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Book: David Smith - PredicamentMy good friend Dave Carlson recently sent me a copy of a book by his Stanford buddy. It stayed midst a pile of other books waiting to be read - till I picked it up and could not put it down.
In his book, "The Predicament", Dartmouth and Stanford economist and futurist David L. Smith, previously an avowed "conservative", explains how the current financial and political dysfunctions emerged.
Smith quotes the acclaimed HBO series by Aaron Sorkin: "The Newsroom" where news-anchor Will McAvoy delivered a four-minute rant about why America is not the greatest country in the world. Every American should view, or at least read, this monologue. Here is a short version to get you to view it on Youtube:
"It sure used to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were and we never beat our chests. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world's greatest artists and the world's greatest economy. We reached for the stars, we aspired to intelligence, we did not belittle it, it did not make us feel inferior.
"The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore."
Identifying the root cause of the American Predicament as the hijacking of the democratic process by a rich and powerful elite, David Smith proposes a completely new democratic political process, bypassing Big Money to reorient government to the service of "We The People".
Says David Smith: "The older generations show little inclination to acknowledge the full extent of the predicament, let alone extricate us from it."
I am often asked why I keep harping on wealth inequality in America. Here is my response: Because it is currently America's biggest problem. If not addressed, it will worsen to the extent that the solutions will be more and more extreme.
How Did It Happen? How Bad Is It? The Case for Radical Change Now!
Why Americas is not the best country in the world
Belief, Bias & Healthy SkepticismIn a previous eNews (25 October 2013) we discussed Human Constructs - the psychosocial construction of reality, the inherited knowledge and experience that establish our conscious and subconscious view of everything.
Primary constructs are embedded in the human brain from infancy - Religion, Culture, Love (family and country). These are all linked to our place of birth and surroundings, where we grow up and how we are taught.
The patterns embedded in our thinking determine our view of the world. People have different views of the truth because every individual thinks using their own unique perspective. Philosophers have understood for a long time that humans are deeply flawed thinkers.
We all have a "Confirmation Bias" - a tendency to find conforming evidence in support of what we already believe and to ignore or rationalize non-conforming evidence. Our belief filters allow gathering of information from sources that confirm our beliefs and ignore, or filter out, contrary evidence. So, for example, when reviewing the same exact news, Republicans and Democrats arrive at radically different conclusions. Hence the divide.
In fact, there is some indication where in the brain this phenomenon occurs. There appear to be emotional reactions to conflicting data, rationalizing away parts that do not fit preconceived beliefs; then, parts of the brain receive a reward (neurochemical dopamine hit) when beliefs are confirmed.
We also have "Hindsight Bias" - a tendency to reconstruct the past to fit with the latest knowledge. After a major disaster, people think they know how and why it occurred and why leaders should have seen it coming.
Then there's the "Self-justification Bias" - the tendency to rationalize decisions after the fact. A positive aspect of this is that no matter what decision is made, we will almost always be satisfied with that decision, no matter what the outcome.
These biases are not always a liability. It is true however that awareness helps people to make more informed decisions.
Understanding of these biases helps me to understand Life: politics, religion, patriotism, cultural-bias and a lot more about my family, friends and business associates. I hope it helps you.
Longevity - Future of DeathRapidly advancing medical advancements will free many from the chains of natural death. Scientists have been able to reverse age in mice. Human trials will start as soon as next year. Sounds like science fiction, but age reversal has arrived.
Most people are not philosophically, morally and socially ready to accept prolonged life. What will life be like when life is prolonged for those who can choose?
Since 1900, the life expectancy of Americans has jumped from age 47 to 80. This comes mostly from improved hygiene and nutrition, everything from antibiotics and heart surgery to drugs that combat most diseases.
Once beyond about 60 many ailments come into play: Diabetes, arthritis, heart-disease, depression, Alzheimer's & dementia, Parkinson's, hearing loss, incontinence, osteoporosis - the list goes on. In the US, health care costs grew faster than the economy as a whole - now 16% of GDP, compared to 9% in 1980. Think on this: 5% of the population accounted for 50% of overall US health care spending.
How many years might be added to a life? Some suggest a possible increase of decades. Even without new high-tech advances, the UN estimates that human life expectancy will approach 100 years over the next century.
Whatever actually happens, here is the very basic question for reflection: How long do YOU expect and want to live?
Industries & Occupations of TomorrowThe nature of jobs is changing along with the businesses and environments in which work is done.
The latest World Future Society's Futurist magazine lists several of tomorrow's technologies and the occupations which will emerge. There are many new industries from which our children and grandchildren will choose. Here's my selection of the top-10:
Today's Electronic Communications - Response Time ExpectationsCommunication overload is common today. People feel anxious and even overwhelmed. If all day is spent just responding to incoming messages, when does the REAL work get done?
Complaints about "information overload" date back to the invention of the printing press ("When are we supposed to read these books?!") Today, many experience similar anxiety with the waves of new devices and social media tools. It should be understood that your own output plays a huge role in what you receive.
With technology integrated into virtually every aspect of our lives, communication has become easier than ever before. Ceaseless access to computers and smart phones make it possible to access our email, voicemail and text messages from anywhere, every second of the day.
As communications speed up, response-time expectations have shortened. There's always a trade off - detail for speed, or speed for detail. Most people opt for speed, which of leaves little time for context and understanding.
The biggest issue for technology communications with the expectation of instant response is that there is less and less understanding of what is being communicated faster and faster,
Consider this: how quickly do you expect to receive a response to your messages? How soon should you respond? How long is Too Long? Here is my own summary.
Families and friends will learn (by experience) how quickly you respond. Indeed, those who respond quickly become a conduit for those who don't: "Is so-and-so there?"
Here's something to consider: If you don't respond, your texts and emails will dwindle to zero. Indeed, the good way to eliminate all communications is to stop responding.
eFeedbackThe always-thinking Bob Fritz [firstname.lastname@example.org] comes up with practical solutions for America's declining middle-class:
"The first thing we need is incentives for big companies to stop fleeing the country. US companies in total have $2 trillion held overseas because the US government penalizes them for bringing it back and building plants here.
"The next thing is to stop hurting Americans who design, make and sell things. You can make a lot more money in private equity by buying existing companies, borrowing 80% of their worth from a bank, laying off a lot of people, and then ?'flipping' the company. What value have you created? We need to examine the tax structure that lets this happen.
"While we're at it, get rid of Sarbanes-Oxley, which has had the effect of making 'going public' impossible for many American companies. Get rid of the Death Tax too. No first rate country still has one. It forces any successful entrepreneur to sell out instead of sustaining the firm.
"Now we come to monetary policy. The Fed is printing money like water. What this does is make things cost more. Everything. People who spend 98% of their income on stuff they absolutely need, are hurt when gas And feed prices go up. But the rich can simply invest in stocks & bonds. Result? The rich get richer while the poor get poorer.
"Finally, it's time to realize that China and other countries are artificially devaluing their currency to boost international trade. Make them stop by imposing an equalization tariff if they don't float their currency. That would make American goods a lot more competitive.
"We need to get this country moving again."
"Yes, I believe the American dream of owning your own home is still alive and well, and will return much equity as time goes by. I believe homes and property in general are still one of the safest and easiest ways to accumulate capital.
"I also disagree that our votes are meaningless. Yes big money sways elections, but the elections are still controlled more by the individual political party loyalty in achieving the goals of that party. Voters tend to be some degree of 'liberal' or 'conservative' and will often vote for just that reason, regardless of who is the candidate or what is the issue, especially if the candidate is more or less unknown to them.
"The initiative process has really come in to its own in recent years for settling local issues and individual votes carry the results."
"I have no idea how this can be solved. Most Americans seem centered in their own little geographical spot and, as Chris said, many cannot name their own senator or congressman. Many do not know who is the Vice President or Secretary of State. This is the most frightening issue for me.
"I suspect that 80% of Americans cannot tell you the capital of Canada. Most Canadians are well educated, hard working and knowledgeable and seem to know much more about America than many Americans do.
"As an example, when my wife and family moved here from Montreal, her children were enrolled in an Academic Magnet school system in Charleston, SC. They were discussing ethnicity and one of the boys said that he was Caucasian; the teacher said, 'No you are not, you are Canadian.' Go figure!"
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