The New Childhood

Reviews.

Having written just a few, I rarely write blogs concerning the specific content of various media.

I prefer attempting to come up with my own ideas rather than spending a lot of time critiquing others’ ideas. If I am a critic at all it is of culture-at-large.

However, regarding the current book I have just completed, The New Childhood: Raising Kids to Thrive in a Connected World, by Temple University Professor Jordan Shapiro, I cannot help myself. Shapiro has an amazing ability to view the world through an informed lens of human history as opposed to confining his understanding of the world through our current cultural context alone.

When one views the world historically, and I do mean from the beginning of human history as we know it, it becomes apparent our species practices a very consistent behavioral pattern concerning, well, just about everything.

This book is a history, parenting, philosophy, technology, sociology and psychology book rolled up into one cohesive outlook, critically analyzing our current relationship with technology from multiple points of access.

I have typically understood our culture’s relationship with technology through the lens of the dystopian/utopian continuum: that is, there are those who either believe the internet, and technology in general, are leading us onto a path of great dystopian destruction or to a wonderful utopian place of enlightenment and progress…with every view in between these two extremes.

No more.

Shapiro has challenged my thinking in this regard. Yes, both dystopian and utopian views exist, yet I would create a new category for him, perhaps called, a “realist-ian” or better yet, a “justdealwithit-ian.” He has convinced me that this dichotomy is misguided and unhelpful in 2019.

Shapiro looks at human history and examines the invention of the child’s playground sandbox, family dinners, the family hearth, television, clockwork mechanics, the Dewey Decimal system, even penmanship, among other overlooked cultural phenomenon, to assist us in better understanding the human condition and the monumental change technology is having upon contemporary global culture.

Just as with every innovation in human history having its fair share of naysayers, it is not long before the “back in my day” crowd slowly dies off and humanity progresses forward without the irritation of the OFD sufferers (not to be confused with prophet-like critics whose warnings are a needed and necessary aspect of moving forward with discretion).

Engaging in the dystopian/utopian discussion is akin to still giving those who refuse to get a car (“my horse works just fine, thank you very much, the world is too damn fast anyway”), or a computer (“nothing wrong with my Royal typewriter”) or even a phone (“if someone wants to talk to me they can put forward the effort to get on their damn horse and knock on my door”) some credence and validity, as if they possess reasonable objections to these contemporary conveniences.

In other words, “Dystopians, (in my richest Italian accent) get over it already! It’s called progress.”

Shapiro examines historical human innovations and details the strangely similar human reactions have been toward such innovations.

“What is it with these mechanical clocks? Was something wrong with the sun dial?”

He has convinced me that blaming the ills of society on a technology is simply misguided. Rather, any negative outcomes we believe a technology may result in, rests in our incorrect and misguided use and application of it.

“Air bags, shmare bags. I would prefer the old fashioned way of enduring accidents. Death.”

Speaking of which, imagine when the automobile became mass produced and we were driving for the first time as a society en masse: it was some time after that when we figured out stop signs would be a really good idea (1915 to be exact), that speed limits needed to be imposed while a universal lighting system consisting of green, yellow and red would really help us apply this new technology most safely and effectively. It took a while for us to figure out that, say, crosswalks and limit lines would be nice…but that took some trial and error as well, perhaps an accident or two, before we got there. These better ways to apply this new technology did not happen overnight.

Like in the application of most technologies, there is a learning curve. (As an aside, whoever thought of the left turn, red light arrow was just a flat-out mad man who should have been kicked out of the traffic meeting).

Therefore, we need to best figure out this internet technology thing as we are still in the infancy stages of its use.

How do we best apply new technologies? What new “stop signs” do we need to employ? How do we invent digital versions of crosswalks and limit lines? Shapiro asks these questions and more.

So, for a good read, I would highly recommend The New Childhood. Like myself, you may find yourself at odds with some of his extreme progressive positions on certain applications of technologies (for example his strong encouragement for his young boys to engage in, what I would deem, excessive video game play), yet his points are very well taken and his message very much needed in an age when there is no turning back.

But be warned, Shapiro can either be viewed as a utopian on steroids, or simply a person who recognizes that there is no putting the cat back in the bag nor the toothpaste back in the tube. Technologically, it is what it is and this is what it shall be until our next great innovation, at which time we will have to figure it out best practices all over again.

Now, enough reviews. I need to come up with some of my own ideas.

In the meantime, you can find the book here, among other places.

 

 

 

Old Fart Disease

If any of jimmysintension readers have been engaging with this blog with any regularity, they would certainly know my position on any number of matters- perhaps none more so than my thoughts on what is not so affectionately known as, “Old Fart Disease.”

Allow me to provide some background.

Historically, OFD was a condition that primarily effected those of advanced age. However, current trends suggest OFD may effect anyone at any time at any age. Recent studies out of Brown University do point to the idea that a growing number of young people suffer from this dreaded syndrome, which also knows no race, ethnicity, educational level, gender, class, etc…

Researchers have various theories as to why OFD is spreading in younger populations, though first let us take a look at the symptoms, how to identify the disease, and possible cures.

Symptoms often include phrases such as, “These damn kids today…” or “Well when I was growing up we did not…(fill-in activity/behavior that is now perceived reprehensible by the OFD victim).” Those who suffer from OFD may have feelings ranging from mild irritation or bewilderment on the one hand, to disgust and anger on the other.  In severe sufferers, it can dramatically affect their quality of life as feelings of contempt toward the young pervade their every thought.

OFD sufferers are known to complain about the background music in restaurants and often wonder out loud how anyone can actually like this shit. In addition, you can find them frequently verbalizing about the “crap today they call entertainment.” When dealing with one who has OFD, it is recommended by doctors to avoid contact or attempt to reason with victims as often they will deny the disease while stating they are simply, “set in their ways.”

There are currently no known cures, yet sufferers have found ways in which to cope and manage the disease, so there exists hope. It has been suggested, though not yet clinically tested, that taking a long and honest self-assessment of one’s attitudes can help manage the symptoms (usually with the needed help of a professional therapist). In addition, the afflicted can gain positive results by going back into old journals and recall memories in the attempt to remember what it was like to be the age of those who are now their OFD triggers. Though the side effects of such treatments have not been thoroughly tested, some early inconclusive reports suggest they may include psychological trauma and severe anxiety as they now are forced to have to live in reality, on reality’s terms.

It is recommended that those with OFD staunchly avoid observing younger people in their natural and unsupervised habitats, such as stores and restaurants, or any public event that has diverse age ranges. When dealing with a bout of OFD, it is suggested that one remove themselves from the location of the youngsters and turn off all media that may provide unwanted depictions of the young offenders –depictions that can set off the disease at a moment’s notice. There have been several reports that depressed OFD victims will purchase Tide pods and attend a gaming convention or Comic con in an attempt to end their life.

Unfortunately, many sufferers of OFD never fully recover and live their remaining contemptuous years in semi isolation. Should a victim choose to have relationships, they will typically surround themselves with fellow sufferers. Though such clustering (also known as OFDC, Old Fart Disease Clusters) of those with OFD may provide temporary relief of symptoms, it is known to make the disease progress far more quickly with much less hope of recovery.

As suggested, new research is shedding light that the disease may be spreading to younger generations. Experts have suggested that with the rapid growth of technology, such OFD symptoms are becoming much more prevalent among Millennials and Generation Z. There have been reports of these generations spotting young children in restaurants who are playing on their tablets and mumbling that when they were young children, they “never played on a computer when eating dinner with the family at a restaurant. That is just rude.”

Dr. Henrietta Merlow of Brown University warns, “Though it is strange to see young person acting like an old ass curmudgeon, it is a growing phenomena that we can no longer afford to ignore. It is now quite possible to suffer YOFD, “Young Old Fart Disease.”

Frequently OFD is misdiagnosed. For example, those who might critically assess new innovations in search of their unintended consequences may appear to be afflicted with OFD on the surface. However, though such behavior does mimic some symptoms of the disease, upon further observation they are actually providing benefit to the younger generations.

It is critical that diagnosis is left up to professionals.

If you fear that you or someone you love may suffer from OFD, it is important that you be evaluated for treatment immediately. The longer one remains in the state of OFD the more resistant they may become to a possible cure. If one waits too long, they may become a DOF, also known as a Dead Old Fart

Now you know.

Russia, Fire Balloons, Divide And Conquer: Can You Say Gullible?

Boy are we stupid. Pardon my French…but we are just so fucking stupid.

This month Congress released over 3500 Facebook stories generated by Russian agencies for American consumption directed toward very targeted communities.

All the ads were paid for in rubles.

What was the purpose of Russia attempting to throw out fake and/or redacted stories and ads before and after the election of 2016? Certainly it was to promote one candidate or the other, right?

Wrong.

How do I know this to be wrong? Two reasons: The great bulk of the fake stories concerned very divisive issues such as immigration, LGBTQ rights, and, yes, racially charged stories such as Black Lives Matter. Sure there was some disconcerting fake stories about Bill and Hillary Clinton, though the vast majority did not concern political candidates whatsoever. Secondly, the Russians continued the practice after the election was over. In fact, they actually stepped up their game once Trump was elected.

Now, why would Russia have a vested interest in promoting American infighting and discord, in which we all so happily followed along like stupid ass lemmings marching in lockstep?

I recently heard one explanation and that is we need look no further than Japan’s use of  in World War II.

The project — named Fugo — “called for sending bomb-carrying balloons from Japan to set fire to the vast forests of America, in particular those of the Pacific Northwest. It was hoped that the fires would create havoc, dampen American morale and disrupt the U.S. war effort,” James M. Powles describes in a 2003 issue of the journal World War II. The balloons, or “envelopes,” designed by the Japanese army were made of lightweight paper fashioned from the bark of trees, which would arrive in America via natural wind gulf streams. Thank goodness it never succeeded.

In other words, though the fires would not directly help Japan’s war efforts, the time and energy it would take to deal with these massive fires would provide an indirect benefit in Japan’s war tactics, as the great distraction would direct our American attention away from the war.

Sound familiar? Create havoc, dampen American morale and disrupt? In 2016 Russia successfully pulled off what Japan failed to do in the 1940’s; only this time the fires were not of a physical nature but a social and psychological one.

As these stories blazed through Facebook like wildfire, they successfully segmented us, angered us, divided us, while brilliantly following the Phillip II of Macedon’s war edict to divide and conquer. How better to weaken a country than to have it’s own citizens turn on each other? If we do not get our shit together, the conquer part cannot be too far off.

In my last blog concerning “Cultural Appropriation,” I noted that this term did not exist prior to 2012. It was as if we were worried that are not enough things in 2012 to be pissed off about so we created a new category for people to get their panties in a bunch.

I would not be surprised if Russians inspired this new phenomenon as well.

Our enemies want us to look at life through our identity first and foremost -be that black, white, male, female, gay, trans, Hispanic, Hungarian, you name it. As we our so busy protecting our tribe and warding off those who threaten it, we weaken the collective and, in turn, the country and, in yet another turn, the planet.

I am not suggesting that we should never take up social causes, because we most definitely should. Yet can we not take up social causes in an inclusive manner? Must we draw a plethora of demographical qualifications to be part of any given movement?

How about this new movement: The “stop believing everything we read and getting pissed off about things we should really not be getting pissed off about and come together as one people” movement? Can we give this one a shot?

Some might reason that this is Facebook issue and I understand why one may believe this, yet I respectfully disagree. Facebook just happens to be the chosen platform for the spewing of such propaganda; yet if not Facebook, it would simply be another social media. The problem is not Facebook, it is us and our damned gullibility and lack of critical discernment.

I conclude with a real problem and this would concern the lovely people of Hawaii, who have this little problem called an exploding volcano. As I watch the lava explode and flow while consuming roads, cars and houses, I think to myself, “Now there is a real problem.”

Perhaps the volcano goddess of fire, Pele, is sending us messages to remind us what real problems look like.

And when we read that next “news” story that angers and ultimately divides us, perhaps we can think again.

Thank you Pele.

 

 

The New Nationalism: Why?

(Disclaimer: Since writing this blog a few days ago, I have heard the theory I am about to express just mentioned on the latest Sam Harris podcast with guest Yuval Noah Harari, just as I am now sure it have been espoused through other sources as well. Not sure this adds credibility to it or not…though it was original when I though of it!)

Curiousity. I love it. I am all about it. In particular when it comes to human behavior and the choices we make and why.

More specifically, I am very curious in regards to cause and effect relationships. Like one of my favorite podcasts, Freakonomics, does on a weekly basis, I like to posit theories on why something is the case. For example, since 1990 violent crime rates have dropped significantly and, outside of certain particularly violent pockets, continue to do so.

Why?

What correlating factors have transpired in society that explain, at least in part, why this phenomena is occurring? The above Freakonomics podcasters have drawn a correlation between the legalization of abortion in 1973 with the drop in violent crime rates. The logic behind this thinking is that those who are more likely to perform violent crimes -unwanted children- would be entering prime violent crime age in 1990 and, well, simply did not exist to do the evil deed.

Agree or not, it is reasonable theory. At least someone is attempting to make sense of social events.

Regardless of your personal thoughts on this rather controversial cause and effect argument between abortion and crime rates, it is imperative for a culture to be asking such critical questions and attempt to find hidden and unintended correlations between various social manifestations.

If we are not continually asking the question “why?” a trend is taking place, we will forever be enslaved to the consequences of that which goes unexamined.

So today I look at our world and see a wave of nationalism sweeping over the majority of countries.

What is nationalism? I understand the word to mean a type of patriotism run wild and amok. It is the presence of strong ethnocentrism that is much more than having a sense of pride in one’s nation – it such pride accompanied with xenophobia, hatred expressed toward particular outgroups, and the suppression of such groups. It is the protection of national identity at nearly all costs…blood and war included.

The point of this blog entry is not to inform on where, or if,  this is taking place (for a good read on this check this Economist article…after which you will no longer have any doubt of its global existence) rather it is to ask the question as to why it is taking place.

Why, in 2017, are countries resorting back to isolationist type policies, fearing immigration and feeling compelled, perhaps more than ever, to protect itself at all costs including the coveting of its own sense of ethnic and racial identities? Why is pure patriotism morphing into dangerous nationalism? It is so much more than Trump’s victory, a victory that promised walls and protection, or even Brexit, which was fueled over the issue of immigration. We see this happening everywhere, including France, Austria, Hungary, India and, of course, totalitarian nationalism in North Korea, just to name a few.

I am far from an expert on global politics though I am a person who is very curious. Why this? Why now? Why nearly everywhere?

As is the answer for most social phenomena, it is hardly as clear cut as a single determining source. Such complex activity is typically the result of a confluence of complicated factors, probably best answered by political scientists. Yet, hell, someone very close to me even suggested it may be the alignment of the planets -as the last time we saw such a wave, in the 1930’s, the planets were aligned in a similar fashion.

I must confess that this astrological theory is somewhat outside my intellectual comfort zone. But who knows?

As one who is paid to observe human behavior and the communication process, I would like to throw my (more grounded?) communication-based theory into the ring and propose something a bit more down to earth.

I would begin my inquiry by examining what all of these countries have in common and, as a communication guy and quasi-Neal Postman disciple, I must look to the idea of our technological mediums as the answer to the question of what common denominator might be shared around the globe.

It is indisputable our world is becoming an increasingly global village as a result of our technological advances largely due to social media. As our world continues to move in this direction of global oneness, it does what each of us do when faced with drastic change in our life: We fight back and attempt to preserve what is, or, in some cases, what was…in spite of the oncoming inevitable new technological world and the threat of potential global unification it may usher in.

Where there is a big push there is a pull; an action, a reaction; a thesis, an antithesis.

Could the macro movement towards isolationism, protectionism and anti-immigration be the micro equivalent of the resisting child screaming with their hands over their ears when her parents tell her the unwelcomed news that they are perhaps moving, or worse, divorcing?

Perhaps we are experiencing a natural human push back against the effect mediums are having upon the globe –effects that include the breaking down of communication walls, a more global economy and the impending consequence of eroding needs for a strong nationalistic identity, including less need for demarcating lines in the sand distinguishing “us” from “them.”

And those who push back to this new world reply with, “Not on my watch.”

An overreaction is typically driven by the feel of a threat with fear at its core, while typically operating at a subconscious level. As technological media imperialism makes its way through the globe and brings all humanity in contact with each other, such an overreaction to build walls and preserve strong nationalistic identities seems a natural reaction to the “threat” of globalism, fueled by technology.

Could it be that the current wave of nationalism is an unintended consequence of Google, Facebook, Couchsurfing, Twitter or, hell, even Craigslist among nearly countless other social media sites? Individuals can now connect with each other, bypassing mainstream media (some might contend the indoctrination of mainstream media) to form their own identities, free from ethnic or nationalistic overtones.

We can now, more than ever, associate with our own personal identity group first and foremost, perhaps LGBT or Buddhist, for example, while the need for a strong national identity wanes as a thing of the past.

What we see today is a major push back against this new world of potential new identities.

I am not naïve enough to believe that far more complicated and compelling political theories that may have far greater explanatory power do not exist; I am certain they do. However, perhaps this unintended consequence of internet access plays some role, however minor or major, and should not be ignored in the discussion. I hardly doubt I am the only one who has made this connection.

Perhaps it is an inevitable -and temporary- consequence on the road towards a global village, or, at the very least, a more global village.

So I am a curious guy who likes to find correlations between seemingly unrelated phenomena.

Hell, it might even be the alignment of the planets.

And if you have a better theory, or would like to add to it, I look forward to your response.

Snapchat

One of my objectives in life is to NEVER be one of those old farts that casually criticizes the younger generations for their overall lifestyle and choices…be it music, clothing, trends -all of it- as in, “The damn kids today know nothing about respect and hard work,” or something along the lines of, “They call that shit today music? Really? In my day music was music.”

Ugh. I really never want to be that guy…and it is so easy to be.

In order not to fall victim to this “old fart” mentality, it requires that we make proactive choices to seek, experience and understand where the younger generations are coming from and why. If we do not mind becoming old judgmental codgers, we can just sit back and do nothing -as it will happen all on its own- that is just how our brains function. However, as a college educator, it is particularly imperative for me to constantly explore opportunities to engage with youth culture and seek to understand it…perhaps now more than ever in the age of technology.

As a result of this lifestyle choice, both my Sirius and conventional radio preset buttons include both contemporary rap, hip-hop and pop in addition to my “70’s at 7” and class rock choices. It is not all unusual to for me to listen to Van Halen’s “Eruption” one minute and Drake’s “Hotline Bling” the next. I even mix in a little classical and chill music on occasion.

However, perhaps the biggest eye-opening choice I have recently made was securing the app Snapchat, where participants can send videos and pictures to their “friends” that last about 7 seconds and then disappear into the internet ether. If I understand correctly (my youngest son Stevie is my source for this information), Snapchat was at first very much used for “sexting” and carried the nickname, “Dickchat.”

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Not so much anymore. I have now had Snapchat for about 2 months and have a yet to see, fortunately, a penis nor, unfortunately, a titty or two. What I do see are short snippets of people’s everyday life, including everything from, say, a video of them in the car lip syncing to a song, pictures of their cute kittens, or, perhaps, just everyday boring life stuff like eating or shopping –usually posted in a humorous and lighthearted manner with entertaining and creative captions, not to mention special effects.

I must admit that at first I was very put off by Snapchat. Why? In short, it appeared to be a social media that was incapable of mediating any relevant content. It was all superficial, silly, time wasting, entertainment…it actually even depressed me at first thinking, “This is what today’s generation spends its time doing?” Yet, as one committed to my anti-old codger philosophy, I not only chose to keep it but try to engage with it on a regular basis.

Now, a month or so later, I actually have a lot of fun using it.  It does not take a lot of time or energy to engage with it…you can actually snap several times a day and it probably does not take more than a minute or two of the day, at least for me.

I have come to realize that every generation has its specific form of entertainment. When I was 19 I used to go to my favorite arcade, Pinball Plus, and spend hours playing video games. If people want to spend their recreational time sending pics of, well, really nothing, what is the harm? When I was that age I was electronically trying to maneuver out of the way of falling barrels chucked by a large gorilla called Donkey Kong. In comparison, Snapchat is for Mensa members.

Why was I so judgmental of it at first? Because I, like most humans, have a very difficult time with change and adapting to trends that are not truly understood. At times we have to force ourselves to engage in things that are well outside our comfort zone and previous “normal” experiences –it’s called growth and expansion while our brains crave it.

I am a huge fan of recreation and entertainment. I believe escaping from the monotony of our everyday lives is a good thing. I tend to get critical of entertainment (ala Neal Postman) when areas of culture that demand serious conversations, devolve into entertainment…be it the news, education, religion, or, thank you Donald Trump, politics.

But bullshit entertainment? I love it…we need it.

I hardly think anyone is mistaking Snapchat for serious cultural conversation. It is banal, silly entertainment that is mildly amusing and there is nothing wrong with that and, in fact, there may be something very right about it. Our college Dean, Rick, just recently sent me a study from the University of Michigan that suggests Snapchatting actually makes one happy.

I also believe the vast popularity of Snapchat among youth does point to some deeper, underlying cultural trends that are quite revealing. What does the appeal of vapid content -content that is there one second and is permanently gone the next- say about the hugely transient and quickly evolving nature of our collective cultural experiences due to technology? What does the appeal of sharing flippant experiences of our everyday life say about our need to connect with others -even in our most mundane moments?  What does it say about human nature that we like to peek into the details of others’ lives? The human being needs to be relevant, seen, heard, and valued with the larger community –a basic human need that has never changed. Perhaps Snapchat is a simple, lighthearted way to partially fill this gap in our lives.

So there you have it from by FAR the oldest person on Snapchat. Hit me up people…my screen name is jimmyu…snap with me ya’ll.

And, regardless of your age (old codger philosophy knows no age) dare to take a step away from an old fart mentality -it can actually be kinda fun.

 

 

Working Hard Or Hardly Working? Crowd Funding And Other Ethical Milieus

I am very fortunate to currently enjoy a “seasonal” profession, meaning my schedule goes something like this:  Bust-ass-for 4 1/2-months, retreat for 1, bust-ass-for-another 4 1/2-months, retreat for 2 months–not a bad gig schedule wise.  The retreat periods give me time to do things I normally cannot get to during my “bust- ass” periods.
Therefore, this week I was able to accomplish a task I have not completed in quite some time -go through various stacks of messy paperwork on my desk.  As I perused through a plethora of old statements, papers, bills, etc., I was surprised to find a bank statement from 2011 from my credit union with a balance of $13,000—from an unknown account I did not know about, or at the very least did not remember. I immediately called the credit union and they explained I opened this retirement account in 1993 with proceeds earned from my college job of soils and geological testing.
Surprise, surprise. Nice. A little karma and a poor memory can be a good thing.
And how did I earn that money? The story goes something like this: I would get up at 5am, drive to construction sites all over Southern California, place my nose in the dirt and my ass in the air while I checked the maximum density of the soil, all the while being careful not to get plowed over by tractors, for 8-12 hours a day, while attending graduate school at night, all the while rushing home, smelling like sweat and dirt, to play with my small children. It is safe to suggest I definitely earned that money.
Perhaps it’s just me but I can be old fashioned that way. How do I make money? I believe in making money the Smith Barney way, “I uuurn it.” (google that one children).
Both Rene’ and I share a very dedicated and stringent work ethic. I would dare say Rene’s work ethic trumps my own as I have never met a person who works as hard, diligently and with such excellence as she does. She does not have a lazy bone in her body.
Therefore, for those of us who do have a hard work ethic and pay our taxes (I started working when I was 18 and have never gone a day without a job since), you can imagine our attitudes toward those who do not share this work ethic and are constantly looking for freebies and handouts—not big fans. This understanding sets the backdrop, mental context and reveals my narrow mindedness for my blog topic of choice for this week: Crowd funding.
For those who are not aware of the relatively new phenomena of crowd funding, or crowd sourcing, it is a means to generate revenue through internet websites such as fundanything.com and indiegogo.com, based off the donations of viewers.  One can crowd source for just about anything, from helping fulfill the dreams of a sick child with cancer to funding films and various projects. A quick look at fundanything.com currently advertises requests of funds for a sick dog’s surgery, a legal defense against litigious patent trolls, and funding for a new cure for crying babies (you can’t make this stuff up).
When I first heard of such sites, my conservative work ethic suggested that something was awry. If you want money—for anything—go out and earn it, I silently thought.  I felt this was the internet’s version of electronic homeless panhandling. Yet, alas, as one who loves to bathe in the tub of cognitive dissonance and consider all sides, all the while quite aware of my mindset that thinks in analogical terms, I thought further about this very digital activity. In addition, and to add an emotional cog in the wheels of my now dissonant point of view, my son—whom I love dearly—now has a current campaign on indiegogo.com in attempts to fund a trip to Nepal to undergo research and complete a short documentary on Singing Bowls.
I have so many questions. And perhaps some of you have some answers.
Good idea? Bad idea? Ethical? Unethical? Does it promote a lazy mentality while supporting the idea of handouts and an entitled, “me first” mentality? Or does it allow the global community to come together and assist each other in meaningful and helpful ways while making our world a better place? Both?
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Of course no one is forcing anyone to give what one does not want to give as everything is, obviously, voluntary.  Yet what are the ethical implications of simply asking the question and requesting the funds? For example, I can ask you if I can borrow a $100 and you are free to say yes or no—no harm done—or is there? The act of me making the request has ethical and relational implications. I have placed you in an awkward position, potentially making you feel guilty, and forcing your hand to make a difficult decision since just asking the question changes the nature of the relationship itself. Then again, no one is forcing one to react this way either.
Such tension.
So my opinion on crowd sourcing? Like anything in life, one must take the good with the bad. Will it reinforce a lazier and entitled mentality? Potentially yes and it will for some. I heard of an acquaintance requesting funds for Yoga training. Really? Perhaps some of you may want to fund my LA Fitness gym membership and protein shakes. After all, your donation will make the world a more aesthetically pleasing place. However, will it also promote a means by which to communally support and help each other for the better? Yes, and it does. Donating to children with cancer and funding research for valuable cures can only benefit the planet.
Perhaps the new electronic work ethic is working very hard and creatively at asking people for money. Fundraising of all varieties has always been hard work and is a skill to master to be sure. However, the fact that all can now fund raise so quickly and easily through the internet while being available to all, may result in the first generation of people who view crowd sourcing as an honorable and noble profession. And why not? Just because I have a hard time wrapping my analogue mind around it does not necessarily make it a bad idea.
In the meantime, I personally will keep searching for long lost bank accounts that I have forgotten existed and were established the old fashioned way, “I uurned it.“
And if you disagree with my point of view? Help fund a boy with a camera on his forehead on a trip to Nepal for research. This hypocrite did. Sometimes my love trumps my logic.
 

You Bet Your Bottom Bitcoin: Crypto Currency And Other Ideas That Hurt The Analogue Mind

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
Perhaps “can’t” is a bit strong, yet it takes truly getting old to truly understand how truly true this statement generally is…at least for most of us truly old dogs.
As we age our brains tend to become less malleable and open to new ideas and thought forms. We can compare our brains to well-traveled dirt roads. Overtime they begin to form ruts and it is very difficult to operate a vehicle without falling into the well-worn tracks. A healthy brain is one that can navigate new parts of the road outside these ruts and forge new paths.
However, imagine using those same ruts for 51 years and then attempting to navigate new parts of the same road. From a brain science perspective, it is very easy to understand why we can get set in our ways and dogmatic about our understanding of certain ideas and how we look at the world.
Our brains get stuck in those damn ruts.
It explains why some of your grandparents still have a phone landline in their home, no cell, and steer clear of the internet.
Fortunately, one my greatest fears in life is boredom. I thrive on new experiences and ideas while challenging the mental ruts I often find myself. I look for news ways to forge new mental paths.
When I was recently introduced to a new idea developed in the past few years, I found my brain having grand difficulty extricating itself from its deep mental ruts.
I would like to either introduce you to the concept of “bitcoins” or the more general term, “crypto currency” (there are also dogecoin, litecoin, and peercoin) or -for you digital natives in the know- exhibit for you my extreme, though eager to learn, ignorance of it.   If you are unfamiliar with this digital currency concept, it is a new form of electronic currency that was created in 2009 by an unknown person using the alias Satoshi Nakamoto. Transactions between crypto currency buyers and sellers are made with no middle men – meaning, no banks. There are no transaction fees and no need to give your real name. One simply carries a digital “wallet” and collects them through various digital transactions. One can buy and sell things, anything actually, between parties who accept them.
bitcoinmining_courtesy_emc
I was truly having a very difficult time getting my 51 year, old dog digital immigrant mind around this new dog digital native idea. Therefore I began asking a lot of questions and doing some research. I needed to challenge the ruts and not dismiss this concept as something fringe or kooky simply to avoid my brain having to deal with a new concept outside my comfortable and well-worn tracks and valleys.
My first question: How much value does a bitcoin possess?  Answer: However much we, collectively, want to give it.
Huh? Come on brain…out of the rut, out of rut, out of the rut.
Join the crypto-currency-confused-as-hell club. As a slow learner who needs to figure how something works from the ground up, my analogue brain actually hurt trying to figure this entirely digital schema out.  How could we base value on something that really does not exist?
This seemed a rather odd notion until I realized this is exactly what we do with all our currency at present. A dollar is only worth what we as a society deem it to be worth -as we have not had a gold standard in about 60 years (meaning the dollar used to be tied to the amount of gold in the federal reserve). Because we have a well-established understanding of what a dollar is worth today we can collectively agree on its value, at least for the moment.
In the same way words are only a medium for the meanings we have in our head, a dollar only represents worth, it is not worth.
If I buy a loaf of bread for a dollar, that dollar is worth a loaf of bread. A year from now that dollar might only be worth half a loaf of bread. Having large collections of dollars provides us with absolutely nothing except the paper it is printed on. The importance of the dollar is what it represents such as food, clothing, cars, vacations, etc…whatever we buy with them as we cannot eat the dollar bill, wear the dollar bill or drive the dollar to work.
So it is with bitcoin…the value changes from moment to moment pending on the collective worth we give to it.  And rather than worth being represented buy a piece of paper, it is a digital representation -and if that digital representation is safe and secure? I am bitcoin ready and ready to navigate new tracks on the mental road. Today we have collectively decided one bitcoin is worth approximately $436 US dollars.
As I think more critically about our contemporary currency exchange and system, I am awakened to the fact it is just as strange, arbitrary, and mysterious as crypto currency, it is just that crypto currency lies just outside of my well established ruts.  Just as I do not understand some current economic systems such as the federal reserve, inflation, various monetary indexes, etc. and I do not stay up at night wondering, there is no need to understand the all the inner machinations of crypto currency either. I just need to make sure it is somewhat safe and viable. After all, you may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks thoroughly but at the very least they can comprehend the basics.
Rather than scoff at a new and innovative system, this old dog wants to imagine the possibilities. Sure I may not currently understand how to mine algorithms, the elaborate mathematical equations associated with mining, or the complex formulas that make this a viable idea, and perhaps I never will…but that is not going to stop me from at least trying as I carve out new patterns in my brain and grasp these concepts.
“Digital” may always be my second language, though we all can become good enough to be able to converse in it.
You bet your bottom bitcoin.
Now correct me you digital natives.
 
 

 

Maybe Everyone DOES Wants to be Naked and Famous

I think our world is turning into one giant metaphorical and not-so-metaphorical, nudist camp. I was reminded of this once again when I saw the taped footage of actor Paul Walker’s recent fiery crash in a Santa Clarita parking lot, albeit obscured by a fence. There is not much we can hide these days -not even the hour of our death. Simply, we are naked to the world.

Naked technologyCurrently I am engaged in a reading discussion group analyzing the book The Shallows: What the Internet is doing our Brains by Nicholas Carr (next semester the selected book is One Nation Under Sex…though more on that in another blog). The book explains the various ways that technology rewires and changes the landscape of our brains and how this alters the way we process information and, as result, changes one’s self and culture.

I could go on and on about technology, namely mobile devices, and how they are changing the way we think, act, believe, and behave. Yet a new thought occurred to me the other day while conversing with a bright student regarding this topic when it hit me: The internet is making all of us metaphorically -and perhaps even literally- naked, stripped of our protective public clothing; displaying to the world some of our most secretive and hidden moments. And we seem to be doing it willingly with a smile on our face.

As we surrender any sense of privacy in our lives to the welcomed invasion of technology, we are wiping away the facades we have created to effectively manage the impressions we want to present to the world. Indeed I can work to control technology in such a way that I can limit that flow of revealing information, yet it is eventually a losing battle. A simple google search can yield all the information about a person you could ever want to know….and a lot of things we would prefer not to know. Or see.

With cameras on every street corner and in every hand, when anyone with a moderate or high profile attempts to conceal any behaviors it is a losing battle to be sure. Whether it is Brittany’s crotch or Anthony’s wiener, there is no such thing as a flawed or embarrassing moment gone unnoticed or a moment of lack of good judgment gone undetected. In a world of technology, we are its naked and vulnerable inhabitants. How are we to respond to such vulnerability in a culture of everyone knows all?

Society effectively has two choices. The first choice is to reduce the amount of poor choices we make in our life that could possibly get exploited and do our best to keep our legs clenched tight when getting out of a Ferrari with a short skirt. I have no trouble complying with the latter though have fallen victim many times to the former.

The second choice is a much more likely and palatable choice. We must become more accepting of flawed human beings making flawed choices –that is if you believe a man sending a picture of his penis to a potential lover to be “flawed” -some might call it just poor strategy –or good strategy, depending on the penis I suppose. I long for a day when society does not bat an eye when a prominent figure sends out a picture of his junk, likely in a drunken foray, because they realize they could be the next victim in this tell all, see all world. As my grandma once told me, “Let he who is without a picture of his naked penis cast the first stone.” Or maybe it was “don’t go into the neighbor’s yard.” I forget. It was a long time ago.

Am I suggesting that sending out lurid pictures is good idea or is a complete non-issue in sizing up one’s character? No and no. Probably rarely a good idea and may be a relevant issue in determining one’s character pending context of the photo. The issue is not about a revealing photo, rather the issue is lack of discretion and sound judgment by a political leader who is need of such attributes.

Hence we believe sending nude pics is the bastion of the perverted, exhibitionist few, think again. Recently in my Interpersonal Communication class the subject of “sexting” came up. Our textbook states: “One survey revealed that 10 percent of young adults between the ages of 15 and 24 have texted or emailed a nude or partially nude image of themselves to someone else, and 15 percent have received such pictures…of someone they know. Perhaps even more disturbing, 8 percent reported that they had received a nude or partially nude image of someone they knew from a third party.”

After some further discussion, our entire class concluded that those numbers are WAY off- in fact, not even close to the truth (the studies were 5 years old…a lifetime in a technological world). Their estimate was somewhere closer to 75 percent having sexted in one way, shape or form. And they should know…they are the age group in which sexting essentially originated. I guess we are living in both a figuratively naked -everyone can see our business- and literally naked technological world -we are willingly allowing people to see our naughty parts.

Perhaps the dramatic increase in our willingness to share our physical nakedness is only symptomatic of a society losing its desire for any privacy, at any level, whatsoever. We are all becoming metaphorically naked and vulnerable and seem quite comfortable with it. I know I am. Should I be?

I have very little to hide in my life (notice I did not say nothing?) which seems a good place to be in our naked world. I am not sure Paul Walker’s family is pleased his death has been captured on image, albeit an obscured one. Yet, for better or for worse, we can all rest assured that nothing anymore is sacred or private…and I am still trying to decide if I like this nudist camp we have created or not.

In the meantime, think twice before you send your next sext…your political future may be in jeopardy.

I’m Too Sexy For My Blog…and other misleading blog titles

riddler_3Riddle me this Batman: What do peanut allergies, a poor sense of direction, poor penmanship, social anxiety and accidentally falling over the rim of the Grand Canyon have in common?

Much more than you think…though allow me some explanation.

Human beings like to invent new stuff to make life easier on themselves. I am not talking the “stuff” of late night infomercials like self-cleaning mops or an ab exercise gadget; rather the kind of stuff we have invented throughout human history that make our lives more manageable and, in many case, enjoyable. Don’t think SeenOnTVthe “As Seen on TV!” stuff like the “Ped-Egg” -think more general inventions like the wheel, language, penicillin or the map.

Our inventions, or new technologies, can be divided up into four general types (I thank Nicholas Carr, in part, for this) with many inventions blurring the distinction of each category with some crossover.  The first type of invention involves increasing and extending the human’s physical strength –the plow, the darning needle, the car, the gun, fighter jets- as all of these serve to do far more good (or damage) than a human alone could do.  These inventions assist us in gaining physical dominance over our environment and better control over what happens around us.

The second type of invention involves extending the human’s five senses -for example, the microscope, the amplifier, binoculars, or hearing aids. I suppose these could be called the “superhuman” category as each allows us to perform tasks that our natural five senses alone could never perform at the assisted level.

The third category concerns itself with serving our personal needs and desires, like the invention of the knife and fork, birth control, Viagra (not that I would know anything about that) or genetically modified foods. Of course the automobile, for example, was invented to help us serve our personal needs as well, yet its more dominant characteristic is a quantum leap in travel technology…helping us to gain more control over the restraints of our physical lives. 

evolutionary-declineLastly, the fourth set of technologies include extending our intellectual abilities –from the rudimentary abacus, to the clock, the printing press, the typewriter and the computer just to name a few of millions.  These inventions are used for the purpose of extending our cognitive mental abilities, to better perform tasks, measure theories and ideas, and memorize important data.  In contemporary society, perhaps our cell phone is the single most quantum leap in intellectual inventions in the history of mankind.

New ideas and technologies are typically soundly rejected at first notice (excluding aforementioned Image: Viagra pillsViagra, of course).  The five-step acceptance process of new inventions goes something like this: Initial rejection (“If man was meant to fly God would have given us wings!”); reluctant use (“I will do it just this once because I have no other choice.”); regular begrudging use (“Sure I will use it but I sure don’t like it…it still makes me uncomfortable”); dependency (“I now cannot imagine a world without airplanes!”); to, finally, invisibility in which the technology is now so woven into the basic tapestry of the culture it becomes so normal as to be invisible.

I saw this in my lifetime with the cell phone. From the, “I will never use it” motto to the, “only in emergencies” phase to the, “just when I drive” fairytale -and then leapfrog to the, “where the hell is my damn cell phone? A part of me is lost!” contemporary milieu. It is now invisibly a part of us.

It is this fifth and final stage that worries me. When a technology becomes invisible we tend to stop evaluating its consequences on a culture.

In 2013 we are living in the future. This is it. (Check out this book my son just showed me this morning). We are soaking in it. Through technologies our lives have become so inoculated against present shockso much harm, against so much pain, against so much danger while things have transitioned to be considerably easier for us than at any time in human history…and we are experiencing its consequences.

We have conquered the fear of germs with anti-bacterial technology everywhere…and today we suffer allergies for everything we once never thought possible. The GPS makes us a collective society that cannot navigate its way out of a paper bag without its use. The constant permeation of computer generated everything makes handwriting and penmanship a thing of the past (we actually had classes in penmanship growing up kids!). Our “social” networking is usually performed, ironically, alone and our social phobia’s are growing among the young.

Though perhaps nothing is more telling of where we are at as a society is the story that rests at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

I enjoy reading different non-fiction (I cannot read fiction for some reason) and several years ago I read an excellent book covering every known death in the Grand Canyon. It was an incredibly well 51WT288GZFL._SL500_AA300_documented book, aptly entitled, “Over the Edge: Death in the Grand Canyon” written by two medical doctors. It is not an exploitative book at all, rather it asks the questions who and why? What can we learn from these deaths?

I found this particular passage very insightful and applicable to this blog:

But for American society in general it can be argued that, in our generations-long quest for security, we have domesticated ourselves. We train and hire specialists to do everything for us so that we do not have to take the risks of doing it ourselves. We hire police…contractors…farmers…programmers…Ralph Nader to make our cars and skies safe…we have airbags and parachutes and orthopaedic surgeons and seat belts and life vests and helmets to protect us when something goes wrong…We are no longer wild Homo sapiens. Instead, psychologically, many of us are sheep, or if you prefer, Homo sapien domesticus…many of us now make the habitual and unquestioned assumption that somebody else is supposed to be watching out for our best interests for us. We blindly follow the rest of the flock and assume that the sheepherder, wherever he is, is keeping his eye peeled for the wolves.”

In some ways, that sheepherder is our technologies that coddle and protect us. Though, in the long run, do they?

You have been riddled Batman. All are, in part, the result of living presently in the future.

Welcome to the future your mother warned you about.