Archive for February, 2014

Another Metaphor for Life

chess

If you don’t move, you lose by default. Someone else is moving and taking action. Yet if you do move you create openings in your defenses. If you move well, you can still protect what you hold dear. Gaining ground requires adventuring away. Yet if you’re too far from what you care about, you may not make it back. The path takes planning. But you still must take action. Choosing not to decide is still a choice. You don’t want to create circumstances where you are cornered and pressured — not conducive to the best decisions. Brilliance is often found in the most observant.Adapting to the situation is the key to success.

Knowledge and experience are keen advantages.

You have a limited number of moves. Make them good ones.

Torturing Babies

Does anyone who isn’t clinically insane not know it is wrong?

Why? Why do we all know and agree with this?

These points that all mankind adheres to may be socially driven. We have evolved over millions of years to be social animals, tribal, supportive of others and willing to reach a common goal. This could explain much of the morality and meaning we see in life, without the need for it to be revealed by a divine presence. There isn’t any known society so far afield as to turn our common sense on its ear enough that something like torturing babies would be permissible. How does that happen? It’s easy to see how differences emerge across different cultures, but the similarities seem to point to there being some essence of life that’s inherently understood. Maybe it’s just a manifestation of self-preservation, which seems wired into all lifeforms we know of with higher cognition. Add a social component to that and viola!

However it’s possible these sensibilities originate from somewhere else. Some mysterious place that helps give rise to our thinking that there is some higher power, or at least a common source of it all that has ‘stamped’ us with something that remains after so many generations.

What about our sense of beauty? It varies a great deal, but there are certainly common elements we can just about all agree on. Mankind has been inspired accordingly since the earliest days of civilization.

FujiFlowers

Your Team

girlwdollWho is there when you lose? Who forgives you or looks after you even when you screw up? Who hangs in there when it looks like hope may be lost?

There’s a lot to be learned from these bad times of life, not the least of which is who really cares about you. Don’t miss that.

Who are you there for? What will you do to help and take care of others? Who is worth it to you? There’s also a lot to be learned in what you’re willing to do. Don’t miss that.

It’s something you might find worth being conscious and deliberate about.

Turns Out We’re Not That Interesting

notthatinterestingA current look at the typical feed in Facebook will reveal more posts that are links to other things (photos, articles, etc.). We’ve grown bored with each other’s curated personas presented online.

We just aren’t inherently that interesting to each other.

Most users of services like Facebook have crafted an online persona that may only vaguely resemble their actual life. We all know this intuitively because we all do it to some extent. That gets much less interesting after a while. Further, the audience is much too wide to do it any other way. If it really was limited to our close friends we would probably be much more genuine and open, which would be a lot more compelling for both the poster and the reader.

But these services aren’t interested in us limiting our audience. It’s best for them if things spread widely. In the spirit of keeping as many eyeballs as possible attentive it’s brilliant of them to provide us with so much content to share with friends and acquaintances, and such an easy process for doing it.

Even though it’s not what it once was it’s not always a terrible experience. A compelling article can spawn an engaging discussion sometimes. But we all know it would be personally better if it was more intimate and genuine. The fact that kids don’t really use Facebook anymore is indicative of how it has lost part of its core utility in our lives. They all will continue to evolve.

From the Outside…

mood-swing…your trials and tribulations don’t seem as grand.

Internal monologue amplifies personal drama.

Consider how much the empathy of others really means to you. Do you truly need it? Is it really what’s going to get you going and get you past whatever obstacle there is?

All of that will comes from within. When you succeed at seeing your problems through the eyes of others — all of whom have their own issues — you begin to realize it’s up to you.

It’s easier to turn off that droning monolog of drama once you get to work on conquering whatever the issues are.

Get to work.

The Cost of Facts

spacechimpFacts cost virtually nothing once they have been gathered and published. The internet and television cause many to perceive facts are all readily available. Everything we could want to know (not to mention what we don’t want to know) is up for grabs.

But facts are actually expensive. Someone has to figure it out that first time. An organization has to send reporters or information gatherers, or maybe pay to have a study done, or do rigorous experiments, or real detective work to get to the bottom of it. Someone spent real time and possibly money to acquire the expertise to deliver.

Consumers and information organizations have a choice. News organizations can pay professionals to go investigate and gather facts, not to mention culling it all down and putting it into a relevant context. This costs real money. Or they can pay a couple of people a few hundred dollars to scream at each other on TV for a few minutes.

Both types of information are available on air and online. Consumers choose and the market responds. We can hardly blame the market, and I assume we don’t want any organization “controlling” the news, nor the way it’s presented (more than is already happening).

Opting for free or cheap is easy and usually appears to make pretty good sense on the surface, but someone somewhere will hopefully be willing to pay to truly get the real, factual information we need to make sense of the world. The scary thing is, who? Corporations? Government? Whoever pays has the most control. Period. It’s already happening before our eyes. The value of facts and science is being challenged more and more every day, and you don’t need to pay anyone to tell you that much.

The Selfie

ArtisticSelfieSelfies are all the rage. People rant negatively about them all the time. A teenager’s preoccupation with taking pictures of herself indeed represents a certain amount of self-absorption. But it’s really just a visible sign of an attitude that exists anyway. It puts it out there in a demonstrative way that makes it easier for the rest to see…and be annoyed. The display of vanity. The need for validation. These things aren’t caused by the selfie. It’s just a manifestation of our culture.

How bad of a problem is this really?

Taking photos of oneself is actually a great opportunity to learn about what beauty is. Seeing other people’s selfies is part of that process. One learns how she looks more objectively in photos. The unique features that make you you begin to surface. And the observant eventually starts to recognize that those ARE the things that are distinctive and beautiful.

The feedback pressure cooker of social media, which spawned the need for selfies in the first place, isn’t always the most supportive environment, however that very feedback does serve to validate and inform. It’s a harsh world of subjective assessments, but it’s one you’re in anyway. Since so much in our culture ends up being based on our appearance it’s becoming a necessity that we be more aware of how we actually appear. You ARE going to be judged on your looks. But not just on how well you fit in to a classical interpretation of beauty. Your overall vibe, including a glimpse into your personality, is part of it, and much about that is also conveyed in the look and feel of how you present yourself. All things that the selfie begins to reveal to you and the world. A bit of marketing one learns to refine over time.

There is a more practical side. Text accompanied by selfies much more effectively communicates intent and mood than just text alone.

The Seven Habits Versus Effective Data

The entire professional landscape is about to be turned on its ear. We all know that the role of colleges has changed — diminished. The curated processes, despite all of the inherent biases contained in a college education, have historically formed a useful measure of potential. It’s a specific look at one thing a person is good at: attending college.

What other things trigger assessments about an employee’s potential? Who should get hired? And once hired who should get the most/best resources to help with advancement? Volumes have been written about how fraught with problems our methods are. And it’s not just the biases. Biases are often helpful, when you listen to the right ones. There are lots of things that appear to correlate, but only certain of those really matter. As advanced as we are in some ways, our methods of evaluating and nurturing talent have pretty much sucked. And we wonder why people switch jobs so much.

Moreover, we’ve created in the process a sort of mythical tower of characteristics and achievements to aspire to. Hold these basic characterizations and distinctions and you will succeed…as if what it fundamentally takes to be a great game programmer is in many consequential ways similar to what it takes to be a great nurse. It’s comforting to think we know the select set of things they must and must not have in common, but it turns out we are often wrong.

Enter big data. Our ability to analyze in useful ways large volumes of data is exploding. And it is just because there is SO much data that it can work. Each of us is now leaving a sort of data exhaust of everything we do in our wake. Sophisticated algorithms can make use of that, and by comparing actual outcomes it is possible to accurately predict what we will do, as well has how well we are suited for various activities. This is truly scary stuff.

DataExhuast

Google no longer factors GPA in for anyone more than two years out of school. Data has shown it is not a viable predictor of success in their organization. Xerox (old, staunch company set in its ways?) determined that the ideal employee participates (is not just a member) in at least one but not more than four social networks. Bear in mind this is just one, small data point amidst many, but it is weighed as a factor. You can’t argue with the data. The results are clear and getting clearer. In fact, many of their hiring managers don’t even want to take the time to do interviews anymore because the assessments made therein aren’t as reliable at predicting success as the scores of their sophisticated battery of tests and accompanying research. Anecdotally you can say they may miss a gem in the rough, or that the tests create their own, self-fulfilling prophesy (valid points), but this type of thing is being systematically studied by many firms and the results are clear. In a world where results drive the bottom line certain mistakes or some slop around the edges can be deemed acceptable.

Once a person is at work in a firm it is even easier to collect volumes of data about everything she does. Once you have enough, and have taken the time to compare it to results…the picture comes in to focus.

Scary? Bad? There is certainly a philosophical gray area here. Privacy is quickly becoming a thing of the past as we volunteer more information in widely distributed form than ever before. It’s what people and organizations might DO with all that data that scares us (yet we put it out there anyway). Something you wrote or did years ago could come back to haunt you. Or maybe not. Maybe the thing you think would be bad for others to know might actually help you. It depends on the outcomes of others who did similar things.

Consider all the research showing that happiness at work depends greatly on feeling a sense of agency. If these new tools get people into better fitting jobs where they will tend to succeed more it’s probably a good thing for them, not to mention the companies they work for. Further, the tools can be used to clue people in on their own data that they are generating, which could enable them to better guide themselves in developing their personal effectiveness. If you could look at the data results from the person who got the job you’d like, and compare it to your own, you might be able to make some changes that would help. Can this data be manipulated to fake something about yourself? It’s possible, but there is so much of it, and it can be acquired from so many facets of what you do that you’d practically have to change your behavior through virtually every waking moment of your life…at which point it could be argued you now are that new person you set out to be.

Scary, but think of the possibilities. Then juxtapose it all on to other endeavors such as dating. It’s a big opportunity fraught with big problems. One way or the other mouths must be watering in the law firms!

Those Shoes

03-WgUs4

Those shoes over there aren’t yours. You can only understand through the sum of your own experiences, which are not the same. Is this who you are? Some sweet or violent urge. A weak fallen human. With a promise at the end? I do not judge you.

Relative Size

2001Dave

Humans engage with the world according to size and scope. In other words, we tend to have relationships with elements that are roughly the same physical size as us. When you drill down to the microbe or sub-atomic (or smaller) level we progressively don’t understand it all that well. When you zoom out to the universe we are again out of our element and have many blind spots.

Consider how much of our ongoing perception of the universe is formed by the parts we can more readily interact with and observe. At these other sizes the universe as we understand it begins to break down. And that’s just the part we can see and guess about. If we were there, how much farther into the abyss could we see?

So much we don’t know.


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