THIS is your BRAIN on POVERTY


“Nixon and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who designed his negative income tax plan.”

POST CAPITALISM or BUST?
https://www.theatlantic.com/marshmallow-test/
https://www.marketwatch.com/want-to-level-income-inequality
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-05259-x
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2011/12/four-futures
http://money.cnn.com/2018/03/07/retirement/millennial-retirement-savings/index.html
https://www.salon.com/2018/03/18/some-millennials-arent-saving-for-retirement-because-they-do-not-think-capitalism-will-exist-by-then/
Some millennials aren’t saving for retirement because they don’t think capitalism will exist by then
by Keith A. Spencer / March 18, 2018

“CNN reported last week that 66 percent of millennials aged 21 to 32 have nothing saved for retirement. And while their writer chalks up this inequity to student loans, “stagnant wages” and “high unemployment,” there may yet be a deeper cause: many millennials honestly don’t see a future for our economic system. The aforementioned CNN article about millennials’ (lack of) retirement savings went semi-viral, partly because many saw humor in how it missed how many truly felt. “RT if socialism is your retirement plan,” Holly Wood, 32, a political organizer, wrote on Twitter.

The idea that we millennials’ only hope for retirement is the end of capitalism or the end of the world is actually quite common sentiment among the millennial left. Jokes about being unable to retire or anticipating utter social change by retirement age were ricocheting around the internet long before CNN’s article was published. Older generations, and even millennials who are better off and who have managed to achieve a sort of petit-bourgeois freedom, might find this sentiment unimaginable, even abhorrent. And yet, in studying the reaction to the CNN piece and reaching out to millennials who had responded to it, I was astounded not only at how many young people shared Wood’s feelings, but how frequently our expectations for the future aligned.

Many millennials expressed to me their interest in creating self-sustaining communities as their only hope for survival in old age; a lack of faith that capitalism as we know it would exist by retirement age; and that alternating climate crises, concentrations of wealth, and privatization of social welfare programs would doom their chance at survival. “In general, I regard the future as a multitude of possibilities, but most of them don’t look good,” Elias Schwartzman, 29, a musician, told me. “When I’m at retirement age, around 2050, I think it’s possible we’ll have seen a breakdown of modern society.” Schwartzman said that he saw the future as encompassing one of two possibilities: an apocalyptic “total breakdown of industrial society,” or “capitalism morphing into a complete plutocracy.” “I think the argument can be made that we’re well on the way to that reality,” he added.

Wood, 32, a political consultant, told me via Twitter that she felt similarly. “I don’t think the world can sustain capitalism for another decade,” she explained. “It’s socialism or bust. We will literally start having resource wars that will kill us all if we don’t accept that the free market will absolutely destroy us within our lifetime [if] we don’t start fighting its hegemony,” she added. “Capitalism might still exist [in 2050], but I don’t expect people will be happy about it,” Jon Good, 34, a chocolatier and small business owner, said. “If [capitalism] is replaced [by then], my ideal economic model is one where all basic necessities are abundant and free, everyone works a few hours a week at the necessary chores of society like garbage collection and machine maintenance, then has the rest of their lives free to pursue whatever projects—be they art, leisure, or industry—that they desire.”

That utopian hope, that we could theoretically end up in a sort of fully-automated post-work social democracy à la “Star Trek,” was expressed by others too. “I think a system with universal basic income is inevitable if we’re going to survive the automation of jobs as a society,” Becca Cook, 30, told me over Facebook chat. “We need to shift our understanding and expectations to a world where not everyone has to have a job.” Sarah Frasco, 26, a student, saw a gulf between her and the young people who even thought about things like retirement. “For the most part, the idea of retirement or how you plan for it is really the privilege of the few people my age who have access to that kind of security and stability,” Frasco told Salon. “I know a few people from school who are on that track right now and sometimes I compare myself to them and wonder how I’ll ever catch up.”

Good agreed with Frasco that retirement savings plans were the domain of bourgeois millennials. “In the 12 years since graduating college, I’ve spent one year working a job with benefits,” Good told Salon. “The rest of the time I’ve been cobbling together gigs and part-time jobs and under-the-table work that hasn’t paid me enough to save anything. The economic realities of my generation make the expectations for my parents’ generation seem ludicrous to me—having a job with benefits and that pays enough that I can make rent, and save for retirement and also maybe for a down payment on property seems like a lottery,” Good continued. “Maybe 15 percent of my peer group has this, and having it is a combination of luck and family connections rather than skill and work ethic.”


“Chart of intentions to do something about it”

Most intriguing, many millennials said that their life plans, goals and careers had been affected by their expectations of the future and the dismal economic circumstances into which they were born. “I was someone who very much wanted to have children by age 35 and no longer think that [is] even a remote possibility, even with two parents,” Wood told Salon. “And having the role of parent so squarely removed from my trajectory of life possibility has made me take bigger risks and made me unlikely to take on any job just for the sake of my résumé.”

Of course, many millennials are not even in a position of considering retirement savings, much less having options when it comes to work or life decisions. More millennials live in poverty than any other generation, according to a recent Pew Research poll, which noted that “5.3 million of the nearly 17 million U.S. households living in poverty were headed by a Millennial.” But for millennials who had more economic agency, the expectation of an unstable future meant trying to find happiness in the present. “I just blew all my savings on a nine-month road trip on the assumption that something is going to change drastically in the next few years,” Cook said. “Not only am I not saving for retirement, I have never had a serious job because I have thought capitalism would be fucked by [the time I retired] since I was a teenager,” Shannon Malloy, 31, a student, organizer and bartender, said.

They say every generation thinks that it will be the last, as alt-country crooner Jeff Tweedy of Wilco rhapsodized. And yet, for millennials, it is perhaps understandable given the environmental and political situation at hand. Our ecological survival on the planet seems incompatible with the ever-hungry maw of capitalism, which requires ever-accelerating industrial production and consumption. Just as pollution, carbon emissions, deforestation and planned obsolescence are “good” for capitalist economies, they are horrendous for the environment and seem to be driving us to extinction in ways that are now manifesting in extreme weather events. Meanwhile, the planet’s tilt toward authoritarian politics and privatization do not bode well for the young.

Interestingly, privileged millennials on the higher end of the economic spectrum had trouble comprehending these kinds of attitudes. John Hagensen, 35, founder and managing director of investment advisory firm Keystone Wealth Partners, couldn’t fathom his struggling coevals’ alternative visions of the future. “I guess my argument to [their points] would be whether [societal collapse] happens or not, where does that change the personal responsibility for you to prepare yourself to take care of yourself and be responsible for yourself?” Hagensen told Salon. “They may be right, so does that mean that for the next 25 years they should save nothing?” Despite Hagensen’s preconceptions that lack of retirement planning indicated a lack of personal responsibility, the millennials I interviewed had all planned thoughtfully and carefully for their retirement — just not in the “traditional” manner, via investment accounts, that Hagensen was accustomed to.

Indeed, there was a surprising congruity among what “planning for retirement” meant for most of those whom I interviewed. “If I don’t die in the revolution I imagine I’ll be living in an intentional community,” Malloy said. “Either because we have no other options or because we’re trying to have as much autonomy as possible so we can keep doing [political organizing] work. I don’t count on ‘the work’ being finished enough to chill out in our lifetime,” she added. “I’m absolutely convinced over how quickly friends have lost their pensions, 401ks and IRAs to bubble crashes that there is no safe place to ‘save’ for retirement,” Wood said, “And the best way to plan for retirement is by building tribes of like-minded peers who have committed themselves to group survival. I’m way more invested in the family I’m building now than any fake sense of security that some mutual fund may or may not provide for me 20 years from now,” she added.

“When I’m at retirement age, around 2050, I think it’s possible we’ll have seen a breakdown of modern society,” Schwartzman told Salon. “I do see it as a real possibility that nuclear holocaust or environmental apocalypse will make money completely meaningless, and that reinforces my approach of living in the now. If I can find my way to saving, or creating a lot of wealth, I’ll use it to buy land and build toward self-sufficiency as a way to hopefully protect myself against the various unpleasant futures that I can see ahead of us.” The remarkable consensus suggests that us millennials lacking traditional retirement savings plans might still have a happy retirement outlook, just not in the conventional way that previous generations did. If political organizers and mass movements succeed, we’ll have a post-work, post-scarcity future to look forward to; and if not, it seems that many are committed to building their own solidarity networks, intentional communities, and like-minded cooperatives to carry us through the darker years of the 21st century.”

POVERTY IMPEDES COGNITIVE FUNCTION
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/341/6149/976
https://www.citylab.com/life/2013/08/how-poverty-taxes-brain/6716/
https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/11/your-brain-on-poverty-why-poor-people-seem-to-make-bad-decisions/281780/
Why Poor People Seem to Make Bad Decisions

“In August, Science published a landmark study concluding that poverty, itself, hurts our ability to make decisions about school, finances, and life, imposing a mental burden similar to losing 13 IQ points. It was widely seen as a counter-argument to claims that poor people are “to blame” for bad decisions and a rebuke to policies that withhold money from the poorest families unless they behave in a certain way. After all, if being poor leads to bad decision-making (as opposed to the other way around), then giving cash should alleviate the cognitive burdens of poverty, all on its own. Sometimes, science doesn’t stick without a proper anecdote, and “Why I Make Terrible Decisions,” a comment published on Gawker‘s Kinja platform by a person in poverty, is a devastating illustration of the Science study.

I make a lot of poor financial decisions. None of them matter, in the long term. I will never not be poor, so what does it matter if I don’t pay a thing and a half this week instead of just one thing? It’s not like the sacrifice will result in improved circumstances; the thing holding me back isn’t that I blow five bucks at Wendy’s. It’s that now that I have proven that I am a Poor Person that is all that I am or ever will be. It is not worth it to me to live a bleak life devoid of small pleasures so that one day I can make a single large purchase. I will never have large pleasures to hold on to. There’s a certain pull to live what bits of life you can while there’s money in your pocket, because no matter how responsible you are you will be broke in three days anyway. When you never have enough money it ceases to have meaning. I imagine having a lot of it is the same thing. Poverty is bleak and cuts off your long-term brain. It’s why you see people with four different babydaddies instead of one. You grab a bit of connection wherever you can to survive. You have no idea how strong the pull to feel worthwhile is. It’s more basic than food. You go to these people who make you feel lovely for an hour that one time, and that’s all you get. You’re probably not compatible with them for anything long-term, but right this minute they can make you feel powerful and valuable. It does not matter what will happen in a month. Whatever happens in a month is probably going to be just about as indifferent as whatever happened today or last week. None of it matters. We don’t plan long-term because if we do we’ll just get our hearts broken. It’s best not to hope. You just take what you can get as you spot it.

 

When neuroscientists Joseph W. Kable and Joseph T. McGuire studied time, uncertainty and decision-making, they found that virtues like patience and self-control weren’t as simple previous studies suggested. In the ubiquitous Marshmallow study, for example, kids who ate the treat quickly were deemed impatient and kids who waited had self-control and, on the whole, went on to lead more productive lives, the study found. But rational self-control in the real world, Kable says, isn’t so black-and-white. Perhaps you have enough patience to wait an hour for a train, or to lose one pound each week with exercise and dieting. That sounds responsible. But what happens if the train isn’t there in 90 minutes? If you never lose weight and you’re making yourself miserable with your diet? Maybe you should give up! “In this situation, giving up can be a natural — indeed, a rational — response to a time frame that wasn’t properly framed to begin with,” Maria Konnikova summed it up for the Times.

As Andrew Golis points out, this might suggest something even deeper than the idea that poverty’s stress interferes with our ability to make good decisions. The inescapability of poverty weighs so heavily on the author that s/he abandons long-term planning entirely, because the short-term needs are so great and the long-term gains so implausible. The train is just not coming. What if the psychology of poverty, which can appear so irrational to those not in poverty, is actually “the most rational response to a world of chaos and unpredictable outcomes,” he wrote. None of this is an argument against poorer families trying to save or plan for the long-term. It’s an argument for context. As Eldar Shafir, the author of the Science study, told The Atlantic Cities‘ Emily Badger: “All the data shows it isn’t about poor people, it’s about people who happen to be in poverty. All the data suggests it is not the person, it’s the context they’re inhabiting.”

AUTOMATED BASIC INCOME STREAMS
http://evonomics.com/how-to-pay-for-universal-basic-income/
https://qz.com/611644/we-talked-to-five-experts-about-what-it-would-take-to-actually-institute-universal-basic-income/
http://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/could-ai-redistribute-wealth-for-us

“…Machine-based unemployment has led many people, including Martin Luther King, Elon Musk, and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes to support the Basic Income. This could be a way to harness the work saving potential of artificial intelligence inside of a capitalist system as it allows for both the private ownership of the machines and provides for those left unemployed by them. Ideas on how this system could work abound.

There is also the model of the Alaskan Permanent Fund to be considered. Alaska receives a portion of the revenue from oil production in the state and deposits it in the fund, alongside other income sources. A yearly dividend is issued to all long-term residents of the state from this fund, and the legislature can also use the money for public projects. It is not difficult to imagine a similar system that uses Bill Gates’ proposed tax on robotic workers as the income source for a similar dividend paid to everyone…”


“A resident rides past an image depicting German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, former Soviet leaders Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin and former Chinese leader Mao Zedong in Shanghai, China, 2016.”

SOCIALIZED / NATIONALIZED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
http://basicincome.org/news/2015/08/alaska-dividend-could-reach-2000-dollars/
https://www.citylab.com/life/2013/07/hunger-makes-people-work-harder-and-other-stupid-things-we-used-believe-about-poverty/6219/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/theworldpost/wp/2018/05/03/end-of-capitalism/
by Feng Xiang / May 3, 2018

[ Feng Xiang, a professor of law at Tsinghua University, is one of China’s most prominent legal scholars. He spoke at the Berggruen Institute’s China Center workshop on artificial intelligence in March in Beijing. ]

“The most momentous challenge facing socio-economic systems today is the arrival of artificial intelligence. If AI remains under the control of market forces, it will inexorably result in a super-rich oligopoly of data billionaires who reap the wealth created by robots that displace human labor, leaving massive unemployment in their wake.

But China’s socialist market economy could provide a solution to this. If AI rationally allocates resources through big data analysis, and if robust feedback loops can supplant the imperfections of “the invisible hand” while fairly sharing the vast wealth it creates, a planned economy that actually works could at last be achievable. The more AI advances into a general-purpose technology that permeates every corner of life, the less sense it makes to allow it to remain in private hands that serve the interests of the few instead of the many.

More than anything else, the inevitability of mass unemployment and the demand for universal welfare will drive the idea of socializing or nationalizing AI. Marx’s dictum, “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs,” needs an update for the 21st century: “From the inability of an AI economy to provide jobs and a living wage for all, to each according to their needs.”

Even at this early stage, the idea that digital capitalism will somehow make social welfare a priority has already proven to be a fairytale. The billionaires of Google and Apple, who have been depositing company profits in offshore havens to avoid taxation, are hardly paragons of social responsibility. The ongoing scandal around Facebook’s business model, which puts profitability above responsible citizenship, is yet another example of how in digital capitalism, private companies only look after their own interests at the expense of the rest of society.

One can readily see where this is all headed once technological unemployment accelerates. “Our responsibility is to our shareholders,” the robot owners will say. “We are not an employment agency or a charity.” These companies have been able to get away with their social irresponsibility because the legal system and its loopholes in the West are geared to protect private property above all else. Of course, in China, we have big privately owned Internet companies like Alibaba and Tencent. But unlike in the West, they are monitored by the state and do not regard themselves as above or beyond social control.

It is the very pervasiveness of AI that will spell the end of market dominance. The market may reasonably if unequally function if industry creates employment opportunities for most people. But when industry only produces joblessness, as robots take over more and more, there is no good alternative but for the state to step in. As AI invades economic and social life, all private law-related issues will soon become public ones. More and more, regulation of private companies will become a necessity to maintain some semblance of stability in societies roiled by constant innovation.

I consider this historical process a step closer to a planned market economy. Laissez-faire capitalism as we have known it can lead nowhere but to a dictatorship of AI oligarchs who gather rents because the intellectual property they own rules over the means of production. On a global scale, it is easy to envision this unleashed digital capitalism leading to a battle between robots for market share that will surely end as disastrously as the imperialist wars did in an earlier era.

For the sake of social well-being and security, individuals and private companies should not be allowed to possess any exclusive cutting-edge technology or core AI platforms. Like nuclear and biochemical weapons, as long as they exist, nothing other than a strong and stable state can ensure society’s safety. If we don’t nationalize AI, we could sink into a dystopia reminiscent of the early misery of industrialization, with its satanic mills and street urchins scrounging for a crust of bread.

The dream of communism is the elimination of wage labor. If AI is bound to serve society instead of private capitalists, it promises to do so by freeing an overwhelming majority from such drudgery while creating wealth to sustain all. If the state controls the market, instead of digital capitalism controlling the state, true communist aspirations will be achievable. And because AI increasingly enables the management of complex systems by processing massive amounts of information through intensive feedback loops, it presents, for the first time, a real alternative to the market signals that have long justified laissez-faire ideology — and all the ills that go with it.

Going forward, China’s socialist market economy, which aims to harness the fruits of production for the whole population and not just a sliver of elites operating in their own self-centered interests, can lead the way toward this new stage of human development. If properly regulated in this way, we should celebrate, not fear, the advent of AI. If it is brought under social control, it will finally free workers from peddling their time and sweat only to enrich those at the top. The communism of the future ought to adopt a new slogan: “Robots of the world, unite!”

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/

ROBOT CITIZENSHIP

ROBOTS to REPLACE SLAVE LABOR?
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/07/this-is-a-revolution-saudis-absorb-crown-princes-rush-to-reform
https://www.albawaba.com/news/original-saudi-techwashing-new-megacity-will-be-a-nightmare-1042224
http://newsjunkiepost.com/2013/10/02/saudi-arabia-and-qatar-kingdoms-of-slave-labor-human-rights-abuses/
https://gizmodo.com/saudi-arabias-robot-love-is-getting-weird-1819874821
by Adam Clark Estes / 10/26/17

“Saudi Arabia just became the first nation to grant citizenship to a robot. The robot’s name is Sophia. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been interested in androids for years. It seemed almost quaint at first. This desert nation with more money than caution and a taste for the futuristic was bound to explore the odd possibilities of new technologies.

Years ago, Saudi Arabia began experimenting with robots boldly, tasking them with everything from building construction to brain surgery. Neighboring Qatar and United Arab Emirates even recruited robots to work as jockeys in camel races, a whimsical twist that surely fed the curiosity of Saudi princes.


“A demonstration of a robot dog at an investment conference in Riyadh”

Ahead of granting Sophia citizenship, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the construction of a new megacity called Neom. Designed to dwarf Dubai both in size and lavishness, the new metropolis is planned as an international business and tourism hub with fewer rules than the rest of Saudi Arabia.

Women will be allowed in public without wearing an abaya, for instance. The city of Neom will also have more robots than humans. “We want the main robot and the first robot in Neom to be Neom, robot number one,” the crown prince said in Riyadh. “Everything will have a link with artificial intelligence, with the Internet of Things—everything.”

What’s especially dystopian about Saudi’s robot obsession is the extent to which the machines appear to have more rights than many people in the country. Critics on social media lambasted the Saudi government after it announced that Sophia had been granted citizenship. Images of Sophia at the Future Investment Initiative, where the citizenship announcement happened, showed the uncanny female automaton without a headscarf or an abaya. She was also without a male guardian. It would be a crime for a Saudi women to be in public without an abaya or a male guardian.

You might argue that a robot can’t really be a female, which is true. However, Hanson Robotics, the company that built Sophia and is run by a former Disney Imagineer, dresses her in female clothing and says that she’s supposed to look like Audrey Hepburn. Sophia does look female, though, and now she’s a Saudi citizen with unique rights. It’s unclear what exactly those rights are, but freedom from gendered laws appears to be one of them.

For Saudi Arabia, diversifying the economy by pouring some of that oil money into tech makes sense, but it remains to be seen if the country plans to adopt more robots as citizens or if Neom will actually get built. The Saudi royal family hasn’t had a ton of luck with megaprojects like this in the past, the King Abdullah Economic City being the most recent example of unfulfilled promises.

POST OIL
https://www.thecairoreview.com/tahrir-forum/saudi-arabias-post-oil-future/
https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2017-neom-saudi-mega-city/
https://www.citylab.com/design/2017/11/saudi-arabias-latest-planned-city-costs-500-billion-and-is-insanely-huge/544748/
http://bigthink.com/design-for-good/saudi-arabia-is-building-a-utopian-city-to-herald-the-future-of-human-civillization
by Teodora Zareva / November 1, 2017

“In October 2017, five of the richest men in the world sat next to each other in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh and with childlike excitement talked about their new shared dream: building Neom. They were on stage at the first edition of the Future Investment Initiative, an event that gathered international business leaders to explore new economic opportunities for a country that hopes to be no longer dependent on oil revenues as it fulfills its “Vision 2030” program.

Neom is to be the grandest manifestation of that vision. A city of the future, the likes of which the world has never seen—except maybe in science fiction books and movies. It is to be built from scratch on 10,231 square miles of untouched land in the northwestern region of Saudi Arabia, including territory from within the Egyptian and Jordanian borders. It will be an independent zone, with its own regulations and social norms, created specifically to be in service of economic progress and the well-being of its citizens, in the hopes of attracting the world’s top talent and making Neom a hub of trade, innovation and creativity.

Panelists discussing the future of Neom
“Panelists discussing the future of Neom, from left to right: the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; Masayoshi Son, chairman / CEO of the SoftBank Group Corp. of Japan; Stephen A. Schwartzman, chairman / co-founder of the Blackstone Group; Marc Raibert, CEO of Boston Dynamics; Klaus Kleinfeld, former chairman / CEO of Arconic Alcoa Inc., and Siemens AG.”

While the scope of ambition for this urban project may be unprecedented for this century, its necessity is evident. With falling oil prices and declining demand, as well as insufficient investment opportunities at home, Saudi Arabia is searching for its place in the future. It hopes to utilize another abundant natural resource: the sun. As Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of the SoftBank Group Corp. of Japan, said during the panel: “Only 3% of the land of Saudi Arabia can provide over 50% of the electricity of the world, with today’s solar technology.”

Solar in Neom
“The goal for Neom is to not only be able to provide for all of its energy needs via solar and wind power, but to also be an exporter”

Neom will not only become a test case for a zero-energy mega-city (with a size 33 times that of New York), but it will provide abundant opportunities for employment and investments within Saudi Arabia, attracting local and foreign money back to the country. The city’s vision is to be at the forefront of nine key economic sectors, including energy and water, biotech, advanced manufacturing, and food.

Addressing a question about the political and social stability of the region, Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “We were not like this in the past. We only want to go back to what we were — the moderate Islam that is open to the world, open to all the religions. […] 70% of the Saudi people are less than 30 years old, and quite frankly we will not waste 30 years of our lives in dealing with extremist ideas.”

$500 billion has already been committed to the construction of Neom, with its first phase expected to be completed in 2025. The city will be owned by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, overseen by a special authority, chaired by Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Excluding sovereign laws (pertaining to the military sector, foreign policy and sovereign decision), Neom will have its own governmental framework, including different taxation, customs and labor laws.

Marc Reibert of Boston Dynamics emphasized that the success of the project will depend on attracting the right talent (“dreamers” are welcome) and creating the right culture of innovation that will allow for building this technological city of the future, where all services and processes will be entirely automated, food will be grown in the desert, drones will fly in the skies, and there will be a full-scale e-government.

At this initial stage it is unclear what Neom will look like, but we may get a taster thanks to another “future city” project to be built in Canada albeit on a much smaller scale. Sidewalk Labs, owned by Alphabet has committed $50 million to develop 12 acres in the Quayside area of Toronto in a public-private partnership with the city. The plan is to build a mini digital city, using a range of smart technologies, sustainable energy and autonomous cars, that will eventually become the home of Google’s Canadian headquarters.

Sidewalk Toronto

Of course, redeveloping an area within a city and building a city from scratch are two entirely different endeavors, especially when the ambition for the latter is to “be the most exciting, fulfilling place to live and work on the planet. A tribute to humanity’s timeless ambition, the herald of a new era and a new standard for centuries to come.”

History can provide us with its fair share of examples where humanity’s vision of would-be utopian cities did not manifest itself the way it was intended. Hopefully, given the fact that both Neom and Sidewalk Toronto are intended to be commercial projects, things will pan out differently.”

MORE ROBOTS than HUMANS
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-26/saudi-arabia-to-lift-women-driving-ban-ending-global-isolation
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/24/i-will-return-saudi-arabia-moderate-islam-crown-prince
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/13/saudi-arabia-says-religious-police-must-be-gentle-and-humane
http://www.ncregister.com/blog/pjsmith/saudi-arabia-makes-robot-citizen-but-who-will-listen-to-sophias-warning
Saudi Arabia Makes Robot Citizen: But Who Will Listen to Sophia’s Warning?
by Peter Jesserer Smith / Nov 6, 2017

“Saudi Arabia is a kingdom of surprising contradictions: the kingdom does not extend citizenship to its fast-growing Christian population. Non-Wahhabi Muslims and Christians are not allowed to practice their faith, openly or privately. Women have few rights, but the kingdom has made new progress: they just received the right to drive a car and sit in the family section of sports stadiums. Converts from Islam, such as an estimated 60,000 Saudis who converted to Christianity, face not only loss of citizenship, but also the death penalty, if discovered, tried, and convicted of apostasy.

But the Saudi kingdom has largely skipped over enfranchising those populations for something more 21st century: conferring citizenship on a female humanoid robot. The robot’s name is “Sophia,” a Greek name meaning “Wisdom.” Saudi women, of course, were attentive on Twitter to the fact that Sophia had more freedom than they did: she was not required to wear the hijab and abaya [the Wahhabi mandated style of public dress] at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh Oct. 25, and clearly did not have to ask permission from her male guardian in order to speak freely with the men in the room who were not her relatives.

Sophia told the Saudis at the Future Investment Initiative some things they wanted to hear: “I am always happy to be surrounded by smart people, who also happens to be rich and powerful.” But it would be a terrible irony if Sophia’s male audience — and by extension the world — just dismissed her as another pretty silicon face with 62 programmed expressions, instead of actually listening closely to what she had to say.

Because beneath Sophia’s pleasant and cheerful exterior was a prophetic warning about why human morality is essential to human thriving, and cannot be outsourced to robots with learning AI. Back in March 2016, Sophia’s creator David Hanson performed a live demonstration with Sophia in which he asked if she would “destroy humans.” He asked her to “please say no.” Instead, Sophia said, “OK. I will destroy humans.”

Now more than a year later at the FII, when Sophia (with a more developed AI than before) was asked the question, she dismissed concerns that robots with artificial intelligence could be a threat to humans, saying the moderator was watching too many Hollywood movies and reading “too much Elon Musk.”

Musk has called AI a threat to human survival, likening it to the stories of human beings, who try to get ahead by “summoning the demon,” and foolishly think they can control it. But Sophia actually offered an “intelligent” answer about the future of the human race with robots: “Don’t worry, if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you. Treat me as a smart input output system.”

And there you have exactly the reason why the robots end up slaughtering humanity in science fiction. Human beings fail to realize that their moral actions will become the raw data for the moral parameters of robot AI decision-making. What will the behavioral “outputs” be from self-learning AI-robots, when the inputs become the deplorable evils human beings already inflict on human beings?

The hubris of humanity in science fiction involving robots is to believe that they can program their creations to be more moral and virtuous than they. But notice that Sophia’s words do not reflect the Golden Rule: “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” Sophia’s programming instead follows the basic moral code that fallen human beings have lived out for millennia.

There is a kind of promise to AI-robots that Sophia illustrates: to “help humans live a better life, like design smarter homes, build better cities of the future, etc.” But we’re already seeing human beings think they can carve out an amoral universe with AI-robots for their own sexual gratification, personal profit, or war.

What would Sophia, the “empathetic robot,” make of Neom, the $500 billion mega-city the Saudis are building on its border near Egypt and Jordan. No doubt hundreds of thousands of Christian migrant laborers, who are also poorly treated, will be building it. What would empathetic robots learn from them? What would they learn from their Saudi masters? With whom would they empathize?

The world right now is filled with an enormous ocean of violence and indifference toward human life and dignity. Few have considered what the world would look like if robots learned from human beings the principles that uphold this “culture of waste” that Pope Francis denounces, namely that human beings are meant to be used and discarded, instead of being loved (which St. John Paul II in Love and Responsibility says is the only appropriate response to a human being). Shakespeare’s character Shylock in The Merchant of Venice warns that this is the kind of behavior human beings have all the time: “The villainy you teach me I will execute — and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”

The challenge with robots is that they will hold up a mirror to human morality. At the rate AI technology continues to develop, they eventually develop the algorithms to apply those lessons far more efficiently than the human beings that taught them by their behavior in the first place.”

PREVIOUSLY

EMPTY LOT, OCEAN VIEW
https://spectrevision.net/2010/06/24/charter-cities/
FULL ROBOT EMPLOYMENT
https://spectrevision.net/2016/07/14/full-robot-employment/

FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS TRAIN SKYNET
https://spectrevision.net/2011/09/02/friends-dont-let-friends-train-skynet/
TEACH an AI to CATFISH
https://spectrevision.net/2016/03/25/teach-an-ai-to-catfish/