Why Controlling the Masses Through Media No Longer Works
As the Internet takes over from broadcast television, we find ourselves in a new psychological ecosystem—and people's ability or failure to adapt explains the last two years of American politics.
Jordan is now in his 17th year of building disruptive technology companies, and is the co-founder and CEO of Neurohacker Collective.
Early in his career, he helped start the online digital video revolution as co-founder and CEO of DivX. After somewhat successfully navigating two financial crises and an IPO (and going down in flames at Stage6), he left the helm at DivX to return his attention to the big picture. He tried his hand at capitalism – combining Angel investment at the sharp edge of the Schumpeter wave — with participation in a number of think tanks and institutes; most notably, the Aspen Institute and the Santa Fe Institute where he served on the Board of Trustees for five sweet years.
This exposure led him to the conclusion that humanity is in the midst of a world historical transition which will likely kill all of us (see Mad Max) but just might end in a truly amazing future (see Star Trek). Getting there is going to require many things of us – most notably a significant upgrade of our individual and collective capacity for thought and action.
Although he has long benefitted from entheogens, Jordan had not spent much time on nootropics or other Neurohacking techniques. After one week on an early NHC stack, he was convinced about the power and potential of this new technology and co-created Neurohacker Collective to bring it to the world.
JORDAN GREENHALL: I don't want to go into the history but there's actually a really neat history of exactly why and how a particular set of ideas became so important in the latter half of the 20th century. I'll give you just one example, but the idea of operational management, which was innovated during the heat of World War II and largely to do things like make strategic decisions about how we were going to go about moving ships across the Atlantic or run bombing raids on Germany using statistics, actually applying statistics to analyze the effectiveness of different approaches and then therefore making decisions based on statistics. And so operational management was very effective in the military theater and the people who had learned those techniques after the war percolated out into the broader economy and started applying those techniques in things like deciding how to run their businesses. So that's the basic framework of the order that we built up until now.
Now, the idea of the blue church is trying to get a sense of what it is that is the essence of the control structure. By control I don't mean necessarily anything bad I just mean the mechanism by which we're able to make collective decisions and engage in effective collective actions, the thing that holds our decision and action structure together. The control structure that still is the one that we're operating under that came out of that timeframe and the proposition is that in addition, and this is one piece but it's a very important piece, that there's a dominant role played by the structure of media. We're actually in the process of breaking that apart right here so this is good. We know that there's a particular dynamic associated with the kinds of media that are broadcast where one individual or group, because of the nature of the medium, so for example broadcast television in the day of three networks there was only three people who got to be the anchors who communicated out to the entire population. It was a massive asymmetry between the speaker and the listener and there's no interaction. So I am in the position of listening, you're in the position of speaking and there's 30 million of me and one of you.
Now, that's actually a very important dynamic. If you don't understand the fact of that and its importance you're going to have a very hard time understanding what actually happened during the latter half of the 20th century as in particular television emerged as the dominant medium displacing radio and newspapers. And by the way, you also have a hard time understanding what's happening now has the Internet is now emerging as the dominant medium replacing television. Just understanding that transition and what it implies and means at a deep level is sort of fundamental for predicting future states.
So using sort of television as the metaphor I then looked back and said all right are there other things that we see that look like that? And it's actually quite interesting that, for example, school has a very similar shape to it in the sense that you've got one speaker, a large audience and a very little interactivity, particularly like the university setting where there's a lecture and there's 500 people in the lecture hall. That is effectively the same thing as television in the sense that the relationship of information flow is effectively the same. This is important both from sort of the social dynamics as well as the psychological dynamics because if as a child your primary relationship to how you engage in culture is one of almost certainly being a pure receiver then your psychological development, your set of assumptions and habituations and how you adapt to the world will be associated with that environment. You're adapting to your local environment and this implies a certain set of sort of deep psychological structures. So we get a relationship between the mechanisms and techniques and potentialities of broadcast as a concept, so school, television, fill in the blank, and the behavior strategies, the habits and even the capacities of the individuals in the social layer.
So when you get to the mid and late '90s you're actually dealing with a society that could be understood as the society of broadcast and that has implications for how decisions are made. So the society of broadcasts is characterized by what you might call the Encyclopedia Britannica model or the Walter Cronkite model where you have a set of hierarchical structures where the individuals who have permission, authority and responsibility for speaking, for having authority are selected in some fashion to be positioned at the top of the broadcast hierarchy and then the rest of us defer to them. And so somebody has written an article in the Encyclopedia Britannica or some group of people, some group of experts who have been nominated in some fashion to be positioned as experts and at best take that responsibility very seriously, they pull the total set of questions back into their centers of excellence so they're having conversations in academic environments and groups that get together in think tanks, they produce an authoritative statement of what is in fact our collective opinion around this particular object. They then disseminate it through a broadcast medium and the rest of us listen to it, cohere around it and say okay that's what we do and then move forward.
So a major piece, not the only piece but a major piece of the transition that we're going through is precisely the fact that the decentralized communication infrastructure, sometimes known as the Internet and all of its manifestations and mobile and everything else, radically changes that dynamic. So the Internet is characteristically symmetrical meaning that the number of people who can speak is effectively everyone. Obviously there's not an even distribution of audience among everyone, but it's not structurally locked in. And the relationship between speaking and receiving has become intrinsically or at least intuitively bidirectional.
Now this shift implies a very large number of differential consequences so we can graph the notion of the impact that it has on power and the relationship between decision making and action taking. But there's also the impact that it has on psychology. The intuitive sense or the way that your brain, in fact even just you're sort of way that you go about making decisions in the world actually has to adaptively change. So the people who grew up in the post Internet environment have a fundamentally different psychological set of structures like deep habitual architectures and expectations of how to most effectively present themselves in the world than people who grew up before them. So what that will mean is two things: one is the set of techniques and approaches that socially evolved in the television or in the broadcast era are suddenly maladaptive in this new psychological ecosystem. So think like the Pepsi commercial that so famously was a disaster. That's very much the kind of thing that is produced by a broadcast intuition. We get to send messages and those messages are things that you receive. But the psychology and the technology of the Internet or of the decentralized or the symmetrical medium is one of no, no we get to critique. We get to directly respond to. And things that feel like they are broadcast or feel like they are quite obviously intending to influence us emotionally we know what that feels like and it doesn't work anymore so we're going to respond to that and our ability to respond swarms around it and breaks it up.
And so this, for example, is I think at least a reasonably good explanation for what's been happening in the political domain over the past 30 or 40 years and certainly over the past two.
When television took over from print and radio as the dominant media in the second half of the 20th century, a hierarchy evolved in which the privileged few with TV camera access spoke to the masses. This top-down dissemination of news and opinion not only shaped information, but it also shaped the psychology of those people, and of anyone who has lived with one foot in the TV broadcast era, and the other in the new dynamic brought on by the Internet. That established top-down directive—and society's conditioning to widely accept what is presented to them by experts—is what Neurohacker CEO Jordan Greenhall describes as the Blue Church: "The Blue Church is a kind of narrative/ideology control structure that is a natural result of mass media. It is an evolved (rather than designed) function that has come over the past half-century to be deeply connected with the Democratic political "Establishment" and lightly connected with the "Deep State" to form an effective political and dominant cultural force in the United States," writes Greenhall on Medium. Greenhall is careful to point out that control is not necessarily always a bad thing: it is how hundreds of millions of individuals are able to make collective decisions and engage in effective collective actions to advance their society.
Greenhall believes the switch from top-down broadcast television to the bottom-up nature of the Internet explains American politics in the past 30 or 40 years, and certainly in the past two years. Broadcast television was asymmetrical: one person, speaking to millions, with no interaction. The Internet is highly symmetrical: everyone can speak and interact, and that is psychologically profound for individual thinking, and the manner in which a society makes decisions collectively.
Top-down media no longer has much sway over the masses because they have been shown an alternative and adapted quickly to it; younger people particularly are intuitively aware when something is being broadcast to influence them emotionally, and it simply doesn't work the way it used to. Take the recent Pepsi protest ad, which Greenhall calls a typical product of broadcast thinking. The bi-directional flow of information that characterizes the Internet is a new psychological ecosystem, one in which individuals can respond and critique the establishment or a phony advertisement openly. Top-down social control has been replaced by bottom-up social swarms.
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How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.
- A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
- It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
- While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Tribalism and discrimination<p>One question the "Genetic Pressure" series explores: What would tribalism and discrimination look like in a world with designer babies? As designer babies grow up, they could be noticeably different from other people, potentially being smarter, more attractive and healthier. This could breed resentment between the groups—as it does in the series.</p><p>"[Designer babies] slowly find that 'everyone else,' and even their own parents, becomes less and less tolerable," author Eugene Clark told Big Think. "Meanwhile, everyone else slowly feels threatened by the designer babies."</p><p>For example, one character in the series who was born a designer baby faces discrimination and harassment from "normal people"—they call her "soulless" and say she was "made in a factory," a "consumer product." </p><p>Would such divisions emerge in the real world? The answer may depend on who's able to afford designer baby services. If it's only the ultra-wealthy, then it's easy to imagine how being a designer baby could be seen by society as a kind of hyper-privilege, which designer babies would have to reckon with. </p><p>Even if people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can someday afford designer babies, people born designer babies may struggle with tough existential questions: Can they ever take full credit for things they achieve, or were they born with an unfair advantage? To what extent should they spend their lives helping the less fortunate? </p>
Sexuality dilemmas<p>Sexuality presents another set of thorny questions. If a designer baby industry someday allows people to optimize humans for attractiveness, designer babies could grow up to find themselves surrounded by ultra-attractive people. That may not sound like a big problem.</p><p>But consider that, if designer babies someday become the standard way to have children, there'd necessarily be a years-long gap in which only some people are having designer babies. Meanwhile, the rest of society would be having children the old-fashioned way. So, in terms of attractiveness, society could see increasingly apparent disparities in physical appearances between the two groups. "Normal people" could begin to seem increasingly ugly.</p><p>But ultra-attractive people who were born designer babies could face problems, too. One could be the loss of body image. </p><p>When designer babies grow up in the "Genetic Pressure" series, men look like all the other men, and women look like all the other women. This homogeneity of physical appearance occurs because parents of designer babies start following trends, all choosing similar traits for their children: tall, athletic build, olive skin, etc. </p><p>Sure, facial traits remain relatively unique, but everyone's more or less equally attractive. And this causes strange changes to sexual preferences.</p><p>"In a society of sexual equals, they start looking for other differentiators," he said, noting that violet-colored eyes become a rare trait that genetically engineered humans find especially attractive in the series.</p><p>But what about sexual relationships between genetically engineered humans and "normal" people? In the "Genetic Pressure" series, many "normal" people want to have kids with (or at least have sex with) genetically engineered humans. But a minority of engineered humans oppose breeding with "normal" people, and this leads to an ideology that considers engineered humans to be racially supreme. </p>
Regulating designer babies<p>On a policy level, there are many open questions about how governments might legislate a world with designer babies. But it's not totally new territory, considering the West's dark history of eugenics experiments.</p><p>In the 20th century, the U.S. conducted multiple eugenics programs, including immigration restrictions based on genetic inferiority and forced sterilizations. In 1927, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that forcibly sterilizing the mentally handicapped didn't violate the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, "… three generations of imbeciles are enough." </p><p>After the Holocaust, eugenics programs became increasingly taboo and regulated in the U.S. (though some states continued forced sterilizations <a href="https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/" target="_blank">into the 1970s</a>). In recent years, some policymakers and scientists have expressed concerns about how gene-editing technologies could reanimate the eugenics nightmares of the 20th century. </p><p>Currently, the U.S. doesn't explicitly ban human germline genetic editing on the federal level, but a combination of laws effectively render it <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">illegal to implant a genetically modified embryo</a>. Part of the reason is that scientists still aren't sure of the unintended consequences of new gene-editing technologies. </p><p>But there are also concerns that these technologies could usher in a new era of eugenics. After all, the function of a designer baby industry, like the one in the "Genetic Pressure" series, wouldn't necessarily be limited to eliminating genetic diseases; it could also work to increase the occurrence of "desirable" traits. </p><p>If the industry did that, it'd effectively signal that the <em>opposites of those traits are undesirable. </em>As the International Bioethics Committee <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a>, this would "jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics, disguised as the fulfillment of the wish for a better, improved life."</p><p><em>"Genetic Pressure Volume I: Baby Steps"</em><em> by Eugene Clark is <a href="http://bigth.ink/38VhJn3" target="_blank">available now.</a></em></p>
We look back at a year ravaged by a global pandemic, economic downturn, political turmoil and the ever-worsening climate crisis.
Billions are at risk of missing out on the digital leap forward, as growing disparities challenge the social fabric.
Image: Global Risks Report 2021<h3>Widespread effects</h3><p>"The immediate human and economic costs of COVID-19 are severe," the report says. "They threaten to scale back years of progress on reducing global poverty and inequality and further damage social cohesion and global cooperation."</p><p>For those reasons, the pandemic demonstrates why infectious diseases hits the top of the impact list. Not only has COVID-19 led to widespread loss of life, it is holding back economic development in some of the poorest parts of the world, while amplifying wealth inequalities across the globe.</p><p>At the same time, there are concerns the fight against the pandemic is taking resources away from other critical health challenges - including a <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/09/charts-covid19-malnutrition-educaion-mental-health-children-world/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">disruption to measles vaccination programmes</a>.</p>
A new study explains how a chaotic region just outside a black hole's event horizon might provide a virtually endless supply of energy.
- In 1969, the physicist Roger Penrose first proposed a way in which it might be possible to extract energy from a black hole.
- A new study builds upon similar ideas to describe how chaotic magnetic activity in the ergosphere of a black hole may produce vast amounts of energy, which could potentially be harvested.
- The findings suggest that, in the very distant future, it may be possible for a civilization to survive by harnessing the energy of a black hole rather than a star.
The ergosphere<p>The ergosphere is a region just outside a black hole's event horizon, the boundary of a black hole beyond which nothing, not even light, can escape. But light and matter just outside the event horizon, in the ergosphere, would also be affected by the immense gravity of the black hole. Objects in this zone would spin in the same direction as the black hole at incredibly fast speeds, similar to objects floating around the center of a whirlpool.</p><p>The Penrose process states, in simple terms, that an object could enter the ergosphere and break into two pieces. One piece would head toward the event horizon, swallowed by the black hole. But if the other piece managed to escape the ergosphere, it could emerge with more energy than it entered with.</p><p>The movie "Interstellar" provides an example of the Penrose process. Facing a fuel shortage on a deep-space mission, the crew makes a last-ditch effort to return home by entering the ergosphere of a blackhole, ditching part of their spacecraft, and "slingshotting" away from the black hole with vast amounts of energy.</p><p>In a recent study published in the American Physical Society's <a href="https://journals.aps.org/prd/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevD.103.023014" target="_blank" style="">Physical Review D</a><em>, </em>physicists Luca Comisso and Felipe A. Asenjo used similar ideas to describe another way energy could be extracted from a black hole. The idea centers on the magnetic fields of black holes.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Black holes are commonly surrounded by a hot 'soup' of plasma particles that carry a magnetic field," Comisso, a research scientist at Columbia University and lead study author, told <a href="https://news.columbia.edu/energy-particles-magnetic-fields-black-holes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Columbia News</a>.</p>
Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration<p>While there might not be immediate applications for the theory, it could help scientists better understand and observe black holes. On an abstract level, the findings may expand the limits of what scientists imagine is possible in deep space.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Thousands or millions of years from now, humanity might be able to survive around a black hole without harnessing energy from stars," Comisso said. "It is essentially a technological problem. If we look at the physics, there is nothing that prevents it."</p>
The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.
- A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
- It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
- The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
The ocean depths are home to many creatures that some consider to be unnatural.<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU2NzY4My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTUwMzg0NX0.BTK3zVeXxoduyvXfsvp4QH40_9POsrgca_W5CQpjVtw/img.png?width=980" id="b6fb0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2739ec50d9f9a3bd0058f937b6d447ac" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1512" data-height="2224" />
What benefit does this find have for science? And is it as evil as it looks?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7XqcvwWp" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="8506fcd195866131efb93525ae42dec4"> <div id="botr_7XqcvwWp_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7XqcvwWp-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7XqcvwWp-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7XqcvwWp-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The discovery of a new species is always a cause for celebration in zoology. That this is the discovery of an animal that inhabits the deeps of the sea, one of the least explored areas humans can get to, is the icing on the cake.</p><p>Helen Wong of the National University of Singapore, who co-authored the species' description, explained the importance of the discovery:</p><p>"The identification of this new species is an indication of just how little we know about the oceans. There is certainly more for us to explore in terms of biodiversity in the deep sea of our region." </p><p>The animal's visual similarity to Darth Vader is a result of its compound eyes and the curious shape of its <a href="https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/research/sjades2018/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" style="">head</a>. However, given the location of its discovery, the bottom of the remote seas, it may be associated with all manner of horrifically evil Elder Things and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cthulhu" target="_blank" rel="dofollow">Great Old Ones</a>. <em></em></p>
A popular and longstanding wave of thought in psychology and psychotherapy is that diagnosis is not relevant for practitioners in those fields.