Archive for the ‘Jody’ Category

Switzerland may start paying every adult (whether they work or not) a salary of over $2000 per month, based on the idea that their citizens will have more time to devote to things they are intrinsically interested in, instead of spending the majority of their time worrying about how they are going to survive, as many individuals with entry level positions find it hard to meet their needs. The income initiative promises every Swiss citizen a living wage , so they can always survive without basic financial worry.

The 2,500 francs would work out to be an income of 30,000 Swiss francs per year. Statistics released by the European Union in 2002 showed that Switzerland was the third most expensive country in Europe, after Norway and Iceland, to live in. Switzerland currently has a population of 8.02 million people, equivalent to that of large cities such as the San Francisco Bay Area which has a population of 7.15 million. They pay particularly high prices for meat, cooking oil, fish and vegetables. Basic utilities (electricity, heating, water, garbage) are around 200 francs per month, and the average rent of a one bedroom apartment in the city center runs about 1,400 francs.

“Imagine you are being born and society tells you ‘Welcome, you will be cared for, and asks you what you want to do with your life, what is your calling? Imagine that feeling, that’s a whole different atmosphere “ – Daniel Straub, Co-founder, Basic Income Initiative

Parliament was presented with a petition signed by over 100,000 people, proposing to afford every citizen, regardless if they are working or not, a monthly paycheck of 2,500 Swiss francs. To mark the day, a truck full of 8 million five-cent coins was deposited on the square and spread out in front of the Swiss Parliament in Bern, supporters gathered around and spread the coins out using shovels. A typical fast-food worker in the US earns roughly $1,500 per month. Anything less than that specified amount of 2,500 francs, would be deemed illegal, even for people working in one of the lowest paid jobs.

A date for the vote itself is yet to be confirmed, however, it could take place before the end of this year, depending on the decision of the Swiss government. The money to fund the measure would likely be supplied by the Swiss social insurance system, so in other words it would be taken from taxpayers. We know that the government has no money itself, everything that it gives to others it must first take from others or print it out of thin air. But, are individuals who receive these funds going to be participating tax payers as well? If not, is it safe to assume that the more individuals who rely on this system, and the fewer who are contributing and fueling it, the more unlikely it is to run out of funds? Is this only possible due to Switzerland’s low population and impressive bank profits?

This new system will force business owners to pay their workers a certain wage, regardless if their labor is considered worth less than the stipulated amount. This idea aims to set the minimum standard of living higher, and that is admirable. But this might prompt business owners to take their company elsewhere, to where they have more freedom over the decision of what wages they are going to pay. Of course this would also mean they get no cut whatsoever of the Swiss market. And on the other hand, the new income may also allure new business owners to the country in looks of attracting those new consumers. One prominent CEO in Switzerland has stated that if the measure passes, he would seriously contemplate moving his company out of the country:

“I can’t believe that Switzerland would cause such great harm to its economy,” Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg told the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation.

The unemployment rate currently remains at 3 percent in Switzerland. Switzerland is arguably one of the most stable economies in the world. The nation has built the reputation of having some of the most friendly laws toward foreign investors. Will this measure make more money flow, by putting liquidity in the hands of those more prone to putting it back in the economy, or will it drive investors away and cause the Swiss economy to stumble?

http://themindunleashed.org/2014/03/swiss-pay-basic-income-2500-francs-per-month-every-adult.html

Thanks to Jody Troupe for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

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Ellie is a creation of ICT, and could serve as an important diagnostic and therapeutic tool for veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

By Alastair Leithead
BBC News, Los Angeles

The University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies is leading the way in creating virtual humans. The result may produce real help for those in need.

The virtual therapist sits in a big armchair, shuffling slightly and blinking naturally, apparently waiting for me to get comfortable in front of the screen.

“Hi, I’m Ellie,” she says. “Thanks for coming in today.”

She laughs when I say I find her a little bit creepy, and then goes straight into questions about where I’m from and where I studied.

“I’m not a therapist, but I’m here to learn about people and would love to learn about you,” she asks. “Is that OK?”

Ellie’s voice is soft and calming, and as her questions grow more and more personal I quickly slip into answering as if there were a real person in the room rather than a computer-generated image.

“How are you at controlling your temper?” she probes. “When did you last get into an argument?”

With every answer I’m being watched and studied in minute detail by a simple gaming sensor and a webcam.

How I smile, which direction I look, the tone of my voice, and my body language are all being precisely recorded and analysed by the computer system, which then tells Ellie how best to interact with me.

“Wizard of Oz mode” is how researcher Louis-Philippe Morency describes this experiment at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT).

In the next room his team of two are controlling what Ellie says, changing her voice and body language to get the most out of me.

Real people come in to answer Ellie’s questions every day as part of the research, and the computer is gradually learning how to react in every situation.

It is being taught how to be human, and to respond as a doctor would to the patients’ cues.

Soon Ellie will be able to go it alone. That opens up a huge opportunity for remote therapy sessions online using the knowledge of some of the world’s top psychologists.

But Dr Morency doesn’t like the expression “virtual shrink”, and doesn’t think this method will replace flesh-and-blood practitioners.

“We see it more as being an assistant for the clinician in the same way you take a blood sample which is analysed in a lab and the results sent back to the doctor,” he said.

The system is designed to assess signs of depression or post-traumatic stress, particularly useful among soldiers and veterans.

“We’re looking for an emotional response, or perhaps even any lack of emotional response,” he says.

“Now we have an objective way to measure people’s behaviour, so hopefully this can be used for a more precise diagnosis.”

The software allows a doctor to follow a patient’s progress over time. It objectively and scientifically compares sessions.

“The problem we have, particularly with the current crisis in mental health in the military, is that we don’t have enough well trained providers to handle the problem,” says Skip Rizzo, the associate director for medical virtual reality at the ICT.

“This is not a replacement for a live provider, but it might be a stop-gap that helps to direct a person towards the kind of care they might need.”

The centre does a lot of work with the US military, which after long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has to deal with hundreds of thousands of troops and veterans suffering from various levels of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We have an issue in the military with stigma and a lot of times people feel hesitant talking about their problems,” he says. A virtual counselling tool can alleviate some of this reluctance.

“We see this as a way for service members or veterans to talk openly and explore their issues.”

The whole lab is running experiments with virtual humans. To do so, it blends a range of technologies and disciplines such as movement sensing and facial recognition.

Dr Morency has won awards for his work into the relationship between psychology and minute physical movements in the face.

“People who are anxious fidget with their hands more, and people who are distressed often have a shorter smile with less intensity. People who are depressed are looking away a lot more,” he says.

Making computer-generated images appear human isn’t easy, but if believable they can be powerful tools for teaching and learning. To that end, the lab is involved in several different projects to test the limits and potential of virtual interactions.

In the lab’s demonstration space a virtual soldier sits behind a desk and responds to a disciplinary scenario as part of officer training.

The team have even built a Wild West style saloon, complete with swinging doors and bar.

Full-size characters appear on three projection screens and interact with a real person walking in, automatically responding to questions and asking their own to play out a fictional scenario.

Downstairs, experiments are creating 3D holograms of a human face.

Throughout the building, the work done is starting to blur the lines between the real world and the virtual world.

And the result just may be real help for humans who need it.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22630812

Many thanks to Jody, for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

Check out this time-lapse view from space of all the large aircraft flights around the world during a 24-hour period

This video tracks (in yellow) all the major airplane activity occurring around the world over 24 hours, in just over one minute. Note how crazy-busy the air space over the United States and all of Europe is both night and day (see how the shadow of night crosses the map).

Thanks to Jody for contributing this to the It’s Interesting community.