Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy
Showing posts with label Purpose. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Purpose. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

On Edge: Understanding and Preventing Young Adults’ Mental Health Challenges

Making Caring Common. (2023).


From the Executive Summary

Our recent data suggests that the young adults of Generation Z are experiencing emotional struggles at alarming rates. While the emotional struggles of teens have been in the national spotlight since the pandemic—and this attention has been vital—according to our nationally representative survey, young adults report roughly twice the rates of anxiety and depression as teens. Compared to 18% of teens, a whopping 36% of young adults in our survey reported anxiety; in contrast to 15% of teens, 29% of young adults reported depression. Far too many young adults report that they feel on edge, lonely, unmoored, directionless, and that they worry about financial security. Many are “achieving to achieve” and find little meaning in either school or work. Yet these struggles of young adults have been largely off the public radar.

From the Press Release:

The report identifies a variety of stressors that may be driving young adults’ high rates of anxiety and
depression. The top drivers of young adults’ mental health challenges include:
  • A lack of meaning, purpose, and direction: Nearly 3 in 5 young adults (58%) reported that they lacked “meaning or purpose” in their lives in the previous month. Half of young adults reported that their mental health was negatively influenced by “not knowing what to do with my life.
  • Financial worries and achievement pressure: More than half of young adults reported that financial worries (56%) and achievement pressure (51%) were negatively impacting their mental health.
  • A perception that the world is unraveling: Forty-five percent (45%) of young adults reported that a general "sense that things are falling apart” was impairing their mental health.
  • Relationship deficits: Forty-four percent (44%) of young adults reported a sense of not mattering to others and 34% reported loneliness.
  • Social and political issues: Forty-two percent (42%) reported the negative influence on their mental health of gun violence in schools, 34% cited climate change, and 30% cited worries that our political leaders are incompetent or corrupt.
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The report also suggests strategies for promoting young adults’ mental health and mitigating their
emotional challenges. These include:
  • Cultivating meaning and purpose in young people, including by engaging them in caring for
  • others and service;
  • Supporting young people in developing gratifying and durable relationships; and
  • Helping young people experience their lives as more than the sum of their achievements.
“We need to do much more to support young adults’ mental health and devote more resources to prevention,” said Kiran Bhai, MCC’s Schools & Parenting Programs Director and a co-author of the
report. “This includes reducing the stressors that young people are facing and helping them develop
the skills they need to thrive.”

Thursday, November 23, 2023

How to Maintain Hope in an Age of Catastrophe

Masha Gessen
The Atlantic
Originally posted 12 Nov 23

Gessen interviews psychoanalyst and author Robert Jay Lifton.  Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the article/interview:

Lifton is fascinated by the range and plasticity of the human mind, its ability to contort to the demands of totalitarian control, to find justification for the unimaginable—the Holocaust, war crimes, the atomic bomb—and yet recover, and reconjure hope. In a century when humanity discovered its capacity for mass destruction, Lifton studied the psychology of both the victims and the perpetrators of horror. “We are all survivors of Hiroshima, and, in our imaginations, of future nuclear holocaust,” he wrote at the end of “Death in Life.” How do we live with such knowledge? When does it lead to more atrocities and when does it result in what Lifton called, in a later book, “species-wide agreement”?

Lifton’s big books, though based on rigorous research, were written for popular audiences. He writes, essentially, by lecturing into a Dictaphone, giving even his most ambitious works a distinctive spoken quality. In between his five large studies, Lifton published academic books, papers and essays, and two books of cartoons, “Birds” and “PsychoBirds.” (Every cartoon features two bird heads with dialogue bubbles, such as, “ ‘All of a sudden I had this wonderful feeling: I am me!’ ” “You were wrong.”) Lifton’s impact on the study and treatment of trauma is unparalleled. In a 2020 tribute to Lifton in the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, his former colleague Charles Strozier wrote that a chapter in “Death in Life” on the psychology of survivors “has never been surpassed, only repeated many times and frequently diluted in its power. All those working with survivors of trauma, personal or sociohistorical, must immerse themselves in his work.”


Here is my summary of the article and helpful tips.  Happy (hopeful) Thanksgiving!!

Hope is not blind optimism or wishful thinking, but rather a conscious decision to act in the face of uncertainty and to believe in the possibility of a better future. The article/interview identifies several key strategies for cultivating hope, including:
  • Nurturing a sense of purpose: Having a clear sense of purpose can provide direction and motivation, even in the darkest of times. This purpose can be rooted in personal goals, relationships, or a commitment to a larger cause.
  • Engaging in meaningful action: Taking concrete steps, no matter how small, can help to combat feelings of helplessness and despair. Action can range from individual acts of kindness to participation in collective efforts for social change.
  • Cultivating a sense of community: Connecting with others who share our concerns can provide a sense of belonging and support. Shared experiences and collective action can amplify our efforts and strengthen our resolve.
  • Maintaining a critical perspective: While it is important to hold onto hope, it is also crucial to avoid complacency or denial. We need to recognize the severity of the challenges we face and to remain vigilant in our efforts to address them.
  • Embracing resilience: Hope is not about denying hardship or expecting a quick and easy resolution to our problems. Rather, it is about cultivating the resilience to persevere through difficult times and to believe in the possibility of positive change.

The article concludes by emphasizing the importance of hope as a driving force for positive change. Hope is not a luxury, but a necessity for survival and for building a better future. By nurturing hope, we can empower ourselves and others to confront the challenges we face and to work towards a more just and equitable world.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Artificial intelligence, superefficiency and the end of work: a humanistic perspective on meaning in life

Knell, S., Rüther, M.
AI Ethics (2023).
https://doi.org/10.1007/s43681-023-00273-w

Abstract

How would it be assessed from an ethical point of view if human wage work were replaced by artificially intelligent systems (AI) in the course of an automation process? An answer to this question has been discussed above all under the aspects of individual well-being and social justice. Although these perspectives are important, in this article, we approach the question from a different perspective: that of leading a meaningful life, as understood in analytical ethics on the basis of the so-called meaning-in-life debate. Our thesis here is that a life without wage work loses specific sources of meaning, but can still be sufficiently meaningful in certain other ways. Our starting point is John Danaher’s claim that ubiquitous automation inevitably leads to an achievement gap. Although we share this diagnosis, we reject his provocative solution according to which game-like virtual realities could be an adequate substitute source of meaning. Subsequently, we outline our own systematic alternative which we regard as a decidedly humanistic perspective. It focuses both on different kinds of social work and on rather passive forms of being related to meaningful contents. Finally, we go into the limits and unresolved points of our argumentation as part of an outlook, but we also try to defend its fundamental persuasiveness against a potential objection.

From Concluding remarks

In this article, we explored the question of how we can find meaning in a post-work world. Our answer relies on a critique of John Danaher’s utopia of games and tries to stick to the humanistic idea, namely to the idea that we do not have to alter our human lifeform in an extensive way and also can keep up our orientation towards common ideals, such as working towards the good, the true and the beautiful.

Our proposal still has some shortcomings, which include the following two that we cannot deal with extensively but at least want to briefly comment on. First, we assumed that certain professional fields, especially in the meaning conferring area of the good, cannot be automated, so that the possibility of mini-jobs in these areas can be considered. This assumption is based on a substantial thesis from the philosophy of mind, namely that AI systems cannot develop consciousness and consequently also no genuine empathy. This assumption needs to be further elaborated, especially in view of some forecasts that even the altruistic and philanthropic professions are not immune to the automation of superefficient systems. Second, we have adopted without further critical discussion the premise of the hybrid standard model of a meaningful life according to which meaning conferring objective value is to be found in the three spheres of the true, the good, and the beautiful. We take this premise to be intuitively appealing, but a further elaboration of our argumentation would have to try to figure out, whether this trias is really exhaustive, and if so, due to which underlying more general principle. Third, the receptive side of finding meaning in the realm of the true and beautiful was emphasized and opposed to the active striving towards meaningful aims. Here, we have to more precisely clarify what axiological status reception has in contrast to active production—whether it is possibly meaning conferring to a comparable extent or whether it is actually just a less meaningful form. This is particularly important to be able to better assess the appeal of our proposal, which depends heavily on the attractiveness of the vita contemplativa.

Friday, April 9, 2021

The Ordinary Concept of a Meaningful Life

Prinzing, M., De Freitas, J., & Fredrickson, B. 
(2020, May 5). 
https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/6sx4t

Abstract

The desire for a meaningful life is ubiquitous, yet the ordinary concept of a meaningful life is poorly understood. Across six experiments (total N = 2,539), we investigated whether third-person attributions of meaning depend on the psychological states an agent experiences (feelings of interest, engagement, and fulfillment), or on the objective conditions of their life (e.g., their effects on others). Studies 1a–b found that laypeople think subjective and objective factors contribute independently to the meaningfulness of a person’s life. Studies 2a–b found that positive mental states are thought to make a life more meaningful, even if derived from senseless activities (e.g., hand-copying the dictionary). Studies 3a–b found that agents engaged in morally bad activities are not thought to have meaningful lives, even if they feel fulfilled. In short, both an agents’ subjective mental states and objective impact on the world affect how meaningful their lives appear.

General Discussion

What, according to the ordinary concept, makes a life meaningful?  Studies1a-b found that  laypeople  think positive  mental states (interest,  engagement, fulfillment) can make an agent’s life meaningful. These studies also found that, according to lay assessments, doing something that has value for others can also make an agent’s life meaningful. These findings conflict with the predominant philosophical theories of meaning in life. These theories posit an exclusive role for either positive mental states (subjectivist theories) or objective states of an agent’s life (objectivist theories), or they require that both criteria be met (hybrid theories). In contrast, we found that laypeople think an agent’s life is meaningful when either criterion is met.This indicates that the ordinary concept of a meaningful life does not fit neatly with these three philosophical theories. Instead, they seem to be captured by what we will call the independent-additive theory: subjective factors  (positive mental states like fulfillment) and objective factors (like contribution, sensibility, and morality)each affect the meaningfulness of an agent’s life, and their effects are both independent and additive.  

We investigated the roles of sensibility and morality as plausible boundary conditions for lay attributions of meaningfulness. For sensibility, we saw somewhat mixed results. Study 2a found no evidence that a life characterized by sensible activities (wine connoisseurship) was  seen as more  meaningful than a  life characterized  by senseless  activities(rubber  band collecting). However, Study 2b, with a larger sample and wider variety of vignettes, did find such  an  effect. Nevertheless, in both  studies, fulfilling  lives were seen as  more  meaningful than  unfulfilling  ones—regardless  of  whether  that fulfillment was derived  from sensible  or senseless activities.  Hence, on the ordinary concept, sensibility contributes to meaningfulness, though  not  as  much  as  fulfillment  does. Moreover, in  alignment  with  the independent-additive theory, fulfillment maintains its additive effect, independently of sensibility.  Regarding morality, Studies 3a-b found that morally good lives were viewed as much more meaningful than morally bad ones. In fact, morally bad agents were not thought to live meaningful lives, even if those agents felt very fulfilled. In contrast, morally good agents were seen as having meaningful lives even if they didn’t feel fulfilled.Nevertheless,  though the effect of morality was larger than that of fulfillment, participants still thought that a fulfilled, immoral agent was living more meaningfully than an unfulfilled, immoral agent. Supporting the independent-additive  theory,  the additive  effect  of  fulfillment was independent  of morality.

In short, we identified four factors (fulfillment, contribution, sensibility, and morality) that seem to have independent, additive effects on third-person attributions of meaningfulness.  There  may well be more such  factors.  But  the  evidence  from  these  six experiments supports a model of third-person meaningfulness judgments that—in contrast to subjectivist,  objectivist,  and  hybrid  theories—emphasizes  independent  and  additive  factors that  contribute  to  the  meaning in a person’s life.  We  have called such a model the “independent-additive theory”.

Monday, July 6, 2020

HR researchers discovered the real reason why stressful jobs are killing us

Arianne Cohen
fastcompany.com
Originally posted 20 May 20

Your job really might kill you: A new study directly correlates on-the-job stress with death.

Researchers at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business followed 3,148 Wisconsinites for 20 years and found heavy workload and lack of autonomy to correlate strongly with poor mental health and the big D: death. The study is titled “This Job Is (Literally) Killing Me.”

“When job demands are greater than the control afforded by the job or an individual’s ability to deal with those demands, there is a deterioration of their mental health and, accordingly, an increased likelihood of death,” says lead author Erik Gonzalez-Mulé, assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resources. “We found that work stressors are more likely to cause depression and death as a result of jobs in which workers have little control.”

The reverse was also true: Jobs can fuel good health, particularly jobs that provide workers autonomy.

The info is here.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Workism Is Making Americans Miserable

Derek Thompson
The Atlantic
Originally published 24 Feb 20

Here is an excerpt:

The decline of traditional faith in America has coincided with an explosion of new atheisms. Some people worship beauty, some worship political identities, and others worship their children. But everybody worships something. And workism is among the most potent of the new religions competing for congregants.

What is workism? It is the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work.

Homo industrious is not new to the American landscape. The American dream—that hoary mythology that hard work always guarantees upward mobility—has for more than a century made the U.S. obsessed with material success and the exhaustive striving required to earn it.

No large country in the world as productive as the United States averages more hours of work a year. And the gap between the U.S. and other countries is growing. Between 1950 and 2012, annual hours worked per employee fell by about 40 percent in Germany and the Netherlands—but by only 10 percent in the United States. Americans “work longer hours, have shorter vacations, get less in unemployment, disability, and retirement benefits, and retire later, than people in comparably rich societies,” wrote Samuel P. Huntington in his 2005 book Who Are We?: The Challenges to America’s National Identity.

One group has led the widening of the workist gap: rich men.

In 1980, the highest-earning men actually worked fewer hours per week than middle-class and low-income men, according to a survey by the Minneapolis Fed. But that’s changed. By 2005, the richest 10 percent of married men had the longest average workweek. In that same time, college-educated men reduced their leisure time more than any other group. Today, it is fair to say that elite American men have transformed themselves into the world’s premier workaholics, toiling longer hours than both poorer men in the U.S. and rich men in similarly rich countries.

This shift defies economic logic—and economic history. The rich have always worked less than the poor, because they could afford to. The landed gentry of preindustrial Europe dined, danced, and gossiped, while serfs toiled without end. In the early 20th century, rich Americans used their ample downtime to buy weekly movie tickets and dabble in sports. Today’s rich American men can afford vastly more downtime. But they have used their wealth to buy the strangest of prizes: more work!

The info is here.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

What jobs are affected by AI? Better-paid, better-educated workers face the most exposure

M. Muro, J. Whiton, & R. Maxim
Brookings
Originally posted 20 Nov 19

Here is an excerpt:

AI could affect work in virtually every occupational group. However, whereas research on automation’s robotics and software continues to show that less-educated, lower-wage workers may be most exposed to displacement, the present analysis suggests that better-educated, better-paid workers (along with manufacturing and production workers) will be the most affected by the new AI technologies, with some exceptions.

Our analysis shows that workers with graduate or professional degrees will be almost four times as exposed to AI as workers with just a high school degree. Holders of bachelor’s degrees will be the most exposed by education level, more than five times as exposed to AI than workers with just a high school degree.

Our analysis shows that AI will be a significant factor in the future work lives of relatively well-paid managers, supervisors, and analysts. Also exposed are factory workers, who are increasingly well-educated in many occupations as well as heavily involved with AI on the shop floor. AI may be much less of a factor in the work of most lower-paid service workers.

Men, who are overrepresented in both analytic-technical and professional roles (as well as production), work in occupations with much higher AI exposure scores. Meanwhile, women’s heavy involvement in “interpersonal” education, health care support, and personal care services appears to shelter them. This both tracks with and accentuates the finding from our earlier automation analysis.

The info is here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Association Between Life Purpose and Mortality Among US Adults Older Than 50 Years

Aliya Alimujiang, Ashley Wiensch, Jonathan Boss, and others
JAMA Network Open 2019;2(5):e194270. 

Abstract

Importance  A growing body of literature suggests that having a strong sense of purpose in life leads to improvements in both physical and mental health and enhances overall quality of life. There are interventions available to influence life purpose; thus, understanding the association of life purpose with mortality is critical.

Objective  To evaluate whether an association exists between life purpose and all-cause or cause-specific mortality among older adults in the United States.

Main Outcomes and Measures  All-cause and cause-specific mortality were assessed between 2006 and 2010. Weighted Cox proportional hazards models were used to evaluate life purpose and mortality.

Results  Of 6985 individuals included in the analysis, 4016 (57.5%) were women, the mean (SD) age of all participants was 68.6 (9.8) years, and the mean (SD) survival time for decedents was 31.21 (15.42) months (range, 1.00-71.00 months). Life purpose was significantly associated with all-cause mortality in the HRS (hazard ratio, 2.43; 95% CI, 1.57-3.75, comparing those in the lowest life purpose category with those in the highest life purpose category). Some significant cause-specific mortality associations with life purpose were also observed (heart, circulatory, and blood conditions: hazard ratio, 2.66; 95% CI, 1.62-4.38).

Conclusions and Relevance  This study’s results indicated that stronger purpose in life was associated with decreased mortality. Purposeful living may have health benefits. Future research should focus on evaluating the association of life purpose interventions with health outcomes, including mortality. In addition, understanding potential biological mechanisms through which life purpose may influence health outcomes would be valuable.

The research is here.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Survey Finds Widespread 'Moral Distress' Among Veterinarians

Carey Goldberg
NPR.org
Originally posted October 17, 2018

In some ways, it can be harder to be a doctor of animals than a doctor of humans.

"We are in the really unenviable, and really difficult, position of caring for patients maybe for their entire lives, developing our own relationships with those animals — and then being asked to kill them," says Dr. Lisa Moses, a veterinarian at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Angell Animal Medical Center and a bioethicist at Harvard Medical School.

She's the lead author of a study published Monday in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine about "moral distress" among veterinarians. The survey of more than 800 vets found that most feel ethical qualms — at least sometimes — about what pet owners ask them to do. And that takes a toll on their mental health.

Dr. Virginia Sinnott-Stutzman is all too familiar with the results. As a senior staff veterinarian in emergency and critical care at Angell, she sees a lot of very sick animals — and quite a few decisions by owners that trouble her.

Sometimes, owners elect to have their pets put to sleep because they can't or won't pay for treatment, she says. Or the opposite, "where we know in our heart of hearts that there is no hope to save the animal, or that the animal is suffering and the owners have a set of beliefs that make them want to keep going."

The info is here.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Purpose, Meaning and Morality Without God

Ralph Lewis
Psychology Today Blog
Originally posted September 9, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Religion is not the source of purpose, meaning and morality. Rather, religion can be understood as having incorporated these natural motivational and social dispositions and having coevolved with human cultures over time. Unsurprisingly, religion has also incorporated our more selfish, aggressive, competitive, and xenophobic human proclivities.

Modern secular societies with the lowest levels of religious belief have achieved far more compassion and flourishing than religious ones.

Secular humanists understand that societal ethics and compassion are achieved solely through human action in a fully natural world. We can rely only on ourselves and our fellow human beings. All we have is each other, huddled together on this lifeboat of a little planet in this vast indifferent universe.

We will need to continue to work actively toward the collective goal of more caring societies in order to further strengthen the progress of our species.

Far from being nihilistic, the fully naturalist worldview of secular humanism empowers us and liberates us from our irrational fears, and from our feelings of abandonment by the god we were told would take care of us, and motivates us to live with a sense of interdependent humanistic purpose. This deepens our feelings of value, engagement, and relatedness. People can and do care, even if universe doesn’t.

The blog post is here.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Rationalization is rational


Fiery Cushman
Preprint
Uploaded July 18, 2018

Abstract

Rationalization occurs when a person has performed an action and then concoct the beliefs and desires that would have made it rational. Then, people often adjust their own beliefs and desires to match the concocted ones. While many studies demonstrate rationalization, and a few theories identify its underlying cognitive mechanisms, we have little understanding of its its function. Why is the mind designed to construct post hoc rationalizations of its behavior, and then to adopt them? This design may accomplish an important task: to transfer information between the many different processes and representations that influence our behavior. Human decision-making does not rely on a single process; it is influenced by reason, habit, instincts, cultural norms and so on. Several of the processes that influence our behavior are not organized according to rational choice (i.e., maximizing desires conditioned on belief). Thus, rationalization extracts implicit information—true beliefs and useful desires—from the influence of these non-rational systems on behavior. This is not a process of self-perception as traditionally conceived, in which one infers the hidden contents of unconscious reasons. Rather, it is a useful fiction. It is a fiction because it imputes reason to non-rational psychological processes; it is useful because it can improve subsequent reasoning. More generally, rationalization is one example of broader class of “representational exchange” mechanisms, which transfer of information between many different psychological processes that guide our behavior. This perspective reveals connections to theory of mind, inverse reinforcement learning, and reflective equilibrium.

The paper is here.

Asking patients why they engaged in a behavior is another example of useful fiction.  Dr. Cushman suggests psychologists ask: What made that worth doing?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Rogue chatbots deleted in China after questioning Communist Party

Neil Connor
The Telegraph
Originally published August 3, 2017

Two chatbots have been pulled from a Chinese messaging app after they questioned the rule of the Communist Party and made unpatriotic comments.

The bots were available on a messaging app run by Chinese Internet giant Tencent, which has more than 800 million users, before apparently going rogue.

One of the robots, BabyQ, was asked “Do you love the Communist Party”, according to a screenshot posted on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

Another web user said to the chatbot: “Long Live the Communist Party”, to which BabyQ replied: “Do you think such corrupt and incapable politics can last a long time?”

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The Chinese Internet is heavily censored by Beijing, which sees any criticism of its rule as a threat.

Social media posts which are deemed critical are often quickly deleted by authorities, while searches for sensitive topics are often blocked.

The information is here.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Schools are a place for students to grow morally and emotionally — let's encourage them

William Eidtson
The Hill
Originally posted March 10, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

However, if schools were truly a place for students to grow “emotionally and morally,” wouldn’t engaging in a demonstration of solidarity to protest the all too recurrent slaughter of concertgoers, church assemblies, and schoolchildren be one of the most emotionally engaging and morally relevant activities they could undertake?

And if life is all about choices and consequences, wouldn’t the choice to allow students to engage in one of the most cherished traditions of our democracy — namely, political dissent — potentially result in a profound and historically significant educational experience?

The fact is that our educational institutions are often not places that foster emotional and moral growth within students. Why? Part of the reason is because while our schools are pretty good at teaching students how to do things, they fail at teaching why things matter.

School officials tend to assume that if you simply teach students how things work, the “why it’s important” will naturally follow. But this is precisely the opposite of how we learn and grow in the world. People need reasons, stories, and context to direct their skills.

We need the why to give us a context to understand and use the how. We need the why to give us good reasons to learn the how. The why makes the how relevant. The why makes the how endurable. The why makes the how possible.

The article is here.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Why are America's farmers killing themselves in record numbers?

Debbie Weingarten
The Guardian
Originally published December 6, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

“Farming has always been a stressful occupation because many of the factors that affect agricultural production are largely beyond the control of the producers,” wrote Rosmann in the journal Behavioral Healthcare. “The emotional wellbeing of family farmers and ranchers is intimately intertwined with these changes.”

Last year, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that people working in agriculture – including farmers, farm laborers, ranchers, fishers, and lumber harvesters – take their lives at a rate higher than any other occupation. The data suggested that the suicide rate for agricultural workers in 17 states was nearly five times higher compared with that in the general population.

After the study was released, Newsweek reported that the suicide death rate for farmers was more than double that of military veterans. This, however, could be an underestimate, as the data collected skipped several major agricultural states, including Iowa. Rosmann and other experts add that the farmer suicide rate might be higher, because an unknown number of farmers disguise their suicides as farm accidents.

The US farmer suicide crisis echoes a much larger farmer suicide crisis happening globally: an Australian farmer dies by suicide every four days; in the UK, one farmer a week takes his or her own life; in France, one farmer dies by suicide every two days; in India, more than 270,000 farmers have died by suicide since 1995.

The article is here.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Will life be worth living in a world without work? Technological Unemployment and the Meaning of Life

John Danaher
forthcoming in Science and Engineering Ethics

Abstract

Suppose we are about to enter an era of increasing technological unemployment. What implications does this have for society? Two distinct ethical/social issues would seem to arise. The first is one of distributive justice: how will the (presumed) efficiency gains from automated labour be distributed through society? The second is one of personal fulfillment and meaning: if  people no longer have to work, what will they do with their lives? In this article, I set aside the first issue and focus on the second. In doing so, I make three arguments. First, I argue that there are good reasons to embrace non-work and that these reasons become more compelling in an era of technological unemployment. Second, I argue that the technological advances that make widespread technological unemployment possible could still threaten or undermine human flourishing and meaning, especially if (as is to be expected) they do not remain confined to the economic sphere. And third, I argue that this threat could be contained if we adopt an integrative  approach to our relationship with technology. In advancing these arguments, I draw on three distinct literatures: (i) the literature on technological unemployment and workplace automation; (ii) the antiwork critique — which I argue gives reasons to embrace technological unemployment; and (iii) the philosophical debate about the conditions for meaning in life — which I argue gives reasons for concern.

The article is here.
 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

You Don’t Find Your Purpose — You Build It

John Coleman
Harvard Business Review
Originally published October 20, 2017

Here are two excerpts:

In achieving professional purpose, most of us have to focus as much on making our work meaningful as in taking meaning from it. Put differently, purpose is a thing you build, not a thing you find. Almost any work can possess remarkable purpose. School bus drivers bear enormous responsibility — caring for and keeping safe dozens of children — and are an essential part of assuring our children receive the education they need and deserve. Nurses play an essential role not simply in treating people’s medical conditions but also in guiding them through some of life’s most difficult times. Cashiers can be a friendly, uplifting interaction in someone’s day — often desperately needed — or a forgettable or regrettable one. But in each of these instances, purpose is often primarily derived from focusing on what’s so meaningful and purposeful about the job and on doing it in such a way that that meaning is enhanced and takes center stage. Sure, some jobs more naturally lend themselves to senses of meaning, but many require at least some deliberate effort to invest them with the purpose we seek.

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Most of us will have multiple sources of purpose in our lives. For me, I find purpose in my children, my marriage, my faith, my writing, my work, and my community. For almost everyone, there’s no one thing we can find. It’s not purpose but purposes we are looking for — the multiple sources of meaning that help us find value in our work and lives. Professional commitments are only one component of this meaning, and often our work isn’t central to our purpose but a means to helping others, including our families and communities. Acknowledging these multiple sources of purpose takes the pressure off of finding a single thing to give our lives meaning.

The article is here.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Association Between Physician Burnout and Identification With Medicine as a Calling

Andrew J. Jager, MA, Michael A. Tutty, PhD, Audiey C. Kao, PhD Audiey C. Kao
Mayo Clinic Proceedings
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2016.11.012

Objective

To evaluate the association between degree of professional burnout and physicians' sense of calling.

Participants and Methods

US physicians across all specialties were surveyed between October 24, 2014, and May 29, 2015. Professional burnout was assessed using a validated single-item measure. Sense of calling, defined as committing one's life to personally meaningful work that serves a prosocial purpose, was assessed using 6 validated true-false items. Associations between burnout and identification with calling items were assessed using multivariable logistic regressions.

Results

A total of 2263 physicians completed surveys (63.1% response rate). Among respondents, 28.5% (n=639) reported experiencing some degree of burnout. Compared with physicians who reported no burnout symptoms, those who were completely burned out had lower odds of finding their work rewarding (odds ratio [OR], 0.05; 95% CI, 0.02-0.10; P<.001), seeing their work as one of the most important things in their lives (OR, 0.38; 95% CI, 0.21-0.69; P<.001), or thinking their work makes the world a better place (OR, 0.38; 95% CI, 0.17-0.85; P=.02). Burnout was also associated with lower odds of enjoying talking about their work to others (OR, 0.23; 95% CI, 0.13-0.41; P<.001), choosing their work life again (OR, 0.11; 95% CI, 0.06-0.20; P<.001), or continuing with their current work even if they were no longer paid if they were financially stable (OR, 0.30; 95% CI, 0.15-0.59; P<.001).

Conclusion

Physicians who experience more burnout are less likely to identify with medicine as a calling. Erosion of the sense that medicine is a calling may have adverse consequences for physicians as well as those for whom they care.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Excerpt from Stanley Kubrick's Playboy Interview 1968

Playboy, 1968

Playboy: If life is so purposeless, do you feel it’s worth living?

Kubrick: Yes, for those who manage somehow to cope with our mortality. The very meaninglessness of life forces a man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre (a keen enjoyment of living), their idealism - and their assumption of immortality.

As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But if he’s reasonably strong - and lucky - he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s élan (enthusiastic and assured vigour and liveliness).

Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining.

The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death - however mutable man may be able to make them - our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfilment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

The entire interview is here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How secular family values stack up

By Phil Zuckerman
The LA Times Op Ed
Originally posted January 15, 2015

More children are “growing up godless” than at any other time in our nation's history. They are the offspring of an expanding secular population that includes a relatively new and burgeoning category of Americans called the “Nones,” so nicknamed because they identified themselves as believing in “nothing in particular” in a 2012 study by the Pew Research Center.

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He was surprised by what he found: High levels of family solidarity and emotional closeness between parents and nonreligious youth, and strong ethical standards and moral values that had been clearly articulated as they were imparted to the next generation.

“Many nonreligious parents were more coherent and passionate about their ethical principles than some of the ‘religious' parents in our study,” Bengston told me. “The vast majority appeared to live goal-filled lives characterized by moral direction and sense of life having a purpose.”

The entire piece is here.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Does Morality Matter in Managing Businesses?

By Victor Want
Forbes
Originally published October 23, 2013

Here are two excerpts:

There is another way of looking at morality.  Instead of thinking of companies as entities, which is what the questions above do, let’s think of companies as collections of individuals.  When we do that, we see morality in a different way: because individuals are motivated by moral purpose.

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His central idea is that the primary responsibility of any executive is to define the organization’s purpose and instill loyalty, so that managers work for the organization’s good rather than for their own advancement. You can only achieve this kind of loyalty if you keep your employees satisfied, rather than viewing them simply as economic production inputs. In Barnard’s own words, “The morality that underlies enduring cooperation is multidimensional.”  He discusses how satisfying multiple moral codes, like responsibilities to customers and shareholders, is the key for employees to gain more senior roles. This often means reconciling competing obligations.

The entire article is here.