The Harbinger Online

Into the Future: A Report on What’s Next

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In today’s world, the hidebound have been abandoned.

Smart phones — not home phones — are used by one and all. Online shopping offers product delivery to your doorstep in a matter of hours, no need for a trip to the store. Print newspaper subscriptions hit an all-time low, shepherding in easy-access mobile options.

But what will be thrown out with the old, next?

The future holds an array of possible risks and rewards — from sweeping increases in green energy in hopes of mitigating climate change risk to the looming rise of automation and artificial intelligence in the job market.

In this special report, The Harbinger has investigated several of the most important and pertinent aspects of tomorrow’s world to see what’s likely to develop.


techtakeover

by Alex Freeman

About one-quarter of U.S. workers are in jobs where 70 percent of their tasks can be done by a machine, often cheaper and faster, according to a 2019 report by the Brookings Institution. 

One-quarter is more than just a number. It’s 36 million people.

If the trend continues, there could be far-reaching implications for both students who are preparing to enter the workforce and the people in the jobs that face high exposure, according to Robert Maxim, a senior research analyst at Brookings Metropolitan Policy Institute and co-author of the report. 

For the people on the “right” side of the job market and skill sets, increased automation, or the technology that allows for tasks to be done with little to no human assistance, will mean higher paying jobs and an increased standard of living, Maxim predicts. But for people with jobs in the industries that are facing greatest exposure to automation — like production, food service, transportation and office administration — the future is unclear. While experts disagree on just how drastic the consequences of automation will be, one thing is clear: the job market is shifting. 

The jobs available and skill sets needed now are not the same as they will be in the coming years — largely due to the rise of automation, which already eliminates 2.3 million jobs per year according to the Department of Labor’s displaced workers report. The Brookings report found that while the actual day-to-day of jobs will shift in virtually every sector, there are two types of jobs that are expected to prove resilient to automation: jobs that work with machines, like engineers and software developers, and jobs that do what machines can’t do, like market research analysts and human resource specialists. 

What’s different about the jobs that are facing the most significant declines are that they are comprised of routine tasks that can fairly easily be done by a machine. Based on a Brookings analysis of data from various sources including the Bureau of Labor Statistics and McKinsey, in the Johnson and Jackson County area, the most “high-risk” jobs are food service workers, stock clerks and order fillers and accounting and auditing clerks, all of which are fairly predictable in daily tasks. Likewise, jobs that involve tasks that are constantly changing and require creative thinking are the “safest”: things like business, the arts/entertainment and education.     

Students, like junior Grant Colvin, are already feeling the pressure of this automated future.

“When I’m thinking about what I want to pursue in the future, I want to make sure that my job isn’t one that will be under threat from a machine who can do it cheaper and quicker or better than I can,” Colvin said.

When deciding what career field he wants to pursue after graduating high school, Colvin considers the job’s susceptibility to automation to be a major factor in his decision. This is why he plans to either go into medical or social sciences, both jobs that work with and simultaneously outside of machines. For many of these so-called “safe” occupations, a college education is a requirement in hiring — a path which 92.5 percent of East students plan to follow, according to a poll of 212 students.

The reality is workers with a narrow skill set and an education that maxes out at a high school diploma will face the brunt of the negative automation impacts — Brookings found that 55 percent of occupations that require less than a bachelor’s degree face significant automation versus only 24 percent of jobs requiring a college graduation. 

While having a college degree will likely provide greater job protection from automation since it forces students to build a variety of skills, often in areas most resistant to automation, University of Kansas Associate professor of Engineering Thomas DeAgostino believes colleges need to be doing more to ensure students are best prepared for the shifting labor force. Based on his transition from working in the automobile industry for years to teaching mechanical engineers, he wants to see greater communication between universities and businesses to develop the specific skills that corporations are looking for in potential hires.

“I think there are steps being taken, but it varies greatly depending on which university you’re at, what the university wants to focus on and what the faculty opinion is of those things,” DeAgostino said. “I think there’s definitely people that are trying to make those changes. I think there are also people trying to resist it.”

For those people who do not attend a traditional college and are unable to receive a bachelor’s degree, they need to find other, more affordable ways to develop the specific marketable skills of the new job market, according to DeAgostino. This can be achieved through accelerated learning programs — low-cost programs that train workers to fill open jobs at specific companies — trade or technical schools, apprenticeships or most commonly community college. 

“We still need plumbers, we need electricians, we need woodworkers, we need programmers,” DeAgostino said. “There’s a lot of these kinds of things that are very fulfilling. And you can earn quite a bit of money that doesn’t require you to go to [a four-year] college.”

As the job market continues to change, Johnson County Community College has created a variety of certificate or associate degree programs aimed at preparing students to work in specific areas that are expanding, such as data analytics and web development, according to Coordinator of the Career Development Center Laurie Chapkin. Some employers are not looking for a specific level of degree, Chapkin said, but are more focused on a specific set of skills which JCCC is trying to provide.

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Community colleges also often have programs to help develop the interpersonal skills (what machines can’t do) which will be needed in the coming years — JCCC’s “emerging professionals” program is geared toward teaching professional communication and emotional intelligence, which includes everything from email and phone etiquette to networking pitches.

Even if people do not have these skills, people shouldn’t expect to see mass elimination of jobs, according to Maxim. However, jobs that are more susceptible to automation will likely face a significant decline and will require a different skill set. Jobs will require working with the machines and enhancing the work done by the ones that have taken over routine tasks.

As self-driving cars become a reality, rather than physically driving the truck, the truck driver could be a supervisor for the software or a mobile salesperson. But in many cases like that, far fewer workers will be required to do the job, so only the most skilled in a variety of areas will keep their jobs.

This reality has prompted various spots throughout the United States, most notably Arkansas, to require proficiency in some computer science classes before high school graduation. Likewise, the Kansas State Board of Education is currently considering a proposal to require computer science standards beginning in secondary school, according to to District 2 representative, Steve Roberts. The proposal will be debated and voted on at the April 16-17 board meeting.

“Every job is going to require technical skills,” DeAgostino said. “Back in the day, you could get a job doing something that didn’t require much thinking at all … But those jobs are disappearing, and every job right from janitor … all the way up to CEOs of corporations, you have to have some technical expertise.”

To an even greater extent than understanding and proactively learning technology, interpersonal skills will become critical in the future workforce, Maxim said. According to the Brookings report, at this point in automation and the near future, there are three basic tasks machines are unable to perform: non-routine activities, creative intelligence and social intelligence — essentially, machines are unable to make human connections, so the ability to communicate will be important going forward.

“In a world where we hang out on social media and we don’t talk to each other as much live, I see a real need for students to work on what I will call interpersonal professional skills,” DeAgostino said. “The people with inner personal professional skills are really going to be the leaders and the managers of the future. Because as less and less people have those skills, and it’s still required, somebody’s got to step up.”

These are the foundational skills that many students develop in Pre-Kindergarten curriculums: sharing, teamwork and talking about your feelings are skills that will be most important in the leaders and managers in the new job market, according to DeAgostino. Part of the concern, Maxim said, lies in the limited access to these sort of programs, both in early childhood and older. 

Students with high exposure to Pre-K courses are shown to achieve greater academic achievements later in life and are thus less likely to be involved in the routine jobs facing automation, Maxim said. Although there are areas in which efforts are being made to incorporate these skills into classrooms, usually in early education — Washington D.C. has established a free form of Pre-K offered to all of the four-year-olds in the city — these instances are often isolated. According to Roberts, there are no specific measures currently being taken in Kansas to teach interpersonal skills, though there is a movement to expand Pre-K opportunities in the Kansas Department of Education and ideas are being discussed by board members.

“Part of the problem is [examples are] just anecdotal,” Maxim said. “They’re happening in one place or a couple places, rather than being kind of really nationwide programs that are preparing the entire workforce for this.”

As careers without need for interpersonal or superior tech skills are dissolved by automation, many new jobs will be created — but the trouble lies in getting the people from the old jobs into the new jobs, University of Kansas Professor of Economics Donna Ginther said. And as automation increases and machines become more cost-efficient for companies, the displacement of workers will at least remain stagnant, if not accelerate, according to Maxim. Companies won’t pay a team of eight paralegals to scour through old cases when a machine can do it for free. The burden for ensuring these workers are able to transition into new jobs will likely fall on policy makers and corporations who need new workers. 

“There’s some evidence that retraining doesn’t really seem to work, or work as well, for people who, you know, try to get retrained, so it’s really unclear for those people whose industries are going to be destroyed … what their next opportunities would be,” Ginther said. “If the skill level is so much higher than the skill level of the job that’s being destroyed, it’s going to be very difficult for some people to be able to make that transition.” 

If current labor and automation trends continue without policy changing, Maxim predicts that while some more urban areas with many high-skilled workers will flourish, the usually more rural areas left behind, where much of the labor force is made up of food service and production workers, could face widespread job loss and social unrest. He fears this will only worsen the existing polarization and resentment between groups of varying wealth and education throughout the U.S. 

“There isn’t going to be kind of like a mass dystopia where no one has a job,” Maxim said. “They’ll also never be the ideal of fully automated luxury communism where the robots take care of us, and we’re all like in Wall-E, being served on spaceship. What will probably happen, if we don’t do anything, is you’re going to see an exacerbation of these current trends … And then for those specific very narrow labor markets, actually, it does kind of look dystopian, right?” 

If money is invested into moral automation, Maxim believes there is the potential that it will have the ability to mitigate some of the negative effects. But in order for that to work, he said, policy regarding unemployment and education has to change — otherwise, an outmatched workforce will lag behind its technological counterpart.

“I think it’s going to happen slower than most people think,” DeAgostino said. “But I also think we’re very bad as a society at noticing when it happens like that. So we’re kind of like the frog in boiling water. We don’t really notice it until we’re like, oh, look, that already happened.”


runswiththewind

by Scout Rice

The cities of Prairie Village and Mission have partnered with Kansas City Power and Light on a new agreement that will increase renewable energy in the respective cities through the Renewables Direct program.  

The Renewables Direct program is KCP&L’s next step in Kansas City’s growing trend towards renewable power, as Kansas City is currently ranked 6th in the United States for harnessing wind energy, an eco-friendly and sustainable source of power, according to KCP&L. 

The program was launched on March 4 and is contingent on the participation of nearby cities, businesses, municipalities and school districts — each being considered one customer. If enough of these groups join, KCP&L can justify the building of a wind farm that would provide the promised wind energy at an undecided location.

For the wind farm to be built, a group of between 10 and 40 customers would need to collectively agree to sign on to 100 to 200 megawatts of wind energy. One megawatt can power around 725 houses, according to KCP&L’s Manager of Renewables and 2007 East alum Drew Robinson, and Prairie Village and Mission agreed to a combined 1.2 megawatts, meaning around 99 megawatts are currently uncalled for.

The two cities were the first customers to join the program, but Robinson anticipates more to sign in the coming weeks, given recent pressure to transition to renewable energy.

“We have a long ways to go, but it’s all about getting those first ones,” Robinson said. “We are coming up on that one month period where people had time to look at it, think about the risk, think about how long they want to subscribe and how much they want to subscribe for.”

After discussing the plan at a council meeting, the Prairie Village City Council voted unanimously on March 18 to participate in the Renewables Direct program. Prairie Village, according to council member Chad Herring, could save $2,000 a year by replacing city energy currently powered by fossil fuels with wind energy. However, he sees the real savings coming from a positive impact on the environment. 

There is an awareness, he said, amongst city council members that leadership regarding climate change is a responsibility. Herring believes the first step in improving environmental sustainability is reducing the city’s use of fossil fuels and controlling carbon emissions with cost effective plans.

One downside is the possible decrease in savings depending on price fluctuations regarding fossil fuels and wind energy. Wind energy is currently the less expensive option, but there is no way to predict if the prices for fossil fuels will fall below the fixed price of wind energy in the next 20 years, according to Herring.

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The other downside, Herring said, is a current lack of customers, and therefore a lack of funds supporting the program that would halt plans to build the wind farm. But for the customers, Robinson said, this is a great deal for any party in need of large amounts of energy due to its current cost savings and green aspect.

For cities, the wind energy would go towards powering city buildings, maintenance centers, and community centers, according to Robinson. Due to the location and structure of wind turbines, wind energy would be a stable and reliable source of energy, in terms of price and amount. 

“Lucky for us as a utility, we are right next to some of the windiest locations in the country so accessing wind and accessing solar is pretty affordable for us and, by extension, it is pretty affordable to our customers as well,” Robinson said.

For the United States in general, the intersection between science and public policy has always been a heated debate, junior Grant Colvin said, and the topic has always been interesting to him. Through debate, he has become informed on how the government can better tackle the changing climate and push towards sustainable forms of energy.

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“I think the new local deals set a really good precedent for the people to follow,” Colvin said. “I think now especially people are looking to the government for advice because there is so much turmoil and having this transition to renewable energy would certainly put a better light on the government and increase the public’s confidence in the government and renewable energy itself.”

This is not the first action from Prairie Village regarding green and sustainable energy. Currently, the city is also building a park with solar panel-powered lights, as well as looking into options for an electric car charging station, according to Mayor Eric Mikkelson. 

For Mikkelson, exploring the city’s options in the renewable field is a top priority. After the recent agreement with KCP&L and Mission signing on as well, other cities are following in their interest in the renewable sector with both wind and solar power, although wind is the less expensive option with current technology.

“I will say that with the interest from the broader metro area it is kind of a game changer to see a lot of municipalities come together to sign up for things like this,” Robinson said. “We are hopeful we can keep some momentum going and keep Kansas City on the map from a renewables perspective.”

Watch how Greensburg, KS was able to use wind energy after a tornado destroyed most of the city, here:


goingdigital

by Ben Henschel

The following is an interview conducted by Asst. Online Editor Ben Henschel with Shawnee Mission Post Editor-in-chief Jay Senter regarding the future of news media and the shift from print newspapers to online and video news.

HENSCHEL: What are your thoughts on the whole transition that’s occurred in the journalistic world regarding print and digital media? 

SENTER: Well, so the whole industry has gone through this very painful realization over the course of the past twenty years, and there are a lot of factors that have gone into that. One, is the fact that newspaper companies in the mid-90’s decided to basically grant access to this product that people had been paying for in print form for free online. And people got trained to expect they were going to get the news for free, whereas before you would’ve been expected to pay a subscription fee to have it delivered to your house. So that’s one thing.    

“The other thing is just that the adoption of technology has been immense. And whether it’s free or not, it’s kind of hard to argue that a computer or your cell phone or an iPad isn’t a more convenient way to get the news. I mean, it just is.”

You have access to the specific kinds of coverage that you’re interested in, search for the topics that are of particular interest to you, you can access those whenever it’s convenient for you and read it in a format that’s frankly, probably more designed for users and readers than the newspaper was.  

Newspapers weren’t always…focused on readers as much as they were as a format that would allow them to sell more ads, but you know. It made sense to write 1,000 words about something because that meant you would have more newsprint to sell and more ads to put out.

So you know, in a lot of ways for readers, it’s been a really, really good era because it’s cheaper to get information out via digital channels, it’s much easier to find the time for content that you’re looking for every day, you don’t have to rely on the daily newspaper to maybe give you a little bit of coverage on the niche you’re particularly interested in. But the business models that fuel all kinds of journalism for 150 or 200 years have totally crumbled, right? 

So legacy companies like McClatchy, which owns the [Kansas City] Star, are trying to figure out how to transition from this sort of stable business model that’s worked for them for decades and decades, to a new world where frankly, it’s the wild west. Nobody has the blueprint that works in every market, all the time. And I think that’s what, unfortunately, has been behind the downward trend in jobs that are available.

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HENSCHEL: I understand that the SM Post is online for paid subscription. For the same reasons you listed? That online is more convenient, readily available, just kind of better in the ways you’ve said?

SENTER: Exactly. I mean, so we’re online only, we’ve always been online only and launched in 2010. And so in the first seven and a half years of our existence, we were…all of our revenue came from ads. Anybody could go on the site and get anything they wanted for free. And basically we found that we just were not able to generate enough revenue from online advertisement only to sustain an operation. I mean you just can’t pay living wages for staff and have enough staff employed to do a good job of covering our community.

And so in April of 2017, very trepidatiously, we turned on the paywall and said, ‘Hey, Shawnee Mission area, if you want to continue to have community news publication that’s just focused on local issues, we’re gonna need readers to be a part of that revenue figure.’ And it worked.  I mean I was surprised and very pleased that we reached our subscriber goal for the year in like three and a half months and have continued to grow from there.

So it’s been a stable business model for us, but we’re totally different than a big organization like the metro daily Star. I mean, their overhead and head count is huge, right? You have to figure out ways to pay for the newsprint, the building, the rent, the printing press, the staff to cover a metro area of two and a half million people, that’s all stuff we don’t have to worry about and it’s allowed us to gain a toehold in an area that wasn’t being covered very consistently before.

HENSCHEL: Do you hear more about people transitioning to digital forms, rather than just buying a copy of the Star, for instance?

SENTER: Yeah, I mean again, one, nobody ever said that the newspaper was the best channel or the best format to deliver the news. Now that there’s a different option where you can now get it whenever and wherever you want it, people are switching to that. The real shift here, though, is convincing readers that it’s worth it to pay for that subscription price and that they can’t just expect everything for free.

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I would guess that over the next five, ten, fifteen years, pretty much every hard news publication of any kind in the country will be switching to a model where you have to pay to get full access to everything they publish online.

The business models that don’t have subscriptions or memberships or whatever you want to call it, they just have not panned out. And so I think more and more publications will be looking to make readers a big part of their revenue equation. 

HENSCHEL: Do you see some of the smaller news, but still sizable metro area papers transitioning to only digital anytime soon? 

SENTER: Yeah I mean none of those major metro dailies, as I would call them — I’m not talking Washington Post or New York Times or Wall Street Journal, but like a top thirty or fourty market in the country — it’s getting less and less profitable for them to deliver a physical paper.

But there is a sector of their readership that likes the physical paper, has gotten their physical paper for thirty years, wants to start their morning at the kitchen table with a coffee and a newspaper. So they’re sort of in this odd spot where they’re having to balance serving that shrinking group of people that want the physical paper, who they’re still getting money from — they don’t want to alienate these people and cut them off, and they’ve also invested a lot of money in the infrastructure it takes to deliver that physical paper product.

“So if you kill it, what do you do with a printing press? It doesn’t make you any money just sitting there.”

So nobody has made the leap yet to say, “O.K., yeah, we’re not going to do paper delivery anymore and we’ll be online only.” I think a couple metro’s have cut back to five-day-a-week publishing or three-day-a-week publishing, something like that, they stopped publishing on Monday’s or Wednesday’s or something like that — the physical paper, that is. 

But I would bet in twenty or thirty years, the number of cities that have a physical paper that is delivered more than once a week will be pretty small. There may always be demand for the Sunday paper, but outside of that, I wouldn’t be surprised if the daily paper just kind of vanishes.

HENSCHEL: What are some of the new ways you can expand online that you can’t in print? Other than the obvious forms like video. 

SENTER: I mean I think it would be interesting to see where it all goes over the next few years. The other thing is there are sort of fits and starts with all these different platforms, I think you’ll see more publishers starting to be a little more hesitant to invest a ton of time and energy into a new platform or a new format until another one has proven that it’s worthwhile.    

Podcasts, for example, I think are a fantastic way to do in-depth examinations of issues and a great way to hear from experts and get really into the finer points of a topic in a way that you just can’t in print. And there are business models around podcasts that have made them a pretty attractive format for publishers to use, so you see the New York Times or Washington Post’s of the world investing pretty heavily in putting out professional podcasts. You know, Twitter and Facebook and to some extent Instagram are all very powerful platforms for distributing information. But from a business perspective, they’re not money-makers for news organizations.   

So I don’t know, it’s great to be able to produce and share all sorts of content across all sorts of platforms in the blink of an eye — but I, kind of in my…looking at the business side of publishing role, I’m much more hesitant these days to say, like, “wow, what a great opportunity — x, y, or z technological advancement offers.” 

“Even if it’s great for storytelling, if you can’t figure out how to make it a sustainable part of your business, it’s not going to be around for awhile.”

tappingintotherapy

by Rose Kanaley (click to see the full story)

An IV hanging from his arm, then-freshman *Peter Ryans sat in his hospital bed.

After reaching a low of 102 pounds, he had ended up in intensive care for the second time in two years from his struggles with anorexia, depression and anxiety. 

Now a sophomore, Ryans stayed until deemed healthy — gaining back weight through eating regularly in healthy portions, taking daily blood tests to make sure his organs were improving and visiting a therapist. 

But Ryans isn’t alone. 25 percent of teens live with a mental health condition, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. They found that the number of people struggling with mental health has increased by about a third in recent years, especially in teens. Predictions show a continuous rising trend, with an expectation that 50 percent of people will experience a mental illness at a point in their life. 

New self-help apps, tests and technology like Kareo — a software that searches through medical records for patients who could be at risk for developing mental health conditions — have begun developing in the past decade to address the looming and threatening issue of mental health. They are not perfected or all used regularly yet, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, but NIMH said with time they are in line to become one of the main channels for easily accessible help. 

Psychologists see social media and technology as a heavy influencer on mental health, and 43 percent of East students agree, based on a poll of 193 students. Since 1995 alone, technology users have increased by over 55 percent, according to Internet World Stats. Social media use has increased by over 15 percent in the past two years according to Smart Insights — and both are predicted to continue to rise.

The Pew Research Center found that over 45 percent of teens are using social media on a near constant basis, and Telegraph News found that people spend over 28 hours per week on their phones. With the continual increasing technology progressions from iPhones to laptops to Apple Watches, they found that it’s expected to keep rising.

Expectations of success are high and getting higher with college and careers becoming more competitive, according to senior Blaine Murphy as well as team leader at Johnson County Mental Health Clinic Renee Van Meter and therapist Liz Christian. They believe that this competition forces people to put more stress on themselves to keep up with expectations which they find increasingly more important than mental health. 

Van Meter believes there’s more pressure on kids now than in past generations, which makes it harder to realize they need help. 

“There is so much pressure being put on our youth today to be the best, to be perfect, to be No. 1,” Van Meter said. “While there is nothing wrong with working hard to achieve your best, it’s also just as OK to fail and pick yourself up and try again. Who wants to ask for help when they feel worthless and hopeless?”

Van Meter expects the pressures to continue growing and hurting the youth — making them feel as though their best isn’t enough — until people come up with a solution or way to decrease these expectations.

Advancements in methods used to treat mental illnesses bring a different side to technology’s impact. According to Christian, researchers are coming up with ways other than medication or therapy to treat depression and anxiety, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation and behavioral trackers, to see real results in these mental health conditions.

Dr. Richard Bermudes talks to his patient, 31-year-old Nicholas O'Madden, who suffers from anxiety and depression and receives treatment with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy, which uses a large magnet to stimulate certain parts of the brain to alleviate depressive symptoms at TMS Health Solutions on July 2, 2015 in Sacramento, Calif. (Randy Pench/Sacramento Bee/TNS)

Dr. Richard Bermudes talks to his patient, 31-year-old Nicholas O’Madden, who suffers from anxiety and depression and receives treatment with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy, which uses a large magnet to stimulate certain parts of the brain to alleviate depressive symptoms at TMS Health Solutions on July 2, 2015 in Sacramento, Calif. (Randy Pench/Sacramento Bee/TNS) *photo courtesy of MCT Campus

Christian believes there will be better treatments for different and more specific chemical imbalances caused by having either too many or too few neurotransmitters, which assist communication between nerve cells. Transcranial magnetic stimulation delivers short, repetitive bursts of energy against one’s forehead to stimulate the brain’s nerve cells and activating the cells in order to help those dealing with depression.

Dr. Thomas Insel, a neuroscientist, psychologist and past director of the NIMH, is developing behavioral trackers that record signs of impending mental health conditions like depression or anxiety. The tracker is used through an app that monitors the way a person types, taps and scrolls on their phone.

As people begin showing characteristics of depression, the app tracks it. Whether someone is responding less to texts, calls, emails or social media direct messages, taking longer to pick up their phone or even scrolling more slowly through apps and messages, the data is logged to find the likelihood of the subject sliding into a state of mental illness. While the signs may seem minor, capturing the small ones earlier, the app’s description said, aid in catching the illness early so help can be sought out by people dealing with mental health issues or their family before the effects get worse.

Some students, like Murphy’s friends, use technology to reach out to support groups and find access to help online and through social media like Instagram.

“I have a lot of friends whose Internet groups are really their only means of getting good support, which is the key to even beginning to get help with mental health,” Murphy said. “Without social media they would feel alone and in a worse condition.”

He found that the increasing use of these apps and websites could result  in help for people who didn’t want to see a therapist as it was easier to speak honestly with strangers than with friends or in person. Murphy also thinks finding the help online eliminates some fear of judgement, with their accessibility contributing to their rise in popularity.

Websites like BetterHelp and apps like What’s Up and MoodKit are becoming more popular as they provide therapy and help for mental health rather than a planned hour of therapy costing an average of $75-100. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 9 percent of those dealing with mental health now prefer mental health apps to any other form of treatment.

The apps help users keep record of their mood and daily thoughts, ask questions in complete confidence, set and follow steps to improve wellbeing, keep contacts of local and national mental health support and contact emergency services if needed.

But Christian sees social media and technology as something that can distort people’s vision of themselves and contribute to worsening mental health.

“People do an almost constant comparison of their lives to the lives of others and people post almost exclusively fabulous things, not the rest of the realities they have to deal with,” Christian said.

Technology is battling itself as mental health conditions will be increasingly more common, but the technology advancements and society’s involvement can help change that according to Murphy.

“Unless there are major changes to how we treat it, and see it and what we decide to do about it, there’s not going to be any change,” Murphy said. “It’s going to keep rising, and I really don’t think there’s any way to make it stop rising unless we’re willing to do something about it.”


unplug

by Carolyn Popper

Looking up from my plate, I see an 8-year-old wedged between his grandparents, tuning everything out with an iPad, oversized Beats and a blank expression — I’m astonished that his parents don’t nudge him to put away his gadgets. The only thing I played with during dinner at that age was my food. 

Ten years ago, kids would beg their parents to play games on their flip phones. Thirty years ago, your friend having a computer in their home was equivalent to having a home theater. Sixty years ago, people didn’t think technology could get any better than color TV. Now, there’s a fast-moving conveyor belt of technological introductions: Face ID to open a phone, self-driving cars, Alexa who listens and acts to the sound of your voice.

Chester Taylor Elementary School kindergartener Urijah Smiley, 5, used an iPad to access an reading application, Bookshelf, while practicing reading on Jan. 23, 2018, at the school in Zephyrhills.

Chester Taylor Elementary School kindergartener Urijah Smiley, 5, used an iPad to access an reading application, Bookshelf, while practicing reading on Jan. 23, 2018, at the school in Zephyrhills. *photo courtesy of MCT Campus

We are in an exponential growth of technological advancement. Picture a line on a graph that is slowly inclining and then all of a sudden, the incline shoots up almost vertically. We are at the beginning of that vertical jump.

Despite having the option, we should choose to avoid these “advancements,” or we might lose meaningful steps of life that keep us human. Learning how to complete tasks that reward us later or handling social interaction.

Half of current jobs in the world are unlikely to exist in 2050. In thirty years, I’ll still be in the workforce. Hopefully I can find a well paying job that’s left. Even if I do, part of my generation could be trapped in isolation whether they wanted it or not. They will lose communication skills and social interaction skills — I could be surrounded by robots as well as robot-like peers. 

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*sidebar infographic information provided by Apiumhub

There are plenty of movies to warn you of these allurements. Ex Machina, WALL-E and Passengers all contain the same warning: Stay away from technology! It’s cool, but maintain human nature and connections — it’s worth it!

Think to 10 years ago — before Snapchat, Siri or Apple Play. Textbooks, for the most part, were still books, not online PDFs. Texting had yet to completely eliminate phone calls and face to face convos. Schools weren’t using Macbooks, which meant no Google Classroom. In 2010, an East classroom might actually utilize the whiteboard, contain tangible, paper worksheets and forsake Airplay (honestly who needs it?). Now that these advancements are here, imagine how enormously different inventions will be in the next 10 years.

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Ray Kurzweil, a futurist specializing in technology predictions says that in 2050, the dead could be reincarnated through artificial intelligence according to Apiumhub, a tech hub. Kurzweil predicts we’ll be able to send nanobots into people’s brains to extract memories of childhood and of loved ones, and with enough DNA sampling, it will be possible to create a convincing virtual version of somebody who’s bit the dust.

Yes, this is wildly impressive and a scientific surge for mankind but has anyone ever seen Pet Sematary? Most books, TV shows, and movies involving reincarnation clearly suggests bringing back the dead will result in far more harm than good Despite the obvious fiction, these stories have plausible arguments — we don’t know what will happen if we have robotic copies of ourselves walking around. Imagine your grandkids only knowing an artificially modified version of yourself with a few hand picked memories to maintain your personality.

The dashboard of the Tesla Model S P90D. The Pentagon is going to introduce self-driving cars to the military. (Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

The dashboard of the Tesla Model S P90D. The Pentagon is going to introduce self-driving cars to the military. (Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune/TNS) *photo courtesy of MCT Campus

Kurzweil also predicts the next era of AI could produce self-driving cars without the high numbers of deaths and injuries. A Stanford report says these cars will “give us more time to ourselves,” but I want you to ask yourself what you would be doing in the car if you weren’t driving it. Answering Snapchat streaks? Maybe you will do something productive like catching up on sleep or finishing homework, but if one by one, our most baseline responsibilities are done for us, our accumulating laziness will result in generations to come of unmotivated, unchallenged and unaccomplished people.

I found myself bothered with an 8-year-old glued to his iPad for losing time with his grandparents. Now think twenty years from now, what are you going to be bothered by?
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