Alexis Assadi on Technology, Anxiety and Unrest

I had a conversation with Alexis Assadi, an entrepreneur, about life in the modern world. We talked about stress management and technological progress. He expresses his desire for automation along with some concerns about it. Read this interview with Alexis Assadi below!

You’ve written previously about battling anxiety. How do you manage stress? Is there a difference between stress and anxiety?

I don’t know the clinical difference between stress and anxiety. However, I view the latter as an ongoing issue that might last for days, weeks or even years. Stress, on the other hand, is more acute. It comes and goes depending on given circumstances.

I deal with stress in a few different ways. When I am worried about something, I try to isolate the facts of the matter from my emotions. From there, I can work towards figuring out a solution. I do that by putting pen to paper and writing out the realities of the situation. It’s a good way to filter out the noise of emotions, which are generally unhelpful.

Once I’ve settled on a solution, I then try to distract myself from whatever I’m stressed about. Right now I’m learning a new language, so practicing the language is a convenient mental exercise that can occupy my mind. I also find that listening to an audiobook can be useful. For me, the key is to avoid rumination.

The world is more interconnected than ever. We are now entering the phase of IOT – the “internet of things,” which will further increase our interconnectivity. Not only will we have instant access to emails, text messages and social media, but we’ll have constant exposure to household items, medical devices and more. Do you look forward to this coming era of technology?

Yes. I embrace technological advancement. On the whole, I think it makes us better informed and more aware of the plights of others. I think it’s also a net positive for the environment. The less we depend on physical objects – like plastic and paper – the more we preserve of the earth.

But with that said, I do have a couple of concerns. First, we are already subjected to disinformation campaigns led by self-serving countries, companies and people. Elections across the world have been impacted by misleading propaganda. Many – if not most – people don’t know how to tell the difference between what’s credible online and what isn’t. I fear that it will only get worse as data highways become faster and more efficient. Information warfare is a major risk. It will divide us more if it remains unchecked.

Second, I worry that technology will continue to displace people. There is an inverse relationship between human utility and technological development. As we grant more power to the digital realm, we give up tasks and responsibilities that we might otherwise perform.

Eventually, the trees will shake themselves out. Humanity will adapt. For example, we will probably have fewer children, knowing that there is less of a reason to have them. This is already happening in the west, where countries are the most technologically advanced. Right now, for instance, the average woman in the UK has less than two children. Two centuries ago, though, people in the west sought as many offspring as possible. Infant mortality was higher then and there was a greater chance that the child may not live a long life. There was also an infinite demand for physical labour.

Today, that pattern mainly occurs in developing countries. Sudan is one of the poorest places in the world. Only 10% of its population are internet users. Consequently, the average woman there has twice as many children as one does from the UK. But as it and other poor nations become wealthier and more digitally connected, their populations will also decline. I believe that’s a good thing.

However, I am concerned about the period of time before societies adapt to the age of all-encompassing internet and digitization. I worry about the next 50 or 100 years. What will happen to those whose jobs are suddenly replaced by automation? Millions could quickly become unemployed. There may be huge social unrest. Governments, businesses and citizens need to be aware of what may lie ahead.

You seem to believe that automation will reduce employment. Others posit that new jobs will be created by it. Why does your view differ?

New jobs will of course be created by automation. Machines will need managers to oversee their activity – similar to how a pilot helps fly a commercial jet, even though much of it is done automatically. But I don’t think enough managerial jobs can be created to offset those that will be lost.

Visit Alexis Assadi’s photo blog!

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