Alienation or connection?

Thanks to Tony Goodson for spotting this in The Observer:

When one of Skinner’s rats pressed a lever, it was given a food pellet. By experiment Skinner then established that if a pellet was delivered only on the 10th press of the lever, the rat would quickly learn to press the lever 10 times. If, however, a random element was introduced to the lever-pressing, whereby a pellet was still introduced on average one in 10 times, but sometimes delivered twice or three times in a row and sometimes not for 20 or more presses, the rat apparently became obsessed with the lever-operation itself.

I enjoyed the article, a good indictment of our government’s flirtation with the gambling industry.

It also connects with my own sense of melancholy about living in London at the moment. I’ve been feeling this for some time, and it’s been accentuated since my return from my Christmas holiday. I had a good chat with Rob Paterson this morning, who said that at the time of the Black Death, a lot of people were living it up. In England, I find two prominent strands in the media: a clear awareness of the massive challenge of climate change and a parallel crazed obsession with property speculation. The government talks seriously about climate change, and excitedly about the benefits of gambling. I find this bizarre. I tried to think of a word to describe how I feel about the tendency to see soaring house prices as a good thing. The word is: alienated.

And when I talk to my circle of friends, many found via blogging, I find many of us share this sense of alienation… and yet also in sharing that fear, a sense of connection that we also feel and value.

I hope we find a way to pull together and not apart when trying to find a way to deal with the challenges we face this year.

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