Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 2017

Teaching a young introvert?

Were you an introverted kid? This one is for you:

TED posted this article
What should we do with the quiet kids?
A conversation with Susan Cain on the future of classroom education.
t.ted.com

Susan Cain sticks up for the introverts of the world. In the U.S., where one third to one half the population identifies as introverts, that means sticking up for a lot of people.

Some of them might be data engineers overwhelmed by the noise of an open-floor-plan office.

Others might be lawyers turning 30, whose friends shame them for not wanting a big birthday bash.

But Cain particularly feels for one group of introverts: the quiet kids in a classroom.

Cain remembers a childhood full of moments when she was urged by teachers and peers to be more outgoing and social — when that simply wasn’t in her nature.

Our most important institutions, like schools and workplaces, are designed for extroverts, says Cain in her TED Talk. [Watch: The power of introverts.] “Nowadays, your typical classroom has pods of desks, and kids are working on countless group assignments.” Yet if up to half the population has introvert tendencies, why is it that kids who prefer to go off by themselves or to work alone are seen as outliers?

We gave Cain a call to talk about how schools, both right now and far off in the future, could better care for the needs of introverted students. Below, an edited transcript of that conversation, with some very surprising answers.

Could we rethink the chaotic school cafeteria? How about recess? How about the very definition of “class participation?” Cain offers bold ideas in these areas and more.

Photo by Tom Woodward/Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/bionicteaching/3346044174

What kind of response did you get to the part of your TED Talk about the education system and how it isn’t optimized for introverts?

I’ve heard from so many teachers and school administrators and parents and students about the problems that they feel are embedded in the system.

I’ve heard from students feeling that they are unfairly docked for not meeting current standards of class participation. I’ve heard from teachers who now, in many cases, are required to make a majority of their lessons centered on group work.

Even when the teachers feel that’s not a good idea, they have to do it, because the teachers themselves are evaluated on that basis. They don’t have the wiggle room to modify it, even though they think they should. Overall, I’ve seen firsthand in the wake of my TED Talk that there’s such an enormous need for parents and teachers to better understand how to love and cultivate the introverted kid.

“What an extroverted act it is in the first place to go to school. All day long, you are in a classroom full of people with constant stimulation.”

What can be done in the short term to help teachers better understand how to do that?

I believe that we need to do general teacher training to just make them aware of what makes a student an introvert, what that means, and how best to cultivate the talent of those students. To raise awareness of what an extroverted act it is in the first place to go to school. All day long, you are in a classroom full of people with constant stimulation. Even for introverted kids who really like school, it’s still a very overstimulating experience.

In general, teachers should avoid setting social standards for what is normal. There’s research that shows that if a student has no friends at all — zero friends — that is problematic and should be addressed.

But a student who has one or two or three friends, and prefers to go deep with their friendships instead of being one of a big gang, there’s nothing wrong with that at all, in terms of it being a predictor for adulthood.

That style of socializing is perfectly fine. So we should identify problems when they are there — like a student who would really love to make friends but doesn’t know how. But at the same time, we shouldn’t make problems when they aren’t there by saying, “You should be more social.”

If the kid is perfectly happy the way they are, they need to get the message that the way they are is cool.

Photo by lecercle/Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/lecercle/2969804180/in/photostream/

One thing I think that educators should bear in mind: we allow adults all kinds of flexibility in terms of what kind of social life they want.

Adults who have two or three friends, no one thinks twice about it. But we don’t allow children the same degree of flexibility. I often ask people to imagine their next big, milestone birthday and to think how they would want to celebrate it.

Some people want to celebrate with a big bash full of friends, and other people would rather just go out with family or a couple of close friends. But think about what we expect children to do for their birthday parties.

We expect them to invite the whole class, and make it this big, uproarious affair. I get letters from parents all the time, saying, “We invited the whole class over for the birthday, and my child seemed happy for the first 15 minutes, and then she went to her room and wouldn’t come out.

What I’d say is: celebrate the way the kid wants to celebrate. Don’t give the kid the idea that there’s only one way to do it.

What are some small changes that teachers can make in the classroom right now that might make a big difference for kids who are introverts?

Number one would be to make sure to build quiet time into the school day, especially when kids are younger. Have 15 minutes set aside every day where the students just read.

Make sure that the classroom design accommodates nooks and crannies so you’re not just reading within groups of people, but you can go and sit on a sofa in the classroom and curl up with your book. When I was researching Quiet, I traveled around and sat in as a fly-on-the-wall in all kinds of classrooms, and many already do this — but not all of them. That would be one easy thing.

Photo by Greg Williams/Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/22077805@N07/6042871345

Another would be reforming recess.

Teachers should think about providing alternatives to recess, which for many students is unnecessarily chaotic and not that interesting. Open up a classroom and let students sit and play board games in small groups, or read a book, or just hang out and chill.

The notion that all students should restore themselves by running out into a big, noisy yard is very limiting. Some will like it, some won’t. Some will like it on some days, but would prefer an alternative on other days.

The classroom is crying out for a solution that is less one-size-fits-all.”

Interesting. So the theme seems to be giving students more options.

Yeah, the idea is just to maximize choice. All the suggestions that I’m giving are along those lines of providing lots of different alternatives for how you get your learning and how you get your restorative time.

Let it be more of a pick-and-choose situation instead of it being, “Oh, let’s do it this way.”

There’s a well-known study in psychology by a guy named Russell Geen. He gave learning tasks to kids to solve, with varying levels of background noise. He found that the extroverts did best when the noise was louder, and the introverts did best when the noise was softer.

If you take that research and apply it to the classroom, it’s crying out for a solution that is less one-size-fits-all — and that allows students to pick the amount of stimulation that is right for them in that moment.

How can teachers make introverted students feel more comfortable when class is in session?

I’d say: less group work in general. Teachers should really mix it up fairly between individual work, group work, and have students do more work in pairs, which is a way that both introverts and extroverts can thrive.

There’s one technique that a lot educators will know of already, but should be reminded of: it’s called “think-pair-share.” What you do is ask a question, like “Why did Romeo do what he did?” or “Why did Juliet react the way she did?” and then the teacher thinks about it, and students sit by themselves for a minute or two and they think too.

Then they pair up, and discuss their thoughts with their partner. The share part is when they share their thoughts with the group. A lot of students who might be reticent at first will feel emboldened by having first discussed it with a partner.

Photo via iStock.

I’d like to challenge teachers to rethink what they mean by class participation and start thinking of it as classroom engagement instead.

Participation ends up rewarding quantity, so you get kids raising their hands for the sake of talking, and that’s not really in anybody’s interest. But engagement recognizes that there are a lot of different ways to engage with the material and with your peers.

If you think more broadly about it, a student who’s a good listener or who gives one really great, reflective comment is just as valued as the one who’s always raising their hand.

By the way, Greenwich Academy in Connecticut has adopted a lot of these ideas and has really been using them to great effect.

Was that jumpstarted by your talk and book?

Yes. Their teacher reading assignment over one summer was to read Quiet. They also had a group of students who embraced it and started really getting their peers and teachers to address it. They started a little movement within the school.

In May, I talked to the TED Blog about our whole Quiet Revolution. One of the segments that we are going to be tackling is education, because the need is so great. This is the area that is closest to my heart. With our Quiet Revolution, we plan to be doing versions of this with schools across the world — we just need to build out the resources for it.

We’re just at the beginning, but our intention is to partner with private and public schools all over the U.S., and ultimately globally, to really make sure that everything I’ve just been talking about can actually happen. We’re looking for the right leader for that right now.

Once we have the right leader, I think it will move at the speed of light, because there is so much groundwork in place already. So watch this space. We’re trying to create something that will really give schools the tools that they need.

“We should be getting away from school design that has students jostling together in one gigantic mass of humanity.”

Now, forget school in the form we know it. If you were designing schools of the future, what would they look like?

I really love the whole “flipped classroom” — Salman Khan’s model, where students do a lot of the hard work on their own the night before, and then come in and have the opportunity to engage one-on-one or in small groups with a teacher to resolve the remaining questions that they have. I think that’s really key for all students. The best way to learn, for sure.

I also think we need to rethink classroom design. It’s definitely integrating way more nooks and crannies and alternative sorts of spaces into our classrooms, but also rethinking our school designs in general. We should be getting away from school design that has students jostling together in one gigantic mass of humanity. There are a lot of students who just don’t thrive like that.

So instead of crowded halls, a design that channels students into different spaces?

Yeah. I’m imagining spaces that are more flexible so at any given moment, you can choose: Do I want to be in a solo space? Do I want to be in a small group space? Do I want to be in a more crowded, lively space?

A design that really takes into account the fact that all of us toggle back and forth in our days between wanting each of those three kinds of spaces. Right now, our schools are designed with a kind of monolithic sense of space.

Photo by Lexie Flickinger/Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/56155476@N08/6659994609

How will the curriculum in schools of the future vary from what we see now?

I think the future of education will take into account the research of Anders Ericsson, who invented the concept of “deliberate practice.”

He’s a psychologist, and he studied what makes people into really expert, superstar performers — whether it’s in tennis or chess or math. He found that for most people, it’s not a question of having superior talent, but rather a question of having engaged in many hours of really concentrated, deliberate practice at the craft that they wanted to master.

He says that the key to deliberate practice is that you shouldn’t be doing it in a group where you’re going to be spending too much of your time working on stuff that’s either too hard for you, too easy for you, or not interesting to you.

You should be working alone or one-on-one with someone who can coach you along, and answer your questions at the right time. That whole body of work — and it’s pretty extensive right now — really needs to be integrated into the curriculum. That’s one of the reasons I love the flipped classroom idea, because I think it’s heading in that direction.

What kinds of differences would you imagine in how teachers are trained and evaluated?

In terms of teacher training — and I should say, I’m not an educator per se, so I am speaking from my specific corner on this — I think we need way more instruction in knowledge of temperament.

There’s a lot of attention in education paid to difference in learning style, and I think not enough understanding of differences of temperament and how that shapes who children are and how they learn and socialize. In terms of how teachers are evaluated, we need to give them way more freedom to design curricula they think will work for their students.

Earlier, I was telling you how many teachers tell me that they don’t want to do so much group work, but have no choice. Gosh, that really needs to change.

What kind of social activities are Not part of the school day now that could be in the future?

Small-scale socializing. Socializing in pairs and small groups. If you look at your typical school cafeteria, it is set up with the expectation that the students will eat lunch at gigantic tables full of kids. Why? A lot of us would much prefer to socialize with one or two people at a time.

So we should have small tables too. I think playgrounds could be designed to encourage more one-on-one or small group play as well. All the social structures should keep that modus operandi in mind.

Photo by Lexie Flickinger/Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/56155476@N08/6660055759

Let’s talk about technology. How could technology be integrated into the classroom of the future to give more options, and be there in positive ways for students who are introverts?

I know from talking to educators that there are already tools that can be incredibly helpful — tools that allow students to participate through their electronic devices as opposed to raising their hand.

Apps that allow students to contribute to class discussions, sometimes anonymously and sometimes not. Even if it’s not anonymous, the fact that a student is participating in a class discussion or a class blog online removes some of their own psychological barriers to participation.

The same kid who might not raise their hand in class might write something really interesting into some kind of classroom app or blog. Then other students see their ideas, and they start talking about it in real life. It’s a bridge to participation.

I think we’ll move toward anything that encourages student participation through an online medium. It could be for student artists or student writers, for example — giving them opportunities to contribute to a class blog or something where their classmates will get to see their hearts and minds in this other forum. I think that really opens things up.

Featured illustration by Dawn Kim.

23 things artificially intelligent computers can do better/faster/cheaper than you can

Predict the weather
Read an X-ray
Play Go
Correct spelling
Figure out the P&L of a large company
Pick a face out of a crowd
Count calories
Fly a jet across the country
Maintain the temperature of your house
Book a flight
Give directions
Create an index for a book
Play Jeopardy
Weld a metal seam
Trade stocks
Place online ads
Figure out what book to read next
Water a plant
Monitor a premature newborn
Detect a fire
Play poker
Read documents in a lawsuit
Sort packages

If you’ve seen enough movies, you’ve probably bought into the homunculus model of AI–that it’s in the future and it represents a little mechanical man in a box, as mysterious in his motivations as we are.

The future of AI is probably a lot like the past: it nibbles.

Artificial intelligence does a job we weren’t necessarily crazy about doing anyway, it does it quietly, and well, and then we take it for granted. (Even playing poker?)

No one complained when their thermostat took over the job of building a fire, opening the grate, opening a window, rebuilding a fire.

And no one complained when the computer found 100 flights faster and better than we ever could.

But the system doesn’t get tired, it keeps nibbling. Not with benign or mal intent, but with a focus on a clearly defined task.

This can’t help but lead to unintended consequences, enormous when they happen to you, and mostly small in the universal scheme of things.

Technology destroys the perfect and then it enables the impossible.

The question each of us has to ask is simple (but difficult): What can I become quite good at that’s really difficult for a computer to do one day soon?

How can I become so resilient, so human and such a linchpin that shifts in technology won’t be able to catch up?

It was always important, but now it’s urgent.

Erdogan’s Victory in the Referendum on His Powers Will Leave Turkey Even More Divided

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed victory on Sunday in a referendum on a proposal to massively expand his power, while dismissing the objections of opposition parties who challenged the outcome of the vote.

Erdogan’s victory sets in motion a transformation of Turkish politics, replacing the current parliamentary system with one dominated by a powerful presidency.

According to preliminary results, a small majority of Turkish voters approved the set of 18 constitutional amendments that limits parliament’s oversight of the executive, eliminates the office of the Prime Minister, and expands presidential power over judicial appointments.

Erdogan and his supporters say the constitutional changes are needed to ensure stability, while opponents denounced the amendments as a step toward an era of autocracy.

The narrow, disputed outcome of the vote also sets the stage for a bitter struggle over the validity of the referendum results.

According to Turkey’s state news agency, the yes vote won by a margin of 51.2% to 48.8%. However, two opposition parties said they would challenge the result, citing violations in the vote-counting procedure.

The campaign also took place in the wake of a vast political crackdown in Turkey following a failed military coup last July. The questions about the referendum’s results now promise to sow even more division in a country already deeply polarized over the figure of Erdogan and the merits of his proposed presidential system.

Addressing his supporters on Sunday night, Erdogan brushed aside questions of legitimacy, claiming a definitive victory in the referendum. “The discussion is over. ‘Yes’ has won.” (Since when discussion was practically made available? The Turkish TV stations refused to air the opinions of the NO oppositions)

Throughout the referendum campaign, Erdogan has argued the new system of government would introduce political stability and security. It certainly promises to make Erdogan the undisputed leader of Turkey for years to come, inviting comparisons to Vladimir Putin of Russia and other populist autocrats.

“Who’s going to stop Erdogan? There never was anyone to stop Erdogan, but now, even the formal possibility of there being something is erased from the law,” says Selim Sazak, a fellow at the Delma Institute, an Abu Dhabi–based think tank.

The dispute over the outcome of the referendum centers on a last-minute decision by the state election board to count ballots that did not receive an official authenticating stamp.

The country’s largest opposition party says that as many as 1.5 million ballots did not receive such a stamp, a number that would more than account for the margin of victory in the margin of victory of 1.3 million reported by the state news agency.

“At least half the country said no to constitutional change. This shouldn’t be carried against the public’s will,” said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the centrist Republican People’s Party, in a televised address on Sunday night. Angry demonstrations erupted late Sunday night in neighborhoods of Istanbul where the opposition is heavily represented.

“This is a very close call, so I don’t think people are going to let it go necessarily. It will probably be talked about for some time,” says Selim Koru, an analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey. He adds, “The President is obviously going to continue and try to enact a transition to make everything irreversible as quickly as he can.”

The entire referendum campaign took place amid political crackdown in the aftermath of a deadly military coup last July that failed to dislodge Erdogan and killed more than 200 people.

After surviving the coup attempt, Erdogan moved to consolidate power, with authorities jailing thousands and dismissing tens of thousands of civil servants, soldiers, police officers, teachers, justice officials and others from their jobs.

In a parallel set of court cases, hundreds of members of one major opposition party — the Peoples’ Democratic Party — have been imprisoned on terrorism charges, among them Members of Parliament. The government accuses the party of ties to outlawed Kurdish militants who are engaged in a long-running war with the Turkish state.

The results of the national vote also suggest some weaknesses in the President’s base of support.

In Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, where Erdogan came of age and rose to stardom as the elected mayor in the 1990s, the no votes edged out the yes votes.

The “no” campaign also won the capital, Ankara, as well as Izmir, a major coastal city.

A significant number of supporter’s of Erdogan’s own party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), voted against the constitutional changes, signaling distrust with a the expansion of the power of a President who already has unrivaled control.

In Istanbul’s Kasimpasa neighborhood, where Erdogan lived as a teenager and a young man, some of the President’s supporters said they voted no.

“A presidential system doesn’t sound right to me,” said Nazli Kaya, 32, standing outside a polling station in a school in Kasimpasa. “I believe in diversity. I don’t want a one-man system,” she says.

 

Variance or deviance?

If you see things that don’t meet the norm as ‘deviant’, then you are approaching the world with a mindset of mass, of conformity, of obedience.

You are assuming that you can be most effective and efficient when the market lines up in a straight line, when one size does fit all, because one size is cheaper to make and stock and distribute.

On the other hand, if you accept differences as merely variations, each acceptable, then you realize that there are many markets, many choices, many solutions.

Packaged goods, leadership or governance–when you expect (or demand) that people don’t deviate, you’re robbing them of their dignity and setting yourself up to be disappointed.

It’s okay to say, “this thing we make, it’s not for you,” but I’m not sure it’s productive to say, “you’re not allowed to make the choices you’ve made.”

lies we tell pregnant women

“When we tell women that sex isn’t worth the risk during pregnancy, what we’re telling her is that her sexual pleasure doesn’t matter … that she in fact doesn’t matter,” says sex researcher Sofia Jawed-Wessel.

In this eye-opening talk, Jawed-Wessel mines our views about pregnancy and pleasure to lay bare the relationship between women, sex and systems of power.

Sofia Jawed-Wessel. Sex researcher

Sofia Jawed-Wessel’s teachings utilize a sex-positive and pleasure-inclusive approach to providing medically accurate, comprehensive sexuality education. Full bio

Filmed Oct. 2016

We’re going to share a lot of secrets today, you and I, and in doing so, I hope that we can lift some of the shame many of us feel about sex.

0:21 How many here have ever been catcalled by a stranger? Lots of women. For me, the time I remember best is when that stranger was a student of mine. He came up to me after class that night and his words confirmed what I already knew:

“I am so sorry, professor. If I had known it was you, I would never have said those things.”

 I wasn’t a person to him until I was his professor.

This concept, called objectification, is the foundation of sexism, and we see it reinforced through every aspect of our lives. We see it in the government that refuses to punish men for raping women.

We see it in advertisements. How many of you have seen an advertisement that uses a woman’s breast to sell an entirely unrelated product?

Or movie after movie after movie that portrays women as only love interests? These examples might seem inconsequential and harmless, but they’re insidious, slowly building into a culture that refuses to see women as people.

We see this in the school that sends home a 10-year-old girl because her clothes were a distraction to boys trying to learn, or the government that refuses to punish men for raping women over and over, or the woman who is killed because she asked a man to stop grinding on her on the dance floor.

Media plays a large role in perpetuating the objectification of women.

Let’s consider the classic romantic comedy. We’re typically introduced to two kinds of women in these movies, two kinds of desirable women, anyway.

The first is the sexy bombshell. This is the unbelievably gorgeous woman with the perfect body. Our leading man has no trouble identifying her and even less trouble having sex with her.

The second is our leading lady, the beautiful but demure woman our leading man falls in love with despite not noticing her at first or not liking her if he did. The first is the slut. She is to be consumed and forgotten. She is much too available. The second is desirable but modest, and therefore worthy of our leading man’s future babies. Marriage material. We’re actually told that women have two roles, but these two roles have a difficult time existing within the same woman.

 On the rare occasion that I share with a new acquaintance that I study sex, if they don’t end the conversation right then, they’re usually pretty intrigued.

 “Oh. Tell me more.”

3:20 So I do.

“I’m really interested in studying the sexual behaviors of pregnant and postpartum couples.” At this point I get a different kind of response.

“Oh. Huh. Do pregnant people even have sex? Have you thought about studying sexual desire or orgasms? That would be interesting, and sexy.”

Tell me. What are the first words that come to mind when you picture a pregnant woman?

I asked this question in a survey of over 500 adults, and most responded with “belly” or “round” and “cute.” This didn’t surprise me too much. What else do we label as cute? Babies. Puppies. Kittens. The elderly. Right?

When we label an adult as cute, though, we take away a lot of their intelligence, their complexity. We reduce them to childlike qualities.

I also asked heterosexual men to imagine a woman that they’re partnered with is pregnant, and then asked women to imagine that they are pregnant, and then tell me the first words that come to mind when they imagine having sex.

Most of the responses were negative. “Gross.” “Awkward.” “Not sexy.” “Odd.” “Uncomfortable.” “How?”  “Not worth the trouble.” “Not worth the risk.”

4:57 That last one really stuck with me. We might think that because we divorce pregnant women and moms from sexuality, we are removing the constraints of sexual objectification. They experience less sexism. Right? Not exactly.

What happens instead is a different kind of objectification. In my efforts to explain this to others, one conversation led to the Venus of Willendorf, a Paleolithic figurine scholars assumed was a goddess of love and beauty, hence the name Venus.

This theory was later revised, though, when scholars noted the sculptor’s obvious focus on the figurine’s reproductive features: large breasts, considered ideal for nursing; a round, possibly pregnant belly; the remnants of red dye, alluding to menstruation or birth.

They also assumed that she was meant to be held or placed lying down because her tiny feet don’t allow her to be freestanding. She also had no face. For this reason, it was assumed that she was a representation of fertility and not a portrait of a person. She was an object. In the history of her interpretation, she went from object of ideal beauty and love to object of reproduction.

I think this transition speaks more about the scholars who have interpreted her purpose than the actual purpose of the figurine herself. When a woman becomes pregnant, she leaves the realm of men’s sexual desire and slides into her reproductive and child-rearing role. In doing so, she also becomes the property of the community, considered very important but only because she’s pregnant. Right? I’ve taken to calling this the Willendorf effect, and once again we see it reinforced in many aspects of her life.

Has anyone here ever been visibly pregnant?

Yeah. Lots of you, right? So how many of you ever had a stranger touch your belly during pregnancy, maybe without even asking your permission first?

Or told what you can and cannot eat by somebody who is not your doctor, your medical care provider?

Or asked private questions about your birth plan? And then told why those choices are all wrong? Yeah, me too. Or had a server refuse to bring you a glass of wine?

This one might give you pause, I know, but stay with me. This is a huge secret. It is actually safe to drink in moderation during pregnancy. Many of us don’t know this because doctors don’t trust pregnant women with this secret —  especially if she’s less educated or a woman of color.

7:52 What this tells us is, this Willendorf effect, it’s also classist and racist. It’s present when the government reminds women with every new anti-choice bill that the contents of her uterus are not her own, or when an ob-gyn says, “While it’s safe to have sex during pregnancy, sometimes you never know. Better safe than sorry, right?”

She’s denied basic privacy and bodily autonomy under the guise of “be a good mother.” We don’t trust her to make her own decisions. She’s cute, remember? When we tell women that sexual pleasure — excuse me.

 When we tell women that sex isn’t worth the risk during pregnancy, what we’re telling her is that her sexual pleasure doesn’t matter. So what we are telling her is that she in fact doesn’t matter, even though the needs of her fetus are not at odds with her own needs.

8:56 So medical providers, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have the opportunity to educate about the safety of sex during pregnancy. So what do the experts say?

ACOG actually has no public official statement about the safety of sex during pregnancy. Guidance from the Mayo Clinic is generally positive but presented with a caveat: “Although most women can safely have sex throughout pregnancy, sometimes it’s best to be cautious.”

Some women don’t want to have sex during pregnancy, and that’s OK. Some women do want to have sex during pregnancy, and that’s OK, too. What needs to stop is society telling women what they can and cannot do with their bodies.

Pregnant women are not faceless, identity-less vessels of reproduction who can’t stand on their own two feet. But the truth is, the real secret is, we tell all women that their sexual pleasure doesn’t matter. We refuse to even acknowledge that women who have sex with women or women who don’t want children even exist.

10:07 “Oh, it’s just a phase …  she just needs the right man to come along.”

Every time a woman has sex simply because it feels good, it is revolutionary. She is revolutionary. She is pushing back against society’s insistence that she exist simply for men’s pleasure or for reproduction. A woman who prioritizes her sexual needs is scary, because a woman who prioritizes her sexual needs prioritizes herself.

That is a woman demanding that she be treated as an equal. That is a woman who insists that you make room for her at the table of power, and that is the most terrifying of all because we can’t make room for her without some of us giving up the extra space we hold.

I have one last secret for you. I am the mother of two boys and we could use your help. Even though my boys hear me say regularly that it’s important for men to recognize women as equals and they see their father modeling this, we need what happens in the world to reinforce what happens in our home.

This is not a men’s problem or a women’s problem. This is everyone’s problem, and we all play a role in dismantling systems of inequality. For starters, we have got to stop telling women what they can and cannot do with their bodies.

This includes not treating pregnant women like community property. If you don’t know her, don’t even ask to touch her belly. You wouldn’t anybody else.

Don’t tell her what she can and cannot eat.

Don’t ask her private details about her medical decisions. This also includes understanding that even if you are personally against abortion, you can still fight for a woman’s right to choose.

When it comes to women’s equality, the two need not oppose one another. If you’re somebody who has sex with women, prioritize her pleasure. If you don’t know how, ask.

If you have children have conversations about sex as early as possible, because kids don’t look up s-e-x in the dictionary anymore. They look it up on the internet. And when you’re having those conversations about sex, don’t center them on reproduction only. People have sex for many reasons, some because they want a baby, but most of us have sex because it feels good. Admit it.

And regardless of whether you have children or not, support comprehensive sex education that doesn’t shame our teenagers.

Nothing positive comes from shaming teens for their sexual desires, behaviors, other than positive STD and pregnancy tests.

13:17 Every single day, we are all given the opportunity to disrupt patterns of inequality. I think we can all agree that it’s worth the trouble to do so.

Patsy Z and TEDxSKE shared a link.
“When we tell women that sex isn’t worth the risk during pregnancy, what we’re telling her is that her sexual pleasure doesn’t matter … that she in fact doesn’t matter,” says sex researcher Sofia Jawed-Wessel. In this eye-opening talk, Jawed-Wessel mines our views about pregnancy and pleasure to l…
ted.com

Damned lies and statistics?

Sebastian Wernicke turns the tools of statistical analysis on TEDTalks, to come up with a metric for creating “the optimum TEDTalk” based on user ratings. How do you rate it? “Jaw-dropping”? “Unconvincing”? Or just plain “Funny”?

Sebastian Wernicke. Data scientist

After making a splash in the field of bioinformatics, Sebastian Wernicke moved on to the corporate sphere, where he motivates and manages multidimensional projects. Full bio

Filmed in Feb 2010

If you go on the TED website, you can currently find there over a full week of TEDTalk videos, over 1.3 million words of transcripts and millions of user ratings.

And that’s a huge amount of data. And it got me wondering: If you took all this data and put it through statistical analysis, could you reverse engineer a TEDTalk?

Could you create the ultimate TEDTalk? (Laughter) (Applause) And also, could you create the worst possible TEDTalk that they would still let you get away with?

0:49 To find this out, I looked at three things:

I looked at the topic that you should choose,

I looked at how you should deliver it and the visuals onstage.

Now, with the topic: There’s a whole range of topics you can choose, but you should choose wisely, because your topic strongly correlates with how users will react to your talk.

to make this more concrete, let’s look at the list of top 10 words that statistically stick out in the most favorite TEDTalks and in the least favorite TEDTalks. So if you came here to talk about how French coffee will spread happiness in our brains, that’s a go. (Laughter) (Applause) Whereas, if you wanted to talk about your project involving oxygen, girls, aircraft — actually, I would like to hear that talk, (Laughter) but statistics say it’s not so good.

If you generalize this, the most favorite TEDTalks are those that feature topics we can connect with, both easily and deeply, such as happiness, our own body, food, emotions. And the more technical topics, such as architecture, materials and, strangely enough, men, those are not good topics to talk about.

How should you deliver your talk?

TED is famous for keeping a very sharp eye on the clock, so they’re going to hate me for revealing this, because, actually, you should talk as long as they will let you. (Laughter) Because the most favorite TEDTalks are, on average, over 50% longer than the least favorite ones.

And this holds true for all ranking lists on TED.com except if you want to have a talk that’s beautiful, inspiring or funny. Then, you should be brief. (Laughter) But other than that, talk until they drag you off the stage.

While you’re pushing the clock, there’s a few rules to obey. I found these rules out by comparing the statistics of four-word phrases that appear more often in the most favorite TEDTalks as opposed to the least favorite TEDTalks.

I’ll give you 3 examples. First of all, I must, as a speaker, provide a service to the audience and talk about what I will give you, instead of saying what I can’t have.

Secondly, it’s imperative that you do not cite The New York Times. (Laughter) And

finally, it’s okay for the speaker — that’s the good news — to fake intellectual capacity. If I don’t understand something, I can just say, “etc., etc.” You’ll all stay with me. It’s perfectly fine. (Applause)

 let’s go to the visuals. The most obvious visual thing on stage is the speaker.

And analysis shows if you want to be among the most favorite TED speakers, you should let your hair grow a little bit longer than average, make sure you wear your glasses and be slightly more dressed-up than the average TED speaker.

Slides are okay, though you might consider going for props. And now the most important thing, that is the mood onstage. Color plays a very important role.

Color closely correlates with the ratings that talks get on the website. (Applause) For example, fascinating talks contain a statistically high amount of exactly this blue color, (Laughter) much more than the average TEDTalk.

Ingenious TEDTalks, much more this green color, etc., et. (Laughter) (Applause) Now, personally, I think I’m not the first one who has done this analysis, but I’ll leave this to your good judgment.

it’s time to put it all together and design the ultimate TEDTalk.

Now, since this is TEDActive, and I learned from my analysis that I should actually give you something, I will not impose the ultimate or worst TEDTalk on you, but rather give you a tool to create your own. And I call this tool the TEDPad. (Laughter)

And the TEDPad is a matrix of 100 specifically selected, highly curated sentences that you can easily piece together to get your own TEDTalk.

You only have to make one decision, and that is: Are you going to use the white version for very good TEDTalks, about creativity, human genius? Or are you going to go with a black version, which will allow you to create really bad TEDTalks, mostly about blogs, politics and stuff? So, download it and have fun with it.

I hope you enjoy the session. I hope you enjoy designing your own ultimate and worst possible TEDTalks. And I hope some of you will be inspired for next year to create this, which I really want to see.

Patsy Z and TEDxSKE shared a link.

Darwin’s strange inversion of reasoning

Why are babies cute? Why is cake sweet? Philosopher Dan Dennett has answers you wouldn’t expect, as he shares evolution’s counterintuitive reasoning on cute, sweet and sexy things (plus a new theory from Matthew Hurley on why jokes are funny).

Dan Dennett. Philosopher, cognitive scientist argues that human consciousness and free will are the result of physical processes. His latest book is “Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking,” Full bio

I’m going around the world giving talks about Darwin, and usually what I’m talking about is Darwin’s strange inversion of reasoning. Now that title, that phrase, comes from an early critic, and this is a passage that I just love, and would like to read for you.

0:28 “In the theory with which we have to deal, Absolute Ignorance is the artificer; so that we may enunciate as the fundamental principle of the whole system, that, in order to make a perfect and beautiful machine, it is not requisite to know how to make it.

This proposition will be found on careful examination to express, in condensed form, the essential purport of the Theory, and to express in a few words all Mr. Darwin’s meaning; who, by a strange inversion of reasoning, seems to think Absolute Ignorance fully qualified to take the place of Absolute Wisdom in the achievements of creative skill.”

 Exactly. And it is a strange inversion.

A creationist pamphlet has this wonderful page in it: “Test Two: Do you know of any building that didn’t have a builder? Yes/No. Do you know of any painting that didn’t have a painter? Yes/No. Do you know of any car that didn’t have a maker? Yes/No. If you answered ‘Yes’ for any of the above, give details.”  (Yes/No, The pitfall of all referendums that are plaguing the people)

This is all backwards. It is. And Darwin shows us why.

Let’s start with sweet. Our sweet tooth is basically an evolved sugar detector, because sugar is high energy, and it’s just been wired up to the preferer, to put it very crudely, and that’s why we like sugar. Honey is sweet because we like it, not “we like it because honey is sweet.”

There’s nothing intrinsically sweet about honey. If you looked at glucose molecules till you were blind, you wouldn’t see why they tasted sweet. You have to look in our brains to understand why they’re sweet. So if you think first there was sweetness, and then we evolved to like sweetness, you’ve got it backwards; that’s just wrong. It’s the other way round. Sweetness was born with the wiring which evolved.

And there’s nothing intrinsically sexy about these young ladies. And it’s a good thing that there isn’t, because if there were, then Mother Nature would have a problem: How on earth do you get chimps to mate?

Now you might think, ah, there’s a solution: hallucinations. That would be one way of doing it, but there’s a quicker way. Just wire the chimps up to love that look, and apparently they do. That’s all there is to it.

Over six million years, we and the chimps evolved our different ways. We became bald-bodied, oddly enough; for one reason or another, they didn’t. If we hadn’t, then probably this would be the height of sexiness.

Our sweet tooth is an evolved and instinctual preference for high-energy food. It wasn’t designed for chocolate cake. Chocolate cake is a supernormal stimulus. The term is owed to Niko Tinbergen, who did his famous experiments with gulls, where he found that orange spot on the gull’s beak — if he made a bigger, oranger spot the gull chicks would peck at it even harder.

It was a hyperstimulus for them, and they loved it. What we see with, say, chocolate cake is it’s a supernormal stimulus to tweak our design wiring. And there are lots of supernormal stimuli; chocolate cake is one. There’s lots of supernormal stimuli for sexiness.

And there’s even supernormal stimuli for cuteness. Here’s a pretty good example.

It’s important that we love babies, and that we not be put off by, say, messy diapers. So babies have to attract our affection and our nurturing, and they do.

And, by the way, a recent study shows that mothers prefer the smell of the dirty diapers of their own baby. So nature works on many levels here.

But now, if babies didn’t look the way they do — if babies looked like this, that’s what we would find adorable, that’s what we would find — we would think, oh my goodness, do I ever want to hug that. This is the strange inversion.

finally what about funny.

My answer is, it’s the same story. This is the hard one, the one that isn’t obvious. That’s why I leave it to the end.

And I won’t be able to say too much about it. But you have to think evolutionarily, you have to think, what hard job that has to be done — it’s dirty work, somebody’s got to do it — is so important to give us such a powerful, inbuilt reward for it when we succeed.

Now, I think we’ve found the answer — I and a few of my colleagues. It’s a neural system that’s wired up to reward the brain for doing a grubby clerical job.

Our bumper sticker for this view is that this is the joy of debugging. Now I’m not going to have time to spell it all out, but I’ll just say that only some kinds of debugging get the reward. And what we’re doing is we’re using humor as a sort of neuroscientific probe by switching humor on and off, by turning the knob on a joke — now it’s not funny … oh, now it’s funnier … now we’ll turn a little bit more … now it’s not funny — in this way, we can actually learn something about the architecture of the brain, the functional architecture of the brain.

7:24 Matthew Hurley is the first author of this. We call it the Hurley Model. He’s a computer scientist, Reginald Adams a psychologist, and there I am, and we’re putting this together into a book.

25 Truths Everyone Raised By Lebanese Parents Will Understand

Beirut.com, April 9, 2017

Growing up Lebanese: it’s quite an adventure.
1. You know how dangerous it is to walk on freshly mopped floors.

2. You know better than to tell your dad “ma khassak” (it is none of your business)
3. It’s guaranteed that if you’re going somewhere, you’ll be taking ekhtak/khayyak with you. (Have to be accompanied by a sister or a brother)
4. It’s not your dad who’s wrong, it’s the brand new DVD player that “doesn’t work properly”.

5. You were forced to take a jacket with you everywhere, even in sunny 30-degree weather.
6. That feeling of true happiness when your dad tells you to take money from his pocket.
7. This:

 


8. Smoking is the worst thing you could do, but both your parents smoke.

9. Granted you have pictures of yourself smoking a cigarette as an infant.
10. The 20 questions you get bombarded with every time you want to leave the house.
11. Running away when you get a phone jammed in your face so you can talk to your 3amto (aunt) from the day3a.

12. To your face: you’re the worst kid. Behind your back: you’re a straight-A angel.

13. You’re not really sick unless you have a 40-degree fever and/or are hospitalized.
14. You get screamed at for walking barefoot. During winter it’s too cold, and during summer it’s too dirty.
15. 7Up and Panadol are guaranteed cures to every illness under the sun.

 

16. Your parents buy fruits by the ton. Oh you want strawberries?Here’s a field.
17. This reality:

 

A post shared by Arab Problems (@arabproblems) on Aug 28, 2016 at 6:39am PDT

18. The waynik/waynak (hey you) text is guaranteed to send shivers down your spine.
19. Slippers are not just footwear, they double as weaponry.

20. You don’t know true fear until your mom finds out you ate out while she spent all day making mloukhiyye.
21. Your mom has one set of gold encrusted tea cups reserved for guests.
22. Ice cream during winter is a huge no-no.
23. Leaving your hair wet after a shower is a sure way to get pneumonia.
24. Fucidine on everything and anything.
25. And this is how you knew shit was about to hit the fan

 

                                                                      

Integrating Young Leaders?

Why this process is Not the norm?

Bill Hybels on Integrating Young Leaders

Wins

5 reasons leaders don’t integrate young leaders

Failure

Intimidation

Getting the most from young leaders:

Peter Drucker believed leaders of nonprofits had lots to teach corporate leaders.
With that in mind, I’m delighted to share insights from my conversation with, Bill Hybels, one of today’s most highly regarded leaders from the nonprofit world.
Everyone wins in a multigenerational leadership environment.
Bill Hybels on multigenerational leadership
Bill Hybels

Bill Hybels

Bill Hybels on multigenerational leadership (1:35):

Audio Player

Wins:

  1. Learning. The same people sitting around the same table represents stagnation. Mentoring, for example, has multi-generational opportunities.
  2. Connection. Isolation grows as time passes. Integrating young leaders develops new connections within leadership teams and organizations.
  3. Openness. Young leaders don’t say, “We tried that already,” because they haven’t.
  4. Vitality. The enthusiasm of youth is transformational energy.

5 reasons leaders don’t integrate young leaders:

  1. Arrogance. Young leaders don’t deserve a place at the table.
  2. Fear. The old ways feel safe to old leaders.
  3. Control. The need for control motivates old leaders to keep others out.
  4. Position. Love of position makes old leaders guard their position.
  5. Inexperience. Young leaders don’t have enough experience to lead.

Failure:

Old leaders worry that young leaders will fail. Bill suggests gray hairs remember their own younger days.

My gosh. I should have been arrested for some of the leadership pranks I pulled…” Bill Hybles

Dealing with failures of youth (1:24)

Audio Player

Intimidation:

How Bill Hybels tries to overcome intimidation (0:59):

Audio Player

Getting the most from young leaders:

  1. Coach. “I do a lot of real-time coaching.” Bill Hybels
  2. Opportunity. Provide opportunities for young leaders to test themselves.
  3. Fail. When young leaders bite off more than they can chew, let them go. Encourage them to learn from failure. (Always evaluate the cost of potential failure against the benefit, before making this type of decision.)

How might old leaders integrate young leaders into organizational life?

What opportunities and/or dangers do you see from integrating young leaders?

Note: I talked with Bill at the World Leaders Conference in West Palm Beach, FL. Thanks to Ben Lichtenwalner of Modern Servant Leadership for setting up this conversation.

 

They are complementary with advantages: Optimists and pessimists

If I were in a position of power, I’ll surround myself with optimistic consultants, counsels and close assistants.

If I were in a position of power, I’ll appoint the executive and operators from the kinds of pessimists.

Many think that I got it wrong and not matching any logic or scientific research outcomes.

Power is assessed and evaluated by the number and quality of decisions.

Decisions considered almost impossible to undertake and eventually taken are highly ranked in your favor.

And these decisions require a climate of optimistic surrounding.

Pessimistic executives and operational personnel will achieve what has to be done and do the job most effectively: They are paid for a job well done. And they are better than optimists in considering the dangerous risks in health, safety and hasty execution in any project.

Pessimists may take longer to finish the job, but the job saves you many fold the delays from repairs, lousy maintenance tasks, accidents and near accidents.

The correct term is Effectiveness in the longer-term.

The Not so realist neural mechanism in the Hippocampi, amygdala, and anterior cortex Cingular are the center or source of optimistic activities. Otherwise, from our successive experiences, mankind tend to be at least slightly depressed as they observe the world as is.

Until we manage to communicate with various animal species, the conjecture is that pessimism is a typical mankind survival addition.

The magical thinking that reinforce our confidence allows us to adapt to contingencies contrary to our plans.

There are people with rooted pessimism tendencies. Prosper Merimee wrote in 1873:

Get rid of your optimism and start figuring out that we are in this world to fight one another

In general, people who survive calamities, particularly man-made catastrophic phenomena and genocide are mostly of the pessimist kinds. Once they decide on a line of actions, they don’t look back.

The active pessimist live side by side with the will-powered optimists.

Sane optimist needs the well-founded pessimistic arguments in order for his rational thinking to be useful and works for encouraging cooperation among individuals: The much needed guidance to getting out of the planetary obstacles.

What we need are the pessimists who circumvented their natural tendencies in order look optimistically into the future: What we can observe today that could guide us into a better future.

 


adonis49

adonis49

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