical visual culture (you don’t have to be academically educated, it is sufficient if you were surrounded by classical art or if you trained yourself visually), a person might be able to create much stronger and intellectually much more stimulating digital paintings, compared to those who were only exposed to the “aesthetics” of online games (note: there are very few aesthetically excellent online games). On top of this, the artistic and market value also depends on the cultured and/or sensitive audience or observer, again, a highly subjective component in the values game. Some are receptive, some aren’t. Some people are in touch with their latent inner artist, existing somewhere deep down, and some are completely out of touch with their creative emotional selves.
It is puzzling that most contemporary artists are technophobes…
Uniqueness in the digital age
In the digital age, when humanity attempts to make the most possible quality items available to the most possible people (like the cheap, yet excellent ArtRage software for android is a celebration of the long tail economy, while the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 or Note Pro 12.2 Tablets are also excellent), “uniqueness” becomes a highly questionable term.
Uniqueness in economic and market terms (not in artistic terms) speaks about the assumed needs of the elite, about privilege, power, money, wealth, or in other words about inequality, the oppression, exploitation, enslavement, dependency and suffering of the masses. (However, today people are learning at a rate like never before, so change might be on the horizon.) The rich buys “the one and only” at the expense of the poor. Something that is unique is a beautiful thing from one point of view and a very dirty one from another. Holding onto the shockingly expensive and to the traditionally unique represents an attachment to the despotism of an outdated and unenlightened era. A rich person is not better, nor more deserving than a poor person. An artist using oil and canvas is not a better artist than one using digital tools to paint and provoke some sort of emotional impact.
Hockney did not come from a privileged background. For a long time, among many things, he used oil. Today in his seventies as a famous and well to do artist he is also creating digital art. He is still undoubtedly creating Hockney paintings. The old medium does not dominate the artistic value, so it should not dominate the market value either. Of course the most sophisticated forgers are able to show people that even the artist is obsolete, when someone makes a skilled copy and nobody notices (only an Artificial Intelligence tool will be able to distinguish the original from the fake after a while). I know that “cultured” people are attracted to owning the original, but I don’t think that this is an inborn and necessary feature of humans. This is something we learn. So, this is also something that we can unlearn or reform.
Apparently it is the experience that matters. The artistic experience is formed in the observer, in his or her neural network, based on the available information (based on learning and feeling). How immense this artistic experience is depends strongly on the narrative. Art is a mental and social experience, embedded into an ever evolving narrative.
David Hockney talking about his digital art
About my digital art
I suddenly and only very recently started to learn the art of digital painting. By the end of July of 2015 my most amazing dog-sister passed away and my hunger for emotional expression resulted in sudden bursts of artistic activities. I finally gave in and accepted my best friend’s suggestion that digital painting was invented for me. He kindly lent me his Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Tablet and introduced me to ArtRage, a phenomenal digital painting software. Practicing graphic art is a new phenomenon in my life. Finding flow beyond blog writing to forget about loss… Turning pain into digital paintings to definitely see the beauty of life.
Two weeks after my brilliant dog’s sudden death I posted my first “presentable” digital painting (my third digital painting ever) on my facebook wall to a select few friends. It was a freehand digital drawing and painting based on my spring time smart phone photo of a nearby salmon pink Bauhaus building (note: there will be a composite image of my learning process later in this blog text).
Apparently it is a general practice today to paint from digital photos. In fact I just read a few days ago that hundred years ago Pierre Bonnard took photos of his family home and went to his art studio to work where several canvases were stretched on the walls (not on regular stretchers). This is how he created his uniquely intimate paintings. He also did not determine the size of his painting until it was completed (note: in the windows version of ArtRage one is able to enlarge the canvas if necessary).
You can look up and observe the old, but renovated Bauhaus building that I painted (find it on Google Street View if you like). It is 3 Napraforgó Street in Budapest’s second district (Napraforgó means Sunflower), very close to my home (I like to walk there, the entire street is part of a special housing project from better times in this country… it feels a bit like it wasn’t even in Hungary, rather somewhere in the UK… you almost expect a character like Belgian detective Hercule Poirot to appear). On my digital painting I intentionally made it look like the building was located somewhere on France’s Mediterranean coastline, because I used to own a Róbert Berény painting that he created at age 18 in Monaco at the very beginning of the twentieth century. I loved it. I always fantasized about one day painting rooftops for example. In fact “my art rage” started five days after the emotional trauma with my attempt to draw a “tree still life” on a tablet (to see how it works) and next (two additional days later, on July 27 of 2015) I attempted to recreate the atmosphere of my long sold work of art by Berény (an oil on cardboard) that used to hang in my bedroom in my former apartment. (Note: see the composite image of my learning process below.)
Frankly, after I had a professional photo reproduction on my wall for years, I don’t feel any real difference. Initially, it was painful having to sell the original, but I was happy to hang a high quality photo reproduction on my wall in the original frame. It is the emotional composition, the sight, the style, and the colorfulness that I like. I simply don’t care anymore that it is not “the original”. It is still unusual that I own a large and high quality photo reproduction like this one right here on the wall (I am sure, I am the only one with this experience). It is even more meaningful to me that I created a remake of the 1905 painting, because I discovered new details on the painting itself (there is not only a black winter coat, but there is also part of a blue winter coat visible in that same window). And not only that! I even discovered on my own where the painting was created in Monaco and I created my own rendering of the same courtyard as seen from another point of view! This is new information that could enrich our knowledge of Berény and his art. I will tell you the story (in words and in pictures) later in this blog post… Wait for it and read on to better understand what I am doing!
My evolving artistic self
I think I am approaching my personal style that I feel like calling “Neuro Fauvisme Digital” or “Neuro Digital Fauve Expressionism” or “Digital Neuro Surrealism“. As in my inner city photos, the same way on my digital paintings there are no people (also no animals except a hidden and small female black dog in each and every painting, representing the highest levels of loyalty, independence, curiosity, tolerance, love, devotion, truth and intelligence). I work with high tech to create images that resemble the art that was created over 100 years ago in Europe, because that is what I like. I am looking at Google Street View, walking through cities of Europe, finding landscapes and architectures that speak to me and I depict them manually, yet digitally, as if I walked through old towns and villages during summer siestas in 1904 or 1907. These images are my inner walks. My introspective nature is reflected in them.
Despite the high tech that I am using, there is nothing modern (no modern technology) on my digital paintings. I depict cities, homes and structures that contain human communities, that were created by people. No cars, no motorcycles, no digital displays, no traffic lights, no airplanes, nothing like that. Today, I am painting a pre-digital world, with a digital medium (but this might change as my art evolves… I am going to paint as long as I enjoy it). Until now I didn’t create visual art, because I was uniquely surrounded by hundreds of paintings created by (in large part female) artists who were active before W.W.II. Painting traditionally did not appear to be a particularly unusual or special activity to me. However, painting digitally in a pre-digital style felt fascinating to me. My evolving art is a colorful reminder of the Belle Époque before WW I., just when modern technology started to overwhelm us. I love modern technology (I am a female technophile), but I find my flow in taking a paradoxical break from it and wandering (off) visually, mentally and emotionally in(to) a long lost world. Any decent introvert will understand what I mean.
Look, I know that one can’t paint for 30 years within 3 weeks. I know I am a total beginner. People still like to compare my pictures, atmospheres and motives to paintings by Chirico, Escher, Matisse, Hockney, Berény or Csontváry and the like (interestingly and tellingly: not one female is listed, ever). The thing is, I don’t paint like any of them. I paint like me. No need to copy anyone, beyond obvious learning reasons. Yet, I was definitely shaped by the art that I observed throughout my life. I am just learning to paint (on my own), and see what happens. Stimulating (in)sights… loving life… optimism… yet a melancholic observer, a dreamy outsider… My images carry my contradictions. The traveler who is in one place all the time lately.
I write and paint as if I lived in California or New York in the US. Yet I live, write and paint in Budapest, Hungary, Europe. My subjects are located thousands of kilometers away in eg.: the Mediterranean region of Europe. I absorb, read, write, paint, express and display digitally. When you look at my paintings, imagine them as large printed colorful canvases in a foyer or lobby of a lively, elegant home, hotel, museum or restaurant in San Francisco, or on the wall of a magnificent loft in New York. This is what I have in my mind when I am between two paintings. But much more importantly, when I paint I have nothing “on my mind”. It is exactly why I paint. I like to be lost in space and time. Writing is more of a left brained flow experience, painting is more of a right brained flow state. This is how I find my path, my truth… via a whole brain experience. This is my way of celebrating life. I never party, I don’t use substances, I am not dependent on a defined group of people and their opinions. I do my own things. I am my own person. Yet I am highly connected to the world online.
What is unusual is that I have been doing this sudden artistic activity for a few weeks only… yet, it feels like it has all been waiting there inside of me to suddenly happen. I don’t even have to think about my concept when you ask me. It’s there, even ready to be written, as you can see.
My learning process
It pleases me enormously that I finally have an outlet for my serene self. My blogs are full of pensiveness. Painting balances me and helps me show my true inner range. And in surrealism anything is possible… you can have sunlit nights, with dark sky and bright, colorful walls.
Before I start drawing the sketch, I spend some time looking for my next subject for a few days. I pick sights that give me a particularly good feeling. I select subjects that I suddenly start seeing as a painting.
Three weeks into the self guided learning process this is what I produced:
The first painting I posted on August 2nd of 2015 (the salmon pink Bauhaus building with the cherry tree) took me two days to create (I was still learning the software… had to get used to the digital logic of drawing and painting). The last one that I posted on August 22nd of Lake Como also took me two days. You can see the difference in complexity, yet both took me the same amount of time to create. It is unbelievably cool to experience what one can do within three weeks just by simply wanting to create images, by being dedicated and open minded. It still takes two days to complete a picture, because I am still learning while doing and I want to do well. Each time I wish to create something presentable in the end.
I skipped “the cube drawing phase” of learning (that usually takes months in a regular and formal drawing class… I don’t like boring training sessions… I did the same self-willed skipping while learning English… and yet I am able to write blogs in English about basically anything as you can see), and I do the practicing during the visual creation. I keep drawing the lines, until the “buildings” end up in the right position. I keep searching for the form, the shape, the depth, the perspective. I keep going back and doing it again, until I feel happy with the position and the composition. In a way I almost draw multiple pictures in some areas of the surface, until I end up with the final product that I like to look at, that shows the coherence I was looking for. This is why I call it eg.: “Digital Neuro Surrealism” (note: we all have a typical, personal handwriting, and I believe we all have a typical drawing and painting style that naturally happens while practicing). I don’t walk the academic path, it is dead boring to me.
I walk the neurological, instinctive path. Sometimes my frustration is enormous. I sit there and say: “Why can’t I draw?” or “I can’t draw!”… Because I see that it is wrong… so, I remove the specific area and do it again and again, because I know that I should be able to do it. I know it is possible, I just have to keep doing it. And suddenly I like it and I am happy and proud that I suffered through the frustration and that I persisted. When the sketch is done, I start painting the buildings on another layer (on my “Monaco – Rue des Iris” painting I put everything on the same layer and that is not the best approach with the digital medium… it is a good idea to use the separate layers, but technically it is more complicated… especially in the android version of ArtRage, because there the layers are not constantly visible while working)… and so on. Typically, I am not satisfied until I am done with the painting. There is a point where I feel that it is “ready” and I am happy with it (and I feel that I no longer wish to perfect it). I particularly like red buildings (red will be hard to print well, but I still like it).
During my discovery of the digital art realm I came across David Hockney’s digital paintings and listened to him as he spoke of his initial skepticism… Soon he realized, that this is a very serious and quick tool. I agree! Of course he is lucky that he has helpers dealing with the printing and mounting process. Perhaps one day I am going to print my paintings on canvas and hang them on the walls of my apartment along with other art.
Google Earth and Google Street View as brilliant sources of visual inspiration
Sometimes I point randomly onto an area of Google Maps or on Google Earth and zoom in on the Satellite Image of a particular city or village near a large body of water. I “take a walk” in places that I already have been to in the past, like the Côte d’Azur (I took many photos of the landscapes). When I discover the right place to depict, I walk around in Google Street View to compose my next digital drawing and painting. Luckily, due to my many travels, I have a realistic feeling of many places on Earth. I know how it feels to be there.
What is unique about this process, is that Google Street View is created from an angle that would be humanly and practically impossible to work from. Google Street View cars have a long pole on top carrying complex cameras that take multiple images at once as the car moves along the way. This is how the stream of image bubbles are created around the world. If I wanted to assume that position, I would have to sit on top of a ladder on top of a car and would have to maneuver the car back and forth while also painting, and that in the middle of the road. In my opinion Google Street View is a creative and open minded artist’s best friend. I don’t know if anyone is using it like I do, but it was a natural choice for me.
My digital or virtual self and a possible future
For many years I worked on an all digital writer self… I absorb knowledge digitally and I spread knowledge digitally via my blogs. Now I have another opportunity to be 100% contemporary and digital. I look at Google Street View with my human brain and eyes and I create a digital painting manually, filtering the sight through my personal neural network and neurons. Often, in the middle of the painting there is the road, representing life as a continuum and I take you into a (modern) technology free world that actually does not exist anymore. At this point, my freehand digital paintings look like illustrations in children’s books and I really love that. This is all so unexpected and gives me so much joy (after the sadness of loss of a loved one and beyond the understandable frustration of learning).
For an added texture I might one day attempt to 3D print my freehand digital paintings instead of simply printing them on canvas. If you look closer, ArtRage is able to detect your manual movements, hand pressure, etc., and is offering many tools and settings that give you the ability to create real texture. (One is able to add much more texture, I just opted for lighter touches.)
Painting digitally is more spontaneous, flexible, there is a lot of freedom, it is much more intuitive with all the tools compared to traditional painting. However, when I work with the digital stylus, I never copy or paste, I don’t put photos into the file, I don’t use digital shapes, I make everything possible manually (freehand).
I think what we need to do, is no longer a comparison of traditional painting and digital painting. We are already at the point where we should rather ask questions like: What would you see as original, a manually yet digitally painted painting by a human (printed professionally on real canvas), or an oil on canvas directly but created completely by an artificial intelligence driven robot without zero human intervention?
And at this point I think I just invented the AI navigated robot, that (instead of printing or even instead of 3D printing) looks at your finished digital painting file (not a computer generated image) and carries your exact movements (by learning the patterns of your personality, emotions and neural activity), painting your image move by move, on a canvas that you can hang on your wall, adding amazing extra texture to your digital painting.
So, as you can see, now as I am beginning to teach myself to draw and paint digitally, I did my share of thinking about this art form and field. I hope some or most of this essay was interesting to you.
Rest assured that this art technology will evolve and in a few years people will begin to acknowledge freehand digital (drawing and) painting as the serious art form it already is.
Remember, that in life and in art: It is the experience that really matters!
A small detail of my Lake Como painting:
By the time I completed this blog (on August 31. of 2015), I also completed a new painting. Here are three versions of my “Le Pin Parasol”:
This is a detail showing the manual/digital brushstrokes on my Le Pin Parasol representing the sea and the trees (note: I opted for homogeneous waves, but you can go really wild if you change the settings of the tools):
I painted this sight based on a photo on Pinterest. There wasn’t much info… I only knew that it was somewhere on Capri, in Italy. I could see that the tree was a Stone Pine. I had a good feel for the entire spacial experience. As usual, I got curious and used my almost savant like skill to find the original location (note: I used to be the nightmare of real estate agents… I could find their advertised homes based on the smallest spacial information… just seeing a small part of a city, like a rooftop is enough for me… on several occasions I would wave at the agent from the specific building’s door while he or she would wait for me at some neutral corner… finding things on Google Earth is something I also like to challenge my friends with… it is so much fun!). I used Google Maps and Google Earth and within 5 minutes I discovered the exact place. I zoomed in and out and explored the area. If you are like me, you can find it based on my painting in 5 minutes too. (Here is the solution if you can not find it, but first try if you have the time… if you don’t, just highlight the section: Via Krupp)
But here is the really amazing discovery I made during this process!
I used the same savant skill and tools (that I described above) to find the place in Monaco where Róbert Berény painted his Monaco houses and rooftops in 1905. I created the digital painting remake to learn (note: the Samsung Galaxy Tablet that I am using and the ArtRage version on it are Android based), plus discovered the place on Google Earth where he created his painting. The address in my opinion is 23 Boulevard Albert 1er, Monaco. I think Berény was standing on the terrace in the courtyard (he was facing south on a sunny winter morning very close to the sea in Monaco) and he painted the north facing walls and rooftops of a few villas on Rue Princesse Antoinette (unless he took photos as many of his contemporaries did). If you look closely, even the characteristic glass bricks are visible from space. (See images below for a better understanding.) From Rue Grimaldi one is able to see parts of the buildings on Google Street View. The building that is yellow today used to be peach colored a few years ago … and before that it could have been pink or red. A lot has changed in over 100 years in Monaco… and yet the atmosphere is the same in this courtyard.
Young Berény (only 19 at the time) was standing behind the inner white structure (on the left side, as seen from Rue Grimaldi below) on a huge terrace and faced the smaller buildings (like the yellow one on the right side)… The colors were different in the past, plus his imagination also played a role. Of course some of the buildings were slightly reconstructed since the original Berény painting was completed in 1905, but the place is 100% recognizable. (I posted images of the original painting at the end of my post.)
I am assuming this is a historically significant discovery, this is why I felt that I should publish it immediately as part of my digital art related blog post. I used to own the painting, I created its remake digital painting as part of my recently started learning process and I spotted the special place while exploring the area for further artistic inspiration via Google Maps, Earth and Street View. I painted a street approximately 500 meters from this location in August 2015. I was getting closer and closer and suddenly I had the exact place. I felt obligated to share my discovery with everyone who is able to appreciate it.
Thank you Google! I love technology! I love art! I love to write! I love to paint! I love to do research! I love to discover! I love the experiences!
Here are a few images to help you understand my research result:
In case my fascinating story that I discovered the place of creation in Monaco of a Hungarian Fauve painting (by Róbert Berény) that I used to own wasn’t exciting enough (as part of this blog post in English and as the main topic of my latest Hungarian blog post), let me add this:
Gergely Barki, the number one Berény expert in Hungary was in Monaco at the very same time looking for the location where Berény created another early painting depicting houses in the Port of Monaco. We weren’t aware that the other person is exploring the area (him in person with his lovely family, and me online while painting and doing my detective work).
As it turns out, we have met 15 years ago in my own former home where my Berény painting was on display at the time. After returning to Hungary, Gergely was stunned when he accidentally found my blog (during a Google search) with the images of the courtyard that he also photographed. As he wrote he was only a 1000% sure that it was the same courtyard after he read my blog.
I’m thrilled that the story just keeps getting better! He gave a talk at a press conference of the Virág Judit Galéria in Budapest today on September 21 of 2015 and Gergely incorporated my findings and blog post into his presentation.
He was so enthusiastic as if we were related and I love that! It is so nice to correspond with someone who had a very similar experience, and who is able to appreciate my results. I wish I had an enthusiastic sibling like him!
Regina Saphier: Sunny Nights: Tesla PowerWallPosted: May 4, 2015 Filed under: English Text | Tags: Elon Musk, Gigafactory, PowerPack, PowerWall, Solar Power, Technology, Tesla 2 Comments
Regina Saphier: Sunny Nights: Tesla PowerWall
Thank you Elon Musk for giving Hungarian citizens a possibility to economically refuse the planned new Russian Nuclear Power Plant that the idiotic Hungarian government is planning to build in Hungary for exorbitant amounts of borrowed money (borrowed from the Russians of course… while people have no jobs…).
When a political election did not stop the nuclear power plant idea (it did not), when the EU is impotent to stop it (it is), you can always count on Elon Musk to do something that changes the game and gives even individuals power in every sense of the word!
TESLA’s home (and industrial) solar energy storage technology is already something that the middle class could afford even in Hungary and without government subsidies. (Because never expect this government to support something that makes sense… in present and in future tense.) Imagine people building new homes, purchasing solar panels, a TESLA POWERWALL, and living off the grid from the first day in their new houses… no need to have a contract with a utility company that provides more expensive, nuclear power based electricity or “natural” gas… It is a smart investment economically and ecologically to spend money on a PowerWall (eg.: at home) or on a PowerPack (let’s say, by the II. district in Budapest).
These batteries (their industrial versions) will also enable small and local energy businesses, even local governments to provide extremely affordable day and night Solar based electricity to financially less powerful clients. And I could go on and on about how it is a good idea to build this technology into existing homes and institutions as well… And we would have cleaner air as well… because heating homes with fossil fuels is one of the major sources of pollution… as are exploding and burning nuclear power plants… And how about finally running air conditioners with Solar energy (day and night).
I am for the TESLA POWERWALL. I support the TESLA POWERPACK! My secret dream: Elon Musk for Hungarian president… or at least a similarly intelligent and talented person. Game change: on!
And the punchline: 2 billion PowerPacks could make the entire world 100% Solar and renewable powered within a decade or two, and Tesla has a factory sized product for this: The TESLA GIGAFACTORY (that is obviously powered by renewable energy and Tesla PowerPacks).
Regina Saphier: Writing, Inner Speech & The BorgPosted: November 28, 2014 Filed under: English Text, English Video | Tags: AI, Artificial Intelligence, Direct Brain Communication, inner monologue, inner speech, inner voice, Seven of Nine, Star Trek, The Borg, writing Leave a comment
Regina Saphier: Writing, Inner Speech & The Borg
The adventures of our inner voices… in the age of artificial intelligence, direct brain communications and global online networks…
I swear I thought I am going to write about writing as a manifestation of my inner voice (silent thought processes that only you are aware of and only you can work with… until you write things down, speak them out loud or get them out of your mind in some other way with technology… no I am not joking), but I ended up in a completely different direction… this is why I write, to explore what is in there and what is out there and what is in between…
Writing is listening to my inner voice/speech (in a healthy way)… to my own thinking… It is a manifestation of my reflective capacity, my consciousness… and reading is listening to someone else’s inner stream of ideas (alongside your’s)… If you don’t realize that you do this, pay attention to yourself more. Just as many people are not aware of their inner imagery when reading a novel for example, the same way many people don’t know that they are running a narrative of their own reality in their heads… It is “on” so much so that only people well trained in meditation are able to turn off the inner voice, the inner speech, the random ideas, feelings and reactions… and there are mindful people attempting to guide and manage the inner speech and voice… to use it efficiently, even creatively (like me) and not let their inner processes ruin their experiences. Introverts are more in tune with this inner world.
Radio, Skype, Intimacy
I love the radio show: This American Life. I love many of the stories people tell or read on that show. Some are fiction, some are nonfiction. I think it is one of the best radio shows in the world. I always loved radio done by people who truly love to listen and tell stories.
I just noticed that a “voice only” skype chat with a friend and listening to “This American Life” stories on my computer or smartphone… these experiences have something in common. Perhaps it is intimacy. Films and video chats on skype never have this depth. When you see people, when you see yourself talking to someone, when you know you are being watched, when your conversation partner knows of being watched, you both remain highly self conscious (different people on a different level), even if you are old friends. When you listen to radio or to someone’s voice via skype (or via phone, if you do not have to hold onto the phone physically… remember how your hands could get tired of holding that thing… or your ears could hurt… these physical reactions keep you self aware), there is a depth of intimacy that you can never reach with the moving image and with a phone in your hand. The moving image is wonderful, but even if you put the camera right into someone’s bedroom and into their faces, the moving image can never be as intimate as hearing a person talk “only”. I am sure you can feel how overwhelming it is when some people film and photograph everything… and how calming it can be when you can just listen (listen to the other and to yourself) and relax. Of course photography is a brilliantly expressive art, and yes some images are worth a million words, but most images can never outperform a good voice chat online… and yes, I also love in person chats, of course, but those are different (due to the physical and the visual elements, it is simply harder to allocate all of your energy to the spoken layer). I love films, but I might opt for a good radio program instead.
Relying on Your Hearing Only
It is similar to blind people having unbelievable hearing, to the level of bats. When you “only” listen to someone, you become an emotional bat, navigating blindly in an emotional cave and relying on your listening skills and instincts. I believe this is a good way to improve your intuitive capacity. You don’t see with your eyes, you see with your mind’s other “eyes” and you go very deep, really fast, if you like. Your brain suddenly reaches a deeper level of listening and closeness.
This is similar to people sitting in completely dark rooms… they become highly intimate even with strangers (there is also less material for judgement… you are more able to feel close to another human being…). It is almost meditative when you listen deeply. Effectively, you can become a better listener if you only listen to people via skype and via radio. It is interesting to experience different modalities.
I just realized, when I am writing, I am turning my inner radio on… I start listening to what I am thinking closely and I make it visible on my computer screen (would be nice to skip this part, the typing and the reading by making the process more direct). I ask myself questions without asking… the questioning of the self and the excavation of thinking processes and opinions are embedded in the process of writing. Writing is not typing. Writing is listening to myself and mapping how I am relating to the world. During writing your limited consciousness stops being a small mental container and turns into a portal for your deep mind… and the deep mind of sophisticated internet users is different from the mind of unconnected individuals who are not mindful. In the distant past when people were listening to their own inner narratives they had no real time options to see how that inner narrative related to other people’s deep mind and to facts.
Reading as Listening
Reading is listening too. Because after I posted this blog note, you started to read it (most likely) silently. I effectively speak to you silently… it is like asynchronous telepathy… you are listening to my inner voice in your head with some delay. When you start thinking about my ideas in your head, you virtually engage in a silent conversation with me. I only know it when you write back, or speak to me, but even if you do not, the conversation happens, even if “only” in your head (you will respond and resonate even if you do not write to me). Every person reading this blog conducts a secret parallel conversation with me in a hidden dimension of our universe. I believe that writers are essentially and primarily skilled inner conversationalist, explorers and listeners. Writers are even able to converse with people in the distant future (and with people in the past, when reading). I am writing for my own pleasure, to see what I think, but still, thank you for the conversation, now that you let me enter your mind with my inner voice and speech. It is my inner narrative that will survive as long as my writing is being read (or absorbed in some other way in the future).
The Future of Inner Speech and Mental Transfer
Perhaps one day people will no longer speak nor write to one another but simply use “technological telepathy” (just made this terminology up, because I know that the basic technology is already a reality in this area) to transfer this inner voice directly from mind to mind or from mind to computer (just like mental images are now recognized and reproduced by dedicated technology). It will be just as simple as leaving a message on an answering machine, or even easier. However, when I look at the difference in precision, I am thinking: how are we going to be able to be as precise and as nuanced as in writing? Are we going to think our ideas into a file and edit them by thinking about our thoughts? Isn’t it interesting to think about this? And when uploading our entire mind on a computer, are we going to edit out the personally embarrassing bits? And what are we to do with criminal minds?
Are we going to get help from AI to take our inner narrative to the next level? Will an AI companion read our minds to help us know what we think? Will an AI help us learn the things we need to know about the world and ourselves silently? Is it possible that we are becoming The Borg… a community of minds directly connected? Everyone hearing everyone else… Are we to become one mind? How are we to remain individuals in such a network? How are we to protect our minds from other people’s evil thoughts and destructive inner speech? Who is going to be in control of our minds?
Video: The AI based holographic Doctor teaching a former Borg, called Seven of Nine (a human being rediscovering her humanity lost during her childhood) on the show Star Trek: Voyager
Futurist Zoltan Istvan‘s transhumanist dream (and he is not alone with this dream) to upload his mind might just be the only reality for people in a machine age of constant learning, collective knowledge, the internet, robotics, space exploration and AI. But that won’t solve his fear of death, because he will still be gone one day… His knowledge, personality, and inner speech will melt into the collective. Humanity as The Borg…? “Seven of Nine”… “One of Seven Billion” today… But just how valuable will our minds be when AI systems will become more knowledgeable and more creative than people? Only we care about our ephemeral minds… Would you like your brain to be placed in an individual robot? Perhaps many people would be ok with that… Is your identity related to your body or your mind or both? Are YOU a mental process? Will our fear of death be replaced by the feeling of being intellectually and creatively obsolete when AI technologies become smarter and unfollowable for a human individual and even for humanity as a whole?
See? This is what I end up with today when I am thinking about writing as inner speech, a special way of self expression and listening. Our inner monologues will be highly and directly interconnected dialogues or group conversations in the future and that is probably an understatement of how our communications will be unrecognizable… and yet it will be natural even with technology, because our brains have the capacity to adapt. Writing and the spoken word might become obsolete sooner than we think. This will be the age of really big and fast understanding of unimaginably big “data”.
Articles I read mostly while I wrote the above post:
Telepathy is now a thing thanks to technology
Brain decoder can eavesdrop on your inner voice
Artificial Intelligence Outperforms Average High School Senior
Direct Brain Communication Between Humans Study Replicated
Controlling Genes with Your Thoughts: New System Regulates Gene Expression
These People Want To Use The Internet To Live Forever
Regina Saphier: Recovering Plutocrats: Wake UP!Posted: September 8, 2014 Filed under: English Text | Tags: Basic Income Guarantee, Larry Page, Nick Hanauer, Peter Diamandis, Unconditional Basic Income, Vinod Khosla Leave a comment
First published on Aug 22, 2014 on LinkedIn.
Regina Saphier: Recovering Plutocrats: Wake UP!
Nick has a point, but unfortunately he still thinks that more consumption is going to fix a society that exists on Earth that has limited resources. Nick is wrong. You cannot forever increase productivity and consumption… that strategy does not lead to a sustainable society at this point. Yet it is important that he is willing to spend more of his revenues on wages instead of a new mansion or boat and that he stands up for his views publicly (let me remind you, he needs no more money, yet raising wages in general might result in more profits for him, depending on his investment portfolio). I also like that he admits that in another country with less national economic power he would sell fruit on the side of the road, because that system has only that much economic power and not everyone gets lucky… I am sorry that his warning has to do with his own fear of lower social classes, and not so much with his conscience.
What Could Be a Truly Transformative Idea for a New Era?
A Very Expressive Chart
“Let me put it this way:my son, who is 10, doesn’t think he needs to learn to drive or do grocery shopping because he says he’ll just click something to arrive. All the fundamentals of life can and will be automated, from driving to grocery shopping. Chores effectively disappear in terms of time consumption.”
Shrinking the Workweek?
Larry Page: “I totally believe we should be living in a time of abundance, like Peter Diamandis’ book. If you really think about the things that you need to make yourself happy – housing, security, opportunities for your kids – anthropologists have been identifying these things. It’s not that hard for us to provide those things. The amount of resources we need to do that, the amount of work that actually needs to go into that is pretty small. I’m guessing less than 1-percent at the moment. So the idea that everyone needs to work frantically to meet people’s needs is just not true. I do think there’s a problem that we don’t recognize that. I think there’s also a social problem that a lot of people aren’t happy if they don’t have anything to do. So we need to give people things to do. We need to feel like you’re needed, wanted and have something productive to do.”
Larry Page goes on saying: “… reduce the workweek. And then, if you add slightly less employment, you can adjust and people will still have jobs.”
Giving People the Opportunity to NOT Having to Work for a Living…
Vinod Khosla: “I fundamentally believe we move from an economy of labor and capital to an economy of ideas. Most economists haven’t caught on to this change…”
Vinod Khosla: “Looking 40 years out, I find it hard to imagine why we won’t need to support half the population to not work but pursue other interests that are interesting to them.”
Plutocrats Don’t Appear to Know Anything About: Unconditional Basic Income
More content regarding virtual humanism, UBI, leadership and many other topics on My Virtual Humanism Blog
Regina Saphier: Experts don’t make the future. Dreamers do!Posted: August 26, 2014 Filed under: English Text | Tags: dreamer, expert, eyewire, foldit, idealist, serious games, Star Trek, Unconditional Basic Income, Vivek Wadhwa Leave a comment
This is a cross posting of my article “Regina Saphier: Experts don’t make the future. Dreamers do!” published via LinkedIn on August 7, 2014.
Regina Saphier: Experts don’t make the future. Dreamers do!
I am writing this post in response to these LinkedIn influencer posts:
Vivek Wadhwa: We’re heading into a jobless future, no matter what the government does
Vivek Wadhwa: Why We Should Believe the Dreamers — And Not the Experts
When I challenged you a few weeks ago to think about Unconditional Basic Income (as discussed in one of my blog notes), you responded that UBI equals unemployment in your opinion and that you are not sure the world is ready for that (note: I respectfully disagree, UBI would not cause unemployment and the world is just about to be ready for UBI). It is clear based on your blog on a jobless future that in addition you believe that new technologies also lead to unemployment. So, no matter what we do, the result is more unemployment in your opinion and there is no turning back. I agree. When you now write that people should opt for 20 or 10 hour work weeks you are not far away from the 5 or the zero hour work week (that comes next). In your other blog post you say people should know that experts are getting more and more puzzled by the future and are less and less able to predict what’s coming.
I agree: Dreamers Are The New Experts
There is one tiny problem: Mostly experts have the resources, dreamers usually don’t. Experts are usually part of the establishment and like to hold on to their power. Dreamers and idealist are usually outsiders and dislike institutions. Elon Musk is a rare kind of dreamer who is also an expert with self made resources. So, we have to find a way in the future to get more resources to the dreamers who possess or are ready to acquire and build expert level knowledge and find more experts with dreamer qualities.
To quote myself: “Many people sadly assume that if you work you earn an income and that this is the only way and that it is always true. Less people are able to imagine that if you have an income then you will work on things that matter based on your initiative and your diligence (based on inner motivation). We are up against the limitations of human imagination and experiences, NOT against economics. It is not economics that defines us. We are the ones creating and defining economics with our collective imagination.” This paragraph was taken from another relevant blog note written by me… basically Part 2 of my above mentioned UBI blog post.
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. (Arthur Schopenhauer)
Isn’t it possible that sufficiently imaginative people are not very common in the field of economics? Isn’t it possible that when you suggest a shorter workweek you are stuck in an old paradigm that is completely outdated and not at all creative in terms of modern thinking? I think if we take David M. Kelley‘s principles of evoking creativity and combine his transformative methods with social issues and economics related innovation, we will be able to initiate a true paradigm shift.
For new kinds of ideas we need to discover new ways of thinking in a new era. To help you understand how silly it sounds to opt for 10 or 20 hour work weeks in the future: If Coursera or edX asked you to suggest a payment method three years ago during the planning phase (based on your latest article suggesting a drastically shorter workweek) you probably would have suggested that online students in India should pay “only” 25-50% of the tuition fee compared to American on campus students (at Stanford or at Harvard)… and so, would have completely rejected poorer talent in India based on simple personal lack of imagination, effort and courage. As we know that would ruin the entire massive model of these MOOCs, yet that would be the only thing you could come up with. I am sure in retrospect you would not want to take that kind of embarrassment upon yourself. People now have free choices for top level learning, and only exams come with a small fee (and even that can be waived). If this is possible, anything is possible. This is why either free utilities and/or (as I call it) “employment-independent optimal income” might and should be possible too (more and more of the technologies is there to make that possible) and instead of unemployment, it would mean massive open online entrepreneurship and human creativity with no existential pressure.
Serious Social Games
What we need is a new field of intuitive, compassionate and creative Social and Economic Engineering and Design or SEED, but ideally one that is not related to business, academia, party politics, nor government, rather one that is crowdsourced, that is based on big understanding of Big Data and Social Physics. Show me the numbers, the computer models, show me the online games that could test the hypothesis and trace the hidden, yet key mechanisms of positive social transformation. In EyeWire you can trace neurons, in FoldIt you can optimize proteins (these are serious online science games). I am positive there are serious game design opportunities to trace and optimally “fold” social structures, we just need to create those tools and mindsets on a global scale.
In the US the government was able to drive technological R&D. The same way, the task of the US government right now is to drive social and economic R&D. At the same time private foundations also must engage in financing social experiments that are based on careful, mindful and thoughtful research. The same is true for the EU that is now trying to shake up its economic situation, yet ignores the social elements and the ever present income inequality in eastern, southern, western and northern Europe. One day people are going to look back and think: How were people able to live during those dark ages?
What to Expect?
During my twenties I wanted the internet to provide me with information, let me exchange e-mails and chat lines and answer my questions. During my thirties I wanted the internet to connect me with the entire world, let me do research, let me express myself, let me build my online image and presence and provide me with top learning opportunities. During my forties I want the internet to find me the perfect jobs (as long as jobs are available), and provide me with an optimal income, as simple as that, independent of work in the traditional sense (in the future).
Just a Few Questions
Why do people take it for granted that facebook is perfectly welcome to earn money with our data, while we are not getting a penny? Why is it so natural that bloggers with excellent content get nothing while bad journalists earn money? Why can’t we track how our ideas pollinate the blogosphere and the mind of researchers and business people? Why is it that designers have to complain about their images being misused instead of having a solution that would make it possible for them to either receive automatic payments for every use or alternatively have their image posted with their work or website as an advertisement? How come the fitting jobs still can’t find you based on your extensive online content? How come society still thinks that creative human content writing (that can not yet be beaten by AI) should not be rewarded by the society that benefits from the producers’ inner motivation, diligence and hard work? We need more online activities that actually provide all sorts of income. We need to start squeezing more income out of the online sphere for everyone.
Social Scavenger Hunt
Here is an excellent example to tweak your attitudes and thinking regarding hidden value and access: The Bigger or Better Scavenger Hunt. This is a game college students and kids play in the US. The key idea is that you start with a small item, like a chewing gum and keep walking door to door asking for something bigger or better… like a book… or a pen drive… and in a few steps, after a few doors you might end up with a used smartphone. Imagine what you could end up with if you walked across the US… There are huge wasted assets and financial resources all over societies that need to be redistributed fairly in order to permit anyone to live an enlightened life on Earth. And developed societies must start to think about introducing Unconditional Basic Income, because when hundreds of millions of people start their grotesque jobs of 10 hours a week, what are we going to do to keep the middle class alive? And what about poor people who are without jobs already, some of them formerly known as lower or even upper middle class citizens? Everything happens so fast with technological development that we must speed up our social and financial adjustment and for that we need appropriate ideas for testing and we need to start the computer simulations yesterday to introduce the right policies tomorrow. After all, this is a social emergency!
Star Trek – Emergency Medical Hologram – “Please state the nature of the medical emergency!”
If you don’t know Star Trek Voyager: there is a brilliant holographic doctor with a slightly narcissistic personality… a gifted opera singer with the desire to be as human as possible. He is undoubtedly an important part of the starship crew and goes on all sorts of missions. Robert Picardo did an excellent job portraying a technology that appears to be human yet it isn’t. This EMH even has his own personality and his personality disorder to fit in perfectly with people. People in the story are never concerned with money, yet they aspire to do a good job, as does the Hologram. Members of the crew don’t get puzzled by the holographic team member, but they occasionally struggle with his personality traits. Very human indeed. I like this vision of a technology perfectly fitting in with humans, even having a sense of humor. And he (almost) never gets tired of asking what the emergency is…
The same way we should not get tired of asking: How are we going to sustain people in an era when human work no longer generates income? When income is a given and people still remain productive in so many ways… That should be a healthier avenue. Picture that! Please state the nature of the social emergency and use your imagination to solve it! Let us do this together.
Regina Saphier: Futuristically SpeakingPosted: April 28, 2014 Filed under: English Text | Tags: Coursera, Massive open online course, Unconditional Basic Income 3 Comments
Regina Saphier: Futuristically Speaking
I want my readers to know that my support for an Unconditional Basic Income does not come without a million questions regarding our human future. So, below, partly in response to a thoughtful comment that I received via WordPress upon publishing my Unconditional Basic Income post, I crafted this post here, contemplating our near and our distant futures, virtual currencies and the ever more obvious obsoleteness of human work as we know it. In this quick essay I am going to move back-and-forth between our near and our distant futures, and will be listing the related questions and issues. Nothing is black and white in that future.
Your (the commenter’s) points are perfectly valid. We have to keep thinking about how the UBI (the Unconditional Basic Income) could work in different countries and what the related issues are, including (digital) currencies. However, let’s state that we are talking about the basics and dignity. Scarcity (or rarity as you put it) won’t be an issue when it comes to basics when technologies (robots, nanotechnology, biotechnology, machines and algorithms in general) permit humanity to produce those basics for everyone alive virtually for free, and with minimal human input.
What is hard to answer is this: When most people are no longer needed in the long run to work, what is going to motivate most people to make an effort for anything, to become anything, or to do anything? Because today in developed countries approximately 40% of people work for money (are employed), the rest either are unemployed, married or are children (these people are dependent), or used to work for money (used to be employed or used to be married to someone who used to work) and are now getting a pension. For me it is not even the feasibility of the UBI… and not even people’s abilities that brings up question marks.
Am I naive?
The other day I have been watching a film and there were young and old people playing bingo during a church community event in the US… And I stopped to ask: Is this the future of most people with no intellectual challenges and a basic income? Am I naive to think that most people could enjoy intellectual challenges? To me it is natural to ask questions and come up with possible answers or to tell stories… I even believe that a MOOC based high quality mass education online will make more people creative and smart, and that will lead to better answers and better solutions. I believe that everyone who is cognitively appropriately functional (believe it or not: the majority of humanity) is able to learn to read and write and engage in intellectually and artistically productive activities and learning. People are not born stupid. People are kept in the dark by lack of education or by bad education. This will gradually change as quality education will be available to everyone for free. It is already happening. The best example is Coursera.
Are consumers contributing anything?
But what about those who don’t want to do anything? Or what about those who are smart, not necessarily artistic or expressive but unnecessary as workers in the economic cycle in the future? Is their only contribution being a consumer? Is that a contribution? If VAT is used as the source of UBI in that case even that is a possibility. There are people like this even today. These people spend other people’s money. But what about people like this by the billions? This is the very distant future, not our future. Yet we should keep thinking about this. What happens to these people? You mentioned acting in good faith… Are these people even capable of acting in good faith or are these individuals only mindless spenders? In that yet to be built future what does it mean to act in good faith? There are many questions to be asked and to be answered.
A new kind of economics
Futuristically speaking, in the near future, possibly in our personal future, when (and where) there is no shortage of basic goods that are necessary for a good life, and when the sharing economy is generally accepted, traditional currency has less value and exchange of skills, knowledge and creative abilities might become more interesting and a digital, virtual currency is perfect for measuring that exchange. I believe that bitcoin is interesting beyond its simple monetary features… it is interesting because it is able to directly encapsulate your intellectual performance into the virtual shape of a digital currency. Add UBI to this mix in digital currency and you have the basic components of a new kind of economics.
The Missing Temple of Human Dignity
Social media presence, our peer reviewed work, our online education, our influence on others, our good standing in the virtual public space will be a major part of our valuation in the future. Imagine if I could promote my blog with my digital UBI and my readers could click to send me extra bitcoins or some other virtual currency that could help me pay for my food, my electricity, my travels… Peer content rewarded directly by peer consumers of my intellectual input. No paypal, no bank transfer, just direct virtual reward for valued efforts. A digital barter. It only leaves the virtual space in the form of me being able to switch on the light and my laptop… or I could have a wish list online and people could purchase necessities in exchange for my intellectual input. I am posting quality blogs, readers learn, and people can send me “bits” of a new plant… “bits” of a pillow… a coupon for shoes… pay a portion of my electricity bill along with many other readers… things that I listed as needed. This is global micro crowdfunding, if you like. And everyone is fine. Unconditional Basic Dignity… as you put it… I believe in that too. It should be part of the basic community “hygiene”. I don’t need money, I need to turn my intellectual input into goods and services to live with dignity. I believe today the financial system and the religious establishment are the temples of money, and there is no temple of human dignity.
While people keep criticizing an Unconditional Basic Income as the perceived “lazy maker” of this century, there are others who find it bizarre that free work effort is taken for granted. I find the acceptance of free work without any return outrageous when someone does not have the financial basics to be able to work without financial compensation. I stopped my TED volunteer activities because I felt I was giving more to this small country that speaks Hungarian than I was gaining with my quality work within this society… the process made me feel used after a while, so I stopped (and also because of the grotesque decisions made by an overpaid TED employee a few years ago).
Asking people to work for free is exploitation when people have no income
Recently I outlined an idea for TED for example in my “Weapons of Mass Construction” blog note to make it possible for TED Open Translation Project volunteers (translators and reviewers) to earn money for their translations when they need income (because many do need and don’t have income). There are people who can afford to donate money and to donate work efforts to TED, but others “donate” work efforts while jobless and without independent income. And in some countries there is no limit to free work that people expect you to do. Samasource helps multinationals to “donate paid work” to poor countries! TED could also be a channel of “paid work donation”. It is unfair in my opinion that people work for TED for free while having no independent income of their own. It is exploitation in a way. Not the same when someone has an income or an estate, lives well and works for free as a hobby. Some people translate TED talks because their abilities are not used by their own communities and these people still want to remain intellectually active, want to learn and improve. These are often highly capable, diligent and jobless people. Their joblessness is a structural problem of the job markets, and has nothing to do with personal ability or inability to work. (Soon by the way there will no longer be a need for human translation… note: speech transcription can now be done by computers with very little human intervention…) There is volunteer inequality in this process that nobody appears to address. If all people had an Unconditional Basic Income, even this volunteer inequality would not exist.
Many people sadly assume that if you work you earn an income and that this is the only way and that it is always true. Less people are able to imagine that if you have an income then you will work on things that matter based on your initiative and your diligence (based on inner motivation). We are up against the limitations of human imagination and experiences, NOT against economics. It is not economics that defines us. We are the ones creating and defining economics with our collective imagination.
By 2050 only less than 10% of the human translators will be necessary
Again, the need for volunteer translators and paid translators might not exist in ten years at all… Let’s say that compared to 1950, in 2050 only less than 10% of the human translators will be necessary, but only to review machine transcripts and translations. What goals can you give people when intellectual challenges like a translation or article writing will be gone and most translator activities will be gone too, along with their income… Let’s say that everyone would have an independent income (UBI) and could decide what to do. But what do you do, when your abilities are no longer needed to sustain you, your loved ones, your community, production and in an extreme case: human culture? So, what I am saying is that not only will you not need to work for money, but most of us won’t be needed for work to sustain humanity. Over 90% of human beings might be without a paid job by 2050. It is a possibility. So, what will we be doing with billions of Coursera and MOOC educated citizens with no jobs? And there will be new technologies for high quality mass education by that date… and those technologies will require less and less human input.
Back to the near future
If our social media presence would carry our social and intellectual value as well, we could benefit from virtual currencies on top of our UBI via peer reward for our community efforts in the virtual space and in the so called “real world” too. I am fine with that. But what is your goal to realize during your lifetime if you no longer have to work for money… and if you no longer have to go to an office where other people work too? You won’t find any job advertisements connected to an income… in a possible future. How will you be part of a community? Remember, in the past we used to work on land, on farms, only later did people end up in factories… and now we envision a future without a central workplace. I can handle my freedom… How about you? Is it possible that less than 10% of humanity is enough to create the conditions of full social wellbeing? Do you start focusing on your family? Bringing up happy children? But for what? To make them unemployed smart people who paint marvelously and write brilliantly in a world where machines are able to paint and write just as well? Or could it be that losing interest in our lives on Earth is the natural trigger for a new goal…? Could it be that it is how people start feeling motivated to leave this planet for ever and populate other planets? Could this be the natural process if we manage to migrate before destroying ourselves on this planet? I hope that we don’t end up in an Idiocracy… just because we don’t need to face the challenges of sustaining human life and culture as we used to. I want to believe in an optimum case scenario at least in the near future. Remember: We make any of those futures and we must adapt! Those better be humanistic and well planned futures.
- Regina Saphier: Unconditional Basic Income (virtualhumanism.wordpress.com)
- Regina Saphier: Weapons of Mass Construction: Leila Janah’s Samasource (virtualhumanism.wordpress.com)
- Regina Saphier: Get Credit for Everything You Ever Learn (mycourserablog.wordpress.com)
- Regina Saphier: The Anatomy of a LinkedIn Comment Thread on Coursera (mycourserablog.wordpress.com)
- Regina Saphier: Futuristically Speaking (virtualhumanism.wordpress.com)
Regina Saphier: Unconditional Basic IncomePosted: April 22, 2014 Filed under: English Text | Tags: Coursera, EU, European Union, GNI, Gross National Income, Hungary, Tenure, Thomas Paine, UBI, Unconditional Basic Income 4 Comments
Most people think that income should be work based. At the same time most people don’t feel annoyed by most work being done for free? In fact the majority of work is voluntary and unpaid. Most income today is NOT work based, rather it is transferred income (eg.: redistributed tax money or family support). I believe it is a huge mistake to assume that income should be directly work related in developed countries. By redistributing the available funds (parts of the national budget), we could provide people with an Unconditional Basic Income or UBI if we created a smart plan in Hungary. Our Gross National Income (GNI) per capita per year is only around 9000 Euros, on the border line between developing and developed countries. (I feel that GNI is highly relevant here, this is why I am introducing this term in my essay.) That means we can work with 750 Euros per month per capita (9000 Euros divided by 12 months), and we should not give more to one person. However, anything below 500 Euros would not be a Basic Income that permits people to aim to join the middle class. Keep that in mind. And don’t worry, most people would still work, because people usually want more, it is human nature. So, we would not run out of consumers paying VAT, we would still have entrepreneurs building companies and employing people who when earning more (beyond the UBI) would also spend more and pay taxes. The money cycle would be faster and not slower, because people could try new things, and more citizens would start small businesses. In turn our per capita GNI would increase, and the UBI could be gradually increased.
Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) was mentioned during the last election in Hungary (“Feltétel Nélküli Alapjövedelem”) and many people assumed that it was a new thing. No it is not a new idea, and no it was not invented in Hungary. I have been preparing a blog post about UBI for a while (meaning I let my subconscious work on it on its own), long before it was used in the election (by the way Thomas Paine proposed it first, over 200 years ago in the US), and now it is time for me to publish my random musings regarding UBI. I am a strong supporter of UBI, by the way. The key idea of UBI is that everyone, from small baby to old lady would get UBI even when not working, and work permits people to earn beyond the UBI. Here is what I think (I am trying to be clear to everyone so I am working with examples to explain how I see the idea).
The End of Tenure “Paralysis”: Extended, More Efficient Intellectual Competition
Imagine the US where tenure is a university professor’s dream. You get tenure and you are set for life. Now compared to the millions studying via Coursera globally for free, there are only a handful of tenured professors. When you have tenure, you can theoretically do “whatever” you want as long as your work fits the academic framework and criteria, so you are intellectually free to create, nobody can kick you out. This unfortunately often leads to loss of creativity, because you have to compete less. When you review negative arguments against Unconditional Basic Income, it is often stated by naysayers that giving everyone a basic living allowance for a dignified life without having to work would make them universally lazy. Others say that UBI would make us all more creative. Now the fact is that some tenured professors become prolific researchers, writers and teachers. Others however get lazy. Let’s see the psychology of this problem. The first type who remains diligent has inner motivation and gets into flow via intellectual accomplishments. For that person work is fun, a source of mental wellbeing. The safety of tenure makes them even more creative. Those people who get lazy after becoming tenured probably never had inner motivation, external incentives were pushing them toward tenure, like family expectations, peer competition, fame, or prestige… These people stop producing quality, original work when tenure “hits” them, because their work was not fulfilling emotionally. This does not mean that these people are inherently unable to enjoy work, it only means that they are doing the wrong kind of work (often for the wrong kind of reason).
What is the major difference between tenured professors and people getting Unconditional Basic Income?
The competition does not go away when you get UBI! Let’s imagine why this would result in revolution even in Academia… We live in the age of citizen science. You can discover galaxies from your couch online while on UBI. You can publish in open source online journals. You can also study astronomy for free via Coursera. Now you see if you discover 365 new galaxies during your “innerly motivated, constantly learning, self starter” lifetime as a citizen scientist while living on UBI and a tenured professor only discovers 36.5 galaxies during his or her lifetime, that gets noticed after a while on a high level. So, UBI would bring back competition even in the tenured professor’s life when his or her motivational source is external or these people would be able to change careers by requesting UBI and leaving their unfulfilling academic jobs. Right now many tenured professors feel that they invested so much time and effort into their tenure that they are unable to quit. UBI would give them the freedom to try something else. This would be good for everyone involved due to completely flexible professional mobility.
The Immigrant in New York, The Intellectual in Budapest
An immigrant in New York often has no choices. He or she emigrated from his or her country because in the country of origin there were no opportunities and the atmosphere was suffocating. People who need to integrate into a new culture most of the time have no choices, must do anything that looks doable for money. Not ideal. A person who does not emigrate from the same country and lives in internal exile has enormous financial difficulties while attempting to produce intellectual work on a global level. What if both had Unconditional Basic Income? None of these diligent and enterprising people would have to endure major humiliation, stress and could have choices and options. Imagine the amazing creativity that would follow! (Again, if you wish to become rich, you would still have to work.)
Many would not have to emigrate in the first place and when not emigrating these people could keep focusing on dignified intellectual and social activities. Would not have to hide in their own homes because of the crippling financial vacuum. It is draining when people keep asking what you do, and how you earn money… This is what defines you: your income generating work and your income itself. Unfortunately, not your knowledge, not your humanity, not what you can do, not what you are able to create. If you have fantastic education and no job, you are nobody. If you have a job, but no work based income, you are again nobody. If you have a job and income, but no title and status, you are nobody, no matter how smart, intelligent and productive you are in some other way. This is a terrible mentality. People will judge you, and not know that two third of work in societies is unpaid, and the majority of people don’t live on directly work related income, rather receive transfer income from the state or their own families.
People Have Different Needs
Some argue, that people have different needs and abilities. I agree. Others say let’s leave everyone alone the very same way instead of supporting most people the same way, because they believe in the free market that governs itself. I believe that free markets see profits only. But who is focusing on the social elements, on well being, on justice? In my opinion the Earth belongs to all of us, and the results of our efforts should not end up in a select few people’s bank accounts. Redistribution is the only morally acceptable choice and it must be expected of the super rich for the health of all communities.
People do have different needs, but people also have different levels of network complexity around them, different cognitive abilities, different cultures, different levels of health, different family and educational backgrounds, different creative abilities and so on. Leaving people alone in a market economy disregards the importance and impact of where the individual is within the local and the global social network. Different emotional, cognitive, social, financial needs and levels are part of the issue. One writer made fun of the new Maslow pyramid, where wifi is the most fundamental need. Of course food, water, shelter and safety are most important. But what if I told you that you can not provide these to millions of people without digital access to digital global microwork on an individual level? See? I hate to witness when white academic males argue from their limited and well served point of view (tenured thinking with no tenure in Hungary). Your reality is not my reality. I keep improving and writing even without a penny of employment related income. To me this is normal. I wish from time to time that I had UBI, because I could have more options with my creativity. If you are against UBI, you wish I did not have options. I wish you too had the option to move on from your isolated academic world for example … UBI would be marvelously useful for people with bubble thinking too.
Homelessness and UBI
Homeless people could rent a room and could purchase food and basic services… No more homelessness, no more begging, no more slave like conditions, no more public health crisis from this source. I think this speaks for itself.
The problem is: Hungary does not have the economy, the oil, the service or IT industry that could possibly support an optimal basic income to every citizen to lift them up into the middle class. We would not be able to provide 300 000 Ft for every citizen every month (approximately 1000 Euros when I publish this blog post). It is also true that Hungary is not a huge country, and does not have over 300 million citizens creating a strong market economy like the US, neither are we wealthy Switzerland with a high-tech economy and a small population of 8 million. No. We are a small market with a language nobody else speaks on Earth, we are poor in EU terms, we have no oil or gas like Norway (the little gas we have should stay where it is to protect the environment), and there are 10 million citizens (of which approximately 500 000 expats live abroad in more developed countries).
Getting Creative with UBI
Therefore I believe that the solution should be planned on an EU level, in combination with many other solutions (free online education via Coursera, global online digital work and the like). I would argue that we need an “opt in” Unconditional Basic Income in Hungary and I would combine it with tax free startup opportunities and tax free online global digital work opportunities. I would add Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to the mix for free quality higher education. If you can make a living online you might not opt into the UBI program or you might transfer your UBI to someone else. If you are able to start a global business you would only take UBI as long as you don’t generate a good income. Make UBI need based, voluntary and bureaucracy free. I mean, if I had to fill in a form online stating my name, gender, age, location, education level, and volunteer activities, I could get an algorithm tell me how much UBI I could get and the software could ask me: Do you feel the personal need at this time to opt into the UBI program? And if I hit YES, I would start getting the monthly UBI, no other questions asked. However when I have a well paying job, I personally would like to have the independent option to either stop the payment on my own, or transfer my portion to a given person I wish to support. Alternatively unclaimed UBI could accumulate for each person as a saving, and it could be inherited from family members, or it could be invested safely. Richer people could divert payment based on perceived need to others. However, I would limit that personal transfer on both sides. I could only transfer my portion to 10 other people, and I could only receive transfer from only 10 people (this could help start a high profile NGO with other people, by redistributing UBI). Non-profits could also get UBI transfer payments from individuals to support the staffing of a worthy NGO.
Looking at the UBI from an EU Point of View
From an EU point of view, spending money on people’s UBI and supporting online global work and startups makes more sense than pumping senselessly spent EU development money into a country of paralyzed citizens (paralyzed by the stress of systems change, corruption, joblessness, and a hopeless “elite”). If richer countries don’t want the economic crisis fuelled nationalism to spread from poor EU countries, an EU level UBI would be enormously liberating and healing. I am telling you, Hungary and its citizens were punished on three different occasions during the last 70 years: after WW II, during communism, and recently during the misguided system change (that did not really change the system).
Capitalism only works on a large market among ideal circumstances. So, either be a large country, or be part of a large market (like the EU). Small markets isolated by language barriers, with limited exportable goods and services don’t work well unless there is a special income source, like oil. Even in rich Scandinavia the film industry only works by combining the resources and the audiences of each Scandinavian country. Hungary does not have that kind of cooperation with its neighboring countries because culturally these countries don’t identify with one another and their languages are very different. Teaching people English and teaching them how to make money globally makes more sense than forcing them to cooperate with geographical neighbors.
Should we be Optimistic about UBI?
There is a book on optimism bias (look up the TED talk if you have no time for the book). People tend to be unrealistically optimistic about personal risks or success. If people had realistic assessments of their real outcomes, most would never start families or businesses. They tend to see large scale, long term changes in darker color (I think). This is why people are afraid of social changes and innovation, like UBI. I am optimistic when I look at the digital opportunities that this new era brings on a large scale.
It was possible to provide hundreds of millions of people globally with many free digital services in such a short time… within 10-15 years… (like Google, Gmail, G+, Facebook, LinkedIn, Coursera, edX, TED and so on). Therefore it must be possible to provide livelihood, housing, clothing, education, even work, etc… When community resources are available, access to these services does not depend on your employment, nor on your personal income. These community resources are Unconditional Basic Services if you like. These services are financed the same way as UBI should be financed. I think we are already in the process. Leila’s Samasource is an excellent example of the economic spillover impact of digital businesses. Samasource provides digital microwork to people in Africa and the US.
So, would you prefer to live in a Kibbutz? Or would you prefer to get Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) and live anywhere you like? Anywhere… and I mean wherever you like… That might be possible in the very distant future, but not today, at least not in Hungary. Let’s take UBI to the global level in the distant future. Especially interesting now that we know: Hungarian expats are sending home hundreds of millions of USD per year… I believe that UBI would open up new opportunities for people who are doing meaningless jobs to sustain themselves day in and day out. You might find that it would slow migration. Existential fear or lack of opportunities are very limiting, and people migrate to overcome those limitations. We need more social mobility locally and probably less economic migration. People could learn online, draw, sing, teach, dance, write, start small business, work online, cooperate with others, build community resources, volunteer, use open source templates and systems, and stop worrying about sustaining their families and having to save them from poverty (because even your kids and your partner would get UBI). People could start using indiegogo, kickstarter, Patreon, Elance, oDesk, Amazon and similar services to earn money.
There is this educational story… the boss is asking: Ok, I should train these people, but what if someone is leaving after I invest in his or her development? Can I afford that? And his advisor says: Can you afford not to train people? Obviously, if you want a better outcome, you need to train your people, you must invest in people.
The same is true for UBI in my humble opinion. Would you rather have the lazy ones work for you for your money directly, with no results, or would you prefer to have them stay at home but not be without any income? You could hire those who are willing to work in spite of their UBI. In my opinion more people could figure out their own strengths and place in the world, and become more productive and satisfied. And add the aforementioned optimism bias. Imagine: no worries, you have UBI, more freedom, social mobility, opportunity to grow and optimism, while you can afford the internet or to travel to the big city to find a job (and have the money to travel home when there is no job for you). This plan looks good to me. Perhaps even the one who looked really lazy in one position could learn freely and be brilliant at something else, somewhere else.
So, how much?
I strongly disagree with the 50 000 Ft UBI level that one political party proposed in Hungary. 50 000 might be enough for an uneducated older person (who never travels) in a village with a small garden where produce is available at home and where a well is used to water vegetables and fruits, and where people are bartering goods and services, but this is subsistence level. Unless you move city dwelling intellectuals to villages, you have to calculate with at least 150 000 Fts (approximately 500 Euros today) for the highly educated, because rent is high, utilities and food cost a lot in the capital (where most of them live). You also want that intellectual to go out and see people if possible. If you can not afford to sit in a tea house with people, to go see a theater play, or occasionally eat out, you become completely isolated.
National and EU based Unconditional Basic Income (NUBI and UBIE)
Since VAT would be an ideal source of UBI, we need people to go out and spend, as well as we need people to pay UBI taxes when they have excess income beyond the UBI. Therefore differentiation is critical in a poor country, where education levels and living expenses are very different within the population, and where the state budget is very limited. Plus, I believe it is morally wrong to give UBI to the super rich unless someone for some reason suddenly does not have any income. For example due to family bankruptcy… it is possible to have a large estate and suddenly be without any cash after a major illness (or illnesses) in the family for example… if your estate does not sell and you have no cash flow and no savings, you are in huge trouble… so you should get UBI. However, if someone has 1 billion in the bank, why give them 150 000 Fts per months? No need for that.
On average I would say 100 000 Ft UBI should be spent on one adult. This is doable even within the Hungarian economy. What is not doable is an EU living standard. For that there should be an EU UBI Extension Fund on an EU level for each country introducing the National UBI (or NUBI). Remember the GNI? The Gross National Income per capita per year is limiting the possibilities in Hungary below 750 Euros per month in my opinion… and I also wrote that UBI should be above 500 Euros to support the entry into the middle class. So, let’s say, you get exactly 150 000 Fts NUBI (from your country) and another 150 000 Fts of UBIE (from the EU), if you are a highly educated middle aged person who does a lot of volunteer work in the community. You can also work for money and earn even more, or you can spend all your time volunteering, studying, or you can write, teach, whatever you like.
Update (September 08. 2016):
On the first link there is a UBI chart and in the article there is a link to an interactive UBI calculator chart (the second link below) that was published in 2016.
Basic income calculator shows policy’s feasibility
The original and interactive The Economist chart (with the full list of countries analysed):
Universal basic income in the OECD
The interactive calculator chart (originally created and published by The Economist Data Team) calculates with a 4 500 USD UBI per year for each Hungarian citizen at least and it also makes state budget predictions for the UBI at higher amounts. This UBI range supports my calculations in my 2014 UBI blog, the one that you are reading right now (and does not support the much lower Hungarian civic suggestions regarding the local UBI). 4 500 USD would be just a bit over 100 000 Ft per citizen per month today.
I believe that the UBI idea needs to be planned and introduced on an EU (UBIE) level while considering and incorporating the National UBI plans or programs. There is a UBIE initiative in the EU, but I don’t know the details of their proposal. It could even consolidate nationalism, via a narrative that aims to support people who wish to move back to their country of origin. Give them UBIE+NUBI (calculated based on citizenship and education levels) and those people will go home. It is even possible that people with high UBI (from richer countries with high NUBI) would migrate to low NUBI countries within the EU because their purchasing power would permit them a more fulfilling lifestyle there. This would stop emigration in poorer countries and would perhaps start a new kind of economic migration from west to east, plus add cultural development and understanding to the mix.
The UBI could be transferred anywhere within the EU, automatically. If you live in Paris, but you have a hungarian citizenship, you get your NUBI from Hungary in Paris, as well as your UBIE from the EU. If you are french and you live at Lake Balaton, you get your french NUBI in Hungary, as well as your UBIE from the EU. Both sums are adjusted to your citizenship and are extended with the UBIE from the EU. It might be interesting to give incentives for moving home to a less advantaged country, or for migrating from a more advantaged one to a less advantaged one. I would not permit the automatic, central, mass transfer of the UBIE beyond the EU, and I would also limit the central transfer of the NUBI to the specific country unless the EU citizen has an address in another EU country… but if you get it in Budapest and travel to Australia and spend it there, that is your call. The restriction really makes a difference because it’s ok if a few thousand spend it overseas, but it is not ok, if hundreds of thousands do that automatically. We want to finance wellbeing within the EU with our funds. (Of course all of this is just brainstorming and up for discussion.)
I know that pension funds are being drained by the ageing population, and middle aged people of today might not have any pension at all 20-30 years from now. However, when you have the choice of working meaningfully or getting your UBI no matter how old you are, no matter where you are in the EU, in a more productive and more relaxed society UBI would eliminate the pension tension too. Millions of people get stuck in positions because they fear to lose the job, and so lose the pension and the benefits. If you could forget about this fear, would you not start your own business or do freelance work even at 50? Of course you would. And how about free online learning? That is also possible. When you think of wealthy families you take it for granted that their offspring are rich too, because they are part of the family. When you think of UBI think of your country as an extended tribal family. If the “national tribal community” has the means, the only morally acceptable way to go is to redistribute the family wealth in a smart way. Even if yours is not the richest country, it is indeed located in the EU and has more economic power than most countries in Africa.
When I see the argument that people should not get UBI because it would mean nobody would do the horrible jobs… I get really angry… because this kind of thinking hides this kind of attitude: An elitist jerk is sitting in his comfortable chair and thinks, “lets keep people dependent and needy so that somebody would do the shitty jobs that …”… well, that the elitist jerk would never do even for a lot of money… This is the slave keeper attitude. Let’s keep them poor and uneducated… Horrible attitude, in my humble opinion! Here is the thing: let machines do those low level jobs. Let technology companies solve the problem of automatic waste collection (already possible) and selection for example. And let the poor learn and live with dignity (yes those people are able to learn and deserve dignity).
The Community is Supporting and Respecting You, and so In Return it is Only Natural to Support and Respect the Community
Giving people an Unconditional Basic Income does NOT take away their basic need for self worth, the motivation to serve or to lead, to create, to grow, or to go places! Crippling poverty, an economy waiting to be reinvented, a corrupt and superficial elite waiting to be replaced are the things that limit lives, NOT an Unconditional Basic Income! Create the conditions, the education, the culture for community service. Send the message that yes, now you do not have to struggle, but every job that is necessary (and that can not yet be done by technology alone) must be done by people and work it out. It is a matter of cooperation, communication, planning and a sense of community. The community is supporting and respecting you, and so in return it is only natural to support and respect the community.
UBI and Abuse Prevention
Before I close my UBI essay, here is a key idea that is very close to my heart. Children and abused women need independent income and savings and UBI would give them just that. In Hungary thousands of children are experiencing hunger. Others have to put up with abuse and have nowhere to go. Many children and women run away to escape family abuse only to find themselves prostituted because they have no income. UBI would eliminate a lot of suffering and dependency. And many abusive men might just feel less workplace and family pressure and many would never ever reach the point of losing it in the first place… if those men had UBI. The abuser is often the one being abused by someone else, for example by the employer. UBI based independence would bring the opposite of unhealthy dependency and laziness. It would lead to healthy independence, cooperation, actions, innovation and creativity.
Soon (and it is already happening) technology is going to replace so many jobs and produce so much profit that you won’t be able to afford not to give the jobless billions an Unconditional Basic Income to avoid major uprising. Machines, robots, computer algorithms will do more and more of the jobs, even the ones that were considered highly human, like writing (there are articles on the web right now that were written by an algorithm), driving (there are self driving cars being successfully tested on roads), teaching (one professor teaching over 100 000 people via Coursera globally is now a reality), caretaking (there are robots in Japan that lift people up from the floor), medical evaluation (there are algorithms being developed for this purpose), and things like that. Trust me, once even the male intellectual middle class starts to notice the end of work and work based income as we know it, UBI will become very popular. Because we need to survive on something, and we need to do something with our brains, while somehow being part of society. The process is not possible without labor and income innovation. Here is another blog post by me introducing Samasource and global microwork. And here is another post by me about online learning, MOOCs and Coursera.
If you think that having financial safety reduces creative urges, just ask well to do teenagers doing free online translations, or voluntarily participating in community efforts. Yes, true, there are lazy rich teens too, but the problem is never the fulfillment of their basic needs. Rather it is the lack of family and teacher attention, lack of culture and lack of healthy community (that destroys their motivation). When we start giving people UBI, we need to start community building and education for a healthier, more responsible society as well. We need new attitudes with the new opportunities. We need people to pay taxes, to learn and remain active.
Today there are already new attitudes, that created the sharing economy, good games, crowdfunding, Massive Open Online Courses for free on the Ivy League level globally, 3D printing, personal fabrication, automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, big data, social networks, social media, peer content, citizen science, online jobs… we are in the middle of social and economic change already. We need to research and plan how individual human existence can be continuously financed in this “future in the making” that we never experienced before as a species. The answer is Unconditional Basic Income. The “how” is country and budget dependent. The key question is not: Should we introduce it? The key questions are: How and when to introduce this new form of income? And of course if you want to earn more money, you can and should work beyond getting your Unconditional Basic Income. So, the motivation to get ahead is still there. Healthy competition is good for the economy. UBI is good for society. Income security is good for the individual, but we need to build Unconditional Basic Culture to provide people with meaning. If you don’t have to work, you can still live a meaningful life if you are able to set intelligent goals and reach them.
Note: There is another poll below. Please, be so kind and answer my UBI related questions (this one is multiple choice and I want to see how readers think after having read my blog post). Thank you for reading and adding your opinion below.
Written by Regina Saphier
- Regina Saphier: Unconditional Basic Income (virtualhumanism.wordpress.com)
- Regina Saphier: Futuristically Speaking (virtualhumanism.wordpress.com)
- Regina Saphier: Gross National Income… “DEVELOPING” and “DEVELOPED” Countries… and COURSERA (mycourserablog.wordpress.com)
- Regina Saphier: Weapons of Mass Construction: Leila Janah’s Samasource (virtualhumanism.wordpress.com)
Regina Saphier: Worldview, Intuition and Depth of FieldPosted: April 6, 2014 Filed under: English Text | Tags: A Room of One's Own, Amrita Sher-Gil, Frida Kahlo, Internet Archive, Orlando, Virginia Woolf, VirginiaWoolf, Vita Sackville-West Leave a comment
As I promised, I am working on transferring my old freeblog content to wordpress. I am doing this with the help of The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine and my old laptop, because unfortunately the freeblog.hu service provider took the servers offline without notifying users and without providing a generally usable transfer method of the latest content that thousands of people produced. I already posted my live TED conference blog posts via my TED blog. On my Virtual Humanism blog I am starting with two quotes from Virginia Woolf (“The room of one’s own” and “Orlando“). In addition to her words, I will explain what I discovered while transferring these lines below. Finally, I am adding an old letter to an old friend.
A room of one’s own
“All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point—a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; …”
“There was another ten–shilling note in my purse; I noticed it, because it is a fact that still takes my breath away the power of my purse to breed ten–shilling notes automatically. I open it and there they are. Society gives me chicken and coffee, bed and lodging, in return for a certain number of pieces of paper which were left me by an aunt, for no other reason than that I share her name.”
“Food, house and clothing are mine forever. Therefore not merely do effort and labour cease, but also hatred and bitterness. I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me. I need not flatter any man; ...”
“We are, therefore, now left entirely alone in the room with the sleeping Orlando and the trumpeters. The trumpeters, ranging themselves side by side in order, blow one terrific blast:—
at which Orlando woke.
He stretched himself. He rose. He stood upright in complete nakedness before us, and while the trumpets pealed Truth! Truth! Truth! we have no choice left but confess—he was a woman.
The sound of the trumpets died away and Orlando stood stark naked. No human being, since the world began, has ever looked more ravishing. His form combined in one the strength of a man and a woman’s grace. As he stood there, the silver trumpets prolonged their note, as if reluctant to leave the lovely sight which their blast had called forth; and Chastity, Purity, and Modesty, inspired, no doubt, by Curiosity, peeped in at the door and threw a garment like a towel at the naked form which, unfortunately, fell short by several inches. Orlando looked himself up and down in a long looking–glass, without showing any signs of discomposure, and went, presumably, to his bath.”
(Virginia Woolf: Orlando)
Regina Saphier: The Writer’s Epiphany (my notes on April 6, 2014)
As I was preparing to repost these two posts on my Virtual Humanism blog, I had an epiphany while reading this line here: “Chastity, Purity, and Modesty, inspired, no doubt, by Curiosity, peeped in at the door and threw a garment like a towel at the naked form which, unfortunately, fell short by several inches.”
When you first look at it, you think that the Virtues were unable to cover the body with the garment:
“Chastity, Purity, and Modesty, inspired, no doubt, by Curiosity, peeped in at the door and threw a garment like a towel at the naked form which, unfortunately, fell short by several inches.”
But when you read it like this, a completely new message appears:
“Chastity, Purity, and Modesty, inspired, no doubt, by Curiosity, peeped in at the door and threw a garment like a towel at the naked form which, unfortunately, fell short by several inches.”
Nine years ago, when I became a blogger, when I read this text in 2005, I only “read” it. Of course I understood that this was about a gender transformation and that it was related to social criticism and women’s frustration with a male dominated society. It was all completely clear to me.
However, now, in 2014 I had a completely different automatic process of observation for the same text. I did not only read the text and imagine the character described by the writer. No. I imagined the writer standing in front of the mirror and I used empathy for the writer herself, not for the abstract character. I imagined Virginia observing herself, seeing her masculine characteristics and feeling like she was missing something, a few inches, a male body part that would make her a complete man, and a favored member of society that she could not be without those inches. I was blown away by the simplicity of this message “hidden” in plain sight, not even really hidden, yet it is not something that you immediately grasp while reading the text, not even with an understanding of her psyche and life story. I never came across an analysis of this text that pointed out this double meaning. When I read the text with a writer’s eyes, instead of a reader’s eyes, I could see the message jumping out of the text.
Why is this important to me? It is important because it demonstrated how my brain changed after 9 years of regular writing and an increased level of introspection and during a more withdrawn and more introverted life period. My worldview, my intuition and my depth of field has changed fundamentally and I am happy about that.
And here is an old and relevant post from 2007:
Regina Saphier: “Room of Their Own” (based on my letter to a friend)
Is your marriage in trouble? I hope you find a solution. In my life marriage does not work as a formula (I never wanted to be married). I was just thinking about Frida Kahlo, Virginia Woolf, Amrita Sher-Gil, and Simone de Beauvoir. They all had “room of their own”, you know, as Virginia wrote it. Amrita, an Indian, Hungarian (she was actually born in Hungary), Jewish (her mother was Jewish) bisexual (I read her letter to her mother and she denied this) modern painter was married and probably a miscarriage killed her at age 28, or her husband… or an STD, or some other illness… we don’t know. What we know is that she had many affairs (for example with Malcolm Muggeridge). And Frida, the Mexican, German, bisexual painter, loved and married (twice) Diego, who fucked around all the time (even fucked Frida’s sister, and in turn Frida also had many lovers), but she still wanted a child from him, and lost her pregnancies (due to the earlier accident at age 18)… they had two houses and a bridge connected the two. Their initial creativity was increased by their extramarital relationships. I read an article about this. Boring marriages and estranged partners come alive, and creativity increases just by thinking about infidelity (it’s measurable)! Simone never wanted a husband; she explained her opinion this way: marriage is an obscene bourgeois institution. She was infamous of her bisexual love triangles with Sartre (the third person was always a woman with no income of her own). They wrote cynical letters about their affairs and were lifelong soul mates (when she died, her adopted (!) lover, a woman, published the letters, and unfortunately many were still alive among those who were involved with her or him). Sartre basically kept a few vulnerable living sex toys in close proximity to his apartment, and spent his income on them. And Simone used them too. One of the most famous existentialist feminist writers, Simone used young women to satisfy her need for love and sex, probably because she knew that this is the only way to keep Sartre in her life; this is the way they were sexually connected… She turned into exactly what she was against: she has become a man, who was using women. Virginia was married, but probably never slept with her husband; she had powerful sexual traumas caused by her brothers. She was also bisexual, and just as the existentialists in Paris, she also felt encouraged as a member of the Bloomsbury group in England to have sexual encounters with several people, especially women. She expressed these feelings in Orlando, which is based on her love to Vita Sackville-West. The book is basically a love letter to Vita. Later Virginia killed herself, because she heard a bit too many voices in her head. No doubt, these women were extremely creative and hugely deviated from the so called “normal” in every possible way. But were they happy? Who knows? And is happiness a goal if you are meant to be creative? Is creativity a goal, if you are meant to be happy?
So, when you tell me about your sulky husband and having no time of your own… tell me …, is the previously drafted alternative list better? You are a creative woman or a happy woman? Can you really be both? You have a loving husband. You have two wonderful kids. You have a normal life and extremely high intellectual power. Can these things go hand in hand? Would you like to be free and alone? Haven’t you been that? You can have your freedom, you can work. But why did you choose to have a family if it is not a good match for your abilities and personality? I wanted to believe the theory that a highly talented woman can also have a family. Is it only a theory? Could be. Marriage is a tool to “approach” or “pretend” safety for the sake of ones children, and so for ones financial and genetic future. It is said to be safe emotionally, but based on what I see… I have my doubts… If you keep wanting to be free, prepare to leave the nest as soon as your kids are grownups and live their own lives. Build your future so, that you have your savings and space to become free and highly creative again. You don’t have to spend your life being a mother. It is clear that your husband loves you (even if this is not the kind of love you need or find satisfying), and that your children need your love and empathy, but there is a reason why many highly talented women search for deeper soul mates in women and sometimes, or more often than we think, the spiritual closeness turns into a love affair, and they never have kids to be able to use their time and energy in other ways. You know about Eleanor Roosevelt… she had her share of such relationships. Other talented women find feminine male partners, to be served, and cared for. Men become the women, and women become the men in such relationships. These men are often feminine to the point of impotence, but they are much more caring, than machos. Human life is much more complex than we know about it with our very conservative upbringing, no matter how open-minded we think we are. I know that in your case it looks like its all about time, space, and creativity. But trust me: there is more to your problem than meets the eye.
The question: Is the own room or the own creative space a good omen? Did feminism step over its own shadow and did we come to realize that we need a partner and a family for a normal life, and it is not such a good thing to be alone… If we can not shut the door, are we able to create? I look at these extremely talented and creative women (listed above), and I can clearly see that they were men and women at the very same time (and not just some women, but incredible ones regarding their gender, or “social” sex), but none had children, and I see my friend in Budapest, who followed the expectations of our society and married, had a super little girl who is hyperactive, so this woman is unable to finish her PhD. She feels empty, drained and cold. So, perhaps it’s impossible to be professionally creative, have kids and be a mom and wife… She used to be extremely lively…
Regina Saphier: Weapons of Mass Construction: Leila Janah’s SamasourcePosted: March 28, 2014 Filed under: English Text | Tags: Khan Academy, Leila Janah, Microwork, Salman Khan, Samasource Leave a comment
Regina Saphier: Weapons of Mass Construction: Leila Janah’s Samasource
We arrived in a new era, when america deploys “weapons of mass construction” in international social and economic development. Development work and nation building now could come without wars at the beginning of the process, and we could witness “individual citizen building”, instead of “post-war rebuilding of infrastructure”. Let me show you the woman who made my subconscious come up with my blog title very suddenly. Leila is a true lady, a first generation american. She is highly intelligent, courageous, diligent, humble, and a great speaker. She is a maven. By the way she is also beautiful and she is using this natural gift to promote her cause in a charming and elegant manner. She is a people’s person with a mission.
When I first read about Samasource that Leila Janah created, I knew that it was something brilliant, as important as Khan Academy or Coursera. In fact I see these types of initiatives as parts of an emerging global system. Leila tells her story beautifully, so instead of writing it down for you, I recommend, that you click and watch her narrative online (skip the first 10 minutes and go to Leila’s talk directly). What I want to talk about is my reaction to her approach.
First let me tell you what Salman Khan spoke about at TED 2014 (All-Stars Session 3: Where Are We Now?). I have been writing TED live conference blogs for years, but this year I much rather write essays about many other things, like Leila’s story. However, what the founder of Khan Academy mentioned at TED 2014 in Vancouver is relevant to Leila’s work. Salman reminded the audience that 400 years ago only 10-15% of the western European population could read (that was at the time the most literate region of the world). If you asked those literate ones: “what percentage of the entire population would be capable of reading”, they would have responded that “if you had a really good education system, perhaps 30-40% would be intellectually capable of learning to read”. But today we know that the answer is closer to 100% (my note: of course not counting people with severe cognitive and physical developmental issues, but hopefully science in the future will be able to help us prevent or heal such illnesses). Salman went on asking: What percentage of people are capable of novel research, understand genetics, computer science, or robotics? You would get an answer, like 5 or 10 or 15%… but what if that answer is actually a 100%? He believes that during the next 50 years we will see that this is true and go even beyond what we could imagine today. For that we must turn quality education into a fundamental human right. I completely agree with Salman. I believe if we go from educating people to letting people learn on a global scale in ways that fit their learning styles and achieved level of understanding, we will see a much better world in general.
What is Leila up to?
She created Samasource to provide acceptable “Microwork” to people globally who are otherwise earning less than 2 dollars a day with jobs destroying their dignity (like getting a dollar a day to protest for a politician… slave like conditions). By giving work and so income, she wishes to give opportunity and dignity to poor people. Her non-profit organization has a self developed software background managing the digital work process. Initially she could not find funding, because donors would not believe her that poor people in Africa would be able to do accurate digital work via a computer and the internet.
This is why I added Salman Khan’s relevant ideas from the TED 2014 stage above. Shockingly even the most educated live under the false impression that poor people are mentally retarded. And those “western” people think of themselves as enlightened? How tragic is that!? In many ways we live in the “Dark Ages” today.
Leila was able to demonstrate that many poor people in african countries are fluent in English and are perfectly capable of completing data entry, and data & image review tasks (when personal project management is taken out of the equation). Plus, people are obviously able to learn and complete even more complex tasks! Samasource is able to break the tasks down into highly and easily manageable tasks for entry level digital workers. In developing countries where there are no jobs, young people, especially women are now able to work via Samasource for companies like LinkedIn and Google, earn money and support their families and their own education. There is also SAMAUSA, for low income community college students in the US, directed by my fellow Columbia University alumna: Tess Gilman Posner.
In a way I hear Leila tell people to make global work opportunities and earning a basic income a fundamental human right. So, today we must think of clean water, healthy food, safe shelter, health, appropriate work/income, and quality education as basic human rights. These should be our goals to achieve for everyone. If you think about it, at this rate, one day sufficiently challenging intellectual activities, a basic income that sustains us beyond the basics, or a healthy body and mind will be fundamental human rights. We have a long way to go, but some of us are already able to envision and explain this future. Some of us are able to imagine it. Some are already building that future.
We need Samasource in Hungary and in Europe too
Now that is what jump-started my phantasy. As I described on my blog about Coursera over a year ago, I feel that Hungary (where I live) is not really a developed country. This is a country of 10 million and over 3 million people live in poverty. Every few weeks I walk into a small grocery store nearby (in an upscale neighborhood) and have a nice chat with a young and intelligent woman there. She is roma (a visible minority in a racist country), she completed high school where she studied English too, but has to spend her life selling fruits and vegetables on a low wage away from her family and has no hope for further education and a better income. She is alway nice to customers, she tells you when something is not fresh enough for you to pay for, and she gives recipes. She is doing her job really well, and at the same time she is bright and curious about the world. I like that she is so good at what she is doing, it is good for me as a customer, but at the same time I feel frustrated that she does not have opportunities to grow, to learn, and to have a better quality of life. (In fact in this country it is also true for many middle class intellectuals… even those people would need Samasource to help them become skilled digital and global income generators!)
I keep telling her about the online learning opportunities: Coursera and Khan Academy, TED and things like that, but she has to spend her days in a small shop alone with no internet access (I know that at home she does have internet). I keep thinking how she could get an education and a job that would move her beyond this stage in a country where the economy is not doing well and most people (especially the digital immigrants who are older) don’t speak English, and a large number of high school graduates are jobless (even when they speak English and have computer skills). At this point 5% of Hungarian citizens live and work in more developed countries and send home over 500 billion Forints a year (the top three source countries are Germany, the USA and Canada). So, if Leila’s motto is this: “Give Work“… My motto is this: “Send Work” or “Donate Work“. It would be interesting to gather expats online and explain to them how important it would be to “send work”, beyond sending money. Where there is sufficient work to let expats live, save and send money home, there most be enough work opportunities too to “send home”… One possibility is for expats (from less developed countries) to get in touch with their employers at the leadership level and motivate them to partner with Samasource and channel work into their own country of origin.
Missing jobs, hidden tasks, online work
As I kept waiting for a Coursera like initiative for years, I have also been waiting for global and online work opportunities for anyone, including myself, because most local jobs here just don’t require brains, skills, knowledge and creativity, and women are not likely to be employed at the highest levels of leadership in Hungary. So, jobs are missing here on every possible level… while technology is also destroying more and more human jobs on a global scale. A major for profit initiative that I noticed as possibly useful to me and to people like me in the future is the Google Helpout service, but it has yet to reach its full potential among the educated middle class globally. (Unfortunately, this service was discontinued in 2015.)
Possible surfaces that could become sources of work and income from Hungary via the internet in the future are: FlexJobs, oDesk and Elance. (Since 2015 oDesk and Elance are one brand, called Upwork.) Samasource, a non-profit organization, is the income generating channel for the lower classes, globally, and it is growing. SAMAUSA in fact does train its microworkers to use TaskRabbit and Upwork.
As I quickly mentioned before in one of my blogs, I have an elaborate flow chart with all the possible components that could change the education and work related mindset of leaders in Hungary when it comes to young people’s goal setting, but since politics is so ugly and shortsighted in Hungary, I do not yet see anyone to actually talk to with the feeling that anything good would come out of a discussion. When I was Leila’s age, I was much more optimistic and idealistic. Today I am more of a realist, but I am still able to maintain an idealistic narrative, so I am still generally optimistic. The difference between Leila’s attitudes and my attitudes is not related to age, it is related to geographical location, networks, the culture embedded in those networks and day-to-day experiences. When I returned to Hungary from the US in 2002, I had her energy. Nowadays I am an indirect leader via my blogs, but it would be nice to reawaken that dormant direct leader in me, in a more mature and more experienced incarnation. The inspiration is there.
Now that the election is coming up in Hungary, some politicians mentioned the “unconditional basic income for all” idea. And while I believe that technology one day should make this possible, by generating enough profits, goods and services, I also believe that today it is still important for people to feel needed, to do something, to have a reason to develop skills and to have goals (will be still important for a long time). These are basic components needed for mental health, social acceptance and survival. Millions of people are being judged for not having a job and not earning money even when there are clearly no jobs for them. It is clearly victim blaming, a form of abuse. Also, due to the shrinking economy, our GDP or more importantly our GNI won’t be able to cover the cost of an unconditional basic income for all in Hungary. On top of it, why would we want rich people (with a lot of income and assets) also get the unconditional basic income? I feel it is morally wrong! If you have a lot, give a lot, and don’t use community resources if you do not need them, especially when others desperately do need those resources. At the same time I dislike aid (much of it appears to get stolen) and I would prefer people getting their income based on different kinds of tasks or jobs completed. Perhaps we need “unconditional basic work” that generates income, but still permits growth, learning and self actualization (depending on the person’s capacity and health). What we must keep in mind is that people should not get stuck in one mindless position, there should be perspective in the process.
My example for turning “volunteer work” into “donated work” and so into “basic income” for skilled and jobless people
For example, why not make it possible for the best TED talk translators, reviewers and transcribers (or even TEDx volunteers) to earn money with their volunteer work? I imagine an opt in program, where a question would pop up during the OTP registration or before starting a new subtitle translation: “Would you like to earn money with your TED volunteer work?” And people with no income, no jobs, but good language skills and top work ethic could make money this way to pay for food, accommodation and utilities. When you start earning good money some other way, you could graciously opt out as a volunteer who earns money to permit others to get your money, and you could opt in as a volunteer and/or a donor. Those who are donors could indicate that their donations are supposed to sponsor excellent volunteers in need. Now that the super rich are giving their money to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to actually and measurably solve problems in the world, I believe that giving income generating work to TED volunteers would be money well spent on people spreading good ideas in dozens of languages. It is a form of global teaching.
So, I imagined the young roma woman (in the small store nearby) starting to work online from home via Samasource Hungary (yet to be created… it could be similar to SAMAUSA)… I imagined her English developing while working and reviewing English social media surfaces for example for a social media monitoring service called Venuelabs (an actual Samasource partner), or entering university transcript data for Degreed (a possible SamaUSA partner), and gradually she could transition into an online education program in English and for free… Internationally educated people like me could train her. This woman, soon with experience in technology, and with better English, and with top Coursera and other courses on her LinkedIn profile could be employed indirectly (on the job market) by the next, yet to be created project Samasource would license to global partners or she could find direct employment with local companies… Samasource will grow and redefine itself as its customers, partners and supporters become more diverse. The possibilities are endless. We definitely need to find jobs for jobless high school and college graduates within Hungary, the European Union and beyond. We also need to give a way out of poverty and a way into the world of learning and self improvement.
This blog post reminds me of a dream of mine: I observed people floating in an upward spiral lifting each other up one-by-one, hand-in-hand. If we would take the responsibility for just one person who is less fortunate but willing to grow, and lift that person just a little bit higher, our lives would literally be more uplifting.
TED and TEDx video subtitling could be a source of independent and global micro income
for the educated and the skilled during hard times (even retroactively)
- Regina Saphier: Weapons of Mass Construction: Leila Janah’s Samasource (virtualhumanism.wordpress.com)
Regina Saphier: Redefining Success and The ElitePosted: January 29, 2014 Filed under: English Text | Tags: Coursera, Elite, KPCB, Success, Tom Perkins, Venture Capital Leave a comment
Tom Perkins wrote something really misguided and misleading, used the wrong comparison between two totally unrelated historic/social events (racial genocide in Europe decades ago and anger against the rich, “the 1%” in the US today can not be compared) and his reputation was destroyed in his early 80s recently. He had to go on television and apologise, but even that appearance did not do much good.
Why is this interesting?
It is interesting, because one of the key investors of Coursera is Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Perkins was one of the original founders of this famous venture capital (VC) company. Coursera is the startup that provides high quality free university courses globally to anyone who likes to learn, and the social entrepreneurship company I have been blogging about from the early days. As I was listening to Perkins and reading the comments, I felt I had things to say in relation to the situation, so I developed my comments into a blog.
Demonizing any group is wrong (that is a social psychology issue), as is bragging about your super expensive watch while you are being questioned in front of millions of people by Emily Chang about your previous bad judgement that probably ruined your reputation at the end of your life (that could be a mental health issue if you are not really known as an idiot, but rather as a talented business man, even if obviously arrogant and living in a bubble… still, unusually reckless behavior could be Alzheimer’s over 80… things just become a bit confusing… you even pick the wrong words… if that is the case, we need to look at this differently…). Whatever the truth, Perkins displayed low levels of emotional maturity twice in a very short period of time. There must be some reason for that, but we just don’t know what it is…
Should KPCB drop the “P”?
So, apart from the possibility that this man is perhaps ill or immature at 80… should we from now on say that instead of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (or “KPCB”) it is rather “KCB” that gave millions of dollars in venture capital to Coursera to educate the “99%” of society for free (that includes the middle class and people living in poverty too), and not only in the US, but globally (even in developing countries)!? How in Tom Perkins’s mind is that a sign of problems at the VC firm he created in the past? In his anger that KPCB distanced itself from him, his controversial ideas and word choices, he referred to his own negative opinion regarding KPCB’s contemporary management during the interview. I would say, at least the Coursera investment was definitely a good decision.
I know there are many issues we could examine (internal issues at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, income inequality in the US, technology making people jobless all over the world, expensive housing, low quality of education, etc.), but to me Coursera is the shining example of financially smart and socially conscious decisions made by investors, mostly by people of the “1%”, providing high quality, free courses to anyone who is willing to learn. That is the best kind of business: everyone has a chance to win something! I believe we are going to see more and more such VC decisions especially as Coursera becomes more successful, not “only” in terms of attracting millions of students and millions of venture dollars, but also in terms of profitability. It is possible to make money and do good at the same time. The most successful and the most creative groups in society are those who make these ventures possible, be it the investors, the founders, their smart teams, and those people who embrace and utilize the services of such companies.
Still, joblessness, quality of life, and income inequality, even total lack of income, and so individual vulnerabilities have yet to be addressed on Earth. We need unconditional basic income, because people are being made jobless by technologies, and when you have a jobless and increasingly educated majority with no income and a rich minority facing each other, that can lead to terrible social tension. But it is also the increasing level of education that makes it possible for the educated middle class to use well structured arguments and intellect based advocacy instead of violence. We must create the solutions together.
Who knows, for many the Google Helpouts service could be a solution, a way of international job creation. For others it could be the vibrant startup culture all over the world. There are and will be many ideas and solutions, as more and more enlightened business people and venture capitalists will be looking for business solutions that are also good for societies (in their own best interest). Let’s keep an open mind and keep thinking about and working on these solutions. Let’s focus on the things that move us all to a higher (and optimally reachable) ground where people understand each other better. Some need to move financially, some intellectually, some emotionally, some morally…
There are people who think that nations were created by “the 100%”, others think it was all done by the “1%”. Both are wrong.
Perkins originally (and admittedly) does not come from “the 1%”, he worked his way into that heterogenous group. This can only happen if someone has an “appropriate” personality mix, often containing arrogance, egotism, lack of deep empathy for individuals, and the most financially successful are the charming sociopaths interested in money and things (not people, nor the community). These individuals are so interested in fitting in as rich, that they spend a life compensating and that impacts their fragile self image further. The unconscious goal in their minds (no matter what they say) is to insulate themselves from the old self and the origins of the old self, and the social strata that self comes from. (Note: Not all of them are like this, but most forget where they come from and fail to see that, due to changed reference points, like new friends with new values.)
As science, academia and education was optimized mostly for male Asperger’s (idea, data and systems oriented people), so was business optimized for male Sociopathology (money, dominance and material success oriented people), and sometimes vice versa. (Note: Asperger’s is a problematic term, covering a very diverse group of people who are not neurotypical. Some “Aspies” are people and feelings oriented, especially women Aspies. Approximately 25-30% of Aspies are female.) Just as an interesting side note, today I came up with the formula for the stereotypical scientist: OCD + Aspergers + Very High Levels of Cognitive Intelligence + Preference for Rigid and Safe Academic Institutions + Lack of Social Skills (beyond academia) = Scientist. I am talking about past norms and tendencies. Lately, I am noticing some changes. However, women are still less likely to make it in academia and in the business world. If you make it, you probably are part of the smaller female Aspie group with idea orientation (but you probably don’t know or don’t care). Until systems are “male optimized”, societies (including men and women) will suffer from the lack of female leadership.
Also, it is important to mention that “the 100%” is not 100% productive on an individual level. Some are phenomenally creative, but most people don’t produce anything and are bored out of their minds on their repetitive jobs, mostly “created” by the superficially money oriented sociopaths (and the conformists who follow them) who are often bored aboard their yachts. Creativity (my definition for this blog: originality that produces something fundamentally new and useful on a large scale) is unfortunately much less valued as you might like to think. Business and academia are more related to scale, money, low cost of labor and replicas, and less related to true creativity.
What might change the old school attitudes and structure is the global network of people on the Internet. Kickstarter, Indiegogo, LinkedIn, Google Helpouts, WordPress, Coursera, growing telecom networks, the startup and the open source culture, all these and more technologies and services will make it possible for almost 100% of societies to collaborate more and have more equal access to knowledge, networks, information, services, markets, funds and opportunities, be it academic or business related, or something else. It is also important to mention that social media and the availability and accessibility of telecommunications technologies make it possible for women to make a much more noticeable business and academic impact.
Controversy can happen to anyone, it is the seriousness that matters. For example, even if today’s TED was recreated by the new management, it was still originally created by Mr. Wurman, who is also a newcomer among rich Americans (not that I am familiar with his exact financial situation but he lives well, even if not as rich as Perkins…), so it could be that he is part of the “5%” or the “10%”. Still, a true self-made man. Some people like him, some don’t. He is not a listening type on a personal level, but he is a listening type when it comes to ideas, even if his ADD prevents him from paying attention for long. His curious mind created the foundations of TED. I respect his initial input. He made the best move when he sold TED. His critical remarks of the contemporary TED Conferences a few years ago resulted in the breakdown of communications between him and the TED.com team. Still, today he is planning to attend TED conferences again. You can make communication related mistakes, it happens, and later you can aim to repair your relationships. Also, Richard remembers where he comes from. He in fact told me that he comes from a very poor background and he is a first generation degree holder. While he remained personally accessible, his money and networks created a kind of bubble around him. Again, this happens when your reference network changes. His most wonderful feature? His ongoing willingness to learn. He will be 79 during the spring of 2014.
Perkins has a much more serious problem. He offended people on an entirely different level and he lives in his own isolated world (he looks kind of unhappy). Still, don’t forget that KPCB would not be around without his skills, abilities, motivations, personality and personality disorders. I wish I could still respect his initial input… I know he is not involved with KPCB any more (this is not a recent development), but he used to be. I would not be surprised if the VC company dropped his name… but what happens if 10 years from now it turns out that Perkins did indeed have Alzheimer’s at the time of the controversy? During the interview with Emily Chang he did not appear to be consistent, his reactions were sometimes even childish. Is this his usual behavior? I don’t know. If it is, how was he able to become so successful? And if this is a successful man in America, what is wrong with the definition of success?
A new definition of the “elite” and “success” among the 1%
We need more “self-made” women to change the reference points of today’s leadership networks. While I am likely to question the 50-50 gender composition in leadership in the short run, generally 20-40% appears possible to me in the long run, especially when quotas are used. Let us redefine the meaning of success together.
You can keep your ego, just do not let it harm others. If you can not live without the word “elite“, I am telling you, only these people should be considered as members of the true elite (independent of their financial situation): working, learning, investing, doing business in order to make the world a better place for as many people as possible on your own level. This should also be the definition of success among the “1%”. You can call me an idealist all you want, because after all we need ideals and possibly constructive ones.
More blogs by Regina Saphier:
Regina Saphier: ElementaryPosted: November 27, 2013 Filed under: English Text, Uncategorized | Tags: Asperger, Asperger syndrome, Aspie, Autism spectrum, Hugh Dancy, Jonny Lee Miller, Sherlock Holmes, Watson Leave a comment
Regina Saphier: Elementary
If you don’t know, let me tell you that many US TV series have some excellent writers and advisors and the content is often effortlessly educational. The series “Elementary” is a perfect example of the popular being educational as well. Former medical doctor Joan Watson, the first ever female Watson in a TV series, phenomenally played by Lucy Liu, is first the guidance counselor of addict Aspie Sherlock Holmes, exceptionally portrayed by Jonny Lee Miller. Dr. Watson becomes Holmes’s highly appreciated associate during the first season. I have to say their dynamic on screen is really entertaining and completely believable, plus I really enjoy the atmosphere, the spaces used in the series, that unfolds in New York. Romantic interest in not part of their interaction, it is purely intellectual and collegial. Their libido is perfectly normal, but between them it is about solving crimes and finding criminals. We constantly witness how Mr. Holmes struggles with the neurotypical environment, how he stands out with his sharp observations and painful lack of social skills. Ms. Watson on the other hand is the mostly well adjusted female Aspie, passing as “normal” (mostly, but at some point her friends begin to assume that it is not “normal” to be fascinated by criminology on Holmes’s side), while exhibiting many of the observational and synthesizing abilities as Holmes…
In season 2, at the end of episode 9 (“On the Line”) Holmes explains to Ms. Watson that he is not a nice man, and he is making an exceptional effort to accommodate her, because she is exceptional:
I transcribed the dialogue (intentionally skipped a few lines here and there):
Sherlock Holmes: There is unquestionably a certain social utility to being polite. To maintaining an awareness of other people’s sensitivities, to exhibiting all the traits that might commonly be grouped under the heading “nice”.Joan Watson: I think you would be surprised how easy it is to earn that designation.Holmes: No. I am not a nice man. It’s important that you understand that. … There is not a warmer, kinder me waiting to be coaxed out into the light. I am acerbic. I can be cruel. So I am. … I am neither proud of this, nor ashamed of it. … And in my work my nature has been an advantage far more often than it has been a hinderance. I am not gonna change.Watson: You have. You are not the same person I met a year and a half ago. You are…Holmes: Good to you? Yeah… For the most part. I consider you to be exceptional. So I make an exceptional effort to accommodate you. But you must accept that for as long as you choose to be in my life there will occasionally be fallout from my behaviour. That must be a part of our understanding.Watson: No one can accept something like that forever.Holmes: To thine own self… Watson…
- The first major film on Autism: Dustin Hoffman as Raymond, an autistic savant… in “Rain Man”. This is NOT a film about Asperger’s!
- Also by the writer of “Rain Man” (by Ronald Bass), an Asperger’s movie (the characters are in different places on the Asperger’s spectrum and are highly asocial): “Mozart and the Whale” (not as well directed as “Rain Man”, but still entertaining and educational).
- Toni Collette and Philip Seymour Hoffman are the voices of “Mary and Max” – “a 2009 Australian clay-animated black comedy-drama” … “The film deals with themes including childhood neglect, friendship, the obscurity of life, teasing, loneliness, autism (Asperger syndrome in particular), obesity, depression and anxiety.” (wikipedia.org)
- Claire Danes in “Temple Grandin“, very well portrayed, and Claire’s spouse
- Hugh Dancy in “Adam“, also a very good movie (about a lonely Aspie who develops a unique relationship with his neighbor: Beth).
- The director of “The Hours” (Stephen Daldry) created another wonderful film: “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” … The director “… stated in an interview that the film is about “a special child who is somewhere on the autistic spectrum, trying to find his own logic – trying to make sense of something that literally doesn’t make sense to him.” When asked how much research was necessary to realistically portray a character with such a condition, he answered “we did a lot of research,” and that he “spent a lot of time with different experts of Asperger’s and talked to them.” In the film, Oskar reveals that he was tested for Asperger syndrome, but the results were inconclusive. As Daldry explained: “Every child is different on the autistic spectrum, so we created our own version of a child that was in some way – not heavily, but somewhere on that spectrum in terms of the fears and the phobias.” (wikipedia.org)
- Lately Abed in the series “Community” provided a perfectly believable Aspie. It turns out, the creator, Dan Harmon discovered he has a form of Asperger’s while doing research for the Aspie character Abed. As Abed would say, Cool cool cool. :-)This brings me to my key point: Many writers, stand up comedians, actors, actresses and film directors have a form of Aspergers. And these people have exceptional observational capacity, and for that you need deep empathy, high level of cognition, and special analytical skills. I believe that many Aspies are deeply empathic and have a very creative fantasy world, and e.g.: writing helps to “defragment” their massive emotional content.
Neurodevelopmental differences are probably much more common than we like to think. What makes the differences less apparent is enormous social pressure. Just think of religious people. Have you ever listened to a religious person quoting the bible word by word again and again and have you ever observed people’s religious rituals or the rigid social structures they feel forced to maintain? Don’t you think that many of them would fit the criteria of Asperger‘s with OCD? Focus on a single topic, repetition, rigidity, rituals, inability to assume the point of view of other people of other religions, and so on… Today, as people are more and more educated, religion is less and less dominant, and individuals discover new beliefs online that fit their personalities better. The mass scale of need for social “shelterdness” goes online and becomes much more individualized and globally remixed. At the same time people learn faster and more than ever before in human history. At this rate we might as well become a more understanding and more compassionate species, especially if we are willing to admit our shortcomings and do everything in our power to change to the better.
I think that the title Elementary might come from Sir Ken Robinson’s book title and theme: “The Element” (How finding your passion changes everything). He says that in order to be in your element, you must discover what you are best at, what you enjoy doing the most, and you also have to find the people who are like you, who appreciate you, and they are in a way your tribe. It is a beautifully idealistic human goal to be in your element, and some people are able to achieve this. Holmes and Watson enjoy their two person tribe and they are in their element together. Their personalities are different, but their elementary process is the same and they participate with passion. Seeking your element and passionately being in your constructive and positive element is the ultimate human goal for men and women equally. Aspies are probably born with a higher sense of their element and it often annoys “the seekers” (and remember, being “a seeker” is already a higher level of consciousness). When they are forced to adjust to rigid social norms they are denied their freedom to be in their elements and it is enormously frustrating. I mean, imagine that you just woke up from a flying dream, and you find yourself hovering above your bed… and suddenly you would be told to stop it, because it is not polite to levitate. How would you feel? 😉 Many Aspies “levitate intellectually” and are constantly told to “land politely”… Shouldn’t more people learn “mental levitation”? Of course they should! It is in fact the only kind of levitation a human is able to do without any instruments at the time of real action.
This post grew out of my previous blog post: Curb Your Testosterone!