Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

Remote Working Meetup Group

Have you joined our meetup group? We’re an international community of remote workers – some of whom have worked remotely for years, while others are #suddenlyremote. We get together online every Friday morning (Sydney time) over a coffee or wine and discuss the challenges and opportunities the current crisis has presented for work. Our next meetup will be Friday 8 May (in Australia, it may be Thursday 7th for you depending on where you live).


Cartoon of the week

Anne says: There’s a collection of cartoons in the New York Times this week that spotlights some of the cartoonists and their perspectives of what it’s like to illustrate crisis moments, in a funny kind of way. I rather liked this one (even without the social distancing because I’m assuming they’re sitting at the breakfast table under lockdown conditions). The cartoonist, Tony Carrillo, wrote a few lines about how he approaches the task.

“I have always thought of myself as kind of an anxious person, and suddenly everyone has that worldview,” said the “F Minus” cartoonist Tony Carrillo. “I’ve been making jokes about existential dread for a long time, but all of a sudden, everyone’s looking for that kind of humor.”

Carrillo said that he’s well-prepared for this cultural moment: “I have a number of comics about the growing pains of adjusting to a hermitlike existence. Fourteen years of working from home has put me in a unique position to know what everyone is dealing with.”


Isolation, casual friends, mood swings, fear and time

Salvador Dali. Source

Anne says: As many places are starting to emerge from lockdown, some more rapidly than others, the social scientists have been examining history and other crisis situations to understand how to prepare and guide people through the next phases. I’ve selected some articles that have provoked me to consider scenarios and how we are going to react – both individually and collectively. Not only from returning to work, but also from a community and broader society. I’m intending to draw your attention to the topics that resonated with me, but please read the articles and ponder through your own perspectives – I hope you find them valuable and informative for the uncertain times that lie ahead.

Let’s start with the big question and a few responses. What will it be like, after lockdown and in the short to mid-term?

Harvard Business Review says:

…daily life is likely to be defined by efforts to manage the pandemic.

While the New York Times (NYT) notes that:

Fear of others may linger long after the pandemic is over. But so may a new sense of community. Changes in how we think, behave and relate to one another — some deliberate but many made unconsciously, some temporary but others potentially permanent — are already coming to define our new normal.

And the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) focuses more on the impact:

Prolonged social isolation takes physical and psychological tolls that are well-documented.

All the articles have drawn upon studies from other contexts to provide some insights that might help us navigate what might occur post-lockdown. The NYT weaves the experience through the four year siege of Sarajevo. In contrast, the WSJ has looked at people in isolated circumstances – polar researchers, astronauts, and others who are socially isolated. Both these articles cite the loss of social contact as the most harmful. From the medical manifestation – heart attacks, depression, increased stress hormones, inflammations to the psychological aspects of memory loss, inability to think long term, the need to try and control things, anxiety and anger – for starters.

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) looked at our casual friends and how important the less structured social contacts are so important to us.

there are surprisingly powerful benefits to connecting with casual acquaintances — relationships that sociologists call “weak ties.”

Think about a typical day (before lockdown) – the research says you would have had 11 – 16 exchanges with weak ties. Your barista serving you a morning coffee, a fellow dog-walker, people you interact briefly with but genuinely care about. These interactions appear to be an important part of our social fabric. For me, these interactions, spontaneous but regular are the ones I’m missing the most. I found myself pondering how they’re doing right now. I don’t have their numbers, I’m not sure of their exact address – I might be able to find them through some detective work – but I wonder if they’re OK?

The HBR article suggests we need to initiate them by using informal communication channels, like Facebook or Instagram, don’t worry about not getting responses, let people know you’re thinking of them. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for a brief conversation or online exchange. But make the effort.
And this is where I deviate from the article – it’s just made me more stressed. At the moment, none of these connection points are available to me. We’re in total confinement, we have no opportunity to connect unless I can search for Lola’s dad (the dog’s name) on Facebook, or can search business registries to find the name and contact details for cafe owners. It’s just not the same – but I think I’ll push a note under a few doors of cafes and bars we go to regularly – perhaps someone will find them. Message in a bottle.

All the articles end up in a similar place. We’re social beings, we’re in hostile environments, and we need each other to cope. We need to cooperate and care about each other – be kind. The scars from these times are unknown at this stage – but be aware, there will be scars and they will affect people differently. Please take a moment (or 3) to slow down, read the articles and ponder. Take a siesta, then read the next article reviewed below.

BTW – how long has it been since (fill in the gap)? This Quartz article introduces the concept of chronemics, the study of time as a form of communication. They note that for most of us in some form of lockdown, the experience of time is now different. We’ve added tasks to our days, and some of our habitual tasks need to follow a new pattern. From ordering groceries online, to remembering to wear masks, to washing down/sterilising shopping items, to home-schooling, constant Zoom chats and lots of other not typical daily tasks.

There’s simply more to get done in the same number of hours we always had. At the same time, the sense of slowness we’re also noticing comes from the density of all the new demands.

It’s a weird thing – we have the same number of hours – yet we’re struggling with getting everything done and working, while attending to any family commitments all in the same day – yet.. days seem to drag out, feel slow. The article talks about how dense our days are, which gave me a feeling of walking through thick mud where your shoes get stuck and it’s an enormous effort to keep moving forward. The extra tasks, the decisions associated with those tasks increase cognitive load (one of my fave concepts in learning contexts), literally where your brain can’t take in or process anymore novel concepts. It’s the tiredness you feel when you’re in an intense learning environment, or starting a new job with lots to learn and you get home exhausted, just needing sleep.

And the coping recommendation? Slow down. Take time to do less tasks. Sleep well (I recommend siestas are perfect for cognitive load). Take another look at the image –  Dali’s melting clock (The Persistence of Memory) sums up the feelings experienced during lockdown – time melting away, distorted but continuing.

Stay safe – be kind to each other – think about your weak ties – sleep.


Why Mormonism is the best religion for cyborgs

Jakkii says: First of all, it’s a bit of a relief for me to be sharing at least one thing completely unrelated to the pandemic this week! I feel like that’s all I’ve talked about for months on end (which, frankly, is probably the case), and it’s nice to not only think about something else, but share it as well.

As soon as I read this piece, I thought of Nat and wished I could share it with her (though let’s be honest, she almost certainly would’ve seen it first!) and asked her for her views. Nat wrote about transhumanism in our Friday Faves back in April 2017 and touched on it again in September that same year. In turn, I wrote about it in August 2019, inspired, of course, by Nat. It’s been a while since I’ve come across the topic, and I confess I wasn’t expecting my reintroduction to transhumanism to be because of Mormonism, the religion the author posits would be best suited to cyborgs – the article touches on that aspect very little, however, with the idea being a bit of a hook to get you into the article and instead read more about Mormon Transhumanism.

The Mormon Transhumanist Association (MTA) was founded in 2006 and these days apparently boasts over 800 members. According to their website, they believe that “to be a disciple of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to trust in, change toward, and fully immerse our bodies and minds in the role of Christ, to become compassionate creators as exemplified and invited by Jesus.” They even have a full “transhumanist declaration,” so you can get some finer detail.

To truly understand the MTA, and what the relationship between cyborgs and religion is, we need to wrap our heads around two fundamental concepts — Mormonism and transhumanism — which coincidentally, is what the MTA is all about. I spoke with Lincoln Cannon, Board member and Founder of MTA, and Carl Youngblood, MTA’s Vice-President, to get their views on the matter.

First up: transhumanism. To Cannon and Youngblood, the transhumanist movement advocates for the ethical use of technology to extend human abilities. Transhumanists are interested in all the ways technology is changing the human condition, and especially how those changes are accelerating as the speed of technological development picks up.

And that second paragraph, in a nutshell, is what’s so interesting about transhumanism, and certainly from a technophilosophical standpoint was particularly fascinating to Nat. Back in that April 2017 Friday Faves, she wrote:

In a nutshell, transhumanism is man’s attempt at immortality by literally becoming a machine and eradicating the need for a physical body in the process… I find the idea fascinating, not only from a technical perspective, but from a human perspective and the desire for people wanting to become God and live forever.

And, indeed, the members of the MTA that are quoted in this piece seem to agree:

…we’re not just pleasing God, but we’re also hopefully starting to resemble God,” Youngblood explains. “True worship is not merely telling God how awesome he or she is all the time, but trying to actually be like God. That’s the ultimate goal.”

This isn’t a new concept – man’s attempts to be more God-like, and, as Nat mentions above, a drive toward God’s immortality – and perfection. In some religions the idea that man could ever be anything like God might be considered blasphemous, but not in Mormonism. And indeed, the relationship between material and spiritual within Mormonism is quite unique (as the author describes it), and perhaps why transhumanism isn’t so far-fetched as a logical evolution of their religion for some Mormons.

Whatever your view on religion or transhumanism, this is an interesting read with a lot of ideas to sit with and consider from a philosophical perspective – perhaps even from a spiritual one.


Bill Gates’s vision for life beyond the coronavirus

Jakkii says: In 2015, Bill Gates was giving TED Talks telling us that we weren’t ready for the next outbreak. 2020 has shown he was right.

This podcast and transcript on Vox is a great interview with Bill Gates ). For me, the title was a little misleading – I went into it thinking the discussion would take a different shape, looking at how we might change as a society at large, post-pandemic. By and large, however, the focus of this discussion is on the pandemic and how we move forward from here, including the search for therapeutics and a vaccine, the need for testing, and, of course, the need for global cooperation. Despite my initial confusion, I think there’s some really interesting stuff in here and it’s well worth a listen – or a read (or both). The podcast runs for 50-odd minutes or so which makes the transcript a long read, so make sure you set aside some time over the weekend to sit down and listen or read it over your morning coffee (or afternoon beer).


Around the house

Jakkii says: It’s another week’s worth of things you can do from home! Even as restrictions start to ease a little around the place, for most of us we’ll still be spending most of our time at home, so here are some ways to keep yourself occupied this week while you’re staying safe, and staying home!

Friday Funnies

Misinformation Friday Five

COVID-19 Friday Five

Work Friday Five

Tech Friday Five

Social Media Friday Five

Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: contact tracing with Apple and Google, and the big picture of surveillance during the pandemic. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

The stories this week

01:46 – Apple and Google team up to trace coronavirus cases

12:55 – COVID-19 could re-define the way we collect and share personal data

Other stories we bring up

The 3A Institute led by Professor Genevieve Bell at the Australian National University

Apple and Google team up to ‘contact trace’ the coronavirus

More on Apple and Google’s coronavirus tracking app

Apple, privacy-preserving contract tracing

Coronavirus lockdowns could sooners if Australians are willing to have their movements monitored

Would you give up your data to return to work? Dr Fauci and certificates of immunity

Contact tracing apps adoption

US uses marketing database for tracking

Contact tracing in South East Asia

Singapore’s TraceTogether app

South Korea’s solution reports intimate details

Alipay Health Code in China


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