Why do we Work?

People like money. Did you know that? In fact, I’d go as far to say that some people love money. I would not be surprised in the least to find out that somebody, somewhere, worships money; and this is very telling about the state of humanity.

When I first started thinking about college the first question was, what major? Almost immediately, there was a tornado of people telling me what to do with my life. Unsurprisingly, there was a resounding agreement on a few things I shouldn’t do as well. Namely, “don’t major in philosophy” and “Whatever you do, just don’t pick art history”. Disclaimer: no, I don’t say this to bash those majors, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Without even realizing it, I instinctively made the connection that because there were few job opportunities in those fields that I would not be happy. Yet, there is one key element missing here. It’s not the major that makes you unhappy, it’s the lack of work which begets a lack of money; and there’s the kicker. People seem to directly correlate wealth with happiness and, quite often, the line isn’t as clear as we think.

My professor loves to point out his situation. Archaeology has one of the lowest return rates of any college major, yet the people in the field have ludicrously high job satisfaction. How can this be? How can someone be happy and not spend their days swimming around in piles of their own wealth? The answer is simple. They love their jobs more than the love money *gasp-wheeze-girly scream*.

In America we love to compete. In fact, our entire economy is based on competition. Whether we are playing video games, attending college, or working in an office, we can’t help but feel the pressure of other people trying to outdo us; and they are right to try. In our society, you “get ahead” by putting someone else behind you. Welcome to capitalism.

At this point, it may seem to you that I hate our economic system, yet that is not true. I love the idea that one day I could rise to the top and be a part of that small little oligarchy of wealth. This possibility is what allows me to ignore the fact that this system inherently is designed to have people at the bottom. Sure, morally I feel a little guilty, but that’s just the way things have to be… or is it?

3422554_f9c8b10398_oCapitalism is America’s game. We love it. We adore it. We walk around in t-shirts with the word literally splattered across our chests. So no, changing the system really isn’t a fantastic idea. Yet, there are two important statements I would like to make. One, if we continue this system as it is, people need to understand that it is a choice. We don’t have to live the way we do, but we, as a majority, choose to. This may seem like an unfair statement to some, but if we really wanted to, we could change it. I believe this firmly.

Secondly, if capitalism is a game, we can choose not to play it. *more gasping and screaming* Wait… what did you say? Yeah, you heard me. No one said you can’t take the rule sheet out of the Monopoly box and scribble your own rules in. That being said, we still need to make money to survive, this is undeniable. Yet, we have the option to choose what we define as success. You don’t have to pick the job that pays more if it makes you miserable. Money makes life easier, not necessarily better, and that is a very significant distinction.

*The unmodified picture is from: https://www.flickr.com /photos/jakecaptive/3422554

Single Stories

I was at a talk last night given by iO Tillett Wright, she has a popular TED talk (that I have not seen) but she spoke on gender equality. She used this extended metaphor about circles, and she quoted Chimamanda Adichie from another TED talk. The one by Adichie is one that I had seen in high school, and it was cool to see this connection. They both discussed the problem of a single story, and how in doing so you rob someone of his or her dignity and right to his or her own story.

Its amazing how the same TED talk came up in these two very different contexts, but still worked very well in these situations. This just speaks to the generality of some ideas, and how there are many different ways to look at people and stories.

That’s what iO’s whole talk was about, expanding your own world and what you’re used to by getting comfortable around people who are not exactly like you, and in doing so making the world a more accepting place to live in.

The Tipping-Point

creativity-819371_960_720In one of my recent blogs I used the phrase “Tipping-Point” to describe the moment when the division of labor between humans and machines reached a critical point. When I wrote this I was thinking when there was an even 50-50 between people and machines. Yet, I’ve recently been thinking that maybe it doesn’t even have to reach that point to become irrevocable. In many cases, simply by creating a technology the harm is already done. Technology is a fine example of the idea behind Pandora’s box. Once a certain technology is “let-out” there is no going back. And perhaps this is the actual “tipping-point” that I’ve been trying to identify.

This brings up the question that Professor Best loves to ask. “Will we know we’ve gone too far, before we’ve gone too far?” (or something to that effect, the exact words escape me). The problem is, every time we invent something, there is a risk that it may be one step passed what we can manage, and we can’t seem resist temptation. So as an engineer what do we do? Do we stop inventing? To site Best once again in regards to the Brooklyn bridge, “the Brooklyn bridge was not built to cross the East river, rather simply because it had to be built.” I think this encapsulates part of the essence of humanity. We have a drive to invent, to achieve, and to understand. In this way, we struggle to resist these core desires. So if we deny ourselves invention, are we not denying an integral part of our humanity? Yet, if we keep inventing without reserve, are we setting ourselves on a collision course with our extinction?

As soon as I figure out this problem, I’ll let you all know. Right now though, I’ll just focus on passing my finals.


Freshman Year

Perhaps I’m being a bit premature, but with only a month left I find myself reflecting on my first year at college. Technically, yes, I’m still a freshman. However, after seeing all of the new candidates sitting in on classes, and carrying their little white bags around, I realized I don’t really fit in with that class anymore. I’m in the puberty phase of college. It’s that awkward phase where you transition from “high-schooler” to full fledged university student.

Recently, while grabbing lunch at Hawks Nest, a woman walked up to me and asked how I was liking my time here at Lehigh. She proceeded to bring over her son, and they asked me a few more questions. I didn’t realize the significance of this moment immediately. Sure, it felt really nice that I could help this family out. Yet, more profoundly it finally hit me that I knew Lehigh. Not the “I know of Lehigh” or “I know my way around campus”; but a genuine understanding of how things work here. I know what it’s like to spend a day playing Frisbee on the lawn in front of Dravo. I know what it’s like to stay up for hours with a bunch of friends building blanket forts in each others rooms. I also know what it’s like to spend a day cramming for an exam, and the painfully restless night that ensues. So yes, I know Lehigh. And yet, there is still so much more to learn.

No, I don’t know what it’s like at other colleges. Yet, I know Lehigh and that is a truly blessed feeling. So again, maybe this a bit premature, but I wanted to get this out before finals came around in full swing. Lehigh is a wonderful school, and I’m glad to be a part of this community.3008159759_89dc405a81

*This unmodified picture is from:  http://www.flickriver.com/photos/21684795@N05/sets/72157607381004126/

Change your Cognition, Change your Life

I like looking at quotes, because sometimes people say things in a way that you never would have thought to put it, and it works well for what you’re trying to say. A quote showing this and leading into my point is: “Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats” – Voltaire. In his usual wit Voltaire wrapped up what I was trying to say: be optimistic, even in the worst of times. In Psychology right not we are discussing stress and overall health relating to personality types, optimist or pessimist. You would think that these are things that are outside of our control, how stressed/ hopeless/ pessimistic we feel, but in reality a lot of it is just dependent on how you look at it.

Posted @ QUOTEZ.CO

Pessimists tend to think that things happen to them, and that they really don’t get to choose what happens in their daily life. If you approach every stressful event or situation in this way, you’re less likely to try and change your fate. These negative emotions and stress and lack of ambition is a cycle that is hard to get out of.

If you instead approach a problem with motivation, treating it like a challenge where you’re determined to do well, you will have a much better attitude and a better chance of reaching your goal. People that have a positive outlook on the future live longer and are just generally healthier. They get more done, they seek support from others, and they think that they can control their own destiny and therefore are able to.

All of this is just about how you are approaching your problems and in what way you view the world around you, and its amazing what happens if you look on life in a more positive light.


The Cost of Efficiency

Time for a little story,

Once upon a time, my sister and I were given some money to spend on some food. So of course, the question became, “Where do we go?” As soon as I heard there was a Red Robin in the area, I knew my destiny. So we drove twenty minutes off campus and parked in the signature Red Robin parking lot. When we got inside, a waitress took us to our seats, prompted us to order our drinks and then pointed to a  little contraption sitting on the table. This little black tablet was designed to take our orders without waiter assistance. We could order our food at the literal press of a button (Yes, I’m counting touch-screens as buttons for the sake of that phrase). Of course, we didn’t really like that, so we tried to call her back whenever we could. Finally, after finishing our meals we decided to get desert and we flagged our waitress down. After telling her what we wanted, she reached over, and plugged our order into that little machine.

Before I start pointing out why this bothers me, let me just acknowledge that this piece of technology isn’t a bad idea. To be fair, in a busy restaurant like Red Robin, to have a server available at all times just isn’t feasible. However, my concern stems from when people start opting to only interact with the machine. Look at grocery stores, those new self check-out machines are growing in popularity (to my knowledge) while cashier registers gather dust. What will people do when technology replaces them in the workplace? We are growing ever closer to this “tipping-point” and I don’t think people have realized it. I site the waitress using the very technology that makes her obsolete to support this obliviousness.

Now I’m not arguing to remove this technology. I personally like having the option to order without having to flag someone down. I also understand the practicality of this piece of technology. Yet, I find it hard to believe that both of these options will be able to coexist for long. What does this mean for my dream of being a cashier at my local grocery store? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. maxresdefault


Speaker Series on Ethics

Lehigh has had an Ethics Speakers Series for a little while now, and it is concluding this fall. One of the last people to speak was Dr. Ed Freeman from the University of Virginia, speaking of business and its reputation and place and future within society. He discussed the bad reputation that business has had, and explained how in actually it serves a greater positive influence within society. It has to power to do a lot of good, but also a lot of bad, and some companies are really trying to enhance the good.

He discussed future business leaders, and the goals and passions that they may have within their company.

Business was never an area that I was particularly interested in, partially for the reputation of it being competitive and sneaky, but also just because it was out of my interest. It allowed me a better view of business in society and of the positive power it may have, which is something everyone should know about. Whether you’re in the business school or not, his ideas and arguments are influential for anyone living in our capitalist and business driven society.