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Opinion Editorials

Cards Against Humanity has no reason NOT to crowdfund a giant hole #theotherside

(EDITORIAL) Cards Against Humanity crowdfunded the digging of a giant, pointless hole. And while many criticize the brand, I applaud them.

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Other side of the story

My colleague, C.L. Brenton, has written a fantastic article about the Holiday Hole, Cards Against Humanity’s latest annual satirical take on the American ethos of buying and giving.

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The psyche of the American public

For the uninitiated, it’s not as if this is the first time that the CAH team has made a point of being contrarian at Black Friday time. Last year, they collected over $71,000 from their customers for literally nothing in return.

What did the CAH team do with the money then? They divvied it up amongst themselves, with some team members making donations to charity, but otherwise funding purchases for themselves ranging from a divorce to a suit of armor. This year, they’ve topped that amount, and as of the time of this writing, have crested to nearly $100,000 and climbing. In return?

A literal hole, to be sure, but a metaphorical gold mine of insight into the psyche of the human condition in America.

While the CAH team makes it clear on the Holiday Hole website that this is just a hole, with no grander aspirations, I politely disagree. And it’s this disagreement with them that’s at the core of my counterpoint to C.L’s article.

Just because one claims that something is or is not art does not make it so. Art lies in the beholder’s eye, and this growing void is certainly artistic. In some ways, the Holiday Hole is like the magician’s illusion; what’s visible (or invisible depending on your perspective) isn’t always the trick at all. An ordinary hole certainly isn’t.

We imbue it with meaning — even at its creators’ protestations not to do so — because we know that it has greater meaning than what it is.

An eloquent statement

Whereas my colleague says it’s an irresponsible gimmick riffing on American greed, I think it’s an eloquent statement.

The majority of donors have donated small amounts in the $2-$5 range (the five largest donors appear to be websites using CAH as a form of cross-promotion), making this performance art accessible in both meaning and price point for the common man.

We buy, and buy, and buy, and the hole grows larger. Isn’t it the same for us?

We routinely see news stories of assault and injury of stampeding shoppers during Black Friday, and yet we’re not phased. We continue doing what doesn’t satisfy. To paraphrase Chuck Palahniuk, we’re spending this next month buying things we don’t need with money we don’t have for people who’d rather have something different.

What are people going to remember more in fifteen years? That sweater that’s now out of fashion, worn, and too small, or the gift of your time that you gave them doing something together? When I think of loved ones, family and friends alike, that are no longer in my life, the gifts that they gave me that I remember the most intensely aren’t usually tangible ones. They’re gifts of time and love, of a word or deed administered directly at the correct time.

Buying into the statement

So if a few thousand people want to donate small amounts to make a statement on the fact that all the gifts in the world make them feel incomplete, so be it. If they want to make a statement about how this season and its wanton commercialism make them feel inauthentic or flat, let them have that opportunity.

What started as a hole for comedic relief isn’t any longer for them, even if they don’t or can’t articulate that. The Holiday Hole is their small form of therapy, administered in a collective dose.

But certainly the money collected could have been used in a better fashion, people will say. What about the environment, what about the poor, what about the sick, the needy? These are all valid questions, but miss the point entirely.

The funds CAH is collecting for this project come solely from us. Why aren’t we doing responsible things with our money to help these causes more? Remember that the majority of donations have been in small amounts. Many of us are doing things to help our community and fellow man. Is it CAH’s responsibility to not have a forum that some deem wasteful?

Your money is your responsibility

It’s a bit naïve to expect a board game maker to be the keeper of your moral compass. I’ve long posited that if every church, synagogue, mosque, social club, and civic group did daily what they profess to believe all year, we’d have no children in need of adoption, and a lot fewer hungry, homeless, and harried among us.

Our neighbor is not the responsibility of Cards Against Humanity; they’re ours.

And we shouldn’t expect any company, especially one who lives with their tongue as firmly planted in their cheek as CAH does, to do the things that are ours to do.

#TheOtherSide

Roger is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds two Master's degrees, one in Education Leadership and another in Leadership Studies. In his spare time away from researching leadership retention and communication styles, he loves to watch baseball, especially the Red Sox!

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Patagonia quintupled Black Friday profits this year, it all went to charity - The American Genius

  2. Steve Temkin

    December 1, 2016 at 12:03 am

    You get it.
    One of the more intelligent tweets responding to cricism of the whole is the growing entitlement people seem to have loudly judging the actions of others based on their own intentions.

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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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