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‘life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness’

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

I was watching Brene Brown’s talk on Netflix the other day where she spoke about how when things are going ‘too good’ for us we tend to fearfully look over our shoulder trying to anticipate when it is all going to fall apart or when something bad is going to happen to us and our happiness is snatched away. I can totally relate.

Are she and I almost alone in this or is it a common thing when you feel happy for doubts such as anxiety and depression to lurk in the background, whispering that it might not last and waiting for disaster to pounce? It makes me wonder what it is about happiness that we all find quite so intimidating?

Maybe it’s because worry is our default position?  In the words of Mark Mason “We are evolved to be miserable and insecure to a certain degree because it's the mildly miserable and insecure creature who is going to do the most work to innovate and survive”. When I feel that it can all be taken away and I mustn’t take anything for granted, I work all that little bit harder (probably a lot harder) to make sure I stay in the game.

But we aren’t supposed to be happy all the time and if we were how would we know what happiness really is as we would surely lose perspective?  Besides, would we really want to be happy all the time?  Although my gut feel reaction is a huge, big fat ‘yes’, I wonder if there can there be something like too much happiness?

Last year there was an article on WebMD written by a Dr. Robinson talking about too much of a good thing being bad for you. The article shares how too much exercise can damage our joints and even lead to osteoporosis in women; and sleeping beyond the recommended eight hours can increase the risk of heart problems  Normal activities such as having sex, washing your hands, and eating healthy food, when done excessively, can all lead to serious health problems. She even explains that drinking too much water, to its extreme, can lead to death.

In the field of psychology, we consider very strong personality traits, skills, and abilities as sometimes demonstrating how a good thing can become a bad thing. Self-confidence, conscientiousness, and intelligence, when taken to an extreme, can become maladaptive behaviours.  Self-confidence can come across as arrogance or narcissism while a person who is overly conscientious, can be perceived as a perfectionist, these have some times been referred to as the dark side of personality. But what about happiness – can too much of that be a bad thing and does happiness also have a dark side?

 “A Dark Side of Happiness? How, When, and Why Happiness Is Not Always Good” published in 2012 talks about how the pursuit of happiness does not always contribute to positive outcomes.  Research has shown that being, “too happy” or “too positive” can mean an intense level of happiness.  A person who is extremely happy, and always happy, may not be completely in touch with reality. This disengagement, as a person experiences intense levels of happiness, may lead to risky behaviours and dysfunction in certain areas of our life.

Some other findings of research have found that if you are too happy you pay less attention to details because, in a nutshell, happiness tells us that things are good and when things are good, we are more likely to process global information first instead of local information. This means that we see the big picture first before paying attention to the important, small details.  When we are in a neutral or sad state, it tells us that something might be missing or be wrong. This triggers to go through a more analytical process and pay more attention to life’s small print.
Other studies have pointed to happiness stifling creativity, participating in risky behaviour and a whole host of other negative things. Here are some interesting facts highlighted in The Washington Post: Experiencing high life satisfaction when you are young can impact the income you earn later on in life (suggesting that tougher ,and by inference, less happy, youthful  experiences will impact your future earnings positively); similarly, there is a higher likelihood for students who are extremely happy to drop out of school compared to those who are moderately happy; extreme positive emotions can make us more prone to stereotypical thinking, such as making decisions based on gender and cheerful people find it more difficult to detect a lie, thus being more easily deceived than those in a negative mood.

So here’s the thing.  Happiness is a transient state, a fleeting emotion that comes and goes, just like its opposite – unhappiness – and if you don’t sometimes feel the ‘down’ of the latter , you will never appreciate the ‘up’ of the former.   Like most things in the human condition, it all comes down to a question of balance, of yin and yang, of light and dark, of highs and lows.  Too much of one and not enough of the other is an unnatural state of being, even when the ‘one’ is perceived as being good, better or best and if ‘happy’ were synonymous with ‘satisfied’ our lives would simply stagnate.  Happiness is elusive.  It’s the chase, not the capture that is the spice of life and think how bland that would otherwise taste!

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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