Saturday, 2 March 2013

Political Views?

People become more politically liberal immediately after practising a spiritual exercise such as meditation, researchers at the University of Toronto have found.
"There's great overlap between religious beliefs and political orientations," says one of the study authors, Jordan Peterson of U of T's Department of Psychology.
"We found that religious individuals tend to be more conservative and spiritual people tend to be more liberal. "Inducing a spiritual experience through a guided meditation exercise led both liberals and conservatives to endorse more liberal political attitudes."
Lead author Jacob Hirsh of U of T's Rotman School of Management said, "While religiousness is characterized by devotion to a specific tradition, set of principles, or code of conduct, spirituality is associated with the direct experience of self-transcendence and the feeling that we're all connected.
In three studies, the researchers – Hirsh, Peterson and Megan Walberg, also from U of T's Department of Psychology, examined their participants' political views in relation to their religiousness and spirituality.
In the first study, they asked 590 American participants whether they identified as Democrat or Republican. In the second study, they measured 703 participants' political orientations and support for the major American and Canadian political parties.
    The researchers confirmed that religiousness was associated with political conservatism, while spirituality was associated with political liberalism.
These associations were in turn due to the common values underlying these orientations: conservatism and religiousness both emphasize the importance of tradition, while liberalism and spirituality both emphasize the importance of equality and social harmony.
In the third study, the researchers recruited 317 participants from the U.S. and asked half to complete a spiritual exercise consisting of a guided meditation video.
Those who watched the video were asked to close their eyes and breathe deeply, imagining themselves in a natural setting and feeling connected to the environment.
They were then asked about their political orientation and to rate how spiritual they felt.
The researchers reported that, compared to those in the control group, participants who meditated felt significantly higher levels of spirituality and expressed more liberal political attitudes, including a reduced support for "tough on crime" policies and a preference for liberal political candidates.
"Spiritual experiences seem to make people feel more of a connection with others," says Hirsh.
"The boundaries we normally maintain between ourselves and the world tend to dissolve during spiritual experiences.
These feelings of self-transcendence make it easier to recognize that we are all part of the same system, promoting an inclusive and egalitarian mindset."
The researchers hope that these findings can not only advance our understanding of spirituality, but also help future political dialogue.
"The conservative part of religious belief has played an important role in holding cultures together and establishing common rules.
The spiritual part, on the other hand, helps cultures renew themselves by adapting to changing circumstances," says Peterson.
"Both right and left are necessary; it's not that either is correct, it's that the dialogue between them produces the best chance we have at getting the balance right. If people could understand that both sides have an important role to play in society, some of the unnecessary tension might be eliminated."

 - In Douglas Adams book the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy we encounter a machine called Deep Thought. It is the most powerful computer ever built. Deep Thought is capable of answering questions concerning life, the Universe, and simply everything. Now scientists are planning to create a similar machine. It is called the Living Earth Simulator (LES).
Can a supercomputer really predict the future? There are researchers who believe it possible to construct a machine that can predict anything from next financial crisis to next social trends.
The Living Earth Simulator Project (LES) is estimated to cost £900 million and its goal is to create a computer system that can simulate everything on this planet.
Using data fed into the internet, trends can be spotted by analyzing information with 'the world's most powerful computers'.
The Living Earth Simulator is a supercomputer that will be able to predict anything that happens on our planet.
"The idea is to gather live information from a huge range of sources and then analyze it using the world's most powerful computers.
Many problems we have today - including social and economic instabilities, wars, disease spreading are related to human behavior, but there is apparently a serious lack of understanding regarding how society and the economy work, said Professor Dirk Helbing, one of the leaders of the project at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
Although the European Commission has also put the Living Earth Simulator at the top of its shortlist for £900m in funding, there are scientists who raise a critical voice pointing out that the project is too ambitious and unrealistic.
    Iain Begg, professor of European Studies at the London School of Economics, told the Sunday Times: "The complexity of the world is simply too great. We cannot even model the weather for more than a few days.
The social domain, people's behaviour, is even harder to analyse, because social trends are not just complex, they also change with time.
We have to be sceptical as to whether even the most powerful computers could cope with it."
The current economic crisis and eurozone meltdown was not foreseen by the financial models which most policy-makers use.
But the Living Earth Simulator Project would pre-empt such a disaster, which is why it has been given support by the European Commission.
Supporters of the supercomputer idea say the need to forecast another worldwide economic crisis is greater than ever.
Steven Bishop, professor of non-linear dynamics at UCL's mathematics department, who is a key figure in the Living Earth Simulator project, said: "The modern banking system may have more disasters waiting to happen but they are buried in complexity, just as happened with the crisis of sub-prime mortgages.
We would hope to find the precursors of instability and disasters and maybe do that in time for politicians to stop them happening.
According to Professor Helbing, the Living Earth Simulator will be able to predict the spread of infectious disease such as Swine Flu, identify methods for tackling climate change and even spot an impending financial crisis.
The Living Earth Simulator may sounds like a machine taken straight from a science fiction book, but researchers involved in the project are convinced it is possible to encapsulate human actions that shape societies and the environmental forces that define the physical world.