Wednesday, 4 March 2015

WD Hamilton describes the rise and demise of creative genius as first a group selected, then individually-selected, phenomenon - 1975

From WD Hamilton, Innate social aptitudes of man. In Robin Fox (ed.). ASA Studies 4 : Biosocial Anthropology. Malaby Press: London, 1975. pp133-53.


The incursions of barbaric pastoralists seem to do civilisations less harmin the long run than one might expect...

It may even be suggested that certain genes or traditions of the pastoralists revitalize the conquered people with an ingredient of progress that tends to die-out in a large panmictic [randomly mating - i.e. not restrictive or assortative] population...

I have in mind altruism itself, or the part of altruism which is perhaps better described as self-sacrificial daring. By the time of the Renaissance it may be that the mixing of genes and culture (...) has continued long enough to bring the old mercantile thoughtfulness and the infused daring into conjunction in a few individuals when then find courage for all kinds of inventive innovation against the resistance of established thought and practice. 

Often, however, the cost in fitness of such altruism and sublimated pugnacity to the individuals concerned is by no means metaphorical, and the benefits to fitness,such as they are, go to a mass of individuals whose genetic correlation with the innovator must be slight indeed. 

Thus civilization probably slowly reduces its altruism of all kinds, including the kinds needed for cultural creativity.


Spengler on the demographic trends leading to mutation accumulation?

Mutation accumulation, tending toward mutational meltdown and extinction events, comes from declining population size and the cumulative failure of natural selection mechanisms (including sexual selection) to purge the generation-by-generation spontaneous-occurrence of deleterious mutations. 

Selected and edited from The Hour of Decision by Oswald Spengler 1933. Bold emphasis added.


The decay of the white family, the inevitable outcome of megalopolitan existence, is spreading, and it is devouring the “race” of nations. The meaning of man and wife, the will to perpetuity, is being lost. People live for themselves alone, not for future generations.

The nation as society, once the organic web of families, threatens to dissolve, from the city outwards, into a sum of private atoms, of which each is intent on extracting from his own and other lives the maximum of amusement — panem et circenses.

The women’s emancipation of Ibsen’s time wanted, not freedom from the husband, but freedom from the child, from the burden of children, just as men’s emancipation in the same period signified freedom from the duties towards family, nation, and State. The whole of Liberal-Socialistic problem-literature revolves about this suicide of the white race. It has been the same in all other Civilizations.

The apparent increase of the white population all over the world, little as it is in comparison with the volume of the colored increase, rests upon a temporary illusion: the number of children grows ever smaller, and only the number of adults increases, not because there are more of them, but because they live longer.

But a strong race requires not only an inexhaustible birth-rate, but also a severe selection process, which is provided by the resistances to living represented by misfortune, sickness, and war.

Nineteenth-century medicine, a true product of Rationalism, is from this point of view also a phenomenon of age. It prolongs each life whether this is desirable or no. It prolongs even death. It replaces the number of children by the number of greybeards.

It promotes the world outlook of panem et circenses by estimating the value of life by the number of its days, not by their usefulness.

It prevents the natural process of selection and thereby accentuates the decay of the race.

Also there are the terrible numbers of abnormal people of every description, mental, spiritual, and physical, the hysterical, moral, and nerve cases who can neither beget nor bear healthy children. Their number is unobtainable, but we can gauge it by the number of doctors who live by them and the mass of books that are written about them.

From this degenerate crop comes the revolutionary proletariat, with its hatred born of grievances, and the drawing-room Bolshevism of the aesthetes and literary folk, who enjoy and advertise the attractiveness of such states of mind.

Friday, 27 February 2015

We underestimate the impact of Great Men, and the considerable time-lag of societal change


In considering the rise and decline of civilisations, nowadays we nearly always seriously underestimate the size of impact which one person can make. At least since Marx, it has been regarded as sophisticated to minimise and explain-away the distinctive contribution of any specific person - to trace all breakthroughs back through their component parts until it seems that things simply organised-themselves without any particular need for humans to take a role.

But it seems likely that original creative thinking is something which very few people can do; and without those very few people it simply does not get done;


The way I think of it is that:

At most a tiny proportion of people sometimes are able to make creative innovations (but in some places, at some times, such people are altogether lacking - and creativity dries-up).

A much larger proportion of people are able to understand innovations once they have been made. Thus a single major innovation can usually, over time, be substantially elaborated, and extrapolated, and improved by 'research and development'.

This extension of an initial breakthrough may unfold over several decades. The unfolding is one possible source of the considerable time-lag in societal change. A society can live-off its past geniuses for a long, long time (depending on the severity of threats it has to face).

And even when understanding has been lost, there are a hundredfold more who can 'operate' the tools and techniques and systems which have been left them by those who understand - and this can further extend the time-lag (although a society which has lost understanding as well as genius is even more vulnerable, more brittle, than the society which has understanding of what-is, but cannot make creative breakthroughs


This came to mind after reading Terryl Given's superb recent book Wrestling the Angel: the foundations of Mormon thought. Mormonism - which is now the religion of some 15 million people around the world, depends almost entirely on one man: Joseph Smith.

Givens make clear on the one hand was an extraordinary achievement came from Joseph Smith - the book of Mormon and other scriptures, the organisation of a new kind of church, an astonishingly radical yet coherent Christian theology - and on the other hand that this was Smith's achievement almost wholly, Smith provided all the major breakthroughs.

Those who followed (Brigham Young, the Pratt brothers etc) had the much. much easier task of organising, selecting and sorting, systematising, adding a little here and taking away a little there. But without Joseph Smith there would have been nothing. So in that sense the whole massive impact of Mormonism is down to a single man.

And the momentum created by that one man is still rolling onwards- even after nearly 200 years - showing the very considerable time-lag of development which often follows the intervention of a Great Man.


Something similar could be said of most major creative geniuses - they certainly did not do everything, nor did they invent everything they used - but without them nothing would have been done; in that sense it is all down to a very few individuals each of very great impact - each of whom was necessary, although not sufficient.

Necessary but not sufficient. No man is an island. The 'understanders' are also needed as well as the creators - but without creators essentially nothing happens except minor twiddling.

There never are very many Great Men, but when there are none - or none in the domains of life where they are most needed - it sets an absolute limit on what can be achieved, or what threats can be resisted.


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Genius and social intelligence (High Psychoticism and the creative genius personality may be conceptualized as social intelligence co-opted for abstract thinking)

Humans are social animals: most Men see the world through social spectacles.

But a genius is not like this. The genius does not have a specific, positive personality type - but geniuses are characterised by not being primarily social animals. 

A genius is one whose main focus and motivation is not social, nor sexual; but instead abstract, not-social - whether artistic, scientific, technical or whatever it may be.   


Could it then be that the genius uses for abstract thinking, those brain-systems which in most people are used for social intelligence? That in the genius, the social intelligence system is wired-up to internal stimuli instead of to social situations? 

That the genius deploys the social intelligence parts of the brain for other purposes - and that therefore the usual spontaneous motivation and attention that goes to social material is instead - automatically - being harnessed and deployed to deal with other and inner-generated material. 


So, it is not that geniuses lack social intelligence (the genius is not 'autistic' in the sense of having a deficit or defect in social intelligence); rather that geniuses have all the 'equipment' necessary for social intelligence, but are 'wired-up' to use their social intelligence for other and not-social purposes. 

Specifically, the genius social intelligence may be wired-up to internally-generated material (instead of attending to to actual people in the environment and from memory).  The spontaneous interest and concern with 'other people' that is characteristic of most people; is, in the genius, directed to whatever 'abstract' subject the genius has a vocation-for. 


Another way of thinking about this is that the genius may be able to deploy extra 'brain power' in problem solving, by 'co-opting' the brain regions normally used for social intelligence. 

And not only brain power - but the distinctive 'theory of mind' mode of thinking which characterises social intelligence. So the genius thinks about 'his subject' in a social-like way - as a world populated by entities with motivations and dispositions and each having a purpose (teleology). 

Social intelligence could be much of what is creative about creativity; because to think about abstract things 'anthropomorphically' with social intelligence, or animistically as if they were sentient social agents, perhaps opens-up a new and probably more creative, intuitive and flexible way of thinking. 


The necessity of genius for societal problem-solving - much greater than recognized due to the recent 'surplus' of geniuses

During the 1800s it was generally recognised that 'great men' - including geniuses - were essential to the survival,  problem-solving ability and progress of societies^. If there was an insufficient supply of geniuses, then society would be static at best, and would crumble and collapse as soon as it encountered a novel threat which tradition or trial and error was incapable of solving.  

But through the twentieth century the idea emerged, especially in science, that no individual person made an essential contribution - and that if Professor A had not made his big discovery, then one or several of Professors B, C, or D would have made essentially the same breakthrough within a short space of time. This suggested that science was primarily a process, and that no individual was indispensable.

This idea was propagated even among some geniuses, and even when arguing for the existence of exceptions - for example Paul Dirac (himself a genius) said in praising Einstein for the uniquely personal breakthrough of General Relativity that all other breakthroughs in physics (including his won) merely accelerated the progress of the subject by a few years at most.

But I believe this view was an artefact of the extremely-unusual high prevalence of geniuses in science during the couple of centuries leading up to the mid-twentieth century; the fact that many were working in certain specific areas such as physics, and the sudden pooling of talent resulting from fast international travel and communication. For a while, a short while in fact, just a few decades, there were more physics geniuses than were strictly needed - and any one of them (except probably Einstein) had 'back-up' from one or more individuals of similar ability and interests.

But now that geniuses have dwindled and dwindled in numbers and as a proportion, until it is hard to name any living geniuses in most major areas of human endeavour; I think we are ready to recognise that the usual situation is that there is at most one person in any given time and place who is capable of making a major breakthrough.

And if for whatever reason that individual person does not exist, or fails to make the breakthrough - or if the breakthrough is made but ignored - then that is that: there is no back-up.

If a genius cannot do it, then it is not done.

Part of this is ability - but that is only part of it: the other half is motivation. Most major breakthroughs require several or many years of dedicated and focused work - the kind of dedicated work that can only arise from genuine, spontaneous inner motivation.

For example, for Andrew Wiles to prove Fermat's Last Theorem required not only one of the best mathematicians in the world, but the inner drive to do many years of solitary, dedicated (and career threatening) work - then to fail in the initial attempt, to resume the solitary and focused search, and second time to find the right answer.

Wiles's level of motivation coupled with ability is very, very rare indeed - such that I think we can say that if he had not proved Fermat's Last Theorem  twenty years ago, it would still not be proved - and perhaps it never would have been proved.

This, I believe, is the usual situation with geniuses through most of history and most of the time: they do what only they can do; they are irreplaceable.

And the shape of history is substantially affected by the presence, or absence, of such men.


^See William James - Great Men, Great Thoughts and the Environment - 1880. James himself was an example of an irreplaceable Great Man - indeed I believe that the scope of his vital contribution has not even yet been comprehended or implemented.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

How could Mouse Utopia lead to the maladaptive nonsense of New Left Political Correctness? Mainly by allowing it, not directly causing it


If it seems plausible that the Mouse Utopia accumulation of deleterious genetic mutations may have had a role in the modern phenomenon of New Leftism or Political Correctness - then how might this work?

The basic idea is that generation upon generation mutation accumulation - beginning in the upper classes - has had several effects. One is to reduce intelligence (specifically 'g' or general intelligence).

But reducing intelligence is not really the root problem, because the insanities of Political Correctness are so gross as not to require high intelligence to comprehend them - indeed, Political Correctness arose and took root and grew mostly among those of above average intelligence.

Neither does the maladaptiveness of Mouse Utopia lead to evil - evil has other sources.

The problem is a failure of common sense, of basic instincts to detect threat and for survival - the failure of normal and adaptive motivations in relation to social life and sexuality.


The way I think it worked is that there were always foolish and wicked ideas in the public arena; but in the past there was a sufficiently high average level of common sense that the foolishness was obvious, and the need to reject foolish ideas on common sense grounds was compelling.

Nowadays many, perhaps most, people lack the most basic understanding of what is normal, pathological, healthy, damaging, adaptive, disgusting, desirable, sensible, stupid. Therefore ridiculous notions are accepted and gone-along-with, with little more than a vaguely confused shrug. Therefore wicked, destructive, horrible ideas are accepted and gone-along-with when they are wrapped-up in the grossest and most clear-cut nonsense.


So, this is what I think may have happened. After several generations of Mouse Utopia, many social and sexual adaptations have been damaged in many different ways in most people - so it is possible for the small minority of purposively evil masterminds behind Politically Correct Leftism to impose their ideas on a modern population, where they inflict personal and social damage of many types - when this imposition would have been impossible in any previous human society.


Thursday, 19 February 2015

Mouse Utopia as an explanation for Political Correctness

The Mouse Utopia term is explained below ^

It is possible, perhaps even plausible, that the usual type of explanation for the self-hating, self-destructive insanities of New Left Political Correctness may be insufficient - and that in reality the core, permissive, necessary factor has not been socio-political but instead biological.

If the Mouse Utopia scenario is accepted, then since about 1800 in England (where the industrial revolution began), and starting with the upper classes (who were the first to benefit from lowering child mortality rates, and also the first to reduce fertility) then new and almost always deleterious mutations have been building up generation upon generation.

These mutations are 'random' and their effects fall randomly in the genome - how would they show themselves?

The answer is they would affect behavioural traits that are quantitative fitness measures (such as general intelligence, which has apparently declined rapidly and substantially over the past couple of centuries); and mutations would also have an early and rapid effect on behavioural traits that are the most sensitive and subtle, such as social and sexual adaptations.


In particular, I think the first affected traits would be attitudes.

I think that attitudes are extremely sensitive to even slight pathology, sickness, dysfunction of many types; and would therefore change before actual behaviours changed.

Thus, an early sign of Mouse Utopia would be changes in attitudes, especially social and sexual attitudes - and since mutations are nearly always harmful what we might see was...

Maladaptive changes in social and sexual attitudes.


By maladaptive I mean tending to reduce personal (and group) survival, and reduce reproduction.

Well... it fits with political correctness, like a glove.

Not proof - but the social and sexual domination of modern Leftism seems to be consistent with Mouse Utopia.


^ The Mouse Utopia hypothesis (deriving from Michael A Woodley) is that the relaxation of the historically very harsh forces of natural selection - especially the near abolition of child mortality in recent decades - has led to a generation-by-generation, objectively-dysgenic accumulation of deleterious mutations that are incrementally destroying the adaptiveness of the human species.

This process has been accelerated by a reversal of the historical pattern of reproductive success which started from the early and mid 1800s in the West, to favour the reproductive success of the lowest in intelligence (= highest in mutation load), and on average of lower social class and status. In other words, differential fertility has favoured those who would, on average, be carrying the heaviest load of deleterious mutations - while those who would be expected to have the least mutations have declined to severely sub-replacement fertility.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Introversion/ Extraversion and Neuroticism/ Emotional Stability in Genius

I have written extensively on the Psychoticism trait  - its nature and role in Genius; but have so-far neglected to discuss Eysenck's other suggested major personality traits of Introversion/ Extraversion and Neuroticism/ Emotional Stability



In general, it would be expected that Introversion trait was high in genius - in the sense that introverts are inner-stimulated and autonomous of their environment, in contrast with extraverts who depend on external stimulus to maintain a state of arousal or alertness.

But the self-rating scales for measuring Introversion focus on behaviours, and not psychological mechanisms - therefore those scoring high in Introversion will include people who are simply anhedonic, inactive; who lack motivation and drive - and these attributes would be fatal to the prospects of a genius accomplishing anything significant.

In other words, real Introversion would be a characteristic of genius, but a high score on the introversion scale would also contain undermotivated people - thereby blurring the measurement by misclassification error.

Thus, a genius needs to be a genuine introvert; but people with pathology might lead to 'false positive' measures of high introversion.



Analogously, but in the opposite direction, high Neuroticism (N) would be bad for a genius, in the sense that N refers to an unpleasant and overwhelming sensitivity of emotions and moods to the environment - such that a high N person tends to be overwhelmed with negative emotions such as anxiety, shyness, low self esteem, misery etc.

But the opposite state of low-N (or high Emotional Stability) as it is measured by behavioural questionnaires, is also potentially hostile to genius, since it implies an insensivity to events; a lack of emotional-responsiveness - including people with weak emotions.

These would all tend to be a disadvantage to genius - since emotions are used to evaluate situations and evidence; so weak emotions would tend to impair discrimination.

These would be the processes of Neuroticism, but in practice N is measured using a tally of (usually self-reported) behavioural traits - and these could not distinguish between different causes of the same behaviour; and so would conflate subtle and useful emotional sensitivity, with the pathological state of too-easy triggering of negative emotions.

So, a genius might score as somewhat high in N, but this would not necessarily reflect a pathology.


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Creativity in low-Psychoticism people (i.e. creativity in average and normal people)

Although creativity is strongest in those high in the personality trait of Psychoticism (P), it is not restricted to those of high-P personality: probably, everyone is creative to some extent.

How then does creativity show itself in low-P individuals? - given that the distribution of Psychoticism within the population is 'positively-skewed' - in other words a majority of people are low in psychoticism, and only a small proportion high in P.

Furthermore, Psychoticism trait has a higher average in men than women, and a lot more men are high in P than women. This shows itself both in terms of the typical creative interests of 'normal' boys-men and girls-women - and also in the much higher proportion of men among the most creative people: the geniuses.


In people low in Psychoticism, creativity is there but weak, seldom activated, not-dominant, short-lived and - as a rule - subordinated to social (including sexual) imperatives which are the primary drive for most people.

Of course, almost by definition, creativity in the normal majority of people is not necessarily impressive or rare. So this creativity tends to be private, and almost invisible at a societal level (especially in large modern societies).

The easiest way to see creativity is perhaps in children - especially in older but pre-pubertal children, and their 'crazes' and hobbies.

Boys often have very creative hobbies in which they become mini-experts and avid dissenters of subjects like cars, aeroplanes, sports, crafts etc - also in reading particular books (on favourite themes or by favourite authors), or TV series. These children often live chunks of their leisure time psychologically-inside a very intense parallel 'fantasy world'.

Girls may also have crazes on particular books; also they may become passionate about horses, or fashion, or hairdressing, or pretending to be a teacher.


Aside - It is noticeable that girls crazes tend to be more socially-inflected and less abstract; and this follows through to adult life, and high achievement. The highest frequency of genius, or near-genius, level achievement among women is focused on the most social and human aspects of the arts and sciences - and much rarer in abstract areas.

For instance, there are many and well known women novelists in the front rank - the novel being the most 'social' of art forms. And in science, the highest achievements of women are in the human sciences rather than the physical sciences - and within biology women have been very prominent in social areas like primatology and anthropology.


But to return to the theme, normal and average creativity is seen in hobbies, and how people use their discretionary time; and the fact that hobbies are for most people subject to work, relationships and daily life is due to the low-P, low creativity personality.

Normal people are creative, to some subordinate extent; and they fit creativity into their lives.

But geniuses fit their lives around their hobbies, and geniuses make their hobbies (avocations) into their life (their vocations).


Thus Robert Frost (a poet of genius) expresses the difference:

Two Tramps in Mud Time

Out of the mud two strangers came
And caught me splitting wood in the yard,
And one of them put me off my aim
By hailing cheerily "Hit them hard!"
I knew pretty well why he had dropped behind
And let the other go on a way.
I knew pretty well what he had in mind:
He wanted to take my job for pay.

Good blocks of oak it was I split,
As large around as the chopping block;
And every piece I squarely hit
Fell splinterless as a cloven rock.
The blows that a life of self-control
Spares to strike for the common good,
That day, giving a loose my soul,
I spent on the unimportant wood.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.

A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
And turns to the wind to unruffle a plume,
His song so pitched as not to excite
A single flower as yet to bloom.
It is snowing a flake; and he half knew
Winter was only playing possum.
Except in color he isn't blue,
But he wouldn't advise a thing to blossom.

The water for which we may have to look
In summertime with a witching wand,
In every wheelrut's now a brook,
In every print of a hoof a pond.
Be glad of water, but don't forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.

The time when most I loved my task
The two must make me love it more
By coming with what they came to ask.
You'd think I never had felt before
The weight of an ax-head poised aloft,
The grip of earth on outspread feet,
The life of muscles rocking soft
And smooth and moist in vernal heat.

Out of the wood two hulking tramps
(From sleeping God knows where last night,
But not long since in the lumber camps).
They thought all chopping was theirs of right.
Men of the woods and lumberjacks,
The judged me by their appropriate tool.
Except as a fellow handled an ax
They had no way of knowing a fool.

Nothing on either side was said.
They knew they had but to stay their stay
And all their logic would fill my head:
As that I had no right to play
With what was another man's work for gain.
My right might be love but theirs was need.
And where the two exist in twain
Theirs was the better right--agreed.

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.


Monday, 9 February 2015

How - and why - genius is group selected - massive cultural amplification

It may be wondered why I am so confident that genius is group-selected (apart from the fact that Michael A Woodley persuaded me!) considering that the status of group selection remains controversial within evolutionary biology.

That groups selection remains controversial is largely, perhaps, the result of the influence of Richard Dawkins's 1976 book The Selfish Gene; which hugely popularised the kin selection/ inclusive fitness ideas of WD Hamilton - which were presented as if they refuted the case for group selection; while omitting that WD Hamilton was himself a lifelong believer in the reality of group selection (as may be seen from his three volume collection Narrow Roads of Gene Land).


Note added: What is the essence of group selection of genius? 

It is simply that genius is essentially for the benefit of the group and not for the benefit of the genius himself.

In terms of natural selection, this means the work of genius is 'for' the genetic benefit of the group; in broader terms this means the works of genius are 'for' general social benefit (therefore, not for the specific private benefit of the genius himself).


The basic reason for entertaining the hypothesis of group selection for genius, is that on average genius has poor reproductive success - with an average of less than two offspring per genius from most estimates; indeed many geniuses seem to have had no children at all (Newton, Beethoven) - and especially among the relatively few women geniuses (e.g. Jane Austen, George Eliot, Emily Dickenson).

Certainly, there is near-zero evidence of enhanced reproductive success for geniuses - indeed this is extremely implausible given that geniuses invest far less effort and resources into social and sexual goals than average people do - due to their investing so much more effort and resources into the subject matter of their genius.

Therefore, the 'standard' mechanism of natural selection is apparently not the cause of geniuses, and we must look at indirect mechanisms.


The theoretical problem with group selection is that if an allele occurs by chance which reduces differential reproductive success (RS) in direct descendants while enhancing the success of the group overall, then this mutation will tend to go extinct over not many generations.

This is true enough, so far as it goes; but does not eliminate the possibility that a population may produce an enhanced number of geniuses by group selection for at least several generations - if there is some mechanism to over-compensate for the reduced differential RS of genius - i.e. the decline in the proportion of the 'genius alleles' in the population may be overcompensated by a mechanism leading to an increase in the absolute number (not proportion) of genius alleles.

The answer is that a reduced proportion of 'genius alleles' in the group can be over-compensated by the massive effect of even one world-historical genius on the group as a whole - and more so by the presence of several major geniuses.

So if the presence of a genius results in the expansion of the population of his group (or arrests the decline of a sufficiently large group), then genius alleles might survive in increased numbers for several generations.


What seems to have happened in England, for example, is that during the Medieval period, natural selection acted to increase the average intelligence of the society - which had the effect of increasing the capability of the geniuses - so that their work became of world-historic (rather than merely local) importance.

The initial effect, from about the seventeenth century, seems to have been an increase in the proportion and number of geniuses, leading to a strengthening and expansion of the kind of society which had led (by various means) to that initial high proportion of geniuses.

English geniuses began to accumulate so quickly, and make so many innovations in agriculture and industry, that the English population expanded very rapidly; and the English 'group' began to spread around the world to India, North America, Australasia, South Africa, and so on.


In other words, the genius alleles in England were probably a relatively-slowly dwindling proportion of a very-rapidly expanding population - thus genius alleles were (for several generations) increasing in number, even as they reduced in proportion. Genius preserved itself, for a while; even though the genius alleles led to on-average reduced reproductive success.


The reason why genius may confidently be assumed to be potentially group selected is therefore that the cultural impact of a genius upon the group is so vast that it dwarfs any potential genetic influence.

So one single genius who provides a breakthrough that massively enhances something like food production, military technology, building, the cohesive benefits of religion, effectiveness of societal organization, price or swiftness or trade or transportation, or economic efficiency... can enormously expand the size and domination of this genius's group - such that the rising tide (of culture) floats all (genetic) boats (at least for a few generations).

In other words, the genius's large 'group' of cultural partners will experience a tremendous boost to their reproductive success - thereby expanding the same kind of society which (through whatever combination of genes and culture and whatever else) produced, sustained and recognized the genius in the first place.

In sum a genius will tend to enhance the genius-friendly society which produced him.


On top of this, it may be that the conditions which favoured genius in the first place, do so because (in that particular, contingent, time and place) groups can survive and grow only by creative innovation. Clearly this has not been the usual or typical case in the history of most places; but it certainly looks as if it may have been the case in and around Europe throughout the Middle Ages.

Since the personality trait of Psychoticism seems to provide the creativity aspect of genius; then all that is required was for natural selection to lead to a positively-skewed and sexually differentiated distribution of Psychoticism trait - so that the population would contain a small (but vital) proportion of High Psychoticism Males  - as the specialist creative innovators.

This would explain the distribution of High Psychoticism - in a minority because the majority are needed for reproduction; and in males, because there is a relative surplus of males, and through most of history the majority of reproduction has been done by a small minority of optimal fitness males selected by a strong selective sieve of high mortality rates, and validated by intensive male-versus-male competition for mates and matings. 


On the other hand, what might be termed a bad, or destructive genius - will also have a massively damaging effect to the culture which produced him. The work of a negative genius will tends to damage the size, effectiveness, efficiency, reproduction, cohesion or some other useful attribute of the group which produced him.

Therefore, when a genius is bad, the amplification effect works in the opposite direction to wreak wholesale destruction.

Indeed, since it is easier to destroy than to create; it might be expected that bad geniuses will have a larger effect than good ones. It is plausible that Napoleon (building on the French Revolution) single-handedly inflicted permanent damage on the French nation by the mass maiming and slaughter of the most able, and able-bodied, men. Hitler perhaps did much the same to Germany; Lenin and Stalin to Russia. From England, the genius of Karl Marx and other 'reformers', socialists, feminists, sexual revolutionaries, atheists and radicals - unleashed truly massive group damage; initially locally, but affecting by now the whole world.


In summary, genius is an unstable product of nations.

A nation with conditions that produce many geniuses may find itself undermined both by the success of its good geniuses (because such is the amplification effect on genius, that useful innovations are difficult to keep secret, and tend to spread from the originating group to that group's enemies); and by its bad geniuses.

Genius may, for a while, lead to more genius - by group selection. But sooner or later, the massive amplification effect of genius is likely to destabilize and destroy the system that engendered it; or else the fitness-reducing effect of genius alleles will tend towards genetic extinction.


Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Therapeutic benefits of stimulant and sedative psychoactive drugs explained in terms of sleep dissociation

Using the analysis of sleep as a dissociated state,

I will (tentatively) suggest a way in which stimulant and sedative drugs might work to have their different therapeutic effects on different psychiatric symptoms or disorders.

Broadly speaking, stimulants may improve states involving emotional blunting/ anhedonia and also movement disorders (such as Parkinson's disease and catatonia) originating in the basal ganglia benefit; while sedative agents may benefit psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and thought disorder, and also conditions excessive emotionality.  


Sleep phase should be defined by what parts of the brain, what brain functions, are actually asleep - i.e. that are being rested and restored - and not by the brain regions or functions that remain active.

Therefore REM/ Dreaming sleep is a misnomer - because it describes the brain function that remains active, when the key aspect ought to be that during REM/ dreaming sleep, movement is paralysed (muscles are flaccid - except for eye movement) and (presumably) the basal ganglia - which fine-tune movement and emotions - are also being rested and restored.

In Deep Sleep, the musculature (and presumably basal ganglia) remain functional, but the key fact is that the brain functions related to awareness are being rested and restored (because during Deep Sleep we lose awareness, and are unaware of time passing, and have no long-term memory for what - if anything - has subjectively been happening).


Thus (to simplify - no doubt other functions are involved):

Deep sleep is about restoration of brain regions and functions related to awareness.

REM/ Dreaming sleep is about restoration of brain regions and functions related to emotions (and movements) - since emotions depend on the basal ganglia.


I suggest that stimulants and sedative have two, non-symmetrical actions on sleep phase architecture:

Stimulants stimulate REM/ Dreaming sleep - and thereby 'switch-off' and rest the basal ganglia with the effect of improving mood and emotional responsivity (and reducing basal ganglia induced movement disorders - such as Parkinson's disease and catatonia).

Sedatives suppress REM/ Dreaming sleep - and thereby switch-off and rest awareness. If (as I believe) hallucinations and thought disorder can validly be conceptualised as awake-dreaming - or, dreams intruding into the alert state to induce hallucinations, and breaking-up the stream of consciousness to induce thought disorder - then psychosis is a pathology of awareness.

The suppression of REM sleep by sedative could have therapeutic benefits if there is pathological awareness (for instance awareness of dreams intruding into the awake state), or emotions are too strong: that is if emotional strength is excessive.

There might also be an indirect effect from sedatives of re-balancing the sleep architecture towards Deep sleep and away from REM/ Dreaming sleep; and this may serve to reduce hallucinations and thought disorder.

However, the existing available sedatives only tend to enhance the shallower levels of deep sleep (Stages 1 and 2) and typically do not produce a natural and ideally restorative sleep (Stages 3 and 4) so that patients report sleeping more hours, but seldom wake-up fully refreshed.


An agent both stimulant and sedative would be Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

ECTs putative actions include a generalised Grand Mal cortical seizure that also (probably) involves the basal ganglia; then a 're-booting' phase after the seizure as the brain recovers from the depolarisation of a Grand Mal fit; an immediate post-ictal sleep; and the probability of better quality (more restorative) sleep on the night following the ECT treatment

How these effects might interact to improve sleep architecture is highly tentative, but ECT seems to be able to produce deeper Deep sleep Phase (eg Stages 3 and 4) than normal drug sedatives - at any rate, reports of sleep after successful ECT are that it is restorative and satisfying in a way that is superior to sedative drugs.

Furthermore, the benefits of ECT in demotivated and anhedonic Psychotic Depression, and also Parkinson's disease and catatonia (plus cerebrospinal fluid measurements) strongly imply that ECT enhances dopamine activity in both the meso-limbic system and the basal ganglia (especially the substantia nigra).

I would therefore suggest that ECT operates to enhance both Deep and Dreaming sleep - giving it an all-round therapeutic effect which goes beyond any of the usual drugs.


Tuesday, 3 February 2015

All natural sleep is a dissociated state

There is never a time during sleep when all of the brain is sleeping - and the sleep cycle is a rotation between one part of the brain sleeping and another.

Dissociated means that some parts of the brain (and some functions) are asleep while others are awake.

In Deep Sleep the conscious mind is asleep, and we are not aware of time passing - but the muscles remain tonic, and it is possible to respond 'automatically' to the environment, tossing and turning in be, and even sleep talking and sleep walking.

In REM/ Dreaming Sleep, the muscles are by contrast paralysed, and there is no physical interaction with the sleeper's environment - but we are conscious and aware of time passing, and dreaming; and can hear and feel the environment (sometimes this gets incorporated into dreams).

Why cannot all the brain be asleep at once? Probably because we must remain in contact with the environment to some extent, and because the awake parts of the brain are needed to re-awaken those parts that are asleep.

Presumably if the whole brain is asleep and 'switched off' and out of contact with the environment; then this is a coma. And it is hard to awaken from a coma precisely because the whole brain is asleep and also cut-off from the environment so the sleeper is both paralysed and unaware - cannot hear or feel or move.

So, naturally, we are never wholly asleep.


Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The nature of the 'genie' of creativity

Genius can be conceptualized as a 'genie' within us - the word genie being derived from the Roman concept of a guardian and tutelary spirit, akin to the Greek 'daemon' (like Socrates's daemon who advised him and give him insights) - the concept then gathering connotations of creativity, and then 'genie' being used for the Arabian Jinn, which are autonomous supernatural entities (some good, some evil).

I am coining a usage which somewhat playfully takes all these elements so as to indicate the way in which the creativity of a classic genius:

1. Guides the genius - not in all the minute and specific details of living, but in a long-term, strategic fashion

2. Has apparently 'supernatural' powers - since real creativity is ultimately mysterious, and

3. Acts somewhat like an independent and autonomous personage - with whom the conscious and rational mind must build a relationship (the conscious rational mind may influence but does not control the genie, and cannot force the genie to do his will).


My understanding is that - in the above sense - almost everybody will have a genie of creativity - but the genie will vary considerably in power and dominance - in most people the genie has modest power and is usually ignored or suppressed; in a great genius the genie will have great power and will tend to dominate life strategy in many ways.

(Other in-between and dissociated states are presumably possible.)


The genie of a normal (non-genius) person will only be apparent in short bursts and perhaps in a crisis. In a short term crisis a person may demonstrate remarkable and seemingly-inexplicable powers or abilities (which can look like sheer luck). This could be explained in terms of them drawing upon the mysterious insights, intuitions, and knowledge of their genie.

However, this state can seldom be maintained over the long term, because most people are set-up to be dominated not by the genie but instead by more 'normal' motivations - such as social esteem (e.g. the striving for status and admiration), familial and sexual motivations, comfort, convenience, excitement etc.


So, creative genius is quantitative - the genie varies in power and dominance - at at a certain degree of power and degree of dominance the genie will have 'taken-over' the life strategy of a person (not completely, but primarily) - and such as person is A Genius.


Why is this important?

Because we live in a society where, for whatever reason, genius tends to be unacknowledged, denied, ignored and even (but usually indirectly, for other and usually 'political' given-reasons) actively persecuted.

Also, because the world-historical geniuses, which for the past four hundred years used to be common in all major domains of life in The West - art, literature, science, medicine, law, politics, the military, and religion - has become extremely rare; indeed has almost disappeared.

Therefore - if modern society wishes to avail itself of the benefits that genius (and only genius) can bring (e.g. solving unyielding problems by intuitive insights, making breakthrough discoveries), then modernity needs to become more sensitive in its detection, acknowledgement and recognition of genius: this is so even from the perspective of pure self-interest.

Perhaps a starting point is to recognize our own individual creative genie - no matter how relatively feeble it may be, and how infrequently it becomes apparent - we may notice it when, in a crisis, we may, briefly, be able to do something rather extraordinary and inexplicable.


Monday, 26 January 2015

The way of the subcreator - the 'genie' of genius

In considering creativity from a scientific perspective, much can be said - but at the heart of the phenomenon there is a mystery.

I have said that the truly creative essence of creativity is a 'black box' - in the sense that there cannot be a scientific description of genuine originality; but creativity is less like a black box than a living thing - a 'genie' within.

But this is not a genie who can be commanded like the slave of the lamp; but a genie who must be respected, nurtured and coaxed in order that he yield-up his gifts.

Indeed, in the case of a genius, the genie is the one in control. The genie ensures that he gets what he needs from his genius host - that the genie may find and follow his destiny; that he is fed with the knowledge, pictures, experiences he requires; that he is allocated enough time, the right situation, energy, attention...

And when the genie makes a discovery and gets a result; he ensures that the genius is flooded with happiness as reward; and that the genius is motivated to realize, and to communicate the genie's results.

In his essay On Fairy Stories, JRR Tolkien talked of subcreation; and suggested that it was an instance of Man emulating the divine Creator. Exactly so - Man is divine, not just in potential but in actuality - albeit feebly and partially and corruptedly; and creativity is a property of Man's divinity, just as much as free will/ agency is a property.

And creativity is a divine attribute, and the genius who lives in accord with his creative genie is a type of God-attuned Man: genius is a spiritual path; a path with the potential pitfalls of all spiritual paths, especially spiritual pride - but in its essence Good.

It is therefore an error to see a true genius as selfish. Insofar as he is humbly and faithfully serving his genie of creativity - he is following a divinely appointed destiny - for the ultimate benefit of all.

Whether or not a genius succeeds in making a recognized discovery - 'the way of the subcreator' is an intrinsically valid form of human life.


Sunday, 25 January 2015

The 'inner' nature of trait Psychoticism - hard-wired to be inner-attentive, inner-aware, inner-engaged, inner-motivated - an alternative to the broad-association/ natural selection model of creativity


If the standard 'natural selection' model of creativity is regarded as deficient, as previously argued - I mean the 'Simonton' model in which creativity is explained as a product of the high-Psychoticism-trait (high-P) personality producing wide-ranging and abundant random variations on old ideas, and high intelligence sieving and sorting-through these abundant randomly-varied ideas on the basis of coherence and memorized knowledge - then what do I propose to put in its place?


The key relevant difference between my view and the natural selection view - and the difference which leads to the following alternative model for creativity - concerns the nature of the high-Psychoticism trait.

Eysenck sees Psychoticism in terms of a tendency towards loose or broad associations - in other words a partially-pathological state. Psychoticism is seen as a partial breakdown in the normally tightly controlled and narrow associations of ideas to a situation being more like we have all experienced in dreams, and some people have experienced in delirious states of illness or alcohol withdrawal, or psychotic illnesses such as mania or schizophrenia, or under the influence of psychosis-inducing drugs (such as mescaline or LSD).

By contrast, I regard high-Psychoticism-trait as being an innate, substantially heritable, hard-wired set-up of the nervous system in which some individuals experience a higher dominance by 'inner' states than do most normal people. High-P individuals are inner-attentive, inner-aware, inner-engaged and inner-motivated.


So how does high-P work in producing 'creative solutions'?

The short answer is that the creative insight is preceded by a period of focused 'quest' (which may last many years) during which the mind is filled with more-or-less relevant ingredients. The inner-directed processes then observe, work-on, try to understand these various facts and concepts - try to select among them, achieve a clear view of their proper or best organization or arrangement,

This means that such high P individuals are attentive to their inner states (i.e. their thoughts and emotions, their 'stream of consciousness'), they are more spontaneously aware of their thoughts and feelings, they find these inner experiences more engaging, spontaneously more interesting than external matters such as social and sexual interactions (which fascinate most people for most of the time) - and these inner states provide the dominating motivations for such people, such that they are therefore substantially autonomous - that is to say indifferent to, independent-from peer pressure and socialization.

The process by which the mind works on these ingredients to give a breakthrough is a 'black box' - so far as science is concerned. (Although it can be said that the inner, unconscious mind works by different rules than those of conscious logic.) But it is the high-P person who has the focused abstract interest to bring together the ingredients, to watch the processes of understanding and organization, and to get a clear view of the answer as it emerges; and then powerfully to feel the rightness of the right answer as energies and positive emotions are triggered and experienced.


Although this inner-dominance can be caused by diseases and toxicity or brain damage; which can cause any normal person to be overwhelmed by powerful and pathological inner stimuli, or cut-off-from outer perceptions - the idea of Psychoticism is that high-P is a relatively rare but hereditary personality trait - commoner in men than women, inborn, emerging in childhood and persisting through maturity and adulthood.

The reason that high-P is hereditary, is that it is an evolved adaptation with a useful functional role to play - i.e. creativity - and the reason it is rare is that not many (i.e. not a high proportion) of creative people are required by a society; and high-P tend to be associated with lower reproductive success overall (as would be expected when individual invest more time and other resources in the inner life, and therefore relatively less resource into social and sexual life).


So high-P creative people are sometimes very useful to a particular human society (assuming that society 'takes advantage' of their special abilities) but there cannot be too many and indeed not many are needed.

The reason that high-P people are needed, but not often, is that most socially relevant problems (of population survival and expansion) are dealt-with by habitual and traditional means - the individual is socialized into the usual way of dealing with problems through childhood, and these usually work.

But most human societies have recognized (whether explicitly, or more often implicitly, tacitly, that some problems do yield to tradition or habit, and other problem do not always yield to tradition or habit - and what then?

In a nutshell, then is the time to bring in the creative specialist - the Shaman, the mystic, the intuitive priest, the scientific or inventive genius, the Holy Fool: someone who has resisted socialization and instead thinks by different rules, because he is more engaged with the inner world


So the assumption is that high-P has evolved at a low frequency by some (unknown) group-selection mechanism that leads to a reliable but rare supply of high-P individuals to do this vital but infrequent job. And part of this group-selection must also be a recognition from the majority of low-P individuals that these high-P 'oddball' or 'eccentric' individuals must be tolerated, supported, and asked for advice and guidance in certain relatively unusual circumstances when their special abilities are the best (or only) hope for group survival.

Since the supposed mechanism is group selection, and different human group shave experienced widely different selection pressures; then it is likely that high-P is not found with identical frequency everywhere. This presumably explains why creative genius is very unevenly distributed by time and geographical space - and why its frequency varies over time within the same culture - not least because group selection is always open to being subverted by individual-level selection.

This group selected nature of high-P potentially explains why creative genius is all-but absent from many continents and nations, and also why it may appear in abundance (e.g. in ancient Greece) then disappear. However since genius also requires high general intelligence (high-g) then too low an average level of g, or a decline in g, may also be a cause of declining rates of genius.

But I think it fair to say that high-P is a more crucial aspect of genius than high-g, because any high-P individual who is sufficiently higher in intelligence than the majority of his group can perfom his creative social role; while a low-P person will not be creative, no matter how high his intelligence.

So I imagine that the 'shamans' of a recent hunter gatherer tribe will typically have had an intelligence level that is high for their tribal group, but of a lower than average level for a Western nation (as measured by IQ tests). However, such (by Western standards) 'low-IQ' individuals could nonetheless perform their highly valued and effective social function - so long as they had the high-P, creative personality trait.


What is the creative bit of creativity in high Psychoticism-trait individuals (such as creative geniuses)?

It is worth noting at the outset that here I am doing science, and science rules out using supernatural explanations - so if creativity really has something to do with divine or diabolical or any other kind of spiritual inspiration (as was generally considered to be the case from the ancient Greeks and Hebrews  onward) - then this is not going to be a part of a scientific explanation. So if inspiration is real, then a scientific explanation of creativity can only be partial.

It is also - and for similar reasons - worth noting that science has, and can have, no explanation for real novelty, qualitative novelty, something absolutely new - but can only explain the present in terms of what is known of the past - so novelty will always be explained in terms such as new patterns of old facts, now shapings and combinations of previous forms and so on.

But, taking into account these limitations - how can we describe that actual, cutting edge, 'moment' of creativity - in which the creativity in itself happens?


The thing that needs to be explained with human creativity is not just novelty - newness - but useful novelty. There are an 'infinite' number of ways of being new and worse - and not many ways of being new and better - the problem is how the mind gets from the vast 'search space' of new and false ideas or new and useless discoveries to home in on true useful breakthroughs.


The mainstream idea in creativity research is associated with Dean Keith Simonton and endorsed by Hans J Eysenck in his 1995 book Genius is a variant of the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection: that useful creativity works by randomly generating large numbers of variations on old ideas, and then using memory and intelligence to test and sort through these ideas to find those few that are plausible in the light of previous knowledge and current observation.

The genius is explained at being better at making useful newness by having a Personality type which is better at generating multiple random variants of previous ideas due to having looser, wider, more far-ranging associations of ideas (which Eysenck explained in terms of the personality trait Psychoticism) - and then having high intelligence which leads to a well-stocked memory and the ability rapidly and efficiently to sort between these multiple random variants to check them for internal consistency and against previous knowledge.

This theory of creativity is coherent, but I think it is not true. The two reasons against it which seem to me decisive are 1. the open ended 'infinite' number of wrong and false ways that any random generator can produce variants, as contrasted with the finite capacity of any selection system for dealing with this endless abundance; and 2. that this description does not fit the phenomenology (inner experience) of genius at its most genius-like.


The characteristic of genius is not that of mass producing a near infinite number of failures and falsehoods; but instead an amazing swiftness and sureness of touch at creating or discovering new things that are useful and true.

The Natural Selection view of genius is that it is mostly errors and failure; and that the mental process of a genius is essentially a struggle for existence on the part of true, useful, beautiful and virtuous things against being overwhelmed by false, harmful, ugly and wicked things

But this is simply not how the greatest geniuses operate, when they are at their most genius-like! It is, indeed, almost the opposite to the subjective experience (or objective observation) of creativity.

Of course genius is not effortless - because the genius requires finding his destiny, and then embarking on a discovery 'quest' during which he fills his mind with relevant 'data; but the actual cutting-edge of creativity is an act of insight - of In-Sight - that is to say the genius usually 'sees' the answer all at once and whole, and knows by intuition that he has the right answer.

That is to say, from the mass of inner knowledge accumulated, the genius looks-within and perceives the 'one and only' answer (it may be modified in detail later - but the shape is seen as one).


What is astonishing about a genius like Mozart is how the work came to him complete; it is the facility with which they work which amazes us about so much creativity. Even when we see an artist 'struggling' - such as Beethoven - this is usually mostly a matter of an already-genius struggling to continue his work, and to be ever-original, when the pure and fertile imagination of youth has departed.

The youngest geniuses are perhaps the lyric poets - who are almost-always young men in the late teens or twenties, who fluently pour forth their songs and verses without strain or effort. Or the young mathematicians who just 'see' and 'know' things - which they may not be able to explain or prove.


So, I suggest that the creative bit of creativity does not resemble a process of trial-and-error; but is a moment of (near) instant insight; and the place it comes from is within; and the method it comes by is intuition; and intuition is a multi-faceted process including illumination, validation, conviction and drive or motivation.

The genius looks within for his answers - and when he finds the answer it is seen or felt as an over-powering insight; which floods him with a conviction of its right-ness and a desire to accept it, make it, live by it.


Thursday, 15 January 2015

Psychosis and creativity - Creativity is a coordinated, adaptive package - and *not* just a lucky combinations of deficits


In what follows I will argue that the Psychosis (or the psychotic phenomena) which characterise enhanced Creativity are distinct in form, from the Psychosis of most Psychotic illnesses. Also that severe psychosis of any kind is always un-creative in itself - a barrier or block to purposive creative activity.


By Psychosis I mean psychotic illnesses; that is, illnesses marked by psychotic phenomena.

Psychotic phenomena are primarily

1. Hallucinations - usually hearing voices (when nobody is there) and seeing things (which aren't there). The creative state of mind is akin to (or actually) day-dreaming or lucid dreaming.

2. Delusions - false belief - usually almost unshakeable, and which dominate behaviour. Most often these are 'paranoid' - which means delusions of self-reference: i.e. that 'everything' in the environment refers to the deluded person in some way. One common type of  paranoid delusion is delusions of persecution - that there is some kind of 'conspiracy' to 'get' the deluded person.

3. Thought disorder - this refers to an inferred abnormality in the form of thought, abnormality in the 'stream of consciousness' - this being inferred partly from the speech and behaviour of the subject as observed, and partly from self-reports of the subject either at the time of interview (describing their won thoughts) or else retrospective after some degree of recovery.

Thought disorder ranged from acceleration or slowing of though (in mania or depression respectively), and includes what feels like the interruption or stopping or loss of thought, or that thoughts are being read or experienced by others, or being put into the mind from externally. These are taken to be attempted descriptions of strange and puzzling experiences.

4. Catatonia - which refers to a very wide range of purposeless, un-understandable movement disorders associated with psychotic illnesses - including freezing, posturing, strange mannerisms, and undirected excitement.


These Psychotic phenomena can occur in the 'functional' psychoses of schizophrenia, mania, psychotic melancholia/ depression, and brief undifferentiated psychoses; brain diseases and disorders such as delirium/ acute organic states and dementia (especially the Lewy body dementia of Parkinsonism), and are caused by drugs and drug withdrawal (these are actually types of delirium), and sometimes in epilepsy or following brain injury.


There is a fairly clear distinction between the Psychotic phenomena which constitute creative states and those which occur in most Psychotic illnesses. This can conveniently be summarized by thinking of the typical shaman experience as listed in anthropological studies.


The key to potentially-creative Psychotic phenomena is that purposive thought is retained, the links between topic are retained, and memory is retained.

1. Visions and visual hallucinations: these may be symbolic pictures of the working-out of problems, or coded answers to long-pondered problems. Creative hallucinations seem usually to be visions; although sometimes they are voices that advise, instruct, warn (e.g. Socrates's 'daemon' that apparently spoke to him).

2. 'Delusions' or strong and dominating beliefs that would be regarded as dubious or false by most people; which take the form of strong convictions coming-upon the subject asif from outside (or arising from within him) in non-logical ways.

3. The subject would have a strong awareness of his inner monologue, the 'stream of consciousness', perhaps hearing his thoughts spoken aloud; perhaps combined with an expanded associations of ideas, linking subjects in surprising ways (so that one idea reminds the subject of many others, beyond what is usual); perhaps combined with a more rapid, accelerated 'flight of ideas' - when the stream of thought seems sped-up to a rapidity beyond normal - and which when spoken aloud other people may find it difficult to follow. In sum, the speech may be rapid, bounce between subjects on the basis of wide-ranging hard-to-follow (but real) associations.



The nature of Psychotic phenomena can be such as to impair or utterly prevent creativity. The uncreative state of mind is like most people's experience and memories of most dreams during sleep - i.e. an uncontrolled, passive experience; lacking purpose and direction; often interrupted, jumping 'randomly' between subjects, evoking an emotion of perplexity/ puzzlement, without any direction or apparent meaning, and very swiftly forgotten on waking.

1. There may be poor concentration, poor memory. excessive distraction, and being overwhelmed by strong emotions (whether misery, euphoria, perplexity or fear) so the person simply exists in the present moment.

2. Thought disorder may be so severe as to disconnect one idea from another and prevent purposive and directed thought. Subjective thoughts may be slowed to a near standstill (in Psychotic depression), or so fast as to be a blur (in mania); thoughts may be frequently interrupted, or stopped, or lost (in schizophrenia) - so the subject changes abruptly without any known link, or suddenly all thoughts leave the head with no memory for what went before. Delerium and Dementia are both associated with extremely poor ability to sustain a strain of thought.

3. Hallucinations are most typically auditory - hearing voices. These voices may be so intrusive (loud, multiple voices, aggressive or insulting voices) as to compel almost all the subject's attention, and prevent directed thinking and problem solving.

4. Catatonia is a physical manifestation of Psychotic disease - and (in its many forms) generally seems to interfere severely with, or utterly prevent, purposive thought or any form of creative action.


Note: Psychosis is an extreme of normal states, on a continuum

In practice, and despite some traditional formulations, Psychotic phenomena are not qualitatively distinct categories from normal, but rather on a continuum with normal.

So Hallucinations are defined as sensory perceptions with no object - but hallucinations merge into misinterpretations of real perceptual stimuli and illusional misinterpretations of real perceptions (e.g. a coat hung on a chair is seen as a looming and hostile person, the sound of a murmur of indistinct conversation is experiences as clear persecutory voices).

 Auditory hallucination may sometimes be induced by exposure to unstructured sound or nonsense words; or 'drowned out' with loud music or speech from a high volume TV or iPod, or alleviated by cognitive therapy methods - demonstrating that hallucinations are NOT autonomous of the environment.

And out-and-out delusions merge into overvalued or eccentric ideas and obsessive concerns.

And 'flight of ideas' can range in severity from rapid, allusive, witty and 'brilliant' conversation; to incomprehensible nonsense, random 'word salad' and pretentious, imprecise, inconclusive ramblings on 'philosophical' themes.


The missing link may be strong emotional states amplifying a tendency to misinterpret evidence; so that a jealous man with low self-esteem who mistrusts his wife may develop delusional jealousy by a biased interpretation of ambiguous evidence; or a very frightened schizophrenic may interpret ambiguous environmental perceptions as conclusive evidence of a hostile conspiracy.


NOTE: As a general point, it is important to regard high Psychoticism Creativity as being an adaptive phenomenon - 'designed' (by natural selection) for the purpose of being creative (innovating in ways beneficial to the group, solving difficult problems afflicting the group etc.).

Therefore, the creative way of thinking, i.e. the 'flight of ideas', wide associations, awareness of the stream of consciousness, tendency to have visions and to get non-logically-derived ideas are NOT examples of mild pathology - but ARE hard-wired systems for creativity.

This is emphasized by the way in which the creative way of thinking is linked to the creative persons ability, interests and motivations.

Thus creativity is a coordinated package: an adaptive package.


(And creativity is NOT - except perhaps very unusually - a rare and accidental combination of pathologies which just happen to yield beneficial results.)


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Psychoticism versus Psychosis: the personality trait of Psychoticism versus the illness state of being Psychotic

HJ Eysenck deserves primary credit for discovering and formulating the personality trait of Psychoticism (P) - but I believe the concept as he left it (an his death in 1997) requires further clarification and development.

One necessary clarification is to distinguish between Psychoticism and Psychopathy - that is, between Psychoticism-proper versus Psychopathy - I attempted that yesterday:


Another necessary clarification is to distinguish between the personality trait of Psychoticism, and the state of illness in which a person can be described as Psychotic.

I believe that Eysenck was wrong to suggest that high-Psychoticism-trait and Psychotic-illness should be seen as points of severity on a single dimension - with the personality trait as a moderately high Psychoticism, and the highest levels of the same trait being characterized by a Psychotic illness.

What follows is my attempt to distinguish clearly between Psychoticism and Psychosis; between Psychoticism-personality and Psychotic-illness (i.e. between the trait and the state) - but also to explain where there is a statistical association between the two (ie. why people high in Psychoticism-trait are more prone to Psychotic-illness).


1. Personality/ character - permanent trait, persists through life
2. Inherited (substantially), genetic
3. Hard-wired
4. Adaptive (on average increases reproductive success of the group)
5. Creative - Uses inner cognitions and perceptions to address external problems

1. Illness - usually temporary state, seldom persists through life
2. Usually caused by environment - e.g. toxicity, trauma, infection
3. Reversible impairment in brain functioning
4. Maladaptive (while operative reduces individual reproductive success)
5. Non-creative - Absorbed-by (turned-in-on) inner cognitions and perceptions


Anyone can have a Psychotic-illness if the environmental cause is sufficiently strong - for example, delirium due to hallucinogenic drugs, or withdrawal of alcohol, will produce Psychosis in everyone; so will some types of dementia.

But those who are born hard-wired for high Psychoticism trait are more prone to 'flip into' the temporary state of a Psychotic-illness - it takes less than average of an environmental 'insult' or brain impairment to make a high Psychoticism person have a Psychotic episode.

This accounts for the often noticed and multiply confirmed observation of a higher frequency of Psychotic illnesses/ episodes among highly creative people (i.e. those people with high Psychoticism-trait).

Therefore, Psychosis (psychotic states) in a person with high Psychoticism (psychoticism trait) may not indicate severe brain malfunction - because a relatively mild degree of brain dysfunction may be sufficient to trigger psychotic symptoms in a person with high trait Psychoticism.


Indeed, for a person with high trait Psychoticism, temporary episodes of Psychotic states may be of some positive, functional value in terms of creativity.

This is most obvious in tribal shamans who deliberately induce Psychotic episodes in order to access non-normal sources of knowledge (conceptualized as coming from the spiritual realm). Shamans usually use sleep deprivation, fatigue, prolonged and rhythmic dancing, music, singing to trigger these Psychotic episodes - and also hallucinogenic or other consciousness-altering agents where these are available (eg. among Amerindians).

Also modern creative thinkers, artists etc. have often been known successfully (albeit hazardously) to use consciousness-altering drugs such as alcohol and opium to stimulate creative insights and states in the context of a strategic Creative Quest.

( )


In sum, high Psychoticism people are hard-wired in such a way as to be more-then-usually prone to brief Psychotic episodes, and may also deliberately trigger such temporary states in pursuit of creativity.

In biological terms, the major difference between high Psychoticism-trait and Psychotic-illness is that high levels of Psychoticism-trait are strategically functional, group-adaptive, evolved; in a nutshell high-P individuals exist for-a-reason; and that reason is essentially to enable creativity.

By contrast, the occurrence of Psychosis caused by the variabilities of existence and strength among the specific circumstantial causes of Psychosis.

And while Psychosis is commoner and more-easily-triggered in people with high Psychoticism trait - Psychoticism and Psychosis are causally distinct; and the relationship between Psychoticism and Psychosis is indirect, multistep, accidental and contingent on circumstances.


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Psychoticism versus Psychopathy


Eysenck's personality trait of Psychoticism is - overall - probably the best description of the typical personality of a creative intellectual genius

However, Psychoticism - in its usual self-rating questionnaire form - contains a lot of traits which could better be described as Psychopathic - and these are not necessary to genius, indeed they tend, overall, significantly to impair the functional role of a genius - which is to promote the reproductive success of the group.

In a nutshell - and as a generalization, to the extent that a genius has a Psychopathic personality, to approximately that extent he will have a legacy of harm rather than benefit.

Here I try clearly to distinguish Psychoticism from Psychopathy - I aim to show that while they may share superficial behaviours in common, they represent fundamentally different modes of thinking- different personality types.

In particular, high Psychoticism trait (properly understood) is necessary for the real creative genius type, but Psychopathy is not, and indeed overall detracts from Genius.

And in terms of natural selection; high Psychoticism trait as it occurs in a creative genius on average benefits the group; while high Psychopathy trait harms the group: the pure Genius is thus altruistic, while Psychopathy is parasitic.

Some Geniuses have also been Psychopaths, but the Psychopathy was not intrinsic to their Genius, and indeed these were the 'evil Geniuses' who (usually) overall harmed their group, and left a bad legacy.



Psychopaths are a fairly well-defined type of 'personality disorder'; which means that the word Psychopath names a characteristic personality type, substantially inherited, present from childhood, and tending to endure through life.

Because it is an innate personality type, this means that Psychopathy is not really an illness, cannot really be 'cured', and neither treatment nor punishment seem to have much effect; so that when they are criminals, for instance thieves or violent, Psychopaths tend to continue behaving that way despite repeated punishment, imprisonment, or whatever.

A personality disorder is therefore primarily a problem for 'other people' rather than for the person with that disorder - and this is certainly obvious for the Psychopath.


The Psychopath is usually and characteristically (but not always) a man; and one core feature is an indifference to the feelings of others which is probably a product of an innate inability to empathise, or sympathize - so that observing suffering and misery in others does not evoke suffering and misery in the psychopath.

Thus the Psychopath is 'cold-hearted', and other people are regarded in an instrumental fashion - as means to the end of self-gratification.

Therefore the Psychopath is untruthful when this is expedient,since he feels no obligation to be truthful except when he benefits.


So far, the Psychopath seems defective; but this is not quite accurate nor is it the whole story - the Psychopath is motivated by a sort of cruel, dominant pride; his main satisfaction is to assert himself, and his whole 'moral' perspective assumes that he himself is always in the right: the Psychopath is never wrong by his own lights, and whatever he does is justified and correct: he has no guilt, no remorse, and any problems are always due to 'other people' and not himself.

(The Psychopath-type has been called a Right Man,because he always believes himself to be right about everything; and bad happening are the fault of others. The worst he will admit of himself is that he was driven to do something wrong by another person's fault.)

Successful Psychopaths - that is to say 'successful' in terms of gratifying themselves and evading imprisonment, exile or execution; are often intelligent, quick-witted,  'charming', glib, socially-dominant, good at presenting an appropriate false front; quick to infer what other people want to hear, and tell it to them.

(Yes, this is very much the normal type of successful modern politicians, mass media people, advertisers and public relations consultants, lawyers, professors and those in 'management' and positions of 'leadership'.)

Since successful Psychopaths come-across as dominant, due to total lack of self--doubt/ indifference to others; their personality may be sexually attractive. Therefore psychopaths are often strategically sexually promiscuous, sexually-exploitative, -manipulative and -dishonest; and sexually violent when it suits their preferences and purposes.

They tend to be thieves, fraudsters, con-men, claiming responsibility for good outcomes and deflecting it for bad outcomes. 

Psychopaths may also be violently jealous - because sexual infidelity threatens their aim of total domination and control - they want others to submit, and signs of resistance may provoke coldly cruel torment or a murderous frenzy.

Psychopaths respond to love, kindness and generosity by regarding it as despicable weakness; they congratulate themselves on always taking much more than they ever give - and regard this as evidence of their natural superiority.



Hans J Eysenck made an important theoretical breakthrough in devising the personality trait of Psychoticism - in particular, in clarifying that this trait is usually high and causal in creative geniuses.

But one serious problem with the trait as it is generally conceptualized is that the usual self-rating questionnaire is focused on de facto Psychopathy.

This despite that Psychoticism is intended to be related to the mode of thinking characteristic of those having psychotic experiences such as hallucinations (e.g.hearing voices) or delusions(having false beliefs), or exhibiting dream-like highly-associative, highly-inclusive 'stream of consciousness' styles of thinking.

True Psychoticism is (I have argued) related to a constitutional inner-ness; inner attentiveness, inner-directedness, and domination by inner-generated cognitions (which are the creative mode of thought).

And it is this true Psychoticism, nut not Psychopathy, which is causally-associated with creative genius.

That is to say, creative geniuses are necessarily high in traits of psychosis-like Psychoticism, but not necessarily (and only rarely) high in Psychopathic traits.

Furthermore, those higher-than-average-in-psychosis-type of people with Psychoticism; are usually creative, in the sense of high in spontaneous, driven, 'raw creativity' (although they may also have low intelligence and lack concentration, focus, and sustained motivation which thwarts their creative achievement).


In contrast, most Psychopaths are utterly uncreative, except insofar as perceived (but maybe stolen or faked) creativity is expedient for the domination, exploitation or subordination of other people.

Even when a Psychopath is also creative, his achievement is undermined by his dishonesty, and the fact that it is usually easier for him to lie, cheat and manipulate his way to high status than actually to put in the long, hard, focused work necessary for even a Genius to make substantive achievements. 

The Psychopath will seldom resist an easy, but false, short-cut.


In sum, Psychoticism may be, as it were, co-morbid with Psychopathy - but Psychopathy is not necessary nor intrinsic to Psychoticism.

Yet, if you look at the questions in a common form of the Eysenck Psychoticism rating scale you will see what I mean by its mistaken focus on Psychopathy.

The Wikipedia article summarizes Psychoticism as follows: " toughmindedness, non-conformity, inconsideration, recklessness, hostility, anger and impulsiveness. "  - which sounds almost exactly like Psychopathy; and says nothing about creativity, and not much about inner directedness.

And when we look at Eysenck's Psychoticism scalein detail, there are many specific 'diagnostic' questions which address typical Psychopathic behaviour:

For instance a high Psychoticism score is given for answering YES to the following: Would you take drugs which may have strange or dangerous effects? Do you enjoy hurting people you love? Do you enjoy practical jokes that can sometimes really hurt people? Are you more easy-going about right and wrong than most people? Would you like other people to be afraid of you?


These are questions about Psychopathy, and not about Psychoticism-proper. Indeed, there is almost nothing about the 'psychotic' aspects of Psychoticism in the standard scale.


My feeling is that Eysenck was misled by the imperative to provide a reliable self-rating scale - and true Psychoticism is very rare (in particular, seldom seen at a high level in college students- who constitute most of Psychology samples) - the distribution of Psychoticism is NOT a normal distribution, but positively skewed (most people in a normal population scoring at a low level, and only a few at higher levels).

Population samples drawn from psychiatric patients will tend to show a high frequency of 'co-morbidity' for high Psychoticism  and high Psychopathy - and intelligent, successful Psychopaths can and will fake their self-rated answers if they regard it as expedient to do so. (Eysenck's effort to detect this with a 'lie scale' was laughable.)

Real 'creative' Psychoticism is also very difficult to self-rate. There is often a lack of insight - with high P people not realizing how atypical they are. Also psychotics tend to take for granted and to believe-in the reality of their experiences.

Indeed, the experience of psychiatry is that it usually takes prolonged and careful, one-to-one, 'phenomenological' interviewing - which invites reflection and educates in introspection - to elicit inner experiences.

Self rating questionnaires are simply not up to the job. 


The Psychopath is therefore in a sense the opposite of the Genius.

The Psychopath is fundamentally parasitic (and harms the group, lives-off the group), while the genius is fundamentally altruistic (and benefits, the group; gives more to the group than he receives).

Psychotics and Psychopaths may superficially share several similar behaviours - especially an indifference to the opinions of other people, an autonomy from mainstream social values - but for completely different reasons!

Therefore is it wrong to conflate Psychotic and Psychopathic mechanisms in the same scale, and wrong to regard them as two sides of the same coin.

In other words, contrasting Psychoticism and Psychopathy, we can see that the same (or very similar) behaviour is typically a consequence of completely different thought processes. 


For instance, a man high in trait Psychoticism is indifferent to the opinions of other people because he is focused on inner experiences and driven by inner motivations - thus he may be very solitary.

By contrast, the Psychopath is also indifferent to the opinions of other people, but because he is unable to empathize with them, has no sympathy for them, wants only to dominate and manipulate them for his pleasure (which is often a sadistic pleasure).

Similar behaviour, very different underlying psychology. 


So, here is a pen-picture of the typical (high-Psychoticism but non-Psychopathic) Genius-type; compared with the typical Psychopath - to emphasize the stark differences in the way of thinking, the way of relating to the world: the basic motivation with respect to life.

The Typical Genius - Abstracted, eccentric, warm-heartedly emotional, vulnerable and sensitive in the way of being easily-hurt, loving towards family or close friends but uninterested by most other people, abstractly altruistic, tends to be asexual or monogamous, altruistic and well-meaning, innocently self-confident, open and undefended, concerned that his work will benefit others, inner-motivated, introverted, introspective, sweet-natured but not charming, non-violent unless thwarted and driven to desperation - when he may be wildly and desperately violent whatever the odds and without regard for safety or chance of success, loves life is seldom bored and has a lot he wants to do, modest about himself but inflexible and brave over matters of moral principle. A public benefactor.

The Psychopath - Charming but cold-hearted, subject to strong and contradictory moods, manipulative, possessive rather than loving, preys-upon the vulnerable, sensitive but in the way of prickly and likely to take offense, indifferent to all people (including family and 'friends'), easily bored and motivated by need for external stimulus (extraverted), needs to dominate and control and humiliate, sexually promiscuous, strategically violent when expedient (but backs down and becomes submissive, even docile, in face of superior force or will), over-confident because wildly overestimating his own abilities, impulsive and risk-taking because he does not intuitively perceive or understand hazards, prone to aggressive suicide attempts or suicide motivated by wanting to hurt and harm others, self-righteously asserting moral principles for others but in a wholly self-serving and morally-inconsistent way (e.g angrily accusing others of selfishness or cowardice at one moment, while at another moment boasting of 'looking after number one' and ridiculing the idea of his own self-sacrifice). A parasite on society.


Acknowledgement: My thanks are due to Michael A Woodley for conversations which stimulated the above reflections. 


Saturday, 10 January 2015

CG Jung - the dishonest genius

CG Jung is unusual among geniuses, in that he was dishonest about his own work and its implications.

That he was a genius I think is correct; he made numerous discoveries and conceptual breakthroughs  - and he is an unseen but pervasive influence behind vast areas of modern culture including psychology, psychiatry, therapy and (especially) that vast and vague phenomenon called the New Age movement (almost everything about the New Age has a Jungian lineage - even when this is not generally known or acknowledged).

But that Jung was a thoroughly-dishonest and deceptive man is something equally undeniable. Jung was never plain and honest when that was inexpedient - Jung was not driven by a pure pursuit of truth; because truth was readily and repeatedly sacrificed when the consequences were unwanted by Jung. He craved respectability as a Professor, psychiatrist, scholar, scientist - and would trim his published views to ensure this. He wanted wealth, status, admiration - and patients were charmed, strung-along and generally exploited to ensure this.

Jung wanted to be regarded as an unworldly sage - but worked to create an organization dedicated to his own self-promotion. He was a wholesale sexual seducer of his patients and trainees right into old age; and had a long-term live-in mistress who functioned as a second wife (while being unmentioned in his autobiography - he also used his personal magnetism to maintain a household of handmaidens to dote upon and serve him.


The point is that Jung's many compromises, deceptions, evasions, and lies are so consistently dedicated to his own comfort, convenience and gratification that the picture is one of a highly charming and dominant; but heartless, manipulative and selfish psychopath.


So far, Jung is the precursor of the modern intellectual - the 'tenured radical', the charismatic bureaucrat, the bourgeois bohemian, the alpha-male academic, the medical research project manager, the therapist-entrepreneur, the charity CEO, the self-help/ help-yourself guru, the sexual healer...

But this could be put aside as mere hypocrisy - and that is something of which we are all guilty (it would be hypocritical to pretend otherwise). But Jung's dishonesty went even deeper than that, to invade his primary achievement.

Because Jung's work is incoherent at the very deepest level - and this incoherence has afflicted his legacy. And this incoherence was not the result of confusion, but the result of dishonesty.


An example is the idea of synchronicity; which has become an extremely influential cultural idea - but which is deployed in a way that makes no sense. And this incoherence is not due to misunderstanding Jung, but comes directly from Jung's written contradictory accounts and evasions of the implications of his own insight.

Colin Wilson exposed this in his marvelously insightful short study: Lord of the Underworld: Jung and the twentieth century (1984); especially the chapter the Sage of Kusnacht, where Wilson goes through the writings on synchronicity with a fine toothed comb, and tries to pin down what Jung really believed, or meant - and comes up against a mass of obfuscation and self-refutation: of giving with one hand and taking back with the other.

Jung's last recorded words from his death bed seem appropriate: "Let's have a really good red wine tonight." The final statement of a man whose personal gifts were astonishingly great - but who consistently and successfully deployed them for his own comfort, convenience and glory.