Automation Makes Us Dumb Reply

Computers are taking over the kinds of knowledge work long considered the preserve of well-educated, well-trained professionals. Luci Gutiérrez

Computers are taking over the kinds of knowledge work long considered the preserve of well-educated, well-trained professionals. Luci Gutiérrez

Human intelligence is withering as computers do more, but there’s a solution.

By Nicholas Carr , Wall Street Journal

Artificial intelligence has arrived. Today’s computers are discerning and sharp. They can sense the environment, untangle knotty problems, make subtle judgments and learn from experience. They don’t think the way we think—they’re still as mindless as toothpicks—but they can replicate many of our most prized intellectual talents. Dazzled by our brilliant new machines, we’ve been rushing to hand them all sorts of sophisticated jobs that we used to do ourselves.

But our growing reliance on computer automation may be exacting a high price. Worrisome evidence suggests that our own intelligence is withering as we become more dependent on the artificial variety. Rather than lifting us up, smart software seems to be dumbing us down.

It has been a slow process. The first wave of automation rolled through U.S. industry after World War II, when manufacturers began installing electronically controlled equipment in their plants. The new machines made factories more efficient and companies more profitable. They were also heralded as emancipators. By relieving factory hands of routine chores, they would do more than boost productivity. They would elevate laborers, giving them more invigorating jobs and more valuable talents. The new technology would be ennobling.

Then, in the 1950s, a Harvard Business School professor named James Bright went into the field to study automation’s actual effects on a variety of industries, from heavy manufacturing to oil refining to bread baking. Factory conditions, he discovered, were anything but uplifting. More often than not, the new machines were leaving workers with drabber, less demanding jobs. An automated milling machine, for example, didn’t transform the metalworker into a more creative artisan; it turned him into a pusher of buttons.

Bright concluded that the overriding effect of automation was (in the jargon of labor economists) to “de-skill” workers rather than to “up-skill” them. “The lesson should be increasingly clear,” he wrote in 1966. “Highly complex equipment” did not require “skilled operators. The ‘skill’ can be built into the machine.”

We are learning that lesson again today on a much broader scale. As software has become capable of analysis and decision-making, automation has leapt out of the factory and into the white-collar world. Computers are taking over the kinds of knowledge work long considered the preserve of well-educated, well-trained professionals: Pilots rely on computers to fly planes; doctors consult them in diagnosing ailments; architects use them to design buildings. Automation’s new wave is hitting just about everyone.

Essay continues here:  Automation Makes Us Dumb

 

 

 

 

Walk This Way: Acting Happy Can Make It So Reply

Uplifting Actions: Short bursts of exercise, putting a bounce in your step and talking to strangers can brighten your outlook. LINZIE HUNTER

Uplifting Actions: Short bursts of exercise, putting a bounce in your step and talking to strangers can brighten your outlook. LINZIE HUNTER

Research Shows People Can Improve Their Mood With Small Changes in Behavior

By Sumathi Reddy, Wall Street Journal

Sumathi.Reddy@wsj.com

Happy people walk differently than others, and scientists are finding that putting on a happy walk may give your mood a boost.

Research shows people’s mood affects how they walk. When people are happy, they tend to walk faster and more upright, swing their arms and move up and down more, and sway less side to side than sad or depressed people.

A recent study found that deliberately walking like a happy person can lift one’s spirits. And adopting the gait of a depressed person can bring on sadness. Scientists behind the study, which was published online in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry in September, hope to determine if a small change in outward behavior like how we walk could work in a clinical setting to help treat depression.

“There is a mutual influence between mood and body and movement,” said Johannes Michalak, a professor in the department of psychology and psychotherapy at Germany’s Witten Herdecke University and first author of the study. “There might be specific types of movements that are specific characteristics of depression and this feeds the lower mood. So it’s a vicious cycle,” he said.

A range of studies have found many little ways we can improve our mood, from talking to strangers to arranging a match between friends. Even abstaining from temptations such as chocolate can help boost our state of relative happiness by helping us appreciate experiences that are repeated in everyday life.

“There are these little doses of social interactions that are available in our day” that can brighten our mood and create a sense of belonging. “I don’t think people recognize this,” said Elizabeth Dunn, an associate psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, who co-authored a study last year of customers’ interactions with Starbucks baristas.

In the walking study, researchers at Queen’s University in Canada, working with the research team in Germany, had 39 undergraduate students walk on a treadmill at a steady pace while watching an interactive gauge displayed on a monitor in front of them.

The students were told to attempt different ways of walking until through trial and error they were able to move the gauge to the right. Moving the gauge to the right meant walking in a depressed manner for half the participants, and in a happy manner for the other half. They weren’t told what the gauge was measuring.

Article continues here:  Behavior Modification Made Easy

 

 

 

Why Men Are Quicker to Date Again After a Spouse’s Death Reply

Crying manBy Elizabeth Bernstein, The Wall Street Journal

Elizabeth.Bernstein@wsj.com

It was the most difficult thing Jeff Crispell had ever been through—the loss of his wife of 25 years, Rosanne, to a rare form of cancer.

Four years ago, doctors found a large tumor in her sinus cavity, and Mr. Crispell will never forget what they said after the biopsy: “Prepare for the worst.”

He took the next two years to be her full-time caretaker. When she died, at age 61, Mr. Crispell commemorated her life with a 20-minute video about her childhood and adolescence, her first marriage, the birth of her daughter, her marriage to Mr. Crispell, and the beautiful art and jewelry she created. He played the video at her memorial service and gave copies of it, with a booklet about her, to their friends and family.

Three months later, he signed up on two online dating sites.

“I knew that because of the time frame some people might take a dim view of it,” says Mr. Crispell, a 69-year-old retired manager of a computer graphics department who lives in San Diego. “But I think from the distribution of the book and the video, it was evident how much I loved and respected my wife during her lifetime.”

The decision to move on and find a new partner after the death of a beloved spouse is emotionally wrenching and deeply personal. It’s a choice many of us will face. Some people, even after a happy marriage, start looking for a new mate fairly soon. Others choose to remain single. There is no right or wrong decision.

The idea of becoming attached and losing someone again terrifies some. Others are so spent from caring for a dying spouse that they have no energy or desire to get to know someone new. And when you’re grieving, you don’t exactly feel adventurous, outgoing, charming—in other words, like dating.

Loved ones who would never think of criticizing your appearance or your financial decisions have no problem weighing in on whether you are dating too soon—or not soon enough. At first, they pressure you not to move on too soon. But stay single for a while and they’ll nag you to stop feeling sorry for yourself and get on with your life.

If children are small, you want to protect them. If they are grown, they want to protect you, as well as the memory of their deceased parent and their inheritance.

Children, regardless of age, may worry that if you find a new partner, you won’t have time for them. They have already lost one parent and don’t want to lose another.

Story continues here:  Why Men Rebound After Spouse’s Death 

 

Feeling Younger May Help Memory as We Age Reply

Don't act your age....

Don’t act your age….

Younger Self-Image May Help Preserve Cognitive Function as People Get Older

By Ann Lukts, Wall Street Journal

Feeling younger than one’s real age could help to preserve memory and cognitive function as people get older, says a study in the November issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

The study comes as recent research suggests aging is both a subjective and biological experience. A younger self-image was more common in physically active people with a lower body-mass index, the latest study found.

The study, conducted by researchers in France, analyzed data from 1,352 men and women, age 50 to 75 years old, who were enrolled in a larger U.S. study in the mid-1990s. Participants were asked how old they felt most of the time and how often they participated in moderate or vigorous exercise. Other information, such as the presence of chronic diseases, was recorded.

After about 10 years, cognitive function was assessed with tests of memory and executive function, the capacity to plan and carry out complex tasks. The study found that, on average, the participants felt 19% younger than their chronological age. Of the subjects, 89% felt younger and 11% felt older than their actual age. Those who felt older than their age scored 25% lower on memory and cognitive tests than those who felt younger.

The association between a younger subjective age and better memory and executive functioning was independent of gender, educational achievement, marital status and chronic diseases, the adjusted results showed. People who feel older than their age might require closer monitoring, as this may be an early marker of impaired cognition leading to dementia, the researchers said.

Caveat: The subjects’ social networks, history of depression, medication use and cognitive-related leisure activities weren’t considered.

Randy Pausch Lecture: Time Management Reply

Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch gave a lecture on Time Management at the University of Virginia in November 2007. Randy Pausch — http://www.randypausch.com — is a virtual reality pioneer, human-computer interaction researcher, co-founder of Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center — http://www.etc.cmu.edu — and creator of the Alice — http://www.alice.org — software project. The slides for this lecture and high-res downloadable versions of this and other lectures can be found at: http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/Randy/