The Thin Line Between Abnormality and Normality
Abnormality is simply a context game.
Abnormality is the significant deviation from commonly accepted patterns of behavior, emotion or thought, while normality is the absence of illness and the presence of state of well being otherwise called normalcy. It can be difficult to draw the line between normal and abnormal behaviors, especially in leadership. Abnormality is to normality what opposition is to opportunity.
An airplane pilot knows that an aircraft flies high as a result of the opposing wind that collides against it. And so is abnormality to normalcy. It is as a result of abnormal episodes that urgent provisions are made to avert abnormality and abet normality. Something becomes abnormal when it interferes with the things a person wants to accomplish. For a long time I’ve had this functional definition for abnormality. It is a good and solid definition, except for the fact that the human mind is wired to adapt and it will gradually change its perception of normality.
Our own lives are always normal to us, except where they compare with recent history. Often times however we realize that we inch our way out into someone else’s abnormality and from that realm of mystery create an idea to avert such conditions to normalcy. Story was told of Rodney, who happened to be good with the computer when it first came out, a time where a huge percentage of people were skeptical about its good. Rodney was seen as a no good by his family and fellow students. But little did they know he would make his first million through his internet marketing business, and found a multimillion dollar company using his “skewed” nerd skills. He converted his abnormal situation to a case of normalcy in a context where using internet was abnormal and irresponsible to people. So sometimes, what we label abnormal is just a matter of context, understanding and insight.
Before the Internet was generally accepted, at the time it was first perceived as a war machine, it slightly escaped the arrows of skeptics who were deliberating whether or not it will serve a greater good. Making internet accessible to the general public at this time was a very dangerous gamble but look at where it has brought us today. Skewed and uncommon means will always feel abnormal to the world until someone boldly turns the coin. Our seemingly abnormal ideas and situation only need a fix to turn the structure to value. Abnormality is just a key downwards to normalcy.
Abnormality is simply a context game.
By the way, I rely heavily on prayers for my motivations. For some people that could be abnormal. I remember the other day I watched a documentary on how society “rejects”, people that are mentally challenged, can operate with high level intelligence. In their world, we are “normal morons” unable to understand the “simple logic of life,” while we think they are “psychos”. Truly, only a slim line of perception separates the mentally ill from the mentally able.
I will tell you how this also applies to business.
Success in business is a matter of creativity and innovation. You may not succeed without both in today’s fast changing world. It is definitely the arcanum for success today. These two interrelated matchups are the pillar of every successful business. Often I realize that finding both and creating a niche via an uncommon means is no easy thing to do. To succeed then in business in the new millennium, one must be able to think in the “abnormal” to define the “normal” and bring a far less uncommon context to a commonly interesting reality. You must be able to convert that strange, uncommon idea/activity to meet today’s needs and expectations. It is the reality-principle that propels the world into tomorrow. Man creates the reality-principle, not God. Humans naturally seek what they wish that is conventional but natural history imposes on human beings the necessity of renunciation of commonly accepted forms to accept a freshly beautiful yet imperfect touch of reality.
At your best, make uncommon creativity your drive.
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Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.
- Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
- They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
- The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.
The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?
But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.
What's dead may never die, it seems
The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.
BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.
The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.
As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.
The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.
"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.
An ethical gray matter
Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.
The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.
Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.
Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?
"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."
One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.
The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.
"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.
It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.
Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?
The dilemma is unprecedented.
Setting new boundaries
Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."
She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.
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