Will A.I. Take My Job?

At least for me, artificial intelligence is a rapidly growing topic of debate. I have heard arguments about their level of consciousness, superior and inferior abilities, and most of all, what affects they will have on the economy. This last topic is what I plan to share with you today. I hope to present the debate in a fair way, ending with my preferred solution to the growing phenomenon.

Artificial intelligence is commonly referred to as the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence (Marr, 2018). No different than any other tool humanity have invented, A.I. is something we have created to modernize and make our lives easier.  Its tasks range from recognizing one’s face to unlocking a smart phone’s home screen to helping conduct surgery.  Therefore, this tool is helping all around us, even in places we don’t think to look.  

The first position worth mentioning is to focus funding, research and development on artificial intelligence.  Because of artificial intelligence’s profound ability to perform tasks, policies like ITI Unveils First Industry-Wide Artificial Intelligence Policy have been sprouting up recently (ITI Unveils Policy, 2017).  This policy simply advocates to encourage A.I. through funding and research.  The policy sees the advantages of A.I. and therefore embraces it no matter the social consequences that may follow.  It essentially assumes the benefits will greatly outweigh any problems A.I. may create.

A key point to this debate is noticing what makes A.I. unique. This tool’s uniqueness, and issue, is how efficient it is at its job.  Matt Beane, Assistant Professor in the Technology Management Program at University of California, addresses this efficiency in one of his Ted Talks.  He explains how surgeons, and residents in particular, are struggling to gain the skills they need to efficiently preform their job. They are lacking the experience they need because A.I. is simply doing it for them.  Being programmed to minimize their patient’s risk, these A.I. robots are not allowing the unsteady hand of a young resident anywhere near their operation table (Beane, 2018). This puts humanity in an awkward situation of picking between the inefficient human or the flawless tool.  This dilemma of picking between efficiency and humanity leads to the rebuttal of this position.

Quoted from an online Fords article, “Statistics say that 47% of all employment opportunities will be occupied by machines within the next two decades. Statistics also say that about 80% of all Americans believe that they will be able to maintain their livelihood after the prophesized robotic boom,” (Stark, 2017).  In other words, within twenty years, starting two years ago, half of all the known jobs that exist today will be occupied by machines. Remarkably, Stark is not alone with this assumption. BBC News reported that eight-hundred million jobs will be displaced by 2030 due to robot automation (2017).  Along with a recent poll conducted by The New York Times said that 37 percent of the reason people were unemployed from the age of 25 to 54 was due to technology (Miller, 2014). These extreme numbers are appearing because, as said earlier, A.I. is an efficient tool that can function, in select situations, better than humans.  And as A.I. has been developed and improved, their predicted scope of being better than humans has risen accordingly.

Before going too far in this train of thought, one should not forget that this situation has come up before.  The Industrial Revolution was a very similar time to this one. Many people feared that their jobs would be displaced, and sure enough, they were.  Regardless of the Luddites’ fruitless attempts to smash and burn every machine in existence, the revolution did occur along with the displacement of thousands of jobs.  But what many people did not see coming was the thousands of jobs that were created due to this job displacement. With the invention of the steam engine came the end of horse cargoes industry, but also the beginning of railroads.  Yes, cargo builders eventually ran out of work, but simultaneously the demand for engineers grew significantly. Going off of basic laisse-faire principles, it would be counter-intuitive to stop the natural flow of the market. With competition among companies also comes competition among sectors, and as one grows in efficiency it should crush the others.  The jobs of the old sector are destroyed, but by doing so, opens a whole new sector of better, more efficient jobs.

We see this trend continuing with the emergence of A.I.  Dozens of jobs have been created out of seemingly thin air.  Titles like data detective, artificial intelligence business development manager and cyber city analyst have all been created because of A.I. (Stillman, 2017).  Therefore, it would appear that much like the Industrial Revolution, jobs markets are forever changing and should be allowed to maintain a healthy economy.

Yet there remains any issue at hand.  As compelling as this counter statement may be, it neglects two crucial areas when debating the implantation of the A.I.  One of which is referred to as the superiority myth by Daniel Susskind. This myth explains our irrational assumption that human beings will always be the dominant workforce (Susskind, 2017).  This term essentially says, yes, the markets may change, and jobs may be replaced instead of destroyed. But the issue is that this is only beneficially when assuming that the new jobs are best performed by humans.

Within capitalism a worker sells his or her labor.  In the same way as a commodity, our work ability is sold and bought depending on the supply and demand of that product.  Historically, human labor has always been the superior commodity. One with a both constant demand and supply. The issues with A.I. is that it may be the first commodity to replace human worker ability.  No different than the transition from horse cargoes to the steam engine, we may see the same transition from human work ability to A.I. This is an issue because without the demand of human work ability comes a collapse in capitalism.  If the consumers of an economy are not generating revenue to consume with, then no consumption would take place. Which would terminate the cycle of the economy.

The second crucial point to recognize in this debate is that even if jobs are successfully replaced with human beings, there is still a probable decrease in unit labor cost.  Referring to the picture I took in my sociology economics class to the right, as technology has skyrocketed, so has productivity. Yet what has essentially stayed the same is worker hourly compensation.  Therefore, even the workers that have successfully maintained their jobs, have found themselves grossly underpaid. This is not only morally incorrect, because with underpaid workers comes overpaid bosses, but also detrimental to the economy.  With this being one of the major causes of income inequality, the economy is struggling to maintain consumption with such limited demand. If we see A.I. continue its trend of “efficiency”, then we may develop into a grossly unstable and unequal economic structure.

These concluding points have brought me to my preferred position on the matter.  I find it naïve to assume that A.I. will only displace as many jobs as it creates.  Yet I also find it counter-intuitive to become a luddite and attempt to stop technological modernization.  At the end of the day it is a safer world when we have A.I. surgeons who never mess up, compared to human surgeons who sometimes mess up.  Therefore, I find it ideal to allow the growth and modernization of A.I. if we also implement policies that will support and prepare humanity for economic and societal change.

Attempting to not stray too far from the main subject, it should also be noted that the predictions of job displacement and artificial intelligence’s ability to outperform human work ability are only predictions.  Quoted from Scientific America when referring to self-driving cars, “But to me, as a human factors researcher, that’s not enough information to properly evaluate whether automation may actually be better than humans at not crashing. Their respective crash rates can only be determined by also knowing how many non-collisions happen. For human drivers is it one collision per billion chances to crash, or one in a trillion?” (Hancock, 2018).  Hancock explains how it is very difficult to measure collusion rate and therefore it is only through hopeful assumption that we expect autonomous cars to outperform human drivers.  Being a historically accurate trend, human desires tend to cloud reality. It would be great if we could have self-driving cars that functioned hundred times better than any human, but that very well may never be reality.  Sadly, we will not know if it is reality until it happens, and only then will it be too late to take action without issues arising. Hence why policies like the A.I. in the UK: Ready, Willing and Able are critical to our future (Authority of the House of Lords, 2018).  This policy looks at the possible issues that may arise with A.I. and raises awareness of them.  Essentially preparing for the probable societal and economic issues ahead. It is not limiting A.I. development, but instead preparing for it.

A.I. is becoming increasingly important in today’s debates.  Its significance is rising as it outperforms humans in more and more tasks.  As of now there is no clear distinction when this tool will plateau, therefore it would be wise to build awareness and preparation for the future.  By doing so we will not be limiting the arguably inevitable but will instead plan for how to maximize our benefits associated with it. Artificial intelligence may replace human worker ability all together.  It may also plateau and allow for a shift in the workforce rather than the destruction of it. Until that day all we can do is prepare for either option and hope which ever one occurs we will be well suited for.

Work Cited

Rise of Robot Work Force Stokes Human Fears (2014, December 15). Retrieved March 4, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/16/upshot/as-robots-grow-smarter-american-workers-struggle-to-keep-up.html

Miller The Build-up: Good and Ready: After Slow Beginnings, a Big Push in Robotics now seems Imminent. (2014, March 29). Retrieved March 4, 2019, from https://www.economist.com/special-report/2014/03/29/good-and-ready

Marr The Key Definitions Of Artificial Intelligence (AI) That Explain Its Importance. (February 14, 2018) Retrieved March 4, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2018/02/14/the-key-definitions-of-artificial-intelligence-ai-that-explain-its-importance/#5fe2e5594f5d

News Releases – ITI Unveils First Industry-Wide Artificial Intelligence Policy Principles. (October 24, 2017) Retrieved March 4, 2019, from https://www.itic.org/news-events/news-releases/iti-unveils-first-industry-wide-artificial-intelligence-policy-principles

Robot automation will ‘take 800 million jobs by 2030’ – report (November 29, 2017) Retrieved March 4, 2019, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-42170100

Stillman, Jessica 21 Future Jobs the Robots Are Actually Creating (December 6, 2017) Retrieved March 4, 2019, from https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/21-future-jobs-robots-are-actually-creating.html

Hancock, Peter Are Autonomous Cars Really Safer Than Human Drivers? (February 3, 2018) Retrieved March 4, 2019, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-autonomous-cars-really-safer-than-human-drivers/

Authority of the House of Lords AI in the UK: ready, willing and able? (April 16, 2018) Retrieved March 4, 2019, from https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201719/ldselect/ldai/100/100.pdf

Stark, Harold As Robots Rise, How Artificial Intelligence Will Impact Jobs (April 29, 2017) Retrieved March 4, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/haroldstark/2017/04/28/as-robots-rise-how-artificial-intelligence-will-impact-jobs/#a10638f7687d

TED Matt Beane (2018, November). How do we learn to work with intelligent machines? Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/matt_beane_how_do_we_learn_to_work_with_intelligent_machines?language=en#t-10332

TED Daniel Susskind (2017, December). 3 myths about the future of work (and why they’re not true) Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_susskind_3_myths_about_the_future_of_work_and_why_they_re_not_true?language=en#t-640007

How About We Stop Judging

Judging is defined as forming an opinion, or drawing a conclusion, about someone or something with limited knowledge and using your own perspective on the matter.  When considering judgement in this way, I find that it happens a lot more than we realize. Essentially everything we consider and do is in this manner. We use both the knowledge we have and the bias we own to make our decisions and judgement on a situation.

Hence why for the most part I am okay with judging. It is something we are programed to do, there is no denying that.  It is an evolutionary trait we have developed to prepare for quick decision making and necessary assessments of possible danger.  What I am not okay with is when we use this skill on other people and assume we know their situation. When we compare what they are going through to our own experiences, and assume we experienced the same thing but magicly prevailed.  

Here’s the one thing we tend to forget when thinking of others, they aren’t you. You, me, the guy in your tenth grade math class, your crazy neighbor, the junkie on the streets, and whoever else you can think of, all have one commonality.  That commonality is that we lack any absolute commonalities with one another. Let me explain.

Subjectivity is something influenced by feelings, tastes and opinions.  When thinking in this sense, our world is subjective because everything, and I mean everything, is subjective.   A simple example of this is shown when you hold your phone in your hand. As you pickup your phone, you cannot know for sure whether it is you raising the phone or if it is instead levitating up as your hand moves up.  One could argue that you “feel” the phone, but the same situation occurs.  Do you feel the phone in your hands, or does a sensation rush into your hand as you think you are holding the phone?  Any one of our senses could be rearranged in this manner, inconveniencing us into not know which reality is true. This concept is rather difficult to understand, especially in a quick paragraph, so I encourage you to contact me or comment below any questions you may have.

It should be noted that although this concept is commonly accepted among modern philosophers, one should not get stuck on this way of thinking.  However, there is an important thing to notice with this realization. With the understanding of our world being subjective, comes the understanding that how we all interpret this world could be completely different depending on the person.  An example of this, that most of us have all heard, is that your blue could be my red, and vise versa. The colors that I have defined in my head could be entirely different than yours. This is idea goes hand in hand with the Cogito quote, “I think, therefore I am”.  

Since we are not in each other’s heads, it is impossible to tell how someone other than yourself experiences something.  We can relate with one another, but we can not truly know what it feels like to be that person. And that is why the one thing we all have in common leads to the very thing we all have uniquely.  We all live in a subjective world, but that subjective world makes us experience our unique thoughts and emotions.

Hence why judging is so terrible.  When we judge we assume we know what it means to be that person, and to be honest with you, there is no way we do.  Two people’s external surroundings could have been identical and it still wouldn’t matter because their internal ones could been infinitely different.

This is where I feel most of the issue in judgement is.  People compare themselves to others who turned out worse than them, yet grew up in the same environment.  They see these people and sometimes guiltily smile. Many of us only see as far as the external world and assume the rest is the same.  The thing is that it isn’t, and arguably if it was you would do the same exact thing. So unless you wanna disagree with the fact that we are the product of nature and nurture, we need to start considering both parts of people.

Therefore, we need to stop judging others.  We need to because we are in no position to.  We need to acknowledge the fact that someone addicted to cocaine and heroin, spending the next 15 years in the hole from dealing is no worse than you or me.  We all live in an uncertain world. One with no bearing on how anyone thinks other than ourselves. Let’s stop pretending like we are magically better than anyone else. We need to accept the fact that nobody, nobody, deserves to be judged.  And that nobody should have the liberty to use minimal, biased “facts” and throw them onto anyone but themselves.

Acceptance in an Ever Changing World

Acceptance is not inherently good or bad, it just is. So while this means sometimes we must dig up uncomfortable thoughts or feelings, it does not mean we have to dwell on them.

In our ever changing world there is nothing more comfortable than the familiar. Routine, nostalgia, and tradition give us a sense of stability, especially in times where life seems to be moving too fast. Familiarity however, goes beyond these things, it also has a powerful effect on our mind. Once we find ourselves with a comfortable thought or idea, it becomes very challenging to let go of it. Although in the short term this gives us great comfort, it could mean catastrophe for our ability to learn and grow. I believe that we have a powerful tool to combat this stagnation, and I believe that tool is acceptance.

Now there are a lot of ways one could define acceptance, the way I will define it here is “The allowance of a thought or idea to exist in the mind without repression or judgement.” There are many thoughts that we have, some good, and some bad. When I say without judgement that isn’t to say the thought itself should not but judged, but that its existence should not be. For instance I may have the thought “I am a bad person, people do not like me.” this thought is inherently negative and I don’t believe it should be given much credence, however, it should also be allowed to exist in the mental space without repression. This allows us to have a wider perspective on our thought process, and be more in tune with our own thinking. From that point of hearing the thought out, I can then decide whether or not it is important to listen to, in this case I decide it isn’t, and let it fade away of its own volition.

I have been practicing acceptance a lot lately, I find it has brought me a lot of peace. For myself, it usually involves emotional acceptance. I find personally I push feelings away, usually with prejudice, as opposed to letting them have their space. So the way I have been practicing is when I notice an emotion, is to simply let it exist, acknowledging its presence and the fact that it is temporary. This technique works for a lot of things besides emotions. Accepting differences in opinions, shameful thoughts or feelings, and events that have occured can bring a powerful change to life. With that said however, there is a large caveat that you must be on the lookout for.

Acceptance is not inherently good or bad, it just is. So while this means sometimes we must dig up uncomfortable thoughts or feelings, it does not mean we have to dwell on them. When first practicing this way of thinking I found myself stuck in a rut many times. I would just keep dwelling on negative events from the past. This is not acceptance, but only the opposite of ignorance. With acceptance it is important to allow things to just exist as they are, then to deal with them in that state.

I spoke earlier of our fast moving world and of comfort. I believe that many times when the world changes around us, we do not accept our new reality. This could be as small as not accepting an outsiders opinion, to something as large as not accepting the death of a loved one. Either way if we do not accept change as it comes then we will never adapt to our new reality, and thus we will never grow. It may be painful, it may be uncomfortable, or maybe even exciting but I believe that acceptance is the way towards exiting our comfort zone and truly growing into wiser people.

The Paper

Paper, a simple invention. It is the representation of its writer’s power. Whether the writer be a person or society is up to the paper and the words that are written on it. This power can hold us back, or it can encourage us to take the next step. It can let us see with clear vision, or with no vision on at all.

Yet I am not looking to write a post on the abstract power of paper. Instead I hope to address one paper. A simple paper, single-sided, Times New Roman, double-spaced, and equipped with just the right-sized headers.  Every six months I faced this paper. And every six months I faced the same issue. I was “forced”, more forced by myself than anyone else, to lie my way through the semi-annual depression screening.

The questions would always begin harmless. Have you had a poor appetite?  Do you feel tired? Simple questions, but the simple answers are not what they are after.  As clear as an inverse relation graph can show, with each question growing in significance, my confidence got smaller and smaller.  The time between each question extended rapidly. Questions like, have you been feeling hopeless about the future? and Have you been feeling blue became tricky to maneuver through.

This trend continued until I was stuck.  I was stuck debating whether to answer how I feel or how I should feel.  What I actually think or what I am told to think. I usually solved this issue by turning to my mother.  She told me what I should think. She was good at that, always has been. She told me the excuses I needed to hear to feel normal.  With her help I was able to maneuver and lie through the questions successfully for years.

Years went by and paper after paper I was faced with the same questions over and over again.   Each time I read them, they got worse. Severity grew from 4 to 5, which later grew to 6 and then to 7.  Questions that I could once confidently check off became questionable. Questions that were questionable now became impossible.  Impossible until the normal was gone. Until the moment I accepted that I may just be abnormal after all.

On that day, that I accepted my abnormality, I looked at the paper and I answered it.  I answered it all. It felt good to tell the truth. I didn’t totally know why, but I just felt satisfied.  Not an hour after leaving the office I received a call from the very nurse who gave me my semi-annual paper.  I heard concern in her voice. Over the phone, she asked if I knew what I had written, how I had answered and what it meant.  I said of course I do. She asked if I was getting help. And I said of course I was. She said okay, have a nice day, and hung up.

That was it.  Years of fear from telling the truth, from really saying how I felt, for that.  For a two minute phone call. It is amazing how extreme our imagination can inflate these situations.  I mean come on, I was expecting something. No screaming or crying on the phone in protest of my answers?  Not even a call to my parents informing them of my possible condition. Nothing.

Fear is such an unnecessary emotion.  Fear is the anticipation of pain and danger.  Normal is also such a relative and frustrating word. Therefore, it can be concluded that fear from not being normal could quite possibly be the most pointless source of pain for anyone experiencing it.

Many people in this world live their day to day lives in fear of pointless social norms.  In fear of standing out, and being vulnerable.  These fears are destructive and limiting.  I don’t know if they can be erased, but I believe they can be addressed.

I used to think sadness was weakness, so I lied.  Now, I see it as neither good or bad, it just is. Instead the power lies in the truth.  The truth was that I was depressed, and the truth was not going to go anywhere until I addressed its power in the first place.  Don’t let fear hold you from the truth because without our truths comes merely the power of our representation rather than ourselves.

What is Gender?

Gender and sex.  Although the distinction may seem obvious to some, I have found this is not the case for everyone.  Some find it difficult to understand that these two things are by no means the same, and that they do not define one another.  That gender is merely the assumption we have for someone depending on their sex. Second wave feminism is the sociological concept I am referring to above.  It is the idea that sex should not determine gender.

Before I continue I would like to state that this article assumes in sociological second wave feminism, rather than third wave feminism.  For those of you who do not know, third wave feminism is the idea that sex is on a spectrum, not just gender. Also, for the record I would like to say I have not completely ruled out this concept and will most likely write a post in favor of such beliefs in the near future.

Moving forward, I believe this idea is difficult to understand for two main reasons.  One of which begins with sexologist John Money. He was the first to coin the term “gender role” in 1955.  This term later rose in popularity during the 1970s, when used in feminist theories. Hence, this concept has only been around for the last forty years.  

The second main reason is that language is largely a binary system.  This system causes issues when our brains try to understand ideas outside of that binary mindset.  For instance, we have a much easier time conceptualizing the idea that one’s gender is either girl or boy, rather than a spectrum that ranges anywhere from zero to hundred percent.  

This is an issue because our binary way of thinking is largely how we see the world.  Boy or girl, homosexual or heterosexual, white or black, mentally ill or healthy, Democrat or Republican, the list goes on.  In reality, these concepts are all on a spectrum, but it is because of our language that they are instead divided into yes or no bins with no wiggle room.  

Having such division is an issue because with set identities comes extreme obligations.  With a system that only sees gender as two options, we as a society feel a lot of pressure.  Boys feel pressure to be brave, confident, and not to show weakness. Girls on the other hand feel obligated to be passive, perfect, and caring.  Although these characteristics may prove to be true for who you are now, I would bet that would not necessarily be the case is the pressures were flipped.

These gender identities create societal pressure for both sides to feel.  Pressures that, in large, are just not who we are. As someone with a penis, I can say I am not very confident.  In fact, I struggle with confidence a lot, but until I really started breaking this concept down there was no way I would ever admit it.  Why? Because gender roles said so. According to one body part, an expectation was pushed onto me before I was even born. Before I even saw the world for the first time, my mother was buying blue clothes with slogans like “chick magnet”.  Quality shirt to say the least, but I do not think that it would have received the same support if I was born with a vagina.

Sex is arguably determined by biological body parts.  Gender on the other hand is the assumption society makes about an individual because of their sex.  Now of course we can admit that sex stands for something. The average male is bigger than the average female, I will not try to deny that.  

The problem is when we assume things past those minor biological differences.  For instance, there is no correlation between body size and ability to lead. Regardless, 58% of the Fortune 500 male ceos are taller than six foot.  With the national average at 14.5%, one is left to wonder why this trend exists, not to mention that only 5% of those ceos are female. Our assumptions we have with gender, or any other forms of stereotyping for that matter, give us a biased take on reality.  One that assumes people will be a certain way because of biological factors that they simply have no dictation over.

Society should strive to see people for who they really are, and not for how we assume they will be.  Of course this a lot easier said than done, but I believe the first step in the right direction is with you.  With you reading this post and trying to see others just a tad differently. In a way with minimal prejustice, and maximum openness.  With open eyes that look past our binary way of thinking. To understand that how and who we identify as is a lot more complicated than a few body parts.

Word Cited

Kaul, Vivek. “The Necktie Syndrome: Why CEOs Tend to Be Significantly Taller than the Average Male.” The Economic Times, Economic Times, 30 Sept. 2011, economictimes.indiatimes.com/the-necktie-syndrome-why-ceos-tend-to-be-significantly-taller-than-the-average-male/articleshow/10178115.cms.

Abadi, Mark. “There Are Only 25 Women CEOs in the Fortune 500 – Here’s the Full List.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 13 Aug. 2018, www.businessinsider.com/fortune-500-companies-women-ceos-2018-8.

Life is a Trap

I am not going to lie, this realization is not a “happy” one.  I use quotes on this term simply because of how relative it is.  How relative our definition of what is happy and what is sad. In truth there is nothing sad about this realization, but regardless sadness is typically our initial reaction to ideas like this one.  This idea is that life is a trap.

Before I continue with this I would like to clarify my definition of a trap. A trap is something one does not mean to get into, yet does anyways.  Something people or things try to avoid, yet are tricked into walking in. They are tricked into this trap, because they believe it is “their” decision.  A squirrel runs into a snare because it believes the peanut butter is easy pickings. A person sends money to a Nigerian prince because he or she believes they will get gold in return.  A trap lets you believe you are making your decision for your own interests, but in reality you are doing it for the trapper’s interest.

Now how in the world is life a trap?  Life is a trap because we have the illusion of control and free-will in our decisions and who we are.  Life is seen as something we experience, rather than something we are a part of. We do not choose who we are or who we become.  We don’t experience life, we are life. Individually, each and everyone of us are life that functions as life is suppose to. And one of those common functionals for complex life is to give meaning to itself.  By creating meaning and purpose, there is motivation to continue itself and its species lifespan.

The blunt, objective reality is that nothing matters.  To be more exact, nothing even exists in the concrete, defined way we interpret it as.  A computer is not a computer. A dog is not a dog. Life is not life. These things have no ultimate definition or meaning to them. They are created by ourselves to make the illusion of what we consider life.  To make the illusion of progress and purpose. This illusion is a trap because it is something we believe we are in control of, when in reality we just do exactly what a living species is suppose to.

We are creating the trap of life, which we call the world.  One with hope. One with goals and ambitions. One that is yours for the taking if you are ambitious enough.  And look how false it is. Look how not real it is. How fabricated it is. I see reality, the concrete reality, as everything around us, yet never we can identify with.

This now begs the question of the who trapper is.  If there is a trap, then there must be someone who set it.  Ironically, I believe we are the trappers. Each and everyone of us have created the trap of life for ourselves.  This makes sense because who can live like I have been describing in the last couple of paragraphs. Who can live with nothing.  Who can live as nothing. Not humans, that much I can guarantee, and probably not any life for that matter. So whether it be conscious or not, ironically, we are the creators of a trap we all “consciously” walk into.  We are the trappers of ourselves and our trap is the illusion of how we define and give purpose to the world around us.

This idea seems sad because it is exactly what we, as the trappes, attempt to avoid.  It is the line of thinking that in many cases is the pill we never swallow. The thing is it doesn’t have to be sad, because just like anything, sadness is not sadness.  Nothing is clear cut, and therefore nothing has to be reacted a certain way. By stepping out of the trap humanity has created for itself, comes the end of one reality. The end of one “truth”, which then probably leads to another “truth”.  

One should wonder that if that is the case, then is there even a point to get out of this trap if we will naturally just create another one for ourselves?  The answer is I have no idea. I haven’t the faintest clue of what is outside of our trap. As of now I just see darkness, but my bias to see darkness could very well be clouding the light at the end of the tunnel.  My ingrained way of thinking within the trap could simply make me assume there is nothing outside of it.

Therefore, I have no answer.  I have no idea, and I may go my whole life not knowing, but you don’t know until you try.  So my one request is to consider this abstract thought. Not because it is a better way to think, or even necessarily going to lead to anything, but because it is a truer way to think with incomprehensible potential.  

Conflict and Words

How we say things is as important as what we are saying.

Conflict is something that I have always found terribly uncomfortable. I would argue that most of the conflicts that we have with one another are unnecessary. These conflicts simply exist because of poor communication. In this case I am defining a conflict as an argument or serious disagreement between two or more people, that may, or may not lead to physical violence. I believe that the majority of conflicts, major or minor, can be avoided by the use of patience and careful word choice.

A prime example of common conflicts are those amongst couples. Next time you hear a couple argue or bicker, listen in on what began it. So often I find that the fight isn’t over anything at all, it was just because of the way something was said. How we say things is as important as what we are saying. There are a thousand ways to express any sentiment. Naturally, some of these ways are going to be better than others.

Let’s think about two ways I could say “I love you” to someone. One way I could say it is, “If I had a list of all of the things I loved, you would always be in the number one spot.” Another way of saying the same thing is, “I love you even more than hamburgers, and those are my second favorite thing!” both sentiments describe a list of things I love, both say the one I love is number one, however one sentiment is clearly more romantic than the other.

So going back to conflict, it seems that so many people present their statements to others from a place of anger. Anger warps what we mean to say a lot of the time, it then only serves to make the other person angry. I believe that it is best to present statements from a place of patience and understanding, that way they can be met with the same in return.

I know that this is much easier said than done. After all it can be a real challenge to stay calm and collected all of the time. That is why the process to become a better communicator is challenging and always ongoing. It is so important to however, that I think it is worth the effort that it takes to learn. There are two basic steps to working towards becoming a better communicator, listening, and then responding in a way you believe your audience will understand the most.

Listening is so essential when it comes to defusing conflict. After all if you don’t listen you probably won’t be able to come up with an appropriate response in the first place. To practice this I would suggest to give yourself little reminders during conversation, ask yourself “am I listening to what they are saying?” It seems like a small thing but can really make a big difference, especially when well practiced.

Responding in a way that your audience will understand most is also a powerful tool to defuse conflict. Imagine a child has taken something from you and is upset that they had to give it back. One could explain to the child that stealing is wrong through abstract concepts and talk of the nature of morality, however I think this would be ineffective. A better way would be to appeal to the emotional side of the child, possibly relate to a time something was taken from them. Every person is different in their own way, so it is important we keep that in mind and know that a way we respond to one person during a time of conflict is not the same way we respond to another.

I hope that as we become more advanced we see less conflict in the world. More importantly than avoiding conflict, is the way that we respond to one another. If we listen more to one another, and tailor our words to who we are speaking with then we will be well on our way to a more peaceful world. Not to mention, a world full of more thoughtful and productive conversation.

Our Concrete Minds, Making a Concrete Universe

aLife, existence, reality, whatever you want to call it, what is it?  Where are we? And who are we? These are only a few of the seemingly unanswerable questions.  Questions asked in such an abstract mindset that a solution seems impossible. They are impossible until we bring them into conceptually objective terms and allow assumptions to be made.

Life is the existence of an individual human being or animal.  That is straight out of Google. Within a millisecond I received an answer to such a confusing question.  Obviously we both know Google’s answer isn’t anywhere close to what I was referring to in the first paragraph.  It seemed clear I was questioning the nature of our reality. Essentially wondering what the very thing existence can be classified as other than using synonymous words with the one I am trying to define.  Yet here is Google doing what is does best, giving us straightforward, concrete answers.

I then asked Google what the universe is expanding into. It told me, “The Universe isn’t expanding into anything, it’s just expanding. The definition of the Universe is that it contains everything. If something was outside the Universe, it would also be part of the Universe.”  Nice, another easy one. We are in the universe, which is within itself, so we are definitely in the universe. A simple concrete way to address such a complex question. Rather than wondering what could be beyond the fabric of time and matter, it is quickly concluded that there is nothing.

I think you get the point.  There appears to be an issue when trying to ask an abstract question in such a concrete world.  Whether it be the respect we have for hard science compared to soft science or the traditional answers we have for thought provoking questions, it seems we have a preference to think concretely.  For instance, which theory is less accepted: Plate Tectonics dictating Earth’s land movements, or the distinction between gender and sex.  These are both commonly accepted among the scientists within their field. Yet the distinction between gender and sex appears to be widely less accepted, which, all in all, makes total sense.

Of humanity’s two-hundred thousand years of existence, all but five percent of that time has been spent running around as hunters and gatherers.  It wasn’t until roughly ten-thousand years ago we began to use our brains in ways that advanced human development. As you can imagine this has not allowed a lot of time for abstract thought.  Rather than sitting in a room questioning who we are, most of humanity has spent its time looking is next meal.

This dominance in thought has, in my opinion, led to a huge societal problem.  I feel that this bias and preference for concrete thought has limited society’s growth.  It is stopping us from considering so many perspectives and ideas simply because we are not used to thinking in that way.  We either take these abstract questions as absolute truth or unpopular opinion. For example, have you ever considered that we assume if something is false it can not be true? It may seem obvious at first, but when you break it down you realize it is merely an assumption we make, rather than a fact of the universe.

These ways of thinking should both be considered in the same questioning, yet open minded way.  We should strive to understand the significance of both and allow them to cross our minds before we take a stance on a subject.  Google’s first link is convenient and fast, so we definitely should not ignore that luxury. But maybe we need to give the concrete mindset a little break.  Maybe we need to scroll a little down the page to find the less accepted, but equally important answers to the world around us.

Let me know what you think in the comments below and feel free to click the link below to read more on subject reasoning and thought. http://complexitylabs.io/subjective-thinking/

Our Biased School System Part 2

The issue with my story is that, why was there even confusion in the first place?  Why after twelve years of schooling was I still clueless on what career I wanted going into college?  I mean I had eighteen years to figure out what job I wanted. Eighteen years to decide on the right career before I started paying for it.  So I ask myself, why did I start a major that I had no intention of finishing?

I think the answer is simple, because as I said in Part 1, engineering is what I should do.  I “should” become an engineer because it is extremely high in demand.  I “should” become an engineer because it will pay very well. And I “should” do these things because they are safe, and safety is what helps the economy.  

Our government wants its economy to flourish, like any government.  With a better economy comes thriving businesses, less unemployment, and happier citizens.  Therefore, the current system is pushing our educated youth in the direction of where the money is.  We are currently in the middle of a technological revolution, so it would make sense that our government is pushing students towards STEM field jobs.

This is why I do not blame the government for their actions, I simply see an issue with the mindset it has created.  The focus on certain subjects, and not others, has created a hierarchy within the educational system. Students who are intelligent in math are seen as geniuses, while students who are talented in the arts are seen as people with good hobbies.  People do not deny that some students are good at art, but they instead deny the importance of art.

This branches much farther than just art and math.  We see the hierarchy creating “hobby” subjects, like music, humanities, and soft sciences.  These subjects, especially in high school, are valued as lesser than the other subjects, like math and science.  

The best example I can think of this is when I was in eleventh grade physics class.  The student next to me was having trouble with the subject matter and turned to me for help.  As we worked through the problem, I noticed a sketch he had drawn during the class period. The sketching was beautiful, I can still remember the twenty different shades he made with a single pencil.  They came together to form a face with intricate eyes and an open mouth. I loved the drawing, and according to him it took no effort at all. I was floored, I could not have drawn something half as good as that if I was given the whole school day.  Yet here he was, drawing with minimal focus, as he listened to the lesson.

As I told him my amazement for his work, he gave me a confused look.  He simply responded by saying how I was the genius because of my physics skills.  From his perspective, his skills were insignificant, while mine were of the only significance.  Sadly, there was little I could do to let him see otherwise. With every test we got back, I almost doubled his score.  And each time he was reminded how bad he was at physics, how bad he was at what “mattered”.

Now you can say that he only felt that way because we were in physics class, and that if we were in an art class the tables would turn.  The thing is, the tables never turned because they never had to. We were both required to take physics to graduate, but we were not required to take art.  This difference in requirements makes for a huge amount of problems. If everyone had to take art, like physics, then my friend would have seen just how skilled he really was.  Instead he is lead to believe that he is bad at the important classes, the required ones, and average at the hobby classes, since only skilled people, like him, take those classes.

This hierarchy has to stop because of the millions of students who are miss lead into believing they are unintelligent every year, when they are in fact geniuses. They are simply not smart in the way they “should” be.  This is why I propose an alternative to our current educational system. I believe high school and middle school should have equal requirements across every subject. Rather than having three math requirements and one art requirement we should have an equal two each.  Rather than having four history requirements and zero humanities requires we should again, have an equal two.

This equal number of requirements would allow students to truly be able to know what career they want to pursue in college.  By forcing high school students to experience different branches of knowledge, rather than forcing them to only learn one branch, I would bet the number of students with a declared major would increase drastically.  We would have an entire wave of future workers that know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. An entire generation of students that do not waste the few years of paid education taking a major they “should” take.

Now as fun as it is to see things in the ideal sense, we must remember that they are not always practical, but believe me when I say, this is logical in every way.  So here are the numbers, roughly 35 percent of students go into college undeclared. Of the students that go into college with a major, about 75 percent of them switch their major at least once (Freedman, 2013).  Now if we assume that the average student has his or her major finalized by the beginning of their second year, which is probably an underestimate. That means 83.75 percent of students will have wasted their first year of college level education on subject matter they have intention of continuing.

One should also keep in mind that college, for the most part, is not free.  Over 44 million Americans hold collective student debt that reaches 1.5 trillion dollars.  This indicates that the average student loan borrower owes 37,172 when first graduating college (Hess, 2018).  We just indicated that 83.75 percent of the average student’s first year is a financial waste. This means that about 314 billions dollars of student debt could have been avoided.  The average student loan borrower would owe his or her college roughly 7,780 dollars less right now!

So yes, our economy may suffer a little initially.  We may not be the country with the most engineers, or the most computer scientists, but I would bet we would be hell of a lot happier.  Students would become workers, and actually desire the transition. Workers would love their jobs, and actually want to make that daily commute.  

People would be a lot happier because they would love their jobs and the knowledge they learned when preparing for it, not to mention the extra seven thousand dollar they would have in their pockets.  With less debt this country’s economy would improve, and with happier citizens would come more motivated workers. Of course there is no guarantee, but I will guarantee that the job you “should” do is a lot better than the one you will do.

Word Cited

Freedman, L. (2013, June 28). The Pennsylvania State University Division of Undergraduate Studies. Retrieved August 10, 2018, from https://dus.psu.edu/mentor/2013/06/disconnect-choosing-major/

Hess, A. (2018, February 15). Here’s how much the average student loan borrower owes when they graduate. Retrieved August 10, 2018, from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/15/heres-how-much-the-average-student-loan-borrower-owes-when-they-graduate.html

Our Biased School System Part 1

I came out of high school knowing one thing, that I should be an engineer.  With little thought, everyone encouraged me to pursue this amazing profession.  I mean how could they not. With the high pay, huge job market and respected field of study, there was no reason to not be an engineer.  Therefore, whether it was my teachers, family or friends they all said one thing, engineering was meant for me.

In this sense they weren’t wrong.  I am skilled at problem solving, along with mathematics and science.  The left side of my brain has dominated my intelligence for years, allowing me to strive in classes that some cannot.

At first, it appeared that math and science were the only things I could do well.  Yes, I had side skills and intelligence, but none of which were taken seriously in school.  Sure, I had a knack for understanding people, but I never took a high school class that gives an “A” for psychoanalyzing my friends.  I was good at math and science, and that was all that mattered because it was going to make me a well paid engineer.

I thought this for the first two months of college, until I realized how wrong I really was.  With taking my first sociology class ever, I realized just how relevant those side skills actually were.  Not only that, but I also found a passion in the class, I actually wanted to learn. For the first time in my life, I actually began learning material outside of the course.  I started watching TED talks, reading articles, and getting involved in long discussions with my friends. All of which I was choosing to do.

With little to no hesitation, I added a minor in sociology.  I was thrilled, I could now be an engineer that also learned about the things that interested me.  And it only took a few months after that that I began to fully come to terms with what I was discovering.   This was something that I had known for many years, but was too afraid to say out loud. That truth was that I was not going to be an engineer.

I denied this because it was complete insanity compared to everything I had been taught.  My path was simple, I was good at math and science, so engineering was good for me. It would give me money and I would live a happy life.  Yet deep down I knew that I would never be happy making robots for some company. Deep down I knew the things that interested me had nothing to do with engineering, and that these side interests were inevitably going to become my life.

So there I was, first year of college with no idea of what I wanted to do, yet very well knowing I did not want to do what I was presently doing.  Thankfully, by the end of the year I was able to discover the right path for me and acted on it. I am now majoring in sociology and statistics with the intention of becoming a social researcher.  With the help of friends and academic advisors I was able to find what interests me, and then pick a career that was both logical and desirable.

Next week I will be writing about how I interpret the bigger picture of my education story.  Along with a system that I believe will help students decide on a career path that they both want to do and can easily pursued.