Despite apparent advances in technology and major scientific discoveries, the prospect that we are still not going to pass on a better world to our next generation, to our children, to our grandchildren disturbs me immensely. In more recent years I have become ashamed and disillusioned with my Information Technology (IT) industry. Its general lack of interest in applying our greatest innovative IT minds to solving many of the big hard problems we face, has been the principal driver behind the creation of this “Yourself Helper” website.
My determination (from both a personal and professional IT perspective) is to do something constructive about these serious problems and IT itself. Sadly, I have been led to the conclusion that IT needs to be added to the list of big hard problems ordinary people are now facing in modern society today. IT innovation is not only part of the problem but can also be part of the solution. Part of the IT problem that disturbs me most is the way many ordinary people today have become obsessed with the plethora of new mundane IT gadgets and gimmickry coming onto the market (like mobile phones apps, iPads, Tablets, Twitter, Facebook, computer games, pornography, etc.). Recent IT innovations have created the illusion of bringing us closer together when in fact it has made it easier to be apart; opening the way to live in a variety of unreal worlds of “virtual reality”. Ordinary people are preferring to watch the real world go by on TV, their iPad, Mobile phone rather than experience the real thing; robbing themselves of the feeling of intimacy in having real personal experiences. We are said to be a product of our experiences but in the case of IT we have become its captive.
It’s the same with the misguided excitement generated by anticipations for the arrival of the latest trivia in IT products and mundane services flooding the market. People queue for block eagerly waiting to get their hands on the likes of Apples latest smart phone and Dick Tracy style wrist watches with in-built smart phone. Like bigger and better curved TV screens. Like the recent Twitter $US1.8 bill initial public offering (IPO) announcement. Like the Facebook’s $US19 bill acquisition of WhatsApp for its mobile instant messaging platform. Like the $US2 bill paid for Oculus’s virtual reality headsets. Like we need more advanced push advertising in our lives and more of these gadgets and gimmickry for sticking our heads even further into the sand. Even the latest Pokemon craze, from a Japanese IT consortium, aimed at getting people out onto the streets into the fresh air, is in itself likely to cause more social problems than those they are purporting to resolve.
Having been heavily involved in the IT industry since the late 1960s, IT innovation has traditionally made an enormous contribution to real improvements in our standard of living, our life style, human productivity, well-being and ingenuity. I have been enormously proud to be associated with the creation and implementation of many such strategic and innovative solutions. Partnering with science, medicine, finance, government and media groups in delivering innovative solutions to very complex social problems. It has been a rewarding experience making such positive contributions to society; delivering solutions to complex problems that would otherwise not have been possible without the innovative use of IT products. Events like landing a man on the moon, the evolution of the internet, the creation of the mobile phone, cracking the DNA code are but a few of the memorable contributions IT innovation has made to the advancement of western society; the strategic benefits of which still flow through society today.
The advent of the internet, having just had its 25th anniversary, was the most recent notable IT innovative contributions; delivering a significant IT infrastructure platform for enormous social benefits. But in the ensuing dotcom era, IT lost its innocence, when in March 2000 the dotcom bubble burst. Investors, seeking easy money, began to take enormous risks without regard for investment fundamental (like price-to-earnings ratios). This was a concussive period in the history of IT. Lessons learnt from 15 years ago, today seem to have been long forgotten as social media companies with promises of instant gratification style gimmickry and gadgets continue to attract the lion’s share of investor funds and advertising interests in making easy money from readily available funds from the world central banks. Selfish greed seems to have displaced caring for others and society as the prime motivating drive behind IT innovation. The basic problem this time around is that if there are opportunities available to make abnormally high profits with little capital, they are likely to be competed away rapidly by an ever growing number of new entrants. Mundane technical advantage rarely lasts. Look at how Facebook is acquiring its main competitors for billions of dollars simply to shore up their existence as the popularity of their core product wains and more of the same advertising gimmickry chasing ordinary people’s disposable income and savings. Today IT is as fickle an industry as the individual mindset of ordinary people seduced into seeking happiness from such tools.
Since its inception the internet has enabled a phenomenal amount of technological innovation across the globe which has been embraced readily by the younger generation. One of the greatest opportunities afforded by the internet, especially for the young, is its innate ability to facilitate start-ups. The internet is so efficient in terms of communication exposure of businesses and service, marketing sales and distribution, that funding for start-ups need not be anywhere near as costly and time consuming as it used to be pre-internet. Its use encourages investment by bringing knowledge, data, collaboration and innovation to the forefront in creation of a whole raft of new job types on the digital side, careers unheard before the internet. The common-place term “Internet of Everything” (IOE) says it all.
Even governments around the globe are struggling to deal with this global phenomena, like economies, security, global warming, monetary funding, terrorism, border control, internal conflicts, etc. Yet global companies, leveraging the internet, have no borders and are thereby able to embrace not only thinking about their business but also to think about what they do with society, the environment, governance and how they manage and conduct their business.
Traditionally computer technology and associated innovative applications have by enlarge been successful when designed as a positive natural extension of the human brain. It is shameful these days that our headlines are not filled with similar gestures of multi-billion funding spends on far more meaningful innovative IT solutions. Solutions that have the potential to contribute towards solving many of the many big hard problems discussed earlier; problems we are struggling with and which is coming at a great cost to society. How our attitude towards IT has changed. In a recent interview with a renowned Australian innovator Dr. David Sinclair (discoverer of the anti-aging molecule – resveratrol), he implored more IT innovators to support him with his numerous innovative initiatives. He sought support with solutions to serious problems associated with the aging process – like obesity, type 2 diabetes, genome disorders and Alzheimer’s disease. Understandably these types of innovations requires a long term (10 year) journey of scientific research and commitment to a traditional development order to bring effective drugs to market ($1bill+.). Because our IT innovative brains no longer have an appetite for has long term innovations, their preference is to get their hands on faster money gained from creating mundane, trivial tools that appeal to society’s overriding preoccupation with products delivering instant gratification and money.
So one of the primary goals of the Yourself Helper is to facilitate a shift in our IT innovation brain power towards the direction of more strategic IT innovations, like those being sought by Dr. David Sinclair and his consortium of companies. Currently IT innovations that do offer real promise often sit beneath the radar or suffer from a lack of public interest, a lack of funding, a lack of media analysis and a general lack energy; energy so necessary to bring innovation again to the fore-front where it belongs. Such innovations are far and few between these days. However, so do exist and to this end another successful Australian IT innovation is discussed. This innovation is shared in the hope that many more such IT innovations are brought into the limelight to inspire other IT innovative brains to devoting more of their time and energy in solving some of our big hard social problems.
IT Part of the Solution
I was particularly impressed with the efforts of a fellow Australian IT geek (Stephen Dameatix). It was brought to my attention in a recent news report. I shall share the story with you because it illustrates how, through the efforts of a single individual attempting to solve a personal problem, the potential exists to also benefit the whole of society.
Soon after the birth of Stephen & Sally Dameatrix’s first child (their son Massimo), they were informed by their doctor (Neurologist, Dr. Rick Leventer) that Massimo had a serious genetic disorder (leukodstrophy) which was likely to shorten his life dramatically. Out of sheer distress and anxiety, Steven took time from his IT business to better understand the nature of this genetic malfunction and worked to see if there was any hope for a cure. Like the rest of us IT geeks, he naturally turned to the internet to explore opportunities for a potential solution. To his astonishment he discovered that there was no diagnosis for his son’s genetic mutation. What he had discovered was the nature of the first challenge – identifying what the problem was!
A genome is the full complement of DNA, the hereditary material that each individual carries. The technical approach needed to decipher the 3 billion units of DNA that goes to make up a human genome is now sufficiently automated for geneticists to sequence the genomes of an individual. Simply put, a human genome is around 3 billion letters long. To understand the coming together of a mother and father with one dis-functional genome each, the challenge is finding that one malfunctioning genome in the resultant 140 billion letters. Stephen’s IT experience suggested the solution had to be one massive data processing challenge. By mapping a voluminous amount of data, applying data informatics techniques and undertaking associated medical research based upon these data findings, the hope was that a diagnosis to Massimo’s gene problem could be found. The challenge fitted the known pattern for a typical “Big Data” solution. While theoretically possible, where were the other specialist (volunteers) that would most likely be required to assist Stephen in his quest to save Massimo’s life?
After months of frustration and much time on the internet, ironically Stephen found a nearby researcher specialising in molecular Biochemistry (Dr Ryan Taft) in an adjoining suburb of Brisbane. Ryan was found on the internet working at Brisbane University, where he expressed interest in supporting Stephen on this journey of transformation (from IT geek to medical researcher). Eventually Ryan similar shifted his own career as well and the direction with his own PHD studies. Access to a super-computer with 3,000 CPUs was seen to be necessary in order to complete the necessary big data crunching. To cross-validate this voluminous genome data matching, another child with exactly the same genome defect had to be found. Again, using the internet, they located Dr. Rick Leventer in the US who believed he knew of persons potentially with a similar condition as Massino’s. Such a person was needed to cross-check Massino’s genome pattern against another with exactly the same letters. Dr Ryan Taft and Dr Rick Leventer, in collaboration with fellow professionals from around the world, eventually found another 12 children with the same defect. After 1,061 days (and who is counting) Stephen was finally able to say he, in collaboration with other with a similar passion and commitment, had diagnosed Massimo’s medical problem. Not only had he diagnosed his son’s genome defect but what had usually taken others over 10 years to complete, could now be achieved in 3-4 months using the new data-driven technique devised by Stephen and Ryan.
While a cure to Massimo’s disease is yet to be found, at least they have a diagnosis of the problem and an identified course of medical research towards finding a cure. Under consideration is an approach to basically re-program Massimo’s skin cells; first by creating “genome neuros in a dish” . Through further innovative collaboration using social networks, specialist volunteering of caring people and access to powerful computer technology, all participants were able to share and collaborate effectively in the determination of an approach towards solving one of society’s big hard problems.
Why does it take such a serious life event to stir ordinary people into taking upon such an extraordinary level of personal commitment? Once stirred to utilise their (IT and professional) strengths, group collaboration can deliver such incredible solutions to not only one personal situation but can make a positive contribution towards solving a whole range of social problems. If a platform encouraging such altruistic endeavours could occupy as much time and energy of ordinary people as say Facebook does today in mostly narcissistic activities, the world might be in far better shape and better placed to pass-on a better life to our future generations. You might also question, why the current IT brain obsession with mundane and tactical IT stuff targets the weaknesses in ordinary people’s psychic to do exactly the opposite; to avoiding their fear of their everyday responsibilities by temporarily diverting their minds into the sands of their IT appliances. As stated time and time again, while there is nothing intuitively wrong with such tactical IT innovation, it’s that lack of balance in ordinary people’s actions, thinking and rationalisation processes that are causing them to general disregard the more strategic aspects of these opportunities for self-transformation. Most tactical innovations are designed to appeal to ordinary people’s insatiable demand for instant gratification and natural instinct for addictive and narcissistic diversions. It’s truly unfortunate that the bulk of IT’s innovative products and services are more aligned to this prevailing mindset fixation. Our abdication of responsibility and the pointless pursuit of happiness through such trivial preoccupations are central to the current demise in strategic focus and our resultant big hard problems. That imbalance between being selfless and selfish is sadly balanced in favour of selfishness and neurotic obsessions, to the absolute detriment of selflessness, in caring more about others (like Massimo) and the longer term future well-being of mankind.
Parental Responsibilities for IT Usage in the home
None of this mundane IT pre-occupation brings ordinary people true happiness. They are all a diversion designed specifically to provide relief from the real problems we are facing. I see this time and time again in the visitation I make on my charitable works programs. Many suffer from various forms of loneliness, depression and lass of self-esteem, which leads them to various forms of addiction (some to sci-fi, to Facebook, to internet utopia, to TV watching, mobile phone games, to anything that will take their minds off their problem). While most initiate the visits to obtain assistance with food, clothing, bills, etc. what they benefits from the most is having someone (volunteer) listen and empathise with their situation a be with them in a face-to-face environment. The many other forms of additions they turn to (like drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, etc) are symptoms of their current situation. Like any addiction, the more you have the greater the problem becomes and the greater the problem the greater the need for even more relief. It’s always a vicious cycle that they cannot brake and remain trapped in world of dependence. Addiction to IT gadgets and widgets exposes them to scammers, internet predators and business products promising the world that are “too good to be true”; all designed to make money at the expense of ordinary people’s weakness for instant gratification. All the while attempting to seek happiness in something that only provides short term relief from what has become a real big hard problem for them to society. The generic term for obsessions with this form of technology is referred to as FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out); yet another fear factor leading to another form of addition well catered for by our innovative IT brains and big money makers.
In the process, we are badly lacking in healthy exercise, eating healthy food, having fun out-doors, enjoying family outings and enjoying one another’s company, helping others and getting involved in activities that would benefit ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually and society generally.
It comes as little surprise that parents are passing these mundane and trivial IT habits onto their children in the name of education and keeping up with technology. Even our children have become early victims, as their role model, adult parents are knowingly or unknowingly introducing these latest IT gadgets and gimmicks to them. As role models, we are failing our children, our next generation. Many parents these days feel somewhat responsible for their children’s IT addiction. They have not been good role models, spending many hours in front of a flickering screen rather than spending quality time with their children. Often using the TV and computer games as baby-sitters, allowing them time to relax after a hard day at work.
Around us we have cyber bullying going on in epidemic proportions. Surveys suggest that over 1 in 3 of our teenagers have been subjected to some of the various forms of cyber bullying. Yet it continues to grow and become an ever increasing problem. Most of us are watching far too much TV and are in constant need of access to our email, twitter messaging, blogs, Facebook, mobile phones, Instagram, Skype, playing computer games, pornography; the list goes on. . As a consequence our children are constantly eating more and more junk food in front of the TV, playing computer games, glued to their mobile phones and lacking in normal social interactive skills. Our children are failing to acquire basic social skills, like manners, caring for others, spoken communication, deal with attention deficit orders (ADF) and generally not knowing how to deal with their own emotions and feelings. Like being truly happy and knowing that it’s Ok to be sad. Most adults today really use modern technology as “shut up” tools for their children to free up more of their time to engage in more similar meaningless pursuits. These gadgets have become our baby sitters, our excuse for not joining our children in fun out-door activities or in laughing with one another and being happy with one another’s company.
Yes, there are positive sides to much of this trivial mundane IT gimmickry and gadgets. But there is an imbalance in the amount of time, interest and money devoted to the trivial mundane and tactical use of modern IT innovations when compared with that devoted to the more positive and strategic responsibilities in properly looking after ourselves, our children and our environment. In fact there are far fewer IT innovations available that one might categorise as favouring altruistic endeavours. Most are of a narcissistic nature. The thought of caring for others, volunteering for charitable works and being actively engaged in contributing towards solutions to the many social problems that surround us, rarely gets a look-in.
True, many of us do work hard these days and do need a break from the seriousness of our hectic lives. And yet it’s a sense of boredom and frustration that attracts ordinary people to fill the gaps with instant gratification style tools with the intent to simply take our minds off the hollow black hole in our lives.
Ever been on a bus or a train lately. Total silence. Everyone has the headphones on, heads down with thumbs clicking on some mobile device. No-one looks particularly happy, just totally pre-occupied. No-one is engaged in healthy communication. To see young couples in a restaurant together both with heads-down, thumbs clicking on their mobiles engaging with others elsewhere doing likewise. Very sad. And we can now all look forward to soon having virtual reality head-phones to enable our minds and all of our senses to become conveniently engaged in a totally unreal world, while Rome burns.
But healthier activities are so time consuming, you might argue. Especially when both parents are working all day and have precious little free time of an evening and on weekends. Both parents are working and both suffering from the need for more money to make ends meet (like keeping up with the Jones on the latest IT gadgets and gimmickries). Granted these diversions do provide temporary relief by taking your mind off the stress of every-day living, off your responsibilities, off caring for others less fortunate than yourself, off our financial budgeting problems, off your health issues and those never ending demands from your children. But aren’t these latest IT innovative products designed to make our adult life easier, easier to find a nearby date, easier to uncluttered our in-box, easier to take selfie-photos, easier to find your lost car and children, know that your oven is operating while you’re at work, easier to talk on your mobile while driving. These are what we earlier referred to as mundane and trivial pre-occupations, especially when these are compared to the array of big hard problems really needing to be faced today by ordinary every-day people, our children, our communities, our national leaders globally. Properly focused IT innovations offers so much hope and potential for these more serious big hard problems, yet people today appear to have little interest in supporting such innovative behaviour, preferring instead to invest their discretionary funds and time in the more mundane and trivial. Because of this imbalance, we truly do get what we deserve – these big hard problems that are destroying our western culture permanently. Little wonder we are unlikely to pass on a better world to our future generations while this style of behaviour persists.
Our youth are becoming more and more addicted to instant gratification substances, self-destroying addictive substances designed again to specifically pre-occupy the mind with the mundane and trivial. True, as stated earlier, some of these diversions do have their positive sides, such as the availability of enhanced media for education, entertainment, relaxing, etc. But where is the balance? Where is mechanism to determine when enough is enough and the reminder that there are other, more important things in life that are beckoning to gain a greater proportion of our innovative minds’ pre-occupation?
Have we got the balance right in terms of the respective amount of energy, time and money we spend on the mundane trivial tactical compared to that on the strategic altruistic activities so desperately needed in western society today. The only valid excuse one might have is where to find a platform for such altruistic outlets and for obtain authenticated help with some of the serious personal problems we are struggling with (like various forms of addictive behaviour). Or do we really much prefer to put our heads in the sand and pretend this must all be someone else’s responsibility, like our governments should be doing more. Isn’t this why we pay our taxes? Our governments are reflective of our own apathy towards such matters. We are probably getting what we deserve from government rather than what we need. The problems are ours as individuals, not someone else’s.
Do we understand these imbalances are all part of the one big problem – all driven by individual choices made in everyday life? By continuing to make the wrong choices, by persisting with these imbalances in our life, we are threatening the survival of us as a viable species? How can this be! All this demand for the mundane and trivial is causing our best innovative minds of our IT innovators, of entrepreneurs, our investors, advertisers, governments and ourselves and our energy to be deflected off the more meaningful, strategic and essential to the trivial and mundane. Mediocrity is winning. Laziness is winning. Unhappiness in winning. Un-healthiness is winning. Unfortunately all this trivial pre-occupation is winning due to our preferred choice for the instant gratification offered by the gimmickry and gadgets of our times. Pulling out our mobile phones each time we feel sad or solitary, heaven forbid how will we ever know what it’s like to be happy, let alone sad? Never realising that greater happiness comes from giving than taking!
For decades the USA (Silicon Valley) has been at the forefront of the IT revolution and innovation. Today’s mass advertising is also pre-occupation with trivial, mundane gimmickry and gadgets. The majority of current IT innovation entrepreneurial energy is focused upon such things that make fast money and appeal to people’s need for instant gratification rather than IT innovation that can make a significant contribution to the bigger, harder issues facing the world today. Those that make the innovation investment decisions in the US – Madison Avenue (Advertising Media), Wall Street (Finance) and Capital Hill (Government) are also all caught up in the very same pre-occupation. At least we should be grateful for the fact that the target problem domain is relatively well defined. If there is no demand, there is unlikely to be any sustained supply. So the solution to this problem rest with us, those that drive demand. What is wrong with us? How do we begin to solve this problem?
Social Network technology
Modern Social Network technology has been shown to present proven opportunities for increasing the level of community participation in many forms of both narcissistic as well as some altruistic endeavours. But by far the most popular use of social network technology has been its success in promoting narcissistic opportunities. It’s not the technology that attracts mostly narcissistic users (demand) but their preferences and those aiming to profit from its use (supply). So why might an altruistic website like Yourself Helper, where no profit can be gained (from its supply) succeed in attracting users (demand) where there is little opportunity for self-promotion, entitlement, material gain and such like?
Social network technologies (like blogs, websites, Facebook Pages, Twitter accounts, U-Tube, etc.) are great media channels to develop ideas for encouraging greater community consultation. The Yourself Helper social network platform not only seeks to leverage such capabilities but also provide a means of introducing greater balance into ordinary people’s lives:-
- those overly pre-occupied with narcissistic activities and
- those not attracted to such narcissistic activities but looking to enrich their altruistic side
Yourself Helper is not an alternative to narcissistic platforms (such as Facebook and Twitter) nor a competitor to them, but rather another choice of platform designed to bring out the altruistic side in ordinary people seeking to express both their interdependences and self-interests. In fact Yourself Helper leverages many of the other social network technologies, such as Facebook, Twitter, eMail, SMS to build upon the established connectivity and networking of existing social network users.
To outline how Yourself Helper works as a Social Network platform encouraging altruism, a few technology examples illustrate just how innovative such a platform can be:-
- Sending mass e-Mails & SMS messages to altruistic focus groups, interested in helping others with known social problems (like being overweight, having addiction issues, being unemployed)
- Leveraging existing users’ Facebook & Twitter accounts for posting innovative ideas for helping others and discussing issues required to be dealt with (like self-help, mobile technologies for self-diagnosis, recruiting support for the elderly with special needs)
- Creating Focus Groups for group discussions, users surveys and open invitations to comment on innovative ideas under consideration
- Facilitating face-to-face communities and meetings between those with authenticated needs joining with volunteers prepared and capable of helping them
- Enabling the vitality of self-help content to be sustained by panels of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) devoted to ensure the quality of the generic advice provided is both current and of the most benefit and safe for those considering it
- Providing in-expensive marketing of Yourself Helper self-help services, the bank of registered volunteers, the social projects to choose for both volunteers and the needy to consider and user reviews based upon authenticated benefit claims
- Eliciting re-actions from particular self-help suggestions, experiences from participation in local project initiatives and from volunteers helping and project managers in charge
- Stimulating open debates about social issues being considered by Yourself Helper as part of caring and sharing philosophy (big hard problems & local community initiatives
- Authenticating user requests for help, SME self-help material, volunteer credentials, proposed social initiatives and the inclusion of potentially new social problems
- Matching ordinary people’s needs with available Yourself Helper resources and generating interest from volunteers to fill any gaps or weaknesses
Revenue growth has been mostly the preoccupation of most organisations with profitability in mind, including the IT industry. The tool most often used when a recession hits is cost cutting. Since the GFC the world’s strategy for low interest rates has begun to spawn a new order, especially with the advent of IT digital disruptors.
Long standing low interest rates naturally bring down product & service prices, in the hope of greater spending; which in turn lowers organisational revenue to a point where deflation begins to occur. This is what is taking place in Australia today within a climate of increased savings. Persisting with all-time low with interest rates, with all projections for interest rates to fall further, means our current inflation rate of 1.3% will remain well beneath the acceptable band of 2-3% inflation increase per year. All appears to be a race to the bottom with zero or even negative interest rates.
Adding to the new order are the array of IT digital disruptors to the rescue, with its 4 mega-trends:-
- Internet of Everything (IOE)
- Virtual Reality (Instant Gratification tools)
- Wearables (Look at Me products incorporating fashionable technologies)
- Big Data
Dome digital disruptor mega trends (IOE & Big Data) have the potential to move us in a positive social direction, whereas others (like virtual reality and wearable technologies) has the potential for the opposite. It is estimated that one third of the Australian economy is facing major digital disruption (mainly through IOEs like Amazon.com, Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Airbnb, etc.). Up to 4.6 million jobs face obsolescence, if Australia does not prepare itself better for the digital age. This involves adopting such new technologies, partly to cut costs and to become more efficient and productive. It also infers greater emphasis on education and training in SMET skills (Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology) which are also seriously lacking in Australia today. Despite massive injections of funds into education, all indications are that our basic literacy levels and numeracy are worsening. So more government funding is unlikely to solve the problem.
To summarise the current situation, the world economic leaders give us low interest rates to stimulate growth. But this leads to deflation and cost pressures. They also give us higher bank capital ratios to make the world financial system safer from defaulting. But this leads to lower share prices and make the task of raising capital for investment more expensive. By not embracing or innovating digital disruptors our industries become less efficient when compared with other countries that do. One problem is created from the solution to the other.
Yourself Helper Technology
The Yourself Helper innovation has been designed to empower people to regain control of their own life and to influence the social mindset accordingly. In some regards you could say Yourself Helper has the ability to create both personal private Big Data repositories as well as repositories of authenticated specialist knowledge on specific problems. With both working collaboratively, ordinary people can become empowered to make better informed decisions; giving greater emphasis to their strategic implications and thereby challenging that of big business Big Data advertising push. Knowing the Framework for Life (F4L) has a prejudice towards making ordinary people more aware of the authenticated strategic implications of particular life shaping decisions, the filters of their own experiences, beliefs and preconceptions, the empowerment all come from the comfort and secure feeling in the knowledge that they are being protected by such an accumulation of their own knowledge and change decisions. Being stored in a computer memory, they can depend upon its availability, accuracy and privacy. It becomes a safe haven where they can express themselves freely, openly and authentically – a place where they belong. A place to supplement the inadequacies of their own memory to be more mindful of how they seek to be and the journey of transformation they are intent on taking. On this new journey they feel empowered to change their mind more readily without feeling painful at the prospect of change. As they mature and adjust to life’s experiences, all these experiences become incorporated in their framework and after deep reflection; adapted as they change their mind. By listening to others with empathy, reading, increasing our education we become more aware of our past barnacles and how they have constrained their life and why they have changed their mind to change and ensure new ones don’t keep forming. You become more open to experimentation, taking greater risks and being more open to the possibilities of life. For the risk of being changed is one of the greatest fear factors, the fear of stepping out of your familiar comfort zones.
Ordinary people tend to struggle in making sense of what is happening around them and across society generally. They intuitively know that something is fundamentally wrong but are unable to put their finger on what is causing this and least of all what can be done to rectify the current situation. They feel they should be able to learn from their own experiences and that of others’ (like them) past experiences. They are unsure where to turn to obtain an authenticated global view that isn’t tainted with agenda towards making money from their need. The IT solution (“Know Yourself”) is premised upon the requirement that each and every individual needs to know themselves authentically first, identifying the strengths and gaps in their life. They also need to be more aware of the specifics of the society that surrounds them and whether they are in concert with the current social mindset or at odds with it. Ordinary people’s strengths provide the foundation to their framework for opportunities in caring and sharing their strengths with others. For those caring individuals willing and able to volunteer their services in helping others in need (of their special social strengths and services), the framework identifies authentically managed program for such participation. Whereas their gaps or weakness identified by the framework provides the opportunities for both self-help and the seeking of help from those who care about others and are prepared to volunteer the required assistance. This approach becomes a repeatable and invigorated cycle of need and help where ordinary people mastering their own needs become candidates for give back in sharing their new gained abilities with other in need with whom they can empathise and support in their own journey of self-transformation. As each collective of the needy and associated helpers matures as a transformed society, their successes in filling the gaps in people’s lives as a journey of transformation become available for recognition as making significant contributions to some of the big hard strategic problems being faced by western society today.
The vision for the Yourself Helper social network utility website and its associated Framework for Life (F4L) is that it becomes the platform of choice for ordinary people seeking empowerment to undertake a journey of self-transformation and exploration into ways to be the best they can be and a platform from which to volunteer their altruistic capabilities to society. A society that cares more about the health and well-being of ordinary people than growth, money and power at any cost; a mindset sadly lacking across the globe these days. Being a free platform based upon a volunteering paradigm which is not about making money but encouraging altruistic endeavours activities leveraging IT innovations enabling more strategic innovative initiatives which can be grown from the simple act of one person helping another. It’s about introducing a better informed and more balanced approach to ordinary people’s decision making, with the goal of thereby bringing about a shift in the social mindset from continued preoccupation with the trivial and mundane forms of instant gratification and profit making to a new Care Social Model based upon the empowerment of ordinary people.
Just how bad is the IT Addiction epidemic? South Korea is probably the most “wired” country on Earth, with advanced telecommunication infrastructure and internet everywhere. It is estimated that their youth spend on average 15-20 hours per day playing computer games. So much so that they have begun to confuse the digital world with the real world. Parents playing games during most of their spare time (from work & sleep), ignore the equivalent preoccupation their children also have with computer games, as they serve as excellent “baby sitters” while they are similarly preoccupied. Around 1 in 10 teenagers are deemed to be IT addicts. There depressions levels are growing having no mechanism to control the amount of time they spend on-line. The depression arises from when they aren’t on-line; conditions like FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). If they loose at a computer game they become furious, anxious about dealing with their frustrations and have serious problems making real friends with whom to share there real-life problems. They live in fear their on-line friends will dump them if they disconnect from their on-line games.
In an attempt to address this growing IT addiction and attract teenagers away from their addiction, a new digital detox program called “Internet Dream Village” has been established for teenage boys. It costs $300 per day and takes approximately 1 month to complete ($9,000). They are isolated from their normal (IT) environment, have all electronic devises confiscated and are assigned a mentor (volunteer) to support them during their detox process and inevitable withdrawal symptoms. The aim of the program is to become “clean” of their IT addiction. Its a form of bootcamp to introduce new activities that are more stimulating than computer games, require coordination and collaboration with others. Traditionally these boys do not seem to ever get tired, no matter how long they are playing computer games. So they undertake meditation exercises to regain control of their mind. They undertake health exercise to experience the feeling of tiredness and enjoy normal prolonged sleep. They are encouraged to find new passions to replace their digital obsessions. Poetry classes are found to be a successful means for expressing their emotions, primarily about family, nature, love and caring for others. During the process, all are required to undergo psychiatric assessment and have their brains scanned for traditional obsession traits like depression, anxiety, etc. The process can take months to produce any noticeable results before signs of self-control begin to appear. Even after completing these expensive programs, on-going contact with the program is required to ensure the sustainability of the results, which includes constantly being supported by their volunteer mentor. As you can imagine, only those teenagers, with rich parents who have taken the time to recognised this problem in their children and the preparedness to finance such a program, are able to participate such a program.
What about the other millions of other 1 in 10 teenagers with the same problem? In Australia the highest risk in IT addiction are our 14-16 years olds. Men aged between 18-25 years old are the most prone to serious IT addiction. Recognise that some computer games have more of a compelling drive to addiction, especially those that involve long running competitive games. Such games are specifically designed to have this addictive effect on their users. Excessive use of IT leds to other forms of mental illness – withdrawal. lack of self-reflection, gambling, alcohol, obesity, sleeping and in extreme cases suicide, especially when total access to IT devised is enforced without proper supervision.
Below are some of the ideas that have been used to address the IT Addition epidemic:-
- outside exercises, such as riding a bike with others in the family
- building electronic circuitary
- removal of electronic devices from the bedroom, only allowing accesses to devices in a public space, like in the dining room
- eating food together
- helping out with the shopping
- engagement in out door sports with others, especially team activities
- allowing time for reflection, giving time to give recognition to the impact IT addiction is having on their life
Early intervention is key, hence the reason why parents need to be so vidulent in the supervision of their children.
Positive IT Innovation
I should like to close on a positive note, by illustrating how IT can be leveraged strategically, by ordinary people. The way IT is supplementing our scientific and medical breakthroughs into many complex problems that might otherwise not have been possible fills me with hope and excitement. Modern IT empowers ordinary people best when it taps in on our altruistic side, rather than our more pronounced narcissistic side.
An American Doctor Eric Topol is a cardiologist, geneticist, and researcher who first came into world-wide prominence through his battle to have a prescription drug (known as Rofecoxib Vioxx, prescribed for pain relief) being taken off the market. In his view Vioxx was being over prescribed by doctors for pain relief but in the process was doubling the risk of a heart attack for patients taking the drug, while making millions of dollars for both the pharmaceutical companies and prescribing doctors. Due to his efforts, Merck (the prime promoter of the drug) eventually took the product off the market. In the course of his solo fight, he ran the wrath of both the medical and pharmaceutical professions, to the point where he eventually took the decision to move away from his chosen profession to find a new life in a different branch of medicine. Thank heavens for his shift, as he next began to leverage and integrate modern IT products (namely the smartphone) to replicate the capabilities of powerful medical tools for ordinary people to use. Tools that were once the sole domain of medical professionals now became accessible to people aiding in their own self-help and empowerment.
Yet again, we find another case of an ordinary person taking on powerful wealthy lobby groups seen to be placing their own self-interests above that of the ordinary people they are meant to be serving, in this case their patients. In his latest endeavour, since 2008 Dr Topol has been involved in developing powerful innovative IT tools for sequencing a person’s genome to predict the effects of any drugs, through the provision of adaptors (connected to conventional Smart Phone) and new applications to effect the imaging, diagnostic testing and printing of results. These tools enable a patient to display and print images of their own organs on demand, in order to monitor the progress of drugs that have been prescribed by doctors. In this way, Dr. Topol’s innovations have empowered people, as patients, to part take in their own self-diagnostic monitoring of the effects of the drugs being taken; drugs that have been prescribed for their health (for good or not so good). These mobile smart phone applications empower a person to record their own pulse rate, blood pressure, to perform scans on their own body parts and undertake diagnostic testing. Functions that were once the sole prerogative of medical professionals. Who cares most about a person’s health? Clearly the individual involved, more so than anyone else. Once recorded, the result can also be sent as message attachments to their doctors or specialist for their subsequent viewing and affiliated consultative advice. In many cases these results can be shown real-time to their doctor as they talk to him on say their mobile phone or visual Skype connection. Based upon what they both see, the patient may or may not need to even bother seeing their doctor further. Dr Topol’s innovations are all about greater self-empowerment, enabling individuals to undertake self-diagnosis associated with their own potential medical problems and to be able to operate these tools remotely from their doctor, often in the comfort of their own home. Thereby saving time and money from no longer needing to constantly visit their doctor in person.
Dr Topol reckons that around $350 billion drug prescriptions are issues each year in the US alone, of which one third are probably wasted. Often this arises from patients demanding “instant gratification” relief from their medical condition and doctors prescribing a drug, any drug to satisfy this style of demand. In which case, over $100 billion drug prescriptions do absolutely nothing for the patient, other than serve as a placebo and making pharmaceutical companies and doctors rich. Again, a shift in mindset of this magnitude is inevitably going to upset the medical profession by reducing the number of times a person needs to visit a doctor and the number of prescription drugs they need to take. In the process, it places greater demands on doctors to keep up with the advances in modern technology, modern medicines and to earn their money in more ethical manners. Dr. Eric Topol’s innovations could potentially remove the need for so much expensive one-on-one consultation and the regular use of expensive high powered medical equipment. As Eric puts it “it’s up to individuals to seize the moment” in keeping track of their own health in real-time and take upon greater responsibility for their own health. While this approach may not be for everybody, with the necessary empowerment of individuals, self-help may not only save individuals (money and lives) it may also go a long way to legitimise the medical profession and save our current Health Systems buckling from escalating hospital expenses.
To pick-up further on the notion of ordinary people’s medical empowerment, another related IT innovation is occurring in the field of “medical animation”. You have probably seen brief examples of this in medical TV shows where animation graphics are used to assist in ordinary people understanding what happens within the body when say cancers begin to spread. Such medical animation could be made more readily available (say as part of an explanation into the relationship between obesity and type 2 diabetes). Just as “a picture says a thousand words”, medical animation has been shown to dramatically increases a person’s understanding of what actually happens within a person’s body when explained in graphical and visual terms. Graphical animated videos would not only increase their awareness of medical conditions 10 fold but also increase the likelihood of ordinary people undergoing a mindset shift especially where outdated myths and excuses are defaulted to in an attempt to avoid any change in current behaviours.
Bill Gates recently visited Australia to award a pair of young medical students (Jarrel Seah and Jennifer Tang) from Mildura with the prestigious global Image Cup prize. Their Eyenaemia project created an IT innovation for ordinary people to use their smart phone app to scan themselves for anaemia using a non-invasive method. It does this by analysing data taken from selfie photos to calculate the risk of the red blood cell deficiency. This type of anaemia affects 2 billion people worldwide at a great financial cost to society. Interestingly the medical student were not supported by IT innovation brains having developed the app themselves by linking mobile self-help health to digital technology, not unlike that employed by Doctor Eric Topol.
As stated at the outset, IT innovation is not only part of the problem solely applied for tactical gain, but it can be part of the solution to most of the big hard problems when applied strategically to actually help ordinary people rather than take advantage of them.
Click the “Information Technology” Awakening button below to download the “Awakening” PDF questionaire on this important subject. You will be invited to participate in answering the generic “Awakening” questions by creating an entry in your personal journal, as you reflect upon just how you feel right now about what you have just read.
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