Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘life expectancy

 

Much better off Spending On Experiences

Most people are in the pursuit of happiness (a new concept created in the 20th century: The short life expectancy didn’t leave much room to be picky, and the family word even harder to eek a living to the dozen offspring…).

There are economists who think happiness is the best indicator of the health of a society.

We know that money can make you happier, though after your basic needs are met, it doesn’t make you that much happier.

But one of the biggest questions is how to allocate our money, which is (for most of us) a limited resource.

There’s a very logical assumption that most people make when spending their money on objects: a physical object will last longer, it will make us happier for a longer time than a one-off experience like a concert or vacation.

According to recent research, it turns out that assumption is completely wrong.

One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades.

“We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.” (Is that why companies have to produce new products?)

German skydiver via Shutterstock

So rather than buying the latest iPhone or a new BMW, Gilovich suggests you’ll get more happiness spending money on experiences like going to art exhibits (not free?), doing outdoor activities (not free?), learning a new skill, or traveling.

Gilovich’s findings are the synthesis of psychological studies conducted by him and others into the Easterlin paradox, which found that money buys happiness, but only up to a point.

How adaptation affects happiness, for instance, was measured in a study that asked people to self-report their happiness with major material and experiential purchases.

Initially, their happiness with those purchases was ranked about the same. But over time, people’s satisfaction with the things they bought went down, whereas their satisfaction with experiences they spent money on went up.

It’s counterintuitive that something like a physical object that you can keep for a long time doesn’t keep you as happy as long as a once-and-done experience does. (Does that include mobile phones?)

Ironically, the fact that a material thing is ever present works against it, making it easier to adapt to. It fades into the background and becomes part of the new normal. (Isn’t going back to normal one of the definition of happiness and contentment?)

But while the happiness from material purchases diminishes over time, experiences become an ingrained part of our identity. (Thus, the longer the list of adventures the more complex a personality you are?)

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Gilovich.

“You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.” (Too general a statement to be convincing)

One study conducted by Gilovich even showed that if people have an experience they say negatively impacted their happiness, once they have the chance to talk about it, their assessment of that experience goes up.

Gilovich attributes this to the fact that something that might have been stressful or scary in the past can become a funny story to tell at a party or be looked back on as an invaluable character-building experience. (The more personal stories you accumulate in order to share, the happier you are?)

Another reason is that shared experiences connect us more to other people than shared consumption. (Shared consumption or sharing objects?)

You’re much more likely to feel connected to someone you took a vacation with in Bogotá than someone who also happens to have bought a 4K TV.

Greg Brave via Shutterstock

“We consume experiences directly with other people,” says Gilovich. “And after they’re gone, they’re part of the stories that we tell to one another.”

And even if someone wasn’t with you when you had a particular experience, you’re much more likely to bond over both having hiked the Appalachian Trail or seeing the same show than you are over both owning Fitbits.

You’re also much less prone to negatively compare your own experiences to someone else’s than you would with material purchases.

One study conducted by researchers Ryan Howell and Graham Hill found that it’s easier to feature-compare material goods (how many carats is your ring? how fast is your laptop’s CPU?) than experiences. And since it’s easier to compare, people do so.

“The tendency of keeping up with the Joneses tends to be more pronounced for material goods than for experiential purchases,” says Gilovich.

“It certainly bothers us if we’re on a vacation and see people staying in a better hotel or flying first class. But it doesn’t produce as much envy as when we’re outgunned on material goods.” (The lower the envy quality the happier?)

Gilovich’s research has implications for individuals who want to maximize their happiness return on their financial investments, for employers who want to have a happier workforce, and policy-makers who want to have a happy citizenry.

“By shifting the investments that societies make and the policies they pursue, they can steer large populations to the kinds of experiential pursuits that promote greater happiness,” write Gilovich and his coauthor, Amit Kumar, in their recent article in the academic journal Experimental Social Psychology. (Are we promoting tourism?)

If society takes their research to heart, it should mean not only a shift in how individuals spend their discretionary income, but also place an emphasis on employers giving paid vacation and governments taking care of recreational spaces.

“As a society, shouldn’t we be making experiences easier for people to have?” asks Gilovich.

[Top Photo: Justin Lewis/Getty Images]

You don’t have infinite money. Spend it on stuff that research says makes you happy.
fastcoexist.com

How the poor are fairing?

What could the poor people do every day?

Dave Ramsey probably wasn’t expecting this much pushback when he shared a piece by Tim Corley contrasting the habits of the rich with those of the poor.

Ben Irwin posted this Dec. 3, 2013

20 things the poor really do every day

In her response on CNNRachel Held Evans noted that Ramsey and Corley mistake correlation for causality when they suggest (without actually proving) that these habits are the cause of a person’s financial situation.

(Did it never occur to them that it might be the other way around?)

Ramsey fired back, calling the pushback “immature and ignorant.” This from a guy who just made 20 sweeping assertions about 47 million poor people in the US — all based on a survey of 361 individuals. ramsey

To come up with his 20 habits, Corley talked to just 233 wealthy people and 128 poor people.

Ramsey can talk all he wants about Corley’s research passing the “common-sense smell test,” but it doesn’t pass the “research methodology 101” test.

To balance the picture a bit, I wanted to take a fact-based look at 20 things the poor do on a daily basis…

1. Search for affordable housing.  Especially in urban areas, the waiting list for affordable housing can be a year or more. During that time, poor families either have to make do with substandard or dangerous housing, depend on the hospitality of relatives, or go homeless. (Source: New York Times)

2. Try to make $133 worth of food last a whole month.  That’s how much the average food stamp recipient gets each month. Imagine trying to eat well on $4.38 per day. It’s not easy, which is why many impoverished families resort to #3… (Source: Kaiser Family Foundation)

3. Subsist on poor quality food.  Not because they want to, but because they can’t afford high-quality, nutritious food. They’re trapped in a food system that subsidizes processed foods, making them artificially cheaper than natural food sources. So the poor are forced to eat bad food — if they’re lucky, that is… (Sources: Washington Post; Journal of Nutrition, March 2008)

4. Skip a meal. One in 6 Americans are food insecure. Which means (among other things) that they’re sometimes forced to go without eating. (Sources: World Vision, US Department of Agriculture)

5. Work longer and harder than most of us. While it’s popular to think people are poor because they’re lazy (which seems to be the whole point of Ramsey’s post), the poor actually work longer and harder than the rest of us. More than 80% of impoverished children have at least one parent who works; 60% have at least one parent who works full-time. Overall, the poor work longer hours than the so-called “job creators.” (Source: Poverty and Learning, April 2008)

6. Go to bed 3 hours before their first job starts.  Number 15 on Ramsey and Corley’s list was, “44% of [the] wealthy wake up three hours before work starts vs. 3% of [the] poor.” It may be true that most poor people don’t wake up three hours before work starts. But that could be because they’re more likely to work multiple jobs, in which case job #1 means they’re probably just getting to bed three hours before job #2 starts. (Source: Poverty and Learning, April 2008)

7. Try to avoid getting beat up by someone they love.  According to some estimates, half of all homeless women in America ran away to escape domestic violence. (Source: National Coalition for the Homeless, 2009)

8. Put themselves in harm’s way, only to be kicked to the streets afterward.  How else do you explain 67,000 63,000 homeless veterans? (Source: US Department of Veterans Affairs, updated to reflect the most recent data)

9. Pay more than their fair share of taxes.  Some conservative pundits and politicians like to think the poor don’t pay their fair share, that they are merely “takers.” While it’s true the poor don’t pay as much in federal income tax — usually because they don’t earn enough to qualify — they do pay sales tax, payroll tax, etc.

In fact, the bottom 20% of earners pay TWICE as much in taxes (as a share of their income) as do the top 1%. (Source: Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, January 2013)

10. Fall further behind.  Even when poverty is the result of poor decision-making, often it’s someone else’s choices that make the difference. If you experience poverty as a child, you are 4 times less likely to graduate high school.

If you spend your entire childhood in poverty, you are 5 times less likely to graduate. Which means your future has been all but decided for you. (Sources: World Vision, Children’s Defense Fund, Annie E. Casey Foundation)

11. Raise kids who will be poor.  A child’s future earnings are closely correlated to their parents’ earnings. In other words, economic mobility — the idea that you can claw your way out of poverty if you just try hard enough is, more often than not, a myth. (Sources: OECD, Economic Policy Institute)

12. Vote less.  And who can blame them? I would be less inclined to vote if I didn’t have easy access to the polls and if I were subjected to draconian voter ID laws that are sold to the public as necessary to suppress nonexistent voter fraud. (Source: The Center for Voting and Democracy)

13. When they do vote… vote pretty much the same as the rest of us.  Following their defeat in 2012, conservatives took solace by reasoning that they’d lost to a bunch of “takers,” including the poor, who voted for Democrats because they want free handouts from big government. The reality is a bit more complex. Only a third of low-income voters identify as Democrats, about the same for all Americans, including wealthy voters. (Sources: NPRPew Research Center)

14. Live with chronic pain.  Those earning less than $12,000 a year are twice as likely to report feeling physical pain on any given day. (Source: Kaiser Health News)

15. Live shorter lives.  There is a 10-14 year gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor. In recent years, poor people’s life expectancy has actually declined — in America, the wealthiest nation on the planet. (Source: Health Affairs, 2012)

16. Use drugs and alcohol pretty much the same as (or less than) everyone else.  Despite the common picture of inner city crack houses, drug use is pretty evenly spread across income groups. And rich people actually abuse alcohol more than the poor. (Source: Poverty and Learning, April 2008)

17. Receive less in subsidized benefits than corporations.  The US government spends around $60 billion on public housing and rental subsidies for low-income families, compared to more than $90 billion on corporate subsidies.

Oil companies alone get around $70 billion. And that’s not counting the nearly $60 billion a year in tax breaks corporations enjoy by sheltering profits offshore. Or the $700 billion bailout banks got in 2008. (Source: Think By Numbers)

18. Get themselves off welfare as soon as possible.  Despite the odds, the vast majority of beneficiaries leave the welfare rolls within 5 years.

Even in the absence of official welfare-to-work programming, most welfare recipients enroll in some form of vocational training. Why? Because they’re desperate to get off welfare. (Source: US Department of Health and Human Services)

19. Have about the same number of children as everyone else.  No, poor people do not have loads of children just so they can stay on welfare. (Source: US Department of Health and Human Services)

20. Accomplish one single goal: stay alive.   Poverty in America may not be as dire as poverty in other parts of the world, but many working poor families are nonetheless preoccupied with day-to-day survival. For them, life is not something to be enjoyed so much as endured. These are the real habits of the poor, those with whom Jesus identifies most closely.

[Note: This post has been updated to more clearly identify the source for each claim made below. The original post included links to each source but did not call them out as clearly.]

“Don’t work. Don’t tell the truth. Be hated…”: Commencement address by Adrian Tan. Part 1

Guest-of-honour at NTU convocation ceremony, Adrian Tan, author of The Teenage Textbook (1988), delivered this speech to the graduating class of 2008. I split the speech into two posts, the second part will expand on “Be hated” and “fall in love“.

“I must say thank you to the faculty and staff of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information for inviting me to give your convocation address. It’s a wonderful honour and a privilege for me to speak here for ten minutes without fear of contradiction, defamation or retaliation. I say this as a Singaporean and more so as a husband.

My wife is a wonderful person and is perfect in every way except one: She is the editor of a magazine, she corrects people for a living. She has honed her expert skills over a quarter of a century, mostly by practising at home during conversations between her and me.

On the other hand, I am a litigator. Essentially, I spend my day telling people how wrong they are. I make my living being disagreeable.

Nevertheless, there is perfect harmony in our matrimonial home. That is because when an editor and a litigator have an argument, the one who triumphs is always the wife.

I want to start by giving one piece of advice to the men: when you’ve already won her heart, you don’t need to win every argument.

Marriage is considered one milestone of life. Some of you may already be married. Some of you may never be married. Some of you will be married. Some of you will enjoy the experience so much, you will be married many, many times. Good for you.

The next big milestone in your life is today: your graduation. The end of education. You’re done learning.

You’ve probably been told the big lie that “Learning is a lifelong processand that you will continue studying and taking masters’ degrees and doctorates and professorships and so on. You know the sort of people who tell you that? Teachers.

Don’t you think there is some measure of conflict of interest? They are in the business of learning, after all. Where would they be without you? They need you to be repeat customers.

The good news is that they’re wrong.

The bad news is that you don’t need further education because your entire life is over. It is gone. That may come as a shock to some of you. You’re in your teens or early twenties. People may tell you that you will live to be 70, 80, 90 years old. That is your life expectancy.

I love that term: life expectancy. We all understand the term to mean the average life span of a group of people. But I’m here to talk about a bigger idea, which is what you expect from your life.

You may be very happy to know that Singapore is currently ranked as the country with the third highest life expectancy. We are behind Andorra and Japan, and tied with San Marino. It seems quite clear why people in those countries, and ours, live so long. We share one thing in common: our football teams are all hopeless. There’s very little danger of any of our citizens having their pulses raised by watching us play in the World Cup. Spectators are more likely to be lulled into a gentle and restful nap.

Singaporeans have a life expectancy of 81.8 years. Singapore men live to an average of 79.21 years, while Singapore women live more than five years longer, probably to take into account the additional time they need to spend in the bathroom.

So here you are, in your twenties, thinking that you’ll have another 40 years to go. Four decades in which to live long and prosper.

Bad news. Read the papers. There are people dropping dead when they’re 50, 40, 30 years old. Or quite possibly just after finishing their convocation. They would be very disappointed that they didn’t meet their life expectancy.

I’m here to tell you this. Forget about your life expectancy.

After all, it’s calculated based on an average. And you never, ever want to expect being average.

Revisit those expectations. You might be looking forward to working, falling in love, marrying, raising a family. You are told that, as graduates, you should expect to find a job paying so much, where your hours are so much, where your responsibilities are so much.

That is what is expected of you. And if you live up to it, it will be an awful waste.

If you expect that, you will be limiting yourself. You will be living your life according to boundaries set by average people. I have nothing against average people. But no one should aspire to be them. And you don’t need years of education by the best minds in Singapore to prepare you to be average.

Life is a mess.  What you should prepare for is mess. Life’s a mess. You are not entitled to expect anything from it.

Life is not fair. Everything does not balance out in the end. Life happens, and you have no control over it. Good and bad things happen to you day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. Your degree is a poor armour against fate.

Don’t expect anything. Erase all life expectancies. Just live. Your life is over as of today. At this point in time, you have grown as tall as you will ever be, you are physically the fittest you will ever be in your entire life and you are probably looking the best that you will ever look.

This is as good as it gets. It is all downhill from here. Or up. No one knows.

What does this mean for you? It is good that your life is over.

Since your life is over, you are free. Let me tell you the many wonderful things that you can do when you are free.

Resist the temptation to get a Job. Spend time to Play

The most important is this: do not work.

Work is anything that you are compelled to do. By it’s very nature, it is undesirable.

Work kills. The Japanese have a term “Karoshi”, which means death from overwork. That’s the most dramatic form of how work can kill. But it can also kill you in more subtle ways. If you work, then day by day, bit by bit, your soul is chipped away, disintegrating until there’s nothing left.

A rock has been ground into sand and dust.

There’s a common misconception that work is necessary. You will meet people working at miserable jobs. They tell you they are “making a living”.

No, they’re not. They’re dying, frittering away their fast-extinguishing lives doing things which are, at best, meaningless and, at worst, harmful.

People will tell you that work ennobles you, that work lends you a certain dignity. Work makes you free. The slogan “Arbeit macht frei” was placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps. Utter nonsense.

Do not waste the vast majority of your life doing something you hate so that you can spend the small remainder sliver of your life in modest comfort. You may never reach that end anyway.

Resist the temptation to get a job. Instead, play. Find something you enjoy doing. Do it. Over and over again.

You will become good at it for two reasons: you like it, and you do it often. Soon, that will have value in itself.

I like arguing, and I love language. So, I became a litigator. I enjoy it and I would do it for free. If I didn’t do that, I would’ve been in some other type of work that still involved writing fiction – probably a sports journalist.

So what should you do? You will find your own niche. I don’t imagine you will need to look very hard. By this time in your life, you will have a very good idea of what you will want to do. In fact, I’ll go further and say the ideal situation would be that you will not be able to stop yourself pursuing your passions.

By this time you should know what your obsessions are. If you enjoy showing off your knowledge and feeling superior, you might become a teacher.

Find that pursuit that will energize you, consume you, become an obsession. Each day, you must rise with a restless enthusiasm. If you don’t, you are working.

Most of you will end up in activities which involve communication. To those of you I have a second message: be wary of the truth.

I’m not asking you to speak it, or write it, for there are times when it is dangerous or impossible to do those things. The truth has a great capacity to offend and injure, and you will find that the closer you are to someone, the more care you must take to disguise or even conceal the truth.

Often, there is great virtue in being evasive, or equivocating. There is a great skill. Any child can blurt out the truth, without thought to the consequences. It takes great maturity to appreciate the value of silence.

In order to be wary of the truth, you must first know it. That requires great frankness to yourself. Never fool the person in the mirror.

Don’t work. Be hated. Love someone

What are human development indicators?  Are they compatible with human basic rights?

Any progress in that endeavor?

Such as Life expectancy in developing countries, infantile mortality rates, infantile-juvenile mortality rates for children below 5 of age, formal schooling duration…

The last decade witnessed a doubling of world GNP to $62 trillion, sort of counting 12 zeros, irrespective of the turmoils and catastrophes that this decade experienced, in invading Iraq, worldwide financial crisis, recurring tsunamis, explosion of nuclear power plants, widespread civil wars in the poorest States…

China quadrupled its GNP and many nations are emerging as potential heavy weight in stabilizing global economic fluctuation.  Unfortunately, two-third of that growth is accounted by real estates and financial stocks markets.

Economic growth set aside, human development indicators are worsening. The world community is witnessing deterioration in selective abortion of girls in China and India, public health degradation, social security instability, increased inequalities among citizens, increased cost of living, shrinking of valuable job opportunities, displacement of temporary work of steady jobs…

While global GNP doubled in this decade, cereal production grew only by 10% and energy consumption remained at the same level, if we discount the coal production in China that accounted to 30% in energy production increase.

Consequently, food prices increased 140% in the last decade and prices of real estates more than doubled.  The standard of living decreased everywhere from last decade level, even if the US and Europe, as the GNP doubled!

What’s going on?

One percent of the Americans earn more than 25% of the total profit and concentrate more than 50% of the wealth of the nation.

You have the same trend in India and many States with absolute monarchies and oligarchies.

Most of that “economic growth” can be localized in owning consumer goods such as cars and other luxury items by Chinese, Indians, and emerging nations’ upper classes and financial growth of multinational enterprises.

Calamities in the least developed countries are being compounded:  Governments of rich nations are no longer contributing effectively to the well-being of the poorest of the poor and civic organizations are relied upon for solidarity with the people not sharing the same opportunities and qualifications.

The determined Arab mass upheavals are demonstrating the yearning of people for basic human rights and dignity, and the uprising are not about to abate.

I believe that seriously tackling the basic criteria of quality of life necessarily lead to improving basic human rights in freedom of expression, liberty of gathering and organizing, and fair equitable election laws that represent all community strata, and laws that prohibit discriminations based on genders, ethnicity, language, and race…

Let us take seriously the UN Charters as super laws governing decency in human relationship.

Note: Statistics were extracted from an article by the economist  Xie Guozhong, published in the French weekly “Corrier International”

Is it you sprout a piece of memory here and there, now and then?

It is hard to chew on the adage in Ecclesiastes that “all is vain” on the premise that we are doomed to die anyway.

How many generations mankind needed to suffer and struggle in order to climb down from trees and then walk on two?

How many generations did mankind need to sprout a piece of memory here and there before fabricating a hand tool?

How many generations before this hand tool was mass-produced?

How many generations to communicating verbally?

How many genration to learning to write?

If pain is far more powerful than life, love, dignity, and loyalty then, how mankind specie managed to barely survive over a million of generations?

Even in the last century, life expectancy was no longer than 40 years:  People died of normal diseases (small-pox, measles…), and all kinds of pains lingered for many years without effective pain killers or any convincing remedies (think of the favored blood-letting method).

What happened that, in just the last four generations, mankind moved from fabricating tools into this world of instant communication facilities, including images and video, and in “streaming” platforms?

Certainly mankind’s brain must have changed, altered, and added a few pieces of hardware to make this qualitative jump!

When scientist throw numbers in the billion and trillion of neurons and synapses in the brain then, you know that efforts are lacking into investigating any additional thousands of neurons and synapses in every new generation.

Certainly the hardware of our current brain has changed in many ways and it is urgent to know how, how much, and why.

Mankind had been observing and recording data from time immemorial since he mastered the written languages, but mostly, mankind has been pondering and working on premises that could not be validated or experimented with (namely measuring the variables).  Galileo said:” measure what can be measured and then, learn to measure what could not be measured”.

In the last four centuries, scientists have been analyzing simple data of simple experiments (mainly, one independent and one dependent (or data) variables and then matching data to a simple equation.)

Then, in 1920, scientific methods for designing complex experiments could be performed because a method for analyzing data was available to scientists: working on the variability of errors (after controlling for consistent errors or confounding variables).

This method might not be that convincing, but it was something to start with.  After the invention of computers, a paradigm shift occurred that says: “collect data and let data talk and reveal the relationships among variables or factors.”

Since then, all kinds of statistical programs have been written to mine abundant data, analyzing them, jugling with far many interrelated variables (interconnection), and then interpreting them.  Instead of cause and effects relationship we frequently hear of correlations.

Fast digital communication and efficient transmission of data and studies have allowed scientists to select vast amount of research studies and data and then evaluate a trend in any subject matter.

Thus, scientists felt inclined to accepting results and conclusions on theories and hypotheses based on the excuse that research studies are peer-reviewed and professional publishers must have validated the reliability and accuracy of data and information.

We have reached a stage that many scientists don’t even bother to using statistical analysis methods or validating experiments:  They are confident relying on the already acquired “scientific evidences and procedures“.

The second qualitative jump is creating sophisticated precision measuring tools and precision manufacturing facilities based on digital computing.

The generations of the 40’s and 50’s had the most exciting and tougher times of all generations:  They lived to witness a halucinating quantity of new inventions that they barely could fathom or use in timely fashion, conmmensurate with the quick stream on the market of new inventions and products.  Any problems using the consumer products? No problem:  We will ponder on these difficulties (after hundreds have been injured and harmed.)

Do you think I went into a tangent?

Let me refocuse on the intended purpose of this article.  Is it too tough chewing on the adage “all is vain in this life?”

Large communication and transmission highways to connecting with people and trends have been established.

First, this mentality of marketing products and services has strengthened the concept “You cannot succeed unless the masses rally to your product.”

Thus, catering to the vast majority of the population is the first step toward other more impotant advances into reducing pain, suffering, famine, and poor economic statuses.  Every one has to be able to afford certain consumer products in order for companies to outpace competitors.

If hungry people can have facilities to communicate and acquire the ability to connect with this illusory world of their’s then, at least hope of being integrated to other populations can come to the rescue of this wretched life.

Forget ethics, moral, and political rights of the downtrodden.

If they can be saved from famine and pain for economic reasons then, invest in poorer States and the poorer classes.  At least, this attitude cannot be vanity under any twisting of the mind.

Note: you may read my previous articles: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2010/05/15/new-generation-newer-brain-structure/


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