william clegg


This conversation is closed.

how do you think we can better utilize our intellectual capabilities in this modern age?

Science classifies our species as homo sapien or wise man honouring our minds, our intelligence as a species. But do we effective or even efficiently employ those 6 billion minds our species is now blessed with? No.

The principle forms of employment today simply involve the exchange of labour for wages and the vast majority of those jobs are service, assembly line and office work. Most of which simply involve a body performing repetitive and boring tasks that utilize only a fraction of our intellectual potential. Meanwhile hundreds of millions of equally 'wise men' and 'wise women' are abandoned to subsistence existences simply because their bodies are unemployable.

This "jobs" agenda that our politicians so often champion has only been with us for a few hundred years and was a direct result of the Industrial Revolution which required huge numbers of workers in order to run the machines and maintain the records of commerce.

However, scientific and technological advancements have already replaced human beings in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of labour based employment activities. And online shopping, automation and robotics are poised to take over more and more of our labour based tasks as we move ever forward. .

In other words, there are far more valuable and self-enriching activities human beings, today, can engage their incredible intellectual potential in than simply exchanging their labour for wages. In this Information and Communication Age it seems timely that we look at ways of finally employing all that intellectual capacity that the 6 billion human minds on this planet represent.

Closing Statement from william clegg

We seem to still be split between those who cannot see beyond the status quo of a person's value being derived from their bodies exchanging labour for wages and those who welcome a future where our minds matter more. "know thy self" was a popular theme for the later group with a strong emphasis on a student focused educational system as being most desirable and leading to lives that are mindful and thereby meaningful.

It was most gratifying to see that empowerment, motivation and opportunity came up often as both consequences and purpose in a population that was fully engaging its mental capacities as priorities over simple employment and consumption. Personally I am all for empowerment, personal empowerment, and the premise that all else will benefit thereafter.

However, there was also strong support for the premise that first the political system must change before anything else will and few would disagree that such a change is long overdue. .

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    Jan 2 2014: Thanks for the fascinating topic, William. It may seem a bit broad or simplistic or perhaps off-base, but I see three overarching, interconnected needs: empowerment, motivation and opportunity. All of these have been picked up on in other posts, and I think all of these are essential.

    Empowerment: e.g. more effectively using existing institutions and systems (education, political systems, workplaces etc) to equip and facilitate (and not restrict) individual and societal intellectual growth, contributions and self-belief; addressing poverty-related obstacles

    Motivation: e.g. making intellectual development and engagement seem less elitist/unsexy/unattainable; continuing to spread the idea that IQ is not the only valuable intelligence and finding ways for our systems to reflect that

    Opportunity: e.g. creating an environment where we have greater capacity to focus on more than meeting personal day-to-day needs; connecting wider social/environmental needs with groups and individuals – it's not like we have a shortage of problems

    A nice little (well, it's big in this small pond) real-world example that comes to mind is Volunteering Waikato, a non-profit operating in my area which creates opportunity. It's like a job agency for volunteers, linking all sorts of other non-profits (local to international) and even individuals with potential volunteers through its job website, targeted emails of volunteering opportunities, and a personal consultation on registering. Positions range from charity board members to assisting at therapeutic pony-riding centres. Simple, but fabulous. But, perhaps more labour-orientated than you were driving at?
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      Jan 2 2014: thank you Sara, I like the breakdown and examples a lot.
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    Dec 24 2013: Better education at a younger age. Children are capable of learning far more than they're taught. Elementary and secondary education in the US today seems to cater to the lowest common denominator, and it's only getting softer. I know some other countries have a far more rigorous education system. I don't know much about Canada's system.

    Children are genuinely curious, interested in the world around them, and fast learners. It's been acknowledged that children are better at learning languages, and I believe this aptitude may carry into other areas as well. Rather than giving them a sugar-coated explanation of the world, we should begin teaching them what we would teach high schoolers, especially in the area of history. It seems that by the time they reach the age that we finally teach them these things, they're no longer interested in learning.
    • Dec 24 2013: I agree. To some extent I think we need to stop treating adults like adults and children like children. Instead, just realize how curious everybody is. Individualizing people helps us individualize problem solving. I love the idea of teachers and students, but skilled people and their apprentices.
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      Dec 25 2013: you speak to my heart Fred. Sadly so-called education systems around the world have been co-opted to simply make youngsters employable and little else. Not to create an informed and empowered citizenry, but simply one capable of serving the needs of the Industrial Age and the new class of capitalist it spawned. An era when the capitalists were desperate for huge numbers of workers who could read, write and perform simple math - in fact the 3 R's - to build the factories, to run the machines and, most importantly, maintain the records of commerce.

      And here we are, some 250 years later saddled with the same, tired, old, out-dated mandate of simply making students employable for an era that is long past, yet its dinosaurs still dominate our institutions.

      Your are absolutely right that children have much, much more potential than simply exchangers of labour for wages. Addressing that reality with all the resources and support we can would be a very good start.
    • Dec 25 2013: And…better education to the elderly as well.
      In this aging society, educating adults also means a lot.
      Children are the potentials; grown-ups are the ones who have tangible tickets to take part in social matters right now.
      There are so many people who weren’t lucky enough to get better education when they were young.
      They could have been elites or not. They could have had different lives.
      According to some linguists, when compared to children, adults could be more likely to learn a foreign language(particularly as to reading and grammar parts) faster.
      It isn’t just ‘kids’ who hold future for this world. We should consider it very important to educate adults as well.
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    Dec 23 2013: We can better utilize our intellectual capabilities in the modern age if we use 'modern age' structures to organise. Information Age structures isolate knowledge within hierarchies.

    If we come 'Over the Top' with a distributed network and organise things in the Internet of Everything, we can harness the collective innovation, wisdom and knowledge of the crowd by transcending the structures that isolate, fragment and fail to share or organise intellectual capabilities.

    I entered a "Global Wisdom" hack in the MIX "Unlimited Human Potential Challenge" which provides a good introduction to harnessing intellectual capabilities and wisdom of the crowd by creating "Global Wisdom" in the modern age. It is available at http://www.mixprize.org/hack/global-wisdom .

    Economic evolution means that we use much less resources (including labour) in sectors over time. 25% of the workforce was involved in agriculture. That number is now less than 2%. Information Age workers will follow the same path.

    It may be that society can generate the same output (or standard of living) by applying modern age structures. We then need to consider how we engage the available people to improve society. It would be a waste for these people to not make a contribution to society, their neighbors and families. As suggested we need look at ways of harnessing the wisdom and effort of 6bn people.

    Network Society is emerging by default. People rendered redundant by technology (particularly information workers), need to empowered and utilised in the next stage. We are not redeploying these unemployed for employment in the next stage of economic development. Society and the unemployed are stagnating. Without proactive change, a generation will not make a contribution to the economy (ie output) or society (ie; prosperity). Education Wisdom could retrain the displaced for jobs in the next stage of economic development (a topic for another thread?).
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      Dec 23 2013: Hello Marcus,

      Checked your entry at the link you provided, then your TED profile and must say I'm impressed.
      I would like to show you a few things I believe would have great positive impact on your considerable, much needed and timely project. I have worked almost 20 years in health care and developed something called the HNAQ( holistic needs analysis queue).

      The HNAQ is a fractal key that helps explain the behaviour of certain complex systems and the interdependent relationships we share with every living thing on earth. Yes it's that awesome.

      It's functions are based on the most ubiquitous examples of bio mimicry ever discovered and can be applied in ways limited only by ones imagination to education, business, the life sciences and more.

      The HNAQ is a behavioural process which empowers personal and community growth by:

      1) Rewarding curiosity, invested creativity, initiative, imagination, double loop learning and divergent thinking.

      2) Encouraging us to reflect on, choose and act responsibly with our attitudes towards ourselves, others and our environment.

      3) Allowing us to effectively share, manage, and refine our individual and collective skills.

      4) Permitting us to collaboratively concentrate, validate and disseminate our knowledge in a transparent fashion.

      Let me know if you interested.

      P.s. Let us creat the means whereby 7 billion potential innovators contribute to "The most wise council, unrestrained intellect and the sum of all human knowledge."

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      Dec 23 2013: I like the way Marcus and Wayne are thinking about this topic. Just imagine if only a billion or two were on the same wavelength.
      • Dec 24 2013: I am board with this as well - that makes four, only a few billion more to go.
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    Dec 18 2013: Excellent question.

    We can better utilize our intellectual capabilities in this modern age by:

    1. Learning the facts ---> before we assume.
    2. Seeking to understand why ---> before we judge.
    3. Feeling how the other person feels ---> before we hurt them (in any way).
    4. Thinking ---> before we speak.
    5. Hearing ---> before we conclude.

    And no matter what ---> when we have a chance and even the seemingly full conviction to hurt someone, we should help them do the right thing instead.

    Applying our intelligence (mind & heart) this way will produce infinitely more valuable and self-enriching activities for each of us. This would classify us (our species as human): wise human honouring our being.

    • Dec 19 2013: Well said, and I agree in some part.
      So it's like 'back to the basic'; putting our 'student hat' on.

      Do you think we, people living in this modern age have more advantages to utilize our intellectual capabilities--when compared to our ancestors?
      If not, what are the things that prevent us from effectively utilizing our brains?
      Are we not rational enough or not moral enough?
      Or wouldn't it be possible that we're not imaginative enough?
      Just want to know your opinion on these questions.
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        Jan 3 2014: Dear Elizabeth,

        I feel the past generations (our ancestors) did the very best with what they had available to them -- and without their wisdom we would have never gotten this far. If we are doing anything right or have any privilege or access today, it is because they held us up high and gave us the best of all they had in their world.

        Barry Schwartz provided some of the best thoughts I have found on your questions in his 2009 Talk. You can hear them at http://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_our_loss_of_wisdom.html
        Thank you:)

        Happy New Year!!
        Have a brilliant 2014.
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    Dec 13 2013: From a career standpoint, I think it would be wise for corporations to favor "democratic" work environments which promote creativity, collaboration, and critical thought over traditional hierarchal "autocratic" work environments which are commonplace among most large corporations. Not only do "democratic" work environments capitalize on each employee's intellectual capabilities, but they also create intrinsic motivation for employees.

    Beyond careers, I honestly believe that intrinsic motivation and displaying one's intellectual capabilities go hand in hand. In other words, if one is not self-motivated and does not apply oneself, it really does not matter how much intellectual capability one has.

    As for better utilizing our intellectual capabilities, become more self-motivated, inspire change (both in and outside of the workplace), and encourage others to seek out their true potential.
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      Dec 13 2013: could you expand upon where you would see that self-motivation manifesting itself outside the workplace?
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        Dec 13 2013: I think this varies from person to person. I happen to enjoy reading most of the works of many of the TED Speakers, and have motivated myself to continue my college education, not only to advance my career but to expand my knowledge. I also try to keep updated on what's happening around the world and do my own research rather than blindly follow most of the news outlets.

        Basically, anything that keeps one's mind active and prevents us from stagnating via apathy. Although it might not fall within the scope of "intellectual capability" per se, certain hobbies and interests can also provide quite a challenge that keeps us motivated. For instance, one of my friends recently got me into rock climbing. It's an intense hobby to say the least, but what I've noticed through these experiences is that my mind is more "active" when I myself am actually active.
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          Dec 14 2013: Thank you for providing us with such personal examples of where and how you experience your own mindfulness. My own readings and climbing may have different focuses but i suspect quite similar outcomes For me, the more i explore and the more i learn, the more personally empowered i feel.

          And it is this sense of personal empowerment that i imagine will be greatest benefit of the inevitable transition from the out-dated model of 'a job/career as the basis of a person's societal worth and personal well-being to that of becoming an informed and engaged member of one's community.
  • Dec 10 2013: our system seems to be at the best interest of the richest most powerfull human beings.

    we work to survive but if you look at it from another viewpoint we work to enrich the owners of the companies.

    the best answer I can give to your question is this,

    we are together on this planet and we can do with this place and our time what we want, we certainly can come up with better ways of life, better structures for our society to achieve the greatest happiness of all.

    their are enough recourses that we all can have a rich life, our problem is that most people think in money and power, they have greed for one or the other, I am born In a family I would call rich, I realized early enouth that outer wealth is not the path to happiness.

    poor people just go after money and power to survive, rich people do it because of greed.

    with 6 billion minds you can accomplish the world we have, if you want a world where everyone will have food and shelter and has education and where we work together to achieve a wonderful life for all of us, if 6 billion people have this in understanding and this wish in their hearts then with 6 billion minds who are in service of 6 billion hearts we can achieve wonders.

    jezus, budha, mohammed, allah, god, me and you, lets form a circle around the planet holding hands, and realize we are all one and so are our deepest dreams.
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    Dec 9 2013: Anything that's open-source is a great way to utilize these abilities.
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    Jan 6 2014: Thank you William for creating an enriching conversation.
    I send you my favorite TED Talk: joy is these words-worth-hearing:)
    Have a brilliant 2014!!
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      Jan 6 2014: Thank you for the sharing, I am including some of his words here in homage

      beauty and seduction are Nature's tools for survival because we protect that which we fall in love with... to see ourselves in nature .... when we explore we get more imagination ... begin each day by opening your eyes...open your heart to the incredible gifts civilization offers us... let the gratefulness overflow into blessings all around us

      Surely words to inspire and honour the wonders all around us
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    Jan 3 2014: This is a fantastic question, William.

    Over the last five to six years, I have come to see that our current monetary/capitalist system is simply unsustainable. As I developed a new (but certainly not original) world view, a key thought that has always been at the forefront of this process has been to take advantage of our intelligence and ultimately free ourselves from dangerous, repetitive, or meaningless work.

    Furthermore, as many others have noted, the state of our technology is such that we really need to begin devising an alternate world society. While computers, robots, and automation will be important components of this new system, education will be the key to its ultimate success or failure. The smarter the population overall, the better off each of us will be. Speaking of population, education will have a direct effect on population growth, or - more precisely - population diminishment.

    Finally, to flesh this out a bit further - if not tangentially - I am confident that state and national borders will vanish as we truly begin to see that we are all one people, and that the planet in its entirety belongs to all of us.
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      Jan 5 2014: I apologize for not noticing earlier that I had posted this reply in the wrong spot.

      From your lips to all the ears out there Andre, thanks for sharing your insights and support.
  • Jan 3 2014: As information deluges us in all facets we collectively deduce, this is to say we begin an evolution that enables a further definition of truths. Now with far greater knowledge bases and experience sources and tech to share same, we seem to find quality of life can be attained without grinding away at a mortgage payment for 30 years via a specialty that takes the width and breadth of life away from us.
    Breaking from local informal educated norms in the community we find we can have different life practices without failing because the availability of support information at or in almost any community.
    I think the answer is more of the same, new interface techs, more software, expanding communities with basic ideals while truths empower new solutions and move humanity onward as a family bound by interdependence.
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      Jan 6 2014: All good points Phiip. In particular, expanding communities can mean more inclusiveness within the existing boundaries as well as outside those boundaries as well. Boundaries will always exist I suppose, but move them further out is a definite improvement.
  • Jan 3 2014: Use mass media to educate and not distract the people. We have so many great minds in this day and age with access to so much tech and knowledge, but most people settle down for entertainment, and not just any entertainment, the weakest and the dumbest entertainment. More people focus on reality Tv shows, and Apple's next Iphone, than the current human condition and how to innovate.
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      Jan 3 2014: I have known people who can make learning very entertaining as well as informative, perhaps there would be an opportunity to combine the two efforts. I think The Nature of Things is one of them as well as Quirks and Quarks. Certainly the infrastructure is readily available.
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    Jan 1 2014: Real artificial intelligence will change everything
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      Jan 2 2014: Please expand?
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      Jan 2 2014: 'Real' and 'artificial' don't mix well.
      On the topic of oxymorons, I think Artificial and Intelligence may be mutually exclusive as well.
      just a thought. I may be wrong.
      But the perfection of "artificial" intelligence may be our final outsourcing allowing our minds to join the redundancy heaps of limbs, organs, and entertainment.
      Good post come to think of it.
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    Jan 1 2014: I actually hold a somewhat controversial opinion as regards: maximising our collective intellectual capacities to enhance efficiency by effectively utilizing our EXISTING individual intellectual capacities.
    My view is that this would negatively impact on our species' survival ability by removing our ability to withstand random, acute, and severe stressors that require us to recruit our natural inbuilt reserves. Nature loves built-in 'latent' potential. Most things are duplicated, sometimes many times over, so that it would take either significant loss or failure of massive functional 'upscaling' or recruitment to destabilize essential life-sustaining processes. We see examples in the kidney where up to 75% loss is easily tolerated as is significant liver loss, brain and lung tissue loss, neuronal receptor interaction etc. I personally like knowing I've got much intellectual reserve should I need to engage brain in times of severe or sudden stress. If I were to build an AI android, I'd add the same excess reserve to that most critical of survival capacities - the intellectual capacity.
    This 'way' that nature has is inherent, fractal-like and is evident from the tiniest of biological processes to the largest natural systems. I don't think maximizing our intellectual capacity or efficiency is a wise idea without first expanding our total capacity. Once we have a greater total capacity we will naturally increase our latent capacity, but it will be back to square one as regards ratios!
    So for me, let's first create a system where each person's human rights are protected irrespective of intellectual capacity.
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      Jan 1 2014: What an intriguing thought. I had not considered that a reserve of mental 'energies' might be required in a stressor situation. Could this be why we can become immobilized by fear or shock, our minds are already working hard and the stressor exceeds the remaining capacity?

      However, what I meant by this thread was to better employ, or utilize our collective thinking capacities as human beings rather than simply as bodies used to keep production lines humming and endless filling office cubicles performing mind numbing tasks. Granted not all would want to or even have to participate. But there is tremendous human potential to be derived from those 7 billion minds and it is a shame to waste them simply employing their bodies and only a tiny portion of their minds in jobs performing repetitive tasks day in and day out.

      Thank you for adding this new dimension to the discussion
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        Jan 1 2014: Only a pleasure.
        The problem for me is thinking like I did while feeling the way you do. I see where you're coming from now and I agree it's a praiseworthy goal. My gut says one thing and my brain another.
        I hope my gut is smarter than my brain on this one though.

        Happy New Year :)
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          Jan 1 2014: and a Joyous New Year to you Sumesh :)
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    Dec 28 2013: How to optimize the harvest of our overall pool of intelligence. Nice question. Before all of this, I want to say one thing; a lot of discussions here on TED, I think, have a negative point of view of the education systems in many countries. "There's not enough adaption to all the different learning types."

    Well. Here in Denmark we have been working very hard on suiting all different learning styles to our educational system - and I for one am a result of this. It occured to me recently that as a result, I can use all the different learning styles, and shift automatically between them depending on which strength of style is optimal.

    My point is, having already implemented focus on the early steps of children's education in Denmark, we have moved on to focus on talent-development in talented children and youth in Gymnasium (High School end, College level) in all faculties. I have participated in some of these, and I think it's too bad there are not more of it; maybe we should even consider having a mandatory talent-development cause for different subjects so that talented youth can continue challenging themselves, even if they are ahead of their class.

    I think this is a key factory to further expanding the "overall pool of intelligence". To conclude: I believe implementing the different learning styles in early education is essential, but remember to keep helping those who are behind, and help those who are ahead finding the necessary challenges to continue education, even on their own terms. In practice, this would mean more talent courses for children to sign up on -

    and most importantly: Creating attention around the necessity of attending these talent courses! How greatly it can improve their job opportunities and helping the world evolve. It would be optimal to have even the media help creating attention for talent development. I think this is a good, academic guess of what the future will bring. Media coverage of talent development.
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      Dec 28 2013: Albert, i sure like the sounds of that. Would you please expand upon what you have experienced as Denmark's educational focus? By learning styles does that mean the system must fit the learning needs of the student, as opposed to most other nations where the student must fit the system?
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        Dec 28 2013: Of course formal teaching in front of a blackboard is still the majority of our teachings, but I believe in the beginning of the 00s there had been a lot of debate on the educational system which lead to the focus of adapting the teaching to all kinds of learning styles: The Reflexive learner, the theorist, the pragmatic and the active. We try to fit the teachings so that we get around all the different styles – the real challenge is to have the students participate actively. But if they do so, it optimises their learning, because it’s fitting their individual way of learning. Maybe a good idea for other nations would be to have some courses in Denmark?

        We have had this focus for a long time, and the new debate seems to go on the fact that we are bad at continuing the optimised learning behaviour when the students stop at highschool. They still follow these different learning styles, but some are ready to move into a more advanced difficulty, but there was previously nothing available. The latest we are doing is trying to get students with ambitions interested by making talent contests; for instance we make a project where students can sign up in the age of 17-24 in which they can make contact to a scientist and come up with a completely new research, make some pilot project and write a paper on how they would proceed from there, if they had the funding. Then some appointed scientists read through the submitted papers and the winner gets a prize – usually money, a travel or similar. It is essential though, that these contests try to gather the interested students to meet each other (networking) but also scientists, in order for further development to happen.

        This is an example of what we’re trying to do as of lately; focus not only on the students who need extra help, but also those who are in need of challenge. Our current challenge is how to reach those who aren’t ambitious – who wouldn’t participate in such contest – but still would be a great resource.
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        Dec 28 2013: I would recommend mandatory talent development programs for each faculty that would give those who aren't ambition more motivation to become ambitious. :)
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          Dec 29 2013: Thank you, the two posts have provided a clearer picture of the student focus you mentioned. Please allow me to digress for a bit.

          Regarding your point about "motivated" learning, I find myself thinking about my own schooling. From the beginning school was a strange place for me, so much so that I finally "dropped out" of grade 9 and went off on my own. While I enjoyed certain subjects like math and English i had zero interest in most of the other subjects. I too was told many times that I needed the "education" to get a job, but I had already had 3 or 4 jobs and figured that was no big deal. Of course that was a time when Canadian manufacturing was booming and there were lots of jobs to choose from.

          Some 5 or so years later there was a brand new industry, computers, hitting the market and crying out for people and they eagerly hired people who knew how to run machines and who exhibited good problem solving skills. Thereafter I had a great 25 years making good money in an industry that was a frontier and with new and innovative changes occurring almost monthly.

          But in my forties I realized that I needed more, that i had always wanted wanted to know more and left the workforce 'to find myself" as they say'. I finally ended up going to university as a mature student and because I was there for my own interests I was able to build my own curriculum and take whatever courses interested me and never more than 2 or 3 at a time. . As a consequence I spent almost 10 years engaged in some of the most interesting and exciting knowledge acquisition imaginable. True empowerment in what I later characterized as my own quest to better understand the world around me and, especially, myself.

          But there was never a desire to have another job or career. Ever, since I left the workforce I have simply been an active volunteer and participant in whatever community I found myself in.

          But motivated? Only to know more and understand better and to enjoy life.
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          Dec 29 2013: Albert, I like the " talent development program ".
          The talent development program should be encouraged and be popular in today's world !
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        Dec 31 2013: So, basically you spent a lot of years at a job where you weren't really developing, but helping create the hardware - afterwards you became curious about knowledge and self-realisation which lead to studying.

        Maybe the "pool of intelligence" runs automatically then; those, who are like me, are motivated to begin with create jobs where those who weren't motivated to begin with can work and help build their ideas - later in life, those people become motivated and create jobs for other people who didn't start out motivated either? Or do you have a suggestion as to how to motivate people to study earlier, should we discuss a method for doing so - or maybe we should really just provide tools for young people to follow their own path themselves? Maybe this would make their 'path' easier?

        And Lamb Lamb, I agree; the world really needs more of these kinds of programs. I wish I was in a position to create such projects. Maybe later, right? When I get older
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          Jan 1 2014: Hello Albert, Happy New Year for 2014 !

          Professional experiences and knowledge worth out spreading to the young generations genuinely.

          Leaders of Companies are encouraged to develop themselves consistently: Big Idea, Big Heart, Big Give, Big Receive.

          I am ready to " give " to All.......

          What is your thoughts about it, Albert?
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          Jan 1 2014: How sad that "jobs" remains your principle venue for motivation. My little dissertation was meant to point out that once I got off the 'exchange of labour for wages' treadmill and became better informed I was far more "motivated" to become involved in and contribute to the community I lived in. In this way, knowledge becomes empowerment which then leads to a healthier and more functional community which, in turn, enriches everyone in the community.
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    Dec 25 2013: William,

    This is one of the most engaging conversations I’ve seen on TED … Bravo.

    I’ve long felt that our brains contain enormous untapped potential. Take the aptitude for language—we seem “prewired” for it. Children up to the age of ten or so can achieve fluency in multiple languages (who knows how many?) without confusion, and are able to speak each like a native … which in fact, they are. After around ten, our brains seem prone to begin “shutting down” this excess capacity.

    Now we’ve all been taught that evolution is a miser and wouldn’t equip us with faculties beyond that which is essential for survival. And yet it seems likely that the human capacity for language was present well in advance of its emergence. This leads me to ponder, what capacity might we now possess that awaits the proper stimulus in order to surface?

    We have barely begun our quest to understand the complexities of the human brain. We still know very little regarding the relationship between “mind and brain,” and have yet to identify the origins of consciousness. I look forward to the discoveries headed our way, and am optimistic that what we eventually learn will catapult early childhood education, identify the cause of and cure for Alzheimer’s, enable the successful treatment—if not prevention—of psychiatric disorders, and permit us to substitute positive emotions, such as empathy and calmness, for the negative emotions of fear and rage.
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      Dec 25 2013: Your bang on about children and language Positivist. Whiled most cultures around the world are multilingual most Western nations - especially Canada and the U.S. - seem to have their heads firmly stuck in their neither regions regarding the virtues of multilingualism preferring, instead, to beat their breasts while ranting and raging about nationalist pride and unilingual arrogance.

      Each language has its own unique way of describing the world around us offering a banquet of perspectives that can only enrich one's understanding of that world especially as you point out it is children who are the most adept at language acquisition.

      I believe the penny pinching manner in which so-called education systems around the world treat children as commodities on an assembly line of grades and institutions is small-minded in the extreme and just as much of a disgrace as the narrow-minded premise that the sole value of an "education" is simply to make people employable by the mandarins of industry and commerce.
  • Dec 24 2013: Well, 'better use' definitely implies some sort of goal. My own personal goal is a sort of sustainable happiness (for myself, but also extrapolated for and multiplied by all people). Two points of intellectually-capable-leverage that come to mind right now are 1) our continued studies of traditional sciences and 2) our advancing self-awareness.

    By understanding the nature of our own existence in relevant ways ways, we could mold our own experiences in real ways. By understanding what all people have in common, all mammals, all animals, all life- we can find a more sustainable existence. By understanding the tethers we have to reality we can fully enjoy or avoid them.

    Consider how people are 'attracted' to faces. Just a couple distinct points and we take special notice. We see faces sometimes in the clouds, on the moon, or in just a couple black lines on top of a yellow circle. Even people who might not consider themselves particularly social are 'bound' to this.

    Or how so many people avoid stepping on cracks, except on the odd occasion when we feel excited about jumping on all the cracks. Maybe this is because of an evolution gained not long after the arrival of the eye that helps keep us moving on stable ground. (I'm sure there are people who have given more thought to this than me. Thoughts?)

    Understanding where we came from- our evolution- gives greater understanding into our own minds today.

    Conversely, SUPERSTITION often pacifies our investigative desires, not allowing us to pursue with full due diligence the thought processes required for any desired advancement. I would share my thoughts if someone would like to challenge this point.
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      Dec 25 2013: Agreed Stephen, I don't know anything more enjoyable than acquiring new and better understandings of self and, thereby, the world around me.

      Having said that, In the world of science it is said that the real advances in understanding are made only when the advocates of the current theories have died off. Hence an open mind seems to be crucial to moving forward.
  • Dec 24 2013: Know thyself
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      Dec 25 2013: most definitely a good starting point :)
      • Jan 7 2014: Starting point is the ending point of something else
        and vice versa :)
        " Those who know all but are lacking in themselves are utterly lacking "
        Probably we should stop being ignorant and get to know who we really are .

        Happy 2014 !!!
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    Dec 23 2013: our intellectual capabilities must be utilize to learn from nature and the natural world. only if we are truly one with nature we are truly modernize. our itellectual capabilities must strive at the welfare of the poor, the neglected and the dowtrodden whereever they are. Building cheap eco-friendly technology, grassroot democracies, and the promotion of self esteem for all through enabling evironments. Science is indebted to nature, it must not enslave nature. therefore, the change of mindset ( the superior and creator of technology and intelligence) is a must, a change from 'I' to 'We" approach.
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      Dec 23 2013: agreed Uba, sadly governments around the world are populated by politicians who are still tied to the worn out old "I" ideologies of the past and have no real consciousness of the we yet.
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    Gord G

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    Dec 15 2013: It's almost seven billion at this point. And the spectrum of intellectual potential has always fallen within the scope of the definition. In other words we define what we believe is relevant...everything else is either heresy or ill informed conjecture from the perspective of the people who define the concept.

    The modern age is simply the most recent expression of our sense of hubris.

    To answer your question...

    We can't...because our intellectual capabilities are defined by us at the moment of our understanding ... which is modern times.
    • Dec 16 2013: Great point made! However, I think we can grasp a little further challenging our current understandings, develop better alternative solutions to subjects and adapt to those solutions.
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        Gord G

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        Dec 24 2013: I agree George. But reaching beyond what's understood means believing we're more than what is considered capable. I think most significant breakthroughs run counter to accepted paradigms. I also believe the risk could be intellectual suicide, destroying the innovator's credibility. I think it's a high wire act introducing a new idea that runs contrary to intellects of the era.
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    Dec 11 2013: I've heard an opinion that the process of industrialization that you describe may be responsible for the widening income gap between people. Unskilled laborers are left without jobs while the wealth amasses in the hands of smaller and smaller group of people because these people can afford to buy the machines or can afford the education to stay in the work force. All this simply because productivity growth allows fewer and fewer people to produce the same amount of goods while decreasing the buying capacity of the consumers putting a damper on production growth.

    WIth this in mind, if we increase productivity even more, then we will need even fewer people to sustain society leaving even more people without jobs. And, you know, low income results in lower education level, higher crime rate, etc. etc. - exactly the problems discussed at TED and elsewhere. If this theory is true, then it seems that engaging more intellect is a self-refuting effort.

    In fact, the people whose jobs are automated are far from viewing it as a positive phenomenon and they spend a great amount of effort and money to prevent this from happening through unions. I do not advocate luddism, but this does seem to be a quite perplexing problem.
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      Dec 11 2013: I don't think that we should keep jobs for the sake of jobs, and I even believe that jobs will soon be a thing of the past, but that's a different conversation.

      If we just wanted jobs for the sake of jobs we could all go out and plow the fields, there solved.

      An alternative system will need to be put in place.
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        Dec 11 2013: I agree. If I can have a machine do work for me, I'd go for it any time.

        But sometimes I doubt that humans can put such system in place.

        Humans may have some control over their individual actions and decisions (although that is debatable as well). But it often seems to me that, on a large scale, economic, social, and other processes are not under human control. E.g., I don't think, there was a choice whether to create a nuclear bomb or not. There were forces in place that made it happen regardless of individual human will, if you read the history of the Manhattan project. This is just one example. Certain social things happen under certain conditions regardless of the will of the people who participate in these processes.

        Your "basic income" idea is in the same category. Perhaps, it will be implemented in its due time. And before that, things will continue the way they go. Society reminds me of this toy


        Certain forces act to get things unbalanced (e.g. increase the income gap). Then, when the disbalance reaches a certain point, the system resets - through revolutions, reforms, economic crisis, etc. Then the same process of getting things out of balance starts again. You and I are parts of these processes, contributing to the statistics. Unfortunately, this seems to be the way social things work.
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      Dec 11 2013: very well put arkady, good to see the thought is spreading.

      I agree with you Jimmy, hence this chat. Do you have any ideas regarding alternatives?
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        Dec 30 2013: As I'm sure that you're aware by now (I'm terribly late for this response). My solution is to automate as much as possible, put Basic Income into use and go into an Electronic Direct Democracy.

        The capitalistic system will stand for the automation, it's inevitable because of competition.

        BI might come from the current political system (well not in the US but elsewhere).

        But true democracy will have to come from the people, and we'll have so much money put against us to change this current system. So that's the fight of tomorrow (and today).
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    Dec 10 2013: I believe "OUR" intellectual capabilities should be the focus at present. We are all simply parts of a whole. Our minds are comprised of shared thoughts whether imprinted in the brain from past experiences or through influences absorbed from our environment. People share thoughts and capabilties, this is fundimental.
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    Dec 9 2013: It seems that the long-time dream of machines doing work in order to free humans for "higher pursuits" is now coming to fruition. Unfortunately no-one told the economists.
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    Dec 8 2013: by not separating intelligence from emotion. by ensuring that intelligence is tempered with imagination.
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      Dec 9 2013: I would suggest that imagination can often be far more advantageous than mere intelligence itself.
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        Dec 9 2013: We could also add inspiration, intuition, soul, and will to the intellect, imagination & emotion (= instinct). Perhaps a more balanced used of the faculties of the mind will promote better solutions.
  • Dec 8 2013: Self inquiry.
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      Dec 8 2013: please expand upon that
      • Dec 10 2013: There are 7 billionish people roaming around with a case of mistaken identity.......aiming to 'become' something. Aiming to 'do' something......to 'obtain'......to 'aquire'..... to 'create' and to 'stand apart' from the crowd.....to 'compete' for limited resources.

        Always turning their attention Outward......never knowing who they 'are' in the first place.

        This game begins to change when the attention is turned consistently inward.....change in a way that the Achieving/Doing/Competing self can approach only intellectually.....if even that....

        We are products or societal conditioning. See the conditioning WELL BEYOND the depth that the shallow Ego normally settles on. See it's prevalence at all times in your life. And wonder 'who is this person' that I am?'

        This takes mucho intellectual juice and conscious egoic diminishment. It is not available to lazy asses bent on becoming something, passing some examination, projecting their ego to the detriment of others, or those who watch reality TV. :-)

        Sooooooo much goes unquestioned. Unchallenged. Faith prevails to a fault.

        Great Day!
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          Dec 10 2013: I agree.

          However I'm wondering if this is something new or if it's actually improved lately... I think it has...
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          Dec 11 2013: yes, from Socrates, to Hobbes, to Emerson, 'Know Thyself' has long been great advice. In fact, there may be nothing more empowering than truly knowing oneself Others opine that we are human 'beings' not human 'doings' but it is the doing that gets are more attention in this modern age.
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    R H

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    Jan 7 2014: Find a way for all people to live well in peace doing what they love and all will be right in the world.
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    Jan 5 2014: The Zeitgeist Movement, Peter Joseph. Private central banking is holding us back. We blindly believe that money should exist, but we don´t need it, it is just another religion.
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      Jan 6 2014: well we will probably always need a medium of exchange but I do agree that the money - wealth in particular - is simply a means and not an end. It is indeed sad how many have gotten stuck on that point.
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    Jan 5 2014: Found the following interesting statement, I am still thinking ……


    What is your thought?
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      Jan 5 2014: "Innovation happens when people are given the freedom to ask questions and the resources and power to find the answers." is the statement and, as such I think it makes a very sound foundation for empowerment. Although coming from a corporate site I am concerned that it is meant to apply primarily to the market or work place and not to broader population base and human endeavours in general.
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        Jan 5 2014: I am thinking and I am asking….

        Example, if I were surgeon.

        Does your business give people the freedom to fail and try again? " ? " .
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          Jan 6 2014: I am not sure what the question is... but if I got it right, there are lots of drunks and addicts and obesity patients whose lives are improved by surgeons and other medical personnel, but who then go out and engage in the same risky lifestyles again and again. Some eventually find a way out of that cycle while many simply succumb to its inertia.

          Perhaps the ones who are able to break these cycles have started using their mental facilities in a different manner and just needed the time and/or incentive to do so?
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    Jan 4 2014: /
    It seems we need individuals to think more about being talent discoverers, even for themselves, because schooling doesn't seem to do that. And as far as the individual finding income and purpose, being an entrepreneur seems to be the best option.
    For one particularly good skill set, see Dave Pollard's book:
    Dave Pollard
    Finding the Sweet Spot: The Natural Entrepreneur’s Guide to Responsible, Sustainable, Joyful Work

    The ideas presented mesh well with the TED talks I've heard from the best commentators on sustainability, education, and motivation. I have to admit I'm just a school teacher, no real experience with business world, but I'm also a student of global issues and Mr. Pollard effectively eliminates boring useless careers from his process. It might be worth your time to look into it more deeply.

    I hope I've helped you.
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      Jan 5 2014: thanks mark, although the book focuses on the workplace I suspect the message may well apply to life in general, an area I give more value to than the marketplace.
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    Jan 3 2014: I think we are entering a new stage in society where abstract thinking is going to be key to finding rewarding work. I was fortunate in that my elementary school, despite the protesting of some parents, gave us a very abstract curriculum in both reading *and* in mathematics. Besides the traditional rote learning of the multiplication tables, we explored sets, different number bases, philosophy, etc.

    Now, the internet is enabling people in various parts of the world to communicate on topics such as this where, previously, such communication was limited to either a) people talking within a particular geographic area b) people fortunate enough to find publishers to get their ideas across. However, with this new power comes a need for more garbage filters, also.

    That said, there will always be a need for people to provide some level of manual services and we need to look at ways to make these kinds of jobs more rewarding. We can't all be web designers and bloggers--well, we could, but what would happen when the electric grid failed :)

    I think this can be accomplished by instilling the idea that there is value and pride in every job no matter how trivial that job might seem, allowing people who work these jobs as much flexibility as possible in terms of scheduling, and giving people who work these jobs as much education as they want so that this can be a "temporary" thing.
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      Jan 3 2014: That is a nice idea John, but the majority of employers and shareholders are not interested in creating "rewarding" work, but simply - i would term it simply mindedly - making money and reducing costs. .

      Jobs are going the way of the Dodo bird and the vast majority of jobs simply involve a human body performing the same mind numbing tasks over and over again such as cashiers, assembly plants, office workers and the service industry to name a few. Besides, jobs are about enriching the owners and shareholders while engaging that untapped intellectual capacity enriches the individuals.
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      Jan 3 2014: I was not suggesting the wisdom already is present, simply that 7 billion minds offer tremendous potential that is not being realized. Instead the simply minded agenda that exchanging labour for wages has been the primary occupation of human beings for the last 300 years or so. This is extremely relevant in the 21st century since automation, robotics and a host of other scientific and technological advancements are rapidly replacing the human component in the workplace and alternatives are desperately needed.

      This then is one alternative for "rising above our collective memes" and for engaging far more people in what human beings are best suited for, namely utilizing our minds instead of simply our bodies as exchanges of labour. . .
  • Jan 2 2014: Please slow down the accelerated working speed of the world, which has been desynchronized with working speed of the nature and is causing many accidents and further creating new set of problems.

    Happy New Year.
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      Jan 2 2014: An excellent suggestion.

      I can attest to the value of slowing down, spending time being quite, enjoying silence,or in contemplation or watching the birds at the feeders. I also find I make better decisions the more time I have to consider them. However, I also know slowing down was beyond my ken until I was in my 50's or so. Until then there were just too many distractions available to me and which I indulged in often:)

      And a Joyous New Year to you
  • Dec 30 2013: No answers, still a very good short video by James Burke on Youtube, Balanced Anarchy.
  • Dec 28 2013: The internet is vastly superior to searching through books and writings. There is some chaff amongst the wheat that must be proven to make it a reality but it's quite good for important information. What we need to suppress are the naysayers that sit at their computers and bemoan every entry not in their agenda. There are some wonderful minds out here that will overcome the trash of the past. The world is changing so fast the facts of today were the dreams of yesterday.
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      Dec 28 2013: Indeed it is Jude. I am fond of pointing out that there is nothing in the universe that is static, that everything is in transition. We may not be comfortable with change. We will invariably dislike some changes. But nonetheless change is inevitable, knowledge is empowerment and combining them can have evolutionary results. .
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    Dec 27 2013: Welcome to the discourse Ed. I too am baffled by the lack of awareness. I am a card carrying member of the North American branch of the baby boom generation and of a Canadian culture and time when we talked about and even looked forward to time of automation and robotics, a life free from the mere exchange of labour for wages and a Universal Basic Income of one sort or another sustaining everyone. Then somehow one's method of exchanging their labour became their purpose, their identity, their value as a person and all that other stuff about freedom, leisure and choice was lost.

    Lost, but not forgotten nor irretrievable.
  • Dec 27 2013: I took a tangent to the topic and starting expolring how the education system contributes to the churning mill of employability.
    In so I discovered Ken Robinson's talks, on creativity, very informative.

    Any other examples I can explore which may help me digest the topic?
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    Dec 27 2013: William,

    I haven't followed this conversation. Would you care to give a summary of ideas and notions so far?
  • Dec 27 2013: As much as technology advances, the majority of our population's intellectual capability will continue to decrease. Technology seems to do much of our thinking now a days, a prime, everyday example being a cash register computing the amount of change needed to give back to the customer. Can't we do the simple subtraction by ourselves? Technology, don't get me wrong now, has provided us with convenient and efficient access and tools; however, it also has dulled the minds of much of the younger population that take advantage of the ease of access that technology provides us. So as long as technology keeps advancing, younger generations will continue to have robots think for them--incapable of computing simple mathematic problems in our head (I say "our" because I too am apart of the "younger" generation). It's honestly a shame how dependent we have become on technology to solve much of our problems. You see these great philosophers that have proposed many successful theories--Aristotle, Ptolemy, Galileo, etc... Now they didn't have a Twitter did they? No, they thought for themselves and conjugated many ideas that have now become vital to our everyday society! It seems there have been more brilliant thinkers in the past, and you see that many of them have been readers/inventors/thinkers... not technology addicts like much of our society is now. However, we have had many advances in society due to technology of course--not to say that we haven't if that's what you think I am getting at. Simply, I believe with more technology will also come more technology dependent generations. I think if we engage younger people in reading, critical thinking activities, etc., then we could have a much more educated population that will be able to use their intellectual capabilities in today's world--given a moderate exposure to technology... Everything in moderation.
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      Jan 3 2014: Annie,

      I think part of this conversation is trying to show that if we free ourselves from boring, dangerous, or meaningless tasks (and divorce ourselves from the monetary system), then we can focus on doing what it is that we truly desire, which may include becoming a mathematician, a philosopher, a gardener, or roboticist. Toward this end, I fully believe that we should embrace our intelligence and technology, and move headlong into this new world.

      What would you do if you did not have to "earn a living"? And how would that new endeavor improve your life and the world at large? Thanks!
  • ed car

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    Dec 27 2013: I honestly doubt this system will make it another twenty years. Technology could make it easier for this current system to survive but the is no getting around unemployment and that option is what we should be striving for anyways. The patent system was the very first aspect of government that I came to know about. It seemed wrong to a four year old and now I know it well. This system stifles progress... This conversation should really be about why people don't know this. You know, why do i bother? Ted lost so much respect from me for the gmo thing, for all i know, i'm the only member that sees this post, I doubt it, but it comes to mind and I can no longer trust the framing of these questions....
  • Dec 27 2013: We do sit at a juncture of the labor system, I personally think labor is taken advantage of and needs to be on par with what labor contributes to society.

    In that respect, what could the world look like if creativity and intellect were brought to the fore front?

    I imagine that a class system would be frowned upon. Money would be a relic?

    I would strive to be a philosopher farmer!

    My apologies folks I am weary, from doing battle on Ted against the mighty dollar, and slipped in bit of self-indulgence, it would be nice though really nice.
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      Dec 27 2013: I suspect the philosopher farmer was a mainstay of the agricultural community providing food for both body and spirit long before corporations turned the farms into factories and radio and tv invaded the living room..

      Welcome aboard Joe :)
  • Dec 27 2013: Thanks William

    I should have thought of that addition
  • Dec 26 2013: Join TED: communication provides knowledge, is intellectually stimulating, and on an international scale, helps to cross pollinate cultures, and break down barriers.
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      Dec 26 2013: and encourage others to engage in similar online forums to further the cross pollination. :)
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        Dec 27 2013: Yep, going only to TED is not that good, since it's in a sphere of itself, a real internet bubble, a circlejerk as it's called on other parts of the web.

        I advice having at least 2 other sources for online discussion, and at least one that is not well moderated as you will get to see the true nature of people.
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    Dec 26 2013: Hi William:

    I think that you are right about the problem of our education system. However, the most important question is HOW to solve the problem. The world is not small and we have used this education system for more than one hundred years, in what way can we change the system? Moreover, education system is not independent from political and economical system. Which system should be the first to change in order to have the best effect?
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      Dec 26 2013: It all starts at the political decision making, but not simply electing reps to may or may not have the same commitment to education. It starts with local government, but must be supported by regional and federal as well. Referendums are the street protects of the 21st century. Binding referendums can ensure the legislations is at the front of the list. The pinheads will want to endless quibble over the cost and throwing up roadblocks. They must be countered at every turn with the message its about empowering our youth.

      Ted has some very good threads on both Direct Democracy and Education. Some communities will have a lot more work to do in these regards than others. But it starts with the political mandate.
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      Dec 24 2013: thanks, I find chives to be a nice addition to any salad. To paraphrase a well worn oration " I have an imagination and one day all children will be judged by the quality of their minds and not simply the labour they bring to a job.... "
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          Dec 25 2013: Ahhh, I don't think i have ever been called precious before :)

          btw, who is phil Robertson?
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        Dec 25 2013: My dear William,
        FYI.....You have been called PRECOCIOUS.....not precious. In my perception however, for what it is worth, you are precious, so hold that thought:>)
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          Dec 25 2013: oops, guess that was my xmas wishful thinking. but precocious works for me too :)

          best wishes over the holidays to you Colleen and to all who added to this chat :)
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        Dec 25 2013: Best Wishes for you William, and holidays that are peaceful and content.
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    Dec 24 2013: Eventually, William, I hope that the potential of all humanity will be realized. The wealthy themselves are precipitating a serious revision of the status quo, as the disparity which presently 'keeps the third world from their doors' is now shared by the poor and many former members of the middle class here at home. As a result, more and more of us here are awakening to the ages-old inequity and are prepared to join the less fortunate abroad in demanding a fair portion for our labours and for our consumption, both of which sustain the economic system and create the wealth.
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      Dec 24 2013: There is no better motivator than for the complacent and the indifferent to suddenly find themselves under the oppressors boot as well :)
  • Dec 22 2013: People seem to take it for granted what this modern age has to offer—including internet.
    We so rely on it. Although we face a lot of serious problems(and we know we should fix them), ‘Desperation’ still isn’t the first thing that comes to our minds.
    Many would freak out because of the harsh reality they happen to see, but they’re not desperate enough( not focused enough) to handle the problems.
    To better utilize our brains—intellectual capabilities we need to be more desperate--about solving problems, our dreams and more importantly, ‘evolving’ into better(upgraded)ones.

    What’s really getting better?
    Our intellectual capabilities, or technologies that replace our roles?
    • Dec 22 2013: Aren't we creating enough desperation of our own? Say, by destroying environment and old industrial-age employment?

      There will be a point where many people will have to find a solution. What it is... who knows, but they should better be able to use their capabilities well - or improving them.
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      Dec 23 2013: I believe the gap between what we know needs to be done or fixed and what is actually being done and not fixed is a direct result of the fact we still have top down governments that resemble the tired old monarchies of the past surrounded by modern day wealthy CEO aristocracies.

      One of the most thought provoking Occupy signs I saw read "I heard there would be cake?".
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    Dec 22 2013: Quite so. Not everything that our intelligent, imaginative and eminently employable people are doing is improving the general status quo of mankind or of the environment in general, nor are their contributions necessarily more fulfilling or progressive for them than are the efforts of those who have been left behind and are simply trying to keep their heads above water.
  • Dec 21 2013: Our human brains, and intellectual capabilities, reside in the network of some 100 billion neurons housed in our cranium.
    We are now entering a new era of intellectual development where we are no longer limited by the size of our cranium. Intellectual development has a new network to go to - the Internet, where at a higher level we network human brains rather than neurons. The networked Internet is becoming the world brain. Any one can participate if they have the inclination and have an internet connection. As you read this on TED you are part of the world brain.
    Whether this translates into widespread employment is another question. Thus far most people use the Internet to satisfy their intellectual needs, and work as you state at jobs that don't even come close to doing this.
    • Dec 22 2013: It is still limited by our senses - the internet is a knowledge store, it doesn't think on its own. It cannot draw conclusions.

      If you say otherwise, the onus of evidence is on you. I'd be hard pressed to find a decision made by "the Internet" which cannot be actually attributed to a group of people.

      Maybe later, who knows, a more direct interface will be found - or an improved brain that allows better use of all those resources.
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      Dec 23 2013: Tom, to "use" something is to "employ" that thing and there are far greater activities our minds can be engaged in and far greater benefits to be derived than the mere exchange of labour can ever accomplish.

      I do agree the internet has become a wonderful source of information but as Radoslaw points out there is as yet no direct interface between that information and knowledge for the masses since educational systems around the world are still stuck in creating workers rather than informed and knowledgeable citizens.
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    Dec 21 2013: A great many of the labour for wages jobs haven't disappeared in North America, they've simply emigrated to distant shores. Also, I'm somewhat sceptical about the level of any available intellectual potential left in the wake of their departure. How many of us here and elsewhere, productively employed or otherwise, are actually interested in or capable of refocusing our mental energies on issues beyond the realms of food, shelter, clothing, transportation or entertainment?
    • Dec 22 2013: It seems to me that it is a good thing to use our intelligence and imagination on issues of food, shelter, etc. As long as we are physical entities we need these things. The world would also benefit by newer and better and more ecologically sound food, shelter, etc., from the ground up, meaning the growing or production methods of, clean transportation, and more healthy (and less violent) entertainment.

      Many of these very things are the things that are causing havoc in our environment. I feel our intellectual capabilites should be turned more to getting our world out of the messes that they got us into in the first place (since our intelligence has now helped us to understand what we have been doing wrong.)

      Besides, when we have no useful and concrete work to do, we tend to use our smarts to get into and to cause trouble, and become destructive.
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      Dec 23 2013: Yes Don, for the vast majority of people the basics of life represent their principle interests, largely because the wages they receive barely cover the costs of living in the 21st century while the labour they contribute may bring 100 times or even 1000 times their wages to the owners.

      But the potential of the human brain has not been diminished, it has simply been overshadowed by survival needs. It is no accident that educational systems around world only emphasis "getting a job or a career" and passively accepting government mandates instead of empowering their students to become the masters of their agencies of governance.

      Laura has said it best by pointing out that the wealthy who have no useful or concrete work to do - other than scheming how to obtain more wealth - will invariably be destructive and troublesome for the rest of us.
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    Dec 21 2013: Modern man has made "stuff" that is capable of destroying civilization as we know it. Let us be careful, really careful, of how we use our so called "intelligence."
  • Dec 15 2013: There may be 7.131 billion minds inhabiting the earth, but they are all limited by sensory input and output. You need to use your senses to read, write, speak, and take action to make a difference in the world. Otherwise, it is unused intellectual potential.

    We are getting better at it. Over the course of the last 150 years, we have reduced the hindrance of geography from the communications challenge-first with mail, then telegraph, then telephone, then radio and television, and now the internet.

    One of our constraints is time. Figuring 16 hours of awake time a day, time 365 days a year, time say 70 years, means we have about 408,800 hours in a life to learn, survive and communicate. The reality is that most people spent the majority of this time doing what was needed to survive the elements until recently, and now we have the luxury of communicating as a leisure activity. So, lets say that everyone has about 4 hours a day to communicate, which reduces the number to about 100,000 hours. How will you spend them?

    How do you balance the need to learn, think, reason, create, and communicate such that your 100,000 hours do the best job of enabling your opinions to be known, your intellect to be fully utilized, and your voice to be heard? What influences our choice of subjects, people, and media of communications? One idea might be to increase the quality of what you have to say through learning and study, thus making your opinion sought after and chosen by many as worthy of their time. Another might be to say things that people want to hear, thus drawing them to your message. Another idea is to make it very easy to communicate to many, so that the path of least resistance is one particular medium. However, the communications that stand the test of time typically come with work, study, thought and debate, and amend the body of human knowledge with new thoughts and ideas. One reason science is so popular.
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      Dec 16 2013: Yes Robert, there will be difficulties to overcome but such is life, andt the consequence of acquiring knowledge is often a growing sense of personal empowerment. A worthy goal in deed methinks.

      As to the survival issue the Ted discussion on a UBI http://www.ted.com/conversations/22022/what_s_your_opinion_on_uncondi.html?c=793045 offers one perspective as well as a way of facilitating the opportunities to create the sort of personal knowledge base you describe.
    • Dec 22 2013: What's more is that we're limited in memory, in knowledge and in capacity to absorb further knowledge. It's highly recursive, a single mistake early can cost a lot later, start conditions are highly chaotic too.

      For example, I'm not able to derive complex mathematical proofs. To learn to do so, I'd have to spend many hours, perhaps half a lifetime. Would the benefit outweigh the cost? Nobody can really answer that, not even myself...
  • Dec 14 2013: Reading through the comments, we must recognized the entanglements of capitalism. We live in a time where are human society has put a great focus on materialistic goods, instant gratification, and entitlements. Majority of us buy into a system of low-risk for reward. Hence, the mundane jobs. We come to accept our personal values is tied into our simplistic routine jobs, producing predictable outcomes for reward. This is scary because society has been condition to operate within a box.

    The ones that benefit are those willing to think outside the box, even to the point where they know how to capitalize on others who also try to think outside of the box. They learn to master economies of scale and take on more risk for more reward. With this said, they also understand how the rules of system work to point which they can be manipulated. Technology is only a tool, not a solution to a problem.

    For one problem solved, one is created. This is why capitalism works, it cycles on and on. The question is when will mankind wake up and capitalize on his or her creative mind, without being exploited along the way.
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      Dec 14 2013: I like the points you make George. However, the capitalism of which you speak is still a human made system of exchange and, as such, it is no more real or inevitable than we want it to be. And, like all human made systems, it too can be restructured or even replaced to become more relevant and less predatory if enough minds so desire.
      • Dec 14 2013: Agreed, actually my "theory on everything" explains that. However, I was only explaining current states of reality. It is us that sets perceived value on materialistic things. However, one of the biggest components of economics is scarcity which drives our decision making. Even if we could break from materialism there are those that capitalize on our basic needs. This mass change in belief implies no free will. That pure autonomy is needed for it to work.I hate it to break it to you, but there is no one size fits all system. There will always be dualities in any system, actual system are more entangled than two but that requires further explanation. In my findings in my theory no system can remain constant. I state anything can be manipulated, now do we have ability to do it at this time is another question.
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          Dec 14 2013: Which makes change less than predictable and any transition worthy of close monitoring
  • Dec 12 2013: Actually William we are incredibly unwise. Vis–à–vis, we act first then only realize the consequences after. Research the Manhattan project and what Oppenheimer said when he saw the destructive power of nukes - that he'd created.

    If we want to better utilize our intellectual capabilities in this modern age, or in fact any age, we'd better start thinking of the consequences of our actions before we do them. (that too covers ever one of your points above)

    And just an FYI, if we did that, we wouldn't have global warming, polar ice caps melting, species going extinct ever day (yes, look it up), nor would we have 24 million slaves (look it on on TED) nor would we have wars that today are still raging which were started over a decade ago (Afghanistan) nor would we have the litany of virtually insurmountable problems that we face (and largely ignore) today.

    So yea, thinking ahead, seeing what the outcome of what today's decisions mean - that would be a good start.
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      Dec 13 2013: And every issue you mention is a direct consequence of governments serving corporate interests over those of their citizenry. all the more reason to change the structure of our governance. If we are going to preach democracy it is time we actually practice it as it was intended, bottom up and grass roots based. Hence all the Net chatter about Direct Democracy and its growing popularity.
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        Dec 13 2013: I don't know whether you are aware that our very active TEDster Jimmy Strobl is extremely involved in the Direct democracy movement in his country.

        He hosted a very active thread on the subject as well a few months ago. Here it is, with almost 250 posts: http://www.ted.com/conversations/18759/does_your_country_have_an_elec.html

        There have been numerous threads on this actually, but Jimmy's stands out in my memory.
      • Dec 13 2013: Actually William that's not 100% right, but your comment has some indirect relevance, what it's more about is not seeing the long term picture. Which is exactly the reason Nelson Mandela chewed out George Bush, extolling the virtues of seeing farther than 4 years. Nor for that matter do corporations see much further than the next quarterly results, but to lay it all at their feet is actually unfair, why? Have you never made a short term decision?

        In many ways we are ALL to blame, so we should ALL accept responsibility.
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          Dec 13 2013: Steven your right about the extent of the duplicity, whole populations have time and time again passively accepted the short sightedness. However, those who have been leading the parade are - by the nature of their positions as leaders - charged with the greater responsibility and must therefore bear the culpability of having lead the parade off the cliff of sustainability. .
      • Dec 13 2013: William, that I cant buy, as you cannot defer your responsibility to others not without consequences.

        Also Look at the word - responsibility - Respond and ability. Actually you can give up your responsibility - it's called slavery.

        In the Declaration of Independence (if you get a chance to go to Washington, read it, it's beautifully written, maybe it's online too)

        "But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security."

        What he's saying is that it's YOUR responsibility to do something - lest you be a slave.

        Which is exactly why it was written, which is exactly what they understood, they needed to to throw of the bondage and slavery to a British Government - that did not meet the needs of the people. And why they specifically wrote that, to serve as a lesson for the people, to know and understand what it means when you give up your responsibility - you'll be a slave of someone else.

        Also in some ways it's actually more the responsibility of the people than the leaders, as they've committed the act of submission to the perceived authority, and when you surrender to authority, which is only an illusion which is created by you, given credence, definition and legality by you. And so by accepting they rule you, you no longer have freedom. You no longer have freedom of choice, your choice is what is told to you by the authority.

        I use the word you, William, but in reality, you is anyone that reads this - anyone - who has the "ability to respond"

        And you can read this, not only for the original question, but you can see it in the very actions taken by the NSA, where they no longer care about the constitution, the legality of what they are doing, as they have realized that the people who are responsible, ie you... are not going to do anything about it.
    • Dec 13 2013: I find the idea that we know the consequences before we make the next forward move rather curious. How can man possibly fore see the long term consequences of present actions. If that were the case we would be more God like in over-all view, no? Consequences are problems that man forms by advancing thought into action they go hand in hand.
      • Dec 22 2013: The whole idea is actually to make the decisions that are likely to work in the future and given that constraint, best given current knowledge. We can only hope that if we make a mistake, we can correct it later.

        However few people are rational enough to do so or have good enough instincts.
  • Dec 11 2013: I do not think there is disagreement. The questions are probably, "How do we do it?" and "What problems should be attacked?"
  • Dec 11 2013: ....ah, this view is one that I can personally attest as being valid. I was on both sides on the line when it came to witnessing and participating with volunteers following Katrina. Thank you for the clarification!
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    Dec 11 2013: Humans tend to boast with their intellect. Nobody knows what intellect is. Some say, intellect helps humans to survive, but there are species who survived millions of years without the "intellectual capacity" in our understanding of it. There are plants that are several thousands years old (not as a species, but as an individual organism). An average plant seem to have a far greater capacity to adapt to environment than an average human. I think, it is no wonder that many plants have a lot more genes in their genome - they are more complex and more evolved organisms than we think in our preoccupation with our own intellect.
    • Dec 22 2013: The difference is in speed. Intelligence can react quickly. Genes only react over long imeframes, which leaves even whole populations vulnerable. The next step could be even faster...
  • Dec 10 2013: Hmmm....how does one put a price on intelligence? Does the gathering of prior knowledge to form a thought which may have a twist to it hold value? In other words where does one begin paying for thought, some might say an idea is a gathering of past information from others with an added view to it. We as a whole (human race), I believe, are all responsible in some way for every new thought (if there is such a thing) out there. Do we begin with the cave man and the wheel or the first person who looked to the skies and thought of space travel? It is an endless strand with no true beginning or end. Thank you for the question it was interesting and challenging
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      Dec 11 2013: let's hope no one ever does put a price on intelligence. When I speak of more valuable activities the first thing that comes to my mind is volunteerism, an activity that can be extremely self-enriching and invariably has no monetary component.
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      Dec 10 2013: or is there an existence beyond capitalism where ideas are worth more than labour or wealth?
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        Dec 10 2013: "or is there an existence beyond capitalism where ideas are worth more than labour or wealth?"


        We'll get there soon enough.
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    Dec 9 2013: Its pretty certain that in this modern age we need less population than ever. The employment possibilities are much less than Industrial Era. So what we can do? We should definitely reduce the world population and then we have to choose a sustainable way because our current way is nothing but a temporary solution. I still think that Job creation will stay a very challenging topic in agenda.
    I guess Juan Enriquez has a solution like always: http://www.ted.com/talks/juan_enriquez_wants_to_grow_energy.html
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      Dec 9 2013: So Can, are you opting to lead by example in reducing the world population?
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        Dec 9 2013: Joshua, Isn't that clear? I mean we already have problems by lack of natural resources and with the help of technological advancements we have a job creation problem too.

        Here an economist suggest that corporations should hire people even though they do not really need to hire that amount of people. He suggests that buffer stocks should employed people not unemployed. It will be a huge problem in our future. When Keynesian economy can't find a permanent solution it seems a big trouble to me.
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          Dec 10 2013: I think what Joshua was asking was "Will you kill yourself?", reducing the population by 1, leading by example...

          Now maybe you're not advocating that people should be killed but almost every time someone talks about reducing the population, they think that it needs to be done fast and that can only happen one way... Unless we have an accident...
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          Dec 11 2013: Hello Can,
          Jimmy picked up on my tongue-in-cheek meaning. But a couple of further points.
          1). There is no shortage of food; just a matter of distribution, and simple solutions that politicians could instigate to help people help themselves;
          2). There is only a "shortage" of natural resources in relation to a distorted sense of "need" for a certain high-level consumption-lifestyle. With a simpler but adequate lifestyle, there is no shortage of minerals.
          3). Technology is now delivering its promise "to free mankind from boring repetitive work". The vision was that then people would spend their time in "higher and more creative pursuits". You are right in that no-one told the economists this was the plan. In India it is deemed better to have people doing some work, rather than no work, and this approach has merit even if it is considered by some as "inefficient" - but what is "efficient" about having many under-employed people? It is only efficient for the company as an isolated unit, off-loading its peripheral costs onto the general public, and the planet. However, this is the nature of the Capitalist system, with fewer people working longer hours to keep costs down in the limited sphere of the company, but not in the larger sphere of the world community as a whole.
          So your question is a good one; a whole new rethink on what is a workable 'economy' is needed.
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        Dec 11 2013: Of course I didn't mean to kill anybody without their willingness so you all can live :) But I think we have to make some facilitations in euthanasia especially who are over 80 and do not want to live anymore. When people get through with age 60 they should be asked whether they would prefer euthanasia if they live in the persistent vegetative state.

        And also all countries must support birth control. Making more than 2 baby should be considered with highly taxation.
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          Dec 12 2013: Hello Can,
          My mother died this year aged over 92, and mentally fully with it, even if a little slow. She talked about "being ready to go" the last 3 or so years, but actually they were an important time. There is always a bigger picture that we are probably not seeing, and we need to give that possibility the fullness of time and space as a process of expanding our consciousness on the journey towards leaving this planet.
          People on life-support machines are a different matter and the decisions when and if to "pull the plug" are currently done.
          As for children (at least in relation to the white population in the U.K), children are considered such a high cost to bring up that the average is less than two per family now, anyway.
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      Dec 10 2013: There once were national space programs that could have seen the human race populating the cosmos but now it has been handed over to the wealthy for their enjoyment. With over 6 billion minds available to us, surely we can come up with better ideas than that?
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    Dec 8 2013: well, I suppose the computer you typed your question on was built in rather an assembly-line fashion. How would you have had them do it differently?
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      Dec 8 2013: The assembly line reference applies to the whole "jobs" thing which is an outdated concept and all kinds of "jobs" are being eliminated through technology and science on a regular basis. Therefore there is an ever growing need to find other ways of "employing people - meaning engaging the potential of their minds and not just as bodies performing repetitive tasks that are being eliminated anyways..

      Besides, I had my comp custom made by a crew of techies, people who I met and talked wit and who do it because they enjoy the craft
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        Dec 8 2013: I usually believe people find their level. If you start out on a dull, repetitive job, and you're really too talented to be doing that job, you find a way to rise.
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          Dec 9 2013: there are far more mind numbing jobs than there are interesting and engaging since the principle criteria for most jobs is a warm body that can perform mundane and repetitive tasks.
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        Dec 10 2013: well, whether most jobs are mind numbing would be a good topic for research. Even doing a simple job requires attention, awareness, and knowledge. How could we research this topic, william, we'd have to talk to a bunch of people who do simple jobs and ask how they experience their jobs? It's possible that some people who say their job is mind-numbing, if you raised them to a higher level where they were doing a more interesting job, they might not be able to perform adequately? Maybe even if people don't like their job, it may be the best they are capable of doing.
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          Dec 11 2013: there have been plenty of studies over the ages and many are online. Here's one from England's Academy of Sciences regarding pilots http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/sci/tech/7358863.stm
          or ask anyone that works at a cash register, on an assembly line, in an office cubicle or dozens of others.

          However, the focus of this chat is to explore how we can move beyond merely exchanging our labour for wages into the future .
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        Dec 11 2013: yes, that study you cite I don't think says that a job is mind-numbing. It's saying that there is certain brain activity when you are about to make a mistake, and if you could devise a warning system that your brain activity shows you are about to make a mistake, you could prevent mistakes.

        I've asked hardly anyone how they feel about their job. Just observing from the outside, most people seem at least a little interested in their job. I have worked at all the jobs you mention, cash register, assembly line, office cubicle. I can't say they were 100% mind-numbing. I looked for ways to make them more interesting. For example, when I ran a cash register, I got a hold of the owner's manual for the cash register and read it so I could learn more about the cash register.

        Thing is, william, I'm not sure what the focus of your conversation is. Are you asking if we can take all the jobs on earth and make them more interesting? Or are you asking if we can think of something interesting for the people who have been put out of work by technology to do? Or both, except they're rather different questions? Or something else?
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    Dec 8 2013: We can each start by doing something each day we consider meaningful.