Archive for the ‘Q is for Qualia’ Category

Compassion Economics

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Photo via compassionineconomics.org

On April 9-11, 2010 in Kongresshaus, Zurich Switzerland, there will be a dialogue between economics, neuroscience and contemplative sciences. The conference, Compassion Economics, hosted by Mind & LIfe International, will feature speakers such as The XIV Dalai Lama, the leader of Tibetan Buddhism; Lord Richard Layard, PhD, Professor of  Economics at the London School of Economics; Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD, founder of Upaya Zen Center, and William Drayton, CEO, Ashoka Foundation. The University of Zurich, regarded as a place of education and research, is the event’s co-sponsor.

We Feel Fine

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Congratulations to Sep Kamvar and Jonathan Harris on the launch of the book, We Feel Fine: An Almanac of Human Emotion, published by Scribner.

Q is for Qualia

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

Typically, the subject of qualia is a question for philosophers as it’s central to understanding the nature of consciousness, but today this idea is being explored by medicine, art and marketers alike. Although an obtuse concept, qualia is fundamental to the way we perceive the world, for qualia is a term that describes the “qualities” of one’s experiences, qualities such as happiness, color and beauty. The problem with qualia is that every experience is not only different, but each person’s experience is subjective, so the qualities that shape the moments in our life, like feeling your toes twitter in the sand, can never be truly reproduced, nor recreated by another. But now that Sony has a brand called Qualia, and advertising campaigns from Coca~Cola are joined by the trend of books that promote the benefits of happiness, not only is the concept of qualia becoming embedded in the global cultural psyche, but is currently transforming our perception of health now that mind-body medicine has matured. Dubbed “The Science of Qualities” by biologist Brian Goodwin, the overall goal, with the aid of neuroimaging, is to quantify the effect of qualia on health to prove that health or well-being can no longer be measured solely by physicalities such as temperature, X-Ray or blood work, but must also be based on the quality of feeling one experiences. The power of this introspective, ineffable and ephemeral phenomenon has also attracted individuals such as Lars Spuybroek, whose D-Tower structure, located in the Dutch city of Doetinchem, changes color to reflect the emotional status of its inhabitants, as well as Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar in their project, We Feel Fine, which uses a particle system of small dots to represent human emotions mapped on a global scale. The desire to analyze the world of feeling is also the basis of the theory Social Intelligence, which suggests that our reactions to others, and theirs to ours, has a biological impact, sending out hormones that regulate everything from our hearts to our immune system, making good relationships act like vitamins and bad relationships sting like poison. As society begins to understand the important role that qualia has on our lives, it’s no doubt that we are reaching further into the mind of Goethe as, together, we rediscover that the spectrum of feeling colors our world.