Why is there apathy? Meslin says it is because our environment encourages it. Apathy is in our nature, just like our determination, selfishness, and kindness. But our environment is a powerful promoter, of both good and bad traits. Meslin describes how society makes it hard to to be active in your community, how media depicts heroism as being for the chosen few, and how the system makes political involvement uninspiring and the political process complicated and manipulative.
“As long as we believe that people, our own neighbors, are selfish, stupid or lazy, then there’s no hope.”
Meslin made me realize that the bigger and more complicated our system grows, the more apathy will creep into our actions. If we can see that the system we are building is making our future both easier and impersonal, we can change it. In effect, we must save us from ourselves. And in a society so free, if we do not, we only have ourselves to blame.
So let’s reach out and empower ourselves. Start buying more from the people in our community. Let’s not give our money to careless and dishonest Wall Street bankers. Let’s vote less for the two parties and more for the third party that hasn’t been compromised by money. We can make the change. As Ghandi said,
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Your neighbor isn’t stupid or lazy.
And neither are you.
Follow me and I will take you away from the everyday.
If this is something you care about, then SHARE it. Let’s get out of the stands and into the game. Let’s interact.
Damon works in AI (Artificial Intelligence) and he faces the problem of programming ethics into computer programs. Think that’s hard? Then look at the moral framework you use in your own life and realize it’s much harder than you think.
What Damon talks about is how we, as the programmers and users of technology, must decide how to use this technology.
Plato tried to find absolutes of justice. Like the 1 and 0 of ethics. Good and bad.
John Stuart Mill said we must do the thing that results in the greatest good, a simple numbers game.
And then there is Kant. He may have had the formula, but it’s no easy method. In fact, it’s the hardest way for humans to live:
We must use our reason.
“The sad truth is that most evil done in this world is not done by people who choose to be evil.
It arises from not thinking.”
Let’s start a conversation. Is it right to buy foreign goods? Give our money to dishonest Wall Street bankers? Give the government the power to take our right to trial to protect us from terrorism? Take a job we don’t enjoy just for the money?
Don’t worry: There is no right or wrong.
But we must have a reasoning for our actions. Otherwise our lives aren’t really our own.
Here’s to a new year of doing what we want and knowing why we do it.
Have you ever done comparison shopping and thought you were being a smart shopper? I have. This item is 50% off but that item is 75% off. The logical thing to do is buy the one with bigger savings, right?
Dan Gilbert is a Professor of Psychology at Harvard. He tells us why we might be making mistakes because of our tendency to compare things in the wrong context. He begins with questions like, would you pay $25 for a Big Mac? Or, would you drive across town to save a $100? But Dan moves on to more serious questions. He has consulted with the Department of Homeland Security, so he talks of the reaction of terror caused by 9-11:
“We already know, in the United States, that more people have died as a result of not taking airplanes -because they were scared – and driving on highways, than were killed on 9-11”
Is our reaction disproportional to the threat? Was it worth going to war? Was it worth Obama signing a bill yesterday that took our right to trial in an effort to protect us from terrorists? Terrorists who caused more deaths by making us avoid airplanes than their actual act of terrorism? Regardless of your answers to these questions, realize this: The people who are the most aggressive about protecting America are the ones who are the most fearful, and fear can cloud our judgment.
In the end, Dan tells us how vital our mindfulness is to our future:
“We are the only species on this planet that has held its own fate in its hands…The only thing that can destroy us and doom us, is our own decisions.”
Follow me and I will take you away from the everyday.
Daniel Goleman talks about the importance of noticing others. He takes us on a journey, starting with how seminary students help a man in need, to the mind of a serial killer, to the feasibility of compassionate consumerism.
“There’s a saying in Information Science: Ultimately, everyone will know everything. The question is, will it make a difference?”
Take the time to swim off of your island. Our connection with others and the mindfulness of where our purchases come from determines whether we are a collection of privileged consumers with the information of the world in our hands, or a grateful nation of responsible human beings, with the information we need in our heads.
In a complicated society, we give up to the God-complex, listening to the authorities who have all the answers, instead of facing the task of fixing the problem. Tim Harford tells us that when a problem persists, the method to fix it is simple: Trial and error.
Experimenting helped me find my perfect running gait. Maybe we can use this method to improve bigger systems, on the scale of societies. Communities can be different and each type needs the leadership and experience of its citizens. If only we can use our humility to admit that we don’t have the answers and our strength to face our problems, fail, and try again. And the confidence to challenge the authorities who tell us they have the answers. By acclimating, we can continue to exist. By reasoning and experimentation, we will thrive.
It’s a common phrase. “Carrots-and-sticks” Carrots are the incentives, and sticks are the punishments for not following the rules. This phrase was used quite a bit when the US first invaded Iraq eight years ago. They are tools used by those with power to control others. Another way to put the phrase is, “Incentives-and-regulations.”
It’s interesting to note that often when we have a political leader say something about solutions, it involves incentives-and-regulations. Dan Pink talks about the research that shows us that incentives don’t work in business and, analogously, why they shouldn’t be used as the method to fix our broken institutions: financial, educational, or political.
Instead, he talks of using other motivators:
Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose
So, what do you think?
Can the government use the 40 years of research to fix our institutions?
Is it time for we, the people, to step in?
If so, what can we do?