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.
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.
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.
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. ;)
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.
>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.)
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'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.
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...
Granted, not an American Republican party sounding board, but in terms of actual right and left political spectrum.
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.
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.
The whole world runs on this. If you catch it at the right time, you can avoid a lot of mental traps.
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.
Now I use the "News Feed Eradicator" Chrome extension and no longer have that problem :)
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.
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.
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.
It's also quite useful that messenger.com has its own domain. So one can abstain from facebook.com and still stay connected.
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.
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 :/.
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.
> 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!
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.
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.
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.
I think a better criticism of them would be wash po turning a blind eye to Bezos and others that have influence of it.
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.
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.
Now it's just a mouth piece for rich donors but has 'public' in its name for marketing.
Dangerous assumption for any given story. Skepticism always warranted.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
So, sure, that would obviously suck. You have to change the channel.
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 have setup SOME trusted contacts (mostly family, skilled coworkers who understand decorum) to pierce the DnD veil.
No Twitter, no Facebook, no Snapchat, etc.
It's amazing how much happier I became after doing that.
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.
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
I carry it turned off and turn it on if I really need to make a call or expect someone to contact me.
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 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.
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.
Most of my friends are on FB messenger but I never look at facebook itself.
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.
* 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.
- 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 . 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.
 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.
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.
Applications Drawer\Google -> Hamburger Menu\Settings -> Your Feed
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.
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.
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.
dnsmasq is rather good for this.
I think the birthdays only counted as "costless" when I was already checking and filtering through Facebook notifications, but that was an illusion.
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.
A middle ground is turning off badges and other notifications. Switching to a paper newspaper also helps.
I had to uninstall it, because the addon developer stopped maintaining it and the performance bugs made browsing bigger sites much too slow.
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.
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 without going as far as "incognito mode for everything", this can dovetail well with a privacy-conscious cookie or browser-profile policy.
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?
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.
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!!!
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
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.
I also turn off the ability of most apps to display notifications. That helps.
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.
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'.
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.)
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
Ditching reddit or hacker news is much harder. I mean, how do you even use the internet these days?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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 agree for those with children it becomes a different story.
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.
This is what I do, and it's drastically reduced my information addiction.
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.
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?
Please allow me to recommend my two favorite print magazines:
London Review of Books
Highly recommended. Please subscribe. I read the New Yorker on my Kindle but I read LRB in print.
Still have an iPad, but I’m an iOS developer. (Perhaps I should change that?)
Due to idiosyncrasies in how it works, I'm now stuck with both!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
> 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
>"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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Besides which, psychology and neurology tell us that most of the time we haven't a clue what our underlying motivations are. We do not have the ability to introspect our unconscious motivations, but that doesn't mean they are immune to external influence and manipulation.
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.
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.
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.
Corporations don't have nukes or concentration camps.
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 and here 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 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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.)
Maybe if we both feel this way, it's actually a balanced group? Or maybe it just comes in waves depending on the topic.
My cursory searches have failed to find a sovereign state that has successfully implemented parecon. Feel free to cite a counterexample.
Marxists tell people what's best for everyone; they don't do what people want.
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.
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.
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.
When it comes to drug law, precedent would show that they are far more culpable than the user/addict.
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.
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.
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.
It's true, you could do it but would it be a life?
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).
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.
- Non-fiction books
- University-centered online courses
- Some of Netflix's original programs
- Wikipedia's monthly news summaries
- The "Great Courses" on Audible
These media aren't thoroughly monetized on a pay-per-attention-stolen model. They're more optimized around having good reviews from friends and online.
It makes me wonder if there might be the possibility of a Netflix for news, where a 3rd party curates and allows ratings of lengthier pieces on long-term issues, interviews with important figures, and 20-minute investigative reports (like I remember seeing on 60 minutes). Naturally, this wouldn't work for up-to-the minute news where everyone's attention is driven based on who's got the latest break, but it seems like it would work for these other things. It would still give the "lunch conversation" motivation, where people could talk about whatever was released in the last few days. Certainly it sounds like a less attention-assaulting place than the current state of news.
In the absence of advertisement driven revenues, it would have to charge money, raising the barrier of entry compared to the current alternatives. In addition it cannot provide regular dopamine hits (because that’s the whole point) so it even feels less appealing than the alternatives.
More expensive and less appealing is a hard combo to succeed with.
ps: excellent article and grateful for people like James and Tristan sounding the alarm on the ill effects of the attention economy.
However, I disagree with his association of new media with populism and apparently suggesting a causal relationship. Populism has existed, and proliferated, well before mass media. It's more commonly associated with extreme wealth inequality.
I wish there was something opposite, daily and weekly summaries where every "article" is just a title and one paragraph. Almost all lengthy articles have poor information per character ratio.
Isn't this essentially the model that HuffPo and other news aggregators (rewriters) use? Hasn't really panned out in that context, but maybe there needs to be a more quality-focussed site that isn't subject so much to avarice.
I'm talking about is a platform where my decision to click/watch content is based on reviews and recommendations, not loud design and attention-grabbing headlines.
In that world, the subscription model could make sense and content aggregation could make sense, but neither is required, nor does either addressing the issue on its own.
Blender is an example of (supposedly) higher quality, longer pieces of (paid) news/reports. I haven’t tried it myself because they don’t allow pluses “+” in emails.
I'd be glad if you could provide me with the link to subscribe these summaries if they're email newsletters. I could not find them in the wiki itself.
There's not a way to subscribe to it, though it's not obvious how a subscription would work. The summary of any given day is not finished at the end of the day. Rather, the set of articles for that day, their summaries, and the articles themselves will all continue to grow as more information is gathered. So, it is a good way to "catch up" after some time away from current events. But to my knowledge there's no coordinated effort to "finish" a day or a month by any deadline.
Are you suggesting that people's free will is so easily lost that we needed to have, in the First Amendment, a clause stating "freedom from external thought influences"?
"Modern Media is a DoS Attack on Your Free Will"
Only if you allow it to be, just like with any other compulsive activity, if it starts affecting your life negatively, you should probably make some personal life changes.
This reads like a call for government regulation of advertising or how content is served to people because people cannot defend themselves from this media onslaught.
I believe something similar to China's regulation of the web may be what you're looking for, but I'm old enough to vote and go to war so I'm old enough to decide how often my "free will" is attacked.
> Isn’t it our own fault that we’re too easily distracted? Maybe we just need more self-discipline.
> 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?
> Does personal responsibility matter at all?
> I don’t think personal responsibility is unimportant. I think it’s untenable as a solution to this problem. Even people who write about these issues day to day, even me—and I worked at Google for 10 years—need to remember the sheer volume and scale of resources that are going into getting us to look at one thing over another, click on one thing over another. This industry employs some of the smartest people, thousands of Ph.D. designers, statisticians, engineers. They go to work every day to get us to do this one thing, to undermine our willpower. It’s not realistic to say you need to have more willpower. That’s the very thing being undermined!
In any case, I'd have to disagree and say that even though you can't escape ads or even 100% avoid the lure of electronic clicks and taps, its ultimately up to you to decide what you do with your time and money and if you cannot do this yourself, then you need to seek help.
Just because a corporation has unlimited resources committed to targeting a person with ads or tappy and clicky stuff, it does not mean they should be held accountable for people's addictive habits or tendencies, just as you can't hold any existing casinos liable for a person's poor gambling choices.
> Just because a corporation has unlimited resources committed to targeting a person with ads or tappy and clicky stuff, it does not mean they should be held accountable for people's addictive habits or tendencies, just as you can't hold any existing casinos liable for a person's poor gambling choices.
You know, in my country there is a self-exclusion register for gambling. You put yourself on it knowing that you have a problem and as a result you're barred from entering a gaming establishment.
In doing so, gaming establishments now have a responsibility to keep you from gambling on their premises and there are consequences and liability transfers if they knowingly allow you to continue.
It seems like you implying people are 100% free agents independent of external influences and subconscious evolutionary drives?
>Just because a corporation has unlimited resources committed to targeting a person with ads or tappy and clicky stuff, it does not mean they should be held accountable for people's addictive habits or tendencies
Should alcohol, cigarette, and porn companies be allowed to target children?
Should opioid manufacturers be allowed to target recovering addicts?
> Only if you allow it to be, just like with any other compulsive activity, if it starts affecting your life negatively, you should probably make some personal life changes.
I think this belief - "you can't look away" - is so prevalent among journalists because (i) the idea that vast sections of the public pay no attention to them for extended periods of time is anathema and (ii) journalists are more likely to be from the group that "can't look away."
Replace "life" with "server" and that also rings true for a network DoS attack. Just as you don't always have complete control over the network, you don't always have complete control over the aspects of your life that influence your day-to-day decisions.
Free will IMO is an abstract and poorly defined concept. You can define free will in terms that make "non-free will" an impossibility. On the other hand, you could also amount it to very basic particle events that are either entirely deterministic or based on seemingly random quantum wave collapses.
If something is regulated by the government, one could argue that you are still able to employ your free will and break the law. Someone may force you to do something, but by a not entirely unreasonable definition of free will it is your choice to comply or not, regardless of the consequences.
Of course, the argument that "modern media is a DoS attack on free will" employs a different, less generous definition. Whether you agree with that definition or not, the discussion on how easily manipulable people are and how external agents exploit that to influence our day-to-day decisions in subtle, often negative ways is warranted. You can call it "[...] is a DoS attack on our subconscious", "[...] on our attention" or whatever, but I think it amounts to the same discussion.
I feel a sense of agency and that I have the power to ignore many of these influences, but this also presents a cognitive load problem. I wouldn't be sad for a second if for example building regulations were used to a greater extent to limit advertising in public spaces.
You also have to consider those that aren't old enough to go to war or to vote, not to make it a blanket "think of the children" argument, but because we recognize that they are not competent enough to make informed life choices. I wouldn't want my children grow up with a poor self image just because it makes them more inclined to purchase bikinis, watches, tanning lotion and cars, but I also wouldn't want to shelter my children from society when it is ultimately our responsibility as adults to shape it for the coming generations. People have made decisions that make society what it is today, and we should continue making decisions and re-evaluating the old ones.
For public advertisement, I've always been in favor of defacing and removing it. I'm old enough to go to war and infringe on the ultimate human right by killing people, so why should I not be able to make choices that improve public spaces? If I remove an online casino billboard, who is better off and who is worse off?
Actually, I think I do know what it means, but I have the feeling that many people do not like the idea, that their decisions are based on past experiences and that their free will is actually just the evaluation of their perceptions (of their truth) and therefore, it is nothing that comes from some spritual origin within them, but instead is something that happend to them.
While it feels a little incomfortable at first, it explains a lot of human behavior as for example the impact of advertiments. The important part is to also understand that it does not free you from your own responsibility as the fact that you have beeen tought ethics is also part of the evaluation.
This might be pretty close to the mark, actually. Our conditioning to past, even collective, social, experience can become so all encompassing that we cannot imagine something "other". Perhaps psychopaths can? And that's a pretty scary thought.
a) evaluating multiple possible outcomes
b) selecting from those the outcome with the highest desired value
c) taking the action with increases the likelihood of the desired outcome
That's it, end of story. No "spiritual nonsense" necessary.
This definition lines up with human intuition, and it also applies to determinstic things like machines. For example, Using this definition we can say things like 'the load balancer chose that server' and even ask why. This definition allows you to debug choice-making processes, and reason about them.
So when we ask 'why did the load balancer choose this server', it would be absurd to answer 'because the programmer told it to.' It's true, but empty. The same applies to the claim that 'lots of what people are doing is the impact of advertising'. True, but vacuous. Why did things happen? "Well, because of physics" - that's a true answer to every question that tells us nothing.
Of COURSE we can improve the choice making mechanism inside a load balancer. That fact is obvious to us. What's less obvious is that you can improve the choice making mechanism INSIDE OF YOU because you aren't a static object but rather a sequence of different deterministic objects. In each moment, your neural connectome changes slightly. Pathways that you activate become more automatic, and pathways you don't activate atrophy.
You activate pathways by selectively activating your attention. That's how you do it. That's how you change yourself, so that you are a different person who makes different choices. That's how you improve your decision making apparatus - by being good at selectively paying increasing attention to signals that are helping you.
Individual persons can improve their choice-making mechanisms as well. I know becuase i've done it. I struggled for years making bad choices, and i always used logic like you are using to tell myself 'it wasn't my fault'. That may have been true, but it was useless. It didn't help me make better choices. Only by accepting that I am responsible for the choices i make, and _embracing this fact_ was i able to change my choice making apparatus from something that was pretty terrible to something that works quite well.
When you go around telling people they don't have free well, you're jamming up their choice making apparatus. You're convincing people not to bother making choices. It's probably worse than advertising.
Making better choices comes down, ultimately, to controlling your attention during the choice making process. I agree that advertising is super destructive. It's like the opposite of meditation.
Which is the whole point of propaganda and other forms of marketing: bombard people with a message, true or false, it doesn't matter. Over time people will come to believe the message, and it will inform their future choices. People do not have the time to evaluate in depth all of the information they receive on a daily basis, and therefore are not actually capable of making truly rational choices.
Everyone is merely doing their best, and many are indeed failing. At some point, humans have to rely on trust. In our current society, that is extremely difficult.
Social media is merely a slimmer middle man in that frenzied feedback loop, and the legacy media is upset that their slice of the pie is shrinking.
I think 100% is misleading.
You could say that a morning newspaper connected people 100% when that was a new thing. Phones/computers only connect us as often as we use them to connect.
For instance something like AR goggles with a constant ticker of information would connect us even more.
I think it's more accurate to simply say that we are more connected. In specifics that the 24 hour cycle of evening news and morning newspapers has changed into an on-demand system that pushes information to people that want to receive it and that anyone can pull it when they have free time.
Facebook quite literally connects more people across a single platform than any medium in history. That logo is the most-seen image in the world right now.
And the history of media change shows that it is tremendously disruptive. Something today's new-media moguls seem to be only just starting to realise. Or at least, admit.
Reading is proactive (so to speak). It engages the brain because the brain must be engaged in order to complete the activity. Furthermore, pausing to digest, or "rewind" to reread is completely natural. So much so, for a given read you probably do it more than you realize. (I know I do.)
On the other hand, watching is passive. The brain can step back / dial-down and still complete the activity. From that position, you're less likely (on average) to question what's presented you. Stoners don't pick up War & Peace, they turn on the TV, right :)
Note: Yes, these are generalization. Yes, there are always exceptions.
In addition - and there is some science that supports this - there is a difference between reading via paper and via a screen. My hunch is the brain gets conditioned to the medium. If your screen is mostly for junkfood (as it seems to be for so many of us) the brain is more likely to enter that relationship (so to speak) making certain presumptions. I suppose this could be similar to any learning. For example, they say that if you want maximum results for taking an exam you should study in the room where you'll take the example. Context effects learning / understanding.
Visually heavy content + infinite scroll = a human trap
Makes ya wonder what effect more characters will have on Twitter, and those who use it.
Edit : Good TED talk on this topic https://www.ted.com/talks/jp_rangaswami_information_is_food 
EDIT: Deleted my twitter account after a month, wanna nerf LinkedIn as well but that decision has professional impacts.
What I really see happening is a "part 2" repeat of the spam apocalypse that hit e-mail, Usenet, and other federated systems on the early Internet. In the late 1990s spam destroyed most of these systems. E-mail was so valuable it had to be saved, but saving it has mostly involved delegating it to a small oligopoly of vertically integrated e-mail providers with the resources to fight spam. Usenet and other less well known federated systems were destroyed.
I think we are now seeing a similar kind of spam assault against the open web, social media, and the news. The latter with the whole "fake news" phenomenon really resembles a Sybil attack. In recent years I've seen an avalanche of totally fake news sites that look like legitimate newspapers popped up (apparently from templates) and used to spam social media with a whole slew of unfounded allegations and other assorted bullshit. The role they've had in the election has gained a lot of press but it's in no way limited to that or even to politics. A lot of it seems to be shilling for quack medical products and other traditional mainstays of... spam!
I've started calling this whole phenomenon "spam 2.0." I'd define spam 2.0 as the semi-automated bulk creation of fake news outlets, fake social media profiles, and hoaxes and their use to engage in the coordinated manipulation of opinion.
I'm also anticipating the rise of spam 3.0. Spam 3.0 will be fully automated and AI-powered, with AI being used to create an individual "persuasive agent" for each human target. Think of it as massively parallel individual con artistry and/or "spear phishing" at scale. Social media companies are already pioneering this tech, but the spam apocalypse will really hit when it goes public and you can do it with readily available tools.
I find it rather depressing but for a while I've been predicting that the first use of AI that can (even borderline) pass the Turing test will be con artistry, cult indoctrination techniques, and demagoguery at scale. It's really pretty scary to the point that I'm wondering if the use of AI to persuade humans should be outlawed. Of course then you get the "then only criminals will have guns" effect. This is particularly true on the borderless Internet where it's unlikely to be outlawed everywhere. Users of this tech would just go offshore.
An alternative to outlawing might be to disseminate the tools as widely as possible to eliminate any comparative advantage and render the whole thing moot. If this destroys social media in the process then so be it. Going to happen anyway.
Edit: the bottom line is that "cognitive self-defense" is going to become a thing. These "warning signs for tomorrow" are becoming relevant:
We are living in a cyberpunk novel.
This already happens.
The other day I was exploring internet ads; I clicked on every one I saw to see where it would lead me. At one point I ended up on a dating website.
All of the profiles were good looking Asian ladies. Creating an account was free but messaging users cost you points. You have 15 free points so you can messages ladies but after that, you need to pay for points.
Problem is, all of those women were robots. Very good quality chatbots, you wouldn't know unless you were tech-savvy. (I pasted them each other messages and they broke) They use emotional manipulation in order to pressure you to answer. At first, it was simply "Hi!" but it quickly turned into "Please answer me you beautiful man" and then "I'm looking for a man like you in my bed".
You need to pay to answer, but also to do things such as change profile picture, post a message on a public profile, etc. The bots pressured you into doing those things.
In short, this means that there are already people using "AI" that pass Turing tests good enough to fool people in order to manipulate them into giving out their money.
The spam relationship is a correct interpretation. More specifically: as any new medium or channel becomes influential enough, it will be sought by those who seek to use it to their ends: for commercial or financial return, or social or political power. And their means are distraction, disinformation, misinformation, and manipulation.
There's quite a body of literature on this topic, going back a few thousand years.
In particular, the idea of AI-driven ads to improve targeting to near-as-makes-no-difference perfect levels is rather unnerving. We're at a moment when the influence of companies or governments in social media is still somewhat obvious/trackable, often because it's driven by actual people. Making it better and then making it automated would result in a system where it would be basically impossible to tell the difference between ads and actual people.
A blog entry on Brandolini's Law: https://real-psychiatry.blogspot.com/2016/12/brandolinis-law...
"Everyone knows that debugging is twice as hard as writing a program in the first place. So if you're as clever as you can be when you write it, how will you ever debug it?"
I think the above is one of the key questions for the survival of humanity. A part of the answer is that there has never been a clear demarcation between the meaningful and meaningless. There is valuable information in the structure of myth, songs, and idle talk.
It is clear that something in human beings acts as an effective filter for meaning and value. It is also clear that rationality isn't the totality of whatever this is, though it might be a part of it.
I think the major concern here, aside from the general deleterious effects of addiction of any sort on people, is that the tide of meaningless factoids and useless information is swelling and drowning out substantive, useful information which is generated with greater difficulty and spreads less easily.
A greater ratio of meaninglessness to meaningfulness is part of the problem, compounded by the aggressive way our attention is directed toward it. I think the filter you mention exists but is struggling in this environment more than in the recent past.
Which is precisely why humanity didn't progress, never invented science, never improved human rights and the standard of living, and we died out in a state of primitive brutishness.
Clearly, actual meaning has found its way through, somehow.
I think the filter you mention exists but is struggling in this environment more than in the recent past.
What is your evidence for this? Can you quantify this in objective terms?
That said, I haven't put much thought into this viewpoint and was mostly extending the parent poster's idea. Proper discussion of this would require a great deal of care and nuance and I honestly don't feel like putting in the effort for that. Apologies if you were looking for a substantive debate.
I did not get a mobile phone because I wanted to be off when I wasn't working. When mobile internet came I kept only the nokia I was forced to have, just so I could not get email when I was off work. Still do not use twitter or anything else. Recently bought a tv but nothing on so seldom used. Kids friends visiting always says "oh, what a small tv!" (32 inch).
42" seems huge to me but everyone I know has 70", 80" TVs.
-Marshall McLuhan (p.73 of the 1966 Signet paperback edition)
In a way, the hyperbolic title seems to be an prime example of its own thesis..
- What with "rising" health care costs, my employer has decided to "force" everyone into getting a series of physical tests, to include those for high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, and a fecal occult blood test. Failure to comply by year's end results in a financial penalty taken from your check twice monthly, totaling $600 annually, rising next year. My wife is also required to submit since she is on my insurance. She and I are both declining. That's $1200 a year in freewill money.
- What with, heaven forbid, people having actual rights to use tobacco, be it smoking, vaping, smokeless, whatever, my employer will be conducting cotinine (nicotine) tests. Failure to comply results in a penalty taken from your check twice monthly, totaling $600 annually, rising next year.
I will be taking the cotinine test, but then will enjoy nicotine as I am wont to do after passing the test. I'm a social smoker as many are. I don't smoke as a habit, but will not be denied the pleasure should I wish to enjoy it as the mood takes me.
The health care/insurance thing is a racket. All they want this info for is to black mark you, identify who the expensive souls will be and keep raising your rates. Insurance companies will eventually sell this data to prospective employers, who won't hire the expensive-to-ensure souls. I can only win by not playing the game.
To stay off the radar, I visit the indigent latin clinic and pay cash. I get prescriptions filled at the bodega around the corner.
Eventually, the cost will either be extraordinarily high money wise or I will be terminated. My freewill diktats will ensure I will likely go from being a gainfully-employed IT staffer to cutting grass with the illegals at some point. At least I will have by freewill and freedom.
The 25% or aren't substantially mentally-ill or completely enslaved to addiction are the most freedom-loving people ever.
If modern media a DoS attack, it's not very sophisticated since it can be easily avoided by non-participation. Install an Ad blocker. Browse the web in private mode. Turn off notifications. Treat everything you read with skepticism (assume it is trying to manipulate you). And never, ever interact with social media. Share your attention deliberately, mindfully, and voluntarily.
I don't buy into this victim mentality. Nobody is "stealing" my attention unless I agree to it.
I don't think we should be thinking about this from a psychological perspective but instead a sociological one. Yes individuals can disconnect and do whatever they need to assuming adequate resources but that's beside the point.
If you think of people as boxes with inputs and outputs I think it's very worth understanding how social media impacts those boxes and what the long term affects are.
Has nothing to do with being a victim. Just if you press this button on every box does something desirable for society happen? Or something negative? Or we can't tell still?
And if it is negative then do we as a society want regulations to reduce the impact?
The moment you start down the "we are weak and helpless and we need the smart benevolent geniuses in Government to help us" you're just gonna lose a whole lot of people. Because there's no reason to believe there is even a problem here, let alone a problem that needs to be solved with regulation.
Right now it’s social media that is at the forefront of this war with people. Tomorrow it might be a different technology.
You don't need to look at the founders' intentions. You simply need to look at the metrics they are optimizing on. For public companies like Facebook and Twitter it's even easier. You have to look at the metrics they are talking to their investors about.
* Top/Related posts (they distract)
* Newsletter signup blocks in the middle of articles (I never ever want to signup for newsletters)
* Sharing tools (I know how to cut-past a URL, thank you)
* Recent comments blocks (I don't care)
* Page footers (bloated with completely irrelevant information)
* ... and so on
You will be surprised how much stuff you can actually just block!
They have their reasons, like "No Ads means no free content", or "You're taking the money out of content creators mouths", or variations on a theme.
What's doubly silly, is I control how my computer renders what content, downloads what content, and does whatever actions I want. Once it leaves your computer/network, its no longer up to you, ad company.
(Is now waiting for Wildvine to be used on content, forcing such ad viewage, now that DRM is part of the bloody HTML5 spec.)
Second, 'never ever interact with social media' is just a way of avoiding the problem. People like social media because we're social creatures and there's value in being able to communicate with other people of like mind. It can also be a trap if one only ever does so, but 'never use it' is just throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Why shouldn't people be able to socialize in a virtual context without any sort of legal privacy protections or tools that allow them to selectively filter out commercial information?
You might as well advise people to avoid having their telephone calls monitored by never calling anyone. Well, sure, but that's an elaborate way of saying you don't know what to do about the problem other than avoid adopting useful technologies.
As an older git, I try to remember what it was like in the 80's with no phone, no distractions. Even watching a movie is an event that needs planning in advance.
But how do I convey this to my kids, growing up with this?
The only way I can think is we do holidays where we go offline for the week, and maybe set an example at home by limiting the device usage.
I like the idea of a purpose-driven use of tech. You go on the computer and think 'I need to do a, b, c' then do it and turn it off. Usually Facebook won't be in that list. But it might be e.g. "I need to ask a question on this FB group, reply to a message ... then sign out immediately"
It is like have a list for the supermarket, which is trying to pedal sugary snacks to you as well as "special offers" that make you spend more money. The list (and going after a meal) is your defense against this.
"It was when Going Online was still a ritual, just like starting up the computer was - it took a while, sometimes you had to go through a menu or start up Windows or whatever separately still, you got this jingle when starting up, sometimes a login screen, all that stuff. Then going online, dialing up, telling the family (if any) that you're using the internet for a while, firing up the browser, etc. Using the internet was (for most people anyway) a very focused task too, given the per minute charge - get online, do what you want, get offline again." -https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15635817
One is that the reason humans can be so easily manipulated is our built-in neurological mechanisms for directing attention were designed by evolution for the very different environment of a hunter-gatherer existence.
The other thought has to do with what to do about the problem. A lot of people are talking about things that individuals can do, like limiting their time on their smart phone.
Well, that can work for them, but most people won't do that, so it doesn't solve the much larger problem of having a society that is becoming deeply dysfunctional in part because of media manipulation.
It seems to me that to solve this we need two things. One is web decentralization. The other is that people need to learn good critical thinking skills, and also skills for problem-solving discussion, as in Marshall Rosenberg's book Nonviolent Communication.
Viewing the modern situation through a lens informed by the history put forth in the documentary, there's nothing surprising in the least going on - it's the logical progression, and exactly what Bernays would aspire to do had the technology been available.
Mobile: Voice calls, SMS
Email: Personal x 2, Work, Work shared inbox, Some shared inboxes for side projects
Apps: Facebook Commenting, Messenger chat, Messenger Calling, WhatsApp multiple group chats, Whats app Calling, Slack (Active in about 5 different Slack channels), Discord (Active in 2 discord channels), Google Hangouts, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Google’s Duo app
Sites: Reddit, Hacker News
I could probably go on. I turn off all main notifications for all apps. The only notifications I leave on are @ mentions in a couple apps because I know they won't come often.
* Has the goal of filtering rather than flooding
* No ads
* No pop-ins 3/4 of the way through the article telling me about four other articles I should read
* No endless scrolling
* Upfront about bias
* Cites sources
The biggest (by visual size) story at the moment on http://bbc.co.uk/news is "Banned in China? Why Gigi and Katy missed big show" which is just "Singers without visas not included in advertising show for lingerie company". Why they feel the need to copy the worst traits of paid/ad supported content is beyond me.
* The Correspondent is openly subjective
* The Correspondent is an antidote to the daily news grind
* The Correspondent is entirely free of ads
* The Correspondent does not strive to maximize profits
So it's a fair bet that nothing he tweets is likely to affect you. Many others don't enjoy that luxury.
Note that the Intercept meets most of your criteria when it can, and Breitbart meets all but the "no ads" criteria. Both cite and link to sources at least sometimes, when those sources are citable.
They are part of a large network: https://gijn.org/member/
You cannot be present everywhere so you trust other people to perceive things for you.
That trust is often abused by injecting bias. And this is done to exert influence over people.
Same trust is abused to certain extent by historians through revisionism.
Same trust is abused by organized religion, where they control the rules of how you get favored by supreme beings. In some cases those rules are intrincated and arbitrary, like wasting your life building a pyramid, or entering a structure designated as temple every week, or believing other people belong to a better caste (where coincidentally the religious caste is usually at the top).
ublock and umatrix make my browsing experience nice, and less dangerous.
Minimal apps on my phone, nearly all Google apps disabled.
I would move to a dumb phone if I could find one that allowed whatsapp and sharing it's internet.
Just to point out, it protects the freedom of speech in relation to what the government can do. Most of social and news platform are someone's property, and by default if they don't want users to talk about certain things they are free to ask them to leave. They might pay lip service and invoke a general desire for freedom of speech but are not legally bound to do any of that.
It reminds me of Keyne's General Theory, where most of the ideas had already been floated for quite a while but were always derided as "crackpot," or basically heresy. It took a well-connected elite, combined with a failure to explain the current situation to really change the Groupthink of collective minds and institutions.
Here, it's similar: an idea which has been floated before, but taken in the hands of an academic is formalized, given a $100,000 prize, and published.
Which raises an interesting idea. If the problem with the radio--as the article showed, Hitler put one in every home--was that an authority could control a bombardment of information-assault on people--the same problem with tech today--should we not also be skeptical also of why authorities have now decided to grant credence to this idea?
And here's the concern: as the article also said, the role of media and newspapers has been to be a "filter." I can imagine politicians and bureaucrats latching onto this as a power grab for authorities--as a means to further marginalize independent media and the social aspects of spreading information.
Of course there's a possibility for over-reaction and repression, but personally I think that the best solution is more information, in the sense of accessible trackbacks (not unlike country-of-origin food labeling) so people can see where stories originate and learn to be skeptical of stuff that comes from consistently unreliable or bizarre sources. This already happens to some extent, eg if you post content from infowars you'll be rightly mocked for using such a terrible source. The Web Annotations Standard will make this vastly easier as its deployed in browsers (anyone know about progress on that, BTW?).
As for the other problem of people choosing to stay in particular media bubbles where they're only presented with information they already agree with, that's not really going to change, but I think that's OK as long as it's easy to identify which cluster people are choosing to locate in.
This is closer to the problem, not the solution.
This caused the NASA Challenger disaster (authorities silenced engineers who warned of foam strike).
This caused the US to lose the space race (all the authority and "intelligence community" was behind the Vanguard rocket).
This caused the Gulf of Tonkan, Iraq, Iran-Contra...
Consider the recent JPMorgan money-laundering story was for days published in English only on the site Zerohedge,
The WaPo literally accused Ron Paul in their news section of being a Russian Propogandist
Consider CNN broadcasted that it is illegal to read Wikileaks.
Collusion in Syria between the US and terrorists was always published first only on "disreputable" news sites.
Democratic control is better than autocratic control.
1 - https://www.handelszeitung.ch/unternehmen/finma-jp-morgan-sc...
Your examples don't seem appropriate either. I suggested that people would choose to reject information from 'consistently unreliable or bizarre sources'. Your first counter-example is that of a NASA engineer whose warnings were overlooked, but engineers are not hired for their unreliability or bizarre opinions.
Many of your other examples either ignore the well-known fact of parallel discovery or are themselves relying on the mechanism you claim to deplore of pre-emptively delegitimizing the source. Yes, I know some mainstream news outlets are inaccurate or agenda-driven. I hardly ever consume any news from CNN because I find most of their output to be low quality.
I really don't understand the point of your comment. You seem to be projecting someone else's ideas onto my comment rather than evaluating what I actually wrote.
Ok so let's take a look and go down the list of examples. We can start with NASA, where the "point of origin," being mere engineers who could not match the gravitas and authority of the well-respected leadership, saw the idea rejected, not on merit, but on their point of origin being less-respected than their superiors.
This problem of rejecting ideas, not on their own merit, but on the authority or gravitas of establishment figures is the thread that ties all of those ideas together--and many other setbacks in history as well.
Discrediting ideas by their point of origin can do real damage not just to the democratization of information dissemination, but also to the ideas themselves even if they have merit, as well as to indepedent journalism.
Here are some things that won't work:
1) Continue writing long thinkpieces about how bad big tech companies are and how they should feel bad
2) starting Yet Another Startup, raising $50 million in VC funding, and repeating all the same problems 5-10 years down the road.
3) Government regulation. Watch the recent Facebook/Google/Twitter congressional hearings if you want to hear the state of tech understanding in our government...
Here's what does work:
1) Pursue and promote technological standardization / decentralization efforts regarding social platforms. These problems would be very easily fixable if 1,000 developers agreed to build out a single web standards that encapsulated social data, discovery, and communication. I keep a small list at http://decentralize.tech, but the list is only growing (Beaker/Rotonde, Mastodon/Gnusocial/Activitypub, Blockstack, IPFS, Urbit, Brave/BAT, IndieWebCamp, Scuttlebutt -- All groups with working software today you could work on that kills this and other problems overnight).
tldr; Stop complaining about things you got for free and build the dang alternative already.
Wonder how much that would cost?
UPDATE: 2016 revenue is $27B. At 2B MAUs, that's a little more than $1/mo. Hmm. Surely there's something I'm overlooking.
It pretty much is when the question is about what the price would be for an ad-free subscription. The calculation may be more complicated, but it's all in service of a per-user number.
Uncanny similarity of Facebook and tobacco addiction is because they use the same dopamine biological machinery .
That feels like a great gig until you realize that it is corrosive to you as well. Every site that has advertising as a business model, eventually has to de-prioritize user’s needs in favor of those of advertisers to grow bigger. Yahoo became useless; Google results are getting worse, because high placement requires lots of keywords padded with more words, instead of a succinct thorough answer; Facebook is losing the trust of its users who are clicking, not typing to communicate with friends anymore (anecdotal, not empirical);
The human brain needs dopamine from progress when it can be productive. Eventually when its productivity is drained it needs to escape with distraction and stories. In between is the need for empathy from other intelligent beings. Faking either of these leads to unhappiness. That is why there is always a solution better than advertising-funded companies of today and that will be the next wave. We are on it.
Wow, that's a good way to bring the issue to light! How many times have I gone to the internet to look something up (Amazon, perhaps) and got distracted by other things? Although they are a big player in this space, this is why I really like google's homepage compared to (ugh) yahoo or MSN. Nothing trying to distract my attention from why I came there in the first place (initially anyway)
There's more information of all kind. Good, bad, devilish, spam. And with more comes the requirement that the consumer learns to filter and interact more meaningful with it.
The same applies for instance to food as well. We have so much food now that we need to learn to manage eating by willpower, discipline and habits. It also applies to other luxuries.
What I can say is that I'm way more educated, way more skilled and way more able to grab a certain subset of knowledge exactly at the time and location that I need it.
I received an email this morning from the editor asking "to make an end of year tax deductible contribution to keep the stories coming. Anything you could donate would be greatly appreciated".
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Deception and manipulation of public sentiment by either wholly fabricated or suddenly-scandalous news (ie digging up some old incident and setting up a great hue and cry like it just happened) is an old, old propaganda technique:
I'm sure there are similar examples from the Roman Republic when it was operating as an actual Republic rather than an appendage of empire.
Being saturated by Modern Media is an exercise of Free Will.
An attack is an act of force that requires active defense. The Modern Media is not forcing me to ready anything, nor do I have to actively defend myself against the Modern Media.
If turning of your cell phone for a period seems like an unfathomable task to you, perhaps you didn't have that much Free Will in the first place.
It's scarcely different than brain washing, and I don't think you can just blame the individual on this, when these efforts are aimed at the peak of the bell curve. This is something that we have to resolve or risk forfeiting civil society.
Manipulations of this sort have been effective long before Modern Media were a thing. I see them as just one instrument, but I don't believe that fixing this instrument will fix the problem.
The degree of civil liberty one enjoys should be not only be considered as freedom from rules and regulations that limit our unreasonable actions and speech, but also freedom from being mentally assaulted and manipulated by those seeking to influence and control our thoughts, spending, votes, and opinions.
It's tough but it really feels good when you get a good streak going.
I heartily agree with the article's thesis.
If you agree with me, then you will also agree to copy and paste - do not just share - this post to your status.
Disclaimer: no affiliation to them, just a happy user.
This, by the way, is something that bugs the heck out of me about Google. Massively data-driven firm. Denies the public access to data about its own use of tools.
- Herbert Simon, Nobel Prize-winning economist, back in 1971.
Believe it or not, that understates the man. He's also one of the fathers of AI and won the Turing Award, he wrote the book (of his era) on industrial organization, and was a leading researcher in many fields, including cognitive psychology and cognitive science. His PhD was actually in political science. A true polymath.
But I'm sure he isn't at all biased. :-/
As cognitive psychologists, this is what we are trying to fight with Lyra: a nonprofit conversation service which respects attention.
That said, I do think the end of humanity will be via a primitive AI optimized to hold our attention at all costs. I just don't think we're there yet.
One might even say that the medium is the message.
Blaming Trump’s election (which this article insuates by equating his victory with the failure of democracy) on social media is incredibly disingenuous. Americans are not the helpless fools the author says we are.
what a convoluted way to say ”distraction”.
I would NEVER EVER want to give up the incredible availability of information we have today. Even if most of it is nonsense, that still means there is a mountain of gems that's larger than the eye can see.