Another reason I’m thinking about the rift between people who do and don’t think cults and propaganda really do be real, is because the core premise of Zuboff’s concept of surveillance capitalism is that there is a new form of “instrumentarian” power that specifically operates through undue mental influence, in the form of data-exhaust driven algorithmic behavioral prediction and modification. This is why she is concerned with the loss of the right to the human future, i.e. self-determination.


In hindsight, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism wasn’t radical enough in its prediction of actual reality. Zuboff’s idea for the active principle of instrumentarian power was behavioral “nudges” that didn’t touch the inner core of a person’s underlying beliefs. But you can actually whole-hog drop people into alternate reality belief systems with this kind of power.

Zuboff’s only solution to the rise of instrumentarian power was to resist, to preemptively lay claim to your own inner landscape and kick out attempts at modifying your behavior and beliefs. I still think this is good advice. We have to free ourselves from the networks of influence and belief programming if we want to maintain any hope of not being subjected to whatever ends the people wielding this power see fit. We already know what it looks like to succumb to it and it ain’t pretty.

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I guess there’s another type of guy besides the “propaganda don’t real” guy, which is the “people need to be controlled via propaganda because they are dumb panicky beasts” guy.

That’s an extreme paradoxical belief that denies any kind of autonomy or free will to individuals but somehow believes that it knows better than everyone else how things should be organized?

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@vortex_egg on part 4 of the new adam curtis documentary on this topic

@vortex_egg hoping the ending has a solution to the problem but i am up to the musical montage and i am worried he doesn’t have one

@zens Adam Curtis is more of a historian than a solutions guy, I’m afraid to say. It’s a criticism of his work. Frankly I don’t have a clue what the solution would be either...

@vortex_egg the overall message seems to be that both trains of thought, that of the importance of individual freedom, *and* the train of thought that we need to find special people who will benevolently rule over the masses, are forms of supremecist thought. it feels like a contradiction but they’re both based around the idea that some people are just better than others and should be rewarded for being better, eother with power, or by winning the game of social darwinism

@vortex_egg i would say that part of the solution must be a problem of culture, but the big historical example of attempting to change a culture—- the cultural revolution, was an ugly bloodbath and ultimately a failure.

@vortex_egg the trick, sadly i think, is you cannot *change* a culture- not deliberately anyway. you can only try to grow a new one. but any failt or psychological conflict in your new culture’s ideology will inevitably backfire into some nasty jonestown bullshit.

@vortex_egg any attempt to construct a new culture, i think, must exist firstly by consent, but also *exhaustively* account for the full range of human psychological conditions, from self indulgent psychoparhy through to every kind of disability- including just being old.

a glaring example of a failure in this is walt disney’s city of tomorrow, which didn’t think old people should live there. or south australia, which was meant to be a gated community for rich white people…

@vortex_egg and they forgot to think about where their setvants were going to live. or what to do about the indigenous people who alrrady lived there.

@zens total recognition and acceptance of all individual human differences as a fully integrated society, maybe

@vortex_egg maybe it’s an inpossible dream, and maybe i am oversimplifying, but the common thread in all catasrrophic society wide failures seems to be the system decided to insist certain people didn’t or shouldn’t exist, and those people took exception.

@zens I completely agree.

So where do we build the thunderdomes for the people who don’t want to play nice with the rest of civil society?

@vortex_egg i don’t think exile is quite the right aolution. that’s what commujism tries, and it just creates these eternal enemies of the state. extermination , obviously, is not really an alternative either.

i don’t think there’s a neat tidy toot sized solution. the problem needs systems level thought to create constructive roles for everyone, that fits the system and esch person comfortably

@vortex_egg ADHD, for example, is only a disability because our society expects as requires a kind of attention and patience for sitting perfectly still ADHD people just can’t muster.

but evolutionarily speaking, these people used to be our hunters and scouts, and they were *good* at it.

@zens Yeah 100%. It was kind of the punchline of a joke about how to build a radically inclusive society that doesn’t outgroup the people who want to harm other people just because it can’t find some way around the paradox of intolerance.

@vortex_egg the paradox of intolerance is a tricky one.

it is, ironically, *possible* to sinply genetically engineer the gene for xenophobia straight out of the human psyche.

but uh, the genocide to prevent genocide? a bit of an ethical finger trap.

and- perhaps the xenophobic impulse has a function that we need to live, beyond its harmful consequences

@zens In the long run I guess the healthy approach would be a program of iterative individual, community, national, intergenerational, etc. trauma integration through nonviolent communication. But we are not trending in the right direction for that one.

@zens In any case this is where my thinking always stalls out: “Well what do we do with the assholes, that doesn’t by its nature undermine the whole enterprise?”

An easy and unsatisfying answer is: grab control of the levers of propaganda and mass brainwash them not to want to kill other people. It obviously undermines the entire concept of consent that the whole thing has to be built on.

@vortex_egg there is a useful function for psychopaths in a society. they have a natural talent and genius for game theory, which is a prefty important skill for certain situations. we need the assholes.

where things get off the rails is when they manage to manipulte themselves into having a huge amount of power or ridiculous amounts of wealth. and you cannot teach them to care about other people- at least not *as* people. that just makes them better at exploiting *our* empathy.

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@zens Curtis’ latest documentary Can’t Get You Out of My Head goes into this in depth, but I didn’t make the connection until you pointed it out just now. I.e. the cultural revolution, and other individualist revolutions, becoming bloodbaths.

@zens Ah gotcha... then I’m making a reverse connection back to Century of the Self. All of these have this same underlying contradiction as the theme.

@zens If individualist revolutions become bloodbaths, and totalitarian mind control networks (used because people can’t be trusted to be individuals) end up ratcheting people back into extreme individualism, where the hell do we go?

@vortex_egg I like this "inner landscape" analogy.

I don't know what they're going to do once they've entered and settled. I don't want to try and imagine the worst-case-scenarios; they are far better at constructing them. The important thing is that this landscape is mine, and no one gets to use it unless I want them to.

@kakure I used to think things like virtual reality and brain computer interfaces could be cool, but now it horrifies me.

@vortex_egg Same about robots and AI assistants. What child wouldn't want a cool robot friend?

@vortex_egg Now I imagine a "cool robot friend" as an always-on, corporate-controlled, sensor-laden machine, and it sends chills down my spine.

@vortex_egg Except now that I wrote that down, I realise that the same description applies to a smartphone.

@kakure It certainly does. And most social media.

@vortex_egg Yes, social media tries very hard to be always on. It gets pre-installed on your smartphone, which also tries to be always on, and it uses notifications to make sure that it can have your attention whenever it wants.

But it does not have to be this way. You can turn off notifications. You can deactivate the social media app on your smartphone and only use the medium through a web browser.

These are important first steps to reclaiming your mental independence.

@vortex_egg yes, indeed... is that one the underlying paradigm shift. Might it become (if not already) a pseudo-totalitarian nightmare ?

PS: BTW, your #1984 assistant, is already low-cost #GAFAM services compatible in your supermarket, enjoy

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