Computing the Yin in our Yang?

‘Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness’

Anne Frank

I grew up hearing family stories of days of little. Stories which when retold seemed like days of lots. We have a collective nostalgia to ‘bring back the old time days’ or ‘make our countries great again’. Selectively reflecting on the authenticity of the past with scant appreciation for what’s genuine in the present. 

writing-vintage-old-nostalgia-close-up-brand-1380584-pxhere.com

Image Source: Pixhere

This nostalgia doesn’t always reflect poverty, loss, starvation or cruelty.  We delight in memories of what was done together. That which was exchanged, in equal measure. What was given and received. Like a cup of sugar for a pint of milk. A lift from a neighbour for no reason other than you were both headed the same way. The offer of a meal from someone else’s pot. 

The negative (-) and the positive (+), we encounter in our environment affect us.  Doctors in training can suffer from ‘medical school syndrome’. As they learn more and more about a particular disease, they can exhibit symptoms of the disease they intensely study – – -. Alternatively, symptoms may be relieved when given a placebo + + +. Something we think is medicine but is actually just water, maybe some Italian herbs. 

This isn’t helped by the ‘filter bubbles’ we live in that reinforce what we see and influence what we come to believe. For instance, Facebook experimented with the news feeds of hundreds of individuals. They showed them either a low number of positive posts or a low number of negative posts. Those shown more negative posts posted more negative comments – – –  while those shown more positive posts posted more positively + + +.

Born of Taoism/Daoism philosophy in 4th century B.C., Yin and Yang is one way of conceptualising negative and positive. This is entwined in Chinese medicine and cuisine too. Yin is the black side, feminine (+), dark, cold, a pull. Yang is the white side, masculine (-), light, hot, a push. Yin and Yang, are relative to each other. They complement, interconnect. Like water and fire, the moon and the sun, soft and hard, front and back, north and south, valleys and mountains, space and time.

Nothing is completely Yin or completely Yang.

There is Yin within Yin.

There is Yang within Yang.

Yang dwells within Yin.

Yin lives within Yang.

Yin can become Yang.

Yang can become Yin.

So, what are the algorithms for finding the Yin in our Yang? (+ + – = -) (- + – = +)?

Ying_yang_sign

Symbol of Yin and Yang

Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

Cue – Manus: A hand to hold?

Walking With Mobile Phone.jpg

Image Source: Libreshot

You are probably holding your phone in the palm of your hand right now, your fingers wrapped around it, thumb moving up, down. We hold our phones in our hands every day. It is a way to connect without being physically present. A study by University of Illinois researchers on ‘Phone Walkers’ in Paris found that people kept their phones in their hands even when they were switched off and even if they had handbags or pockets. Other research used attachment theory to explain why the attachment young people have to mobile phones can occur much like the attachment a child has to a stuffed toy.

Interestingly, ‘phone walkers’ were less likely to hold their phones if they were walking with someone of the opposite sex. However, holding hands isn’t just a romantic gesture, as perceived in Western culture. The need to connect with our hands starts from the womb, continuing after birth, as babies instinctively wrap their fingers around those of mum or dad, a palmar grasp reflex for reassurance. It’s a trait we share with primates. It isn’t just handshakes that are a sign of trust. Holding hands in other cultures like in India, Arab and African countries between not only women but men is not sexualised. Instead, holding hands is a sign of respect and friendship. Prominent figures like the Dalai Lama do this and so has Nelson Mandela. Holding hands has also been found to increase oxytocin, a hormone that decreases stress and helps with pain management.

Racismo

Image Source: Macca: Wikimedia Commons

In our hands are thousands of nerve endings that connect to our whole body, so what does it mean when we hold our phone more and more times each day? The inability to hold our phone brings anxiety and when reunited with it our stress is reduced and our confidence boosted. Unfortunately, using it can also bring distrust, hate, disrespect, intolerance, and insecurity, much like an unwanted gesture.

E-readers are used for convenience, however, at least for now, they have not been able to replace physical books, which have instead risen in popularity because of the inability to create the same tactile experience. Similarly, physically holding someone’s hand is different from the phone holding we always do. Technology is only a tool, much like the wood, we burned to make smoke signals centuries ago. Though it’s changing more rapidly than ever before it’s really our human connection that matters most. With reports that constantly holding our phones may be giving us a smartphone slump and emitting harmful radiation, let’s not replace the human hand with our phone.

As you touch each key quickly placing each finger across the other, you should give a palmar grasp of reassurance. Imagine what would happen if as we type we extended a hand of respect to someone not physically within our reach. What compassion we would both give and receive. Robotic hands that can feel now exist helping those who need them. 12325597985_e401b1399c_n

Image Source: Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma

The Latin root word ‘man’ is a gender-neutral term used to describe us, humans. The Sanskrit word for man is ‘Manus’. Manus means hand in Latin.  We see connections in words like manual, manifest, mandate and command. It is therefore suggested that the word hand and man are one and the same. Soon our hand may not be attached to a phone we can hold, but instead to a computerised assistant, we manufacture. One that could be made in our image. We won’t need to type a letter, we will just signal, we will just speak.

Cue –

Manus:

What do you want to do?

You: 

I want to go for a walk

… Let’s hold hands

Manus:

Ok?

Aliens are already here…

‘The genie is out of the bottle. We need to move forward on artificial intelligence development but we also need to be mindful of its very real dangers. I fear that AI may replace humans altogether. If people design computer viruses, someone will design AI that replicates itself. This will be a new form of life that will outperform humans.’ 

Professor Stephen Hawking

Computer Science Woman Artificial Intelligence

Source: Max Pixel

Space enthusiasts have been forever arguing for the existence of life beyond earth. Researchers and popular culture speculate on alien encounters and potential alien take-over. Scientists suggest that Artificial Intelligence can help us to find aliens on other planets. Yet it seems like we may have been creating aliens all on our own even if we didn’t know it. These aliens have not come from ‘out of space’. Informed by the data we inevitably give they are not only a mirror of us but an exaggeration of our good, bad and our terrifyingly ugly. They know who we are and increasingly what we think. They are becoming better at predicting what we will do and where we will be. In the seminal book by George Orwell, 1984 that I’ve read more than once, there were few places where you could just be in a world characterised by surveillance. It’s the same today for anyone using technology or anyone who happens to be in its vicinity.

It’s worth reading/watching Wired Magazine’s ‘When Tech Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself’ which features an interview with Yuval Harari author of 21 Lessons for the 21st CenturySapiens and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow and Tristan Harris, from the Center for Humane Technology. They explain how our brains have been hacked, what have been the real world consequences, and what may be yet to come. They also give some practical ideas on how to start dealing with this by suggesting you acknowledge what is happening and gain more self-awareness. I agree it’s not a solution, but it’s the only way to start.

Aliens are watching you right now.

Aliens are already here…