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Thoughtful Thursday: Observing, Comparison and Evaluating

“Knowingly, and unknowingly, I relentlessly measure everything you do,
And that’s okay, as long as I don’t then pretend that I have ever measured you.”
— Zumwalt

“Accuracy of observation is the equivalent of accuracy of thinking.” — Wallace Stevens

We can observe what one does or what they have.

We cannot observe who they are.  We are basically limited to observing what they do and have. And usually, we only see a very small percentage of that.

But even if we saw everything, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, we would be left with only seeing manifestations and phenomena, not the essence of who people truly are.  We may know it’s safe or dangerous to be around this or that person in this or that circumstance, but we have no direct understanding of those people, we make the leap from observing what they do to who they are.

So its pointless to compare ourselves to others.  We can compare what we do to what someone else does.  Or we can compare what someone has to what we have.  Just don’t fool yourself that you can compare yourself to anyone else.

The truth is that you cannot measure anyone.  You can measure their body. You can measure the size or weight of their brain, their heart, their stomach.  With the right equipment, you could even count the number of neurons in their brain, the number of synaptic connections, and, if using top-of-the-line (though still futuristic) equipment, the number of neurotransmitters and their motion and chemical composition.

To say the heart, the stomach or the brain is the person is a large leap of illogic and foolishness.  To say the body (containing the heart, stomach, brain and several gallons of water) is the person is also not true.  Maybe removing an appendix, a few skin cells, a couple of liters of water, or consuming a bit too much at a cruise ship buffet changes the viewpoint or experience of the person , but so can reading a book or watching a movie or interacting with someone else — and we don’t confuse the books on your bookshelf or your friends and family with you.  Or do we?  Yes, we often do! Since we cannot observe you, we observe things around you and use these are proxies for measuring you.

Be careful that what you observe is relevant to what you evaluate.  Do not observe the behavior of ducks in the park and assume that you have collected pertinent data to evaluate the behavior of wolves in the wild.  Do not observe the behavior of a person, and assume that you can evaluate the person: you can only evaluate their behavior.

Data seduces us.  We see data and we sometimes don’t stop to see if this data is relevant, complete or appropriate for our analysis.  Our process of drawing conclusions may be sound, but if we are not observing what we need to observe, then we cannot expect valid comparisons or evaluations and this in turn will impact our understanding and any subsequent action.



Thoughtful Thursday: Feeling the Future

bela lugosi

People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”  — Albert Einstein

You, predictable reader, follow these words and I know that what you read next is what I write now.” — Zumwalt

It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards”  — From “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Caroll

Time may not be what it seems.  Sometimes what we assume is true is not: our senses may initially lead us to believe the sun revolves around the earth, but if we observe beyond what is most self-evident, and carefully examine a wider range of data then we must conclude that the earth revolves around the sun. As in the case with planetary bodies,  it may be that our sense of time is based on our frame of reference and not a true understanding of reality.

Physics has provided evidence during our lifetime that the future can determine the past.  The most famous example is the “quantum eraser” experiment. One can google this or check out this article: http://iheartintelligence.com/2017/01/20/quantum-experiment-present-past/.  One can even try this experiment at home: https://www.scientificamerican.com/slideshow/a-do-it-yourself-quantum-eraser/\

Is there any chance of sensing the future?  Some studies, like the famous, but controversial and legitimately challenged, Cornell University trials indicate this may be possible: http://dbem.ws/FeelingFuture.pdf

As a graduate student in music, perhaps as a break from listening to too much atonal music, I became interested in parapsychology experiments, and read numerous journals in our large college library covering this topic. There were a couple of experiments with cockroaches that really impressed me. One was an experiment by Helmut Schmidt in which he placed various laboratory animals on a divided electrical grid with a 50% chance of the shock going to the area where the animal was.  Schmidt recorded that in most trials (and these trials included hundreds of shocks), the gerbil, guinea pig or other small animal ended up being shocked around 48 to 49 percent of the time.  Schmidt was a sloppy researcher and it is not clear if this statistically significant number was due to Schmidt’s own psi abilities influencing the outcomes, or the animal’s psi abilities protecting themselves. When he put cockroaches to the test, he found they ended up being shocked 52 percent of the time as opposed to the expected 50 percent of the time. Schmidt admitted his particular dislike of cockroaches, and so it is not clear if the cockroaches were masochistic or whether it was Schmidt’s distaste for them that influenced the outcome.


A later researcher, revising Schmidt’s experiment, placed the cockroaches on a divided grid, with one or the other side receiving a shock and providing the cockroaches the freedom and time to travel to one side or the other.  In this experiment, the researcher recorded whether the cockroaches ended up on the side that received the electrical charge or the side that did not get the charge. Again, the result was that the cockroaches got shocked around 51 to 52 percent of the time depending on the set of trials. Were the cockroaches anticipating the future, even if there actions were not in their best interests? Or was the researcher somehow still influencing the cockroaches to get punished slightly more than expected?  Perhaps it doesn’t matter, as neither the various Schmidt experiments nor this follow-up experiment with the divided grid was ever able to be consistently replicated with the same significant results.

In the recent, and earlier referenced, Cornell set of experiments,  the most interesting ones, (okay — I concede that some may find the salacious-content experiments more interesting), are the two similar experiments addressing “Retroactive Facilitation of Recall.”  Basically the subjects are asked to look at a set of words. After this is done,  they are given a recall test (not being told about this beforehand) and each participant’s ability to recall what they have memorized is recorded.  The computer selects, randomly, half the words the subjects had previously looked at as study material, and then the students study these words.  It turns out the subjects do much better on recalling the words they had studied after the test then those they had not. Basically, this proves that if one is unable to find time to study for a test beforehand, they can always study after the test and improve their test scores — at least slightly.  (This is why, when I pick losing lottery ticket numbers, I always carefully study the winning numbers and carefully commit them to memory to increase my chances of having picked the right numbers in the first place: if I am/was successful, I not only get some extra pocket-change, but get back any time I had spent studying those numbers.)

The key here, from a very practical standpoint, is not whether others can sometimes sense the future, but whether you or I can sense the future and, if possible, how best to develop that ability.   As one might guess (or sense), there are many online opportunities to research this further. Now that I told you this, I have increased your chances of already knowing this, and I suspect that you are thinking to yourself that, yes, you already knew this, and you really don’t need to waste you time reading this blog which isn’t disclosing anything new to you at all. This of course, is what you are thinking now that you have read this. If you had read a blog on politics or music, instead, you wouldn’t be thinking this at all. If you had read a blog on politics, you probably wouldn’t even be thinking.

Back to the present, please. Let’s take a look at one particular online test:  http://www.psychicscience.org/staring.aspx

First, do the practice trial to get a sense of how simple this experiment/test is.

When doing an actual trial, my only advice is to not base your guesses on what already happened, but what you feel is about to happen.  In other words, don’t let three or four blank screens in a row bias you to select the “staring” screen based on some misunderstanding of probability.  Stay in the present and realize each display has a fifty-fifty chance of being either blank or a staring screen and don’t let what occurred before influence your decision/guess/prediction. Just feel whether you will be stared at or not and then pick your choice based on that feeling. (This may be the same sensation you get when you feel someone on the other side of the room is staring at you.  I often get this feeling when I shout and yell at the waiter or waitress in the restaurant — or when they yell at me.)

Also, best to stay relaxed and let yourself get in “the zone.” Don’t let a string of successes put pressure on you. If you feel such pressure, it may be best to take a break and come back. The screen will wait for you. (If you need to take a break, you can read some Zumwalt poems liked by previous readers. Note that any poems you click “like” on may influence anyone that read them in the past to have clicked “like” also.)

Developing an ability to feel what will happen next, may be like developing any skill.  It takes repeated practice, day after day, for an allocated time each and every day.  It is very similar to ear training exercises like this one: http://pitchimprover.com/index.php?type=Relative

After doing this http://www.psychicscience.org/staring.aspx exercise every day, for several months, please let me know if you have seen any improvement.  If so, it may motivate me to do the same. If you can’t seem to improve your ability to see into the future, don’t feel bad, at least knowing this limitation in the future should translate in your spending less time on these exercises in the here and now — or even not bothering to read this blog post.



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