Friday, August 12, 2016

My Mission:

During the last few months I have been reading many of the posts one The Mission.  I read how people are trying to help others find pathways improve their careers, their finances, their relationships, and where they fit into the world.  Most are focusing on short and intermediate time frames.  I am older than most of your readers, almost as old as Bernie, and I am interested in the longer term. I wonder about the lives of my children and grandchildren. 
I read how many of your readers are working hard to create a future that will be different in many ways from how we live now, and hopefully, it will be better. 
My Mission, is to start a discussion about that: where are we going?  What are we creating?  Why? What do we want?  What may be the unintended consequences?
I want help people think with a wider perspective.  What will happen to their lives, to their families, to communities, to the world as a result of all of these changes?

I am proposing to write a series of essays, each 1000 to 2000 words, which highlight the many significant changes that are affecting all of us.  These essays will describe changes in areas such as technology, genetics, families, population demographics, the earth’s environment, sources of energy, and medicine.  Most importantly, I will focus on how all of these areas interact with each other to increase the impact on our lives.
At the end of each essay there will be a few questions for people to consider.  These questions are designed to help people clarify how they want to participate and benefit from the opportunities that are being created.  I hope to be able to stimulate a discussion about how each of us can influences the direction and consequences of all of this change.  The flux will always be with us. We can either be swept up and dragged along by the swift current, or we can take some actions now to control the direction of the river, while we each choose the best ways to steer our own kayaks.

Ch-ch-ch Changes

Things are changing. Many things already have.  The world is being disrupted.  More change is coming, and coming faster. Constant change is now the norm.
As we change the world, the world is changing us, as a species.  The type of tasks we need to survive and prosper are different than they were fifty years ago when I was just facing the world as a young adult.  Everything in the world moved much slower.I had to search for information in places well beyond the palm of my hand. The information I could find then, especially in sciences, was probably less than a third of what there is now.  What I was learning in graduate school about Psychology at that time has mostly been disproven or relegated to the archives of “long ago.”
All of the sciences are completely different than fifty years ago.  So are almost all of what happens during the daily lives of everyone in the developed world: how we communicate, how we work, where we work, how we get food, what we eat, how we spend our leisure time, how find mates, how we create our families, what constitutes a family……. Almost every aspect of our lives has been affected by changes in technology, medicine, and the changes in our biological environment and our social environment.
The result of all of these changes is that the people who do well in the future will require different skills than the ones who are doing well now.  In many ways, they will be different kinds of people.
What will you be doing in ten, twenty or thirty years? What about your children or grandchildren?  Do you know how all of these changes will affect you, and them?  Do you think you will be able to choose the benefits these changes offer while avoiding the dangers?  Do you think you know what is coming or will it all just happen to you, and you will have to struggle to cope?

We are living in an fascinating time, a chaotic time.  Many of these new developments are marvelous and fascinating, but so much is happening so quickly that many people are feeling very insecure. I have been a psychotherapist for over forty years and I have witnessed how, even though in many ways our lives are much easier, there still has been a widespread rise in the amount of stress, anxiety and depression in people all over the world. 

On the positive side, it is clear that more than any other time in history, many people are very aware that there is a lot going on. This is good, but we have to take advantage of this realization. We have to ask ourselves many difficult questions, and they are questions that we will each have to answer for ourselves.  There really is no one best way forward. But if you don’t consider many of these questions, you could be swept away and who knows if you will like where you end up.
That is my Mission: to highlight the impact of some of the many changes in our lives, to make the issues clear, and to ask some questions.  My purpose is to start a discussion so that we can all share ideas and perspectives.  We all hope to build a better future. Let’s create the future we want instead of letting it shape who we become.

* * * * *

1. Hey Gottlieb!

Let me begin with a hypothetical:

It’s sometime around 1885.   You are about to attend a meeting with Gottlieb Daimler and a few of his buddies. He is the guy who constructed what is generally recognized as the prototype of the modern, gas-powered, internal combustion engine.
Let’s get all of those innovators together and brainstorm about the long-term consequences of their new product.  Do they have any idea of the effect it could have?  Is there anything they might do differently if they could see how the world looks today?

The invention of the internal combustion engine was the beginning of one of the great technological transformations of the world. That technology changed the world dramatically in ways that we take for granted today.  Almost all of the those changes are seen as “progress,” but many of the secondary consequences are a bit troubling. 
Here are a few of the obvious changes: 
— There has been a great reduction in the need for backbreaking human and animal labor.  
— The improvement in the transportation of people and goods has totally transformed how people live, work, and relate.  
— People are now spread across the world and still get to wherever they need to go, rapidly and easily.  We have cars, trains, planes, buses, trucks, and boats. 
— We have billions of miles of paved roads to help us get places.  We can live in suburbs or exurbs and still work in cities.
— Internal combustion engines now do our farming, build our buildings, pave our roads, fight our wars and blow our leaves away. 
— There is no part of our lives that has not not been affected, and in may ways made much easier.

Of course, there have been some unintended consequences:

— The burning of fossil fuel has been a major contributor to changing the atmosphere and heating our planet. There is now the possibility that it will cause great harm to many people.
— Easy, rapid travel and big machines have allowed people to live in climates and environments such as deserts, jungles  and mountain tops in a way that has destroyed a great deal of the natural balance between the flora and fauna of our planet,  
— There has been an unmeasurable amount of corruption and a great many wars fought to insure access to the gas and oil needed to run these internal combustion engines.  Many of the poorest and most oppressive countries in the world have become unbelievably rich due to having vast deposits of oil and gas.
— Wars have been fought involving the entire planet, resulting in the deaths of millions of people, mostly due to the more destructive power of the planes, battleships and tanks that have been powered by internal combustion engines.  

No one would think to place the blame for the destruction, corruption and pollution on  the people who designed and built those early engines. They had no way of even imagining what was gong to transpire in fifty, or a hundred years after their spark-plugs began to ignite the fuel in those cylinders.  They were really just trying to find something that was stronger, easier to care for, and more dependable than a horse or an ox. 
But perhaps, if there was a way of trying to consider the long-term possibilities, some small revision may have been made the could have kept many of the strengths while avoiding many of the difficulties.  A man named J. J. √Čtienne Lenoir tried, in 1858  to make an engine using hydrogen as fuel.  Perhaps we should have stuck with that.

Today, we are in the early stages of many such transformational technological creations. Due to the interactions of science, technology, entrepreneurship, and rapid communications, many of these new creations are appearing at once.   We are developing digital technology, nano-technology, and quantum technology.  We are making amazing advances in genetics, engineering, medicine , brain science, robotics, virtual reality, and human/machine combinations. We are working on new, clean sources of energy that will be necessary to keep all these things operating   We are also seeing huge migrations of people who are blending together to create new communities. This is leading to large shifts in the values, expectations and behaviors of everyone, all over the world.
We have the opportunity to use many of these advances in communications and technology to anticipate, in ways that no one possibly could have back in 1885, what the consequences of all of these changes could possibly be. Since we are at such an early stage in so many of these advances we should try to use our new powers of analysis and prediction to help us make choices of what we want to achieve and how we want to use it?  
How can each of us determine which parts of this new world we want in our lives?  We have learned that we cannot depend on governments or corporations or any institutions to be watching out for our best interests. We have to be able to watch over them. 
There will be scientific studies, algorithms and protocols to direct us, but we need to be sophisticated enough to understand them and know what they are designed to do. The hope for the future is that we will gain more freedom and prosperity.  These changes will affect our lives and the lives of future generations, Now is the time to choose, and we need to choose as wisely as possible.
That is why I am writing this series of essays.  They will contain descriptions of many of aspects of our lives which are rapidly changing.  At the end of each section will be questions 
i hope you ask yourself, and discuss with your family and friends. I hope you will add your comments here.  It should help you decide, as much as possible, which of all of the new possibilities you want in your life, and which ones would lead you away from the kind of life you hope for. I hope you will pose your own questions.  The more people who are involved, the more successful we will be. We should all be part of the process of making the new world a better place to live in, and one in which we can all live there together, in peace, with freedom, prosperity, health and happiness.


1.   How much time do you spend on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Linked-In, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube,Tumblr, Instagram, etc)?
Do you control it, or does it control you?
Are you getting what you want more than you are bothered?
How many apps do you have to help manage your other apps?
Can you stay away?  FOMO?

2.   If you are experiencing some strange physical symptoms, would you rather have your diagnosis be determined by a your personal doctor? a Watson computer? or a combination of the two?
Which would your doctor prefer?
How old is your doctor?

3.  How much different will our lives be in 2045, the year I turn 100? There are many predictions you can look at: Ray Kurzweil, Kevin Kelly, Michael Bess, Steven Kotler, many VC people, as well as Mad Max. Many others such as sci-fi writers or corporate think tanks.
What are some of the things we do now that will amaze people in 2045?
That we:
— Let humans drive cars and fly planes?
— Eat food that comes directly out of the ground or the ocean?
— Work more than fifteen hours a week?

All of these questions, and many more will be discussed in the weeks ahead.
Please join me by pushing the green heart and adding a comment in the discussion.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

I'm back.
I'm starting to write about new things.  The past was prologue.  
I'm putting some test drafts here for the 20 of your to read.  I have not done anything to broaden the readership of this blog, but that may happen.  We'll see.

Something’s Happening Here

1. Realization

Way back In the Spring of 2012 I was sitting across across from  Carrie, an attractive, articulate, sixteen year-old young woman.  She had come to me because she was having panic attacks. These attacks often came when she was studying for exams at school.  She said sometimes she felt as if her head was going to explode, and at other times that she couldn’t breathe.  Carrie spoke in a very animated fashion about how difficult it was for her to maintain her excellent grades and still keep up with the constant influx from her social connections.  As she spoke her voice cracked a little and her dark hair fell in front of her dark eyes that would fill, but not overflow with tears.  Her parents, Sandra and Joyce, were sitting in my waiting room, while her friends, many of them, were wondering where she was and why she was not answering their text messages that were making her phone ping every thirty seconds.
I have been a psychotherapist for over forty years and have been closely involved in thousands of people’s lives, yet that was the memorable moment when it became undeniably obvious to me that I was living in a new world; a world that is not only creating changes in how we all live, it is creating changes in who we all are. Changes that will alter the basic make-up of our species,.
The changes are technological, environmental, genetic, and societal.  The most powerful changes are the result of how all of those factors interact.  This new world will increasingly require  people to learn different skills in order to adapt and succeed.  Many of the ways of thinking and acting that were adaptive and helpful two or three generations ago, are no longer useful; others are now counter-productive. The time and effort that our ancestors needed to learn how to hunt or to grow for food has been replaced by knowing how to talk to Siri or an Amazon Echo.
Our grandparents lived in a world that was very different from the one that their grandparents lived in.  The early twentieth century was a time of change, especially compared to the early nineteenth century. It was a time of significant industrial and mechanical advances. The pace of that change has continued to increase so that now, in the early twenty-first century, we live with constant change.  We expect it to continue. But as we are changing the world, the world is changing us. 

For thousands of years the personalities, beliefs, and behaviors of all people have been shaped by the same basic forces: our genetics, then our families, then our communities, and we are all also limited or enhanced by our general health.
Who we all are, as individuals, begins with our own genetic structure, 99.9% of which we share with every other member of our homo sapiens family. We are all the product of millions of years of evolution. All human babies are born with the genetic scripts that have been passed from generation to generation, with occasional mutations, for two-hundred thousand years. 
Next, we are all plunked into a family grouping, whatever shape  takes:  two parents, a tribe, a refugee camp, a single parent, a mother and a sperm donor, whatever.  This “family” immediately begins to teach us their version of how the world works.  We all quickly begin to understand how we are expected to behave in order to get what we need.. We have to adapt to that specific environment to survive.  Babies are very dependent so we all had to learn fast.
The third powerful influence on our behavior is the community, the subculture in which we find ourselves as we emerge into the world.  This consists of our friends, our school, our church, our neighborhood, our diet, the climate,  and all of the experiences that we find outside of our family, which now, of course, includes all of the Internet and social media.
These three factors interact with each other to shape us all. To this mix of influences we have to add our health.  If we are strong and robust we can partake in much of what we wish.  If we have a major illness or deformity, our lives will be different, not worse necessarily, but different. If we are obviously different in some way it will cause many people to react to us differently. Most people will be kind and helpful, but others will be mean, many will just look away.  We, in turn, will react to their reactions to us. Everything interacts.
Combined, these influences shape what we  believe, and how we think, feel and act.  It has been this way since our ancestors first walked upright and formed groups.
To me, Carrie is the symbol of how these basic, long-standing forces are beginning to change. The pace of these changes will only increase.  Carrie was conceived in a petri dish.  An egg was taken from one of her mothers and fertilized with sperm from an anonymous man who was selected from a profile in a data base.  Her parents were not allowed to be married at the time, but they were living together. As soon as the law was changed they got married. Carrie has a little brother now, and they all live in a happy, caring family.  The community in which Carrie lives accepts her family without question. These are circumstances that her grandparents would not have believed possible.
The visit with Carrie happened in 2012, and already so much from that time seems out of date. This is mainly due to new technologies, and to the new scientific knowledge that these technologies have helped us acquire.  The aspects of Carrie’s life that seemed unusual then are commonplace and well accepted now. In just the past few years there  have been changes in all of the basic powerful forces.  There has been constant scientific advances in our understanding our own genetics., many new variations in the definition of a family; major shifts in demographics and composition of societies around the world, and significant advances in medicine.
All of these changes have affected the expectations of how Carrie will live her life. The skills she is learning, and how she learns them, are changing.   Her life will be vastly different than the life I lived, growing up in the middle of the twentieth century.  All of these things are not only changing how people behave, they are changing our DNA, our bodies and our minds.  Some of it is intentional; most of it is not.  The more we all are aware of what is happening to us, the better prepared we will be to make good use of the changes we feel are beneficial.  We also need to stay vigilant,so that we can avoid the ones we don’t wish to have thrust upon us.

1. Do you know anyone who has two mothers or two fathers?
What do think of it?  How old are you?
Are there some kinds of family combinations that would make you uncomfortable?
Polygamy?  Three fathers with six children?
2, Take a look at yourself in a mirror.
Are you White?  Do you realize how that has affected your life?
Are you tall?  Well endowed? Have a symmetrical face?

3, How close are you to the members of your family?
Do you feel you have absorbed their values, or have you explicitly rejected them?

4.  What is your favorite piece of digital equipment?
How long have you had it?
When will you need to replace it?

Did you think you needed it before you learned there was one?