Video: The science of well being

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http://www.universalsubtitles.org/en/videos/ywxINQQqJq2V (please fix timing before translating)

Sources cited
Democracy, technocracy, the free market or the scientific method for social concern? http://youtu.be/83LAk3BT7no
Does the world produce enough food to feed everyone? http://goo.gl/tGF64

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On the last video I began to explore the issue of the utilisation of the scientific method for social concern, comparing it to other forms of governance and decision making, such as democracy, technocracy and how the market forces influence those.
The video received an overwhelming positive response from many of you, and I was really surprised. As expected, there were also a few questions and critiques, and I thank you for those, we shall explore each of them individually.

One of the criticisms raised was that there is no universal definition of well being, therefore we cannot possibly address the issue in scientific terms.
OK, let's examine this statement with the help of a graphic. Imagine we have two persons. The one on the left is in the quintessential perfect well being. Now, we do not know what that looks like, but we can imagine a hypothetical scenario where such a person in such a state exists. On the opposite side, you have a unfortunate individual in the worst possible misery, both physical and mental. If you can imagine something going bad in your life, it's there. And if you can imagine something worse that, it's also there. Between these two conditions there are millions of degrees of variation, from left to right.
Somebody here, for example, may have the following scenario:
- she never gets sick
- she never broke a bone in her body
- she can run a marathon and finish up with ease
- she is generally very happy with her life and never displayed signs of depression or mental illnesses
- she has a stable and balanced diet, as well access to proper nutrition
- she follows her interests with passion and is intellectually stimulated
- her social relationships are strong and healthy
- her sentimental life is more than satisfying and she enjoys it thoroughly
Clearly, these are not all the best traits one person can have, and it's far from being the ideal situation of well being. It's just a point of reference.

Similarly, a person here is in the following condition:
- she was never fed properly, due to a lack of access to food. As a result, serious growing deficiencies affected her body and her mind
- she is crippled and underdeveloped, both physically and mentally
- she is constantly being abused sexually
- continuous tortures and harassment have worsen her conditions over time
- she is in a constant state of pain. Whenever her body adjusts to a level of suffering, new pain is added, and the torture continues
- due to the enormous amount of physical and psychological abuses, she was never able to create any social bond
- she developed psychoses and she is mentally unstable
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Now, it is true that we don't have a univocal and universal definition of well being, but that doesn't stop us from recognising that there are certain positions on this line that are more desirable than others. And these can be evaluated objectively and scientifically.
But we still don't understand everything about the human condition, you might say. We don't understand everything about aerodynamics, either, but that hasn't stopped us from building airplanes and move across the skies of the world.

One could make a similar argument about life. Nobody really knows what life is. Yet we can safely say that a rock is not alive, but a squirrel is. What about corals, and viruses, and artificial intelligences? Yet again, there is degree of possibilities within the line, and it’s an open discussion. But when somebody stops breathing, grows cold and starts to decompose... well that might be a sign that the person is not alive anymore. Surely in the future we might discover that we got it all wrong, that rocks are alive and we are not, who knows. But at any given time, we have a context and a frame of reference, which we utilise to make an argument. This is not a philosophical discussion about the nature of Truth in the realm of platonic ideas. This is a very practical argument, where we pose a question: can we try and maximise well being, and can we use a scientific approach to achieve this goal? The answer is yes, in both cases. And given the disastrous results that politics and modern economics have given us, it would be utterly irresponsible not to do so.

It really saddens me the fact that, even though we have an abundance of food and medicines in the world, millions of people continue to die. This is completely unnecessary, and avoidable. We let economics and politics deal with this problem for far too many years, and they have failed. On 9-11-2001, 2,966 died in US soil. People still talk about how this could have been prevented. There is an intense debate about that. Today, 23,987 people, mostly children, died of hunger. There is not debate about that. We can prevent this holocaust that keeps repeating every fucking day of the year.

It’s time evolve.

Dear Money...

Dear Money,
I won't lie to you,
I've met someone new.

Her name is Resource-based economy,
and I want to spend my future with her.
You and I had some good times together,
but lately it just didn't work out anymore.

The constant fighting,
all the things I did for you,
and you never really cared about my needs at all.

I'm sorry it had to end like this,
but it's time to move forward,
for both of us.

Please don't call.




Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty and GDP


Here I am, Chicago Illinois, first time ever in USA soil. Things are getting pretty interesting, right now I'm on a Starbucks, there's a free hot spot and thanks to that I can live blog. I hold my tea paper cup and it says:

Starbucks is committed to reducing our environmental impact through increased use of post-consumer recycled materials. Help us help the planet.

Funny how this could have been a perfect starting point for last year's topic: the environment. I wonder if that really helps the environment. Of course the use of post-consumer recycled materials has been proved to cause less environmental impact than brand new materials. But is that really the point? What's the real cost of a product? It turns out that poverty and environment are really interconnected topics, the more you exploit "poor countries" resources the more you damage the environment. It's all connected, and it's all part of the same game, the game of economic growth. We live in rich countries, we have wealth, hospitals, bridges, advanced technology, corporate merchandises, cars and iPods. We are rich, indeed. According to the World Bank 1.4 billion people, or one quarter of the population of the developing world, lived below our international line of $1.25 a day in 2005. $1.25. That's very poor. I can't even buy my Starbucks tea with that.


Blog Action Day 2008

As I did a year ago for 2007, this blog will participate to the Blog Action Day 2008.

In 2008, the Blog Action Day theme is Poverty. Bloggers are free to interpret this as they see fit. We invite bloggers to examine poverty from their own blog topics and perspectives, to look at it from the macro and micro, as a global condition and a local issue, and to bring their own ideas, views and opinions on the subject.

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