Meewella | Fragments

The Life of P

Software and Hard Shocks

Some page changes over here in the Fragments section. You’ll find a new Software page in the sidebar, while the now defunct Visitor Map has been retired. Rather than top 10 lists or a huge list of “recommended” software, this page simply highlights the software I currently use. There’s not much higher recommendation I can give than that. Broadly it means there’s just one recommendation in any category. I’ll endeavour to expand / keep it up-to-date as my tastes change with new releases.

A controversial French documentary featured a fake game show in which unknowing “contestants” were asked to electrocute another “contestant” when he answered questions incorrectly (an actor in another room with a camera). When asked to apply higher and higher voltages, they because uncomfortable but, egged on by the audience and host, despite the actor’s screams and protests, 80% continued to the very end. The goal was apparently to show how ordinary people can be coerced into participating in torture, although some have suggested the participants may be seriously affected by their own induced actions.

In analysing the results of this experiment one psychologist suggested that we are trained from a young age that we must follow instructions which predisposes us to follow orders without questioning even when older. Children should instead by told why they ought to do what they are being asked. I have always promoted this approach with children, although there are exceptions (essentially when not immediately following an instruction could result in harm). Not only does explaining the reason for an instruction increase the likelihood of willing compliance, but if you cannot explain it without falling back on an axiomatic rule, it’s just possible that you might be the one being unreasonable.

Various links:

  • comparing URL shortening services
  • Popular Science magazine has put up a searchable archive of its entire 137-year back-catalogue
  • In Lessons of a $618,616 Death, a widow examines the cost of keeping a single man alive in his final years
  • The Evolutionary Reason for Depression examines the increased mental acuity and problem solving skills that such a state can produce; I have read similar studies suggesting many people voluntarily trigger such a state when useful to deal with an issue, which does sound familiar
  • I’ve already written to mine, but now asking your MP to stop the Digital Economy Bill being rushed through without debate is easy thanks to the Open Rights Group and 38 Degrees — the problems with this flawed legislation (being lobbied for primarily by the BPI and FAST) are too many to summarise here but do read into how it may affect free use of the internet, particularly as regards website notifications and disconnections


  1. That experiment was first done by Milgram in the 60s soon after the trials of Nazi war criminals to see whether they actually wanted to commit the crimes they did or whether they were just following orders from a higher authority.

    Once again something I actually know about lol. Keep it up! :p

  2. Good point, I probably should have referred to that! I found it particularly interesting that the modern equivalent was seen to be reality TV rather than the teacher/learner “memory study” of Milgram’s experiment.

    The idea of the game show host as the unquestionable authority figure, and the morally subversive influence of an audience (albeit a visible one) mirror Big Brother in particular rather well.

  3. I was going to say about the Milgram experiment, too, but then J beat me to it.

    And no, I didn’t learn about that from an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, guest-starring Robin Williams. I have no idea what you’re talking about. (But it is a very good episode, and you should definitely watch it. And stuff.)

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"Civilization now depends on self-deception. Perhaps it always has."

(CC) BY-NC 2004-2024 Priyan Meewella

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