Monday, May 29, 2017

Why Is This So Important?

The behavioral model is very important for a number of reasons.  One is that the focus on behavior moves the discussion away from personal attacks.  If a person’s behavior is good, it is recognized as such, to encourage more of the same.  If a person’s behavior is poor, the discussion is not about attitude, motives or intentions; it’s about what changes to behavior will make him or her more successful.

Another important aspect of the model is the insistence that we all improve behavior in the five key dimensions.  This is no longer optional.  The world is getting more complex at an accelerated rate.  We cannot face that complexity with the same casual approach that suited our ancestors even a few generations ago.

Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet’s board of directors, the parent company of Google, made an interesting observation at technology conference in 2010:  “Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.”  And that was 7 years ago!  He added that he doesn’t believe people are ready for what’s coming in terms of technology.  Of all that information how much is accurate or even useful?  Yet we are exposed to so much more every day at an increasingly alarming pace and must cope with it.

How did our grandparents deal with the fear of phishing emails or identity theft, traffic light cameras or drones and other invasions of privacy?  They didn’t.  Was anyone concerned about teen cyber-bullying or “sexting” even a few years ago?  In years gone by we had locks on our doors instead of security systems, and we thought hacking meant you had a bad cough, not that your savings or personal information might have been compromised.  No one was “addicted” to their “device.”  The frequency and stress level over the latest health news or food warnings were significantly lower.   The world didn't screech to a halt when the computers crashed.  And today credit cards, home equity loans and other financial tools make it so much easier to go into debt and stay there.

What about the avalanche of advertising we face?  The ad-blocker on my browser counts the ads as it blocks them.  One day I made note of the time as I caught up on (and stored and disposed of) personal email.  In 30 minutes the software blocked 97 ads.  That’s someone trying to sell me something at a rate of more than 3 times per minute.  Advertising exposure within our society is exploding.

Here is another example.  Last week I received an email telling me I may be a “Class Member” in a lawsuit against Staples “if between March 24, 2009 and April 25, 2017, you [1] bought a Rewards-eligible product and a non-Rewards eligible product in the same transaction, [2] used an item-specific coupon on the non-Rewards eligible product, and [3] were negatively impacted by Staples’ pro rata coupon accounting.”  If I don’t want to opt out of the settlement and I submit a claim form, I would be “eligible to receive $10 in Staples Rewards.”  (Further reading told me the class representative – I think that means the guy who sued – will get $5,000 and the law firm will receive $500,000 in fees and cost.)

How in the world do I know if I was negatively impacted?  Should I pull out all my Staples receipts for the last eight years to check?  Just reading this and trying to understand it is not worth $10 of my time, no less filling out an online form.  Yet apparently this stuff is happening every day to punish companies for apparently shady activities, although they admit no wrongdoing and settle to avoid the hassle.

I read recently that if everyone took the time to read only the privacy policies on all the websites visited, the annual cost in lost work time would be over $780 billion.  And that doesn’t even address what rights we might be signing away when we check the box without reading the even longer “terms and conditions.”

We must face it.  The world is getting more complex at a speed nearly impossible to keep up with.  People think technology is wonderful as they play games on their phones, but the technology is a double-edged sword with significant dangers.  As the robots are coming for our jobs and the hackers are stealing our data, the degree of critical thinking, discipline, responsibility, economic understanding, and perspective that served humanity in the past will no longer cut it.  We must do better or be overwhelmed.

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