Monday, July 20, 2015

Manure in the Medical Media: neglecting your teeth...could also cause diabetes, heart disease and cancer

Breaking news from The Guardian's Health and Wellbeing section, July 19, 2015: "Why neglecting your teeth could be seriously bad for your health " with the sub-heading "It’s no secret that a lackadaisical approach to dental care leads to fillings and gum disease, but the latest evidence suggests it could also cause diabetes, heart disease and cancer" leading the article and the email blast as well, written by Linda Geddes "freelance science journalist".
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What did Linda actually write? "it’s too early to say for sure that gum disease directly causes other more serious illnesses".

"In the past decade, there has been an explosion of new research linking oral health to illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease. The most likely explanation is inflammation"

"Despite such evidence, it’s still possible that gum disease doesn’t directly cause heart disease. Another possibility is nutrition"

"periodontal therapy may actually lower blood-sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes."

"The links between gum disease and cancer are more circumspect. "

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So. There is no evidence to support the Guardian's heading that poor dental care "could also cause diabetes, heart disease and cancer". None. The scientific evidence presented studied people who already have diabetes actually suggested that:

The diabetes scientific study presented did not study 'causes' of diabetes, rather it studied effects of periodontal disease on people who already have diabetes.

On the link between periodontal disease and heart disease the study clearly states: "current research does not yet provide evidence of a causal relationship between the two diseases".

People who already have cancer are unable to fight it effectively if they also have dental inflammation.

The article's conclusion: brush your teeth regularly, visit your dentist often for teeth cleaning may have some benefit, but it is not supported by the poorly written, poorly edited, and poorly presented medical media manure.

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What is the truth about periodontal disease, diabetes, heart disease and cancer? Is there any truth in the article? Yes and no.

The truth about periodontal disease is simple and obvious.

Health is slow.  Health comes from the inside and grows outwards.  You can't make your car run better by polishing the paint job, and you can't make your teeth better by polishing them either. The key to dental health is nutrition, and the key to poor dental health is poor nutrition. Dental disease may require additional attention, but dental health comes not from disease treatments, it comes from eating healthy foods, that grow healthy gums and healthy teeth. \

The proposed link between periodontal disease and diabetes, heart disease, and cancer is inflammation.  But what is the cause of inflammation? Inflammation is caused by poor health, not by neglecting to brush your teeth. Inflammation is caused by poor nutritional health.  Are there any other causes? Yes, physical damage caused by stress or by bacterial infections.

So.. what causes inflammation, periodontal disease, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer?

Poor health, most specifically poor nutrition.

But that's not the news you will hear from anyone selling dental treatments, toothbrushes or toothpaste.

to your health, tracy

 Tracy is the author of two books about healthicine:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Most Forbidden Word in Modern Medicine

There is a forbidden word in medicine. This word is gradually disappearing, actively shamed, banned to the 'alternative' fringes of medicine, and  replaced by newfangled, more fashionable terms. It is also being replaced, in many cases, by its opposite.

The forbidden word?  CURE.
The word 'cure' is disappearing from medical references and medical textbooks. It is even being replaced, in many cases, with 'incurable'.

Have you noticed? More and more diseases are defined as 'incurable'. There is no cure for the common cold, but that's not all.  Alzheimer's is incurable (but we're raising funds to search for a cure).  Parkinson's is incurable (but we're raising funds to search for a cure). Cancers are incurable (but we're raising funds to search for a cure). Diabetes is incurable (but we're raising funds to search for a cure). Hypertension (high blood pressure) is incurable (but we're raising funds to search for a cure). Do you notice a pattern here? Almost every disease today is incurable, and every disease has an organization, or two, or three, raising funds to search for a cure.Even one of the newest diseases, in terms of being classed as a disease - obesity, has a foundation the "Obesity Treatment Foundation" with a goal - not to cure - but instead of "Optimizing Treatment, Increasing Awareness".

Depression used to be curable, in many cases, but today it is 'treatable'.  It seems to have become incurable. How can that be? Why is it so? Is the field of medicine moving forwards, backwards, or perhaps sideways? First we need to understand the actual medical meaning of 'cure'.

What is a cure?

Webster's dictionary defines cure as:
     "recovery or relief from a disease"
     "something (such as a drug or medical treatment) that stops a disease and makes someone healthy again" That's half right.  Stopping the disease is a cure. "Making someone healthy again", or restoring the healthiness that was lost due to the disease, is healing, not curing. If we cure a leg infection by cutting off the leg, the cure does not 'make them healthy again'. If we only cut off part of the skin, and it grows back - healing makes them healthy again, not the surgical cure.

Definitions in medical dictionaries tend to make more confusion, not less - with definitions that are so broad that almost any aberration from 'average' can be viewed as disease.  Mosby's Medical, Nursing, and Allied Health Dictionary defines cured broadly as "restoration of health to a person with a disease or other disorder", and defines disease with uncommon restrictions, as "a condition of abnormal vital function involving any structure, part, or system of an organism" and "a specific illness characterized by a recognizable set of signs and symptoms, attributable to heredity, infection, diet, or environment." Stedman's Medical Dictionary online at Drugs.Com defines cure as "to heal, to make well". But, surely healing and curing are independent concepts: the body heals, a treatment cures. Both of these definitions of cure allow the disease to continue to exist, as long as the patient is viewed as 'healthy' or 'well'.

Cure, if we are to find real cures, must be defined as stopping the progress of a the disease.

To understand the word 'cure', we need a clear definition of the word 'disease'.  Webster's, unfortunately, does not provide one.

What is a disease? Webster's gives a similarly poor, weak definition of disease: "a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms".  According to this definition, every physical condition that 'impairs normal functioning' is a disease. As a result, every symptom - a migraine, obesity, can be classified as a disease. Even perfectly natural attributes, like sexual preferences and left-handedness, might be considered diseases. I'm not suggesting that Webster's is at fault. Webster's simply documents what the collective experts think.Why is there no simple, clear definition of disease in the entire field of medicine? If you look everywhere for diseases to treat, you find diseases everywhere, like a boy with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

But the medical hammer is not a cure, it is a 'treatment'. In most cases, medicine is simply not looking for cures.

The news media is making the search for cures worse, not better. A quick scan of Google news for the word 'cure' gives everything but actual cures. The first 15 Google News hits using the word 'cure' in the title gave the following results:
 - 7 articles about fundraising. None of the fundraising organizations spend a majority of funds searching for cures, they search for 'treatments', and ways to help patients 'live with their disease'.
 - 5 articles about 'searching for a  cure'.  None of the articles were actually about real cures for real diseases in real people.  Fake diseases in mice. Treating symptoms. No hint of actual cure.
 - 3 articles about nonsense 'cures'.  A cure for boredom, golf slumps and retail store summer doldrums.

There are no articles about actual cures for actual diseases. In the first ten pages of a Google News search for a disease cure, there is exactly one.  A cure for Hepatitis C, a drug that kills the virus.  It is notable that the only 'cures' that are actually documented as true medical cures are toxic chemicals that kill invading bacteria or viruses. There are no other disease cures in medical texts.

Why does the news media misuse the word 'cure' so much? Because the word cure has sizzle, gets attention - and also, because there are so few actual 'cures' to report on.  Fewer than 1 per decade is my best estimate. How many new cures for were discovered in the last 10 years? The last 20 years? The last 50 years? The last 100 years? How many patients were cured of their diseases this year, last year, the last 10 years? We don't know. There are no statistics for cures. There is no science of cures. As a result, there is no news about cures. Lots of fundraising and non-cures for non-diseases. Few cures.

The science of healthicine provides a definition of disease designed to facilitate 'cures'. A disease is not a physical state, it has an active progression.

a disease is an ongoing progressive negative medical condition, that has an ongoing cause. 

With this definition, all diseases can be cured.
 - It is cured when the cause is removed or stopped.
 - If it cannot be cured, it is not a disease.

It is important to recognize that diseases are progressive.  If it does not have a progression, it might be a disability, a dysfunction, or a simple attribute of the patient, but it is not a disease. If the progression is stopped, the disease is cured. Every disease has a cause, or causes - and if key causes are removed, the progression will be stopped, and the disease has been cured.  If the cause returns, the disease will appear again, as a new disease, due to the 'new (similar) cause'.

There are lots of things that do not cure disease, but are sometimes presented as if they were cures. A 'treatment' is not a cure, unless it 'stops the disease'. A symptomicine is not a cure. Aspirin and Tylenol are not 'cures' for headache. They are symptomicines, hiding the symptoms, but not addressing the cause, not curing the disease.  When their 'hiding' fades, the symptoms reappear.

It is important to clearly distinguish between 'remission' and cure. Remission is a remission of symptoms of the disease.  When symptoms go into remission the disease is hidden, but the cause might not have been addressed. In these cases, remission of symptoms actually facilitates the progression of the disease.  When symptoms are not visible the patient and doctors are less vigilant. Today's medical systems have great difficulty distinguishing between remission and cure. Was the patient cured, or is the disease in remission? We have no tools to tell the difference in many cases.

A vaccine is not a cure, it is a preventative, although there are many preventatives, that are also cures. Vitamin C, or foods that contain Vitamin C, prevent scurvy.  If you get scurvy, Vitamin C, or foods containing Vitamin C, are the cure. No 'medicines' can cure scurvy.

One of the most famous medical books, the MERCK Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, does not call Vitamin C a 'cure' for scurvy.  It says: 'Treatment consists of oral Vitamin C', but does not use the word 'cure'. Has the word cure become forbidden. If you check the MERCK manual a bit more carefully, you will learn that 'cure' is not defined, is not in the index, and not in the table of contents. Cure is not clearly defined by the field of medicine, it seems to be forbidden. Or at best, ignored, pushed to the side, discounted, not clearly defined.

It's clear that scurvy can be caused by lack of Vitamin C (there might be other causes). It is also clear that scurvy caused by deficiencies of Vitamin C can be cured, the progression can be stopped, with Vitamin C, or foods containing Vitamin C.  Furthermore, once scurvy has been cured, or before scurvy is present, it can be prevented by appropriate consumption of Vitamin C. The cure for scurvy is not 'remission' of symptoms - it is a true cure. The disease is no longer present, although if the disease caused physical damage, that damage might never heal completely.

Many nutritional deficiencies lead to specific diseases that progress as long as the cause is present. In all cases, the only cure is to meet the deficiency, not medicine can cure these diseases.

It is also clear that a new case of scurvy will arise if the cause returns. It is important to note that this is not a return of the disease, it is a return of the cause. If a person fails to consume sufficient Vitamin C - either in foods or in supplements - the person will get scurvy, or get scurvy 'again'. A new case of scurvy.  When a patient's scurvy is cured and then reappears, there is no 'remission' of symptoms, and 'worsening' of symptoms. There is simply a cure, and a new occurrence.

Nutrient toxicity, or over consumption, is also a disease that cannot be cured by medicines or medical treatments. If you are consuming too much Vitamin A, you will get the disease hypervitaminosis A. There is a cure.  It is simple. Stop consuming too much Vitamin A. No medicine can cure hypervitaminosis A, and any attempts to develop a medicine to treat hypervitaminosis A would be seen as nonsense. There are many diseases that can be cured, but not with medicines.

Obesity is medically classified as a disease - although it can easily exist as a stable state not an active progression. It would not be classified as a disease in the science of healthicine. The process of becoming obese, of continual weight gain could be classified as a disease, but presence of excess weight is simply an attribute, or a symptom, not a disease.

If someone is obese, and they lose weight, such that they are no longer obese, are they cured? The Obesity Treatment Foundation does not mention 'cure', does not suggest that obesity can be 'cured'. They ask for donations to promote awareness and treatment, but the word "cure" is avoided.

Symptoms of obesity can be cured by food restrictions. However, if this temporary fix does not address the causes and the should be considered a cure. If the cause is addressed, obesity can be cured and reversed.  If the cause comes back, the disease will return.

We pretend to know that the cause of obesity is overeating. But we don't know the cause of overeating - and there is considerable evidence that the cause of overeating is obesity. We will not find the cure to the 'obesity epidemic' until we find the real causes.

We will not find the cure for any individual patient's disease, nor for any class of diseases, until we find and address the true causes.

How might we find cures?  How might we find the causes of today's many 'incurable' diseases?

We can only find cures for diseases when we use better definitions for disease, and better definitions for cures.

disease: an ongoing progressive negative medical condition, that has an ongoing cause.

cure: stopping the progression of a disease.  A treatment that stops the progression of a disease by addressing key causes.

to your health, tracy


 Tracy is the author of two books about healthicine:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

On the Healthiness of Corners

I was born in 1952, like Mad Magazine, (that's my Alfred E. Neuman impersonation), in the days when corporal punishment was commonplace. My misbehaviors were often met with a threat, or a deliberate spanking. I'm sure I'm the better for it in some ways.  But the punishment I dreaded more, the punishment I believe was much more effective, for me, was simpler: kneeling in the corner.

"Go kneel in the corner" was a simple punishment, but very effective.  A bit of meditation, time to think about my actions, or in-actions, and their consequences. No one to talk to, all by myself. No chance for misbehavin' in the corner. If I was too energized to kneel in the corner, my father might stand behind me, making sure I didn't run away, giving my body time to settle. "Face into the corner. Think about what you have done."

Talking was no use.  The corner was for silence.  If I tried to talk, the answer was "no talking", or "we can talk about it after your time in the corner". Of course after my time in the corner, I had little interest in talking.

Only the corner to look at. Even if I closed my eyes, I could still see it.  My siblings, in the background behind me - playing, paying no attention. Me, stuck in the corner. I didn't dare move - spanking was the next level of punishment and only temporary a respite, because afterwards it was back in the corner again.

How long in the corner? I never knew.  It felt like forever, but I suspect my entire time in the corner was less than an hour or two. I had to stay in the corner until my mom, or dad, said I could go.  Had they forgotten about me?  Not allowed to talk, I couldn't ask. How long had I been here? Hard to tell... minutes seemed like hours.

What to think about? There was only one thing to think about: how did I get here?  I might place blame on my brother, or my sister, or my parents - but that got me nowhere.  I was the one in the corner.  The corner kept reflecting my focus back to me, giving me time and a reminder to reflect on myself, and my actions. My siblings were free to go, inside the house, outside playing.  And I was here, stuck in the corner.

I don't remember my parents talking to me about what I had done wrong.  Maybe they did, but I don't remember. I don't remember what I did - 50 years ago.  But I remember the corner.

When I got older, I was allowed to stand in the corner, instead of kneeling. Interesting, because I could sway left to right or back and forth.  This let my mind sway as well, considering different actions I might have taken, different choices.

Today, I have a healthy respect for corners.  Corners are everywhere. They exist where one side joins the other side. Edges are inside-out corners. Change happens in the corners, at the edges. One wall is marching along, and it hits the corner and turns. Change can happen when you are stuck in a corner as well. Corners are the end - as far as you can go. Corners are the opposite of freedom. If we want freedom, it is important to understand the opposites, and their logic.

If you've gone too far, you can find yourself cornered, stuck in a corner. Then what? Rushing away can be ineffective, take some time, ask yourself - how did I get here?  How can I avoid getting stuck here in the future?

Next time you are stuck in a corner, use it as an opportunity to reflect, to learn, to health yourself. Ask "how did I get here?"  "have I cornered myself"... My parents never put me in the corner - I did it all by myself.  What?  Me worry?

to your health, tracy
 Tracy is the author of two books about healthicine:

Friday, May 15, 2015

Nutritional Nonsense: from Coffee to Cancer

I recently spotted, this question on Quora: "What are the nutritional benefits of consuming coffee on a daily basis?" And I thought, now there's an interesting challenge for the 'science of nutrition'. So, I took it upon myself to answer with current nutritional science - according to Wiki, and to add some comments about the lack of science.  My answer, by the way, has already been down-voted.

What are the nutritional benefits of coffee? There were, of course, many answers, ranging from antioxidants, to protection against diabetes and dementia, to the nonsensical 'it gives you energy' - coffee has no calories, therefore it cannot give you energy.

What are the nutritional benefits of coffee according to nutritional science? I typed the 'nutrition of coffee' into Google and got the following from Wiki:
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Coffee: Nutrition Facts Amount Per 1 fl oz (29.6 g)100 grams 6 fl oz (178 g)1 cup (8 fl oz) (237 g)100 grams   - Calories 0

% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0 g 0%
Saturated fat 0 g 0%
Polyunsaturated fat 0 g
Monounsaturated fat 0 g
Trans fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 2 mg 0%
Potassium 49 mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 0 g 0%
Dietary fiber 0 g 0%
Sugar 0 g
Protein 0.1 g 0%
Caffeine 40 mg
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 0%
Iron 0%
Vitamin D 0%
Vitamin B-6 0%
Vitamin B-12 0%
Magnesium 0%

* Per cent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
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My Notes:
1. Coffee has zero calories.  It is not a source of energy, although it might 'energize' you. Actually, according to the above list, coffee has a small amount of protein, and proteins contain calories.
2. Most of the items on the list of nutrients have zero value, indicating that they are NOT PRESENT in coffee.  This is a telling fact about many nutritional labels, the presence of non-ingredients.
3. The only nutritional contents of coffee, according to the science of nutrition, are sodium, potassium, protein, caffeine.
4. Many ingredients of coffee, are simply ignored by the nutritional analysis, because they are 'not on the list' of nutrients that have been deemed important by nutritional scientists. Studies of the benefits of coffee cite anti-oxidants and other chemicals, but they are 'not on the list'.
5. The listing for "Total Carbohydrate" has an error, even though carbohydrates are not present in coffee. But that's not enough error, The list of ingredients shows a 'Daily Value' of zero percent.  But there is no Daily Value for carbohydrates, so a Daily Value score of zero is nonsense.
6. The nutrient list contains 'Saturated Fats' and 'Monounsaturated Fats' even though coffee contains no saturated fats and no monounsaturated fats. Presumably this is because we used to believe that saturated fats were unhealthy.  Science has recently proven this theory wrong - and also proven that the benefits believed to come from monosaturated fats are illusory. But much of published science has not yet caught up to the latest research.
7. The nutrient list includes 'Trans Fats', even though coffee does not contain any trans fats, and trans fats are not nutrients - they are toxic chemicals.
8. The largest part of coffee is, duh.... water.  But water is not listed as a nutrient, even though the theoretical 'Daily Value' of water is 8 glasses.
9. According to Wiki, if you consume a diet of "2000 calories" of coffee daily, you will receive almost no nutrients.  And... according to Wiki, coffee contains zero calories, so a 2000 calorie diet requires drinking a few million cups a day, for nothing. Or adding milk and sugar.

In short, the nutritional value of coffee given by Google, from Wiki is mostly bunk, error prone nonsense, full of empty non-facts, non-ingredients, missing the most common ingredient - water, and missing any ingredients that are actually studied research into the benefits of coffee. At the same time as it misses most of the healthy ingredients of coffee, it lists many items that are not present at all.

Frankly, much of the current science of nutrition is similar BUNK, and this question and answer provides ample proof.

But this is not the only example.  Let's get more serious about the science of nutrition.

What foods cause cancer, and what foods protect against cancer?

This is a serious, important question. What does science have for an answer?  A recent meta-study produced this informative graphic, from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.



It seems clear from the graphic, what everyone already knows.  Everything causes cancer.  And everything protects against cancer. Coffee causes cancer, coffee protects against cancer, and one study says we're not sure. That's the current state of nutritional science.

How can this happen? Why does this happen? There are two main causes.

Studies of Illness

Health is whole, illness - is a hole in your health.  Healthiness and illness are like 'light and darkness'. If someone spends their entire life studying darkness, they will know nothing about colour, saturation, hue, brightness, heat, wavelengths, rainbows, etc.  Their knowledge will be limited to various shades of black and grey, dark and darker. And so it is with health and illness. Many scientists spend their entire lifetimes studying illness, measuring illness, searching for illness and trying to 'kill' illness, or if killing it is not possible, to 'treat' the symptoms of illness.

But we know little about healthiness, there is no science of healthiness.

There are no scientists who study healthiness. There is no science of healthicine. Alice and Zizi provide the classic example.  Alice and Zizi are two women, two friends, neither of whom has any illness.  They are both 'healthy' according to modern medical science. But the question arises:

Who is healthier, Alice - or Zizi?

The more we look into this question, the more we realize that we have no tools, no techniques, no science to measure healthiness.  Alice and Ziz have no illness, no signs and symptoms of illness, so in theory, they are both perfectly healthy.  But we know this is not true. One of them is probably 'healthier' than the other. But which one? A historical analysis might show that Alice gets more colds than the other, for example, and that their colds last longer. Is that a measure of healthiness? And Zizi might be diagnosed with cancer tomorrow.  Such is the nature of cancer diagnosis. But today, we have no tools to answer the question:  "Who is healthier, Alice or Zizi?"

Nutritional studies are based entirely on illness. As a result, we have four scientific studies showing that coffee prevents cancers, one study that shows no harm or benefit, and four studies showing that coffee cause cancer.  Nutritional science in action.  Bunk.

Reductionism

When we attempt to study healthiness by measuring single things in isolation, we get nonsense.

Attempting to measure the benefits of coffee by analysis of the individual contents, and ignoring the contents that are 'not on our list' result in superficial analysis and nonsense.

Attempting to measure the effects of 'coffee' on cancer, in isolation from everything else in the diet, results in nonsense.

And the proof is there for everyone to see.

What is the way out?

Nutritional science finds some truths about nutrition.  Unfortunately, many of the 'truths' that are found are simplistic nonsense, useless to anyone who actually wants to find health.

If studies of illness, and reductionist studies cannot find the truth about nutrition, how can we find the answers?

The answer can only be found in studies of healthiness: healthicine. When we begin to study healthiness in earnest, we will begin to see many truths that are invisible today.  When we turn away from studies of illness, the darkness, we will begin to see the light.  There is a lot to learn.

to your health, tracy

Tracy is the author of two books about healthicine:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Medical Bigots

According to Webster's, a bigot is "a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc." What is a medical bigot?  A medical bigot strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc in various fields of medicine.  A medical bigot sees things in black and white, devoid of color, or complexity. A medical bigot wants simple answers, the simpler the better.

"A strong or unfair dislike for other people, ideas, etc." perfectly describes the bigot. A bigot has a strong dislike for strange persons, unfamiliar ideas, difficult questions, challenges, controversy, etc., preferring the safety of their current knowledge, and position. Medical bigots don't make good scientists, because scientists are always ready, willing and able - eager even, to challenge their current knowledge.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Vaccine Debates: A Healthicine View



The internet is awash with vaccination posts.  Everybody, it seems, has an opinion, and want you to see their point of view. Punt "vaccine myths and facts" into Google today and you will see over 700,000 hits. Many of the so called "myths" are not myths at all. The 'myths' chosen, and the 'facts' that follow are opinions, designed to support each individual author's objectives.

Let's forget myths.  What vaccine facts are actually important? What vaccine questions are important? What answers are important?

This post presents some important questions about vaccines - as a test.  Can you answer these questions?  Check it out, move the cursor over the answer of your choice and see your results.

1. What is the purpose of a vaccine?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Toronto Star vs the Vax-apologists

The Toronto Star recently published a report about the HPVvaccine Gardasil. The result was a firestorm from vax-apologists. The vax-apologists would like the story to disappear. There are reports of people cancelling their subscriptions to the Star.
Maybe the Star should reconsider the title of the story, and the point. Let's suppose the Star had printed a different story.  A different heading.  But the same facts, minus the vaccine references. The Star might have reported a story like this:
==============================================
Young Girls Suffer and Die, But No-one Cares

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A New Equation for Stupidity

In a TED talk filmed in November 2013, Alex Wissner-Gross offers "A new equation for intelligence".  I'm not sure if there was an 'old equation for intelligence'? The talk was based on the concepts of a research paper published in April 2013: Causal Entropic Forces. I must confess that the mathematics of this paper is way beyond my understanding. However, many of the statements made in the TED talk simplify the concepts to the point where we can understand and make sense (or perhaps nonsense) of them.

According to Wissner-Gross, "Intelligence is a force F that acts so as to maximize future freedom of action. With strength T, with the diversity of possible accessible futures S, to some future time horizon 'tau'."  This is a complex statement, but in does make some sense.  In a much simpler way, we might say that "Intelligent things are things that attempt to optimize and maintain their future flexibility, their future options."

Wissner-Gross describes a number of experiments that demonstrate this theory and support this formula for intelligence.  The experimental descriptions in the TED talk, and in the research paper are deliberately simple. They are designed to 'optimize or maintain their options for future states'.

How can this be done?  You can only create a system that can "optimize it's future options", if you make the system, in some way,
 - aware of it's current state in some trivial representation
 - able to make choices and to take actions (modeled as entropy)
 - and able to count resulting future options, eg. aware of ALL OF the consequences of it's choices.
and one other point, which is not discussed by the Wissner-Gross presentation, ignorance of external systems and variables.  We shall come to discuss this later.

In other words, Wissner-Gross created a system with a fundamental level of 'self consciousness' although no sense of 'free-will'. They are computer programs designed, driven to seek actions that 'optimize future options' by creating 'simulated entropy' models. There is no free to chose other options.

What Wissner-Gross observed was that when we build a self-aware simulation and force it to 'choose', actions that result in the most 'future possible choices', we get a system that appears to be 'intelligent'. Is it intelligent? We might say that, if it looks like a duck and it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. If it looks intelligent, and acts like it is intelligent, then it is intelligent. Or maybe not?

Wissner-Gross gives us a mathematical formula, or equation for intelligence: Intelligence is a force F that acts so as to maximize future freedom of action. With strength T, with the diversity of possible accessible futures S, to some future time horizon 'tau'.

F(intelligence) = T ∇ Sτ

It's an interesting formula. Intelligence the force, the drive that results when an entropic system falls into a state where it naturally chooses actions that maximize future options. When we consider that for a moment, we can rephrase the formula. We originally described it as:

F(of intelligence) = T ∇ Sτ

We might instead view it as:

F(of healthiness) = T ∇ Sτ

Thus, the force of healthiness acts so as to maximize future freedom of action. With strength T, with the diversity of possible accessible futures S, to some future time horizon 'tau'.


We can look at this formula from another perspective.  Maybe it's the formula for 'life'?

F(of life) = T ∇ Sτ

The life force is the tendency for systems that make choices that increase their future options - to live longer and build complexity. Health is a result of life and does not exist without life. Life, intelligence, and healthiness emerge and become more complex as the system becomes more complex. Intelligence and healthiness are different ways of looking at the same thing. The systems created in Wissner-Gross's simulations are not 'alive', and they are supported by external decision systems that make their choices. Real life evolves from simple, similar situations, that facilitate a rise in complexity.  That 'rise in complexity' occurs when simple systems encounter other systems with similar and complimentary properties and discover, or evolve, the ability to cooperate with other systems.

Life is a result of freedom to choose, including choosing to cooperate with other entities (systems) that have freedom to choose, thus increasing the freedoms of all involved.

Which came first: intelligence or life?  Is it a chicken-egg question? Or does it depend on how we define intelligence, and how we define life?  Does life, or does intelligence exist as soon as a system gains 'freedom to choose'? Or does 'freedom to choose' arise out of system complexity, as it approaches 'life' and 'intelligence'? Can intelligence exist without life? Can life exist without intelligence? Or does 'freedom to choose' simply not exist, except as an illusion we believe, because our life systems are so complex that the give us the illusion of choice?

It is also interesting to consider the 'time horizon', because different time horizons can lead to very different results - in more complex systems. An action that might be intelligent when considering a daily activity, might be stupid when we consider it from a month, year, or lifetime perspective.

And that leads us to the question of 'stupidity'.  If we have a formula for intelligence, is there a formula for stupidity? Is stupidity the inverse of intelligence, and intelligence the inverse of stupidity. Is a rock stupid? No. A rock is dumb, because it cannot hear, it cannot see, it cannot speak, it cannot think or decide, and it cannot act.  But it is not stupid, because it cannot make stupid decisions nor take stupid actions. Stupid things (or stupid systems) are things that take stupid actions.

What is a stupid action?  What is stupidity? If "Intelligence is a force F that acts so as to maximize future freedom of action. With strength T, with the diversity of possible accessible futures S, to some future time horizon 'tau'."

Then Stupidity is "a force F that acts so as to limit or minimize future freedom of action. With strength T, with the diversity of possible accessible futures S, to some future time horizon 'tau'."

F(stupidity) = T ∇ Sτ

Intelligence is a set of actions that are deliberately considered and chosen to keep the system alive and as active as possible.  Stupidity is the set of actions that are deliberately considered and designed to shut down the system.  Entropy is naturally stupid. It works inexorably to diffuse energy in a system.  But stupidity is even worse. Stupidity is 'system suicide'.

Now we can see that something is clearly wrong.  In real life, stupidity is not 'suicide'.  Stupidity does not lead directly to death - in real life. Sometimes it even does quite well, thank you very much. Stupid luck exists.

In the model of healthiness and unhealthiness discussed in the post Embracing Unhealthiness, we recognized that healthiness is linked to unhealthiness such that the sum of healthiness and unhealthiness equals 100 percent of our health potential.  The sum of healthiness and unhealthiness is your 'potential for healthiness'.

What about the sum of intelligent choices and stupid choices? Now we can see the cracks in this model of 'intelligence'. The model is not 'free to choose', it can only choose what is calculated as optimal in terms of future freedoms within the specified time period.

It reminds me of an old joke about an uncle, and a small boy.  The uncle calls over one of the relatives and says "Watch this!". Then he turns to the small boy and asks "Would you like to have this nice, shiny silver dollar, or would you prefer this old, dirty, crumpled up five dollar bill?" The young boy chooses the shiny silver dollar.

But when the relative talks to the boy later, and asks "Don't you know that you could buy 5 silver dollars with that bill?", the young boy answers "Of course I do.  But, as soon as I take the paper money, he'll stop offering me the silver dollar."

The boy has figured out something intelligent.  He does not make the 'optimal decision'.  He does not have a specific 'time horizon' in mind.  He would prefer that there is no time horizon, as long as he keeps getting paid.  He has used his intelligence to look 'outside the system'.  This is one thing Wissner-Gross's models cannot do.  They are designed to take all of the information available, and calculate the best option. There are no external variables, no external facts.

Intelligence is making good decisions when you DON'T have all the facts. If you have all of the facts, you don't need intelligence to decide - a machine can decide.

There is another serious flaw in the Wissner-Gross model of intelligence. Real intelligence must acknowledge that other intelligences exist, learn to cooperate with them, and to compete with them. One of Wissner-Gross's models seems to present 'cooperation', but it's not cooperation between two systems, where each gets to 'choose to cooperate or not', it's simply a complex model that searches for the best solution, and as a result, looks like it is cooperating.

The goal of a real intelligence is to understand more.  And when it understands more, to find better questions. And sometimes, the goal of a real intelligence is suicide.  We are all going to die.  Some of us want to choose when and how to die.  The Wissner-Gross model of intelligence ignores this aspect of intelligence.

The Wissner-Gross model is missing two more fundamental elements of intelligent decisions.  Memory and risk.  A real intelligent system has a memory of past decisions, and can make rapid decisions, when necessary - based on memory, not on calculation.  Decisions based on memory free up the calculation parts of the brain for decisions where time is not a priority. Risk assessment is also a fundamental factor in intelligence.  What good does it do to choose the 'most future options' if what you are choosing is the number of bee stings you might receive?

If the Wissner-Gross model is not 'intelligence', what is it? It is a formula for self interest, based on rational calculations. The formula can drive the system towards a longer life, a more stable life. Maybe even a more boring life. But, boring can be intelligent if you are an accountant, trying to make money.

In real life, we often use our intelligence to rationalize our decisions. And that's a good way to succeed. If we attempt to only make 'rational' decisions, that are rationalized before the decision is made, we will make very few decisions - because all of the facts are not available.

The Wissner-Gross formula is a powerful tool for decision making.  Much like a calculator, or a spreadsheet.  But it is not a formula for 'intelligence'. Intelligence requires irrational thought.

This is a blog about health freedom. What has this got to do with health, and health freedom? There are some powerful implications for freedom, and also for health. Freedom to choose increases our ability to make intelligent decisions. Constraints on freedom reduce our ability to make intelligent decisions, resulting in more stupid decisions. This is not stated directly by the Wissner-Gross model, because the model is not actually free to choose.  It can only choose the option that has the most future freedoms.

In a similar fashion, we can also see that the sum of intelligence and stupidity (unintelligence), the sum of decisions that maximize future options and decisions that minimize future options in any system - the total potential for action in any system is 100 percent.  None of the systems created by Wessner-Gross exceeded their systemic limits of intelligence. None of the systems exhibited 'exceptional' intelligence. This might seem obvious, but it is worth understanding.  No single system can exceed its own limits of intelligence.

The best way to increase intelligence is to increase the complexity of the analysis, not to limit it.  The best way to increase intelligence is through communities, not rationalization by a single individual. The best way to improve healthiness is to recognize that healthiness is not just an individual trait, it is also a measure of the success of our societies, our communities. The best way to create healthy communities, is to work to create healthy communities, not to create selfish independent models of intelligence.

to your health, tracy

tracy
Tracy is the author of two books about healthicine: