Saturday, August 30, 2014

Easy Flows , Uneasy Questions....

There is something called Fluid Intelligence, and then there is something called Crystalline Intelligence.   Read all about it here.

The fluidity is all about our ability to acquire and process information. The crystalline aspect is about our ability to distill from the flow, and store information as knowledge.

A quick observation of the world and society around us, indicates that  we may be folks with almost unlimited capability in fluid intelligence;   it is all about knowing where to connect, how to connect, and how to download.   When it comes to crystallizing  things into absorbed knowledge,  we suffer due to  unavailability of time, which is necessary to learn, understand, analyse, and appropriately store information, deep inside us somewhere.

Having said this, I must then also state that there is Social, there is Media, and there is Social Media.

Presumably, man/woman is a social animal,  and there is a lot of reflection, appreciation of others, giving of time and resources, and  information exchange involved.    Media is all about unilateral  bombardment of information, unconcerned about the value of that information. The fluid intelligence is in spate, cheating us temporarily into believing we are learning.  In actuality, we become part of a herd.

Social media  is a name given to  this flow.

The current obsession of displaying predecided actions/signs to show your support to something,  quote "publicly" unquote,  is a fine example of everything above.

Starting with something as simple  displaying pink bows to show support for Breast Cancer.  Or displaying a certain "status" on your Facebook page to show your support for something.   How many actually go and learn about the 7 warning signs of cancer ?  Or about who should get tested for certain cancer markers ? How many offer to accompany a person with a doubt about cancer, for a checkup ?  And how many, are the tough, firm-shouldered friend, who brings sense to the procedings , when family types collapse all around ?

There are campaigns for things against fairness creams, things supporting adoption, the girl child and so on. 

You end up sharing a picture, or a status  and become one of the thousands supposed to be supporting the cause.  How many actually end up rejecting a dark potential spouse (and blame it on family pressures)?  How many deridingly comment on someone's complexion and looks while some uninformed person giggles and nods ?  How many still regret not having a son?  How many intellectually support adoption ("It's such a good thing to do...." ), while being emotionally mercenary and making insensitive comments about it , to an adopted person in their vicinity?  It is, actually,  a huge nontrivial number.   And all these folks put up righteous statuses and flow with the herds.

The currently mind boggling campaign about Amylotrophic Lateral Sclerosis(ALS) or Lou Gherig's Disease, where  well known people had a bucket of ice water poured over their head, to show their support for it.  It then went viral on social media, with people challenging others to do this and/or donate a hefty sum to the cause. You paid up if you did not want ice water over your head. It even became a thing to do for publicity and never mind if you thought Motor Neurone Disease was something to do with cars, and you couldn't care who Lou Gherig was and why he died. Hollywood did it, so Bollywood followed.  

Fluid intelligence on full flow.  You can tell names of one hundred celebrities who dunked their heads with buckets of ice water, but you never bothered to learn about the signs of ALS.  You display pink bows and crosses on your FB status for Breast Cancer, but you still shy away from accompanying someone to one of the biggest crowded leading Cancer Hospitals in the country, because, deep below you think it is contagious, and you cant bear the sights.  


Somewhere there has to be some thinking. Crystalline intelligence, generating some permanent useful knowledge. 

How prevalent is ALS ? In the world ? In your country ? Is that among , say, the top 5 maladies affecting folks in your country ?  Who is behind these social media campaigns ? Given all the fluid intellgence facilities, links, connections, and networks, has anyone researched  things ?

Turns out that  as per the ALS association Annual report of 2012,   7.71% of their Annual budget went towards ALS research, while 63.63% of their budget went to what are called "Other Program Activities " .  The Tax Return of ALS also reveals, something else. 

Salaries for the leadership of the group:

Jane H. Gilbert – President and CEO – $339,475.00
Daniel M. Reznikov – Chief Financial Officer – $201,260.00
Steve Gibson – Chief Public Policy Officer – $182,862.00
Kimberly Maginnis - Chief of Care Services Officer – $160,646.00
Lance Slaughter - Chief Chapter Relations and Development Officer – $152,692.00
Michelle Keegan – Chief Development Officer – $178,744.00
John Applegate – Association Finance Officer – $118.726.00
David Moses – Director of Planned Giving – $112,509.00
Carrie Munk – Chief Communications and Marketing Officer – $142,875.00
Patrick Wildman – Director of Public Policy – $112,358.00
Kathi Kromer – Director of State Advocacy – $110,661.00

Total administration costs were just under $2 million. “Other salaries and wages” (Part IX line 7) were $3.6 million, with another half million dollars in “pension plans” and “employee benefits.” Expenses for non-employee labor were about $4 million, and “travel expenses” exceeded $1.3 million.

So total costs for labour to run the association was around $12.5 million, from revenues received totaling $24 million.

Over 50% of what the ALS Association receives appears to support salaries of people working for the Association, based on these tax returns.

Draw your own conclusions. 

And then you wonder if pharmaceuticals are behind this Ice Bucket thing to "popularize" the issue.  Some of them appear in the list of Corporate contributers to the ALS association. Sanofis Aventis, Pfizer, Merck, Biogen....

And then you think about the most pressing need in your country at the moment .  

And wonder if a similar campaign can be done for adequate toilets for women in rural areas, maternal health, newborn thyroid screening  to ascertain where supplemental stuff needs to be given to kids, in iodine deprived water areas, like some part of the Gangetic plain. (A subbnormal thyroid leads to later developmental disabilities, affecting a family's future and there is a easy medical solution) . Or possibly, in a country obsessed with mobile phones, a cell phone technology based blood values checker, for pregnant women in rural areas, who do not have easy access to maternal health checkups. 

Every year we hear about Japanese Encephalitis raging in Eastern UP and Bihar/West Bengal, and babies falling prey to it.  One doesnt see a campaign on FB to publicise and work on this, so something may be done for getting the vaccine, with proper storage facilities, and healthcare infrastructure to the needed area.  


Fluid intelligence is not wrong or bad.  One needs connectivity, and practice to do it.  But for someone, who grew up in times of zilch connectivity of the e-type, and tons of connectivity of the teacher, book, laboratory  and reading type, and then thought about it, sometimes by rote and sometimes otherwise,  to learn things over a childhood, it seems,  that today, no one has time for the crystalline variety of intelligence.  Learning, Analysing and coming to your own conclusions, and inspiring others. 

And the Fluid type seems to be an undending flow.

 Now I hear it is about rice.......




  1. This is such a thought provoking write up! This one, especially the ALS part of it needs to go viral. Thank you

  2. Very true. We are at best armchair/mouse activists who support anything that is going viral. Being a non-social media person, it was days before I found out about ice bucket challenges and yes, without adding my mite to the virus, I did read up on ALS :) But who is listening?