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Opinion Editorials

PSA: Opposing viewpoints are not personal attacks

(EDITORIAL) In today’s ever intensifying environment, people on all sides of all spectrums feel attacked. But are people rushing to “attack” when it is merely a difference of opinion?

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Assertion is not an attack

I believe, I feel, I think… There’s an undeniable power in “I” statements. Their use is so unwittingly powerful, in fact, that it’s often deemed pervasive. In an increasingly I-centric world, it isn’t possible to escape the onslaught of opinions, beliefs and feelings.

But why do we have to receive assertions of others experiences as an attack on our own reality? There’s been a new adoption of the if you’re not with us, you’re against us mentality – and it might have a little something to do with how the world asks us to present ourselves. And we too often willingly oblige.

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How many times have you been asked to define yourself in three words? What are your three favorite shows, books, bands, movies? What political party do you affiliate with? We are increasingly asked to define ourselves in terms of self identification, which has become less about our passion and more about self-branding. Can you define who you are in a Twitter-sized snippet? No? Then you haven’t streamlined your personal brand enough.

We are increasingly asked to define ourselves in terms of self identification, which has become less about our passion and more about self-branding.

All or nothing

In such simplistic terms, it’s easy to cast judgement or feel attacked. If you’re not a social justice warrior (SJW, as the kids on the internet say,) you’re not progressive. If you voted for Trump, you’re personally guilty for the resurgence of all the terrible-isms.

I’m a feminist poet who works in tech, loves reality shows, hiking and yoga. Do you feel that you know me? Is the way I chose to self-identify an affront to the way you chose to?

Every one of us is a complicated tangle of genetics, circumstances, preference and experience.

The most defining characteristics of a person are developed outside the margins of a text box. A handful of easily defined and hashtag-able words won’t actually tell you much about who someone is.

A handful of easily defined and hashtag-able words won’t actually tell you much about who someone is.Click To Tweet

When I give my opinions on politics, art, TV shows, anything really – it’s never with the intention to silence someone else’s reality. If someone else feels differently than I do – that’s an opportunity for a conversation, assuming all parties are open to it (and they should be!). Opinions are not dogmatic by definition.

Difference is still beautiful

Fear of difference is an extremely stubborn quality of humanity, and accounts for a lot of conflict. It takes work to understand and digest the unfamiliar. But simply put, difference also enriches humanity, and adds depth and color to living.

Instead of going on the offense when we encounter an opinion that is different from our own, we should pause to remember an opinion is just that. “I” statements are just that. We are not always going to agree, or share opinions, or even agree on the ends or the means. Someone communicating about their diet, political affiliation, or religion should in no way force you to take on their personal choices.

Understanding this allows for multiple truths, and moves towards a more peaceful shared reality.

What “you do you” really means

Often misused to shirk responsibility and care for others, the “you do you” mentality and phrase has a bad reputation. I’m guilty of rolling my eyes when I hear someone use the phrase too often. “You do you” has been so abused, it often translates to “I don’t care about your feelings, when my own are king.”

How can you do you, when I’m trying to do me? Well, the idiom suggests more flexibility than it actually touts. If you make a point to care about others, differences and all, then the fallacy of the phrase evaporates.

Being and loving yourself should never infringe upon or be in conflict with someone else doing the same thing.

The next time a friend or colleague decides to chat about the rally the went to, the religious service they attended, or their new dietary choices – maybe it’s better to ask ourselves first if they are attempting to connect with us about who they are.

I would rather participate in such a conversation than assume my friend was attempting to mold my thoughts to conform to their own. Don’t let the fear of having your personal choices infringed upon interfere with your ability to communicate with those who are different. Allow others to be true to themselves, and claim the space that allows you to be true to you.

Allow others to be true to themselves, and claim the space that allows you to be true to you.Click To Tweet

#YouDoYou

Caroline is a Staff Writer at The American Genius. She recently received her Masters of Fine Art in Creative Writing from St. Mary’s College of California. She currently works as a writer as well as a Knowledge Manager for a startup in San Francisco.

Opinion Editorials

Study says women need to be seen as “warm” to be considered confident

(EDITORIAL) A new study reveals that despite progress, women are still successful when they fall into a stereotype. Let’s discuss.

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About 15 years ago, I took a part-time job in a mental health clinic handling bookkeeping and billing. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I attacked the job with what I felt was confidence. For the first few days, I simply felt as if I was an imposter. I kept asking questions and pushing forward, even though I didn’t make much progress. Within just a few days, I felt the hostility of the office manager.

It got progressively worse, and I couldn’t figure out what the heck I’d done to make her so confrontational with me. I thought I was pleasant and respectful of her position, and I was getting along with the other employees. When I talked to our boss, I was told that I intimidated the office manager. HUH? Me? Intimidating? I was a complete mess at the time. I could barely put together a business casual wardrobe. My emotional health was so fragile that I rarely went anywhere new. And she found me intimidating?

Researchers have been studying how people judge others. Susan Fiske, researcher out of Princeton, found that competence and warmth are two of the dimensions used to judge others. Based on that research, Laura Guillén, Margarita Mayo, and Natalia Karelaia studied the competence and warmth at a software company with 236 engineers.  Guillén and her team collected data at two separate times about these engineers and their confidence and influence within the organization.

They found that “men are seen as confident if they are seen as competent, but women are seen as confident only if they come across as both competent and warm.

Women must be seen as warm in order to capitalize on their competence and be seen as confident and influential at work; competent men are seen as confident and influential whether they are warm or not.”

We encourage women to be confident, but based on current research, it may not be enough to close the gender gap in the workplace. A woman must be seen as helpful and dedicated to others to have the same influence as a man. As a woman, it’s easy to be seen as the #bossbitch when you have to make tough decisions. Those same decisions, when made by a man might be considered just “business as normal.”

I guess the lesson is that women still have to work twice as hard as men just to be seen as equals. I know that I have to work on empathy when I’m in an office environment. That office manager isn’t the only person who has thought I’m intimidating. I’ve heard it from it others, but you know what?  As a self-employed writer, I’d rather be seen as undeterred and daunting than submissive and meek.

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Opinion Editorials

“Starting a business is easy,” said only one guy ever

(OPNION EDITORIAL) Between following rules, finding funding, and gathering research, no business succeeds without lifting a finger.

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While browsing business articles this week, I came across this one, “Top 10 Business Ideas You Can Start for Free With Barely Lifting a Finger.” These types of articles make me mad. I can’t think of many successful freelancers or entrepreneurs who don’t put in hours of blood, sweat and tears to get a business going.

The author of the article is Murray Newlands, a “VIP Contributor.” Essentially, he’s a freelancer because he also contributes to Forbes, HuffPro and others. He’s the founder of ChattyPeople.com, which is important, because it’s the first business idea he promotes in the article.

But when I pull up his other articles on Entrepreneur.com, I see others like “How to Get Famous and Make Money on YouTube,” “Win Like A Targaryen: 10 Businesses You Can Start for Free,” and “10 Ventures Young Entrepreneurs Can Start for Cheap or Free.”

I seriously cannot believe that Entrepreneur.com keeps paying for the same ideas over and over.

The business ideas that are suggested are pretty varied. One suggestion is to offer online classes. I wonder if Newlands considered how long it takes to put together a worthy curriculum and how much effort goes into marketing said course.

Then, you have to work out the bugs, because users will have problems. How do you keep someone from stealing your work? What happens when you have a dispute?

Newlands suggests that you could start a blog. It’s pretty competitive these days. The most successful bloggers are ones that really work on their blog, every day. The bloggers have a brand, offer relevant content and are ethical in how they get traffic.

Think it’s easy? Better try again.

I could go on. Every idea he puts up there is a decent idea, but if he thinks it will increase your bottom line without a lot of hard work and effort, he’s delusional.

Today’s entrepreneurs need a plan. They need to work that plan, rethink it and keep working. They have to worry about liability, marketing and keeping up with technologies.

Being an entrepreneur is rewarding, but it’s hard work. It is incredibly inappropriate and grossly negligent to encourage someone to risk everything they have and are on the premise of not lifting a finger.

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Opinion Editorials

New age stranger danger: teaching kids about AI

(OPINION EDITORIAL) The world is changing and so is technology. As tech changes so must we, in teaching kids about the dangers about AI.

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When I was younger, when my siblings and I would come home from school, we were required to nourish our minds for an hour (study, homework, read, do math practice, whatever we were feeling that day) and then we were banished from the house until dinner.

We had to go outside and create our own fun. We rode bikes to friends houses, we went “fishing” in the creek, sometimes before we left the house we’d search the couch for loose change and go to our favorite corner store and share a bag of skittles.

Our neighborhood was a safe one — it was one of those ideal 90s neighborhoods where our house was seated on the end of a cul-de-sac so there was little traffic and there were enough kids on the street to field two kickball teams.

Each parent on the street was allowed to reprimand us and there were rarely any locked doors. As a 10 year old it felt like ultimate freedom. But, with that freedom came a very important lesson in strangers and what to do if we were ever approached by one.

I’m sure stranger danger is still a thing taught by parents and schools alike but we went from don’t talk to strangers online or get in strangers’ cars to getting online to request a stranger to drive us somewhere.

With the advancement of technology has come a readiness to bring strangers in (/near / to) our homes. The most invitations coming from those personal assistants many homes can’t seem to function without.

Alexa, Google Home, Bixby or whatever assistant you may use are all essentially strangers that you are willingly bringing into your home.

Just yesterday I had a conversation with a college kid that didn’t know that the microphone on those things are always on — as such is true with the Facebook, Instagram and Facebook Messenger apps.

In a recent article from Rachel Botsman (BOTSman, hmmmm), she describes the experience her three year old had with an Alexa.

Over the course of the interactions, her daughter asks the bot a few silly questions, requests a few items to be bought, asks Alexa a few opinions, she ultimately sums up her daughter’s experience as saying, “Today, we are no longer trusting machines just to do something, but to decide what to do and when to do it. The next generation will grow up in an age where it is normal to be surrounded by autonomous agents, with or without cute names.”

I’m not a mother and I’m definitely old enough to be extremely skeptical of machines (iRobot anyone?) but the effects smart bots will undoubtedly have on future generations have me genuinely concerned. Right now it seems as harmless as asking those assistants to order more toilet paper, or to check the weather or to see which movies are screening but what will it become in the future?

A MIT experiment cited in the Botsman article 27 children, aged between three and 10, interacted with Alexa, Google Home, Julie (a chatbot) and, finally, Cozmo (a robot in the form of a toy bulldozer), which are all AI devices/ toys.

The study concluded that almost 80 per cent of the children thought that Alexa would always tell the truth.

Let me repeat that — 80 PERCENT OF THE KIDS BELIEVE THAT THE AIS, CREATED BY COMPANIES WHO WANT TO SELL PRODUCTS, WILL ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH.

The study went on to conclude that some of the children believed they could teach the devices something useful, like how to make a paper plane, suggesting they felt a genuine, give-and-take relationship with the machines.

All of these conclusions beg the question, how can we teach kids (and some adults if we’re being honest) about security and privacy in regards to new technology? How do we teach kids about commercialism and that as innocent as they may seem, not every device was designed altruistically?

We are quickly approaching an age where the strangers we introduce our kids to aren’t the lurkers in the park with the missing dog or the candy in the van, but rather, a robot voice that can tell a joke and give you the weather and order +$70M worth of miscellaneous stuff.

So now, it’s on us. Children of our own or not, we have to start thinking about best practices when it comes to teaching children about the appropriate time to trust in a computer. If the 5 year olds with smart devices are any indicator, teaching kids to be stingy with their trust in AIs will be an uphill battle.

This story was first published here in October of 2017.

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