Summaries

Zucked

Roger McNamee has been a Silicon Valley investor for 35 years. He co-founded successful funds in venture, crossover and private equity. His most recent fund, Elevation, included U2's Bono as a co-founder and has been an early Facebook investor who advised Mark Zuckerberg personally.

Back in the twentieth century, there weren’t many successful Silicon Valley start-ups run by people fresh out of college. That however changed as open-sourced components and external server infrastructure suddenly enabled young tech people could start a startup without many of the traditional upfront costs.

Zuckerberg and the people working at Facebook jumped directly from one university campus to another campus with near-zero experience in enterprise. This set the stage for irresponsibility that would haunt the company, and all of society for that matter, in its later years. Facebook's success skyrocketed correspondingly with its exponentially increasing user base, as did revenue and eventually profits. As it did, effectively nobody on the work floor could object to Zuckerberg's rule. Additionally, with a dual-voting right scheme, shareholder voting rights were also effectively excluded, giving the founder unprecedented control.

Blatant disregard for the user and their privacy

Facebook holds up to 29,000 data points on each of its users. That’s 29,000 little things it knows about your life, from the fact that you like cat videos to whom you’ve been socializing with recently. Take Connect, a service started in 2008, that allows users to sign into third-party websites through Facebook. Many users love the simplicity of not needing to remember countless complicated passwords for other sites. What most users don’t realize is that the service doesn’t just log them in. It also enables Facebook to surveil them on any site or application that uses the log-in. Use Connect to log into news websites? Facebook knows exactly what you are reading.

Now, if a business is so greedy for your personal data, you’d at least hope that it would treat that data with care, right? Unfortunately, ever since the earliest days of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg’s business has shown an apparent disregard for data privacy. In fact, according to Business Insider, after Zuckerberg gathered his first few thousand users, he messaged a friend to tell them that if they ever wanted information on anyone at their university, they should just ask. He now had thousands of emails, photos and addresses. People had simply submitted them, the young entrepreneur said. They were, in his reported words, “dumb fucks.”

Read more about how filter bubbles worsen polarization. How Facebook enabled a hostile foreign nation to expose 127 million American civilians to propaganda meant to influence the 2016 presidential election. Why Facebook doesn't fact check political ads and much more.

The Attention Merchants

The story of the attention merchant began in 1833 with Benjamin Day and the newspaper The Sun. Day was not a journalist but a self-described businessman. When he founded the sun he wanted to rely on a different business model than selling newspapers at a higher cost of production to readers. He wanted a business model of reselling readers, or advertising.

Advertising was of course employed before, but Day wanted to not have the fuzziness between what was an advertisement and what was journalism. He wanted to sell his reader's attention en bloc to more substantial advertisers, but to do so he needed a mass readership. He forged most of the newspaper profit and sold them at a loss. Day instead focused his gaze on advertisement revenue. At first, with every unit sold this lost Day money every day, but eventually, it became the biggest newspaper in New York City at the time, making a substantial profit by selling about 5000 copies a day at the end of the first year.

But soon Day recognized that in order to sell to substantial advertisers, he needed to keep his readership considerable, resulting in total dependence on keeping engagement high at all costs. Soon the competition got wind of this new model and copycats followed suit. Under competition, the race will run to the bottom; more outrageous, emotional charged bottom-up signals work most effective. How far will the attention merchant go to get his harvest? The New York Sun gave us a telling glimpse of the inevitable as it unchanged itself of journalistic ethics regarding truth. Within 2 years it ran a bogus series on a new telescope that was capturing a whole society living on the moon with seas, red rocks canyons, lunar trees, and life. Fake news was born and a new business model was validated as Benjamin Day and his competitors became the first attention merchants worthy of the title.

" I decided that if you could use propaganda for war, you could certainly use it for peace."

-- Edward Bernays (nephfew of Sigmuund Freud)

Propaganda – or what it is called now 'marketing' – was first deployed in British Emperium by Herbert Kitchener to elicit civilians for his army. By appealing to his own celebrity status and the need for 'king and country,' it was a massive success. During the Second World War, the Americans learned from the British and George Creel's "Committee on Public Information" was established to manufacture the necessary war-will in the population.

As the techniques behind 'engineering reputation and demand' got more sophisticated, over the years they got deployed in new industries. From fraudulent snake oil medicine to printed posters covering all of Paris, to german radio guards during WW2, and television broadcasting, the book paves a fascinating historical perspective that shines new light on the Attention Merchants of modern life: Google and Facebook. As society switched from well-packaged media products and celebrities on television, the internet grew substantially in popularity with free amateur content and people started to pay attention to one another instead. As attention was paid, soon the attention merchants would follow suit to commercialize it. The democratization of fame reached a new peak as the concept of micro-celebrities was born. It used to be that people became famous for being illustrious, but now the casualty could be circular: one could be famous for being famous.

Facebook copied its entire product from Friendster, a contemporary social network site (SNS) that circumvented the trolls of the web that hid behind anonymity and replaced it with 'real people' profiles. Facebook, however, had an unfair advantage; at first, it exclusively worked as an extension of the Harvard college experience. From there, it expanded to other Ivy League Universities. Its main proposition changed from mostly hooking up to primarily keeping up with one's friends. As more people were allowed to join, more people signed up. Amazingly, they were handing over their personal information for free, because everyone else was seemingly doing so as well. Just like Benjamin Day discovered in the 19th century, as one becomes an attention merchant he is utterly dependent on keeping his base engaged at all costs. So too, Facebook pioneered every persuasive design tactic in the book as it organised itself around one thing and one thing only: growth. Correspondingly. its CEO proclaimed the now-infamous "build fast and break things" mantra that would determine the company's lawlessness philosophy. One function of growth is repeated engagement. As psychological tricks were rapidly deployed, tested, and improved, the technology was increasingly designed to appeal to the lowest parts of users. It's a fact that the pain of loss is much more salient than the rewards of gains. Consequently, anxiety is one of the most effective feelings to provoke to keep users coming back. Correspondingly, Facebook has been designed around generating as much of it in the form of Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO. As these practices intensified, more users started to complain that the site made them feel unhappy and inadequate. A number of contemporary studies found correlations between Facebook use and symptoms of depression, as it was judged as 'less meaningful,' 'less useful,' and 'a waste of time.'

Tim Wu writes: "By presenting us with example upon example, [posturing] legitimizes self-aggrandizement as an objective for ever more of us. By encouraging anyone to capture the attention of others with the spectacle of one's self, it warps our understanding of our own existence and our relationship to others. That this should become the manner of being for us all is surely the dystopian vision of late modernity."

Too many times the Attention Merchants have offered too little in return, or have even been seen to violate the public's trust outright. At such moments their bargain is beset with a certain “disenchantment,” which, if the popular grievance is great enough, can sometimes turn into a full-fledged “revolt”. During those revolts—of which there have been several over the last century—the attention merchants and their partners in the advertising industry have been obliged to present a new deal and revise the terms of the arrangement. We may, in fact, be living in such a time today.

Deep Work

Dr Cal Newport points out in his book Deep Work the fact that as the gap between what technologies and people can do shrinks, a divide is brewing in the workforce. As time progresses, companies will be more inclined to 'hire' new computers over people to fulfill jobs. As more people will lose in an economy where many skills will be automated, the divide in the workforce between those who can perform Shallow Work and Deep Work will intensify.

Deep Work

Professional activities are performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes cognitive capabilities to their limits. these efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.

Shallow Work

Noncognitive demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.

Newport writes that in the New Economy, the core two capabilities that should be honed in order to prosper are:

  1. the ability to quickly master hard things
  2. the ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of quality and speed.

In a culture of connectivity, it is far easier to play successful theatre than it is to actually create results. The path of least resistance almost always wins, so people keep demonstrating to others that they are constantly busy. They believe in open office plans, praise constant serendipity, answer emails straight away, and plan meetings after meetings. Without clear feedback, which is almost always the case, they fall back on what is most easy; wasting time, attention, and energy to perpetuate the idea of success while the organizations lose billions. Loss of productivity on the work floor due to distractions has been calculated to be equal to about 550 billion dollars a year, solely for the United States of America alone.

The author proposes that there are four degrees of limiting shallow work and transitioning to deep work:

The Monastic Philosophy

Radically minimizing shallow work obligations, completely without distractions. Forfeiting your communication availability. perhaps moving to a secluded undisclosed location.

The Bimodal Philosophy

Dividing time into top endeavors of the work. Leaving some for everything else for other people (shallow work).

The Rhythmic Philosophy (most popular)

A systematic approach to deep work on specific times and places. Sessions are planned out through time-blocking so as to conserve as much willpower for the task at hand.

Journalistic Philosophy

Fit deep work wherever you can on an ad hoc basis. This is however not a natural ability and training is required to pick up this skill.

In the app you can find all the recommended steps in this book.

Power of Habits

Tweaking even one habit, as long as it's the right one, can have staggering effects. Full of compelling narratives, the breakout bestseller will change the way you think about your behaviour.

Life is a repeating cycle of behaviours we call habits. Habits are reliable solutions to everyday obstacles that we have internalized to automatically and effortlessly navigate an increasingly complex world. These reinforcing behavioural cycles can help one flourish and so we call them benevolent cycles. Unfortunately, the knife cuts two ways and they can also become a mirror type of reinforcement: vicious cycles. These cycles are reinforcing loops that exacerbate their pernicious effects as the cycle count increases.

Author of The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, after rigorous research insightfully writes through captivating storytelling about his framework -- divided into four components: CUE, ACTION, REWARD, CRAVING -- which comprehensively clarify the mechanisms that empower both benevolent- and vicious cycles.You might ponder the question: why should this book be important to me? We have learned more about the human brain in the last 50 years than over the last 500 years. We've done this through new technologies that extend our senses and help us remove the curtains to peek inside, enabling us to understand the inner workings of our minds like never before. Most people overestimate how much of their behaviour is a conscious exertion of will and thus dismiss what neuroscientists have discovered. But not the marketers, product designers, and tech entrepreneurs of today. According to Y-Combinator founder Paul Graham, the world is more addictive than it was 40 years ago and it will be even more addictive in the next 40 years. There are things we don’t want to want. Most people can coexist with alcohol, but you have to be careful. Other habits, especially those that change our perception and train of thought gradually, are considerably more distracting and dangerous.

As philosopher Jean-Paul Satre said many years ago, "we are our choices." Our choices allow us to be the author of our own lives, but unfortunately in our contemporary 21st Century society, our choices are increasingly being co-authored by other people and algorithms. The Power of Habit helps its readers understand these omnipresent external forces and provides them with the first steps to writing their own story.

Anti-Social Media

Marshall McLuhan declared a long time ago that "the medium was the message." Information technologies are not just extensions of what came before; on the contrary, their form dictates their content so can change the entire conversation altogether. Not many people seem to realize that the latest information technology that has captivated humanity is the sphinxlike technology we call social media. As one monopoly now own WhatsApp and Instagram, no other player is worth mentioning other than Facebook. In his book Anti-Social Media, Siva Vaidhyanathan takes the reader on a fascinating ride that leads to the question of whether its very existence can be ethically justified.

Vaidhyanathan writes how all tech companies are in the same fight to become the operating system of your life. Of the highest capitalized companies in the world (Facebook, Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft), Facebook is the most pervasive and detrimental of them all as it deteriorates democracy and intellectual culture around the globe.

Facebook's self-declared mission in the early days was to "bring the world closer together." Zuckerberg declared that "Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission." In a 2012 shareholder letter, Zuckerberg asserted that "Facebook will not become a company obsessed with revenue and profits. It had a global social mission "to make the world open and connected." Zuckerberg promised Facebook would create a greater number of stronger relationships between people and that it would help people get exposed to a greater number of diverse perspectives." Facebook was above the free market. Even above capitalism. "Simply put: [at Facebook] we don't build services to make money; we make money to build better services," he wrote. From today's perspective, it is now painfully clear however that all of this hubris and self-righteous posturing was a bad joke, to say the least.

The Problem with Facebook is Facebook

"A global system that links 2.2 billion people across hundreds of countries, allows every user to post content indiscriminately, develops algorithms that favor highly charged content, and is dependent on a self-service advertising system that precisely targets ads using massive surveillance and elaborate personal dossiers cannot be reformed at the edges. All of the problems that Facebook has amplified were intensified because Facebook worked exactly how it was supposed to work."

Facebook is great for motivation. it is terrible for deliberation. Out of the billions of possible content that could be placed on your newsfeed, what ends up is based on what Facebook deceptively calls "relevance." More often than not, however, this is just reinforcing an echo chamber full of whatever gets the most emotional response from you. Moreover, it is important to stress that "relevance has no relationship to the helpful, the enlightening, the moral, the educational, or the true

We entered the age of sophistry as it doesn't matter anymore if something is true or false. All that matters is that it appears to be so. The pursuit of truth is futile and would be beside the point. We can't and we won't distinguish between a coherent argument and a rhetoric stunt. As everything is corrupt and unfair, it doesn't matter if leaders lie anymore because 'everybody lies.' All that there is is power itself, and in a world run by power, all that matters is that your leader lies for you. Slowly this distorts are habits of mind and steadily atrophies our ability and willingness to engage with another.

The Fourth Estate should of course function as a counterweight to all of this. However, legitimate journalistic institutions crumble by death by a thousand cuts, as Facebook and Google asphyxiate them slowly by draining them of their advertisement revenue. On the platforms themselves, all cues have been erased that signal the difference between a friend's post and a commercial for a product. Furthermore, reputable news sources lack any of the normal visual cues that would distinguish their work from the latest 15-minutes-of-fame influencer who performs the TidePod Challenge.

What pushed this disruptive change through was done without a vote. It was accomplished by a lawlessness philosophy of Silicon Valley tech giants that promise us individually the warm feeling of human connection. It could be argued that Facebook -- on balance -- has been good for the individual, but bad -- on balance -- for all of us collectively. Vaidhyanathan writes:

"We are collectively worse off because of Facebook. If you wanted to build a machine that would distribute propaganda to millions of people, distract them from important issues, energize hatred and bigotry, erode social trust, undermine journalism, foster doubts about science, and engage in massive surveillance all at once, you would make something a lot like Facebook."

Furthermore, Vaidhyanathan brilliantly examines all aspects of Facebook. As the surveillance machine that impacts citizens' right to privacy. As the attention machine which manipulates us. And finally, as the Protest machine that pollutes our information diet and consequently our ability to act as informed citizens.

The Disinformation of Age

The mass adoption of new communication technologies that, to their very core, are designed not to inform or guide well, but solely to indiscriminately proliferate any content so as to capture more attention longer has backfired. This new technology is called 'social media' and it has effectively become the information diet and GPS of most people's lives, by choice or default.

"Democracies around the world face rising levels of disinformation. The intentional spread of falsehoods and related attacks on the rights of minorities, press freedoms, and the rule of law all challenge the basic norms and values on which institutional legitimacy and political stability depend."

Trust levels in governments, institutions, news outlets, and businesses have been in utter freefall for the last decade. Some of this erosion is explained by years of lying about the Vietnam War, followed four decades later by the lies supporting the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003. Moreover, some of it can be explained by the corporate estate that has been superiorly organized over ever large time horizons and thus multiple administrations, resulting in new and more sophisticated tactics. Governments, which operate at much shorter time horizons and at a much slower pace correspondingly fail to keep up and inoculate themselves. But perhaps a trend bigger than the two mentioned previously is the proliferation of new communication technologies that disseminate a greater range of questionable sources than ever before.

Unhinged from evidence, reason, and credible sources, the study of disinformation and networked propaganda is becoming a central interest necessary to circumvent catastrophe. What errors in the past gave rise to the problems we inherited today. First, the prevailing optimism at the turn of the century gave credence to the idea that innovation would be somehow much more likely to enhance our individual lives and democracies, instead of posing a danger to them.

Thus secondly, this optimism led to the underestimation of the two-sidedness of change; new technologies always come as double-edged swords. Virality favours de-contextualised, false, and emotional messaging. As people are inclined to confirm their pre-existing beliefs. An order of magnitude increase in the diversity of information sources did not lead to the most accurate facts being more easily found, but rather information with the resonating underlying emotional truths to be more easily exchanged. With every hyperlink these new communication technologies massively fragmented individuals and their information channels. Sharply pivoting away from what is known as the 'water cooler effect' where individuals would come together and get their information from a similar source and discuss. Contrary to the omnipresent inclination that more supply leads inevitably to individuals being better able to make the best choice for themselves, it is by now indisputable that the proliferation of information channels has counterproductively led to more inaccurate, and not accurate, information to be chosen by netizens.

Third, digital visionaries proclaimed that with the rise of free services, user-generated content, open-source, and democratic mechanisms inherent to the web, the internet would inherently be immunized against centralized power, monopoly, surveillance, and control. It did not. Neoliberal policies allowed for the emergence of unheard-of consolidated power, facilitating new platform monopolies that eventually attained such monstrous scales that inequality has reached levels reminiscent of the Gilded Age.

Alone together

Why are we expecting more from technology and less from each other?

The book, with the oxymoron title Alone Together, written by Sherry Turkle, dives into the counterintuitive fact that we collectively are getting more connected each passing day while technology becomes more pervasive, yet individually we feel more alone and afraid of intimacy. We seem determined to give human qualities to objects and increase content to treat each other as things.

Turkle writes her unique perspective as a psychologist after decades of observations surrounding the evolving relationship between people and their devices.

She highlights the sobering thought that if more and more people say they feel a need for a robot companion -- or even a robot marriage -- for either love or sex, then we must be failing each other. Furthermore, as social networking sites (SNS) proliferated, everyone got conditioned to keep up 'identity workshops' often referred to as online profiles. As we distribute ourselves, we may be abandoning ourselves. As we are physically surrounded by other people we care about, more often than not we now are with our minds elsewhere. Nowadays it has become the norm that we put the people in front of us 'on hold' as we attend to the notification bell that signals something unknown, but something new nonetheless.

We spread ourselves too thin as we somewhere apparently decided we are always interpretable. It brings us into a world of continuous partial attention (CPA) as we rapidly task-switch (or 'multitask' as most people call it) from one unfulfilling task to another. Turkle's insights show how things rapidly changed in ways that people from only a decade ago could never have envisioned, or tolerate for that matter. The telling question arises:

When was the last time you felt so engaged in the activity at hand that you didn't want to be interrupted?

Amusing Ourselves to Death

As the volume and velocity of modern-day life accelerate, everything becomes about the present. Things nowadays are criticized for not being published yesterday. Silence has been replaced by background noise, as there is no reflection time in the world anymore. Gradually the media has become a parody of itself as the medium in which it, Postman writes, "is presented doesn't care anymore about excellence, clarity or honesty but to just appear as they are, which is another matter altogether. And what that matter is can be expressed in one word: advertising."

Postman's writings hone in on the new innovative information technology of his time in 1985: television. He stresses that: junk television was fine. 'The A-Team and Cheers are no threat to our public health, ' he wrote. '60 Minutes, Eyewitness News, and Sesame Street are.' When reading any academic or intellectual piece of writing, it should be very clear that we have been raised in a George Orwell 1984 world after decades of the cold war made communism Big Brother. Understandably, we were taught to be afraid of the bogeyman. Yet it imploded and the Western world congratulated itself on circumventing the Orwellian Nightmare. But, Neil Postman predicted it is Aldous Huxley’s dystopia of A Brave New World, not Orwell’s 1984 that we should fear. In a free-market capitalistic consumer society, people organize themselves around hedonism.

"What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture."

“An Orwellian world is much easier to recognize and to oppose, than a Huxleyan,” my father wrote. “Everything in our background has prepared us to know and resist a prison when the gates begin to close around us … [but] who is prepared to take arms against a sea of amusements?”

Amusing Ourselves to Death also works on a modification of Marshall McLuhan’s famous aphorism that “the medium is the message.” Postman altered the idea, writing that the “medium is the metaphor.” In other words, no technology is neutral, and the “form in which ideas are expressed affects what those ideas will be."

"Consider the primitive technology of smoke signals. While I do not know exactly what content was once carried in the smoke signals of American Indians, I can safely guess that it did not include philosophical argument. Puffs of smoke are insufficiently complex to express ideas on the nature of existence, and even if they were not, a Cherokee philosopher would run short of either wood or blankets long before he reached his second axiom. You cannot use smoke to do philosophy. Its form excludes the content."

The questions we should be asking with any new information technology are paramount, yet never asked while one swims in the sea of the everyday.

• Do they improve or degrade democracy?

• Do they make our leaders more accountable, or less so?

• Is our system more transparent or less so?

• Are the trade-offs worth it?

• Do they illuminate? Or do they fragmentize, de-contextualize, or offer no verification?

It should be pointed out that one should really read the whole book to understand the bigger picture here. To Postman, the main perpetrator was information technology at the time: television. However, his insight, of course, is not limited to this particular technology; rather it is a critique reserved for all mass behavior changing technology that short-circuits the habit of thought. Any more advanced technology that occupies 2 hours and 19 minutes a day of its recipient's attention which comes to mind, perhaps?

Stand out of our light

"In order to do anything that matters, we must first be able to give attention to the things that matter." Stand Out of Our Light is a groundbreaking book about freedom and resistance in the Attention economy we all inhabit today.

Today's technology was promised to us by being on our team, not anybody else. Over the last decade, however, it has become painfully clear this premise was a lie. Rather than supporting our intentions, technologies largely sought to grab and keep our attention. We have entered the attention economy and now technology is appealing to the lowest parts of ourselves in order to sell us things we often didn't want in the first place. With each passing day, these technologies get more sophisticated in subconsciously manipulating us as we are increasingly unable to steer our attention, deliberate, and collaborate.

My experience is what I agree to attend to. [...] we must reflect that, when we reach the end of our days, our life experience will equal what we have paid attention to, whether by choice or default.

— Williams James

It is hard to notice it during the day, but sometimes a creeping feeling arises that begs the question: are these technologies comprising the story of my life? What are my goals for these technologies? Or perhaps much more interesting; what our the technologies' goals for me? What are the goals of the people who make these technologies? What are the metrics on the dashboard of the developers which defines what success means for your life? How likely do you think they overlap your definition?

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."

—Annie Dillard

We trust today's technologies to be companion systems for our lives: we trust them to help us do the things we want to do, to become the people we want to be. They ought to function as GPSes to where we want to go. However, they are faulty by design and keep misdirecting us as we keep putting up with it.

As a thought experiment: if one would want to train all of society to be impulsive and weak-willed as possible, how would you do it? You would make a device that is 'free of charge' so it can influence as many people as possible. Let's call it the 'iTrainer.' You would make it highly adaptive with automation and intelligence so as to capture and keep as much time and attention as possible. Then, what if you wanted to go even further? Make everyone more distracted, angry, cynical -- and even unsure of what, or how, to think? You probably want many others to support you by creating an economic incentive to do so. By rewarding culprits to speak to the lowest parts of people, their impulsive selves. if you have done this a decade ago you will probably see by now: that 9/10 users couldn't leave their homes without it. Almost half of the users would say they couldn't go on living without their iTrainer.

They would probably use it to access most of the information in all aspects of their lives. From politics to celebrity gossip, education, news, planning etcetera. As random Pavlovian bells ring throughout the day which could mean anything at any time, it would function as a rigorous impulsivity training program. "Of course, the iTrainer would never pass an ethical review. Launching something like that would be completely outrageous. So it's good that this is all just a thought experiment."

Dive more in-depth into the fascinating book Stand Out of Our Light by the brilliant philosopher James Williams.

The Coddling of the American Mind

The great untruths: Jonathan Haidt identifies three common schools of thought that have become rampant in recent years.

What doesn't kill me makes me weaker. Contrary to the mantra "No pain, no gain". There are desirable difficulties in life which enhance our abilities. Every challenge we face helps us grow as a person.  

Always trust your feelings. Yet, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is the most effective known form of therapeutic treatment and it states precisely the opposite; feelings are often so misleading, in order to achieve mental health one must learn to question their feeling and free yourself

The world is in a battle between good and evil people. But how do you know you are part of the 'good people?' How do we know they are wrong? Surely trusting your feelings can't be enough.

The First Great Untruth: Always Trust your Feelings

The term 'microaggression' was born in a paper by Derald Wing Sue. It states that whenever an intentional, or far more importantly, an unintentional, act occurred between one and another, the historically marginalized individual should interpret it as a form of aggression.

Despite the fact that justice has always considered intention as a foundational consideration, unfortunately, Sue renounced this core tenet and argued to judge the situation entirely on the recipient's interpretation. This encouraged emotional reasoning and assuming the worst of people and set the stage for 'woke culture'. The great untruth of Always-Trust-Your-Feelings was born.

• CBT is an effective method that anybody can learn to understand their own trains of thought processes better.

• Emotional reasoning often creates a tunnel vision that often creates catastrophizing explanation styles of particular events. The fewer people do it, the happier they become.

• Historically left-leaning speakers have been increasingly disinvited on College campuses. Preventing harm to the students is often quoted as the primal reason, but discomfort is not inflicting harm.

The Second Great Untruth: What doesn't kill you makes you weaker

Concept creep is the phenomenon where the scope of a term or concept is expanded beyond its original meaning as time passes. At first, "trauma" was solely reserved to denote a physical agent causing physical pain. It was followed up by "Post-traumatic Stress Disorder" (PTSD) which was described in the manual (DSM Ⅲ) as the first mental disorder but explicitly emphasized not to be based on a subjective standard. in 2000, however, "trauma" was ascribed to " anything experienced by an individual as physical or emotionally harmful...with lasting effects to... social, emotional, or spiritual well-being."

The cult of safetyism became a big trend, bringing forth an unprecedented emphasis on creating emotional 'safe spaces,' erroneously believing that protecting children at all costs would help them flourish as individuals.  

• Children, like most complex adaptive systems, are antifragile. Like the immune system, it needs to be exposed and challenged in order to grow the antibodies to be able to become stronger and healthier.

• As an illuminating example, in the late 2000s, many schools started to prohibit all processed nuts from elementary schools for the fear it could reach a single child with a peanut allergy. This however inadvertently caused six times as many children in a randomized control group to develop a peanut allergy because they were never exposed to it during their upbringing, vividly demonstrating the counterproductive effect of overprotecting children.

The Third Great Untruth: Us versus them

Before the dawn of the post-industrial revolution, civilians previously seen as active participants in democracy were gradually being defined as passive consumers in a consumer society. The need to express oneself loomed larger and larger as people sought to rebel against the status quo, conformity, and the Marcusian concept of becoming the One Dimensional Man. However, doing business evolved, and what was once seen as the greatest threat to capitalism and mass production transformed into its greatest opportunity, yet.

With the rise of branding and customization of goods, consumers were persuaded they were actually fighting 'the system.' By consuming the goods they once objected to, they could self-express and signal to others their non-conformity; to differentiate themselves from other groups. This leveraged people's fundamental tendencies to be tribal creatures with profound in-group/out-group biases which have been demonstrated over and over again that people's ability to feel empathy for another is skewed. This set the stage for common-enemy identity politics.

Martin Luther King Jr. employed common humanity identity politics during the Civil Rights Movement. Nonviolent protests were centered around not vilifying the opposition, but in contrast, rather fulfilling the shared nation's dream: creating a place where all men are created equal. When a line was drawn in the sand that excluded the protestors, King famously asserted he would draw a bigger line in the sand, including all of them fighting the good fight of fulfilling the American dream.

Much changed unfortunately as intersectionalism came to light on college campuses. A concept reminiscent of Herbert Marcuse's concept of 'repressive tolerance' with the disastrous antithetical notion that all tolerance for the ways of the opposition should be interpreted as an insidious tactic to dominate you. Interactionism came to state that the world was divided between the oppressed and the oppressors. A model was proposed that drew a line in the sand between those privileged and those who were not, conflating them respectively with those who were morally in the wrong and those who were morally in the right. Common enemy identity politics came to be rationalized, accepted, and rampant. Those fighting for historically marginalized groups became hostile, exclusionary, and often outright cruel to anybody who at the first sight of dissent in any sense.

With prestige given to individuals who publicly identify those who, often at first glance, appear to be an offender of any misdemeanor, 'call-out culture' incentives mass public shaming. One gets no points for privately talking to the person -- fact this could be interpreted as colluding with the enemy.

  • The more people think in the Us-Versus-Them mentality, the more they become hostile and unable to collaborate and thus make progress, as Henri Tajfe's psychology experiments have demonstrated.
  • Common-enemy identity politics are antithetical to what Martin Luther King Jr. preached during the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Intersectionality and microaggressions are popular frameworks on campuses today. While there are merits to it, these frameworks foster tribal thinking and can be seen as very counterproductive as a result.

Lists

Books About The Attention Economy
Books About The Attention Economy
June 8, 2022
Stand Out of Our Light
The Distracted Mind
The Disinformation Age
The Attention Merchants
Surveillance Capitalism
Top 10 Videos about Social Media
Top 10 Videos about Social Media
June 7, 2022
This Panda Is Dancing
Mark Zuckerberg & Robinhood | The Prof G Show
Why our Screens make us less Happy
Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness
New Rule: Your Phone is Turning You into an Asshole
Top Podcasts About Social Media
Top Podcasts About Social Media
June 7, 2022
Your Undevided Attention
Welcome to the Cult Factory
The Trouble With Facebook
What is Technology Doing to Us?
#1558 - Tristan Harris
Top 10 Articles about Social Media
Top 10 Articles about Social Media
June 7, 2022
Deleting Facebook Won’t Fix the Problem
Did Facebook Learn Anything From the Cambridge Analytica Debacle?
Our Brains are no Match for technology
Facebook Gave Device Makers Deep Access to Data on Users and Friends
Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain
3 Must-see Documentaries
3 Must-see Documentaries
June 7, 2022
The Social Dilemma
The Great Hack
The Century of the Self
Must-See Reports
Must-See Reports
June 7, 2022
The Common Sense Census
2022 Edelman Trust Barometer

Quick Wins

Clear your desk

Research indicates that keeping materials on your desk at a minimum helps focus.

Be less interruptible

Limit the amount of interruptions you get on a daily basis. By simple doing an experiment for the next week you can find out once and for all if you are missing out on important things, or not. Social media embraces the fact that we are Pavlovian creators. As we receive an intermittent notification that serves as a cue, a big dopamine spike can be recorded before you even attend to it. As a feature; not a bug: sometimes these notifications are nothing important nor urgent. That is even better because it is even more addicting. Now that there is uncertainty because of variability, it is even more effective in getting us hooked than it would be if we were fed a constant stream of rewards.

Examine your screen time

How much time are you spending on your phone? Is it what you envisioned it being for you? Before checking it, let’s dive a bit deeper together. Social media can’t make you watch more ads. People will only accept so many ads per post. There is a certain ratio, you could propose. But if you are an attention broker and you want to earn billions annually, what do you do? If the ad ratio is fixed, you increase the entire pie; the total time people spent. Everything social media platform has done exactly that over the last 2 decades; using every psychological trick in the book to manipulate users to increase their screen time, even to the point it would make them miserable. Make an educated guess and check how much time you spent on your phone.

List 2 skills you want to pick up

Deliberating on what would be a fun and meaningful skill to learn is something we almost never do. Yet it can lead to unique skills that can foster flow and offer us unique experiences.People believe they make conscious decisions every day that decide the shape of their life. In actuality, however, what shapes your life most are some big choices that you made along the way. What should I study? Should I move and start fresh? Should I fire a friendship? We never make adequate time to think about these bigger choices that influence everything else.

Create a list of 5 things you want to do

Write down 5 things you want to do in the next month. It can be anything as small as reading a book or having a talk about something particular.

Make a daily schedule

Trouble focusing on what is important? The best way to not get distracted is by exactly knowing what you want to be doing. With Telos' free daily planning, you can set up each day anew.

Coping with Instant Gratification

Continuous partial attentionand instant gratification. Two traits that have become the signature traits of the 21st Century — and we are all the poorer for it. Correspondingly, self-regulation and sustained focus have become invaluable superpowers, as much research has confirmed. Do you want to hone this skill?

Check your Safari's adblocker

Ever wondered how the whole internet is seemingly ‘free’? It is because online everything is trying to harvest your personal data so it can create a 'digital voodoo doll’ of you, which it gradually learns to manipulate.

Write to your future self

Self-efficacy is very important. Sometimes It feels like the whole world is against you, but the relevant question here becomes how you explain your situation to yourself. Practice self-love by writing a letter to your future self.

Give 5 Compliments

Make a goal for yourself to give 5 sincere compliments during your day. For a society that is all about ‘likes’, we rarely take a brief moment to look in somebody’s eye and tell them did something well. We personally would start by giving compliments to somebody you already know and make it about not something like looks, but rather something they did or said they can be proud of.

Do a walk around your neighbourhood

Walking, even for 10-15 minutes, can significantly help you rejuvenate after a long work session. Doing this as a break will make you more focused, productive, and happier.

Blog

Two Conundrum
Prototype
Shoshana Zuboff
"It is no longer enough to automate information flows about us; the goal now is to automate us."
Tim Wu
"It certain times over the last century, the industry has asked too much and offered too little in return, or even been seen to violate the public’s trust outright."
Yuval noah Harari
Facebooks crucial test will come when an engineer invents a new tool that causes people to spend less time buying stuff online and more time in meaningful offline activities with friends. 
Tristan Harris
"In a humane future, the online world has to care about actually regenerating the connective tissues of the offline world.”