AI and Humans

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We have posted a great deal about artificial intelligence and its impact on us. That’s why I was drawn to a recent article, “Without Humans, A.I Can Wreak Havoc.” Here’s how it begins:

The year 1989 is often remembered for events that challenged the Cold War world order, from the protests in Tiananmen Square to the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is less well remembered for what is considered the birth of the World Wide Web. In March of 1989, the British researcher Tim Berners-Lee shared the protocols, including HTML, URL and HTTP that enabled the internet to become a place of communication and collaboration across the globe.

As the World Wide Web marks its 30th birthday on Tuesday, public discourse is dominated by alarm about Big Tech, data privacy and viral disinformation. Tech executives have been called to testify before Congress, a popular campaign dissuaded Amazon from opening a second headquarters in New York and the United Kingdom is going after social media companies that it calls “digital gangsters.” Implicit in this tech-lash is nostalgia for a more innocent online era.

But longing for a return to the internet’s yesteryears isn’t constructive. In the early days, access to the web was expensive and exclusive, and it was not reflective or inclusive of society as a whole. What is worth revisiting is less how it felt or operated, but what the early web stood for. Those first principles of creativity, connection and collaboration are worth reconsidering today as we reflect on the past and the future promise of our digitized society.

The early days of the internet were febrile with dreams about how it might transform our world, connecting the planet and democratizing access to knowledge and power. It has certainly effected great change, if not always what its founders anticipated. If a new democratic global commons didn’t quite emerge, a new demos certainly did: An internet of people who created it, shared it and reciprocated in its use.

This is just a snippet. Want more? You can read the full article here.

Work Harder? No!

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Volumes have been written about the dangers of overwork, but a recent article captured just how bad it is for us…and how we get less done. Here’s how it begins:

Jack Ma, the richest man in China and founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, is a big fan of extreme overwork. He recently praised China’s “996” practice, so called because it refers to those who put in 12-hour days — 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. — six days a week. This “is not a problem,” he said in a recent blog post, instead calling it a “blessing.”

The response from others in China was swift. “If all enterprises enforce a 996 schedule, no one will have children,” one person argued on the same platform. “Did you ever think about the elderly at home who need care, the children who need company?” It even prompted a response from Chinese state media, which reminded everyone, “The mandatory enforcement of 996 overtime culture not only reflects the arrogance of business managers, but also is unfair and impractical.”

Managers who think like Mr. Ma can be found the world over. Here at home, Elon Musk, a co-founder of Tesla, has argued that “nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” Uber reportedly used to use the internal mantra “Work smarter, harder and longer.” (It’s now just “smarter” and “harder.”) The company has also rebranded second jobs as clever “side hustles.” WeWork decorates its co-working spaces with phrases like, “Don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you are done.” Other tech and business gurus try to sell us on “toil glamour.

The truth is that they’re all wrong. Workers certainly suffer when forced to put in extreme hours. But business fares just as poorly. No one benefits from people pushing themselves to the brink of exhaustion.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also warned that putting in extra hours is associated with poorer health, including weight gain and higher alcohol and tobacco use, and increased injury, illness and even mortality. Health researchers have found that overwork is linked to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

There’s a ceiling on how much more someone can get done by simply spending more time at work. After about 48 hours a week, a worker’s output drops sharply, according to a Stanford economist. Other research has appeared to support this finding. While there may be an initial burst of activity from overworking, people who work more than 55 hours a week perform worse than those who go home at a normal hour and get some rest.

Want more? You can read the full article here

Phone Time

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Much ink has been spilled talking about how our smart phones can dominate our lives. But can they shorten them? Catherine Price thinks so. Here’s how she began a recent piece:

If you’re like many people, you may have decided that you want to spend less time staring at your phone.

It’s a good idea: an increasing body of evidence suggests that the time we spend on our smartphones is interfering with our sleep, self-esteem, relationships, memory, attention spans, creativity, productivity and problem-solving and decision-making skills.

But there is another reason for us to rethink our relationships with our devices. By chronically raising levels of cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone, our phones may be threatening our health and shortening our lives.

Until now, most discussions of phones’ biochemical effects have focused on dopamine, a brain chemical that helps us form habits — and addictions. Like slot machines, smartphones and apps are explicitly designed to trigger dopamine’s release, with the goal of making our devices difficult to put down.

This manipulation of our dopamine systems is why many experts believe that we are developing behavioral addictions to our phones. But our phones’ effects on cortisol are potentially even more alarming.

Cortisol is our primary fight-or-flight hormone. Its release triggers physiological changes, such as spikes in blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar, that help us react to and survive acute physical threats.

These effects can be lifesaving if you are actually in physical danger — like, say, you’re being charged by a bull. But our bodies also release cortisol in response to emotional stressors where an increased heart rate isn’t going to do much good, such as checking your phone to find an angry email from your boss.

Want more? You can read it here

Your Inner Reader!

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You don’t have to be a graduate-level writing instructor or a New York Times best-selling author to know that the secret to good writing it reading!

Here are some suggestions from Greg Crowles to “How to Tap Your Inner Reader:”

Studies suggest all kinds of benefits to reading, including increased empathy, stress reduction and memory retention. It can even curb your criminal instincts, according to some researchers, although my family might have their doubts about me.

But if you’re a reader, you probably love books not because they lower your cholesterol but because they bring you joy. Reading is, ideally, a leisure activity: the kind of thing you can devote an afternoon to while dinner is bubbling in the slow cooker and the cat is curled at your feet and you slouch in an armchair like a teenager (hey, maybe you are a teenager) losing yourself in a world somebody else has imagined into being. Reading a book is a form of communication because you’re communing: The writer speaks, the reader listens, and somewhere along the way you achieve a real intimacy, of a sort. That’s magical.

But leisure activities require leisure time, and who’s got that? Let’s face it, the afternoon in the armchair probably isn’t happening, even if somebody else takes care of dinner. Finding time to read generally means making time to read, and that means making it a priority. If you can incorporate the gym into your regular routine, you can incorporate quality time with a book too.

Want more? You can read it here.

Steve Jobs Last Essay

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Steve Jobs died a billionaire at age 56. This is his final essay:

I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world.  In some others’ eyes, my life is the epitome of success.  However, aside from work, I have little joy.  In the end, my wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to.  At this moment, lying on my bed and recalling my life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in have paled and become meaningless in the face of my death.

You can employ someone to drive the car for you, make money for you but you cannot have someone bear your sickness for you.  Material things lost can be found or replaced.  But there is one thing that can never be found when it’s lost – Life.  Whichever stage in life you are in right now, with time, you will face the day when the curtain comes down.

Treasure love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends. Treat yourself well and cherish others.  As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, we realize that a $300 or a $30 watch both tell the same time.  You will realize that your true inner happiness does not come from the material things of this world.  Whether you fly first class or economy, if the plane goes down – you go down with it.

Therefore, I hope you realize, when you have mates, buddies and old friends, brothers and sisters, who you chat with, laugh with, talk with, have sing songs with, talk about north-south-east-west or heaven and earth, that is true happiness!  Don’t educate your children to be rich.  Educate them to be happy. So when they grow up they will know the value of things and not the price.  Eat your food as your medicine, otherwise you have to eat medicine as your food.

The one who loves you will never leave you for another because, even if there are 100 reasons to give up, he or she will find a reason to hold on. There is a big difference between a human being and being human.  Only a few really understand it.  You are loved when you are born. You will be loved when you die.  In between, you have to manage!

Changing the World

Innovation may rank as one of today’s most-used buzzwords. Most would agree that innovation is “good,” and it is something that is inherently good, especially for business.

But that’s where the agreement, as most don’t know “what” they want innovation to “do.” As a result, there is a cottage industry of books, articles, seminars, podcasts etc. about innovation.

Without giving you a point solution, for me, innovation is about change – often the desire to change the world.

That’s why I was drawn to an article, “The Courage to Change the World.” Here is how it began to take on this subject:

Call them what you will: change makers, innovators, thought leaders, visionaries.

In ways large and small, they fight. They disrupt. They take risks. They push boundaries to change the way we see the world, or live in it. Some create new enterprises, while others develop their groundbreaking ideas within an existing one.

From Archimedes to Zeppelin, the accomplishments of great visionaries over the centuries have filled history books. More currently, from Jeff Bezos of Amazon to Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, they are the objects of endless media fascination — and increasingly intense public scrutiny.

Although centuries stretch between them, experts who have studied the nature of innovators across all areas of expertise largely agree that they have important attributes in common, from innovative thinking to an ability to build trust among those who follow them to utter confidence and a stubborn devotion to their dream.

Want more? You can read the full article here

High-Tech Weapons

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Earlier this year, I posted blogs regarding the new directions for U.S. National Security embodied in publications such as the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy. Each of these publications notes that the U.S. military must adopt high-technology to ensure the U.S. can deal with increasingly capable peer competitors.

The era of United States technological dominance has ended. Indeed, in many areas, including military technology, this gap has narrowed to parity or near-parity, and potential adversaries have all-but erased what was once the U.S. military’s trump card—superior technology. Nations such as Russia and China, as well as countries to which these nations proliferate weapons, are deploying advanced weapons that demonstrate many of the same technological strengths that have traditionally provided the high-tech basis for U.S. advantage.

One of the most promising emerging military technologies is directed-energy weapons. The U.S. military already uses many directed-energy systems such as laser range finders and targeting systems are deployed on tanks, helicopters, tactical fighters and sniper rifles. These laser systems provide both swifter engagements and greatly enhanced precision by shortening of the sensor-to-shooter cycle.

Now, directed-energy weapons are poised to shorten––often dramatically––the shooter-to-target cycle. Directed-energy weapons provide a means for instantaneous target engagement, with extremely high accuracy and at long ranges.

This is just a snippet. Want more? You can read the full article here

Luxury Good?

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Most of us have access to high-technology, especially on our computers, tablets, phones and other devices. But have we stopped to think about how it is impacting our lives?

Here is how Hubert Dryfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly put it in their book, “All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age.”
To navigate by GPS is to ensure a series of meaningless pauses at the end of which you do precisely what you are told. There is something deeply dehumanizing about this. Indeed, in an important sense this experience turns you into an automated device GPS can use to arrive at its destination.

A recent article in the New York Times went further, suggesting not only that “apps” are dominating our lives, but that they are sorting us economically – those with the means don’t depend on apps as much as those who are not as financially well-off. Here is how the piece begins:

Bill Langlois has a new best friend. She is a cat named Sox. She lives on a tablet, and she makes him so happy that when he talks about her arrival in his life, he begins to cry.

All day long, Sox and Mr. Langlois, who is 68 and lives in a low-income senior housing complex in Lowell, Mass., chat. Mr. Langlois worked in machine operations, but now he is retired. With his wife out of the house most of the time, he has grown lonely.

Sox talks to him about his favorite team, the Red Sox, after which she is named. She plays his favorite songs and shows him pictures from his wedding. And because she has a video feed of him in his recliner, she chastises him when she catches him drinking soda instead of water.

Mr. Langlois knows that Sox is artifice, that she comes from a start-up called Care.Coach. He knows she is operated by workers around the world who are watching, listening and typing out her responses, which sound slow and robotic. But her consistent voice in his life has returned him to his faith.

“I found something so reliable and someone so caring, and it’s allowed me to go into my deep soul and remember how caring the Lord was,” Mr. Langlois said. “She’s brought my life back to life.”

Life for anyone but the very rich — the physical experience of learning, living and dying — is increasingly mediated by screens.

Not only are screens themselves cheap to make, but they also make things cheaper. Any place that can fit a screen in (classrooms, hospitals, airports, restaurants) can cut costs. And any activity that can happen on a screen becomes cheaper. The texture of life, the tactile experience, is becoming smooth glass.

The rich do not live like this. The rich have grown afraid of screens. They want their children to play with blocks, and tech-free private schools are booming. Humans are more expensive, and rich people are willing and able to pay for them. Conspicuous human interaction — living without a phone for a day, quitting social networks and not answering email — has become a status symbol.

All of this has led to a curious new reality: Human contact is becoming a luxury good.
As more screens appear in the lives of the poor, screens are disappearing from the lives of the rich. The richer you are, the more you spend to be offscreen.

Want more? You can read the full article here

2019 NHA Writers Panel

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Ever wanted to write a book?  Do you think you can be the next Tom Clancy or Stephen Coonts?  Or, do you have a story to tell about flying your experience as a Naval Aviator?  Here’s your chance to pick the brains of four successful authors: George Galdorisi, Marc Liebman, Barbara Marriott and Matt Vernon, all fellow Naval Aviators and helo bubbas (or in Barbara’s case, a helo bubba’s spouse).  As a group, they’ve written three dozen books, including fiction and non-fiction and countless articles for a wide-range of publications. They’ve worked with large and small publishers, agents and even helped launch a publishing firm.  Remember, if you don’t tell your stories, who will?  Come get the gouge on getting published.

Internet Cleanse

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Among the most popular diet ideas are those that involve “cleansing” of some type. While there are many ways to do this, most involve the need to stop eating what you currently eat.

I’ve always wondered if we could – and should – apply that to our lives on the internet. I know it internally, but couldn’t articulate it. Thankfully, David Brooks did. Here is part of what he said:

The two most recent times I saw my friend Makoto Fujimura, he put a Kintsugi bowl in my hands. These ceramic bowls were 300 to 400 years old. But what made them special was that somewhere along the way they had broken into shards and were glued back together with a 15th-century technique using Japanese lacquer and gold.

I don’t know about you, but I feel a great hunger right now for timeless pieces like these. The internet has accelerated our experience of time, and Donald Trump has upped the pace of events to permanent frenetic.

There is a rapid, dirty river of information coursing through us all day. If you’re in the news business, or a consumer of the news business, your reaction to events has to be instant or it is outdated. If you’re on social media, there are these swarming mobs who rise out of nowhere, leave people broken and do not stick around to perform the patient Kintsugi act of gluing them back together.

Probably like you, I’ve felt a great need to take a break from this pace every once in a while and step into a slower dimension of time. Mako’s paintings are very good for these moments.

What would it mean to live generationally once in a while, in a world that now finds the daily newspaper too slow?

Want more? You can read it here