“There are only two industries that refer to their customers as “users”: illegal drugs and software.”
Yale Professor Emeritus
By Dr. Jim Ferguson
Have you seen it?
Though I am no fan of Netflix, their documentary The Social Dilemma must be watched, especially if you have children or grandkids. And I recommend you watch the program with your family and children, if they are at least of middle school age.
Last year my egghead book club read “Zucked” by Roger McNamee. While I have issues with McNamee, he is a technology expert and appeared with other tech experts in the Netflix documentary to express alarm about the manipulative artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms of Facebook, Twitter, Google/YouTube and other social media platforms.
We moderns think our humanity resides in the brain. In antiquity life was associated with breathing (the breath of life Genesis 2:7). Later, a beating heart and the flow of blood were associated with the life force. Now, our integrated nervous system defines our being, our mind and, perhaps, our non-anatomical essence, the soul.
The brain contains ten billion nerve cells connected with each other by extensions of each neuron. Imagine an octopus with eight arms. Now imagine brain cells with thousands of arms reaching out and collectively touching the tentacles of their neighbors. When these nerve cells exchange impulses with each other, we think.
There is a tiny gap between the ends of nerve cell tendrils. The gap is traversed by electro-chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. There are many neurotransmitters and modulators such as acetylcholine, which declines in aging and Alzheimer’s Disease. Other examples of neurotransmitters are dopamine, GABA, norepinephrine, glutamate and serotonin, the latter associated with depression and pain syndromes.
Without getting lost in the medical weeds, the neurotransmitter dopamine is important in pleasure modulation. It turns out that drugs (illegal and otherwise) and social media interaction generate dopamine responses and pleasure signaling. Humans are social creatures, and social interactions stimulate pleasurable responses. Drug withdrawal is associated with a dopamine deficiency state.
The same dopamine deficiency state occurs with social isolation, as when your teenager’s cell phone is confiscated or when they get “unlikes” on social media. Studies have revealed marked increases in suicide among young people, especially middle and high schoolers coinciding with the advent of personal devices like smartphones. The manipulation of Big Tech’s algorithms is alarming and may be causing social media addiction in our young people.
Recently, Becky and I watched a series entitled The Capture. It’s a spy drama, but I was intrigued to learn that there are six million surveillance CCTV (closed caption TV) monitors in the United Kingdom; one for every fourteen Londoners. It is well documented that “seeing is deceiving” because anyone’s face can be photoshopped onto videos. This was the premise of the techno drama.
The Chinese heavily use facial recognition technology. The US Government prohibits our soldiers from using the Chinese TikTok app out of fear that facial recognition technology can identify our troops and be shared with the Chinese Communist rulers. Mr. Biden, the Chinese Communist government is not our friend.
And even more alarming is the Silicon Valley Tech-Lord’s power to prevent free speech. As I write, Facebook and Twitter are still censoring the New York Post’s story of Joe and Hunter Biden to sell influence in China and to the Ukrainian energy company, Burisma. (You should realize that the New York Post is the fourth largest newspaper in America and was created by Alexander Hamilton.) Facebook and Twitter are, in fact, interfering in an American election by suppressing a relevant story. And over the next two weeks you will see attack ads from the $100 million blitz paid for by the Tech-Lords. Apparently, not only Democrats, but Tech-Lords, the crony capitalists of Wall Street and the Chinese want Biden elected President.
We now know that lockdowns are destructive because humans wither without social contact. For my generation social interaction was at church, work, dinner with friends or other group activities. I sense that it’s different for millennials, and notably the Z generation, who often connect with their peers through devices such as smartphones. We’ve all observed people in restaurants looking at their smartphones instead of making eye contact and talking with each other.
Perhaps I have just become an old fogey like Socrates, who allegedly once said that the younger generation is going to the dogs. I might argue that young people connect through their devices and it’s just different for my generation. On the other hand, devices may just present an illusory alternative reality. What I do know is that “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” projects an imaginary false reality.
I recently watched a documentary by Dinesh D’souza entitled Trump Card. I won’t discuss the politics other than to say D’souza is no fan of Obama and believes Trump is the best solution for us at this moment in time. Especially challenging is the opening and closing scenes of the documentary taken from George Orwell’s dystopian book “1984.” We have many phrases from the totalitarian society depicted in the book. Perhaps the most famous is the notion of “Big Brother,” representative of a totalitarian leader or a totalitarian government structure. At the end of the book – and documentary – the protagonist Winston Smith is tortured by Big Brother who demands that Winston not only obey/submit, but express love for his torturer. The analogy in our current politic is frightening.
In the midst of the terrible Civil War, Abraham Lincoln sent a letter to Congress asking them to consider what the Union should be after the war. Famously, he noted that [America] was the “last best hope of the earth.” In our own modern Civil War, I ask my fellow citizens to consider the same question as we vote for either the revolution of Democratic-socialism or to Make America Great and the “City on a Hill” as envisioned by Jesus, John Winthrop and Lincoln.
I am fortunate that in these desperate times I have both a voice (The Focus) and a vote. In a democracy your vote is equivalent to mine, as it should be.
At this crucial moment I urge you to exercise those freedoms you still possess; persevere, pray and vote in person for America and against Big Brother’s Democrat-socialist agenda.