Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Of "Classical" conditioning

Graduate school gives students like me to revisit concepts that were covered during those undergraduate years, but are somehow important. Classical conditioning is one such concept as it covers major areas in graduate school. This cant stressed enough as it covers areas starting basic learning, to forming attitudes, to treatment models. They all bring in this oldie, the classical conditioning paradigm to an important status.

Before I get lost in my own thoughts, classical conditioning is a theory of learning that explains how by repeatedly associating an neutral-event with a naturally occurring event pair, will result in the association of the neutral-event with the naturally occurring event. For example, Lets say each time you click on my blog address you get excited (clicking on my blog and getting excited are the naturally occurring pair) and each time you do this, someone rings a bell (this is the neutral-event). Now, classical conditioning will predict that with repeated pairing of these 3 events (click blog – excitement – bell), you will start to associating the bell with the excitement that was elicited by you reading my blog! What this means is that later on, when the bell is rung, even though there may be no astrorat-blog, you will feel excited!

Isent that cool? My great-great-grand mom who told my great-grand-mom who told my grand mom who told my mom who eventually told me that hanging out with “bad company” will get me associated with the qualities of the bad people, even though I might not be bad my self. She (great-great-grand mom) obviously knew something about classical conditioning even though she dident have an education! I am not sure if credit goes to Aristotle who talked about the law of contiguity long before Pavlov rang a bell when his dog salivated, or to my great-great-grand-mom who saw her husband get into trouble for hanging out with the wrong company.

However, even though the origins of the theory remains debatable, one thing that I cant seem to answer or find any reasonably logical answer to is what’s so “classical” about classical conditioning? As if there exists another form of “conditioning” that was developed from “classical” conditioning: a “neo-classical” conditioning of sorts.

But, a search for a neo-classical conditioning framework, and/or theory proved futile. I asked the learnard professors, lecturers, and esteemed doctors of my university and they gave me the look, as if to say “don’t you have assignments to work on?”. But, my search continued and I would have nothing to do with their threatening looks. I thought to my self that “I will get to the bottom of this”.

And I did (I think). The only satisfactory answer seemed to come from a 2nd year undergraduate student who I quote: “its called classical cause some old-fella wrote it leeh”.

Coming to think of it, that really was not satisfactory as I had first thought. It was a cyclic answer where the said student simply restated the meaning of “classical” as being written by someone in the past. I guess, there’s wisdom in remaining quit, as did my lecturers, when they were asked the same question.

The question still remains and I still do not know why text books, lecture notes, research papers, presentations, and professors refer to a “classical conditioning” framework when in fact they are referring to a “conditioning” framework. Where or what is “neo” classical conditioning?

The truth, I am told by some prominent actors, is somewhere out there.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Al Jazeera speaks English

Al Jazeera, the Arabic news channel, has launched its English channel operating from Doha, Washington, London, and Kuala Lumpur!

I am excited because Al Jazeera is said to be a “new point of view”, that is said to “bridge the divide between civilizations”, it “thrives to provide all points of views”.

Following the events of September 11, all eyes were on Al Jazeera as it used the access it had developed in Afghanistan to interview Osama Bin Laden. It was the interview that neither CNN nor BBC could have ever got. Al Jazeera’s Arab perspective on events drew criticism from the West as inflammatory and sensational. During the start of Bushs bloody campaign, Al Jazeera was caught in between wild accusation from both sides. It quickly got the reputation of having links with “terror” groups.
This video on YouTube adds some perspective

I am looking forward to seeing a news channel that paints the picture of the other side of the coin. For years, CNN and BBC were the only news channels I could access. Sadly, their views have never been complete. Their audience forign, and their message strange.
Certainly I am not sure if Al Jazeera represents the “right” from CNN and BBC’s wrong. But I am certain, that I would have access to another side, which would keep global events in perspective.

I hope that Al Jazeera, does not follow suit of its western counterparts and engage in its own political agenda. Al Jazeera is well positioned in brining misconstrued Arab nations to the rest of the world. By broadcasting in English, an existing gap in communication has been isolated. My hope is Al Jazeera will bring the positive elements in Arab & European nations and America, that have been recently been dominated by negative elements lead by extremism, radicalism, and blatant racism.
Heres hoping, that their perspective will remain fresh and unbiased, though out!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Blind Justice

The world woke up (a week ago) to the conviction of Saddam Hussain, ruthless dictator, tyrant and murderer. My CNN and BBC was on my tele, and they talked about the joy that this conviction has brought to the many Iraqi people. Rightly so. After all, this is Sadam Hussain and he no doubt deserves to hang.

The world does owe the credit of getting a “terrorist” to its knees to Mr. George W. Bush Junior and his iron fist determination to get rid of them evil war mongers.

I wonder if Justice was really served?

GWB certainly has credit for himself for what’s unfolding. Ex. President Saddam Hussain AKA Tyrant Dictator is accused and has been found guilty of killing 200 (and more) innocent Iraqi civilians. George W. Bush is directly responsible of is known to have killed 654,965 (estimated by Johns Hopkins University) Iraqis. 200000 of those deaths have been caused by directly by coalition forces while the rest is attributed to the raise in civil unreast as a result of the coalitons distruction of civil order. This he (GWB) justifies as a way to serve justice to the Iraqi who were killed by the Tyrant Dictator.

To justice to be served, George W Bush, should hang along with Saddam Hussain.

I am told that the al-queda (spelling) which devastated my American friends in that horrible day of September 11. I fail to see however, what connection Saddam Hussain or the million people who paid with their lives in Iraq have to do with that day. The Al-queda I am told is linked more with Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.

Then there were the weapons of Mass destruction. A loose term that we all have gotten so versed with. The means many different atrocious things to different people. To me it means an atomic bomb. The library attendant I just spoke to while typing this text is reminded of a serious nerve gas. To some of my friends, it’s a bomb that’s so large that can kill a million people in a faction of a second. This is, after all, what “mass” destruction. Killing in the masses.

The media tells me that investigations so far have not found any such weapons of mass destruction in Iraq nor is there evidence of an large scale plan to build them. In fact in an embarrassing let down, ex secretary of state Mr. Colin Powel accepted that they were mistaken. Mr. George W. Bush in fact has been the only recoded Mass destructor to date. His direct responsibility of killing the million or more (and I am told that this number is not an exaggeration) innocent, unarmed, Iraqi women, children, and men.

During my undergraduate years, I was told that the perfect murder is one where not only is the criminal able to escape, but is able to blame someone else for the crime. George W. Bush essentially has escaped without bearing any responsibility for the crimes that he has, and is currently committing and has in-fact done it so well, while the rest of us point fingers at Saddam Hussain. No Doubt that Saddam is evil. George W. Bush is no different.

I am reminded of the Nazi regime, and its killing spree. Milgram has thought us that obedience is a factor that can achieved with little or no effort. In fact, Milgram’s studies on obedience has showed us how Adolf Hitler was essentially able to otherwise innocent people of the German army into hilling machines. Millions of innocent Jewish people died during the days of the Nazi leadership. Hitler was ambitious to rid the world of the ‘less desirable and inferior’ Jewish race. They after all could be terrorists.

The American soldier that is made to believe that its making its nation proud, essentially is a killing machine of the Bush regime. Of course the enemy this time is not identified as a race because that is wrong. But the enemy is a group that is capable of committing untold atrocities to humanity. George W. Bush, like his counter parts Hitler and Saddam Hussian are cold blooded killers. He too should hang, if Saddam is to hang.

Justice I am told, is blind. It, has been made a cripple, for justice has been manipulated for the benefit of the GWB. Justice I am told, is impartial. But this impartiality has been compromised by persons who share the ranks of Hitler. Justice has been raped by ruthless leaders who control it, to plunder other nations of its wealth, and resources.
The sentiments of the American people are not far off than my own. The elections speaks for its self. Though justice prevails eventually, its disturbing that 49% of Americans still support the war.