BUMMER MACHINE (Social Media Platforms) “Behaviors of Users Modified, and Made into an Empire for Rent

In this insightful book, Jaron Lanier, Interdisciplinary Scientist at Microsoft Research and one of the pioneers of Virtual Reality, shares 10 compelling arguments on the need to delete our social media accounts. Before reading the book, I have already left most of the social media platforms and I am only present on Linkedin for now.

Jaron argues in ten ways that what has become suddenly normal—pervasive surveillance and constant, subtle manipulation—is unethical, cruel, dangerous, and inhumane. Dangerous?

Not only is your worldview distorted, but you have less awareness of other people’s worldviews. The version of the world you are seeing is invisible to the people who misunderstand you, and vice versa.

  • Your understanding of others has been disrupted because you don’t know what they’ve experienced in their feeds, while the reverse is also true; the empathy others might offer you is challenged because you can’t know the context in which you’ll be understood.
  • You’re probably becoming more of an asshole, but you’re also probably sadder; another pair of BUMMER disruptions that are mirror images. Your ability to know the world, to know truth, has been degraded, while the world’s ability to know you has been corrupted. Politics has become unreal and terrifying, while economics has become unreal and unsustainable: two sides of the same coin.

Here are my favourite take aways from reading, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now:

“[I]n many ways nonsense is a more effective organizing tool than the truth. Anyone can believe in the truth. To believe in nonsense is an unforgeable demonstration of loyalty. It serves as a political uniform. And if you have a uniform, you have an army.”― Mencius Moldbug

ARGUMENT ONE: YOU ARE LOSING YOUR FREE WILL

“We’re being tracked and measured constantly, and receiving engineered feedback all the time. We’re being hypnotized little by little by technicians we can’t see, for purposes we don’t know. We’re all lab animals now.”

Continuous Behavior Modification

  • Now everyone who is on social media is getting individualized, continuously adjusted stimuli, without a break, so long as they use their smartphones. What might once have been called advertising must now be understood as continuous behavior modification on a titanic scale.
  • Behavior modification, especially the modern kind implemented with gadgets like smartphones, is a statistical effect, meaning it’s real but not comprehensively reliable; over a population, the effect is more or less predictable, but for each individual it’s impossible to say.

To a degree, you’re an animal in a behaviorist’s experimental cage. But the fact that something is fuzzy or approximate does not make it unreal.”


Unknown 3rd Party

  • Consider the billions of dollars taken in by Facebook, Google, and the rest of the so-called digital advertising industry every month. The vast majority of that money comes from parties who are seeking to change your behavior, and who believe they are getting results. Many of these behavior changes are similar to the ones that television ads try to provoke, like getting you to buy a car or go to a café.
  • But, despite in some ways knowing more about you than you know about yourself, the companies don’t always know the identities of the advertisers, the parties who are benefiting from manipulating you. Tech company lawyers have testified under oath that the companies couldn’t have known when Russian intelligence services sought to disrupt elections or foment divisions to weaken societies, for instance.

To free yourself, to be more authentic, to be less addicted, to be less manipulated, to be less paranoid … for all these marvelous reasons, delete your accounts.

ARGUMENT TWO: QUITTING SOCIAL MEDIA IS THE MOST FINELY TARGETED WAY TO RESIST THE INSANITY OF OUR TIMES

THE BUMMER MACHINE: “Behaviors of Users Modified, and Made into an Empire for Rent”

  • BUMMER is a machine, a statistical machine that lives in the computing clouds. BUMMER is a machine with six moving parts:
  • A is for Attention Acquisition leading to Asshole supremacy
  • B is for Butting into everyone’s lives
  • C is for Cramming content down people’s throats
  • D is for Directing people’s behaviors in the sneakiest way possible
  • E is for Earning money from letting the worst assholes secretly screw with everyone else
  • F is for Fake mobs and Faker society

Customized feeds become optimized to “engage” each user, often with emotionally potent cues, leading to addiction. People don’t realize how they are being manipulated. The default purpose of manipulation is to get people more and more glued in, and to get them to spend more and more time in the system.7 But other purposes for manipulation are also tested.

The algorithms are rarely interrogated, least of all by external or independent scientists, in part because it’s hard to understand why they work. They improve automatically, through feedback. One of the secrets of present-day Silicon Valley is that some people seem to be better than others at getting machine learning schemes to work, and no one understands why. The most mechanistic method of manipulating human behavior turns out to be a surprisingly intuitive art.

“Those who are good at massaging the latest algorithms become stars and earn spectacular salaries.

The mass behavior modification machine is rented out to make money. BUMMER manipulations are not perfect, but they are powerful enough that it becomes suicidal for brands, politicians, and other competitive entities to forgo payments to BUMMER machines. Universal cognitive blackmail ensues, resulting in a rising global spend on BUMMER.

BUMMER platform experiences ricochet between two extremes. Either there’s a total shitstorm of assholes or everyone is super careful and artificially nice.

ARGUMENT THREE: SOCIAL MEDIA IS MAKING YOU INTO AN ASSHOLE

  • The most curious feature of the addict’s personality is that the addict eventually seems to seek out suffering, since suffering is part of the cycle of scratching the itch. A gambler is addicted not to winning, exactly, but to the process in which losing is more likely. A junkie is addicted not just to the high, but to the vertiginous difference between the lows and the highs.
  • The biggest assholes get the most attention, however, and they often end up giving a platform its flavor. Even if there are corners of the platform where not everyone is an asshole all the time, those corners feel penned in, because the assholes are waiting just outside. It’s part of how BUMMER Component A pushes tribalism.

ARGUMENT FOUR: SOCIAL MEDIA IS UNDERMINING TRUTH

Fakery

Fakery

  • Leaving aside explicitly fake people like Alexa, Cortana, and Siri, you might think that you’ve never interacted with a fake person online, but you have, and with loads of them. You decided to buy something because it had a lot of good reviews, but many of those reviews were from artificial people. You found a doctor by using a search engine, but the reason that doctor showed up high in the search results was that a load of fake people linked to her office. You looked at a video or read a story because so many other people had, but most of them were fake. You became aware of tweets because they were retweeted first by armies of bots.

Our peer groups influence us profoundly when we’re young, but that remains true throughout life. If your extended peer group contains a lot of fake people, calculated to manipulate you, you are likely to be influenced without even realizing it.

Paranoia

  • In our BUMMER era, the information reaching people is the result of how manipulative advertisers and power-mad tech companies intersect with crazed, engineered status competitions. That means there’s less authenticity in the social exploration that helps us find truth.
  • People are clustered into paranoia peer groups because then they can be more easily and predictably swayed. The clustering is automatic, sterile, and, as always, weirdly innocent. There wasn’t anyone sitting in a tech company who decided to promote anti-vaccine rhetoric as a tactic. It could just as easily have been anti-hamster rhetoric. The only reason BUMMER reinforces the stuff is that paranoia turns out, as a matter of course, to be an efficient way of corralling attention.

ARGUMENT FIVE: SOCIAL MEDIA IS MAKING WHAT YOU SAY MEANINGLESS

  • Whatever you say will be contextualized and given meaning by the way algorithms, crowds, and crowds of fake people who are actually algorithms mash it up with what other people say. No one ever knows exactly how what they’re saying will be received, but in non-BUMMER situations you usually have reasonable guesses.
  • Speaking through social media isn’t really speaking at all. Context is applied to what you say after you say it, for someone else’s purposes and profit. This changes what can be expressed. When context is surrendered to the platform, communication and culture become petty, shallow, and predictable. You have to become crazy extreme if you want to say something that will survive even briefly in an unpredictable context. Only asshole communication can achieve that.

Sources of content, such as news websites, are discovered by people mostly through BUMMER, so such sites must game themselves to be favored by algorithms and crowds.

ARGUMENT SIX: SOCIAL MEDIA IS DESTROYING YOUR CAPACITY FOR EMPATHY

DIGITALLY IMPOSED SOCIAL NUMBNESS

  • Your own views are soothingly reinforced, except when you are presented with the most irritating versions of opposing views, as calculated by algorithms. Soothe or savage: whatever best keeps your attention.
  • You are drawn into a corral with other people who can be maximally engaged along with you as a group. BUMMER algorithms intrinsically gravitate toward corralling people into bubbles, because to engage a group is more effective and economical than to up engagement one person at a time.
  • On the face of it, filter bubbles are bad, because you see the world in tunnel vision. But are they really new? Surely there were damaging and annoying forms of exclusionary social communication that predate BUMMER, including the use of racist “dog whistles” in politics.
  • Not only is your worldview distorted, but you have less awareness of other people’s worldviews. You are banished from the experiences of the other groups being manipulated separately. Their experiences are as opaque to you as the algorithms that are driving your experiences. This is an epochal development. The version of the world you are seeing is invisible to the people who misunderstand you, and vice versa.

Not only is your worldview distorted, but you have less awareness of other people’s worldviews. The version of the world you are seeing is invisible to the people who misunderstand you, and vice versa.

ARGUMENT SEVEN: SOCIAL MEDIA IS MAKING YOU UNHAPPY

  • Whatever the details, notice what’s happening. Suddenly you and other people are being put into a lot of stupid competitions no one asked for. Why aren’t you sent as many cool pictures as your friend? Why aren’t you followed as much? This constant dosing of social anxiety only gets people more glued in. Deep mechanisms in the social parts of our brains monitor our social standing, making us terrified to be left behind, like a runt sacrificed to predators on the savannah.
  • There are a million BUMMER games going on all the time, and you’re a loser at almost all of them, because you’re competing with the whole planet. The winners are mostly random.

ARGUMENT EIGHT: SOCIAL MEDIA DOESN’T WANT YOU TO HAVE ECONOMIC DIGNITY

  • When social media companies are paid directly by users instead of by hidden third parties, then they will serve those users. It’s so simple. Someone will be able to pay to see poisonous propaganda, but they won’t be able to pay to have that poison directed at someone else. The incentive for poisoning the world will be undone.

ARGUMENT NINE: SOCIAL MEDIA IS MAKING POLITICS IMPOSSIBLE

  • BUMMER makes more money when people are irritated and obsessed, divided and angry—and that suited Russian interests perfectly. BUMMER is a shit machine. It transforms sincere organizing into cynical disruption. It’s inherently a cruel con game.

ARGUMENT TEN: SOCIAL MEDIA HATES YOUR SOUL

  • When we talk about politics, culture, art, or law, it’s possible that quantity can’t replace quality, even though we can’t say what quality is. It’s possible that the algorithms we know how to write simply can’t distinguish terrorists or foreign intelligence agents from normal people who aren’t trying to destroy the world.
  • The foundation of the search for truth must be the ability to notice one’s own ignorance. Acknowledging ignorance is a beautiful feature that science and spirituality hold in common. BUMMER rejects it.

Virality is truth for BUMMER politics, BUMMER art, BUMMER commerce, and BUMMER life

All the best in your quest to get better: Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

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