When The “Good Guys” Become The “Bad Guys”

Posted January 13th, 2015 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Let me begin by declaring two biases: first, I am a pacifist, and second, my perspective on this issue is influenced by my personal experience of being born in a POW camp as a prisoner of the Japanese in WWII, a camp in which my family was interred for almost 4 years.

We should be shocked by the grotesque details of the 6,000 page U.S. Senate detailed report on how the CIA tortured prisoners and subsequently lied about it.

Some of the mainstream media echoed that shock. The Washington Post editorial stated: “This is not how Americans should behave. Ever.” Vox Editor-In-Chief Ezra Klein said, “We betrayed our values. We betrayed who were are.” And President Obama was quoted in many publications as having said, “This is not who we are. This is not how we operate.”

Part of the problem exposed by the CIA report was the lying and deception of officials about the torture program. George Tenet, former CIA Director, interviewed by CBS’s Scott Pelley in 2007 stated repeatedly and falsely, “we don’t torture people.” And former Vice-President Dick Cheney once stated in an interview in 2006, “We don’t do torture.”

The CIA report described numerous detailed incidents of torture of detainees, including:

  • Rectal feeding
  • Rape
  • Blinding detainees
  • Forcing detainees to stand for hours on broken feet
  • Extensive and repeated waterboarding
  • Being constantly shackled with arms over their heads
  • Extensive periods in isolation with continual loud noise and only a bucket for human waste
  • Being slapped and punched, then dragged down a long corridor
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Forced nudity
  • Mock executionsThreats to sexually abuse the detainee’s mothers or harm their children

As for the effectiveness of the torture program, the CIA report indicated the detainees were tortured before they were asked to cooperate. The report concluded that torture did not provide any useful information about terrorists. This conclusion has been supported by neuroscience research. Shane O’Mara, writing in the Trends in Cognitive Science, concludes “Solid scientific evidence on how repeated and extreme stress and pain affect memory and executive functions suggests these techniques are unlikely to do anything other than the opposite of that intended by coercive or ‘enhanced interrogation.’”

Not only is torture illegal under U.S. law, the U.N. Convention Against Torture which the U.S. signed in 1994 states, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war, or threat of war, internal instability, or any other public emergency, may be involved as a justification for torture.” The Convention defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession.”

One of the dangerous moral morasses that leaders and the public often fall into is the utilitarian concept of “the ends justifies the means,” or justification theory. With this belief comes the assertion that a “good” end is justified by any means necessary, however bad it be.

That belief has been interpreted many times in history. The Romans enslaved populations in order to bring “order” to the world; the Crusades forced people to accept Christianity in order to “save them;” Western nations preemptively started war in order to avert war; and innocent civilians have been killed and seen as “collateral damage” in bombings in order to kill the “bad guys.”

It becomes a dangerous moral slope when we embrace the “ends justifies the means.” Where are the limitations to the ends? Who defines them? And what of the torturers? What happens to their sense of right and wrong? What happens to their mental and emotional states? Joe Navarro, one of the F.B.I’s top experts in interrogation told The New Yorker, “only a psychopath can torture and be unaffected.”

CIA officers and those responsible for the torture have not been charged with a crime or faced disciplinary action as of the date of this article. If the U.S. does not take action to bring to justice those officials who broke the law, it has lost its perceived right to boast of being a “shining light” of democracy and freedom to the rest of the world. The world wants and expects a higher standard from the U.S.

And if torture is practiced and condoned by the U.S. or other Western nations, what effect might it have on those countries which may have been more willing to participate in torture? Finally, if torture is condoned and those responsible for it don’t face consequences, is there a danger that those techniques and justifications for them could spread to police forces?

Serious questions requiring some serious answers.

What Will The World Of Work Look Like In 2030?

Posted January 13th, 2015 in Articles, Blogs by admin

Tremendous forces are radically reshaping the world of work. Economic shifts are redistributing power, wealth, competition and opportunity around the globe. Disruptive innovations, radical thinking, new business models and resource scarcity are impacting every sector.

We have yet to come to terms with the fact that the old way of doing work and business no longer is functional. Free market capitalism has failed us. Angel Guria, Secretary General for the OECD argues “We failed as regulators, we failed as supervisors, we failed as corporate managers, we failed as risks mangers and we also failed in the allocation of roles and responsibilities for international economic organizations.” Referring to the current model of capitalism and business, Guria says “The game is over and we need a fundamental restructuring –essentially about how people will live, and we need to move beyond simple notions about growth to more sophisticated, nuanced discussions about human progress.”

Sara Robinson, writing in The Huffington Post, argues “The problem, in a nutshell, is this: The old economic model has utterly failed us. It has destroyed our communities, our democracy, our economic security, and the planet we live on. The old industrial-age systems — state communism, fascism, free-market capitalism — have all let us down hard, and growing numbers of us understand that going back there isn’t an option.

But we also know that transitioning to some kind of a new economy — and, probably, a new governing model to match — will be a civilization-wrenching process. We’re having to reverse deep and ancient assumptions about how we allocate goods, labor, money, and power on a rapidly shrinking, endangered, complex, and ever more populated planet. We are boldly taking the global economy — and all 7 billion souls who depend on it — where no economy has ever gone before.

A documentary film “Humans Need Not Apply,” shows that with more tasks being done by machines, a full 45% of the current workforce can be replaced by technology that is available today. From burger bots that can make a hamburger every 10 seconds to machines that perform scientific experiments and write their own code, automated devices are finding their way into virtually every area of human endeavor. No matter what degree a student pursues today, it’s ability to provide employment to its holder cannot no longer be guaranteed.

A number of recent reports have forecasted the work world in the next two decades and present some important insights. Here’s a few to consider:

  • With the aid of technology, assembly workers will wear devices that gauge their concentration, work rate, moods and physical energy levels;
  • The higher education system as it is now structured will disappear or be transformed because of unsustainable costs and limited job opportunities for graduates;
  • Managing complexity and ambiguity will have the single biggest impact on the way we work;
  • Social responsibility will dominate the corporate agenda with prime concerns about the environment and peoples’ well being;
  • Companies will break down into collaboration networks of smaller organizations;
  • Work in one profession or job for an extended period of time will disappear;
  • Leadership teams will replace single leaders, with their prime focus on developing positive and inclusive corporate cultures;
  • The Internet of Things will shape our economy and the way we work;
  • The social contract will be revised with an emphasis on ethical values and work-life balance;
  • Work will be restructured on the basis of flexibility, employee autonomy and career challenges/opportunities in return for short-term or contractual employment;
  • Workers will increasingly see themselves as members of a particular skill (e.g.: guild) or professional network rather than as an employee of a particular company;
  • Workers will be rewarded based on their expertise and results rather than position and length of service, and therefore will have an increasing personal stake in the success of work;
  • Learning and training will become flexible, personalized and collaborative.

The financial protection specialist company Unum, partnering with The Future Laboratory, has released a report, entitled The Future Workplace: Key Trends That Will Affect Employee Well Being and How to Prepare fro Them Today. The report examines in detail how the workplace is evolving and what employers need to do to manage employee well being in the next 15 years.

The study was based on a survey of 1,000 British workers and insights from a group of leading experts from the Futures 100 Network.

The report concludes that what is needed is “the rise of a workplace that is mindful, tranquil, sublime and that nurtures the health and performance of the mind.” This conclusion was based on the observation that workers are “turning away from their busy, hyper-connected, digital lifestyles and prioritizing personal fulfillment and well being instead. Workplace care in 2030 will need to deliver a new set of values. Instead of always on, there will be digital invisibility; instead of conversation, there will be contemplation; not only considered, but also sublime spaces; not only considerate, but also quiet companies.”

Mindful workers are feeling overwhelmed by the tools and means of communication they have to use on a daily basis, the report concludes. Employers need to stress the importance of regular breaks to improve productivity and allow employees to relax their minds for a while. In a clear change of direction, employers also need to establish an organizational culture in which overwork and workaholism is not only unappreciated, there should be company policies that prohibit it. Also, employees have consistently indicated, in numerous surveys, that they want greater control over their work time and personal time and would prefer “to work in an environment that supports flexible working and mixing of teams, rather than a set structure.”

Peter O’Donnell, CEO of Unum argues “The workplace is changing, becoming increasingly people-centric, so organizations competing for talent will need to be more supportive of their staff than ever before. Employers need to start taking now to adapt effectively to its evolution or they face significant financial repercussions.”

Tom Savigar, Chief Strategy Officer at The Future Laboratory and author of the report says, “An ageless and mindful workplaces is what British workers truly want to see their employers embracing so there is a clear need for businesses to augment how they care for the mind as well as the body to enable their staff to work better and for longer.”

So the work world of 2030 will be significantly different than it is today. It will no longer be business as usual, and no longer be work as usual. Be prepared for a rough but exciting ride.