The excitement of a novel technology (or anything, really) has been replaced—or at least dampened—by the anguish of knowing its future burden.
— Ian Bogost, “Future Ennui“, The Atlantic
The excitement of a novel technology (or anything, really) has been replaced—or at least dampened—by the anguish of knowing its future burden.
— Ian Bogost, “Future Ennui“, The Atlantic
Another pervasive myth about Millennials is called into question: not only are people under thirty reading more than previous generations, but they still place a high value on books and other “offline” sources of information — including “obsolete” public libraries — belying the perception that young people are too absorbed into new media to concern themselves with the “outside” world.
Granted, the quality of what is being absorbed is a different matter entirely — maybe it is mostly vapid pseudoscience and mediocre teen romance rather than philosophy or the classics — but even if that were the case, it would still be nothing new: as with most criticisms levied against “young people these days”, their trends and preferences are fundamentally no different than what older people have always complained about.
Originally posted on Quartz:
Kids today with their selfies and their Snapchats and their love of literature.
Millennials, like each generation that was young before them, tend to attract all kinds of ire from their elders for being superficial, self-obsessed, anti-intellectuals. But a study out today from the Pew Research Center offers some vindication for the younger set. Millennials are reading more books than the over-30 crowd, Pew found in a survey of more than 6,000 Americans.
Some 88% of Americans younger than 30 said they read a book in the past year compared with 79% of those older than 30. At the same time, American readers’ relationship with public libraries is changing—with younger readers less likely to see public libraries as essential in their communities.
Overall, Americans are buying more books than they borrow, the study found. Among those who read at least one book in the past year, more than half said…
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The perfect post to start a Monday with.
Originally posted on Quartz:
The cardinals who are gathered at the Vatican take a very important daily pause during their deliberations to choose a new pope.
“There’s a coffee break for about 30 minutes at a special buffet area in the front part of the audience hall,” the Rev. Thomas Rosica told CNN. “Cardinals have an opportunity to go down and mix and mingle.”
Whether you’re a prince of the church or a cubicle-dwelling drone, there seems to be an unbreakable bond between work and coffee: The boss provides the java and the java fuels the workers, keeping them revved up, connected, and toiling away at their given tasks.
Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about coffee at work, but were too over- or under-caffeinated to ask:
Surprise! Coffee keeps you alert
Caffeine, the most commonly consumed psychoactive drug in the world, is a stimulant. It blocks the adenosine receptors…
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Globalization has allowed us to discover and learn more about all sorts of previously unknown ideas and concepts, and parenting is certainly no exception. Cultures across the planet have wildly different approaches to raising or education children, some of which may shock Americans — although the feeling is often mutual.
NPR has gathered an interesting collection of general parenting trends from around the world, some of which may catch on here, while others would be unthinkable. It is interesting to consider how and why certain societies adopt the parenting norms that they do. How each generation is raised has a tremendous impact on overall values and attitudes, and those parenting methods are in turn influenced by all sorts of other external factors (climate, geographic, prevailing economic conditions, etc).
Ponder this while taking a look at the following.
1. In Norway, kids nap outside even in subzero temperatures
In Norway, childhood is very institutionalized. When a kid turns one year old, he or she starts going to Barnehage (Norwegian for “children’s garden”), which is basically state-subsidized day care.
Parents pay a few hundred dollars a month and their kids are taken care of from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Toddlers spend a ton of time outside at Barnehage, even in extremely cold temperatures. It’s not uncommon to see kids bundled up outside during a Scandinavian winter, taking a nap in their strollers.
Even with the obvious benefits provided by the government in Norway, some parents complain about the lack of creativity in people’s approaches to parenting.
One American mother adjusting to raising kids in Norway wrote:
“There’s a sense that there’s just one right way to do things. And everyone does it that way. In America there are different parenting styles — co-sleeping, attachment parenting, etc. Here there is just one way, more or less: all kids go to bed at 7, all attend the same style of preschool, all wear boots, all eat the same lunch … that’s the Norwegian way.”
2. Vietnamese moms train their babies to pee on command
Here’s a good one. In Vietnam, parents train their babies to pee on command. Kind of like Pavlov with his salivating dogs. Except this is moms with peeing babies. The Chinese do it too, apparently. Parents start by noticing when their baby starts peeing and making a little whistle sound. Soon enough, the baby starts to associate the whistle with peeing and voila!
Think this sounds a little odd? Or a little like someone is conflating a kid with a pet schnauzer? Well, researchers say Vietnamese babies are usually out of diapers by 9 months. What do you think now?
3. Traditionally, Kisii people in Kenya avoid looking their babies in the eye
Kisii, or Gussii, moms in Kenya carry their babies everywhere, but they don’t indulge a baby’s cooing. Rather, when their babies start babbling, moms avert their eyes.
It’s likely to sound harsh to a Western sensibility, but within the context of Kisii culture, it makes more sense. Eye contact is an act bestowed with a lot of power. It’s like saying, “You’re in charge,” which isn’t the message parents want to send their kids. Researchers say Kisii kids are less attention-seeking as a result.4. Danish parents leave their kids on the curb while they go shopping
In Denmark, writes Mei-Ling Hopgood in How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm, “children are frequently left outside to get frisk luft, or fresh air — something parents think is essential for health and hearty development — while caregivers dine and shop.”
As you might imagine, this idea sends shivers down the spines of many parents in the United States. In New York, a couple (one of whom was Danish) was arrested for leaving their child outside a BBQ restaurant while they went inside to eat.
“I was just in Denmark and that’s exactly what they do,” Mariom Adler, a New Yorker out walking with her 2-year-old son, told the New York Times. “We would see babies all over unattended. We were stunned, frankly. But Denmark also struck us as exceptionally civilized.”
5. In the Polynesian Islands, children take care of children
We’re not talking any old big brother baby-sitting little sister here. We’re talking organized kid collective.
Hopgood writes in her book that adults take the lead in caring for babies in Polynesia, but as soon as a child can walk, he or she is turned over to the care of other children.
“Preschool-aged children learned to calm babies,” she wrote, “and toddlers became self-reliant because they were taught that that was the only way they could hang out with the big kids.”
Jane and James Ritchie, a husband-and-wife anthropology team, observed a similar phenomenon over decades in New Zealand and the Polynesian Islands. But they don’t think it would fly in the United States.
“Indeed in Western societies, the degree of child caretaking that seems to apply in most of Polynesia would probably be regarded as child neglect and viewed with some horror,” they wrote in Growing Up in Polynesia.6. Japanese parents let their kids go out by themselves
Parents in Japan allow their kids a lot of independence after a certain age. It isn’t uncommon for 7-year-olds and even 4-year-olds to ride the subway by themselves.
Christine Gross-Loh, author of Parenting Without Borders, lives in Japan for part of each year, and when she’s there she lets her kids run errands without her, taking the subway and wandering around town as they may. But she wouldn’t dare do the same back in the United States.
“If I let them out on their own like that in the U.S., I wouldn’t just get strange looks,” she told TED. “Somebody would call Child Protective Services.”
7. Spanish kids stay up late!
Spanish families are focused on the social and interpersonal aspects of child development, according to Sara Harkness, a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Connecticut.
The idea of a child going to bed at 6:30 p.m. is totally alien to Spanish parents, Harkness told TED.
“They were horrified at the concept,” she said. “Their kids were going to bed at 10 p.m.” so they could participate in family life in the evenings. The same is true in Argentina, according to Hopgood.
8. Aka pygmy fathers win the award
For the Aka people in central Africa, the male and female roles are virtually interchangeable. While the women hunt, the men mind the children. And vice versa.
Therein lies the rub, according to professor Barry Hewlett, an American anthropologist. “There’s a level of flexibility that’s virtually unknown in our society,” Hewlett told The Guardian. “Aka fathers will slip into roles usually occupied by mothers without a second thought and without, more importantly, any loss of status — there’s no stigma involved in the different jobs.”
This flexibility, apparently, extends to men suckling their children. Ever wonder why men have nipples? That’s why.9. French kids eat everything
Set mealtimes; no snacking whatsoever; the expectation that if you try something enough times, you’ll like it. These are among the “food rules” in France that are taken as given. The result is French kids who eat what adults eat, from foie gras to stinky cheese. Tell that to my nephew.
Of course, it goes without saying that most of these are just generalizations: not every Argentinian parent lets their kids stay up very late, nor do all French parents have such a liberal attitude towards what their children eat. Individual and subcultural nuances doubtless exist.
But perhaps like many other globalizing trends, we may start to see the development of trans-cultural approaches and standards. Just as cuisines, art styles, and consumer trends have emerged across the planet, so too will certain parenting ideas.
Then again, as I noted earlier, child rearing is a fundamental characteristic of a given society, and thus not something that can be transcribed nor altered so easily. Granted, the pace of globalization continues to accelerate, challenging all sorts of established cultural norms and concepts. Only time will tell, but in the meantime it is interesting to learn about — and learn from — how our fellow humans practice this vital social institution.
Originally posted on shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows:
Image taken from tumblr.
Recently, SFF author Tansy Rayner Roberts wrote an excellent post debunking the idea that women did nothing interesting or useful throughout history, and that trying to write fictional stories based on this premise of feminine insignificance is therefore both inaccurate and offensive. To quote:
“History is not a long series of centuries in which men did all the interesting/important things and women stayed home and twiddled their thumbs in between pushing out babies, making soup and dying in childbirth.
History is actually a long series of centuries of men writing down what they thought was important and interesting, and FORGETTING TO WRITE ABOUT WOMEN. It’s also a long series of centuries of women’s work and women’s writing being actively denigrated by men. Writings were destroyed, contributions were downplayed, and women were actively oppressed against, absolutely.
But the forgetting part is vitally important. Most historians and…
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Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri have brought to light not only the systemic racial disparities inherent in the U.S. law enforcement and justice systems, but the now decade-long trend of creeping militarization of police forces across the nation.
While the Defense Department program that allows state and local police to freely obtain some military-style equipment has been around since the early 1990s, it has largely been since the September 11 attacks that the practice has intensified (notably, this is despite the precipitous decline in violent crime that started before the trend picked up and that has continued concurrently to this day).
The New York Times has helpfully provided a series of maps showing which countries have received guns, grenade launchers, vehicles, night vision or body armor through the program since 2006. The following map highlights those counties that have received at least one category of these items:
If you visit the original article, you can click on any country to see a breakdown of what they have acquired. Although the portion of their gear coming from the program is relatively small (most of it is paid for through department budgets and federal grants), this data details just how widespread this militarization has been.
As Alex Kane of Moyers & Company (among others) points out, this trend is concerning for many reasons: from risking the likelihood of death and serious injury, to alienating the public from the public servants that are supposed to be protecting them, this needless practice will have dire consequences in a society where public trust is political and legal institutions is already at an all-time low.
It used to be common sense that advances in technology would bring more leisure time. “If every man and woman would work for four hours each day on something useful,” Benjamin Franklin assumed, “that labor would produce sufficient to procure all the necessaries and comforts of life.” Science fiction has tended to consider a future with shorter hours to be all but an axiom. Edward Bellamy’s 1888 best seller Looking Backward describes a year 2000 in which people do their jobs for about four to eight hours, with less attractive tasks requiring less time. In the universe of Star Trek, work is done for personal development, not material necessity. In Wall-E, robots do everything, and humans have become inert blobs lying on levitating sofas.
During the heat of the fight for the eight-hour day in the 1930s, the Industrial Workers of the World were already making cartoon handbills for what they considered the next great horizon: a four-hour day, a four-day week, and a wage people can live on. “Why not?” the IWW propaganda asked.
It’s a good question. A four-hour workday with a livable wage could solve a lot of our most nagging problems. If everyone worked fewer hours, for instance, there would be more jobs for the unemployed to fill. The economy wouldn’t be able to produce quite as much, which means it wouldn’t be able to pollute as much, either; rich countries where people work fewer hours tend to have lower carbon footprints. Less work would leave plenty of time for family and for child care, ending the agony over “work-life balance.” Gone would be the plague of overwork, which increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.
Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt, a historian at the University of Iowa, has devoted his career to undoing the “nationwide amnesia” about what used to constitute the American dream of increasing leisure—the Puritans’ beloved Sabbath, the freedom to ramble that Walt Whitman called “higher progress,” the Big Rock Candy Mountain. Hunnicutt’s latest book, Free Time, traces how this dream went from being thought of as a technological inevitability, to becoming the chief demand in a century of labor struggles, to disappearing in the present dystopia where work threatens to invade every hour of our lives.
Interesting research. I wonder what, if anything, does this say about sociocultural attitudes towards gender roles, relationships, romantic expectations, or other factors that may contribute to conflict between partners. I’d be curious to see research like this involving other countries across the world.
Originally posted on Quartz:
Marital bickering is not just for married couples. If you’re an unmarried cohabiting couple in Europe, you’re actually more likely to argue about whose turn it is to clean the toilet than a married couple would, according to a new report. But you may be less likely to argue over paying the gas bill than a wedlocked duo.
The report, published in the journal Demographic Research, surveyed cohabiting and married heterosexual couples in 22 European countries and determined how much they each argue about specific issues. Couples living together are more likely to argue over housework than married couples, while married couples were more likely to disagree over paid work and money, the researchers found.
The report also exposed differences in the overall rate of couples arguing from country to country. Couples in Greece, for example, are living the good life; they’re the least likely to squabble about household work divisions, paid work and money. Norway and Finland are…
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New polling out from NBC and the Wall Street Journal shows a huge shift in attitudes towards poverty and the poor over the last 20 years. According to the survey, 46 percent Americans believe that poverty is caused by circumstances beyond people’s control, versus 44 percent who think it’s caused by impoverished people not doing enough to improve their station in life. The last time the survey asked that question, in 1995, a full 60 percent of Americans felt that the poor weren’t doing enough to lift themselves out of poverty, compared to just 30 percent who blamed extraneous factors. Hard times, it would seem, have made us more sympathetic to the plight of the poor. There’s nothing like a massive economic downturn to foster a little empathy.
And that makes sense. When the economy so rapidly and viciously turns on so many people, it’s hard to maintain the sense of idealism that leads one to believe that hard work and ambition are all that’s required to secure a comfortable, reasonably prosperous existenc
– Simon Maloy, Salon
Apocalyptic proclamations are nothing new, and thus nowadays scarcely garner more than amusement or ridicule, if they’re even noticed at all. But with the world experiencing environmental calamity of unprecedented proportions amid mounting scientific and empirical evidence, it seems that warnings about ecologically-related disasters are worthy of more serious attention and consideration than most.
Consider a fairly recent NASA-sponsored* report by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center , which was written by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei in collaboration with a team of natural and social scientists. It not only concludes that modern civilization is doomed, but that the culprit is the entire fundamental structure and nature of our current global society — e.g. it will be no small task to rectify it.
As Tom McKay of PolicyMic further explains:
Analyzing five risk factors for societal collapse (population, climate, water, agriculture and energy), the report says that the sudden downfall of complicated societal structures can follow when these factors converge to form two important criteria.
Motesharrei’s report says that all societal collapses over the past 5,000 years have involved both “the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity” and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor].” This “Elite” population restricts the flow of resources accessible to the “Masses”, accumulating a surplus for themselves that is high enough to strain natural resources. Eventually this situation will inevitably result in the destruction of society.
Elite power, the report suggests, will buffer “detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners,” allowing the privileged to “continue ‘business as usual’ despite the impending catastrophe.”
For most people, myself included, the solution lies in scientific innovation: the development of technologies that can reverse or at least mitigate the damage, whether it’s finding cleaner and more sustainable forms of energy, or developing machines that can absorb all the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But the report not only casts doubt on science’s ability to help, but goes further to suggest that such technological develops could make things worse:
“Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use.”
In other words, science and technology are neutral in this matter — they can only beneficial insofar as they’re applied that way. Any potential scientific gains will be outweighed by how they’re exploited to reinforce the existing overburdened system. If anything such development could even speed the collapse; for example, if we keep focusing on finding better ways to squeeze out more finite resources rather than begin the transition to more renewable and sustainable energies.
The worst-case scenarios predicted by the report are either sudden collapse due to famine or a longer-term breakdown of society due to the over-consumption of natural resources. As for the alternative:
The best-case scenario involves recognition of the looming catastrophe by Elites and a more equitable restructuring of society, but who really believes that is going to happen? Here’s what the study recommends in a nutshell:
The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth.
These are great suggestions that will, unfortunately, almost certainly never be put into action, considering just how far down the wrong path our civilization has gone. As of last year, humans are using more resources than the Earth can replenish and the planet’s distribution of resources among its terrestrial inhabitants is massively unequal. This is what happened to Rome and the Mayans, according to the report.
Such solutions would require nothing short of a massive paradigm shift, which in turn would require tremendous public and political will across all segments of society, especially among the economic elites that have such tremendous influence on the system. But will we have the capacity and organization to make these changes, let alone in time to stay the collapse? Climate-change alone remains a fairly contentious and divisive topic despite its overwhelming scientific backing; even among nations whose policymakers acknowledge the problem to some degree, change is slow or incomplete.
Of course, all this assumes that people will actually take the report seriously. It is indeed largely theoretical, although as pointed out by Nafeez Ahmed at The Guardian, more solid research by groups such as KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science reach similar conclusions about the dangerous convergence food, water, and energy-scarcity. Is it worth the risk to not take action based on any potential doubts or uncertainties? Wouldn’t the necessary changes to avoid societal collapse — even if they were found to have been unnecessary to that end — nonetheless be beneficial in their own right anyway?
As always, share your own thoughts and opinions on the matter.
*NASA was utilized to provide research tools for the study, but it did not directly solicit, direct, or review the report, nor did it officially endorse the paper or its conclusions.
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