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robertogreco : caution   8

Being rich wrecks your soul. We used to know that. - The Washington Post
"The point is not necessarily that wealth is intrinsically and everywhere evil, but that it is dangerous — that it should be eyed with caution and suspicion, and definitely not pursued as an end in itself; that great riches pose great risks to their owners; and that societies are right to stigmatize the storing up of untold wealth. That’s why Aristotle, for instance, argued that wealth should be sought only for the sake of living virtuously — to manage a household, say, or to participate in the life of the polis. Here wealth is useful but not inherently good; indeed, Aristotle specifically warned that the accumulation of wealth for its own sake corrupts virtue instead of enabling it. For Hindus, working hard to earn money is a duty (dharma), but only when done through honest means and used for good ends. The function of money is not to satiate greed but to support oneself and one’s family. The Koran, too, warns against hoarding money and enjoins Muslims to disperse it to the needy.

Some contemporary voices join this ancient chorus, perhaps none more enthusiastically than Pope Francis. He’s proclaimed that unless wealth is used for the good of society, and above all for the good of the poor, it is an instrument “of corruption and death.” And Francis lives what he teaches: Despite access to some of the sweetest real estate imaginable — the palatial papal apartments are the sort of thing that President Trump’s gold-plated extravagance is a parody of — the pope bunks in a small suite in what is effectively the Vatican’s hostel. In his official state visit to Washington, he pulled up to the White House in a Fiat so sensible that a denizen of Northwest D.C. would be almost embarrassed to drive it. When Francis entered the Jesuit order 59 years ago, he took a vow of poverty, and he’s kept it.

According to many philosophies and faiths, then, wealth should serve only as a steppingstone to some further good and is always fraught with moral danger. We all used to recognize this; it was a commonplace. And this intuition, shared by various cultures across history, stands on firm empirical ground.

Over the past few years, a pile of studies from the behavioral sciences has appeared, and they all say, more or less, “Being rich is really bad for you.” Wealth, it turns out, leads to behavioral and psychological maladies. The rich act and think in misdirected ways.

When it comes to a broad range of vices, the rich outperform everybody else. They are much more likely than the rest of humanity to shoplift and cheat , for example, and they are more apt to be adulterers and to drink a great deal . They are even more likely to take candy that is meant for children. So whatever you think about the moral nastiness of the rich, take that, multiply it by the number of Mercedes and Lexuses that cut you off, and you’re still short of the mark. In fact, those Mercedes and Lexuses are more likely to cut you off than Hondas or Fords: Studies have shown that people who drive expensive cars are more prone to run stop signs and cut off other motorists .

The rich are the worst tax evaders, and, as The Washington Post has detailed, they are hiding vast sums from public scrutiny in secret overseas bank accounts.

They also give proportionally less to charity — not surprising, since they exhibit significantly less compassion and empathy toward suffering people. Studies also find that members of the upper class are worse than ordinary folks at “reading” people’ s emotions and are far more likely to be disengaged from the people with whom they are interacting — instead absorbed in doodling, checking their phones or what have you. Some studies go even further, suggesting that rich people, especially stockbrokers and their ilk (such as venture capitalists, whom we once called “robber barons”), are more competitive, impulsive and reckless than medically diagnosed psychopaths. And by the way, those vices do not make them better entrepreneurs; they just have Mommy and Daddy’s bank accounts (in New York or the Cayman Islands) to fall back on when they fail."



"Some will say that we have not entirely forgotten it and that we do complain about wealth today, at least occasionally. Think, they’ll say, about Occupy Wall Street; the blowback after Mitt Romney’s comment about the “47 percent”; how George W. Bush painted John Kerry as out of touch. But think again: By and large, those complaints were not about wealth per se but about corrupt wealth — about wealth “gone wrong” and about unfairness. The idea that there is no way for the vast accumulation of money to “go right” is hardly anywhere to be seen.

Getting here wasn’t straightforward. Wealth has arguably been seen as less threatening to one’s moral health since the Reformation, after which material success was sometimes taken as evidence of divine election. But extreme wealth remained morally suspect, with the rich bearing particular scrutiny and stigmatization during periods like the Gilded Age. This stigma persisted until relatively recently; only in the 1970s did political shifts cause executive salaries skyrocket, and the current effectively unprecedented inequality in income (and wealth) begin to appear, without any significant public complaint or lament.

The story of how a stigma fades is always murky, but contributing factors are not hard to identify. For one, think tanks have become increasingly partisan over the past several decades, particularly on the right: Certain conservative institutions, enjoying the backing of billionaires such as the Koch brothers, have thrown a ton of money at pseudo-academics and “thought leaders” to normalize and legitimate obscene piles of lucre. They produced arguments that suggest that high salaries naturally flowed from extreme talent and merit, thus baptizing wealth as simply some excellent people’s wholly legitimate rewards. These arguments were happily regurgitated by conservative media figures and politicians, eventually seeping into the broader public and replacing the folk wisdom of yore. But it is hard to argue that a company’s top earners are literally hundreds of times more talented than the lowest-paid employees.

As stratospheric salaries became increasingly common, and as the stigma of wildly disproportionate pay faded, the moral hazards of wealth were largely forgotten. But it’s time to put the apologists for plutocracy back on the defensive, where they belong — not least for their own sake. After all, the Buddha, Aristotle, Jesus, the Koran, Jimmy Stewart, Pope Francis and now even science all agree: If you are wealthy and are reading this, give away your money as fast as you can."
charlesmathewes  evansandsmark  2017  wealth  inequality  behavior  psychology  buddha  aristotle  jesus  koran  jimmystewart  popefrancis  ethics  generosity  vices  fscottfitzgerald  ernesthemingway  tonystark  confucius  austerity  tacitus  opulence  christ  virtue  caution  suspicion  polis  poverty  donaldtrump  jesuits  morality  humanism  cheating  taxevasion  charity  empathy  compassion  disengagement  competition  competitiveness  psychopaths  capitalism  luxury  politics  simplicity  well-being  suicide  ows  occupywallstreet  geogewbush  johnkerry  mittromney  gildedage  kochbrothers 
august 2017 by robertogreco
The Perils of "Stranger Danger" | On Being
"One of the first lessons many of us learn as children is “Don’t talk to strangers.” Not “don’t get into a car with strangers” or “don’t let strangers into your house,” but “don’t talk to strangers.”

As a parent of two young children, I’m sure I’ve said it myself without giving much thought to what I was actually asking of them. Do I really want them to heed that advice? Taken literally, not talking to a stranger means not saying “Hello” or “Happy Holidays.” It means not making eye contact or smiling, body language that could lead to a conversation. It’s the kind of advice that has led us to a place where two people standing in an elevator less than three feet apart will look everywhere but at each other.

We like to say it takes a village, but we’re scared to death of the villagers. And so we erect boundaries around our children and get incensed if people cross them. Scold someone else’s child at your own peril, and keep your unsolicited parenting advice to yourself. The message to our fellow citizens is clear: hands off my child."



"Years ago, a friend of mine took a trip to the Caribbean island of Barbados. She had just boarded a packed city bus when she felt a tugging on her purse. Her fight response kicked into gear; clearly, she was being robbed. She tugged back hard, then saw that the “thief” was a woman in the seat right next to her. On the buses in Barbados, apparently, it is not uncommon for those seated to hold the bags of the people standing, thus relieving their load.

Of course, sometimes you really are being robbed, and some people actually are scary — though it’s worth mentioning that most crimes involving children are committed not by strangers but by people known to the family, and violent crime has plunged in the last few decades.

Teaching kids how to be careful and to exercise intuition when dealing with strangers is essential. But hanging a "no trespassing" sign around their necks only increases our, and their, sense of fear and isolation. Distance is not always safety. Indeed, the opposite might well be true. Americans are lonelier and more depressed than ever before. For the better part of a decade, suicide rates among young people have been steadily increasing. Perhaps now more than ever, we need to cherish every scrap of authentic human connection that comes our way.

So this year I resolve to be a little less cautious instead of more. Rather than bemoan my lack of a village, as I often do, I will take a long, hard look at the boundaries that I put up, and what those boundaries signal to the world. The rewards of letting people in — like watching a perfect stranger enchant my little one with Spanish nursery rhymes or serenade her in Punjabi — are too good to miss."
stangers  strangerdanger  parenting  2016  rikhasharmarani  caution  fear  children  isolation  society  anxiety  onbeing 
february 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures — constraint no. 1: progress dogma
"Despite the name, Crap Futures is not all gloom and doom. We may view notions of progress with a sceptical eye, but we still subscribe - heartily, even - to the pursuit of a better world, however small our contribution might be.

In that spirit of improvement - and to introduce the first in our new series on constraints - let us turn for a moment to Ray Bradbury, the presiding Crap Futures muse. In his short story ‘A Sound of Thunder’ (1952), the protagonist, Eckels, travels back to the Late Cretaceous period to track and kill a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The slogan of the company that organises these tours, Time Safari, Inc., is straightforward: ‘Safaris to any year of the past … we take you there, you shoot it.’ Time Safari’s main job, aside from organising tours, is making sure each hunter leaves no footprint, literally or figuratively, in or on the past (or future - whatever, it’s confusing).

The spark in Bradbury’s cautionary tale is Time Safari’s meticulous treatment of the prehistoric ecosystem. With the vast timeframes involved, minute changes to a particular point in the past - increasing exponentially through time - can lead to dramatic differences in everything proceeding from that point. To avoid contaminating the past and altering the future, an ‘anti-gravity metal’ path hovers above the prehistoric jungle, from which hunters are instructed never to stray in even the slightest. The possible impact of any deviation from the path is conveyed in dramatic terms by the tour guide: ‘Step on a mouse and you crush the Pyramids. Step on a mouse and you leave your print, like a Grand Canyon, across Eternity.’ The hunters even wear special ‘oxygen helmets’ to avoid introducing ‘bacteria into the ancient atmosphere’.

Naturally enough, however, Eckels panics at the sight of the Tyrannosaurus and accidentally steps off the path. This leads to a typically Bradburyesque climax - which we won’t spoil here for those of you who haven’t read it.

The key message of Constraint No. 1 is that unlike Time Safari, most of those with a hand in ‘how the future happens’ have no motivation to think about long term consequences of their actions. So blinded are they, in fact, by the bright lights of progress and its successor innovation that any potentially negative impact is ignored. This positivistic message about technology is endemic, and is only being exacerbated by the ‘thumbs up’ and ‘like’ culture of the social network. Unfortunately, as we know, life is complicated and unforeseen negative outcomes happen.

Progress dogma keeps us on the current technological trajectory - it is belief as a motivational force of change. It gives this trajectory huge momentum, meaning that is is virtually impossible to change course. If you’ll pardon the bleak image, it’s a bit like the Titanic sailing directly into potentially fatal waters without a care in the world.

Once we remove the constraints of positive thinking, it becomes possible to more realistically apprehend the future in (some of) its complexity, helping us to figure out what to avoid as well as where to aim. So, how can we rethink progress to identify possible implications? How can we disconnect from the utopian mantra and twentieth-century mindset of positivist corporate culture?'
crapfutures  raybradbury  design  titanic  dinosaurs  sciencefiction  scifi  innovation  constraints  progress  technology  systemsthinking  time  longnow  bighere  skepticism  timesafari  implications  consequences  caution  positivism  future  duediligence  diligence  change  ecosystems  californianideology  2015 
january 2016 by robertogreco
"Stranger Danger" to children vastly overstated - Boing Boing
"Oft-cited stats about child abduction puts kidnappers behind every bush. But the numbers are old and frequently mangled, distorting our understanding of genuine risks to children."



"People send Skenazy their stories and media clippings of law-enforcement overreactions, some of which bubble up to national coverage. (Skenazy writes for the libertarian publication Reason.) She cites an appeals court decision in January 2014 in New Jersey which upheld the conviction of a mother for leaving her 19-month-old child asleep in a car for 5 to 10 minutes while she shopped.

The judge writing for the appeals panel cited a variety of potential risks: "…on a hot day, the temperature inside a motor vehicle can quickly spike to dangerously high levels, just as it may rapidly and precipitously dip on a cold night."

But the day wasn't hot, it wasn't night, and the child was never in danger. The decision left open the potential for any parent to be criminally charged and convicted for leaving a child in a car up to the age of 17, as the appeals court provided no cut-off date nor other parameters. It also thought because the task wasn't urgent, that more imaginary danger should have been considered. "Because she wasn't fantasizing, she was guilty," says Skenazy.

Many states have laws that mandate the age at which a child may be left alone at home or in a car (and the duration, among other factors), or provide such broad guidance that even if it's within the law, a child could be put in foster care and a parent arrested.

In Texas, leaving a child under seven without someone 14 or over in a car for over five minutes, is a Class C misdemeanor ($500 fine, no jail time). Texas has no rules about the age at which a kid can be left at home alone, but its definition of "neglectful supervision" includes not just "bodily injury" but "substantial risk of immediate harm to the child." This leaves an awful lot of latitude for enforcement, which we've seen in practice errs towards worst first thinking.

Skenazy says there's secondary effect, too. Parents who might otherwise make sensible choices about their kids' capabilities must also factor in the worst first thinking of neighbors and strangers. "They imagine that the authorities are using that criteria when they are making a decision about your parenting," and that results in calls to protective services and the police for behavior that isn't dangerous or unreasonable.

While the legal side remains tricky, Skenazy says parents' attitudes can be changed. For her TV show, producers received submissions from 2,000 families and picked the most-anxious 13, including a mother who still spoon fed her older child and an 8-year-old only allowed to stand on a skateboard on his front lawn. Another couple accompanied their children next door to the kids' grandparents.

She spent a few afternoons with the kids without their parents, and they bloomed. But even better, "It changes the parents utterly, completely, and forever, once the kids do something on their own. What looked like bone-deep fear, that even I — I wondered why am I here and not a psychiatrist? It's socially imposed." This gives her hope."
strangers  strangerdanger  statistics  2015  children  parenting  fear  lenoreskenazy  caution  overcaution  joelbest  halloween  risks  glennfleishman 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The Little Virtues, by Natalia Ginzburg | Caterina.net
“As far as the education of children is concerned, I think they should be taught not the little virtues but the great ones. Not thrift but generosity and an indifference to money; not caution but courage and a contempt for danger; not shrewdness but frankness and a love of truth; not tact but a love of ones neighbor and self-denial; not a desire for success but a desire to be and to know.”

[posted here now: http://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/108156515763/as-far-as-the-education-of-children-is-concerned ]
nataliaginzburg  education  parenting  virtue  virtues  thrift  money  generosity  frankness  truth  glvo  tect  self-denial  knowing  being  interdependence  individualism  courage  caution  danger  shrewdness  neighborliness 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The Nightmare on Connected Home Street | Gadget Lab | WIRED
"I wake up at four to some old-timey dubstep spewing from my pillows. The lights are flashing. My alarm clock is blasting Skrillex or Deadmau5 or something, I don’t know. I never listened to dubstep, and in fact the entire genre is on my banned list. You see, my house has a virus again.

Technically it’s malware. But there’s no patch yet, and pretty much everyone’s got it. Homes up and down the block are lit up, even at this early hour. Thankfully this one is fairly benign. It sets off the alarm with music I blacklisted decades ago on Pandora. It takes a picture of me as I get out of the shower every morning and uploads it to Facebook. No big deal.

I don’t sleep well anyway, and already had my Dropcam Total Home Immersion account hacked, so I’m basically embarrassment-proof. And anyway, who doesn’t have nudes online? Now, Wat3ryWorm, that was nasty. That was the one with the 0-day that set off everyone’s sprinkler systems on Christmas morning back in ’22. It did billions of dollars in damage.

Going back to sleep would be impossible at this point, so I drag myself into the kitchen to make coffee. I know this sounds weird, but I actually brew coffee with a real kettle. The automatic coffee machine is offline. I had to pull its plug because it was DDOSing a gaming server in Singapore. Basically, my home is a botnet. The whole situation makes me regret the operating system I installed years ago, but there’s not much I can do. I’m pretty much stuck with it.



I sit down with my coffee and fire up the short throw projector embedded in the kitchen table. The news is depressing, so I flip through a Redfin search I started last night in bed. There are these houses up in Humboldt County that are listed in the inundation zone, so they were never required to upgrade. That was a cartography error; even if sea levels go up another 20 feet they would still be above the water line. They’re rustic, and don’t even have high energy automobile docks. But the idea of getting off the grid really appeals to me, even if it’s just a fantasy.

The skylights open up. The toaster switches on. I hear the shower kick in from the other room. It’s morning."
automation  iot  mathonan  2014  speculativefiction  smarthomes  malware  technology  caution  internetofthings 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Matthew Battles: Going Feral on the Net: the Qualities of Survival in a Wild, Wired World on Vimeo
"How do we balance the empowering possibilities of the networked public sphere with the dark, unsettling, and even dangerous energies of cyberspace? Matthew Battles blends a deep-historical perspective on the internet with storytelling that reaches into its weird, uncanny depths. It’s a hybrid approach, reflecting the web’s way of landing us in a feral state—the predicament of a domestic creature forced to live by its imperfectly-rekindled instincts in a world where it is never entirely at home. The feral is a metaphor—and maybe more than just a metaphor—for thriving in cyberspace, a habitat that changes too rapidly for anyone truly to be native. This talk will weave critical and reflective discussion of online experience with a short story from Battles’ new collection, The Sovereignties of Invention."
feral  matthewbattles  internet  via:tealtan  2012  web  online  cyberspace  networkculture  dogs  storytelling  paulford  everchanging  uncertainty  unnatural  discomfort  middlegrounds  survival  wild  caution  nomansland 
june 2014 by robertogreco
It's hazardous to relate any stories about my birth seeing as putting my town of birth and the exact date online gives you two of the three facts you need to steal my identity on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
"holding onto facts-metering them out, being cautious-is as bad as trying to save the planet by flying a little less, or avoiding heartache by the refusing of falling in love. Let's make more facts, so many, as many as we can, and be profligate with the o
mattwebb  information  caution  fear  progress  philosophy 
april 2008 by robertogreco

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