Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘technology

Current technology processes: Anathema to religious and scientific consensus procedures?

Is fearing death a catalyst to struggle for life?

The initial draft of this article was first written in January 4, 2008.

What we may discern is that cultural transformation is the byproduct of practical necessities.

For example, by the time humankind got conscious of the ephemeral of life and that death is a certainty. Then religion and the sacred were created to cope with the consequences that resulted from that conscious fear, on the ground that otherwise no security or peace could prevail within any organized society.

Religion might not have been invented right after we got conscious of our mortality, but necessarily when modern man recognized his individuality and stopped producing mass hand tools for the tribe and took special care for individual designs, specialty carved symbols on the tools, particular color combinations and drawing and painting that reflected feelings and awe toward the environment and the forces of nature.

Painting and sculpting and drawing symbols were the precursors for establishing language as a practical necessity, first verbally and then the written language.

I believe that institutionalized religions grew after verbal communication was feasible by means of languages to harangue communities against the other infidels.

Death is chaos and life is a struggle to feed on death and restructuring a semblance of spiritual cohesion.   Metaphysics, the precursor to religion, is but this longing to providing continuity between life and death so that our logical mind does not breakdown to smithereens: Even now, sciences cannot provide definite and exact answers to everything.

Metaphysics must have been substantiated because many people experienced a few supernatural events and realized that what is being sensed is not the whole story.

Religion, as a conscious culture, utilized the metaphysical potentials in man to codify its system of beliefs and then codifying a system of daily behavior, rules, and regulations.

Unfortunately, what was necessary at a period was utilized necessarily to dominate other tribes that believed or adopted
different totems or sacred rites.

This irreversible trend that practical necessities generate cultures with necessary counter productive results to
our evolution is the foundation to our mental shortcomings to progress ethically and morally.

Religion and science have the same roots in the conscious and, though they evolved with different methodologies, they
adopted the same procedure for impacting on the mind.

First, they both established consensus on a few premises, struggled hard not change their system of beliefs and then waited for a paradigm shift to transform the traditional culture.

The revolution of Luther and Calvin against the concept of Papal infallibility left intact the core obscurantist culture of Catholicism which is viewing knowledge with suspicion, and specifically scientific knowledge, as the work of the devil.

In fact Protestantism went as far as considering philosophy as compromising the human mind.

The fundamental revolution came when people realized that if the Pope is fallible then religion is consequently fallible and the quest for answers to fill the void in knowledge was resurrected with sciences.

Hence, this frenzy in Europe, at about that period, to translating the Arabic books and relying on the Arab scholars to re-translate the Greek classical work into Latin was the beginning of the Renaissance period in Europe.

Thus, the period of the Renaissance in Europe was a revolution against the failure of the Christian religion to satisfying the cultural transformation after the crusading campaigns and the affinity of the Arabic culture in Spain.

Second, most paradigm shifts could be classified as cultural transformations, but a few could be conceived as cultural evolution: a qualitative jump in our knowledge of nature and man such as using symbols, verbal communications as a language, the written language, the concept that man and earth are not the center of the universe, that time is an intrinsic element of space such that no two events can be said to occur simultaneously, that man is not wholly master of his decisions, and that man is neither the crown of creation nor the peek of evolution.

If there is paradise, an after death phase, it must be located within our universe where matters and energy interact and transfer. However, if there is hell, it must be within our mind: there is no hell more terrible and more powerful than our conscious feeling of having committed an egregious sin or guilt.

Since nature does not provide a moral order to observe and emulate, then even all our power for abstraction cannot
generate the concept of evil.

I believe that the notion of evil is a culture inherited by osmosis to our subconscious by the uninterrupted religious
culture that constituted the fundamental basis to organized communities through the millennia.

Sin is a concrete notion because it is associated with punishment and ostracism but the notion of doing good remains relatively abstract and any remuneration is not immediate and not palpable.

That is why many religions tried to great extent to emphasize the reward of commendable actions in their teachings but the institutions had to revert to admonitions and focus on the negative deeds because fear has a much more efficient impact on the mind of the believers and long lasting effects.

Can anyone comprehend the state of an Alzheimer patient who lost all his memory and even his identity and the meaning of his environment?

And yet, the Alzheimer patient carries energies to keep him alive. Though for what use and what purpose?

Can we conceive of a paradise without prior memories of feelings, senses and experiences?

Thousands of the early Christians faced their martyrdom boldly simply because they were convinced that they will be resurrected in the third day as Christ did and in the flesh!

Do Muslims go to martyrdom without the conviction of immediate rewards?

The same process is taking place with technological breakthroughs. While we experienced some of the benefits and
the many harms of religion, we are at the beginning phase for experiencing the benefits and harms of technologies that we can invent and produce but do not comprehend or grasp the consequences.

We are traversing a dangerous period without adequate check and balance on the production of new inventions and tampering with human genome and agricultural and animal cloning.

Thus the consequences might be irreversible this time around on our survival.

We have created enough tools, processes, and know-how to invent all kind of products without the need of thorough
theoretical foundations. It is like a machine that invents new machines with what it already knows and the vast array of tools it has in its arsenal so that theory is becoming an after thought because science requires a rational model.

Furthermore, experiments require abundance of time, financial and human resources that validation and testing on consequences to human health, safety and survival is dragging a long backlog that can never catch up with what is thrown in the market place.

For example, developed States have realized that a process for testing and validating the consequences of pharmaceutical products before marketing them was a must to safeguard health and safety of the consumers; but even that process was not adequate enough or ethically stringently applied when pharmaceutical new products were
tested in the third world populations.

Technology is the new metaphysical ideology for defining youth.

You are as young as you can keep up with new updates.  How fast and how readily you can manipulate and use new gadgets is the main criterion for youthfulness, for keeping your membership in the new cult.

The technology cult means that you should have faith in what the market is providing you in updates and inventions because ultimately it is you who is testing, validating and selling the technology at your own risk.

Technology is basically a cultural revolution against abstract or theoretical works, whether in religion, metaphysics, or sciences, and its motto is “There is no good or evil in technology. Let us keep inventing and let the less expensive and quicker trial and error method sort out what is beneficial to mankind.

Let youth, these flexible and adaptable mind, these spiritually and culturally ignorant spirits, and these energetically undaunted and bold souls, be our guinea pigs as they used to be historically”.

The institutional organizations that have the responsibility of reviewing and testing the consequences of any invention and discussing the ethical foundations are feeling the squeeze of mass revolts on any attempt to tampering with the new technological and marketing trend.

At this junction, religious fundamentalism from all kinds, have reacted to the slow process of civic organizations to confronting vigorously the new technological cult.

Religious fundamentalism is raising the banner for fighting any breakthrough that is practically overrunning all the red
lines erected by religions.

The technological cult feels unstoppable and mondialization is its vehicle and many institutionalized tyrants will come
to power, under the guise of confronting dangerous technologies, and backed by the impotent minds, scared and lazy, only to use it in order to sustain and spread this reign of terror.

Technology is running wild and fast and becoming utterly non affordable by its frequent updates. The best check is a
moratorium on the greed of the multinationals to slow down this process for humankind to assimilate and digest this drastic and worldwide cultural transformation.

On a lighter note, I believe that there is a dichotomy of how the two genders view the meaning of life; man thinks that life is a problem that needs to be solved while woman view life as a secret to be uncovered.

Woman whispers into the ears of her lover the mysterious clue “love is everything” and then the man picks up on that clue and starts singing “All we need is love; love is all we need”.

Woman whispers “I need to feel protected” and then man gets all rattled figuring how to resolve the practical difficulties for survival.

Can and should technology replace the physical exam?

A call for a return to the traditional one-on-one physical exam? Did this method already disappeared in the USA?

Modern medicine is in danger of losing a powerful, old-fashioned tool: human touch.

This new world where patients are merely data points

Abraham Verghese. Physician and author. Full bio

Filmed Jul. 2011

A few months ago, a 40 year-old woman came to an emergency room in a hospital close to where I live, and she was brought in confused.

Her blood pressure was an alarming 230 over 170. Within a few minutes, she went into cardiac collapse. She was resuscitated, stabilized, whisked over to a CAT scan suite right next to the emergency room, because they were concerned about blood clots in the lung.

And the CAT scan revealed no blood clots in the lung, but it showed bilateral, visible, palpable breast masses, breast tumors, that had metastasized widely all over the body.

And the real tragedy was, if you look through her records, she had been seen in four or five other health care institutions in the preceding two years. Four or five opportunities to see the breast masses, touch the breast mass, intervene at a much earlier stage than when we saw her.

1:11 Ladies and gentlemen, that is not an unusual story. Unfortunately, it happens all the time.

I joke, but I only half joke, that if you come to one of our hospitals missing a limb, no one will believe you till they get a CAT scan, MRI or orthopedic consult. I am not a Luddite.

I teach at Stanford. I’m a physician practicing with cutting-edge technology. But I’d like to make the case to you in the next 17 minutes that when we shortcut the physical exam, when we lean towards ordering tests instead of talking to and examining the patient, we not only overlook simple diagnoses that can be diagnosed at a treatable, early stage, but we’re losing much more than that. We’re losing a ritual.

We’re losing a ritual that I believe is transformative, transcendent, and is at the heart of the patient-physician relationship.

This may actually be heresy to say this at TED, but I’d like to introduce you to the most important innovation, I think, in medicine to come in the next 10 years, and that is the power of the human hand — to touch, to comfort, to diagnose and to bring about treatment|By Abraham Verghese

I’d like to introduce you first to this person whose image you may or may not recognize. This is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Since we’re in Edinburgh, I’m a big fan of Conan Doyle.

You might not know that Conan Doyle went to medical school here in Edinburgh, and his character, Sherlock Holmes, was inspired by Sir Joseph Bell.

Joseph Bell was an extraordinary teacher by all accounts. And Conan Doyle, writing about Bell, described the following exchange between Bell and his students.

picture Bell sitting in the outpatient department, students all around him, patients signing up in the emergency room and being registered and being brought in.

And a woman comes in with a child, and Conan Doyle describes the following exchange. The woman says, “Good Morning.” Bell says, “What sort of crossing did you have on the ferry from Burntisland?” She says, “It was good.” And he says, “What did you do with the other child?” She says, “I left him with my sister at Leith.” And he says, “And did you take the shortcut down Inverleith Row to get here to the infirmary?” She says, “I did.” And he says, “Would you still be working at the linoleum factory?” And she says, “I am.”

Bell then goes on to explain to the students. He says, “You see, when she said, ‘Good morning,’ I picked up her Fife accent. And the nearest ferry crossing from Fife is from Burntisland. And so she must have taken the ferry over. You notice that the coat she’s carrying is too small for the child who is with her, and therefore, she started out the journey with two children, but dropped one off along the way. You notice the clay on the soles of her feet. Such red clay is not found within a hundred miles of Edinburgh, except in the botanical gardens.

And therefore, she took a short cut down Inverleith Row to arrive here. And finally, she has a dermatitis on the fingers of her right hand, a dermatitis that is unique to the linoleum factory workers in Burntisland.” And when Bell actually strips the patient, begins to examine the patient, you can only imagine how much more he would discern. And as a teacher of medicine, as a student myself, I was so inspired by that story.

you might not realize that our ability to look into the body in this simple way, using our senses, is quite recent. The picture I’m showing you is of Leopold Auenbrugger who, in the late 1700s, discovered percussion.

And the story is that Leopold Auenbrugger was the son of an innkeeper. And his father used to go down into the basement to tap on the sides of casks of wine to determine how much wine was left and whether to reorder.

when Auenbrugger became a physician, he began to do the same thing. He began to tap on the chests of his patients, on their abdomens. And basically everything we know about percussion, which you can think of as an ultrasound of its day — organ enlargement, fluid around the heart, fluid in the lungs, abdominal changes — all of this he described in this wonderful manuscript Inventum Novum,” “New Invention,” which would have disappeared into obscurity, except for the fact that this physician, Corvisart, a famous French physician — famous only because he was physician to this gentleman — Corvisart repopularized and reintroduced the work.

 it was followed a year or two later by Laennec discovering the stethoscope. Laennec, it is said, was walking in the streets of Paris and saw two children playing with a stick. One was scratching at the end of the stick, another child listened at the other end.

And Laennec thought this would be a wonderful way to listen to the chest or listen to the abdomen using what he called “the cylinder.” Later he renamed it the stethoscope. And that is how stethoscope and auscultation was born.

So within a few years, in the late 1800s, early 1900s, all of a sudden, the barber surgeon had given way to the physician who was trying to make a diagnosis.

If you’ll recall, prior to that time, no matter what ailed you, you went to see the barber surgeon who wound up cupping you, bleeding you, purging you. And, oh yes, if you wanted, he would give you a haircut — short on the sides, long in the back — and pull your tooth while he was at it.

He made no attempt at diagnosis. In fact, some of you might well know that the barber pole, the red and white stripes, represents the blood bandages of the barber surgeon, and the receptacles on either end represent the pots in which the blood was collected. But the arrival of auscultation and percussion represented a sea change, a moment when physicians were beginning to look inside the body.

this particular painting, I think, represents the pinnacle, the peak, of that clinical era. This is a very famous painting: “The Doctor” by Luke Fildes.

Luke Fildes was commissioned to paint this by Tate, who then established the Tate Gallery. And Tate asked Fildes to paint a painting of social importance. And it’s interesting that Fildes picked this topic. Fildes’ oldest son, Philip, died at the age of nine on Christmas Eve after a brief illness.

And Fildes was so taken by the physician who held vigil at the bedside for two, three nights, that he decided that he would try and depict the physician in our time — almost a tribute to this physician. And hence the painting “The Doctor,” a very famous painting. It’s been on calendars, postage stamps in many different countries.

I’ve often wondered, what would Fildes have done had he been asked to paint this painting in the modern era, in the year 2011? Would he have substituted a computer screen for where he had the patient?

I’ve gotten into some trouble in Silicon Valley for saying that the patient in the bed has almost become an icon for the real patient who’s in the computer.

I’ve actually coined a term for that entity in the computer. I call it the iPatient. The iPatient is getting wonderful care all across America. The real patient often wonders, where is everyone? When are they going to come by and explain things to me? Who’s in charge? There’s a real disjunction between the patient’s perception and our own perceptions as physicians of the best medical care.

I want to show you a picture of what rounds looked like when I was in training. The focus was around the patient. We went from bed to bed. The attending physician was in charge. Too often these days, rounds look very much like this, where the discussion is taking place in a room far away from the patient. The discussion is all about images on the computer, data. And the one critical piece missing is that of the patient.

I’ve been influenced in this thinking by two anecdotes that I want to share with you.

One had to do with a friend of mine who had a breast cancer, had a small breast cancer detected — had her lumpectomy in the town in which I lived. This is when I was in Texas. And she then spent a lot of time researching to find the best cancer center in the world to get her subsequent care. And she found the place and decided to go there, went there. Which is why I was surprised a few months later to see her back in our own town, getting her subsequent care with her private oncologist.

And I pressed her, and I asked her, “Why did you come back and get your care here?” And she was reluctant to tell me. She said, “The cancer center was wonderful. It had a beautiful facility, giant atrium, valet parking, a piano that played itself, a concierge that took you around from here to there. But,” she said, but they did not touch my breasts.”

Now you and I could argue that they probably did not need to touch her breasts. They had her scanned inside out. They understood her breast cancer at the molecular level; they had no need to touch her breasts.

But to her, it mattered deeply. It was enough for her to make the decision to get her subsequent care with her private oncologist who, every time she went, examined both breasts including the axillary tail, examined her axilla carefully, examined her cervical region, her inguinal region, did a thorough exam.

And to her, that spoke of a kind of attentiveness that she needed. I was very influenced by that anecdote.

I was also influenced by another experience that I had, again, when I was in Texas, before I moved to Stanford. I had a reputation as being interested in patients with chronic fatigue.

This is not a reputation you would wish on your worst enemy. I say that because these are difficult patients. They have often been rejected by their families, have had bad experiences with medical care and they come to you fully prepared for you to join the long list of people who’s about to disappoint them.

And I learned very early on with my first patient that I could not do justice to this very complicated patient with all the records they were bringing in a new patient visit of 45 minutes. There was just no way. And if I tried, I’d disappoint them.

so I hit on this method where I invited the patient to tell me the story for their entire first visit, and I tried not to interrupt them. We know the average American physician interrupts their patient in 14 seconds. And if I ever get to heaven, it will be because I held my piece for 45 minutes and did not interrupt my patient.

I then scheduled the physical exam for two weeks hence, and when the patient came for the physical, I was able to do a thorough physical, because I had nothing else to do. I like to think that I do a thorough physical exam, but because the whole visit was now about the physical, I could do an extraordinarily thorough exam.

I remember my very first patient in that series continued to tell me more history during what was meant to be the physical exam visit. And I began my ritual. I always begin with the pulse, then I examine the hands, then I look at the nail beds, then I slide my hand up to the epitrochlear node, and I was into my ritual.

And when my ritual began, this very voluble patient began to quiet down. And I remember having a very eerie sense that the patient and I had slipped back into a primitive ritual in which I had a role and the patient had a role.

And when I was done, the patient said to me with some awe, “I have never been examined like this before.” Now if that were true, it’s a true condemnation of our health care system, because they had been seen in other places.

I then proceeded to tell the patient, once the patient was dressed, the standard things that the person must have heard in other institutions, which is, “This is not in your head. This is real. The good news, it’s not cancer, it’s not tuberculosis, it’s not coccidioidomycosis or some obscure fungal infection. The bad news is we don’t know exactly what’s causing this, but here’s what you should do, here’s what we should do.” And I would lay out all the standard treatment options that the patient had heard elsewhere.

I always felt that if my patient gave up the quest for the magic doctor, the magic treatment and began with me on a course towards wellness, it was because I had earned the right to tell them these things by virtue of the examination.

Something of importance had transpired in the exchange. I took this to my colleagues at Stanford in anthropology and told them the same story. And they immediately said to me, “Well you are describing a classic ritual.” And they helped me understand that rituals are all about transformation.

We marry, for example, with great pomp and ceremony and expense to signal our departure from a life of solitude and misery and loneliness to one of eternal bliss. I’m not sure why you’re laughing. That was the original intent, was it not?

We signal transitions of power with rituals. We signal the passage of a life with rituals. Rituals are terribly important. They’re all about transformation.

Well I would submit to you that the ritual of one individual coming to another and telling them things that they would not tell their preacher or rabbi, and then, incredibly on top of that, disrobing and allowing touch — I would submit to you that that is a ritual of exceeding importance.

And if you shortchange that ritual by not undressing the patient, by listening with your stethoscope on top of the nightgown, by not doing a complete exam, you have bypassed on the opportunity to seal the patient-physician relationship.

I am a writer, and I want to close by reading you a short passage that I wrote that has to do very much with this scene.

I’m an infectious disease physician, and in the early days of HIV, before we had our medications, I presided over so many scenes like this. I remember, every time I went to a patient’s deathbed, whether in the hospital or at home, I remember my sense of failure — the feeling of I don’t know what I have to say;

I don’t know what I can say;

I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.

And out of that sense of failure, I remember, I would always examine the patient. I would pull down the eyelids. I would look at the tongue. I would percuss the chest. I would listen to the heart. I would feel the abdomen. I remember so many patients, their names still vivid on my tongue, their faces still so clear.

I remember so many huge, hollowed out, haunted eyes staring up at me as I performed this ritual. And then the next day, I would come, and I would do it again.

I wanted to read you this one closing passage about one patient. “I recall one patient who was at that point no more than a skeleton encased in shrinking skin, unable to speak, his mouth crusted with candida that was resistant to the usual medications. When he saw me on what turned out to be his last hours on this earth, his hands moved as if in slow motion. And as I wondered what he was up to, his stick fingers made their way up to his pajama shirt, fumbling with his buttons. I realized that he was wanting to expose his wicker-basket chest to me. It was an offering, an invitation. I did not decline.

 I percussed. I palpated. I listened to the chest. I think he surely must have known by then that it was vital for me just as it was necessary for him. Neither of us could skip this ritual, which had nothing to do with detecting rales in the lung, or finding the gallop rhythm of heart failure.

No, this ritual was about the one message that physicians have needed to convey to their patients. Although, God knows, of late, in our hubris, we seem to have drifted away. We seem to have forgotten — as though, with the explosion of knowledge, the whole human genome mapped out at our feet, we are lulled into inattention, forgetting that the ritual is cathartic to the physician, necessary for the patient — forgetting that the ritual has meaning and a singular message to convey to the patient.

17:51 And the message, which I didn’t fully understand then, even as I delivered it, and which I understand better now is this: I will always, always, always be there. I will see you through this. I will never abandon you. I will be with you through the end.”

Could our social media connections actually hurt our relationships?

Imagine this: Two friends meet up for matching holiday spice flat whites.

They sit down at a corner table anticipating an actual conversation. But then their phones start blurping and buzzing a siren song. And with just a swipe of their fingers they nosedive down the digital rabbit hole, eyes glued to their screens.

Maybe that’s why more than 70% of Americans think technology is weakening our relationships, according to the results of our NBC News State of Kindness poll conducted online by Survey Monkey.

Joan Raymond posted this Dec. 8, 2015

Among social media users, 68% of our 2,650 respondents felt relationships suffer from social media. That percentage jumped to 83% among folks who don’t use sites like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

State of Kindness 
Anne Van Wagener / NBC

But not everyone thinks we need a digital detox when it comes to relationships.

Slightly more than 30% of participants who use social media believe that technology can actually strengthen our connections to each other.

Not surprisingly, there is a bit of a generation gap.

About 35% of those 18-34 believe that technology strengthens relationships. These poll participants are also more likely to use social media.

But the older you get, the less likely you are to believe that social media enhances relationships, with slightly more than 20% of people ages 35-64 thinking tech helps our social connections.

In the 65 and older crowd, 28% of participants think social media strengthens our bonds.

Anne Van Wagener / NBC

If you ever “unfriended” someone because they morphed into a cyber-meanie, you’re not alone.

In fact, more than 60% of our participants using social media say they have blocked, hidden or put the ultimate kibosh of “unfriending” someone who morphed into meanness. (I blocked once because the stream of useless comments cluttered my slow connection)

More than 60% of social media users and nearly 50% of non-users say tech can bring out the best and worst in folks just about equally, according to our survey results.

But some participants had stronger opinions.

More than 30% of social media aficionados in our poll say that social media brings out the worst in us, and 45% of non-users agree with them. Only 8% of social media users, and 5% of non-users, think social media outlets bring out the very best in us.

And cyber-bullying is a very important issue for 6 in 10 of our participants.

Women rank cyber-bullying higher than men, with 69% of our female participants saying it is a very important concern. Slightly less than 50% of men feel the same way.

But technology gives us a mighty tool with some relationships.

It seems that if people get nasty online, we have no qualms about shutting them down.

Note: The main problem is that many that we don’t know have no sense of humor and get confused and take literally what was meant as a joke.

This story is part of NBCU’s Season of Kindness. Follow the series on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. #ShareKindness


Is it Broken? The way we think about work?

Today I’m going to talk about work. And the question I want to ask and answer is this: “Why do we work?”

Why do we drag ourselves out of bed every morning instead of living our lives just filled with bouncing from one TED-like adventure to another?

0:33 You may be asking yourselves that very question.  We have to make a living, but nobody in this room thinks that that’s the answer to the question, “Why do we work?”

For folks in this room, the work we do is challenging, it’s engaging, it’s stimulating, it’s meaningful. And if we’re lucky, it might even be important.

We wouldn’t work if we didn’t get paid, but that’s not why we do what we do.

And in general, I think we think that material rewards are a pretty bad reason for doing the work that we do.

When we say of somebody that he’s “in it for the money,” we are not just being descriptive.

I think this is totally obvious, but the very obviousness of it raises what is for me an incredibly profound question.

Why, if this is so obvious, why is it that for the overwhelming majority of people on the planet, the work they do has none of the characteristics that get us up and out of bed and off to the office every morning?

How is it that we allow the majority of people on the planet to do work that is monotonous, meaningless and soul-deadening?

Why is it that as capitalism developed, it created a mode of production, of goods and services, in which all the nonmaterial satisfactions that might come from work were eliminated?

Workers who do this kind of work, whether they do it in factories, in call centers, or in fulfillment warehouses, do it for pay. There is certainly no other earthly reason to do what they do except for pay.

So the question is, “Why?” And here’s the answer: the answer is technology.

Now, I know, yeah, technology, automation screws people, blah blah — that’s not what I mean.

I’m not talking about the kind of technology that has enveloped our lives, and that people come to TED to hear about. I’m not talking about the technology of things, profound though that is.

I’m talking about another technology. I’m talking about the technology of ideas. I call it, “idea technology” — how clever of me.

2:51 In addition to creating things, science creates ideas.

Science creates ways of understanding. And in the social sciences, the ways of understanding that get created are ways of understanding ourselves. And they have an enormous influence on how we think, what we aspire to, and how we act.

If you think your poverty is God’s will, you pray.

If you think your poverty is the result of your own inadequacy, you shrink into despair.

And if you think your poverty is the result of oppression and domination, then you rise up in revolt.

Whether your response to poverty is resignation or revolution, depends on how you understand the sources of your poverty.

This is the role that ideas play in shaping us as human beings, and this is why idea technology may be the most profoundly important technology that science gives us.

And there’s something special about idea technology, that makes it different from the technology of things.

With things, if the technology sucks, it just vanishes, right? Bad technology disappears.

With ideas — false ideas about human beings will not go away if people believe that they’re true.

Because if people believe that they’re true, they create ways of living and institutions that are consistent with these very false ideas.

And that’s how the industrial revolution created a factory system in which there was really nothing you could possibly get out of your day’s work, except for the pay at the end of the day.

Because the father — one of the fathers of the Industrial Revolution, Adam Smith — was convinced that human beings were by their very natures lazy, and wouldn’t do anything unless you made it worth their while, and the way you made it worth their while was by incentivizing, by giving them rewards. (Exactly like animals in experiments)

That was the only reason anyone ever did anything. So we created a factory system consistent with that false view of human nature.

But once that system of production was in place, there was really no other way for people to operate, except in a way that was consistent with Adam Smith’s vision. So the work example is merely an example of how false ideas can create a circumstance that ends up making them true.

It is not true that you “just can’t get good help anymore.”

It is true that you “can’t get good help anymore” when you give people work to do that is demeaning and soulless.

And interestingly enough, Adam Smith — the same guy who gave us this incredible invention of mass production, and division of labor — understood this. He said, of people who worked in assembly lines, of men who worked in assembly lines, he says: He generally becomes as stupid as it is possible for a human being to become.”

Now, notice the word here is “become.” “He generally becomes as stupid as it is possible for a human being to become.” Whether he intended it or not, what Adam Smith was telling us there, is that the very shape of the institution within which people work creates people who are fitted to the demands of that institution and deprives people of the opportunity to derive the kinds of satisfactions from their work that we take for granted.

The thing about science — natural science — is that we can spin fantastic theories about the cosmos, and have complete confidence that the cosmos is completely indifferent to our theories.

It’s going to work the same damn way no matter what theories we have about the cosmos. But we do have to worry about the theories we have of human nature, because human nature will be changed by the theories we have that are designed to explain and help us understand human beings.

7:02 The distinguished anthropologist, Clifford Geertz, said, years ago, that human beings are the “unfinished animals.” And what he meant by that was that it is only human nature to have a human nature that is very much the product of the society in which people live. That human nature, that is to say our human nature, is much more created than it is discovered.

We design human nature by designing the institutions within which people live and work.

And so you people — pretty much the closest I ever get to being with masters of the universe — you people should be asking yourself a question, as you go back home to run your organizations.

Just what kind of human nature do you want to help design?

Patsy Z shared this link

What makes work satisfying?
Apart from a paycheck, there are intangible values that, Barry Schwartz suggests, our current way of thinking about work simply ignores.
It’s time to stop thinking of workers as cogs on a wheel.|By Barry Schwartz

Can technology solve our big problems? Very doubtful

So, we used to solve big problems.

On July 21st, 1969, Buzz Aldrin climbed out of Apollo 11’s lunar module and descended onto the Sea of Tranquility.  Aldrin, following the death of Armstrong last year, is now the most senior of the 12 who went to the moon.

Armstrong and Aldrin were alone, but their presence on the moon’s grey surface was the culmination of a convulsive, collective effort.

The Apollo program was the greatest peacetime mobilization in the history of the United States. To get to the moon, NASA spent around 180 billion dollars in today’s money, or 4% of the federal budget.

Apollo employed around 400,000 people and demanded the collaboration of 20,000 companies, universities and government agencies.

People died, including the crew of Apollo 1. But before the Apollo program ended, 24 men flew to the moon.

Why did they go?

They didn’t bring much back: 841 pounds of old rocks, and something all 24 later emphasized — a new sense of the smallness and the fragility of our common home.

Why did they go? The cynical answer is they went because President Kennedy wanted to show the Soviets that his nation had the better rockets. But Kennedy’s own words at Rice University in 1962 provide a better clue.

(Video) John F. Kennedy:

But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon. (Applause) We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

Jason Pontin: To contemporaries, Apollo wasn’t only a victory of West over East in the Cold War. At the time, the strongest emotion was of wonder at the transcendent powers of technology.

They went because it was a big thing to do. Landing on the moon occurred in the context of a long series of technological triumphs.

The first half of the 20th century produced the assembly line and the airplane, penicillin and a vaccine for tuberculosis.

In the middle years of the century, polio was eradicated and smallpox eliminated (They are back with vigor).

Technology itself seemed to possess what Alvin Toffler in 1970 called “accelerative thrust.” For most of human history, we could go no faster than a horse or a boat with a sail, but in 1969, the crew of Apollo 10 flew at 25,000 miles an hour.

Since 1970, no human beings have been back to the moon.

No one has traveled faster than the crew of Apollo 10, and blithe optimism about technology’s powers has evaporated as big problems we had imagined technology would solve, such as going to Mars, creating clean energy, curing cancer, or feeding the world have come to seem intractably hard.

I remember watching the liftoff of Apollo 17. I was five years old, and my mother told me not to stare at the fiery exhaust of a Saturn V rocket.

I vaguely knew this was to be the last of the moon missions, but I was absolutely certain there would be Mars colonies in my lifetime.

 So “Something happened to our capacity to solve big problems with technology has become a commonplace. You hear it all the time.

We’ve heard it over the last two days here at TED.

It feels as if technologists have diverted us and enriched themselves with trivial toys, with things like iPhones and apps and social media, or algorithms that speed automated trading.

There’s nothing wrong with most of these things. They’ve expanded and enriched our lives. But they don’t solve humanity’s big problems.

What happened?

There is a parochial explanation in Silicon Valley, which admits that it has been funding less ambitious companies than it did in the years when it financed Intel, Microsoft, Apple and Genentech.

Silicon Valley says the markets are to blame, in particular the incentives that venture capitalists offer to entrepreneurs.

Silicon Valley says that venture investing shifted away from funding transformational ideas and towards funding incremental problems or even fake problems.

But I don’t think that explanation is good enough. It mostly explains what’s wrong with Silicon Valley.

Even when venture capitalists were at their most risk-happy, they preferred small investments, tiny investments that offered an exit within 10 years. V.C.s have always struggled to invest profitably in technologies such as energy whose capital requirements are huge and whose development is long and lengthy, and V.C.s have never, never funded the development of technologies meant to solve big problems that possess no immediate commercial value.

No, the reasons we can’t solve big problems are more complicated and more profound.

Sometimes we choose not to solve big problems.

We could go to Mars if we want.

NASA even has the outline of a plan. But going to Mars would follow a political decision with popular appeal, and that will never happen. We won’t go to Mars, because everyone thinks there are more important things to do here on Earth.

Sometimes, we can’t solve big problems because our political systems fail.

Today, less than 2% of the world’s energy consumption derives from advanced, renewable sources such as solar, wind and biofuels, less than two percent, and the reason is purely economic.

Coal and natural gas are cheaper than solar and wind, and petroleum is cheaper than biofuels. We want alternative energy sources that can compete on price. None exist.

Now, technologists, business leaders and economists all basically agree on what national policies and international treaties would spur the development of alternative energy: mostly, a significant increase in energy research and development, and some kind of price on carbon.

But there’s no hope in the present political climate that we will see U.S. energy policy or international treaties that reflect that consensus.

Sometimes, big problems that had seemed technological turn out not to be so.

Famines were long understood to be caused by failures in food supply. But 30 years of research have taught us that famines are political crises that catastrophically affect food distribution.

Technology can improve things like crop yields or systems for storing and transporting food, but there will be famines so long as there are bad governments.

Finally, big problems sometimes elude solution because we don’t really understand the problem.

President Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971, but we soon discovered there are many kinds of cancer, most of them fiendishly resistant to therapy, and it is only in the last 10 years that effective, viable therapies have come to seem real. Hard problems are hard.

It’s not true that we can’t solve big problems through technology. We can, we must, but these four elements must all be present:

1. Political leaders and the public must care to solve a problem;

2. institutions must support its solution;

3. It must really be a technological problem; and

4. we must understand it.

The Apollo mission, which has become a kind of metaphor for technology’s capacity to solve big problems, met these criteria. But it is an irreproducible model for the future. It is not 1961.

There is no galvanizing contest like the Cold War, no politician like John Kennedy who can heroize the difficult and the dangerous, and no popular science fictional mythology such as exploring the solar system.

Most of all, going to the moon turned out to be easy. It was just three days away. And arguably it wasn’t even solving much of a problem.

We are left alone with our day, and the solutions of the future will be harder won. God knows, we don’t lack for the challenges.


How Technology Could Help Fight Income Inequality

Technologies didn’t reduce the working time of people and indeed increased the physical aches and pain and created and spread many kinds of mental troubles and anxiety.

Rising income inequality has set off fierce political and economic debates, but one important angle hasn’t been explored adequately. We need to ask whether market forces themselves might limit or reverse the trend.

(Market forces? They are behind mankind calamities for inequalities)

Technology has contributed to the rise in inequality, but there are also some significant ways in which technology could reduce it.

For example, while computers have improved our lives in many ways, they haven’t yet done much to make health care and education cheaper. Over the next few decades, however, that may well change: We can easily imagine medical diagnosis by online artificial intelligence, greater use of online competitive procurement for health care services, more transparency in pricing and thus more competition, and much cheaper online education for many students, to cite just a few possibilities.

In such a world, many wage gains would come from new and cheaper services, rather than from being able to cut a better deal with the boss at work.

It is a bit harder to see how information technology can lower housing costs, but perhaps the sharing economy can make it easier to live in much smaller spaces and rent needed items, rather than store them in a house or apartment. That would enable lower-income people to live closer to higher-paying urban jobs and at lower cost.

Another set of future gains, especially for lesser-skilled workers, may come as computers become easier to handle for people with rudimentary skill. Not everyone can work fruitfully with computers now.

There is a generation gap when it comes to manipulating electronic devices, and many relevant tasks require knowledge of programming or, more ambitiously, the entrepreneurial skill of creating a start-up. That, in a nutshell, is how our dynamic sector has concentrated its gains among a relatively small number of employees, thus leading to more income inequality.

This particular type of inequality may very well change. As the previous generation retires from the work force, many more people will have grown up with intimate knowledge of computers. And over time, it may become easier to work with computers just by talking to them. As computer-human interfaces become simpler and easier to manage, that may raise the relative return to less-skilled labor.

The future may also extend a growing category of employment, namely workers who team up with smart robots that require human assistance. Perhaps a smart robot will perform some of the current functions of a factory worker, while the human companion will do what the robot cannot, such as deal with a system breakdown or call a supervisor.

Such jobs would require versatility and flexible reasoning, a bit like some of the old manufacturing jobs, but not necessarily a lot of high-powered technical training, again because of the greater ease of the human-computer interface. That too could raise the returns to many relatively unskilled workers.

A more universal expertise with information technology also might reverse some of the income inequalities that stem from finance. For instance, the returns from high-frequency trading were higher a few years ago, in part because few firms used it; now many firms can trade at very high speeds.

It remains to be seen whether similar developments will lower hedge fund returns, but again it is possible to imagine a future in which many of the best investment and trading techniques are very widely copied and thus cease to be especially profitable.

A final set of forces to reverse growing inequality stem from the emerging economies, most of all China. Perhaps we are living in a temporary intermediate period when America and many other developed nations bear a lot of the costs of Chinese economic development without yet getting many of the potential benefits.

For instance, China and other emerging nations are already rich enough to bid up commodity prices and large enough to drive down the wages of a lot of American middle-class workers, especially in manufacturing. Yet while these emerging economies are keeping down the costs of manufactured goods for American consumers, they are not yet innovative enough to send us many fantastic new products, the way that the United States sends a stream of new products to British or French consumers, to their benefit.

That state of affairs will probably end. Over the next few decades, we can expect China, India and other emerging nations to supply more innovations to the global economy, including to the United States. This shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. It will lead to many good things.

Since the emerging economies are relatively poor, many of these innovations may benefit relatively low-income Americans.

India has already pioneered techniques for cheap, high-quality heart surgery and other medical procedures, and over time such techniques may achieve a foothold in the United States. Imagine a future China producing cheaper and safer cars, a cure for some kinds of cancer, and workable battery storage for solar energy. Ordinary Americans could be much better off, and without having to work for those gains.

To be clear, these are speculations and should not be taken as reasons to avoid improving our economy right now; furthermore, other trends may push in less positive directions. Still, these possibilities reframe the inequality problem.

In the popular model developed by the economist Thomas Piketty, inequality is fundamentally about capital versus labor. In his view, capital has opened up an ever-widening lead because of the relatively high rates of return on savings and investment. The natural response to reverse this trend, according to Mr. Piketty, would be a direct attack on the return to capital, such as through a global wealth tax.

In the scenarios outlined here, though, growing inequality is highly contingent on particular technologies and the global conditions of the moment. Movements toward greater inequality often set countervailing forces in motion, even if those forces take a long time to come to fruition.

From this perspective, rather than seeking to beat down capital, our attention should be directed to leaving open the future possibilities for innovation, change and dynamism. Even if income inequality continues to increase in the short run, as I believe is likely, there exists a plausible and more distant future in which we are mostly much better off and more equal.

The history of technology suggests that new opportunities for better living and higher wages are being created, just not as quickly as we might like.

Future in 50 years. Can mankind progress without keyboard, paper and pencil and spreadsheet? 

How do you see the future 50 years from now?

What will change for the 10 billion of our species?

For most of us, more than 9.5 billion, we still be using the technology that was used 50 years ago.

Even the richest people will use the same kind of chairs, desks, utensils, beds… with redesigns slightly different.

What has sustained its own grounds for thousands of years and proved its functionality does possess an inherent logic, a good base to keep using it.

If you visit “illustrious minds” and famous discoverers, even if they are now using top technologies, and most probably acquired for their assistants, there are sacred corners and rooms reserved for the purpose of inventing and creating.

Mainly, in these reserved corners and rooms you see papers and pencils, hand drawn sketches, notebooks, huge plans spread on walls and desks…

Do you think hard copy will vanish?

Do you believe paper and pencils and taking notes on notebooks will vanish? Not likely.

Many of the new technologies will vanish and the old ones will keep their ground.

Will the moon and Mars be colonized?

Maybe a few humans will be dispatched there, but the overwhelming billion of mankind will have earth as home.

Without a keyboard?

When the masses only connect to the net without a keyboard, who will be left to change the world?

It is possible but unlikely that someone will write a great novel on a tablet.

You can’t create the spreadsheet that changes an industry on a smart phone.

And professional programmers don’t sit down to do their programming with a swipe.

Many people are quietly giving away one of the most powerful tools ever created—the ability to craft and spread revolutionary ideas. Coding, writing, persuading, calculating—they still matter.

Yes, of course the media that’s being created on the spot, the live, the intuitive, this matters.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t desperately need people like you to dig in and type.

The trendy thing to do is say that whatever technology and the masses want must be a good thing.

But sometimes, what technology wants isn’t what’s going to change our lives for the better.

The public square is more public than ever, but minds are rarely changed in 140 character bursts and by selfies.

Iran’s Nuclear-Technology Gains ground: Are Sanctions Backfiring and initiating creative alternatives

Scientists and security analysts tracking the decade-long dispute over the Persian Gulf nation’s atomic work have reached a consensus that International sanctions designed to punish Iran for its nuclear program have proven to be counter-productive in the military domain. 

While trade and financial sanctions have choked off Iran’s access to materials such as aluminum and maraging steel, used to make its first generation of nuclear equipment, they have spurred the Islamic Republic to find its own solutions for subsequent technological innovations.

Iran is now positioned to build better nuclear devices and to export them.

Jonathan Tiron on Bloomberg this Feb. 15, 2013: Iran’s Nuclear-Technology Gains Suggest Sanctions Are Backfiring”

“The serious consequence of all of these sanctions are that you drive the indigenous production of these parts,” Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, a physicist at the Monterrey, California- based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, wrote in response to questions. “This means the proliferator learns more about the technology and so now they don’t only know how to produce the parts, but they could also sell them to other states.”

As embargoes strangle Iran’s ability to import high-quality metals and fibers needed to build nuclear components, the country’s own resources in oil, sand and zinc, mean it can overcome technical hurdles.

Last month, Iran notified United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors it would begin installing 3,000 domestically built centrifuges that can produce more enriched uranium in less time.

Raw Materials

“Most technologies in use are decades-old, well-proven, well-published concepts,” said Andreas Persbo, executive director of the London-based Verification Research, Training and Information Center, a non-governmental observer to the IAEA. “The key thing is to get access to the raw material. If you have the raw material, and a talent base to process them, you can construct whatever you need.”

Iran, with the world’s fourth-biggest proven oil reserves, began in 2011 to make its own carbon fiber, the strong, light material used in wind turbines, airplanes and centrifuges.

Like the uranium-enrichment market, which is led by a handful of companies such as Urenco Ltd., Areva SA and Rosatom Corp., carbon-fiber production is driven by a few multinational businesses including Hexcel Corp., BAE Systems Plc and Toray Industries Inc.

“While the sanctions regime certainly slowed down Iran’s technological progress initially, it has also made Iran self- sufficient in a number of key areas,” said Yousaf Butt, a physicist and nuclear non-proliferation analyst who advised the U.S. National Academy of Sciences on Iran’s nuclear work. “Iran is likely the most technologically advanced nation in the Middle East, aside from Israel.”


The Islamic Republic has also achieved self-sufficiency in other vital technology areas touched by sanctions. The country manufacturers and sells Fomblin oil, a lubricant used inside centrifuges, on world markets. At a September IAEA meeting in Vienna, Iran displayed a copy of a domestically made nuclear- fuel panel destined for a research reactor in Tehran.

“If in the past the country needed finished products and technologies for its program which squarely fell under sanctions, now the required level of imported inputs is continuously going down to more simple and basic items, which Iran still needs but can upgrade on its own,” according to Igor Khripunov, the Soviet Union’s former arms-control envoy to the U.S. who is now at the Athens, Georgia-based Center for International Trade and Security.

Kazakhstan Meeting

Iran, which maintains its atomic program is peaceful, has ruled out suspending its activities as the UN Security Council demands. It’s willing to discuss its nuclear work when it meets world powers in Kazakhstan next week, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Feb. 4. Talks between Iran and IAEA officials that concluded Feb. 13 in Tehran failed to clinch a deal that would give investigators wider access to alleged nuclear sites.

While Iran allowed wider access to sites, including centrifuge-manufacturing workshops, until 2005, it reversed course after accusations about its nuclear work escalated. The first UN sanctions were imposed in 2006. The country hasn’t restricted IAEA access to sites it’s legally bound to let inspectors visit.

Diplomats should focus on returning to greater transparency of Iran’s nuclear facilities rather than trying to enforce a ban on enrichment, said Paul Ingram, executive director of the London-based British American Security Information Council, a policy-advisory group.

“Iran has a sophisticated economy relative to most states outside of North America, Europe and the Far East, so it should be no surprise that they can develop the technologies to substitute for sanctioned materials,” Ingram wrote in reply to questions. “The experience of sanctions proves this time and time again.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Tirone in Vienna at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at

Online chat with O2 customer services

Can you explain to me from experience and vast knowledge, and in details what this O2 does, and what it sells, and how it does it?

Who is O2? Who are the deep pockets running this company? How linked it is with State institutions?

I picked up this chat post on FB that Joanna had with O2 customer services:

Resha: Hello, this is Resha, how can I help you?
Joanna: Hi Resha, I have a question.
Resha: I can help you with that.

Joanna: Does O2 use my personal details to send me relevant offers, deals and ads. e.g. by reading my personal messages or picking up keywords from telephone calls?
Resha: No, not at all.
Joanna: Well here are a number of occasions when I believe this has happened: I received an offer on holidays in Sussex. When I was on holiday in Sussex, I received a Nike offer when I was texting about a cycling touring trip to friends.

I received a pensions offer just after I hung up with my brother after a long conversation on pensions,

and I received a Christmas calls deals for Lebanon just after texting a Lebanese friend about their Christmas plans.

Resha: It must have been purely coincidence.
Joanna: Oh yes I thought as much.
Resha: Be assured that your texts and calls are safe.

Joanna: Thank you I feel very assured now.
Resha: Is there anything else I can help you with?
Joanna: No that’s all! Thanks.
Resha: It was nice chatting with you. Have a good day. Bye.

A few bits of news for confirmation:

1.  Is Amazon not paying taxes?

2. Better World Books (UK) donated 6,000,000 books and raised £8,000,000 for literacy projects?

In my last two birthdays, no gift books were forthcoming: Anyone to remind  Better World Books of my predicament?

Bill Moggridge, Inventor of the First Laptop, Has Died

Moggridge is famous for designing the Grid Compass computer in 1982. In particular, he was responsible for pushing for a computer design which included a flat-panel screen that folded down onto the device’s own keyboard, along with compact circuitry to keep it portable.

The clamshell design, matte black finish and tight angles, and clunky are still enough to get us “all hot and bothered“. Its impact was celebrated in 2010 when it won the Prince Philip Designers Prize—the oldest design award in the UK.

The device wasn’t just critically acclaimed, though. Despite its lack of integrated hard disk or floppy drive, the magnesium-cased computer was quickly adopted by NASA and the US military. It even made its way into space aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985.

Thirty years later, and laptop computers still use the same basic clamshell design originally proposed by Moggridge. That alone is testimony of his design genius—and a life worth celebrating.

Image by Mayo Nissen under Creative Commons license

Bill was on a war path: He wanted design to be taught early on in school




March 2023

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