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 

 

Controversy Over Facebook Emotional Manipulation Study Grows Reply

FBControversy Over Facebook Emotional Manipulation Study Grows As Timeline Becomes More Clear

Gregory S. McNeal, Forbes

In a controversial study Facebook reported the results of a massive psychological experiment on 689,003 users.  The authors were able to conduct the research because in their words, automated testing “was consistent with Facebook’s Data Use Policy, to which all users agree prior to creating an account on Facebook, constituting informed consent for this research.

Most of us who covered the story relied on that statement from the academic journal for evidence of Facebook’s efforts to gain informed consent.  Well, it turns out that was wrong.

My colleague Kashmir Hill just reported that Facebook conducted their news feed manipulation four months before the term “research” was added to their data use policy, she writes:

However, we were all relying on what Facebook’s data policy says now. In January 2012, the policy did not say anything about users potentially being guinea pigs made to have a crappy day for science, nor that “research” is something that might happen on the platform.

Four months after this study happened, in May 2012, Facebook made changes to its data use policy, and that’s when it introduced this line about how it might use your information: “For internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.” Facebook helpfully posted a “red-line” version of the new policy, contrasting it with the prior version from September 2011— which did not mention anything about user information being used in “research.”

Kashmir’s story is worth reading in full, along with her earlier piece that digs deeper into the ethical and institutional review board issues, including a statement from Cornell “saying its IRB passed on reviewing the study because the part involving actual humans was done by Facebook not by the Cornell researcher involved in the study.”

Facebook seems nonplussed, releasing a statement saying ”To suggest we conducted any corporate research without permission is complete fiction. Companies that want to improve their services use the information their customers provide, whether or not their privacy policy uses the word ‘research’ or not.”

As Dan Solove points out in a recent LinkedIn Influencer post:

The problem with obtaining consent in this way is that people often rarely read the privacy policies or terms of use of a website. It is a pure fiction that a person really “agrees” with a policy such as this, yet we use this fiction all the time…

Article continues here:  Facebook Manipulation

Police Kill Teenage Boy: Negligence or Necessary? 1

 By Chris Simmons

 

On May 24th, a Purcellville [Virginia] police officer shot and killed Christian Sierra – a depressed High School student they had been summoned to help.

The 17-year old was at a neighbor’s house when he began threatening suicide. He subsequently cut himself and the police were called. Armed with a knife as he stood alone in the street, Sierra lunged at the first police officer to arrive. The officer responded by shooting and killing the boy.

Why wasn’t non-lethal force used? The police have several non-lethal tools available for use – the old-school nightstick, an ASP – a solid steel expandable baton ranging in length from 16-26 inches, tasers, pepper spray, and so forth.

In my opinion, in this encounter, the police officer CANNOT claim self-defense. The officer knew Christian Sierra was armed with a knife before exiting the safety of the police cruiser. Given the array of non-lethal weapons readily available for use, the troubled teen could have been quickly and safely subdued.

It is important to understand that by drawing his/her weapon, the officer actually raised the probability of a fatal encounter. Psychologically, aiming a gun at a knife-wielding individual often prompts the person’s “Freeze, Fight, Flight” response to favor the Fight option. In general, the escalation spiral will have already rendered the Freeze/surrender option highly unlikely. Flight is not an option as many individuals believe a police office will shoot them even if they turn and run. Thus, to survive, a person may feel they must attack.

In a gun vs. knife scenario, the psychological dynamic can be very deceptive. A knife-wielding individual might envision four possible outcomes:  the police officer could freeze and not fire, the officer might miss, the individual could be wounded, or he/she could be killed. Fueled by adrenaline, it becomes easy for an emotional individual – or in this case, a troubled teenager, to misjudge the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

Contrast that thinking against the very accurate psychological response when non-lethal force is clearly going to be used. Witnessing an officer extend a two-foot long ASP, a knife-wielding individual will likely conclude that the officer will disarm them by using the metal baton to break their hand, wrist or arm. The use of a non-lethal option is, in effect, a proportional response favoring the police as it capitalizes on the weapon’s extended range and the frailty of human bones.

Even a distraught person generally understands that a police officer will not be afraid to use their baton, nor is it likely he/she will miss. As such, the individual will commonly concludes one of three outcomes are likely: surrender immediately to avoid excruciating pain, undergo bone-breaking injuries, or risk sustaining a fatal blow to the head or a vital organ. In this situation, it’s hard to misjudge the likely outcome. More importantly, even if the individual does err in judgment, their forthcoming wounds would rarely be life-threatening.

I believe the death of Christian Sierra was probably both preventable and unnecessary. I experienced many tense situations during 24 months in war zones around the world, so I empathize with the stress under which the police operate. That said, the soldiers with whom I so proudly served never killed anyone when the means and opportunity to capture/subdue them existed. Citizens should expect the same standards from their police.

Why Psychopaths Are More Successful Reply

Mads Mikkelsen as Dr Hannibal Lecter in the NBC TV series Hannibal  (Photo: NBC)

Mads Mikkelsen as Dr Hannibal Lecter in the NBC TV series Hannibal (Photo: NBC)

Andy McNab and Oxford psychology professor Kevin Dutton reveal how acting like psychopaths could help us in work, life and love

By Theo Merz, The Telegraph

Behaving like a psychopath could help you in your career and love life. It’s counterintuitive – who, after all, would hire Hannibal Lecter or want to date Norman Bates – but that’s the idea behind The Good Psychopath’s Guide to Success, part popular science book, part self-help guide from Andy McNab and Oxford psychology professor Kevin Dutton.

“I wanted to debunk the myth that all psychopaths are bad,” says Dutton, who has explored this subject before. “I’d done research with the special forces, with surgeons, with top hedge fund managers and barristers. Almost all of them had psychopathic traits, but they’d harnessed them in ways to make them better at what they do.”

It was through this research that he met retired SAS sergeant and bestselling author McNab, who in tests exhibited many of these psychopathic traits, including ruthlessness, fearlessness, impulsivity, reduced empathy, developed self-confidence and lack of remorse.

“There’s no one thing that makes a psychopath,” Dutton explains. “You want to think of those traits being like the dials on a studio mixing desk, that you can turn up and down in different situations – if they’re all turned up to maximum, then you’re a dysfunctional psychopath.

“Being a psychopath isn’t black and white; it’s a spectrum, like height and weight.”

As one dysfunctional psychopath – who was serving a life sentence for multiple murders – put it to Dutton: “It’s not that we’re bad, it’s that we’ve got too much of a good thing.”

How, then, can you act more like a psychopath in your everyday life?

IN BUSINESS

Focus

“If I’m in a hostage situation I’d rather have a psychopath coming through the door than anyone else because I know he’s going to be completely focussed on the job in hand,” says McNab.

The ability psychopaths have to turn down their empathy and block out other concerns make them the best operators in high-pressure environments, he says. “If I was on trial, I’d want a psychopath [to represent me] too. I want someone who’d be able to rip people apart in the witness box, go back to their family and not think anything more about it, because it’s just a job for them.”

Fearlessness

The lack of fear which characterises psychopaths could also help people in the work place, says Dutton, who asks of the book’s readers: “What would I do in this situation if I wasn’t afraid?” (It matches, almost word for word, a sign which greets visitors to Facebook’s California HQ, “What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?” though Dutton insists this is coincidental.)

“If it’s asking for a raise or picking up the phone to call someone you wouldn’t otherwise, functioning psychopaths have a natural advantage in that they can turn this fear down.”

Lack of empathy

But it’s important, McNab says, not to turn down the ‘empathy dial’ completely when doing business. “You don’t want to be a Gordon Gekko character, screwing people over all the time. They get hurt once but you get hurt forever because they’ll never trust you again. That’s the difference between a good and a bad psychopath: knowing when to turn that up and when to kill it.”

Feature continues here:  High-Functioning Psychopaths

Exploiting Human Frailty: Is This Russia’s Plan For Destroying the Ukraine? Reply

Flag of the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU)

Flag of the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU)

By Chris Simmons

Over the last several weeks, “pro-Russian” forces – presumably including disguised Russian government personnel – have seized numerous Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) buildings.

But what is their goal?  Why would they attack Kiev’s intelligence service?  A display of strength? Perhaps. Seizing weapons? Undoubtedly, but as a lesser mission. I suspect that perhaps Moscow seeks to indirectly defeat the Ukraine by obliterating its primary spy service.

In capturing these facilities, the masked Russian personnel and their allies now presumably have the personnel and security files of SSU personnel, as well as family photos, contact information, etc. Additionally, the Russian “separatists” have already shown their propensity for anonymity (i.e., “unmarked uniforms, masks, etc). Such secrecy helps create a baseline of fear. As tensions escalate, the environment becomes ripe for terror attacks.

Students of irregular warfare (previously called “guerrilla warfare”) know insurgents maximize their strength and minimize their risks by attacking where an enemy is weak or vulnerable. Another tenet of this type of warfare is the adage, “Kill one, terrorize a thousand.”

Moscow does not want to engage the SSU directly – and now it doesn’t have to. It can incite panic by unleashing a reign of terror against the families of SSU officers. Such an effort could be as simple as kidnapping the loved ones of a few of its personnel. Russia would follow these acts with a well choreographed media campaign to convince the 4000 SSU members that their families are next. Bear in mind that to be effective, a terror threat need not be real — but merely perceived as credible.

People will always follow the 1st Rule of Human Natureself interest.  If Moscow successfully creates an environment of fear so pervasive that SSU members are forced to choose between their families and their nation – the Ukraine is doomed.

The Personality Profile That Makes Leaders Make War Reply

Leaders with a high need for personal power, like Putin, go to war more often

by Ian H. Robertson, Ph.D. in Psychology Today

World leaders who make war tend to have a particular personality profile called “high need for power”. American presidents who show this are, throughout history, more likely to take their countries into war than those who don’t. Dwight Eisenhower didn’t show it for instance, while George W Bush did.

“Need for power” was identified by the great psychologist David McLelland as one of three basic, largely unconscious drives, which motivate people to different degrees. The need for power – the others are the needs for affiliation and achievement – is where you are motivated to dominate and control what other people want, need or fear.

In simulations of the Cuban missile crisis where nuclear holocaust between Russia and USA was narrowly averted, people who are high in the need for power acting the role of war room decision makers tend to take actions which would, in 1962, have resulted in nuclear war.

All leaders need to have a certain appetite for power – leadership is too stressful otherwise, and power’s effects on the brain’s act as a sort of anti-depressant. But like all addictive drugs, too much for too long causes dangerous changes in the brain, which include reckless disinhibition, risk-blindness and difficulty in seeing things from other’s perspective: ex UK Foreign Secretary Lord David Owen has described this as the “Hubris Syndrome” which he diagnosed leaders Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and George W Bush, among others, as showing.

Few if any leaders can survive more than ten years of power without being tipped into this dangerous state of altered personality and increased desire for even more power. Most democracies have devised constraints – limited terms of office for instance – to counteract such dangerous changes to the brain. Even the Republic of China changes its leadership every ten years.

It is the neurologically-created conceit of many powerful leaders that – in the words of Louis XV of France –  “après moi le déluge” (after me, the flood). Power fosters the delusion of indispensability and many political leaders have created havoc in fighting to stay in post because they genuinely believe their abilities are crucial for the survival of their country and that no-one else can do it.

President Vladimir Putin has held power in Russia as President or Prime Minister for approaching 15 years – too long for any man or woman’s brain to endure without dangerous changes which foster recklessness and a blindness to other perspectives. Saturday’s military incursion into Ukraine may be a particularly worrying symptom of this leader’s affliction.

@ihrobertson

The Outsider Effect Reply

By Lauren F. Friedman, Psychology Today

Few experiences are more painful than being excluded and ignored. Over a long period of time, recent research by Kipling Williams and Steve Nida reveals, being ostracized “is a form of social death.” It eventually depletes coping resources; people learn to self-ostracize and come to “accept the essential message of their ostracism –that they are completely insignificant.” Future research will look at why outcast individuals may be drawn into fringe groups, lured by the chance to finally belong.

The Shared Brain Reply

Lauren F. Friedman, Psychology Today

Self-regulation once seemed to be a solo project. But “a new line of research is showing how the brain “outsources” regulatory tasks to others,” explains Mario Mikulincer, editor of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. To conserve brain resources for tasks like learning, people may lean on close partners, offloading some of the burden of controlling impulses and emotions. An individual may not be able to calm himself, but if a partner can calm him, the end result is similar.