Haven’t purged my bookmarks in a long time. I’ve been collecting material about technological dystopia already now operating but expected to worsen. Lots of treatments out there and lots of jargon. My comments are limited.

Commandeering attention. James Williams discusses his recognition that interference media (all modern media now) keep people attuned to their feeds and erode free will, ultimately threatening democratic ideals by estranging people from reality. An inversion has occurred: information scarcity and attention abundance have become information abundance and attention scarcity.

Outrage against the machines. Ran Prieur (no link) takes a bit of the discussion above (probably where I got it) to illustrate how personal responsibility about media habits is confused, specifically, the idea that it’s okay for technology to be adversarial.

In the Terminator movies, Skynet is a global networked AI hostile to humanity. Now imagine if a human said, “It’s okay for Skynet to try to kill us; we just have to try harder to not be killed, and if you fail, it’s your own fault.” But that’s exactly what people are saying about an actual global computer network that seeks to control human behavior, on levels we’re not aware of, for its own benefit. Not only has the hostile AI taken over — a lot of people are taking its side against their fellow humans. And their advice is to suppress your biological impulses and maximize future utility like a machine algorithm.

Big Data is Big Brother. Here’s a good TedTalk by Zeynep Tufekci on how proprietary machine-learning algorithms we no longer control or understand, ostensibly used to serve targeted advertising, possess the power to influence elections and radicalize people. I call the latter down-the-rabbit-hole syndrome, where one innocuous video or news story is followed by another of increasing extremity until the viewer or reader reaches a level of outrage and indignation activating an irrational response.

Creative destruction. A contrarian article by Michael Krieger arguing (among other things) that we got exactly what we voted for in the 2016 presidential election. We weren’t manipulated by fake news and Russian interference but rather actively chose the disruptive candidate precisely because decades of conscientious voting delivered politicians who betrayed our rational interests. So we decided to lob a grenade into the political arena to blow things up. Some of this is true, of course, but there’s no unified explanation when it comes to voting. Krieger is contrarian because he is optimistic that traditional media’s loss of stranglehold on information will lead, eventually and on balance, to positive developments rather than dystopia.

Killing me softly, slowly. Older article by Andrew Sullivan (get an editor, Mr. Sullivan — I’ve no patience to read your long-winded confessions) about how internet addiction broke him. Reinforces the idea of information abundance and attention scarcity. No one ever says book addiction wrecked them, do they? So it’s not really about information per se but about the medium.

Getting less costs even more. An article by Jonathan Newman about college degrees becoming useless while tuition and educational debt increase. Critical thinking has been replaced by shouting matches, which serve to educate exactly no one.

Distractions always on. An article by Paul Lewis about the internet hijacking our minds attention. Those who resist, opt out, ban, block, and otherwise disconnect are called refusniks. The psychological effect of continuous partial attention is making us dumb(er).

That sinking feeling. An article by Jean Twenge about deteriorating mental health among jacked-in teens. Pretty easy to accept her conclusions.

Building robot bullies. We’re now designing and constructing robots to harass and roust homeless people. Ostensibly for public safety, the real motivation is obvious. In this case, public outcry led to removal of the offensive bots, but I have my suspicions that we have by no means seen the last of them.

Delete Facebook. The Facebook scandal ought to get a link, too, but it’s everywhere in the news right now. I’ve never been on Facebook, so I have no insights into the presumed attraction of living in full public view. If others finally recognize that promiscuous oversharing and forfeiture of privacy were never such great ideas, then maybe more will delete their Facebook accounts.

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