Answers for Society’s Most Uncomfortable Questions

5 Helpful Answers To Society’s Most Uncomfortable Questions | Cracked.com.

[parts saved here for posterity]

You’re not a person.

This is going to sound like some real Rust Cohle shit, but bear with me because deep down you already know all of this.

For instance, you already know that you are, to a certain degree, a product of your genes — they go a long way toward determining if you would be physically imposing or weak, smart or stupid, calm or anxious, energetic or lazy, and fat or thin. What your genes left undecided, your upbringing mostly took care of — how you were raised determined your values, your attitudes, and your religious beliefs. And what your genes and upbringing left undecided, your environment rounded into shape — what culture you were raised in, where you went to school, and who you were friends with growing up. If you had been born and raised in Saudi Arabia, you would be a different person today. If the Nazis had won World War II, you would be a different person, still.

So, even when personal choices finally come into play, you’re still choosing within that framework — you can choose between becoming a poet or a software engineer, but only because you were raised in a world in which other people had already invented both poetry and computers. That means every single little part of your life — every action, every choice, every thought, every emotion, every plan for the future, everything that you are and do and can potentially be — is the result ofthings other people did in the past.

These mostly dead people shaped every little molecule of you and the world you inhabit. You are the product of what they did, just as they were the product of those who came before them. You are, therefore, not a person any more than a leaf is a tree. It makes far more sense to think of yourself as one part of a whole (the “whole” being every human who has ever lived) than as an individual — you benefit from the whole’s successes, and you pay for its mistakes as if they were your own — whether you want to or not.

This is not abstract philosophy, this is not something you can choose to believe or not believe — this is a statement of physical fact. Refusing to acknowledge it will only leave you endlessly confused and frustrated. For instance, when you show up at a job interview, or a trial, or the set of a porno, that whole context will walk in the door with you. Everyone in that room will be making certain assumptions about you and will hold certain expectations, based on the greater whole of which you are a part.

That means you can’t think of your life as a story. You have to think of it as one sentence in a much longer story … a sentence that doesn’t make any sense out of context

…….

McEvedy and Jones, Penguin Reference Books

That’s a world population graph dating back over the last 2,000 years. Just look at it! Around 200 years ago, a freaking switch got flipped, and shit exploded. There is no comparing humanity over the last couple of centuries with anything that came before. It’s like if you were driving home one day and saw that while you were gone, your goldfish had grown large enough to flatten the entire neighborhood.

But make no mistake: What you’re seeing on the graph is humanity winning. Winning so hard that we’re not even sure how to handle it. That up there is what every single species only wishes it could do. That kind of success requires utter mastery of the environment, food, health, and predators — humanity just absolutely dunking over all we survey.

You and I were born right in the middle of this unprecedented and unfathomable winning streak, during a series of changes that are whipping by at light speed, rendering what we think of as a “normal human life” utterly unrecognizable to someone living just 200 years ago. And change is terrifying. Lots of the old rules have gone out the window — they were written for a different time, with different problems in mind. Lots of the timeless advice you hear was spoken by people who never anticipated the world you’re living in. If you find all of the shit grown-ups say to you to be contradictory and confusing, that would be why.

…………

The big flaw in humanity is that we always cling to short-term comfort over long-term prosperity (because we see ourselves as individuals, instead of part of a whole), and certain classes of people were benefiting from doing things the old way, even if humanity as a whole was not.

……………

There is a difference between being “to blame” for something and being “responsible” for it. 

This is confusing because, as kids, we were taught that you clean up your own messes, and it’s easy to accidentally expand that to: “You only clean up your own messes.”

If they try to teach this in the classroom, critics will scream that they’re making white kids “feel guilty for being white.” But, there’s that confusion again — telling those kids they’re guilty (that is, “to blame”) for being white would be wrong. Telling those kids that, as white people, they areresponsible for fixing inequality is just a statement of fact. The entire concept of civilization is that things are supposed to always be getting better — each link in the chain is hopefully a little smarter, richer, and healthier than the one before….But, improving means fixing things that are broken. That is, things that other people broke.

Helping to rectify that situation is one of the many, many things you’re tasked with due to having been born in a fairly high place in the world. It’s not “fair,” but that’s a meaningless word when referencing things you have no control over. You didn’t ask to be born half-way up a mountain, but you were, and I need you to look down and realize that mountain is really a pile of bones.

……….

In other words, why can’t we start treating each other like individuals based on our position in life, and just drop all of this race/gender stuff that just clouds the issue? Wouldn’t that be the fastest way to make things better for everyone?

Sure, and we could totally do that, if we were merely people. The problem is that we can’t just collectively agree to make the context of history go away, any more than a bunch of leaves can get together and decide that there is no tree; the roots of history are still feeding us.

….

Changing that doesn’t mean they’re winning, and you’re losing. This isn’t about you. There is no “you” at all, outside of this larger context. It’s about continuing this winning streak humanity has been on, and trying to build a world in which everybody — from the poor white dude in the trailer park to the black trans woman in Russia — has the best possible chance to make something with their lives. We can disagree about how exactly to do that, but as for those people talking about the “good old days” and getting back to “traditional” values? The best thing I can say about them is that they can’t possibly know what they’re asking for.

[David Wong]

Network learning – Social Media helps us learn

teachlearn

Some interesting thoughts in an article titled “Social Media’s Effect on Learning” over on a WSJ Blog.

Some snippets:

“Bilingual people aren’t cognitively smarter, but they are more cognitively flexible,”

“Practice at constant switching improves an aspect of their cognitive abilities.”

“This is much like what people do when they’re updating their Twitter status, instant-messaging friends, or answering text messages and emails while they’re doing something else. Dr. Kuhl said this multitasking, where people are stimulating new patterns of sequential processing, could then reap the same benefits as bilingualism.”

“If not .. then networking online is at least acting as a brain innovator.., promoting new paths of discovery and interactivity in the brain.”

Read full story.

Depth = Full Focus Attention

Mark Pesce in his contribution to a piece on ABC Unleased shares in “My dreams for 2010”

What Mark refers to as depth is what Linda Stone calls “the next aphrodisiac” in her talk at Supernova 2005 – Full Focused Attention.
 
Five years into Linda’s 20 year cycle framework of culture, cycle where swinging back to the individual as a centre of gravity. Full focus attention. It’s why I’ve focused, from time to time, on things such openness, sharing, and context.

Culture creates the technology it needs to fulfil its desires.

Mark Pesce, author, technologist, futurist.
We have become broad grazers of culture. Over the last decade, our ability to ‘go wide’ has reached unprecedented levels.

Whether an uprising in Iran, a celebrity marriage gone sour, or the trivial factoids which obsess us, we now have the tools to take it all in, all the time, wherever we are.

The mainstream media have tried to follow us on or flight path into breadth, only succeeding in becoming more insubstantial.

But the time for breadth is over. We’ve passed the test – with high marks. We need to move along.

The other and mostly unexplored axis of an information-saturated culture is depth. Each of us has the capacity to dive in and learn more about almost anything than ever before.

It nearly always starts with Wikipedia, which then points you to another resource, which points to another, and another, until, at the end, something like real mastery has been achieved.

With depth comes judgment; walk a mile in another’s shoes and you can know their thoughts. It’s not fast food, but it is a nutritious meal.

It’s interesting to note that the big movie this year (and probably the decade) is James Cameron’s Avatar. Uttered at its climax, the film’s catch phrase is, ‘I see you.’

Three words framing an experience of depth, one soul knowing the soul of another. That might be too much to ask on a planet of nearly seven billion souls, but we know we are lacking, and long to restore balance. Depth must take its place alongside breadth as a core human capability in the era of hyperinformation.

Without it, we will simply evaporate into ephemera and trivia. But with it – and this is my dream – we can reach the rock-solid core of being.

Post Industrial Context Shifting and Network Productivity

Back in 2005 after thinking about “Attention, Recognition & Context” I wrote in 2006 that I was “hung up on the concept of context”  and a bit later “On context and openness

Which lead to the thinking about how I do what I do at Lifekludger, documented in the “Contexts and Clues” section of the About page as — “To get from one context to another takes a Kludge!“….

So just the other week I get a ping from @fang about the book kluge —–

Then I see a tweet from @kanter asking “what is the sweet spot between personal productivity and connectedness?

My response (below) gets quoted by her in a blog post “What’s the sweet spot between personal productivity and social productivity?here ……

Which leads me to read Stowe Boyd’s post about “Information Overload, Schmoverload“, and his thoughts on network productivity here ……

Then I talk about it with Mike on our podcast here …..

And so there I am, reading Stowe again, critiquing more mainstream media articles on the so-called ‘curse of multitasking’ and the over emphasis placed on ‘personal’ productivity – “…the war on Flowhere ….

And what do I read? “In the wonderful book, Kluge, Gary Marcus makes a solid case that the human mind is really bad at memory, and that we have developed all sorts of compensating techniques to counter that weakness. Our memories can be demonstrably changed by simple shifts in context ….

From Context to Context via a connected kludge.

We need connection to others and to other’s thinking if nothing more than a technique to counter our weaknesses – we need a networked life.

And this holds true in any area of application – personal or professional.

That, my networked friends, is life network productivity.

Dave

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