February 4, 2013

Crisis+DSM-5: About "The Trap - part 1: F**k your buddy"

About "The Trap - part 1: F**k your buddy"
About ME/CFS


Following on  yesterday's mentioning of "Equality for All", that is a film I haven't seen that promises to be quite interesting, today's Nederlog is about a series of documentaries I did see, that is quite interesting, and that I recommend you to view if you are interested in understanding the present
crisis or the DSM-5 and (post-)modern psychiatry - and as the tags to my title shows, I'll sort it in both series, by that by now each comprise over a 100 Nederlogs (sometimes in part).

About "The Trap - part 1: F**k you buddy"

As it happens, I differ from most others in several respects, such as in health, background, career, income, intelligence, interests, and values, to name some, and one that is not in the list is that I do not owe a TV since 1970, and saw very little of it, and what little I saw always convinced me that that it does not agree well with my intelligence, interests, and values.

It's a conscious choice: By the time I was 20, in 1970, my parents had had TV for 7 years, and I had seen a little more of it since 1958, and my general conclusion was that it was usually boring, predictable, superficial even if about topics that interested me, and that I learned very little from it, while it kept me from reading books, that I found much more interesting.

Another reason is that I found it offensive to be treated - or so it often seemed, though indeed not always - as if I, together with  the majority of viewers, must be a moron. To clarify things a little: I am speaking of the late 1960ies mostly, and I am also speaking about what was then available on Dutch TV.

The British TV at the time - I lived briefly in England in 1971 - was a lot better than the Dutch one, and had programs with David Frost, and Monty Python that I liked, though I learned about Monty Python only in 1971, and on film, since my English girl friend had said "You really should see this, Maarten: I am sure you will like it a lot", and she was quite right.

There were a few other things worth looking at, and the Dick Cavett Show comes to mind, but I don't recall whether I first saw this in Holland or in England, and in any case, when I got my own room, in an attic overlooking the Vondelpark in Amsterdam, I decided that by and large TV had shown itself to be a boring loss of time and that I did not want it.

The most recent news is that Dutchmen at present watch TV for 3 1/2 hours a day on average, which works out as 24 1/2 hours a week, or ca. 1274 hours a year (which amounts to more tha 53 full 24 hour days a year, that is over 159 8 hour working days or almost 32 working weeks a year,  supposing the working week to be 40 hours).

So... by and large the Dutch population lives and works so as to be able to watch TV, if how one spends one's leisure hours is an indication of what one believes one's life is for [1], and I don't. Instead, I am very erudite indeed, for I spend most of the time others spend on TV on reading books, albeit not on reading in popular literature or modern fiction, and I feel pleased about that choice, though indeed I normally cannot share what I have read as a topic of conversation with my average fellow Dutchmen.

I do not regret it, but there are things I might have liked to watch if I had known, and if it could be watched at a convenient time.

One of the things I would have liked to have seen sooner - I found it on Youtube, tracking my own references in yesterday's Nederlog - is this series of three programs, by Adam Curtis, originally made for the BBC and broadcast in 2007:
The Trap part 1: F**k Your Buddy
            part 2: The Lonely Robot
            part 3: We will force u 2 be free
I have added a link to Adam Curtis, whose existence I was not aware of till yesterday, and here is a link to the Wikipedia article on the series, that is instructive:
The Trap - Television documentary series
I quote from what is said about the first part, F**k You Buddy, in the order the quotes appear in Wikipedia, which contains quite good reviews of all parts:

In this episode, Curtis examines the rise of game theory during the Cold War and the way in which its mathematical models of human behaviour filtered into economic thought.

The programme traces the development of game theory with particular reference to the work of John Nash (the mathematician portrayed in A Beautiful Mind), who believed that all humans were inherently suspicious and selfish creatures that strategised constantly. Using this as his first premise, Nash constructed logically consistent and mathematically verifiable models, for which he won the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences, commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize in Economics. He invented system games reflecting his beliefs about human behaviour, including one he called "Fuck Your Buddy" (later published as "So Long Sucker"), in which the only way to win was to betray your playing partner, and it is from this game that the episode's title is taken.
What was not known at the time was that Nash was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and, as a result, was deeply suspicious of everyone around him—including his colleagues—and was convinced that many were involved in conspiracies against him. It was this mistaken belief that led to his view of people as a whole that formed the basis for his theories. Footage of an older and wiser Nash was shown in which he acknowledges that his paranoid views of other people at the time were false.

This last paragraph is immediately followed by this one:
Curtis examines how game theory was used to create the USA's nuclear strategy during the Cold War. Because no nuclear war occurred, it was believed that game theory had been correct in dictating the creation and maintenance of a massive American nuclear arsenal—because the Soviet Union had not attacked America with its nuclear weapons, the supposed deterrent must
have worked.

That belief - clearly - is a fallacy: Begging the question, or affirmation of the consequent, but then Curtis is clearly aware of that.

Now we arrive at the reason for tagging this in my title as relevant to the DSM-5 (and DSM-IV and DSM-III):
A separate strand in the documentary is the work of R.D. Laing, whose work in psychiatry led him to model familial interactions using game theory. His conclusion was that humans are inherently selfish, shrewd, and spontaneously generate stratagems during everyday interactions. Laing's theories became more developed when he concluded that some forms of mental illness were merely artificial labels, used by the state to suppress individual suffering. This belief became a staple tenet of counterculture during the 1960s.
This is somewhat misleading about Laing: Laing started out appealing to existentialism; then turned indeed to something like game theory; and then turned political and mystical, claiming that schizophrenics were trying to liberate themselves from widely shared social delusions.

But the link Wikipedia provides to him, in the quoted paragraph, is reasonably good, if perhaps a little uncritical. [2]

The reason to quote the passage on Laing is that there is rather a lot more on psychiatry in The Trap, including footage of "
Robert Spitzer, chair of the DSM-III task force" and some other psychiatrists, that I found quite interesting.

This is all in aid of the following, which is close to what seems to be one of the general theses of this part of The Trap:
All these theories tended to support the beliefs of economists such as Friedrich von Hayek, whose economic models left no room for altruism, but depended purely on self-interest, leading to the formation of public choice theory. In an interview, the economist James M. Buchanan decries the notion of the "public interest", asking what it is and suggesting that it consists purely of the self-interest of the governing bureaucrats. Buchanan also proposes that organisations should employ managers who are motivated only by money.
One of the parts with Buchanan is indeed quite revealing - "asking what it is" - simply because it is both fallacious and rhetorical: The same trick may be used on "the market", "democracy" and many other theoretical terms ("God", "quantum mechanics", "instinct", "legal" etc.): Clearly such terms involve theories, which may be wholly or partially false, or misleading, or may embody values or ideas  one disagrees with, but to insist one doesn't know what could be meant by such terms is simply dishonest. [3]

Indeed, one way of explaining the ideas of Buchanan and Von Hayek is that their theories are not science and never were intended as science: they are propaganda, either for a form of libertarianism or for the factual rule of large corporations and by the political elites, in England and the US, that form the establishment of that time (and the present, but in part with other political figure heads).

And here is most of the rest of
this part of The Trap, as summarized on  Wikipedia, that explains part of the reasons for its title, and also explains my reasons to put this Nederlog also in the crisis series - and note that Mr Curtis made his three documentaries just before the current crisis started:

As the 1960s became the 1970s, the theories of Laing and the models of Nash began to converge, producing a widespread popular belief that the state (a surrogate family) was purely and simply a mechanism of social control which calculatedly kept power out of the hands of the public. Curtis shows that it was this belief that allowed the theories of Hayek to look credible, and underpinned the free-market beliefs of Margaret Thatcher, who sincerely believed that by dismantling as much of the British state as possible—and placing former national institutions into the hands of public shareholders—a form of social equilibrium would be reached. This was a return to Nash's work, in which he proved mathematically that if everyone was pursuing their own interests, a stable, yet perpetually dynamic, society could result.

The episode ends with the suggestion that this mathematically modelled society is run on data—performance targets, quotas, statistics—and that it is these figures combined with the exaggerated belief in human selfishness that has created "a cage" for Western humans
This is fairly plausible, but is so mostly in the territory of where social ideologies live and are reproduced: In the media and political parties and during public arguments or speeches - which tend to be confused, ideological, propaganda and not really scientific even if, or especially if, as in the cases of marxism, psychiatry and Von Hayek's brand of libertarianism, it is asserted to be "scientific" by those who profit or hope to profit from it: Not in the public theater, were spokesmen and -women for special interests try to make folks without special knowledge or qualifications believe things, that if believed serves the spokespersons own special interests.

Also, while I am willing to believe Mrs Thatcher "sincerely believed" considerable parts of her public ideological stances, I cannot do so in the case of Mr Tony Blair, who always struck me as a most evident sanctimonious hypocrite - and who mostly continued the program Thatcher started, in the name of "socialism", or whatever words he chose as most apt for the occasion and the public. [4]

Finally, as to game theory: I do believe that this has been abused ideologically, as a justification for the sort of politics - control, rule, theatrics - of "
performance targets, quotas, statistics", and also elsewhere: in the Cold War, and in the war in  Vietnam, for example.
In fact, game theory (1) was used ideologically almost from the start, i.e. as propaganda, quite in the way the APA pretends psychiatry is a science, which it is not even in intention since Spitzer designed the DSM-III: Same with game theory in politics, except that as mathematics it works, but (2) the problem is basically methodological: Can one apply it to reality as game theory is presented in books, and the answer is (3) one often can't, outside simplified contexts, because there are a lot more relevant factors, even if the mathematical model is more or less correct, which also is a big assumption, and those other relevant factors simply aren't covered by game theory.

This applies especially to its applications to human beings in society, since their individual behavior depends on many things, that are very hard or impossible to comprise in one mathematical theory.

Applied to games of cards, or the populations of prey and predators in animal populations, it may make sense and also may be objectively testable, as it often does not and is not in human society, where it also is often not clear whether it does apply as put forward in textbooks.
Feb 5, 2013: Repaired a formatting mistake and two typos.
[1] Surely not a wild assumption, since it also is not a wild assumption that the vast majority would not do the work they do for money if they did not need the money.
[2] As it happens, I have read most books by Laing, but gave up on him in 1969 or 1970, when I had read "The Politics of Experience and the Bird of Paradise". I did like "Interpersonal Perception", that I still think is his best book, and what Curtis would describe as game theory (more related to Bateson than Nash) and Knots, that is a sort of application of
"Interpersonal Perception", in a poetic format.
[3] To make this clear if this is needed: What are armies, police, legislature, water, electricity and roads for, if not for "the public interest"? Again, on may say that person A's version - the pope, an ayatollah, a judge - of what is "the public interest" is not the same as one's own, and one may say that a phrase like "the public interest" is often used in a vague or rhetorical way, but Buchanan did not do so.
[4] I grant this is my personal perception: Mr Blair always seemed very artifical to me, rather like Michael Palin acting like a con man in a Monthy Python sketch. I would not buy a second hand car from him, but then he never was in need of my support or vote.

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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