We’re always so preoccupied with how dangerous the world is around us– often vastly overestimating the odds of murder, terrorost attacks and the like, but in his latest 800-ebook-page heavyweight, author Stephen Pinker (professor of psychology in the department of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT) tells us violence has been diminishing for millennia and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species’s existence. Now, what I love about this is Pinker takes an assumption and blows it up with detailed analysis. It’s not so much the result that I envy, but his approach. He lays it out this way:
The Five Major Historical Forces for Peace:
The Leviathan (the state; reigns in internal violence)
Gentle Commerce (economic incentives for cooperation)
Feminization (empowerment of women; men are naturally more violent)
The Expanding Circle (empathy; sympathizing with ever wider classes)
The Escalator of Reason (rationality; application of empathy)
Our work as strategists requires us to take rather complicated behavioral transitions and make sense of them, and what Pinker does best is provide a strong foundation and a clear and logical step-by-step analysis. He may be right, he may be wrong. But that doesn’t matter. What I look for is how persuasive he can be. That’s the mark of a great writer and thinker.And in light of the current Global situation with Iran, Pinker’s thinking on what prompts nations to attack one-another (cost/benefit equations) has never been more relevant. It’s clear that we exist within a delicate balance of Peace and one small random act or chance taken can upset the status-quo, but for now violence is less pervasive than it has ever been — just be sure to make the right decision when the time comes (or be very, very persuasive yourself).
HAL will soon have his way, as it seems the robots are taking over slowly but surely. In a cool example of how we humans are getting better at enabling robots to emote and display empathy, Paro, a $6,000 baby seal, is one of many robots being used to help soothe the elderly. In fact, it’s very cool to see how we try to program robots to think and feel like we do. It’s not an easy task. Yes, robots can play chess — and beat humans, but seems they can now even win at Jeopardy!, a game requiring much verbal logic…Although he may lead the revolution in taking over the world one day, this seal is damn cute…
Honestly. I don’t even know what to say about a fact gleaned from this great infographic: 75% of McDonalds sales come from customers who eat there over 10 times a week. Out of 21 meals a week? Jesus. And while we’re at it, who knew 60% of sales were drive-thru?
Seems they have all the right answers at Google. Last week, Google began offering suicide prevention hotline information to people who were searching suicide-related terms. ’Ways to commit suicide’ and ‘suicidal thoughts’ trigger this response, however, a query like ‘I want to end my life’ fails to elicit the suicide hotline information. Semantics can kill. This feature aligns quite nicely with their brand identity…
I’m not sure if sharks are participating willingly, but apparently some beaches in Australia have outfitted sharks with SMS enabled devices that text life guards to warn them when they get too close to land. If something doesn’t seem right here, it’s not. This is technology inserting itself into the circle of life. But I must admit, it’s kind of cool. If only we could text the sharks back. Shouldn’t this be a two-way communication?
With all of these 3D movies bombarding us, it’s no wonder that animated humans are starting to freak us out a bit. It’s well known that when robots and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. Called the Uncanny Valley, the “valley” in question is a dip in a proposed graph of the positivity of human reaction as a function of a creatures lifelikeness. At least the Navi were blue in Avatar, but when will our technology allow us to clear this valley?