During the U.S. 4th of July break, I finally read a stack of articles I had put aside months ago. I was most absorbed by the Time Magazine cover article ‘10 Ideas That Are Changing Your Life.’ You can read each of the ideas by clicking on the links below, but for those of you who have limited time, I’ve provided my own summary for the first five:
- Living Alone Is The New Norm
- Your Head Is In The Cloud
- Handprints, Not Footprints
- The Rise Of The Nones
- Food That Lasts Forever
- Black Irony
- High-Status Stress
- Privacy In Public
- Nature Is Over
- Niche Aging
Living Alone is the New Norm
In 1950, Americans who lived alone made up only 9% of households; in 2011 solitary households reached 28% which makes them tied with childless couples as the most common U.S. residential type. Solitary dwellers are primarily middle-aged women aged 35-64 but young adults from 18-34 are the fastest growing segment. Living alone is not just a U.S phenomenon: the percentages are 47% in Sweden, 31% in Japan, and 34% in Britain. Not surprisingly, only 3% of households in India are singletons.
According to sociologist Eric Klinenberg, living alone does not mean we are lonely. Instead, Klineberg claims it allows us “to do what we want, when we want and on our own terms.” When we are alone, we recharge and are more likely to create true connections when we spend time with other people.
Your Head is In the Cloud
I blogged about this phenomena last year under the similarly-titled ‘Our Memories Are Cloudy’. As I said then:
The research shows that we forget things we are confident we can find on the Internet but we are more likely to remember things we think are not available online. Furthermore, we are better at remembering where to find something on the Internet than we are at remembering the information itself.
The Time article claims that the average American spends ~12 hours consuming information which represents 34 GBytes of data. I would have guessed a higher number.
Handprints, Not Footprints
Gregory Norris claims we would be more effective in reducing our carbon footprints if we talked about the positive impact we have through the cumulative effect of all of our reductions. This is standard cognitive science at work; positive improvement goals are more motivational and easier to keep than negative reinforcement ones. Norris calls this approach handprints and allows people to track their own progress at handprinter.org. In another cognitive twist, if your friends improve their handprints because they learned about a technique from you, your handprint improves as well.
The Rise of the Nones
19% of Americans report they have no religious affiliation, double the percentage in 1990. However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t spiritual; only 4% identify themselves as atheist or agnostic. Instead, they seem to reject organized religion as too rigid and institutional. These so-called ‘nones’ are creating smaller, more intimate worship communities which often meet in members’ homes.
Is this trend limited to the U.S.? The article doesn’t say and I can’t find any research for other countries.
Food That Lasts Forever
There’s a persistent urban legends that Twinkies last forever due to the amount of preservatives they contain. This myth seems to have been debunked and most estimates claim the real number is 25 days. Canned spam, on the other hands, is good for around 10 years.
Joking aside, food spoilage is a significant problem: 30% of all food in the U.S. spoils before being eaten and estimates are as high as 70% in developing nations. Spoilage is usually caused by bacteria. New techniques for controlling bacteria place food in a plastic pouch and subject it to very high pressure (87,000 psi). According to the article, fruit treated this way remained fresh for three years and a pork chop tasted ‘normal’ seven years later. I believe this technique could not only improve food safety but also significantly reduce the energy we use to cool and store foods.
How can we tie all five of these ideas together? Apparently, the seven-year old porkchop will be eaten by someone who lives alone, echews organized religion, and can’t remember the handprint Website.
Note: Time permitting, I’ll summarize the other five articles in a later post.
Thanks for the refreshing article! Just some add ons from across the pond:
Religion in Switzerland:
20% of all Swiss do not have a denomination. That is twice as much as 10 years ago. With the people between 25 and 44 the average is even higher, meaning 25%. However, an “expert” claims, that only a vast minority of the ones without a denomination actually do not have a religion. They just prefer remaining distant from churches.
38.5% are Catholic.
39.9% are Evangelically-Reformed (“Protestants”)
4.5% are Muslim
0.2% are Jewish
I made a mistake! 30.9% are Evangelically-Reformed, I typed 9 instead of 0. This means, the Catholics are the biggest denomination. Sorry!
Thanks Marc. It seems like the trend hold true in Switzerland since “nones” don’t necessarily avoid religion, they just don’t like the traditional organized ones.
I don’t often comment on others’ blogs but yours stood out. The sun really caught my eye, probably because it seemed to have by-passed us. But once into your blog your insights are memorable. Well done.
Marc and Jonathan, also don’t forget this article from BBC in March:
When I first read this article, I wondered if they had not factored in those from other religions. I know when we fill out our taxes in Switzerland, we can only choose “No Affiliation” if we are anything but Catholic or Protestant. As a practicing Muslim, that also puts me in the category of “non-religious” since I am not affiliated with a church in Switzerland.
I am not sure if I agree with Klinenberg’s take on living alone. I think when you live with others, whether family or friends, you learn to be sensitive to other people’s needs. When you live alone, the tendency to be self-centered increases. Since I have done both, I am speaking from personal experience.
Very interesting, thanks for bringing these articles to my attention and well done on becoming freshly pressed!
Useful insights into the future, though I disagree that mankind now controls nature, that would be a grave error to make.
Ground REALITY !!!
Good post. Reminds of the quote “Single is company. Two is crowd”
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Very funny closing line. Thanks for providing the links. I’ve already read some, but will follow up on the others. I like the idea of handprints. Congrats on being FP!
Your decision to stop at number 5 was commendable. Frankly, Time should be ashamed at number 6 on their list. Bloody racists.
Nice find and a concise summary! I especially liked the ‘head is in the cloud’ article. It’s true that we outsource our memory to the internet these days. But, is it really bad? Won’t relegating all the mundane fact-finding and chores to the internet, free our minds to perform complex tasks of reasoning?
Is it a bad thing? Unclear. We could follow the thoughts of Einstein: “It is not so important for a person to learn facts. For that he does not really need a college. He can learn them from books.”
H/T to Timo Elliott for the quote
Great list! I’m looking forward to reading the links.
Interesting article, great summaries.
Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. I loved the treatise on singlehood. I invented a charoal grill torgeted to singles. It cooks any grillable food item on just 10-12 standard charcoal briquettes. Product developers cannot get their head around this dramatic soical shift and are missing marketing opportunities. Thanks for the clairty of your post
Did you know that matzah, the flat cracker-like bread eaten by Jews on Passover, actually stays good for years? It doesn’t have any yeast in it, so that prevents it from going bad. Keep it in a dry, less airy space and you’re good.
#8 “Privacy in Public” caught my attention… it says that “…for the first time in American history there is now a legal right to privacy in public…” based on recent Supreme Court decisions that limit the government’s use of information such as GPS tracking in our phones, facial recognition software in crowds, etc. But it also notes the amazing amount of data collected about us by medical companies, by our web browsers, telecomms companies, video cameras in public areas and in stores, and so on. Even just earlier this morning is read an alarming (alarmist?) article about “America’s Surveillance State” which highlighted how much the government tracks and knows about us already, and its potential for mis-use, abuse, and control. See this one at http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/296-169/12294-americas-surveillance-state-breeds-fear
Nice post! The growth of single-person households and people who claim no religious affiliation does not surprise me at all. I think a lot of people just don’t feel so pressured to marry anymore, and we all love the freedom to do as we please. Organized religion is a touchy subject, but it’s safe to say that it’s probably a freedom issue again. I know I certainly like to feel free.
Congrats on being Freshly Pressed !!! Love the post and the information on the Twinkies and Spam.
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Anti-family preservation/marketing executives stay home from church to dine on food that has a 70% chance of being edible and a 30% chance of being less than quadruple the production cost, and try to remember where they saw THAT WEBSITE with the mind-improving IQ games that took them beyond advanced sorcery skills the last time they had their friends over for the weekly round of Magic: The Gathering.
I appreciate the summations:) And the wrap-up line — it is pretty amusing
Muy buen post…
So in short – Breakups and living alone appears to be caused by an excess diet of Twinkies and web activity whilst on the flip side taking a positive view of spam can lead to spiritual enlightenment
Congratulations on being freshly pressed! I’m curious to know what you think IDEAS 11-20 might be? Kindest regards, Michele
Thanks Michele. Predicting the future is a difficult business but the NY Times had ’32 Innovations that Will Change Your Tomorrow” a few weeks ago. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/06/03/magazine/innovations-issue.html
I’m personally looking forward to #22, Better Looking Movies.
Hey Jonathan thanks so much for sending me the link. Amazing reading — at times even mindblowing 🙂 I totally agree with you about number 22: Welcome to the holographic universe, y’all. Have a great day. Michele
Thanks for sharing! I like the descriptions of all of these things that are changing our culture, but high-status stress is the most interesting… it makes a lot of sense.
As a 30 year old woman, I have been living alone for the first time in my life since last October and am loving every second of it!!! Nervous at first that I would be like your piece suggests, lonely, I have never once felt that way. I can do what I want, when I want and that to me is true freedom and independence.
Great summaries! I especially enjoyed the “Handprints, Not Footprints” Handprints are such a good idea — thinking positive and moving forward!
Terrific insight into some very deep thoughts. I fear you are spot on and it is sad that family and marriage are not cherished like they used to be, I would throw in religion here as well because if nothing else it provides hope, and we can all use a little hope
Niche aging: HA! Can’t wait to read your comments on that one. I am what you might call middle aged and just can’t picture myself wanting to live only around people who like exactly what I like. Sounds boring.
Great post! I love how you built on such a great article! Cheers 🙂
Wow, this list is very interesting! Already checked handprinter.org and bookmarked it. Thank you for sharing these and I’m looking forward for the next 5!
Excellent, succinct article with a touch of humor. I especially liked the reference to “twinkies”. How about this? If you are what you eat, what am I doing with “Ding Dongs?” Remember, we don’t get out of this life alive. Nature rules and sometimes she isn’t amused by our antics.
Interesting blog, and congrats on being freshly pressed.
Great post – really enjoyed reading it and the comments – thanks
Great post. I’ll probably have to go read the whole article. Two comments:
1. “Your head is in the clouds” – When I read your comment about remembering the location of information rather than the information itself, I was struck by the similarity to how a computer operates. Without getting too technical, a computer will simply remember the location of some data in memory rather than copy the data itself. I find it fascinating that we built computers to work that way, only to realize that our brains work that way too.
2. “Food that lasts forever” – This is also cool. I have heard estimates that the refrigerator has saved more lives than antibiotics, because by preserving food, you can prevent infection in the first place. I have no doubt that more research attention should be given to finding new ways to protect food against food-borne illness.
Just some thoughts to chew on.
Insightful post on a good article. I currently live alone, and I’m inclined to agree with that sociologist’s point. I lived with big groups of people all through college, and while it was nice to always have someone to talk to, I often spent enormous amounts of time just chatting late into the night. I think that had its place in school, but now it’s nice to come home and recharge, knowing I can choose whether or not to have company.
a 10 year old piece of fruit sounds terrifying. I don’t care who says it’s safe. Food is becoming less and less natural, and humans are becoming sicker and sicker.
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SAVING THIS FOR LATER, when I can read it all. So far looks pretty interesting
I thought this link was just the perfect friend to your article
Very astute research and reporting. I tweeted it! Kudos on being Pressed like Freshly printed morning editions! @imijcheetah, btw
Really enjoyed the article…..your summary was the best, thank you.
Definate food for thought even if I have to visualise eating a solitary pork chop at age 49 surrounded by spiritual books and a wifi that has blown up!
A good article,i am really interesting in it.
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Must read for everyone :-
Very interesting.Head in the cloud for me is so true of some aspects of my life.
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Just thought you will all be interested in this.
These are really interesting! Solving the food spoilage problem would be a remarkable feat with incredible benefits for the world. Looking forward to the next post!
Ha! Now this was one of the most interesting things I’ve read all day, and I’ve been reading for a while. Thanks for sharing!
I’m just feeling a little uncomfortable with a thought of an apple that would stay good for 3 years… moving to the States already shocked me (fruit there stays fine for a week or more, while at home in Europe it was max 4 days), and I’d rather not think about the amount of preservatives that adds to my diet whether I want it or not… but thinking about food safety and energy consumption adds another layer to it all. Interesting, interesting finds.
I want to Live alone! have my own space and the ability to shut the door when I feel like it!
Love this article! The insights and outside the box perspectives gave me new perspective on the issues! 🙂
oh thanks for reading and sharing .. really very interesting
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I am totally on board with #1, I like my time alone, it’s when I am most productive. Although my beagle is still there, of course.
Also, I think that method of preserving food could do wonders for reducing hunger in the world, hopefully the technology will be utilized.
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This was awesome! I remember reading the article about memory in Science. It was an interesting study design. The question becomes, then, is it slarming about the memory shifts? How much value is there to being able to recall specific facts at any given time versus being able to research them effectively, at will?
I can think of pros and cons of both, for sure!
The very phrase “nature is over” is so off-putting that it makes me want to cry. There’s no way to make its point without humans coming out sounding self important and greedy. “Food that lasts forever” just sounds painfully stupid.
I think they need to can Twinkies… we’d be able to survive zombie apocalypses, nuclear fallouts and all kinds of mishaps!
Thanks for the post about “The nones”. I feel after reading this article that I can connect with the nones and perhaps this is something I would feel more comfortable calling myself. I started my true religious search about a year ago, and this is when I found the organization called Unitarian Unitarianism which I know is a lot more known in the US. And I felt right away a connection with the UU, they’ve got some prinsiples to live by and to develope yourself, promote each person to find their own truth and way and help the community you live in and beyond.
VERY interesting. I look forward to the rest of your summaries.
Nice post. Perhaps living alone is the new world. Give me the old world.
Nice job, i can’t stop reading
Brilliant. I like how you tied all of this together.
Hi thanks for sharing. I especially like #1 above. It’s a really interesting stat.
Lately, moreso than ever, I’ve sensed that people are more lonely, and it’s pretty depressing. We all seem to want something that’s just out of reach. Enjoying time alone is great, when one feels lonely, the pain is unbearable.
The first one really hits home for me. It’s no longer a time for most people to get married by age 20 and start raising a family. But living alone gives you some privacy, eh?
This is really interesting. It totally makes sense that people forget a lot of things because we really do rely so much on the internet. We’d really become so dependent on the internet and all of our devices.
Hmm really really interesting! I will definitely read the handprint, not footprint one.
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