Thursday, June 29, 2017

Friday Thinking 30 June 2017

Hello all – Friday Thinking is a humble curation of my foraging in the digital environment. My purpose is to pick interesting pieces, based on my own curiosity (and the curiosity of the many interesting people I follow), about developments in some key domains (work, organization, social-economy, intelligence, domestication of DNA, energy, etc.)  that suggest we are in the midst of a change in the conditions of change - a phase-transition. That tomorrow will be radically unlike yesterday.

Many thanks to those who enjoy this.
In the 21st Century curiosity will SKILL the cat.
Jobs are dying - work is just beginning.

“Be careful what you ‘insta-google-tweet-face’”
Woody Harrelson - Triple 9



Systems thinking seeks to define an ideal future (e.g culture) and then define strategies to “close the gap”.  Complexity works with the evolutionary potential of the present i.e. it seeks to understand the “now”, find out what can be changed (in a measurable way) and then take small evolutionary steps in a more positive direction without any assumption of the end destination.  I really like this, because I’ve yet to experience a project where the “ideal future” was actually realised.  Most companies end up with cynical staff who become more and more disengaged with each new set of “mission, vision & values”.

Systems thinking often seeks to “engineer” an ideal culture, which in essence means “engineering” people and their interactions.  A symptom of this is how consultants and leaders seem to disregard the impact the constant re-structuring – moving people around as if they really are interchangeable widgets.  Another is the popularity of personality assessments like Myers Briggs, which puts people in boxes.  I’ve worked in environments where people were unable to relate to me because they had no idea which box I fit into.  Complexity acknowledges that people have agency; that we have multiple identities that we switch between seamlessly (e.g. I can be wife, daughter, entrepreneur, friend and different identities may have different thinking patterns based on priorities).  Bottom line, people aren’t cogs in a machine, nor are they ants, or birds … although we do sometimes drive like birds flock

5 Differences between complexity & systems thinking

By 2030, Chinese cities will be home to more than 1 billion people – or up to 70% of the population.

This rapid pace of urbanization has required some innovative plans in China. Local, regional and national policy-makers and planners are working to ensure the long-term sustainability of the country’s cities.

Driven by migration to cities, China’s urban population has increased by 500 million people in the past three decades – described by the Economist as “the biggest movement of humanity the planet has seen in such a short time”.

This has created cities that aren’t just large, they’re mega-sized.
More than 100 Chinese cities have a population of over 1 million people. For comparison, as of July 1 2015, just 10 US cities were home to more than 1 million people.

You knew China's cities were growing. But the real numbers are stunning

A great must see 16 min TED Talk with Gary Kasparov about outgrowing the ancient narrative of Human Versus Machine Conflict.

Garry Kasparov: Don't fear intelligent machines. Work with them

We must face our fears if we want to get the most out of technology — and we must conquer those fears if we want to get the best out of humanity, says Garry Kasparov. One of the greatest chess players in history, Kasparov lost a memorable match to IBM supercomputer Deep Blue in 1997. Now he shares his vision for a future where intelligent machines help us turn our grandest dreams into reality.

This is both fascinating and consistent with the complexity sciences view of living systems. It adds many dimensions to the efforts to domesticate DNA.
Yes, he says, there will be “core genes” that follow this pattern. They will affect traits in ways that make biological sense. But genes don’t work in isolation. They influence each other in large networks, so that “if a variant changes any one gene, it could change an entire gene network,” says Boyle. He believes that these networks are so thoroughly interconnected that every gene is just a few degrees of separation away from every other. Which means that changes in basically any gene will ripple inwards to affect the core genes for a particular trait.

What If (Almost) Every Gene Affects (Almost) Everything?

Three Stanford scientists have proposed a provocative new way of thinking about genetic variants, and how they affect people’s bodies and health.
In 1999, a group of scientists scoured the genomes of around 150 pairs of siblings in an attempt to find genes that are involved in autism. They came up empty. They reasoned that this was because the risk of autism is not governed by a small number of powerful genes, which their study would have uncovered. Instead, it’s likely affected by a large number of genes that each have a small effect. Perhaps, they wrote, there might be 15 such genes or more.

Two decades later, that figure seems absurdly and naively low. If you told a modern geneticist that a complex trait—whether a physical characteristic like height or weight, or the risk of a disease like cancer or schizophrenia—was the work of just 15 genes, they’d probably laugh. It’s now thought that such traits are the work of thousands of genetic variants, working in concert. The vast majority of them have only tiny effects, but together, they can dramatically shape our bodies and our health. They’re weak individually, but powerful en masse.

But Evan Boyle, Yang Li, and Jonathan Pritchard from Stanford University think that this framework doesn’t go far enough.

Sometime the synchronicity of discoveries amazes me - this is a MUST SEE video - a 10 min video game trailer - that is both beautiful and truly ‘AWE’-some. This signals not only the emerging paradigm outlined in the article above - but also a future of video games as learning platforms - but imagine this game as a shared 3D Virtual Reality experience?

EVERYTHING - Gameplay Trailer

Everything is an narrated sandbox in which everything you see is a thing you can be, from animals to planets to galaxies and beyond. Travel between outer and inner space, and explore a vast, interconnected universe of things without enforced goals, scores, or tasks to complete.

Everything is an interactive experience where everything you see is a thing you can be, from animals to planets to galaxies and beyond. Travel between outer and inner space, and explore a vast, interconnected universe of things without enforced goals, scores, or tasks to complete. Everything is a procedural, AI-driven simulation of the systems of nature, seen from the points of view of everything in the Universe.

Learn to transform yourself to create worlds within worlds within worlds, or let go any time to allow Everything to take over and produce a never ending documentary about the world you live in.

Narrated by the inspiring philosophy of Alan Watts, and featuring a rich score from composer Ben Lukas Boysen, Everything will give you a new perspective on life.

Here's the game's website

Here's the philosophy of the Game.
Everything presents a philosophy in several forms - through its mechanics, narration, text and audio content, structure and design and how all these elements interact.
The philosophy of Everything is both serious and funny, silly and sincere, rational and absurd. It contradicts and criticizes itself. It doesn't follow any existing school or canon and isn't advocating for any particular way of thinking. Everything’s philosophy is designed to be experienced in all of its parts, and above all to be playful, entertaining and helpful.

Everything contains narration in the form of recordings of the late great British philosopher Alan Watts. Watts was a prolific writer, speaker, interpreter and popularizer of Eastern philosophy in the West. These talks encompass many ideas about perception, life, nature, physics, biology and how our brains interpret the world. These recordings are an optional part of the game.

Many written thoughts in the game are taken from continental philosophers such as Schopenhauer to the Italian stoics like Marcus Aurelius & Seneca - to the American thinker & poet Emerson. There are hundreds of these thoughts embedded into the game, rewritten and edited for length, and integrated into the game's thought system.
Everything seeks to revive many old and even ancient ideas, liberate them from their texts and introduce them to new brains.

This is a fascinating article about culture and writing - it signals how the digital environment enables many new forms of research. The site provides a fun and interactive chance to draw a circle - the graphics are worth the view - as is going to the site before you read the article.

How do you draw a circle? We analyzed 100,000 drawings to show how culture shapes our instincts

In November, Google released an online game called Quick, Draw!, in which users have 20 seconds to draw prompts like “camel” and “washing machine.” It’s fun, but the game’s real aim is to use those sketches to teach algorithms how humans draw. By May this year, the game had collected 50 million unique drawings.

We used the public database from Quick, Draw! to compare how people draw basic shapes around the world. Our analysis suggests that the way you draw a simple circle is linked to geography and cultural upbringing, deep-rooted in hundreds of years of written language, and significant in developmental psychology and trends in education today.

Circles, a universal form
Revered by the ancient Greeks, essential to Islamic art, and venerated in Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, circles are a universal shape. No matter where you begin, there are really only two ways to draw a circle, a single stroke heading clockwise, or a single stroke heading counterclockwise.

Google’s dataset contains 119,000 unique circles drawn by people in 148 countries, and includes coordinates for the path traced by each player’s finger (or mouse). Applying some simple geometry to data from the 66 countries that submitted over 100 circles, we identified the circle-drawing directions favored by different nations.

These are simply awesome must see images of the brain - as complex as they are - this is just the beginning of our capacity to visualize the form, structure and processes of the brain as a platform of matter and mind. This site is worth the exploration to see the future frontier of science and art.

Self Reflected

Dr. Greg Dunn (artist and neuroscientist) and Dr. Brian Edwards (artist and applied physicist) created Self Reflected to elucidate the nature of human consciousness, bridging the connection between the mysterious three pound macroscopic brain and the microscopic behavior of neurons. Self Reflected offers an unprecedented insight of the brain into itself, revealing through a technique called reflective microetching the enormous scope of beautiful and delicately balanced neural choreographies designed to reflect what is occurring in our own minds as we observe this work of art. Self Reflected was created to remind us that the most marvelous machine in the known universe is at the core of our being and is the root of our shared humanity.

This is definitely a ‘weak signal’ (pun intended) of emerging computational and communication paradigms. It is hard to imagine all that these paradigms can enable.
Although these experiments generated roughly 5.9 million entangled pairs of photons every second, the researchers only detected about one pair per second. However, the researchers expect a thousandfold improvement in this count rate “in the next five years,” Pan says.
In another study, researchers in Germany found they could measure the quantum features of laser signals transmitted by a satellite 38,600 km away.

Quantum Networks in Space Closer to Reality

The dream of a space-based nigh-unhackable quantum Internet may now be closer to reality thanks to new experiments with Chinese and European satellites, two new studies find.

Quantum physics makes a strange phenomenon known as entanglement possible. Essentially, two or more particles such as photons that get linked or “entangled”can in theory influence each other simultaneously no matter how far apart they are.

Entanglement is key to the workings of quantum computers, the networks that would connect them, and the most sophisticated kinds of quantum cryptography a theoretically unhackable means of information exchange.

A previous distance record for quantum entanglement, 97 kilometers, was set in 2012 across Qinghai Lake in China by quantum physicist Jian-Wei Pan at the University of Science and Technology of China at Hefei and his colleagues. However, entanglement gets easily disrupted by interference from the environment, and this fragility has stymied efforts at greater distance records on Earth.

Now Pan and his colleagues have set a new record for entanglement by using a satellite to connect sites on Earth separated by up to 1,203 kilometers. They detailed their findings this week in the journal Science.

This is a short but brilliantly concise explanation of the difference between complexity and systems thinking. This is a very important piece for anyone interested in knowledge management and organizational architecture for the 21st century - the century of complexity and uncertainty. This is a must read.

5 Differences between complexity & systems thinking

Often people see Complexity as a subset or slight variation on Systems thinking, but Dave Snowden has drawn some clear distinctions that I find very useful.  These aren’t the only differences, but they’re the ones that remained top of mind:
1. Ideal future vs evolutionary potential of the present
2. Complex systems are modulated, not driven
3. Complex systems are dispositional, not causal
4. Extrinsic rewards destroy intrinsic motivation
5. People are not widgets, nor are they ants

In response to this article Dave Snowden add some historical context of how complexity was co-opted by systems thinking in order to appease the ‘management mindset’ predisposed to ideas of ‘control’.

Systems thinking & complexity

The idea of systems and thinking systematically, about the properties of the whole being different from the parts and the dependency on interaction between system elements has been around for a long time. Like most things we could trace it back to the Greeks and atomistic theories of systems have made little progress since. But general systems theory traces back to the start of the twentieth century. The pioneering work of Prigogine and others which gives us complexity theory happens in the middle of that century. Then, in the latter part of the Century those aspects of systems theory which had build cybernetics and modelling starting to enter the popular space with Business Process Re-engineering at the hard end and Learning Organisation at the soft. It was a characteristic of that period of development that the complexity of system would be resolved by engineering design, often bottom up, or definition of specific outcomes. Zero based budgeting was around then and evolutionary approaches to organisational design which had been the de facto state were replaced with end point determined models that were then implemented.

When I started to enter complexity theory I was working from a background in knowledge management and a focus on tacit knowledge, the partly knowable aspects of work that could never be codified in such a way that human experience was not necessary. Gradually I started to realise that the essential difference between complexity thinking and the dominant systems approach of the time was between the dispositional and causal nature of the approaches and the implications. So if a system has no causality you can’t set outcome targets a priori, but you can define a vector target (direction and speed of change from the present against intensity of effort). You can’t manage to a desired future state but have to manage the evolutionary potential of the situated present. You can’t predict the future, but you can increase resilience in there the here and now which will allow you to manage that uncertainty.

This is another signal in the continuing development of the Blockchain as a new platform of distributed ledgers for unimaginable numbers of new applications in the digital environment.
"Without an identity you can't access education, financial services, healthcare, you name it. You are disenfranchised and marginalized from society," David Treat, a managing director in Accenture's financial services practice, said in an interview.
"Having a digital identity is a basic human right."

Accenture, Microsoft team up on blockchain-based digital ID network

Accenture Plc and Microsoft Corp are teaming up to build a digital ID network using blockchain technology, as part of a United Nations-supported project to provide legal identification to 1.1 billion people worldwide with no official documents.

The companies unveiled a prototype of the network on Monday at the UN headquarters in New York during the second summit of ID2020, a public-private consortium promoting the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goal of providing legal identity for everyone on the planet.

The project aims to help individuals such as refugees prove who they are in order to gain access to basic services such as education and healthcare.

Blockchain, first developed as a public ledger of all transactions in the digital currency bitcoin, is increasingly being used to securely track data in other fields.

The new platform will connect existing record-keeping systems of commercial and public entities through blockchain, allowing users to access to their personal information wherever they are.

This is a short article signalling the emergence of the domestication of material on a nanoscale - in order to create highly precise and customized matter for an ever widening number of purposes.

Scientists Complete First Successful “Surgery” on a Nanoparticle

Chemists conducted the first site-specific surgery on a nanoparticle, affording it 10 times more photoluminescence, a property useful in many applications. They hope to generalize this technique so that any nanoparticle property could be enhanced.
A team of Carnegie Mellon University chemists led by professor Rongchao Jin have conducted the first site-specific surgery on a nanoparticle. This procedure allows researchers to tailor nanoparticles with absolute precision, creating them for almost any purpose — meaning it will significantly advance nanochemistry.

The surgical technique itself will allow scientists to enhance whichever functional properties of nanoparticles are most useful for a given application. For example, nanoparticles may have catalytic properties or exhibit photoluminescence. Using the technique, these qualities could be magnified for use in almost any field from medicine to manufacturing.

Another awesome breakthrough in ‘home movies’. :) This is a major step toward improving our ability to understand the fundamental processes of biology and will inevitably have many other application as we continue to domesticate DNA.
"We've shown that there is no coordination between the strands. They are completely autonomous,"

DNA Replication Has Been Filmed For The First Time, And It's Not What We Expected

"It undermines a great deal of what's in the textbooks."
Here's proof of how far we've come in science - in a world-first, researchers have recorded up-close footage of a single DNA molecule replicating itself, and it's raising questions about how we assumed the process played out.

The real-time footage has revealed that this fundamental part of life incorporates an unexpected amount of 'randomness', and it could force a major rethink into how genetic replication occurs without mutations.

"It's a real paradigm shift, and undermines a great deal of what's in the textbooks," says one of the team, Stephen Kowalczykowski from the University of California, Davis.
"It's a different way of thinking about replication that raises new questions."

And here’s another interesting step in biotechnology.

Coalition to Make 10,000 Open-Access Synthetic Genes

A company with a process for creating synthetic DNA and a foundation promoting open access to biotechnology agreed to produce 10,000 synthetic genes made available at no cost to researchers. Financial terms of the agreement between Twist Bioscience and BioBricks Foundation, both in San Francisco, were not disclosed.

Twist Bioscience develops processes for producing synthetic genetic materials on silicon, patterned after semiconductors, instead of traditional plastic plates and receptacles. This process, says the company, overcomes conventional limitations and inefficiencies to design and construct genes, oligonucleotide collections for Crispr genome-editing RNA, and libraries of genetic variations. Twist’s customers include companies developing pharmaceuticals, sustainable chemicals, agricultural products, and medical diagnostics.

BioBricks Foundation aims to open up biotechnology, making products of the science more widely available. The foundation devised an open-source platform called bionet for peer-to-peer exchange of biotech materials, to make it easier to exchange these materials and lower the costs of sample replication, shipping and receiving, and inventory tracking. BioBricks also created a standard open materials transfer agreement to encourage sharing, reuse, and redistribution of biotech products at little or no cost.

Here’s another signal of the phase transition in global energy geopolitics.

Scientists make plastic from sugar and carbon dioxide

Some biodegradable plastics could in the future be made using sugar and carbon dioxide, replacing unsustainable plastics made from crude oil, following research by scientists from the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT) at the University of Bath.
  • Polycarbonate is used to make drinks bottles, lenses for glasses and in scratch-resistant coatings for phones, CDs and DVDs
  • Current manufacture processes for polycarbonate use BPA (banned from use in baby bottles) and highly toxic phosgene, used as a chemical weapon in World War One
  • Bath scientists have made alternative polycarbonates from sugars and carbon dioxide in a new process that also uses low pressures and room temperature, making it cheaper and safer to produce
  • This new type of polycarbonate can be biodegraded back into carbon dioxide and sugar using enzymes from soil bacteria
  • This new plastic is bio-compatible so could in the future be used for medical implants or as scaffolds for growing replacement organs for transplant.

Polycarbonates from sugars offer a more sustainable alternative to traditional polycarbonate from BPA, however the process uses a highly toxic chemical called phosgene. Now scientists at Bath have developed a much safer, even more sustainable alternative which adds carbon dioxide to the sugar at low pressures and at room temperature.

This is definitely an interesting signal - of an emerging health paradigm where we seek wellbeing and health by understanding ourselves as an ecology.
“In my sampling, only half of cyclists have Prevotella, but top racers always have it,” she told Bicycling. “It’s not even in 10 percent of non-athletes.”

Move over, blood doping; cyclists might be ‘poop doping’ soon

Peterson, a research scientist at the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington, Conn., heads up an initiative called the Athlete Microbiome Project, in which she compares stool samples of elite cyclists to amateur bikers. Her findings, she said, which had her compare stool samples from 35 participants, according to the Scientist magazine, shine a light on a handful of microorganisms that apparently separate the guts of elite athletes from average people.

The most important, perhaps, is Prevotella. Not typically found in American and European gut microbiomes, Prevotella is thought to play a role in enhancing muscle recovery.

To be a professional cyclist, one must have guts, microbiologist Lauren Peterson says, and she doesn’t just mean that in the metaphorical sense. Peterson, herself a pro endurance mountain biker, has theorized that elite cyclists have a certain microbiome living in their intestines that may allow them to perform better, and if you don’t have it, well, there may soon be a way to get it. . . .

“Call it poop doping if you must,” Peterson told Bicycling magazine last week about her research.

Another stronger signal about the importance of our microbial profile for all dimensions of physical and cognitive health.

Treating Autism By Targeting the Gut

Therapies to change the bacteria in the gut, through diet, pro-and prebiotic supplements, faecal matter transplants or antibiotics, could treat autism.
Experts have called for large-scale studies into altering the make-up of bacteria in the gut, after a review showed that this might reduce the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Until now, caregivers have relied on rehabilitation, educational interventions and drugs to reduce ASD symptoms, but now researchers suggest that treating this condition could be as simple as changing their diet.

A review of more than 150 papers on ASD and gut bacteria found that since the 1960s, scientists have been reporting links between the composition of bacteria in the gut and autistic behaviour. The review highlights many studies showing that restoring a healthy balance in gut bacteria can treat ASD symptoms.

“To date there are no effective therapies to treat this range of brain developmental disorders”, explains Dr Qinrui Li of Peking University, China. “The number of people being diagnosed with ASD is on the rise. As well as being an expensive condition to manage, ASD has a huge emotional and social cost on families of sufferers”.

The link between the gut and ASD is well-known among sufferers: problems like diarrhoea, constipation and flatulence are commonly reported. The root of gastro-intestinal problems like these is an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut.

Domesticating DNA for fuel production - another signal forward.

Engineered algae puts half of its carbon into fats for biofuels

Dropping the activity of a single gene redirects the organism’s energy to fat.
There's an inherent tension in convincing organisms to produce fuel for us. To grow and thrive, the organism has to direct its energy into a variety of chemicals—proteins, fats, DNA, and more. But for biofuels, we're mostly interested in fats, which are long-chain hydrocarbons that already look a lot like our liquid fuels. Fat is easy to convert into biodiesel, for example.

So how do we convince an organism to do what we want, rather than what it needs? There have been two approaches to this so far. One is to take an organism that we understand well and engage in genetic engineering to direct its metabolism toward fuel production. The second approach is to search for organisms that naturally produce lots of the chemicals we're interested in.

Now, researchers at the company Synthetic Genomics have taken what you might consider a hybrid approach. They've started with an algae that will produce oodles of fat, but only if you stop its growth by starving it of essential nutrients. And, by studying how this starvation response works, the scientists identified a key regulator and altered its activity. The engineered strain produces nearly as much fat as the normal strain, but it does so while continuing to grow.

This is weak signal - but perhaps one that will become clear soon. In the last six years tires have begun to be thinner and lighter. This could transform what tires are - how they are made and maintained. A very cool 1.5 min video show a person driven car - but a self-driven car could go by itself to reprint treads for the season.

Michelin's new airless tire is 3D-printed from recycled materials

The ruggedness of the tire comes from its biometric structure, taking influence from the honeycomb, as if it may well itself have been woven by nature.

A perfect example of generative design, the tire gets its strength from its coral-like texture. With the visonary tire, puntures are not the only thing you don’t have to worry about, since the tire’s tread can be replenished by a 3D printer.

The tire’s biodegradable body material performs to the same standard as conventional tread, yet saves expensive costs and waste materials in replacing the whole tire when tread gets low.

Since 3D printing is an addictive technology, meaning no material is wasted in the process, the visionary tire concept even helps to conserve resources.

As if all that wasn’t futuristic enough already, michelin’s concept tire is even connected with your vehicle, automatically informing you of the wear on your tread, and programming you in for a tread re-print.

This is a great and brief article from Google self-driving car team - explaining their initial prototype can and where they intend to go.

From post-it note to prototype: The journey of our Firefly

Back in 2013, our prototype vehicle was nothing more than post-it note origami. This miniature paper car was the product of countless hours dreaming up what a fully self-driving vehicle could look like. Should it be a space-age batmobile? A decked-out entertainment pod? Or perhaps a living room on wheels? In the end, we landed on the friendly two-seater vehicle, with no steering wheel or pedals, and a computer under the hood to handle every part of driving. When the post-it note materialized into a real vehicle, neighbors noted the pod-like design, calling it the koala car or gumdrop. Our team affectionately nicknamed it “Firefly.”

Here’s something that may be an experience very soon. To really understand - you have to see the gif.

This colonoscopy robot will haunt your dreams

Robots come in all shapes and sizes, but even if your nightmares of an eventual robot takeover of the Earth conjure images of heavily-armed battle droids stomping humans into submission, you haven’t seen the most frightening robot yet. At the 2017 ICRA robotics conference in Singapore, one bot gained a lot of attention for pretty obvious reason: it’s designed to explore your butt.

Developed by the Rentschler Research Group, which hails from the University of Colorado – Boulder, this worm-like robot is the ultimate colonoscopy tool. Designed as an option in place of a traditional colonoscopy, the robot can actually navigate through a human colon all on its own, capturing images and taking samples to aid in diagnosis of various ailments and diseases.

I remember choosing to join Facebook in 2006 - I choose it over MySpace - because I felt it was the future - it provided me incredible value - enabling me to experience a deeper sense of my daughter’s life in London, UK, my other daughter’s life in Montreal and my son’s life in the other room of my home. Not just their personal life but the quality of their community. I never had more than 80 friends - real people I cared about. Then Facebook became a ‘public company’ and the pressure was to ‘monetize’ the value that this social media platform created. That’s when Facebook stopped seeing their users as the aim for creating value and started turning their users into the product that was delivered to their now ‘real’ clients - advertisers. Facebook is now just a creepy place. I still have my account - but only ‘lurk’ occasionally - simply because I can’t quite sever myself from the family and friends that I am connected to there.

A 2-Year Study of More Than 5,000 People Shows This 1 Activity Destroys Your Emotional and Physical Health

UC San Diego and Yale researchers shared their surprising results.
Want to stay healthy, both emotionally and physically? Researchers from UC San Diego and Yale have some simple advice for you: Limit the amount of time you spend on Facebook. While this may sound like typical anti-social media crankiness from academia, this time they have some impressive research to back up their case. Holly Shakya, assistant professor at UC San Diego, and Yale professor Nicholas Christakis spent two years following 5,208 adults who are part of a Gallup long-term study. After asking permission, they monitored these subjects' Facebook use directly from Facebook, rather than asking subjects to report their own use. (People often don't realize how much time they spend on the social network.) And they checked in with subjects on their emotional and physical well-being, as well as their body-mass index (BMI), three times over the course of two years.

"Overall, our results showed that, while real-world social networks were positively associated with overall well-being, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being," the researchers wrote in a Harvard Business Review article. "These results were particularly strong for mental health; most measures of Facebook use in one year predicted a decrease in mental health in a later year." Yikes.

Why is too much Facebook bad for your emotional health? Previous research has shown that the social network creates a sort of false peer pressure. Since most people are cautious about posting negative or upsetting experiences on Facebook, the social network creates a misleading environment where everyone seems to be doing better and having more fun than you are. As the researchers put it, "Exposure to the carefully curated images from others' lives leads to negative self-comparison."