Getting Past Anxiety

When anyone is confronted with a new situation, it’s only natural to want to treat it just like something that they have experienced before. There may be a few tweaks necessary, of course, but can’t this just be handled like everything we’ve ever done before?

Anxiety in today’s world generally comes from a realization that this isn’t a good idea. The feeling is likely to come from the guts than the head, being an intuitive feeling more than a thought. But it’s there. This can easily be preyed on by hucksters looking for loyalty of various kinds as they shop solutions in search of problems. “This isn’t anything new,” the arguments always go, “It’s that THEY don’t want to do the right thing.”

There has to be a better way. And there is.

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Cynefin, a Sense-Making Framework

The world is changing constantly. This causes tremendous anxiety everywhere, and for good reasons. Many of the systems we depend on to dispense wealth, understanding, and happiness appear to be broken. People everywhere have to adapt to a new level of complexity brought about by dealing with other people and cultures who do not respond according to assumed values and behaviors.

One solution is to run shrieking to the hills, away from this world and into a land where the old assumptions and known practices still work. Another is to deal with the situation, one way or another, and master at least some sense of order in your own life.

But how? Here is one tool for analyzing new situations which steps out of the assumptions and best practices and beyond the many solutions in search of problems.

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You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!

We live in a world of instant gratification. McDonald’s is not the cause, but one of the many symptoms – and more like the diabetes its product can induces. Another can easily be found in the internet, where headlines proclaim shock, outrage, and amazement fighting to get the attention of bloated and lethargic minds.

The unfolding Trump series of scandals moves to a different timeline, however. Justice moves slowly as it gathers evidence. It takes time to turn the insiders and have them fully repent. But that’s not to say that after a long, slow burn there isn’t some room for dramatic testimony that lays the entire case out.

There’s a time for everything to finally turn into explosive headlines. Fur Trump, that time is now.

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Negotiating, Away!

Wall Street is cheering as trade talks with China progress. A full-on trade war may be averted. Is this reason to celebrate?

While it’s always good to avoid any kind of war, there is still reason to be concerned. Two very different nations with different economies still have to come to some kind of terms over the long haul. More to the point, it’s not about the differences in the economies but different approaches to very basic aspects of being a nation-state, including law.

Leaders sitting down and working out a deal seems like a good thing. But as always, the nature of the deal itself is very important.

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Humbling Chill

(The Sage) knows he makes no fine display,
and wears rough clothes, not finery.
It is not in his expectancy of men
that they should understand his ways,
for he carries his jade within his heart.
– Tao Te Ching 70 (Rosenthal)

The short, hunched figure marched with purpose. The weather bent us both down, compelled our gaze towards cautious feet and the treacherous lack of grip underneath them. It was only a casual glance that saw the short red coat and hood approaching as I wondered who else might be out making their own time down the sidewalk. A child? A friend? Anyone I knew?

When the figure was close I could see it was an older woman. It wasn’t until she was close that I could make out anything about her even as we both concentrated on our chilling task, the path from here to there. I smiled a quick “Hello!” and she said as much back as we passed, still a stranger if also a comrade in purpose. But we were both anonymous in our shields against the cold that might catch up if we had stopped for any more than a word. The weather itself had rendered us equal, distant, and humble.

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A Frothy China

Is it possible for a nation to rapidly modernize, joining the fully developed first world in just one generation?

The answer to that is clearly, “Yes,” but it comes with a lot of conditions and warnings. China, in its drive to be a great power and assume its rightful place in the world almost immediately, is paying attention to none of them.

That’s a harsh assessment, and it’s not quite correct. But there are far, far too many issues with the rapid rise of China that are not being dealt with appropriately. More importantly, given one quarter of the planet’s population, how this proceeds is going to affect everyone, everywhere.

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Work For All?

On a bizzy Monday, I thought I would re-reun this piece from four years ago with no edits.  I think it’s even more accurate now.

Is technology a net creator or destroyer of jobs? The question is as old as the Industrial Revolution, when workers in mills found themselves put out of work by large industrial looms. In France, they threw their shoes (sabots) into the weaving machines to destroy them – the origin of the term “sabotage”. The protests didn’t stop the machines, however, and the workers had to find something else to do in an ever-changing economy where machines did more and more work.

Today, the pace of technological change is faster than ever, with new gadgets coming into our lives constantly. Automation is also transforming our lives, with new robots and artificial intelligence replacing workers constantly. Are today’s productivity gains tomorrow’s unemployment? Increasingly those who study technology in our lives and the popular media are coming to the conclusion that yes, workers are net losers in the race against tech. And this is not a partisan issue.

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