Will's World #1
Giving this a go...
Introducing Will’s World
Welcome to Will’s World1. In this newsletter I want to show you things that are weird, wonderful and occasionally make you laugh. I hope to share with you ideas and news that you will not find in mainstream news publications. These articles, videos etc. will be things I consider to be important. Many will touch on the topics of science, technology, health, lifestyle and policy. And of course, I promise there will always be some funny shit in there. I’m not sure how frequently I will send this newsletter and I am not sure if I will even do a second issue but let’s play by ear.2
Parapsychology is worth paying attention to
This talk gives a fascinating summary of the field of parapsychology. Parapsychology is the study of alleged psychic phenomena (extrasensory perception, telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, telekinesis) and other paranormal claims, for example, those related to near-death experiences, synchronicity, apparitional experiences, etc. This talk is by Dean Radin3 who is a well-respected leader in this field. He covers the science that supports the field and the double-standards the field is being held to.
Why do I like this talk so much? Because this guy is presenting ideas that would be considered bat-shit crazy in the mainstream but he is doing it with what seems to be good science. If what parapsychology is proposing is true, it completely upends our traditional model of consciousness which has huge ramifications for society, science and what we choose to believe in.
Guinness is an amazing company
This is a shameless plug of a recent article I wrote in the Fitzwilliam about Guinness and how innovative the company has been for the last 250 years. Please read it and let me know what you think!
Considering that it predates the Bank of Ireland and the State itself, it could even be said that Guinness is the longest-running successful large institution in Ireland.
Pathogens could be causing people to develop Schizophrenia, anxiety and more
Riva Tez wrote this brilliant essay about how pathogens could be the cause of some major illnesses that we currently think are non-communicable (spread person to person). She writes about how pathogens like Toxoplasma gondii (Trainspotting fans may recognise this one), Epstein-Barr virus or Herpes could be causing diseases like schizophrenia, Alzeihmer’s, autism and anxiety. This isn’t an article for the faint-hearted but if you’re a curious person and you are interested in health, you should read it.
Riva is one of my favorite thinkers today. Her ideas are unique, they span multiple domains and are consistently against the grain. If you want to learn more about these ideas you can follow her on Twitter, listen to her podcast appearances (this is my favorite), watch her hilarious interview with Alex Jones or read her writing . Her career has been incredibly varied and has included stints as a toy shop owner, mobile app founder, business school lecturer, non-profit founder, venture capital investor, writer and Intel executive.
I particularly like the opening paragraph of this article which critiques the scientific method:
In science, the process is just as important as the discoveries; improving our scientific processes will speed up our rate of discovery. Austrian philosopher Paul Feyerabend claims that contemporary research has over-indexed on processes such as the scientific method and this rigidness has restrained innovation. The crux of his book Against Method is that paradigm shifts in science stem from epistemological anarchism – epistemology refers to the formulation of beliefs. This anarchy, to any Thomas Kuhn fans, is what is necessary to achieve Kuhn’s Stage 4 phase of science, the “revolutionary phase” in which new paradigms are created. In recent decades we have placed too much importance on science being consistent, while forgetting that paradigm shifts often come from those who refute mainstream assumptions. In other words, the geniuses who generated scientific paradigm shifts were anarchists to their contemporaries. Or success came when they made mistakes, take vaccines for example.
Here at Will’s World we like controversial ideas like this one! I agree with her that the scientific method needs fixing. I also believe that we need to reform our scientific institutions. New institutions like Fast Grants and Arc Institute give me hope that this can be done.
Sweden built 1 million houses in 9 years
It’s no secret that we need to build more houses in Ireland. In my opinion, it is the only way we will solve the housing crisis. Frustratingly the situation seems to be evolving at a snail's pace. There isn’t enough radical action being taken by the government. That being said, I am not convinced by the opposition’s plans for this problem either.
We need to build homes at a pace that we have never seen before. That requires a fundamentally new system. One place we could look to for inspiration is Sweden (hat-tip to Peter O’Malley for sharing this story). In the 1960s housing was a major political issue in Sweden. The government at the time decided to solve the problem by embarking on a house-building blitz called the Million Programme. In this program the government constructed one million homes in only 9 years. This is one home for every eight people. This is such a brilliant example of public sector innovation. The public sector can do amazing things when it has the right people with the right resources at the right time. In this case they took a build-at-all-costs mentality that likely ruffled a lot of feathers at the time but got shit done. We need more of that kind of attitude in Ireland.
Our theory on the cause of depression is wrong
In this study the researchers “aimed to synthesize and evaluate evidence on whether depression is associated with lowered serotonin concentration.” They found that “the main areas of serotonin research provide no consistent evidence of there being an association between serotonin and depression, and no support for the hypothesis that depression is caused by lowered serotonin activity or concentrations. Some evidence was consistent with the possibility that long-term antidepressant use reduces serotonin concentration.”
Why is this important? Well this finding disproves the hypothesis behind most antidepressants. For example SNRIs and SSRIs both work by increasing the levels in the brain of the neurotransmitter dopamine. SSRIs are the most widely prescribed antidepressant in the world.
The monoamine hypothesis which dates back to the 1950s is the most widely-accepted scientific theory of how antidepressants work. According to this theory, when the monoamine neurotransmitters (namely serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine) are out of balance (or more frequently deficient), people get depressed. We now have serious evidence that this theory is wrong and furthermore this treatment could actually be harming people in the long-term. Will we change our ways? I expect change here to be slow. There is too much money in this $13.5 billion industry to make change happen swiftly.
And for dessert, some funny tweets from the last month
Thanks for reading, and if you enjoyed it, please subscribe by clicking the button below.
Yes, I based the name of my newsletter off the stupid and hilarious 1992 Mike Myers movie.
I told a friend recently that there was something I was going to “play by ear”, he misheard me and then asked what I meant by saying I was going into my “playboy era”. So here it goes, my playboy era aka me playing it by ear.
Dean Radin is a fascinating individual. He transitioned from a career in classical violin to electrical engineering to then get a PhD in educational psychology and worked in Bell Labs and researched at Princeton and the University of Edinburgh along the way. He did this as well as being a four-time President of the American Parapsychological Association.