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

 

 

 

 

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 

 

How and Why Employees Subvert Bad Corporate Policy Reply

self-interestBy Chris Simmons

Self Interest trumps everything. That is precisely why it’s the 1st Rule of Human Nature.

Despite this fundamental truth, many corporations ignore this core tenet of human nature and are then baffled when they experience poor results.

For example, I recently learned of a major US corporation that pays its staff a daily 10% “punctuality bonus” for being on time. More specifically, it is truly a 10% bonus that supplements the employees’ lower day rate. At first glance, an apparently understandable practice for a manufacturing entity.

This is where self interest comes into play. Like most companies, this firm offers sick leave — but at the employees’ lower base salary. So imagine how employees respond. If you guessed that they came to work sick, you are correct. If you guessed they came in to work sick, clocked in on-time, and then went home on sick leave – you’d also be correct.

It’s easy to see the numerous pitfalls of this practice, including some significant liability issues. No matter how well intentioned, any policy that runs counter to human nature and self interest will be intentionally undermined by those forced to endure it.

An associated truth of human nature is that people focus more on protecting what they have rather than the possibility of a future gain. This is why ads for major sweepstakes now say “You may have already won!,” as this wording enjoys response rates several times higher than “mail in your entry” contests. In a like fashion, this manufacturer could benefit greatly by ending the daily bonus and increasing base salaries by 10 percent.  Punctuality could still be enforced by simply docking an employee’s pay for a late arrival.

Other viable alternatives also exist, which begs the question, why would any firm stay wedded to such a clearly flawed practice?

Elizabeth Loftus: The Fiction of Memory 1

Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus studies memories. More precisely, she studies false memories, when people either remember things that didn’t happen or remember them differently from the way they really were. It’s more common than you might think, and Loftus shares some startling stories and statistics, and raises some important ethical questions we should all remember to consider.

 

 

How the Brain Creates Personality: A New Theory Reply

Are you a mover, a perceiver, a stimulator, or an adapter? Modes of thinking can be understood in terms of how the top and bottom—rather than right and left—parts of the brain interact.

By Stephen M. Kosslyn & G. Wayne Miller, The Atlantic

It is possible to examine any object—including a brain—at different levels. Take the example of a building. If we want to know whether the house will have enough space for a family of five, we want to focus on the architectural level; if we want to know how easily it could catch fire, we want to focus on the materials level; and if we want to engineer a product for a brick manufacturer, we focus on molecular structure.

Similarly, if we want to know how the brain gives rise to thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we want to focus on the bigger picture of how its structure allows it to store and process information—the architecture, as it were. To understand the brain at this level, we don’t have to know everything about the individual connections among brain cells or about any other biochemical process. We use a rela­tively high level of analysis, akin to architecture in buildings, to characterize relatively large parts of the brain.

To explain the Theory of Cognitive Modes, which specifies general ways of thinking that underlie how a person approaches the world and interacts with other people, we need to provide you with a lot of information. We want you to understand where this theory came from—that we didn’t just pull it out of a hat or make it up out of whole cloth. But there’s no need to lose the forest for the trees: there are only three key points that you will really need to keep in mind.

First, the top parts and the bottom parts of the brain have differ­ent functions. The top brain formulates and executes plans (which often involve deciding where to move objects or how to move the body in space), whereas the bottom brain classifies and interprets incoming information about the world. The two halves always work together; most important, the top brain uses information from the bottom brain to formulate its plans (and to reformulate them, as they unfold over time).

Second, according to the theory, people vary in the degree that they tend to rely on each of the two brain systems for functions that are optional (i.e., not dictated by the immediate situation): Some people tend to rely heavily on both brain systems, some rely heavily on the bottom brain system but not the top, some rely heavily on the top but not the bottom, and some don’t rely heavily on either system.

Third, these four scenarios define four basic cognitive modes— general ways of thinking that underlie how a person approaches the world and interacts with other people. According to the Theory of Cognitive Modes, each of us has a particular dominant cognitive mode, which affects how we respond to situations we encounter and how we relate to others. The possible modes are: Mover Mode, Perceiver Mode, Stimulator Mode, and Adaptor Mode.

Systems, Not Dichotomies

We use what researchers have learned to present a new theory of brain function that hinges on how the top and bottom parts of the brain interact. But we do not try to characterize the top and bottom parts of the brain in terms of a simple dichotomy or set of dichotomies, which was exactly what was done with the existing and well-known division of the brain into two halves: namely the left versus the right, the dominant pop-culture brain story of the last few decades. You have probably heard of this theory, in which the left and right halves of the brain are characterized, respectively, as logical versus intuitive, verbal versus perceptual, analytic versus synthetic, and so forth. The trouble is that none of these sweeping generalizations has stood up to careful scientific scrutiny. The dif­ferences between the left and right sides of the brain are nuanced, and simple, sweeping dichotomies do not in fact explain how the two sides function.

Feature continues here:  How the Brain Creates Personality: A New Theory

Dr. Jeni Cross on “Three Myths of Behavior Change – What You Think You Know That You Don’t” Reply

Jeni Cross is a sociology professor at Colorado State University (CSU). She has spoken about community development and sustainability to audiences across the country, from business leaders and government officials to community activists. As a professor and consultant she has helped dozens of schools and government agencies implement and evaluate successful programs to improve community well-being. In this talk, she discusses her work around changing behaviors.

Small Town SmackDown: Payback Can Be a Bear…. Reply

By Chris Simmons

Several years ago, a quaint little village in Virginia held its annual “Fall Festival.” Populated by amazing artisans, tours of historic homes, and abundant junk food, it is a fun event for young and old alike. On that particular October weekend, bitterly-contested state and national elections were in their closing weeks. Throughout the strongly-Democratic hamlet, political signs were as abundant as the gently falling leaves.

A major Republican Party official and her entourage arrived and launched into some old-fashioned politicking at the heavily attended fair. Within minutes, members of the festival’s organizing committee surrounded them and instructed them to leave. “We don’t allow politics to distract from our festival,” they were told.

“How can you say that?” one local entourage member asked. “Your town is awash with blue Democratic Party campaign signs” the staffer added. Then, pointing to a nearby crowd, another Republican activist added – “Right there are several Democratic candidates for the state Senate and House of Delegates doing exactly what we’re doing.”

“We hadn’t noticed they were here,” a festival organizer said with a broad smirk. “Now please leave,” she again directed.

The senior Republican representative graciously complemented the organizers on the beauty of their village, expressed her hope for a hugely successful event, and announced that they would leave as requested.

Livid at the disrespect just inflicted, several members of the entourage repeatedly glanced back as they proceed up the hill to the parking lot. “Look, they’re going back to the fair!  They didn’t tell the Democrats to leave! They lied to us!!” wailed one incensed supporter.

“It will be okay,” their Republican leader said reassuringly. After the activists were packed back into their vehicle, their principal turned to them and again smiled. “Think of this as a teaching point,” she said. “I sit on the committee that decides which towns receive state grants for their festivals, as well as the size of those grants. This town will never see another dime from Richmond [the state capitol].”

During the years that followed, the hamlet received annual notices that its grant requests had been denied. Apparently, there is no longer enough funding for all the worthy applicants.

Two distinct lessons can be drawn from this scenario:

  1. Hypocrisy and deceit is often “treated” by the hidden hand of discreet retaliation.
  2. We frequently create our own enemies.

The AMAZING Apollo Robbins on “The Art of Misdirection” Reply

Hailed as the greatest pickpocket in the world, Apollo Robbins studies the quirks of human behavior as he steals your watch. In a hilarious demonstration, Robbins samples the buffet of the TEDGlobal 2013 audience, showing how the flaws in our perception make it possible to swipe a wallet and leave it on its owner’s shoulder while they remain clueless.

The Liar’s Law of Attraction 2

By Chris Simmons

Individuals sometimes withhold information for any number of reasons. That said, there is an easy way to discover when you are confronted with a lie of omission. When discussing events or people with a counterpart, your colleague will generally pay equal attention to all the “unknowns.” However, if the other party shows a heightened interest in any area(s), it is probably because they are already familiar with the person/event.

For example, an office manager gives a supervisor five resumes and asks her to run the hiring action. As she flips through the resumes, she lingers on one of the candidates. Noticing her action, the manager asks; “You don’t know any of the applicants, do you?” “No,” she answers, “I was just trying to get a feel for how long I should set aside for this.” Satisfied with her answer, the manager walks away. However, her behavioral “tell” indicates there is a strong likelihood she did recognize a name from the resumes, although it is not known whether the individual is a friend or an enemy.

Familiarity will always capture a larger share of our attention, regardless of whether the item of interest is a person, place, thing, or event. Use the “Liar’s Law of Attraction” to identify a lie of omission and pair it with an appropriate line of questioning to discover the whole truth.