WARNING: EXISTENTIAL THREAT. READ ON BELOW:-
‘PAVLOV’S NEW CLICKBAIT JUNKIES.’
By Author the of, ‘The Absurdity of Pigeon Feed.’
NB: The following essay may use terms and phrases readers are unfamiliar with, with that in mind, feel free to scroll to the bottom of the document to check out their definitions before to read on. Besides, they may prove useful to you in the future if you’re at all concerned about Humanities rapidly changing behavior and its subsequent threat to world peace.
WARNING, warning; existential threat!
‘Artificial General Intelligence,’ 1. (A. G. I.), may well be with us sooner than we think. Predictions for its ‘singularity,’ 2. range between twenty, fifty and a hundred years depending on whose P.R. department is spinning the predictions – Private enterprise – seeking investment, Governmental Agencies or Independent academic experts with no commercial interests.
What about the ‘alignment problem 3.’ debacle?
‘Hey there! A. G. I, whip me up a bunch of paper clips if you feel up to the task’. Off it diligently goes, and fuck me, the whole universe gets turned into frigging paper clips – including the whole of humanity – you, and me included mate!
This is real scary shit, I mean, think about it this way; just imagine something like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s steroid pumping terminator thingy uploaded with Donald Trump’s mind! And that’s the least worrisome scenario were facing! We’d best get those coded alignment parameter commands spot-on perfect or all those virtual C movie scenarios may soon be coming home to visit us in real life.
Okay, now imagine all Planet Earth’s Governments have signed-up to a United Nations agreement to monitor A. G. I. research and development. How and who will enforce it 24/7?
What about the Garage Geek? That spotty anti-social weirdo who lives just around the corner from you, you know the one who doesn’t sort his rubbish into the correct bins. Will he be on the U.N. control list?
Suppose that Geek creates an A. G. I. and unwittingly lets it ‘Out of the Box’ 4. .
Or what if North Korea or Iran continue to be threatened by the USA? Will they rustle up an A. G. I. tout-suit to tip the odds in favor for their defense, or just in aid of developing a superior war machine?
Israel, China, Russia and a host of other countries are all burning the midnight oil in the race for ‘Singularity’ big time. Tum-te-tum.
NOW HANG ON A MINUTE! Am I barking up the wrong tree regarding humankind’s ‘most likely’ and ‘immediate’ near-future existential threat from technology?
Haven’t we already created an existential threat to humanity by way of the internet’s ‘Social Media’ (S. M.) by accident?
Hasn’t that threat already been binary coded and executed. I mean, isn’t it already messing with our daily lives, our brains, turning us into ‘click-bait 5’.zombies?
Hasn’t Humankind’s’ behavior already been irredeemably modified for the worse? If so, exactly how has society changed today?
You all know the obvious effects. But: how exactly has S. M. gone about radically changing global society over the last ten to fifteen years?
First off: a couple of important provisos before to continue; ‘Correlation does not prove causation.’
That’s a core ‘axiom’ obfuscating humanities search for the nature of reality; it presents a challenge science must overcome in order to know the truth. How can science know the truth? By employing the scientific method; measuring the validity of facts and checking them by way of falsification.
On to the next caveat; Human behaviour is a product of a myriad of heuristical biases running unfettered sub-consciously. For any given observed phenomena the mind is biased to search for one easily available ‘Agent’ to explain it.
That algorithmic rule of thumb solution in reality, will rarely bear merit, especially when it comes to explaining the more bazaar idiosyncratic aspects of human behaviour. Rather; the causes of any given behaviour is far more likely to be combinatorial resulting from: genetic predispositions, the individual’s life accumulation of experience, environment and culture.
All those variables act together as a mob and are the much more likely culprit for any given behaviour manifesting at any particular time. The exercise of analysing human behaviour is in a word is; complicated.
For expediency, let’s just look at the obvious glaring protagonist that have changed humanities behaviour over recent years.
I’ve run through the above as a preamble, since, even though we’ve seen the greatest radical shift in social behaviour in the shortest ever time over recent years, there are very few definitive social studies that prove beyond doubt that our behaviour has been modified by S. M.
Based on current usage of virtual media including: S. M., surfing, texting and gaming etc., statistical predictions show millennial and generation Z will on average lose seven years of waking hour attention time over their entire life glued to them.
Various studies have monitored a 40% increase in levels of narcissism together with increasing suicide rates amongst youngsters. More specifically, young girls are far more affected than males; their rates of suicide have increased from between 100 to 300% depending on which studies you give more weight to. Those increases in suicide rates in the main correlate with the rising proliferation of S. M. platforms over the last ten to fifteen years.
As stated: definitive proof; ‘correlation equals causation,’ still eludes social studies. But; just for the moment let’s just imagine ‘it’s a done thing’; now follow the following thought experiment.
‘A new recreational drug hits the streets resulting in the same increase in suicide rates over the same time period.
How long would it take before legislation prohibited its use and distribution? Imagine the stiff sentences that would be handed out to drug producers/pushers when so many young girls commit suicide year on year worldwide.’
My guess is; effective prohibitive legislation would have been made yesterday!
So why aren’t governments reacting to the addiction peddling, behaviour modifying ‘pushers’ of S. M. platforms and their dangerous algorithms? To repeat again: most assuredly it’s resultant of the absence of definitive scientific proof of causation. But; what about the loss of all those poor girls’ lives and their families’ grief?
‘Look here buddy, I couldn’t get through the day without F. B. so what’s a spot of collateral damage got to do with it? I mean; come on, where only talking about a spot of ‘addiction, attention theft and death,’ cries the junky.
The science of addiction: ‘Instant Gratification Reinforcement Schedule.’
Here the subject is well researched and conclusions uncontested; in fact, ‘Old hat for an old dog’.
‘Pavlov’s dogs’ is a well-known example of behaviour modification. A light signals the imminent arrival of food, after a few rounds of conditioning the dogs react by salivating as soon as the light is switched on – the key point being – before the food arrives. For those unfamiliar with the term ‘Instant gratification reinforcement schedule’ let’s dig deeper.
A subject does some ‘work’ and is rewarded each time it is completed. Very soon the mere thought of ‘work’ is enough to activate the brain’s dopaminergic system resulting in a ‘feel good’ reward dose of dopamine before the outset of the work. The work reinforced habit/behaviour is thus activated each time ‘work’ is on the mental horizon, because, the reward will be coming; the reward is a sure-thing!
Let’s shake-up the addiction stakes a bit.
‘Intermittent Variable Reinforcement Schedule’ – I.V.R.S.
Again; a subject does some work, but the subject doesn’t get a reward every time, and the reward varies in value if and when the subject does get one. After a few rounds of the above, on mere expectation of ‘work’ being on the mental horizon, the subject’s dopamine ‘feel good hit’ sky rockets off the scale; and ‘oh boy’ is that addictive.
The slot machine gambling paradise, Las Vegas, is built on the money of ‘suckered’ addict’s. Casino owners are world experts in promoting addiction by way of I. V. R. S. ensuring clients will become addicted in the shortest possible time, they need to be good at it, if they’re going to ‘shirt off your back’ – fleece clients. How many gambling addicts are there worldwide? Is it difficult to stop gambling once addicted?
The answers are common knowledge.
S. M. users/addicts are in denial of having been manipulated and adamantly claim, ‘I’m no sucker; no one gets to control my behaviour. No way, I’m a free agent; I ain’t no dopamine junky sucker.’
The addictive process of I. V. R. S. occurs subconsciously on a bio-chemical neural transmitter level, ‘Self-Will’ plays no part in the equation, unless, (In very rare cases), S. M. users are first: constantly aware of the danger and second very, very mindful and strong willed. NB: A campaign to ditch F. B. in America led to 42% of clients closing accounts, then, – after varying amounts of time – more than 96% reopened their accounts!
Back to S. M. platforms and how corporate strategies pro-actively game attention levels malice aforethought by employing I. V. R. S. algorithms. That’s called the ‘attention economy. 6.’
You don’t believe me? Okay, open your Twitter account right now and look at your ‘notifications’ of news feed. Does it activate immediately, in one second, in two seconds or in three seconds?
Pay attention now, open your Twitter account a few times. See that; your notifications arrive at variable intermittent intervals and the reward for opening your Twitter account – comments made by your followers – are also variable and arrive intermittently, ranging from none to thousands.
Effectively, Twitter addicts you in exactly the same manner as if you’re playing a slot machine. One expert points out that media corporation attention economy competition results in, ‘The economic race to the bottom of the humanities brain stem.’
Now open up your Facebook account. Do some ‘Work’ – post a narcissistic selfie on Facebook. You will return again, and again, to the platform in search of a varying number and intermittently arriving number of ‘LIKEs’.
Your reward will vary between ZERO to X number of likes; and that’s your varying intermittent reward schedule right there.
NB: 60% of F. B. uploads are photos; on average 93 million selfies are posted daily! Every second a selfie is posted on Instagram.
Globally, narcissism has run rabid. Hold those figures in mind; I’ll be coming back to them.
Yeah, right on great; ‘Feel good’ dopamine sores off the scale in your brain at the mere expectation of a possible reward even before you consciously decide to open your S. M. APP, and that’s exactly what happens when a heroin junkies starts to contemplate/crave the next fix. And now they ‘gottcha’; you’ve just sold your precious limited attention time away to satisfy your very own narcissistic craving for attention.
Here’re some amazingly revealing quotes: – F. B. President; Shaun Parker, ‘The initial goal was to get people hooked.’ – ‘we’re exploiting the vulnerability in Human psychology. We understood this consciously, and we did it anyway.’
F. B. Executive, Talmud Pale Kefir, ‘We have created tools that are ripping society apart.’ – ‘the short turn dopamine driven feedback loops we have created are destroying how society works; no civil discourse, no cooperation and misinformation. Bad actors can now manipulate large swaths of people to do anything they want.’
NB: 50% of all Tweets consumed are generated by only 20,000 top of the pyramid ‘elite’ users! 46% of Donald Trump’s ‘followers’ are false accounts. Algorithms automatically amplify his discourse reaching right on down to his – ‘confirmation bias driven’ – Twitter raging, supporter base by way of info-storms. $225 buys you 25,000 fake followers! Far worse; current algorithmic searches cannot locate and eliminate false accounts at this moment in time.
CAN HISTORY HELP SHED LIGHT ON WHY GLOBAL CULTURAL IS CHANGING SO RADICALLY TODAY?
To answer that question, let’s start by highlighting just two examples of the advent of radio influencing culture in irrational ways: both the Nazi propaganda machine and Orson Well’s ‘War of the Worlds’ revealed Radio’s ability as a mass media to establish powerful mind control and ferment mass hysteria when first unleashed on an unsuspecting public. (And yet the newly deployed S. M. of today is far, far more powerful, reaching far more people, influencing society’s behaviour even more effectively.)
Adding clarity to the last observations. History shows: sudden surges in the volume of information in mass medias and increases in its rate of flow did not occur incrementally over time – rather, they both increased in radical world changing spurts, unsettling society by way of beguiling the individual’s mind to cope with them, until, the individual/culture had time to play catch-up regarding how to rationally test, validate, manage and integrate the newly expanded volume of information and its increased flow rate into daily life.
Sudden changes in the rate of flow and quantity of Information have – and forever will – destabilise human populations by causing new contentious radical/irrational cultural ideologies to emerge.
Digging deeper into history for another example. The rapid printing and dissemination of printed pamphlets made possible by the new Gothenburg printing press allowed Martin Luther’s campaign success where many had failed and became just another excuse for a rollicking good day out in the market place where they were burned at the stake for challenging corrupt Popes. Martin went on to translate the Bible for the first time into a common spoken language – German – its rapid and cheap printing challenged Catholic power regarding its – captured market – interpretation of the Bible.
All hell broke loose as ‘common folk’ (Well, mainly rich pricks, the better off and educated) interpreted the Bible’s meaning in both very weird and varied ways. In an astoundingly short period of time a variety of new religious denominations rose up in a European cup final competition of religions. In the first round, new religions first competed amongst themselves, in the second they took on the newly established protestant church whilst in a genuine free-for-all they all competed against the Catholic Pope and his church.
Final result: a good ole fashioned blood bath; ‘The 30 year war’ that decimated Europe for decades to come.
The Isolation of communities and slow communications between them created insulated social information bubbles, where one new religious sect had little to no information regarding the aims and beliefs of the ‘Others’. A divided ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ fomented fear in all parties leading on to strategies of; let’s-get-them-first aggressive pre-emptive strikes against ‘perceived’ foes.
A cultural paradigm shift changed the dynamics of European power struggles for ever as a host of new religious sects were added to the list of ingredients of contention between nations/states in their internal and external power struggles.
Sudden spurts in the rate of flow and quantity of Information – without a general population having developed new requisite mental tools to manage it – has the effect of destabilising society as nascent ideological groups challenge established ideologies in what can quickly become inter-tribal aggression!
NB: For those interested, read acclaimed British historian Niall Fergusons’ book; ‘The Tower and the Square,’ and/or listen to Dan Carlin’s, ‘Hardcore History’ pod-cast, ‘48 Prophets of Doom,’ it contains 4 hours of riveting historical commentary on the events played-out at that time in Germany. Dan not only entertains, rather, he gets you to live out the events, whilst imparting a wealth of knowledge as he leads you into this complex historical labyrinth.
Relevance: Today we’re all subject to dealing with a new spurt of information flow on steroids: it’s called the ‘Internet’. Will history repeat itself, but this time on a much larger scale? Will the global society descend into an all-out free-for-all again? I’ll be coming back to that question later.
MORE RELEVANT HISTORY TO LEARN FROM.
Let’s backtrack to visit another spot of history with a preamble for clarity to set-things-up regarding its relevance today.
But first: If as a result of the influence of social media, narcissism has increase 40% amongst youngsters, then what about the decrease in our ability to empathise with ‘Others’? Narcissism by definition describes an individual’s world view focused on ‘self’, hence, that statistic 40% will also result in a directly proportional decrease in empathy. Remember the postings of selfies and increases in suicide rate mentioned before. With diminished levels of empathy on S. M. and a reduction in empathy permeating society in general, ‘How can todays politicians expect to find the middle ground in political contention when they’re unable to empathise with the opinions of ‘Others’?
Ancient Greece on the precipice of the golden age:
Many acclaimed academics have noted – and still argue amongst themselves to this day – the correlation between the rise of Greek democracy coinciding with the rise of Greek theatre and its tragedies. The two occurred at the same point time. They argue; empathy was a key ingredient in the electoral process and law making; that exposure of the common folk of the Greek Polis to the tragedies was integral in fomenting and maintaining Humankind’s’ first democracy.
The major point being; the latter format of presentation of those tragedies involved both protagonist actors and a chorus. (The contribution of the chorus to the play became something like a step-by-step explanatory recap of an episode in a T.V. series.)
So, the chorus directed the attention of an audience to dilemmas protagonist faced when forced into making agonising decisions. Those choices had far reaching tragic effects both for the major characters themselves, and for the other protagonist latter in the play.
It was something like, ‘Okay ignorant audience, we’ve come this far in the play and if you still don’t get it, now we’re going to make damned sure you do. Just stand in his/her shoes for a moment and see how you would feel about having to make that terrible decision and suffer the consequences of where it lead. And what the hell would you have done audience if you’d been in the same situation?’
One Greek tragedy ‘The Persians’ by Aeschylus, even covered the tragic fate of the Persians after they lost their epic war against the Greeks – as from their perspective. Something like, ‘Imagine the degree of hubris that led to the death of their people and just look at the terrible impoverishment that empire suffers today. Hey Guys, what would it feel like if you were the arrogant aggressor in that war and then lost it?’
How is that for a lesson in empathy, against unbelievable terrible odds you win a war, and then you go on to empathise with the losers?
In a nut shell the tragedies taught and reinforced the Greek citizen’s ability to empathies; how to see the ‘Others’ point of view.
‘If you don’t understand what you should be feeling guys and girls, here it is crystal clear, look at it from the other side and you should be feeling this….’
You’ve got the point by now. By teaching – eliciting empathy from an electorate you pave the way for them to first; engage attention and second; to analyse moral conundrums when dealing with opposing political arguments.
Those contentions of differing points of view may not hold direct benefits for the individuals themselves and yet may be good arguments regardless of political bias; more importantly they may well be essential for ordering a community for the good of the whole community itself.
Back to the big questions: Will history repeat itself? Are democracies threatened today?
Social media ‘bubble filters 7. ‘do not allow you to see the Information flows and the news feeds of ‘Others,’ (The opposing political party/tribe). So how the hell can you even begin to empathise with them when you’re ignorant of their facts and perspective on every issue?
‘Your’ google search results are based on ‘your’ prior searches, algorithms calculate ‘your’ political bias, likes/dislikes, and so, ‘your’ Google search results will not be the same as my results, the same for: search results on YouTube, Amazon books etc.
Bubble filters have the tendency to increasingly distort world views by means of a given platform’s algorithms narrowing a user’s focus to information that only supports prior biases of opinion.
Effectively; those algorithms actively search for information that supports a prior belief/preference and that is the definition of ‘Confirmation bias’; and it is a monster of a bias the mind is unable to challenge or reign-in. It is a major contributor in how the mind mediates information and subsequently generates its homogeneous map and interpretation of the nature of reality.
Recent events and the documented effects of information technology destabilising the Global Community.
We’ve born witness to the immense power of Facebook by way of: the positive; orchestrating the Arab Spring (The overthrow of demagogues and dictators) and the negative; the genocidal/ethnic cleansing of the Islamic minority in Myanmar.
NB: Amazingly: 65% of Americans now get there news from Facebook and other Social Media Platforms. Only 3% of people today ‘objectively’ try to mediate their news feeds by drawing on three or more bi-partisan News outlets.
Given that the above statistics can be extrapolated and applied as a guide to the S. M. use/abuse worldwide, is humanity better off without it? Are its real effects too precarious to warrant its continuance?
What about S. M.’s more subtle effects? Here’s an example of S. M.’s subtle and yet highly influential effects.
The ‘Me Too’ movement’s networking on S. M. spread their credible agenda at warp speed, then as the network nodes of influence expanded and became more isolated, bubble filters cracked down on moderate voices mutating the original agenda and radicalising it. A feedback loop brought the new radicalised agenda back to the mainstream S. M. nodes.
Students across America and now the world have become so emotionally charged on this issue that they’re even threatening freedom of speech on campus by engaging in violence to insulate themselves from speakers with alternative opinions.
Interestingly; as the freedom of speech debacle on campus peeked and info-storms raged on S. M., Donald Trump opened up a new ‘war front’ threatening the freedom of speech in the American press at exactly the same time! It’s as if the ‘Me Too’ movement’s virtual bubble filters radicalisation of opinion finally manifested its real life influence in the highest echelons of political power. Supposition?
Did Trump hear about it on ‘Fox and Friends’? Or did it come from: the Populist warrior Steve Bannon who became ensnared in the University freedom of speech debacle or from the election meddling Paul Manafort (Trumps former campaign manager). I don’t believe in coincidences!
NB: For any ‘Me Too’ affiliates reading this, you can immunise yourself from the above effect restricting freedom of speech by downloading from Amazon books or other sites, ‘All, Minus One; John Stuart Mill’s Ideas on Free Speech’, edited by R.V. Reeves and J. Haidt. IT’S FREE. Don’t get stuck in your bubble. Punch your way out; read it!
Moving on and even worse: In the past student campuses played a powerful role in checking subversive government’s anti-liberal agendas etc.
Today’s negative emotion bubble filter driven obsession with identity-politics has back-seated criticism on: Global climate change, the rise of ultra-right Populist Nationalism and so many other desperately important threats the world faces today.
It is worth pointing out here, positive emotions are far harder to elicit in social intercourse than negative emotions. The lightning fast amygdala rules by default in contentious environs, it by-passes rational thought processes, and on top of that, social bubble conformity is self-reinforcing. The amygdala is the brain’s default control switchboard regulating fear, fight or flight. The amygdala also works in conjunction with the insular cortex to elicit disgust. Packaged together, in the case of persecution of ethnic minorities for example, they’re responsible for behaviour that can be both formidably racist and murderously horrendous.
Unfortunately positive emotions require slow deeper thought processes based on protracted positive experience with ‘Others’.
Hence, a University lecturer straying into contentious territory (regarding the social sciences, human behaviourism, psychology etc.) is at great risk of eliciting negative emotions from students if he makes just one slip of the tongue in the domain of identity politics.
The same can be said for S. M. messaging exchanges in general, and on top of that, Twitter’s old 40 word (terrible) and its newer 60 (a bit better) word message limit has been seen to have the effect of favouring negative derogative expressions due to its shortness of syntax in comparison to positive expressions requiring far greater quantity of syntax.
With Humanity facing the above mentioned army of political and existential threats; where is the powerful influence of the University campus voice today!
The University student voice has moved on from stopping the Vietnam war, (to name but one issue) to having become subdued, muddled and ineffective regarding the before mentioned issues. Whilst they quibble and rage in their social media bubbles on valid, yes, but, less important issues, the essential debate and activism regarding existential threats is not being addressed at this critical point in time, given humanities survival is at stake.
Moving on to recent events.
It’s hard to get to grips with the fact that Russia’s attack on the 2016 American election was limited initially to ONLY 120 false Facebook sites focusing on swing States.
There is an adage that fits here, ‘On the internet no one knows you’re a dog’.
Effectively Putin was out for payback for American black ops perpetrated against Russia’s interests. Having played around in the elections of: Hungary, the Ukraine to name but two, they got the measure of the power and influence they could exert and refined their skill set. (Bear in mind, this game is still in its halcyon days and Russia is way ahead for even the most simplest of reasons: Far more Russians are fluent in English than Americans are fluent in Russian!)
Just imagine; the Russian geeks only had to seed 120 false F. B. sites with 80,000 messages. Over 3 years they steadily posted messages playing on anxieties, then, ratcheted up the anger of site affiliates to out-right rage finally reaching 29 million Americans. F. B.’s ‘slave lemmings’ did the rest, re-posting their messages to finally reach 150 million voters.
Bear in mind here; the total population of the U.S.A. is around 330 million and once you’ve subtracted kids, elderly, the sick and technophobes you’re probably talking about their reach extending to most voters. The installation/help by Russia of the Cultural Populist President Donald Trump coincided with the re-emergence of the K.K.K. and the ultra-right Neo-Nazi groups.
Postings of Hilary Clinton’s fantastical ‘pedophile ring’ based in a pizza parlor went viral. The power of S. M.’s influence even promoted one guy to take his gun down to the pizza parlor in search of the abused kids locked in the basement. There was no ‘pedophile ring’, there was no basement. Yes; some people are just simply plain and stupid dum when their emotional strings are pulled by S. M.
The sharp 37% spike in immigration at America’s southern border as of May 2019 can be viewed in two lights. First as being resultant of the de-stabilisation of economies and internal security of citizens by Populist governments of Central American and South American countries, (4 million citizens have now fled Venezuela.). Secondly as being resultant of Donald Trump’s racist plan to build a border wall.
(Recently I was teaching in Honduras. All my students were aware of this news by way of S. M. The vast majority of them dreamed of moving to, and working in the U.S.)
Donald Trump’s ‘effective’ rhetoric, ‘Calling all disgruntled citizens of Central American and South American! Last chance guys and girls, it’s now or never, I’m building MY border wall soon. If you don’t migrate right now, you’ll have no chance in the future. Get your skates on.’
How do you imagine any impoverish, crime persecuted family would react to that information. No wall today – there’s a chance of getting in to the USA. Once the wall is built – there’s NO chance of getting in to the USA. Donald Trump himself orchestrated a Populist agenda inspired National emergency. Clever? No easy done, you just have to understand the power of social media to amplify hysteria and modify people’s behaviour.
‘Hey Cousin Jose, life’s great up here in the States, last chance to join me here. Oh, and you better get on Facebook and let the rest of our family and friends know; it’s ‘now or never’ if you want the good life.’
Donald Trump was undoubtedly fed his Cultural Populist ideology by Steve Bannon during his campaign. As far as that simple – back of an envelope – ideology goes, even Donald could take it on-board, or more probably he keeps said envelope in his oval office desk-draw for constant reference.
The Cultural Populist Agenda:
1.A political style in which Populists identify with insiders.
2.Define and delegitimise outsiders.
3.Employ a rhetoric of crisis that elevates conflict between insiders and outsiders to a matter of National urgency.
Do any of those definition points gel with actions taken by the President Trump? Take a look below:
Three Ways Populists Frame the ‘Us Vs. Them’ Conflict.
DONALD TRUMPS MAJOR POLITICAL POLICIES IN BLUE. (B)
DONALD TRUMPS ACTIONS AND RHETORIC IN RED. (R)
‘Native’ members of the nation-state. B
THEY’RE MOSTLY GOOD PEOPLE!! R
Hard-working, honest victims of a state run by special interests’ B
CROOKED HILARY, LOCK HER UP! R
Non-natives, criminals, ethnic and religious minorities, cosmopolitan elite. B
BRING DISEASE, DRUGS, AND TERRORISM!! R
Political elites who represent the prior regime. B
OBAMA IS NOT AMERICAN! J. MC’CAIN! R
Emphasis: religious traditionalism, law and order, national sovereignty, migrants as enemies B
BUILD A WALL!!! ISLAMOPHOBIA!!!
Anti-capitalism, working-class solidarity, foreign business interests as enemies, often joined with anti-Americanism B
Purging the state from corruption, strong leadership to promote reforms B
DRAIN THE SWAMP!!!
Worldwide racist motivated intolerance and fatal killings have increased directed towards ethnic and religious groups. Exactly who is responsible for the sharp increase in those trends and to what extent is difficult to gage: was it the Populist racist outpourings of Trump or the Russians meddling online?
Should Populist leaders be held responsible for inciting racial/religious motivated murder resultant of their hateful rhetoric?
One thing is clear, all of the above trends have been directly influenced by S. M. bubble filter news feeds ratcheting up emotional anxiety and rage in groups by tapping into the reptilian brain’s sub-conscious mind. NB: Significantly; Ultra-right groups now account for the majority terrorism carried out in America by far.
Then there was the Populist agenda driven Brexit referendum. No one denies Russia interfered with it by way of S. M., and yet the British Government has been conspicuous in its near silence and critic of Russia, that, and the facts appertaining to the degree to which said referendum was influenced, has of now, not seen the light of day.
So Called ‘Post Truth Societies and Democracies’ of Today.
What about the world becoming more polarised as the result of S. M.’s influence as Nations, political parties, social groups and religions divide and divide again into smaller micro tribal units with their own insulated bubble filters producing increasingly polarised radical agendas?
To reiterate: Take one individual exposed to a social bubble filter with a certain political bias, now take another individual exposed to a social bubble filter with the opposite political bias, the differing views on the nature of reality are totally insulated from each of the two protagonists.
When the two subjects are brought together in debate and are exposed to the opposing political agendas, they will have no knowledge of the ‘Other’s’ facts or rational arguments, both parties will experience cognitive dissonance. (Cognitive dissonance – an uncomfortable feeling to be avoided.) They have both become dogmatist to their own ideologies.
NB: Dogmatism is a powerful bias of the mind. Once an opinion has been adopted and reinforced by peers, a subject is totally resilient to any factually conflicting information input no matter how rationally it is presented.
I watch FOX political news, you watch CNN. News.
Items of factual information can be highlighted, omitted or devalued on both channels. Conspiracy S. M. Platforms ‘weigh-in’ amplifying the ‘noise’.
And that ladies and gentlemen, is the origin of the now popularised soundbite ‘False News’. Donald trump for example only watches FOX News. If a factual news item does not appear there, his brain knows nothing about it, therefore; ‘IT IS FALSE NEWS’.
Is there more ‘real’ false news around in general today compared to the past?
Yes, dubious internet websites will publish anything if it increases their traffic and hence revenue. But, since the cave false news has always been around; used to bolster political agendas.
The big difference today goes back to the example; FOX verses CNN, that’s not about false news, it’s simply about all of the public not receiving all of the same factual information in the first place and its effect being amplified by S. M.’s instant communications networks.
Back to the main theme: Does Humanity face an existential threat from Social Media’s influence?
One look at the recent headlines should clear that up.
1.Politics – polarised, discord increasing and what’s left of the middle ground evaporating. ‘You’re either for us or YOU’RE against us.’
2.Ethnicity/racial issues increasing. Discord, rage and resultant deaths increasing.
3.Populist Nationalism is on the increase, election meddling has become a norm, while ethnic minorities and religious groups are being singled out for persecution.
4.Worldwide; freedom of the press and freedom speech is being suppressed or eliminated in both Populist and fundamentalist religious regimes.
5.Political assassination is back in fashion folks, so get with it or become a fashion dinosaur.
6.Populists deny global warming. Their denial leaves dangerous levels of carbon emissions unaddressed or worse; it has the effect of increasing them.
7.The break-up of the European community is not to be discounted and NATO’s alliance is threatened.
8.Information capitalism has brought G.A.F.A to wield so much power across a multitude of diverse Democracies today that they’re seriously in danger of becoming Technocracies.
9.Yippee! The nuclear arms race is back on its doomsday trajectory.
Then there’s disturbing erosion of liberty, freedom of expression and other nonsense going on both in the U.S. and worldwide.
A.Woman’s rights over their own body’s reproduction processes are threatened yet again by new laws prohibiting abortion.
B.Women’s rights issues in stasis or being eroded, homophobia increasing together with several countries passing Bronze Age cruel laws prohibiting homosexual sex on penalty of death.
C.Stem cell research is threatened yet again. CRISPA C9 research will be next folks.
D.America’s constitution, checks and balances are threatened while they still detain prisoners without trial.
E.Politicians sanction locking up ‘Others’ immigrant kids in cages.
F.The Populist President has target seven different Islamic countries from even travelling to the U.S.A. to visit relatives.
G.Racial tensions on the increase.
1.Attention levels are diminishing; today a goldfish has a greater attention span than the average social media junky.
2.Many Social Studies link S. M. use, to the rise of ‘narcissistic personality disorder’. (If you’re looking for a serious relationship/lifetime partner, avoid boys/girls who regularly paste selfies on S. M. like the plague – you’ve been warned.)
And on top of all the above, rice pudding with strawberry jam now gives me both indigestion and the runs!
Again; what’s left of the Middle ground on left and right is vaporising as I write.
Populist movements are gaining even more ground today.
Between 1990 and 2018, the number of Populists in power around the world has increased fivefold, from 4 to 20, installing badly educated and inept Nation ‘Leaders’ with no understanding of how to provision, maintain or steer their ships forwards at this critical point in humanities history.
It’s like Plato’s/Socrates’ parable of the navigator is being acted out real time: the crew are pissed off with their captain, they haven’t seen a wage increase in years, their food is rationed, pensions threatened, they’ve never experienced such austerity and foreign rats have invaded the hull bringing them all down with simply horrible diseases. They believe they can do a better job. So they throw captain overboard only to realise you must be educated in navigation in order to steer a ship to a safe haven and no one on-board now has that education.
The most frightening thing today is, some of these ‘Leaders’ have their little fingers glued to not only the power of tyranny but to the triggers of Armageddon. By the by, bets-on Trump’s nuclear red button code is his son’s name! Why? It’s the most perfect and the simplest malignant narcissist’s code required to light up the sky.
Should Social media platforms be allowed to proactively change our behaviour and steal our property by turning us into addicts for their own economic interest without having asked our consent? And what are they guilty of exactly? ‘Easy,’ you say, ‘they’re guilty of stealing my attention time, part of my precious life by sneaky nefarious means. First they steal my self-will and addict me and second they commoditise my intellectual property as click-bait to addict other users?’
My answer to the above question is both Yes and No.
No. You remember that click-wrapping/browser-wrapping as it’s known in the App trade? That’s the small print that neither you, nor I, or anyone else reads when we signed-up for behaviour modification! That click-wrapping/browser-wrapping gave away all our rights to our intellectual property and opened the gateway to having personal information perused, logged, distributed or sold on to dodgy third parties. Ouch!
YES. They are both ethically and are morally corrupt for all of the above arguments. But, remember we’re not alone here, 2.38 billion other suckers have signed away all their rights just on Facebook.
Most experts agree G.A.F.A.’s 8. Algorithms were written and deployed in a benevolent manner to bring society together, facilitate rapid exchange of information and oh yes; further online sales. I’ve bought stuff online so have you, if you want to buy an air ticket, book a hotel; it’s far easier today. And yes, and those platforms have employees and cost that need paying and they’re recuperated by advertisement. But, the machine has run off the rails. The unintentional side effects of social media platforms algorithms have become deplorable.
The established economic modal of S. M. platforms has trapped them into favoring advertisers’ remuneration over society’s well-being.
‘It’s a B.U.M.M.E.R. – BEHAVIOUR of users MODIFIED, MADE into EMPIRE for RENT,’ So says Jaron Lanier, worldwide celebrated pioneer of digital innovation named as one of the top 100 influential people in the world by TIME and now staunch critic of S. M. calling for its disconnect from the economic chains of advertising.
In the bubble filter virtual world well intentioned algorithms lock onto contentious news feeds building momentum for their distribution, the click-bait of contention morphs taping into human emotions, generating anger.
Each time the issue is ‘Liked’ or ‘Repasted’ it ratchets up its distribution along with the degree of descent, abuse and finally rabid rage. The ugly meme takes over the emotional minds’ of elite users who go on to reinforce the meme within their real life social circles, boosting their own social status within the group.
The filter bubble has generated a self-perpetuating feedback loop and who cares if the news is false or real? The mind’s emotional biases and latent prejudices discount investigation to verify the veracity of the meme.
Are Democracies Threatened?
Yes, democracies are under threat today.
Discount my arguments above if you like, but it still doesn’t change the fact that Populist movements and their tyrants are on the increase. Is the decrease in social empathy being amplified by our hiding behind social media interfaces where the ‘Others’ eyes, facial expression and anguish resultant of our cruel personal commentary is hidden from us as we rant rabid at our victims?
I believe it is part of problem. How much?
I cannot say, perhaps future social studies will be forthcoming adding clarity to the conversation.
CONCLUSION – My last frightening words.
The Cultural Populist agenda: Identify with insiders, delegitimise outsiders and elevate the issue to a national emergency.
S. M. and its algorithms could well have been designed to popularise the above agenda.
It’s all about US vs THEM, racism; ‘Out group homogeneity’ as it’s known – ‘We’re hard working, diligent and good, and those cockroaches over there behave deplorably.’
Our Mind’s Ancient reptilian brain lights up at the mere sight of ‘Others’, fear can quickly become rage against ‘Others’.
Humanism with its liberal agenda – both left and right – is not about stirring up rage against ‘Others’, it’s about bringing people together and living as one big caring society. Those ideals no matter how you frame them cannot, will not stimulate the ancient brain into feeling fear and rage.
Hence: political campaigns on S. M. in support and popularising those ideals simply will not work in the same way. They cannot wield the same degree of power of persuasion over users.
The algorithms of S. M. will not generate feedback loops sucking more affiliates into a bubble filter; for liberals and libertarians there are no ‘Others’ to blame or rage against, no religious groups or ethnic minorities to stir-up fear against. The ancient brain’s amygdala of fear and disgust will remain silent leaving behaviour unmodified.
This conclusion is terrible because; Populists have learnt exactly how to employ S. M. and will only get better at harnessing its power. It predicts more under-educated Populists will rise-up sowing more seeds of division about the world and they will grab at power wherever they can; and maintain it by shutting down freedom of speech and judiciary mechanisms of liberal democracies.
Populist simplistic economic and political agendas will fail as we have born witnessed to in Venezuela. The Geo political world stage will first be destabilised, then wobble and finally collapse as political discord and war increase.
I hated to write that. Sorry, but I arrived to the above conclusion objectively and as honestly as I am able after facing up to the current facts. I sincerely hope I am exaggerating the danger.
There is hope on the horizon as I write, YouTube is taking down videos that incite homophobic, racial and religious hatred.
More and more politicians are calling for G.A.F.A’s monopolies to be broken up.
The creators of social media and their directors are sincerely trying to put chains on the monster they have unwittingly unleashed on society, although as yet the effective algorithms they need to tame the monster still, in the main, allude them.
Hence, governmental intervention at this point in time is a matter of, what can they actually legislate S. M. platforms ‘to do’ or ‘not do’ to protect society’s wellbeing?
One thing is sure; no government apart from China, (‘F. B.’) will ban them, their popularity forbids it.
Hope: The education system is reacting to our changing culture by teaching students ‘Critical Thinking’. With that tool box at their disposal future educated citizens may well become adept at sifting through the information overload to identify truth from falsity even as a second nature.
As previously mentioned, I taught at a private school in Honduras and was so impressed to find their curriculum included two hours of ‘Critical Thinking’ a week. If they’re already educating students in a country that is in such disarray, then hope is most surly on the horizon.
At this critical point in time, more than ever before, humanity is in need a new ‘chorus’ to teach us to pay attention and empathise with ‘Others’ all over again.
By the conceptual photographer, essayist and author of; ‘The Absurdity of Pigeon Feed.’ Tom Tomlinson.
‘PAVLOV’S NEW CLICK-BAIT JUNKIES.’ ©
By Tom Tomlinson. June 2019 © Published by ‘Brain Nailed’ publishers.
All rights reserved. Reproduction of: ‘Pavlov’s New Click-Bait Junkies.’ By Tom Tomlinson. June 2019 © by any means or form is strictly forbidden.
‘The Absurdity of Pigeon Feed.’ By Tom Tomlinson is available in E-book form from online bookstores for less than the price of a coffee.
1.Artificial General Intelligence – A.G.I. (Of ‘The Matrix’ fame for example.) A self-teaching program that may or may not become conscious, as opposed to Artificial Intelligence A.I. where coded algorithms perform a specific defined task and are not up to taking on all tasks that involve all general learning skills.
2.Singularity – The point at which an A.G.I. attains consciousness.
3.The Alignment problem – How do we Install protocols that assure A.G.I. will be benign and benevolent towards Human beings.
4.Out of the box – To unleash an A.G.I. from a perfectly isolated and controlled environment and let it link up with the internet where it will gain access to the total accumulate knowledge of Humankind. An expert in this field, ‘Eliezer Yudkowsky,’ has claimed that even given the strictest methods of isolation of an A.G.I. that has reached singularity will still get out of the box and he knows how. Obviously he‘s not telling anyone how, but he is one hell of a smart dude, read his book: ‘Inadequate Equilibria’ it’s a great read; crammed full of new ideas relevant to understanding the world both for today and for the future.
5.Click-bait – Any link on the Internet that induces a reaction from the user to click on it. Advertisements, links to pages that earn some form of monetary remuneration from the amount of user traffic they can attract etc.
6.Attention economy – The online economy that employs competitive algorithmic mechanisms, designed and deployed to keep you clicking and scrolling (maintaining the users attention) in order to expose users to advertising for the maximum time possible.
7.Bubble filter – A Facebook user has her/his clicks, likes, and behaviour in general monitored so as to ascertain the most probabilistic news feed that will keep their attention engaged for the maximum time possible. Your news feed will not be the same as mine! A socialists news feed will be biased to socialist news items, vice-versa, a conservative user biased to conservative opinion and news items. So your filter bubble will be streamlined to your own prior opinions, likes and your dislikes hidden from you. Your news feed will not expose you to items that are contrary to your opinion and personality profile.
8.G.A.F.A – Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.