Futurists like Jaron Lanier have been warning us that the same thing that happened to assembly line workers in the 20th century is going to happen to knowledge workers in the 21st: machines will come in to do the jobs faster and cheaper.
Of course, in the 20th century it was robots – while in the 21st century it will be software, but the impact will still be the same. This week in Slate, Farhad Manjoo is reporting from the front lines of software automation … and he says he’s terrified by what these programs can do.
Most people are focused on the economic questions this raises: how will millions of people earn a living?
Over at The New Existentialists, however, they're asking a different question: what will a culture where self-esteem and social standing comes from work do if work becomes the province of machines?
(Photo by Mixabest under a Creative Commons license)
During Saybrook’s Fall 2011 Residential Conference, we were thrilled to be able to offer interested students a sneak peak at Tiffany Shlain’s upcoming documentary “Connected” – an examination of human life in a digital age.
Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive – and now “Connected” is making its public debut for Bay Area audiences this Friday.
“Connected” is a film that speaks to one of the central questions that Saybrook addresses every day: what does it mean to be human in the 21st century? Shlain – who is a founder of both the Webby awards and The National Day of Unplugging – asks how we have changed the way we relate to the technology we use every day, and how that technology has changed us.
Shlain’s love/hate relationship with technology serves as the springboard for a thrilling exploration of modern life…and our interconnected future. Equal parts documentary and memoir, the film unfolds during a year in which technology and science literally become a matter of life and death for the director. As Shlain’s father battles brain cancer and she confronts a high-risk pregnancy, her very understanding of connection is challenged at every turn. Using a brilliant mix of animation, archival footage, and home movies, Shlain reveals the surprising ties that link us not only to the people we love but also to the world at large. A personal film with universal relevance, Connected explores how, after centuries of declaring our independence, it may be time for us to declare our interdependence instead.
Connected will be premiering at San Francisco’s Landmark Embarcadero Theater on Friday, Sept. 16, at 7:20 – and Tiffany Shlain will be available to answer questions after the show.
Shlain will also be attending screenings in Mill Valley at the Sequoia Theater (Saturday, 9/17, 7 p.m. show), and The Berkeley Shattuck 10 Theater (Sunday, 9/18, afternoon show)
For more information visit http://connectedthefilm.com
The connections that get made, the community that is formed, and the experiences they have are life changing. Here are a few we’ve been told about:
"Saybrook rattled me to a core," said psychology alumna Monica Dixon, "and I loved every minute of it. It was the very thing I was seeking ---- a different way of operating. I began to question everything, and that has never stopped. I'm just asking bigger questions now."
"I'm always so impressed by the things that people are doing," says psychology and social transformation student Gianina Pellegrini. "At other schools people have jobs that are just getting them by, and then I go to Saybrook conferences, and I sit with other students who are on peace committees around the world and have done all this amazing work in different countries, and I'm so impressed, and I'm really motivated: I always think, this is what it's all about."
"Saybrook was the first time that I could really pursue anything that I was really passionate about pursuing,” said Human Science student Nick Rorbers. “I look at the Residential Conferences like they're a vacation."
Now, what’s your experience? Use the comments section below to tell us about your fall 2011 Residential Conference experience. Good, bad, or just plain interesting, we want to know.
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Christina Roberts has some answers. Her Saybrook dissertation was a study of creative older individuals, and she found a clear link between their creative work and their sense of having lived an authentic life.
It may be, she suggests, that living authentically is itself a creative act.
She writes about her finding at The New Existentialists. It's a must read.
Ever notice that your workplace has patterns?
Of course you have - every organization does. In fact, understanding the "systems archetypes" of an organization -- common and usually reoccurring patterns of behavior -- can be a key to curing organizational dysfunction.
Each archetype has its own distinct storyline, and being able to change that storyline is a key leadership skill.
At the Rethinking Complexity blog, Saybrook Organizational Systems PhD student Jorge Taborga has gone over the research involving systems archetypes, listing some common types and explaining how to manage them -- even plan for them.
It's worth taking a look.
We try to scare kids about the dangers of drugs, about the dangers of gangs, about what will happen if htey don't get an education, about what could happen if they talk to strangers, about drinking, about driving, about drinking and driving ... you'd almost think we enjoy scaring kids, we do it so much.
But it's effective, right?
At The New Existentialists, Saybrook psychology student Makenna Berry has gone over some of the evidence -- and it turns out that "scared straight" style interventions do little to no short-term good and negative long term impacts.
Fortunately, there are better approaches we can take to help children navigate a world full of pitfalls.
It's a common assumption among medical professionals that biochemical conditions must involve biochemical treatments -- you need to pop a pill for your depression and take medication for your blood pressure.
But that doesn't necesarilly follow. High blood pressure is often best treated by diet and exercise, and depression -- even assuming it is a biochemical condition -- is frequently better addressed by talking with a therapist and changing your life.
Writing at The New Existentialists, Sarah Kass notes that a recent study has shown that practicing yoga "helps to calm the schizophrenic mind."
And why wouldn't it? While the benefits of yoga have only been acknowledged by western medicine relatively recently, it has thousands of years of history behind it as an aid to meditation and a way to help unify mind and body. The notion that this is inferior to a pill because ... because ... wait, why exactly? Oh right, because it isn't "medicine." Well, that's a notion that doesn't make any sense.
Healthy approached that take the whole person into account should be medicine of first resort, not last - especially since practicing them is still a good idea when you're already healthy. Unlike medication, the "side effects" of yoga are all positive if you do it right. It can even serve as preventative medicine - the best kind.
Writing at Rethinking Complexity, she suggests that American politicians are very good at causing system problems but not at fixing them. The only kind of solution congress ever looks for are piecemeal solutions, with little regard to the big picture or long-term consequences.
As a result even good ideas can push us deeper into the hole we’re digging … because systemic problems require system-wide solutions.
A recent upswing in positive reviews of Jung's work, new analysis about Jung's insights, and popular acclaim, Taylor suggests, are signs that even academic psychology - long dominated by "experimentalists" who didn't believe anything they couldn't measure under laboratory conditions - is accepting the value of depth psychology's approach to the human mind.
The first wave of Baby Boomers are retiring, and by some estimates one-in-five Americans will be over 65 by 2030.
How does a culture obsessed with youth cope?
So far, most of our fixes have been technological - and amazing new gadgets to help the elderly function are in the works.
But even the researchers behind these new inventions admit it: our society can't handle this "silver tsumani" without fundamentally changing they way it handles the elderly.
An essay at The New Existentialists suggests that psychology should be playing a key role in this transition. That instead of just trying to "fix" symptoms, psychologists have a vital role to play in providing healthy perspective to people about the a life that includes old age.