Friday, September 13, 2013

Unzoo technology to save the world!

It's a good thing to unzoo your movement and start a personal revolution, but its a great thing to try and unzoo technology and save the world!

I have just found out about a new breed of "unzoo superheroes" that have tasked themselves with addressing some of the key issues stemming from the "zoo" society that most of us live in. I like their approach, and the concern about our extinction as a species will hopefully keep them grounded with a macro view that integrates an evolutionary context.

Yes its big picture, and maybe its low risk, but tell that to the stock broker at Wall Street who was focused on day trading when the Global Financial crisis came and jumped on him!

Some key paragraphs:
"Some of Britain's finest minds are drawing up a "doomsday list" of catastrophic events that could devastate the world, pose a threat to civilisation and even lead to the extinction of the human species".
"Leading scholars have established a centre for the study of "existential risk" to present politicians and the public with a list of disasters that could threaten the future of the world as we know it".
"Many scientists are concerned that developments in human technology may soon pose new, extinction-level risks to our species as a whole," says a statement on the group's website".

"Those of us fortunate enough to live in the developed world fret too much about minor hazards of everyday life: improbable air crashes, carcinogens in food, low radiation doses, and so forth," 
"But we are less secure than we think. It seems to me that our political masters should worry far more about scenarios that have thankfully not yet happened - events that could arise as unexpectedly as the 2008 financial crisis, but which could cause world-wide disruption."

"The wide public is in denial about two kinds of threats: those that we're causing collectively to the biosphere, and those that stem from the greater vulnerability of our interconnected world to error or terror induced by individuals or small groups.
"All too often the focus is parochial and short term. We downplay what's happening even now in impoverished, far-away countries and we discount too heavily the problems we'll leave for our grandchildren."

Check out their website: The Cambridge Centre for the Study of Existential Risk

See the original NZ Herald article here: Can we survive?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013

Unzoo this! Sitting, Eating, Interacting

I have just seen three articles in the NZ Herald that illustrate the Unzoo mantra of "undoing the zoo" - applying an evolutionary context to reverse our "nature versus technology" condition into a better integration of humanity and our tools.

The first is about sitting and its impact on our health. This topic has been gaining plenty of coverage in recent years and is gaining momentum. The Unzoo connection is it identifies our technology (chairs in this case, but also cultural thinking) as working against our true nature as formed by our evolutionary context. It also illustrates the Unzoo challenge; "There are all manner of behavioural, cultural and organisational challenges to overcome, but the professor envisions a workplace of the future unrecognisable from today."

Then the next article highlights our modern lifestyles and technology are moving away from our natural social patterns; we are spending less time eating together as families, and again there are health issues relating to this "zoo behavior".
And, oh the irony - here is the ad that featured in the same article!
Zoo advertising: "technology, brought to you by fast food"...

And the third article picks up on a theme of how our technology is alienating us from our own humanity.

The good news? Each zoo theme can be "Unzooed"! Be mindful of your sitting, and take steps (literally) to reduce it. Increase your "real face time" versus your Facebook time. Spend more time eating together without technology driving a wedge between normal human interaction.

Here's a real example for an office worker that doesn't require a revolution to get results;  if you can't get set up with a stand up desk straight away, you can use technology to unzoo you by downloading "stand alarm" from iTunes. It is just a simple reminder to stand and move a few times each hour. Get up and move around every 20 minutes (for about 2 minutes will do).  And get more face time into your work interactions - they have been proven to be more effective for communication than email or phone.

That would be a start. but really what we need is a cultural re-evolution...

Here's the links and some out-takes from the articles:

Health alert: don't get settled into that seat
Are you sitting down? Don't get too comfortable, because mounting evidence suggests you're increasing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and premature death.

The majority of people in developed economies who spend more time sitting than sleeping. Whether it's at the breakfast or dinner table, in the bus, train or car, at work or in front of the TV, most of us sit down far more than we stand up.

There are all manner of behavioural, cultural and organisational challenges to overcome, and public health authorities will require rigorous proof, but the professor envisions a workplace of the future unrecognisable from today.

Family meals best for children
Children dining with adults are more likely to be exposed to a wider range of foods - the key to keeping their diet balanced and healthy

Children who eat the same meals as their parents are far more likely to have healthy diets than those who do not, according to research.
Eating the same food had a greater impact on a young child's health than any other factor, including social background and snacking between meals.

When robots take over essential human tasks 
Researcher believes there are dangers in losing each other to technology

As professor of the social studies of science and technology at MIT and founder and director of the MIT initiative on technology and self, she has spent more than 30 years studying the way people interact with machines, and is increasingly worried about the amount of human interaction people are happy to delegate to robots or carry out over phones and computers. 

In her latest book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, Turkle says we have reached a point she calls the "robotic moment" - where we delegate important human relationships, in particular interactions at "the most vulnerable moments in life" - childhood and old age - to robots.

Today our phones are always on, and always on us. Parents are too busy texting to watch their kids, she cautions. 

What she means by "alone together" - that our ability to be in the world is compromised by "all that other stuff we want to do with technology".

People tell me they wish [iPhone companion] Siri were their best friend. I was stunned.

Turkle is optimistic that people will begin to want to reclaim their privacy, to turn back to their relationships with real people. Yet she concedes that the lure of technology is such that it's a tough challenge. "Online you become the self you want to be. But the downside? We lose the 'raw, human part' of being with each other." 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Fleshing out Unzoo

I have written a page on the Unzoo concept origins, but this post is to flesh out the concept further; what it means now, it's application, scope and implications.

Basically Unzoo refers to "undoing the zoo". Of course we all think of zoos as the the place where animals are kept for people to see. In the past zoos did not create contexts that were appropriate for animals. Diet, movement and environment were tamed by the zoo in order to manage them. Now, generally zoos are much more enlightened places where the animals are matched to their natural requirements, and are healthier and happier for it. However, closer to home, the "human zoo" is not yet so enlightened. In our context, zoo is still a bad word.

Zoo can be many things. It describes a state of being. Zoo is anti-nature. Zoo is what happens when our tools stop working for us, and work against us instead. Zoo can be technology, our tools, our culture. Our architecture, our food, our movement, our politics. Even the size of our population is "zoo" if it goes beyond its natural bounds.

When do things become zoo? Anytime things work against our true nature. And our true nature is based on how we have evolved to be. A "zoo human" is a human removed from its natural environment, not eating food appropriate to its species, not moving in all the ways a human has evolved to move. It is when our population exceeds our resources (natural and psycho-cultural). When our technology has exceeded the natural boundaries of our evolution.

Zoo is taming the beast. Man dominating nature. Industrialisation. Forgetting who we are, becoming lost.

The progress of civilisation tends to be cyclically destructive, primarily due to running down our natural resources or political upheaval resulting from scarcity. This is the zoo in action. In the end the human zoo is what will destroy us.

Some societal reform thinkers propose a solution is to switch thinking from short term to longer term. Sharing resources, cleaning up pollution, basic healthcare and birth control, economic limits in line with natural ones. Another opinion is that a global cognitive transition from conceptual to conscious awareness will bring a new era of enlightenment to society. Unzoo absorbs this thinking, but takes it further.

So what is Unzoo? "Undoing the zoo" invokes an evolutionary context to all thinking. It embraces working with nature as opposed to working against nature. Tools and technology are Unzoo if they work for us and with nature. Our nature and the nature we live in.

Unzoo is an inherently subversive concept given that it seeks to reverse some of the key developments of civilisation that are "zoo". This is not to say that Unzooing is a step back from progress. Rather it is a new path to move forward on.

What is a good example of the Unzoo principle in action? Here's one I know and respect; MovNat. MovNat is a physical education & fitness system based on training the full range of natural human movement abilities. That Unzoo's your movement. MovNat is not merely a reversion to primal movement, rather it uses our intellectual tools to develop our natural movement abilities into higher level skills. As such it perfectly demonstrates our technology working with nature to progress as a human race.

What are the benefits of Unzoo? Apply the Unzoo principle to all key aspects of life and see what might happen. Unzoo this; our cognition, movement, architecture, infrastructure, technology, culture and politics.

What might we get? "Super-cognition". "Superhuman movement".
Amazing architecture blended with nature. Re-integration of animals into human life. Not just zoos and farms. Smaller sustainable populations. "Natural technology" that integrates into a holistic evolutionary based lifestyle. Play as a normal part of everyday life for all. Healthy functional relationships stemming from optimal lifestyle structures and patterns. Evolutionarily contexted politics beyond left, right or green.

Unzoo everything. In a word - it's utopia!

Where to start? That's for another post.