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Immortal Hacker Challenge (Part Three) December 28, 2011

Dear hackers of the world,

It is not superpowers but traits of character that need to be developed by means of avatars and immersion. People like to solve problems especially when they are virtual. By trying different choices we will learn what leads to pain and suffering and what to do in real life if similar circumstances occur. The player will develop understanding, resilience and compassion.

There should be every day scenarios for people, like getting laid off after working for the same company for many years, not having savings and not being able to find a job for a while… What does avatar do and experience? Or racial – one white guy has to live in all black community or one black guy in all Asian community, etc. or to participate in religious services of other religions…  Learn about other cultures and their customs adn traditions. Go live in a foreign country for a year with no local language skills and being illegal. Become a virtual refugee!

It is important to create problem and suffering simulation both for existing and future scenarios. The impact will be tremendous.

Imagine that virtual Alcoholic Anonymous game was translated to all languages and distributed around the world, how many people would stop drinking heavily? Will alcoholism rates go down and people become happier?

Imagine that all young people have access to video games that teach what to do in difficult situations. A teen becomes pregnant or tries drugs for the first time to impress someone, the person creates a habit and starts eating fast food every day and gets ill, someone becomes a soldier and goes to war, followed by PTSD, etc. 

Suddenly a computer virus sounds lame. You can be immortal if you create something that impacts people’s lives positively. See Steve Pavlina’s story Living Virtues below:

“After I reached adulthood and began seriously pondering the question of how to live, the first major stopping point was essentially where Aristotle left off. In my early and mid-20s, I spent a lot of time working on living virtuously. I saw living the best possible life as becoming a person of virtue: to live with honor, integrity, courage, compassion, etc. I listed out the virtues I wanted to attain and even set about inventing exercises to help myself develop them. Benjamin Franklin did something very similar, as I read in his autobiography, and each week he chose to focus on one particular virtue in order to develop his character.

Oddly, there was a particular computer game I absolutely fell in love with during this time — Ultima IV. To date I would have to say it is still my favorite game of all time. In this role-playing game you are the Avatar, a seeker of truth, and your goal is not to destroy some enemy but rather to attain what is called the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom. In order to achieve this goal, you must develop your character in the eight virtues. All of these virtues derive from the eight possible combinations of truth, love, and courage as follows:

Truth = Honesty
Love = Compassion
Courage = Valor
Truth + Love = Justice
Truth + Courage = Honor
Love + Courage = Sacrifice
Truth + Love + Courage = Spirituality
The absence of Truth, Love, and Courage is Pride, the opposite of which is Humility.

I found this system of virtues absolutely brilliant, especially coming from a game. Years later when I finally met Richard Garriott, designer of the Ultima series, at the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3), I asked him how he came up with this system and how he ended up choosing these virtues. He told me it started with brainstorming a long list and noticing patterns in how the virtues related to each other.

As strange as it is that I got these insights from a game, I still think of living virtuously in much the same way today, where these eight virtues come about through the overlapping sets of truth, love, and courage. For the combination of all three virtues though, I feel that “integrity” is a better fit than “spirituality.” Ultima V went on to explore the opposite of these, the vices which can be derived from falsehood, hatred, and cowardice. Unfortunately I feel the Ultima series really went downhill since then and completely lost its soul — I would have loved to have seen the virtue idea taken even farther”.

Re-posted from The Ultimate Answer

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Immortal Hacker Challenge (Part Two) December 26, 2011

Avatar based recovery. Patient has access to his data and an interesting ability to track goals and milestones. It is also efficient not to have paperwork which saves time.

Janus of Santa Cruz developed drug and alcohol treatment, which includes clinical assessment, goal setting, VR training and support. Digital registration, online wellness forms and presence questionnaire. They conducted a study with 35 adults, 8 weeks protocol, non-compliance and relapses happen. Participants had to play a game daily, which formed good rituals (habits) and relationships. 

Ivana Steigman, who formely worked at InWorld Solutions, told us about Thrive Research projects. In one research they had a sponsor (coach), clinician, basic assessment administrator, patient. They had reward contract and electronic forms. Link to thrive points, incentives – coffee, gas, grocery. There is a dashboard, where they had to check in daily – visual representation of where you are. The six domains of well-being: Physical, Social, Affective, Cognitive, Vocational, and Spiritual.

NeuroSim Lab makes use of virtual worlds to assess the ways in which the structure and function of the brain relate to specific psychological processes and overt behaviors.

Sim Coach, the goal is to create an experience that will motivate troops and their significant others to take the first step – to empower themselves with regard to their healthcare (e.g., psychological health and traumatic brain injury). There was a virtual agent, former US Army soldier,  who told his story about PTSD and encouraged audience to read some recommended reading and talk to someone about their traumatic experiences (he gave free numbers to call and suggested other resources). That was cool!

Virtually Better, treat a variety of anxiety disorders such as Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and Specific Phobias.

There were other individuals and organizations working in that area (Patrick Bordnick, Virtual Patent lab, VRPsych Lab, etc.) and creating new technology to help patients overcome drug and substance abuse, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, etc. There are video chat rooms where you can see a bar and people tempt you to use alcohol but you learn to overcome urges in simulated environments. They modify level of urges to build your resilience.

My favorite was a virtual meeting for AA members. You as a member pick avatar and go to live sessions with other member’s avatars from different locations. You would then discuss your issues and do the same thing as you would do in a real meeting. What really works is the power of sharing and social support.

Read more about this session from Avatar-Based Recovery Using Immersive Virtual Environments article and another session from Innovative Technologies for Psychological Intervention, Consultation and Training article.

I also attended a session about Innovation and opportunities in mobile interventions for addictions, they were discussing various mobile apps. At the exhibition hall I saw a booth advertising Stress Tracker app, which is based in Needham, MA. Another session was about national tele centers providing psychological services to patients in remote areas by means of online CBTs and video conferencing. See another article about the UK approach.

It was mentioned that American psychologists are still hesitant to use Skype or Facetime out of fear to be completely replaced by technology. Les Posen from Australia told an incredible story about government support (subsidies) for depression-cure sites and tools and as a result hundreds of organizations had sprung across Australia: Beacon, e-couch, Mood gym, anxiety online, etc. They all deliver e-health services and strategy online.

Re-posted from The Ultimate Answer

 

Immortal Hacker Challenge (Part One) December 24, 2011

I was going to write about The art of happiness in the troubled world book, but my computer caught a virus. Instead of getting mad at the hackers who wrote that virus I thought of a topic for my blog. First, let me tell you what I learned about Virtual Reality and the role of technology in psychology during the 119th APA Convention back in August. I attended at least 4 sessions about it.

Assessment of video game use. They were talking about Star Craft Game, and how it is popular to watch it in Korea. Spectators want to become players and win one day, even though their chances are pretty slim. We watched a video about thousands of spectators observing players of the game live in a big space which looked like a concert hall. People were rooting for their favorite players, eating and drinking. It looked crazy to me. Competitive video gaming is new to the US.

Is video gaming just for fun? The answer is no. For older adults games are used as therapeutic and learning tools. For example, insurance companies are developing video games to help reduce number of accidents per member. For children, some video games help improve pro-social skills, working memory, cognitive process speed. For people with disabilities, to learn and develop skills, example, read together and talk together. learningworksforkids.org, based in RI, suggests smarter playing curriculum. They use with children Say, Do, Review technique, so that children learn, practice and remember, they also take breaks between activities and do physical exercise. It’s called “play diet” that helps make video games digitally nutritious.

Video games are not intergenerational yet, but the goal is to help parents transfer their knowledge to children in interactive way.

Clinical use of video games – measures are still being developed, as there should be corrective index to adjust scores, not only self-report measures and interviews, etc. There is also a need for age appropriate measures, measures of stability, engagement, content (solitary, violent, competitive) and lists of side effects (unequal potential effects, consequences. etc).

Students spend too much time on games instead of studying. Impulse control is still hypothetical and can’t be observed or how it triggers behavioral addiction. Methodology is not efficient based on analogy. It is necessary to rate and analyze effects not only of new games but current games.

Virtual Reality (VR) is “a consciousness-noticing machine” and could be immersion(with goggles) and avatar-based. IBM plans to create avatars for every employee in 4 years, they will have new 3-D studio; it helps employees to better communicate. Avatar: “you are not a gadget”.

Examples of VR: flat public – Second life, flat secure – Inworld solutions, immersion public and immersion secure – Virtually Better.

Why VR is popular? It is an incarnation for some, virtual ability to be anything you want. So far there are ½ billion online game players. On average, 1 hour per game. Average age of the player is 10-15 y.o. In 2013 there will be 2 billion users. Online games help satisfy the need for human interaction. They also make changes in human behavior.

Re-posted from The Ultimate Answer

 

Strategic Volunteering Workshop October 19, 2010

It was one of those Mondays when you don’t want to get out of your bed, especially when you are not employed. I still made an effort and took the train to Downtown Crossing to attend Strategic Volunteering workshop at the Work Place.  I didn’t have any expectations, just signed up because I truly believe in volunteer work as to me  it means not giving something away but sharing and enriching ourselves and the world around us. I was curious to see what others have to say about strategic volunteering.

The instructor Mark McCurdy (see pic), also Founder and President of http://thenonprofitcareercoach.org/, delivered an interesting presentation to 10 participants. Main idea was to follow your heart, find what you love to do and focus on it… You would say that we all know this concept as it was mentioned in many philosophical schools, religions and books like The Alchemist and The Monk who sold his Ferrari, etc. True, but the twist is that you apply this concept to volunteering, meaning – not necessary leaving your current day-time job and switching to something else right away.

Volunteering is a way to connect you with your passion, which at the end may lead you to your perfect job you just don’t know how to find yet … As often we have one idea of what we want to do but in reality it may become  something different. As Tony Robbins said “Sometimes you need to lose your dreams to find your destiny”.

I also liked how Mark explained the process of finding what you love to do and implementing it, that is how to connect several elements which are  

Passion+Purpose+Strategic Volunteering +Focus

Very often we only focus on passion or purpose but never connect both, never mind applying them to reality by doing volunteer work or seriously focusing on it. So here is what I got out of this workshop:

What is your passion/favorite hobby/interest or what are you good at? I like to ask questions and connect to people through conversation/story, also I’m interested in volunteering.

What community/population do you like to serve? To help unhappy lost people.  Because I was depressed myself in the past, I want to help unhappy people.

How do you think you combine the two into strategic volunteering?  Besides doing this blog and telling about volunteering, I may want to reach out to whole communities of depressed people and write newsletters for them about ways to get involved in volunteer work,  create workshops and events for them.

Focus on what you defined – narrow your goal and be consistent… I spoke to Mark that instead of general population I should focus on non-profits and groups that support communities of depressed people/victims of depression. Mark mentioned that “Collaboration is King” (not cash anymore). He also suggested doing video/audio interviews of volunteers/non-profits for http://nptimes.com/, which is almost like TV show about volunteering world. All I have to do is to focus on these ideas and act upon them – be proactive and reach out to those organizations/communities and create samples of my work.

Imagine you were at the same workshop, what would you come up with? How many people do you know who decided to blog or do something they are very passionate about even though it was not their profession and they became very successful by eventually pursuing it?

 

The Social Cure via Volunteering October 18, 2010

So I missed the annual Boston Book Festival  this past Saturday on Oct 16, even though last year’s BBF is the reason this blog exists.  To satisfy my curiosity about what I missed I looked at the pics taken by Mike Lee  and Dinmohamed Abdimomunov and read about the event on-line. It looks like there were great speakers, workshops and OLPC had a nice booth with great volunteers showcasing the XOs. The event was a success just like last year and I wish I could have attended it. However, the same day I discovered something else I want to share with you. It is an article of Sept/Oct issue of www.ScientificAmerican.com/mind,  called  “The Social Cure”. The main idea is:

1. Membership in a large number of groups was once thought to be detrimental because it complicated our lives and caused stress. 2. Now, however, research shows that being part of social networks enhances our resilience, enabling us to cope more effectively with difficult life changes such as death of a loved one, job loss or a move. 3. Not only do our group memberships help us mentally, they also are associated with increased physical well-being.

We weather life transitions better if we have multiple social identities. For example, if people lose their job they are also likely to lose a network of colleagues that over the years has been important to them. This will tend to compromise their well-being. Yet they may still belong to the local tennis club or be a volunteer at the local church, and maintaining these identities will probably help them through the transition.

Group life and a sense of social identity have profound influence on our general health and well-being. This finding reflects something fundamental about human nature: we are social animals who live (and have evolved to live) in groups. For humans, membership in groups is an indispensable part of who we are and what we need to be to lead rich and fulfilling lives. Practically it means that groups can offer a social cure. Participation in group life can be like an inoculation against threats to mental and physical health.

One of the ways to become a member of various groups is to volunteer and try different activities (find them through friends, meetup, etc.) Not only that you will meet similar-minded people who share your values but you will build your resilience to stress plus help others, build new skills and (very possibly) a career in something new.

 

Back To Boston April 30, 2010

Filed under: Vietnam — polyachka @ 11:35 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

It’s been 2 weeks since I came back from Vietnam. The first week I finished my taxes, met with my friends and organized my belongings scattered among several locations.  I finally met Nancie and we discussed the need for volunteers in Vietnam to keep our OLPC pilots alive. After what I experienced in Vietnam I realized that I can’t really do what I used to do: places I lived, my work, places I shopped, events I attended… Many things didn’t make sense anymore… I realized that I see everything in a different light. I don’t need to live in Back Bay with a view of the beautiful park and tall buildings anymore, my job didn’t mean much, as I never understood what I was doing it for and to whose benefit. It always kind of felt meaningless, even though well paid… I was able to afford a lot and yet I felt miserable and depressed (Adam had no clue why I was blogging up the storm back in December, but that was what I felt inside) as I knew my life was not fulfilling. According to Robin Sharma, one of the principles to true happiness is to do what you feel passionate about.  Perhaps, somewhere in the hills of Sapa, Vietnam, I finally realized that happiness is not about getting a better something, but feeling helpful and needed and doing work for other people’s goodness.  As a result of this realization I said Adieu to my work and decided to do what I really want to do – to be an advocate for volunteering services.

I looked up volunteering organizations in Boston and found BostonCares. It went through their orientation and signed up for several events. In one week I taught math to adults who are studying to get their GED in Roxbury, I packed and distributed food to those in need at the Red Cross Food Pantry…. I visited Braille publishing house and learned about press for the blind.  I met a lot of people who volunteer regularly. Some of them are doing AmeriCorp program. As I learned more and more, I sensed we all have this feeling to help others subconsciously, but sometimes opportunities are not easy to find. I decided to start my volunteering organization that would match good volunteers to good projects around the world.  There is no need to answer Roger’s question, as we all know the answer to: “Isn’t it great to do something you love to do?”

 

 
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