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The Proverbial Skeptic's 5 Buzzwords to Stop Using in 2014
If we want to fail fast and fail hard, we should be sure to be mindful about disrupting gurus of innovation.
No matter how many times I write a post attacking an old adage, or a seemingly wise aphorism, or a grammatically or morally wrong modern usage, I never run out of material to be proverbially skeptical about. (read: wordy and curmudgeonly)
Why? Because, of course, of corporate buzzwords.
There is a scene in an old episode of The Simpsons from 1997 which depicts a corporate meeting held to create a new cartoon character (Poochie, who ends up being voiced by Homer). The executives in the meeting keep throwing out buzzwords until a writer, clearly fed up that the conversation is going nowhere, interrupts to say "Excuse me, but 'proactive' and 'paradigm'? Aren't these just buzzwords that dumb people use to sound important? Not that I'm accusing you of anything like that. I'm fired, aren't I?"
But that was 1997. It's a new year, and it's also National Hangover Day, so, as The Proverbial Skeptic, it is only right for me to suggest some resolutions. People don't say "paradigm" or "proactive" or the all-time classic, "synergy", anymore. But, they do say these words, which I not-so-humbly suggest we all resolve to kick out of our culture in 2014:
This word has become ubiquitous in 2013, which is too bad because it doesn't mean anything useful. It's closely related to the "entrepreneur" of the previous few years, but it's even more vapid. There are two main things wrong with it, besides that it is unnecessarily bandied about by people who want to seem technical and forward-thinking.
For one, it's not a universal good to innovate, even in the corporate world. Sure, businesses like Apple and 3M and whatever it is Elon Musk is doing this week (wearable solar panels to power mach-5 electric blimps?) rely on the release of a steady stream of new products and services to stay profitable and competitive. But, plenty of businesses simply need to make a quality product that fills a market niche and that stays abreast of current technology and then to just keep up the good work (Viking Ovens, my local bagel shop).
Also, and this is the big one, the term is just overused. Look at the sheer amount of recent books with the word innovation in their titles on Amazon. And the breadth with which people use it renders it completely meaningless.
Every time any minor thing changes, at a big corporation or anywhere else, it isn't necessarily "innovative", it's just different.
These are all good reasons to stop using "innovative" all the time. Plus, it's annoying.
I have a very funny cousin who works in finance in Silicon Valley. Through him, I hear all of the fad-iest and silliest yuppie buzzwords early. But even being used to this, I still didn't believe him the first time I heard that swaths of the more "innovative" types in the tech world had started signing off their emails with "Fail fast, fail often".
But despite my incredulity, 2013 nevertheless saw the rise of "failing" as a lionized and touted activity. There is even a whole book about it. I don't mean to say that there is nothing at all in the idea that experimentation is useful and that people should not be considered unhireable or untrustworthy if they have overseen a daring but failed enterprise. Experimentation and trial and error are the most inveterate methods for figuring things out and improving things, and they have been since the enlightenment or before. That's why it's just so damn smug and irritating how counter-intuitive and tolerant and modern people who say this think they are being.
Everyone's a guru these days.
This Forbes article even blithely uses the phrase "professors, CEOs and other gurus" as if it is obvious that anybody who talks about anything with even a modicum of self-ascribed expertise meets the definition of the term. We, or at least I, take this pretty much for granted at this point, but it's a new trend and it's odd. "Guru" is the Sanskrit word for teacher or master, and it has long been used for Eastern spiritual leaders with followers, and there is no reason to adopt it in "The West" to describe anyone who hopes one day to give a TED talk.
"Disruption", a lot like "innovation", has become ubiquitous in the business world, which seems to have somehow just discovered this year that change equals good equals profit.
I would love to give some great cringe-worthy examples of its use, and to take it apart and to explain why it has come to be a harmful rather than helpful. But, unfortunately for me and fortunately for you, this Slate article called Disrupting Disruption, by the always-insightful Matthew Yglesias, has already done so as well as I could possibly hope to. I urge you to read it.
If there is subject about which you can sell people self-help services, you can bet there is a somebody trying to be mindful about it. I've been hearing it more and more this past year, less and less in the context of a specific type of Buddhist meditation (which I happen to like quite a bit). The problem with the way people have started saying "mindful" it is that is just smuggles in whatever it is the speaker already believes, but under the auspices of the methods of an ancient wisdom-tradition.
Let me explain further, because I don't want to seem like I'm opposed to awareness or thoughtfulness: When I was a freshman studying philosophy in college, I committed a common error in an ethics paper, which was to use the phrase "right-thinking". It was something along the lines of "what is moral is what all right-thinking people would do if they considered the consequences of their actions as if everybody would act as they did." What is so wrong with this, my professor reprimanded me, is that "right-thinking" nearly always means, in context, "agrees with me". It simply smuggles in my predetermined opinion, rather than actually explaining and justifying it. People have started using "mindful" in the same way, leveraging people's generally reverential opinion of Buddhist ideas so that "being mindful" just means "right-thinking" or "good", which in turn just mean "agrees with me".
Please tell me in the comments if there are any major clunkers out there that I neglected to mention, and have a eudaimonic, fruitful, loving, and proverbially skeptical new year!
Join The Daily Show comedian Jordan Klepper and elite improviser Bob Kulhan live at 1 pm ET on Tuesday, July 14!
The team caught a glimpse of a process that takes 18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years.
- In Italy, a team of scientists is using a highly sophisticated detector to hunt for dark matter.
- The team observed an ultra-rare particle interaction that reveals the half-life of a xenon-124 atom to be 18 sextillion years.
- The half-life of a process is how long it takes for half of the radioactive nuclei present in a sample to decay.
Gender and sexual minority populations are experiencing rising anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic.
- Anxiety and depression rates are spiking in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in individuals who hadn't struggled with those issues in the past.
- Overall, depression increased by an average PHQ-9 score of 1.21 and anxiety increased by an average GAD-7 score of 3.11.
- The researchers recommended that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.
Study findings<p>For the study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05970-4" target="_blank">published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine</a><em>, </em>Flentje and her team evaluated survey responses from nearly 2,300 individuals who identified as being in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Most of the participants were white, while nearly 19 percent identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Multiple genders were represented with cisgender women (27.2 percent) and men (24.6 percent) making up a majority of the participants. Sixty-three percent had been assigned female at birth. For the most part, participants identified their sexual orientations as queer (40.3 percent), gay (36.5 percent), and bisexual (30.3 percent).</p><p>The JGIM study participants were recruited from the 18,000-participant <a href="https://pridestudy.org/" target="_blank">PRIDE Study</a> (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), which is the first large-scale, long-term national study focusing on American adults who identify as LGBTQ+. It conducts annual questionnaires to understand factors related to health and disease in this population. </p><p>Participants filled out an annual questionnaire (starting in June 2019) and a COVID-19 impact survey this past spring. Flentje noted that on an individual level, some people may not have experienced a big change in anxiety or depression levels, but for others there was. Overall, depression increased by a <a href="https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9" target="_blank">PHQ-9 score</a> of 1.21, putting it at 8.31 on average. Anxiety went up by a <a href="https://www.mdcalc.com/gad-7-general-anxiety-disorder-7" target="_blank">GAD-7</a> score of 3.11 to an average of 8.89. Interestingly, the average PHQ-9 scores for those who screened positive for depression at the first 2019 survey decreased by 1.08. Those who screened negative for depression saw their PHQ-9 scores increase by 2.17 on average. As for anxiety, researchers detected no GAD-7 change among the study participants who screened positive for anxiety in the first survey, but did see an overall increase of 3.93 among those who had initially been evaluated as negative for the disorder. </p>
Risks among gender and sexual minorities<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc3fd1ae68b77bbbf58a6995638d6d65"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EnUqDjCqg0A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable population to mental health concerns because of their fear of stigmatization and previous discriminatory experiences.</p> <p>Previous research by the Human Rights Campaign has found "that LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/general+population/" target="_blank">general population</a> to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/medical+leave/" target="_blank">medical leave</a>, and basic necessities during the pandemic," said researcher Tari Hanneman, director of the health and aging program at the campaign.</p> <p>"Therefore, it is not surprising to see this increase in anxiety and depression among this population," Hanneman said in the release. "This study highlights the need for <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/health+care+professionals/" target="_blank">health care professionals</a> to support, affirm and provide <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/critical+care/" target="_blank">critical care</a> for the LGBTQ community to manage and maintain their mental health, as well as their physical health, during this pandemic."</p>
What should health care providers do?<p>The authors of the study recommend that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders in members of that community—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.</p><p>As cases of COVID-19 continue to mount, the sustained social distancing, potential isolation, economic precariousness, and personal illness, grief, and loss are bound to have increased and varied impacts on mental health. Effective treatments may include individual therapy and medications as well as more large-scale coronavirus support programs like peer-led groups and mindfulness practices. </p><p>"It will be important to find out what happens over time and to identify who is most at risk, so we can be sure to roll out public health interventions to support the mental health of our communities in the best and most effective ways," said Flentje.</p>
What we know about black holes is both fascinating and scary.
- When it comes to black holes, science simultaneously knows so much and so little, which is why they are so fascinating. Focusing on what we do know, this group of astronomers, educators, and physicists share some of the most incredible facts about the powerful and mysterious objects.
- A black hole is so massive that light (and anything else it swallows) can't escape, says Bill Nye. You can't see a black hole, theoretical physicists Michio Kaku and Christophe Galfard explain, because it is too dark. What you can see, however, is the distortion of light around it caused by its extreme gravity.
- Explaining one unsettling concept from astrophysics called spaghettification, astronomer Michelle Thaller says that "If you got close to a black hole there would be tides over your body that small that would rip you apart into basically a strand of spaghetti that would fall down the black hole."