What Is The Value Of Boredom?

Most of us will go to great lengths to avoid boredom for even a moment. But is there a benefit to being bored?

Let’s face it, it is no fun to be bored. In our culture that is so focused on being productive, having down time when you are not doing anything can seem like a colossal waste of time.

Technology to the rescue! With our smartphones, while waiting in line, for example, you can check your email, or scroll through your social media feed. Of course, you don’t have to be technologically savvy to avoid boredom. You can just as easily carry a book with you wherever you go.

While smartphones don’t have a monopoly on avoiding boredom, they make it very easy. The entire internet is available with the touch of a button. That’s never been true in human history before, and it shouldn’t be ignored. If we don’t want to be alone with our own thoughts, we don’t have to be.

However, is there actually an upside to boredom? Even though it feels unproductive and almost painful at times, could there be a benefit in being alone with your own thoughts?

It certainly seems possible. Many people find value in meditation, to improve mental health among other benefits. For some, meditation is actively doing nothing. No phone, no speaking. No activity, other than breathing. The goal is to be comfortable with doing nothing.

In addition, creativity is enhanced through boredom. Mothers everywhere know that children, when bored, find creative ways to entertain themselves.

What other positives might there be to being bored? Should we actively seek out boredom, at least once and awhile?

Related questions: When is it useful to fail? What is the value of inefficiency? Are we too busy? What do you think about when out for a walk?

What Technology Is A Force For Good?

Much of the conversation surrounding emerging or existing technologies often focuses on worst-case uses. But what are some of the ways technology can be used for improving the future?

There have been many warnings surrounding Artificial Intelligence, or A.I. From job replacement, to increased potential for spreading misinformation, to accusations of plagiarism or even intellectual laziness, the dangers are many. Warning bells have come from a variety of different sources, and some predictions are quite bleak, indeed.

Existing technologies can also have negative consequences.

The Internet has only been in use for a few decades, but some blame it for the increased polarization throughout the world. Misinformation and propaganda seem to spread more quickly than facts and logic. Social media platforms keep us in our own echo chambers. It is easier to find and target people for scams, and conspiracy theories abound. It is a far cry from the educational potential the Internet initially had.

In fact, you can go all the way back to the start of the industrial revolution to see the seeds of our current climate crisis. The burning of fossil fuels made production and distribution cheap and easy, but a warming planet is an unintended side effect.

These are all examples of technology introducing or exacerbating problems. However, there is no doubt that our world has used our growing mechanical know-how for good occasionally. Can you think of some examples of positive outcomes that come from science and engineering advances? And in what ways might the emerging technologies transform our world for the better?

Related questions: What role does technology play in your life? Is technology neutral? What skills have you lost due to technology? Why does social media often bring out the worst in us?

How Accurate Is Your Algorithm?

Most people these days have an active online life. In that life, much of the online content is delivered via algorithm. Is that algorithm any good?

Of course, different websites employ different algorithms. The basic idea is the same in each case, however: if you like this thing, you will also like this other thing.

These programs appear just about everywhere online. For example, when you watch a YouTube video, a YouTube algorithm suggests other videos that you may also want to watch.

Not only are these programs ubiquitous, they are crucial to any good website. In the above example, if the YouTube algorithm does not suggest videos you actually want to watch, then you may leave the platform altogether. So, from YouTube’s perspective, it is vitally important that the algorithm work as intended.

What may not be quite so obvious, however, is how important it is to you. There are so many videos available on YouTube that it is impossible to watch them all. In fact, without some way of singling out videos that have some interest to you, you would almost certainly become overwhelmed.

Of course, it is not just YouTube that employs an algorithm to deliver content. Social media sites do it as well. They may suggest other accounts you may want to follow, or posts you may want to see. Online stores use them to practice a modern-day version of an ages old technique of up-selling. Online advertisements, which use cookies to track your browsing habits, can be tailor made to get you to buy something.

In your experience, are these algorithms any good? Does Netflix suggest TV shows and movies that you actually want to watch? Does Amazon recommend products that actually end up in your shopping cart? Is your Facebook feed made up of posts that interest you?

How accurate is your algorithm?

Related questions: What makes us comment on social media? What do you get out of social media? How does technology influence your emotions? How does media manipulate you?

How Does Technology Influence Your Emotions?

The technology we use in our everyday life is rapidly changing. In what ways are our emotions influenced by that technology?

The last century has seen the introduction of revolutionary technology, from the television to the Internet to the smartphone. These devices are used by most people every single day, often obsessively so.

In turn, our brains, which evolved without these influences, are reacting to and being shaped by this use. In particular, our emotions are being targeted by advertisers, media companies, and other people.

As you go about your day, can you think of ways your emotions are engaged via technology?

Positive emotions, like joy, love, happiness, and glee might be triggered in a number of ways. Seeing pictures of family members hundreds or even thousands of miles away might bring a smile to your face. The use of GPS might get you to your destination quickly and safely. You might laugh at a shared online joke or meme.

Of course, negative emotions are also being influenced. Cable news gets you to stay tuned by presenting scary news items. Advertisers make you feel envy toward others to get you to buy goods and services. You might also, at times, feel anger, jealousy, and lust.

How are your emotions influenced by our modern-day technology? What might you do to limit that influence, or at least not be controlled by it?

Related questions: Is technology neutral? What role does technology play in your life? What skills have you lost due to technology? What is the right amount of emotion? How does media manipulate you?