THINC Webinar: How to Create More Happiness in the Technological Era?

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On the last Saturday in February, the 6th THINC Webinar entitled "Measuring Happiness in The Age of Technology" was successfully hosted by team Loveyourself, together with general moderator Robin Lewis and professor Peng Kaiping. 

 

 

 

 

This webinar focuses on probably one of the most fundamental, philosophical, and significant topics in human civilization: Happiness. During the webinar, the participants were invited to explore altogether the million-dollar questions: How does technology affect our happiness? How to be happier in this era?

 

We are more than honored to have Prof. Peng Kaiping as the keynote speaker, Dean of the School of Social Sciences and Head of the Department of Psychology at Tsinghua University, to share his many years of substantial research on positive psychology in China in a nutshell. 

 

 

Ever since Abraham Maslow and Martin Seligman, positive psychology has witnessed significant growth and presents particular relevance in the contemporary context, during which a distressing increase in mental health issues has been spotted all across the world. 

As Prof. Kaiping Peng pointed out, "Positive psychology is not just a discipline that studies mental disorders and mental illness, but more of a study that focuses on the positive side of normal lives and wellbeing of every human."

 

The PERMA model is the very tool that helps positive psychology researchers to measure and assess mental health and wellbeing, where P stands for Positive Emotion; E means Engagement; R refers to Positive Relationships; M is Meaning (in things that we do), and A means Accomplishments/Achievements. Using the PERMA model, Prof. Peng Kaiping launched the world's largest happiness assessment in 2013, in which 200 million Chinese people participated by answering questions regarding their emotions. The assessment lasted for three months and the data gathered from the project is refreshing after being processed by natural language processing (NLP) technology. In Peng's assessment, in Chinese, there are 1552 words to describe happiness, 700 activities related to happy feelings. Rather than a pure emotional expression, Chinese people tend to combine behaviors to express their positive feelings, such as "I love to drink white wine". 

It is also worth noting that Spanish, compared to others, might be the happiest language in the world, with more words related to happiness in its language system.

 

During the Q&A session, one participant asked an important question commonly concerning the international psychology communities, "Can humans feel happy and depressed at the same time?" 

While the US psychology community tends to believe that these two opposite emotions do not co-exist in humans, prof. Peng Kaiping and his team have a different viewpoint based on their research and cultural backgrounds. He briefly explained with an example: when Chinese parents see their children off to university in a distant big city and experience this sort of departure for the first time in life, they often feel enormous joy for the grown-up son or daughter, while at the same time feeling deeply melancholy to see their children move away for good. 

 

In conclusion, Prof. Peng Kaipijng firmly believes that the development of science and technological innovation would contribute greatly to the improvement of the happiness and wellbeing of human. 

Followed by Prof. Peng Kaiping, four passionate, insightful THINC Fellow speakers from the team Loveyourself also gave engaging presentations from their perspective and professional experience. 

 

 

Biman Liyanage, a researcher, inventor, and serial entrepreneur, shared his committed start-up technology on using voice AI for mental health diagnostics. Through the efforts of designing deep learning systems and the employment of affective computing, the voice AI technology is able to quickly, precisely, and effectively detect human emotions and help diagnose possible mental illness at an early stage. Biman ended his presentation with a power statement, "Technology needs to be designed with Intention. Rather than designing to exploit human emotion we need to teach humans to build better machines." 

 

 

 

 

Another fellow speaker Dr Maxton Scotland, who is a veterans advocate, UN Youth Ambassador, and founder of Impakt X, brought a presentation entitled "How tech can and is being used to improve the mental wellbeing of veterans and service personnel". 

In his presentation, he discussed how the advancement in technology - 3D printing, V.R. Headsets, virtual and augmented reality - are helping many people rebuild their mental -well-being. For example, we are all happy to see that VR gaming is effective application in the treatment of veterans' Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders. 

 

 

 

 

Lim En, who serves on the board of the National Youth Achievement Award Council, introduced a few major cases of how Singapore has dealt with common mental issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The global pandemic has aggravated sources of pressure and mental issues such as isolation, anxiety, and depression become commonly spread feelings. To tack with this situation, the Singaporean government has launched a free platform mindline.sg, a virtual community where everyone can express their feelings or seek professional support and advice. On mindline.sg, there is also Wysa, an AI-generated virtual chatbot, with which users can have a conversation and gain in-time response of emotional support 24/7. 

 

 

 

Followed by Lim En, the last fellow speaker Petros Djakouris has given us a practical guide on how to better deal with phone addiction from an individual's perspective. Petros is the founder of BeHive, a Beijing-based start-up company. During the last two years of the pandemic, Petros spent most of the time working remotely from home and realized how difficult it can be to manage the phone and internet instead of being "managed" by them. 

Based on personal experience, he shared the specific and simple measures to overcome the unhealthy habit: Measure your usage, Apply Selective Ignorance and Declutter your phone. He encouraged the audience to track their usage of the phone through "Screen Time", to selectively ignore distracting, irrelevant, or otherwise unnecessary information and thus create a focus initiatively, and to declutter all the apps on the phone. 

 

 

After the Insight Sharing session, THINC fellow Lewrence Yu, a cross-cultural psychologist and Oxford Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology, gave an interesting moderation to open the floor for free discussion of everyone. He asked the participants to choose an option to the question - Why does a Facebook user with a “smile” profile picture tend to have more friends with a smile one than others?

Through the revealing, he further explained the characteristics of happiness in psychology, which are confounding, homophily, and induction. 

 

 

The ninety minutes passed more quickly than many of us would hope, leaving the participants a fulfillment as well as an eagerness to explore more of this eternal topic. Later this month, the 7th THINC webinar on Tech x Human Connection will take place. We sincerely look forward to the next webinar with all of you.

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