Signals from the future: for the Week of August 20, 2019

Please enjoy the links to articles that e-walked out of my inbox recently.
All notes are excerpts unless otherwise noted. 

BBC – Future – How the views of a few can determine a country’s fate

  • Do you get the feeling that political debate is increasingly polarised? Certainly in the country where I live, the UK, politics appears to be at an impasse.
  • But what if polarisation is entirely to be expected? And what if it is not the result of ignorance or small-mindedness, but a perfectly human response to our fallibilities and flaws? Some of the latest research shows us that one reason for the polarisation we see today comes down to a few, incredibly influential minorities.
  • “Those with unlimited memory could remember any type of argument from any perspective,” says Jung. “Those who could forget were split into some who randomly forgot and others who forgot weak arguments or old arguments.”
  • “Agents with unlimited memory did not become polarised,” says Jung. But no human has a perfectly infallible memory. What is more intersting is what happens when we account for the fact that our attention spans, memories and energy to debate can change.
  • Even though we are completely rational, our society can become polarised because we forget the arguments of others.”
  • Instead of thinking that we need to “correct” their thinking or re-educate them, we could reflect on what might be affecting their judgement. Poor memory, stress, uncertainty, discrimination – all these things could be pushing people away from the norm.
  • “Lots of people don’t consider themselves extremists,” says Gaffney.
  • Moderate conservatives might not agree with this stance. However, research shows that by associating with extreme minorities your opinions can change in surprising ways.
  • “When people feel uncertain they use strong values to define themselves” – Amber Gaffney
  • “When we see positive social change, it comes from a minority. Think about the civil rights movement, women’s vote,” says Gaffney. “They are all incredibly positive, but they started with minority groups – they were the outsiders working against the norm.”

BBC – Future – What the voice inside your head says about you

  • We tend to assume that our internal monologue “speaks” in words – but it turns out that, for many of us, it’s much more complicated.
  • …words don’t seem to feature as heavily in our day-to-day thoughts as many of us think they do. “Most people think that they think in words, but many people are mistaken about that,” he says.
  • Hurlburt’s preferred method of investigation is called Descriptive Experience Sampling, or DES.
  • Hurlburt has come up with five categories of inner experiences: inner speaking, which comes in a variety of forms; inner seeing, which could feature images of things you’ve seen in real life or imaginary visuals; feelings, such as anger or happiness; sensory awareness, like being aware of the scratchiness of the carpet under your feet; and unsymbolised thinking, a trickier concept to get your head around, but essentially a thought that doesn’t manifest as words or images, but is undoubtedly present in your mind.
  • the different kinds of inner voices they conversed with and came up with a list of four common internal interlocutors: the faithful friend; the ambivalent parent; the proud rival; and the helpless child.
  • There’s growing evidence that inner speech is important for self-reflection, too. After neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor recovered from a stroke she suffered aged 37, she wrote in My Stroke of Insight about what it was like to experience a “silent mind” without inner speech for several weeks: “What a daunting task it was to simply sit there in the centre of my silent mind… trying to remember, Who am I? What am I doing?”
  • But even though current research can’t yet shine a light on those bigger truths about the inner workings of our minds, learning how to tune into your thoughts could help you on an individual level.

Are Young Entrepreneurs Becoming ‘Endangered’? – Small Business Trends

  • …on average Americans start around 400,000 businesses every year. But there is one group which is not doing well when it comes to starting a business, young entrepreneurs.
  • The report lists seven reasons for fewer young entrepreneurs today than 25+ years ago. And the number one reason probably affects all age groups, fear of failure. But for 25 to 34-year old’s, almost half or 41% are held back by fear of failing.
  • The next reason is somewhat perplexing but it is higher education. According to the report, higher education reduces the entrepreneurial spirit. When it comes to small businesses, the majority of owners don’t have a college degree.
  • Financing rounds up the top three reasons, and it is one of the most difficult hurdles a young entrepreneur has to overcome. Because they don’t have strong credit history or savings it is that much harder to get approved for financing. So, even if they have a strong desire to start a business, they might have to wait.
  • Some of the other reasons are fierce competition; no succession planning for young entrepreneurs; not enough skill sets and experience; lack of network and support infrastructure.
  • Along the same line, businesses incubators and accelerators can also give young entrepreneurs the knowledge they need. By providing skills, experience, and a growing network, they can start a business knowing they have resources they can access. And one of the resources they need most is financing.

Face recognition technology: innovative or invasive? | Sharyl Attkisson

  • A noticeable backlash against facial recognition software has “reached a tipping point,” says NewScientist.
  • U.S. politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has voiced her concerns about facial recognition software to NewScientist. She worries that letting facial recognition technology run wild will result in an “authoritarian surveillance state.”
  • Large companies like Amazon are also starting to suffer as well, says NewScientist. Shareholders are shying away from Amazon’s Rekognition software, which is used by governments across the world. According to NewScientist, some of these former investors believe the Rekognition software is infringing on civil liberties.

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