February 2, 2021 § Leave a comment
After Gartner listed the Internet of Behaviors (IoB) as the number 1 technology trend to follow in 2021, a flow of news and commentaries, like from Forbes, and other significant sources have emerged. At the writing of this, feeding “Internet of Behaviors” to Google returns 130 000 hits.
The version which Gartner mentions can be called the General IoB because it has an open approach in the sense that any behaviors can be monitored with suitable tracking and pattern recognition technologies and individuals can be approached based on that information. Potential solution for the resulting privacy issues are not included in it although any possible tools for anonymity can be provided. Nevertheless, this version of the IoB concept has caused worries and invited the suspicion that it could become a new surveillance tool if IoB will be adopted in that form. This is no surprise, remembering that only some time ago Facebook had to pay 5 billion USd for violating customer’s privacy.
The original IoB concept respects privacy
My core idea in the original version of IoB in 2012 which can be named Private IoB, was to build it on permission contacting. In this sense it has a similar ’ideology’ as Tim Berners-Lee’s current model. Reading the early IoB texts, I remember that the aim then was to contrast the IoB with the Big data hype, which underestimated the value of subjective knowledge, and I did not strongly lift up the privacy aspect. I saw the value of subjective data for IoB. Later I have kept the privacy issue in my writings and in the notion that Private IoB is based on the idea that behavior knowledge and identity data can be kept separate so that privacy can be guaranteed.
In the quotation from my book On the Edge of Human technology – An Essay (2020), this is explicit:
”What if we/you could know when thousands or even millions of people on earth are doing the same thing or engaged with the same plan, intention or wish at a certain moment of time? What, if we could have this knowledge without knowing who they are and not necessarily even where they are, if they so wish? This was the trigger to my idea on the Internet of Behaviors (IoB).”
Building a platform for the Private IoB requires specific architectures and platform solutions whereas the General IoB as described by Gartner can be built almost directly on the present ones.
Next steps will be something to follow: where does the IoB get its first, solid application where the architecture is meant to keep behavior data separate from identity information. And still provide exceptionally well targeted, 100% right timing and relevance in services.
Finally, an idea: what if we could have a well-defined Private IoB service as a privacy-secure component in Facebook and in other social media platforms? It could launch the use of IoB immediately and perhaps offer some ethical facelift for the giants who have been hurt by their privacy scandals. GDPR would accept it, too. Could we trust the giants? Hmmm.
January 20, 2021 § Leave a comment
The interest in IoB received a boost, when Gartner listed it as a major future technological trend which will touch the amazing amount of 40% of the world population by 2023 – in two years. A decade ahead, 6G and the exploding amount of human behavior data in the net will put more pressure on this development with its accessibility, speed, data transfer capacity, and real-time potential. For r&d, services and businesses this is a call for a timely analysis of what real potential IoB can and will offer.
I’ve been happy to read fresh news and columns taking IoB seriously and looking at the realistic potential, e.g. on assistive technology and IoB for empowering the disabled and older people, International Banker and many others. The ethics problems have been frequently touched, sometimes forgetting that the original idea in IoB was to separate id and behavior data, when it is required – and still offer massive, even global service potential.
Here I give a very short and limited explanation to some aspects of IoB, with the purpose to show why I believe IoB will be a significant aspect of the intelligent digital future and why we need a coding and notation system for classifying IoB behaviors. IoT and IoB will need each other in dealing with behavior data.
From IoT to behavior
Imagine that you have a motion sensor attached to a person’s wrist and you can address it as an IoT device, with an IP address or some other suitable code. Connecting to the device returns the angle or other useful data of the wrist – you receive data on ‘wrist behavior’. This is only a primitive thought experiment example of a situation where IoB emerges from IoT.
IoT alone can be in trouble when the person being monitored by the ‘wrist sensor device’ takes various roles and the meaning of the wrist data varies accordingly: at work she can be a doctor, treating patients and engaged with other health care activities. Then in the afternoon she commutes, and in the evening, joins a ballet class. Between these activities a number of tasks and situations occur and the sensor reveals her wrist motions and whatever it is capable of sensing. To fully understand the meaning of the wrist data, it is necessary to know what is the exact role of the person at that moment and in that specific situation, that is, what kind of purposeful behavior is ongoing when data is being recorded. This is where IoB emerges from IoT.
The core idea of IoB is to know exactly the situation, the role and behavior occurring at a specific time. When this is known, the data provided by the IoT device (in this primitive example) can be interpreted and a meaning assigned to it. An engineering comment to this could be that there can and will be much more data available, for example about the person’s location, daily schedules, behavior history, and even audio and images that tell exactly what is the situation, the role and the ongoing task.
However, even if this supporting data were available, the recorded behavior data (in this case only the wrist) must be classified so that it is possible to know the aims and meanings of the specific behavior and relate it t other behaviors. Without a systematic coding of behaviors multiple data flows become problematic to interpret. The arm of the dancer and the doctor is the same but the purpose of the wrist movement changes from one behavior and situation to another. Knowing the situation and purpose makes it possible to analyze, give relevant and timely feed-back and provide offers or interventions that are 100% relevant. Recorded streams can then include these behavior codes.
Then there are the subjective intentions of acts. They hide from any straightforward IoT recording and monitoring systems, but they can be valuable and rich material fed by the subject to the IoB, and allow coding of the essence of the intentions. A simple and convenient arrangement is required for this, like voice commands, symbols, gestures and many other UIs can be used. New easy to use solutions will appear when the market for IoB is mature and the needs are known. An interesting relative to IoB is the UI of Spotify, where the user can express his/her feeling and wish by selecting the music genre, the artist or by using any known list.
A few words of addressing and behavior codes
There are only a few systematic behavior classification schemes, and they are typically meant for certain contexts, like dance, games and emotional face expressions, to mention a few. See e.g. my thoughts on the computability of behavior. What is relevant for a dancer can be irrelevant for a handicapped person, but the IoB and IoT systems servicing them, can have similar technical architectures, where IoB includes a specific behavior coding scheme and is supported by IoT. Intelligent sensor devices and tools for IoT can work together with IoB to improve behavior recognition and related targeting.
In the 2012 IoB article and in its follow-up I considered IPv6 with its 2128 address space as a potential means to manage and offer enough addresses to code and target any human behaviors and why not (dynamically?) reserve address segments for certain globally relevant service-, business-, education- or entertainment related behavior classes. The addresses within a segment need not be fixed and reserved – a set of dynamically defined addresses could be used for specific contexts – if I understand the possibilities of IPv6 right. Well, I have not discussed the limitations of this with IPv6 professionals and have something to learn here.
If indeed the IPv6 addresses are used by a service provider and its clients, the arrangement could alleviate the risk of hacking since the specific IoB ‘codes’ within a segment can be declared and known only by the two parties so that only they know what behavior they represent and the coding could be changed on the fly and vary across individuals.
Architectural solutions are needed and there are several alternatives, some of which aim at keeping the id and behavior data separate, while offering possibilities of even global services, and to secure the safety of the people using IoB.. However, like in IoT, IP addressing is not a necessity for IoB either and other behavior coding schemes can be introduced to different contexts as it happens already. There is much to do in this.
An amusing final note
I hope I don’t sound querulent. Trying to get funding for the IoB project in Finland from the leading tech and business fund some years ago, with my colleague we received puzzled looks and the decision: “It is impossible to understand what IoB could mean and used for.” Later I saw similar reactions, expressly reserved, if not hostile. I got frustrated but then one night, had an idea. Why not include IoB in my fictional story and show what it can do? At the time I was writing my novel “Perceptions of the Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” which will hopefully come out by summer 2021 (it’s in English) and I included one compelling application of the IoB in the story. Well, then came Gartner and the IoB game changed, for a while at least, but IoB lives in the story of fiction science, as I call its genre.
January 15, 2021 § 2 Comments
Here I will introduce shortly some interesting technological trends that seem to lead to an increased need for a systematic framework to represent and code any human behaviors, simple as well as complex, mental and bodily, and their components. The need to manage massive behavioral data is different for computer game industry, gene sciences, IoT world, and robotics. In AI this is becoming a reality and it is the focus here.
My take is to suggest IoB as a candidate approach, not only in these fields but in general, to model and code human behaviors for computational and then service purposes. This will be a vast task if it is launched. My guess is that the technology-evolutionary development will first lead to context- and device-specific modeling of behaviors, but when the data portability becomes an issue it will then reveal the benefits of a common framework for behavior data, whatever the means of generating (in games, robots) or following (genes, IoT, AI) behaviors might be. This development will take time.
Dance behavior codes are here already
Decades ago, I happened to know the then young Finnish dancer Mikko Nissinen who later became a famous ballet star and a choreographer. He introduced to me a Dutch system for coding choreographies and we discussed the problems of reaching the quality and essence of such expressive movements. Dance notations have a long history and there are dozens of different systems, specific for each style and not to be generalized to other styles. The main aim is to document dances and help to preserve them. Indeed, dance and theatre are perhaps the most ambitious, realistic fields for generating and coding any human behaviors and AI could use these for its future learning needs.
The dancing Asimo robots from 2007 and now Boston Dynamic robots, although they look like machines, demonstrate the vivid human-like potential of robots. The secret behind their marvelous performance is that their behavior imitates human dance – as a cultural and expressive phenomenon – in a credible manner. They act as much as any characters in a movie, theatre play or a game animation.
Dance behaviors – scripts – have been programmed and stored in these robot’s control store and even without knowing the details of the software and algorithms, there must be an integrated set of inter-linked, natural-like behaviors and their elements that can be output in a coordinated and adaptive manner. In other words, dance behaviors can be coded. What about millions of other human behaviors and their components? There is no unique solution to this call, yet.
The behaving AI of the future is expected to master and imitate human behaviors, emotional, intentional and motor alike, and beat us in any rational task. The functioning of AI is totally different from the processes going on in the human mind and the representation of the behavioral elements of the robots are not the same as in the human mind-body system. The artificial neural networks in deep learning and related ML system are indeed, artificial, perhaps biologically inspired ones.
AI must learn and be taught to behave in a manner which we humans can observe, interpret, accept, relate to and understand the depicted behavior. With an ever more versatile AI, millions of human behavior patterns, features, expressions, and episodes become difficult to manage systematically. Even more difficult is to build a system that covers, for example, a large set of different behaviors having the same style. Think about a robot that behaves nicely here in Finland. If we then take it to another country, with totally different culture from ours, how should the behavior program be altered or adapted in order for the robot to behave well there? Computational, adaptive and mass storage solutions and some others can be imagined.
Dance notations have been genre specific. A good example is the type of dance performed by different individuals. From the outset dance behavior follows a certain discipline, but variations occur, it is the essence of art. The problem is not easier, when considering the (expressed) motivations and cultural drivers of each behavior or a behavior set. A systematic for the representation and coding of behaviors is needed and it should allow computational manipulation.
Human behaviors and IoT
Many IoT devices and systems will be in close proximity to or in direct contact with behaving people at work, home and in free time. For example, following how people behave according to certain protocols in critical environments can be based on IoT devices which then allow seamless recording and monitoring of the behaviors of individuals who are recognized by identity. Other application areas for IoT are energy, health, and child -related behaviors, and of course, wearable sensors and many others. Common to all these is the need to know, what behaviors are associated with the IoT addressed systems in use and how to classify these behaviors. In case of complex and variable behaviors this is not an easy task to manage.
Synthetic emotional face expressions
In animation, emotional face expressions have been an essential part of character behavior. To put it simply, the question is how to link an assumed mental state, an emotion, with a set of relevant face expressions – that is. visible behaviors. To accomplish this, various methods are used, from GAN to emotion theoretical classification and other component-based systematics. I was lucky to serve as the opponent for the doctoral thesis by Meeri Mäkäräinen, Aalto University “Blending and Exaggeration of Animated Facial Expressions of Emotion” and was inspired to look at this work from a general perspective, too: how to represent and manage data on any complex mental states and their related behaviours so that it serves the needs of the situation, be it a drama, a real life communication episode or communication with or guiding a behaving robot. The field is developing fast and serves as a good model for dealing with any mental human behaviors. There is no general model for representing behaviors although specific toolsets and approaches flourish.
Non-player character behavior in games
Computer games generate different behaviors for the non-player characters and in the present game scene, massive behavior data must be managed. The field develops fast. Typically, dynamic scrips are used to make the characters show realistic or any other wanted behavior, which can have very delicate variations. Adaptive, learning and human like principles can be used for generating relevant behaviors which can be of any human and cultural genre and of course imaginary.
Social robot behavior
Social robotics aims at building robots where natural-like behavior becomes possible. This is accomplished e.g. by combining cognitive architecture, adaptive behavior and emotional expressions which can be used in natural-like human-robot interaction, UI and collaboration. Applications will occur in numerous contexts from hospitals to schools and industrial settings, even entertainment.
Representation and storage of behavior models is then an essential part of a dynamically behaving robot. At the writing of this, it seems that there is no generally accepted model for representing all human behaviors but the need for a system that covers them is evident. Social robotics evolves and some of the behavioral-emotional models are based on human cognitive theories and biological process. See e.g. Nocentini et al. 2019”A Survey of Behavioral Models for Social Robots).
Genes and behavior
Gene sciences have managed to characterize the occurrence of important gene expressions in human tissues and in different individuals – and various approaches emerge to understand how human behaviors are guided by genetic processes. Currently there are numerous studies where personality, intelligence and various pathologies are correlated with genetic factors. Typically, however, no direct, expressive and systematic behavior model is used in such studies.
In summary, these fields share the need for a general framework for representing and coding all behaviors, which would allow applying the model to the processing of behavior data, mental and physical alike – and transfer of behavior data. Genetics, learning AI, IoT, computer games and robotics are moving to a direction where the need becomes pressing.
Digital representation of behaviors in AI
AI systems receive learning/teaching/guiding data. When AI performs a task imitating a simple natural human behavior, for example recognizing human faces or other objects, each input pattern vector represents an object or components of it, which we humans can recognize, too even when they have only a mathematical formulation and do not necessarily appear as natural elements of objects. In the case of face images, the relevant vector spaces can be defined so that they cover and differentiate any natural face images. Teaching and supervising an AI system can then use these representations. The approach works well in any sensory domain where the task is simple, to recognize objects – or at least to classify them.
What about more complex or abstract human behaviors, like solving a mathematical problem, playing basketball, dancing or buying a new home? Playing an instrument, praying, writing a book, dreaming of a new job, composing a piece, thinking of life together with a loved one, … the list of human behaviors is endless and will continue growing. Clearly, it is a formidable, almost impossible task to list and code all human behaviors and their components. We know how actors manage to move us with their behaviors (which do not originate from real life). Some robots are aiming at evoking strong emotional responses from us, especially in children’s play, therapy, elderly care and sex. More is to come.
We will see an exponential growth in the emergence of digital services and applications which record and want to know and serve relevant human behaviors and situations. Typical examples are physiological trackers for various purposes, map-based-, educational-, health care-, music services and many others. They do not have a common data model for representing behavior and their ways of classifying behaviors vary according to the use context. The coded behaviors hide in silos. Only few of them offer means for representing human mental states/behaviors. There is a babel of behavior data representations. Data Transfer Project run by Apple, Facebook, Google and other giants aims at making data portable from one environment to another. No doubt, one of their challenges is the general management of high-quality behavior data.
Behavior Computation for future AI systems
An efficient framework for behavior representations includes a system for coding different behaviors and behavior classes, which then can be used as a well-defined input to AI as teaching material. It can also be used as a means for ‘humanification’ of AI-system User Interfaces (UI) and for robots to generate certain human-like, IoB coded, behaviors and especially their situational variations. When the IoB system has matured enough it can be used for any AI applications having human-like behaviors.
While this is not happening, it is a real possibility that AI can learn to browse our behaviors, using any sources from movies to literature, to health and any other history data and to use this knowledge for imitating human behavior and guiding people. AI can generate hypotheses about us in order to predict our behavior and reactions to targeted messaging, and interventions, for example. Already now AI can generate reasonably rational texts and stories, analyze and summarize genuine scientific articles, and even suggest new hypothesis and solutions to complex problems. Deep fake GAN imaging and audio imitate human expressions and styles. To the best of my knowledge, systematics of behavior modeling is only emerging but they do not exist so far.
When AI is made to learn high-level human behaviors, reactions and experiences, which are typical in visual arts and music, creative sports, written culture and simple imagination, it needs systematic guidance information – behavior data – that directs its development. How far, in the human and cultural realms can AI reach and what can we do to build the best possible human AI?
I have here emphasized the need for behavior model systematics in supporting the digital use of behavior data. This will be important not only to generate various behaviors but to build a genuine behavior computation framework that allows coding, analysis, computation, transformation and learning of any human behavior. Such a system does not exist, yet. More about it later.
January 13, 2021 § Leave a comment
“Too much power and too much personal data.”
(Tim Berners-Lee in NYT interview, Jan 10 2021).
Having followed Tim Berners-Lee’s comments and activities I happened to read the NYT interview, January 10, 2021 which inspired me to look at the preliminary IoB concept by considering other developments with similar interests in the digital world. Clearly by separating behavior data and identity is a specific property of the IoB framework and it does not occur in other related concepts. However, the common aim and pressure is to protect people and their personal data while at the same time maintain and even boost digital service markets. My vision is that massive, global behavior markets can be opened but we must try to avoid the risks.
Berners-Lee vision is to build infrastructure, systems and services that offer people a secure and useful control of their personal data and transactions. He has introduced the Personal Online Data Store (POD) – concept where the user controls her own data and can allow selected operators like companies to access and use the data when offering their specific services. Pilot projects have been ongoing.
MyData program has similar aims in trying to return control and data ownerships to us, the users and a chance to benefit from the use and value of our personal data.
Portable data. There is a major program Data Transfer Project (DTP), run by Google, Facebook, Apple, MS and Twitter, where the aim is to make personal data, not only behavioral data, portable. There are evident drivers for this collaboration among the data giants, considering the vast amount of personal and behavior data generated in the net. It is clear, however, that portable personal and identity data include a number of well-known risks and some new ones, for sure.
Gartner and IoB
In 2019 Gartner listed Internet of Behavior (IoB) as one of its top 20 strategic technology trends, and in 10/2020 it was already mentioned as Trend 1. Interestingly, originally they used IoB without the ‘s’ which I had included in the 2012a, 2012b articles. Knowing the huge scope of behaviors and wearing the psychologist’s hat, it was a natural choice for me to include the s, which also hints to the idea that mental phenomena can and must be considered as behaviors in the IoB concept.
Gartner suggests compelling drivers for the emergence of IoB, a coherent means to: Capture behaviors, Analyze, Understand, and Monetize. They do not specifically worry about the protection of personal data but whatever the model for providing security, it should support if not maintain the best of the digital markets.
In Gartner’s vision, pattern recognition, sensor systems and other monitoring technologies are used to recognize ongoing behaviors. Identity has no special role there and it can be linked with the behavior for various purposes like measuring, follow-up, message targeting and intervention, for example. Naturally, id data is often necessary and extra care is taken to protect it.
Looking at these technological developments, there looms a major competition between various concepts and architectures, each trying to gain access to service markets or maintain their power in using personal data for businesses and other benefits. A specific but extensive challenge will be how to make personal data safe and secure and to guarantee that it is used for the best of the citizens, customers and any other users. In summary, four new solution types can be seen to emerge:
- Preparing standards for personal data to make it portable between any operators and platforms and for any uses (DTP)
- Giving people data ownership and self-determination in managing their data (MyData)
- Securing personal data and offering secure control of personal traffic, data and transactions with specific permission access rights to service providers (Berners’Lee).
- Separating behavior data and identity data so that behaviors can be targeted and served without risking personal identity (IoB)
IoB is different from all other three since it includes the original, perhaps transformational idea that identity data and behavior data can be separated when needed and it can be very useful – without disturbing or hindering valuable digital services and markets. The other three approaches are not exclusive and even at the moment there are various versions or feature combinations of these on the market or being developed. At the moment it is difficult to see how this aspect of digital evolution will proceed.
The relevance of human-centric IoB
When outlining the first concept version of the Internet of Behaviors 2012a, 2012b it was partly based on the conviction that people are not willing or able to invest any extra human effort to manage or own their personal or any other data. Psychologically, data is secondary. Data protection tools for example, do have benefits like anonymity and security, but in general, they are used because it is a must and a social routine in the risky digital world.
Managing masses of personal data is a complex task and only if it happens without any burden, almost invisibly, it can be a choice people are motivated to make. Secondly, thinking about the IoB concept in 2010-11, the bad quality of the marketing/targeting tools was evident in how they use ML and other customer or lead management models to approach people with push offers. When these tools fail, it is typically in relevance and accurate timing. There are very human reasons to this failure, which I have explained in my IoB texts. Indeed, relevance is a most underestimated driver of human behavior and it is typically considered as the opposite to disturbance. Curious enough, it lacks a common behavior-theoretical name even though we all suffer from the irrelevance in the net.
The strongest sources of human interest can be found in relevance, timing, contents, contexts, relationships, experiences, style and sense of presence, to name only a few major factors. I have described this thinking in my book On the Edge of Human behaviors where I use the ‘Golden Triangle’ framework: Content orientation – Human centered and care – Psychological ground, to span the conceptual view.
Towards IoB architecture
We can construct a general model for representing any behavior, physical or mental,
in digital form but we have to deal with two major challenges and requirements. Firstly, there is no general coding system for all human behaviors, and secondly, it is a major data-architectural endeavor to build a platform for managing any possible human behavior, physical or mental or even spiritual in nature. Some may think there is no way to code all behaviors, but it is possible to launch an evolutionary process, with no limits and we can expect major potential in future behavior markets.
Both of the requirements can be met by using a version of the IoB behavior data model which grows and improves as experiences are accumulated and the coding is tuned on the way. Services and tools can then be offered to people, based on their expressed or recognized (coded, often ongoing) behaviors, without knowing who they are and where. The architecture for IoB can include e.g. the following modules:
- Recording modules. A Behavior codec, where the recording and coding of a specific behavior is accomplished A) automatically e.g. by a pattern recognition or AI system , and/or B) by indicators or voluntary expressions of behaviors which are generated by the behaving individuals who also disclose their identities and C) the same as B but where only the ongoing/planned behavior is indicated without knowing who behaves or where the behavior occurs. This latter form was the original idea in my IoB texts. The obtained behavior data is then stored in IoB data base and without id data when needed. The coding of behaviors is contextual.
- IoB data modules. Behavior decoder provides behavior data (with or without id data) to service providers who can then select and use what is relevant for them. Their interest is to see what direct or potential service needs exist and when, based on the occurring behaviors represented in the IoB data base.
- IoB service platform. This is where ‘behaving individuals’, that is, citizens, customers, firms – the oB behavior data sources – and why not robots as well, can access any services they want from IoB and which are offered by service providers. Access to the IoB service platform takes place either anonymously or with id data included. Technically, there can be a number of different modules in the platform and they can use any media to inform the behaving individuals about the available services. However, the individuals decide whether to use the offered services.
User perspective. How to arrange for individuals to know what services are available for them and to access them effectively, when they do not want to reveal their identities? In Berners-Lee’s and MyData approaches this is accomplished by specific, secure data management solutions and there are, of course, numerous methods for anonymous communication. However, one possibility, among some others, which I have considered with IoB is to use a message board analogy, where service providers have write-access to personal boards to which only users have read access. This is only one of the many alternatives, and includes suitable options by which users can express their general or specific data to ease targeting.
Market perspective. One might wonder what use it is to know a behavior occurring right now, for example. However, the potential behavior pool can be globally huge so that relevant and timely offers can reach a significant audience –ongoing behavior is always a symbol of relevant needs. Further, through an IoB hub, certain behavior can be served by several providers each of which are not interested in the person but in the need based on the specific behavior. To quote B-L in NYT: “This is about making markets’. I’d could call it future behavior markets. The market potential of IoB is huge even when id data is no used.
Identity protection is available in IoB when needed. The structure and details of this preliminary architecture are open and various alternatives and versions can be imagined and designed. I will return to these later.
In Summary: IoB is one candidate concept for a service framework where customers and citizens can be served, based on their known behavior and do it safely by protecting their identities when needed. This is a call to regulators as well to consider means for identity-safe digital services by separating identity and behavior. Of course, not all behaviors can be served without knowing the identity of the person like in many health care contexts and in specific work environments, for example. But even there it is not always necessary. There is huge market potential in services that do not need identity data, but which serve behaviors accurately, time it right and are relevant to the expressed or recorded behavior.
January 3, 2021 § Leave a comment
Sarah Vallance: A Memoir of My Brain (book). Photo Creative Commons
I write this blog in Finnish, and hope that the Google translator recognizes the essence of the story from my youth – I was 25 then – when I every now and then worked as a clinical neuropsychologist at the University hospital in Helsinki, Finland. The work with all kinds of neurological patients and their family members had a permanent impact on my thinking about what is a ‘brain’ and what it means when someone suffers from a brain damage or a disorder or of a carotid stroke and mild paralysis, for example, from which I have survived and recovered.
I’ve sometimes mentioned that if St Peter asks me at the famous Gates, “What good have you done in your life?” I have two stories to tell. This is the first one and the second one – when I was 18 – is about an incidence when I saved an old man (to my eyes then) from under a train leaving from Helsinki Central railways station. Nobody thanked me for it but because the train was made to stop when I was running alongside the moving train and lifted the fellow from the rails, between the wagons, someone, in addition to St Peter must have seen this deed.
I was inspired to write this, having followed the controversy originating from a book and health therapy guidance by a well-known Finnish figure. I don’t have anything to say about the case but reading about it, I remembered these.
Kun on toimittava omaperäisesti
Olen sivusta seurannut Maria Nordinin kirjan poleemista käsittelyä enkä aio siihen ottaa mitään kantaa. Asian ja esitettyjen argumenttien pohdinta palautti elävästi mieleeni erään elämääni ja ajatteluani vahvasti liikuttaneen teon ja kokemukset neuropsykologi-ajoiltani, nuorena 25 v miehenä. Jos Pyhä Pietari joskus kysyy, olenko tehnyt elämässäsi jotakin hyvää, niin tämä on toinen tarinoista, jonka kertoisin. Tässä on hieman pitkä johdanto hyvään tarinaan. Se toinen mielestäni hyvä teko oli tapahtumasarja, jossa pelastin erään vanhemman miehen (olin silloin 18 v) hengen Helsingin Rautatieasemalla, kun hän oli pudonnut liikkuvan junan vanujen väliin.
Olin vuonna 1972 keväällä lupautunut afasiapotilaiden kesäisen kuntoutuskurssin vetäjäksi. Mukaan lähtisi n 25 potilasta pääosin ilman omaisia. Mukaan tuli muitakin terapeutteja, aivan upeita ihmisiä: Sari Kaukonen puheterapeuttina ja Raija Ahvonen sosiaalityöntekijänä, mutta ei lääkäriä. Jos oikein muistan niin Leena Warsell oli silloin oivana ja hyvähenkisenä fysioterapeuttina mukana, kuten myös pari afasiayhdistyksen ihmistä.
Tällaista afasiakurssia ei oltu aiemmin järjestetty ja piti Kelan ihmisten kanssa jopa keksiä sille sopiva nimike, jolle hyvä rahoitusmomentti löytyisi. Syntyi ”sopeutumisvalmennuskurssi”. Käsittääkseni se oli ensimmäinen nimikkeeltään ja senkin jälkeen käytössä.
Saimme leiritilat Kiteen Kristilliseltä Kansanopistolta, jonne kuumana kesäpäivänä matkustettiin koko joukko samaan aikaan junalla. Ajatuksenani oli, että järjestämme leirillä sekä neuropsykologisen diagnostiikan että yksilökohtaisen kuntoutusharjoituksen, josta potilaat sitten voisivat omassa kuntoutumisessaan hyötyä. Tämä oli hyvin rationaalista sillä tuohon aikaan oli hyvin tiedossa, että monet lääkärit ja muutkin epäilivät kuntoutuksen tehoa, kun näyttöä ei juuri ollut ja neuropsykologisen kuntoutuksen ja diagnostiikan tutkimukset olivat sekalaisia ja suorastaan huonoja. Ajateltiin, että vaurioituneet aivot eivät olennaisesti toivu noin vuoden-parin jälkeen vammasta. Olin kuitenkin varma, että mm. Lurian oppien soveltaminen olisi avuksi ja olinkin niitä omin päin opiskellut ja kokeillut klinikassa sekä käynyt myös erään innostavan kurssin aihepiiristä. Olin lukenut kaikki Lurian käännetyt teokset ja paljon muuta.
Ei siis huolta, koko jengi junaan ilman lääkäriä. Mukana oli hemipleegikkoja, jotka liikkuivat huonosti, jos lainkaan, muita halvauksia, monilla oli epileptisiä oireita eikä juuri kukaan kyennyt puhumaan normaalisti tai puhui, mutta sokeltaen, hitaasti, pulputen kontrolloimattomasti – tai ei sanonut sanaakaan.
Perillä odotti upea kesäpaikka ja saimme testi- ja terapiarutiinit sekä yhdessäolon hienosti käyntiin. Heti alkupäivinä potilaakseni tuli Manu Rytisalmi, jo edesmennyt, entinen musiikkiliikkeen pitäjä Kotkasta, Suomen ensimmäinen päätoiminen jazz-kriitikko ja muusikkojen arvostama ammattimies, joka oli menettänyt kaiken tämän elämänpiirinsä aivoverenvuodon seurauksena. Se oli minulle ’kutsu’ miettiä syvemmin, mitä afasia merkitsee ihmisen elämässä. En ole unohtanut oppia, jonka sain, kun hän änkyttäen ja sokeltaen kertoi, viitaten terapia- ja diagnostiikkaintooni, hyvin hitaasti yksittäisiä sanoja tavoitellen, hymyillen:
”Göte, tajuatko sinä, minkälaista on olla afaatikko? Mietipä tätä. Kuvittele, että kätesi ovat sidottuna selän taakse ja sinun pitäisi selittää, käsiä käyttämättä, mitä tarkoittaa sana ’kuohkea’. Minulla on tämä tunne ja olo joka ikinen hetki.”
Tumma Manu oli ulkomaalaisen tai ehkä romaanin näköinen ja kun hän kävi Alkossa niin hänen luultiin huonon puheen vuoksi olevan humalassa eikä hänelle myyty. Sitten hän keksi pukeutua turkispomppaan talvella, ja esiintyä ”huonoa Suomea” puhuvana diplomaattina. Manulla riitti omaperäisen luovia tapoja selviytyä vaikeasta tilanteestaan ja kuulin muiden potilaiden kiittävän häntä näistä ideoista ja hänen voimaannuttavasta olemuksestaan ja optimismista, jota neurologiset potilaat aina tarvitsevat (tosin silloin ei ollut käytössä sana ’voimaannuttava’). Myöhemmin hän ryhtyi käsikirjoittajaksi sanellen työnsä ja voitti palkintoja mm huumenuorten maailmasta ja Uuno Klamista kertovilla dokumenteillaan.
Leirillä oli mukana myös nuori n 19-vuotias poika, joka oli moottoripyöräonnettomuuden seurauksena täysin puhekyvytön ja muitakin oireita hänellä oli. Hän ei kyennyt sanomaan sanaakaan. Pohjoisessa Suomessa ei ollut parempaa hoitopaikkaa tarjolla, joten hän oli siellä vanhainkodissa.
Eräs hyväntuulinen ja eloisa nuori mies puhua puputti kuin ruuneperi, mutta kärsi sekä Wernicken afasiasta että suun apraksiasta: tämän tuloksena hän puhui kyllä, mutta ei tajunnut omaa puhettaan. Alkuun hän herätti hieman ihmetystä oudolla, värikkäästi intonoidulla pulinallaan. Hänen eleensä ja kasvonilmeensä olivat hyvin eläväisiä ja osallistuvia ja kun testasin hänet leirillä eräällä vaativalla visuaalisen päättelyn testillä, niin hän sai siinä harvinaiset lähes täydet pisteet. Sen jälkeen häntä oli helppo kuunnellakin ja tietää, että hänellä oli aina kerrottavaa. Hän oli ammatiltaan sähköteknikko.
Mukana oli itsemurhan yrittäjiä ja sen seurauksena vammautuneita, auto-onnettomuudessa vakavasti loukkaantuneita ja aivotukoksesta tai verenvuodosta kärsineitä. Sairaus oli järisyttänyt kaikkien elämää enemmän kuin vammoista ja vaivoista olisi aina voinut suoraan arvioida.
Päivät olivat meille työntekijöille pitkiä, mutta piankin tutustuimme leiriläisiin ja kuulin toisen ’kutsuni’, kun muutaman päivän päästä leirillä huomasin, että en enää ’nähnyt,’ että joku oli halvaantunut, enkä enää kuullut heidän puhettaan huonona. Aloin nähdä ja kuulla ihmisen, johon on yhteys. Usein näin käy kotipiirissä, kun perheenjäsen vammautuu. Ulkopuoliset vierastavat vammautunutta useinkin, varsinkin jos tämä on hyvä tuttu.
Erään pitkän päivän päätteeksi istuimme Sari, minä ja Raija eräässä kylän kahviossa rentoutumassa ja pohtimassa tekemisiämme. Muistan tuon hetken unohtumattomalla lämmöllä. Kävimme läpi kohtaamiemme potilaiden kohtaloita ja oli selvää, että kysymys ei ole vain potilaista, vaan näiden ihmisten elämästä. Toistuvasti nousi esiin, mitä muuta voisimme tehdä, kuin tämän hyvin suunnitellun kuntoutusohjelman ja leirielämän.
Syntyi yhteistuumin villi ajatus:
Viedään koko jengi Kiteen Kantakrouviin hyvälle illalliselle! Vammojen vuoksi potilaillamme ei ollut näitä kokemuksia lähiajoilta juuri lainkaan. Krouvi oli ehkä hieman alle kilometrin päässä leiripaikastamme, joten sinne pitäisi kävellä – ja tietenkin tulla takaisin. Muistaakseni meillä oli yksi polkupyörä.
Varasimme pöydät, laadimme matkasuunnitelman eli kuka auttaa ketäkin ja miten, jotta kykenisimme kävelemään krouviin. Puoliksi halvaantuneiden liikkuminen oli vaikeaa eikä ollut itsestään selvää kenestä olisi apua ja tukea kenellekin. Saimme sitten aikaan yhteistyöstrategian, jolla kaikki pääsimme sitten eräänä iltana matkaan, kohti Kantakrouvia ja jokainen sai tarvitsemansa tuen. Muutamalla täydellisestä afasiasta kärsineellä miehellä ei ollut liikkumisvaikeuksia ja heistä oli paljon apua. Ryhmä ei todellakaan ollut tyypillinen näky Kiteen kauniin kesäisellä raitilla, eikä varsinkaan ravintolassa.
Pöytään asettuminen sujui samalla luovalla strategialla, mutta sitten tuli tilausten aika. Juuri kukaan leiriläisistä ei itse kyennyt tilamaan aluksi mitään eli hoidimme tilaukset jokaisen puolesta ruokineen ja juomineen.
Juomia eli viinejä, olutta ja alkudrinkkejä tilattaessa ystävällinen, mutta varautuneen oloinen naistarjoilija jututti vakavan näköisenä minua, Saria ja Raijaa mutta olimme jollakin tavoin riittävän vakuuttavia (nuoria), että saatiin pöytään mitä haluttiin, vaikka neuvottelut olivat tässäkin varsin omaperäinen koreografia. Kuinka tilata VodkaSprite ilman sanoja tai kykyä lukea?. Kunpa muistaisin tämän hienon tarjoilijarouvan, että osaisin vieläkin kiittää tästä luottamuksesta ja suhtautumisesta meihin! Riski saattoi näyttää melkoiselta ja epäilemättä tarjoilijallamme oli mielessään Alkon tarkastustoiminta.
Lihan leikkaamiseenkin tarvittiin siellä täällä apua, mutta leiriläiset kykenivät ongelmistaan huolimatta jo hienosti auttamaan toinen toisiaan ja pyytämään apua kaverilta. Joku käsi toimi aina, vaikka puhetta vain harva hallitsi riittävästi ja siinä tarvittiin meitä terapeutteja.
Ilta eteni värikkäästi ja ilmassa oli ainutlaatuista iloa, se oli helppo nähdä ja kokea mukana. Kuten voi arvella, tässä joukossa ei virinnyt aivan tavallista ravintolan puheensorinaa, todellakaan, mutta ääntä riitti ja oli hauskaa. Ymmärrettiin toinen toisiamme, monin eri tavoin. Krouvin naapuripöydissä ehkä ihmeteltiin, minkä ihmeen maan kielistä oli kysymys, mutta kukaan ei kommentoinut meitä ikävästi, ei edes elein. Joku saattoi käydä ystävällisesti kysymässä, mistä tulemme.
Usein ilta ravintolassa, varsinkin loppuilta, käy automaattisesti. ’Potilamme’ jotka olivat saanet ensimmäiset drinkkinsä osasivat tilata toimivaa kättä heilauttaen, sanaakaan sanomatta, että ”yksi samanlainen vielä” ja ilta eteni sujuvasti.
En enää muista missä vaiheessa alkoi tuntua siltä, että oli hyvä aika koota joukko ja järjestäytyä keskinäiseen takaisin kuljettautumiseen. Sama malli toimi kuin tullessakin, mutta nyt oli huoli ja pelko tiessään, kun tiesimme että kaikki onnistuu ja oli syntynyt uusia ystävyyksiä. Tiedettiin, kuka tarvitsee mitäkin apua ja osattiin pyytää sitä. Olihan se oudolla tavalla sekalainen seurakunta eikä aivan mutkatta kulkeva, mutta puheen tapaista juttua riitti, kun noustiin kesäillan hämärässä kohti Kristillistä kansanopistoa.
Saimme melkein koko joukon (jatkoja tuntui riittävän) levolle joskus keskiyön aikaan, mutta jäimme vielä Sari, Raija ja minä pohtimaan mitä oli tapahtunut. Se ei ikinä unohdu. Harvoin on niin puhtaan hyvä olo jostakin yhdestä elämän episodista eikä edes osannut olla helpottunut. Olisihan tässä joukossa voinut tapahtua vaikka mitä eikä mukana ollut lääkäriä.
Seuraavan päivän aamiaisella opiston rehtori piti meille kevyen saarnan. Kylällä oli kuulemma nähty outo joukko Kristillisen opiston vieraita Krouvissa ja pitämässä ääntä raitilla. Tämä ei nyt saisi enää toistua. Luulen kuitenkin, että hän oli jonkun verran armollinen meille, sillä mitään isompaa juttua tästä ei syntynyt, sain vain kevyen puhuttelun, – eikä edes sen jälkeen, kun teimme vielä uudenkin, tällä kertaa lähtiäisvierailun samalla strategiamallilla. Nyt jo ravintolan kantapeikotkin ottivat meidät hymyssä suin vastaan.
Evidence-based terapia? Ihailen edelleenkin tuon tiimimme humaania ja rohkeata otetta ja kykyä ajatella ja toimia jollakin ’muulla tavoin’, joka voisi olla hyväksi. Mitään tällaista kokemusta ei meillä aiemmalta lyhyeltä uraltamme ollut. Itselläni ehkä tausta ravintoloitsijan poikana oli saanut aikaan sen, että ravintola voi olla hengeltään myös kuin koti tai ainakin jotakin muuta kuin synnin ja lankeemuksen pesä.
Tuskinpa tarjolla on nytkään evidence-artikkelien tarjontaa, jossa on tutkittu tällaisen ”intervention” efektiä eli mitä ne vaikutukset ovat ja kuinka tällaiseen ratkaisuun ylipäätänsä voi kukaan terapeutti rationaalisesti päätyä. En tosin ihmettelisi, jos vaikka Alkon tarkastajien tai poliisikertomuksissa niistä riittäisi juttuja enemmänkin, mutta tuskin Kiteeltä. Tottakai nyt arvaan ja tiedänkin, että uudet kokonaisvaltaiset terapiat katsovat ihmistä laajemmin eli potilas on ihminen, siitä ei ole epäilystä, mutta matka ihmisten krouviin voi niissäkin olla vielä pitkä. Liikutaan vallitsevien disipliinien ulkorajoilla.
December 23, 2020 § Leave a comment
This was a story in a series of writings I hoped to produce with Moomingway as my pen name. In the spirit of the two components “Moomin” and “… way” of my pen name the story is both true and gentle and I love to share it. The incident took place already two years ago but its exceptional spirit made me think of it as what is the best in xmas stories.
It was a typical, quiet autumn day and I had stayed at home, finishing my novel, a story about a young physicist Johan, and his personal growth in the world of science and arts. Working upstairs, in our quiet country house I was immersed in the hard life of Johan and his sufferings in the academia, being trapped in the hostile situation there, and nowhere to run. Perhaps it was Johan’s sensitivity and his pains that had made me extra sensitive to hear the weak noise coming from above my head, from somewhere in the maze of ventilation pipes, hidden above the ceiling. Usually I don’t hear or see anything in my immediate surroundings when I write – the text and story carry me somewhere in the world of drama, closing my personal doors and windows of attention, but this time I could hear the weak noise, a very weak rattle like something moving back and forth in the pipes. I had to stop writing and move back to the real world.
This is the good side of living in the quiet countryside, you can enjoy the colors of the nature, changing every day and you can hear things. But when you do see or hear something peculiar, it’s your responsibility to do something about it. It is impossible to neglect a new, strange sound and there is nobody to call and explain it or to ask someone to come and take care of it, whatever it may be. It’s up to you to do something.
I stood up and started walking around the rooms, trying to locate the source of the sound. Then I heard something like small wings hitting the ventilation pipe walls, with a rather high frequency – a bird, a small bird. It did not chirp or peep. The pipe vents in our house need a better protection against these unlucky intruders.
I listened to the alarming sounds for a while and realized the creature was unable to find a way out from the pipe trap. It moved restlessly in its maze, from one place to another and then after some time it had moved to our bathroom, hitting its wings against the pipe walls, making audible noises above the fan in the ceiling, near to the shower cabin.
The fan is controlled by an automatic humidity sensoring system and I was relieved to notice the fan inside the pipe had not started – I was afraid the bird could get hurt by it. Every now and then the poor bird moved somewhere else trying desperately to find a way out.
An hour had already elapsed and I felt bad about the helpless bird, lost in the dark maze and I decided to open the fan system, hoping the bird could find its way out from there. But it was not simple as that.
The fan block did not come off without disconnecting the power wires – it had 220V power line and I did not find the fuse. I had to be extra careful (being alone at home). Scrutinizing the unit and its electric wiring I noticed it was enough to disconnect only the hot line to detach the whole unit. I did not want the poor bird flying around, scared, in the flat and hurting itself against the windows and walls, or being electrocuted in the hanging hot wire. So, what to do?
I fetched a plastic bag and taped it on the ceiling, its opening facing the pipe outlet, closing it carefully against the ceiling so that there was only one way for the bird to go – into the bag. But the bird did not come there, and I followed its noise back to the living room, where there is a simple manually operated vent in the ceiling. I opened it and taped a bag there, too. I had two traps now.
Then I sat down and waited; this was not the time to write my novel but it did not prevent me from spending time with Facebook. An hour had gone and twice I heard the bird making noises in the bathroom but when I rushed there to see if it had fallen into my soft trap it moved somewhere else again. I returned to the living room and waited, decided I would not give up what I had started. After about half an hour I heard a rattle from the bathroom and hurried there, but the bird had not fallen into the bag.
I remained standing there, under the bag, for a while wondering what to do, how to lure the bird into the bag. Then I started whistling, very, very softly, in order not to startle it, with no idea what bird dialect I was using but I could sense the poor bird was reacting to that and I noticed it was not afraid of my vocalizations. I tried to express a call, whatever that might be in the bird language.
Every time it started off, like moving away from the bathroom, I would make a very weak, repeating whistle like a baby bird (I imagined – an eagle sound had not worked, I guess). I did not really trust my bird language too much, so I also tried switching lights on an off to see which one it would prefer. The lights on made it move but it did not find the bag. Then I just stood there, waiting and whistling, and decided to use my experimental psychologist’s strategy, whistling more forcefully each time it came closer and in doing so, trying to reinforce its correct movements towards the bag trap. I was behaving like a baby bird calling its mother or father.
Three hours had already elapsed when the bird finally fell into my welcoming, soft bag and I was fast enough to close the bag and prevent the bird from escaping back to the pipe maze. It was a very lively small bird, shocked, for sure. I could not see it in the white bag, but it’s fast-flapping wings hitting the bag tickled my hand when I quickly carried it to the balcony, closing the door behind me, and opened the bag carefully to let it free – I was relieved and full of joy to see it fly nicely, far, far away and disappearing as a small dot into the dense forest in the horizon. I had only seen a glimpse of it and could not even discern its colors properly, something grayish-green-brown perhaps, and a yellowish beak but I remember the feeling of its flapping wings on my hands. It was free and I hoped and believe now it survived.
Assembling the fan unit back to its place I had to be careful again, now with my joyous hand movements, making sure I did not the get a due punishment from the hot wire, reminding me that I’m indeed a psychologist, not an electric engineer.
December 23, 2020 § Leave a comment
The time of remote holidays and xmas celebrations carry a human message: most of what is important to us, like our best friends and love ones, is difficult if not impossible to fully express in words, imagery, however exact, humorous, warm, explicit and lovely they might be. Zooms and Teams don’t reach it.
We look forward in life, feel the presence and know the distant whereabouts of each other, now better than before – without living in the same physical space with each other. Today we care. We don’t meet or get together but we are learning how we deal with the remote presence of love and care. The sense of presence of each other is an amazing human skill, almost a relative to the infamous telepathy or the mystic entanglement of particles far away from each other, an increasingly exciting topic for theoretical physicists. Miniscule physical states can be shared. Who knows, one xmas we will have presents including entanglement technology that allows us to share moments of life exactly when they occur, but that feeling is already here.
I came to think about this when being in touch with a long-time colleague (human/tech) and a friend, living far away from Finland. We communicate every now and then but sometimes don’t hear of each other in months. During the twenty years or so, one thing has repeatedly amazed us both: without talking, writing or communicating in any way of our personal plans, intentions, and ideas, when we then again communicate – after months or a year – we have been aiming at very similar directions, original ideas and concepts, typically very forward-looking thoughts and innovations, unusual to say the least and with our own ‘spices’. Now that we know the shared history, it’s clear that many of the ideas have not been funny confabulation but have become real and practical in some form, although the practical phase has always taken some years. Often there have been other colleagues involved with these initiatives.
How is it that – without direct communication – with some people we see the novel and unusual opportunities of the world in a similar, although not identical manner? This happens even when we have very different ‘cultural eyes’, but have something similar happening in our minds, senses and imagination.
When I develop a new idea or a concept, I don’t immediately write, draw, or explain it to anyone, it’s just imagination before it feels that I have some kind of a mature structure of it on my mind. However, in the real world, when I have told the story, tried to get r&d funding for example, or make people excited about it or otherwise activated, I’ve noticed that I’m not understood at all and of course I then feel stupid and start (especially when I was younger) doubting the idea myself. My internal language has worked for me.
With this distant colleague-friend the situation is the opposite: we don’t communicate on what we are planning, doing or imagining, but when we do, we can share the ideas in a second, because both of us have mentally and often practically worked with similar problems already for some time. A psychologist could call this phenomenon a mutual priming. Something has been cooking in two remote minds like in the entanglement, but with some degrees of personal freedom and style.
For anyone, it is a blessing – I don’t find a better word now – to have such people around, with whom ‘the preparatory work for future understanding’ has already been done before communication and when meeting, talking and telling the story, all the background is already there and words and images can be better used, to focus on the core of the thoughts and ideas. There is no need to thoroughly explain what and why. The value of words increases exponentially.
I know, of course, that I’m not alone with this, some of my friends have told me about similar experiences, but the psychology of these phenomena is unclear for the simple reason that we humans have complex histories, education and experiences and the world around us is no less complex. In the middle of this, to end up in similar thought patterns, objects of interest, ideas and innovations, is a compelling and creative journey of the mind.
On the other hand, knowing the complexities of the problems the world faces, this can be comforting: we can become ready for and share understanding even in the case of most complex and difficult problems ahead. In doing so, we can improve the quality of communication and collaboration when the surface expressions don’t crowd our communication. The snag is, we don’t have to think in the same way or even come from a similar school of thoughts. My brutal guess it that such a pressure kills the entanglement.
The question for the next xmas story is how to best support such a human development where we can see creative opportunities with similar eyes, but without losing our personal and different ways of understanding the world and imagining its future?
December 15, 2020 § Leave a comment
We do not know exactly what we have lost due to the forced re-arrangement of work, distant care and studying at home. It is a new and complex human, technological and social problem. Here I suggest a few simple ideas, perhaps self-evident and conservative. I’m a ‘digital aboriginal’ and know that the net is full of suggestions on how to use the digital paradise for any possible purpose. However, here I take the opposite approach and encourage you to chain the power of technology, with human chains.
This may sound as an extremely conservative and old-fashioned approach (I’m indeed 73), but it can serve as a looking glass for magnifying the human and social problems we now experience. Some of them are frequently discussed in the media, typically as symptoms while very little is offered to se to their deeper nature. I hope this can inspire to think, how to best enjoy and benefit from the coming holidays, a break in the psychological isolation during the pandemia.
New normal or new pathology?
You would think that by now we know how the pandemia has impacted the homes and families and it will continue doing so. Browsing through a flood of news on it, the scope of the problem still seems to be underestimated. What does it mean that families and homes have, for the first time in modern history, become the true nodes of the huge, newly organized global network of communication and work?
Nothing like this has been experienced before, not even during the times of war. Bombarded by warnings concerning social distancing we try to protect each other from infection and it has had its human costs. Now it’s time to think how to use the coming holidays for rest, recovery, recharging and getting ready to survive the coming 6 to 9 months. I have taken a somewhat unconventional look at the role of technology in guiding and controlling what we do: modern communication technology is to blame and it will not let us loose during xmas and holidays unless we decide to control it in a human way.
What we have missed due to the pandemia? How has it impacted our behavior? There would be too much to say about this, and I focus on a few, often forgotten aspects of it that are now relevant during the holidays but even this is only a sample. Recognizing these can perhaps help us rest, recover and share the joys of the holiday and xmas time.
Stop, take a break in the use of mobile and other communication devices at home.
Hundreds of millions of homes and families in US and Europe alone have been touched by the new work arrangements and social distancing. It has been an absolute transformation in home logistics, use of space, ways of daily communication, commuting, timing of activities, matters of family discussions and negotiations and even rest. The invisible hand guides this new mode of living with the communication technology we use for care, work, communication and socializing. Not a minute is lived without the demanding presence of this modern force.
Reaching for the best in human rest, socializing, interaction, being present and in love, we must become sensitive to the objective effects that technology has on the precious moments of our life. We have adapted to these social practices, especially during the Covid and as a result, it is not easy to see the indirect consequences of even the best network technologies. Not many see that this as a serious failure in the (human) design of technology, but this is the essence of it. Of course, not all technology uses carry or hide a social disaster, but there is more hidden damage than has been recognized.
The invisible power of digital technology at homes
The pandemia has forced us to communicate in a continuous ‘rational mode’ where the priority is to get things done, to survive in whatever we do, and to be available even when we are not physically visible. We have been advised to use technology in a reasonable, human and social way, even limit the use, but everyone knows how difficult it is.
In the active distance work mode, we don’t always feel the stress, because it is actually a fight mode. Only after the work we become aware of the consequences of this and feel the psychological aftereffects of continuous electronic presence. This is not far from the situation at war fronts where the soldiers had to be available and ready to react, at any time.
Many suffer from an unusual or new form of tiredness after work. Week-ends have become an extra relief to this continuous strain if one is wise enough to live them so, but if the continuous presence and interrupts continue even then, there is not enough healthy rest and recovery becomes impossible. True, some have benefitted from the distancing, being relieved from the stress of long-distance, daily commuting and the extra two hours have been valuable. Many say that meetings have become more efficient, but these can be short-term effects.
Survival has its invisible price
In Finland I have seen how quite a few firms have been successful in dealing with the distancing. As a nation, we have a good history in technology use and were able to move fast – in March – to the distance arrangements of work, entertainment and education. As a result, some may entertain the illusion that we ‘just did it as before’ and the firm performance survived, and we even managed well during the exceptional times. I don’t have data on this, but some of my observations suggest that people have invested a lot of extra work and time for keeping up the pre-pandemia performance level. Here our traditional working ethos and values serve this well.
A major part of the critical distant activity occurs outside normal organizational vision – at homes – but it can be the de facto force and resource that has led to survival. Usually when the personnel show exceptional performance it can be rewarded in one way or another. But how to reward for a work, which does not necessarily mean improved performance but only a reasonable survival in very difficult conditions? There is no standard way to do this and research will tell us more about such situations. Before the holidays, firms could remember this and be aware of the value of any signs and symbols of gratitude for what the personnel and their families have done. Further, why not reward each other at homes and families for what we have done. No doubt, we will soon have research data on these invisible human resources and commitment.
Displays, keyboards, VR and headphones have a new meaning and all of it is not good
A year ago, when a mother, father or another family member put on headphones, or even VR glasses, it was a sign of modern work, even somewhat exciting and futuristic. Children knew that father or mother, dressed in these gadgets, would be back to normal in an hour or so. Today, the same episodes have a new powerful meaning: it’s about serious human and social distancing, perhaps several hours and the imperative of not to disturb. Any child, spouse or friend now experiences it, stronger than ever before. It happens all day long. We are all sensitive to this social deprivation, separation and isolation.
For a child the experience of psychological distance from a parent is painful. It will be associated with any visible context of these situations, which in this case consists of the technology used, the home office arrangements and social practices. These disturbing experiences can then be triggered every time the familiar, threatening context becomes active – a warning that the parent will be ‘gone’ again. Of course, children adapt to this and parents try to do their best to care and react to the needs of their children but it is not easy. Adults can suffer from similar pains although its roots are then more difficult to see: we have our own different (difficult) near and far histories in how we have been isolated or distanced and what it has meant to each of us.
During the holidays we can launch a totally different behavior mode, based on true and continuous social-physical presence. To achieve this, it is time to take distance from the pandemia’s distance behavior and its automatic routines. We can put technology with its constraints and new symbolism aside and become captivated by our love ones, children, friends, and the family, with the same intensity that captivates us during a meaningful work. This is meaningful now.
My guess is that new forms of neurosis are emerging from the pathological socio-technological family situations, and not only among children. The holiday is a perfect place to correct and avoid this, but it does not happen automatically. It means abandoning some if not most of the ways we use technology at work and even for entertainment. After the holiday we will continue the distance-work mode again, of course, but we might have learned something new for the holiday experiments and experiences. When we are together with friends and the family, seeing each other avoiding the use of technology is a significant event and we enjoy the feeling of intentional presence, the shared commitment to each other, something we now need, perhaps more than ever. We might even come up with human-social innovations that could help us in the future distance work.
Share the classic and traditional moments
We have the tradition to buy, or if possible, to fetch the xmas tree from our own land, from the summer cottage, for example. It is a wonderful, traditional moment, almost a holy routine, full of serenity and joy. Kids love it and would also enjoy making a video of it, to share it with (distant) family members and friends. It will be something to remember already next year, perhaps signified by our new symbols like the mask and the lack of grandparents’ presence. We can share the joy of surviving and reuniting when we then view these mementos next year, together, healthy.
We once arranged for a dinner with our distant friends, a couple, and had made an exact plan what menus and wines we would each have, on both sides of the virtual connection, identical in every single detail. Creating such a shared ‘context’ was fun and we enjoyed the expereince and the preparations immensely. The point being that whenever, over the dinner, we discussed the food, wine, atmosphere, and other services we had, we knew immediately what it was about and could join each other’s experiences. Today, you can pre-order identical xmas meals for you and your grandparents, for example, or for other willing relatives and friends to share with them virtually. Many of us have excellent audio and large displays so setting up such an occasion can be extra fun. Kids and teens love it, they can be the directors.
Give life to what you have missed the most
Probably the most disturbing effect in the use of home office for distance work has been the continuous and visible isolation of the loved ones and other family members. It is a very natural psychological phenomenon: we have learned what it means when someone goes to work or out of our own sensory reach and we adapt to it without any effort or pain. When someone is physically present but psychologically away, we can feel the disturbing impact; this relates back to our early childhood and to the presence of a secure parent. In case of serious mental disorder or Alzheimer, for example, it can be a tragedy. The psychology is now here.
The display of a laptop or a mobile phone captures a person’s vision and gaze, ear phones block the audio, and the keyboard and mouse declare the lap a forbidden personal space. This is a no-brainer: don’t let this happen during the holidays. Cherish and protect the ‘holy moments of presence’ and behave accordingly. Many if not most of us have become addicted to the continuous use and browsing of our mobile devices and it takes extra commitment to put the gadgets aside and rearrange the human and social priorities. For children this not easy at all and a good plan, for everyone to follow, is needed. It’s about the kind of family drama we want to build and direct. It is best achieved when we all work for it together. Mechanic rules and instructions spoil the joy. If we continue as before, forgetting the souls of each other, the technology will determine the drama.
Has work conquered the holy spaces of your home?
The talk of the bedroom can be work, it’s outcomes, problems and colleagues. If this is happening to you:
Bedroom, you have a problem!
Today, this is more probable than ever before. Long days, the unpredictable tomorrow, the continuous mental presence and distance of colleagues and trying to guess their views, feelings and moods, all these lead to the need to deal with them somehow, to talk about them. They will then find any free place at your home unless you decide not to let them invade there at will.
Imagery can help: imagine all the stuff and people conquering your bedroom and what it feels like to try to relax and rest in the middle of it all. What would be their right to do so? Then, there are people whose ghosts indeed have nothing to do in your bedroom or anywhere else at your home, especially during the best of times like holidays. It’s good to arrange for a private closure and open the home psychologically for the things, topics and themes dear to you, to your spouse, friends or children.
Read a book or comics – it liberates
Book is not a gadget. It is easy to handle, it does not close you out from the environment and it is easy to stop, put aside to wait for the next suitable moment. A book is an absolutely open device, an ideal one really. There are no personal secrets hiding on the book pages. You can give it to anyone to enjoy. It does not surprise you with something that does not belong to the story. You can read it aloud to your friends and love ones and see them join the story and experience their enjoyment. When you are quiet and read a book, everyone around you knows what you are doing and even thinking. Even if you cannot hear what others are saying when you read an exciting chapter, they will know what keeps you so immersed and they can enjoy that, too. With mobile devices, the same situation becomes social guessing, what might be going on? It can be anything, but it is not known.
Take a swift lesson on not-reading during xmas
You can spoil your own and others’ feelings and kill the pleasures of a feast in a minute by falling into the traps of social media. Make a good plan on how and what not-to-read. Why – isn’t it our everyday practice already and for sure it’s about media literacy? No. It’s about the mental content you want to introduce to and let flourish in your mind and in the minds of your close ones, especially now when it’s time to rest, a time for a holiday and xmas.
You decide how you furnish your mental space using – or not using – the social media which has become a necessity during the pandemia. This is not ‘toxic positivity’, it’s a way to avoid something you know is harmful, paints your private world black, invites conflicts and which always carries over minutes, hours and even days on your mind. It makes you what you are during the coming precious moments and what is worse, your close ones don’t know what is ‘eating’ you.
Some of us have difficult and problematic times, perhaps sorrows. Especially then it’s is a place to be selective in the search for consolation, empathy and whatever human support is available through the net. We who do not suffer from such problems right now, can do our best to support, open virtual doors, and help and be available, from the distance when it’s the only option. We should be masters of it now.
A successful feast is synchronous. Interrupts spoil it
One of the benefits of modern communication media is that it can be used in ‘asynchronous mode’. What does this mean?
Definition of asynchronous (Merriam-Webster).
1: not simultaneous or concurrent in time : not synchronous
2: of, used in, or being digital communication (as between computers) in which there is no timing requirement for transmission and in which the start of each character is individually signaled by the transmitting device
We have learned to communicate digitally in asynchronous mode. We rely on it when deciding to meet people but do not fix the time or place and just decide on the fly. We can run projects in that mode. We feel liberated from timing by doing this and contacting anyone any time and change a plan with a simple message when we so want.
But there is a snag: many human occasions and behaviors require sensitive synchronicity. A dance without synchronicity is just haphazard movement and so it is with our human relationships. Especially feasts and celebrations, intimate moments and family gatherings are synchronous in nature, both externally and psychologically and they get their power from a special kind of human flow and continuity that should not be interrupted with irrelevant content. Breaking the synchronicity demolishes the flow of the gathering. It’s like a band playing, when a massive, uninvited solo, however skilled, but out of tune, takes the floor and kills the common performance.
During the holidays, try to avoid asynchronous queries, suggestions and approaches that require or even imply a response. Make a feasible plan for synchronizing your own behaviors, your own xmas party and other events with your close ones. Knowing when something good will happen makes waiting exciting and a special kind of a joy. The non-liberating aspect of asynchronous communication can be a disturbance and it puts pressure on the recipient.
Don’t send photos of food?
However delicious the food might be, xmas and holiday season is about people and our connection with each other. If the food photos can contribute to that, then fine, but they have already become signs and symbols of push technology you don’t need now – you have real food before your eyes and other senses. Well, food photos can carry a familiar and good message to those who know you, expect it and it is possible inspire the xmas party, but in the end, it’s about quality and drama – playing with messaging takes away social time from the sender and the receiver, it can be an interrupt.
The joy of helping
Xmas is the time to remember those having difficult times. Restaurants especially, have suffered from the pandemia and many of them have been active and been innovative in offering their services. We have ordered food home and now it is especially easy – and why not remember the people who serve us, from our favorite restaurant? For those who are not used to the distance services, this is a good time to try and the young generation can help.
We can decorate our homes with beautiful flowers. It is easier than ever to send money to those we trust and who we know help their clients in need. Some of these organizations don’t have a possibility for face-to-face meetings where we could support them during the xmas time, but we can try to remember them virtually. For decades, I have given something to our “Pelastusarmeija”, Salvation Army, whose people I’ve met on the street corners when I’ve been xmas shopping, often the first snows falling in Helsinki, but this is not possible now and I have to rely on net payments. This requires planning and it’s something to do together with the family or friends.
Often we know who lives alone and some of us just live alone. Pandemia has made this different. Again, a well-planned communication and even common activities can have all the benefits described above. Knowing when and how we communicate makes it fun and we can invest our best thoughts and actions in them. Asynchronous, ‘surprise contacts’ can now work for all of us – they have a special value if we know whom to approach and how.
Then of course, at the time of the Teams and Zoom – persons living alone can make up a temporary family or a team. It’s a matter of creativity to design a plan for such gatherings, with people who can enjoy it and can contribute to the common good in these encounters. For some it can be the first time in virtual. I don’t know these matters well, but I would think there are public events taking place during xmas holidays where it is possible to join from a distance. There are risks, of course, but much can be achieved with honest planning.
Finally, why all this?
We still have time to prepare for the holidays. I believe that by restoring carefully what we have lost during the pandemia, we can have a holiday and xmas that not only helps us rest physically but also revives our psychological energy we will need again next year. We can re-learn simple things of us as human and social beings and perhaps see the harmful powers of technology. These are historical times. For our children and the young generation it’s a key epoch of life. We will return to it and remember the strange experiences when we are back to the almost normal life and living. We have human things to remember. Nobody remembers what technology was used.
November 1, 2020 § Leave a comment
When I have explained the value of the Internet of Behaviors (IoB) and the idea of a search engine, which searches ongoing or planned and intended behaviors in the net (I call it Birch), I have received somewhat strange looks and comments. The current search & thumb paradigm has conquered our minds.
So, here is one simple example case to demonstrate how IoB and Birch together could change the world of offerings and campaigns and get rid of the misplaced offerings, junk and push nuisances. At least some of it. Scaling of this can be simply huge.
A case example. I received an email offer for proofreading my English book manuscripts. Nice idea, but the timing was 100% wrong. A year ago, I did need and use such a service, but not now. Why such a waste of campaigning? The email landed straight into my junk file, automatically, even the mail system algorithm guessed it was only a nuisance. Why is it that most offers which are relevant, professional and fine, end up being junk? Of course, statistics and money tell us that sometimes the blind offers find their buying flocks.
I’m amazed how service providers, technology designers, and people in general tolerate this pathology of the net.
When using any app, like a text processor, Scrivener, for example, which I recently started using, it could have a simple button, menu or whatever indicator, “Edit On” by which I could easily indicate what I’m doing – editing my book, for example, or whatever. If I so wish, this information of my behavior would then be available on a suitable media platform and I could be informed about relevant, broadcasted offerings that are only (!) about editing English text – in this case.
I could know where to look for them but the sender would not know my identity or anything personal about me, only my ongoing behavior and the implied need, if I have not expressed more about it. Someone else, somewhere on the globe, for example, who would be doing the same thing (writing in English, editing the text) could see similar offers, or more specific ones.
For the fun of it, I inserted “the button” (it’s only an icon, does not work) in my next generation Scrivener for, below. We can easily imagine more and not only for this ‘behavior’.
This is not only about buttons and indicators, it is about the architecture of the networks of our life and how they could be best served (in future). There is a need for extensive network and local technologies here and in other sectors of human behavior, but I will not go into it. The network providers have their chance to extend their services to this scope of our everyday life, entertainment, work, education, and sports, for example. Quite a lot could be done already now by extending the existing services.
The example case shows the nature of only one simple active network of real life, editing in this case, and everything related to it. But we all have dozens if not hundreds of such personal, dynamically activated behavior networks where the indication (IoB based) of the ongoing behavior and Birch search could help us receive relevant and timely information, offerings and services – without revealing our identities. The service providers would know that they can have a 100% relevance and timing for their offerings. Interesting? You would think so, but we’ll see.
A note added:
I added this in case you thought that the Birch service would anyhow need individual targeting and become one more ‘standard nuisance’. However, the service providers and campaigners do not need to know who will approach them, but they must have a forum where willing people can do that. For people it simply means ‘shopping’ the way it used to be in the old days, but it would be a journey in the net, knowing where something of interest and relevant is offered – without revealing the identity before purchasing or the engagement. The difference against the present practices is the 100% relevance. How to build such a service and interaction architecture, that is a real fun question but it would pay back, in huge amounts, I believe.
October 26, 2020 § Leave a comment
The idea of a search engine devoted to finding ongoing behaviors may sound speculative. However, some recent developments suggest that it could become a reality within a few years. To start with, Gartner has included the Internet of Behaviors (IoB) as one of the Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021and suggests it will touch almost half of the population. This is not surprising since IoB – analogous to IoT and even IoE (Internet of Everyhting) – has been one of the strongest trends in internet services for a decade, although the concept IoB has not been used so far. When I introduced it nine years ago in the gotepoem blog and after that in several writings, including my book On The Edge of Human technology – An Essay, it was received with puzzled looks. Nobody among the operators and technology investors I met knew why invest in it.
Gartner vs the human form of IoB
I want to make clear the difference between ‘my’ human IoB and what Gartner now suggests. The human IoB is aimed at protecting our identities by separating behavior and identity data whereas the technology orientated IoB described by Gartner, is meant to link a person digitally to their actions. Gartner’s definition keeps the person and her behavior as a useful data entity, and it raises questions. Of course, both human and technological approaches will live in parallel but the privacy and security requirements remain.
EU Parliament has recently taken actions to introduce serious limitations on the use of human and behavior data, like in behavioral ads and in microtargeting and on the related algorithms by the famous data giants. The human version of IoB can offer a Plan B in case hard decisions by EU make the life of the familiar giants, service providers and campaigners difficult. This is where the new search engine concept – I like to call it Birch here – could find a place. Birch is a symbolic and practical tree with many cultural meanings for us Finns, from saunas to traditional landscapes and it is beautiful material for Finnish design and architecture. For a Finn, the birch is a resilient tree and its leaves have healthy properties. Hence the symbolism in this so far speculative idea.
The secret of the human IoB is to find and share accurate and timely knowledge of ongoing behaviors, and to serve the behaving people (or organizations and why not machines) without identity knowledge. It is of huge value – when used wisely and with the support of a suitable data models and communication architecture. I will not go into technical details here but will only introduce the conceptual idea of the IoB search.
The nature of behavior data must be reconsidered
IoB, in its present forms, is a major business force in the Internet. My educated guess is that the amount of ‘human data’ in the net increases exponentially and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. IoB features occur in various apps, trackers and services using human behavior data, either physiological or motor, or even symbolic like in Spotify where the user expresses her preferences to choose a suitable music style or genre. The data giants do their best to share and multiply behavior data. IoB related apps do not typically have a common data architecture and their technological solutions vary and a mature human IoB architecture could change this and allow totally new services based on the knowledge on ongoing mental and physical behaviors.
Human IoB utilizes an architecture and behavior addressing models where ‘targeting’ of ongoing behaviors is possible in any human – mental and physical activities like in sports, entertainment, health care, education, and science work, you name it.
What could Birch be?
In my forthcoming novel Perceptions of the Les Demoiselles d’Avignon the protagonist is a young theoretical physicist, Johan Ek, curious about a mathematician, Maurice Princet who in the early 1900’s introduced 4D geometry to Picasso, who was preparing his masterwork of cubism. Johan wanted to know if anyone on earth, at that moment, was working on this very specific topic, the history of Princet of whom there was only scarce information available and photographs of him were difficult to find. Johan used the Internet of Science Behavior service:
“Marianne nodded at Johan, pointing at the screen showing a mosaic of icons again. ’There you have the people in our network who, right now, at this very moment, have something going on related to Princet. I could show you how these people are related—if they are—but this is not the point here now. On the right you can see the list of IoBs codes or addresses they have decided to use and under which they work. The first code is Maurice Princet’s divorce, meaning someone is researching that—it is not gossip journalism, these are serious people—then there is Maurice Princet and the fourth dimension in art, then Maurice Princet and the painting Les Demoiselles, and Maurice Princet’s life after the Bateau.’ ”
Birch needs an architecture and a communication model of its own. The basic net architecture is already there, but what is missing, is a standard model for representing behavior data within this architecture and a communication model which makes it possible for IoB users to remain unidentified while having access to whatever the service providers and apps offer for them to choose.
An evolutionary development of a Birch-like search paradigm is possible by starting from any application sector, where massive behavior data already exists and is collected but where the separation between identity and behavior data is not inbuilt. We did a proof-of-concept app with the sw designed by Muzaffer Topdagi, a colleague and a friend, and built a situationally intelligent IoB-kind of a situational intelligence model to be used by an unlimited number of unknown own users.
The overall platform of IoB where Birch could work
Trying to introduce the business and service value of IoB (emphasizing the separation between behavior and identity data) I noticed that it was not self-evident at all to the mindset of the people I approached, what the business models and the technology for IoB could be. Birch is no exception to this, I assume. Current practices and data paradigms have adapted us to the tight bond between the behavior and identity of a ‘target person’. In my book I have described a few simple examples, but the basic ‘IoB design principles’ are the following:
- IoB is a means for people to indicate any of their ongoing, mental or physical behaviors. It can be of any form of human act or thought, from practical to abstract. The scope of behaviors is unlimited. These ongoing behaviors can then be searched.
- Each behavior is linked with a code or an address that allows ‘digital or other (!) targeting’ of the occurring behavior. The knowledge of these data is shared between people and organizations using the IoB and the app/service providers. The codes can be public, private and even context specific. This provides the possibility for both general and extreme4ly specific searches.
- A communication architecture is used by the apps and service providers so that they can detect the occurrence of a behavior or several instances (e.g. globally) of that specific behavior and to use selected communication channels for presenting their offerings. The architecture serves both global and local behaviors.
- A communication platform allows the users of IoB, wherever they are, to receive offers and services without revealing their identities or locations: they can react to or choose the ones relevant and interesting for them. (Note: because the offerings are provided as a reaction to the detection of the ongoing behaviors, there can be a very high degree of relevance in them, often 100% accurate. Service providers that don’t perform well can be switched off or neglected by the users.)
- Hubs can be formed within IoB, making it possible to integrate several service providers, each with their own commercial or public profile and offerings. This is important since often people want services or offers that have many relevant contributors at the same time but which usually do not operate together or even in synchrony.
- … and some more.
Finally, what could the present search engine providers do? They could take a step close to what Facebook, for example, is already doing, but could significantly boost it with the IoB. The fastest way ahead is a pilot, where the standard search engine is supplemented with a specific, added human IoB feature. I have described something like that (a slightly different perspective though, to improve search relevance) in my book. A simple pilot would not immediately solve the problem of separating identity data and behavior data, and some additional and tailored work is needed for that. Further, specific tools are required for recognizing what in the present searched data is about ongoing behavior and what is not. In the human IoB this is always known.
AI and IoB
At present, an AI based solution can look at the objective and subjective timing (minutes, hours, days, weeks, future intentions, plans) and other informative aspects of the behavior data sources and analyze the text and other content to reveal whether the data concerns an ongoing, intended, or planned behavior. While this is not a way to build the human IoB it would teach a lot and make possible to test various IoB features and benefits. It would teach people to look for and express ongoing behaviors, which they already now do in Facebook and elsewhere in a crude form, but they could do it in a purposeful and secure way. Service providers, global players especially, could use these experiences to avoid the apparent damage caused by the new Internet restrictions on behavior ads and microtargeting.
The ethical aim of human IoB is to keep the behavior and identity data separate. This is crucial. When AI is combined with human IoB a ‘sandwich model’ of IoB services could emerge. Its main function would be to let users express their behaviors with as simple tools as possible, sometimes supported by a learning AI. This would increase the situational quality of the behavior data that comes from honest subjective expressions. On the other hand, AI can learn to find relevant services and service providers, which best fit with the needs related to the expressed behaviors.
The sandwich model leads to an improved situational intelligence of services. It is much better than is typical today when machine learning based, statistical guessing dominates and causes continuous, daily and hourly disturbances to people.