September 13, 2010


ME + me :  Good ME-news, hyperintelligence and lively programming


I continue being not well, for which reason I still have not yet written more on the DSM-5TM  and there also were no Nederlogs the last two days. I also wanted to write a bit more about psychiatry and about Cargo Cult Science and pseudoscience, but these things also have to queued for somewhat better times.

For now, I only have a few diverse subjects that I have spend some time on the last days

1. Some bits of good news about ME
2. The hyperintelligent
3. Lively computing and programming

1. Some bits of good news about ME

As I have remarked before about the Video-link for the Q&A session (<- this is the link) of the first XMRV-conference one main reason for me to like it was especially that I found it rewarding to see and hear a room full of mostly bio-medical real scientists discuss ME/CFS as if it is a real disease.

Some - probably quite a few - patients with ME had expected more fireworks from or on the conference, in that there was considerable hope, I think, that papers would be presented that proved a causal connection between XMRV and ME/CFS, but none of this emerged in the Q&A-session, while the papers have not yet been published, to my present knowledge.

In any case here are three bits of good news about ME that relate to that first international MRV-conference

  1. The NIH and the FDA take a really serious interest in ME/CFS, as indeed was already somewhat clear from the Lo/Alter-paper (with the main authors working for the NIH) and thos also holds for the directors of these great and powerful institutions: NIH- director dr. Frances Collins was even present during the conference's opening and some time afterwards.
  2. Although there was little coverage in the ordinary media of both the Lo/Alter research and the of the first XMRV-conference, it seems from various reports on the internet that at least the link between XMRV and ME/CFS is now getting to be registered more and more by medical doctors who are not directly related to ongoing research or debates about these issues. The least this should do for them is to make them question the thesis that ME/CDS is "a somatoform disorder" i.e. "dysfunctional beliefs" (of 17 million persons, no less).
  3. The US NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) has appointed a very prominent researcher, Dr. Ian Lipkin (<- Wikipedia-link), to investigate the link between XMRV and ME/CFS. According to the New York Times an expert 'on the role of the immune system in neurological diseases', and from the Wikipedia-link he seems to be a very accomplished medical top scientist. 

Each of these points improves the chances and standing of patients with ME/CFS somewhat and should give hope.

The first point is quite important because in this day and age both the research funding and the policies adopted towards (possible) diseases and carriers of disease depend a lot on major institutions of the state, and within these major institutions of the state on the personalities, beliefs and ends of their directors.

The second point is also quite important, because most medical doctors that patients with ME get to see are not top research scientists, but more or less ordinary medical doctors practising as G.P. or work in some hospital. Like most academics who are not researchers, they themselves did little or no reseearch, and if medical doctors try to get by with refresher courses on various medical subjects, whereas they generally follow authorities - in their cases: often the editorials in medical journals - in regards of what positions they should and will take on rare diseases, such as ME/CFS.

The third point is probably the most important of the three, at least scientifically, since dr. Lipkin is one of the best if not the best there is in his field, that comprises neurological diseases, viruses, pathogens and indeed also ME/CFS, which he is reported himself to believe to be of viral origin.

I could say more about each point, and indeed give more positive news, such as about the Scottish discovery of pathogens in children with a diagnosis with ME/CFS, which very strongly supports the case these children are really physically ill, but I leave it now as it stands.

2. The hyperintelligent

As I have remarked before, I belong to this class, and it does make a difference or rather: it makes for quite a few differences, although it doesn't make me or others similarly afflicted less human or indeed superhuman.

It does neither, and since I did a little investigation over the weekend, here are two links with interesting videos of two persons with extremely high IQs:

The first is a TV-interview of nearly an hour that dates back to 1984. It has unfortunately an interviewer who is rather an intellectual bore, who is rather badly suffering from precisely what I diagnosed my fellow children with when I had to go to Kindergarten by law: "They don't imagine what they say - they merely say it".

Unfortunately, on my computer the video stuck after 22 minutes, so I didn't see all, but Marilyn Mach Vos Savant (<- Wikipedia) clearly is very intelligent, and indeed quite correctly insisted that having a high IQ is not by far the same as having a high intelligence; worried about quite a few things Langan (see below) and I also worried about, notably the stupidity of the vast majority; had similar attitudes to schools and academia as Langan and I, and indeed Multatuli  (it is best if schools get abolished, especially as they are, and most academics are both dumb and posturing a lot); and besides she is - or was at the time - a quite attractive woman, who clearly meanwhile had learned how to cope normally and politely with ordinary people.

I did see all of the three-part series involving Christopher Langan, who had a troublesome youth, with a violent stepfather; very much disliked academia; and worked for several decades as a bluecollar worker, notably as bartender and bouncer (which I definitely agree are far more interesting occupations than "an office job").

Somewhat interestingly, both Vos Savant and Langan are not prominent academics at all, which supports several points including the following two: Having a very high IQ is neither the same as having a very high intelligence (yes, Virginia: there is a positive correlation, no doubt), and academia is in many ways not a nice place to make one's living, while academics are at least as envious and backchatting as non-academics, and on average hardly much more intelligent or different.

Incidentally, if you are gifted (or think you are), there are interesting things to be found on the internet about the problems and characteristics of the gifted, while here are three of their marks, that in my case and my experience, constitute quite a large and typical difference:

Very highly intelligent persons usually

- speak very clearly and logically
- are very much interested in understanding for understanding's sake
- often are far more honest and less posing than more ordinary persons

The first is mainly because they think that way too, and much like to speak that way. It often makes for problems, because more ordinary people, including most academics, just can't do it at all, and certainly not as well, and therefore they feel outdone, condescended to, or simply can't follow, whereas the highly gifted are very quickly bored with those who are not. (Incidentally, this has not much to do with liking them (or not), and one may like, admire or be pleased with a person for lots of reasons, some of which have not much to do with intelligence. Even so, ordinary conversation is very boring for truly gifted people, which makes for problems because conversing is what most people like to do almost the most of all things they could do and in fact probably do more than almost anything else.)

The second is a defining characteristic, and no one who is highly gifted for reasons not related to trauma (*) is without it (if not seriously traumatized or ill, of course): The highly gifted really want to understand things, to know why things are as they are, and are much pleased by finding things out, also if this is not itself 'original research' in any useful sense. As artists are supposed to care for art for art's sake, the highly gifted care for understanding for the sake of understanding - which, incidentally, is quite uncommon, also in the ordinary or lesser breed of academic, for ordinary folks do not seek for knowledge because they want to know, but seek for knowledge pragmatically, and for other reasons, positively phrased by Comte: "Savoir pour prévoir; prévoir pour pouvoir." (Knowledge for foresight; foresight for power - to get what one wants besides knowledge.)

The third is also quite typical, except in very well-trained consciously performing highly gifted: Just as ordinary folks think nearly all the time in terms of wishful thinking, and in terms of whether some belief they consider fits their values and prejudices, highly gifted folks tend to think logically, and in terms of whether a belief they consider is true or probable in any rational sense. And combined with the first characteristic I mentioned, this means that the highly gifted often are or can at least be far more of themselves than ordinary folks, who have learned from childhood that it is safer to appear normal, especially if one is nothing special to start with, and who posture nearly all the time, especially if they assure a public they are authentic. (**)

Anyway... this is a topic I will return to (***), though it cannot be of real interest to most. I do want to say one thing though, in case you happen to be a parent with what may be a very gifted child (chances are you are a mistaken but well-loving parent): Try to provide a private education, home schooling, or indeed emigration if that saves them from having to attend a beliefs-&-attitudes-factory for ordinary folks and standard would be academics.

3. Lively computing and programming

I love logic and I do like programming, albeit not in all languages, not constantly and not for money: Programming is applied logic with both instant built in gratification, namely if it works as one planned, and continuous lessons in morality and the handling of frustration, namely if it doesn't work as planned.

One language + programming environment I have been seriously interested in, and that I still follow, if not very attentively, is Smalltalk (<-Wikipedia), and in particular Squeak (<-Wikipedia). The Smalltalk language is a fine programming language, and the Smalltalk environment is a fine programming environment, and indeed much more than that, for it is effectively its own operating system, and especially Squeak, that dates to 1996 and is Smalltalk 80 extended with Morphic to do graphics-programming, is especially powerful because of Morphic - but also is flawed in a number of respects, or so I think.

I have outlined what I saw as the flaws in my BitsAndPieces, namely in About Smalltalk, in About Squeak, and in More about Squeak, all dating back over three years now, but without having lost my taste for the language and the sort of "programming on the fly" that Smalltalk and especially Squeak enables.

Well... while I do not believe the above linked pieces have been read by very many or have been effective (apart from inspiring some nice e-mails to me), it seems that one of the great men behind Smalltalk, namely Dan Ingalls (<- Wikipedia) has reached a number of the same conclusions as I have, and what's much more: he has done quite a lot about it.

The result is in effect a programmable environment much like Squeak, that is, one also including graphics programming, but that runs in an ordinary browser (such as Safari on Mac and Firefox or IE 8 on a PC) and that is written in JavaScript rather than Smalltalk.

JavaScript (<- Wikipedia) is in some important ways a very nice programming language, and not hard to learn, although it also has its darker sides and certainly its darker uses (ordinary browsers ought to have a switch that switches off any programming or data-sending through them other than minimalistic html, and indeed should have far better facilities to get rid of ads, pop-ups, and secretive datamining).

It also was developed after Smalltalk, but was inspired by it and an offspin of it and by Lisp-like languages such as Scheme, and is a present undoubtedly the most used programming language in the world, since it can be used for all manner of things in browsers and so on the web

But now there is something quite new based on JavaScript, developed by Dan Ingalls and co-workers, called Lively Kernel - which is essentially a full fledged very pleasant programming environment working in an ordinary browser, that has also has acces to all the capacities the browser has.

Here are a number of interesting links with some comments - and what follows is very probably not for you if you can't program at all, or have little knowledge of it:

  • Dan Ingalls presents The Lively Kernel at Google

    This is a talk of an hour, that is quite interesting for what I saw of it, which is roughly the first half, after which it stalled, which may be due to my computer, and not to the video-data. In any case, the first half is quite good in explaining what the Lively Kernel is. Here is more text (not video) on Ingalls and The Lively Kernel, that shows the reader that Ingalls invented quite a bit in computerland, and clearly is a very intelligent man.
  • Dan Ingalls interviewed on InfoQ about the history of Smalltalk and the Lively Kernel

    This is a fine interview albeit mostly a talking head only (which I remark because the former video-link is a bit more lively). If you do not want to look and listen to all forty minutes of it, there is also is a decent summary in the link.
  • Douglas Crockford on "JavaScript: The Good Parts"

    There's rather a lot of not so good and/or quite old stuff when it comes to learning JavaScript, but Crockford has an interesting site, with quite a few useful files abput JavaScript, and also wrote a book about it, called as is stated above, which is also what the last video is about. It's quite good, and there also is another of his explaining JavaScript's good bits at Google, but this Google-video I also couldn't get beyond the 25 minute mark in a video that should last a little over an hour. (****)

I liked all of the above, and anyone who can program at least fairly well may like the linked videos also. Others will find little or nothing of interest, I'm afraid. Even so, the Lively Kernel is a very interesting project, that still is ongoing, and that I like a lot, so that I can also assure you that (i) yes, it works: you can dowload it from LivelyKernel.org as a zip, unzip it and it will start in a browser (both in Firefox and Seamonkey in my case), but (ii) as is, it probably will do little for you if you are not familiar with Squeak (<-Wikipedia), for there is not much help available.

Anyway... The Lively Kernel is along the lines of what I think Ingalls and the original Smalltalk-team that created both Smalltalk and Squeak should have done instead of Squeak, as I argued in About Squeak three years ago.

But with benefit of hindsight, indeed, and I am glad the Lively Kernel is there, for this may grow into something large and useful with just a little additional polishing of the present Lively Kernel and the present JavaScript machines.

P.S. Well... this was mostly about my own interests, and these are different from the interests of most. Incidentally, I was no prodigy, but for those who are interested - and it is an interesting theme - here is a list of child prodigies from Wikipedia.

P.P.S. It may be I have to stop Nederlog for a while. The reason is that I am physically not well at all. I don't know yet, but if there is no Nederlog, now you know the reason.


As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

6. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7. Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)

Short descriptions:

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
   "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon
     insufficient evidence
7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.

    "Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!

No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!
     - (Shelley, "Prometheus Unbound") 

    "It was from this time that I developed my way of judging the Chinese by dividing them into two kinds: one humane and one not. "
     - (Jung Chang)


See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources

P.P.S. ME - Resources needs is a Work In Progress that hasn't progressed today.

(*) By "not related to trauma", I refer to e.g. Kim Peek and some very gifted autists, whose giftedness seems to have to do a lot with disease, that gave them a somewhat different sort of brain than ordinary or indeed highly intelligent persons have. Here is a bit about Peek from the last link, which is to the Wikipedia-item on him:

He read a book in about an hour, and remembered almost everything he had read, memorizing vast amounts of information in subjects ranging from history and literature, geography, and numbers to sports, music, and dates. His reading technique consisted of reading two pages at a time—the left with his left eye and the right with his right—at a rate of about 8–10 seconds per page. It is believed he could recall the content of at least 12,000 books from memory.
In psychological testing, Peek scored below average (87) on general IQ tests.

(**) There are - for the more sensitive and shockable - horrible pictures or videos from utter frauds like the politicians Gordon Brown (<- video) and Jan Peter Balkenende pretending to be authentic.

(***) There is a marked difference between truly intelligent persons (1 in 10.000 at most) and those who are not, but having a high intelligence does not correspond to having a high intelligence quotient for quite a few reasons, two of which are that both the human brain and human intelligence are not well understood at all, and that an IQ is a test for intelligence that measures especially scholastic aptitude but involves a number of simplifications and abstractions, such as - for example - being a mere scalar magnitude that is an average.

For these and other reasons, and because the very highly gifted - let's say, with IQs over 150 or 160 are not at all well researched, though some research has been done. (The fact that little has been done in fact can be inferred from the fact that Hollingworth, who died in 1939, seems still quoted most in texts about the highly gifted.

(****) Useful summary of "JavaScript The Good Parts" video (not by me).

Maarten Maartensz

        home - index - top - mail