This was an interesting piece in the New York Times a while back on why Psychiatrists cannot  identify serial killers and mass murderers.

Why Can't Doctors Identify Killers?

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The weird thing is that for some people it looks obvious in retrospect. However - the Lone Wolf is always a nearly impossible task. When it comes to terrorists, the Lone Wolf is statistically possible to localize probabilistically as "becoming likely for an attack". With the purely mental cases it is near impossible for the sleeper to be seen.

any insights?

I did a little research recently on "freewill". (I know this is starting off poorly, give me a sec) What I found was a paper by Benjamin Libet, "Unconscious cerebral initiative and the role of conscious will in voluntary action"

In a nutshell what it says is that any "voluntary" movement or action is preceded by precedent events that occur a measurable amount of time (550 ms) before the decision or choice to make said movement is consciously made.

This paper was aimed at showing that in fact no choice is made, the "choice" is merely the result of a causal chain, some of which we are unaware of. Obviously supporting the deterministic view.

What is of interest here is that Libet also found is that not every "precedent" event resulted in "voluntary" movement. So it seems there is room there for a veto (re-introducing freewill as a choice to break that causal chain and not move or not act).

Now I think;

If our ability to abstain (by breaking the causal chain) is this basic or fundamental, then an individuals responsibility is greatly increased. Even in areas of what we call "Mental Health".

This would also indicate that we are wired to receive "impulses" from our external environment, and equipped to somehow process that information in time to deny the actions that are contrary to our wishes. So barring any discovery that indicates a reason for the lack or lessening of this ability (other than disuse), our "state of mind" may just be the result of how we choose to perceive those impulses. Placing the responsibility of our own mental health squarely on our own shoulders.

What this also says is that the ability to spot the sleeper would involve a similar perception before the "signs" could even be seen as signs, let alone have an understanding of them.


What this also says is that the ability to spot the sleeper would involve a similar perception before the "signs" could even be seen as signs, let alone have an understanding of them.


do you mean analyzing the sleeper or analyze the society for the stimulus charactristics? The second is being done. The first would be Science misused as invasive to everyone. We all have to be scanned? How do you find the sleeper to scan?

The external signs and stimuli seem to have been isolated out already (to some degree). (Military research hot topic)

Also - Free Will seems programmable (the subconscious hard wiring) via biofeedback etc. But some wiring is very fixed via our genes or other. We can;t change our selection of eye color any more than some behaviors (mental illness). Also not all mental states are reversible. If some get switched they get stuck.. you're hosed. It takes drugs etc. to jar them loose sometimes.

??  maybe I have missed you point?


If I was a determinist, why argue with people about free will.. are determinists trying to change others' minds which is inherently determined by the determinists own working hypothesis. That is a side note..  it has just always confused me...


"do you mean analyzing the sleeper or analyze the society for the stimulus charactristics?"

We receive impulses from our environment, we we process them (filter through perceptions) and either veto the impulse, or act on it. If we stop the impulse (usually because we don't see a personal benefit), then we are not supporting that impulse within our environment (society). As more and more individuals stop supporting an impulse, it's influence within society is reduced and may eventually go away. 

What we find around us is an amalgamation of all the participants within the society, the things that are more common are more prevalently represented within society and have the strongest influence (impulses).

so the lone wolf sleeper you describe, has picked his way through the same society, but instead of ending up somewhere around the norm, has had a perception sufficiently different that it allowed for the choice of this life path.

There is no way to tell exactly how any individual perceives those impulses. Look how much trouble we have trying to understand our own. Isn't that what were all here trying to do?

It is the lone wolf sleepers existence within our society that tells us there is a problem. It tells us we have created a society where the probability is high enough to occur, and the frequency of occurrences would be the yardstick by which to measure if things were "better" or "worse".

As troubling as these lone wolf sleepers are, our focus should be at reducing the frequency, not what to do with them once they are here.

"But some wiring is very fixed via our genes or other."

We say things like that because every time we look we see the same thing. So we call it fixed, or stable, or fact, or even natural law, but in truth all we know for sure is that it looks the same every time we look. We don't even have a useful understanding of how our looking may influence (even though our science tells us somehow it matters). We still have so many variables to deal with, I think we tend to rush acceptance in an effort to get something off our plate. It does not take very many almost rights to paint the wrong picture.

"It takes drugs etc. to jar them loose sometimes."

There is a description of consciousness out there that says that consciousness is the culmination of the current chemical state of our brain. It's important to remember that the electrical activity we see in the brain are from active neurons, but the information that passes from one neuron to another is encoded in chemical concoction that traverses the space between synapses. So any state of mind is chemically induced in the first place. So how we perceive stimuli determines it's chemical equivalent. Change perception. change the chemical makeup. Change the chemical makeup, change the perception.

Understanding that such things can be done is different than understanding how to do it, let alone if it should be done in the first place.

I keep hearing my fathers voice (figuratively) "If you don't understand what it is, don't mess with it." In essence what he was saying (my interpretation)  If I can't fix it I shouldn't break it.

All the trouble, the problems, the conflict, the lone wolf sleepers all say we broke it.

aside: I've had the same thoughts about determinism. My conclusion so far is that determinism is the result of an act of free will. <grin>

I think our (my) issue with this conversation is the mechanistic model you started with in your lead paper. There is a lot of newer research and controversy about the meaning of these results and actually the whole approach to treating the brain as switches. If you start with a deterministic structure (switches) you will get a deterministic outcome. If ok with you, I'd like to start out with some new (as recent as 2014) research which talks about the quantum structures in the brain which are not deterministic.


it should all be in a new thread I can start (might do so anyway). After all, the brain is not just a bunch of classical chemical switches. That is too naive a model.



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