Saturday, April 17, 2021

Are You Planning a Career as an Applied Anthropologist?

 Are You planning a career as an Applied Anthropologist? 

If so, are you also an entrepreneur? Is this why you have chosen to apply your anthropological training and interest to creating a career for yourself?

The biggest challenge in starting a business is CAPITAL. Do you have access to enough Capital to invest in the start-up costs AND to pay yourself as an employee? What you would require to maintain a minimum life-style for as long as it takes to become profitable? And, Where will this come from, for how long?

This is really the owner-operator problem. To do it alone is a real challenge. To do it so income exceeds expenses in time to prevent running out of capital is a challenge to your scheduling skills. You may want to consider a partnership either with an inside and outside division of responsibility (managing the business vs. selling the product). Or a silent partner who guarantees your expenses in return for a long term buy-out agreement and interest payment.

Be aware of your scale -- how much business can you really do in a unit of time? What will you do if you exceed your ability? What will you do if you don't make your targeted need?

Ask the right questions and get the right (real) answers. Be aware that usually it costs more than you planned and you earn less than you hoped for in the beginning.

And Good Luck!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

An Anthropological look at the World

On March 27, 2021,  The Wall Street Journal carried an article by Lisa Ward reporting on the discussion between AI researchers and Therapists focused on the question: "Can AI make mental-health treatment more accessible?"

This article points to a real problem facing humankind that requires an anthropological study and debate. AI machines are NOT humans. It may replace Humans, taking advantages of the distinctions and evolving to fill many of the roles considered too dangerous for human animals. Just as in Nature, human evolution has adapted to the context in which events occur and a drive toward efficiency. Efficiency is measured by the numbers. The number is determined by the rate and volume of reproduction over time. 

H. G. Wells was on target in the "Time Machine". He envisioned the evolution of the human animal and the AI machine with his characters of the Eloi and Morlocks. Two species will evolve, each filling a different ecological niche but tied together by a common origin and distinguished by different functions.

As pointed out in the article -- AI is being used as a method for discovering ways to identify and treat human mental health problems. But when machines begin to perform human functions, what is left to being human, or for that matter, distinguish the animal from the machine?

AI researchers and human psychological therapists must wonder what happens when AI is designed to mimic and adapt to more animal-like means of independence -- such self-containment, self replication, and mobility? But most of all, complete "self-awareness"?

Do they change into an alternative to the human animal? Does self-awareness mean the AI device is now part of its environment, rather than just an instrument to measure it? Will they or can they become the trainer of the human animal or the environmental threat to the human animal?

AI may learn to domesticate humans in the same manner that humans have domesticated many lower animal species. Some of these as work animals, some as food animals, and others as "emotional support" animals. Of course, the latter assumes AI will develop "emotions of empathy." That is, can and will AI replace humans at the top of the evolution chain. Interesting article! How and when will we know it happened?

The question is: How does it relate to anthropology?

Specialization is something that has come to the human species slowly. The past two hundred years has seen the rapid radiation (expansion and diversification) in society. This has been created by our increase in knowledge leading to technology and leading to human specialization in activities. It is in this context that we must view the raise of AI as both the benefits and the tensions between the haves and the have nots. What will be the anthropological impact of AI on Society and Culture?

Nature has evolved through a matter of layering from the single cell to the complex integration of cells  that form an individual organism. Anthony F. C. Wallace has identified two key processes which drive the integration of the individual (the bio- psychology evolution) and society (collective cultural evolution) of the human species, (Wallace 1961 ). These are The organization of diversity and uniformity of replication. 

Raised to the macro-level of the universe, these process suggests that evolution takes place through two processes: Individual replication and environmental diversity.

The first operates on an individual life-cycle basis with the replication of uniformity, within the current conditions and constraints of the event environment. The replication of uniformity, which is a time limited variable, is the tension between cloning the original vs. the statistical differential between clones within the population group. This latter affects the rate of individual traits within the environment. The replication of uniformity is like the odds in a game of cards, e.g. getting four of a kind in poker or making a  grand slam in bridge in no trump.

The second level, the organization of diversity is domain sensitive. That is, do the physical and/or cultural elements produce an organizational unity or chaos.  The former works within the critical uniformity of the organization's population (society's statuses) and the latter in the transmission of content (roles) that favors the organization of diverse statuses that society requires to survive in a stable environment. The organization of diversity is a variable limited by the degree of compatibility. It is the difference between dumping the puzzle out of the box (chaos) and the assembled puzzle (organization of uniformity).

Non-life becomes life, but that does not stop non-life from forming. In fact, "life" depends upon it. Life builds on non-life in specific contexts and not in others. Life itself is the story of this layering over time on this planet.

An example I witness in my own backyard is the Oak Tree, every three years it seems to have an abundance of acorns (replication). This is a time of plenty for the replication Oaks in the form of acorns.  But it also creates an abundance of food for squirrels this year. And more acrones being buried by squirrels increases the chance for more young shoots appearing next year.

Meanwhile, more buried acorns also means that more squirrels survive the winter and to reproduce next spring. These added squirrels make available more food to be prayed upon by the fox and coyote in the second year. This, in turn, means more foxes and coyotes will be replicated to survive the winter and be born in the spring. Meanwhile the oak trees are now just beginning their third year of of the cycle, and producing an abundance of new acorns. This mass replication will be seen next year in the number of squirrels, etc, etc.. 

The cycle of oaks, squirrels, and fox/coyote is the layering. This is the layering of  acorns, grazers, and predictors in nature. What will be the layering of humans and AI is the anthropological question?

-------------------------------------

Ward,  Lisa  3/26/2021, "Can Artificial Intelligence Replace Human Therapists?", Wall Street Journal

Wallace, 1961,  Culture and Personality, New York: Random House.

Monday, December 21, 2020

CONSUMPTION PATTERNS - NEEDS, WANTS, DESIRES -- Part 4

CONSUMPTION PATTERS --- NEEDS, WANTS, AND DESIRES   -- PART 4

 

Consumption is proceeded by a NEED to satisfy some DESIRE and results is a WANT on the part of the Consumer.  Proceeding up the consumption chain of an organization we find that the paradigm, NEEDS, WANTS, and DESIRES, repeats itself at each stage of the transactional cycle. A transactional cycle is the sequence of Seller-Buyer links that take place between the initial acquisition of a good or service that functions as an input to the production another good or service and the last link when the good or service is finally consumed to satisfy the NEED that created the transaction.

NEEDS

The most basic motivator at any level of consumption is NEED. “What will solve a consumer’s immediate survival problem?” The reference point is the consumer or buyer. The question that a researcher or Seller must ask is, “What is the problem that the consumer feels a NEED to resolve in order to “survive” the particular situation?”  

Survival is the critical emotional or psychological response to a NEED. It is the basic motivator of any individual or group, whether an animal, the human animal or a human population. NEEDS are basically the PERCEIVED threat to SURVIVAL in the moment. Without the perception of a threat, no matter how intense, there is NO NEED. Response to a NEED arises in the CONSUMER, creating a product that will fill that NEED is the role of the SELLER.

The PRODUCT is a specific item that the customer PERCEIVES that will meet or satisfy that NEED. The product may be a real or physical object, e.g. oxygen, food, wages, etc., or it may be for the human or human group ideational service, e.g. emotional support, religious or political belief, economic security, etc.  Generally, it is a combination.

Since Survival and NEED are effectively equal from a CONSUMER point of view, the PRODUCT and/or PRODUCER of the PRODUCT has an opportunity to occupy a MONOPOLY position relative to the CONSUMER. From the point of view of the SELLER, this is the BEST POSSIBLE DEAL. From the BUYER’s point of view this is the only DEAL.

There are several ways for the SELLER to gain a monopoly position all of which are a function of time, or the duration of the NEED. The SELLER or PRODUCER obtains a monopoly by becoming the ONLY SUPPLIER in the transaction situation where SURVIVAL depends upon resolving the problem that created the NEED. When SURVIVAL is less of an issue, the SELLER may achieve a monopolistic position by becoming the preferred SUPPLIER of the solution to the BUYER’s specific NEED. Finally, the SELLER may stimulate an unanticipated NEED in the BUYER by offering a PRODUCT that in new or unique to the BUYER’s experience and thereby create a “monopoly” or “brand loyalty.”

 WANTS

WANTS are NEEDS that arise when there is one BUYER and several SELLERS. This transactional situation of NEED creates the psychological state of CHOICE. Given a specific NEED and a range of alternatives for resolving the NEED, CHOICE becomes a factor in determining the consumer’s behavior. When PRODUCTS compete as solutions to the NEED, both the CONSUMER AND PRODUCER are faced with CHOICE. CHOICE, in turn, depends upon knowledge and experience of each actor. Where the motivational NEED can be met by a range of Suppliers, the BUYER and SELLER each competes to make the “Best Deal.” CHOICE introduces CHANCE or PROBABILITY into the CONSUMPTION DECISION. The criterion for both parties to a DEAL changes from the BEST POSSIBLE for one or the other into what is a POSSIBLE DEAL that is acceptable to both.

At the human and group level, one of the most basic factors in WANTS is the choice between Prices and Desired results. This is where the CONSUMER and PRODUCER meet. CHOICE then creates a situation where the individual interests of CONSUMER and PRODUCER compete. It is here, in this TRANSACTIONAL space, that marketing and advertising become critical for a PRODUCER’s survival. It is here that the CONSUMER gains leverage over their NEED and SUPPLIERS.

DESIRES

DESIRES are cultural choices. DESIRES represent the group ideals, meanings, and values held by a CONSUMER CLASS of individuals. Here the CONSUMER’s goal is the SURVIVIAL of his/her STATUS within his/her primary reference group and with reference to the society as a whole.

STATUS is a NEED, in Maslow’s hierarchy of NEEDS. STATUS is also driven by the NEED to REPLICATE one’s position through their behavior as a member of a GROUP of CONSUMERS.  

DESIRES are the criteria one uses to define CULTURAL NEEDS. DESIRES, unlike WANTS, are EXCLUSIONARY CHOICES. DESIRES exclude BUYERS and SELLERS from those who CONSUME certain products that bestow unique or special STATUS on the CONSUMER.

CONSUMERS in this GROUP feel that they have earned or deserve their status. Their NEED is to PRESERVE their STATUS at all cost. In effect, they hope to create a monopoly on their STATUS through their consumption behavior. This is a behavior pattern that reflect the cultural ideals, meanings, and values of the society’s STATUS structure.

 DESIRES reflect the way members of one group compete with members of other groups. Products and services that symbolize STATUS, such as housing, entertainment, recreation, style, etc. becomes NEEDS for STATUS SURVIVAL. Where Money is involved, such STATUS is often gained from wealth and maintained by Price.

In this transactional space of DESIRE, the CONSUMER has power over the PRODUCER. The PRODUCER’S ECONOMIC  SURVIVAL is dependent on the DESIRED CHOICES that the CONSUMER makes. Since STATUS is relative, the PRODUCER is challenged to offer the CONSUMER a selection of CHOICES that address the specific  STATUS NEED and to define who is to be accepted and who is to be excluded from the STATUS group.  The PRODUCER must replicate the STATUS symbols that address in the NEEDS of this transactional space or MARKET place. DESIRES can be manipulated through FASHION, symbolic signs of STATUS that change over time and social space.

These three factors, NEED, WANTS, and DESIRES, apply both to the individual and the group consumer. It is here that the anthropologist with their holistic perspective have a competitive advantage to distinguish the physical, social, and cultural elements that pertain to a specific Transaction Situation and Space.


Saturday, December 5, 2020

An Anthropological Look At Discounting - A Case Study

 

As a small business consultant I have seen this discounting mentality operating at the micro-firm level to the detriment of the small business owner. The fear of a perceived competitive pricing threat, often misplaced, is the driving force.

 A few years ago I was consulting with a local (RI) family owned jewelry firm. Like many such firms, this client had a number of different related businesses going under one roof. All of these were being done on a small scale. This "farming" practice, or diversification, provided a comfortable cash flow, but resulted in poor information about the individual business operations.

 One business was manufacturing stainless steel ear-ring blanks for costume jewelry manufacturers. Imported nickel plated blanks from Asia were selling at half the price my client was asking for his stainless steel blanks.

In response to the perceived pricing threat, my client developed a new process for stamping out his blanks. The process cut his production costs in half and making him competitive, he felt, with the imports.

 In addition to the foreign competition, he faced competition from two domestic competitors who also made stainless steel blanks. These competitors competed by selling their products at a slight discount to my client's price.

 Federal regulations were in place to limit the use the nickel plating in ear rings because of health concerns. This was going to have an impact of the domestic use of imported blanks in domestic ear-ring manufacture.

 My client used his innovation to immediately dropped his price to slightly higher than the imports, or about a 45% discount. He did this hoping to remain competitive with the imports. This also drastically undercut his domestic competition.

At the time I met the client, he was concerned because the imports had just lower their prices by half and his revenues were down. He felt he could not compete with their new pricing. What could he do?

 After listening to him, I discovered that he had no strategy. He failed to see the true value of his product and the environment in which he was competing.

 Based on discussions with his customers, I learned that his product was considered to be of high quality and fairly priced. His customers appreciated the price cut. According to several customers, the imports while costing 50% less per gross had quality issues. Close to 50% of the imported blanks had to be rejected for poor quality.

To the customer, the real price for imports was about the same as what my client was asking for a better quality product. The real problem they mentioned was my client's lack of capacity to fill orders in the volume and time the customer needed. This, more than price, drove customers to buy imports or his domestic competitors' product.

 The client failed to understand who and what his competition was. He failed to understand the value of his product to the customer. Instead, he responded to a perceived pricing threat with a discount pricing strategy before he first reviewed his original value proposition. As a result, he lost all of the advantages his innovative process created. He had the opportunity for windfall profits and to make inroads into his domestic competitors' market, instead he chose to lowered prices too quickly. All the benefits of his innovation went to his customers in the form of a substantial discount without resolving his problem.

 It is critical, especially in times like these, to re-examine and confirm your value proposition before taking the discount road. You can always ask for less, but it is very hard to ask for more once you lower your price.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

CAREER ANTHROPOLOGIST

Career Anthropologist was founded Jun 2011 and may be found on LinkedIn  https://www.linkedin.com/groups/3940979/ .  As of 12/2/2020, Career Anthropologists had 3,765 domestic and international members.

Description: A career anthropologist is someone who has undergone and completed an enculturation process in the anthropological discipline at the post secondary education level; and who is committed to pursuing a career where they expect  to utilize their anthropological knowledge in a rewarding and productive career.

Invitation:  If you have earned a BA, MA, and/or PhD anthropology and are pursuing a career where you are using your anthropological  training and skills in your job, business, occupation and/or daily life you are invited to share your experiences with fellow career anthropologist. 

What we do: The career anthropologist has the right to know that the time and money they have invested studying for the degree has a potential of producing a positive return on investment (ROI). The only way he/she will see this is if there is some evidence that the profession he/she is committing to, is committed to defending and expanding the occupational territory.

The Career Anthropologist group on Linkedin invites, individuals to join and share their knowledge, experience and assistance to and with fellow members. Career Anthropologist Group is open to International membership and members are encouraged to dialogue with one another and gain a cross culture understanding and respect for the opportunities and problems of pursuing a career as an anthropologist or using the anthropological perspective.

If your are interested check it out.



Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Importance of the Study of Anthropology

It often said that “anthropology is the most humanistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities”. 

This is the context in which an anthropologist studies and works. Anthropology is the study of humanity, its origins, diversity, histories, institutions, languages, beliefs and values. as human beings and their institutions. It is a relatively recent addition to the social, biological and humanistic sciences. In its American version, anthropology evolved as a merger of four core fields — physical/biological, linguistic, archaeological, and social-cultural studies.  

Cultural anthropology tends to be the focal point of anthropological activity and lens through which the other three sub-disciplines approach their subject matter. Cultural anthropology is the study of Culture as defined by Edward Tylor. 

“Culture, or civilization, taken in its broad, ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”

This definition has been modified, changed, narrowed and expanded as the study of these elements have revealed new and different feature. It runs from the nature and outlook of the individual based on personal experience as an individual and member of a group to the Grand Traditions of the great and lesser civilizations found both in history and in today’s world.

For some, Cultural anthropology is the study of the “Superorganic” (Herbert Spencer, Kroeber, A. L Kroeber, Leslie White for example). The superorganic nature of culture relates to Tylor definition where the substance is ideational and axiomatic beliefs, values and knowledge that is learned by the child and passed on to others and its offspring. This individual focus on the “superorganic” tends to be more humanistic and psychological (in the broad sense).

For others the focus becomes the group or society that holds and passes on a set of beliefs and traditions that distinguish the group from other groups. We use the term “ethnic” group to distinguish between such societies. This approach tends to be more “sociological” in focus looking at the rules and relationships of human society.

Thus, Cultural Anthropology can be summed up as the core subject and focus of Anthropology. And Anthropology is the study of a species, Homo Sapien, by Homo Sapiens, It is the physical existential study of the human animal and the ideational (humanistic) search for understanding why this animal is unique.

Anthropology, like all Subject areas has developed over the years and changed. In my perspective, it has become more of a point of view and way of interpretation of experience. In the past, anthropologists focused on the fringes of Western Society. That is, they studied the past and what was thought to be “the past” in an evolutionary, non-western, colonial sense of the present. Within this context, the focus has been on the “human” animal.

The 20th Century has seen the end of western colonialism, the emergence of national anthropologies where locals trained in anthropology have begun to study their own socio-cultural systems based in part on the western ideal of science and also from a humanistic perspective of auto-ethnography. Aside from a diffusion of anthropology from the American and European cultures to the former colonies, there has also been the pressure toward specialization. Such specialization, using the American model, can be seen in the evolution and change in the structure of the discipline, its organizations and its training institution/programs.

Today, in the 21st century, we see this dynamic continuing toward a more complex and diversified body of knowledge — both scholarly and applied. Like music has changed,there are multiple styles of anthropology based on time and place and society and culture, all different and yet all the same. Just as you can sense the difference between “music” and “noise”, today anthropology is a point of view with many subtle differences. 

Boas, in America, defined the field as being composed of four primary sub-discipline reflecting the four basic voices of the human spirit — tradition (history), language (communication), physical limitations (biology), and collective sharing (social order). In Boasian terms, these were reflected methodologically as archaeology (what human activity left behind), physical anthropology (the range and biological variation in the human species), linguistics (the range and diversity of language) and culture ( the values, beliefs, and meaning shared by individuals).

As one can see from above as we learned more about others, more detail, we began to diverge in area and temporal specialties. As technologies improved we diverged based on the tools we had to learn to use and employ in our studies. As the primitive became part of the global world, they developed their own voices employing the tools shared with other anthropologists but interpreted in their own manner.

In the 21st Century, there is a great diversity in what is and is not anthropology. But it is like music rather than an academic department. It is a point of view shared by “anthropologists”. Like musicians, you can’t define it, but you can share it. It is real but you can’t point to it. Most of all, it very simple —- you know it when you see and feel it. Anthropology is a point of view on the world and your place in it. How you got here, where you are and where you are going (with you being both the individual and YOU being the social animal).

ANTHROPOLOGY - -" Can I get a brutally honest opinion on this major?"

I think you are asking a good good question but for the wrong reason. By this I mean that anthropology is a great major, It has served me well since the1960’s. But to think you can be employed as an anthropologist, that is another question.


When I enter the discipline as an undergraduate one expected that either it was just another liberal art major, or a potential career. As a career, you would go on to Graduate School earn a Ph.D. and retire into a tenured teaching and/or research role. Today, the latter is a rare and very unpredictable career plan and course. 


Remember your major will label you. You should realize that the job label is determined by the employer, not you.  To expect the employer to jump at the "anthropologist" label is to assume that she/he knows what a “rocks and bones” person could do for a marketing, manufacturing, financial or other business. This puts you at a disadvantage if you feel that you have to sell your major and training, rather than yourself. as qualified for the position.


In a global economy, anthropology is the NEW Liberal Arts. As a perspective, anthropology  enables you to understand how different peoples behave and why they do what they do. This is your advantage if packaged to meet the employer’s need.


At the undergraduate level, a traditional 4 field approach — physical/biological, archaeological/ethnohistorical, linguistic/psychological, and cultural/psychological — equipt one to appreciate the role of the human as both an individual biological organism and as a cultural member of society.
This is a perspective that has, in my own case, opened may opportunities and provided an adaptability to respond to changes within and across the job market. 

In today’s employment market, I found that being a generalist gave me the ability to read the market and adapt in advance to societal and economic change.
 As you grow older, you either advance in the organization — changing from technical to administrative role in the specialty or organization. Or you lock yourself into a speciality niche that competes with technological innovation and younger workers with more current state of the art training.


Who would you be competing with? Today, there are many more people looking for work, It’s a global market for skills.  And with technology replacing people through mechanization and AI more traditional human jobs are being lost. The anthropological perspective, if applied effectively, enables you to read the changing socio-cultural environment and adjust to it.