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Avoiding the Global Lobotomy (meta-nomad.net)
282 points by KKPMW 66 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 158 comments

I don't know where to get started but I wish there was a manifesto for companies to pledge and social pressure for them to conform to design their software to not be distracting/addict. To not gameify it with badges, and points, and up votes and downvotes.

Most native phone apps seemed designed to distract. Most internet forums including HN seemed designed to distract. There's this like score at the top right corner and I'm aware of anytime it changes. When it does change I feel compelled to go look into why. The same thing happens on Stack Overflow. On both sites I've use Ublock Origin to block all scores. All of them. I've also used it to block the downvote button on HN. But, I honestly believe the world would be a much better place without this gamification and I believe that HN and Stack Overflow and Reddit and all the rest are acting irresponsibly by having these features.

IMO they're addicting, compelling, and they have other negative consequences like promoting group think.

I have no idea how to convince others of this and to get the various companies to give up their skinner box features.

> I have no idea how to convince others of this and to get the various companies to give up their skinner box features.

Convincing others may not be very hard in the end, since everybody is going through this in one way or another.

Convincing companies on the other hand may be impossible under the prevailing economic ideology. As long as the primary and basically sole purpose of a corporation is maximizing shareholder value, they will be compelled to find the most effective ways to do so. If that entails designing addictive products that rot the mind, then that's exactly what they will do.

> As long as the primary and basically sole purpose of a corporation is maximizing shareholder value, they will be compelled to find the most effective ways to do so.

Maximising shareholder value isn’t the problem. The problem is how they do it. Companies that achieve that by offering good, useful, timesaving products and services deserve to make tons of profit!

The problem is advertising. It’s a race to the bottom, the only value is relative (you don’t need to be good but rather better than your competitors, as opposed to e.g. Coca Cola which seems to have reached some (local) optimum). Unlimited amount of money competing for a limited amount of human attention.

Ban advertising, and this problem will solve itself.

Exactly. Hedge yourself from this insanity, because you ain't going to fix the world, and wait for the new world order. Most young people will probably disagree with this approach.


> you ain't going to fix the world, and wait for the new world order

I think this sort of Hegelian outlook is counterproductive. Human society is not external to us; we can change its course if we want to. As a matter of fact there are people who do this all the time - they're the ones who hold power and try to sway the course of events in a way that is favorable to their interests.

Whatever the new world order will be, it will be dictated by people's will (not necessarily the will of 'regular' people, mind you), not by the blind immutable forces of history.

Modern western society - and maybe others, I really only know the west - has built what must be one of the most powerful abstracting bubbles ever for separating people from the real world. For a wealthy westerner - if you don't want to know how your food is grown - you don't have to know. If you don't want to know how your shirt is made - you don't need to know. Don't want to know about the political systems that are keeping the world ticking over? Don't need to know.

Anyone who is in a position earning more than ~$60k/annum can be totally isolated from the real if they want to be and all their problems start becoming social ones, except disease and the grim spectre of eventual death. Even then we're starting to abstract away disease as well - look at how the wheels fell off politically when disease popped through the walls of the bubble on a mass scale. Been a long time since that sort of threat has been meaningful (maybe AIDS in the 80s?).

Good luck, in both sarcasm but also all sincerity, convincing people in that robust of a bubble that there are real problems that need to be fixed. People have no north star to fix a direction. They won't be able to organise anything in reality; they'll get caught up on social problems.

> Good luck, in both sarcasm but also all sincerity, convincing people in that robust of a bubble that there are real problems that need to be fixed. People have no north star to fix a direction. They won't be able to organise anything in reality; they'll get caught up on social problems.

It may turn out to be true that 'regular' people won't be able to organize and change society in a meaningful way. That still doesn't mean it's in principle impossible to do so.

Setting aside the problems internal to society, we do have the twin specters of global warming and nuclear holocaust looming over everything. They probably don't much care how comfortable we are in our middle class western bubble. I'm quite afraid that if we don't act there will be a collapse in the next 30 - 50 yrs.

>The same thing happens on Stack Overflow. On both sites I've use Ublock Origin to block all scores. All of them. [...] But, I honestly believe the world would be a much better place without this gamification and I believe that HN and Stack Overflow and Reddit and all the rest are acting irresponsibly by having these features.

Not sure if you're talking more more about "user profile scores" vs "comment scores" but I'll speak about the usefulness of upvotes/downvotes: it helps readers save time by seeing the most likely interesting reply first. E.g. Stackoverflow would be much less useful if I couldn't rely on "wisdom of the crowd" to rank the various answers on my behalf. Usually, the best answers are at the top and the worst buggy answers are at the bottom.

I lived through the old computer discussion forums without scores such as USENET, Compuserve, etc, and the lack of ranking wasted more of my reading time than Reddit/HN.

In the marketplace of ideas, discussion forums with scoring/ranking work better when contributors are anonymous because you can't rely on non-text signals such as reputation/integrity/competency.

You don't need scoring when every participant's identity is known such as Slack channel of business colleagues. Hopefully, the previous bar for getting hired in the first place at the company means one is typing worthwhile things for coworkers to read.

In most cases downvotes quickly degenerate into a way for toxic people to punish those that disagree with them. Upvotes can work, but they tend to result in people showing support for people they like, more so than ideas.

Personally, I think having a limited number of upvotes based on how many upvotes you've received, and allowing users to flag posts for moderator attention is the least toxic setup that still works.

I would like a system whereby the individual users likes and interests are used to weight everything. What we have now everywhere is basically a "majority of the moment" sorting and censoring the comments for me. I don't know who that really serves.

If the system served me, I wouldn't have to see comments from some whackadoo who feels offended because I wrote about laughing at a cop for not wearing a mask in a crowded retail establishment where everybody else was wearing them.

In my preferred system, comments from people I've upvoted in the past (and people they've upvoted in the past, and so on...) would appear more highly ranked than random nobodies. Likewise, if I've downvoted someone in the past, their comments would be ranked very low and might not appear at all if I've downvoted them enough.

This is more like real life, where people generally only hang around other people who are agreeable to their world view instead of surrounding themselves with disagreeable folks. I think a system that separates people could work wonders for social media. Let all the racists hang out together. Let all the whackadoos and Karens hang out together. What do I care?

In real life, if you've got extreme racist views, you can go hang out with other racists. But to find these like-minded racists, you'll have to churn through lots of potential racists - who may often turn out to actually be anti-racist - to find your group to hang out with. In the process of doing so, a lot of people are going to question why it is that so many people dislike their racist views. And the ones that stick through it are going to know that they hold pretty extreme views relative to the rest of society.

In contrast, the existing social media platforms have a way of making it feel like you're right, and a lot of people are supporting you (doesn't matter whether it's 1% of society, or 99%). Inside your filter bubble, you're not an extremist, and you don't have to encounter very many anti-racists on your search for like-minded racists. When you do, you've got your fellow racist keyboard warriors backing you, and some people even enjoy getting into these arguments.

I think the system you're proposing works well for hobbies and interests like tech or sports. If people who play football aren't aware of what's going on in the world of soccer, it doesn't really matter a great deal. But society - at least a democratic society that depends on informed voters - is worse off if a large number of people get together and encourage each other to think that Hillary Clinton is running a pedophile ring in the basement of a pizza store in Washington.

tl;dr - because it encourages political polarization, which is bad for democracy

I suppose part of the reason why current systems don't do this is because I imagine it'd be quite a bit heavier on the servers to calculate these things for every individual user...

I think, in the end user driven " rapid content curation " is the problem itself.

All toxic twists aside: The content we all need may not be the most comfortable in terms of how much time we need investing getting the info. I won't upvote content I haven't read, because it seems too long, or worse I will upvote the content for the first paragraph only.

Some things cannot be condensed into a comfortable chunk, but any voting system selects for that. Inherently. Because of the dopamine game, we adapt our expectations and then the content adapts to us.

I doubt there will be any "self regulatory" approach to this, which works to our collective benefit. Same with free market bla, bla... All darwinian systems don't care about beauty, stability, right and good, and particularly, they don't care about human wellfare at all.

> E.g. Stackoverflow would be much less useful if I couldn't rely on "wisdom of the crowd" to rank the various answers on my behalf. Usually, the best answers are at the top and the worst buggy answers are at the bottom.

It works rather well for StackOverflow because comments are not supposed to be a free-form discussion but only technical answers. (I guess we can agree that it is pretty respected.)

> I lived through the old computer discussion forums without scores such as USENET, Compuserve, etc, and the lack of ranking wasted more of my reading time than Reddit/HN.

That's not my feeling. I don't think ranking is working well on this kind of free-form discussion forums.

Here on HN, I see more and more comments which, despite simply stating facts or being personal testimony, are greyed out. I cannot even figure out a possible reason (I am not looking for a reason I would agree with, just any kind of reason, of mechanics): they are not opinionated in a way or another, they are not part of a heated sub-thread, nothing. I just don't understand what goes on.

As far as I am concerned, I for example avoid like plague any post or thread that talks about C. I've been a C programmer for 25 years this year, and I know that if I post something about C, it will get downvoted. Opinionated, non-opinionated, based on my decades of personal experience or not, it will be downvoted (and when we say 'it' gets downvoted, of course truth is it feels like 'I' get downvoted). So I try to remember not to comment on those threads or even better: not to open them and let for example the RESF or people who only used C in their introductory programming course at the university repeat their mantra on how dangerous it is, for the 2000th time of the year, in peace.

If I post something semi-factual, semi-opinionated, I have to pray that it fits with the mood of the day of the readers of the day of the thread. The same comment could end up positive one day, negative another day depending on the crowd that has been attracted by the post title.

Anyway, I know I can always make a joke to get back a few upvotes ("oh no, we are not Reddit", well yes we mostly are, we just dress a bit better when we come over here), after getting a few downvotes for a mostly factual statement :-) If I really wanted upvotes, I'd post a random Wikipedia article and get more upvotes in 4 hours than I'd otherwise get in a year (and the moderator would find that highly 'substantive') :->

> I know that if I post something about C, it will get downvoted.

You "avoid like plague any post or thread that talks about C" because you will lose points?! I suggest you try caring less or not at all about fake internet points and more about saying what's important to you. Post if you have a point worth reading, that contributes to HN and the conversation. Write as well as you can. That's all anyone can do.

> I suggest you try caring less or not at all about fake internet points and more about saying what's important to you.

They aren't fake, since they determine and unlock all sorts of real powers on the site.

Also, if the community doesn't appreciate his wisdom, why should he continue to provide it? The downvotes are giving him useful feedback, and he's smart to respond to it.

>> Here on HN, I see more and more comments which, despite simply stating facts or being personal testimony, are greyed out. I cannot even figure out a possible reason (I am not looking for a reason I would agree with, just any kind of reason, of mechanics): they are not opinionated in a way or another, they are not part of a heated sub-thread, nothing. I just don't understand what goes on.

A recent example: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23324109

I referenced a simple fact: Joe Rogan's show is going exclusive to Spotify in October. Then added a plausible speculation: the link will probably break. I meant it to be helpful, but could have expanded it with a suggestion to add more context. Or at least an episode number so people could find it later on Spotify.

It sits at -2. I have to guess the ~3 downvoters assumed I was in some way criticizing Rogan and made a snap, thoughtless decision to downvote. This seems to happen a lot more.

Reading your comment, it seems completely non-sequitur. Were you expecting this particular comment to be read 6 months from now, and felt it very important for the author to take this into account?

I think your comment just didn't add anything to the conversation, no one was really disagreeing with you. But that's one of the major disadvantages of downvotes: It's natural to make assumptions about the motive behind it.

Also, your link might stop working if HN switches to UUIDs instead of unsigned integers.

I like the odds of a smooth migration on HN over two competing platforms cooperating on an exclusivity agreement.

>> Reading your comment, it seems completely non-sequitur. Were you expecting this particular comment to be read 6 months from now, and felt it very important for the author to take this into account?

Link rot is a growing problem, and it's not going away. Extra context, reference numbers, etc can help rediscover the content behind broken links. In this case, it's more of a certainty than usual that it's going to break, and there's zero chance it'll show up (or stay) on something like Internet Archive.

But you're right. Without that context, my comment is easy to misread, and there's no way to know what votes in either direction mean.

There are plenty of questions where the most upvoted answers is wrong or out of date. I learned stop looking at the highest voted answer and instead read the answers themselves. Hiding the scores helps with that. I wasn't lead to an answer based on popularity. Maybe that's only true for S.O. because there's rarely more than a few answers.

For a sight like HN/Reddit I think it might be ok if there was an upvote, no downvote, but the scores were not visible. You'd still get sorting of comments but you wouldn't get the "think like the rest of us or will downvote you" part of downvotes and you (or I) would not get the addictive dopamine hit from seeing my comment get voted up.

>There are plenty of questions where the most upvoted answers is wrong or out of date.

Of course -- because no system is perfect. Your proposed mechanics for designing discussion forums isn't perfect either. It's about tradeoffs.

I don't expect perfection with SO's top-voted answers. Instead, I'm more realistic about the probabilities of the top answer being more useful than the bottom-most answer. Relying on probabilities is a much better usage of my limited time than reading every single answer from unvetted users for every single question on SO and mentally sorting them myself.

>For a sight like HN/Reddit I think it might be ok if there was an upvote, no downvote,

From a statistics perspective, the downvote mechanism helps with the spread[1] of the scores. Instead of just 2 states of 0 or +positive; you get 3 states of -negative, 0, +positive. That way, 0 and negative being won't be in the the same "undifferentiated category". Again, it's about tradeoffs instead of perfection. Your proposal tries to stop "toxic" downvotes at the expense of asking readers to wade through more undifferentiated comments (which is arguably another form of toxicity from the readers' perspective).

(Arguably, there's a 4th category on HN which is "flagged" which goes beyond the downvote.)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistical_dispersion

I think the answer is to decommericalize social media. I use Mastodon Social and it has none of these problems because it doesn't aim to monetize the users of the platform. It's an open source project developed by the users for the users. It doesn't need to keep you engaged, it doesn't need to push ads to you, doesn't need to track you, and so on. This creates a drastically different user experience that's not designed to exploit the user and turn them into a commodity.

One simple example is that Mastodon allows you to disable notifications for likes and retoots, you can just ignore them completely. So you can just see when people reply to your posts and actually interact with you. This small changes makes a huge difference in the experience. And this is precisely the kind of feature that simply can't exist on a service like Twitter because that would result in lower engagement.

There's now a whole federation of such open source services using ActivityPub, and I really think it's the future of social media. The federation is inherently decentralized, with servers being run by regular people across the globe. You can find communities that focus on your particular interests, and there's no single entity deciding how the platform should work for everybody. This approach is also more resilient to censorship as servers are located in many countries across many different jurisdictions. This is precisely the way internet was originally meant to work before it got commercialized and turned into the nightmare that it is today.

This also directly helps with the problem of Overton-window-compression and normalcy-compression that the article talks about. You have some weird kink or idea, then you can run your own server for people who share it. You can even make it private.

Some of the ActivityPub services I recommend checking out are





come join us and help build a community by the users for the users

> I use Mastodon Social and it has none of these problems because it doesn't aim to monetize the users of the platform.

But it still does the likes & retweets part, right? Because I agree with the comment you replied to that that is the problem, not the intention behind doing it.

I'm unsure whether people would use Twitter (or Mastodon for that matter) if it wasn't there. I believe the real-time and constant feedback of belonging to some culture is what drives usage of social media platforms, and in turn influences what people present as (and possibly what they become) because they want positive feedback and want to avoid negative feedback.

Mastodon does likes and retweets, but lets you completely ignore them removing the stimulus. So, the difference with Twitter is that you're constantly notified that people liked or retweeted your stuff, and you see the numbers. When that information isn't displayed then you don't think about it at all.

Having used both Twitter and Mastodon for a while now, I can definitely say that Mastodon is a much healthier environment. For me at least, it completely avoids the dopamine loop that Twitter creates, and I don't have the constant urge to keep checking it.

I was on Mastodon for more than a year and loved it: great conversation that reminded me of the hope and promise of the Internet in the late 90's. Then my instance admin went AWOL, the site crashed, and all of my data and social graph were lost. I still can't get the admin to respond to emails. I could host my own server but who really has the technical know-how and time to do that kind of work? Mastodon has got to solve the reliability and/or portability problem. If I could have recovered my social graph on another instance, I would still be on the network.

Edit: I donated to the admin's Patreon account in excess of his hosting fees. But, that didn't cover his time, apparently. The admin is still active on GitHub after the server crashed; I guess he just lost interest.

That's of course the downside of a federated internet model run by many individual administrators. Nowadays, there are very large instances that are funded, and are very unlikely to just up and disappear. Also, running your own instance is actually not that hard nowadays. Digital Ocean has a provisioned option where it's a one click set up.

Mastodon also has the option to do import and export right in the UI. So, you can easily export your network graph now. Migrating between instances has explicit support now as well https://blog.joinmastodon.org/2019/06/how-to-migrate-from-on...

And I think these improvements show that community run services like this do listen to the users, and evolve to make them more user friendly over time.

I think you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater especially when it comes to forums. Reddit, HN and SO couldn't exist without their voting systems. SO upvotes are an indicator of the quality of the question/response, they aren't there to hook anyone to the platform. And there's a level of personal responsibility on the user's side that you leave out when you simply say that any platform with a voting system is acting irresponsibly.

I agree and disagree. I think the voting system as a tool to weigh the quality of the questions and responses is a good implementation. That does not (as far as I can tell) require publishing people's scores, ranks etc. I think that's where the toxicity happens.

I faced the same issue for myself on HN...I started obsessing over my very underwhelming score. Here's how I dealt with it:

1. I intentionally forgot my old account password so I wouldn't be able to log into it (there was no way to delete the account on HN at the time...still??) 2. whenever I had the urge to respond (which is maybe 1/100 of what it was when I had an active account), I sign up with a throwaway and make sure I enter a password that I won't remember in 5 minutes. 3. I log out and go back to my life.

I really like this idea.

What about if HN didn't show your points next to your name when you're logged in?

It really doesn't matter how many fake internet points you have except to get you hooked into the gamification. I'd much rather not see that number. Any attention I pay to that number (which is way more than I'd wish) is a waste of time, at best.

Apart from that, you have to go out of your way to see points values, except on your old comments.

The optimist in me thinks this problem with corporations and addiction will soon pass. And my reasoning is two-fold: 1) all addiction is "accelerating", 2) social media is ripe for parasites.

First about accelerating addiction. There is a know phenomenon: the more drugs you take - the more is required to reach the same high. Same happens with porn: the more porn you watch, the more depraved varieties you look for in order to replicate the experience. Well, same happens with "clicks" addiction. At first a simple "Today I Learned" post gets you going, but as you indulge more and more the more depraved content is needed to sustain the interest. Soon it turn to memes, then to politics, then to actively looking for "other group" to hate on. And at this stage the same user base that was once "addicted" are no longer profitable. They manifest themselves as racists or anarchists or whatever gets them the same rush as they once had from a "TIL" post. But in either case they are no longer profitable for the corporation. Maintaining and policing everything becomes more and more expensive. The company begins introducing various "changes to policy". They try to sell those changes as "better thing becoming even better", but in reality they only try to combat the natural consequences of their own platform.

Second thing - currently the corporations themselves are an untapped resource in the market ecosystem (so to speak) and other companies will feed on them. We already see some forms of this happening. Take reddit for example. It thrives on addiction, but is also speedily acquiring parasites that, in turn, feed on reddit. Bots, ad farms, vote manipulation. Reddit wants to sell ad space, but how can other companies trust the metrics, when bots abound. How many of those "clicks" are actual people? Reddit tries to put algorithms in for bot detection? - old users are start selling their accounts for real money. It is an arms race. While at the same time new competing platforms also advertise themselves via reddit.

So those two observations, taken together, suggests that the profit part of the social-media corp is slowly decreasing, while operation costs are increasing. Sooner or later they will die. The new ones will spring in it's place. However the acceleration in new corps will be a lot faster. For one, the "parasite" companies now have experience and they won't wait until a platform becomes popular - they will jump on the host a lot quicker. And the users, coming from a dying platform, will demand memes, porn, and hate almost immediately.

Hence there is no real cycle here. Just one dying idea of a social media. At least that is what I like to imagine is happening.

Nice write up! So what does the future look like? Are you saying these social platforms will burn out or fade into the background and people will get their pre-2000 lives back?

>promoting group think

Downvotes are particularly egregious here. An argument can be made that upvotes help to surface content of interest. That still doesn't account for these accumulated top-right-corner scores, however, which have no value WRT enhancing discourse on any individual topic. In fact, they seem to actively encourage appeals to authority and other fallacies.

But, what is the purpose of downvotes other to encourage groupthink and stifle discussion? Why are downvotes allowed to be used as stand-ins for expressing disagreement through actual refutation/discourse? Worse, this allows people to actively submarine (i.e. censor, to some degree) opinions with which they disagree. So people can care enough to submarine someone else's ideas, but they aren't required to explain why? How is this helpful?

If someone is being disruptive or otherwise in violation of terms, there's always the flag option. But, downvotes punish people who meander too far from the group.

HN has the built in "noprocrast" setting which I use and appreciate. They admit it's addicting and give me the tools to limit myself.

Center for Humane Technology[0] comes to mind. Tristan Harris (ex-design ethicist at Google) is the founder.

[0] https://humanetech.com/

I have a different account eg for hn on every device. I don't add my email and immediately forget my password, so the accounts are all disposable, and doomed. Karma has no value on my accounts.

Better approach is to educate people. You're never going to stop the momentum of the free market.

You will also never be able to educate someone who doesn't want to be educated.

This article describes a mix of normal memory function combined with what appears to be a mix of anxiety, fatigue, internet addiction, and possibly slight depression.

First of all, all this stuff of "do you remember" is how the brain is supposed to work. Our brain stays efficient by forgetting information that is no longer relevant. Who cares what you had for lunch last week? Forgetting that is a feature, not a bug.

As for the rest, the "advice" is fairly random and vaguely insulting ("start to fucking think", "read old books", "understand that things die", "wake up entirely").

My advice would be simpler and more direct.

If you have a problem with internet addiction, treat that directly. There are many sources out there to guide you.

If you have problems with fatigue and depression, see a therapist. There are many potential causes which a trained professional can help identify and work with.

And if your main problem is anxiety, then mindfulness meditation has been shown to help in many cases -- lots of good books on this. There are many other cases where mindfulness is not going to be enough, and therapy will be required.

This would seem to be the hyper-individualist response.

Our environment/context influences our behavior. Saying, "well, technically any given person could ignore their environment/context and act however is optimal!" isn't very helpful.

This article is acknowledging the environmental/systemic/contextual reality

Did you read the same article I did?

All the advice in the article is about what you can do as an individual, for yourself. And I'm critiquing that advice as essentially sophomoric.

I don't know what you're inventing "hyper-individualist" out of, and the article doesn't give any advice on any "environmental/systemic/contextual reality".

“hyper-indivisualist” (atomization) surely refers to this part of the article:

> The project of atomization is the great illusory emancipatory freedom layered over an ever-constraining normality, atomization allows only for greater normality to be imposed on an individual level, away from families, groups and communes which will potentially have a sturdy and stable enough leader to disrupt the process of modernity.

Noe that I think about it, I seem to agree with you: it does seem suspect that the solutions to problems induced by atomization would not involve collaboration.

> Read old books, preferably books published before the 1900s, it really alters your psyche to realise how different things were just 100 or so years ago.

It's funny the author mentions this, because when I read old books I have the opposite reaction: I realize how similar life is and how little things have changed. We have new technologies and better infrastructure, but people's behaviors, thought patterns (particularly the negative ones, we just have names for a lot of them now), and ultimately the meat that makes us human has not changed one bit.

I have a way of thinking about this that I developed in connection with travelling but also applies (for me) to reading older works.

Consider two biologists. One is a molecular biologist and when they look at the living world, they are amazed by how almost everything is the same. Molecules, cell structures, chemical reactions ... almost all (visible) living things are incredibly similar. Now consider our other biologist, this one a zoologist. They look at the bodies and lives and eating habits and reproductive behaviors of whales and ants and eagles and snakes and are amazed at the vast diversity and range the living world presents.

So who's right, the molecular biologist or the zoologist? Is (almost) all life fundamentally the same, or is it incredibly diverse and different?

The answer, obviously, is that neither of them are right. They each are looking at the same phenomena in different ways.

When you travel, or when you read and old book, you will notice that in general, people wake up, eat some food, start the business of the day, eat some more food, socialize a little or a lot with others, take in a little (or a lot) of culture, sleep. They have children. They live in homes. They (mostly) wear clothes. This is the "molecular biology" view of other lands/times.

If you start focusing in on precisely what they eat, how they move from one place to another, details of their clothes, the nature and duration of friendships, the types of activities they do, the role of gender and age and beliefs and climate and soil ... you start to see enormous variation across space and time. This is the "zoologist" view.

People are all remarkably similar and all remarkably different. That's true whether you look around the world, or back in time.

And then of course, there's the French distillation of all this: plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose ("the more things change, the more they stay the same").

Nice way of thinking about things, though

> The answer, obviously, is that neither of them are right

I'd say both of them are right, they're just looking at the phenomena at different levels of abstractions. That's what makes our lives so complex.

This has been my experience as well. Sometimes the mind that wrote those words over 100 years ago really jumps out of the page at you and it's the same exact feeling you might get talking to someone in the present time. We had the same exact wants, needs, anxieties, and petty egos back then.

I've been reading Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky (19th century) and while some of the monologues are unrealistic, the general attitude of

> We had the same exact wants, needs, anxieties, and petty egos back then.

is exactly how I felt.

Yes! Reading e.g. Plutarch's Lives (~100AD) about leading ancient Greeks and Romans, it's amazing how nothing's changed, in a lot of ways.

And Democracy in America (1835-40) seems to me the book that reveals more clearly than any other the present day USA.

Although I don't want to say that this post is not insightful at all, I'm always a bit wary of people who place themselves above everyone else and think they know so much better. One thing the author doesn't explain, for instance, is why getting your little dopamin kicks from time to time is so bad. The post generalizes from the extreme cases.

For example, I buy too many VST audio plugins, stuff that I don't really need as a hobby musician. I know that I don't really need them, but from time to time when they are on sale, I like to buy another one just for fun, for the immediate satisfaction of trying it out. I can easily afford this, it's just a part of spending my modest discretionary salary (most of which I save). The habit gives me a nice feeling. What's wrong with that?

Maybe the author needs to take it a bit more easy?

VSTs are a tool you can use for creation. I see what you're doing as exploring and trying to find new sounds.

I think this is different than what the article speaks about.

From the article:

> Now, defining successful social interactions used to be difficult, but the sphere of social interaction has since been immanentized onto the metric of likes, retweets, hearts etc, wherein a greater number of positive likes equates to a more successful social interaction

I just don't see exploring sounds as equivalent to the above.

I mean are you trying to get likes, retweets, etc. with your VSTs? Not in the same manner - sure you will be making a audio work that you hope will be appreciated but it's nowhere near the same as unconsciously regurgitating some text macro image from a political think tank group or radio station.

As the author notes at the top, I think most people can directly feel the problem. We just don't often focus on it or try to solve it. It kinda fades into the background. I spend 10 minutes a day showering, an hour a day eating, and 3 hours a day randomly alternating between browser tabs - isn't that just what normal life is?

The body of the article is too verbose for my taste.

However, I found the advice section at the end valuable and actionable; especially the following:

> Continually check your thoughts, actions, purchases and posts. Do I actually like this? Do I actually believe this? What do I actually think?

> Read old books, preferably books published before the 1900s

> Go outside, seriously go outside. Look around, it’s great out there.

Also, of course, everything about reducing smartphone/screen exposure.

That's because this blogger is clearly inspired by the dark enlightenment.[0] They promote and use obscurantism in writing. Partially out of elitism, but primarily to veil the fascist (and often racist) motivations underneath. A recent post is literally "the myth of progress" [1] which is the central tenet of the Dark Enlightenment.

edit: How appropriate. The very first post quotes Deleuze who was perhaps not intentionally writing in this way, but is strongly associated with the tradition. Out of curiosity did some additional digging and found that indeed this blog is what I believe it to be: https://twitter.com/meta_nomad/status/1187046976950587398

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Enlightenment

[1] https://www.meta-nomad.net/the-myth-of-progress/

Well if he was trying to be obscure, he did a really poor job of it. It didn't take that many paragraphs before he laid out his political and social ideology on the reader. I really thought I was going to learn how modern technology engenders my brain-fog and how to prevent that. I've been had, I guess.

>Read books published before 1900

This is going to bias a reader, who is ill-prepared to approach their reading on a socially-critical level, towards patterns of thought that are socially archaic. Cutting out pre-20th century work is going to cut out almost everything written by anyone who wasn't a well-off white man, unless one makes a purposeful effort to look into translations of Eastern works. There are plenty of books publisher in the last 100 years that are valuable. With this rule, you leave behind Sinclair's The Jungle, Baldwin's The Fire Next Time, and every Hugo Award winner. (Shadow rec: John Chu's short story "The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere" @ https://www.tor.com/2013/02/20/the-water-that-falls-on-you-f... )

I think there's some truth and some good advice in the essay, but I'm somewhat wary of how committed he (presumably, he) was to his argument despite having little to show in ways of citation and support. It reads to me less as an overview of empirically tested knowledge than a synthesis of other writings and conversations whose veracity I find indeterminate and whose origins I would be very interested in discovering.

> The body of the article is too verbose for my taste.

Kind of one of the points the article's trying to make I think. Our attention spans are shot to hell. I just read it in about 10 minutes with a couple of interruptions from the kids. Too verbose?

"too verbose" generally means that the writing style doesn't resonate with reader, making it tedious to read.

What resonates with you as a reader is a pure function of what you’ve read in the past though. There’s an argument for trying to stick with movies/books/articles/etc you find difficult precisely to keep the mental torpor described at bay.

My feeling was that the same thoughts could have been expressed in fewer words and that the article would have gained in clarity from that.

> Our attention spans are shot to hell.

I agree. My comment was mostly on the presentation, not on the substance of the article.

Our attention spans are shot. The article is verbose. Two things can be true at once.

While you make a fair point, there is another side to it: Whether or not I actually spend the amount of time reading a piece of text or give up halfway through, too much verbosity (whether that's due to repetition, unnecessary side notes, whatever) leads to me not respecting the message of the text as much as I would have if it was more succinctly written.

There's also a big difference between me comitting a few hours to reading a book by my favorite author, or a set of articles from news outlets I respect, versus some anonymous blogger linked on Hacker News.

Remind yourself occasionally that none of what you see on a screen is real - it is only colored dots on a piece of glass.

Photons are real whatever the light source.

Reality is more something related to trust, if you want a hierarchy to reality, you can trust more your direct testimony of an event from your senses that someone's account, and it's much better when you shared reality with a third party. «Did you see that ?»

Everything's real, the only point is whether it fits in your belief system or if you trust the information enough to adjust it.

The photons from the screen are real.

Everything else is conjecture. If I look back at photos I've taken, I can conjecture that they appear to be an accurate record of what I was seeing when I took them, and that no one has surreptitiously hacked my phone and altered them. If I look at a photo of a grandson posted by my daughter, I can reasonably conjecture that it is also a faithful facsimile of his appearance at that time and place. If I look at a video of a third person posted by my niece, there is zero assurance that it represents reality.

So the default position has to be that the colored dots are for entertainment only, and not to be taken seriously, unless there is some valid reason to believe otherwise.

It's pretty easy to extend this further. The photons that bounce into your eyes when you look at a tree are real, but who's to say they got to your eyes by being emitted from a big ball of fusion, through the 8 minute trip to Earth, and off that tree into your eyes? If someone put a sufficiently detailed screen there, we wouldn't know.

Similarly, how do you know you're not a brain in a jar? etc.

GP's point, that there's a hierarchy to truth/reality, is probably more useful. All we have are observations, and we can use those observations to draw conclusions about the state of the world. We must always be aware that it's always a map, though -- we can never know the territory.

The saddest thing, personally, is I agree, made resolution to consume less media, was going to commit to some fairly radical life changes (that I wanted to try, knowing full well there is a reasonably high chance of failure) - but then the pandemic hit. Possibilities have gone, jobs are harder to change, staying inside glued to screens has become even easier to justify. Alas.

I've had the opposite effect. Being isolated at home, I had decreased needs of quickly consumable media (no commutes), a decreased need to keep up with hot topics due to less small talk with friends, and more free time.

This has allowed me to engage in more activities that require deep concentration, like reading, learning piano, or studying foreign languages (hobbies that I had put on hold for years). I feel way sharper these days mentally speaking, and for the first time in a few years I'm thinking about my life long term (am I ok at my job? what comes after? I am ok with my current social circle or should I change things?, etc).

About 2 weeks ago I was banned from reddit for 3 days for calling someone a karma whore, I'm glad I was, and I don't feel bad about it at all. I have since removed every social media and news app from my phone except for hacker news, and even that I've considered removing.

I love so much of what technology has allowed possible and despise how most of it's used, even by myself sometimes.

“ The Best Minds of My Generation Are Thinking About How To Make People Click Ads”

It genuinely bothers me that the biggest name in tech is a massive advertising company that hasn't made a significant new product in a decade.

Just to let me know, you made me go through the Wikipedia article "List of Google products" to see if I could disprove you. I only see two things that I would count as "significant new products", Chrome OS (and hence, Chromebooks) and Google Assistant.

The other stuff they made in the 2010s is just carbon-copying other successful services (Drive), already discontinued (Inbox) or both (Google+).

Isn't Google Assistant just Google's Siri/Alexa? Though they might have improved the concept.

I was very tempted to count it as another carbon copy, but didn't want to discount the serious engineering effort that goes into developing an ML-based voice assistant.

Chromebooks are just Chrome running on Debian. They're not sufficiently more innovative than netbooks.

By a similar argument, the original iPhone was not particularly innovative. And Dropbox too is just a nice UI on top of FTP, right? :)

I thought it was Gentoo.

It's enough to make you want to howl!

ps. the good news, if there is any, is that those people are probably not the best minds of your generation.

What metrics decides the best minds and who designed those metrics? They may not be the best minds. In fact if they were maybe they would not be doing it in the first place.

Even if true, I'm sure the 'best minds' historically were often occupied by, say, justifying the existence of a God over exclusively dedicating their immense talents to fundamental scientific theory. We can excuse it, in some cases, I suppose.

It can of course be superficial, but perhaps "the best minds" as it applies in this context could be measured by salary, education level/cost of education (i.e. how many Ivy Leaguers work at said companies)

While I would be the first to agree the world increasingly makes it easier to go on “auto-pilot” - this largely is by choice for the average person and I would argue has been around as long as written history.

Being critical of people for doing this will not help, nor will assuming the average person becoming more engaged will align with the outcome you would think would be reasonable; for example, the world working together to insure a positive future for Earth and beyond.

I don’t know what the answer is.

> this largely is by choice for the average person

I would disagree. While indeed we're all in a sense free to choose, your environment can actually make certain choices a lot easier than others. We're indeed free to not have a smartphone, social media etc. but since there's now a social expectation to have those things, opting out may lead to social isolation. In turn, since you're almost compelled to opt in, you will be exposed to those things, which are designed to be addictive => there's a risk you will become addicted.

> I would argue been around as long as written history

Here I really have to disagree. For most of written history the vast majority of people spent a lot of their time outside, doing mostly manual work. Their equivalent of social media and news feeds were tales told by the elders and various community social events or ceremonies. No auto-pilot there, as far as I can see.

Phony bulshit. Younger generation are much more aware, generally savy, And actively engaged than mine was 20years ago. Internet has not lobotomized us, it has changed the scale and speed at wich the narrative change, and it has levelled the field of knowledge in many direct and indirect ways.

What evidence is there of this?

Has the youth vote made any difference in the electorate? No.

More of the "youth" are spending time on fortnite and instagram than educating themselves on the internet.

The source doesn't explain how the data is acquired and really doesn't make any argument, it seems like astroturfing. Not spending money on garbage statistics, sorry.

Also what does gaming have to do with any of this? People who are older play sports too - so what?

Platforms need to Turn off/hide/delay/limit the Like counts. Including HN.

Just like we learnt the hard way about the conseqences of too much sugar, fat, nicotine, alcohol etc etc we now understand (and it took too long) what all damage a half baked reward mechanism does to society.


Welcome to the surveillance and attention economies, the “modernity” that the author describes without naming.

The article, near the end, has some solid advice: spend more time walking (preferably in nature) and try to use your phone less.

The large tech companies’ business depends on collecting data on every aspect of our lives, and at scale and targeted/individualized to each person, seeks to control our actions since the easiest way to predict a consumer’s actions is to actually influence them.

Companies like Google and Facebook may act as if collecting all data on people is inevitable, but it may not be, if enough of us just say “no” and push back as much as we can and still thrive in modern times.

Conspicuously absent from the article is the bad guy. There is no evil villain scheming to destroy our attention spans. The evil villain is us.

I find it very hard to not look at my phone every 5 min (to check HN, emails, or anything). I wish I didn't, and I feel quite like the author (at the beginning of its article): lack of concentration, mentally tired..

Do people have any advice to help ?

The key to breaking the cycle is stopping the start of it. It's often easier to create bright line zones of complete abstinence than it is to regulate usage to 'reasonable' amounts.

The post suggested going on walks without the phone.

Setup your charging location for the phone outside of your bedroom and have a no phone in the bedroom rule. No phone at the dinner table rule. A no phone in <wherever the phone is usually leading to unwanted outcomes> rule.

If you actually have to allow the phone to interrupt you (do you _really_?) designate a space where you'll take those interruptions, rather than allowing the phone usage to spill into spaces where you've designated the phone off limits.

Take activities that you might otherwise do on the phone but could do on a regular computer and stop doing them on the phone. At least you can't be doing them all the time. (e.g. I've never logged in to HN or Reddit from a phone, and it's been >10 years since I've done email on a mobile device...).

Replacing an addiction with a void won't work. So instead of focusing on "how do I stop doing this?" focus on finding a different activity. If it's something you're truly interested in, then you'll spend your time doing that and you won't have time or a desire to check your phone.

In other words, you're only checking your phone because that is more interesting than whatever else you were doing at that moment. So the key is to replace that boring activity with a more interesting one.

I disagree - that just leads to learning to distract oneself. The most effective method in my experience is to do nothing instead of the thing you want to stop doing. Literally, stop the thing you're doing, do not transition into doing anything else, and then do nothing. For a good while. Give it an hour or two.

This is based on the theory that the REASON you keep checking your phone, HN, etc. is that you are compulsively anxious about "missing out" on information, so your brain seeks it at every opportunity, and the Internet and its services have an unending supply. The antidote is to PROVE to yourself that the compulsion is illusory, and nothing bad happens if you resist it.

Over time, you can extend the time between these checks longer and longer, and begin to notice that it's OK to miss even MOST online content, really only occasionally and with INTENT stop to consume the stuff you ACTUALLY care about. Unfriend Facebook contacts that have nothing real to say. Unsubscribe from everything that doesn't truly interest you. Set your phone on 'Do Not Disturb' outside business hours.

YOU decide what content and when you want to consume. Never browse feeds nor recommendation engines. They are intentionally tuned to be as addictive as possible, to keep you hooked, to serve you more ads.

One of these days we (the human race) will internalize the truth that information exists as a physical thing and is the third complement to matter and energy.

The idea that you shouldn't be binging on low-quality food 24/7 is a no-brainer to us. One day we'll figure out that hygiene and nutrition rules apply to information too.

I have found from my own experience that you need to shut your phone off and keep it off. It helps to keep it in a different room, especially at night before you go to sleep.

We're working on a service that allows you to do this while still being able to read the blogs and newsletters you like. I built this specifically to deal with this problem:


We're still in beta so it's free to use. I would love the feedback from any HN reader. You can email me at the email in my bio if you have any questions or feedback.

This looks like the service I've been looking for for a while. Thank you, signed up.

Turn off all non-important notifications. Turn off facebook (leave on Messenger), twitter (maybe can be configured so only DMs notify) and anything else. Turn off the badges too so there is no nagging icon telling you there is new stuff to check.

I also hit unsubscribe in every single email I can.

Look at phone checking as a cause, instead of a symptom.

Your life other than your phone encourages checking it.

Long commute to work? Plenty of situations you'd rather not be in? Limited freedom to choose how you spend your time?

Yes? Then being in your phone is a coping mechanism.

The solution is, there is no simple solution - you need to have financial freedom to not be forced into situations you'd rather not be in.

Other than that, if you're under 30, then a phone is simply a free tool for gathering new experiences and it's perfectly normal to check it every 5 minutes - you're supposed to be curious. It'll work itself out - sooner or later checking instagram and facebook simply gets old. Twitter opinions get repetitive and boring. Even HackerNews becomes predictable and boring.

It's like anything else - sooner or later you figure out what works for you and you focus more on that, then the things that weren't serving you will largely fall away on their own, but it may take a decade or two to get there. Just don't have children until you're sure, everything else you can figure out isn't working for you and let it go :)

>> Look at phone checking as a cause, instead of a symptom.

So true. It's interesting that the most upvoted comments on HN are those which treat this as a cause.

"Leave your phone in another room", "Turn it off", "Throw it away"...

These ideas are themselves the product of the global lobotomy. They are characterized by an inability to see that things are much more complex than they appear on the surface.

Of course, superficial ideas are more likely to be popular. This is because the vast majority of people are system 1 'instinctive' thinkers.

The idea that the underlying cause might be "people have insufficient control over their own lives" is not on the globalist agenda. This argument is far too sophisticated and abstract for most people to grasp. People will not even want to acknowledge it to themselves.

IMO, it's precisely the lack of control over our lives (at the hands of the education system, governments and corporations) which is forcing us to accept a passive consumer role. But very few people really want to be a consumer, they just don't see an alternative.

I swapped my phone to grayscale among other things people recommended.

The colors are part of the reward system so turning them off makes your phone pretty bland and over time less rewarding. This is not an immediate fix.

I don't know if this works for you, but since a month I started taking a 1h walk every evening, after my kids go to sleep. I'm in my 30s, walking for me was something older people do. I also run every other day. But I find it so relaxing, it gives me 1h of reflection, burns a few hundred calories, and in that time I would have probably sat at the computer anyway. I think this is one of the good habits one can pick up, and in your case I think you need to pick up some good habits. Focusing on how to break your phone addiction could be hard since it's very specific, so maybe changing some fundamental things that you do will shake off this behaviour.

Here’s what works for me. I don’t have any social media apps on my phone. On my laptop, I use the LeechBlock NG Firefox extension to block social media (including HN) from 9:00-18:00 on weekdays, furthermore outside this window, I’ve set it up to not let me browse these sites for more than an hour a day. This restriction does not apply on Saturdays.

I work 6 days a week (solo startup founder), and follow a regimen of a digital sabbath on Sundays. Which essentially means, not using any electronics (I do take an occasional phone call from a friend, but nothing more). I spend the day with my family playing board games, picnics at local parks and reading paper books.

I recently disabled Twitter so I could really take a break from it. After a month or so I reactivated my account but didn't bother to sign in again on my phone, so now I check it once or twice a day in my desktop browser. I swear it's made a huge difference to my phone habits.

Still work to do though, as I've partially replaced that habit with frequently checking news websites. I think the advice in the blog post is great -- go for a long walk without your phone. Do this once a day if possible. Start to gently break the habit.

Install GoodTime on your phone and have your work open on your computer. The computer should be free of social media and news feeds. Clear them from your browser history.

GoodTime uses the Pomodoro technique to have you concentrate on a task for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. Your 5 minute break could be you checking your email or whatever else, but also take break from sitting which can cause other health issues.

When the 5 minutes are up, back to work. Stop making excuses to yourself. Only 25 minutes till you can check your feeds again.

I'd also suggest using the Loop Habit Tracker app to keep track of habits you're trying to develop over a longer period. If you can perform a task continuously for 30 days, you shouldn't need to be reminded anymore to do it, it becomes a habit. This app lets you drop reminders as widgets onto your launcher which should draw your attention before your social media does. (Take your social media apps off the launcher home screen so there's an extra step you need to go through to access them).

Also, on the computer, install LeechBlock or other similar addon and blacklist all of your social media and other sites which cause you to procrastinate.

“Out of sight, out of mind”

Seriously. Think about it this way: if you’re going on a diet, the first thing to do is make sure you don’t have cookies in the house. If you do, you’ll eat cookies. In much the same way, something as small as leaving your phone in another room will prevent you from reaching for your phone out of habit. Start with that.

I got a European phone that didn't support any of my carrier's 4g bands. I can use it do stuff on 2g or 3g if I have to, but it's so painful to use I don't end up reaching for it unless I really need it.

Get rid of your phone. I have a non-smart flip-style phone and Google Voice on my iPad for texting. Admittedly I’ve never had a smartphone so I don’t know what I’m missing but I get by just fine.

I have a book to read. I'm not always reading it, but often enough it is a better distraction to read a long form book on my phone or laptop than yet another FB post.

My phone is and always has been a little dumbphone and can't do those distractions. Question: do you really need those features that distract you?

Just find something else to do that doesn't involve consuming other people's thoughts, ideas and feedback. Come up with your own thoughts and ideas. Stop being a consumer, start being a producer. Do it for yourself because probably no one else will agree with your ideas, but that's OK. You can keep training yourself to express your ideas better.

A picture of your mother-in-law on your home screen?

Just keep it in a different room.

Step 1: get rid of your smartphone. You probably spend a lot of time in front of a computer anyway, so you don't really need it. Trust me, it's good.

No need to trust you, I’ve checked and I’m better off with smartphone. Most people probably are.

Which metrics did you use?

(i'm cell/mobile phone free since ... forever, but spend all day in front of networked computer screens for decades)

Personal satisfaction (I missed Whatsapp, maps, Uber, ability to check email and read when not at the computer).

The truth is probably that no one should use Facebook or Instagram in the same way that people shouldn't smoke or drink too much. Mental health ya know.

Or maybe just use them responsibly?

I have ~900 "friends" but I only follow somewhere between 20-30 people. I've stopped following anyone who isn't actually close. I've also stopped following anyone who posts too much (except my sister) or posts a lot of political stuff. I've also hit the "don't show this person for 30 days" on people who are ranting with lots of posts about the topic of the moment, whatever it is". My feed is just a few close friends and family and pretty much all of it nice. It's also not that busy, a few posts a day. I can keep up with 1 view day. I have notifications off except for the Messenger app.

Instagram is similar. I only follow about 8 people and none of them post too often. I unfollowed friends that post too much and I have notifications off. I check it 2-4 times a month at most.

> Or maybe just use them responsibly?

Possibly. It may be that some people are able to, but others are not, similar to some people being perfectly able to drink alcohol sometimes and within limits while others will quickly spiral into heavy drinking. It may also have to do a lot with your circumstances, whether social media is where you get your gratification and social interactions or is just something you use to make plans with friends to get together.

I knew a woman ages ago that smoked three cigarettes a day: one in the morning, one after she got home from work, and one before she went to bed. I've never been able to control my smoking that well, and I've never met any other smokers that could.

>Or maybe just use them responsibly?

This isn't a personal responsibility thing. Personal responsibility goes out the window when companies are spending hundreds of millions on research and design to keep you "engaged" (see addicted).

Parallels with Opioid companies

Excessive use of social media may have a similar impact as using opioids...


Using a highly addictive thing responsibly is trickier than a list of bullet points that worked for you. Everyone starts out using thinking "I can keep this in control".

The phone delivers important news which must be checked at least once a day, and also is a core mechanism of socializing. I think you can't just randomly ignore it for arbitrary amounts of time.

What you can do is cut back on your digital socializing. Which means interacting with fewer people or less often. For me that comes naturally, but on days where I have even two people chatting with me routinely, it easily starts to eat into my attention for work and other things.

The trick is to avoid Facebook entirely, not have friends, and not have any followers on Twitter that are not bots.

> The phone delivers important news which must be checked at least once a day

I'm beginning to think the news is really not that important. Even in the midst of a global pandemic when presumably the news would be crucial to explain how to keep you and your family safe it's not clear it helped given the noise level of the information published. At the crucial early stages, being informed (masks don't help! don't buy them: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-cdc-says-americans-don...) would have hurt you (whoops our bad: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-si...). Being largely uninformed and just getting the gist of information might have been fine.

When I go on vacation and stop checking the news for a week, i'm amazed at the volume of information I missed, how much I enjoyed not thinking about said information, and how unimportant it truly was in the grand scheme of my life.

The news is an entertainment product.

I think many (most?) "Digital natives" already found a superior answer to these problems; pull people you're actually friends with (defined by whether they'll join your small group chat) into small group chats, and blog the daily experience of life mostly into those small chats.

Solves many privacy problems (but not all), avoids Dunbar number violations, and gives a genuine source of social attention (which humans need) from people who are more involved in your life. Getting enough social attention (and giving enough in turn) seems to calm a kind of anxiety that might otherwise suck people into social media.

> The phone delivers important news which must be checked at least once a day

For most people in most situations, I'd disagree strongly with "important" and definitely with "must".

> The phone delivers important news which must be checked at least once a day

I think you've nailed the reason why it's very difficult to completely cut your phone out of your life in terms of it being something you depend on in your routine. It's relatively easy to block social media and uninstall apps like Instagram but for me this was the use case that I hadn't been able to find a substitute for.

I build this service to deal with this specific problem, essentially allowing you to have news and other kinds of content (like blog posts) delivered to your Kindle to read in a newspaper format:


We're still in beta and I would love any feedback from HN readers. If you have any questions or feedback you can email me at the email in my bio.

Good recommendations. I started doing this slowly over the past few years (watching almost no video, leaving phone behind while going out etc). Last week I went off Twitter, which was my main source of news. In a short time that's had a big impact on how distracted I feel.

Also agreed on reading old books. Most new books (at least mass marketed ones) are mediocre. They may have a financial ROI but not a mental one. Reading books that have been around for a while means you're probably seeing the best. Same goes for old movies.

Old Books being better than new ones sounds just like survivorship bias.

Different than that. I'm saying that the small number of books published years ago that you still see around are probably the best from the large number that were published in their year. If it were survivorship bias, then I'd say "people used to be better writers..."

There were certainly lots of awful books written in the past. We just don't see them anymore.

>...We quite literally get anxiety attacks when we’ve misplaced our phones...

>...phantom-vibration syndrome...

Holy shit, this is me!

I have no idea what this article is actually arguing for. But the author also has essays on “accelerationism”, making me somewhat suspicious.

Don't need to be suspicious. He's definitely inspired by nick land et al. the current reigning intellectual fascist and king accelerationist.


And if you need any further proof of where this guy's at politically: https://i.imgur.com/LvaK31Z.png . 1 is essentially an antisemitic dogwhistle meme and 2 is sort of self explanatory.

Ah, thanks! That explains the downvotes.

The tweets you've posted are very obviously irony; he's basically mocking one of the tropes related to accelerationism, which is the misconception that all accelerationists are NRx/alt-right white suprematists. The reality is a bit more complicated than that, there is both a left-wing and a right-wing version of it (if you want a wikipedia article on it here you go: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accelerationism). From glancing some of the articles from the author, he's more into the former camp than the latter, and really has no interest in NRx politics. You can criticize all you want about accelerationism itself though - but now that's where you're going knee-deep into the territory of philosophy, and where you really need to fight against Land's vicious assaults on Western modernism.

Nick Land is quite a controversial figure, but you have to understand that he was the leader of one of the strangest leftist post-modern philosopher groups called the CCRU, which was strongly influenced by Deleuze & Guattari's works along with futurism, sci-fi, cyberpunk, etc. . But he also did too many drugs along the away and broke himself - and after that breakdown is when he kinda changed 180 degrees and went full on with the neo-reactionary movement. He even said that he doesn't want to associate himself with his past CCRU works anymore. (You can read more about him in http://divus.cc/london/en/article/nick-land-ein-experiment-i...) Clearly the author is interested in the former half of Land's works, seeing that he is running online lectures about the philosophy from the CCRU and not the NRx.

I'm a little surprised the author recommended "The Shallow" but didn't mention "Deep Work" by Cal Newport.

I guess I have been spared by never garnering many likes, hence I could not develop the social media addiction

Who's James Mason?

I can only assume this is a #MeToo reference as he was the male lead in Lolita - c.f. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/feb/16/times-finally-u...

Enjoyed this article from the same blog, about dropping out:


I barely had the attention span to read this :-(

The best article on HN in ages.

It's quite ironic that this article is being up-voted here on Hacker News when the author's thesis is that voting systems are toxic.

It's like discussing space-exploration while residing within an air-filled room.

No, actually it's like discussing how space exploration will cause the downfall of civilization from inside a spaceship bound for the moon.

For crying out loud, put down your phone and go play outside, after you read and up-vote my article, of course.

Avoid the global lobotomy, “please support me on Patreon”.


The problem with his actions was that it demonstrated 'one rule for us, another rule for them'. While imploring the country to stay at home, the lead advisor to the PM (and possibly the 'power behind the throne') went and did just as he pleased.

As per your reference, in fact it was forbidden (by strong advice if not actual law) - he went and did it anyway.

And yet he is not before a court.

Another maxim that is under threat: "Innocent until proven Guilty"

So it was specifically not forbidden and it showed nothing other than quite a few people are very susceptible to propaganda and marketing rather than actually reading and understanding the "rules" for themselves. But thanks for demonstrating precisely the problem highlighted by the original article.

I don't think you appreciate the breadth and depth of public revulsion to his actions in the UK - many people were separated from their loved ones and could not be with them even when they were sorely needed. Every MP was inundated with letters decrying what he did - many wished that they could have traveled during that time for reasons much more important than those he gave.

Life is a bit more complicated than precisely defined rules and laws - there are many grey areas, but even so the 'man or women in the street' often does have a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong. In this case they are spot on, and it is a shame that Cummings is unlikely to face (natural) justice.

"I don't think you appreciate the breadth and depth of public revulsion to his actions in the UK"

Neither did William Price. but it didn't matter. He was able to Cremate his family anyway in line with his beliefs. Because there was no law against it - despite at the time there being a cult of body preservation due to religious hysteria. Something that now seems ridiculous - as the current hysteria will to future generations.

And that's because we live in a free country. Something I will fight to my last breath to preserve against the authoritarians who want to change that.


The pro-EU class, as you put it, should be understood as the class of people who contribute to society, who make it tick, the people who might have half a clue about what is actually going on.

For the last 500 years the UK has had one overriding foreign policy objective - to prevent the rise of a pan European power unaligned to our interests. By surrendering our seat at the EU we have at a stroke failed in that objective - now the EU is free to become ever more powerful without us, and our needs and wishes will become increasingly irrelevant.

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