phobia indoctrination

Phobia indoctrination is one of the principle ways a charismatic leader will lull potential followers into his thrall, by putting them into a state of perpetual fear and anxiety. They know, either instinctively or through training (or both), that people can be induced into a prolonged state of confusion easily, and that many people in states of confusion act quite irrationally. Abusers, cult leaders, and other controllers use demagoguery and other tricks to hide in plain sight and continue to accrue power while passing themselves off as harmless or extremely patriotic.

These chaos agents use emotional manipulation as a tool of control. They whip followers up into a fear frenzy frequently enough to instill a set of phobia-like instinctual reactions to chosen stimuli. In addition to stoking fears of the enemies at the gates, they also inculcate irrational fears of the consequences of questioning their authority. Any doubts expressed about the leadership or its doctrine are subject to terrifying negative results. Cults use this formula to help prevent followers from questioning or leaving the group.

Phobia indoctrination is a tool of cults

As part of a larger overall program of brainwashing or mind control, cults and destructive organizations use imaginary extremes (going to hell, being possessed by demons, failing miserably at life, race war, Leftist apocalypse, etc.) to shock followers into refusing to examine any evidence whatsoever. A form of unethical hypnosis, phobia indoctrination can now be carried out on a mass scale thanks to the internet and our massive media apparatus.

Sociopaths and other types of emotional predators are taking ample advantage of their advantage in time and distance over the slow pace of justice. The wielding of fear as a cudgel in America politics has reached a fever pitch, with anti-CRT hysteria, anti-vaxxers, anti-government, anti-science, Lost Cause-revival zombie MAGA footsoldiers screeching about the “freedom!!!” they wish the government to provide them for persecuting their enemies, and other social horrors are merely the tip of the climate changing iceberg.

Relevant book list:

The Goldilocks Zone vs. Unbounded growth

The concept of the Goldilocks Zone reminds us that most typically, there is a range of possibilities above and below which would not be viable. This is in contrast to the idea of unbounded growth, in which one or more key performance indicators is expected to continue to grow forever, without bounds. Think: up and to the right.

Commonly used as a metaphor, the Goldilocks Zone has its origins in planetary science. It defines a planet that is within the habitable zone of its star system, meaning not too hot and not too cold — with the ability to sustain liquid water. Without it, life on the only living planet we know — ours — would cease to exist. Therefore, one good place to look for potential life on other planets is the Goldilocks Zone, which has also come to be used as a reference meaning “the perfect conditions” for some ideal state or goal.

“Going viral” isn’t always desirable

We crave it in our social media feeds, but avoid it like the plague when it is the plague — viral contagion can both giveth and taketh away. In America we’ve recently been having both as of this writing.

Whereas the Goldilocks Zone presupposes limits at both ends, unbounded growth expects no limits to ever be encountered from the start. In a finite world inside a finite universe, it is simply unlikely to be true with much regularity.

You could say that Goldilocks Zones know a lot about establishing boundaries, while the infinite growth areas tend to extremism. Beyond the pandemic, cancer is another infamous candidate for illustrating the dangers of growth without bounds. Arguably, hypercapitalism belongs.

The Goldilocks Zone is a moderate

Goldilocks Zones are akin to the center of the Bell curve; the boundaries of the margin of error; the middle path. James Madison would have been a fan of the Goldilocks Zone — it would have smelled to him like his own concept of the moderating force of many factions preventing too much extremism from taking root in governance, and reminded him of the insights of the Marquis de Condorcet.

“Moderation in all things” was made famous by first the Greeks and later the Romans. It is a kind of ancient wisdom that turns out to have very old roots indeed — back even to the early days of the universe.

Surveillance Capitalism Dictionary

They were inspired by hippies, but Orwell would fear them. The giants of Silicon Valley started out trying to outsmart The Man, and in the process became him.

This surveillance capitalism dictionary is a work in progress!

TermDefinition
algorithmA set of instructions that programmers give to computers to run software and make decisions.
artificial intelligence (AI)
Bayes' Theorem
bioinformaticsA technical and computational subfield of genetics, concerned with the information and data encoded by our genes and genetic codes.
child machineAlan Turing's concept for developing an "adult brain" by creating a child brain and giving it an education
CHINOOKcheckers program that becomes the first time an AI wins an official world championship in a game of skill, in 1994
click-wrap
collateral behavioral data
contracts of adhesion
cookiesSmall packets of data deposited by the vast majority of websites you visit, that store information in the browser as a way to extract intelligence about their users and visitors.
corpusIn Natural Language Processing, a compendium of words used to "train" the AI to understand patterns in new texts.
decision trees
Deep BlueChess program that beats world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997
deep learning
evolutionary algorithms
Facebook
facial recognition
Flash Crash of 2010sudden drop of over $1 trillion in the E-Mini S&P 500 futures contract market via runaway feedback loop within a set of algorithmic traders
FLOPSfloating-point operations per second
genetic algorithms
GOFAI"Good Old-Fashioned Artificial Intelligence"
HLMIhuman-level machine intelligence: defined as being able to carry out most human professions at least as well as a typical human
interoperability
Kolmogorov complexity
language translation
linear regression
machine learning
Markov chains
monopoly
NAFTA
natural language processing (NLP)A technology for processing and analyzing words
neofeudalism
neural networks
netizens
"Online Eraser" law (CA)
patrimonial capitalism
Pegasus
phonemes
predictive analytics
privacy
private eminent domain
probability
prosody
qualia
r > gPiketty's insight
randomness
recommender systems
recursion
recursive learning
right to be forgottenWhen it became EU law in 2014, this groundbreaking legislation gave citizens the power to demand search engines remove pointers to content about them. It was the growing of a data rights movement in Europe that led later to GDPR.
SciKit
simulation
smart speakers
speech recognition
spyware
statistical modeling
strong vs. weak AI"weak AI" refers to algorithms designed to master a specific narrow domain of knowledge or problem-solving, vs. achieving a more general intelligence (strong AI)
supermajority
supervised learning
surplus data
TensorFlow
Tianhe-2The world's fastest supercomputer, developed in China, until it was surpassed in June 2016 by the also Chinese Sunway TaihuLight
Terms of Service
Twitter
unsupervised learning
WatsonIBM AI that defeats the two all-time greatest human Jeopardy! champions in 2010
WhatsApp
WTO
Zuccotti Park

Efficiency isn’t everything

There are many things in life you don’t want to rush through; many experiences you wish to linger. The American cult of efficiency is a kind of over-optimization, and over-fitting of a line that delusionally demands up and to the right every single day, every single quarter, every single time.

The benefits of stopping to smell the flowers have been extolled by sages and philosophers throughout the ages. In all of recorded human history lies some form of the mantra, “haste unto death” — for it is true. We rush headlong off the cliff after all the lemmings ahead of us. We can’t help ourselves — eternal moths to eternal flames.

The slow life

From the cuisine to jurisprudence, from behavior economics to psychological well-being, moving more slowly has numerous well-established benefits. Efficiency should never be the only goal, in any domain or at all times. As Madison strongly agreed with, “moderation in all things” is the mathematically optimal way to approach life, justice, and governing. Influenced by the Marquis du Condorcet, the invention of statistics, and a distaste for extremism in all forms, The Founders were prescient regarding the later theory of the wisdom of the crowds. They sought to temper the passions of the crowds via checks and balances in our system of governance.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. That the veracity of the quote remains unsettled is unsettling, like strange fruit swinging in the southern breeze. Yet the “quick justice” barbaric efficiency of slavery, the Confederacy, Jim Crow, superpredators, and mowing down unarmed Black men for traffic violations to name a few, are no examples of fairness. Faster isn’t always better, especially when it comes to justice. It takes time to gather facts, talk to witnesses, piece together the crimes and document them in an airtight way, brokering no doubt in the mind of a single jurist.

More efficiency topics

Areas I’ll be further exploring:

  • Slow thinking — Daniel Kahneman’s behavioral economics and cognition theory about slow and fast thinking systems in the brain, how they physiologically arose, and their implications for bias, decision making, geopolitics, and more.
  • Journey vs. Destination — It’s not just about getting to the same restaurant and eating the same thing. The end doesn’t always justify the means. Traveler vs. Tourist. Go with the flow. Roll with it, baby.
  • An ounce of caution — A stitch of time. He who makes haste makes waste. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Be careful!
  • Self-reflection — Thoughtfulness. Rumination. Mindfulness. Presence.
  • Being too busy speeds up time, not necessarily in a good way. Leads to the unexamined life, a Stoic no-no. Socrates would not approve, dude.
  • Enoughness — Sustainability. Patience. Non-violence. Whole-heartedness.
  • Hierarchy vs. Fairness — Consensus takes a lot longer. Dictators and monarchs are nothing if not efficient.
  • The appeal of fascism — History and ideology of the Nazis and their obsession with efficiency.
  • PR — soundbites. Simple narratives. Tropes, slogans, repetition.
  • Entertainment — intellectual empty calories. Neil Postman. McLuhan.
  • Automation — AI, bots, robotics, threats to labor
  • Walking vs. Transportation
  • The slow food movement
  • Speed reading
  • Speed runs — video games

Notes: Surveillance capitalism dystopia, with Zeynep Tufekci

speak, sistah!

see also: Shoshanna Zuboff (who wrote the seminal work on surveillance capitalism), Don Norman, Dystopia vs. Utopia Book List: A Fight to the Finish, surveillance capitalism dictionary

Some takeaways:

  • surveillance won’t be obvious and overt like in Orwell’s classic totalitarian novel 1984 — it’ll be covert and subtle (“more like a spider’s web”)
  • social networks use persuasion architecture — the same cloying design aesthetic that puts gum at the eye level of children in the grocery aisle

Example:

AI modeling of potential Las Vegas ticket buyers

The machine learning algorithms can classify people into two buckets, “likely to buy tickets to Vegas” and “unlikely to” based on exposure to lots and lots of data patterns. Problem being, it’s a black box and no one — not even the computer scientists — know how it works or what it’s doing exactly.

So the AI may have discovered that bipolar individuals just about to go into mania are more susceptible to buying tickets to Vegas — and that is the segment of the population they are targeting: a vulnerable set of people prone to overspending and gambling addictions. The ethical implications of unleashing this on the world — and routinely using and optimizing it relentlessly — are staggering.

Profiting from extremism

“You’re never hardcore enough for YouTube” — YouTube gives you content recommendations that are increasingly polarized and polarizing, because it turns out that preying on your reptilian brain makes you keep clicking around in the YouTube hamster wheel.

The amorality of AI — “algorithms don’t care if they’re selling shoes, or politics.” Our social, political, and cultural flows are being organized by these persuasion architectures — organized for profit; not for the collective good, not for public interests, not subject to our political will anymore. These powerful surveillance capitalism tools are running mostly unchecked, with little oversight and with few people minding the ethics of the stores of essentially a cadre of Silicon Valley billionaires.

Intent doesn’t matter — good intentions aren’t enough; it’s the structure and business models that matter. Facebook isn’t a half trillion dollar con: its value is in its highly effective persuasion power, which is highly troubling and concerning in a supposedly democratic society. Mark Zuckerberg may even ultimately mean well (…debatable), but it doesn’t excuse the railroading over numerous obviously negative externalities resulting from the unchecked power of Facebook in not only the U.S., but in countries around the world including highly volatile domains.

Extremism benefits demagogues — Oppressive regimes both come to power by and benefit from political extremism; from whipping up citizens into a frenzy, often against each other as much as against perceived external or internal enemies. Our data and attention are now for sale to the highest bidding authoritarians and demagogues around the world — enabling them to use AI against us in election after election and PR campaign after PR campaign. We gave foreign dictators even greater powers to influence and persuade us in ways that benefit them at the expense of our own self-interest.

3 brilliant thinkers warn against the dangers of A.I.