“Let’s have some tea and continue to talk about happy things!”

It’s hard to imagine that the humble biscuit could be of been an intrinsic part of our nation’s imperialist past but, in fact, the 19th-century expansion of the British Empire owes much to Huntley & Palmers’ Ginger Nuts and Bath Olivers. Many famous expeditions were fuelled by such delicacies: Henry Stanley set off in search of Dr. Livingstone with supplies of them, and Captain Scott’s hut at Cape Evans on Ross Island still contains tins of Huntley & Palmers biscuits, specially developed for the expedition, that were left there in 1911.

‘Fancy’ biscuits, as opposed to those eaten for health purposes, were first produced commercially in Britain in the early 19th century. Peek Frean, McVitie’s and Jacob’s all became household names but, certainly in terms of collecting, it is Huntley & Palmers that stands out today.

I was an incredible proud grandson, my Grandfather started his working life in industry with Huntley and Palmers. He came to be liked by Lord Palmer and his family, in running the UK operations, before being sent to Paris to set-up and manage the firm’s first French biscuit factory, located near Paris. Grandfather always amused me as a child informing me around the challenges of managing and running a biscuit operation in France that was to educate the French in English biscuits. He always amused me with his stories and wisdom, and this was always shared over tea and of course with a Huntley and Palmer biscuit, Grandfather said ‘there was always a new biscuit for every occasion’, we always shared biscuits which sparked new conversations, incredibly precious moments.

Huntley and Palmer’s had quite a success story in their day, the company was opened by a Quaker, Joseph Huntley, in London Street, Reading, in 1822. As the business expanded, he was joined by his cousin, George Palmer, in 1841. The firm acquired a site on King’s Road in Reading five years later and by 1860 had expanded into the biggest biscuit and cake manufacturer in the world, turning out 3,200 tons of biscuits a year. By 1900, there were so many Macaroons, Pic Nics and Osbornes (named after Queen Victoria’s favourite palace) being made, that there were over 5,000 employees and Reading was known as ‘Biscuit Town’. Thanks to some superb marketing, the export trade was enormous too, with biscuits distributed across the globe. Ten per cent of total production went to India alone, presumably so that the Governor of Bengal and his chums could enjoy a good Thin Abernethy (‘made from the Choicest Materials’) with their tea.

The story of Huntley and Palmers

Huntley & Palmers was very much in Palmer control for the foreseeable future. By their combination of managerial and entrepreneurial talent the company flourished.

The eating habits of the middle classes were changing, and by the late 1860s it was fashionable to take afternoon tea. This provided the perfect market for biscuits, by which time Huntley & Palmers were producing about one hundred varieties, of which the Ginger Nut, Gem and Nic Nac were especially popular.

So, what happened to tea and biscuits, our afternoon tea, and our meaningful conversations with family and friends?

Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o’clock, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner.

The Duchess asked that a tray of tea, bread and butter (some time earlier, the Earl of Sandwich had had the idea of putting a filling between two slices of bread) and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her.

This pause for tea became a fashionable social event. During the 1880’s upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five o’clock.
Traditional afternoon tea consists of a selection of dainty sandwiches (including of course thinly sliced cucumber sandwiches), scones served with clotted cream and preserves. Cakes and pastries are also served. Tea grown in India or Ceylon is poured from silver tea pots into delicate bone china cups.

Nowadays however, in the average suburban home, afternoon tea is rare; likely to be just a biscuit or small cake and a mug of tea, usually produced using a teabag.

Has tea, family and friend’s discussions, meaningful conversations with others, just disappeared in the face of a busy life, technology overload and ‘do we just not have time?’

Once upon a time the biggest technological nuisance for the family was the phone ringing during dinner time. It is now common to see our loved ones hunched over their phones or tablets as they take one distracted bite of their food after another.

Once the plates are cleared the family might move to the living room for some television, but while the family may have once watched the program together, the new normal is to envelop yourself in a technological cocoon for the night.

Each person may catch the occasional glimpse of the show, but their attention is now being split between chatting with friends on the phone, watching YouTube clips and answering work emails.

Our fixation with technology has created new routines that are very different from traditional notions of family time.
The increasing ways we are using technology in isolation from one another is reflected by the latest figures from Britain’s communications regulator, Ofcom. A recent study found that for the first-time children aged between 12 and 15 are spending as much time online as they are watching television, about 17 hours a week for each.

Many of these children are now not even bothering to sit in the lounge room with the family when they are online, with 20 per cent of five-year-olds now more likely to be alone in their bedroom when online.

Even special family occasions are now infiltrated by mobile technologies.

The home is where children learn their values, specifically what is important in family life. Building a warm and cohesive connections are crucial not only for our own family, but for society as a whole.

The internet has irrevocably blurred the boundaries between work and home, meaning many parents are still working in one form or another when they are at home with their family. What message does a child receive when he or she is telling a story about something important that happened at school and mum stops listening to reply to an urgent message from the office?

Technology is now an integral part of our lives, the impact of culture in technology on children relationships is more noticeable than in families. This divide has grown due to the increased use of technology among children in several ways. First, children’s absorption in technology, from texting to playing video games, does by their very nature limit their availability to communicate with their parents.

Times have changed. New technology offers children independence from their parents’ involvement in their social lives, with the use of mobile phones, instant messaging, and social networking sites. Of course, children see this technological divide between themselves and their parents as freedom from over-involvement and intrusion on the part of their parents in their lives. Parents, in turn, see it as a loss of connection to their children and an inability to maintain reasonable oversight, for the sake of safety and over-all health, of their children’s lives. At the same time, perhaps a bit cynically, children’s time-consuming immersion in technology may also mean that parents don’t have to bother with entertaining their children, leaving them more time to themselves.

There is little doubt that technology is affecting family relationships on a day-to-day level. Children are instant messaging constantly, checking their social media, listening to music, surfing their favorite web sites, and watching television or movies. Because of the emergence of mobile technology, these practices are no longer limited to the home, but rather can occur in cars, at restaurants, in fact, anywhere there’s a mobile phone signal.

The fact is that family life has changed in the last generation quite apart from the rise of technology. Add technology to the mix and it only gets worse. It’s gotten to the point where it seems like parents and children are emailing and texting each other more than they’re talking even when they’re at home together!

The ramifications of this distancing are profound. Less connection — the real kind — means that families aren’t able to build relationships as strong as they could be nor are they able to maintain them as well. As a result, children will feel less familiarity, comfort, trust, security, and, most importantly, love from their parents.

So, what is the answer? Change and transformation is always challenging in any environment and sometimes faced with strong reluctance, some of the best moments of my life have been spent with my grandparents in cheer and of course with tea and Huntley and Palmer biscuits.

Pope Francis recently addressed some participants, reminding them of the pre-eminence of love. “The life of a family is filled with beautiful moments: rest, meals together, walks in the park or the countryside, visits to grandparents or to a sick person… But if love is missing, joy is missing, nothing is fun. Jesus always gives us that love: he is its endless source.” He also exhorted people to learn from the wisdom of grandparents: “[A person or] people that does not listen to grandparents is one that dies! Listen to your grandparents.”

While your children and parenting will have many influences on their moral development, you always play the biggest role. You are their first teacher and role model. They look to you to learn how to act in the world.

While your words are important, it will be your actions that will teach them the most. How are your actions guiding your children in living up to your highest values?

There is a big difference between knowing about values and actually trying to adopt the traits. Often standing up for your values takes courage and strength, grandparents can be a huge help and influence on your children’s life in this chaotic, overcrowded, technological world that we all live in.

As my grandparents would always say to me and as this quote states from Chaim Potok:

“Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.”

Can you really fall in love with a Robot?

Our company has just started to work with a new client who has developed a humanised robot, which they describe as a ‘social robot’. It is clear by my work to date with this company that advances in robotics and AI are starting to gain some real momentum. In the coming decades, scientists predict robots will take over more and more jobs including white collar ones, and gain ubiquity in the home, school, and work spheres.

Due to this, roboticists and AI experts, social scientists, psychologists, and others are speculating what impact it will have on us and our world. Google and Oxford have teamed up to make a kill switch should AI initiate a robot apocalypse.

One way to overcome this is to imbue AI with emotions and empathy, to make them as human-like as possible, so much so that it may become difficult to tell robots and real people apart. In this vein, scientists have wondered if it might be possible for a human to fall in love with a robot, considering we are moving toward fashioning them after our own image. Spike Jonze’s Her and the movie Ex Machina touch on this.

Can you fall in love with a robot?

Interesting enough both the film ‘Ex Machina’, in which a computer programmer falls in love with a droid, may not be as far-fetched as you think.

A new study has found that humans have the potential to emphasise with robots, even while knowing they do not have feelings.
It follows previous warnings from experts that humans could develop unhealthy relationships with robots, and even fall in love with them.

The discovery was made after researchers asked people to view images of human and humanoid robotic hands in painful situations, such as being cut by a knife. After studying their electrical brain signals, they found humans responded with similar immediate levels of empathy to both humans and robots.

After studying their electrical brain signals, they found humans responded with similar immediate levels of empathy to both humans and robots.

But the beginning phase of the so-called ‘top-down’ process of empathy was weaker toward robots.

The study was carried out by researchers at Toyohashi University of Technology and Kyoto University in Japan, and provides the first neurophysiological evidence of humans’ ability to empathise with robots.

These results suggest that we empathise with humanoid robots in a similar way to how we empathise with other humans.
Last month, a robot ethicist warned that AI sex dolls could ‘contribute to detrimental relationships between men and women, adults and children, men and men and women and women’

Scientists suggest that we’re unable to fully take the perspective of robots because their body and mind – if it exists – are very different from ours.

‘I think a future society including humans and robots should be good if humans and robots are prosocial,’ study co-author Michiteru Kitazaki told Inverse.

‘Empathy with robots as well as other humans may facilitate prosocial behaviors. Robots that help us or interact with us should be empathised by humans.’

Experts are already worried about the implication of humans developing feelings for robots.

The question we all need to ask is ‘do we fear a future of love with a real human to be a happy to substitute to a robot’ the idea that a real, living, breathing human could be replaced by something that is almost, but not exactly, the same thing, well, actually a robot.

By now you’ve probably heard the story of Tay, Microsoft’s social AI experiment that went from “friendly millennial girl” to genocidal misogynist in less than a day. At first, Tay’s story seems like a fun one for anyone who’s interested in cautionary sci-fi. What does it mean for the future of artificial intelligence if a bot can embody the worst aspects of digital culture after just 16 hours online?

If any AI is given the vastness of human creation to study at lightning speed, will it inevitably turn evil?

Will the future be a content creation battle for their souls?

Society is now driven by the social connections you hold, the likes and your preferences of relevancy, the movie Her is described with a complex nature, a man who is inconsolable since he and his wife separated. Theodore is a lonely man in the final stages of his divorce. When he’s not working as a letter writer, his down time is spent playing video games and occasionally hanging out with friends. He decides to purchase the new OS1, which is advertised as the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system, “It’s not just an operating system, it’s a consciousness,” the ad states. Theodore quickly finds himself drawn in with Samantha, the voice behind his OS1. As they start spending time together they grow closer and closer and eventually find themselves in love. Having fallen in love with his OS, Theodore finds himself dealing with feelings of both great joy and doubt. As an OS, Samantha has powerful intelligence that she uses to help Theodore in ways others hadn’t, but how does she help him deal with his inner conflict of being in love with an OS?

Though technically unfeasible by today’s AI standards, the broad premise of the movie is more realistic than most people may think. Indeed, in the past 10 years our lives have been transformed by technology and love is no exception. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, there’s no better time to examine some of the recent developments in this area.

Taobao, China’s version of Amazon, offers virtual girlfriends and boyfriends for around $2 (£1.20) per day. These are real humans, but they only relate with their paying customers via the phone – calls or text – in order to perform fairly unromantic tasks such as wake up calls, good night calls, and (perhaps the most useful service) “sympathetically listen to clients’ complaints”. If this is all you expect from a relationship, it at least comes at a cheap price.

Similar services already exist in India, where biwihotohaisi.com helps bachelors “practice” for married life with a virtual wife, and Japan, where “romance simulation games” are popular with men and women, even when they feature animated avatars rather than human partners.

In many of today’s most fascinating visions of future love, the body itself seems like a relic of the past. In Her, for example, we encounter a social landscape where love between humans and machines doesn’t require a physical body at all. Instead we watch as Theo shares his most personal moments with an AI who he never actually touches, but who conveys intimacy through talking, sharing messages, drawings, ideas and sexual fantasies. In our current social climate, where dating often means scrolling through photos and written bios rather than interacting with people in person, the idea that you could fall in love with your computer doesn’t seem so far-fetched. After all, we are already used to more disembodied forms of communication, and, as many older generations continue to lament, many young people today are more likely to text or sext than actually establish in-person kinds of intimacy.

AI is the perfect sounding board for these modern anxieties about human connection, and 20th- and 21st-century films are filled with dystopian landscapes that showcase the loneliness of a world where intimacy is something you can buy. In many of these films, from classics such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to more modern movies like Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, the creators and consumers of AI are male, while the AI themselves are female. The patriarchal underpinning of this is vividly explored in sci-fi such as The Stepford Wives and Cherry 2000, where we are ushered into worlds where compliant and submissive female robots are idealized by their male creators as the epitome of perfection, and always exist completely under their thumb. The female robots we meet in these films cook, clean, are unfailingly supportive and are always sexually available, in addition to being exceptionally beautiful. These sex-bots have also become both a mainstay of humor, from the sexy goofiness of 80s films such as Weird Science and Galaxina, to the cheeky and slightly more socially aware comedies in the 90s, with the frilly, busty fembots of Austen Powers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s charmingly dippy “Buffy-bot”

Serge Tisseron, a French Psychiatrist who studies the relationships between youth, the media and images and the effect of information and communication technology on young people, reminds that, despite signs of attachments from the robot, the relation can and will always be one way.

Serge insists on the importance of a reflection around the ethical issues to avoid the destruction of human relations. Because of their interactions with efficient, high-performing and helpful robots, humans could end up being disappointed with other humans altogether, especially on a professional level. Or, we could eventually abandon our responsibilities completely and rely solely on robots to take care of our loved ones. In the end, this could result in a serious withdrawal from the human world and could affect our ability to live in society.

A final thought is that no one knows what the future holds, if robots will manage to develop their conscience and emotions but in any case, there needs to be enough preparations for their development and integration to society.

A great quote by Colin Angle:

“In the smart home of the future, there should be a robot designed to talk to you. With enough display technology, connectivity, and voice recognition, this human-interface robot or head-of-household robot will serve as a portal to the digital domain. It becomes your interface to your robot-enabled home.”

Is the world really out of control?

After the worst shooting atrocity in American history, the question, macabre but inevitable, arises once again: “How do we respond to a world that seems out of control?”

The world and its people are changing and losing knowledge. Females and males are losing virginity as early as 10 years old. The crime rate is increasing daily. Every tenth of a second a crime takes place somewhere in this world. Children are disobeying their parents, teachers have no control over the behaviour of children, mental health is at an all-time high in every society in the world.

Entire countries are poor and their population is literally starving to death while diseases eat away at them. Bad weather is increasing. Meteors hitting earth are increasing, hurricanes and tornadoes are increasing, the summers are hotter than usual and the winters are colder. Earthquakes are being felt in places where they should not be felt, earthquakes are happening in places where there are not even fault lines. Wild fires across the globe are destroying many many acres of land and destroying civilization.

The ozone hole is getting bigger, oil prices are rising and oil reserves are getting lower each day. The prices of goods and services are rising and the value of the world currency is lowering. Many new hurtful laws are going in effect and more and more people are experiencing some type of illness.

What are people to do about these major challenges?

Have these things been happening all throughout history and no one realised it or is things getting worse and making people pay attention to it?

The world seems that way because it is out of control the sun rises whether we want it to or not, the toaster breaks, someone cuts you off on your way to work. We’ve never had control. We have the illusion of control when things go the way we think they should. And when they do not, we say we have lost control, and we long for some sort of enlightened state beyond all this, where we imagine we’ll have control again. But what we really want is peace. We think that by having control or becoming “enlightened” (and no one knows what that means) we’ll find peace.

All around us things are changing. People are talking about disruption: personal lives being disrupted, businesses being disrupted, society being disrupted. This disruption, this change, is coming from lots of directions: technology, things that are happening in the world, the connected globalisation, urbanisation, the changing and ageing demographics, the refugee problems, politics, terrorism, the mobility of people, climate change.

One of the notable issues is that fear tends to dominate. Some people are finding themselves and their organisations in the scared quadrant as they don’t see the opportunities or they focus on the things that go wrong and are risky. How people react in uncertain moments is a good indicator of how they will react in the future.

Digital transformation is one of the largest of our time, translated in business model disruption, new services, cybercrime and new devices in an app- or bot- centric world, and disruption in our ability to cultivate new multi-generational talent and respond to a rapidly changing marketplace. We create more data than people can consume. We used to talk about innovation trends as if they were in silos. The trends are still important and have impact by themselves, but their combined impact will be much greater. We need to change how we think about business to remain successful and productive as individuals and as organisations.

We can see it happening all around us with accessible, affordable, adaptable technologies that are changing the way we live and work, becoming so fundamental to our lives that they are even shifting our understanding of what it means to be human. The adoption of new technologies is accelerating and technological breakthroughs are speeding up. It took radio thirty-eight years to reach 50 million users, TV thirteen years, iPod four years, internet three years, Facebook one year and Twitter just three quarters of a year.
While the digital economy holds great opportunity, it also brings new risks and challenges. So, what’s at stake?

To understand the future, we need to look at the past. Half a century ago, the life expectancy of a firm in the Fortune 500 was around seventy-five years. Now it’s less than fifteen years and declining even further. If we look at the Fortune 500 companies in 1955, 88% of them have disappeared since the year 2000. That means that only sixty are left. They went broke, they were taken over, they merged or they were split into pieces. In five to ten years from now a large portion of today’s companies will probably have an offering that doesn’t exist yet. Companies are going to change massively, and the rate of change is just accelerating.

Maybe, Charles Dickens, had a point when he quoted in ‘A Tale of Two Cities (1859), set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution’, when he said:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, …”

Do we really have first world challenges?

I was recent in a trivia debate with a good friend discussing who invented the pie chart, honestly I looked completed at the ceiling when he said Florence Nightingale, I challenged him to the real answer which was William Playfair (22 September 1759 – 11 February 1823) – he was a Scottish engineer and political economist, the founder of graphical methods of statistics. He invented several types of diagrams: in 1786 the line, area and bar chart of economic data, and in 1801 the pie chart and circle graph, used to show part-whole relations.

We both discussed the challenges of that era, 1759 in Scotland was described as a period called the Enlightenment, a Golden Age in the arts, sciences, industry and commerce, so what was so different to the present day?

In 1759 we had the battle of Quebec, Guinness was first formed and James Watt invented the steam engine, today we have unsettlement and war in the middle east and an app and robot for practically any function and desire in life, were people so unhappy in the 1759 era believing they have 1st World Challenges and change?

According to urbandictionary.com, “first world problems” are defined as “[p]roblems from living in a wealthy, industrialised nation that third world persons would probably roll their eyes at.” There is even an entire website dedicated to highlighting the petty complaints and struggles faced by people in the first world.

This video named First World Challenge, gives some insight to the pettiness and struggles faced by people in the first world:

The people I hear using this phrase are usually relatively socially conscious. I think the intentions behind this term are probably genuine and rooted in the desire to check their privilege. Still, this term is half-baked in its intentions, and I think we can do better in this realm of social consciousness.

We need to examine the rhetoric involved in conversations surrounding privilege, the distribution of wealth, industrialised societies, and the global South. Specifically, I want to take this opportunity to consider the sorts of things that the phrase “first world problems” implies. As feminist and writer Laurie Penny recently wrote in her article, “Gender Neutral Language is Coming Here’s Why It Matters,” the terminology we use has a lot of power over the way we perceive the world around us.

It is a known fact that the way of life in our developed regions is having negative impacts on the environment. Although we are witnessing increasing levels of consciousness regarding consumption, we are still far off a sustainable mode of conduct. One person consuming on our current level might not have a wide impact on our nature. But billions of people make negative impacts of scale. You shopping a chocolate latte in a disposable cup might not be bad, but millions of cups make up for a complete landfill. Seemingly harmless choices multiplied by sheer quantity and automation potentially leads to tremendous negative results. Or to put it into another great German saying: ‘Small animals, too, create manure.’

But, changes are on the way, right? We are shopping the highest number of sustainable products than ever before and the invention of new efficient technologies is seemingly rising. Unfortunately, our efforts for more resource-efficiency don’t always work out. Fuel-savings in home heating technologies, for instance, has increased the size of homes people have built for themselves. This in turn has lowered the effect of fuel-savings, as less energy usage on more volume today equals more energy usage on less volume from before. In the end, we are still consuming the same amount of fuel. This principle is called the “rebound effect” and has had tremendous negative effects on our environment. It leaves us with a bitter truth: we might think that we are changing to a more sustainable lifestyle, while in fact we are consuming and thus wasting more than before.

To make matters worse, we are exporting our societal and ecological issues elsewhere. As most products are not made in Europe, North America or Australia, problems are accumulating in countries of the global south, where most production takes place. For us, this turned out to be the perfect mix. We crave cheap consumer products, but we are also asking for clean air, well-paying jobs and good regulation. By exporting most of the negative effects, we can easily live under the impression that we are consuming more sustainably, while others bear the burden. This leaves the global north with a huge challenge: we are unable to see our negative effects because we are very effective at hiding the real price of our actions, either through seemingly sustainable practices or through exporting our external costs.

There is one area, however, where we are able to see that our levels of consumption have backlashes: a rising number of diseases of affluence. Although it is quite clear, that a person living in poverty is more prone to diseases – especially to infectious diseases – our abundant lifestyle has had negative effects on our own health, too. In the global north non-communicable diseases, like obesity, asthma or cancer are on the rise. But it is the less obvious and less visible diseases that are most detrimental. Take mental illnesses as an example. In Germany, there is estimated to be between half a million to 1 million people with severe mental illnesses. Mental illness is a collective term for many different forms of mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression or drug addiction.

These illnesses are called severe if they are persistent and constrain a person in their everyday-life. The cause of the constant rise of mental diseases since the 1950s in the global north is not totally clear, but it seems to be connected to isolation and personal overload. Our liberation from conservative systems, our ability to choose for ourselves who we want to be, puts us into a dangerous situation. We are constantly confronted with too many choices and inflated demands. Suddenly, seven different types of chocolate ice cream might be six too many. What is clear, though, is that people with mental illnesses have more troubles finding a job, often leaving them without an income and even more isolated. They are amongst others more prone to poverty and for failed marriages. With too few people talking about this huge societal issue – but with rising numbers of people with mental illnesses, the problem will become more pressing and there will be a search for more and better integration.

Income per household in the global north is rising constantly. This in turn improves our material quality of life. But this improvement is by far not accessible to everyone. The most marginalized (and seldom addressed) groups in Germany are still lacking access to some of the most basic societal services: hundreds of thousands of women over the age of 65 for instance live on less than 400 Euro a month – and the number is growing. These women are being punished today for having raised children in the past and putting family before their career. This problem will grow even further in the upcoming years and extend to all new retirees – female and male. By 2030, it is estimated that every second retiree will be living in poverty. On the other side of the trench, the German super-rich elite is on the rise – slowly but steadily. Looking at the rising Gini coefficient for wealth in Germany, it becomes apparent that less and less people own more and more of German assets.

Our society is growing more an more unequal. If this trend of inequality continues, we might get into serious trouble. Our society is built on a fragile equilibrium. Imagine the overall energy (time, effort, resources, etc) that is needed in order for our societal system to work. We are constantly busy maintaining the current state of our infrastructure and the social order we rely upon. All the gardeners, janitors, repairmen, doctors, lawyers, politicians and chocolate ice-cream makers spend most of their time just keeping the system running. Day in and day out they go to work to pull all the little levers so that you can drink your chocolate chai latte with soy milk “to go” every morning. This balance is, as improbable as it sometimes may seem, quite frail. We have to constantly fix and improve the status quo so that our society can prosper. The higher the developmental status of our societal systems, the higher its fragility becomes. Inequality might pose the biggest challenge for this societal equilibrium.

Using the third world as a means of noticing how lucky we are implies that value is in material things. It shifts focus from the fact that our own culture of consumption makes us not as good at counting our blessings as we should be. We are often so preoccupied with wanting more stuff and stressing over petty material things because our culture and our economy are so deeply intertwined with consumption. For a healthy economy, it is critical that we go on feeling this way. In citing “first world problems,” we focus instead on our relative luck over those living in some arbitrary “third world,” as defined in material terms. We are reinforcing the idea that there is inherent value in material stuff. To me, it sounds like we are suffering a case of idolatry

This video, I think puts life into prospective:

To be a White Whiner your complaint must convey, simultaneously, that you are both fortunate and irritated. Nothing gets people whining more than flying to an exotic location so they do not lose their holiday time at the end of the year. A study was carried out among 2,000 adults aged between the ages of 18 and 65, with alleged 1st World Challenges and the results are listed below:
• Earphones becoming tangled in your bag, Weetabix not fitting into a round breakfast bowl and weak tea have been named on the list of common British first world problems.
• Problems range from the trivial – the shop running out of semi-skimmed milk or remote control batteries running out – to the downright ridiculous.
• Some of the more absurd worries include: “Heel getting stuck in the decking of a boat or yacht” or “a neighbour using the same Laura Ashley wallpaper”.
• A spokesman for survey website, OnePoll, which carried out the study, said: “Sometimes we forget just how good we’ve got it.
• “While we enjoy a lifestyle much more fortunate than some parts of the world, we still find time to moan about those more trivial problems during everyday life.
• “Of course it’s frustrating that our earphones get tangled, or that some shops only sell cheap wine when you want to splash out a bit.
• “But when these moments occur, we should take a second and reflect on what aspects of our life aren’t so problematic”.

Meanwhile, we are also failing to acknowledge that it is the same system that brings us an unbalanced level of material wealth, which creates much of the poverty and exploitation for those living in poor countries. This is where we ought to put our focus. Having too much stuff to consume in our commercial culture is not psychologically healthy for anyone.

When we complain about how putting frozen water into our water makes it too cold, we should check ourselves. It’s important to feel gratitude and to not sweat the small stuff in our lives, to be happy with what we have and to appreciate when our basic needs are consistently met. Yet we should not do so at the expense of other people.

What we are actually doing when we exclaim ‘first world problems’ is projecting our white guilt onto people in the third world. Even defining first world problems as things “third worlders would probably roll their eyes at” is a projection. We are assuming this based on our own sense of guilt and Western ways of thinking. This is rather presumptuous because in actuality we have no idea how people residing in the third world would react to hearing our first world problems.

Finally, I feel we need to question the very ways we define what is poor and what is third world. We need to stop equating “first” with industrial output and consumption. We must realise that these labels don’t fit. There are many poor people in the industrialised, first world and there are wealthy, intelligent, wise, talented, and complex individuals living the third world.

A great quote by Lee Kuan Yew which rings reality to some of the alleged 1st World Challenges, he once said:

“What I fear is complacency. When things always become better, people tend to want more for less work.”