August 09, 2019

#Dopamine #Fasting Is The Hot New #SiliconValley Trend

Dopamine Fasting - The Hot Silicon Valley Trend

Dr. Cameron Sepah | 7 Aug 2019

In the age of the "attention economy", many of us are highly overstimulated at best and addicted at worst, and we don't even know how bad our behavior is. As I wrote about, Americans spend a whopping 11 hours a day engaging with media of some kind! It's unclear what the long-term implications of this overstimulation are on our brains, but in my experience working with executive clients in my private practice, I've observed that this interferes with our ability to focus/sustain attention, regulate our emotions in healthy/non-avoidant way, and enjoy simple/mundane tasks that seem boring by comparison. So what's the treatment?

What is Dopamine?

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter in our brains that's responsible for motivation and reward. Dopaminergic drugs (e.g. stimulants such as Adderall, cocaine, & methamphetamine) act on dopamine receptors like a key opening a lock, and over time, downregulate these receptors and makes us less sensitive to dopamine. This requires using more and more of the drug to get the same effects, thus starting the cycle of addiction. But even behaviors such as gaming or gambling can become problematic through the motivation and rewards of near misses and wins.
No alt text provided for this image
This is not to demonize dopamine; it's an important brain chemical, and people who are low in it (whether naturally or by taking antipsychotic medications) can be lethargic, emotionally flat, and anhedonic (taking little interest of pleasure in things). And properly-prescribed dopaminergic medications can help people with ADHD & Parkinson's improve their ability to focus and regulate their behavior. Rather, the point is to give our brains a chance to go through a purposeful withdrawal from dopamine overstimulation that lets our brains return to balance and homeostasis.

What is Dopamine Fasting & Why Do It?

No alt text provided for this image Just as intermittent fasting has become all the rage in Silicon Valley and beyond, I am popularizing "dopamine fasting" as the antidote to our overstimulated age. Dopamine fasting has precedent from psychiatric practice. As a clinical professor of psychiatry, my residents often prescribe stimulant medications like Adderall or Ritalin to patients with ADHD. Patients are sometimes advised to take "drug holidays" by taking it for the 5 days it helps them work/study, and take 2 days off on the weekend when it's less important, in order to avoid building a tolerance to the drug, where the effects fade and you increasingly need a higher dose. 

Regardless of whether we are stimulating our dopamine receptors exogenously (from outside the body by taking a stimulant drug) or endogenously (from inside the body, by engaging in a stimulating behavior), the same principle applies. A benefit of dopamine fasting is that it helps retain the pleasure of the behavior instead of getting tired of it. More importantly, you are training yourself to have more control and flexibility over whether or not you engage in a behavior (e.g. choosing not to procrastinate when it's important).

What to Dopamine Fast From?

No alt text provided for this imageIn my clinical experience, I find the behaviors that are most problematic/prone to addiction are:
  • Pleasure eating
  • Internet/gaming
  • Gambling/shopping
  • Porn/Masturbation
  • Thrill/novelty seeking
  • Recreational drugs 

This list is neither inclusive nor exclusive. I've seen versions of "dopamine fasting" that say absolutely no digital devices, but I find this to be missing the point. For example, browsing compulsively through various articles on your phone can definitely be addictive, while reading a single book on a Kindle Paperwhite device (which has no options for distraction) is probably fine. To decide what to fast from, simply regard whether it's highly pleasurable or problematic for you, and thus you may need a break from.

The Schedule

No alt text provided for this imageA suggested schedule for dopamine fasting is as follows:
  • 1-4 hours at the end of the day (depending on work & family demands)
  • 1 weekend day (spent it outside on a Saturday or Sunday)
  • 1 weekend per quarter (go on a local trip)
  • 1 week per year (go on vacation!) 
Again, these are guidelines, not strict rules. If it's easier to start by dopamine fasting for 1 hour a day (vs. 4 hours a day), then go for it, and then try to ramp up to what you're willing to do and sustain long-term (e.g. 2 hours/day). Perfect is the enemy of good. So like Nike: just do it. Let's now tackle each of the six major vices in turn:


August 06, 2019

Is The North Atlantic JetStream Changing? #ClimateChange

The North Atlantic Jet Stream is born high in the atmosphere, more than 7km from the earth's surface. The temperature difference between the cool Arctic and the warm equator creates a pressure difference, and a narrow band of powerful wind. The turning of the earth makes this strong current, it averages around 170kph, flow from west to east, and helps explain why it is quicker to fly from New York to London than in the opposite direction.

The jet stream was first identified around the turn of the 20th century — early research efforts by scientists even included a few ill-fated voyages in air balloons. Technically there are four jet streams that circle the planet — two in each hemisphere — but the most studied is the northern hemisphere polar jet, due to its central role in European weather patterns. This area of research expanded during the second world war but it was not until the 1980s, and the advent of modern satellites, that really good data on the jet stream and other atmospheric currents became available allowing measurement of its precise speed and direction.

This relatively short time period is part of the reason why it is so hard to tell how the jet stream is being affected by climate change. Unlike temperature records, which stretch back to the pre-industrial era, there is no detailed account of what the jet stream was doing before human-induced global warming kicked in.

An aerial view of melting ice at Ilulissat in Greenland

"Often in physics you can write down equations and out pops the answer and everyone agrees, but we can't do that with the jet stream," says Paul Williams, professor of atmospheric science at Reading university. 

Read the whole article here:

July 21, 2019

Restoring #Apollo11’s Lunar Module Guidance Computer

Restorers Try to Get Lunar Module Guidance Computer Up and Running 

In 1976 in a warehouse in Texas, Jimmie Loocke bought two tons of scrapped NASA equipment. Years later he realized it included a computer from an Apollo lunar module, like the one used to guide the lander to the surface of the moon during Apollo 11. Fifty years after that mission, computer restoration experts in Silicon Valley are trying to get his computer working again. 
The MasterTech Blog

May 14, 2019

Israeli Firm #NSOGroup Tied to Tool That Uses #WhatsApp Flaw to Spy on Your Phone

Israeli Firm Tied to Tool That Uses WhatsApp Flaw to Spy on Activists - The New York Times

Israeli firm NSO Group faces claims that its technology can use a security hole in #WhatsApp -used by 1.5 billion people- to break into users' iPhone and Android phones. 

NSO Group headquarters in Herzliya, Israel. Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

"Digital attackers could use the vulnerability to insert malicious code and steal data from an Android phone or an iPhone simply by placing a WhatsApp call, even if the victim did not pick up the call. As WhatsApp's engineers examined the vulnerability, they concluded that it was similar to other tools from the NSO Group, because of its digital footprint."

NSO Group said in a statement on Monday that its spyware was strictly licensed to government agencies and that it would investigate any "credible allegations of misuse." The company said it would not be involved in identifying a target for its technology, including the lawyer at the center of the latest accusations.


But increasingly, NSO's spyware has been discovered in use by governments with questionable human-rights records like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.

The Israeli company sold a stake to Novalpina, a British private equity firm, in a leveraged buyout deal last year that valued it at nearly $1 billion.


"NSO and Novalpina have spent several months telling the world that there are adults in the room and telegraphing that they have made a commitment to close oversight," said John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab. "Yet even 24 hours ago, we observed what some believe to be an NSO infection attempt against a human-rights lawyer.

"As this case makes it very clear — if indeed this was NSO — there is still a very serious abuse problem," Mr. Scott-Railton added.

See the whole article here:

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