Quality & Science

Editorial Comment 10/6/2020: Martha In The Weeds

by Editor-in-Chief: Dr. William Haning, MD, DFAPA, DFASAM | October 5, 2020

I frequently begin my talks by forewarning the audience that I do not know what is going to come out of this box up on my neck. It is a reflection on computers and on our limited control of their moment-to-moment functionality.

My own real computer (laptop vs. necktop) causes me increasing amounts of difficulty as its hard drive fills up and I cannot figure out what I really want to leave behind. Much is true also of this thing, this brain, this soft gray pliant and tragically-fragile gray mass inside the box atop my neck. I must remember that much of data that it stores is not completely reliable and may actually even change, nay, decompose over time.  Even the time/date stamps change identity as my email address(es) and I cross time zones; or when my brother-in-law in Japan returns an email to me, in Hawai`i.  Rather like false memories, they appear more certain and more indelible the more times that I access them.

It is most likely to betray me, this carbon-based computer, this brain, when it gets employed in roles with which I am unfamiliar.  The same powers of imagination and creativity that we so admire in art, create subtle fictions to fill in the spaces where knowledge should reside.   It is confabulation, but without the antecedent Wernicke’s encephalopathy.

So if I begin to perorate on topics with which I have a little familiarity, then I cross into a minefield (or mind field…).  I have learned some caution, and I have friends and colleagues who will halt me.  Still, many otherwise brilliant people say foolish things on topics of which they have no knowledge whatever, and  they will promote these ideas with the same conviction and enthusiasm as the genuine knowledge that once made their reputations.  Geniuses are notorious for jumping the gate and running off the ranch.  That might not be so worrisome if so many of the herd didn’t follow them.  Which brings us to Martha Stewart’s interview in NY Times, linked below, a paean to cannabidiol which falls just short of a euphoric drunkalogue.  It’s worth copying to our trainees for the example it provides, of a master salesman creating allure for a product.

 Editor-in-Chief: Dr. William Haning, MD, DFAPA, DFASAM