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November 14, 2005

Communication Problems

One of the  standard reasons cited by drug czars for continuing to prosecute medical marijuana users is that failure to do so would send the "wrong message" to 'kids.' What the demographics of cannabis applicants in California demonstrate so convincingly is that America's 'kids' have been tuning out the federal message for thirty-five years.

When Claude Shannon, a mathematician/engineer at Bell labs, propounded his 'Theory of Communication,' in 1948,  it  seemed overly simplistic to some;  yet it has since had such applicability and utility that he is now regarded by many insiders as the father of Information Technology. Thus, the work of Shannon, who seems to have been the first to grasp the significance  of the binary digit, both anticipated and facilitated the digital revolution.

A non-mathematical articulation of Shannon's theory holds that messages are bits of encoded data which are understood (decoded) by properly tuned receivers. The transmission of any message involves three elements; a source to encode it, a compatible channel through which it is sent, and a compatible receiver to decode it. Although the accuracy of the message itself is irrelevant to the theory; communication is demonstrated when a message has meaning (elicits  a response) at the receiver end. Impaired message quality (static, interference, noise, distortion) can be traced to one or more of the elements; for example, 'static' garbling radio transmissions can be due to a poorly tuned receiver or to cosmic rays (sun spots) distorting the channel.

The universality of Shannon's theory is exemplified by its applicability to biological systems; which are now understood to involve complex signaling mechanisms  that function and interact throughout life. In essence, death can be defined as the  irreversible loss of an organism's ability  to communicate, both internally and externally

Most biological communication falls under the rubric of physiology; it involves both internal and external communication, and--  in sentient organisms--  most of it takes place below the conscious level. Genes are turned on, immune responses mobilized, hormones elaborated, muscles contract, and nerve impulses are transmitted without either awareness or conscious direction. The brain-- the essential substrate for all behavior-- has been shown by  the relatively new multi-specialty discipline of 'Neuroscience'  to function primarily through complex neuro-humeral 'signaling' at the molecular level. Certain specialized structures of the mid brain  and cortex have been found to play  important roles in mood, emotional tone, and behavioral response. In a sense, the old 'mind-body' duality might now be considerably better understood-- were it not for the doctrinaire confusion sown by an inflexible and unscientific policy of drug prohibition for the past thirty years.  The war on drugs has not only destroyed countless lives; it has significantly skewed research and retarded medical progress

The tie-in between Shannon's work and drug war  fraud is best illustrated by the large number of NIDA-supported studies  being carried out on the Endocannabinoid Systems  (ECS) of laboratory animals-- even as humans in California are being arrested and imprisoned for legally attempting to relieve the same symptoms targeted by animal researchers searching for patentable molecules.

One is also forced to wonder just why the media and so many of the involved scientists  have continued to support a cruel and unscientific public policy with their silence once there was so much evidence that it is completely at odds with both known facts and what is most likely to prove true.

*The links supplied in this entry are, of necessity, limited. Interested readers are urged to explore on their own:
at:    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/.

Dr. Tom O'Connell

Posted by tjeffo at November 14, 2005 09:53 AM