Friday, 28 March 2008

Gom Jabbar

Frank Herbert's Dune is one my favourite books. There is this famous scene in the beginning of the book where the young Paul Atreides was tested for his humanity; a test between mental willpower and physical instinct. He was faced with illusion of extreme pain, but if he withdraw from the pain he would face death. To prevent death, he had to overcome his instinct with his willpower. This scene is also where the famous 'Litany against Fear' is first quoted in the book.

When I first read this, I was immediately drawn to it. After subsequent readings when I was a bit older, I realised that I was drawn to it largely because of the metaphoric appeal of the whole mental willpower over physical instinct concept; objectivity over bias (illusion), rationality over superstition and so on.

Can't find the whole passage of the book online, but there is a video of it from the mini-series adaptation (which of course doesn't really capture the essense of the book):



And today, I watched this TED. Oh boy, didn't know that it can be taken literally:



Now they just have to make a real Gom Jabbar...

2 comments:

Eunice said...

Hello dear
I believe your dreams will take more time. First of all, the brain is very plastic and can change quickly and is different from person to person, so, there would be a need for on-the-spot imaging. However, the technology of imaging at such a high resolution (much higher than in the video) is required for people to 'see' their brain responding when they are doing things (in addition to the random background noise that is always present). There is a study to model the brain: http://www.technologyreview.com/Biotech/19767/

It took 15 years, and although we are advancing, doing it isn't easy. Admittedly, it IS possible to counter the effect of chronic neuropathic pain (which is partly due to network changes and Nav1.3 Na channels upregulation) by focusing and strengthening alternative pathway, but the best way is still caressing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcutaneous_Electrical_Nerve_Stimulator
TENS works on the same principle.
So, give yourself a nice massage each time you are in pain, and it will make you feel better with endogenous opiods :D

eunice said...

Also, a nearer technology, http://www.newscientist.com/channel/being-human/dn13493-virtual-massage-can-relieve-amputees-phantom-limb-pain.html