Why Benevolence is So Important in Today’s World

Benevolence means being well meaning and showing kindness. It is an older word that became a bit disused. The concept however, I believe, is becoming very important in today’s world.

benevolenceWe are always wondering what are the motives behind the actions of people. In particular in the daily office world, this question is always lurking behind in our minds. And this is becoming increasingly so.

However we know that some people, and some actions, are only motivated by goodwill and kindness that does not seek anything specific in return. We struggle sometimes to recognize this fact in particular in today’s fast paced environment full of unknown motives.

Showing and recognizing benevolence is an essential element of goodwill and credibility. It is important sometimes to do some actions without seeking any advantage, just for the pleasure of helping, supporting, creating stuff.

How much benevolence do you demonstrate on a day-to-day basis?


Why the Terminator Conundrum Requires Active Anti-proliferation Policies

In this excellent article, ‘the Pentagon’s Terminator Conundrum – robots that could kill on their own‘, the issue now faced by weapons developers is explained clearly.

terminatorWhile the development of drones and robots that could take themselves the decision to engage targets becomes closer, the issue of whether to develop such system becomes a conundrum. It is important to be able to face such a possible threat, at the same time usage of this type of weapon will need to remain very much controlled. Mechanisms similar to control of nuclear proliferation or chemical weapons might need to be put in place – with the particular challenge that no huge and noticeable industrial complex will be needed to produce such weapons.

The Open Letter by concerned scientists on autonomous weapons is interesting to read. It states “If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow.

At the same time, military might contend with enhancing human capabilities by teaming humans with robots, in particular to be able to take decisions in uncertain situations. But the issue needs to be tackled quickly because the consequences of robots engaging without control could become a proliferation issue.


How to Overcome The Problem of the Flawless Record

Our society seeks the Flawless Record. Our resumes have to be flawless and have no holes, and in general we are suspicious of people with any hint of controversy. However as Seth Godin reminds us, this is a paradox. Success only comes from creating things that are criticized.

flawless_resumeBeing criticized means that we try to move things forward. It means we have tried something new, something disruptive. As Seth Godin reminds us “If your goal is to be universally liked and respected and understood, then, it must mean your goal is to not do something that matters.

I would like to add that it is great to be criticized and controversial as long as there is no integrity issue related to the matter (although sometimes adversaries might appeal to put our integrity, so that it is sometimes difficult to discern).

Flawless is not an objective. Consistent and courageous is. We need to choose – and maybe not make it through the usual filtering criteria of the Industrial Age!


How Today is The Best Time to Be Alive

Today is the best time to be around for a human – that’s a least what the statistics show. A large number of statistics are for example given in this Spectator article ‘Why can’t we see that we’re living in a golden age?‘ : wealth, life expectancy, violence rate, all indicators trend favroably (on average).

Life expectancy evolution in the world, showing improvements for all countries (click for link to larger version)

And indeed in spite of the increase of the world population and all the problems that plague humanity, it looks like it has never been a best time to be alive for a human, male or female.

Of course, the world changes fast and it is difficult to know what to do to thrive, because the practices from yesterday are not the one that will make successful tomorrow. Of course, inequality tends to increase as a result of connectivity and increased complexity. Still humanity has never been as protected and wealthy.

Still we are also very fearful and believe doomsayers. That might be because “We’re hardwired not to believe this. We’ve evolved to be suspicious and fretful: fear and worry are tools for survival. The hunters and gatherers who survived sudden storms and predators were the ones who had a tendency to scan the horizon for new threats, rather than sit back and enjoy the view. They passed their stress genes on to us. That is why we find stories about things going wrong far more interesting than stories about things going right. It’s why bad news sells, and newspapers are full of it.”

Look at evidence and enjoy the ride. And we have never had so much spare time and communication capability to enjoy it anyway!


How Our Relationships are Mirrors We Can Use for Learning

Relationships are mirrors to use for self-learning, enquiry, and investigation” – writes Cate Stillman in ‘Body Thrive‘.

mirrorShe continues “Through that very learning, radical transformation of one’s life can take place. If our relationships are unclear, confusion and conflict will affect our well-being.”

I like the idea that our relationships are like mirrors that we can use to get feedback on who or what we really are. And the thing is that we don’t use relationships in this capacity enough. We underestimate what they can bring to us in particular when they are deep and authentic.

Think about your most important relationships today. How could you use better their mirror capability to improve yourself?


How People Buy More Experiences and Less Things

It seems that there is a trend for people to increasingly buy experience and not just things as part of their luxury expenditures.

experience_not_thingsIn a 2014 report the Boston Consulting Group says that nearly $1 trillion of the $1.8 trillion spent on “luxuries” in 2013 was spent on experiences — 55 percent.” quotes Valeria Maltoni in her excellent post ‘Seeking Experiences Where the Product is a Better Self

“When we buy experiences, those purchases make us happier than when we buy things,” says Joseph Pine, the co-author of The Experience Economy. “Some large part of that trillion is luxury transformations—people looking to recharge, revitalize or to improve well-being in some way.”

And it is true that in the quest for the meaningful, minimalism and avoidance of excessive tangible ‘stuff’ is quite a trend.

What about you? Do you increasingly buy and offer experiences instead of things?



Authenticity: How to Create Meaningful Connections over Social Networks

Creating meaningful connections, even over social networks, requires a high degree of authenticity. Unfortunately it is rather the opposite that most often occurs: our own self online is rather more superficial.

authentic selfAmber Naslund writes in this excellent, touching and profound post ‘the Life-Out Loud Manifesto‘: “the only way to truly forge those connections in a lasting, valuable way is to put our genuine selves out there. To say boldly: “Here I am. Here is what I stand for. Here is what I love and what I don’t and what I would like to know more about. Here is where I hurt. Here is where I stumble. Here is me, unapologetically, without pretense, without shame.”

She continues: “The web makes validation and connection more possible than ever. But to find it – to find more than superficial words and fleeting sentiments writ quickly with thumbs – we must pledge to step out of our comfort zones in order to let people see us in all of our beauty and individuality and imperfection. Only then can others see the light that only we shine, see their own reflections in our mosaic, and perhaps find their strength and their voice and say “I’m here, too.”

I like the pledge to be more authentic online. It’s tough but it might be something that will distinguish success in the Collaborative Age.


How We Constantly Underestimate the Role of Luck in Our Lives

This article from The Atlantic ‘Why Luck Matters More Than You Might Think‘ is a useful reminder that we constantly underestimate the role of luck in our lives.

don't minimize importance of luckLuck to have been born in a developed country from a well-to-do family, luck of being healthy, luck of having met the right people at the right time… we constantly underestimate the role of luck and overestimate the role of our abilities and hard work. The quote mentioned in the article “Luck is not something you can mention in the presence of self-made men.” sums it up.

Another interesting aspect developed in the article is that seeing ourselves as self-made leads us to be less generous and public-spirited. People that acknowledge the role of luck tend to offer lucky breaks to others!

Never over-rationalize what happens to you, and acknowledge the role of luck. It is a useful first step in reconciling with the complex world that surrounds us.


What Makes Us Really Happy and Healthy in the Long Term

Robert Waldinger‘s talk about the 75 years study on human happiness is remarkable. The study itself is very remarkable – following the same cohort of people through three quarters of a century, since 1938. And the conclusions are very insightful.

good-relationshipBasically, it shows that good relationships make us happier and healthier. Not money, social status, being famous of any other similar parameter. There is a significant correlation between the quality of relationships at age 50 and happiness and health at age 80. On the other hand, the experience of loneliness proves to be highly toxic.

Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.

To watch the talk, follow this link or click below


How to React to Verbal Abuse

Byron Katie writes in her book Loving What Is, “There is no such thing as verbal abuse. There’s only someone telling me a truth that i don’t want to hear“.

the pain shows you what's left to investigateI find this quote very relevant, with some qualifications. Byron Katie speaks in that way as part of her healing interventions, and I believe that there are some instances where verbal abuse can really be hurtful and destructive. This quote might not always be applicable, or might be too difficult to apply in really difficult relationships.

However, there is also some truth in the fact that if verbal abuse affects us, there is something that we don’t want to hear or that confronts someone we don’t want to be. We should not take it too literally then, but it might be worth investigating why we react harshly sometimes to what is being said to us or what is being said of us.


How Our Face Has Become MetaData

A few (scary) experiments show that today, we are not anonymous anymore in a crowd. Our face can easily be recognized thanks to the technology, in particular the technology used by social networks that pushes us to identify the face of friends.

Recognized in the subway!
Recognized in the subway!

A Russian photography student has carried out an experiment to show how easy it is to identify complete strangers.Twenty-one-year-old Egor Tsvetkov took photos of people in public places and then tracked them down on the Russian social media site VKontakte using a facial recognition app. The experiment ‘Your Face Is Big Data’ was published online (link in Russian). It is quite impressive how the results turned out to be!

We can expect this technology to be quite available, so we’re probably not anonymous any more when we are walking around or taking the tube. Something to take into account in our daily life… and our privacy settings on our favorite social networks!


Why we need to focus on the prize

There seems to be much benefit of keeping our eyes on the long term prize (benefit) we are seeking so as to minimize the psychological impact of what we have to go through to reach it.

Keep your eyes on the prize!
Keep your eyes on the prize!

That’s what Valeria Maltoni expands on in her interesting post ‘How Small Differences in Perception can have Potentially Major Consequences‘. Experiments show that by keeping focus on the longer term benefits we get much more consistency in practice and more effort put into it: “we came up with a strategy that we called, “Keep your eyes on the prize.” So this is not the slogan from an inspirational poster. It’s an actual directive for how to look around your environment. People that we trained in this strategy, we told them to focus their attention on the finish line, to avoid looking around, to imagine a spotlight was shining on that goal, and that everything around it was blurry and perhaps difficult to see

So let’s focus on the prize to reach it more effectively and avoid falling down at the first difficult moment!