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Helen Smith

Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at Dr. Helen.

Is a Great Company a Conspiracy to Change the World?

I thought about this as I read Peter Thiel’s new book Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future. The book description is as follows:

The great secret of our time is that there are still uncharted frontiers to explore and new inventions to create. In Zero to One, legendary entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel shows how we can find singular ways to create those new things.

Thiel begins with the contrarian premise that we live in an age of technological stagnation, even if we’re too distracted by shiny mobile devices to notice. Information technology has improved rapidly, but there is no reason why progress should be limited to computers or Silicon Valley. Progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself.

Doing what someone else already knows how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. Tomorrow’s champions will not win by competing ruthlessly in today’s marketplace. They will escape competition altogether, because their businesses will be unique.

Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal, has an interesting chapter on secrets that he opens by stating: “Every one of today’s most famous and familiar ideas was once unknown and unsuspected.” The book asks the reader: “If you find a secret, you face a choice: Do you tell anyone? Or do you keep it to yourself?” Apparently, the best entrepreneurs know that every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside. “A great company is a conspiracy to change the world; when you share your secret, the recipient becomes a fellow conspirator.”

I imagine this “conspiracy” can be used for good or evil. I recently read Joel Kotkin’s new book The New Class Conflict, which described the tech community in Silicon Valley as an oligarchy:

In ways not seen since the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century, America is becoming a nation of increasingly sharply divided classes. Joel Kotkin’s The New Class Conflict breaks down these new divisions for the first time, focusing on the ascendency of two classes: the tech Oligarchy, based in Silicon Valley; and the Clerisy, which includes much of the nation’s policy, media, and academic elites.

Many of these oligarchies use their influence as political propaganda or as a way to keep tabs on their users, not necessarily good “secrets.” I certainly don’t think that is what Thiel meant to have happen with secrets and start-ups but when you look at companies like Google or even YouTube where PC behavior guides their principals, one can’t help but wonder if a “conspiracy to change the world” is always a good thing for customers or if it is just good for the company that promotes it.

Posted at 10:01 am on August 31st, 2014 by Helen Smith

Gender Affects Types of Crashes for Young Drivers

A study finds that the gender of young driver’s plays a role in the types of crashes they are involved in:

(HealthDay News) — The types of vehicle crashes involving young drivers often vary by gender, a new study has found.

Researchers analyzed data from 2007 to 2011 for all crashes involving drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 in Kansas and found a number of differences between male and female drivers.

Young women were 66 percent more likely to wear a seat belt, 28 percent more likely to drive on a restricted license and they had more crashes at intersections and with pedestrians. They were also more likely to have crashes on weekdays.

Young men, on the other hand, had more crashes at night, more off-road crashes and were more likely to have crashes on weekends, according to the study published recently in the Journal of Safety Research.

“There are often different risk factors for young male and young female drivers because their behavior and attitudes are generally different,” lead researcher Sunanda Dissanayake, a civil engineering professor at Kansas State University, said in a university news release.

The article mentions education materials being aimed at each gender to help them reduce car accidents: perhaps more instruction for girls are how to prevent driving errors at intersections and around pedestrians and instructions for guys on why wearing a seat belt is important, though this may or may not work. Any ideas on how to get guys to wear seat belts? It seems to be a big problem for them in fatal crashes.

Posted at 3:50 pm on August 28th, 2014 by Helen Smith

Is Social Security a Weapon of Mass Destruction? Or Just Destroying Our Self-Reliance?

I am reading a new book by Don Watkins entitled Rooseveltcare: How Social Security is Sabotaging the Land of Self-Reliance that says “yes, it is.” From the description:

Today we are at a crossroads. America’s entitlement state is threatening to bankrupt us, and new schemes such as ObamaCare are hastening the collapse. What should we do? In this provocative look at America before and after Social Security, Don Watkins argues that the answer is as simple as it is controversial: Abolish the entitlement state, starting with the retirement program that created it. This is not another book for policy wonks about the financial trouble the entitlement state is in. This is the story of the role that Social Security has played in eroding the eagerness, energy and optimism that once defined America. And it is a guide for fighting back.

Social Security erodes our self-reliance: “By seizing a sizable and ever-growing portion of our income, the entitlement state makes self-reliance more and more difficult. Every dollar the government seizes comes at the expense of your hopes and dreams.” Self-reliance, Watkins states, “provided Americans with the greatest possible freedom and incentive to produce. The entitlement state curtails that freedom and dampens those incentives by taxing work and subsidizing non-work.” The book looks at the history of Social Security in the US and how many Americans are worse off because of it.

What is your view of Social Security: Weapon of Mass Destruction or worth the price to those who pay in?

Posted at 12:31 pm on August 26th, 2014 by Helen Smith

College Men “Going on Strike?”

Amy Alkon:

You’ve come a long way, baby — and then gone all the way back and then some.

Ashe Schow writes in the Wash Ex about the fallout from the campus sexual assault hysteria:

Thanks to an increased focus on sexual assaults on college campuses – mostly due to an overblown statistic claiming 20 percent of college women have been sexually assaulted – young college men are starting to rethink how they talk to women.

At first glance that might seem like a good thing – men learning to be more respectful of women and not be so rapey – but that’s not what this is.

This is about men actually avoiding contact with women because they’re afraid a simple kiss or date could lead to a sexual assault accusation.

Bloomberg reporters John Lauerman and Jennifer Surane interviewed multiple men from colleges like Harvard and Stanford who expressed concern over what was once known as a “hook-up culture” but is now labeled by feminists as “rape culture.” The change in terminology ensures that all responsibility is placed on men, just because of their gender.

Take Malik Gill of Harvard University, who said he wouldn’t even give a female classmate a beer.

“I don’t want to look like a predator,” Gill told Bloomberg. “It’s a little bit of a blurred line.”….

As I’ve written before, women used to demand to be treated as equals; now they demand to be treated like eggshells.

Count me out.

Yeah, me too. We will keep hearing the question from women, “where have all the good men gone?” as they live in their cocoons, never understanding that the guys went on strike a while back and many have left for good. Are college women to blame for this? Yes, because as Martin Luther King says: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. If college women do not understand the injustices they are witnessing against men in our colleges today and strive to help, then they are part of the problem. They reap what they sow.

Posted at 11:07 am on August 25th, 2014 by Helen Smith

Are People Becoming Dumber?

According to the fall in IQ scores, it is certainly a possibility:

Technology may be getting smarter, but humans are getting dumber, scientists have warned.

Evidence suggests that the IQs of people in the UK, Denmark and Australia have declined in the last decade.

Opinion is divided as to whether the trend is long-term, but some researchers believe that humans have already reached intellectual peak…..

The most pessimistic explanation as to why humans seem to be becoming less intelligent is that we have effectively reached our intellectual peak.

Between the 1930s and 1980s, the average IQ score in the US rose by three points and in post-war Japan and Denmark, test scores also increased significantly – a trend known as the ‘Flynn effect’.

Or maybe our school systems and PC Western society just don’t teach people how to think anymore.

Posted at 2:33 pm on August 22nd, 2014 by Helen Smith

The Adventures of Sky Diving, Walking on Fire and Eating Out Alone

52 Things, 52 weeks is a blog where the author describes herself as “Entertainment attorney. IP nerd. Foodie. Coffee lover. Mac enthusiast. Yoga addict. Insomniac. Shutterbug. World traveler.” After reading my recent post, she decides this is the week she will try eating out alone:

Normally when I do something outside of my comfort zone on this blog it involves jumping out of a plane, walking on fire, or plunging into an ice-cold lake. While this week’s post seems mundane by comparison, it actually made me really uncomfortable to think about it. When I saw an article asking “Are You Ashamed to Eat Out Alone?” I decided it was time to mark this one off of the list.

Yes, I’ve grabbed a quick bite here and there by myself before. I have a favorite lunch spot back home that I sneak off to each time I visit and I’ve spent hundreds (probably thousands) of hours studying alone at coffee shops. But I have never gone to a nice restaurant and enjoyed an entire meal alone.

I set up a few ground rules:

How adventurous! Maybe next time, she should take along a copy of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking just to complete the evening.

Posted at 5:37 am on August 19th, 2014 by Helen Smith

Is Suicide Genetic?

Some researchers say yes:

No one could have predicted that Oscar-winning comedian Robin Williams would kill himself.

Or could they?

When someone commits suicide, the reaction is often the same. It’s disbelief, mixed with a recognition that the signs were all there. Depression. Maybe talk of ending one’s life.

Now, by studying people who think about committing suicide, as well as brains of people who actually did, two groups of genome researchers in the U.S. and Europe are claiming they can use DNA tests to actually predict who will attempt suicide.

While claims for a suicide test remain preliminary, and controversial, a “suicide gene” is not as fanciful as it sounds.

The problem is that suicide samples are small and I often wonder how much gender plays a role in the lack of studies and data on suicide:

“We seem to be able to predict suicidal behavior and attempts, based on seeing these epigenetic changes in the blood,” says Kaminsky. “The caveat is that we have small sample sizes.”

Kaminsky says that following the report, his e-mail inbox was immediately flooded by people wanting the test. “They wanted to know, if my dad died from suicide, is my son at risk?” he says….

The bigger problem, says Dracheva, is that there are simply not enough brains of suicide victims to study. Unlike studies of diabetes or schizophrenia, where scientists can call on thousands or tens of thousands of patients, suicide studies remain small, and their findings much more tentative.

It’s because they don’t have DNA from enough people who committed suicide that researchers, including those at Hopkins and Max Planck, have had to try connecting the dots between DNA and whether or not people have suicidal thoughts. Yet there’s no straight line between the contemplation of suicide and actually doing it.

Of the more than 38,000 suicides in this country, over 30,000 are by men, yet the suicide studies remain small? Why?


Cross-posted at PJ Lifestyle

Posted at 5:37 am on August 17th, 2014 by Helen Smith

Do Women Have More Legal Rights Than Men?

Yes, according to Judgy Bitch and here is but one example (thanks to the reader who emailed me the link):

Men may vote if, and only if, they agree they will face death if required. Women have no such obligation, but they do get to vote for the governments that can potentially send men to meet death.

There are other legal rights that women have that men do not that Judgy Bitch lists here.

Posted at 6:49 am on August 14th, 2014 by Helen Smith

“…life is expensive when you have to pay off two ex-wives and have a family to support.”

So says the friend of Robin Williams who was explaining why the actor had to take on roles like Mrs. Doubtfire that he felt were bad for his mental health:

Robin Williams resented having to do a second Mrs Doubtfire film but felt compelled in order to keep money coming in, a close friend of the actor has told the Telegraph.

Williams, who had been working on four projects when he was believed to have taken his own life this week, was said to have been dreading making more films as they “brought out his demons”. …

“Robin had promised himself he would not do any more as he invested so much in his roles that it left him drained and particularly vulnerable to depressive episodes,” the friend told the paper.

“He signed up to do them purely out of necessity. He wasn’t poor, but the money wasn’t rolling in any more and life is expensive when you have to pay off two ex-wives and have a family to support.”

His three children are all of age and his first wife he was divorced from in 1988. It is sad that in his sixties he was still having to take on roles just for a paycheck to pay off two ex-wives. He may not have been a saint, but his life was not his own if he felt forced to take on roles he did not want to possibly provide for grown children or to ex-wives. It appears that even if you are a famous actor, the pressure of being a man in our society and having to provide for others can take its toll. It’s no wonder more men are opting out of marriage for their own mental health for divorce (and marriage) can lead a man to taking on work he would rather not do and other unpleasant duties for a lifetime. Couple this pressure with serious depression and it can end in tragedy.

Posted at 9:56 am on August 13th, 2014 by Helen Smith

The Renegade Psychologist

Mother Jones has a story on the women of the men’s movement with interviews with some of the women in the movement such as Karen Straughan and Suzanne Venkker among others. Though I declined to be interviewed, I was included and described as a “Renegade Psychologist.” Maybe I should print up some new business cards.

Posted at 10:23 am on August 11th, 2014 by Helen Smith