Gamification: Improving the Workplace by Having Fun

The workplace is an ever-changing environment. It is constantly evolving based on new technology, new findings, and new ethical pathways. One way the workplace continues evolving is with the new use of gamification. And, no I don’t mean the use of gamma rays inside an office. We are talking about games. Yes, you heard it correctly–normal video games that all teenagers play are being used to enhance the workplace!

Let’s first delve into what gamification is. Gamification is the use of game elements inside non-game settings or platforms. For example, playing games at work. Gamification involves gaming with a different purpose than recreation, somewhere where a game is not typically played. This can mean either to use more traditional games, like scavenger hunts, or use new technology like VR. The nature of playing games in your office may seem unrealistic, but companies have already started doing it. Google has implemented a travel expense game which focuses on the employees who travel a lot. The game helps them keep track of their travel expenses every time they travel, while also having fun. A new study by four BYU information systems professors found newly-formed work teams experienced a 20 percent increase in productivity on subsequent tasks after playing video games together for just 45 minutes. These 45 minutes could be the time offices implement as their gamification time. Another place where gamification is really making a difference is in school education. Gamification in schools and offices have almost the same objective, except in schools, the games are targeted at a younger audience.

Incorporating games into offices is not an easy task. A lot of issues arise, like what if people get too competitive or what if they get distracted? There have to be games which create a balance of recreation and education. The purpose of these games is to basically educate the workers. According to an article by author Dave Nevogt,

One of the biggest problems with gamification is that it incentivizes winning over other objectives… Working in a corporate environment has traditionally been a relationship of exchanging time and effort for money — and this naturally leads to a lack of motivation in the long term, especially for millennials who want to be engaged in meaningful work.

These issues have to be prioritized if gamification in the workplace can be a realistic market.

NASA Goddard Engineer Tom Grubb uses VR/AR

As you probably already know, new consoles and games are always coming out, like the Xbox and PlayStation. However, there is a much deeper future than just the normal consoles. That future is the world of VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality). VR is already making a strong push into the gaming industry, especially with new headsets like Sony’s and Oculus’. VR is groundbreaking, but AR is where things get especially exciting. AR is a different type of interactive experience than VR. AR takes computerized graphics and places them in the real environment. One of the first games we saw including AR was Pokemon GO, which displayed an image of different Pokemon fighting in the environment through your device. Another example of AR we don’t notice everyday is in football. All the yellow lines and scoreboards on the field are all possible with AR. Now, you may be wondering what all of this has to do with an office. But, these new tech games are the ones that are going to be used in the workplace. New technologies have a tendency of providing people with fun through novelty, especially young adults just getting started in their adult lives. More excitement in a game makes for a more fun experience, which makes for a more productive game and person. The ultimate goal is to help employees work harder by having fun.

As you can see, games can be used for other purposes than just for teenagers playing around. Games give a sense of entertainment and recreation, which helps a person become more engaged. This concept, which has been used for generations, is now just being used with more technology. If gamification in the workplace can be implemented in all offices, every employee can work and have fun!

Six Inch Screen With Potential to Save Billions

 

Nowadays, technological screens affect more lives than ever before, both physically and mentally. Some of these effects are lifelong, and cause many struggles. The two main reasons for these struggles are the type of screen, as well as the amount of time spent staring at the screen. At the present time, screens are a large part of kids’ daily routine. The effect a six-inch screen can leave on a person is astonishing.

According to an article written by the Mayo Clinic in 2018, some of the physical effects of a screen are,

Sore, tired, burning or itching eyes, watery or dry eyes, blurred or double vision, sore neck, shoulders or back, increased sensitivity to light…

Most of the negative and positive effects of a screen are related to eyes, but those related to other body parts are harmful as well. Screens not only harm one’s physical state, but their mental state as well. According to a study performed by Gaya Dowling, PhD, on 11,000 nine and ten-year olds,

MRI scans found significant differences in the brains of some children who reported using smartphones, tablets, and video games more than seven hours a day. Children who reported more than two hours a day of screen time got lower scores on thinking and language tests.

This statement shows that children who use electronics from a young age are holding themselves back from optimal performance. The effects of a screen are harmful in countless ways.

Although the use of screens is growing by the second, there is a way to reduce the number of children harmed. The solution is developing an OLED screen. When I say OLED, I do not mean the basic one now being used in iPhones. When I say OLED, I mean using the basics of it and pairing it with psychological software, requiring the children a certain amount of time on educational resources after the software notices at child has been using the screen for a while. Some of the psychological sources required may be reading, solving puzzles, brainstorming, etc. The screen will also scan the user’s eyes to look for redness, twitching, watery or dry eyes, etc. If one of these effects are shown, the screen will display a warning to step away from a screen for a while. Right now, billions of people use a screen and are harmed. With this new OLED screen, the unaware billions could be saved.

Furthermore, upgraded OLED screens could greatly reduce the amount of people affected by a screen. Nowadays, most people in this highly populated world have a phone– nearly 4.68 billion according to the Statista Research Department. Most of these people probably use their phones for more than two hours, meaning they are prone to one of the effects of a screen. If even a hundredth of these users switch to the upgraded OLED screen, that’s nearly 50 million people saved. Who knows how many of those are children.

As one can see, the world needs an effective solution. The screen could monitor the time, protect the eyes, and warn the user. That covers three main categories of harm concerning screens. OLED screens are also proven to be kinder to eyes. This solution will help all ages, both mentally and physically. The upgraded OLED screens are, without a doubt, the way to go.

Brain Waves and the Future of Stress

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Johnny wakes up at 8:30 A.M.– ten minutes until his bus arrives. Oh shoot! He forgot to set his alarm last night. He quickly jumps out of his bed and instead of landing with his feet, his face becomes his landing. Great, now he needs a band-aid. He rushes into the bathroom and realizes he’s out of toothpaste. Great, now his breath will stink the rest of the day. He needs to use the toilet and then realizes he’s out of toilet paper. He then hears the bus arriving and leaving without him. Grrrrrrrr!!! 

This is stress, or at least, one of the most common forms. 

Stress is a condition proven to be very dangerous when not treated. It affects millions of people all over the world, ranging from teenagers to seniors. Stress causes many problems for these individuals, both in the physical and psychological aspects of their body. Yoga, meditation, exercise, etc. are all ways to relieve stress, but they have not been proven to work for all individuals. Also, some people don’t have enough time for these activities. However, there might be a more effective approach to this problem.

There are three different types of stress: acute, episodic, and chronic.

 

Acute Stress

Johnny is sitting in his chair, praying that the teacher does not call on him for presentations. He knows he didn’t practice enough and is frantically scrolling through his notes, jotting down as many points as he can in his mind.

“Hmmm, let us see who shall go next, “ calls out the teacher. “Johnny, why don’t you go up there.”

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anxiety.gifOh no! His worst nightmare is coming true. He slowly gets up out of his seat and walks to the podium as if it were a slow-motion movie. His heart is beating and he is thinking of all the possible scenarios of what he should say once he starts his presentation. He stands there, just wishing he could’ve had another day to prepare, despite knowing this is the same thing he would be thinking the next day. 

This well known experience is referred to as acute stress.

The one type of stress we all experience in our bodies at one time or another is acute stress. Acute stress is the short term stress which is experienced before, during or after a stressful or pressure inducing moment. For example, let’s say you are waiting in line to ride a very dangerous roller coaster. Your heart is beating much faster and you are scared and nervous. This is acute stress you are experiencing. However, after the roller coaster ride has ended, your body returns to relative homeostasis. Acute stress can be thrilling and exciting sometimes, unlike the other types of stress we will be going over. 

The effects of acute stress aren’t usually life threatening, as acute stress is only short-term stress. However, some instances of acute stress can be worse depending on the person and the experience. It is not uncommon during extremely heightened periods of acute stress (very rare for most people) to experience emotional distress, muscular problems such as back and jaw pain, and/or stomach, gut, and bowel problems like heartburn, diarrhea, and constipation. You can also get problems like rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, dizziness, migraine headaches, and cold hands or feet. Keep in mind that thee extreme side effects are exactly that: the extremes. Acute stress isn’t very dangerous as it is very treatable and the more threatening effects are relatively rare. 

 

Episodic Stress

Johnny has now learned over the years that he is pretty good at giving presentations. But he is still worried every time he has to give a presentation. He is now also worried every time before a basketball game or every time he is taking a test at school. The worry and associated stress is sometimes so bad that he has this experience even when choosing what clothes to wear. Johnny doesn’t want to be like this, but he can’t help it. He always worries every day about every little thing. 

This is episodic stress. 

Episodic stress happens when a person is experiencing lots of acute stress every day. They overwhelm themselves with endless tasks and are always busy as a result of these tasks. Everything this type of person does tends to be executed in a nervous or busy manner. These people are always in a rush, which takes a toll on their minds and bodies. The other common example related to episodic stress is people who worry every day. These “worry warts,” as they’re often called, are people like Johnny who seem to worry about every task they do.

The effects of episodic stress are a little more serious than the side effects of acute stress. Some of the physical issues are persistent tension headaches, migraines, hypertension, chest pain and heart disease. The reason why episodic stress is more dangerous than acute stress is that it can take many months to treat episodic stress, unlike acute stress which can usually be resolved after only a few moments. Behavioral and emotional concerns also rise from episodic stress, such as blaming problems on other people. Those who have episodic stress also don’t like to take blame for their own problems, which can annoy others interacting with them.

 

 

Chronic Stress

Johnny is now a lot lot older. He has completed college and is now in the real world with a job, a house, and a family. His worrying has gotten a little better, but it is still there lurking in his shadow. Even though his episodic stress has gotten better, he is piled high everyday with his work, bills, kids etc. This has given him problems like eating disorders, lack of social activity, and even depression. This is the worst experience of stress Johnny has ever had, and it has become a part of his daily life.

This is chronic stress. 

Chronic stress is the worst out of all these types. This is the long-term stress which wreaks havoc on your body day in and day out. Chronic stress is usually originally caused by a major traumatic event in life. However, it can also be caused from a job overload, an unhealthy marriage or the threat of entering poverty. The worst part about chronic stress is that it stays in the person’s body and becomes a part of them to the extent that people don’t even recognize they are experiencing stress.

Chronic stress, as you probably guessed, also has the most dangerous effects out of all types of stress. The reason why it’s so bad is because it can kill you! Issues like suicide, violence, heart attack, stroke, and sometimes even cancer, rise from chronic stress. What’s even worse is that chronic stress is also the hardest to treat, as this form of stress becomes a virtually integral and familiar part of the person over time. Chronic stress wears the body down so much that hundreds of thousands of people choose suicide as a final resort to ending their stress.

So, what are we supposed to do about all the stress in the world? We cannot just let more people resort to suicide because of stress. Is stress simply unavoidable on the whole? According to recent research, the manipulation of our brain waves may hold the key to freeing ourselves of stress. 

 

 

Manipulating Brain Waves

Brain waves aren’t something normally heard in the same sentence as a solution to  stress, especially with a non-scientist. However, the relation between brain waves and stress is so great that it presents a viable method of relieving stress in both the short and long-term. There are four overarching types of brain waves: alpha, beta, delta, and theta. While each of these natural frequencies of the brain play a part in relieving or intensifying stress, we are going to talk about more specific types of waves: sound frequencies. Each organ in the body can be correlated to a specific frequency by which it functions. Using all of these frequencies, or tones, we can make a reference pitch for the whole body: A=432hz. All of this refers to a concept called quantum reflex analysis(QRA) which relieves stressors in the body by playing specific sounds needed to relieve a particular type of stress. There are QRA sessions available to help individuals deal with stress, but they are expensive and infrequently utilized. However, technology is improving everyday, broadening the availability of these sessions. 

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Quintephone_brainwave_regen_poster_colour.jpgThese waves can be transmitted into the body in multiple different ways. One way is by using a simple speaker to emit a constant sound frequency at 432hz, the reference pitch for the body’s functioning frequency taken as a composite of each organ’s frequency. Another way is by using a concept called bone conduction, which involves sound waves being transmitted through the skeletal tissue of different parts of the body, directly to the brain. This can take the form of a patch being applied on the arm, which will give the same experience as hearing a sound without actually hearing the sounds with your ears. These solutions allow the person to experience a QRA session without ever leaving the comfort of their home.

QRA can help society in numerous ways. One of the biggest ways is the work force. Stress is a major issue in the workplace, and studies show that stress affecting the work of employees is extremely commonplace. Businesses and the economy, in turn, are hurt from the poor work. Stress is a major factor for why employees exhibit poor working habits. And from this poor work, the employee can get fired, resulting in even more stress. It all equates to an endless cycle of stress, however, by using sound frequencies, the cycle can get cut off. Teenagers in schools can also benefit from this solution, as they are also under extreme amounts of stress. College admissions, exams, and “fitting in” all put stress on these students, causing them to show a lack of effort in their school work. Crimes can also be lowered from the reduction of stress in society. Most of the people who commit crimes are in poverty, which means they are under stress to get more money, so they turn to criminal activities. The society can be benefited in numerous ways with the reduction of stress all from sounds easily transmitted to the body.

Stress, as shown, is a widely known psychological and physical problem for all types of individuals. The most dangerous part of stress is that it can be a downward spiraling cycle in your daily life if it is not treated properly. Using brain waves to relieve stress can be very efficient as there are multiple ways to implement them, one of the most effective, easiest and cheapest being sounds heard by the ear of the individual.  

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While scrolling through the Internet, looking to find ways to relieve stress, Johnny finds this wonderful article you are reading on QRA sessions. He decides to give one a try to help relieve his stress. Johnny goes into the session and comes out as a different man. A better man. A more relieved man. He keeps going to the sessions and it has become very helpful to him in his work, family and physical life. Soon, Johnny will be able to experience a QRA session without ever leaving his home.

Minuscule Insect Solves a Global Crisis

As of right now, the world is home to 6,300 million metric tonnes of a material which is recyclable but takes up to 1000 years to decompose. If you hadn’t guessed, the material is plastic. Plastic is filling the world’s landfills at an exponential rate. However, there is a phenomenal creature that can eradicate the threat of plastic landfills: the Wax Worm Caterpillar. These caterpillars have the capability to eat through polystyrene plastic. Wax Worm Caterpillars could very well be the future of decomposing waste.

There is a fairly simple explanation to how Wax Worm Caterpillars can eat away at this world crisis. The normal diet for these caterpillars is wax from beehives. There is one characteristic in common between the wax from beehives and plastic. Both of these “foods” are made up of carbon-carbon bonds. In other words, because the caterpillars can eat wax, they also have the ability to digest plastic as well. Although plastic is far from organic, the carbon-carbon bonds allow the caterpillars to digest it. The caterpillars  not only consume the material, but the worms actually transform polyethylene into ethylene glycol. The substance, ethylene glycol, involves oxidative metabolism, which means it uses aerobic cellular respiration to energize the organism. As one can see, humans are not the only beneficiaries from wax worms eating plastic, but the caterpillars benefit as well.

The crisis of plastic waste is not domestic, it’s global, meaning all parts of the world are affected by this. As stated before, nearly 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic are in landfills, oceans, roads, etc. It is said that each caterpillar can only eat 2.2 milligrams of plastic each day, but there is a solution to this. We can modify the brains of caterpillars to be able to consume 5 grams of plastic a day by adding a chip that constantly releases ghrelin(a chemical which makes an organism hungry) and a larger stomach. If each plastic bag weighs 4.5 grams, each caterpillar can consume one plastic bag a day. Based off of the current statistics, it would take nearly 7 years for 100 worms to eat away at half of the world’s current plastic waste. This would mean the earth’s oceans could be much cleaner, as well as the landfills being many times smaller. Therefore, the modified wax worm caterpillars may have the potential to eradicate one of the global struggles.

The idea of a minuscule insect eating away at one of the World’s largest struggles looks to be a fantasy, but it has been proven true. The theory of caterpillars consuming plastic was proven in the creation of the theory. A beekeeper, Federica Bertocchini, thinks of these caterpillars as pests, as they eat away at the wax of beehives. Since these caterpillars were pests, she collected them and threw them in the trash can. The next morning, when the beekeeper went to throw out more garbage, she noticed caterpillar-sized holes in her garbage can. She looked inside, and the theory came to fruition: the caterpillars were gone. She then wanted to prove caterpillars could turn the plastic into energy, so she mashed up the wax worms from her yard into a paste. She then spread that paste over some more plastic bags. Once again, the plastic dissolved away. This proved the theory that both humans and wax worms could benefit from the consumption of plastic. This is one of the many accidental, but glorious discoveries of the 21st century.

As one can see, wax worm caterpillars are a realistic and efficient solution to a crisis which has already had harmful effects to the environment. wax worms have proven they are capable of continuing their normal routine with plastic in their diet. Wax worms have been tested on multiple occasions, and all reports came back with the one statement: wax worms are capable of performing aerobic cellular respiration with plastic as the energy source. The world needs an efficient and proactive solution; well they sure got one. Wax worm Caterpillars are the future of environmental protection.

Quantum Entanglement and Teleportation

Teleportation! You’ve seen it in the movies and the books. It seems supernatural, almost a myth, maybe. But, this teleportation idea doesn’t seem that unbelievable anymore. A concept called quantum entanglement is directly related to teleportation.  Quantum entanglement, simply put, is like a connection between two particles far away from each other. Though it is not teleportation, we can use this idea for teleportation in the future, solving many of our world’s problems.

Quantum entanglement first requires a connection between two particles. This means when one particle is being conversed about/used, the second particle must be directly influenced in precisely the same way, as they are entangled with one another. This gives these particles the connection we are talking about. Let us say that we turn one particle 180 degrees clockwise. Another particle, which is quantum entangled with the first particle will also turn 180 degrees clockwise. Pretty freaky, right? Even when two entangled particles are separated by long distances, they are still entangled, letting them “communicate” across fairly long distances, maybe even infinite. To clarify, we do not know yet how far quantum entanglement can occur. It can be across a stretch of light years, galaxies even, as we haven’t found any limit to this idea.

Quantum entanglement can easily solve many of the worlds problems. Most importantly, quantum entanglement can help us discover teleportation. With teleportation, we can solve problems of insufficient medical supplies, slow emergency vehicles, insufficient clean water, and even poverty, to name a few. For insufficient clean water, we can send these countries water from countries which have sufficient water, such as the U.S. and England. The U.S. can even ship medical supplies to third-world countries. This quantum entanglement can also help our expansion in space. We can send fresh food to astronauts, which can slow the deterioration cycle of being in space. Lots of problems can be solved using teleportation coming from quantum entanglement, but there is still a ways to go before this happens.

Though we may not be too far in the art of teleportation, scientists across the world have made many recent developments in quantum entanglement. According to a recent study,

In 2016 physicists Ryo Okamoto and Shigeki Takeuchi of Kyoto University verified Aharonov and Vaidman’s predictions experimentally using a light-carrying circuit in which the shutter photon is created using a quantum router, a device that lets one photon control the route taken by another.

Another instance is where a group of Chinese scientists packed 18 qubits—the most basic units of quantum computing—into just six weirdly connected photons using quantum entanglement.

The most thrilling situation, however, is where another group of Chinese scientists broke a record by sending a packet of information from Tibet to a satellite in orbit, up to 870 miles (1,400 kilometers) above the Earth’s surface, using quantum entanglement. These discoveries show much promise, but there are still some unanswered questions surrounding them.

The problem with these experiments is we don’t know if it is the same photon on the other side. If you teleport an object, there is doubt whether it is the same object after being teleported–is it actually the original or just a convincing copy? So, instead of teleporting, we could just be copying molecules from one place to another. Today, scientists are still working on what really goes on during teleportation and quantum entanglement.

As you can see, teleportation doesn’t seem an impossible idea anymore. We are already advancing into the use of quantum entanglement, and finding the key to quantum entanglement allows us to go even farther with the idea of teleportation. This idea can help everyone, as supplies all around the world can be sent so much faster than modern transportation, along with many other benefits to our society. But, there is still a lot of mystery to solve for scientists as what exactly happens to the particles during quantum entanglement. So, there may be awhile before we get into the idea of teleporting humans from LA to Tokyo, but are closer than ever, and quantum entanglement is the way to reaching that goal.

Quantum Cryptography: The Locks and Keys of the Future

Companies around the world are always searching for new and better ways to protect their data. For this reason, encrypting code is very crucial for business to be successful. They must encrypt their data and source code in such a way so that no unauthorized person is able to access their data. Today, it is easier than ever for hackers to acquire valuable data since most of the companies around the world store their data in the cloud. While the cloud makes it cheaper and easier for companies to store their data, it also makes it easier for that information to end up in the wrong hands. To avoid this vulnerability, companies use a “key” which can decode the encryption protecting their code. Although encryption is safe, when put up against truly experienced or keen hackers, this key can be stolen or eventually deduced. One very innovative way to protect code and get around the current vulnerabilities involved with regular encryption is by using quantum cryptography. 

Quantum cryptography, also known as quantum encryption, is a new way to send keys for encryption at a quantum level. The more specific type of quantum cryptography we are talking about is quantum key distribution. Quantum key distribution works by having the quantum key encode and send the information needed to decode a message via light particles. Sending a message through light particles makes it virtually impossible for hackers to attain the encrypted data or the decryption key.

Sending information using light particles isn’t an easy task, but allow me to explain how it works. Let us say, for example, a key is being sent between two people using quantum cryptography. This key can be transferred using a stream of photons in one direction. Each of these photon particles can be represented as a number for data, either a 0 or a 1. While on their journey, these photons are vibrating in a certain matter which can be in any 360 degree direction, but to simplify quantum cryptography, we use four states: UP/DOWN, LEFT/RIGHT, UPLEFT/RIGHTDOWN and UPRIGHT/LEFTDOWN. The angle at which the particle vibrates is known as the polarization of the light particle. We then use a polarizer to send messages with these photons. A polarizer is basically a filter that permits certain photons to pass through it with the same vibration as before and lets others pass through in a changed state of the vibration. With this polarizer, a person can assign each photon a particular direction using numbers for the data. The photons containing the information then get sent out to the other person receiving the message. The receiver then uses a special type of decryption machine to figure out each direction of each photon. This will allow the person to then access the data and information without anyone else obtaining it since the photons are sent directly from person to person at the speed of light.

If quantum cryptography becomes a commercial product for business, it can transform the concept of security to a whole new level. Before explaining how quantum cryptography can work for other businesses, we have to understand how businesses currently protect their information. Historically, most companies used to set up warehouses where all their data would be stored in servers, which is a term called “in-house.” However, now, most start up businesses use the cloud to store their information as it is much cheaper and easier to manage. The bigger companies use a hybrid system as they store some information in the cloud and store some information in-house. This is more beneficial as it isn’t too costly, and the secure information gets protected in the warehouse. The problem with the cloud is that it is easier for that information to be stolen. With quantum cryptography, that is no longer a problem.

Quantum cryptography can be used to protect valuable information in the cloud at a vastly new level of security and dependability. The same message using light particles can be used to send information through the cloud or to protect a company’s source code. The message will be broken down into photons of light and delivered between two parties, so no one else is able to view it. This message can take the form of information for customers, employees, or whoever else the company wants to send it to. Information kept in the cloud is managed by third party companies like AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform, to name a few. This quantum cryptography solution can be used by these companies to make their clouds safer for other businesses to use.

This quantum cryptography solution to modern encryption vulnerability isn’t just a myth; there have already been tests and experiments on the idea of quantum cryptography. The first quantum transaction took place in 2004, when researchers in Vienna used entangled photons to transfer a 3,000-Euro deposit into their bank account. Quantum cryptography has already been experimented with, but it hasn’t been used to send data through the cloud yet.  According to quantum cryptographer Artur Ekert, a professor at the University of Oxford and director of the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore,

There is still a way to go before it becomes a standard commercial proposition, but we are getting there faster than I expected.

It is very possible for this technology to become a commercial product to be used by all companies, but there’s still a significant amount of research and work to do before this becomes a widespread reality. 

Quantum cryptography could serve as a wonder for all businesses using the cloud. It protects their data in such a way which makes it almost impossible for someone to steal information they are not authorized to access.. Those who don’t own a business may not care about protecting businesses’ data, but most people work as employees for companies, which means that their job security also depends on the expansion of this technology.  Quantum cryptography/encryption benefits the businesses most, but it also benefits the employees working for these companies by ensuring that their jobs are not lost due to negligence with valuable information. 

It may only be a short time before companies start storing information on light particles, but for the time being, the cloud is our best option. I’m excited for a new day and age when even our clouds can be locked and protected!

Master Your Mind: Proven Techniques for Altering the Brain

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Source: aboutmodafinil.com

 

Who doesn’t dream of taking full control of their brain, becoming a master of their own mind? For tens of thousands of years, individuals from every culture around the world have claimed the ability to focus their thoughts and brain activity to a state of profound one-pointedness, leading to incredible mental feats, deep states of calm, and numerous enhancements to the brain’s day to day functionality. Whether these people are called gurus, yogis, spiritual masters, or even prophets, the recipe for unlocking the brain’s full potential has traditionally involved methods such as years of sensory deprivation, the use of rare and exotic entheogens, praying to a higher power, or even a mixture of all the above. However, studies have revealed that the ability to change the brain, both biologically and psychologically, is already at our fingertips. You don’t need to be a spiritual guru to start hacking and changing your brain this moment; altering your own brain is far simpler than you might think!

 

Brain Plasticity

As stated above, you can start drastically altering your brain immediately, but first, let’s talk about how and why this level of change is even possible.

The brain is highly plastic, meaning that it can change its own shape and functionality in respone to stimuli or through direct intention. This capacity for the brain to change is referred to as brain plasticity. While absolutely everyone has experienced changing over time–from child to adult–due to the natural growth and maturity of thoughts, perceptions, and intentions, brain plasticity goes above and beyond day to day changes and provides individuals the ability to radically change according to both internal and external stimuli.  In fact, in 2007, a French man was documented to be living a perfectly normal life despite missing a large portion of his original brain. Researchers analyzing the man’s brain pointed out that

…even though his remaining brain was only tiny, the neurons left over were able to still generate a theory about themselves, which means the man remained conscious of his actions.  

Incredibly, the man’s brain was capable of spontaneously altering its physical makeup to account for the difference in mass as well as the ongoing brain damage. If a person can lose 90% of their brain and still function equally well as when they had 100% of their brain, this implies that the brain is far more powerful and capable of change than any of us may realize.

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While the brain is capable of radically changing over a short period of time, it is also capable of changing on a moment to moment basis through the natural development of growing up. During development, different activities and experiences influence the brain to alter itself. Studies on middle age monkeys have shown increases in physical exercise leading to

histologically-quantified vascular volume in the cerebral cortex in parallel with improved performance on cognitive tests…. Such vascular changes likely contribute to activity-dependent differences observed…after training.

These changes indicate that an increase in exercise increased the learning rate. While the experiment revealed temporary results, the changes remained constant through regular exercise.

Similar to this development, practicing different activities can lead to ongoing brain development across various structures of the brain. As children,

most neurogenesis is complete by five months, with one important exception being cells in the hippocampus…. Once the neurons are formed, they begin to migrate along fibrous pathways formed by radial glial cells…. As cells… reach their destination the interaction of genes, maturation, and environmental influences increasingly steer them toward differentiating into a particular cell type.

This means that our cells go through many stages as they develop, so different effects on our brains at different stages of development can drastically change the resultant structure and functionality of the brain.

 

Natural Human Development and Brain Change

While humans never truly stop developing, the vast majority of our development and growth takes place when we are young, especially during puberty. As the cells in our bodies continue to develop and die off, our brains continuously develop. Because of the ongoing development of the brain, our brains are always dynamically altering themselves through improved cortical organization, which involves the cognitive processing of sensory information.  According to scientists at the Department of Neuroscience in Canada,

The cells lining the subventricular zone are stem cells that remain active throughout life. These stem cells can produce neural or glial progenitor cells that can migrate into the cerebral white or gray matter, even in adulthood…. The functional role of these cells is still controversial but their generation can be influenced by many factors including experience, drugs, hormones, and injury.

Because of the versatility of brain cells, our daily experiences can change the physical brain and how it causes our bodies to respond. Studies have shown enhanced functionality of the brain when animals were placed

…in complex environments in which there is an opportunity for animals to interact with a changing sensory and social environment and to engage in far more motor activity than regular caging…. [The results have shown] increases in brain size, cortical thickness, neuron size, dendritic branching, spine density, synapses per neuron, glial numbers and complexity, and vascular arborization.

These incredible results reveal that the brain’s ability to physically alter itself in response to internal or external stimuli exists in all brains, not just humans. In fact, the study went on to show that,

Young rats [placed] for 60 days in enriched environments, [showed] changes in overall brain weight on the order of 7–10% . This increase in brain weight reflects increases in the number of glia and blood vessels, neuron soma size, dendritic elements, and synapses.

Again, these studies reiterate the brain’s proven ability to grow, become enhanced, and even alter itself in unexpected ways relative to what the environment demands.

 

Ways You Can Personally Change Your Brain Right Now

With the brain’s capability and ability to change, along with the brain’s natural state of constantly altering itself through physical development, incredible avenues of self change are available to all people. The following provides information on some of the most accessible and economic ways to literally alter the shape, form, and functionality of the brain and its associative psychology. If you want to alter yourself and control who you are on a day to day and year to year basis, try the following:

  • Learning (school, experience, watching)
  • Reading
  • Meditation
  • Breathing

 

Learn a Language

Learning a new language causes great changes in the brain. A study performed at Penn State University revealed the benefits of learning a new language by observing the creation of additional and more complex networks created by neurons. Researches of the study pointed out that in people who participated in learning a language,

…their brain networks had become better integrated, which means they’re more flexible and allows for faster and more efficient learning…those who excelled in the language lessons had more integrated networks than the brains of those who struggled, even before the experiment had begun, suggesting that they habitually sought out new things to learn and exercise their brains with.

Furthermore, this study also showed that

…language-learning participants ended up with increased density in their grey matter and that their white matter tissue had been strengthened. Grey matter is a type of neural tissue that encompasses various regions in the brain associated with muscle control, memory formation, emotions, and sensory perception such as seeing and hearing, and it’s white matter’s job to connect these grey matter regions together in the brain’s cerebrum, sort of like a train line for your brain.

This study showed that learning a new language can directly alter the brain to become more accustomed to learning new things. Amazingly, these effects were also shown to occur regardless of age, even in the case of an 84 year old.

 

Go Read a Book!!

Many underestimate the effects of reading, but reading can actually alter the brain significantly. The changes that reading can bring are long lasting and profound. A study published in the journal Brain Connectivity revealed the changes to the brain after simply reading a novel. The researchers pointed out that in individuals who had finished reading a novel, there was800px-Census-reading-hi

heightened connectivity…seen in the central sulcus of the brain, the primary sensory motor region of the brain. Neurons of this region have been associated with making representations of sensation for the body, a phenomenon known as grounded cognition. Just thinking about running, for instance, can activate the neurons associated with the physical act of running.

By reading a novel, the brain is able to more realistically and efficiently simulate feeling to the body, leading to more profound states of empathy. Also, our brains are able to become more active as we practice exercising our brains through reading.

 

Sit Down and Meditate!

Another easily accessible way to alter the brain is through meditation. Mediating daily, even for a short period of time, can enhance emotions and awareness. It can affect

…how personally you take things and how you interact with others. It enhances compassion, allows you to see things more clearly (including yourself) and creates a sense of calm and centeredness that is indescribable.

400px-Moggallana̞-statueRegular practice of meditation can create many changes. Another study found

…that the main nodes of the default-mode network…were relatively deactivated in experienced meditators across all meditation types. Furthermore, functional connectivity analysis revealed stronger coupling in experienced meditators between the posterior cingulate, dorsal anterior cingulate, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortices (regions previously implicated in self-monitoring and cognitive control)….

The study showed that through meditation, it is possible to gain more self control.  Rebecca Gladding, a psychologist, further explains similar effects of meditating, pointing out that,

First, the strong, tightly held connection between the Me Center (specifically the unhelpful vmPFC) and the bodily sensation/fear centers begins to break down. As this connection withers, you will no longer assume that a bodily sensation or momentary feeling of fear means something is wrong with you or that you are the problem! This explains, in part, why anxiety decreases the more you meditate – it’s because the neural paths that link those upsetting sensations to the Me Center are decreasing.

The overcoming of these feelings allows us to see that they are merely transient feelings and helps us to not be affected by them. Another benefit of meditating is that it causes 

…a heftier, healthier connection…between the Assessment Center and bodily sensation/fear centers.

So, instead of unexpected behavior during sudden feelings of fear or nervousness, through meditation, people are able to remain more rational in the way they view the situation.

 

Just Breathe

The easiest and most accessible method to alter the brain is through breathing. Breathing has many beneficial effects. Not only does it have the ability to calm us down, but it can also positively affect the way we think. Studies conducted by Northwestern University show the relationship between brain activity and breathing. Researchers found that for people in general,

their brain activity appeared to fluctuate in sync with their breathing. This activity was seen in three areas of the brain: the piriform (olfactory) cortex, which processes smells; the hippocampus, which controls memory; and the amygdala, which is tied to emotional processing.

However, the researchers further discovered the effects of different types of breathing and their relation to our brains. Northwestern University reported the results, quoting neurologist Christina Zelano, stating,

One of the major findings in this study is that there is a dramatic difference in brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus during inhalation compared with exhalation….When you breathe in, we discovered you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system.

By controlling our rhythm of breathing, we can alter the brain to have better memory, produce more positive emotions, and retain a more positive outlook about the future. The best part is that breathing techniques can be practiced anywhere and anytime, no matter who you are. 

 

Future Techniques to Alter the Brain

While the methods described above are accessible to anyone and everyone, there are numerous other methods of altering the brain that are only just now entering the modern technological landscape.

 

 

Brain Implants

A more recent method that we can use to alter our brains is through brain implants. In the future, by having a chip or device inserted into our brains, we can alter or boost our memories and control limbs. Current research revolves around treatment for people with trauma or for paralyzed areas of their body. In a recent study, a man who had been paralyzed in an accident was able to have his arm and hand movements restored through two brain implants. The brain implants

record brain signals created when Kochevar imagines movement of his own arm and hand. The brain-computer interface extracts information from the brain signals about what movements he intends to make, then passes the information to command the electrical stimulation system.

400px-BrainGateNot only can these implants help people gain more independence, but they can boost our memories. Scientists have tested brain implants that opened up many possibilities to improvement of memory through the devices. The New York Times explains how

The device works like a pacemaker, sending electrical pulses to aid the brain when it is struggling to store new information, but remaining quiet when it senses that the brain is functioning well. [A study reported that the devices] improved word recall by 15 percent — roughly the amount that Alzheimer’s disease steals over two and half years.

 

 

Brain Uploads

Another future possibility that could be accessible to us in the far future is brain uploads. Researchers are interested in uploading memories or personalities to a computer. Eventually this could lead to the creation of incorruptible bodies that would have the same memories and personalities as us. Already there has been a company, Nectome, that tried to preserve memories from the brain after death. MIT, which aided  Nectrome, stated that they withdrew from their contract because

Neuroscience has not sufficiently advanced to the point where we know whether any brain preservation method is powerful enough to preserve all the different kinds of biomolecules related to memory and the mind. It is also not known whether it is possible to recreate a person’s consciousness.

This is an extremely exciting possibility that could very well be the world of tomorrow if research continues, despite the pitfalls. 

 

Adding, Removing, or Altering Memories

Experiments on mice have shown that changing past memories is a possibility as well. MIT has done an experiment where they successfully change a fearful memory to a cheerful one. In the study,

Male mice were given a negative experience…and the neurons working to store that memory were labelled using ‘optogenetics’. This is a technique…installs a switch in those neurons, allowing them to be turned on by will [by a blue light].

The results of the study showed the mice to be more fearful in the room associated with their negative experiences without the simulation. However, once the mice were stimulated, they immediately felt more at ease. The researchers further predict that

…a place memory, stored in brain cells of the hippocampus, can “call up” different sets of neurons in the amygdala, invoking either good or bad emotions – and their experiments tweaked that wiring, so that the original memory produced an altered emotional response.

 

 

Genetic Manipulation

800px-DNA_Helix_CPKA genetic alteration is a method to alter our brains in the near future involving the direct manipulation of a person’s genetic code. UT Southwestern Medical Center Investigators were able to find an alteration that could enhance our brains. The researchers tested the deletion of a gene code on mice and discovered that the mice with the gene alteration

…formed more neurons over time…[and]…required much lower amounts of anti-depressants to counteract the effects of stress.

This manipulation that increases the number of brain cells enhanced the effect of antidepressants. This change can lead to decrease in the amount of necessary antidepressants for future generations. The change also had

…anti-depressive and anti-anxiety effects of its own that continue over time.

 

 

 

Study Identifies Gene Potentially Responsible for Human Language

A recent study in neuroscience suggests that a gene mutation which arose over half a million years ago could be the key to the unique ability that humans have to both produce and understand speech. The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences was conducted by Christiane Schreiweis, a former visiting graduate student at MIT and Ulrich Bornschein of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

What the researchers from MIT and the other European universities which took part in the study suggest is that the human version of a gene named FOXP2 facilitates transforming new experiences into routine procedures. When mice were engineered to express humanized FOXP2, they learned how to run a maze visibly faster than normal mice.

What the findings also show is that FOXP2 is potentially responsible for helping humans by influencing a key component used in learning languages. This component is the transformation of experiences (such as hearing the word ‘glass’ when being shown a glass of water) into a nearly automatic association of the word, with objects looking and functioning like glasses.  According to Ann Graybiel, an MIT Institute Professor, member of MIT McGovern Institute for Brain Research and senior author of the study,

This really is an important brick in the wall saying that the form of the gene that allowed us to speak may have something to do with a special kind of learning, which takes us from having to make conscious associations in order to act to a nearly automatic-pilot way of acting based on the cues around us,’ the researcher declared.

It is known that all animal species communicate with each other, but only humans have the singular ability of generating and comprehending a proper language. FOXP2 is one of the numerous genes which scientists think might have contributed to the development of human linguistic skills. The FOXP2 gene was first identified in a group of family members (known as the KE family) who experienced severe difficulties in both speaking and understanding speech – they were found to carry a mutated version of this gene.

It was in 2009 when Svante Pääbo, director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, engineered mice to express the human form of FOXP2, along with his team of researchers. The FOXP2 gene encodes a protein which is different from the mouse version by only two amino acids. The team found that the mice’s slender extensions in the striatum which neurons use to communicate with each other, called dendrites, were actually longer. (The striatum is a part of the brain which is responsible for habit formation). The mice were found to be better than humans at forming new synapses as well.

FOXP2 produces a protein that functions like a transcription factor, which means that it has the possibility to turn other genes on and off. The present study found that this gene appears to turn on genes involved in the regulation of synaptic connections in between neurons. Another finding of the research is that the dopamine activity in a part of the striatum involved in forming procedures is enhanced by the gene. Consequently, the neurons of stiatal regions could be turned off for longer periods in response to prolonged activation, known as long-term depression, which is allocated to learning new tasks and memory formation.

Svante Pääbo is an author of the new PNAS paper as well, while Enard and Graybiel are responsible for the striatum part of the study and the analysis of behavioral effects of replacing FOXP2. As mentioned earlier, the mice with humanized FOXP2 were better at learning to run a T-shaped maze, where mice have to make the decision to turn left or right at a T-shaped junction, based on the texture of the maze floor, in order to earn a food reward.

Collectively, the changes help with tuning the brain distinctly in order to adapt it to speech and language acquisition, according to the researchers. What they are investigating now is whether FOXP2 can interact with other genes to produce its effects on learning and language in other areas. According to Genevieve Konopka, assistand professor of neuroscience at the University of Texas.

‘The study provides new ways to think about the evolution of FOXP2 function in the brain. It suggests that human FOXP2 facilitates learning that has been conducive for the emergence of speech and language in humans. The observed differences in dopamine levels and long-term depression in a region-specific manner are also striking and begin to provide mechanistic details of how the molecular evolution of one gene might lead to alterations in behavior.

Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation, The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, The National Institutes of Health, the Wellcome Trust, the Fondation pour la Recherche Medicale and the Max Planck Society are the major organizations to have funded this research.

londonfuse.ca

londonfuse.ca

 

Sources:

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/09/11/1414542111

http://www.zmescience.com/research/chimp-gesture-translated-54254/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KE_family

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S009286740900378X

 

Mind Over Body: Can Meditation Help Cure Cancer?

Cancer is no stranger to the list of common health concerns present in today’s society.  With 1 in 3 people in the UK alone developing some form of cancer during their lifetime, it has become a challenge that most of us may have to face. However, how we choose to treat this disease is changing for many around the globe, as the rise in alternative therapies shed new hope for a natural approach to curing the dreaded C.

There are more than 200 types of cancer in the world and many different treatments for each. The most common medical therapies are Chemotherapy, Radiation Therapy and Targeted Therapies. Although conventional methods have proved to be relatively successful, they do come at a price. Symptoms such as fatigue, hair loss and breathlessness are just some of the unpleasant manifestations that follow after treatment.

In recent years, alternative therapies such as yoga and meditation have taken off. As more positive research unfolds, so does ones openness to embrace another way of healing the body: through the mind itself.

 

From Where Does Meditation Derive and How Can its Benefits Help Us Today?

buddha health quote

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This ancient practice was first formed thousands of years ago in the Far East. There is recorded evidence to suggest that meditation dates back as far as 500 B.C, where Indian artifacts known as “Tantras” speak of such meditative practices. It is speculated by researchers that the first discovery of an “altered state of conciseness” was made by primitive hunter-gathers whilst staring into the flames of their fires.

Across the Asian continent Gautama the monk, as the Buddha, made his mark as the meditative icon we still see today.  His teachings spread through the East. As neighboring countries caught wind of the spiritual practice, they adopted their own forms of mediation by practicing it in different ways.

Thousands of years passed until meditation finally made headway into Western society around the 20th century. In the 1960’s and 1970’s researchers began to look into the various effects of the practice. It quickly became apparent that there was far more to gain from meditation than just a sense of spirituality. Studies show that the physical and mental effects of mediation can be extremely beneficial.

A five year study conducted by Harvard scientists revealed that meditation affects DNA and brain activity. According to John Denninger, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School who was leading the study,

There is a true biological effect. The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just in the brain.

His research concluded that these mind and body techniques could have such power to switch on and off genes linked to stress and immune function.

 

But What is the Link to Cancer?

Some believe that one’s mental process or state of mind could be a contributing factor or even the cause of the disease itself. By applying alternative practices such as meditation, in theory, the mind could be cured along with the cancer.

Stories are popping up all over the web of real life testimonials from individuals claiming they cured their cancer through meditative practices. There are websites dedicated to such theories with an abundance of articles discussing the subject. One reader of the website AnmolMehta.com wrote in with her story, saying:

I reduced my stress level by at least 80% naturally.  I listened and stopped talking – becoming aware of surroundings. I knew that my organs had a voice, and I was to listen. I started to go to my room to meditate every day, and recharging my body.

Websites such as Cancerreaserch.org are jumping on the bandwagon and embracing alternative therapies too. Their website has a whole section dedicated to the subject including research conducted in many different countries on meditative benefits. Most of the recent research has been based around mindfulness mediation that can help reduce anxiety, tiredness, stress, chronic pain and sleep problems as well as lower blood pressure.

A controlled study published in 2000 looked at 90 cancer patients who did mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) meditation for 7 weeks. They found that people who meditated had 31% lower stress symptoms and 67% less mood disturbance than people who did not meditate.

 

The Results

Alternative therapies have been proven over thousands of years to reduce anxiety and stress by calming the body, and helping the individual to feel more relaxed. As of yet there is no scientific research to prove that meditation alone cures cancer but there is no doubt that the practise can significantly improve one’s sense of well being during such a traumatic time.

Although the practice derives from a religious background, you do not need to be religious to learn meditation. Whether you are seeking spirituality, clarity, or simply relaxation, with a little practice, anyone can learn and benefit from it.

There is no denying that cancer sufferers through the world are feeling the incredible benefits that the practise has to offer. If at the very least it can help patients feel more positive and optimistic, than that in itself is something to be celebrated.

 

 

References:

http://www.breakthenorms.com/blog/the-power-of-meditation-how-it-cured-my-fathers-cancer/

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/keyfacts/Allcancerscombined/

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/world/incidence

http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Aboutcancer/AboutcancerHome.aspx

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-help/about-cancer/treatment/complementary-alternative/therapies/meditation

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation

http://www.project-meditation.org/wim/history_of_meditation.html

http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=L4fGAgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=meditation+and+science&ots=ff63OAGaj8&sig=6cqFiEuENInovByouvmUveop–Y#v=onepage&q=meditation%20and%20science&f=false

http://meditation-research.org.uk/

http://www.rigpa.org/en/teachings/extracts-of-articles-and-publications/35-scientific-research-on-meditation.html

http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/causes/cancer-patients

http://projectreporter.nih.gov/project_info_details.cfm?aid=8541701&icde=18114901

http://projectreporter.nih.gov/project_info_description.cfm?aid=8541701&icde=18114901

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/stress

http://www.zendoctor.com/Home/frameindex.html

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/treatment/types-of-treatment

http://anmolmehta.com/blog/2011/03/10/meditation-natural-treatment-for-cancer/

My Beautiful Western Face: The Rise in De-racialisation Surgery

 

The pressure to look beautiful has become increasingly present in today’s society. With TV shows, movies and magazines flaunting some of the best looking people in the world, it’s no wonder most of us feel like we don’t hit the mark.

The longing to appear more attractive has always existed for men and women alike, but the very definition of what is attractive and what is beautiful has changed drastically over the years. The Victorians depicted the epitome of beauty in their paintings as curvaceous, busty women, whilst long ago the Japanese celebrated the elegance and perfection of the Geisha. However, an increasing number of the population are feeling the burden of a new, modern-day beauty ideal: having a Western look. In a desperate attempt to fit into this image, some are choosing to go under the knife to achieve this new ‘look’.

This growing trend is already the norm in places like Seoul, South Korea, where one in five women have had some type of  surgery to help them look more Western.  In fact, there are now a multitude of procedures one can undergo with the aim to “westernise” non-Caucasian features. It has become so popular that these procedures now have a name: de-racialisation surgery.

Plastic surgery is sweeping across Asian countries in particular. With over 4,000 clinics across the country, South Korea takes the prize for plastic surgery capital of the world. Here the most popular cosmetic surgery is double eyelid surgery; making the eyes appear bigger and rounder. In close second is refining the nose using rhinoplasty to make the tip of the nose more prominent. Following that, jaw bone surgery to make the jaw appear softer.

An Australian SBS Documentary called ‘Change My Race’ highlighted some of these extreme procedures such as facial contouring, skin whitening, calf reduction and double eyelid surgery. In the documentary, Chinese-Australian presenter Anna Choy explores the hidden truth behind our obsession with looking Western and reveals her own inner battles with accepting her Chinese origins.

But why are so many young women in particular ashamed of their inherited ethnic features? Is it really worth erasing your identity to fit into a predominantly white society?

 

The Power of White

As much as we all think this is a new phenomenon, the truth is that this racial divide has been around for hundreds of years, and still some reminiscence remains. We may have moved on from slave labour and the Nazi revolution, but in turn we have moved into a new era filled with incredible technology and far reaching media influence. There is power in the colour white, and with power comes beauty and respect.

Magazines are becoming culprits in ‘lightening’ their models and even adverts are being slated for not casting a variety of races other than Caucasian. Even such music legends as Beyonce and Michael Jackson have been accused of “Westernising” themselves. Adorned with a blonde wig and using clever studio lighting, in a recent picture to promote her new album Beyonce looked much lighter than her natural skin tone.

Let’s not forget Michael Jackson’s radical transformation over the years. Could his rise to stardom have affected the way he viewed himself? His bodily changes were shrouded in secrecy and the reasons as to how and why his skin turned white became a controversial subject for years.

These celebrities may have outraged many by “betraying” their Ethnic heritage, but sadly, for a rising number of young people, this depiction of a “white, western global beauty ideal” has been accepted as a valid reason to go under the knife.

 

Outnumbered and Out-casted

Australia is an ever-growing multicultural society and houses a large number of citizens of many ethnic origins. According to Arthur Kemp in The Immigration Invasion,

In mid-2006 there were 4,956,863 residents who were born outside Australia, representing 24% of the total population. The Australian-resident population consists of people who were born in these countries:

China (Excluding Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau), 279,447; Vietnam, 180,352; India, 153,579; Philippines, 135,619; Malaysia, 103,947; Lebanon, 86,599; Sri Lanka, 70,908; Indonesia, 67,952; Fiji, 58,815; Pakistan, 19,768; and Bangladesh, 13,751.

Although these people make up a good quarter of the population they remain a minority for now. Discrimination against colour and race is still very much prominent in Western society. Children go to school with their Australian peers and are teased for looking different, despite being born and raised there.

But it’s not just their peers who make them feel like they do not fit in. In the SBS documentary they follow a 16 year old girl called Kathy. Kathy was born and raised in Australia by her Vietnamese parents. She is a sweet girl who seems carefree and content with the way she looks. However her parents feel adamant that if she were to look more Western she would have better success in her life and future career.

Her parents felt so strongly that they pressured Kathy into having cosmetic surgery to change her face. To please her parents she had fillers injected in her nose, eyelid surgery and a chin reduction procedure. Whilst her parents gushed over her new look, Kathy seemed emotionless.

At the young age of 16, having just undergone drastic surgery that could change her life forever, her only apparent feeling seemed that of relief. Maybe she hoped that the surgery would make her parents happy and get them off her back as any teenager would feel. But, is such an extreme measure worth it? I can only wonder how this girl might feel in 20 years time.

 

The Asian Culture

In Korean culture women are judged more on their looks than any other women in the world. As stated on seoultouchup.com,

Generally in Asia, good looks and having a good face are like stepping stones- for they do open up doors to many of life’s advantages.

Clearly this is the foundation for the reason that has lead to a high rate of cosmetic surgery in Asia. Its rise in popularity has made plastic surgery all the more affordable and accessible for the average person, and with the opportunity there to become more beautiful and successful, more and more young people are choosing the ‘easy’ path of surgery.

What was once seen as an extreme step in a bid for perfection is now seen as an everyday normality in countries like Korea.  You could almost go as far as to say it is expected of women in such a society. If they do not conform to this ideal, they may be out-casted from what was once a network of friends. Non-conformity could even bring shame to their family.

The question still remains: what is perfection and beauty in their eyes? Are they just aspiring to a model of beauty that is completely unrealistic?

 

There’s Still Hope for the Future

We can only hope that in the coming years the world will open up and accept all races for what they are. After all, diversity is real beauty. I believe that having heritage is part of one’s identity. Your birth origin and ethnic background is an important part of who you are. All cultures should be celebrated and each of us should be proud of what is in our blood, not reject or suppress it.

If the victims of de-racialisation surgery keep growing we are at risk of losing not only our personal identities, but the world’s. The decisions, views, values and choices that we make today will shape the future of our offspring. Let’s strive to make the right ones.

 

Sources:

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2013/12/03/cosmetic-surgery-change-race-rise

http://www.seoultouchup.com/plastic-surgery-in-korea/

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/04/world/asia/in-south-korea-plastic-surgery-comes-out-of-the-closet.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2087388/Beyonc-white-skin-row-Controversial-photo-shows-singer-looking-shades-lighter-usual-tone.html

The Immigration Invasion