Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

More on Rest

February 26, 2017

That is the book “Rest” by  Alex Soojung-Kim Pang that was reviewed in the immediately preceding post.  Remember that the major points of this book were that there is a limit of about four hours for effective mental work, and that non work time needs to be spent in restorative activities.  Previous healthy memory blog posts have mentioned that when I was I elementary school in the 1950s I was told that by now time at work would have been drastically reduced due to technology.  Technology has advanced beyond our wildest dreams.  And back in the 50s it was highly unusual for mothers to work.  Yet today, everyone is working many more hours than in the 50s.

So what happened?  Moreover, there is genuine concern about all the jobs that will be lost due to technology.

It seems that the solution to this problem is to recalibrate using guidance from Alex Soojung-Kim Pang.  Cut the standard work week to 20 hours and use remaining time to recreate and engage in restorative activities.

This should not only solve a dangerous unemployment problem, but it should also result in an increase in the quality of work.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

There Will Be a Hiatus in Healthymemory Blog Posts

September 18, 2016

There Will Be a Hiatus in Healthymemory Blog Posts

HM will be attending the International  Annual Meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.  HM will also need some time to assimilate and recover.  He should not be missed.  There are 820 posts on this blog.  Use the search box of the blog to find posts of interests.  Here are some suggestions for searches:

myth
cognitive reserve
Herbert Benson
Kahneman
Davidson
Siegel
Mindfulness
Growth Mindsets

Cyber Babies

September 9, 2016

“Cyber Babies” is chapter 3 in Dr.  Aiken’s new book “The Cyber Effect.”   She begins by relating a story of when she was traveling on a train watching a mother feeding her baby.   She held the baby’s bottle in one hand  and a mobile phone in the other.  Her head was bent looking at the screen.  The mother looked exclusively at her phone while the baby fed.  The baby gazed upward as babies do looking adoringly at the mother’s jaw, as the mother gazed adoringly at her phone.   The feeding lasted about 30 minutes and the mother did not make eye contact with the infant or once pull her attention from the screen of her phone.  Dr. Aiken was appalled as eye contact between baby and mother is quite important for the development of the child.  She mentioned that parents frequently ask her  at what age is it appropriate for a baby to be introduced to electronic screens.  She agrees that this is an important question but asks the parents first to think about this question:  What is the right age to introduce your baby to your mobile phone use?

She elaborates on the importance of face time with a baby.  They need the mother’s eye contact.   They need to be talked to, tickled, massaged, and played with.  She writes that there is no study of early childhood development that doesn’t support this.

She continues, “By experiencing your facial expressions—your calm acceptance of them, your love and attention, even you occasional groggy irritation—they thrive and develop.  This is how emotional attachment style is learned.  A baby’s attachment still is created by the baby’s earliest experiences with parents and caregivers.”  She further notes “A mother and her child need to be paying attention to each other.  They need to engage and connect.  It cannot be simply one-way.  It isn’t just about your baby bonding with you.   Eye contact is also about bonding with your baby.”

In a 2014 study in the journal “Pediatrics” fifty-five caregivers with children were observed in fast food restaurants, forty caregivers used mobile devices during the meal and sixteen used their devices continuously with their attention directed primarily at the device and not the children.  Dr. Aiken wishes that the following warning be placed on mobile phones:  “Warning:  Not Looking at your Baby Could Cause Significant Delays.”

She devotes considerable space to products that promise early childhood development, products such as the Baby Einstein Products.  Very little, if any, research has gone into the development of these products, and evaluations of these products provide no evidence that they are effective.

The research is clear that the best way to help a baby learn to talk or develop any other cognitive skill is through live interaction with another human being.  Videos and television shows have been shown to be ineffective in learning prior to the age of two.  A study of one thousand infants found that babies who watched more than two hours of DVDs per day performed worse on language assessments than babies who did not watch DVDs.  For each hour of watching a DVD, babies knew six to eight words fewer than babies who did not watch DVDs.  She does note that quieter shows with only one story line, such as “Blue’s Clues” and Teletubbies” can be more effective.   Still babies learn best from humans and not machines.

Some early-learning experts believe there is a connection between ADHD and screen use in children.  ADHD is now the most prevalent psychiatric illness of children and teenagers in America.  The number of young people being treated with medication of ADHD grows every year.  More than ten thousand toddlers, ages two and three years old, are among the children taking ADHD drugs, even though prescribing these falls outside any established pediatric guidelines.

Dr Aiken offers the following ideas for parents pending more guidance and information on proper regulation:

Don’t use a digital babysitter or, in the future, a robot nanny.  Babies and toddlers need a real caregiver, not a screen companion, to cuddle and talk with.  There is no substitute for a real human being.

Because your baby’s little brain is growing quickly and developed through sensory stimulation, consider the senses—touch, smell, sight, sound.  A baby’s early interactions and experiences are encoded in the brain and will ave lasting effects.

Wait until your baby is two or three years old before they get screen time.  And make a conscious decision about the screen rules for them taking into account that screens could be impacting how your child is being raised.

Monitor you own screen time.  Whether or not your children are watching, be aware of how much your television is on at home—and if the computer screen is always glowing and beckoning.  Be aware of how often you check you mobile phone in front of your baby or toddler.

Understand that babies are naturally empathetic and can be very sensitive to emotionally painful, troubling, or violent content.  Studies show that children have a different perception of reality and fantasy than adults do.  Repetitive viewings of frightening or violent content will increase retention, meaning they will form lasting unpleasant memories.

Don’t be fooled by marketing claims.  Science shows us that tablet apps may not be as educational as claimed and that screen time can, in fact, cause developmental delays and may even cause attention issues and language delays in babies who view more than two hours of media per cay.

Put pressure on toy developers to support their claims with better scientific evidence and new studies that investigate cyber effects.

Another Post on Psychology as a STEM Discipline

September 1, 2016

HM likes to address this topic at the beginning of the school year.  Psychology is officially a STEM discipline.  STEM stand for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics and these are the disciplines highly prized for our economy.  Many are probably surprised that psychology is a STEM discipline because they think of psychology in a clinical sense and often confuse these psychologists with psychiatrists.

Well there is a scientific version psychology, parts of which are frequently termed neuropsychology because of the neurological structures and brain imaging techniques that are used.  For the student interested in science psychology is recommended because it crosses many levels of science.  Some psychologists image the brain and make recordings and measurements of the brain.  Cognitive psychologists study perception, memory, decision making, problem solving, and creativity.  Social psychologists study how groups of people interact.  Organizational psychologists study how organizations work and prosper.  Each of these sub-disciplines of psychology has special methodologies for dealing with these problems.  There are also mathematical psychologists and engineering psychologists.  HM had the privilege of serving as President of Division 21 of the American Psychological Association (APA) which is the Division for Engineering and Applied Experimental Psychology.

Although there are marketing psychologists, if you are interested in marketing it might be better to study marketing in a Business College.  If you are interested in how others think and feel, you might be better advised to study literature or drama in college.  Literature is known for fostering empathic understanding, which might be more of what you are interested.  Although HM has not seen any literature on The benefits of studying drama, he has a hunch that the study of and participation in drama might have similar benefits.  However, if you are interested in the scientific study of humans, then psychology would be a good choice.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

An Increasing Failure to Use Technology to Foster Cognitive Growth

May 7, 2016

Two concepts are central to the healthy memory blog.  One is cognitive growth, which stresses the importance of cognitive growth for healthy memories and a fulfilling life.  The other is transactive memory, which is the use of technology and our fellow human beings to foster cognitive growth.  Consequently I found an article by Brian Fung in the April 25 edition of the Washington Post titled “New data:  American are abandoning wired home Internet” distressing.

According to the article in 2013, 1 in 10 U.S.  households were mobile-only.  Now 1 in 5 U.S. households are mobile-only. There is also a relationship between household income and mobile only use, with poorer households being more likely to be mobile only.  So the problem of income divide and the effective use of technology is still prevalent.

Regular readers of the healthy memory blog should already understand my discontent. but I shall elaborate for those who are not regular readers.  Mobile computing can be extremely helpful when people are mobile.  However, use of mobile devices do have some serious shortcomings.

Previous posts have argued that exclusive or excessive mobile computing results in superficial interpersonal relationships (enter “Sherry Turkle” into the healthy memory blog search block).  To do “deep processing” that produces cognitive growth requires at least a notebook and preferably a laptop computer.  This is best done in a quiet location with minimal distractions.  The multitasking that is frequently done with mobile devices results in deficient cognitive processing and can result in possible danger to others in addition to oneself (enter, “multitasking” into the healthy memory search block).

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wealth and Leisure Go Hand in Hand—except in the U.S.

March 6, 2016

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article b Christopher Ingraham in the Business section of the 28 February 2016 issue of the Washington Post.  That wealth and leisure go hand in hand has been a belief held by many, economists included.  Quite some time ago the famous economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that his grandchildren would have 15-hour work weeks due in part  to increased productivity from new machines and technology.  There have been many healthy memory posts on this topic (enter “Why Are We Working So Hard” in the healthymemory search block).  I’ve mentioned many times that when I was in elementary school back in the fifties that we were told that we would have ample free time today due to technology.  At that time it was unusual for women with children to work.  Today it appears that everyone is working more hours, so what happened to the benefits to technology?

Two economists, Charles  Jones and Peter Klenow have examined the number of hours worked as a function of the fraction of per person GDP.   So the value for the U.S is 1, and the values for other country are some percentage of 1.  The average annual number of hours worked per capita in the U.S is 877.  The only countries in the study with a higher number are Malawi, India, and Mexico.  The average number of hours worked per capita in France is 535 hours.   So the average number of hours worked in France is less than two-thirds as much as the average hours worked in the U.S.  The average number of hours worked in Italy and the United Kingdom are slightly higher than in France.

The standard of living of these countries is close to that of the U.S.  Moreover, the social  amenities offered in these countries are often superior to those offered in the U.S.   For example, medical care is free in the United Kingdom.  Not only is medical care free, but statistics indicate that the quality of medical care is superior in the United Kingdom.

So why is this the case in the United States, and why do citizens in the U.S. tolerate this situation?  I think this situation in the United States is not beneficial to health, in general, and memory health, in particular.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Technology and Poverty

January 28, 2016

The October 2, 2015 edition of the New Scientist had two interesting articles in the Comments section.  The first by Federico Pistero is titled “As tech threatens jobs, we must test a universal basic income.”  An earlier healthy memory blog post, “The Second Machine Age,” reviewed a book by Erik Brunjolfsson & Andrew McAfee titled, “The Second Machine Age:  Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies”l  predicted that many jobs, jobs that would be regarded as advanced, will disappear during this second machine age.  Other healthy memory blog posts reviewed books whose authors argued that humanity’s “unique” capacity for empathy would still keep people employed.  I wrote that there would not be enough jobs requiring this “unique” capacity to keep everyone employed, even if these skills could not be implemented with technology.

The comment piece by Pistero  stated that it is possible that within 20 years almost half of all jobs will be lost to machines, and nobody really knows how we are going to cope with that.  Pistero writes “One of the most interesting proposals, that doesn’t rely on the fanciful idea that the market will figure it out, is an unconditional basic income (UBI).

A UBI would provide a monthly stipend to every citizen, regardless of income or employment status.  A key criticism of the UBI is that it would kill the incentive to work.  However, research cited by Pistero involving a whole town in Canada and 20 villages in India found that not only did people continue working, but they were more likely to start businesses or perform socially beneficial activities compared with controls.  Moreover, thee was an increase in general well-being , and no increase in alcohol, drug use, or gambling.

Of course, this research needs to be replicated, but it is good to know that this problem is being researched.  The poverty resulting from large scale unemployment would be devastating.

A second article in the same Comment section by Laura Smith is titled “Pay people a living wage and watch them get healthier.”   Paying the lowest earners less than a living wage, which occurs in both the US and the UK, leaves full-time workers unable to lift their families our of poverty.   The problem goes far beyond unpaid bills.

Poverty keeps people from resources such as healthcare and safe housing.  People in poverty experience more wear and tear from stress than the rest of us, they are sicker, and they die earlier.  Children living in poverty are more likely to be depressed and to have trouble in school.  Newborns are more likely to die in infancy.  Poor people are marginalized.  They often live outside the scope of therapeutic, vocational, social, civic, and cultural resources.  This experience of “outsiderness” reduces cognitive and emotional function.  Brain activity associated with social exclusion has been shown to parallel that of bodily pain.

Research addressing the question of whether raising people’s incomes would improve their health looked at the impact of a community-wide income rise when a casino was built on a Cherokee reservation in North Carolina.  The research compared psychiatric assessments of children before and after this even.  Children’s symptom rates began to decline.  By the fourth year out of poverty, the symptom rates could not be distinguished from children who had never been poor.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

World Economic Forum (WEF) Projects that 5 Million Jobs Will Be Lost to New Technologies by 2020

January 26, 2016

The Washington Post article on which this blog post is based can be found in the 20th January  2016  edition on page A13 in the article written by Jena McGregor.  The theme of the 2016 gathering is the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  This is the term it uses to describe the accelerating pace of technological changes.  It emphasizes changes that are “blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres,” which is the combination of things such as artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, and 3-D printing.  It projects that by 2020, 7.1 million jobs are expected to be lost vs. only 2 million jobs gained.   The WEF study predicts different magnitudes of effects depending on gender.  The repot estimates that in absolute terms, men will face about three jobs lost for every job gained, whereas women will face more than five jobs lost for every job gained.  Now the astute reader will realized that this breakdown does not square with the overall number of jobs lost even given the difference in gender losses.  Whether this is due to the WEF report or the report on the WEF report is unknown.  My queries to the author were not answered.  Another study by Oxford University researchers estimated that 47 percent of U.S. jobs could be taken by robots in the next two decades.

The good news is that about a third of the skills that will be most desirable in 2020 aren’t even considered important today.  Social skills such as persuasion and emotional intelligence are expected to be more in demand that limited technical skills.  so are creativity, active listening, and critical thinking.

So the good news means that the new jobs are likely to be more desirable that the old jobs that are being lost.  There still will likely be an increase in unemployment unless other measures are taken, such as shorter work days, many more vacation days, and opportunities for personal development.  I’ve written in previous healtymemory blog posts that when I was in elementary school in the fifties, the prediction was that there would be much more leisure today as the result of technology.  That has not materialized.  Moreover back then it was unusually for mothers to work.  And the technology that emerged is well beyond the technology that was envisioned.  So why are we working so hard.   A priority needs to be given to quality of life rather than gross domestic product (GDP) (see the healthy memory blog post, “The Well-Being of Nations:  Meaning, Motive, and Measurement”).

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Future of Technology and the Future of Terrorism

October 10, 2015

These topics are addressed in The New Digital Age:  Transforming Nations, Businesses, and Our Lives, a book by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen.  Eric Schmidt, Ph.D., is the executive chairman of Google.  He has a long history in the technology field.  Jared Cohen is the founder and director of Google Ideas.  He is a Rhodes Scholar and the author of two books, Children of Jihad and One Hundred Days of Silence.  From 2006 to 2010 he served as a member of the secretary of state’s Policy Planning Staff and as a close advisor to both Condolezza Rice and Hillary Clinton.  He is now an adjunct senior fellow and the Council of Foreign Relations.  So it is clear that these gentlemen are experts in the areas of which they write.  Moreover, they are widely traveled, having been to both war torn Iraq and Afghanistan.

For example, in Afghanistan they learned of an entire village that revolted against the Taliban when the extremist group tried to seize their phones.  In Kenya, they visited Maasi nomads in Loodariak who live without electricity or running water, but carry, along with their swords, mobile devices that they use to pay for items at the market.  In North Korea, citizens risk imprisonment in the gulags and in some cases death, which can also be applied to three generations of relatives, in order to obtain smuggled phones and tablets and make extremely risking trips to the Chinese border just to capture a signal.

There is simply too much material here to even attempt to summarize.   Descriptions by the experts on the development of technology can certainly be regarded as authoritative.  There are chapters on Our Future Selves, The Future of Identity, Citizenship, and Reporting, the Future of States, the Future of Revolution, the Future of Terrorism, the future of Conflict, Combat, and Intervention.  If one is prone to worrying, you might want to reconsider reading this book, for there is much to worry about, many nightmare scenarios.  Nevertheless , the discussion of cyberwarfare are detailed and informative.

Central to the discussion of terrorism is the question of what makes a person a terrorist? How can terrorism be fought?  General Stanley McChrystal draws on his experience from commanding troops against terrorist offers these suggestions.  “What defeats terrorism is really two things.  It’s the rule of law and then it’s opportunity for people.”  Young people need to be provide with context-rich alternatives and distractions that keep they from pursuing extremism.  Outsiders do not need to provide content, they just need to create the space.”

I think highly of the general’s ideas and recommendations.  However, I don’t think they provide a complete solution.  The terrorists who flew planes into the Trade Towers and the Pentagon were well educated and well off.  They had opportunity and context-rich alternatives.  These people need to be addressed at another level with helpful narratives to replace their distorted versions of reality.

The authors do identify the Achilles Heel of Terrorism, and that is technology itself.  To remain hidden, Osama bin Laden had to remain off-line to avoid capture.  But when he was captured his flash drives and hard drives contained a trove of information to fight the terrorists.

The authors remain optimistic.  They are especially optimistic about the future of reconstruction.  So once disasters or attacks strike, if communications technology is set up enough has bee learned about receiving from these disasters that recovery, if done right, can be done with increasing efficiency.

The authors note that there are physical and virtual civilizations.  Thy note that their case for optimism lies not in sci-fi gadgets or holograms, but in the check that technology and connectivity bring against the abuse, suffering, and distraction in our lives.

I hope the authors are correct, and they certainly know more than I do.  But there remains the potential of technology to be used by totalitarian regimes to control and abuse their populations.  RFID chips could be implanted in people so that their locations would always be known, and other technology could provide information on their activities.  So, I hope the authors are correct and that technology will be used for good rather than evil.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Shortcomings of Empathy

October 7, 2015

Previous blogs have included many good comments on empathy.  Perhaps one of the primary ones, is that humans excel a empathy and computers are short on empathy.  Paul Bloom, a psychologist at Yale University says that people who think that empathic concern is an unalloyed force for good are wrong.  The problem is that empathy is a spotlight and is very narrow.  It illuminates the suffering of a single person rather than the fate of millions.  It is more concerned with the here and now than with the future.  Bloom goes on to say, “It’s because of empathy that we care more about, say, the plight of a little girl trapped in a well than we do about potentially billions of people suffering or dying from climate change.”   According to the article, Morality 2.0 by Dan Jones in the September 26, 2015 New Scientist,  empathy’s shortcomings are compounded by the fact that we end up pointing its beam on cause that come into our field of view.  These are typically the most newsworthy moral issues rather than those where we can do the most good.

There is also a general belief that our brains are wired to be empathic.  This accounts for our success as a species.  But, again, the problem is the narrowness of our empathy beam.  Conflict among groups, be they tribes, nations, religions, or even professional organizations is the rule rather then the exception.  Our record is one of the abuse and even the enslavement of others who we believe “do not belong.”

The New Scientist article discusses a variety of means of prodding humans to make more meaningful moral choices.  It concludes with the following statement:  “Moral issues are complicated and hard, and they involve serious trade-offs and deliberation.  it would be be better if people thought more about them.”

It strikes me that non-empathic computer technology might be of considerable assistance. The problem of addressing the wide variety of moral needs in an efficient manner is an enormous computational task. one that is certainly beyond an individual human’s intellect, and is perhaps beyond the capacity of the collective intellect of humanity.  Humans could program their empathic concerns into computers.  Computers could then  compute enormous cost/benefit analysis.  Humans could then discuss and debate how resources could best be used to address these human and planetary needs.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Humans Are Underrated

September 29, 2015

Humans are Underrated:  What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will by Geoff Colvin purports to relieve any concerns we might have of being replaced by computers.  His argument is that the human understanding of interpersonal relationships and empathy are essential skills that humans have that will never be replaced by computers.  I would also argue that the human understanding of interpersonal relationships and empathy are skill that are limited to small groups.  The history of the species is one of warfare and conflicts, to include enslavement and attempts at exterminating other groups.  He contradicts himself by also stating that no one should ever say what computers can’t do.  However, even if computers can never achieve empathy, there will still be a massive displacement of humans by computers.  If this is your primary interest then you should read another book reviewed in the immediately preceding healthymemory blog post, The Second Machine Age:  Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brunjolfsson & Andrew McAfee, a book that addresses the problem and proposes solutions in an accurate and thorough manner.

Nevertheless, there is much of value and interest in Colvin’s book.  I shall hit some highlights here and address some other topics in future healthy memory blog posts.
He argues that our brains were built for understanding and interacting with others.  He argues, correctly, that empathy is the foundation of  the other abilities that increasingly make people valuable  as technology advances.

Colvin also notes that although computers will never be able to incorporate empathy or other interpersonal skills, IT can nevertheless be used to train interpersonal skills.  Many examples are taken from research done for the military.

He also writes of the importance of narratives.  This is an especially important topic and warrants its own future post.

Colvin makes a compelling argument that females have better interpersonal and empathic skills than do males.  The number of females on a team contribute positively to the performance of that team.  And the best teams consist exclusively of females.  So it is likely that females shall provide the lead in the future.  We are already seeing movements in that direction as there is a higher percentage of females in college than males and a higher percentage of female graduates.

Colvin ends on an optimizing note encouraging us all to grow and improve.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Second Machine Age

September 26, 2015

The Second Machine Age:  Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies is the title of a book by Erik Brunjolfsson & Andrew McAfee.  If I needed to make a list of required readings for this blog, this book would most definitely be on it.  The authors are from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.  One of the reasons I am recommending this book is that it is an excellent example of first rate scholarship. The second reason is that it provides an understanding of why middle class wages are not keeping up with increases in economic productivity.  Perhaps more importantly, it discusses the future and the choices that confront us then.  On one hand, it could be an enjoyable paradise supplying the future that was promised me that I complain about during all of my Labor Day Post rants.  On the other, hand the future could be a virtual nightmare.

The book begins by explaining the difference between the Second Machine Age, in which we are in, with the first Machine Age.  Human social development has remained relatively stagnant until the current century, during which it has exploded.   There are three reasons for this explosion. .

The first is Moore’s Law that characterized the explanation growth of technology.  One chapter discusses the second half of the chess board.  This is where exploitation growth truly jumps.    In other words, we haven’t seen anything yet.

The second reason is digitization.  It is possible to digitize an enormous number of items.  This digitization enables the benefits from the exponential explosion.

The third reason has to do with the combinatorial explosion of different technologies.  There are so many ways that digital products can be linked together that its potential is almost incomprehensible.

The reality is that technology will rapidly take over more and more jobs done by humans.  The authors are strongly of the opinion that humans should do what humans do best and that machines should do what machines do best.  Of course, as machines take over more and more tasks, there will be less for humans to do.  However, humans will always have certain unique capabilities, I call them our special sauce.

Nevertheless, there will be fewer and fewer tasks that need to be done in the future.  The authors take us into the future and offer differ ways of dealing with this problem.   One way of looking at this is is that this problem can be used as an opportunity to provide humans with more free time for personal growth and enjoyment.  However, unless this is dealt with properly, we could have disenfranchised humans resorting to drugs and crime.

So even if you do not appreciate first rate scholarship, this book should be read so that you understand with the problems we are currently dealing with, and so that you will understand how to handle the future so that it becomes a virtual paradise rather than a virtual hell.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Absurdity of College Costs

September 15, 2015

How did this happen?  Today graduates need to begin their lives saddled with a ridiculous amount of debt.  Parents need to dig into their retirement accounts, either delaying or forgoing retirement, to provide an education for their children.

When I did my undergraduate work at Ohio State University (OSU) college was affordable, and at that time Ohio did not have a state income tax.  Now it does, but students are finding private colleges more affordable than OSU! This is an outrage!  State universities have an obligation to provide an affordable education to its residents.  When a private college can provide a more affordable education, something is seriously wrong.

Colleges and Universities need to be questioned why costs are increasing.  Technology provides the means to reduce costs significantly.  Are the making use of this technology?  Are they using it effectively?  Also remember that colleges and universities avail themselves of cheap labor, namely adjunct faculty and graduate students, who work for ridiculously low wages.

I believe that one of the problems is that colleges and universities have burdened themselves with unnecessarily heavy overheads that contribute virtually nothing directly to education. The problem is that they are bureaucracies, and bureaucracies  grow.  It’s in their nature.  Northcotte Parkinson, famous for his law that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”, is also famous for his study of how  bureaucracies   grow unnecessarily.  I’ve worked in such bureaucracies and have watched this meaningless growth.  Given modern IT, bureaucracies should decrease, but instead they increase.  It’s inherent to bureaucracies to grow themselves.

Moreover, the issue should go beyond affordability.  Higher education should be free.  The results of the GI Bill provide ample evidence for this.  Most of the post war prosperity can be attributed to the higher educational achievements who were able to use the GI bill.  Any debts incurred in providing free higher education will be wiped out by increases in productivity.   Read or reread the healthy memory blog post “Why Information Grows.”  The answer to why countries succeed, it is due to knowledge and know how.

Read or reread the healthy memory blog post “2015 Labor Day Post.”  The future should be characterized by continuing education throughout one’s lifetime.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

2015 Labor Day Post

September 4, 2015

Every Labor Day I go back to my boyhood and remember what future was predicted then for us to be enjoying today.  This was the fifties and at that time it was very unusual for mothers to work outside the home.  The basic prediction was that advances in technology would result in significant leisure time for everyone.   Back then no one dreamed of anything like a personal computer, the internet, iPADs, or wifi.  In other words, technology went far beyond what was imagined.  So I ask again, what I’ve asked in every healthy memory blog post for Labor Day, “Why Are We Working So Hard?”  Today both marriage partners are working.  The predicted increase in leisure time has not materialized.  And we in the US work more hours than those in most advanced countries.  Often this announcement is made with pride, when it should be uttered in shame.

Some of the answers to the question, “why are we working so hard,” can be found in the three immediately preceding healthymemory blog posts.  “The Wellbeing of Nations:  Meaning, Motive, and Measurement” explained why the primary metric for measuring economies, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is seriously flawed.  This metric fails to capture many factors that make for well-being and happiness.  Moreover, it requires that economies continue to grown and expand.  Eventually the capacity for growth of the GDP will be limited and the resources for continuing this growth will be depleted.  The blog post also explained that this is an extremely difficult topic and the work in this area is still in its early stages.  Nevertheless, it has begun, so let us hope it will continue.

The healthymemory blog post “Behavioral Economics”  reviewed how classical economics is based on the model of a rational human.  There is ample evidence that we humans are not rational.  Behavioral economics is devoted to identifying behaviors that lead to desirable outcomes.  Again, there is much work to do, but it least it has started.

The  blog post “Why Information Grows”  presents a novel view of what makes economies successful.  The answer is knowledge and know how.  Again, these ideas are very new, but they offer the potential to guide us in the right direction.

Labor Day is a holiday, but  unfortunately it signals the end of summer and the traditional time for vacations and recreation.  I would suggest that Memorial Day, a holiday for the somber remembrance for those who have died fighting for our country, be switched with Labor Day.  Then Labor Day would signal the beginning of vacation and recreation time.

Nevertheless, as Labor Day is a holiday, let us engage in a fantasy so we can enjoy the holiday.  First of all, there would be a heavy investment in education, which would be free at all levels.  Moreover, education would continue throughout our lives.  This provides both for personal growth and facilitates the advancement of new technologies.  There would be ample free time.  Medical care would be guaranteed and free so people would not need to work for medical coverage.  People could drop out from time to time so that they could simply enjoy leisure time.  They could take classes in anything that
caught their fancy and found to be enjoyable.   Retirement, per se, would become obsolete as people would continue to learn and grow throughout their senior years

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

10 Innovations That Changed History and 10 Innovations That Will

November 5, 2014

This is the title of a special report in the New Scientist (October 25-31, 2014). Articles like this are fun, but should not be taken too seriously. However, they do provide food for thought.

10 innovations that have changed history

Cooking. Clearly learning how to start and control fires was a prerequisite, but cooking enable early humans to enjoy a better diet for advancing physical and cognitive health.

Weapons. Weapons enabled hunting, which provided for a better diet that advance physical and cognitive health. They also brought about warfare. The article argues that this enabled the weakest group member to take down the strongest group member of the opposing group. So weapons encouraged early human groups to embrace and egalitarian existence unique among primates. There appears to have been a link between warfare and technological advancement, the most recent example being the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union. The launch of Sputnik encouraged a giant increase in US funding for technology development and the training and education of scientists and engineers. I was one of the many beneficiaries of this funding. Would man have reached the moon without this funding? What about progress in computers? The internet is a product of defense spending.

Jewelry and Cosmetics. This is certainly an item I would have left off my list, but the authors argue that they hint at dramatic revolutions in the nature of human beliefs and communication. They are indications of symbolic thought and behavior because wearing a particular necklace or form of body paint has meaning beyond the apparent. As well as status, it can signify things like group identify or shared outlook. That generation after generation adorned themselves in this way indicates that these people had language complex enough to establish traditions.

Sewing. It is obvious that without sewing there would be little in the way of clothes to product our bodies and allow us to live outside of highly temperate bodies.

Containers. This is an obvious advancement that is easily overlooked. Groups of humans would have needed to remain small absent containers.

Law. Obviously codified rules are needed for societies to survive. Then, there is the concept of justice. The law and justice need to be better aligned. One might be tempted to argue that currently they are orthogonal dimensions.

Timekeeping. Contemporary could not exist without a system of timekeeping. For much of history, timekeeping systems were local. It was not until the development of the railroads were the different timekeeping systems brought into alignment to keep trains from crashing into each other.

Ploughing. Obviously without agriculture, societies would not have developed, and advanced agriculture requires plumbing.

Sewerage. Absent sewerage, not only would the stench be unbearable, but diseases would be widely spread. I will not step into a time-travel machine and go back to a time before sewerage.

Writing. But of course. If there were not writing, there could be no healthymemory blog.

10 innovations that will change history.

End of aging. This might come to pass, but what will be its ramifications? Will warfare break out between the ages. Will people eventually grown tired of who they have been for so long and opt out?

Aging might end, but can the quality of life be maintained or improved?

Decision Making Machines. Not only do we not like making too many decisions, we are not good at making decisions. Perhaps decision making machines could replace our non-functioning legislative systems.

Customisable Bodies. Well this has already started with plastic surgery. Will the results be improved? How will people choose to customize their bodies. How might this affect athletic competitions?

Cryptocurriences. The bitcoin is provided as an example here. Is it an improvement? Would these currencies constitute an improvement or just another means of speculation?

Virtual Reality. Might virtual reality be seen as better than real reality and virtual living would replace real living?

Brain Uploads. Here we have the singularity with silicon. This is Kurtzweil’s future, one of which I am quite skeptical.

Genetic engineering. I expect great things here to include the end of disease and genetic defects. There might even be substantive genetic improvements to mitigate our many shortcomings.

Space Colonization. Yes, in our solar system. But we need to learn how to break the laws of physics to colonize outside our solar system.

End of Privacy. This might already have occurred. What is needed are laws to prevent abuses of this end of privacy.

And Abundance of Everything. Something to be hoped for. Today we are a minority of our species who enjoy the bnefits of technology and are not suffering from war and atrocities at the hand of fanatics. So why was the end of war and terrorism not on the list of ten advances for the future?

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Maintaining Focus on the Internet

November 1, 2014

I become angry, furious even, when I hear, see, or read something about humans being victims of the internet. Supposedly, attention spans are shortened, and we are forced to switch from topic to topic. Consequently, we are exposed to volumes of information, but fail to develop knowledge or to understand topics in depth.

Now it is true that this can be the consequence if we are data driven by what pops up on the internet. But there is no excuse if we end up being victims of technology. Technology is a tool. A tool is something we use to accomplish some goal, not something to be victimized by.

So, when we get on the internet it should be with some goal or prioritized goals to accomplish. We need to maintain our focus to accomplish because never before have we had such a tool that enables us to learn so much in so short a time. First of all, we can search on a topic to get suggested links. When we find a fruitful link we can begin to read and to take notes. We’ll encounter hyperlinks. When a hyperlink is encountered we need to make a decision. Should it be ignored? If we ignore it, we still can return later. If we think it is potentially important, but not something to be pursued at the moment, we can bookmark it. Or, if we feel like we really need more information to continue, we can click on the link and drill down for more information.

Remember what was needed in pre-internet days? We have an article or a book. We read. We take notes. We identify holes in our knowledge and look for more references. All of this is time consuming, requiring going through card catalogs and other sources of additional information. Consider the time involved here and compare it with clicking on hyperlink. When a book is needed, it can be ordered from Amazon or some other online vendor.

In the lingo of the healthymemory blog, the internet is a superb example of transactive memory. Remember that there are two sources of transactive memory. One is technology, which can range from the internet to books and journals. The other source is our fellow human beings, We can and should use the internet to connect with fellow humans with knowledge and expertise in topics of interest.

For more healthymemory blog posts on this topic, enter “contemplative computing” into the this blog’s search block.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Labor Day Message 2014

August 31, 2014

 

Regular readers of the healthymemory blog might receognize some striking similarities between this message and the 2013 message. Unfortunately, not much has changed. When I was in elementary school the predictions were that due to technology we would have much more leisure time (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leisure) in the future. I’ll remind you that at this time it was highly unusual for married mothers to be working. In my view, some of the technological achievements, particularly in computing and in broadband, have vastly exceeded these predictions. So I ask you, why are we working so hard? We’re working much harder than when I was in elementary school. And it’s getting worse. Americans now work for eight and a half hours more a week than they did in 1979.

I would further ask, exactly what are we producing? Suppose only those who provided the essentials for living and for safety went to work. What percentage of the working population would that be? Make your own guess, but mine would be less than 10%, so what is going on here?. Currently we are working hard to achieve an unemployment rate at or below 5%. But is this a realistically achievable unemployment rate? Remember that the previous two occasions when the employment rate was at or below 5%, the economic prosperity was bogus. There was the dot com bogus, when people expected to become rich via the internet. Then there was the bogus finance/real estate boom where riches were created via bogus and unsubstantiated financial instruments. So why, absent some other fictitious basis for a boom, do we expect to get back to 5% unemployment

To examine the question of why we are working so hard, I present the following study tht can be found in Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow.It found that being poor is bad. Of course, this finding is not surprising. The surprising finding is that a household income of $75,000 represented a satiation level beyond which experienced well being no longer increased. And this was in high cost living areas. In other areas the number would be lower. So, it is clear that we are working more for no real benefit. Why?

The world’s environmental and resource issues also need to be considered here. As the undeveloped world develops, the demands on resources, the pollution of the environment, and the rate of global warming will increase as the developing world hops on the same exhausting treadmill that the developed world has been on.

I think the problem is that classical economics has outlived its usefulness and has become destructive. Economics needs to undergo a paradigm shift. Classical economics is based on the rationale theory of man. Socials scientists have debunked this theory quite well as have behavioral economists. Computing the Gross National Product (GNP) in terms of hard dollars might seem to b objective, but reminds one of the drunk who is looking for his car keys under the streetlamp rather than in the dimly illuminated part of the parking where he dropped them. Economists need to consider subjective, relevant measures as happiness and life satisfaction, but these measures are given only glancing consideration. Perhaps this is due to the extreme economics supermeme that plagues us and has been discussed in previous healthymemory blog posts.

Once appropriate measures and appropriate philosophies regarding self fulfillment and self actualization are adopted we can get off the treadmill and enjoy the fruits of technology and our lives.

You also might visit or revisit the Healthymemory Blog Post “Gross National Happiness.” There is also an entry on this topic on wikipedia.org.

Using or Abstaining from Technologies in Ways That are Restorative

October 20, 2013

The eighth principle of contemplative computing1 is using or abstaining from technologies in ways that are restorative. With the possible exception of flow, using technologies requires mental effort. Even in the case of flow, eventually we all tire. In other words, our conscious mental resources deplete and need time to be restored.

So we need to know how to restore our mind’s ability to focus. We can arrange our environments to make it easier to concentrate for longer periods. It is also important to find activities that offer a respite, but not a complete break from steady concentration. Things that offer a sense of being away with a mix of fascination and boundlessness can help our minds recharge. Complete breaks are also essential. Take time off to meditate. A good walk can help the mind recharge. Then, too, it is also necessary to know when it’s time to quit for the day (or night). Be assured that even when we give our conscious minds a break, our subconscious minds keep working. It is possible that our conscious minds can get caught in a rut thinking about the same things, and a complete break can facilitate our subconscious minds breaking through with the answer.

So, there we have it. The eight principles of contemplative computing: be human, be calm, be mindful, make conscious choices, extend our abilities, seek flow, engage with the world, and use or abstain from technologies in ways that are restorative.

1(2013) Pang, Alex Soojung-Kim. The Distraction Addiction.

Contemplative Computing

September 22, 2013

According to Nielsen and the Pew Research Center, Americans spend an average of 60 hours a month online. That’s 729 hours a year, which is the equivalent of 90 eight-hour days per year. Twenty of these days are spent in social networking sites, 38 viewing content on news sites, YouTube, blogs, and so on, and 32 doing email. Remember, these numbers of averages, so numbers for individuals can be considerably higher or lower. The usual response to this is that we are being overwhelmed by technology.

Readers of the healthymemory blog should know that this blog is not sympathetic to articles and books complaining that we are suffering victims of our technology. The Distraction Addiction, in spite of its title, is not one of these books. Its author, Dr. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang is a senior business consultant at Strategic Business Insights, a Silicon Valley-based think tank, and a visiting scholar at Stanford and Oxford universities. He has also been a Microsoft Research fellow. Dr. Pang is an advocate of contemplative computing, of not letting technology rule our lives, but instead of using this technology and interacting with our fellow humans to extend and grown our capabilities. Using technology and interacting with our fellow humans is referred to in the healthymemory blog as transactive memory. Contemplative computing aligns directly with what is being advocated in the healthymemory blog. Transactive memory, mindfulness, and meditation are central to the message of the healthymemory blog.

There are four big ideas, or principles in The Distraction Addiction.

The first big idea is our relationships with information technologies are incredibly deep and express unique human capacities.

The second big idea is the world has become a more distracting place—and there are solutions for bringing the extended mind back under control.

The third big idea is it’s necessary to be contemplative about technology.

And the fourth big idea is you can redesign your extended mind.

Were I to assign a text for the healthymemory blog, it would be The Distraction Addiction. Although it would not be appropriate for me to assign a text, I certainly do recommend your reading The Distraction Addiction. Given its relevance, I shall be basing many healthymemory blog posts on this book, but I can never do justice to the original.

In the meantime, you can visit www.contemplativecomputing.org

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Happy Labor Day: Why Are We Working So Hard?

September 2, 2012

For Labor Day I think it is appropriate to repost “Why, With All This Technology Are We Working So Hard?”

When I was in elementary school the predictions were that due to technology we would have much more leisure time in the future. I’ll remind you that at this time it was highly unusual for married mothers to be working. In my view some of the technological achievements, particularly in computing and in broadband, have vastly exceeded these predictions. So I ask you, why are we working so hard? We’re working much harder than when I was in elementary school.

I would ask further what, exactly, are we producing? Suppose only those who provided the essentials for living and for safety went to work? What percentage of the working population would that be? Make your own guess, but mine would be less than 10%. So what is going on here?

Currently we are working hard to achieve an unemployment rate at or below 5%. We are finding that exceedingly hard to achieve. But should we be? Remember that the previous two occasions when the employment rate was at or below 5%, the economic prosperity was bogus. There was the dot com bogus, when people expected to become rich via the internet, only the path to these riches remained unspecified. Then there was the bogus finance/real estate boom where riches were created via bogus and unsubstantiated financial instruments. So why, absent some other fictitious basis for a boom, do we expect to get back to 5% unemployment?

To examine the question of why we are working so hard, I present the results of the following study.1 It found that being poor, is bad. Of course, this finding is not surprising. The surprising finding is that a household income of $75,000.00 represented a satiation level beyond which experienced well being no longer increased. And this was in high cost living areas. In other areas the number would be lower. And this was for experienced well being. Emotional well being might have carried additional therapeutic costs. So it is clear that we are working more for no real benefit. Why?

One reason might be the that the economic theorists who currently formulate policy are classical economists using the rational theory of man. Behavioral economists have debunked this theory. Moreover, computing GNP in terms of hard dollars might smack of objectivity, but reminds one of the drunk who is looking for his car keys under the streetlamp rather than in the dimly illuminated part of the parking lot where he dropped his keys. Economic measures should include such subjective, but relevant, measures as happiness and life satisfaction.

Perhaps with the appropriate measures and appropriate philosophies regarding self fulfillment and self actualization we can get off the treadmill and enjoy the fruits of technology and our lives.

You also might visit or revisit the Healthymemory Blog post “Gross National Happiness (GNU).

1Kahneman, D., & Angus, D. (2010). High Income Improves the Evaluation of Life but Not Emotional Well Being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107, 16489-93

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Commentary on Newseek’s Cover Story “iCrazy”

July 11, 2012

More specifically “iCRAZY: PANIC. DEPRESSION. PSYCHOSIS. HOW CONNECTION ADDICTION IS REWIRING OUR BRAINS” in the July 16, 2012 edition. The inside title is ‘IS THE ONSLAUGHT MAKING US CRAZY?” I have no quarrel with the research cited, nor with the thesis that there are problems that result from the manner in which people interact with technology. My problem is with the portrayal of humans as helpless victims of technology. Perhaps one can make an analogy with alcohol. Some users of alcohol become alcoholics while the majority of us are able to enjoy alcoholic beverages safely. However, a minority of users suffer from alcoholism. Where the analogy breaks down is in the relative benefits of alcohol and technology. The benefits of alcohol are personal enjoyment and, perhaps, some health benefits. However, the benefits of technology are so many orders of magnitude larger that the analogy breaks down. The Healthymemory Blog maintains that technology provides means of fostering cognitive growth and personal development as well as providing means of minimizing or eliminating the risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Most of the relevant Healthymemory Blog posts on this topic can be found under the category “Transactive Memory.”

I become infuriated whenever I read articles that portray humans as helpless victims of technology. The hype in the titles of the Newsweek activated my crap detector (see the Healthymemory Blog Post “Has the Internet Really Made the Assessment of the Reliability of Information More Difficult?”). If I may be given the liberty of distinguishing levels of “crap,” the reading of the Newsweek article raised the distinction from “garden variety” crap to “world class” crap.

We need to seize control of technology and use it to our benefit rather than to our detriment. The book Net Smart by Howard Rheingold provides good advice on how to do so. Indeed, the subtitle of the book is How to Thrive Online. See the Healthymemory Blog Post “Net Smart” for a review.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Why, With All This Technology, Are We Working So Hard?

July 1, 2012

When I was in elementary school the predictions were that due to technology we would have much more leisure time in the future. I’ll remind you that at this time it was highly unusual for married mothers to be working. In my view some of the technological achievements, particularly in computing and in broadband, have vastly exceeded these predictions. So I ask you, why are we working so hard? We’re working much harder than when I was in elementary school.

I would ask further what, exactly, are we producing? Suppose only those who provided the essentials for living and for safety went to work? What percentage of the working population would that be? Make your own guess, but mine would be less than 10%. So what is going on here?

Currently we are working hard to achieve an unemployment rate at or below 5%. We are finding that exceedingly hard to achieve. But should we be? Remember that the previous two occasions when the employment rate was at or below 5%, the economic prosperity was bogus. There was the dot com bogus, when people expected to become rich via the internet, only the path to these riches remained unspecified. Then there was the bogus finance/real estate boom where riches were created via bogus and unsubstantiated financial instruments. So why, absent some other fictitious basis for a boom, do we expect to get back to 5% unemployment/

To examine the question of why we are working so hard, I present the results of the following study.1 It found that being poor, is bad. Of course, this finding is not surprising. The surprising finding is that a household income of $75,000.00 represented a satiation level beyond which experienced well being no longer increased. And this was in high cost living areas. In other areas the number would be lower. And this was for experienced well being. Emotional well being might have carried additional therapeutic costs. So it is clear that we are working more for no real benefit. Why?

One reason might be the that the economic theorists who currently formulate policy are classical economists using the rational theory of man. Behavioral economists have debunked this theory. Moreover, computing GNP in terms of hard dollars might smack of objectivity, but reminds one of the drunk who is looking for his car keys under the streetlamp rather than in the dimly illuminated part of the parking lot where he dropped his keys. Economic measures should include such subjective, but relevant, measures as happiness and life satisfaction.

Perhaps with the appropriate measures and appropriate philosophies regarding self fulfillment and self actualization we can get off the treadmill and enjoy the fruits of technology and our lives.

1Kahneman, D., & Angus, D. (2010). High Income Improves the Evaluation of Life but Not Emotional Well Being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107, 16489-93

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Why Have Our Brains Shrunk?

October 12, 2011

According to an article1 in the New Scientist in the past 10,000 to 15,000 years the average size of the human brain compared to the human body has shrunk from 3 to 4 per cent. The question is why. One explanation for this shrinkage is that the brain has evolved to make better use of less gray and white matter. Some genetic studies suggest that our brain’s wiring is more efficient than it was in the past. However, another explanation is that this shrinkage is a sign of a slight decline in our cognitive abilities.

David Geary of the University of Missouri-Columbia believes that after complex societies developed, the less intelligent could survive on the backs of their more intelligent peers. Previously, the less intelligent would either have died or failed to mate. It appears that this decline might be continuing. Studies have found that the more intelligent people are, the fewer children they have. Today intellectual and economic success are not linked with larger families.

It is interesting to speculate whether this trend will continue or perhaps even accelerate given the widespread use of technology. Is this technology making us smarter by giving us greater access to computations and to external storage (transactive memory)? Or is it making us dumber due to our increasing reliance on technology? At one time multiplication tables needed to be memorized. Now the use of calculators is widespread. At one time more information needed to be committed to memory. Now it can be looked up.

There is even the suggestion that at some point we might no longer need our biological brains. Ray Kurzweil contends that there will be a singularity in the future when our biological brains are replaced by silicon brains (See the Healthymemory Blog Posts, “Are Our Memories Becoming Too Dependent on Technology,” “Achieving the Max in Technical Transactive Memory,’ and “Brain, Mind, and Body”). These questions are interesting to ponder.

1Robson, D. (2011). A brief history of the brain. New Scientist, 24 September, 40-45.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Are Our Memories Becoming Too Dependent on Technology?

June 22, 2011

My recent attendance at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science (APS) brought this question to the forefront of my mind. Traveling to the meeting on the metro, many, many people were engrossed with their mobile devices. Although people were meeting, greeting, and conversing at the convention, many were interacting with their mobile devices. Even during presentations at the convention, attendees were still working with their mobile devices. Now in the lingo of the Healthymemory Blog, these mobile devices are examples of technical transactive memory. Concerns with technical transactive memory are not new. Socrates was concerned that the introduction of the Greek alphabet would lead to the decline of civilization. As technology has advanced through the printing press up to today’s cyber technology, people have continued to raise these concerns. Although all these advancements in technology have lead to advances in civilization, I still think it prudent to ask if our memories have become too dependent on technology.

The major risk is that the capabilities of our personal biological memories will decline. This loss would be analogous to the loss in physical fitness and increase in obesity that has resulted from technological advances that have reduced our physical activity. We, or at least some of us, engage in physical activity in an attempt to reduce these losses in our physical fitness. Do we need to engage in similar activities to exercise our biological memories? (See the Healthymemory Blog posts, “Moonwalking with Einstein,” “How the Memory Champs Do It,” “Remembering Poems,” “The Talented Tenth,” and “Moonwalking with Einstein: The Bottom Line”).

There is the view that eventually transactive memory will supplant our biological memories (See the Healthymemory Blog post, “Achieving the Max in Technical Transactive Memory.” Ray Kurzweil maintains that in the future there will occur a singularity in which biology and silicon will become one. This is highly speculative and it might never occur, so don’t give up on your personal biological memory. Carefully consider what it means to you and what you might want to do to maintain and enhance it.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.