Sunday, May 11, 2014

Aleman - Reaction Papers: The Life of Mammals, A Beautiful Mind & Inception (3)

Maikko A. Aleman

The Social Climbers and Food for Thought

The documentaries “The Social Climbers” and “Food for Thought” are the last two episodes of David Attenborough’s The Life of Mammals series. Both episodes feature the monkeys and apes and their similarities to humans. The monkeys’ social relationships and interactions, aside from their anatomical features, are relatable to humans. This is shown in the documentaries in such a way that somewhat portrays the evolution of human society, from the simplest to the more complex social groups. Attenborough also points out in the videos that the sizes of the monkeys’ (and apes’) brains are proportional to their intelligence, inquisitiveness, abilities to learn, and more interestingly, the sizes of their social groups.

The Social Climbers shows how the different species of monkeys survive in the wild by avoiding competition on food among each other. Different species feed and specialize on hunting or gathering different kinds of food so that they can coexist with one another in the same location. An example is that some of the monkeys have sharper teeth so that they can feed on hard-shelled nuts while others eat bugs or just drink honey. The monkeys, though belonging to different species, help one another in avoiding potential predators. They have their special calls and warnings to alert everyone in the area about the upcoming danger.

Food for Thought however focused on how humans evolved through time and eventually became self-sustaining. Humans changed livelihood from hunters and gatherers to herders and farmers. This led us to stay in one place and established villages. Because of this, their population has increased and dominated the other species in the planet. Villages became towns and then cities. Our self-sustenance and abundance of food led us to develop arts and religion and other activities.

The message at the end gives us a fair warning. It also kind of explains why the titles of the last two documentaries of the series are such. We humans are the social climbers who evolved and reached the top and took over the planet. But Food for Thought gave us something serious to consider about. Even the Mayans who have developed the most sophisticated and advanced technologies of their time couldn’t even escape nature and sustain their population.

“Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, perhaps it's time we control the population to allow the survival of the environment.” - David Attenborough


A Beautiful Mind

The film A Beautiful Mind is about a famous mathematician named John Nash. It showcases Nash’s mathematical genius, how he won his Nobel Prize and him overcoming his schizophrenia.

The movie started with Nash as a graduate student in Princeton University. There, he already showed his genius and determination to come up with his own original idea despite the pressure from his adviser and the university to publish a paper as soon as possible. It was also in graduate school that he first exhibited symptoms of his schizophrenia in the form of his imaginary friend, Charles.

A few years later, Nash started working as a professor in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)  and was supposedly recruited by a guy named Parcher to a top-secret project by the United States government which involves him in decoding “secret codes and messages” from the Soviet Union spies.  This part was the turning point of his life. His wife Alicia, whom he met at MIT, brought him to the doctors. There it was confirmed that Nash had schizophrenia.

To be honest, it was not until the later part of the movie that I had a hint that Nash had a mental illness. The scenes made it believable that to the viewers (or at least me) that Charles, Parcher, Marcee (Charles’ supposed niece), and Nash’s “secret work” were all real and not just a product of his imagination. But what I really admired about the movie is its story, the lessons and the messages that it brings to the audience. Nash, despite all his problems, has his family and his friends to support him. He, in the later part, stayed in control and kept his self to the positive side of life.

The movie may not just be about being a genius or a view in the mind of a person with schizophrenia. It is also about how one should focus in order to achieve the things that they want in life. Nash dreamt to be one of the best and despite all the challenges he went through, he really did become one the best.


A Reaction Paper on the movie Inception

The movie Inception directed by Christopher Nolan concentrates on the concept of dreams and how other people steal information from you through your subconscious mind.

The story centers on Dom Cobb who is an expert thief who, instead of breaking into someone else’s home, gets the information he needs through someone else’s mind through dreaming. Cobb then receives a job request that would then change the course of his life and can make him go back to his children. Instead of stealing information, he is requested to implant information in one’s mind and the process of ‘inception’ would then make the information grow to become a thought in the person’s mind.

It is shown in the movie that one can access any information you know subconsciously but may or may not be one that you are aware of. I think this concept is quite true since there are a lot of things that our subconscious mind can learn or perceive. An obvious example would be the thing that you call muscle memory. Your conscious mind might be at work but things that you are already accustomed, such as for example swinging a tennis racket during a game, is done subconsciously.

Another thought shown in the movie is the idea of inception. You plant a ‘seed’ of information deep inside your subconscious mind that in the end, your mind would perceive it as a true information and part of your memory.
The concept of dreaming and the things your dream of are already interesting enough that anybody watching inception would be absorbed in the movie. I myself have experienced sleep paralysis and lucid dreaming and even the phenomenon of a dream within a dream. It is nice that man’s curiosity in dreams and the human brain is portrayed in a science fiction movie and is, for me, done wonderfully. 

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