Modern Media Is a DoS Attack on Your Free Will

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How the attention economy is subverting our decision-making and our democracy.

It’s not that James Williams, a doctoral candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute’s Digital Ethics Lab (motto: “Every Bit as Good”), had a “God, what I have I done?” moment during his time at Google. But it did occur to him that something had gone awry.

Williams joined Google’s Seattle office when it opened in 2006 and went on to win the company’s highest honor, the Founder’s Award, for his work developing advertising products and tools. Then, in 2012, he realized that these tools were actually making things harder for him. Modern technology platforms, he explained to me, were “reimposing these pre-Internet notions of advertising, where it’s all about getting as much of people’s time and attention as you can.”

James_BR

 

By 2011, he had followed his literary and politico-philosophical bent (he is a fan of George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World) to Oxford, while still working at Google’s London office. In 2014, he co-founded Time Well Spent, a “movement to stop technology platforms from hijacking our minds,” according to its website. Partnering with Moment, an app that tracks how much time you spend in other apps, Time Well Spent asked 200,000 people to rate the apps they used the most—after seeing the screen time it demanded of them. They found that, on average, the more time people spent in an app, the less happy they were with it. “Distraction wasn’t just this minor annoyance. There was something deeper going on,” he told me. “That’s why I came over here to start my Ph.D. on that stuff.”

Williams has most recently been in the media spot light for his essay, “Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Persuasion in the Attention Economy,” which won the $100,000 Nine Dots Prize and scored him a book deal with Cambridge University Press.

Nautilus caught up with Williams to discuss the subversive power of the modern attention economy.

How do the Internet and social media apps threaten democracy?

Democracy assumes a set of capacities: the capacity for deliberation, understanding different ideas, reasoned discourse. This grounds government authority, the will of the people. So one way to talk about the effects of these technologies is that they are a kind of a denial-of-service (DoS) attack on the human will. Our phones are the operating system for our life. They keep us looking and clicking. I think this wears down certain capacities, like willpower, by having us make more decisions. A studyshowed that repeated distractions lower people’s effective IQ by up to 10 points. It was over twice the IQ drop that you get from long-term marijuana usage. There are certainly epistemic issues as well. Fake news is part of this, but it’s more about people having a totally different sense of reality, even within the same society or on the same street. It really makes it hard to achieve that common sense of what’s at stake that is necessary for an effective democracy.

How have these technologies transformed news media?

What’s happened is, really rapidly, we’ve undergone this tectonic shift, this inversion between information and attention. Most of the systems that we have in society—whether it’s news, advertising, even our legal systems—still assume an environment of information scarcity. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, but it doesn’t necessarily protect freedom of attention. There wasn’t really anything obstructing people’s attention at the time it was written. Back in an information-scarce environment, the role of a newspaper was to bring you information—your problem was lacking it. Now it’s the opposite. We have too much.

If you get distracted by the same thing in the same way every day, it adds up to a distracted week, distracted months.

How does that change the role of the newspaper?

The role of the newspaper now is to filter, and help you pay attention to, the things that matter. But if the business model is like advertising, and a good article is an article that gets the most clicks, you get things like click bait because those are the metrics that are aligned with the business model. When information becomes abundant, attention becomes scarce. Advertising has dragged everybody down, even the wealthiest organizations with noble missions, to competing on the terms of click bait. Every week there are these outrage cascades online. Outrage is a rewarding thing to us, because it fulfills a lot of these psychological needs we have. It could be used to help us move forward, but often, they’re used to keep us clicking and scrolling and typing. One of the first books about web usability was actually called Don’t Make Me Think. It’s this idea of appealing to our impulsive selves, the automatic part of us, and not the considerate, rational part.

Tristan Harris, with whom you co-founded Time Well Spent, said tech steers the thoughts of 2 billion people with more influence than the world’s religions or governments. Would you agree?

I think I would agree with that. I don’t know any comparable governmental or religious mechanism that’s anything comparable to the smart phone and social media, in the sense that people give so much attention to it, and it has such a frequency and duration of operation. I think it certainly intervenes at a lower level, closer to people’s attention than governmental or religious systems. I think it’s closer to being like a chemical, or a drug of some sort, than it is to being like a societal system. Snapchat has this thing called Snapstreak, for example, where it says, “Here’s how many days in a row you’ve taken a snapshot photo with someone.” You can brag to your friends how long you’ve gone. There’s a ton of these kinds of methods and non-rational biases—social comparison is a huge one. There’s a guy who wrote a book called Hooked, Nir Eyal, where he teaches designers how to pull a user into a system…

more…

http://nautil.us/issue/52/the-hive/modern-media-is-a-dos-attack-on-your-free-will

 

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This Scientist Believes Brain Zapping May Be the Key to Curing Cocaine Addiction

Just a few brief sessions could eliminate cravings altogether

by Ian Lecklitner

Cocaine use in the U.S. is skyrocketing once again: The number of Americans aged 18 to 25 who admitted to trying cocaine for the first time increased by a whopping 61 percent from 2013 to 2015, according to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health. We’re seeing serious repercussions as a result: The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that the number of overdose deaths in the U.S. involving cocaine in 2015 was the highest since 2006, and the second-highest since 1999.

But despite more and more people falling victim to cocaine dependency, there isn’t a single treatment yet approved by the FDA for cocaine addiction.

There may be a new hope, though — albeit a controversial one.

recent story published in Science Magazine discusses the work of neurologist Antonello Bonci, whose research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Baltimore points to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) as a possible treatment for compulsive cocaine users. TMS is described as a noninvasive method of triggering neural activity applied by running electric current through a coil held near the scalp.

In layman’s terms, it’s zapping the brain with electricity.

Already an approved therapy for depression (and not to be confused with electroconvulsive therapy), Bonci argues that TMS also can be applied to strengthen impulse control and restore normality to a reward circuit that becomes abnormally active when cocaine users are presented with cues that trigger their addiction.

To figure out how viable of a fix TMS really is, we spoke with Bonci about what goes on in the brain of a coke addict, and how brain zapping could help ease addictions across the board.

Why is cocaine such a hard drug to kick in the first place?
Dozens and dozens of chemical receptors within different brain regions are changed after cocaine exposure. Some regions will give you cravings; some regions will give you the ability to plan to procure the drug; some regions will give you the pleasure response when you take the drug; and some regions will give you the aversive effects when you miss the drug. It’s a complex network of behaviors that altogether make sure that once a person is addicted to cocaine, their entire brain rewires itself to ensure their main concern is to procure cocaine no matter what’s in the way: Their family, their job, their friends.

If you have a disease that’s localized to a single gene, a single factor and a single cell, it’s much easier to find a cure or treatment. But when one drug is affecting so many brain regions, so many chemicals, so many receptors and so many proteins, you start to understand why it’s so complicated to figure out how to treat it.

That’s a short answer to a beautifully complex problem.

How come there are no FDA-approved treatments for coke addiction so far?
There have been many clinical studies [on the subject], but each one just adds more and more data as to why and how cocaine changes the brain. The complexity of how cocaine affects the brain keeps on increasing, and it’s not easy to translate it all into an effective therapy. It’s extremely expensive to develop medications as well.

So what are the options currently available for coke addicts who want to kick their habit?
They have psychological support and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Why would TMS be a better solution?
Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a technique that’s been approved for use since 1985 for the treatment of medication-resistant depression. It’s a wonderful technology because it’s noninvasive: It creates an electromagnetic field that — just by putting this probe on top of the head in a certain position — stimulates brain cells. You can find hundreds of clinical trials that have used TMS for a variety of conditions, including memory impairment, cognitive dysfunction, insomnia and different kinds of substance abuse — nicotine, alcohol, heroin and now cocaine. The list goes on and on…

more…

https://melmagazine.com/this-scientist-believes-brain-zapping-may-be-the-key-to-curing-cocaine-addiction-d74ddb4794b9

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WHAT EXACTLY DO WE REALLY HAVE OWNERSHIP OF?

by RJ Spina, Contributor Waking Times

With the horrific weather anomalies and natural disasters currently happening across the globe, it moved my attention towards all the challenges these Souls are being forced to accept in working with these situations and the subsequent effect it has on their lives. All the energy spent on worrying, fear, preparation, planning, recovery and rebuilding in order to protect life and objects. My heart goes out to everyone who is struggling because of this. The obstacles and challenges in life are an integral part of the journey itself and are needed in order to force us to grow in our awareness, our love, our wisdom and our power.

The observation of these recent events led to a feeling inside my heart. This sensation, once fully clothed with empathy, compassion and the gentle guide of wisdom gives rise to inspiration in the form of a single thought… the concept of ownership.

What is it that we actually own? Certainly not our possessions. We don’t take them with us when we exit this concept of “life” so at best they are on loan, temporarily. Maybe all physical goods represent the result of our misdirected attention being placed on the illusory sensory realm or the “outside” world, the realm of the five senses. If we accept that we don’t ever own any material goods maybe that would free us from worry and concern over them and allow us to simply partake of the temporary sensory experience of them without attachment via ownership. Maybe we would see all physical goods in a different light with this understanding.

What about ownership in regards to our friendships and family? Relationships are a two-way street so having expectations of someone’s behavior, acceptance, attention, love or interest is not up to us, so all seemingly external interactions with others, even family and friends, are fickle. That does not fit the concept of ownership.

How about our thoughts? Surely we own those. No, we experience thoughts, only momentarily, which consist of the trillions of desires left behind by those who have come before us, including our own incarnations, as the collective consciousness. These desires are electrical impulses perceived and translated by our mind into what we experience as thoughts that randomly pop in and out of our head whenever we place our attention in our head. Ownership, no, not with thoughts. Most people would say they can’t control the thoughts that pop into their head so ownership is not accurate when it comes to thoughts.

What about our emotions? There has never been a single emotion that you have ever experienced that you can somehow claim ownership of. And whatever emotion you may be feeling currently, or have felt previously, will eventually will fade away just like the thoughts that pop in and out of your head. This is not ownership.

How about our actions? It seems the Law of Cause and Effect is in play here, but not ownership. Essentially, whatever is set in motion that is not Love must return to its origination point in order to experience its effect. Consciousness is ultimately responsible for everything it emanates, be it thought, emotion or action but there is no ownership there.

This holy trifecta of thought, emotion and action are specific filters or avenues in which consciousness can experience itself reflected back to itself through the illusory “outside” world. What you put out, you get back has been said before in many ways by many people since the dawn of time.

What about owning our individual bodies? If we took it with us when we exit this physical experience, then definitely, but we don’t so there can be no claim of ownership with the body either. Temporary use, yes, but not ownership. There doesn’t seem to be any real ownership with goods, thoughts, emotions, actions or the body.

What about experiences themselves? There is “something” that sits just to the left of your heart, right in the center of your chest. Call it a Soul or Sentience or Awareness or Consciousness, that seems to author through free will and witnesses through comprehension the experiences of your life, but you can’t claim ownership to experiences simply because you participated or retain a remembrance.

Your memory fades too, doesn’t it? Everything, eventually, just seems to disappear. The past is gone and cannot be experienced again. The present is perpetually slipping into the past and will be lost within the mists of time. Nobody owns the future since it isn’t here yet and once the future arrives, it will only momentarily be the present which immediately slips into the past. There is no ownership there either…

more…

About the Author
RJ Spina has healed himself from lethal infection, permanent paralysis and debilitating diseases. He takes absolutely no medications and teaches others how to become self realized and restore their health. Please visit his website at www.ascendthefrequencies.com.
This article (What Exactly Do We Really Have Ownership Of?) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to RJ SPina and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution and author bio.
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Is taxation theft?

Resultado de imagem para Miners at Heworth Colliery near Newcastle,

Miners at Heworth Colliery near Newcastle, compare wage slips, 21 October 1950. Photo by Bert Hardy/Picture Post/Getty

The assumption that you own the contents of your pay-packet, although almost universal, is demonstrably confused

Philip Goff is associate professor in philosophy at the Central European University in Budapest. His research interest is in consciousness and he blogs at Conscience and Consciousness.

Some radical libertarians hold that all taxation is immoral, on the grounds that it amounts to the state stealing the money of private citizens. This is an extreme position, but the sense that tax involves the government taking ‘our money’ is ubiquitous, and hugely influential in real-world politics. The former British prime minister David Cameron, for example, repeatedly made a ‘moral case’ for low taxes, based on the need to give back to you, the citizen, more of ‘your money’. And even those who believe in relatively high taxes tend to start from the assumption that one has some kind of moral claim to one’s gross income, a claim that is overridden only by the greater good of equality or the need to fund public services. Outside of academia, almost everyone assumes that the money I get in my pay-packet before the deduction of taxes is, in some morally significant sense, ‘mine’.

This assumption, although almost universal, is demonstrably confused. There is no serious political theory according to which my pre-tax income is ‘mine’ in any morally significant sense. Moreover, this matters: this confused assumption is a major stumbling block to economic reform, causes low and middle earners to vote against their economic interests, and renders it practically impossible to correct the economic injustices that pervade the modern world.

In addressing the question of whether taxation is theft, it is important to distinguish two senses of ‘theft’: legal and moral. In 18th-century North America, it was possible to ‘own’ a slave, in the legal sense of ownership. If someone deprived me of my slave in order to give that slave liberty, then this constituted ‘theft’ in the legal sense. But of course the laws underpinning slavery were morally abhorrent, and hence few these days would class liberating a slave as ‘theft’ in any moral sense. Conversely, we can have cases of moral theft that are not legal theft. The laws of Nazi Germany enabled the authorities to seize the property of Jews who had been deported; although strictly speaking legal, such actions constituted ‘theft’ in a moral sense.

And so, when we ask ourselves whether taxation is theft, we have to specify whether we are thinking of the moral or legal sense (or both). If we wanted to say that tax is legal theft, then we would have to argue that people have a legal claim to their pre-tax income, and hence that the government commits legal theft when it takes the pre-tax income of its citizens. This idea can be quickly dismissed. Clearly if Ms Jones is legally obliged to pay a certain amount of tax on her gross income, then she is not legally entitled to keep all her pre-tax income. It follows logically that the state does not commit legal theft when it enforces the payment of this tax.

The more interesting question is whether taxation is moral theft, and this depends on whether citizens have some kind of moral claim on their gross income. It is to this question I now turn.

Your gross, or pre-tax income, is the money the market delivers to you. In what sense might it be thought that you have a moral claim on this money? One answer might be that you deserve it: you have worked hard and have done a good job, and consequently you deserve all your gross income as recompense for your labour. According to this line of reasoning, when the government taxes, it takes the money that you deserve for the work you do.

This is not a plausible view. For it implies that the market distributes to people exactly what they deserve for the work that they do. But nobody thinks a hedge-fund manager deserves many times more wealth than a scientist working on a cure for cancer, and few would think that current pay ratios in companies reflect what philosophers call desert claims. Probably you work very hard in your job, and you make an important contribution. But then so do most people, and the market distribution of wealth patently does not reward in proportion to how hard-working people are, or how much of a contribution they make to society. If we were just focusing on desert, then there is a good case for taxation to correct the amoral distribution of the market…

more…

https://aeon.co/essays/if-your-pay-is-not-yours-to-keep-then-neither-is-the-tax

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9 RULES FOR LIVING AS LEARNED FROM PROPER AYAHUASCA SHAMAN

by Dylan CharlesEditor Waking Times

“All the authentic drinkers of yagé in the Amazon that I have met share a great love for nature and all humanity, and they are outspoken protectors of the rainforest and the good way of all that is right.” ~Jonathon Miller Weisberger, Rainforest Medicine

By itself, ayahuasca as a transformational medicine offers us profound opportunities for spiritual awakening, physical renewal and reconnection to the most important aspects of life and nature. Journeying with the vine of souls is unlike anything else in this world, and while many have shared their personal stories of harrowing nights in ceremony, another chief aspect of this medicine tradition is less often discussed: the valuable lessons to be learned from time spent with traditional plant medicine masters.

Sadly, true Amazonian medicine elders are a dying breed. To be in the presence of a genuine master is a treasured experience, and those of them still with us exemplify the virtues of living a life aligned with nature, devoted to spiritual development, and focused on the well-being of others.

I have been blessed with the good fortune of spending time with and learning directly from Secoya elders, who are the torch-bearers of a unique lineage of spiritual masters in the upper Amazon. Their tradition, that of Gods Multi-Colored People, as they know it, is the longest un-broken and non-syncretic tradition of working with the sacred brew Yagé, or Ayahuasca.

The attitude, demeanor, habits and character of these ‘abuelitos’ symbolize the simple purity and deep peace that may be found with dedication to this spiritual path. Reflecting on my time spent with the Secoya, I’ve realized that many of the best lessons come not when they are teaching, but when they are just being themselves.

Here are 9 simple rules for living, as learned from proper Yagé shaman of the Amazon.

1. Abundant laughter is the hallmark of spiritual achievement. Laugh first and laugh often.

2. All life is beautiful and priceless, and even the most pitiful or comical of creatures is infused with the sacred.

3. Always be productive in the service to others, and even if all you can offer is a smile, your positive contribution is important.

4. Love everyone equally, for we are all equal in spirit and life.

5. Silence is golden. Communicating without speaking is more penetrative than attempting to express the infinite with language.

6. It is in stillness you will find that which you seek. The ability to highly control one’s impulses is the key to spiritual advancement.

7. Gentleness is often more powerful than force.

8. Sincere dedication to spiritual development is the highest calling in life.

9. Follow nature instead of following man, for the lessons in nature are universally true and infinitely pure.

 

Secoya Elders: Don Delfin Payaguaje, Don Augustin Payaguaje, and Don Rogelio Payaguaje

Final Thoughts

“In the collision between the remoteness and purity of the rainforest realms and the crassness of consumer culture, the difference is so extreme that for the most part there has been no authentic or practical method for this medicine system as traditionally practiced to integrate and adapt to the changing times.’ ~Jonathon Miller Weisberger, Rainforest Medicine

As Ayahuasca continues to push its way ever further into the consciousness of contemporary society, the brew may be available for us to drink, but the presence of traditional elders is fading. The transmission of their priceless cultural knowledge is still happening today, however, and in honoring their presence there is much we can learn about how to live a good and productive life in harmonious balance with nature.

In the following video, ethnobotanist and conservationist Jonathon Miller-Weisberger explains some of the ways in which the Secoya tradition is so unique.

About the Author
Dylan Charles is a student and teacher of Shaolin Kung Fu, Tai Chi and Qi Gong, a practitioner of Yoga and Taoist esoteric arts, and an activist and idealist passionately engaged in the struggle for a more sustainable and just world for future generations. He is the editor of WakingTimes.com, the proprietor of OffgridOutpost.com, a grateful father and a man who seeks to enlighten others with the power of inspiring information and action. His remarkable journey of self-transformation is a testament to the power of the will and the persistence of the human spirit. He may be contacted at wakingtimes@gmail.com.
This article (9 Rules for Living as Learned from Proper Ayahuasca Shaman) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Dylan Charles and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.
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Tell Me Moore: I’m Obsessed With Finding Perfect Love

I’ll get right to it. I consider myself an over-romanticizer. I spend a fair amount of time imagining what an “ideal” love would look and feel like. I’ve even gone as far as to start writing (shitty) poetry to capture a vignette here and there. Kind of a keepsake, should I ever fall out of love with the idea of love.

I’m talking about the kind of relationship where two people are so deeply intertwined, seemingly on a cosmic level, that nothing could tear them apart.

Now, is this kind of fantasizing just an exercise in self-torture and ultimately future sabotage, or can something like that exist or be sustained? Finding it is a different animal. I’d be content for a while just believing it could happen, honestly.

Romeo, 26, Indiana

Dear Romeo,

I applaud you for being a dude these days who is not simply looking for someone to lick your balls three times a week and exchange funny texts with but never go out in public together on a real date. That is a rare thing! Deeply intertwined cosmic love? That’s a tall order, bruh. Do you want a girlfriend or a muse?

That said, I can think of an example of the kind of love you describe. Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) in the Blockbuster hit Titanic, which my older sister saw 31 times in the theater in 1997, would absolutely meet your standards as a couple “so deeply intertwined, seemingly on a cosmic level, that nothing could tear them apart.”

They have everything against them and everything for them simultaneously. She’s rich; he’s poor. She’s engaged; he’s poor. In spite of this, they are inextricably drawn to each other, and have the same curiosity about the world that allows them to have unstuffy fun dancing in the bowels of the ship and “flying” on the bow. Together they find a plucky resolve to be together that could only happen in a movie selling exactly the kind of ideal, romantic love you have clearly bought into, hook, line and sinking ship.

But what happens next is a perfect metaphor for the love you want: it’s not the ship sinking — that’s too obvious. It’s the fact that the dude freezes to death on a floating hunk of wood that clearly had more than enough room for the two of them.

 

No one knows exactly why, outside of prescriptive Hollywood romance, that Jack couldn’t have climbed the fuck up, or why Rose couldn’t have moved the fuck over. This demonstration proves as much:

 

Even though the real reason is because movies, it still illustrates the kind of weird cross-purposes that derail real-life romance all the time. Here, it’s clearly something to do with a lot of highfalutin nonsense about honor, propriety, and the sort of stuff you’d write about in your shittiest poetry vignettes. (He even sketches her naked, which like, c’mon. I bet you love that.)

You’re not wrong to want the first part, the courtship stuff of love, and I don’t know exactly what you think it “looks” and “feels like.” But finding overly romanticized love, at first, is a cakewalk compared to what comes next: the realization that anything can derail it. Maybe your Rose is a conflict-avoidant weirdo. Maybe she decides to be polyamorous. Or go to grad school in another city you can’t move to. Or is a pathological liar, who happens to love poetry. Or she’s married but decides to stay with her husband, even though your love is clearly bigger and brighter, and he’s clearly a grade-A piece of shit, but, you know, he’s her grade-A piece of shit, and life is complicated.

Or, she’s just like you, but you’re both so consumed by the idea of perfect moments that the second she forgets it’s your 16-hour anniversary of the first time you noticed her dimples, you’re screaming at each other in the street. And someone nearby is live-tweeting it.

There’s nothing wrong with anything you want here. It’s just that it sounds like you have no idea what real love is. Maybe it’s that you’ve never been in love, or maybe it’s that you back away in horror the first time things don’t go cinematically perfect. It doesn’t sound like you want a real woman, either: Someone who has period stains in her underwear, and gets pissy for reasons you might not grasp, and is sometimes boring. Who cares about other shit besides looking perfect for you. Who can be difficult, or inexplicable, or great, but also a total bitch. Plus, not all women dig that Casanova shit; a lot of them just want to, like, watch season 2 of Stranger Things and order some Thai food. You know, an actual person…

more…

https://melmagazine.com/tell-me-moore-im-obsessed-with-finding-perfect-love-7faf2b725647

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