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The Double Squeeze on China’s ‘Sandwich Generation’

Huang Huizhao, Chen Junke and Denise Jia wrote . . . . . . . . .

Yin Fan is a single mom in her late 30s. When she was pregnant with her daughter, her father living in another city was diagnosed with the nervous system disorder multiple system atrophy and quickly lost his ability to walk. As the family’s only child, she had to take care of her baby and her father alone.

Yin belongs to China’s first generation under the old one-child policy, those born between 1976 and 1985, also known as the “sandwich generation.” Now they are trapped with the obligations of caring for their children and aging parents, putting them in financial and emotional binds.

China has more than 170 million such sandwich generation families, according to Feng Xiaotian, a demographic sociology professor at Nanjing University. Growing up in the 1980s, they were often called “little emperors” as they got all the attention at home. But now they have become the most burdened generation, said Mu Guangzong, a professor at the Institute of Population Research of Peking University.

In the past three decades as this generation grew up to have their own families, China has experienced a profound shift into an aging society with fewer children. From 1990 to 2021, Chinese people’s average life expectancy increased from 68.6 years to 78.2. The proportion of people over 65 more than doubled to 13.5% from 5.3%. China’s birthrate dropped below 1% in 2020, and the country is expected to enter a period of negative population growth by 2025.

With parents living longer and with couples having their own children at an older age, the challenges facing sandwich generation families affect not only their own lives but also have ramifications for the rest of society.

Expensive child care

China implemented the one-child policy in 1980 to put a brake on population growth and facilitate economic expansion in a planned economy that faced severe shortages of capital, natural resources and consumer goods. The authorities eased the limit in 2016 to allow each family to have two children. Last year, after a new census showed the birthrate had stalled, China raised the cap to three children.

Money, time and energy deficits are the most common worries sandwich generation families face. Childbirth, especially of a second child, is often the starting point of such crises.

“This is the most stressful time for me,” said Liu Li, a 37-year-old employee of a state-owned enterprise. With his wife working at a bank, they take home 20,000 yuan to 30,000 yuan ($2,900 to $4,300) each month, a decent middle-class income in a small town. But since the birth of their second child, they live paycheck to paycheck.

In today’s China, more and more families with stable jobs and reasonable savings are trapped in financial problems, time crunches or health difficulties due to the burden of raising children, said Zang Qisheng, a professor at Soochow University.

The average cost of rearing a child until the age of 18 was 485,000 yuan in China in 2019, which was 6.9 times China’s per capita GDP, much higher than in many developed countries including the U.S., France, Germany and Japan, according to a report by the YuWa Population Research Institute. The think tank was established by a group of demographers and economists, including economics professor Liang Jianzhang at Peking University.

Child-rearing costs are even higher in large cities, reaching more than 1 million yuan in Shanghai and 969,000 yuan in Beijing.

The pressure of raising children is mainly an economic matter, while caring for the elderly is more of a time and energy issue, said Wang Guangzhou, a researcher at the Institute of Population and Labor Economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. In the next decade, as the parents of the first generation of single-child families enter their 70s and 80s, the elder-care pressure will grow more prominent, he said.

With the trend of late marriage and late childbearing, the double pressure of caring for the elderly while raising young children is more likely to come at the same time. According to the 2019 China General Social Survey, 27% of urban families in China include members who are 60 or older as well as children who are 14 or younger, meaning that one in four families faces this double pressure.

Children first

As it cares for young children and elderly parents, how will the sandwich generation allocate the family’s money, time and human resources?

“Children first” was the conclusion in a study based on a telephone survey of 2,439 urban families in the provinces of Guangdong, Jiangsu and Shaanxi by Sun Yat-sen University and Guangzhou University.

The sandwich generation usually shows a strong sense of responsibility and urgency for its children, said Zhong Xiaohui, a professor at Sun Yat-sen University. However, in terms of elder care, most families lack clear planning and often have to respond on the fly when a parent falls seriously ill. There is a sharp contrast between their rich knowledge of childhood development and their relative ignorance of the elderly, the survey found.

Children become the center of families, and parenting styles tend to be intensive or even excessive, said Yang Juhua, a professor of ethnology and sociology at Minzu University of China. As family resources are limited, it is often the elderly who make concessions, Yang said.

Not only parents but also grandparents often actively shift resources to the children. To cope with the high costs of child care, the sandwich generation normally needs help from parents.

Yang Mo, 61, came to Beijing from her hometown in Anhui province after retirement to help her daughter take care of her newborn. She spends 12 hours a day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. feeding, bathing and playing with the baby as well as cooking and cleaning before handing the child off to her daughter after work, Yang told Caixin.

“I dare not get sick,” she said. “Who would take care of the baby?”

There were about 42 million infants under the age of 3 in China in 2021, and the nursery enrollment rate was only about 5.5%, according to the National Health Commission. The big gap means most families with infants have to rely on grandparents for child care.

Child care costs account for nearly 50% of the average Chinese family’s income, and 80% of children under the age of 3 are cared for by grandparents, said Yang Wenzhuang, director of the commission’s Department of Population Surveillance and Family Development.

As China encourages people to have more children to counter the lowest birthrate since the 1950s, this child care model of relying on grandparents might no longer work. Several studies have found that grandparents are less involved in the care of their second grandchild than the first.

More and more elderly people have their own plans for retirement and are not willing to devote themselves to caring for grandchildren, said Yang at Minzu University of China. Even if they want to, aging makes them unable to, the professor said.

Without grandparents’ help, the burden on the sandwich generation increases, which in turn makes these families unwilling to have more children. In a 2016 survey, 60.7% of mothers who already had one child said they didn’t plan to have a second because of a lack of child care.

From caregivers to care receivers

The more serious challenge is what happens when grandparents are not only unable to help but transition from caregivers to needing care. For the sandwich generation, the worst scenario is that their parents suddenly become severely ill or disabled, physically or mentally.

“It’s not only expensive but also very stressful on your mind,” said Wang at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “It’s not like raising a child, with hope growing every day. Once an elderly person can’t take care of oneself in daily life, the hope is fading every day.”

According to an estimate by the World Bank, China is expected to have 93 million people over the age of 75 by 2030, accounting for 6.6% of the population. By then, there will be more than 77 million disabled elderly in China, who will experience 7.44 years of disability on average, estimated Zheng Xiaoying, director of the Institute of Population Studies at Peking University.

Empty nesters

Can a single child afford the costs of caring for two elderly parents?

According to the 2020 census, 70% of the urban elderly population’s income is from pensions and 17.3% from family support. Parents of the first generation of one-child families living in cities thus generally come close to supporting themselves financially, and their children’s burden is not obvious, said Wu Haixia, a researcher at the Institute of Population Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

But elderly people living in rural areas are not so lucky. In 2019, the annual pension and other income of the rural elderly was about 3,500 yuan. Most rural elderly people have to rely on family support and continue to work to get by. With the reduction of family size, the proportion of family support the elderly can rely on has been decreasing, said Nie Riming, a researcher at think tank Shanghai Institute of Finance and Law.

All the data show that the rural regions are the “disaster areas” in China’s aging population challenge. Nearly half the nation’s over-65 population live in rural areas, according to the latest census.

The trickier question is who will take care of the rural elderly.

A 2014 survey by researchers at Renmin University of China found that nearly half of rural elderly were empty nesters, and 12.54% of them needed various degrees of care.

The main reason for the high proportion of empty nesters in rural areas is that a large number of young and middle-aged people leave their hometowns to work in cities.

When these living-alone elderly become seriously ill, half of them do not seek medical treatment because of mobility problems, being unaccompanied or because they live too far from hospitals — in addition to financial reasons — according to a survey by Wu at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Empty nesters in cities face similar difficulties. According to Feng Xiaotian at Nanjing University, the proportion of empty nesters among the parents of first-generation only children in cities was about 60%, based on a 2015 national survey of 12 cities and a 2016 survey of five towns in Hubei Province,

If a married couple’s parents live in two different cities, that makes it even harder to care for all four parents at the same time, said Nie at Shanghai Institute of Finance and Law. Such cases are particularly common in megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai, where high housing cost is the first problem when children want to bring their parents to live with them, Nie said.

Even for those who are able to live with their elderly parents, inadequate care is a common problem. The primary caregivers for 60% of the disabled elderly in urban areas in China are their children, but more than half of them receive care for less than 36 hours a week, according to a 2019 survey by Li Yunhua and Liu Yanan at Wuhan University’s School of Politics and Public Administration.

Meanwhile, it is difficult for families to find affordable professional care for disabled elderly, Zhong at Sun Yat-sen University and Peng Minggang at Guangzhou University said in a report. China provides few public elderly care services for the average family and few support measures such as subsidies and tax rebates to help families purchase market-oriented care services, they said.

“Honestly speaking, it is almost a problem without a solution for the generation of only children to care for their elderly parents,” a sociology scholar told Caixin. “This is the sorrow of our generation, and our parents.”

Turning old themselves

As the public discussion focuses on child and elder care, the needs and risks of those in the sandwich generation themselves are often overlooked.

To care for their parents, many people have to quit their jobs or choose a lower-paying job with more flexibility. As a result, they suffer a sharp drop in income and the loneliness of social disconnection, Huang Chenxi, deputy dean of the School of Social Development of East China Normal University, found in interviews with caregivers for disabled and mentally ill elders in Shanghai.

Elder care reduces rural women’s access to nonfarm jobs by 13.5%, a negative effect that will continue to expand as the intensity of elder care increases, Fan Hongli and Xin Baoying at Shandong University of Finance and Economics found in a study.

By the time their parents are in their 80s and 90s, the sandwich generation will be in their 50s and 60s. “When they bury their parents, who can they rely on?” asked Jin Jun, a sociology professor at Tsinghua University.

In 2020, China’s social insurance fund, which includes the basic state pension funds run by provincial-level governments, reported the first annual deficit on record. The deficit is expected to grow to 11.28 trillion yuan by 2050, when the peak of the retirement of the sandwich generation hits.

Scholars have long suggested measures by the government to ease the burden on the sandwich generation.

Ma Chunhua, a professor at the Institute of Sociology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, called for the government to play a more active role in providing child care. “Children should be taken care of jointly by the whole society so they can grow up to take care of the whole society in the future, so as to maintain the overall operation of the economy and the continuity of the social security system,” she said at a forum on the aging society.

Supportive policies can’t be achieved overnight, said Chen Jia, a professor at the School of Sociology of Shanghai University. For example, it took decades for Japanese families to accept a long-term care insurance system and fully reap the benefits of the system, Chen said.

At the request of the interviewees, the names of Yin Fan and Yang Mo are pseudonyms.


Source : Nikkei Asia

Yes, It’s a Scam: Simple Tips to Help You Spot Online Fraud

Heather Kelly wrote . . . . . . . . .

Nobody is immune to scams. Criminals are constantly changing them to fit the latest headlines, target our insecurities and slip through even the most well-honed BS detectors.

That means everyone, young and old, can benefit from a refresher on how to spot a text, phone or online scam and what to do next. Because the scams themselves change so fast, it’s also important to keep up on what the latest techniques and topics are so you aren’t caught off guard by a fake-romance text while you are on high alert for robocalls.

Have ‘the talk’ with family members

Do not assume people in your life know how to recognize or respond to scams. Even teenagers, whom we often assume know the most about the internet, are vulnerable. Make sure your family members know they can come to you anytime to gut-check a suspicious direct message or phone call. There’s a lot of shame and embarrassment associated with “falling” for a scam, but this type of deceit is like any other crime and is not the fault of the victim.

Change these settings to minimize scam risks

Make it significantly harder for cybercriminals to target you or family members by changing basic settings. Not everyone will need or want all of these protections.

Make social media private: Set your Facebook, Twitter and other social media profiles to private. If you need a public facing profile, remove information such as your location information and contact information.

Facebook: Limit who can see your friend list or find your profile. A common scam involves creating a fake profile of a real person you know, then messaging you to ask for money. In Facebook, go to Settings & Privacy → Followers and Public Content → select “Who can see the people, pages and lists you follow?” Select Friends or Only Me.

Messenger: Tap your profile photo and select Privacy → Message Delivery. Under Other People, click on Others on Facebook and select Don’t Receive Request. Do the same for Others on Instagram. Under the Potential Connections section, set the categories to Don’t Receive Requests or Message Requests to limit how many tentative connections are able to message you directly.

WhatsApp: Go to Settings → Account → Privacy and limit who can add you to groups and who can see information like your status and personal information.

Phone contacts: Make sure known contacts are added to the phone’s address books so it’s easier to ignore unknown numbers. Next, send unknown callers to voice mail. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message. On an iPhone, go to Settings → Phone → Silence Unknown Callers. This will send anyone you’ve never communicated with straight to voice mail. On an Android device, open the Phone app, locate the menu button (it looks like three dots), tap that, then Settings. Most phones will have options for blocking numbers and caller ID/spam protection in there, although they often go by different names. (If you’re using voice mail to screen calls, make sure the outgoing message is set up and that your inbox isn’t full.)

Maximize your privacy: Most devices and apps have privacy settings you should turn on.

Improve your security: To make sure all of your accounts are as secure as possible.

Know the latest scams

Scammers love to use current events, whether it’s the pandemic or aid for Ukraine. For example, within 24 hours of President Biden’s announcing a program to forgive some student loans, the Federal Trade Commission released a warning about student loan scams.

Knowing what new scams are trending also will help you quickly spot shady activity. You can get updates about the latest scams at sites including Fraud.org. The FTC does a great job of releasing timely consumer alerts, and the AARP’s fraud site is also flush with resources.

Assume that people or companies aren’t who they say they are

It’s easy to imitate a real person or organization. Make it your first instinct to ask yourself: Are they who they claim to be? If you have any doubt, go to the next step.

Verify everything using a different channel

To confirm a person or a company is what it claims to be, you need to look for a different contact method. Don’t trust any contact information included in the original message; instead, find the best way to reach the company entirely on your own, such as looking up and using an official customer service number on a company’s website. If you’re unsure, ask a friend or family member. If you don’t have someone you can call, AARP has a number anyone can call to ask about a possible scam: 877-908-3360.

“Verify, validate, check. If you got a Facebook message, text the person. Got a phone call? Call the bank,” says Caroline Wong, the chief strategy officer at the cybersecurity company Cobalt. “Figure out a different channel from whatever channel you go the message in.”

>h3>Don’t reply, don’t click links, don’t answer the call

Do not engage with possible scams, even if you’re curious. That includes not clicking links from contacts you don’t know. Got a text claiming to be from UPS about a package? Go to the official UPS site instead.

Research the sender’s phone number, email or URLs

Look for any details that will tell you a message is fake, and Google it if you’re unsure. This includes an email address that doesn’t have the right domain (like a message claiming to be from Apple but is not from Apple.com), a link that goes someplace it shouldn’t or a phone number you’ve never seen. On social media or messaging apps, click through to profiles to see whether they were recently created and appear real.

Worried about being rude? Have a script

If you don’t feel comfortable simply hanging up on a stranger or consider doing so to be rude, have a refusal script ready to go, says Amy Nofziger, AARP’s director of fraud victim support. It can be as simple as, “I don’t do business over the phone, thanks for calling.”

Memorize signs that something is a scam

You didn’t initiate the conversation: If a text, direct message, email or call comes out of the blue, it’s far more likely to be a scam.

You won something: Sorry, you did not actually win anything. Skip messages that say you’ve won money or prizes or are getting a refund.

You are panicked: Criminals want to make you think there’s an emergency. If they can get you to act without slowing down and thinking critically, there’s a better chance they’ll succeed. Look for signs in yourself such as a fast heartbeat or sweaty palms.

“Scammers want to create a sense of urgency. They want to get you to act, to use that animal fight-or-flight part of your brain,” says John Breyault, a vice president at the advocacy group the National Consumers League and the director of Fraud.org.

It involves fast payment methods: “Criminals like their money fast, quick and untraceable,” said AARP’s Nofziger. Peer-to-peer payment apps are a current favorite, because they allow money to be transferred instantly without leaving much of a trail, says Nofziger.

If a stranger asks you to pay them (or offers to pay you) in the following ways, it’s likely to be a scam: Peer-to-peer apps such as Venmo, Cash App, Zelle, wire transfer, prepaid gift cards, cryptocurrency or cash. Don’t share your credit card number, either, unless you’ve confirmed through a second form of contact that the matter is legitimate.

There are payment complications: If someone says you owe money, or claims they’re having issue with a transaction to or from you, investigate. In one popular Facebook Marketplace scam, criminals will offer to pay over an app like Zelle, say there’s a problem, then ask for your email address so they can send a fake email and get your info.

They want information: Not all scammers want money; some are trying to get your address, log-ins and passwords, or your Social Security number.

“At the end of the day, scammers are after money or information they can turn into money,” Breyault says.

Something doesn’t feel right: Your gut is your best tool for avoiding scams. If something feels off, ask a family member, call the AARP hotline, or find another form of contact on your own and reach out to confirm whether the overture is legitimate.


Source : Washington Post

Pretty Safe Lies

Bryan Caplan wrote . . . . . . . . .

“But is it safe?” Good economists will scoff that it’s a meaningless question, because safety is always a matter of degree. Nothing in the real world is perfectly safe. Even if you spend your day hiding in your house, you could die of a heart attack, an earthquake, or a home invasion.

In contrast, non-economists – and bad economists – love binary thinking about risk. Everything is either “safe” or “unsafe.” This was blatant during COVID. How many times did you hear the sentences, “Is it safe to reopen restaurants?,” “Is it safe to reopen schools?,” and “Is it safe to fly yet?”

What silly questions! Each activity has a positive probability of catching and spreading COVID – and the probability of bad outcomes rises the more time you spend doing the activity. Politically, however, you couldn’t regain your freedom until an authority gave each silly question an even sillier answer. “Yes, flying is now safe again.”

The most ill-formed COVID question of all was probably, “Is the vaccine safe?” What reasonable people wanted to know was, “Is taking the vaccine now safer than waiting until we run more tests?” What policy-makers kept asking themselves, though, was: “Can we get away with pretending that we know for sure that the vaccine has absolutely no negative health effects for anyone?”

Will the vaccine cause horrible problems in twenty years? We’ll know with near-certainty in about twenty years. For now, all we can honestly say is, “The risk trade-off seems very favorable, especially if you remember that contracting severe COVID also has long-run risks.” Which is good enough to justify vaxxing.

What’s afoot? I once again invoke the World’s Most-Underrated Psychological Theory: Social Desirability Bias. The harsh reality is that safety lies on a continuum, and no one is ever perfectly safe doing anything. These self-evident truths sound bad – and when the truth sounds bad, people lie. When the lies become ubiquitous enough, people start to sincerely believe absurdities. Absurdities like, “X is safe; do as much as you like. Y is unsafe; never do Y.”

Politicians, as usual, weaponize these absurdities. If they want to keep the schools closed, they just declare schools “unsafe.” If they want to open the schools, they just declare the schools “safe.” Either way, they pander to the emotionality of the masses – and avoid math. Almost nothing sounds worse than math. As the demagogues who rule us are well-aware.

How are we supposed to cope in this desert of Social Desirability Bias? Do a little math. Compare unfamiliar risks to familiar risks. Start with: How does this risk compare to the risk of driving? Nor should you crunch the numbers in isolation. Do it with your family, especially your kids. If you don’t lead your family with good math, demagogues will lead it with bad poetry.


Source : Bet On It

Chart: The World’s Most Liveable Cities

Source : Statista

China’s New Marriages Fell to 36-Year Low in 2021 Due to a Lifestyle Shift

Lin Xiaozhao wrote . . . . . . . . .

Fewer people got married in China last year than in the past 36 years as people are pursuing increasingly urban lifestyles.

The number of new marriages dropped by 6 percent to 7.6 million in 2021 from a year earlier, the lowest since 1986, according to the latest data released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. The figure fell below eight million for the first time since 2003.

China’s marriage rate, which measures the number of new marriages per 1,000 residents per year, was 0.54 percent, down by 0.04 percentage point from 2020.

People got hitched later and later in life. The biggest number of new marriages was among those aged above 30, making up more than 48.2 percent of the total, increasing from 46.5 percent. Meanwhile, the second-largest group was those aged from 25 to 29, accounting for 35.3 percent of all, and rising by 0.4 percentage point. Those aged between 20 and 24 made up 16.5 percent of the total, down from 18.6 percent.

The data point to changes in lifestyle. Many young people moved to big cities and faced great pressures involving housing, transportation, and consumption, and this has an impact on love and marriage, said Dong Yuzheng, a director of the Guangdong Academy of Population Development. Still, some of the reasons are internal. Young people are reforming their opinions and attitudes about marriage, Dong added.

However, people are not divorcing as often anymore after the country started a new policy that promotes spouses to think twice about going separate ways. China registered 2.8 million divorces last year, down by almost 35 percent from 2020. The nation implemented a “cooling-off period” on Jan. 1, 2021, to allow potential divorcees to regret within 30 days and stay married.


Source : YiCai Global

Whataboutism or, the Tu Quoque Gambit

B.D. McClay wrote . . . . . . . . .

Cast your mind back for a moment. It is the week after the Oscars, and everybody is talking about one thing: Will Smith slapping Chris Rock, an event practically engineered to generate opinions. For some, however, this cultural focus on a celebrity spat was a problem. “Your periodic reminder that this was the headline a week ago today but you may not have read it because an actor slapped another actor at an awards show,” ran a tweet above a picture of a headline reading “UN warns Earth ‘firmly on track toward an unlivable world.’” “The craziest thing about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock,” went another, “is that for the past 7 years the US and UK have backed a war against Yemen that killed 400,000 civilians and starved 17 million more.”

To such reproaches, there is a stock response that goes like this: “I can walk and chew gum at the same time,” often coupled with attestations of attention paid in the past. If such attestations cannot be produced, other ripostes include reminding your accusers that they do not know you, that you are just one person, and that they should be directing their own hostile attention toward some worthier target. What about that guy? What about his lapses? Why aren’t you so concerned about him? Why are you so mad at me about my consumption of celebrity gossip? Why am I singled out for this particular attention? What is your agenda?

The online term for this move is whataboutism, though more formally it is usually a variant of the tu quoque gambit, in which someone who is outraged by one thing but not visibly outraged by another is called a hypocrite, a bad faith interlocutor, even if no real mismatch between values and actions is present. If you are angered by the treatment of the Uyghurs in China, do you really have standing to be angry, given the treatment of migrants at the United States border or the detainees in Guantánamo? If you think Vladimir Putin suppresses dissent, where is your anger when Twitter or Facebook refuses to allow actors on their platforms whom they believe to spread “misinformation”?

What about whataboutism? Attention is finite, the record of how we spend it public, and it is easy enough to check if somebody who tweets every day about Ukraine has ever tweeted about Yemen. Many people are inclined to give somebody they trust a pass; behavior that might attract loud condemnation of a stranger might be ignored if done by a friend. Sometimes, such inconsistencies, added up, indicate that somebody is untrustworthy, that her commitments are insincere, and that there is something manipulative about her public persona. But most of the time, I would hazard, they indicate that people do not live their lives striving for perfect consistency.

It is unlikely, though not impossible, that someone sickened by China’s campaign against the Uyghurs is indifferent to the plight of migrants or supportive of retaining the detention center at Guantánamo. But it is undeniably true that how somebody feels or posts online is not going to do anything to help any of these people, and even truer that scolding someone about his selective outrage will not.

The Internet, however, has only one currency, and that currency is attention. On the Internet, we endlessly raise awareness, we platform and deplatform, we signal-boost and call out, and we argue about where our attention should be directed, and how. What we pay attention to and the language in which we pay attention are the only realities worth considering, which is one reason why stories are so often framed by the idea that nobody is talking about a problem, when the problem is often quite endlessly talked about—just not solved. Why isn’t the media covering this story? is a common refrain that is just as often accompanied by a link to an article about the story, which is how the complainer learned about it in the first place.

Attention can be paid and registered in many forms, but you pay attention online by making it known that you are paying attention. Your own expenditure is worthless unless other people are paying attention to you. As they do in regard to the currency of the analog world, people feel as though they get to judge how other people pay attention. Even though most actions are undertaken with some idea of gaining attention, to do something out of a blatant desire to attract attention is gauche and discrediting. People whose job is to translate attention into real money—celebrities, “influencers,” and so on—are often left walking a thin and ridiculous line. They must draw attention to some larger event going on in the world lest they be judged selfish, but their attempts to do so mostly underscore that drawing attention to something means very little.

Most scrutiny of how other people spend their money is driven by the zero-sum fact that a buck spent here cannot be spent there. But with attention, the zero-sum fact, as everyone acknowledges, is that one cannot pay attention to everything. Yet lapses in attention are always subject to judgment. Sure, you can’t pay attention to everything. But to this? Now, that is telling.

However, given that attention is finite, in the grand scheme of things, paying attention to what other people are paying attention to should probably rank pretty low in budgetary priorities. But since attention is also, as currencies go, pretty worthless when it comes to solving any real problem, it is most profitably spent harassing other people. Malicious intent or willful lack of attention can be diagnosed through any number of avenues: simply not tweeting about a subject, or tweeting about the wrong subject at the wrong time, or drawing attention to the wrong thing at the wrong time.

What is perhaps most frustrating about the deployment of whataboutism is that some form of it is in fact a necessary moral appeal. In the early days of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I sometimes saw people bringing up the situation in Yemen. That situation is indeed horrifying, and it is one in which the United States is complicit up to its neck. Though it takes a similar form, I do not really consider invoking Yemen to be by itself a form of whataboutism, for one simple reason: It is an effort to widen the sphere of outrage, not to make expressing outrage impossible. The point is not that individuals have no standing to express the view that Russia’s actions toward Ukraine are deplorable unless they have hitherto condemned every misdeed of the United States, but that their moral instincts should not stop at Russia’s actions.

Ideally, a widening moral sympathy should also involve new spheres of action, but sometimes, maybe most of the time, it does not. What an everyday American can do about the situation in Yemen is hardly clear. Attention is so highly prized in the world of online manners partly and precisely because action itself is so limited. The images coming out of Ukraine are gut wrenching, but there is nothing most Americans can do except donate to an international aid organization. Any individual can boycott cotton produced by the forced labor of Uyghurs, but absent a broader organized movement, a boycott serves only to reduce personal complicity without making anybody’s life better. And even a broader movement may barely shift the needle.

But the other great crime of whataboutism is that it solidifies the online sense that the appearance of paying attention is paramount—not actually paying attention. It is true that we have a moral duty not to ignore the suffering of others, even if attention itself is not the highest good or an especially efficacious one. Most forms of paying attention involve reading and listening, not talking. Caring about something and staying informed is not synonymous with public speech about it. The paranoid impulse to believe that everybody is judging you for what you do and do not talk about is as corrosive as always targeting people’s motives and only rarely their claims.

As a remedy, I propose a solution that, like many antidotes, involves a little of the original poison. When somebody accuses another person of selective attention, ask yourself how often you have seen this particular person default to that retort, and how often you have seen him engage with the other person’s claims. If you come to the conclusion that the accuser is generally fixated on motives, add him to a little list titled “Clowns.” Remove the clowns from your sphere of attention, and keep the people whom you judge to be worth taking seriously. Repeat as often as necessary. Then log off.


Source : Hedge Hog Review

Why Young Chinese Are Learning to Live in the Now

Huang Wan wrote . . . . . . . . .

Last month, a popular Chinese blogger shared the story behind his recent weight gain. After years as a disciplined diner, avoiding oily, salty foods in favor of more nutritious fare, he had started eating what he wanted, when he wanted it.

In his post, he described his earlier eating habits as a product of the values that were instilled in him and millions of other Chinese from childhood. It wasn’t just about thrift, but also about keeping in good shape and being ready for whatever the future had in store. More recently, however, he had come to view this outlook as untenable. After a series of unexpected incidents had occurred in his life and in the lives of his friends — everything from injuries to bankruptcy and unemployment — he began to wonder what the point of preparing for the future was when even the present could be so unpredictable.

He’s far from the only person to feel this way. Youth unemployment is nearing 20%. The tech giants that drove so much of China’s private sector growth over the last decade are considering layoffs. And real estate, once a reliable asset, is teetering on the edge. Trapped between COVID-19 lockdowns and a slowing economy, many Chinese are questioning the purpose of preparing for a future that — for potentially the first time in their lives — feels less bright than the present.
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Not everyone is ready to throw caution to the wind, of course. If anything, the desire for safety and stability is stronger than ever. Uncertainty has fueled a rise in the number of people taking the civil service exam. After decades of chasing the high salaries and relative freedom of the private sector, Chinese once again crave the stability of the “iron rice bowl”: a lifetime job at a government-affiliated institution.

But civil service jobs are few and far between. In 2021, one post drew over 1,000 applicants. For the vast majority, a stable future feels out of reach.

What’s left is a vague sense of disillusionment, one that has driven a dramatic shift away from preparing for the future and toward living in the present.

This shift did not begin with the pandemic. Even prior to COVID-19, China’s economy was struggling to find a new growth engine capable of maintaining the staggering growth of the 1990s and 2000s. And there were signs that young Chinese were increasingly unwilling to make the kind of total commitment to work that private companies had grown accustomed to. A 2018 LinkedIn survey, for example, found that the average respondent born after 1995 quit their first job after just seven months.

This shift is also reflected in people’s apathy toward marriage and childbirth. Family formation has always been the most significant long-term promise — and investment — in an individual’s life. In a survey of Chinese families conducted by the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics last year, nearly 80% of respondents expressed no interest in having children.

I’ve found similar attitudes in my own research on Chinese fertility intentions. As one married but childless interviewee told me, “Taking care of myself is difficult enough.” A growing number of Chinese people now see the nuclear family, once a symbol of stability, as a source of risk that they would rather avoid.

In a 2014 interview with Chinese outlet Jiemian, anthropologist Xiang Biao famously described the Chinese people’s striving attitudes over the past decades of rapid economic growth as a kind of “suspension.” “Philosophically, we do not conduct in-depth reflection about the present,” he explained. “Everything we do now is aimed at transcending the present and achieving a specific future goal. The present has no meaning in and of itself. Instead, it is solely a means.”

Ironically, the embrace of short-term thinking underway among young Chinese could be read as a kind of liberation from this suspended state — a return to the present. With nothing solid to look forward to, people want to enjoy themselves while they can.

Will this short-termism become a long-term belief? I doubt it. As with so many of other recent trends — from “naked resignations” to “lying flat” — short-term thinking is itself a kind of a privilege, one limited to those people still have ample time and resources to enjoy their life. Ultimately, the majority will continue to be subject to the gravitational pull of economic necessity. Only 29% of the 10.76 million students who graduated from university this year had found jobs by the end of May. For all the complaints about corporate work hours, a recent survey found that 90% of respondents born in the 2000s were willing to work overtime.

Almost every living generation of Chinese can claim its share of turmoil and trauma. In a sense, this makes today’s twenty-somethings even more unique. As perhaps the first generation in the past two centuries with no firsthand experience of war, hunger, or economic contraction in their childhood and adolescence, they are largely unprepared for the current malaise. After a lifetime of continuous development and annual GDP growth rates of 6% or higher, what do you do when growth drops to 0.4%, as it did in the second quarter of 2022?

In a recent interview with Chinese media, Richard Koo, an influential economist known for his research on both Japan’s “lost decade” and the 2008 global financial crisis, warned that China needed to prepare for a slow-growth future. “During periods of rapid economic growth, everything should be devoted to ensuring development is quick and high-quality,” he said. “Because that growth will undoubtedly slow down in five or 10 years.”

What happens when suspension becomes free fall? The 19th century French sociologist Emile Durkheim called the phenomenon of once-unifying beliefs being questioned and abandoned, but not yet replaced with a new consensus, “anomie.” Its consequence, according to Durkheim, is that people become disoriented, frustrated, and lack a sense of purpose and direction. China’s not at that point yet. But as time passes and the risk of recession grows, more and more people may start to wonder: What, if anything, comes next?


Source : Sixth Tone

What Is Effective Altruism?

Introduction

Effective altruism is a project that aims to find the best ways to help others, and put them into practice.

It’s both a research field, which aims to identify the world’s most pressing problems and the best solutions to them, and a practical community that aims to use those findings to do good.

This project matters because, while many attempts to do good fail, some are enormously effective. For instance, some charities help 100 or even 1,000 times as many people as others, when given the same amount of resources.

This means that by thinking carefully about the best ways to help, we can do far more to tackle the world’s biggest problems.

Effective altruism was formalized by scholars at Oxford University, but has now spread around the world, and is being applied by tens of thousands of people in more than 70 countries.

People inspired by effective altruism have worked on projects that range from funding the distribution of 200 million malaria nets, to academic research on the future of AI, to campaigning for policies to prevent the next pandemic.

They’re not united by any particular solution to the world’s problems, but by a way of thinking. They try to find unusually good ways of helping, such that a given amount of effort goes an unusually long way. Here are some examples of what they’ve done so far, followed by the values that unite them:

What are some examples of effective altruism in practice?

Preventing the next pandemic

Why this issue?

People in effective altruism typically try to identify issues that are big in scale, tractable, and unfairly neglected.2 The aim is to find the biggest gaps in current efforts, in order to find where an additional person can have the greatest impact. One issue that seems to match those criteria is preventing pandemics.

Researchers in effective altruism argued as early as 2014 that, given the history of near-misses, there was a good chance that a large pandemic would happen in our lifetimes.

But preparing for the next pandemic was, and remains, hugely underfunded compared to other global issues. For instance, the US invests around $8bn per year preventing pandemics, compared to around $280bn per year spent on counterterrorism over the last decade.

Preventing terror attacks is certainly important. But the scale of the issue seems smaller. For instance, in the last 50 years, around 500,000 people have been killed by terrorism. But over 21 million people were killed by COVID-19 alone4 – or consider the 40 million killed by HIV/AIDS.

Not to mention, a future pandemic could easily be much worse than COVID-19: there’s nothing to rule out a disease that’s more infectious than the Omicron variant, but that’s as deadly as smallpox.

In effective altruism, once a big and neglected problem has been identified, the community looks for solutions that have a chance of making a big improvement, and are neglected by others working on that issue, which brings us to…

Some examples of what’s been done

In 2016 Open Philanthropy – a foundation inspired by effective altruism – became the largest funder of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, which is one of the few groups doing research to identify better policy responses to pandemics, and was an important group in the response to COVID-19.

When COVID-19 broke out, members of the community founded 1DaySooner, a non-profit that advocates for human challenge trials. In this type of vaccine trial, healthy volunteers are deliberately infected with the disease, enabling near-instant testing of the vaccine. As one of the only advocates for this intervention, 1DaySooner has signed up over 30,000 volunteers, and played an important role in starting the world’s first COVID-19 human challenge trial. This model can be repeated when we face the next pandemic.

Members of the effective altruism community helped to create the Apollo Programme for Biodefense, a multibillion dollar policy proposal designed to prevent the next pandemic.

Providing basic medical supplies in poor countries

Why this issue?

It’s common to say that charity begins at home, but in effective altruism, charity begins where we can help the most. And this often means focusing on the people who are most neglected by the current system – which is often those who are more distant from us.

Over 700 million people live on less than $1.90 per day. In contrast, an American living near the poverty line lives on 20 times as much, and the average American college graduate lives on about 107 times as much. This places them in the top 1.3% of income, globally speaking. (These amounts are already adjusted for the fact that money goes further in poor countries.)

Global inequality is extreme. Because of this, transferring resources to the very poorest people in the world can do a huge amount of good. In richer countries like the US and UK, governments are typically willing to spend over $1 million to save a life.10 This is well worth doing, but in the world’s poorest countries, the cost of saving a life is far lower.

GiveWell is an organization that does in-depth research to find the most evidence-backed and cost-effective health and development projects. It discovered that while many aid interventions don’t work, some, like providing insecticide-treated bednets, can save a child’s life for about $5,500 on average. That’s 180 times less.

These basic medical interventions are so cheap and effective that even the most prominent aid sceptics agree they’re worthwhile.

Some examples of what’s been done

Over 110,000 individual donors have used GiveWell’s research to contribute more than $1 billion to its recommended charities, supporting organisations like the Against Malaria Foundation, which has distributed over 200 million insecticide-treated bednets. Collectively these efforts are estimated to have saved 159,000 lives.

In addition to charity, it’s possible to help the world’s poorest people through business. Wave is a technology company founded by members of the effective altruism community, which allows people to transfer money to several African countries faster and several times more cheaply than existing services. It’s especially helpful for migrants sending money home to their families, and has been used by over 800,000 people in countries like Kenya, Uganda and Senegal. In Senegal alone, Wave has saved its users hundreds of millions of dollars in transfer fees – around 1% of the country’s GDP.

Helping to create the field of AI alignment research

Why this issue?

People in effective altruism often end up focusing on issues that seem counterintuitive, obscure or exaggerated. But this is because it’s more impactful to work on issues that are neglected by others (all else equal), and the issues that are neglected by others are more likely to be unconventional or counterintuitive. One example is the AI alignment problem.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is progressing rapidly. The leading AI systems are now able to engage in limited conversation, solve college-level maths problems, explain jokes, generate extremely realistic images from text, and do basic coding.14 None of this was possible just ten years ago.

The ultimate goal of the leading AI labs is to develop AI that is as good as, or better than, human beings on all tasks. It’s extremely hard to predict the future of technology, but various arguments and expert surveys suggest that this achievement is more likely than not this century. And according to standard economic models, once general AI can perform at human level, technological progress could dramatically accelerate.

The result would be an enormous transformation, perhaps of similar or greater significance to the industrial revolution in the 1800s. If handled well, this transformation could bring about abundance and prosperity for everyone. If handled poorly, it could result in an extreme concentration of power in the hands of a tiny elite.

In the worst case, we could lose control of the AI systems themselves. Unable to govern beings with capabilities far greater than our own, we would find ourselves with as little control over our future as chimpanzees have control over theirs.

This means this issue could not only have a dramatic impact on the present generation, but also on all future generations. This makes it especially pressing from a “longtermist” perspective, a school of thinking within effective altruism which holds that improving the long-term future is a key moral priority of our time.

How to ensure AI systems continue to further human values, even as they become equal (or superior) to humans in their capabilities, is called the AI alignment problem, and solving it requires advances in computer science.

Despite its potentially historical importance, only a couple of hundred researchers work on this problem, compared to tens of thousands working to make AI systems more powerful.

It’s hard to sum up the case for the issue in a few paragraphs, so if you’d like to explore more, we’d recommend starting here, here and here.

Some examples of what’s been done

One priority is to simply tell more people about the issue. The book Superintelligence was published in 2014, making the case for the importance of AI alignment, and became a New York Times best-seller.

Another priority is to build a research field focused on this problem. For instance, AI pioneer Stuart Russell, and others inspired by effective altruism, founded The Center for Human-Compatible AI at UC Berkeley. This research institute aims to develop a new paradigm of AI development, in which the act of furthering human values is central.

Others have helped to start teams focused on AI alignment at major AI labs such as DeepMind and OpenAI, and outline research agendas for AI alignment, in works such as Concrete Problems in AI Safety.

Ending factory farming

Why this issue?

People in effective altruism try to extend their circle of concern – not only to those living in distant countries or future generations, but also to non-human animals.

Nearly 10 billion animals live and die in factory farms in the US every year16 – often unable to physically turn around their entire lives, or castrated without anaesthetic.

Lots of people agree we shouldn’t make animals suffer needlessly, but most of this attention goes towards pet shelters. In the US, about 1,400 times more animals pass through factory farms than pet shelters.

Despite this, pet shelters receive around $5 billion per year in the US, compared to only $97 million on advocacy to end factory farming.

Some examples of what’s been done

One strategy is advocacy. The Open Wing Alliance, which received significant funding from funders inspired by effective altruism, developed a campaign to encourage large companies to commit to stop buying eggs from caged chickens. To date, they have won over 2,200 commitments, and as a result over 100 million birds have been spared from cages.

Another strategy is to create alternative proteins, which if made cheaper and tastier than factory farmed meat, could make demand disappear, ending factory farming. The Good Food Institute is working to kick-start this industry, helping to create companies like Dao Foods in China and Good Catch in the US, encouraging big business to enter the industry (including JBS, the world’s largest meat company) and securing tens of millions of dollars of government support.

Open Philanthropy was an early investor in Impossible Foods, which created the Impossible Burger – an entirely vegan burger that tastes much more like meat, and is now sold in Burger King.

Improving decision-making

Why this issue?

People who want to do good often prefer to directly tackle problems, since it’s more motivating to see the tangible effects of their actions. But what matters is that the world gets better, not that you do it with your own two hands. So people applying effective altruism often try to help indirectly, by empowering others.

One example of this is by improving decision-making. Namely: if key actors — such as politicians, private and third sector leaders, or grantmakers at funding bodies — were generally better at making decisions, society would be in a better position to deal with a whole range of future global problems, whatever they turn out to be.

So, if we can find new, neglected ways to improve the decision-making of important actors, that could be a route to having a big impact. And it seems like there are some promising solutions that could achieve this.

Some examples of what’s been done

Many global problems are exacerbated by a lack of trustworthy information. Metaculus is a forecasting technology platform that identifies important questions (such as the chance of Russia invading Ukraine), aggregates forecasts made by hundreds of forecasters, and weighs them by their past accuracy. Metaculus gave a probability of a Russian invasion of Ukraine of 47% by mid January 2022, and 80% shortly before the invasion on the 24th of February21 – a time when many pundits, journalists and experts were saying it definitely wouldn’t happen.

The Global Priorities Institute at the University of Oxford does foundational research at the intersection of philosophy and economics into how key decision-makers can identify the world’s most pressing problems. It has helped to create a new academic field of global priorities research, creating a research agenda, publishing tens of papers, and helping to inspire relevant research at Harvard, NYU, UT Austin, Yale, Princeton and elsewhere.

What values unite effective altruism?

Effective altruism isn’t defined by the projects above, and what it focuses on could easily change. What defines effective altruism are the values that underpin its search for the best ways of helping others:

Prioritization: Our intuitions about doing good don’t usually take into account the scale of the outcomes — helping 100 people often makes us feel as satisfied as helping 1000. But since some ways of doing good also achieve dramatically more than others, it’s vital to attempt to use numbers to roughly weigh how much different actions help. The goal is to find the best ways to help, rather than just working to make any difference at all.

Impartial altruism: We believe that all people count equally. Of course it’s reasonable to have special concern for one’s own family, friends and life. But, when trying to do as much good as possible, we aim to give everyone’s interests equal weight, no matter where or when they live. This means focusing on the groups who are most neglected, which usually means focusing on those who don’t have as much power to protect their own interests.

Open truthseeking: Rather than starting with a commitment to a certain cause, community or approach, it’s important to consider many different ways to help and seek to find the best ones. This means putting serious time into deliberation and reflection on one’s beliefs, being constantly open and curious for new evidence and arguments, and being ready to change one’s views quite radically.

Collaborative spirit: It’s possible to achieve more by working together, and doing this effectively requires high standards of honesty, friendliness, and a community perspective. Effective altruism is not about ‘ends justify the means’ reasoning, but rather is about being a good citizen, while ambitiously working toward a better world.

Anyone who shares these values and is trying to find better ways to help others is participating in effective altruism. This is true no matter how much time or money they want to give, or which issue they choose to focus on.

Effective altruism can be compared to the scientific method. Science is the use of evidence and reason in search of truth – even if the results are unintuitive or run counter to tradition. Effective altruism is the use of evidence and reason in search of the best ways of doing good.

The scientific method is based on simple ideas (e.g. that you should test your beliefs) but it leads to a radically different picture of the world (e.g. quantum mechanics). Likewise, effective altruism is based on simple ideas – that we should treat people equally and it’s better to help more people than fewer – but it leads to an unconventional and ever-evolving picture of doing good.

How can you take action?

People interested in effective altruism most often attempt to apply the ideas in their lives by:

  • Choosing careers that help tackle pressing problems, or by finding ways to use their existing skills to contribute to these problems, such as by using advice from 80,000 Hours.
  • Donating to carefully chosen charities, such as by using research from GiveWell or Giving What We Can.
  • Starting new organizations that help to tackle pressing problems.
  • Helping to build communities tackling pressing problems.


Source : Effective Altruism

Infographic: The Most and Least Livable Cities in 2022

See large image . . . . . .

Source : Visual Capitalist

How to Admit You’re Wrong

Allie Volpe wrote . . . . . . . . .

Julia Strand was confident in her scientific findings when they were published in 2018. Strand’s research showed that when a circular beacon of light was present in a noisy setting, people expended less energy listening to their conversation partner and responded quicker than without the light. The feedback was positive and Strand, an associate professor of psychology at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, had received grant funding to continue her research.

Some months later, however, Strand was unable to replicate her results. In fact, she found the opposite to be true: The light forced people to think harder. Strand had crossed her t’s, dotted her i’s, and showed her work — and still she was wrong.

“The bottom dropped out of my stomach,” Strand says. “It was terrible to realize that I had not just made a mistake, but published a mistake.”

Being wrong is an unavoidable aspect of the human condition. Defining what constitutes “wrong,” however, can get messy. People can be wrong about any multitude of things, from misremembering the name of a ’90s pop song to incorrectly casting blame onto a friend during a heated argument. Mistakes happen on scales big and small, topics tangible and moral or ethical. In the 2010 book Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, author Kathryn Schulz loosely defines being wrong “as a deviation from external reality, or an internal upheaval in what we believe” — with the caveat that wrongness is too vast to fit neatly into either category.

Regardless of its definition, people are often afraid to experience it or hesitant to admit it. From a young age, society instills in children the message of “it’s wrong to hit your sister” and “it’s right to say please and thank you.” As time goes on, this binary “creates this level of perfectionism where it’s really hard to be wrong because it feels like your whole person is inherently wrong,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Moe Ari Brown. “It just puts these value-based labels on every single thing that we’re doing.” In recent years, an entire cottage industry has emerged, devoted to revisiting history in an effort to point out past wrongdoing, showcasing just how much society likes to be right and castigate those who were not.

For Strand, much of her anxiety about her research error centered around not having a model about how to own up to mistakes. However, accepting we’re capable of being wrong and moving on from blunders relatively unscathed can provide solace for a society squeamish about slip-ups.

Barriers to recognizing error

As Schulz writes, “It does feel like something to be wrong. It feels like being right.” Only after a lightbulb moment — like Strand’s after examining her past research — are we enlightened to the error of our ways.

What prevents us from realizing our wrongness is the psychological theory of cognitive dissonance, says Adam Fetterman, assistant professor and director of the Personality, Emotion, and Social Cognition Lab. Cognitive dissonance is when two beliefs or behaviors conflict or when a person’s actions contradict their beliefs. (Examples include smoking despite knowing the health risks or telling a lie despite considering yourself an honest person.) This conflict usually results in anxiety or feelings of uncertainty.

“We’re highly motivated to reduce that uncertainty,” Fetterman says. “Oftentimes, the most common way that people get rid of it is by rejecting the new information or creating a new cognition that basically gets rid of it. Not too often do we actually change our thoughts or behaviors in order to align with the new information.” This can look like only taking in information that confirms already held beliefs, justifying the belief, or denying anything that contradicts their beliefs. “The motivation to reduce that dissonance leads us to even double down or to come back even stronger with our beliefs,” Fetterman says.

When we err, we might risk social ostracism or embarrassment. As social beings, we’re constantly looking for acceptance within groups. Being wrong about something opens us up to criticism from members of those groups. “What I’ve seen in my own research and with other people’s research on the topic of being wrong is that the No. 1 concern people have is that they’re going to be embarrassed or that people are going to think they’re stupid,” Fetterman says. “Admitting that you’re wrong, even to yourself, you have this fear that you’re going to be rejected by your fellow humans.”

The irony is how wrong we are about the perception of being wrong. Fetterman’s research shows admitting wrongness actually improves our reputation. By owning up to our errors, others see us as friendlier and more agreeable. In his lab, Fetterman is studying whether knowing the reputational impacts of admitting wrongness will determine whether people will be more willing to admit they’re wrong in the future. “So we’re trying to subtly teach people about our own research, and then seeing if that affects whether or not they’ll admit they’re wrong in a different situation,” he says.

The wake-up call

Acknowledging errors can happen as quickly as realizing we tapped the wrong person on the shoulder at an event to a years-long process of slowly determining how we previously saw the world was wrong.

Growing up, Anna Chiranova had a specific set of beliefs: “I thought poor people were lazy and the government was full of a bunch of socialist bureaucrats sitting around trying to play Robin Hood with my money,” she says. When she graduated from college, the recession was at its peak. Chiranova worked three jobs, none of which offered health insurance, rented an apartment with roommates, and made instant ramen stretch to last two meals. “​​I learned pretty quickly that sometimes, no matter how hard you work, there are systemic failures working to keep you down,” Chiranova, who now runs her own video production company, says.

Sometimes we form new beliefs that replace old ones, like Chiranova, or we’re alerted to signals pointing out our wrongness, like a two-hour road trip turning into a seven-hour one thanks to a few wrong turns. Just the systematic presentation of evidence defying our beliefs can help move the needle toward a wake-up call, Fetterman says. “Over time, fact after fact after fact will start to erode people’s beliefs away.”

To come to these realizations, Brown says we have to be open to the fact that we’re capable of making errors and setting our ego aside to accept we live in a world where we’ve faltered or have changed our minds in some way. In fact, Fetterman says, just accepting our own mistakes can allow us to be more open to being wrong.

It’s natural to get defensive or provide excuses for why you were wrong, but “these strategies for deflecting responsibility for our errors stand in the way of a better, more productive relationship to wrongness,” Schulz writes. To admit erroneousness without excuse — to simply state, “I was wrong” — is a skill, Brown says. “It probably is going to come out more as an explanation of why they were doing what they were doing,” Brown says. But with time and practice, we can come to recognize our mistakes without explaining them. The key is to consistently own up to our mistakes as soon as we realize we’re wrong.

The negative ways we view ourselves in the midst of admitting wrongness can be the biggest barriers to moving forward. “We stand in our own way more than anyone else, with shame and regret and fear,” Brown says. “Do we forgive ourselves for not getting it right? Sometimes we can beat up ourselves worse than anyone else. And can we release that need to be right? Can we allow for the fact that we had to apologize?”

Then, if an apology is necessary, Brown says to first acknowledge the wrongdoing and then to apologize without shame by saying, “I know I said hurtful things to you during our argument. I was wrong and I apologize.”

Evan Cruz was so steadfastly dedicated to making his blog a success that he asked his mother, who he lives with, to financially support him, paying for his living expenses and training while he built his platform. Instead, his mother told him to get a job. Tensions came to a head last October when he accused her of not supporting his goals. “She got very angry at me about it and imposed living expenses for what seemed to be just to show me the lesson of appreciation,” Cruz says.

After a few days, Cruz says he began to see things from his mom’s perspective: “I can see why she doesn’t want to support my blogging ventures considering that I haven’t generated a profit yet. Any parent would not support that.” He told his mother he was wrong; she told him to show it in his actions. Cruz got a full-time job as a civil engineer at the Florida Department of Transportation and picked up slack around the house. He says their relationship has since improved.

Use mistakes as an opportunity to model wrongness

Normalizing wrongness can help people more easily come to realizations of their own fallibility. Fetterman is studying what happens when we see someone else admit they’re wrong, especially if they’re in a position of power, like a politician, influencer, or professor. If we see people own up to mistakes and move on from them, it may be that we’re more likely to admit fault ourselves.

When Strand informed her co-authors, the editor of the scientific journal where the study was published, the granting agency, and the committee reviewing her tenure of her mistake, she was relieved that she didn’t lose her grant, and she still got tenure. “My fears about how terrible the consequences of this could have been didn’t play out,” she says. “Seeing that could be useful for other people because if you’ve done something wrong, and you haven’t seen anyone else do that before, it’s very easy to assume that the consequences are going to be terrible.” In an effort to normalize mistakes in scientific research, Strand published an account of her experience and was blown away by the response. “I have been contacted by about a dozen other people who have found mistakes in their own work and said, ‘This actually was really useful for me in figuring out how to deal with this and inspired me to do the right thing.’”

Despite the resistance toward it, wrongness can be cause for celebration. When we own up to the fact that our snide remarks hurt our partner, we can revel in having a productive conversation about it and thus becoming closer. Getting a question wrong in class presents an opportunity to learn. Uncovering a mistake in your work allows you to grow.

“Here’s an opportunity for me to learn something,” Strand says. “Here’s an opportunity for me to fix something.”


Source : Vox