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Modern Media Is a DoS Attack on Free Will (nautil.us)
1466 points by rajeshmr on Nov 20, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 496 comments



Stop carrying your smartphone. Leave it at home. If you must because your family/work depends on you, then delete every app. Use your laptop as your main driver. If you need to, get a laptop with better battery life.

Start developing a personal philosophy of internet usage. Here is mine:

Category 3 [Abstain from completely] Reddit (Yes, all of reddit), Facebook ... Category 2 [Check once every couple days ~15 min total] Serious news sites (NYT, WashPo, WSJ) ... Category 3 [Check daily ~30 min total] Twitter (Follow helpful people only), HN, Medium

This article makes some really good points. Our media is becoming adversarial. Developing a time management plan is essential. I can't let my time fall victim to the system. I don't have enough to throw away.


I love this, I love this, I love this.

Right now, I am about a month along with no Facebook or Messenger. Previously I spent hours per day on both, running a pretty large community group and supporting its members. I disappeared; no explanation. Stress levels are down, I have so much more time to do things, and I have so much more attention for the things that really matter.

Anybody that needs me, has my phone number; and at least for now, SMS isn't a gamified platform (I'm looking at you, Snapchat).

Any social media apps (I compulsively install and uninstall Instagram a few times a week because on one hand, it's awesome; on the other hand, I end up putting too much time into it) have notifications disabled.

Getting an Apple Watch was the real game changer. Now, if my phone goes off, I don't even have to look at it or stop what I'm doing. I can decide whether or not to engage with the incoming notification without risking getting sucked into "being on my phone". With LTE, I can even leave the god damn phone in the car, at my desk, or in my locker at the gym without having to worry about missing an important call.

HN is my ground zero for everything and while it may be a little dangerous to only read news and articles that are posted on the same website, you all are pretty balanced and nuanced people from reasonably diverse backgrounds and worldviews, so I'm not that worried about it.


interesting. I would have thought a watch would be worse because it's basically a "hey, look at your phone alarm".

I spend too much time futsing around the internet but I have almost all notifications turned off. no Twitter notifications, no Facebook notifications, no Instagram notifications. I only have messenger like app notifications on.


I have found my experience similar to the person you are responding to. With my Apple Watch I still see notifications, but I devote very little time to the interruption before dismissing most of it. It doesn't distract me long enough to derail my train of thought, and it is hard to get sucked into the Internet through the watch. I am working on tuning my notifications to just essentials, but even at full blast it has been a net win so far.


I found it still creates those addictive little dopamine hits that prevents you from really being able to easily disengage, slow down, and think deeply. It keeps the addiction alive. It's useful for times when you need to respond quickly to messages, emails, and such, like during big deals or launches, but otherwise, I throw my smart watch in the drawer in favor of a mechanical one. I also aggressively uninstall apps that attempt to grab my attention, rather than waiting for me to call on them. Couldn't be happier with these decisions.


That's what I told my wife for like 3 years (as she has been an Apple Watch day-one user). I finally caved and got one.

Everybody else that commented on this post beat me to the punch, more or less; but because I have to spend less mental energy digesting the notifications, it ends up being LESS of an interruption - not more.

You don't have to sit at dinner with your family, KNOWING that your phone buzzed, wondering whether it was an important work email, a text from your boss, or your dipshit best friend multi-texting you 30 photos of sick bikes that he wants to buy and / or thinks you should buy. ;)


If I couldn't leave work for long enough to eat a dinner with my family, I would be diagnosing a different root cause and applying a different fix :)


So you do end up reading those, just quicker than you would on your phone


I find the watch helps, because you distil your digital interactions down to a small number of important ones. Then go about your life without the constant pull of your phone nearby.

The new Series 3 LTE watch has enough battery to get me through the day. The only notifications I have enabled are messages, phone calls, and reminders.

I leave my phone at home but I'm still available for the important things.


>The only notifications I have enabled are messages, phone calls, and reminders.

>I leave my phone at home but I'm still available for the important things.

How do you reply to phone calls then? Via a public phone? Or do you not reply?

(I don't know about the capabilities of that watch, and whether you can call back on it.)


The Apple Watch can make and receive calls, though you might not want to talk to your wrist for an extended conversation as it can be kind of uncomfortable.


This ends up being the case for me for my Android Wear watch. The thing keeps vibrating and I am more tempted to check it out even while I'm in the presence of others. When the phone was in my pocket it took more effort and was a bigger gesture than it is to just furtively look down at my wrist and swipe a few things away.


Using a Fitbit here. I didn't buy it for the phone notifications but found it felt useful to focus. The real killer is not the calls but the other apps - email, shopping, Samsung.

A lot of deals come in from Facebook messenger for me, but I don't want to actually touch Facebook. The watch is really good at this too, and telling me who it's from.


I love my Pebble for the same reason and I'm really dreading when they will become hard to come by. I already lost one Time Round to a swelling LiPo and nothing else has a similar form factor.


Fitbit killed the original Pebble, or at least I couldn't get my Pebble connected reliably to my iPhone. Apple watch is a great upgrade.


Certainly a few months ago, there were Time Rounds going on Amazon on clearance (refurb stock) I know, I got one cut price.


I have been considering the Apple Watch with LTE for this reason. I don't want to supplement my phone; I want to largely replace it with something that's less intrusive and offers less potential for wasting time. Thanks for sharing your experience.


> Previously I spent hours per day on both, running a pretty large community group and supporting its members. I disappeared; no explanation.

I'm glad you're feeling better, but I'm not sure why you'd choose to leave people in the lurch rather than even a brief message.


If I'm not wrong, the message would disappear after the person deleted their Facebook so for people to see it the parent would have needed to stay on Facebook long enough for people to see it (which is an easy way to get sucked back into staying)


> reasonably diverse backgrounds and worldviews

Definitely agree with the rest of your comment. Not sure about this bit though, I love the HN community but I think we're a pretty homogenous bunch. I would guess a lot of us work in technology, relatively well-educated, relatively wealthy, left-leaning, english speaking etc.

Disclaimer: I've no data on this...


I generally think of HN as far right not far left. But, I think it's bias in how we react to things not HN.

Granted, not an American Republican party sounding board, but in terms of actual right and left political spectrum.


Much of our news media is currently designed to be sports-like, so if your goal is to be informed then this strategy is very wise. To make news more sports-like news channels like CNN offer generous pay to people that are willing to spout controversial cartoonish opinions on national news as explained here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pS4x8hXQ5c

It is very questionable if these controversial opinions are representative of anything except an antagonistic "other" that is similar to who we want our opposing political side to be, so that we don't have to actually spend the effort to speak together and find common ground. Generous pay would probably not be necessary if anything else was the case.

This way of avoiding civic discourse and not listen is in my opinion incredibly dangerous for our democracy, as the default state of a society is not a working democracy and you have to fight to keep it.


Great points.

If you stop consuming cable television and take a step back, you can see that pundit news shows and professional sports have so much in common. It's "right" vs "wrong", "red" vs "blue", "stupid" vs "smart", "weak" vs "strong", etc. There's a winner. There's a loser. You aren't a loser, are you? Don't forget to buy Doritos.

Since media isn't going way, we really need to create alternative systems that stimulate our empathy instead of our anger.

>...the default state of a society is not a working democracy and you have to fight to keep it.

That's something to think about.


> There's a winner. There's a loser. You aren't a loser, are you?

The whole world runs on this. If you catch it at the right time, you can avoid a lot of mental traps.


The works of Alan Watts have been instrumental in providing me with a mental framework to notice exactly that kind of bamboozles, and many more. A lot of his ideas (or his intrepretations of others) seem to me like a straightforward cure for many of this information age ailments, I think a rehash for modern times is long overdue. I strongly recommend to look at least at a couple of essays of his, if only for the absolutely delightful prose.


Took me 30 years to think I've finally kicked that bullshit. I'm still not sure.


Is there any international coverage of US news that follows a better format?


The closest I’ve found is Democracy Now (which is domestic). They make a one hour show Monday to Friday. It’s a little boring, but rather endearing. Admittedly I don’t watch it much.


I usually read books instead because new world events generally don’t seem to occur at a much greater frequency than the book publishing cycle.


I like The Economist (weekly print magazine)


Us and them.


I nuked my Facebook entirely. I don't miss it. Took about 2 weeks to stop reflexively typing in "fa" in the address bar when bored.

Everyone worries about event discovery and getting invited to things. Turns out, the people that you actually care about (and who care about you) will tell you regardless.

Additionally, I suspect that I'm influencing my social circle toward using email for event coordination. Facebook's only selling point is the network, universal buy-in. When you break that, even in a small way, the value drops significantly.


Yes, I've noticed this disturbing trend myself. I'm ashamed to admit there's been more than one time that I've closed Facebook, opened a new tab, and immediately navigated to Facebook. Of course, I take full personal responsibility for my behaviors, but this is definitely the result of intentional unconscious conditioning; it's made this way by design.

Now I use the "News Feed Eradicator" Chrome extension and no longer have that problem :)


News Feed Eradicator has seriously improved my day-to-day life in a noticeable way.

Enough useful social activity is contained on Facebook in the form of events and various pages that I have a hard time quitting it completely. I don't, however, get sucked into the bottomless pit of news feed anymore, and I don't miss it.

Checking facebook has gone from compulsive addiction to maybe once a few days, or "when I think of it" when I am helping organize events.


I have facebook locked-out on my phone. LastPass keeps it on only chrome desktop browsers with Newsfeed killer. I use uBlock (microBlock) to hide dumb residual elements, like Stories. Result is I can stay in touch with events and messages, without the toxic news feed.

Also, Reddit has a 20 minute timer on desktop. I use Adguard to block it on my phone, but I bounce between use and disuse like a junkie :p.

Initially it's hard as your brain screams for its old habits, but like all things, it adapts.


I replaced the physical location of the Facebook app on my phone with Pumped 3, a really fun BMX game that I love.

Every time I unconsciously tried to open FB, I ended up opening Pumped 3 instead, which snapped me out of my trance and made me realize - “hey, you’re about to waste time”.

Now, I am getting good at Pumped 3, and I spend way less time playing that than I did scrolling FB; and none of my attention is being monetized by a global media conglomerate. Win-win.


"Took about 2 weeks to stop reflexively typing in "fa" in the address bar when bored."

It's also quite useful that messenger.com has its own domain. So one can abstain from facebook.com and still stay connected.


I don’t think smartphones are the main issue here — problem is people can’t delay gratification.

I’m sure if we ran the Marshmellow experiment again, a higher proportion of people won’t be able to wait.

Among my peers, I’m noticing an inability to study continuously for more than 30 minutes; even in my friend group, a couple can’t watch a whole movie without checking their phones.

However, keeping your smartphone at home in my opinion is a non optimal solution. My recommendation is to specially allot a time for checking your phone and reading the news; and forcing yourself to work on a single task otherwise.


Amusing anecdote: I started college in 1982, and couldn't study continuously for more than 30 minutes. Still can't. I've gotten to where I am in my career -- for better or worse -- with virtually zero attention span. There are some exceptions: I can concentrate on math or programming for hours.


I found that if I distract myself enough, I can start doing a task and the time just flies.

Currently my solution is to listen to classical music full volume. That way I can concentrate 1-1.5 hours a day.

On the other hand I too can focus without any problems when I'm programming. The problem is that I'm studying law :/.


problem is people can’t delay gratification

If you accept that is the case then you shouldn't be surprised when people look for a working solution such as leaving their phone at home.

forcing yourself to work on a single task otherwise

Which clearly doesn't work for many or maybe even most people.


I agree with you on some level, but tech has no small part to play in this phenomenon. It's not just the presence of the technology itself, it's the technology's essential design and purpose. The article's thesis, as I see it, opposes your point head-on:

> That kind of rhetoric implicitly grants the idea that it’s okay for technology to be adversarial against us. The whole point of technology is to help us do what we want to do better. Why else would we have it? ... I don’t think personal responsibility is unimportant. I think it’s untenable as a solution to this problem ... It’s not realistic to say you need to have more willpower. That’s the very thing being undermined!


I have a similar strategy and highly recommend Self Control App: https://github.com/SelfControlApp/selfcontrol/

Once I started blocking sites from myself I realized I was reflexively jumping over to distraction sites, particularly when I felt stuck or discouraged. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that willpower is the only way to get more focused. Use software to level the playing field.

Another thing that's helped: placing my phone on the other side of the room to charge at night. I also have a strict no using tech while in bed rule. Waking up and checking Instagram/Twitter/News on a phone is a terrible way to start the day.


For me it was very useful to understand that there are three things that need to coincide for an action to occur: 1) motivation, 2) ability, 3) trigger. Remove any one of them and the action won't occur.

When trying to get rid of undesired actions, many people (and guides) focus on the first one -- willpower. But that is the most fickle and difficult one to attack. It is much more effective to attack the other two: remove the ability (multiple layers of blocking certain websites, for example) and the trigger (identify the trigger and either find ways to avoid it or reprogram it by internalizing if-X-then-Y behaviors where X is the trigger).

This also works for building desired actions: make it as easy as possible to take the action, and program triggers to start them.


StayFocused on the Chrome App Store is another great one, and a bit easier to install.


I used to use SelfControl, but once I figured out how it blocks sites, it stopped being as useful. Don't fall victim to your inner Software Engineer and try to figure out how it works!


Hey thanks for the tip. Just installed Self Control App to block Reddit. I love that it's open sourced.


Whilst I largely agree (and follow) the suggestions here, I take extreme exception to providing this sort of response as a solution to the problem.

We're living in a world in which, individually and atomically, our willpower is being tested against AI-driven, algorithmic, electronic colossi whose own goal-seeking behaviour is to maximise demands on our attention. And the systems mentioned -- smartphones, the Internet, email, messaging systems, even specific platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, are increasing less optional luxury choices and far more necessary, if not for transacting all life, then at least significant portions of it.

The bottom-up response doesn't scale or work, and it fails to address the consequences of the behaviours of others who do not, or can not, follow the advice.

I've spent much of the past year occupied with studying the history of media, communications, and the interactions they have with society. And those impacts are absolutely massive. The printing press, cheap paper, mass literacy, high-speed printing, telegraph, radio (and its very strong co-evolution with fascism and Nazism, as well as other populist political cults), had absolutely disruptive effects, and not at all uniformly in a good way.

Which is to say that the Internet giants, and Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon specifically, are toying with our fundamental social and cultural infrastructure whilst externalising massive costs and risks.

One school of thought, and it's gaining credible voices by the day, demands regulation.

A growing question I'm developing is whether, or what, changes are absolutely inevitable, and how our tomorrows won't look in the least like our yesterdays. Professor Stuart's "Slaughterbots" video plays on a similar, and very closely related theme, and suggests a level of potential impact I suspect is of roughly similar magnitude.


Corporate media like NYT and WashPo etc that writes things like you must be crazy to not believe there are WMDs in Iraq are not serious news sites. Rich != serious. And hegemonic news smearing all sources of independent journalism and grassroot progressive political movements is just about the opposite of the point of this article.


Like them or not, the NYT and WashPo do some of the best, factual investigative journalism in the world. Have they been wrong? Sure. But they have extremely high standards for publishing a story, so you can generally assume that they're accurate. They also are the ones who break a lot of the biggest, most impactful stories.

I think a better criticism of them would be wash po turning a blind eye to Bezos and others that have influence of it.


They practice the worst type of disinformation. Correct most of the time but when it really counts they publish incorrect propaganda (eg wmds in Iraq).


Care to name any large news publications that don't do this? I can't think of any.


Breitbart has an interesting theory on this: Present your bias, and admit your publication has a world view, because even NPR has a world view.

Nobody is unbiased, so stop trying to be unbiased, and present how you see it. Then, a real reader will go to multiple "view points" and gather their own opinion.


But this isn’t novel; anyone who’s read a few different newspapers in the same week (a “real reader”, in your words) can easily get a feel for differences in editorial ‘bias’/agenda between news organizations.

The problem is that being a “real reader” has a time and attention cost, and it’s relatively boring compared to picking a circle of political reality stars, and gorging on “hot takes” and outrage.


Reddit is a halfway decent way of doing this though.


+1. I do wish NPR is fully publicly funded and gets some degree of medium term immunity from the current legislative and executive branch (media as a fourth branch of government / res publica?).

Now it's just a mouth piece for rich donors but has 'public' in its name for marketing.


In other words, they occasionally screw-up.


WaPo and NYT can be counted on to amplify every rush to war and every expansion of the suveylance state. This is where the assumption of accuracy turn insidious.


>they have extremely high standards for publishing a story, so you can generally assume that they're accurate

Dangerous assumption for any given story. Skepticism always warranted.


Maybe. I tried WashPost. Mostly to pay for my news. Hated it. Mostly because of the format. Wasted too much of my time. If they adopted a HN or RSS reader style, I’d try it again.


And when they make factual errors, they publish errata


Technically legal https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/930510825617543173 is the name of the game. Smear than obscurely retract is the news of 2016.


Why are you linking twitter screenshots about something relating to buzzfeed?


Maybe another way I'd frame the issue is that there are 2 orthogonal themes.

1, whether the structural incentives of the institution is altogether aligned with the interests of the common working people (http://fair.org/home/washington-post-ran-16-negative-stories...) or with the financial elites (https://medium.com/@caityjohnstone/cia-funded-washington-pos...), and

2, whether the publication follows scientific rigor to produce in-depth factual investigations (https://medium.com/@caityjohnstone/the-atlantic-commits-malp...)

It sounds like you're mainly addressing the second theme (i.e. they're less prone to just making things up). Though I'd argue they're not 'serious' institutions on both fronts.

On the one hand, they're less likely to even attempt to enter into discussion about whether to think about starting to investigate the types of stories that are detrimental to the elite consensus (When's the last time WaPo wrote about the 99% or DAPL or TiSa or had an opinion about this last $700 billion pentagon budget?). The same way how political bribes work. We think politicians get bribed to vote a certain way. It's way way too late by that point. Politicians get bribed to stop items from entering into the agenda for select committees so it'll never reach any assemblies for votes.

On the other hand, though large multi-month investigative journalism pieces correlate strongly with the wealth of the institutions that publish them, large scoped journalistic rigor isn't somehow exclusive to corporate media. Medium sized institutions like The Intercept (before they got influential and turned corporate) and fair.org produces many well researched articles corporate media will never get into.

No one is saying corporate media don't employ disciplined honest journalists who produces quality work. In fact, I strongly believe everyone who goes to work for NYT and WaPo do so because they want to productively contribute and be a force of good for society. What I'm saying is those journalists don't get promoted or get fired like Phil Donahue while journalists who understand the game and self censor and don't get carried away with independent thought get airtime.


>When's the last time WaPo wrote about the 99% or DAPL or TiSa or had an opinion about this last $700 billion pentagon budget?

They write about the 99% pretty much daily. You can start by looking at healthcare coverage.

They published articles concerning DAPL as recently as November 16 (plus more recent ones on Keystone XL and the ANWR drilling).

The Trade in Services Agreement process has been very secretive, and unless they get sources, there's not a lot they can actually report. The last I know of any leaks about the process was in 2016, so I'm not sure it's fair to criticize Washington Post for not having more information about it this year.

Pentagon Budget - again, an article specifically about it on November 16, others that included mention of it more recently.

Basically you're making claims that are pretty easy to debunk.


WaPo is very good at publishing about everything. To extract sentiment you have to actually read their articles & see what they bother to put above the fold.

They published plenty of "negative" stories about Clinton during the primaries. Except if you read the stories in detail at publication time you'll see they downplay the negative story. Getting out ahead of the story and presenting it in the best light.

Grandfather comment has really set you up an excellent strawman to knock down there.


They cover these issues, yes, but always with a specific purpose and intent. Let's consider a case study, this article:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/02/upshot/bernie-sanders-wen...

They covered a tour Sanders did about healthcare in Canada, and used it as an opportunity to spout ideological tripe slamming universal healthcare and Sanders himself.

Even the first line is a weaselly backhanded attack on Sanders. Then,

>Now he wants to make Americans fall in love with his proposal to make the United States system a lot more like Canada’s.

This is an absurd thing to say if you did your homework and know that a strong majority of Americans already support a single payer system like Canada's. However it is not an absurd thing to say if you want your reader to walk away believing Americans just aren't ready for it.

What follows is an entire section attacking Sanders for being popular because he advocates for popular political positions(how dare he?). Then their description of his bill is right out of a right-wing rag

>His Medicare-for-All bill includes free care as a central feature. If the legislation became law, no American would pay directly for a doctor, dentist or hospital visit, and co-payments for prescription drugs would be limited. (Taxpayers would, of course, finance the system.)

Indeed, you would get all of this stuff for free at taxpayer expense in a snarky parenthetical as if to suggest "you wouldn't really want to pay for others would you?" Ignoring that we already pay more for worse healthcare than any country, and that the bill would save trillions in taxpayer money.

An entire section on waiting times for non-critical procedures a common tactic for attacking universal healthcare -- ignore waiting times in the US, talk about how people have to wait in the other system and write "for non-critical procedures" in the smallest print possible so you're technically not lying. They never ask the actual explicit question: should you be able to jump the line and get your nosejob a week early, kicking a poor person with cancer out of line so they die because you have more money?

Then they cite a study that correctly assess the US healthcare system as the worst among developed countries, but it notes that Canada's is only 9th out of 11th -- doesn't look so bad now does it?! -- ignoring the fact that countries 1-10 (with universal healthcare) were ranked pretty close together, and the distance between the US and the 10th is double the distance between the 1st and 10th.

Then a series of more blatant incorrect claims without evidence about the medicare for all bill in particular.

Then the icing on the cake -- a section about how "Americans don't care about fairness or healthcare", with strong evidence this time! No, wait, their only evidence is that the Republicans control the government. Hmm. Let's look a little deeper:

>In the United States, though, Republicans control the presidency and the Congress, and many candidates last year ran on a promise to roll back government support for health care coverage.

Oh, I see. People only vote based on healthcare now. And not liking a failed overly complicated Obamacare system that forces people to buy bad private insurance is the same is disliking universal healthcare, but the article already stated universal healthcare has strong majority support...

It's almost as if someone has an agenda to portray America as a right-wing country whose people care mostly about the interests of the rich to their readers, who happen to be the rich...

This is just one article. NYT puts out hundreds of these ideological hit pieces with a shallow veneer of objective reporting every week. The amount of human labor put into this propaganda is staggering.

Wapo is even worse. Jeff Bezos did not buy it expecting to make a profit. They have rarely criticized Bezos or Amazon since the purchase. They 'fact-checked' a statement by Sanders where he describes the amount of wealth Bezos has and agree the statement is objectively correct. But it did not fit in with their ideology, so of course they rated it a 'lie'.

If this is what 'coverage' looks like, I'll pass. Reading wapo or nyt as a person on the left is what reading Breitbart feels like to a center-right Democrat or Republican nyt/wapo reading neoliberal.


I see two major problems with sites like NYT and WaPo:

1. There is important news they choose not to cover, especially for political reasons. (The news they do cover is usually of better quality than most.)

2. Their opinion pieces are frequently poorly thought out.


Before I jumped back on Hacker News here, I browsed Twitter. I set a timer for 7 minutes. I closed the window after 7 minutes. It was slightly painful as it was just enough time for me to get interested.

Hacker News is not perfect either, but I consider it generally healthier than Twitter now.

This all reminds me of when I used to be a smoker and had to use psychological tricks or less harmful alternatives to curb cravings.

The good news is: I eventually quit.


> Reddit (Yes, all of reddit) ... Twitter (Follow helpful people only)

I swap those. I only follow a few helpful subreddits to pick up things that don't make it to HN and I don't use twitter.


I was going to say this. The most useful parts of Reddit are way more useful that the most useful parts of twitter imo. And if you only visit once a day or week, you can sort by the top posts in that range. With twitter, you kind of have to be there all the time to see the good stuff.


If that works for you, then cheers. I get so sucked into Reddit's front page that I just need to avoid it all entirely. With Twitter, I'm less inclined to explore.


Best thing I ever did with reddit was to subscribe to the subreddits that are useful to me and then never ever go to the front page again.


If you don't do this then it's like you bought a TV that was programmed to only show you the most popular channels. And then you never manually changed the channel yourself.

So, sure, that would obviously suck. You have to change the channel.


I've found the personalized frontpage has been okay since I've unsubscribed from all the junk default subs and only subbed to useful/interesting ones.


What's a "front page"?


The Reddit front page is simply reddit.com. It shows the most upvoted content from all the subreddits you are subscribed to. Alternatively the most popular ones from the standard subreddits if you don't have an account.


Been a techie for more than three decades. Never saw the appeal in a smartphone or social media. I don't understand the fascination in broadcasting all of your personal information to the world (both via facebook and via wi-fi from your "smartphone") at all times. We all have desktops and laptops, why the need for a smartphone? I'd be willing to wager that I enjoy my leisurely train ride with my newspaper and my coffee far more than people who have their face glued to their phones. I believe there is more value in talking to a friend or a family member that you haven't seen in several months to catch up, rather than to be spammed daily with the inconsequential details of their lives (and they with yours). And god forbid you send a letter through snail mail! Life should be like a good meal or a fine wine, consumed slowly, thoughtfully, and with enjoyment.


I carry my smartphone with me but I keep it on DND most of the time unless I'm expecting a call or an email.

That way I get the best of both worlds: lack of constant interruptions and the ability to use important features such as maps, camera, etc. when I need.


I always keep mine on DND, but I find that I impulsively check news sites and social media. It puts me in this constant state of never really being bored, so I'm less likely to pursue new and interesting things (reading books, practicing hobbies, exploring new interests).


My smartphone is used mostly for the combination of checking emails (if necessary sending a quick reply that I'll follow up on later), and predominantly as a portable entertainment device.

I have setup SOME trusted contacts (mostly family, skilled coworkers who understand decorum) to pierce the DnD veil.


I like (and do follow) your suggestion. However, i disagree on Twitter. Twitter is a cacophony of misinformation, misquotes, comments taken out of context, and or responses to really fringe & stupid opinions.


It truly depends on who you follow (and who they follow, lately).


Yep, but occasionally "normal" people go nuts, people with tech tweets start to talk about their newborn child or a sick dog (with pictures of course), not to mention a rare political rant from someone you wouldn't expect it from. Maybe I followed the wrong bunch, who knows.


Most days, I use my phone in ultra power saving mode. Only whatsapp, sms, phone, and the internet browser is available. And the battery life is phenomenal. 10% literally gives me 24 hour standby time. Oh and I can whitelist maps if I need to. My only issue is uber, which is accessible only in normal mode and has no alternative when I need a cab.


I'm not talking about voice calling tremendously simplifying meetups, since this is not a smartphone feature. But how about navigation? I really wouldn't like to go back to the time without navigation.


I still carry my smartphone, but have disabled all app notifications, and removed anything that isn't a tool or a direct text messaging app.

No Twitter, no Facebook, no Snapchat, etc.

It's amazing how much happier I became after doing that.


It's rather telling that you say "delete every app", but you really mean "delete every social media app" (for many people, these are, indeed, equivalent).


Yeah. I'm not about to delete the app I use to generate background noise when the people in my office are being too loud. Or the app in which I track my weightlifting progress. Or the app I use to digitize and archive all important letters I receive. Or any of these kinds of apps.

The difference is, these aren't time wasting apps. I couldn't waste hours in my fitness tracker or digitizing important letters.

Remove all time wasting apps. Keep functional apps. The smartphone is a great tool if used right.


Imo facebook is not that bad if you unfollow everyone and everything. A hassle at first, but whenever you add someone (because he or she is only willing to use facebook or communicates via a group, like a trainer, a tutor or a teacher), just automatically press unfollow. I usually check if someone tried to message me once or twice a week, but ymmv.


I'm an aggressive unfollower. Too much clickpait, virtue signaling, feel-good meaningless inspirational quotes, suspect sources, self-promotion, etc., and I unfollow.


Did no one else notice?: Category 3.... Category 2.... Category 3....

Am I taking crazy pills??!?!

But in all seriousness, this is a fantastic idea. I'm wondering though if it's 100% of a "personal preference" which platforms go in which categories. For example, I keep in touch with family/friends over Facebook, and I find twitter to be too noisy to truly lose myself in enjoyment. But in all honesty, I should probably actually _focus_ on spending more time in twitter in my field for networking.

I love the analogy of a DoS attack though. (now I just have to figure out how to explain a DoS attack to all my friends)


Great advice! And I absolutely agree with the idea that this list is highly personal -- for me, I can't spend more than a few minutes on FB per week w/o feeling like it's a complete waste of time (I only have the acct to receive various announcements related to things I do). But NYT & HN are big time sinks for me. Especially since I always learn something, so it doesn't feel like a waste of time, per se, but does get in the way of actually getting stuff done. (I think PG has an essay on this.)


My Chromebook runs a copy of emacs with my org-mode and I love the ergonomics of the near-tablet sized/weighted, full keyboard style. But: if I walk with that under my arm (I walk to work!) I'm going to get it robbed.

For some reason, street thugs care much less about cell phones. Too hard to visualize from safe distance whether you have a latest model or a quad-chip cheapo.


On an iPhone you can see how much time you spend with each app open in the last week. (Go to the Battery section and toggle the clock button).

I think I’m going to start keeping a log to help be more conscious of this.

In the last week, I’ve had 28 hours total screen time. My top 3 are MiniHack 8.8 hrs, Safari 7.5hrs, and Reddit 3.6hrs


> Serious news sites (NYT, WashPo, WSJ) ... Category 3 [Check daily ~30 min total]

My suggestion: don't visit these sites at all. Instead, get your local daily delivered. You don't need the news up to the last minute. A daily summary is fine. Plus, it gets you away from your computer while you read it.


The smartphone is no problem at all. Hardly anybody "calls" anymore, and the only time I look at the thing is when I'm sitting on the crapper (and in that case I'd say I'm not wasting time but multitasking). It could be because I was very late to the smartphone party and never got addicted.


I stuck with my feature phone for years, and only had to replace it with a smartphone when I dropped it and broke the screen. There weren't any usable non-smartphone alternatives, so I bit the bullet and got a smartphone. After originally going completely app-crazy and installing just about everything, I'm on my second smartphone now, with ~10 apps installed over the stock LineageOS lineup, and a home screen that looks like this: https://i.imgur.com/6CndpKw.png?1

I only have the most necessary apps installed, such as Firefox, Spotify, Messenger and couple of others, no social media. Google Calendar and Gmail are still there, but I'm working to move to a different email provider and find a different calendar solution.


Yeah same here, although it's not so much that I was late to it, as it was late getting to me. In other words I was born early. In other words I'm older. Smartphones came along after I'd already lived a few decades without them. So there was never any question whether I could get along without one.


Another option is to get a dumb phone.


Yup. My ancient nokia works for me. All it does is make voice calls, send/receive texts, and last for a week on a charge (when left on 24/7).

I carry it turned off and turn it on if I really need to make a call or expect someone to contact me.


I agree, but not with all of reddit. You can follow only helpful subs just like you can only follow helpful people or read HN.. there's a difference between normal reddit and say /r/clojure, etc.


Totally agree. There are plenty of good subs on reddit.


It's a firewall for attention. One day somebody will build an app like that for AR glasses.


Or just be responsible for what you are doing. No need in ditching your phone, Facebook or Reddit. If one is not capable of weeding out the non-productive things on smartphone I am sure he will be able to fill his day with other useless things not requiring one.


Abstain from Facebook? For me, that's like saying "abstain from talking to your friends". Why would you choose to be so antisocial? Besides that, your other suggestions match my usage.

What I am trying to do with FB is treat it like talking to my friends on the phone - which I would not do during the workday other than by exception. I thought that I could do this with self-control but I have not succeeded. So I think that I am going to have to add time filters to my router configuration.


I've come to the conclusion that I cannot cut out Facebook completely. It's simply too good of a tool, for keeping up to date on bands I like, upcoming concerts and similar events. But I have unliked, unfollowed and hidden as many time wasters as I possibly can, to pare down my FB experience to the basics. I am very vigilant in hiding any that still happen to pop up due to being shared by friends. If someone shares too much junk, I either unfollow them or (in extreme cases) unfriend them completely.

I have noticed often that I go on Facebook, check up on an event invitation, take a look at the news feed and think "meh, there's nothing interesting". That is a good thing in the context of Facebook.

I have also uninstalled the FB app from my phone, to slightly increase the effort needed to go there, since I have to open my browser and go to facebook.com. It's a tiny thing that makes a huge difference.


You'd think Tumblr is better for following up on new artists (painters etc.) but it isn't.

I have an alt facebook for looking at artists. But frankly I wish the kind of stuff I enjoy (mostly asemic writing and related) was on reddit or tumblr. The facebook interface isn't good for looking at art.


Maybe in an ideal world, Tumblr would be better. However Facebook has much higher penetration, so it's the defacto site of choice.


www.messenger.com is an official interface to fb messenger that mimics the mobile apps. Doesn't load up the timeline, etc.

Most of my friends are on FB messenger but I never look at facebook itself.


I've been coming to resent my smartphone more and more, essentially because of this.

I recently quit using tobacco. I remembered all the warnings from my school health classes about how hard it was to quit once you start, how there's a physical dependence and all that. It was uncomfortable at times, and there were plenty of cravings to get over, but I was ultimately successful.

I can compare this to the couple of times I've tried to "quit the Internet" (i.e. social media, reddit, etc.). The problem is that there's nowhere to run from the Internet. I can avoid tobacco stores, I can't avoid my iPhone. For what it's worth, I'd love to smash my phone and throw it in a ditch, but there are certain social and professional obligations that require me to hold onto it. I have to be able to check my work email on the go. I have to use Facebook to stay in the loop about social events because all my friends use Facebook to schedule those social events. I have to call my parents once in a while. One device is a tool for all of those, in addition to being an ultra-high-tech meme-box with which I can mainline information to make myself feel good. It is of course not all bad, but the wonderful connectivity of the Internet is inextricably wrapped up with the "DoS Attack on Your Free Will".

To get back to the analogy, I'd like to think I was successful at quitting tobacco because I can avoid it. If I were giving someone tips to quit something, that's the best advice I could think to offer: avoid it. If you want to quit smoking, wouldn't it be preposterous to buy a pack of cigarettes and carry it everywhere? The temptation would always be there.

So it is with smartphones. When the best minds in attention capitalism are trying to pull me in every time I send a text message, how can I quit that? It's always in my pocket, and I can't simply throw it away because there are now certain expectations that I carry that tool with me almost everywhere I go. There is nowhere to run from this modern media, and that terrifies me.


Here's how I (try to) keep the Internet-based distractions to a minimum:

* Uninstall twitter, facebook and other social apps from your phone; only use the computer (or other device that's not constantly in your pocket).

* Even on your computer, log out of twitter, facebook and others. Only log in when you want to look into something (eg. check the social events, send a message), and use private/incognito mode for this; use 2FA - besides being good security practice, it's an extra hurdle so you won't default to "quickly check" the sites when your mental energy is low.

* When you do use tw/fb/..., unfollow/block/opt out of all the meme/cute/funny stuff (at least n my fb feed, there's basically 10 sites that'd constantly crop up - blocking posts by all of these greatly increased Signal/Noise ratio on FB);

* Have a reading list ready. I use iBooks on my iPhone to load up interesting articles, but you can use whichever method you prefer. The goal is to have something interesting/worthwhile to read available for the moments when you do want to look at your phone and/or kill some time (eg when in a long queue or waiting for a train). This something shouldn't require special focus or mental energy/capacity.

* Develop heuristics to ignore content that you know is junk but that tends to drag you in. I suspect this is slightly different for anyone, mine is: anything cute, funny, outrageous, sad or is a list of things. I am aware this potentially cuts out some genuinely worthwhile stuff and I'm okay with it. Considering my attention & time is finite and the Internet is (for all purposes) not, I'd rather have false positives than false negatives.

* I also have a high bar for what's newsworthy for me: anything that personally affects me (meaning I have to change my intentions or react in some way), and stuff that'll still be considered newsworthy in a month. Anything else gets ignored, no matter the medium. Again I'm okay with false positives. Also, since my friends are colleagues typically don't have the same approach, if I miss anything important (or really interesting), I'll probably hear it on the grapevine.

Couldn't be happier.


Solid advice. I'll add to this:

- Do not follow newspapers RSS feeds. They bombard you with news that are not relevant at all. Their newsletters are better. I get all my news from daily or weekly newsletters. I would like to get weekly digests only, but I havent found a good one from a newspaper I like.

- Actually quit Facebook. It's pure evil. I was so shocked to hear how it showed you your old, forgotten photos/memories from past just to engage you. If you can't engage with people through messaging (including whatsapp) or phone calls, they are not that close friends.

- On reddit, avoid controversial subreddits, especially on things relevant to you. As a Turkish citizen I avoid /r/Turkey because it's idiots idioting on things that directly affect me, and the urge to rant and answer is hard to suppress. Nowadays I usually only comment on /r/emacs and HN, and avoid all the controversy everywhere. Also, I push all the funny, interesting etc. stuff on reddit into multis, and subscribe only to some low traffic subs where I do not thing my participation would be a loss of time (which is basically /r/emacs, /r/istanbul, and a couple others).

- If you use HN often, subscribe to the front page RSS and to the digest [1]. This way you won't ever miss the important stuff but have less need to actually check the frontpage.

- Disable email notifications. Don't let the sender dictate you when you'll interact with them, decide it yourself. The last time I had an email notification was quite some years ago.

- Declutter your email inbox. Try to make sure that most of what's in there is what you'd just immediately read. Try to redirect the rest in relevant mailboxes. Your email setup should allow you to dispatch incoming messages on headers and body content. Especially useful are List-ID, Subject and From headers.

[1]: https://hndigest.com/


it's funny, your comment makes me think.. the world has too many moving parts to follow them all, so a carefully curated summary of events would be interesting. annnnd that's the press (which got injured by the stream fad.. irony)


I dream about an AI service that can curate me a newsletter given some sources (RSS, Twitter feeds, youtube feeds, whatnot) and send it to me regularly on a given interval. It would avoid duplicates and essentially identical stuff [1], weigh and choose the most interesting ones, and present them to me in a nice, readable format. Ironically I would not use such service if it existed because it would be very anti-privacy.

[1] Twitter is weird. I only follow ~15 accounts for events and (want to) use twitter only for that, but the way people usually post updates about events is to repeatedly post what is essentially the same tweet, and even with that many accounts followed it becomes a mess. I end up never checking it because it's basically a puzzle.


> "Ironically I would not use such service if it existed because it would be very anti-privacy."

Does such a service necessarily have to be anti-privacy? It could be created with open-source tools and run on a cheap low power server in your home, scouring the web for stuff that it thinks interests you based on data you feed it. You will still be in charge of your data then.


can't say if it's just fatigue or a valuable idea but at that point I want no more tech, I want to see people working together, even if it means lo-tech


I like your suggestions, but I have to tell you my anecdote. As someone relatively new to Turkey, I followed r/Turkey to find more information and understand things better. But I quickly found that your description of it is pretty accurate. But as someone still struggling to learn the language and wants information on Turkey, where are better forums to look?


I've done something similar with my Android phone, and it's worked out decently. One problem I encountered though - I spent a lot of time on Reddit, and would check it subconsciously, so I deleted it. Now I find that I'm using Google Now, the left swipe off the home screen. In effect I took the attention from Reddit and gave it to Google. I'm not convinced that was a worthwhile trade. Given I can't delete Google Now, maybe having Reddit on my phone was serving a purpose I didn't realize. Maybe there's an app that will minimize the subconscious attention blast radius. Something that I'll still check but will minimize the time I spend there.


FWIW, you can disable Google Now on your phone. On the more recent versions of Android, you long-press an empty spot on your home screen, select "Settings", and then locate and disable the "Your feed" item.


Amazing. Disabled. Didn't know that, thank you!


This doesn't seem to work any more :( I'm trying to keep notifications of my calendar and flights but disable all the distractions like "Stories to read", and apparently Google has removed the ability to disable it... (https://android.stackexchange.com/questions/140288/how-do-i-...)


It would certainly be nice to disable just that one section. I took the GGP's comment to be about disabling the entire Google Now/Feed app.


If only that actually did anything on my phone.


Moto G5, Android 7.0, the long press on home screen -> settings has no other settings but one. But I did locate the settings by going through Google Now's settings. Thanks for pointing this out!


Hi I accessed it using the following method on my Galaxy S7.

Applications Drawer\Google -> Hamburger Menu\Settings -> Your Feed


> I spent a lot of time on Reddit, and would check it subconsciously, so I deleted it.

How can you delete a website?

No seriously, how do you keep the browser from hooking you?

I don't have any apps installed and I often fall into a reddit-hn-local_news1-local_news2-it_news1-it_news2 cycle that I start all over when I'm done with it just to check if something new happened in the meantime! Especially on Weekend mornings or when I come home from work, I can sink hours into that cycle and feel increasingly miserable about it, but the sweet endorphin rush of new bits of information can push that away momentarily.

I have tried editing /etc/hosts in the past, but this tends to only shift my cycle to other websites.


Set this to your homepage: https://codepen.io/Yakudoo/full/YXxmYR/

And set your browser to open new tabs with your homepage.

Seriously. The gentle smile of playing with this silly little low-res lion can break you out of that loop sometimes.

Does not work if you tend to just keep on reusing the same tab of course.


> No seriously, how do you keep the browser from hooking you?

This was a really big issue with me too. What I did in the past was to signup for low bandwidth internet connection (not by speed, but with yearly limit of 18 GiB), which made me limit the frequent visits.

These days when I do some serious work, I decides to disconnect internet for the next 45 minutes (or so). I have locally installed manpages, devhelp and devdocs.io documentations. Even if I'm tempted to visit some website (eg: stackoverflow), I delay until the time reaches.


I've solved this problem by simply being aware of it. When I catch myself opening a website that I just had open, I minimize my browser and do something else. It can wait, and I'll enjoy the run later anyway when the world's had some time to bake, and there's more news stories to read.


Block the host at your firewall or in /etc/hosts (or system equivalent).

dnsmasq is rather good for this.


I use Cold Turkey on my computer and the Freedom app on iOS. It works pretty well (Freedom can be buggy). I make the list of websites pretty exhaustive. Using those + meditation has helped quite a bit.


Install a different launcher. I suggest Nova Launcher, or Trebuchet (open source launcher, get it from https://labs.xda-developers.com/store/app/com.lineageport.tr...)


One thing that has helped me: beeminder (I don't work for them). I have a goal that tracks reddit(etc)-free days, of which I need to do several each week or they take some of my money. This has been pretty effective, in that I've been doing more than strictly required and coming back here to write this feels weird.


I follow a similar protocol & find it very helpful. The missing link for me was the events function of Facebook, which I find endlessly useful. Luckily FB now has a standalone app specifically for this, Facebook Local. Its no-nonsense, no ads, just relevant events. Plus, the feed it gives you actually ends!


Oh wow, dod not know about facebook local. Does it let you manage events you’ve been invited to, amd host events? I could avoid facebook entirely with that. Friend’s birthdays would be tye only thing i’d miss.


I believe there is a way to link your FB friend's birthdays to your google calendar.


True. Though then my calendar becomes terribly cluttered. (I care about maybe 20% of the birthdays on my list)

I think the birthdays only counted as "costless" when I was already checking and filtering through Facebook notifications, but that was an illusion.


When internet connections were pay per minute, I'd think about what I wanted to look up before I connected. Then I'd go online and used Opera to follow many links to different tabs. I'd have a flurry, then disconnect and read. This worked surprisingly well.

I find I can't really read/comprehend from an LED screen well at all these days. I got into the habit of sending items of interest to my e-reader. Any long form article goes there.

Sadly I sat on my e-reader, and my system went to pot. I've just stacked up my reading list. I have no idea what is there. Going back to scrappy reading, feels like a real time and brain drain.


> Uninstall twitter, facebook and other social apps from your phone

A middle ground is turning off badges and other notifications. Switching to a paper newspaper also helps.


I used to run my browsers with an addon that disabled user comments. I whitelisted a few sites where the Internet idiots didn't visit. It worked absolutely beautifully and forced me to avoid the worst of Internet very effectively, even during my weak moments. It cut down so much of the frustration I had about consuming content on the Internet.

I had to uninstall it, because the addon developer stopped maintaining it and the performance bugs made browsing bigger sites much too slow.


> Even on your computer, log out of twitter, facebook and others. Only log in when you want to look into something... use private/incognito mode... use 2FA... it's an extra hurdle so you won't default to "quickly check"

Absolutely. Latest Firefox helps here. There's an option to use private by default for all windows. This means when you close it (another habit to develop perhaps) you don't stay logged in to these social media sites.


> ignore content that you know is junk but that tends to drag you in. I suspect this is slightly different for anyone, mine is: anything cute...

I've actually started deliberately looking at the cute stuff. It's a welcome antidote to the outrage apparent in other threads/sites. I have enough natural spleen already without needing to top it up.


> Even on your computer, log out of twitter, facebook and others. Only log in when you want to look into something

Even without going as far as "incognito mode for everything", this can dovetail well with a privacy-conscious cookie or browser-profile policy.


Love the 2FA idea.

Do you know of an app/browser extension that lets you bookmark arbitrary HTML pages, and keeps track of how far down you've scrolled; maybe let you write notes? Or maybe one that converts an arbitrary page to PDF, and stores it locally for you?


The combination of OneNote and Edge's Web Notes gets you most of those features. There's also relatively "ancient" apps like Pocket (which Firefox presents out of the box these days) and Instapaper.


This list is EXACTLY what I do and I'm pretty happy with it.


Excellent advice!


I commissioned a series of articles on the practical side of reconfiguring your phone and laptop for your own aims (based mostly on Tristan Harris' work). https://betterhumans.coach.me/three-articles-to-reclaim-your...

And I'm 100% with you. It was a huge revelation for me personally when I realized new technology doesn't necessarily make me happier. Probably like a lot of us, I grew up obsessed with new tech, new computers, new gaming consoles, new phones.

2 years ago, I traded my iPhone plus in for an SE (the smaller one). Then I moved all slot machine apps either off my phone or at least into a folder on the second screen. Primarily, my phone is for maps and camera. Everything else is suspect.


If you aren't familiar with the poster above (who I'm replying to) it's Tony from http://coach.me -- one of the best personal improvement products in the world. Tony's site provides people with a direct link to a coach -- for a very fair price -- who can hold you accountable and help you change your habits.

Tony was the founder of Lift.do which became coach.me.

His blog on betterhumans is fantastic and I highly recommend it.

Keep up the fantastic work Tony!!!


Time Well Spent, a movement to demand technology platforms serves our best interests, not advertisers.

https://goo.gl/fsW8Qq


This was an amazing talk. Wow!


Here's what i did (nuclear option):

Ditch your sim card/mobile plan, get a voip number, phone only works on wifi like a home phone. When out and about you only have the media you pre-downloaded (podcasts, mp3s, audiobooks, offline maps) no more staring at the screen in public.

Move all personal communication to email/signal, check it in the morning after your routine (exercise, meditation etc). Ditch instagram/twitter/reddit(turned to shit anyway) etc, keep facebook just for contacts but a single post with your email and never log on. (We really need a different phonebook platform). Never look at news sites except this one and other neutral biased ones like economically focused news.

Take a note of everything you want to google, allow 1 hour a day internet/research time where you google the questions of the day. You find the phone is inferior to desktop when at home so you spend little time on your phone. Make a life plan and use your new 4 hours a day to achieve these goals. No screens 2 hours before bedtime.

The downside is you cant receive calls when out and about (for me an upside), there has been 2 times in the past 2 years I've had to stop at a coffee shop to send off a message, worth the $2000 savings.

Phone is still a great tool, camera, mp3 player, maps, guitar tuner etc etc. Knowing the latest tweet from your favorite celebrity while walking in the park isn't adding to your life. Unless there is a nuclear strike or a national draft then news wont effect you.

edit, should have read the replies, seems there's a bunch of similar responses


Wow, I've done something similar. I've gotten rid of internet completely at home (Goodbye Comcast) and I have internet access only at the office at work (9-6pm weekdays). I've been consuming all my media through podcasts, audiobooks, youtube (via gPodder), and renting physical DVDs for movies. I've made effort to buy only paper books. Also, I've switched from AT&T to a pre-paid plan on Tracfone with limited internet access ( 1GB/month ).


I switched back to an old Nokia, use Garmin for GPS and an old iPod touch for music. Limiting my usage on my home desktop sounds like a good next step, I like the idea of limiting Internet crawling as part of time management.


A simple first step, which changed a lot for me: Keeping your phone on Do Not Disturb permanently.

It (AT LEAST) frees you to decide when to check the phone, rather than letting these companies, (through notifications) decide for you when you're going to check your phone.


Another benefit of this (at least on Android) is that you can set Do Not Disturb to "Priority Only" and have it allow calls/texts from your contacts, but not other notifications. This eliminates telemarketer robocalls, as they're very unlikely to get lucky and spoof a contact's number.

I also turn off the ability of most apps to display notifications. That helps.


Yep, you can do the same with iOS too with allowing contacts to get through. I turn off all notifications entirely is my first tip, at least to not be on the home screen. I have to actively want to look at notifications, push notifications are almost sheer evil.

Second is to restrict your internet use to specific times or to just say an hour every night from 9-10pm. Lets say start out by saying internet only from 0-15 minutes on the hour (initially). The idea is to get you used to not reflexively use the internet to prevent boredom or distraction.

How you accomplish that, say by killing your internal dns server to not respond or even firewall off your network from reaching the internet is up to you. But the key is to make it so you change your habit of when using the internet is ok.

Oh also, leave the phone at your desk, only pick it up when you need to look at it or if it rings etc...

Another good tip, reward yourself for each milestone, you want to encourage yourself to do the right thing. Don't use negative reinforcement unless you really know how to make that work. Its easier to do stuff like: if I don't go online at all today, I'll eat a container of ice cream (bad example if you do this every day but you get the gist) as a reward.


And once it's in DND mode, I trained myself to only unlock the phone when I saw a notification.

I still pull the phone out of my pocket several times an hour, but a quick push of the home-button and a confirmation that there's nothing of interest leads to it going straight back into the pocket. It's liberating!

Step 2 was removing the browser shortcut from the main screen, so there's less temptation to just 'fire it up and check HN quickly'.


having a smart watch eliminated even that for me. they’re pretty fantastic triage devices (deciding what to ignore rather than making sure you’re instantly aware). i barely ever check my notifications any more. i see friends at cafes pull out their phones every few minutes and get distracted by facebook, but i’m quite content to have it just sitting on the table because i know it’s not doing anything


Don't check your work email on the go. Quit facebook. It is actually pretty simple!


I don't know why you got downvoted. It's both simple and hard.

I quit facebook back in March. Yep, some people don't talk to me anymore. But you know what? I talk with other people more, and I'm enjoying those relationships more.

It's also hard; this is a top-of-class addiction. There's nothing easy about rewiring the reward circuit of your brain. And definitely Facebook, work email and in my case ycombinator news, are wired in to the reward circuit - for the relief of boredom, or even the relief of hard work (or the appearance of that relief anyway.)


Yeah, HN is scary because browsing it will give you a subconscious feeling that you worked on something important.


This is true but at least HN has the noprocrast setting to fill the willpower void. Facebook could use the same thing but that means less eyeballs on ads.


I had never noticed that noprocrast setting before. Thanks!


This may work well for you but there are somethings that cause you to have to check email and Facebook for fear of external consequences which is what the OP is saying. For example Hangouts makes me lose at least half a hour of productity a day but if I uninstalled it and never checked it then I would never talk to all of my friends on Hangouts which is not a trade-off that I am willing to take. Same for email, if I stopped checking email on my phone I could lose my job because it requires prompt responses to emails and I like my job and not willing to take that trade off. But then I am stuck with this phone that also contains all of the other things a phone can do and rob me of my attention that way. It's a Catch-22 of productivity.


For example Hangouts makes me lose at least half a hour of productity a day but if I uninstalled it and never checked it then I would never talk to all of my friends on Hangouts which is not a trade-off that I am willing to take.

A lot of people say this one (usually about Facebook), but I don't understand it. If you want to talk to those friends, why doesn't it suffice to schedule spending time with them in the same way you would have done it in 2000?


I don't know about your age but in 2000 I was in middle school and all my friends communicated by aim since we didn't have the ability to go where we wanted when we wanted. That social structure has carried over into adult life where I have several close friends that I get to see maybe twice a year due to our schedules, but can still talk to them everyday. Dropping communication through messaging apps would probably mean we just aren't friends anymore. The barriers to us meeting up more often aren't just laziness


Yeah, actually I'm the same age as you and I did most of my talking over IM too then, so my comment was poorly made. The spirit of my comment was "in a way you could have done it in 2000, whichever you prefer", e.g. email, phone, in-person, scheduling time to be online together. I use all of those to keep in touch with people now as an adult.


Ah yea, I agree then. I use Hangouts in my circle of friends because it's currently the most convenient, but we've changed what we've used before and can change again


It is just a guess, but maybe they are not on IRC or MUD anymore. Or started families and they don't live in the same dorm anymore.


Exactly. And not just 2000, Hangouts was released in 2013, are these friendships less than four years old?

Phones and email still exist. If your relationship is predicated on a single internet based communication service then it's probably not a relationship worth maintaining.

Just use a different communication mechanism. It's really not that hard.

Send a postcard, it's fun, I promise.


For me, it's actually about having additional communication that didn't exist before Hangouts came out. My family is spread around the country and hardly visits or calls each other. With Hangouts, we suddenly started communicating more, and that's not something I want to revert.


I really don't understand the hate for facebook, it really is what you make it. For me, it's a glorified messaging app and nothing more. Well...Maybe also a museum of my less than attractive younger years.


From what I've seen addicts both hate and love their drug.


I switched to a flip phone. The benefits strongly outweigh the advantages of being hooked on a smartphone. My sleep has improved, the quality-time I spend with my kids is actually quality-time now, and my night vision has even improved (this one shocked me the most).

It's not for everyone, but I have a very addictive personality when it comes to technology.

Edit: I see you can't do that because of professional obligations. What about carrying around an iPad - it could be more of a barrier to just random surfing?


My solution was to switch to a capped data plan... unlimited talk/text (which I've never found to be a problem) and 1GB of 4G data.

Having a cap forces me to be mindful about how I interact through my phone. If I use too much Reddit, for example, I run out of data and fallback to 3G - acceptable for social/professional obligations but way too slow for wasting time. Lately I've been considering switching to 3G entirely.


Actually are there any good super cheap 3g only plans in the US? I went to Poland and they were a few bucks a month for unlimited 3G data which would be amazing.


Actually I dont' think the analogy is valid. Tobacco is addictive, true. And tobacco has only one use. A smartphone has many use cases (mp3 player, camera, compass, notebook, encyclopedia and many more).

And why would you like to "quit internet"? Yes, many sites try to get your attention, try to manipulate you into buying their products. But you can avoid that. Using ad blockers wherever you can. And regarding Facebook. You can use it more like a newsreader (subscribing to newspapers, ignoring my friend's posts mostly).

Edit: Re smartphone. I also have my phone on `do not disturb', permanently. I try to educate my friends / family members that I don't necessarily pick up the phone when it rings, but I will always call back. They are ok with that.


I agree that the analogy isn’t valid. Only because information technologies today are a lot worse than tobacco. Unlike apps, tobacco does not have a team of PHDs constantly reformulating itself to draw in those people who have found a way out of it, and ensuring that the ones already addicted remain.


I think the tobacco industry has been no slouch in the marketing department, but the real difference is that there's no way to use tobacco that is safe and beneficial for you.


You can ditch Facebook and not lose out socially. My life got a lot more social after I got off social media because there weren't easy fixes to my social needs.

Ditching reddit or hacker news is much harder. I mean, how do you even use the internet these days?


I frequently disable reddit, and sometimes HN, in my hosts file.

I'm both happy and sad to discover that I don't even know what to do on the internet when they're not available. Happy because it forces me to do something else. Sad because I remember when I truly loved the internet, before reddit or HN, and I wonder why I don't have that love anymore.

I really don't know how to use the internet these days.


> I really don't know how to use the internet these days.

Same for me. Nowadays when I get bored and have some unproductive time to kill, I usually surf hacker news because I can't think of any other website to read as I quit other social media websites.

It's the same happiness/sadness you mention, although the lack of options on the internet has been turning out to be more positive than negative as I've been reading much much more.


> Nowadays when I get bored and have some unproductive time to kill, I usually surf hacker news because I can't think of any other website to read as I quit other social media websites.

An RSS reader really helped me with this. Over years, I found a good handful of blogs that I find insightful more often than not, and I can reliably find something in my RSS feed when I choose to look at it. The SNR is much higher than somewhere like Reddit and Hacker News, and the lack of an account and upvotes means that a big chunk of the dopamine fix is removed.

I would be lying if I didn't mention that I occasionally feel something missing: if I read an article that I think is insightful but wrong in some important way, I miss the pressure-release valve of being able to discuss it with others (Obligatory Xkcd: https://xkcd.com/386/). But I view this more like a compulsion than a legitimate desire, akin to someone with a bad diet craving sugar.


I have turned to other things (that involve being outdoors or at least standing), but I do want to replace some misspent time with reading. I was a voracious reader in my youth, pre-internet, and I miss that. And even when comparing with HN comments--where the average quality is very high--most books just have a lot more to offer. When you add in FB and reddit, it's not even a comparison.

Sadly I find my attention span, even with a great read, has suffered greatly. I blame the internet, but maybe it's just me. It's very difficult to suffer through even a brief boring stretch now.


Anecdotally, my life became less social after I quit Facebook. A lot less off-the-cuff chitchat occurs now. Funny thing, though: I don't feel like I lost a great deal. I didn't lose any lasting connections with people. I just don't have the surrogate standing in for time spent together. Though I also see people less, because I don't feel pulled to others' events.

Now, I either mean to do it or I don't go. My social life certainly feels more organic:

met my girlfriend at a former job, not social media. I get invited out with her colleagues from time-to-time or we go on a date or spend time together at home or I commit my time to studying or some other enjoyment. I'd like to think I can build a new social life in that way, but maybe it's a pipe dream now.

It does feel like there's a whole other life going on that I'm not a part of sometimes.

Without the Facebook, Twitter, etc thing, the internet is either topical discussion, news, study/research, music, or nil.


For some people like me it doesn't matter if I have social media or not, nobody notices. I decided there are more fruitful endeavours than taking part in the commercial and absurd nature of almost all social media networks--it encourages superficial relationship with the user to drive consumerism. Selfies, group selfies, documentation of every fucking noise of things in your waking life masquerading as insight, (fuck soc-) are all aimed at you buying things from the companies that sell you a vision of life to distract you from your own intrinsic values.


For using Facebook for social events only, you can minimize your actual interaction with Facebook itself. I have my account set up to email me event invites, so it gets bundled together with other email-checking only. If you need/want to search for events, you can probably bookmark that page directly and visit it every week or something like that.


I'm in the process of cutting back (deleting apps, etc.) and will get a non-smartphone to replace my current phone soon. I plan to write some custom scripts to send me text messages when someone @-mentions me on Slack -- or they can send me text messages directly in an emergency.

I was an adult before Internet use was widespread, and many things were better back then. People don't really need to be connected to everyone on the planet at all times of the day.

I already left Facebook, and it was a great decision. I avoid all of their products, including their software libraries whenever possible.


> I plan ....

I would recommend you to write these plans in a notebook (real notebook with pen/pencil). Write all of your plans, whenever you plan. The problem with software solutions is that once you reschedule, its history is lost.

I have such a book which has now almost run out of pages. Once a week I read them. Most of them are not yet done. But it makes me feel good, and helps me prioritize better than software solutions.


I recently got a small paper notebook that I carry around now. I'm moving all of my digital notes to Org Mode[1], so I'll have the history there too (git).

[1] http://orgmode.org/


I myself use org-mode on my system. On my phone I use orgzly[0] which may be worth looking.

[0] https://github.com/orgzly/orgzly-android


> The problem is that there's nowhere to run from the Internet. I can avoid tobacco stores, I can't avoid my iPhone.

What's stopping you from not having social media apps on your phone, or even using a web browser? Nothing. Like quitting your tobacco, stop making excuses and just do it. As for social events, if none of your "friends" choose to invite you to social stuff over an SMS or a phone call if you were to quit FB, then that's not friends I'd care to keep.


There's a few things that have minimized how much my smartphone interrupts me:

1) Accept that my phone should be working for me, and I shouldn't be working for it.

2) Disable all non call notifications except a small favorite group. Not much can't wait 15-60 minutes, and if so, they will call. I mute WhatsApp groups liberally.

3) I access facebook via web browser, at https://mbasic.facebook.com, including for instant messaging. You'll be surprised how less you use it when it's painful to use. Now I just go interact with the events I need, and take messaging offline.

4) No more push emails - that benefits no one except the person asking the questions and most often having others do their work for them.

5) Install separate chat apps for small circles of people. I use one with my wife, another with friends, WhatsApp is the generic muted text, and I have let myself have LinkedIn as an app on my phone (minus notifications) to message work stuff. Compartmentalizing helps.


I disabled all facebook notifications and I don't get wrapped in other notifications. I just check in on stuff from my desktop when I feel like it instead of feeling compelled to do so. If waiting in a lobby then I might do something on my phone or just cross my legs and meditate (yeah I'm odd).


What I do is disable all email and desktop notification on every site I go. It's not worth the mental burden.


What helped me a lot was being rigorous in changing notifications so I only get alerts for important things. The defaults are really stupid, I really don’t care that “X posted a video” - why is it important and why does it need my attention NOW?

I always have my phone on silent, and the only time it even vibrates is when I receive a phone call. IM notifications are displayed on the screen, but as it doesn’t make a noise or vibrate I might not find out until a few hours later. For group chats I usually set them to muted, so I need to purposely go in and see what’s going on.

For most other apps I usually have notifications disabled, and some I have a badge count displayed - one day I will probably get around to sorting out those 2382 unread emails, but I’ve learned to ignore the 101 unlistened podcasts.


I think this is a good point. People are social animals, and most of us need a community, but much of that community today is deeply tied into this modern distraction society. For instance, you mentioned quitting tobacco - I bet this is much, much harder to do in the places and times where smoking is/was an important social activity. It's not only that these distractions are everywhere, but that avoiding them can lead to some degree of isolation.

It would be nice to find some sort of community that's pushing back against these things. It's hard to do alone - for instance, when I tried going back to writing long e-mail to friends instead of merely liking Facebook posts, I got little response. People had moved on, and weren't interested in going back.


I just ignore my phone sometimes. Nobody will ever call to give you money. I got off FB in 2010. Don't use Twitter. These things are a lot less hard than people make them to be. If some news is important it will arrive at some point.

I agree for those with children it becomes a different story.


If they only use phones and really want to get through to you they will leave a voicemail. Never pick up calls from unknown numbers.


Maybe it’s more like a food addiction; people suffering from that cannot just absolutely drop the substance they abuse - they have to strike a balance, with temptation always in front of them, and too many people saying, “you just need to control yourself and know when to put down the fork!"

Anyone who has managed to get control back from an addiction has my admiration, but I have a special extra bit for people who are successfully coping with a food addiction.


Keep it turned off until you need it on. When you're done using it, turn it off again.

This is what I do, and it's drastically reduced my information addiction.


If you want to quit the smartphone, what I did was to set a random 10 letter password, which I kept on a piece of paper in my wallet. Change the password every 3 days.

For me this made using my phone enough of a hassle to break any habit I had. It's been a few months now and I have the password memorized, but I still almost never use my phone.


> I have to use Facebook to stay in the loop about social events because all my friends use Facebook to schedule those social events.

Facebook has an API. Script a poll on those events and push them to somewhere you'll see them? Log in once a week to see if your script missed anything you cared about, and modify the script if yes?


"The problem is that there's nowhere to run from the Internet."

Please allow me to recommend my two favorite print magazines:

New Yorker London Review of Books

Highly recommended. Please subscribe. I read the New Yorker on my Kindle but I read LRB in print.


forget the paradox of answering to that here, last month my dsl line broke down. For a week it would stabilize, then drop after a minute, repeating this forever. One day it stopped entirely and my brain expanded. Suddenly I would have to find enjoyment around me, and as most people know, suddenly time stops. Usually one might feel a dreadful bore (I used to) but this time it was relief plain and simple. At that point I know very well that a connected computer has a weird spot in ones mind, it's the source of satisfaction that is too shallow to really do so and keeps leaving you asking for more.


Similar problem. Accidentally broke my Nexus 5, got a 10 year old blackberry to tide myself over, and found I didn’t benefit from a smartphone.

Still have an iPad, but I’m an iOS developer. (Perhaps I should change that?)


I might get a lot of flack for this, but the one option no one ever seems to mention in discussions like these is to “simply” cancel both your wifi and data plan. I did this almost nine months ago and neither my tech. career nor my social life has been impacted by any meaningful margin. Granted, I make more trips to Starbucks/other free wifi locations now, but my evenings are my own - they’re also significantly more peaceful.


Let's start a startup making a replacement for the internet! Some kind of locked down phone that lets you communicate with people you care about, but not get high on random information. With a built-in limitation to check for emails only a few times a day. Something you could buy and then ditch all other devices without remorse.


I got a smart watch so I could stop carrying my phone everywhere. (Gear s3 with a cell modem)

Due to idiosyncrasies in how it works, I'm now stuck with both!


Idiosyncrasies is the wrong word.

The problem is that the watch is dependent on the phone for notifications. If the phone is off the watch will not get notifications for Gmail or Google Voice. I can setup the regular mail client but the I get the Primary, Social, and Updates Inbox from gmail instead of just the primary inbox. Google voice notifications do not come at all so i miss text messages to my google voice number which is my primary/public phone number. The workaround would be to port my number back to the carrier and use the carrier for SMS/Text messages.

ATT has number sync so calls to the watch and phone will hit each other, but it is not as smooth as you would hope and gets disconnected sometimes.

Battery life is much better using bluetooth than wifi or cell connection.

Just lots of little issues that are a pain to try to work around.

My goal was for me to have access to my important notifications but not have my phone "at hand" to tempt me.


This post has a lot of hyperbole. I'd suggest you visit a third world country for some perspective.

There are plenty of people having real problems. If a phone in your pocket is the biggest problem you're having - you're not doing enough with your life.


As someone who works in tech, I like the analogy of a DoS attack. The root of the issue is attention capitalism. Our attention is essentially a resource being exploited for profit. In that scenario, we're effectivley no longer in control of our own free will as long as someone else can profit by controlling it. On an individual scale, we can give it relatively benign labels like "distraction". But when you look at it from macro scale it's effectively a DDoS attack on our free will perpetrated by all of the companies trying to get a slice of the pie of our attention.


Attention as well as free will is a scarce resource on a personal level. I used to seriously question why anyone would buy almost identical Apple devices year-after-year; where-as I'd spend at least a day researching which Android devices were available. The truth is that it's a bloody phone. I was expending all my free will on trivialities and wasn't making choices that actually matter.

I think this problem is more complex than just the media. In general, people are spending their attention and free will on broad spectrum of useless junk. Media, especially Netflix ("what do I do with my free time?"), is definitely a major offender - my point is that it's not the only one.

The modern world has wound up being an attack on free will, malevolent or not. It's exponentially easier to make a choice from a menu of 5 items vs. a menu of 50. There seems to be a biological limit on our ability to choose and the modern world has far exceeded that.


* I'd spend at least a day researching which Android devices were available. The truth is that it's a bloody phone. I was expending all my free will on trivialities and wasn't making choices that actually matter.*

Given the everyday utility of a phone, a bad choice comes with significant economic costs of wasted time and frustration stemming from poor performance/reliability. If you don't already have a preference (eg based on trying the preferred device of a trusted friend) then it's entirely rational to spend some time researching your options, up to some significant portion of the cost you expected to save by picking an android over an iphone.

I'm into synthesizers and if you think people nerd out on phones you'll probably be horrified at the energy and passion spent debating the merits of machines that produce subtly different kinds of bleep bloop noises. I don't spend as much time on that any more, and have also simplified and slimmed down my synth choices to a smallish number of devices I really like, but I don't consider the prior time wasted; it was only through that extensive and intensive knowledge-gathering that I was able to make those aesthetically optimal choices for my own music-making pleasure. It's harder to be simple than it is to be complex. Simplicity is easy to imitate, but imitators aren't usually innovators.

I do agree with your larger point about the undesirability of a surfeit of economic choice. If all you wanted was a phone that worked and you could afford it, there's nothing wrong with just getting whatever is widely hailed as the best one out there. I know nothing about cars and care less, so if I have to get a car I'd probably just get a Honda Civic due to its reputation for low-maintenance reliability. But I understand why people who enjoy driving or have some other reason to care have strong preferences about different vehicles.


You make good points. I've been in IT now 20 years, and while I need a phone to text and make calls, I do nothing else with it. I'm thinking of ditching my iPhone for a flip phone.

I served in the military years ago. Just one tour. I got out with good memories but also some ideas. For example, I have standardized on Levi's 501 jeans, button down shirts of the same brand, and desert boots. I wear this daily. I don't have to think about what I wear. All my clothes fit as I expect, all the time. This frees me up to think about what matters--my family and job.

I made a comment further down about freewill you might find interesting, as freewill is now going to cost those of us who care about it.


Of all the people I know, us IT folk seem to be the most adverse to interruptions and/or needless complexity, caring most about the things that matter - this is strange considering that we are most responsible for these problems. People have stared at me blankly enough for me to realize that I shouldn't bring up the social evils of Facebook in general conversation, yet my IT friends are happy to talk about the subject to death.

> I'm thinking of ditching my iPhone for a flip phone.

I still don't think I could do without a smartphone. I have practically all notifications muted, but you need apps for too many things (most notably: Lyft to stay responsible).


> I'm thinking of ditching my iPhone for a flip phone.

That reminds me of my college days back in 2011 when I decided to go for a flip phone instead of a smartphone. Most of my friends thought I was peculiar for my insisting I use one and to do this day I still have that same flip phone, but not in use; just as a memento... sort of.

At the time, I wasn't really thinking about how my attention was a valuable resource or that most smartphone apps were major distractions. I just simply didn't like how inundated with features smartphones were. I always thought my laptop as my primary place of "getting-work-done" and my gaming laptop for entertainment (i.e. helluva lot of StarCraft II) and to have a phone that competed with that, but far worse, never sat well with me.

Looking back, I'm glad I did that and wish I could continue with a phone that could only text/call.

edit: Formatting


> I'm thinking of ditching my iPhone for a flip phone

If you are in any longstanding 100% iMessage group chats you will be silently excluded from them if you switch away from iPhone. Disabling iMessage will have no effect on those chats.


"The root of the issue is ... capitalism"

FTFY. The structural issues mentioned in the original article are inherent in a free market economy. Democratic deployment of capital and technology would change the dynamic substantially.

An alternate approach would be to have substantial regulation on speech by companies (aka advertising and propaganda), but even this would require major changes driven by the democratic process, e.g a U.S. constitutional amendment.


So you're saying to fix the problem of you voluntarily surrendering your free will to distractions brought to you by profit-seeking entities, we need to take free will out of the equation by introducing a system where resources would be centrally allocated and there would be no free will involved in what is offered for you and what you could consume, thus no distractions - you always read the content that the People's Democratic Central Party Committee decided you should read, and nothing but that is produced, because what't the point in producing it if nobody would read it anyway?

I guess this is one way to solve it - if you have no free will or free time outside of People's Democratic Central Party Committee directives, you certainly couldn't spend it on Facebook and Buzzfeed. North Korea probably doesn't have any issues with distractions. I heard they solved the obesity problem too, by similar means.


"voluntarily surrendering your free will to distractions brought to you by profit-seeking entities"

That's one way to describe an "industry [that] employs some of the smartest people, thousands of Ph.D. designers, statisticians, engineers [that] go to work every day to get us to do this one thing, to undermine our willpower." From the article.

"People's Democratic Central Party Committee" Nice straw-man that conflates democratic socialism with authoritarian one-party rule.

There is an entire world of alternative possibilities out there for economic and governance systems. Don't throw the socialist baby out with the Soviet bathwater.


> go to work every day to get us to do this one thing, to undermine our willpower

That's ominously sounding bullshit. You decide what to do with your willpower, and if you don't like the consequences, it's your fault, not some nefarious engineers. If you don't like facebook, don't go there. If you don't like particular site, don't go there, of if you absolutely can't control yourself, install one of a thousand programs that let you block specific sites, and block that site. It's completely within your control. It's your responsibility to do it, to control your own actions and to bear the consequences.

You just don't want to bother - you want the Central Committee to take over, so whatever happens if not your responsibility but theirs. It is an extremely infantile approach.

> Nice straw-man that conflates democratic socialism with authoritarian one-party rule.

OK, let it be People's Democratic Central Multi-Party Committee is that makes you feel better. The point is not how the committee is called, the point is that it would decide how resources are allocated, thus eliminating the whole pesky free will issue.

> Don't throw the socialist baby out with the Soviet bathwater.

Somehow socialist babies have been always surrounded by Soviet bathwaters, sooner or later. If one were empirically inclined, one would be tempted to conclude that there is some strong relation between the two. But of course one shouldn't forget that True Socialism (TM) has never been tried.


What do you do then when millions of others fail to take that responsibility? Do we have a responsibility to build a system that encourages people to take responsibility for themselves and others or that eliminates means by which some are led to act irresponsibly?

Take drug addiction as an example. Sure, we can tell addicts 'well you shouldn't have done drugs' or 'just quit' to an addict. Do we then ignore those who have engineered a system to get people hooked? Many health experts point to the over-prescription of opiate painkillers led in part by a medical industry hoping to maximize profits. All the while their dependence creates negative externalities to others in society through crime and poor decision-making.

At the end of the day rationality is an abstraction of actual human behavior. We can make decisions that are 'rational' in a neo-liberal economic sense, but that we ultimately regret. When profit rules all else, businesses will exploit this discrepancy.


> That's ominously sounding bullshit. You decide what to do with your willpower, and if you don't like the consequences, it's your fault, not some nefarious engineers.

This is simply a fallacy. You can’t decide to switch off selective psychological mechanisms in your brain.

Facebook, Snapchat etc. are weaponizing and exploiting these against us/humanity in ways similar to Vegas casinos.

It is easy to not drive to Vegas, enter a casino and engage in a psychological loop designed to hack my brain.

It is not so easy to escape the all-permeating tentacles of social media and its finely tuned intermittent rewards etc. mechanisms.

Given that willpower is a limited cognitive resource, your proposition is not realistic.


What? It's incredibly easy to avoid social media. If that's the kind of hardship our generation is facing, we're doing pretty good.


Not sure where to go from here. You clearly don't believe that such a thing as structural inequality exists. Without an acknowledgement of the massive power imbalance between mass media corporations on the one hand and the citizenry on the other, there's no possible discussion here.


> You clearly don't believe that such a thing as structural inequality exists

I have no idea what the thing you call "structural inequality" is, so I can't say whether I believe it exists or not. It could be you call by this term some well-established phenomenon, and then I'd agree it exists, or it could be that you call some imaginary bugaboo like engineers taking your free will with their evil algorithms, and then, absent any empirical evidence of its existence, I do not believe in it. Hard to say without understanding the term.

> Without an acknowledgement of the massive power imbalance between mass media corporations on the one hand and the citizenry on the other, there's no possible discussion here.

I certainly see discussion going on right here, so it is possible, but if you mean by that "without you accepting my point as an axiom without proof, I am not ready to continue because my winning is not guaranteed and I have no means to prove my claims" then I agree that continuing the discussion in this situation is not the best move for you. If, however, you are ready to prove your points, you are welcome to do it anytime you like. Free will, you see :)

As far as I can see, there's no "massive power imbalance", on the contrary - the press is often criticized for catering for the basest instincts of the masses and being too easily swayed by a short-term fads and frivolities of the public. Scandal-of-the-day, however minor and vapid, often supplants more deep and important topics. If this criticism is true - and I believe evidence suggests to a large measure it is - then the public is the one to hold the power. If nobody wants to click on clickbait, if nobody comes to your site to view and click on the ads, if nobody reads whatever content you are providing - where is your power? What is your power? You can publish anything and nobody would even know about it, and pretty soon you couldn't publish anything because your servers will be shut down for the lack of payment.

I would say if we can see anything, it is that media corporations are too timid, foolish and cowardly to do anything but what the lowest common denominator demands from them. Clicks and ad impressions are kings, and who makes those clicks? The citizenry does. Nobody stands with the gun to your head and demands you to click or visit certain site. You decide it on your own power. If you don't like the result - maybe time to think what you can change?


for all your effort to type those words - you forget that people had to be forced to wear seat belts even though their very lives hang in the balance.


Since this is HN I will make an effort to not just make a sharp one liner.

The best version of the OP’s arguing is for individual ability and choice, and the ability of a person to make a difference of their own volition.

This is a fundamentally important right because without it, we are all automatons.

The issue is that in many cases we humans make bad choices, on a truly unimaginable scale.

This is also very much a part of being human - good choices exist only if bad choices exists.

The issue is that sometimes we can agree that people will consistently make poor choices, for a variety of forgiveable reasons.

While we could conceivably go after each individual, explain and educate them in precisely the way required to convince them that they should wear seat belts - it’s is often practically impossible to do so.

Which is why we introduce laws and regulations. All cars must have seat belts - and you must wear them.

Because as a species we are able to make meta cognitive calls or simply- decisions about decisions.

As a species we don’t want our people dying, for something as trivial as not wearing a seat belt.

It causes families to lose parents, parents to lose children - often because they were just at the wrong place and time.

Getting people to wear seat belts causes large scale good, over an individuals choice to put themselves and others at risk.


This kind of attitude from your parent commenter is extremely common, it is an artifact of ideology and the working of technological rationality into the consciousness. While the parent commenter probably believes he or she lives in a post-ideological world in which rationality has been obtained and found to be forever placed somewhere between right and left, a compromise of two extremes in which domination cannot be acknowledged because as Marx put it, Bentham reins, J.S Mill makes a strange comeback in the denial of structural effects and seeing totality. The kind of ignorance or blindness to the totality of society is well captured by P.W Bridman quoted by Marcuse:

>"We evidently know what we mean by length if we can tell what the length of any and every object is, and for the physicist nothing more is required. To find the length of an object, we have to perform certain physical operations. The concept of length is therefore fixed when the operations by which length is measured are fixed: that is, the concept of length involves as much and nothing more than the set of operations by which length is determined. In general, we mean by any concept nothing more than a set of operations; the concept is synonymous with the corresponding set of operations."

>Bridgman has seen the wide implications of this mode of thought for the society at large:

"To adopt the operational point of view involves much more than a mere restriction of the sense in which we understand 'concept,' but means a far-reaching change in all our habits of thought, in that we shall no longer permit ourselves to use as tools in our thinking concepts of which we cannot give an adequate account in terms of operations."


> There is an entire world of alternative possibilities out there for economic and governance systems.

Yeah, and in some way or another, every single one of them seem to end in a bloody dictatorship.

Thanks, but no thanks, please keep your "alternative possibilities" to yourself.


Did they? European social democratic countries (Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germnay), Britain (e.g. the NHS), Costa Rica, Mondragon Spain, etc.

Lots of workers' blood was spilled to ensure the capitalist systems we see in the US and other countries, too. All sides in the history of politics and economic systems are bloody-handed monsters.

It might, just might, be possible to learn from history and not repeat prior mistakes. I sure hope so.


None of these countries implement control over the press you propose. None of them even comes close to "Democratic deployment of capital and technology" - if I understand correctly, by this you mean both allocation of capital and permission to create and use certain type of technology is controlled by government, which is elected democratically (though how you could ensure that it is elected democratically given that it controls all the technology is a mystery to me, but let's say we found the magic way to do it). None of these countries - even one with large amount of governmental redistribution - do it. There's still a huge difference between having unemployment insurance or government-sponsored housing for the poor and government taking over all capital and technology. Like between milking the cow and butchering and barbecuing the cow.


All of those have the same political and economic systems as the US. With minor customizations, but they're all capitalist democracies, with varying levels of government regulation and control.

The world has never been in a better place, and has never improved as fast as in the last 60 years. If that's your argument to try something different, your argument doesn't make any sense.

> It might, just might, be possible to learn from history and not repeat prior mistakes. I sure hope so.

Indeed, let's not try to implement socialism again. Every single time, over dozens of times, it resulted in bloody dictatorships. Let's learn from history and not repeat prior mistakes.


>Every single time, over dozens of times, it resulted in bloody dictatorships.

It is very much worth studying why this has happened and what kind of methods can be used to avert it. Not only is Marxism-Leninism not the only form of Socialist praxis (neither is Marxism the only Socialist theory for that matter), but it's unwise to dismiss "failures" for the reason that they were authoritarian. Allende, Sankara's Burkina Faso, the Paris Commune, revolutionary Catalonia, and most recently Rojava are examples of the Socialist project experiencing some faults but not nearly as uncharitably as you are painting them here.


> Not only is Marxism-Leninism not the only form of Socialist praxis (neither is Marxism the only Socialist theory for that matter), but it's unwise to dismiss "failures" for the reason that they were authoritarian.

I'm dismissing failures because every single time it ended in bloody dictatorships, but no, This Time It Will Be Different®.

No, it won't. Funny how you talk about learning with the failures of history, but you keep insisting in trying again a system that again and again has proven itself to be horrible.

And again, that's when the world has been the best that it has ever been. In 60 years, extreme poverty went from ~60% to <10% of the global population because of free trade and globalization. Free trade was the largest income distribution process in history, shifting value from developed countries to developing countries.

Sure, there is still a lot to be done, but the current system has worked miracles. It can be improved, but proposing a dramatic change to a system that ALWAYS results in bloody dictatorships makes no sense.

Keep your disastrous social and economic experiments to yourself. Socialism has done harm enough.


>but no, This Time It Will Be Different®.

Why do you think strawman thought-terminating cliches are an acceptable level of discourse? At best they serve to be distracting and needlessly hostile.

>but you keep insisting in trying again a system that again and again has proven itself to be horrible.

Not really; have you heard of Badiou's concept of the Communist Hypothesis? His argument is that Socialism, well, Communism has existed as an Idea for centuries, it is always the force to break down the "present state of things", it is the first element of society, the subversive one, to oppose the action of the State. To dismiss thirty years of research into Communism, creating branches such as anarchist Communism, communalism, feminist anarchism, Socialist technocracy and others with faux-empiricism is a little heavy handed in my view.

As for your support of the wonders of capitalism, neither I, nor Marx, Engels or any contemporary Communist denies its push to reduce poverty.

>shifting value from developed countries to developing countries.

"Shifting value" is a very strange way of saying that developing countries are being systematically exploited due to the low cost of labour because they have almost no training.

>but the current system has worked miracles

So did the feudal system, and in fact so did the Soviet system (which I do not by any means support).

>It can be improved

So can Socialism.

>but proposing a dramatic change to a system that ALWAYS results in bloody dictatorships makes no sense.

Capitalism itself was extremely dramatic, it came "soaked from head to toe in blood" as Marx put it. In fact, he dedicates two chapters of his magnum opus to detailing the bloody history of capitalism and the laws passed in Western Europe that allowed it to flourish.


> Why do you think strawman thought-terminating cliches are an acceptable level of discourse? At best they serve to be distracting and needlessly hostile.

But that's the essence of your argument. You are proposing to try again something that 100% of the times led to bloody dictatorships, claiming that this time it will be different due to some vague, hand-wavy reason.

> "Shifting value" is a very strange way of saying that developing countries are being systematically exploited due to the low cost of labour because they have almost no training.

Yeah, millions being moved out of poverty is the same as "exploited".

> So did the feudal system, and in fact so did the Soviet system (which I do not by any means support).

No. Unless one of those systems did something like removing 50% of the world population from extreme poverty in half a century. Neither did. Not only that, the Soviet system purposefully murdered millions. And the key word here is "purposefully". Every system results in deaths, the Soviet (and all socialists) fall into a special category where death is part of the governing process. See Holodomor. Killing Fields. Etc.

> So can Socialism.

I'll say "maybe" to give you the benefit of the doubt, but do we need to kill millions again to find out based on your "hunch"? No, thank you very much.

> as Marx put it

And you keep citing Marx as if he is a reasonable source, that puzzles me. He's long dead, just as his economic theories. Keep them dead.


The criticism is that it leads to "bloody dictatorships", not necessarily that authoritarian systems are bad. Before the 20th century there were many authoritarian systems (empires and monarchies) that oversaw some of the best governed periods of human history.

I'm sure you believe if you controlled a country, you would do a much better job and not make the same mistakes that lead to a bloody dictatorship and worse outcomes for the poor. Excuse us if most of the rest here don't believe that.


So sure, there are a few benevolent dictators here and there... but what's the ratio of benevolent to malevolent dictators/authoritarians? Is there such a a stat?


Do you count Kings as dictators? I don't really (the middle eastern monarchies have weathered the chaos in the region, if Kings were no different from dictators you would expect at least some of them to fall too...) but there is of course such a thing as a 'bad king'. I recalled this simplified analysis of Polish monarchs: https://archive.is/QEY1n tldr 250 out of 835 years of bad monarchs, or a 30% failure ratio by time. 18 individual monarchs out of 48, or a 37.5% failure rate by person. Very few 20th century dictatorships have even survived into the 21st century.

I've seen similar ratings for Roman emperors as well but confess I don't remember the details, I wouldn't be surprised if someone has further compiled information to address exactly this question for other European lines of monarchs, the various Chinese dynasties, Japan's weird history, etc. (https://archive.is/I42xd is a good reminder of the excesses, no form of government is innocent.)


The issue is that free will cannot be exercised under certain circumstances because for-profit have found a hack to shutdown it. Sure completely surrendering it is disproportionate, but for me it would be more akin to banning certain toxic substances in food, like too much sugar cause addiction and health problems so consumers lose their ability to make an informed choice. Here we would simply ban certain practices in media.


> The issue is that free will cannot be exercised under certain circumstances because for-profit have found a hack to shutdown it.

No they did not. You don't go to Twitter/Facebook because your free will has been "shut down". You do it because you like it. If you don't want to do it, it is very easy to stop. You won't have excruciating pain and debilitating disease if you don't read what she did next, you heart won't stop and your brain won't shut down if you don't learn one weird trick to burn body fat and make all people of your preferred gender to fall in love with you forever. Literally nothing would happen. You decide whether to do it or not. If you decide to do it, it's ok - it is your time, your life, if you want to spend a little bit of it reading about one weird trick or looking at funny cats, who am I to say no? Go for it. But please stop blaming somebody else for your decision to do it. You have free will. Embrace it.


People have tried the "Well, so stop doing it then" approach to fixing addiction. It doesn't work so well. Self-control is not infinite, and is context-dependent. I can ignore cravings when it comes to dessert, but I do feel a compulsive need to read up on everything about my latest hobby. Our brain is hard wired to be addicted to new/novel/stimulating. Naturally, different things are stimulating to different people. Programmers fall prey to this all the time. We waste countless hours tinkering with the latest shiny tech toy while our hobby projects collect dust. We click on articles detailing what we already know about the latest apple gadget, because we already read the 20 articles detailing the "leaks".

Click-bait is a real thing. It triggers a deep psychological need, varying from "let me read this article and comment on how wrong everyone is" to "this is psychological porn that completely agrees with how I feel". Companies whose business model is based on keeping your attention have gotten really good at keeping your attention. Its a form of break-down of free will. Like getting a whiff of the good stuff, when you really should know better to avoid it. Its not really that hard to understand, and I'm sure you understand it already. Whats unexplained is why you chose to blame the victim when there is an entire industry dedicated to setting up the trap.


> You have free will

What justifies your certainty here? If history proves anything, it’s that people are eminently manipulable. That’s no surprise: we’re biological machines at the endpoint of eons of evolution. We’re not gods. Of course we can be hacked.


> If history proves anything, it’s that people are eminently manipulable.

Did you write this comment on your own free will or was manipulated into it by an invisible puppet master? If the latter, what would be the point of me trying to convince you of anything - you can't be convinced, since your actions are not sourced in you, but in the will of your puppetmaster! However, somehow you and me are discussing things. By that you prove that you, too, believe in free will - otherwise there would be no point in you discussing anything, after all you are controlled by your puppetmaster, and I am controlled by mine, so what's the point in us puppets exchanging words, if nothing can be ever changed by our will?

The only point of having discussions, views, principles, debates, ideas, politics - is f you have free will. Otherwise this whole thing has no meaning.

> Of course we can be hacked.

Surely. There is lots of ways to subjugate other's will - by violent force, by trickery, by fraud, by lies, we have no shortage of ways developed over thousands of years to do it. That however does not deny the premise there's something to be forced, or tricked, or deceived - and thus also something that can be free from force or deception. You can be deceived, but you can also resist the deception. You will not always win, but you'll never win if you surrender in advance.


If a person (a) has the freedom to act as they will and (b) understands what is in their own best interests, why would they act in a way that is contrary to those interests? When someone says, I really want to stop spending all day on Facebook, but I find it difficult, what do they mean? Where is the difficulty? They aren't confused about what they want. You might say they "like it" too much to stop, but what is liking something in that way if it isn't a constraint on free will.

Besides which, psychology and neurology tell us that most of the time we haven't a clue what our underlying motivations are[0]. We do not have the ability to introspect our unconscious motivations, but that doesn't mean they are immune to external influence and manipulation.

[0]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introspection_illusion#Unrel...


Firstly most people here have been pulled by a puppet master. You too are pulled by those same strings, you just are taking the N' position to the position taken by the commenters here.

But a lot of the things people are saying here are the culmination of many other actions which have been repeated over the past many years and are finally coming to a head.

secondly - you continually make an error of generalization.

Yes, one single particular individual may be able to exercise free will. But Most dont even know that their will is being attacked.

Its not like these are telegraphed villains with evil laughs saying "I'm going to take your freedom".

This is candy crush, with its intentionally neutral and happy pictures. Its facebook, with its memmories and your friends.

WHY would anyone stop that?

Sure, someone in this thread, who is a techie and has read the past 2 months of tech news, may have an idea of what to defend.

In that very narrow, individual scenario - yes, he has a choice.

Yours is the craftsmans argument, in a world which has just seen the advent of the assembly line. Certain individuals may well craft their own will.

Those few are considered flaws in the system, and the system itself constantly focuses on those people they CAN get, and who are NOT aware, or have the wherewithal or lack the interest in stopping it.

Hell, people don't want to wear helmets when they ride motorcycles; we couldnt get people to waste less water when they shower, and instead there was an active movement to deny climate change.

Programs which never sleep, eat, and cost tiny amounts of money to execute. So even if you never log in, they just lie in wait.

The armies arrayed against an individual are far greater than what a normal person can hope to deal with - unless they drop everything and focus on beating it.

And why would a normal person do that? SO that he can keep free will? Most people would give up their free will if it would guarantee that their kids have a future, that they get food, and shelter.


Can people be manipulated, or tricked to do things that they would, when sound of mind, otherwise choose not to do?

Let's just assume you answer "yes" (because to answer "no" would be unimaginably absurd)... lets also imagine that billions of dollars are up for grabs to the people/companies who can manipulate/trick sound of mind people better than anyone else... What would that world look like?

Well, we're living in it.


Another stunning victory over the evil straw man that haunts out discussions.


I have no idea why so many people choose to give any government more and more power. This is similar to a cultural nuclear weapon. Maybe it will work in the right persons's hands for an agent of good, but really, over the course of time, is limiting what people can hear going to be a good thing for them? How can you tune your personal BS meter, if you never hear any BS? Who watches the watcher?

There is no singular policy that will solve global, complex problems. Sometimes capitalism isn't the answer, sometimes it is. Sometimes regulations are the clear answer, sometimes not.


Given free hand, corporations can be just as dangerous as governments. I don't know why you would trust corporations more, since their only goal is to make money.


>just as dangerous as governments

Corporations don't have nukes or concentration camps.


The Black Hole of Calcutta is a widely known example of what can only be considered a corporate concentration camp of the (at the time privately owned) British East India Company...


That is a bad example indeed. The event of the Black Hole of Calcutta, where soldiers were rounded into a tiny dungeon which few survived, was perpetrated against British soldiers working for the East India Company by the governor of Bengal, Siraj ud-Daulah.


They could easily get them if we didn't prevent them from doing so.


Corporations have nuclear power plants that can be just as dangerous. Corporations can feed the masses miss-information, that may lead to destabilisation of a society by making them vote for the wrong person.


Corporations build unsave factories that kill 1000s when collapsing (see Bangladesh). Corporations will add addictive substances to food and sigaretes you increase sales, in the process killing millions.


I agree. The danger isn't simply "Big Government" or "Big <Whatever> Corp.". It's the concentration of power, whether by private or public entities. Private entities will abuse/buy/influence any power structure that happens to exist, to server their interests.


At least with a corporation you understand their goal completely.


Not really, unless you can listen to every meeting or conversation and read every document.


> is limiting what people can hear going to be a good thing for them?

I mean we currently have the exact opposite problem. We can definitively answer that people hearing everything and anything is quantifiably a bad thing for a good-sized portion of the population.

See here[1] and here[2] for some quick examples.

>Who watches the watcher?

Transparency is not antithetical or exclusive to any system that allows information to be properly editorialized. Dystopian hypotheticals kind of fall flat on their face when we have practical problems that run completely counter to some far off totalitarian future.

The worst part about the media landscape for me is not the massive maze of crap you have to wade through, it's that there's enough people willing to lend credence to some part(s) of that maze of crap. It can often remove any hope of a reasonable foundation for a conversation on whatever topic.

I think the Bullshit Asymmetry Principle[3] applies well to this topic.

>The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.

The current U.S. political landscape is a perfect example of this. We have people buying into certain political mythologies (either outright lies or just plain conspiracy theories, in regards to certain political factions and general policies) with no factual basis and it's wasting what is essentially valuable political capital at an alarming rate. And disappointingly, the actual conspiracies we do have evidence for are disregarded by the very same population that seems to be completely incapable of discerning and analyzing information (or misinformation) in general, across any field. Say, I don't know, climate change.

[1]: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1065912917721061

[2]: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ejsp.2331/epdf

[3]: https://www.slideshare.net/ziobrando/bulshit-asymmetry-princ...


The baffling conceit here is that people in government are angels and people in business are evil. They’re still people, with all the same motivations.


No it isn't. It's the more prosaic observation that governments are more accountable by procedural mechanisms than privately owned firms. How well those mechanisms work is subject to wide variance; nobody believes that North Korea actually operates in a democratic fashion,. but there are many countries that self-evidently do. The concept of a constitutional republic (as opposed to all of its real world implementations) is one of maximizing the citizenry's ability to participate in the decisions that affect them.

Most corporations not only function but are structured as autocracies, in which junior employees have no rights over their conditions of employment other than departure.


The most level headed statement instead of immediately going with some Libertarian thought terminating cliche and it's being downvoted.


I'd be lonely without my downvoting groupies :-)


This has to be one of the most heavily-couched calls for Marxism I've seen all week.

"Democratic deployment" will still suffer from well-applied demagoguery, the people themselves are still prone to manipulation - even when their choices are abstracted away in a command economy.


Did I deliberately avoid the M-word? Maybe.

A solid counter to demagoguery is economic justice and education that encourages critical thinking. People are much less prone to be swayed by that sort of thing when their health, shelter, and food are not at risk.


"People are much less prone to be swayed by that sort of thing when their health, shelter, and food are not at risk."

You seem to have disproved your own thesis, then, since there aren't that many people who have their health, shelter, or food directly affected by this race for the attention economy. (Yes, I said "aren't that many" and not "zero", but it's still not that many.)

What basis do you have for believing a centralized government with the definition of all morality and power adhering within it wouldn't simply turn the full force of this engineering on its citizens? After all, isn't it just that important for us to use these tools to maintain proper consciousness? If you don't believe that, don't you think the leadership will? And don't we actually have historical (USSR, to the extent it was technologically possible) and modern regimes (China, do an internet search on "china citizen score") doing just that right now? Before walking down that trail, you ought to make very, very, very sure it leads where you think it does, because several hundred million people who have walked it before you have discovered it doesn't.


there aren't that many people who have their health, shelter, or food directly affected by this race for the attention economy

That seems highly questionable to me. Large numbers of people in retail and service industries disrupted or threatened by technological change are arguably impacted by it.


Tone: Honest. How does attention economy abuse impact people in retail and service especially?

(I get that the internet at large is impacting them immensely, and the list of such people and professions hardly stops there, but I don't immediately see the connection between them and attention abuse specifically.)


I'm probably casting ym net a bit too wide, so as to encompass all non-specialist internet-driven retail. Amazon uses these techniques a lot, I feel, albeit in a more subtle way. But I agree that's outside the scope of the original article's journalistic focus.


I believe concentration of power and the lack of transparency is what causes the problems in both systems. A "centralized" government that works for the people is possible, as long as we avoid those things. Make the democratic process as direct as possible, don't create any positions of great power. Have all decision-making be completely transparent, so the little power that people have, they are unable to abuse without getting caught. If no one has a lot of power (be it in the form of political power, or money), no one has the power to control people.


Should I read this as "solid counter to socialist propaganda is actually building socialism"? If so, I wholeheartedly agree. As somebody who actually lived under socialism (until it collapsed), I am inoculated against it forever. However, I think this is way too cruel punishment for a weak souls swayed by a false promise of socialist demagoguery about "justice" and "education" and inevitably finding themselves in abject poverty, monumental totalitarian tyranny and thorough thought-control likes of which had never been seen by humanity before. I'd recommend learning from other's mistakes instead, unfortunately 20th century has enough material for that.


Hey, I just wanted to thank you for articulating some of the thoughts I've had more eloquently than I can or have time to do. It's good to see HN not just sounding like an echo chamber and seeing someone speak up against socialism/communist sentiments commonly expressed here.


Is it really all that common? HN often feels like a techno-utopian libertarian echo chamber to me.

Maybe if we both feel this way, it's actually a balanced group? Or maybe it just comes in waves depending on the topic.


The foundation of Marxism is public ownership, not a centralized command economy. Other approaches exist, eg participatory economics.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Participatory_economics


One can argue that public ownership necessitates central planning in practice.

My cursory searches have failed to find a sovereign state that has successfully implemented parecon. Feel free to cite a counterexample.


One can argue anything, but so what? I don't think anyone has even tried implementing ParEcon so far, as it's a relatively new approach and has some problems of its own. My point is that central planning is not the desideratum of the left that some people here are claiming to be.


>require major changes driven by the democratic process

Marxists tell people what's best for everyone; they don't do what people want.


Funny, I would say the same thing about advertisers.


Yes but no one claimed advertising was 'driven by a democratic process'. Marxists keep telling people what they want, and of course lying to them, even as the bodies are piling up. At the centenary of Russian Revolution, with 50 million dead, it's hard to believe one can still see hammer and sickles around the place. Yet one can.


That's exactly why the democratic process part is so important. Without the peaceful exercise of power via democracy, all that's left is violence, and nobody in their right mind wants that.


Why would you want democracy when by definition The Party speaks for all Workers?


Except advertisers won't put you in gulag if you don't buy their product.


Don't give Oracle any ideas.


This is precisely correct. I think the replies to you are missing a very central point (speaking as if the accusation of advocating Marxian Communism was a serious charge, too). Perhaps the important authors about the relationship between media and capitalism are the Frankfurt School, in particular Herbert Marcuse's works. I'm reading his book One-Dimensional Man at the moment.

He's advocating exactly what you are: democratic deployment of technology. How this relates to media is very interesting, and the idea that these problems exist merely quantitatively different in a possible Socialist society is a fundamental lack of imagination for qualitative change.

The other people replying to you forget a key component of history - that rationality is not fixed. Technology has the capability to change what humans consider rational, rationality is a process, a movement in which different societies have different views. The current rationality of late capitalism is what Marcuse terms technological rationality. That is, the rationality of production. This kind of rationality is the production for the sake of production, for the sake of profit. After all, what is more rational than developing machinery, streamlining it, making it more efficient, increasing the role of mechanization in society? Hardly anyone would disagree that these are wonderful advancements - however with them, they have brought rationality of production which pervades society everywhere. This rationality is actually irrational, but few see this. Advertising, planned obsolescence, extreme marketing, the working of the market into the education systems are all simply parts of the production process. Just more costs.

Artwork is affected by technological rationality. The old pieces of art often had an alienating component, that is to say, they displayed a clear break from the state of things, and a hope for a different kind of future, the outcast, the mastermind thief, the unemployed person, etc. all fulfilled a role that was outside of the system of rationality, acting against it; even when these roles were not glorified, they existed as an opposition to the system. Marcuse notes that in modern artwork, this notion has largely disappeared; the villains and outcasts are no longer outcasts, they are within the system but in the bottom rungs, and their opposition cannot be seen as clever, but it is only misguided. Their opposition to the bourgeois system from within is always shown as a false opposition, a threat to our notions of freedom conferred by technological rationality.

When you hear Bach, Freud, Marx etc. in the supermarket, he is stripped of his alienating or any kind of critical dimension. An element of his truth has been taken away by the new consideration in the light of technological rationality, reduced and sublimated into the totality.

Socialism, what you are advocating, carries with it a very different set of rationality in which man is liberated from the freedom of being a free economic subject, free from the bounded freedom of the welfare state. The welfare state, which many proponents of "soft capitasm" advocate is another form of repression of the individual, but in different forms. It is administered living, the restriction and control of the free time made available by technological advancement and control over the intelligence necessary to comprehend self-determination.

When we advocate Socialism, we do not mean a central party committee deciding what to read, we mean the liberation of people from the restrictions of the new rationality which insists in its own mode of living through our leisure time, our work time, our sexual enjoyment and artistic pursuit.


Good grief, man, stop brainwashing yourself!


The root of the issue is human greed


> In that scenario, we're effectively no longer in control of our own free will as long as someone else can profit by controlling it.

This is a self contradiction. You always have the choice to turn off or tune out the distractions and focus your attention on more important things (which is the essence of free will). That people don't feel like doing that is a psychological problem not a problem with capitalism or profit seeking.


This is wrong because it looks exactly one layer deep and ignores the greater complexity.

Of course the answer to a DOS is to not accept the incoming requests. It's tricky to distinguish between the malicious requests and the legitimate ones, and doing so doesn't cost nothing. One way to break the defense of a DOS is to DOS the system that does the sorting.

Further, The "requests", in this case bids for our attention, exist on a spectrum from "legit" to "malicious"-- or more precisely "information I will endorse having gotten in long-term retrospect" to "information I will have wished I had no gotten in long term retrospect." So we're already fucked, because you can't even make that determination in a meaningful sense.

When do you eventually settle on a filter that is an approximation of the above, you'll find that it's trivial to DOS that filter too since we're made of meat and exist in a low trust environment.

You can live in the woods or whatever, but since you're posting on HN, I assume you haven't chosen that. And you can look at the other posts in this threads for examples of just how intrusive and unavoidable the bid for attention actually are.

And all this is only the first layer of complexity: the difficulty/impossibility of individually choosing to "free will" your way of this issue. The next layer is that we're not even talking about individuals. We're talking about Capitalism, by which I mean we're talking about systemic issues.

That's a whole different can of worms, but the headline is: in response to global, systemic issues if you find yourself saying a variation of "it's simple! humans just need to be different/better," then you're doing it wrong. You're missing most of the relevant dimensions, so you will not solve the problem, nor is your voice likely to be particularly helpful in the discussion about potential solutions.


I never denied it was complex, I denied that it was an attack on free will which is impossible. I think it is a real psychological problem and I think blaming capitalism or the "the system" or "the man", etc. are themselves rationalizations and misdirection that prey on people susceptible to suggestion or manipulation, i.e. emotionalism, to advance political agendas.


That raises interesting questions -- how much free will does an addict have? Are those who exploit an addiction for profit complicit in that addiction?


>Are those who exploit an addiction for profit complicit in that addiction?

When it comes to drug law, precedent would show that they are far more culpable than the user/addict.


Behind every addict there's usually an enabler in some form. Sometimes there's a nasty feedback loop. Of course that doesn't negate human agency or its importance, however it makes for a convenient excuse. Agency seems unevenly distributed, but it also seems to vary within a single individual depending on what sorts of things they face and what excuses they have to avoid exercising it. Humans have a wide range of adaptations. In the modern world where even the very poor can live better than the wealthiest in olden times, exercising much agency isn't that important.


In London there are adverts on the steps I walk up on the underground. The busker spots are "sponsored". It's like the Clockwork Orange "aversion therapy" in terms of making you watch. I'm very aware of what the media is doing but it has to get through on some level. Much of advertising is telling you that you are incomplete and product x will complete you / cement friendships etc. Of course that is crap, but even just being told the first part has to have an effect.


First company that integrates something like Google glasses and adblock gets my money.



The sentiment sounds like a good idea, but a nitpick. Google glass is not "mixed reality" or whatever the best term is. It's just a small display you can glance over to. It covers/integrates with nothing.


Exactly. If you can't consciously choose to turn off your phone and go read a book, you never had anything that remotely resembles free will.


There is a spectrum.

If you want to guess the outcome of a coin toss, no strings attached, you're completely free to choose heads or tails.

But a lot of bright minds are working very hard to convince you to pick up that phone and not the book. You're being told to pick tails by a man with a gun, offered a reward if you do and pain if you don't.

Perhaps this man is quieter for you, or maybe you have never let him in. But he is very real for a lot of people.


> You're being told to pick tails by a man with a gun

No, you are not. A man brandishing a gun and telling you do do something is threatening to kill you. Nobody at instafacetweet is going to kill you for ignoring their products or limiting your usage.

What we're dealing with isn't an armed strongman, but a clown. The clown really wants your attention and has a lot of tricks up his sleeve to get it, but regardless of the difficulty, ignoring him is not dangerous.


That's easy to say. But what if family, friends and work are so tied up with your phone that doing so would hurt too much? Sure, you can change your work and friends, and cut off your family, but that's hard.


It can be hard. It may be less painful to do it slowly and gradually over time rather than some sudden pronouncement.

To some degree, any time anyone says they "can't" do something like this, they are saying they don't want it bad enough. I have done a lot of rearranging of my life to get things to work in a satisfactory fashion. This includes but is not limited to changing my relationship to how I use my phone. I used to be a big phone person. I now do most stuff online. After a long time of doing very little with my phone, I am slowly doing more with it these days.

But there is also this: If your family, friends and work all are basically making you crazy, they would probably do so even if phones did not exist. So, this might be an indicator of deeper problems.

Or it might be an indicator that you aren't being driven as crazy as other people, so it just isn't really that important to you.


For most, I think there are easy ways to massively reduce time spent on their phone without an adverse effect on career or relations otherwise, but that's predicated on a want to. Besides, I see plenty of people who are on their phone all the time, yet their life is almost void of physical interaction with others. I think it's very common to overestimate the importance of being "on", and even more common to think it has a positive effect on their lives.


I challenge you to cross London without seeing or sensing an advert or artificial call to buy something. Mind the gap and the buses with your blind fold on. Don't forget your nose plugs.

It's true, you could do it but would it be a life?


I would go further and say the root of the issue is adversarial markets. Essentially our markets allow me to manipulate you to do what I want, since our laws are default allow.

But this doesn't need to be the case, we already deny certain things that historically have been terrible for commerce. Like intentionally misleading weights and measures. We know that if you don't legislate and regulate businesses will change their weights to short change people.

But is there any qualitative difference between selling 0.9kg of corn as 1kg. And brainwashing people (and the volume of advertising, product placement, forum shilling is brainwashing). Brainwashing people that some suger water will make them more popular. In my mind there is not, markets work because aggregate decision making gives us good choices. When it works even bad decision makers are lifted up since the average good decisions have already killed off all the companies with bad offers.

But in our phishing for phools economy we mostly have successful manipulators to deal with and huge quantities of free hyper-stimulus to lead us there. We will not be free of this without legislation. The powerful must be banned from spending on marketing. That's it, we cannot have effective market based economics when google and facebook can find all your secrets and set an AI to convince you to act in their interests. And that's coming sooner than I'd like.

I would personally go further and say that everyone should be banned from marketing & product discovery should be nationalized (trip advisor, amazon reviews are trying to solve a problem that is trivial for government).


Seems to me the only answer is web decentralization plus improving peoples skills for critical thinking and problem-solving communication.


Would a technical solution (web decentralization) really be necessary if a political solution (adequate regulations) was available for these issues?


I am very dubious that could happen, for two reasons.

One that the big centalizers have too much political influence, at least in the US, and let's not forget places like China and Russia where the governments to control the web.

But even if you passed some strong regulations, the centralizers would likely keep coming up with new innovations that would break the spirit of the laws.

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