Natural capacities overwhelmed – is human downgrading new?
Tristan Harris’s article “Our Brains Are No Match for Our Technology” has a title that absolutely infuriates me although I am not out of step with the content. Before I explain, I need to give a context to the article. Tristan Harris is from the Centre for Human Technology (CHT), and his organisation are trying to fight the impact of BigTech. The term CHT uses for what BigTech does is human downgrading, and by the term they mean that through various Social Media mechanisms BigTech are intentionally creating a “lesser person”. Over the last few years it is easy to observe that such downgraded people have been created, and there is no doubt that social media have played a part in this.
So why am I infuriated? Social Media has not created this downgrading, they have only made it worse. Being 67 years of age I looked at the rise of the information age with some hope. Much of my grassroots activism was based around informing people of what was happening. With the coming of the information age I had hoped that the informing process would be far easier. Prior to the internet information age, people relied on the mass media of television and this was always biassed – protecting the status quo. Grass roots activism usually took the form of breaking down this disinformation, presenting on a public platform a truth for the grass roots. The disinformation process could easily be called human downgrading.
Were we critical of ignorance? Of course we were. Did we complain at the way ordinary people accepted the disinformation of mainstream media? Of course we did. But I would often note that throughout the 70s and 80s, on the television mainstream or through newspapers it was always possible to find the truth but people chose not to look.
What has become clearer in the digital revolution is that people are intentionally choosing not to look. This ignorant process is not starting but continuing. Choosing not to look is aversion. Why are they choosing not to look? Greed. It is self-evident that many of the people who are becoming more downgraded are white, MAWPs – Male Arrogant White and Privileged (maybe FAWPs – female MAWPs), but it is up to women to address this FAWP group as I have no wish to degrade these women by saying they have the same characteristics as the men – I don’t understand it in women either.
These MAWPs are being presented with delusions and are accepting them. Taking our jobs makes absolutely no sense, the jobs are controlled by the 1% and they give to the cheapest labour because the 1% are only interested in profit whatever their nationality. How can oppressed minorities have power? Then they blame the snowflakes and libtards, when have these people ever had power? They were given a semblance of power for a while to promote division but they never had power. Have SJWs ever had power? Wish they had because no matter how nerdy or self-interested some of them might be, they are standing up for compassion and compassion can only make the world better. These are not the people creating the defiled world, it is the 1% who have destroyed the planet, fought resource wars and maintained wage slavery to enable accumulation. Yet the MAWPs accept similar delusions because greed buys them off – Trump and his jobs for example. And as for the delusion of the wall?
Whilst there is a particular downgrading of MAWPs, human downgrading by BigTech is happening to most people, conditioned people in this defiled world.
There is no rational process happening when aversion is in control. It is greed that enables people to choose not to look and accept delusions. “(T)he digital infrastructures of Facebook and Google have overwhelmed the natural capacities of our brains.” We live in a world of conditioning where aversion is fuelled by greed and people turn to delusion. This has not suddenly arisen because of BigTech, it has been present throughout my life as part of conditioning by upbringing, media and educational biases, all of which has led to human downgrading – just not as bad as with some now.
Why am I angry? Because if we had not accepted being defiled in the past, we would not be so easily downgraded now. How BigTech, as part of the 1%, manipulate and downgrade has to be addressed. But the manipulation and downgrading are part of systemic downgrading that has been developing over the centuries of accumulation.
Clearly there are specific issues that need to be addressed with regards to BigTech, but these issues are not new. One solution Tristan puts forward is mindfulness. I try to practice mindfulness. And to be quite honest through this practise I do not understand how people have let themselves become downgraded.
But it is important to understand that the source of the downgrading is that people have not moved beyond conditioning. It is important to understand conditioning and see how it is being abused. Conditioning initially starts as a natural capacity, the instincts we use to survive from birth – nature gave us those instincts. Conditioning developed from those instincts into upbringing through family, society and education. So it would be easy to see that conditioning starts as natural but then develops a social component – we have both natural conditioning and societal conditioning.
Let us consider where these natural instincts should lead us. After the process of personal survival through instinct, there is then the sexual instinct which has at its roots survival. But are we meant to stay in this arena of instinct or does nature then intend for us to mature and move beyond conditioning? In our societal conditioning this question of maturity - going beyond conditioning - doesn’t arise. The historic forces in our defiled world of greed, aversion and delusion have led to a societal conditioning that reproduces these defilements, and does not talk of our maturing beyond conditioning. When CHT talks of human downgrading by facebook and twitter, he is talking of defilements that have come from conditioning; but he is only talking of an aspect of this conditioning – an important contemporary aspect of that conditioning through BigTech but nevertheless an aspect.
But if we mature beyond conditioning we are not subject to conditioning. This is a natural process – to mature beyond instinct, and we all have the capacity to go beyond instinct. It is not a paleolithic emotional state that subjects us to conditioning, it is a lack of maturity that prevents us from going beyond conditioning. Are we taught to be compassionate, moral or insightful? No. What we are taught is to fill our consciousness with content, and so we have no defence against the conditioning that produces defilement (greed, aversion and delusion).
There has never been societal conditioning that leads to maturity. This is not something new because societal conditioning has always been to preserve the status quo. This means preserving the status quo that allows resource exploitation, personal accumulation by the few, and wage slavery for the many; this status quo is the defiled world.
Moving beyond conditionality is an aspect of the spiritual path, and on this path we develop amongst other things mindfulness. Mindfulness is part of the spiritual path that could also be considered the path of maturity that moves beyond conditioning. Mindfulness is spiritual and not an intellectual development. Through the popularisation of mindfulness, it has not always been recognised that mindfulness is part of spirituality. Mindfulness is not an extension of the intellect, excessive attachment to the intellect is ego and prevents the development of mindfulness. Without the grounding in spirituality people can forget that mindfulness is for spiritual development. There are dangers attached to mindfulness being seen as an intellectual development as opposed to a source of the spiritual path.
One such danger is to suggest that we don’t have the natural capacities to cope with BigTech. It is in fact the opposite that we need to strive for. It is the natural capacity of mindfulness that comes from following the path that gives us the ability to resist the exploitation that comes from the conditioning by BigTech. Bloated intellectual development is an aspect of the conditioning that causes defilement, if we remain solely intellectual then we are still in the defiled world. Following the path of maturity that takes us beyond conditioning also takes us out of the defiled world, mindfulness is a natural tool given to us to do that.
Because of conditioning our natural capacities are overwhelmed. It is not that we don’t have the capacities to cope it is that the conditioning prevents us from developing these capacities. This is nothing new. Conditioning makes us averse to following the path, a path that is not a part of the defiled world. Is our spirit a match for the technology? Absolutely. Can the path be conditioned by technology? Definitely not. If we are mindful do we follow clickbait? Of course not. The issue is not new. Do we choose to follow the path or do we continue in the defiled world? History has followed the choice of defilement as evidenced by human downgrading worsened by BigTech.