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July 28, 2002

Capsule Review

Steven Johnson relates, around page 141 of Emergence, his own exposure to bio-feedback training, where he learns that his adrenaline levels hover at the middle range unless he makes a joke, when they spike: "But I'd learned something nonetheless: that without consciously realizing it, I'd already established a simple feedback circuit for myself years ago, when my body had learned that it could give itself a targeted adrenaline rush by making a passing joke in conversion."

Curiously enough, this follows the only joke I've encountered so far, on page 140: "Without that negative feedback pulling our circadian rhythms back into sync, we'd find ourselves sleeping through the day for two weeks out of every month. In other words, without that feedback mechanism, it would be as though the entire human race were permanently trapped in sophomore year of college."

Relax, the rest of the book is much better than that. I've now reached page 162, and I know I'll finish the book. He talks about a lot of stuff I already knew, but I was engrossed by his theory that Clinton's troubles with Monica Lewinsky might never have happened were it not for an attempt to garner affiliates by CNN several years before. I won't go into it, read the book to find out. It's a great anecdote, whether it accurately reflects the causes, and gives a neat illustration of feedback cycles.

Now I've got to go tell some jokes while hooked up to a biofeedback rig...

Posted by dpwakefield at July 28, 2002 06:21 PM