It’s the holiday season, and you’re pushing or soon will be pushing, a shopping cart. Wherever you turn someone with a shopping cart icon is finding ways to get you put their product in your cart, checkout, pay in advance, and for you to believe that was an act of freewill.
Freewill like Santa Claus is a state of belief we bought somewhere along the line. Some of these purchases last a lifetime, others disappear somewhere deep into childhood.
Our attention is extracted like any other resource and resold for profit. Attention has commercial value. What you may attention to is a commodity. There is a large market for attention. If this level of extraction were applied to our teeth, we’d be on a soft food diet.
We shop for ideas like we shop for food. Like a four-year with money we buy what looks good and what promises to taste good.
We hardly notice the soft food junk diet we spoon into our brains. It’s all neural calories but almost no nutrients for a healthy mind.
We pay attention to short paragraphs.
Sugar for the mind—a shopping cart for sweet things; for nasty things.
You get the shopping cart metaphor. Here’s another visual image: extraction.
There is a parallel between the impact of fossil fuel extraction and use on climate change and the effect of social media extraction of our mental resources has on what and who we believe and what is true and real. Massive extractions of any resources disfigures the excavation site. In both cases there is evidence of extreme and unpleasant outcomes. Our extreme mental firestorms in the fourth dimension of social media and the Internet mirrors the wildfires around the global.
In Rooms: On Human Domestication & Submission I examine the processes that have led to our voluntarily submitting to a digital attention extraction culture. And why we push our mental shopping cart around filling it with feel-good, feel-angry images, pitches, rages, animals, and pictures of food. We should have seen this coming. Some did. No one listened to Huxley who saw it in the 1930s.
I have looked over the last 6,000 years to trace how this attention extraction process has been perfected. High technology has built upon an ancient foundation. How we let others fill our mental shopping cart with junk food.
For those of you who still read and wonder how we came to this point, Rooms provides some thought-provoking ideas, a meditation on how we came to think, believe and behave the way we do. It wasn’t always that way. What were the reasons we’ve gone down a path radically different from the one we evolved for 200,000 years to follow? No one has the final answer. What we have are clues, parts of a complex puzzle, and from these artefacts an outline of that turning point is framed in the room you are sitting and reading these words.
The irony of asking you to buy my book, to stuff another item in your overloaded shopping cart. I offer one defense: Think of Rooms as a meta examination of how we lost agency over our daily mental shopping cart and came to view value, each other, and beauty in terms of its worth measured in an exchange. We are guided by our feelings. We are programmed with a range of emotional triggers. Our mental landscape in a minefield laid down hundreds of thousands of year ago. These have primitive settings are no longer a secret. The code has been broken. Our enigma machine has been cracked. We live inside a system with institutional knowledge about what we think, what we want, and what we will buy. Cognition has been captured, domesticated, stored and a manufactured product. Buy or don’t buy the book, it doesn’t matter. What matters is to reflect for an instant what you are putting in your shopping cart.
Update Friday 6 December 2019: Facebook blocked use of the original title based on community standards. It used two forbidden words together.
c) had an image of a) and b) together.
Update Saturday 7 December 2019: Berger’s Ways of Seeing is instructive to understanding FB’s community standards platform. Human beings use metaphors. AI is not very good at metaphors. Using Pearl Harbor Day to reply to a sneak attack on an essay, for example, might confuse an AI.
The FB version of AI is that person who takes everything you say or write literally. Everything is exactly as it appears. There is no code for M.C. Escher’s This is not a pipe level of creative expression. I’m uncertain whether if it would have made a difference if I’d titled the essay: This is not a shopping cart.
The Mental Sh***ing Ca*t Essay (cat lovers be understanding this about censorship) might be one to read on Pearl Harbor Day as a reminder that we never know what surprise rolls down with the new dawn. Or how one person’s litter box may be a corporations cash box.
Let me know when it’s been changed. I want to tweet and FB the updated Essay.
Happy Holidays to All
The ebook price has been reduced 66% from $8.95 to $2.99.