19 September 2007

Big Babies--Psychological Neoteny Grows More Common, Just As Al Fin Has Predicted

Psychological Neoteny is the retention of immature characteristics of behaviour--shirking from responsibility and seeking to escape the real world--in adults. It has nothing to do with adolescents, nor with the well-documented delayed neurological maturation of various brain centers until the late teens and early to middle twenties. It is an adult phenomenon, and here are some statistics documenting its growth?
it’s actually middle-aged adults — the parents — whose behavior has worsened.

Our most reliable measures show Americans ages 35 to 54 are suffering ballooning crises:

18,249 deaths from overdoses of illicit drugs in 2004, up 550 percent per capita since 1975, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

46,925 fatal accidents and suicides in 2004, leaving today’s middle-agers 30 percent more at risk for such deaths than people aged 15 to 19, according to the national center.

More than four million arrests in 2005, including one million for violent crimes, 500,000 for drugs and 650,000 for drinking-related offenses, according to the F.B.I. All told, this represented a 200 percent leap per capita in major index felonies since 1975.

630,000 middle-agers in prison in 2005, up 600 percent since 1977, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

21 million binge drinkers (those downing five or more drinks on one occasion in the previous month), double the number among teenagers and college students combined, according to the government’s National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health.

370,000 people treated in hospital emergency rooms for abusing illegal drugs in 2005, with overdose rates for heroin, cocaine, pharmaceuticals and drugs mixed with alcohol far higher than among teenagers.

More than half of all new H.I.V./AIDS diagnoses in 2005 were given to middle-aged Americans, up from less than one-third a decade ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

What is interesting about this article is not the extreme obtuseness demonstrated by the NY TImes writers [ed: the oped article is written by Mike Males, sociologist and author of a 1996 book defending a previous generation of teens from the accusation that they are stupid, crazy, reckless . . . which are charges that we at Al Fin do not repeat] in their commentary. It is that although the statistics are presented in a typically deceptive manner, it is still possible to see that more adults are behaving badly--precisely as Al Fin's theory of psychological neoteny suggests they will do.

The brains of teenagers are not fully developed. It is quite a good thing, too, because what that means is that the teenager can learn more things more quickly than the adult whose brain is more "set." Of course, teens also lack experience and judgment which might help them make better decisions. Forget about all that.

What is being stated by both Al Fin and the NY Times article, is that large numbers of adults are passing the age of brain maturation without actually learning responsible or wise behaviour. And unlike the adolescent, who has a chance to remake his own brain, and learn wisdom, the psychologically neotenous adult has used up the larger part of his chances to mature.

No, all is not lost. The adult brain still has the ability to generate new neurons, glial cells, etc. With discipline and practise, the adult brain can grow new pathways, learn, myelinate, and mature even more. But the difference in potential to achieve further maturity between most teens and the adult psychological neotenate, is an order of magnitude. The teen has all the advantage.

The lesson to be learned from all this, is that child-rearing and educational methods need to be changed promptly--before more generations of psychological neotenates are thrown out into the world unprepared. The world does not need more criminals, drug addicts, adult escapists from reality and responsibility. If Al Fin must repeat himself to get the point across to persons who are sometimes slow to learn, that is what he must do.


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Blogger Michael Anissimov said...

Part of the point of this article is that the "well-documented delayed neurological maturation of various brain centers until the late teens and early to middle twenties" is a MYTH. Responsible brain researchers don't believe in it.

I see that as soon as you get sent this article, your first reflex is to promote it as echoing your position, when in fact it states quite clearly that the "well documented...etc" is mythical, which you neglect to mention. That reflex... automatically asserting that article X supports your point of view -- is called confirmation bias.

And why bother pretending we can change educational and child-rearing methods? We can't. And within the next few decades, we'll either have the technology to fix brains by direct intervention (nanotechnological neurosurgery) or have blown ourselves up already. So anything involving the timescale of generations is moot.

Wednesday, 19 September, 2007  
Blogger al fin said...

Thanks, Michael, for causing me to take another look at the oped by sociologist Mike Males, author of the 1996 book "Scapegoat Generation."

Much of the neurological findings from MRI studies of juvenile and adult brains would be expected to fall outside the purview of Males' expertise. The same applies to Robert Epstein, the psychologist who commented on a previous post here.

These are fairly recent research findings on neurodevelopment that continue to be duplicated and extended. The ongoing development of the adolescent brain is an active area of research that is far from being refuted--quite the opposite.

I understand that your emphasis is on the development of artificial general intelligence (AGI), and the subsequent technological revolution that AGI is supposed to bring about.

However, it is quite important in the meantime to work within the available and potential practises of child-raising and education for the children and teens that we are responsible for at this time.

And there are indeed ways to "change" the education and child-raising practises. In fact, such change is happening beneath the radar as most people sleep.

These kids will not raise themselves in any good way. The statistics in the oped--the only semi-substantive aspect to the article--illustrate what happens when neglect is the childraising and educational method of choice.

Thursday, 20 September, 2007  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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