ACTIVE REST

in FAVOR of NAPS
http://metro.co.uk/2016/01/07/9-signs-youre-about-to-get-fired-5608196/
http://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/irish-workers-have-second-lowest-number-of-public-holidays-in-the-eu-761269.html
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/9254408/Portugal-scraps-four-public-holidays-to-cut-costs.html
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-economy-output/holidays-sink-german-industrial-output-in-october-idUSKBN1E10WN
http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20171204-the-compelling-case-for-working-a-lot-less
The Compelling Case for Working a Lot Less
by Amanda Ruggeri / 5 December 2017

“When I moved to Rome from Washington, DC, one sight struck me more than any ancient column or grand basilica: people doing nothing. I’d frequently glimpse old women leaning out of their windows, watching people pass below, or families on their evening strolls, stopping every so often to greet friends. Even office life proved different. Forget the rushed desk-side sandwich. Come lunchtime, restaurants filled up with professionals tucking into proper meals. Of course, ever since Grand Tourists began penning their observations in the seventeenth century, outsiders have stereotyped the idea of Italian ‘indolence’. And it isn’t the whole story. The same friends who headed home on their scooters for a leisurely lunch often returned to the office to work until 8pm.


“By law, every European Union country has at least four weeks of paid holiday”

Even so, the apparent belief in balancing hard work with il dolce far niente, the sweetness of doing nothing, always struck me. After all, doing nothing appears to be the opposite of being productive. And productivity, whether creative, intellectual or industrial, is the ultimate use of our time. But as we fill our days with more and more ‘doing’, many of us are finding that non-stop activity isn’t the apotheosis of productivity. It is its adversary. Researchers are learning that it doesn’t just mean that the work we produce at the end of a 14-hour day is of worse quality than when we’re fresh. This pattern of working also undermines our creativity and our cognition. Over time, it can make us feel physically sick – and even, ironically, as if we have no purpose.

Think of mental work as doing push-ups, says Josh Davis, author of Two Awesome Hours. Say you want to do 10,000. The most ‘efficient’ way would be to do them all at once without a break. We know instinctively, though, that that is impossible. Instead, if we did just a few at a time, between other activities and stretched out over weeks, hitting 10,000 would become far more feasible. “The brain is very much like a muscle in this respect,” Davis writes. “Set up the wrong conditions through constant work and we can accomplish little. Set up the right conditions and there is probably little we can’t do.”


“Sweden recently experimented with 6-hour work days, finding employees had better health and productivity”

Do or die
Many of us, though, tend to think of our brains not as muscles, but as a computer: a machine capable of constant work. Not only is that untrue, but pushing ourselves to work for hours without a break can be harmful, some experts say. “The idea that you can indefinitely stretch out your deep focus and productivity time to these arbitrary limits is really wrong. It’s self-defeating,” says research scientist Andrew Smart, author of Autopilot. “If you’re constantly putting yourself into this cognitive debt, where your physiology is saying ‘I need a break’ but you keep pushing yourself, you get this low-level stress response that’s chronic – and, over time, extraordinarily dangerous.”

One meta-analysis found that long working hours increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 40% – almost as much as smoking (50%). Another found that people who worked long hours had a significantly higher risk of stroke, while people who worked more than 11 hours a day were almost 2.5 times more likely to have a major depressive episode than those who worked seven to eight. In Japan, this has led to the disturbing trend of karoshi, or death by overwork.


“So widespread is the issue of death by overwork in Japan that the victim’s family receives government compensation of around $20,000 per year”

If you’re wondering if this means that you might want to consider taking that long-overdue holiday, the answer may be yes. One study of businessmen in Helsinki found that over 26 years, executives and businessmen who took fewer holidays in midlife predicted both earlier deaths and worse health in old age. Holidays also can literally pay off. One study of more than 5,000 full-time American workers found that people who took fewer than 10 of their paid holiday days a year had a little more than a one-in-three chance of getting a pay rise or a bonus over three years. People who took more than 10 days? A two in three chance.

Productivity provenance
It’s easy to think that efficiency and productivity is an entirely new obsession. But philosopher Bertrand Russell would have disagreed. “It will be said that while a little leisure is pleasant, men would not know how to fill their days if they had only four hours’ work out of the 24,” Russell wrote in 1932, adding, “it would not have been true at any earlier period. There was formerly a capacity for light-heartedness and play which has been to some extent inhibited by the cult of efficiency. The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for its own sake.”

That said, some of the world’s most creative, productive people realised the importance of doing less. They had a strong work ethic – but also remained dedicated to rest and play. “Work on one thing at a time until finished,” wrote artist and writer Henry Miller in his 11 commandments on writing. “Stop at the appointed time!… Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.”

Even US founding father, Benjamin Franklin, a model of industriousness, devoted large swathes of his time to being idle. Every day he had a two-hour lunch break, free evenings and a full night’s sleep. Instead of working non-stop at his career as a printer, which paid the bills, he spent “huge amounts of time” on hobbies and socialising. “In fact, the very interests that took him away from his primary profession led to so many of the wonderful things he’s known for, like inventing the Franklin stove and the lightning rod,” writes Davis.

Even on a global level, there is no clear correlation between a country’s productivity and average working hours. With a 38.6-hour work week, for example, the average US employee works 4.6 hours a week longer than a Norwegian. But by GDP, Norway’s workers contribute the equivalent of $78.70 per hour – compared to the US’s $69.60.

As for Italy, that home of il dolce far niente? With an average 35.5-hour work week, it produces almost 40% more per hour than Turkey, where people work an average of 47.9 hours per week. It even edges the United Kingdom, where people work 36.5 hours. All of those coffee breaks, it seems, may not be so bad.

Brain wave
The reason we have eight-hour work days at all was because companies found that cutting employees’ hours had the reverse effect they expected: it upped their productivity. During the Industrial Revolution, 10-to-16-hour days were normal. Ford was the first company to experiment with an eight-hour day – and found its workers were more productive not only per hour, but overall. Within two years, their profit margins doubled.

If eight-hour days are better than 10-hour ones, could even shorter working hours be even better? Perhaps. For people over 40, research found that a 25-hour work week may be optimal for cognition, while when Sweden recently experimented with six-hour work days, it found that employees had better health and productivity.

This seems borne out by how people behave during the working day. One survey of almost 2,000 full-time office workers in the UK found that people were only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes out of an eight-hour day. The rest of the time was spent checking social media, reading the news, having non-work-related chats with colleagues, eating – and even searching for new jobs.

We can focus for an even shorter period of time when we’re pushing ourselves to the edge of our capabilities. Researchers like Stockholm University psychologist K Anders Ericsson have found that when engaging in the kind of ‘deliberate practice’ necessary to truly master any skill, we need more breaks than we think. Most people can only handle an hour without taking a rest. And many at the top, like elite musicians, authors and athletes, never dedicate more than five hours a day consistently to their craft.

The other practice they share? Their “increased tendency to take recuperative naps,” Ericsson writes – one way, of course, to rest both brain and body. Other studies have also found that taking short breaks from a task helped participants maintain their focus and continue performing at a high level. Not taking breaks made their performance worse.

Active rest
But ‘rest’, as some researchers point out, isn’t necessarily the best word for what we’re doing when we think we’re doing nothing. As we’ve written about before, the part of the brain that activates when you’re doing ‘nothing’, known as the default-mode network (DMN), plays a crucial role in memory consolidation and envisioning the future. It’s also the area of the brain that activates when people are watching others, thinking about themselves, making a moral judgment or processing other people’s emotions.

In other words, if this network were switched off, we might struggle to remember, foresee consequences, grasp social interactions, understand ourselves, act ethically or empathise with others – all of the things that make us not only functional in the workplace, but in life. “It helps you recognise the deeper importance of situations. It helps you make meaning out of things. When you’re not making meaning out of things, you’re just reacting and acting in the moment, and you’re subject to many kinds of cognitive and emotional maladaptive behaviours and beliefs,” says Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, a neuroscientist and researcher at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute.

We also wouldn’t be able to come up with new ideas or connections. The birthplace of creativity, the DMN lights up when you’re making associations between seemingly unrelated subjects or coming up with original ideas. It is also the place where your ‘ah-ha’ moments lurk – which means if, like Archimedes, you got your last good idea while in the bath or on a stroll, you have your biology to thank.

Perhaps most importantly of all, if we don’t take time to turn our attention inward, we lose a crucial element of happiness. “We’re just doing things without making meaning out of it a lot of the time,” Immordino-Yang says. “When you don’t have the ability to embed your actions into a broader cause, they feel purposeless over time, and empty, and not connected to your broader sense of self. And we know that not having a purpose over time is connected to not having optimal psychological and physiological health.”


“Even knitting could help your brain recover from non-stop activity”

Monkey mind
But as anyone who has tried meditation knows, doing nothing is surprisingly difficult. How many of us, after 30 seconds of downtime, reach for our phones? In fact, it makes us so uncomfortable that we’d rather hurt ourselves. Literally. Across 11 different studies, researchers found that participants would rather do anything – even administer themselves electric shocks – instead of nothing. And it wasn’t as if they were asked to sit still for long: between six and 15 minutes.

The good news is that you don’t have to do absolutely nothing to reap benefits. It’s true that rest is important. But so is active reflection, chewing through an issue you have or thinking about an idea. In fact, anything that requires visualising hypothetical outcomes or imagined scenarios – like discussing a problem with friends, or getting lost in a good book – also helps, Immordino-Yang says. If you’re purposeful, you even can engage your DMN if you’re looking at social media. “If you’re just looking at a pretty photo, it’s de-activated. But if you’re pausing and allowing yourself to internally riff on the broader story of why that person in the photo is feeling that way, crafting a narrative around it, then you may very well be activating those networks,” she says.

It also doesn’t take much time to undo the detrimental effects of constant activity. When both adults and children were sent outdoors, without their devices, for four days, their performance on a task that measured both creativity and problem-solving improved by 50%. Even taking just one walk, preferably outside, has been proven to significantly increase creativity.

Another highly effective method of repairing the damage is meditation: as little as a week of practice for subjects who never meditated before, or a single session for experienced practitioners, can improve creativity, mood, memory and focus. Any other tasks that don’t require 100% concentration also can help, like knitting or doodling. As Virginia Woolf wrote in a Room of One’s Own: “Drawing pictures was an idle way of finishing an unprofitable morning’s work. Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.”

Time out
Whether it’s walking away from your desk for 15 minutes or logging out of your inbox for the night, part of our struggle is control – the fear that if we relax a grip for a moment, everything will come crashing down. That’s all wrong, says poet, entrepreneur and life coach Janne Robinson. “The metaphor I like to use is of a fire. We start a business, and then after a year, it’s like, when can we take a week off, or hire someone to come in? Most of us don’t trust someone to come in for us. We’re like, ‘The fire will go out’,” she says. “What if we just trusted that those embers are so hot, we can walk away, someone can throw a log on and it’ll burst into flames?” That isn’t easy for those of us who feel like we have to constantly ‘do’. But in order to do more, it seems, we may have to become comfortable with doing less.”

PREVIOUSLY

JOBLESS RECOVERY
https://spectrevision.net/2016/11/28/jobless-recovery/
the LEISURE CLASS
https://spectrevision.net/2016/05/29/leisure-class/
HOLIDAY ENTITLEMENT
https://spectrevision.net/2015/04/10/holiday-entitlement/

PAPER GOLD

FAILURE to DELIVER
https://dailyreckoning.com/waiting-for-the-avalanche/
https://www.silverdoctors.com/gold/gold-news/harvey-organ-there-is-a-13-week-wait-for-physical-gold-or-silver-in-london/
https://www.silverdoctors.com/gold/gold-news/harvey-organ-there-is-no-gold-at-the-comex-they-cannot-supply-any-metal/
http://www.thedailyeconomist.com/2017/11/failure-to-deliver-gold-from-comex.html
Failure to deliver gold from Comex coming as U.S. institution has no metal to cover

“Two interesting articles out on Nov. 29 point towards the U.S. Commodities Exchange (Comex) soon running into a potential default on delivering physical gold in their futures contracts. According to long-time industry analyst Harvey Organ, the numbers being given by the Comex don’t add up, and he has now stated the belief that the Comex has no metal to back up the contracts they have sold.

“For the past eight years or so I have had a very good relationship with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. My desire was always to keep the channels of communication open though I knew that the Comex was manipulated on a daily basis. Always the CFTC, through Mathew Hunter (Bart Chilton’s hand-picked protege), communicated with me on all issues. My deal was not to repeat anything said. I honored that. After learning about the exchange-for-physicals mechanism on the Comex, I raised with the CFTC some important issues about them and initially Hunter responded. However, my last two letters to him have not been acknowledged

I would like to point out the huge difference in deliveries between New York and London. November is a non-active delivery month in gold and we generally witness around 1.5 tonnes delivered upon. However, when you note the amount of contracts transferred it is a whole different story:  Last month we had approximately 8,000 contracts of gold open interest transferred to London per day or 180,000 contracts or 1.8 million ounces  (560 tonnes). This month it looks like we will have around 9,500 contracts transferred per day or 2 million ounces transferred (620 tonnes). It certainly shows that Comex has a lack of physical metal.”

Then on the same day this was asserted by long-time analyst and insider Jim Rickards:

Failure to deliver gold: This is almost definitely coming. So much of the gold market is “paper gold.” This paper gold market is so manipulated, we no longer have to speculate about it. It’s very well documented. But it all rests on a tiny base of physical gold. I describe the market as an inverted pyramid with a little bit of gold at the bottom and a big inverted pyramid of paper gold resting on top. So how does this end? Someday, probably sooner than later, somebody is going to show up and say, “I want my gold, please,” and the custodian won’t be able to give it to them. What if a major institution wants its gold but can’t get it? That would be a shock wave. It would set off panic buying in gold, and inflation expectations — now subdued — could spiral out of control.”

For gold holders it has always been a matter of patience over emotion.  It took a decade for gold to move from $240 in 2002 to a new all-time high of $1940 a decade later.  And since the Fed has had to depress the gold markets with the same amount of money it has used to prop up the stock markets, it is not hard to imagine what the outcome will be once either of these markets loses control, and prices spiral towards equilibrium of what they should have been without the manipulation.”

SLAUGHTERBOTS

FULLY AUTONOMOUS WEAPONS SYSTEMS
https://www.stopkillerrobots.org/
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/nov/13/ban-on-killer-robots-urgent
http://www.dw.com/en/killer-robots-autonomous-weapons-pose-moral-dilemma/a-41342616
by Chase Winter / 14.11.2017

“The United Nations began talks on Monday on lethal autonomous weapons systems amid calls for an international ban on these “killer robots” that could change the nature of warfare. The weeklong meeting of a disarmament grouping known as the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva comes after more than 100 leaders in the artificial intelligence industry warned in August that these weapons systems could lead to a “third revolution in warfare.”

“Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend,” the signatories said in a letter. “The deadly consequence of this is that machines — not people — will determine who lives and dies.”

While the rapid development of artificial intelligence and robotics in the past decade have led to improvements for consumers, the transport sector and human health, the military application of greater autonomy in weapons systems has evoked images of Terminator-type sci-fi war machines entering the battlefield to hunt down adversaries without any human behind the controls.

There is no international consensus on what constitutes a lethal autonomous weapon system, also known as a fully autonomous weapons system. It is often defined as systems that can target and fire alone without meaningful human control. In essence, they are machines with built in hardware or software that allow them to function independently of humans once they are turned on. They function on the basis of artificial intelligence — algorithms assess a situational context and determine the corresponding response.

US Marines with robot
“Handout photo from 2015 of US Marines using a dog-like prototype robot”

Multiple weapons systems from drones, precision-guided munitions and defense batteries already have levels of autonomy, albeit with various degrees of human control. Several countries’ militaries also use human controlled robots to search for mines, traps and unexploded ordinance. 

“Many people underestimate the extent of automation and computerization of warfare today. The use of modern sensors and munitions has already generated greater distance between the human and the battlefield in some cases,” said Michael Horowitz, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania who researches autonomous warfare. “Any discussion of autonomous weapon systems should start by understanding how they are similar to, and different from, existing military technologies.”


“Israeli unmanned Harpy drone (UCAV) Harop”

Strictly speaking, lethal autonomous weapons systems do not exist today. Israel’s Harpy anti-radar “fire and forget” drone is closest. After launch by ground troops, it autonomously flies over an area to find radar that fits pre-determined criteria and then unleashes a kamikaze strike. South Korea has developed a sentry gun system to guard the heavily militarized border with North Korea. The weapons system, which includes surveillance sensors and tracking as well as automatic firing, can be made completely autonomous, but in its current use, it requires a human to approve before engaging.

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a group of NGOs seeking a ban on lethal autonomous weapons, says that sensors and advances in artificial intelligence make it “increasingly possible” weapons systems of the future would target and attack without human intervention. “If this trend towards autonomy continues, the fear is that humans will start to fade out of the decision-making loop, first retaining only a limited oversight role, then no role at all,” the group said in a statement.


“An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket near the southern city of Beersheba in 2012 – part of Israel’s defence system programmed to respond automatically to attack”

In some cases, such as with cruise missiles, its sensors and terrestrial guidance systems can lead to more targeted strikes and fewer unintended casualties compared to traditional bombing. But the experts who signed the August letter expressed moral concern over the development of fully autonomous weapons systems out of today’s semi-autonomous and human-supervised autonomous systems. “Lethal autonomous weapons systems that remove meaningful human control from determining the legitimacy of targets and deploying lethal force sit on the wrong side of a clear moral line,” they wrote.

There is no guarantee any technological system will work perfectly, “but the moment you give it lethal weapons, the danger increases manifold,” said Ulrike Franke, a policy fellow at the European Council of Foreign Relations who researches drones at Oxford University. “A smart armed system can become a dumb armed system quickly.” A fully autonomous system gone awry could take unwanted action in complex battlefield situations, target civilians or engage in friendly fire. The possibility of mistakes with little or no human role also raises questions around the laws of war and military policy, such as who bears responsibility.

“To what extent can we hold a military commander that deploys such a system responsible, if there is no meaningful way for him or her to predict how it will behave?” asked Franke. In the hands of unsavory regimes with little worry about such questions, such systems could be used against its own people. And in the hands of terrorists or non-state actors, a “killer robot” could result in devastating destruction.


“US pilot controls a drone in Afghanistan”

But not everyone thinks that advances in fully autonomous weapons systems will diminish the human role in warfare. Retired US Colonel Brian Hall, an Autonomy Program Analyst at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in July that the advantage of autonomous weapons systems will “come from augmenting human decision making, not replacing it.” Still, he cautioned that given the pace of advances in science and technology the weapons capability of autonomous weapons in the future are difficult to predict, which may require legal and policy changes.

Several countries, including the United States, Russia, China and Israel are researching or developing lethal autonomous weapons systems out of concern adversaries may not be bound by humanitarian, moral and legal constraints, resulting in a potential “killer robot” arms race in the years to come as the technology improves. As Russian President Vladimir Putin said in September, whoever is the leader in artificial intelligence “will become the ruler of the world.”

While the powerful potential of autonomous weapons on the battlefield causes concerns, it also makes them more difficult to ban or regulate, experts said. “This is the arms control dilemma. The more useful potential weapons are for militaries, the harder it is to regulate or ban them,” he said. “Uncertainty about what an autonomous weapon is further complicates the discussion – states are unlikely to agree to regulations or bans if they do not know what will be covered,” he added.

For Franke, an outright ban or arms-control regime is unlikely. Lethal autonomous weapons systems are not like nuclear weapons since they cannot be counted, which is a key requirement for arms control agreements. They also are unlike chemical weapons, which have been banned. And with no strict definition of what a lethal autonomous weapons system is, “there is no way to identify it by just looking at it,” she said.”


“AI can be used to make weapons that operate without human oversight, potentially allowing them to make life or death decisions without approval from a military controller”

aka LETHAL AUTONOMOUS WEAPON SYSTEM
https://futureoflife.org/open-letter-autonomous-weapon
http://autonomousweapons.org/research-and-reports/
https://gizmodo.com/artificially-intelligent-drones-become-terrifying-killi-1820392537
Artificially Intelligent Drones Become Terrifying Killing Machines in Dystopian Film
by George Dvorsky / 11/13/17

“…Two years ago, the FLI released an open letter calling for a ban on autonomous killing machines, which was subsequently endorsed by over 20,000 people (myself included). More recently, AI professor Toby Walsh from New South Wales authored a similar open letter, and just last week over 300 Canadian and Australian scientists penned open letters asking their respective Prime Ministers to support a ban.

The frequency and urgency of these efforts, including this week’s UN meeting in Geneva, shows how close we are to developing and deploying these weapons. It may only be a matter of time before the UN adopts some sort of ban, but for some countries, the temptation to use such weapons may be overwhelming.”

PREVIOUSLY

IF MACHINES COULD BALK : NON-VEGAN BATTLEFIELD ROBOTS [EATR]
https://spectrevision.net/2009/07/24/non-vegan-battlefield-robots/