The Wonderful Power of a Nap

Life has its way of wearing us down. From the hyper-connectivity social media frenzy to the busybody work days we put ourselves through; seldom do we have time to sit back and recharge. Since we often sleep-procrastinate mainly because of our fear of missing out, it’s hard to ever catch up on the unpaid sleep debt. Telling ourselves, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is good enough to accelerate our demise. Sleep is crucial; it essentially keeps our bodies stable and repairs our system, internally and externally. However, some of our livelihoods prevent of us from getting adequate sleep time, so we constantly put it off — unaware of the noxious effects that’s being placed upon us for every minute lost. Recently, napping has been proven to increase memory and restore an insufficient night’s sleep.

Fortunately, researchers at Sorbonne university in Paris found that just a 30-minute nap can reverse the deleterious effects of a short night’s sleep. The study was conducted on 11 healthy men between the ages of 25 and 32. The first night, all participants had a sufficient 8 hours of sleep. The second night, participants were limited to two hours of sleep. Upon waking up, researchers took samples of the participants urine and saliva to get a grasp of how the lack of sleep affected their hormonal levels. What researchers found was a major increase in norepinephrine — a stress hormone that raises blood sugar, heart rate, and blood pressure. Subsequently, the subjects napped for just 30 minutes and the results showed that all norepinephrine levels were returned to normal. This evinces the special restorative power of a day time power nap and how your brain recognizes that it must get the most of the abbreviated sleep session.

Another study conducted in Germany revealed that napping for 45 to 60 minutes can boost memory. Participants had to learn pairs of unconnected words and thereafter some were allowed to nap while others stayed up and watched a DVD. Those who napped were remarkably better at retrieving information. The brain’s region of memory — the hippocampus — seemed to be heightened after a nap.

Going forward, it would be wise of companies who push a lot of monotonous, mind-numbing tedium on employees to implement a nap period for better business. Google and technology-based companies have already added this to their work schedule to get the best of our their workers. Schools may soon do the same, so that students can be better apt to learning things in the allotted 8-9 hour school day rather than bringing work home to a distraction-filled environment. Napping can also increase alertness and we all know how many accidents occur because of a lack of sleep. If you’re feeling lethargic and sleepy, your brain might be directing you in the direction that will save your life. Nap your way to better productivity.


The Future of Artificial Intelligence

We’ve all pondered the future — a utopia filled with autonomy and convenience at our finger tips — with impunity. Many contemporary pessimists believe that implementing artificial intelligence, which, in this case, may self-replicate itself into “artificial super-intelligence” might just leave humanity vulnerable. Such qualms present themselves in irrational, yet understandable ways. For example, eminent thinkers Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk believe, aside from climate change, that the future of AI is grim because robots may end up reconfiguring themselves at an ever-increasing rate; far superior to what any human mind could process in a short period of time. Much akin to the movies I Robot and 2001: A Space odyssey, these thoughts have been infused into our minds and now rattle our brains. Could AI really pose such a dire threat to humanity or are we being unrealistic about it?

As sentient beings who are constrained by emotion, it’s hard to fathom how an autonomous system may be able to supersede us, consciously. I mean, it took evolution millions of years to construct this faulty anatomy we are endowed with; and unfortunately, we are fraught with biological problems throughout life. Thus, building a super-computer machine who doesn’t have to be bounded by withering cells and a fickle brain could easily out-think and out-perform us in no time.

We already have cars that drive themselves and IBM’s Watson that can compile millions of pages of information and piece together a normal answer through hints and clues as it once did against Jeopardy’s most brilliant contestants. That said, super-AI is essentially right around the corner.

The effect of AI on the economy will be substantial. Many menial jobs may be supplanted by robots who will do the job more efficiently and effectively. This could put a giant chasm in our financial distribution; where the divide between the poor and the rich grows alarmingly more distant. But, economists and mathematicians speculate that these problems can be solved by adjusting taxes and being monetarily cautious. The good thing about technology and humanity is that we find a way to coexist without stepping on each other’s toes. We’ve feared many things during our progress as humans, but we always seem to push the envelope without tearing the paper.

Consciousness is a sticky subject because it is highly subjective and brain-based. So, if in time these robots do experience life as we do, they will be highly susceptible to rotten emotions such as envy, hatred, deceit, and jealousy. When these emotions go unnoticed in AI, we could be in for a world of trouble. But who says we have to let these robots get to the same level as us, sentimentally? We could easily put boundaries on their expansiveness and override such self-multiplying type of advancement. Even if they somehow do figure out a way to become nearly all-powerful that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll become villainous or malicious. Since humans think like humans, we get a false view that distorts our reality by thinking every organism has to be exactly like us. That’s astoundingly untrue, we are what we are because we are made by building blocks that allow us to be what we are. Robots don’t have to operate on the same bandwidth as us.

Ultimately, I think AI will facilitate humanity in the work area and thus catapult our technology to even greater heights. I’m an optimist: scientists and engineers are wise enough to modify and predict any shortcomings in AI before they transpire. AI won’t destroy us because we won’t let them. There will be ample codes and algorithmic functions that could destruct such a hostile group of robots if need be. Super-AI I’m a bit more weary about because depending on the technological ramifications, this typer of hyper-robot could completely predict how we would look to control it which could open a can of worms. But for now, and in the near future, be jubilant and embrace artificial intelligence! We’ll be completely safe from any unfeeling machines that want to impose their will on the human civilization.


The Future of Selfies

In a distant, alternate universe, Tami has just snapped and shared her 10,000th selfie. She becomes the first person to do so in a mere 5 years. Tami is lauded by the entire planet; as fans fantasize about being able to achieve such a feat, they begin to try to mimic her perfection. Tami, a 25-year-old self-employed model, feels highly empowered by giving people a chance to witness her unprecedented beauty. Tabloids swoon over catching her in the act of posing for a selfie. She’s a role model. A saint. A woman of valor with a smug attitude that everyone ought to aspire to have. She has told people that her narcissism and self-righteousness can be further extended and she therefore plans on upping her selfie capturing to uncharted heights. Her fans abound, and people can’t wait to see more of her. The future looks bright…

Suppose such a universe did exist; hey, it might be imperceptible and right in our backyard! I doubt it, but selfies have transformed the way you and I perceive each other. The images reflect a “me-first” connotation in an increasingly “me-first” society. We all witness people who post endless photos of themselves in a mild-mannered way. These people are harmless; they’re just presenting the fruits of their labor. It’s good to have confidence and a bit of egotism, which can fuel you to do bigger and better things, but when these habits become visceral compulsions—the need to post pictures of yourself—you need to lighten the load.

Selfies have become commonplace in society. We see them being snapped everywhere from funerals to doctor offices. Think of how rare it was to get a picture of someone back in the AOL instant-messaging days; you would have salivated just to see one selfie taken by the woman or man with whom you were in conversation. But now that technology continues to increase at an alarming rate, we have the resources to present ourselves in a plethora of different ways, and at the most unceremonious times.

Apps like Instagram and Snapchat encourage you to post as much as you can of whatever you want, and the most important “whatever” is yourself. So we are left with people posting the same selfies unendingly, because “it’s not nice to criticize people” and the apps essentially provoke you to share instantaneously. Just remember: anything done in moderation is fine, but, usually, familiarity breeds contempt. Too much of anything gets old really quickly. People who have that mysterious mystique about them tend to keep the audience on their toes.

Let me drop a term I learned in economics some years back that has stuck with me: the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility. This basically states that the more you have of a good, the less you desire it the next time. It applies to many things in life: food, music, SELFIES, etc. That said, the more often you post selfies, the less your audience is enraptured by each successive picture, given the short lapse of time in between them. This is not only directed at women; men tend to turn the camera on themselves a lot nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, I think most selfies that people take are appealing and worth viewing, but they can quickly become redundant.

When your relationship is seemingly flawless and your partner starts taking selfies, consider that a massive red flag. Selfies are toxic for dating; they can tear down a good relationship faster than a wrecking ball against a Lego set. That is because a selfie is inherently attention-seeking, and creates a chasm of uncertainty and insecurity from your partner who values you the most. You show me a relationship that has a lot of selfie-posting from either ends, and I’ll show you a relationship that has a short lifespan.

Sometimes the prettiest females are the ones who don’t know they’re pretty; the under-the-radar, coy individuals who rarely dive into their egos. Studies have claimed that frequent selfie sharers have a dark underlying factor linked to narcissism and traits of psychopathy. These studies are still in their nascent stages, but evidence is being corroborated by many different outlets. Kim Kardashian is releasing a book titled selfish, which is a compilation of selfies throughout her “hardscrabble” life. This highfalutin tale will probably have a great effect on young, impressionable minds; and, maybe for the worse. I do commend Kim’s ability to promote her brand from a business standpoint, but maybe not in such a gaudy and dishonorable way.

Now, what will happen to future generations who embark in the realm of “selfiedom”? Will there be a backlash against selfies for fear that too much pretention might make one un-relatable to more modest people? It all remains to be seen. Moreover, these apps that unveil our privacy and give constant viewership to our friends and family will not dominate our life forever. There will always be something new and innovative waiting around the corner. Hopefully the avant-garde of that “something” will unshackle us from the depths of conceit in which we’ve been buried. Vanity can be inherent, but that doesn’t mean we should look away from things of great value in life.

In my estimation, extreme selfie shooting will eventually become a diagnosed disorder—a compulsion to exhibit oneself for the approval of others—that will inevitably wane through digital detox. All phones are equipped with cameras, but once we decide to spend less time on the phone because we’re literally wasting our lives away, we’ll naturally see a decline in selfies. Until that time, embrace the countless selfies that people share without any qualms. My advice is to post selfies that are original but to post them infrequently, so your onlookers will eagerly anticipate the next one. The visual aesthetics of a female are one of the greatest sights we can glance at, but we don’t need Tami’s reality to become our own.