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brad lehman
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Am I the only one that finds this almost as terrifying as it is hopeful, at least at first glance?

"The researchers engineered a virus that infected a patient's T-cells, a type of white blood cell, and carried instructions to bind to cancer cells and ultimately kill them."

What could possibly go wrong?

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Something to chew on: a recent Jonah Lehrer article tries to parse out mob mentality by using a well-known thought experiment involving two different scenarios for a runaway train (do you change it's course to reduce it's death toll? Do you throw somebody in front of it to reduce it's death toll? Follow the link to see...)

I think the attempt to link this to mob behavior is interesting, but ultimately flimsy. My intuition is that the subject's "mode" is changing. In the first scenario, you are the driver of a runaway train. As drivers, we essentially extend our corpus to the vehicles we drive. You don't say "my car hit a dog," you say that you did it. (Sadly, I know this from experience). You assume the responsibility for your vehicle, even in cases when circumstances have taken you out of control. The first scenario burdens the subject with responsibility for whichever deaths are already going to happen.

From this vantage point, the first proposition basically looks like:
a) I will kill five people; or
b) I will kill one person.

In the second instance, the subject is simply a bystander. He can change the course of events, but he does not begin with the responsibility for them. From that vantage point, the proposition looks more like:
a) That train will kill five people; or
b) I will kill one person.

Make no mistake, you can make a logical or philosophical argument that puts the same level of responsibility on the actor, but emotionally... it won't be the same, because it can't be the same. My guess is that the different preconditions here, that the subject-as-driver is causing some deaths already while the subject-as-bystander is not, explains the different reactions.

Oddly, this leads, in a way, to the opposite conclusion that Lehrer reaches. Rather than saying that "our innate goodness is a fragile thing," I'd say that it shows we cling valiantly to our moral compass ("I can't kill that man!") even when you can make a 'rational' case for doing so.

(As to mobs? I'd look towards problems of distributed responsibility, group identity, maybe social proof or even our biases towards fairness, odd as that last one may sound. In any case, "We" is categorically different than "I".)

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So, three weeks in, I am a little disappointed in Google+ . I like the basic layout, and the fact that posts can be a little longer. I was hoping that there would be more 'public' conversation -- that in addition to my friends and acquaintances, I could pull in a few more interesting voices. That has happened in small smatterings, but mostly I still hear crickets. We'll see.

Just finishing the first book of the Hunger Games.

Does anyone else feel odd about the fact that the engine of entertainment for the reader -- the big death match -- is exactly the thing that is hated by the main character? I feel like the author is doing too fine a dance by using it to keep us engaged while also making it the symbolic backbone of a deeply dysfunctional society. It's not an easy balance, and I can't decide how well she pulled it off.

The word I will never get used to in a business context: "decomposing." When people talk about decomposing requirements, I imagine them as a phone book that has been left in the backyard over the winter.

So far: Total number of Brad Lehmans followed: 2. Total number of public posts from other Brad Lehmans: 0. Of course, this is my first public post, too...
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