An old man meets a young man who asks:
“Do you remember me?”
And the old man says no. Then the young man tells him he was his student, And the teacher asks:
“What do you do, what do you do in life?”
The young man answers:
“Well, I became a teacher.”
“ah, how good, like me?” Asks the old man.
“Well, yes. In fact, I became a teacher because you inspired me to be like you.”
The old man, curious, asks the young man at what time he decided to become a teacher. And the young man tells him the following story:
“One day, a friend of mine, also a student, came in with a nice new watch, and I decided I wanted it.
I stole it, I took it out of his pocket.
Shortly after, my friend noticed his watch was missing and immediately complained to our teacher, who was you.
Then you addressed the class saying, ‘This student’s watch was stolen during classes today. Whoever stole it, please return it.’
I didn’t give it back because I didn’t want to.
You closed the door and told us all to stand up and form a circle.
You were going to search our pockets one by one until the watch was found.
However, you told us to close our eyes, because you would only look for his watch if we all had our eyes closed.
We did as instructed.
You went from pocket to pocket, and when you went through my pocket, you found the watch and took it. You kept searching everyone’s pockets, and when you were done you said ‘open your eyes. We have the watch.’
You didn’t tell on me and you never mentioned the episode. You never said who stole the watch either. That day you saved my dignity forever. It was the most shameful day of my life.
But this is also the day I decided not to become a thief, a bad person, etc. You never said anything, nor did you even scold me or take me aside to give me a moral lesson.
I received your message clearly.
Thanks to you, I understood what a real educator needs to do.
Do you remember this episode, professor?
The old professor answered, ‘Yes, I remember the situation with the stolen watch, which I was looking for in everyone’s pocket. I didn’t remember you because I also closed my eyes while looking.’
This is the essence of teaching:
If to correct you must humiliate; you don’t know how to teach.”
Philosophies for Life In this video we will talk about how to find yourself from the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. Friedrich Nietzsche was one of the biggest precursors of existentialism. According to him, finding yourself is one of the most fundamental endeavors of your life. So with that in mind, here are four steps, inspired by the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, which you can take from, to help you get closer to finding yourself and becoming who you truly want to become – 01. Don’t follow the herd mentality 02. Embrace the difficulty of self-discovery 03. Say yes to what gives you meaning 04. Find your true values We hope you enjoyed watching the video and hope this video helps you get closer to finding yourself and becoming who you truly want to become. Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher, poet, essayist, and cultural critic. He is considered to be one of the most daring and greatest thinkers of all time. His writings on truth, morality, language, aesthetics, cultural theory, history, nihilism, power, consciousness, and the meaning of existence have exerted an enormous influence on Western philosophy and intellectual history. He was one of the biggest precursors of existentialism, which emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent, determining their own development through acts of will. By his famous words “God is dead!”, Nietzsche moved the focus of philosophy from metaphysics to the material world and to the individual as a responsible person for his own life. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote several books like The Birth of a Tragedy, Human, All Too Human, The Dawn, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, Twilight of the Idols, The Will to Power, The Antichrist, and many more. His teachings have shaped the lives of many people; from psychologists to poets, dancers to social revolutionaries. Subscribe To Philosophies for Life https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp1m… Music – Enchanting Inspirational Music – Royalty Free – This Moment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VObTS…
8 AM — ACIM — Lesson 27 — Above all else, I want to see.
12:45 PM Ok so Sue and Jack talked me down from the ceiling. I am not going to touch the letter to the oncologist today. Today I am going to observe these symptoms and consider what I want to do about them. I hope to get some perspective on this drug from Carey and Ronna. That may or may not happen. I know Sue’s thoughts and they are valid for sure based on her experience with this drug at the VA where she ran drug trials. So I know I can’t send the angry letter I wrote. So it’s on the back burner for today. Had a good counseling session with Rick. I will keep that up. It helps with perspective and support which I know I need. Have some things to do. Plan to make another Shepherd’s pie today to see if I can improve on the last effort and have something in the freezer for next weekend when Jack is here to help me with my stuff and my cleaning. So I’m gonna sign off for now. Back later.
3:10 PM — Here’s the selfie today. Like the little beanie? They give them away at the cancer center. I’m sure volunteers knit them for cancer patients. Slow day — cold outside. I executed an update to my will about disposition of my grand piano so that feels good. Not much else to say. My left foot is still numb. I think chemo hits me harder the second week rather than the first week after treatment. Then the third week I build back strength to do it all over. It isn’t an easy thing to go through and I have developed a new compassion for anyone that has been through it. You get through but it sucks let me tell you. I did sleep last night for 3 hours and 38 minutes but only 16 minutes of deep sleep. It is what it is. I took an ambien and some Benadryl and drank a few sips of cognac. My plan as of this minute is to do that again tonight even though Sue told me to consider taking the pill. Back later.
Jack told me about that clip. Anyway, I think I have to accept the fact that the chemo weakens my body and I have to just accept that and keep going and worry about getting stronger again in the future. I have never experienced that before. I have thought of myself as being pretty strong physically. Not body builder strong but stronger than many my age. But that is definitely not the case now. I can barely walk sometimes and I just put a 5 gallon water bottle in the water dispenser thing and I almost dropped it. I’ts hard for me to do that and that is brand new. Jack even sugested I put the Apple watch away for a week. I won’t do that, but his point is a good one — that I need to accept the fact that I am in chemo and it will weaken my body and not to worry about it but to just get through it even though it sucks sometimes. So sometimes you just have sit around.
I did eat a gummie today around 3 PM. It’s an indica gummie with cbd. We’ll see how strong it is and how long it lasts and whether or not it will help me sleep. And I am considering the pill again after getting Carey’s read as well as Sue’s on that idea. So I don’t know what I will do tonight. Just have to wait and see. But I hope I get more hours tonight. My foot is still numbish as I sit here with boots on and fleece socks inside the house with the heater set to 73.
The next door neighbors are picking up Longhorn Steak house tonight and I just placed a big order with them. I’m gonna eat steak tonight (fillet) and a big meal and have lots left over for tomorrow. And Pete just texted me that he is bringing more food over tomorrow. So I’ll be swimming in good food for several days. Back later after dinner.
8:40 PM — Ate a big steak dinner with baked potato and caesar salad. Drank red mine. And watched Jo Jo Rabbit. Really a good movie if you haven’t seen it. Glad to have some appetite back. I can tell I am getting weaker physically. I tell myself it’s the chemo — let it work — get through it — but it really sucks to sort of feel like you’re just wasting away. Alice used to tell me you can do an RHS in your head.Definition of honor | Dictionary.comˈɒn ər / PHONETIC RESPELLING honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions: a man of honor. a source of…www.dictionary.com
t least I hope so. Bowing to someone is to honor them. It took a while when I did Shambhala to get used the idea of bowing to folks. Bob and I didn’t do that out of obligation. But I bought into it pretty deep and spent years bowing to people. It still something I do occasionally. Not to be a sign of subservience but a sign of honor. At least I hope so. Came across an HBO Max series called “Warrior”. I watched the fist 3/4 of the first episode when I stopped. It’s about culture I guess but with kung foo thrown in. Eastern/Western culture. Chinese immigrant to the US and the brutal Irish locals, like grandpa Henry, a bare knuckle fighter on the weekends. I don’t know if it’s any good yet but it made me go there as stoned as I am (on Indica). I did finish episode 1. Not bad.
10 PM — Filled out an aplication for Lymphoma Support Network to get hooked up with a buddy. I was as neutral as I could be. Specific about my diagnosis but neutral about my preferences. We’ll see if anything comes of it. Also wrote to my dentist asking him to examine my teeth. They are bleeding now again when I brush and even though the cancer docs do not want me to get them cleaned, I want to find out what exactly I can be doing now to save them. Most of the cancer in my mouth appears to be gone but I’ll see what the doctors say when I next see them. Never did hear back from Misty but I’ll see her when I go in to see the dentist.
11 PM signing off.
|by Astro Butterfly (astrobutterfly.com)|
Since Jupiter and Saturn have joined forces at 0° Aquarius, many topics have kept the headlines in the news.
Let’s review the last weeks’ headlines, so we can get a taste of the Aquarian themes and the direction we are heading towards:
Social Media and Big Tech
In the last couple of weeks, many people have left the big Social Media networks or are migrating to other communication channels.
Upon announcing an update in the privacy terms, tens of millions of people have and are leaving the tech giant Wasap and move to other networks such as Signal.
So what happened? People have suddenly woken up to the fact that these so-called ‘free social networks’ are not really that ‘free’: they hold an unhealthy amount of power, sell our data, and influence our behavior.
People are realizing the immense power that is held by only a few corporations, which has led to a sudden rebellion or ‘wait a minute, that’s not right’ reaction.
What happened is what we astrologers have been long anticipating: a decentralization in the way communication is distributed and consumed.
People no longer want to be at the mercy of companies that can read our private messages, sell our data, shut down our accounts any time, and have such sway over our lives.
Surges in innovative companies like Tesla or alternative currencies such as Bitcoin. There’s still a lot of uncertainty about the future of these new technologies, but the trend is clear:
Those companies and institutions that are focused on innovation, value creation or fair distribution and democratization of value, will be the big winners in the new Aquarian age.
Stock Market Shake-ups
Perhaps you heard about the GameStop stock scandal this week.
A brief background: many of the players on Wall Street eviscerate the value from a company and retail investors on the stock market using a market practice called “short selling” that is often combined with an intentional manipulation of the company’s stock price.
- Short selling is the practice of borrowing a stock in order to sell it on, in the belief that its price will drop, allowing the seller to repurchase it at a reduced price later on, then return it to the lender, while keeping the profit – in short, betting on a stock that is predicted to fall
- The manipulation can target a company and the doom of its dropping stock, while they or others intentionally dump stocks, so that the average retail investor starts selling the stock also, rapidly driving the price down.
Earlier this month the company GameStop became the victim of this short selling by different Wall Street hedge funds.
HOWEVER the difference this time was that a group of amateur retail investors on Reddit (Social Media, ruled by Aquarius) saw this happening and decided to work together and purchase en masse the doomed GameStop stock as it was dropping.
To give you an idea of how much money was traded between these different parties, last year the GameStop stock price was around $4 and today, at the date of writing this article, it is currently at $325 – increases of around 1700%!
This created a situation called a short squeeze, whereby the Wall Street short-selling bets didn’t materialize, so the hedge fund companies had to sell their stock at the new inflated price, losing billions of dollars.
The Aquarian saga continued. A stock trading app called “Robinhood” which was supposedly designed to democratize stock trading and help regular people participate in the stock market, ‘decided’ to block the GameStop stock from being bought and only allowed it to be sold. Not much democracy in the ‘free’ stock exchange market after all, not even from a company called “RobinHood”.
But then Aquarius struck again. Within a single hour of Robinhood’s decision to block the buying of GameStop stock, the app got over 100,000 1-star reviews, dropping its rating from 4-stars to 1-star. The power of masses taking coordinated action.
In a counter Pluto-in-Capricorn power play, Bog-Tech giant Google simply deleted all the 1-star reviews. “I make the rules!”
But then again, all this hype means that people found out that on the internet, the information is not that democratically shared after all, and that the ‘free market’ may be ‘free’ for the hedge fund managers, but not for the regular John Doe.
The result? Questionable market practices have been exposed, and more and more people are becoming aware of an uneven playing field, losing faith in big companies and institutions.
The Reddit group initiative was not (just) about money. There was some sort of social justice, with the group of small investors exposing Wall Street traders’ questionable practices, and beating them at their own game.
What happened with these stocks and the social movement is a classical example of the Saturn in Aquarius square Uranus in Taurus transit. Aquarius is information, groups of people coming together, and Taurus is finances and personal values.
Saturn in Aquarius = coordinated social action; Uranus in Taurus = disruption and innovation in finances and personal values.
And the square brings the fiction and the “let’s change the rules of the game” type of energy. Since the Saturn-Uranus square will be active throughout 2021, one thing we know: this is just the beginning.
What Is Going On?
Step 1: People start to become dubious about the centralized power held by just a few corporations and institutions that can dictate pretty much everything and impact our lives without us having any say.
Step 2: People rebel against this unjust balance/distribution of power and take coordinated, bottom-up action (Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius) to change the rules of the game.
Step 3: New rules that better reflect a fair and balanced distribution of information and resources.
To understand why this is happening, let’s come back to the archetype of Aquarius. Aquarius follows Capricorn.
Capricorn is concerned with building powerful, top-down structures.
We owe a lot to Capricorn, because without Capricorn’s vision, determination and systemic thinking, no structure, system or anything of value would ever be built.
But of course, what happens when you build that perfect structure that works like a machine, is that power consolidates at the top. And we know what happened with the Tower of Babel. Whatever grows too big, also grows fragile, and eventually breaks down.
And this is where Aquarius comes along. Aquarius is the water bearer, bringing the water of knowledge to the world.
And there is so much more to this symbol. Aquarius does not just bring knowledge (although of course, as an Air sign, sharing information is one of Aquarius’ main concerns) but it also has a distribution function.
Aquarius makes sure that information, resources, energy get distributed and shared where they are needed.
In the human body, Aquarius rules over the circulatory system.
Here we see the Leo-Aquarius polarity. Leo is the heart, Aquarius the circulatory system. Leo creates and pumps life energy, but it is Aquarius that makes sure that this life energy is distributed as widely as possible and where it is most needed.
What We’ve Learned About Aquarius:
- People taking coordinated action
- Democratization of information
- Decentralization of power, with groups of people fighting for freedom and sovereignty
- Power to the people (we will learn more about this theme, with the good and the bad it entails, when Pluto enters Aquarius in 2024)
- People coming together in look-alike groups (not so small that they do not matter, and not so large that they lose track of the vision) to change the rules of the game
What Aquarius Energy Is NOT:
- Waiting for the system or a parent figure to tell us what to do (that’s Capricorn/Cancer NOT Aquarius)
- Top-down rules, laws and directives (Aquarius is about BOTTOM up initiatives that will initially disrupt the old rules and come up with new ones)
- Being all at one and at peace with each other (that’s Pisces). Aquarius is NOT the sign of oneness, Aquarius is the sign of look-alike-ness. Before we get to Pisces, and we are all “one” we need to get organized, and form new alliances that can challenge and eventually break down the unhealthy centers of power.
The Aquarian ‘revolution’ will eventually democratize our society – but the road won’t necessarily be smooth. There is a reason why Uranus, Aquarius’ modern ruler, is the planet of disruption, surprises, and ‘expect the unexpected’. If we want change, we have to shake things up first.
The good news: Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius will give us the vision and the determination to build healthy new structures that are a better fit for our current society.
The “not so good” news: Jupiter and Saturn square Uranus in Taurus, so the journey along the way will not be smooth.
The good news: once we overcome the challenges of the square, we WILL eventually reap the rewards, and our society will be healthier and stronger.
Age Of Aquarius
The AGE OF AQUARIUS Community is built on Aquarius values, and has attracted amazing members who share these values.
The Community is not built on Facebook – but on our own website platform. You can participate IF you want, OR simply consume the monthly astrology content. You can stay as long as you want, and leave whenever you want. If you feel called, join us here:
21st November 2012 (iai.tv)
We take it for granted that eradicating pain is desirable. And since De Quincey remarked that a quarter of human misery was toothache, remarkable strides have indeed been made. But is it possible, and do we want, to eliminate pain and suffering entirely or is it necessary to life?
Physician Raymond Tallis, philosophers Christopher Hamilton and Barry C. Smith, and metaphysician Havi Carel, who has a terminal illness, question the purpose of pain.
This video was recorded at the Institute of Art and Ideas’ annual philosophy and music festival HowTheLightGetsIn. For more information and tickets, visit https://howthelightgetsin.org
Jepoi Channel #AmericasGotTalent2020 #MarcelitoPomoy #PhilippinesPride Marcelito Pomoy WOWED the crowd as he performs both Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli’s parts in this rendition of “The Prayer” Indeed, Marcelito is ready to show the world his incredible voice. » Get The America’s Got Talent App: http://bit.ly/AGTAppDownload » Subscribe for More: http://bit.ly/AGTSub » Watch America’s Got Talent: The Champions Mondays 8/7c on NBC! » Stream Anytime: http://bit.ly/AGTFullEpisodes AMERICA’S GOT TALENT ON SOCIAL Like AGT: https://www.facebook.com/agt Follow AGT: https://twitter.com/agt AGT Tumblr: http://nbcagt.tumblr.com/ AGT Instagram: http://instagram.com/agt
(Contributed by William P. Chiles)
We can have democracy, or we can have a surveillance society, but we cannot have both.
By Shoshana Zuboff
Dr. Zuboff, a professor emeritus at Harvard Business School, is the author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.”
- Jan. 29, 2021 (NYTimes.com)
Two decades ago, the American government left democracy’s front door open to California’s fledgling internet companies, a cozy fire lit in welcome. In the years that followed, a surveillance society flourished in those rooms, a social vision born in the distinct but reciprocal needs of public intelligence agencies and private internet companies, both spellbound by a dream of total information awareness. Twenty years later, the fire has jumped the screen, and on Jan. 6, it threatened to burn down democracy’s house.
I have spent exactly 42 years studying the rise of the digital as an economic force driving our transformation into an information civilization. Over the last two decades, I’ve observed the consequences of this surprising political-economic fraternity as those young companies morphed into surveillance empires powered by global architectures of behavioral monitoring, analysis, targeting and prediction that I have called surveillance capitalism. On the strength of their surveillance capabilities and for the sake of their surveillance profits, the new empires engineered a fundamentally anti-democratic epistemic coupmarked by unprecedented concentrations of knowledge about us and the unaccountable power that accrues to such knowledge.
In an information civilization, societies are defined by questions of knowledge — how it is distributed, the authority that governs its distribution and the power that protects that authority. Who knows? Who decides who knows? Who decides who decides who knows? Surveillance capitalists now hold the answers to each question, though we never elected them to govern. This is the essence of the epistemic coup. They claim the authority to decide who knows by asserting ownership rights over our personal information and defend that authority with the power to control critical information systems and infrastructures.
The horrific depths of Donald Trump’s attempted political coup ride the wave of this shadow coup, prosecuted over the last two decades by the antisocial media we once welcomed as agents of liberation. On Inauguration Day, President Biden said that “democracy has prevailed” and promised to restore the value of truth to its rightful place in democratic society. Nevertheless, democracy and truth remain under the highest level of threat until we defeat surveillance capitalism’s other coup.
The epistemic coup proceeds in four stages.
The first is the appropriation of epistemic rights, which lays the foundation for all that follows. Surveillance capitalism originates in the discovery that companies can stake a claim to people’s lives as free raw material for the extraction of behavioral data, which they then declare their private property.
The second stage is marked by a sharp rise in epistemic inequality, defined as the difference between what I can know and what can be known about me. The third stage, which we are living through now, introduces epistemic chaos caused by the profit-driven algorithmic amplification, dissemination and microtargeting of corrupt information, much of it produced by coordinated schemes of disinformation. Its effects are felt in the real world, where they splinter shared reality, poison social discourse, paralyze democratic politics and sometimes instigate violence and death.
In the fourth stage, epistemic dominance is institutionalized, overriding democratic governance with computational governance by private surveillance capital. The machines know, and the systems decide, directed and sustained by the illegitimate authority and anti-democratic power of private surveillance capital. Each stage builds on the last. Epistemic chaos prepares the ground for epistemic dominance by weakening democratic society — all too plain in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
We live in the digital century during the formative years of information civilization. Our time is comparable to the early era of industrialization, when owners had all the power, their property rights privileged above all other considerations. The intolerable truth of our current condition is that America and most other liberal democracies have, so far, ceded the ownership and operation of all things digital to the political economics of private surveillance capital, which now vies with democracy over the fundamental rights and principles that will define our social order in this century.
This past year of pandemic misery and Trumpist autocracy magnified the effects of the epistemic coup, revealing the murderous potential of antisocial media long before Jan. 6. Will the growing recognition of this other coup and its threats to democratic societies finally force us to reckon with the inconvenient truth that has loomed over the last two decades? We may have democracy, or we may have surveillance society, but we cannot have both. A democratic surveillance society is an existential and political impossibility. Make no mistake: This is the fight for the soul of our information civilization.
Welcome to the third decade.
The Surveillance Exception
The public tragedy of Sept. 11 dramatically shifted the focus in Washington from debates over federal privacy legislation to a mania for total information awareness, turning Silicon Valley’s innovative surveillance practices into objects of intense interest. As Jack Balkin, a professor at Yale Law School, observed, the intelligence community would have to “rely on private enterprise to collect and generate information for it,” in order to reach beyond constitutional, legal, or regulatory constraints, controversies that are central today. By 2013, the CIA’s chief technology officer outlined the agency’s mission “to collect everything and hang on to it forever,” acknowledging the internet companies, including Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Fitbit and telecom companies, for making it possible. The revolutionary roots of surveillance capitalism are planted in this unwritten political doctrine of surveillance exceptionalism, bypassing democratic oversight, and essentially granting the new internet companies a license to steal human experience and render it as proprietary data.
Young entrepreneurs without any democratic mandate landed a windfall of infinite information and unaccountable power. Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, exercised absolute control over the production, organization and presentation of the world’s information. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has had absolute control over what would become a primary means of global communication and news consumption, along with all the information concealed in its networks. The group’s membership grew, and a swelling population of global users proceeded unaware of what just happened.
The license to steal came with a price, binding the executives to the continued patronage of elected officials and regulators as well as the sustained ignorance, or at least learned resignation, of users. The doctrine was, after all, a politicaldoctrine, and its defense would require a future of political maneuvering, appeasement, engagement and investment.
Google led the way with what would become one of the world’s richest lobbying machines. In 2018 nearly half the Senate received contributions from Facebook, Google and Amazon, and the companies continue to set spending records.
Most significant, surveillance exceptionalism has meant that the United States and many other liberal democracies chose surveillance over democracy as the guiding principle of social order. With this forfeit, democratic governments crippled their ability to sustain the trust of their people, intensifying the rationale for surveillance.
The Economics and Politics of Epistemic Chaos
To understand the economics of epistemic chaos, it’s important to know that surveillance capitalism’s operations have no formal interest in facts. All data is welcomed as equivalent, though not all of it is equal. Extraction operations proceed with the discipline of the Cyclops, voraciously consuming everything it can see and radically indifferent to meaning, facts and truth.
In a leaked memo, a Facebook executive, Andrew Bosworth, describes this willful disregard for truth and meaning: “We connect people. That can be good if they make it positive. Maybe someone finds love. … That can be bad if they make it negative. … Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack. … The ugly truth is … anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good.”
In other words, asking a surveillance extractor to reject content is like asking a coal-mining operation to discard containers of coal because it’s too dirty. This is why content moderation is a last resort, a public-relations operation in the spirit of ExxonMobil’s social responsibility messaging. In Facebook’s case, data triage is undertaken either to minimize the risk of user withdrawal or to avoid political sanctions. Both aim to increase rather than diminish data flows. The extraction imperative combined with radical indifference to produce systems that ceaselessly escalate the scale of engagement but don’t care what engages you.
I’m homing in now on Facebook not because it’s the only perpetrator of epistemic chaos but because it’s the largest social media company and its consequences reach farthest.
The economics of surveillance capitalism begot the extractive Cyclops, turning Facebook into an advertising juggernaut and a killing field for truth. Then an amoral Mr. Trump became president, demanding the right to lie at scale. Destructive economics merged with political appeasement, and everything became infinitely worse.
Key to this story is that the politics of appeasement required little more than a refusal to mitigate, modify or eliminate the ugly truth of surveillance economics. Surveillance capitalism’s economic imperatives turned Facebook into a societal tinderbox. Mr. Zuckerberg merely had to stand down and commit himself to the bystander role.
Internal research presented in 2016 and 2017 demonstrated causal links between Facebook’s algorithmic targeting mechanisms and epistemic chaos. One researcher concluded that the algorithms were responsible for the viral spread of divisive content that helped fuel the growth of German extremist groups. Recommendation tools accounted for 64 percent of “extremist group joins,” she found — dynamics not unique to Germany.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal in March 2018 riveted the world’s attention on Facebook in a new way, offering a window for bold change. The public began to grasp that Facebook’s political advertising business is a way to rent the company’s suite of capabilities to microtarget users, manipulate them and sow epistemic chaos, pivoting the whole machine just a few degrees from commercial to political objectives.ImageCredit…Pool photo by Graeme Jennings/EPA, via Shutterstock
The company launched some modest initiatives, promising more transparency, a more robust system of third-party fact checkers and a policy to limit “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” but through it all, Mr. Zuckerberg conceded the field to Mr. Trump’s demands for unfettered access to the global information bloodstream.
Mr. Zuckerberg rejected internal proposals for operational changes that would reduce epistemic chaos. A political whitelist identified over 100,000 officials and candidates whose accounts were exempted from fact-checking, despite internal research showing that users tend to believe false information shared by politicians. In September 2019 the company said that political advertising would not be subject to fact-checking.
To placate his critics in 2018, Mr. Zuckerberg commissioned a civil rights audit led by Laura Murphy, a former director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office. The report published in 2020 is a cri de coeurexpressed in a river of words that bear witness to dashed hopes — “disheartened,” “frustrated,” “angry,” “dismayed,” “fearful,” “heartbreaking.”
The report is consistent with a nearly complete rupture of the American public’s faith in Big Tech. When asked how Facebook would adjust to a political shift toward a possible Biden administration, a company spokesman, Nick Clegg, responded, “We’ll adapt to the environment in which we’re operating.” And so it did. On Jan. 7, the day after it became clear that Democrats would control the Senate, Facebook announced that it would indefinitely block Mr. Trump’s account.
We are meant to believe that the destructive effects of epistemic chaos are the inevitable cost of cherished rights to freedom of speech. No. Just as catastrophic levels of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere are the consequence of burning fossil fuels, epistemic chaos is a consequence of surveillance capitalism’s bedrock commercial operations, aggravated by political obligations and set into motion by a 20-year-old dream of total information that slid into nightmare. Then a plague came to America, turning the antisocial media conflagration into a wildfire.
Epistemic Chaos Meets a Mysterious Microorganism
As early as February 2020, the World Health Organization reported a Covid-19 “infodemic,” with myths and rumors spreading on social media. By March, researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center concluded that medical misinformation related to the coronavirus was “being propagated at an alarming rate on social media,” endangering public safety.
The Washington Post reported in late March that with nearly 50 percent of the content on Facebook’s news feed related to Covid-19, a very small number of “influential users” were driving the reading habits and feeds of a vast number of users. A study released in April by the Reuters Institute confirmed that high-level politicians, celebrities and other prominent public figures produced 20 percent of the misinformation in their sample, but attracted 69 percent of social media engagements in their sample.
A study released in May by Britain’s Institute for Strategic Dialogue identified a core group of 34 extremist right-wing websites disseminating Covid disinformation or linked to established health misinformation hubs now focused on Covid-19. From January to April of 2020, public Facebook posts linking to these websites garnered 80 million interactions, while posts linking to the W.H.O.’s website received 6.2 million interactions, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received 6.4 million.
An Avaaz study released in August exposed 82 websites spreading Covid misinformation reaching a peak of nearly half a billion Facebook views in April. Content from the 10 most popular websites drew about 300 million Facebook views, compared with 70 million for 10 leading health institutions. Facebook’s modest content moderation efforts were no match for its own machine systems engineered for epistemic chaos.
In October a report from the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University estimated the number of avoidable Covid-19 deaths. More than 217,000 Americans had died. Tragically, the analysis concluded that at least 130,000 of those deaths could have been avoided. Of the four key reasons cited, details of each one, including the “lack of mask mandate” and “misleading the public,” reflect the orgy of epistemic chaos loosed upon America’s daughters and sons.
This is the world in which a deadly mysterious microorganism flourished. We turned to Facebook in search of information. Instead we found lethal strategies of epistemic chaos for profit.
In 1966, Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann wrote a short book of seminal importance, “The Social Construction of Reality.” Its central observation is that the “everyday life” we experience as “reality” is actively and perpetually constructed by us. This ongoing miracle of social order rests on “common sense knowledge,” which is “the knowledge we share with others in the normal self-evident routines of everyday life.”
Think about traffic: There are not enough police officers in the world to ensure that every car stops at every red light, yet not every intersection triggers a negotiation or a fight. That’s because in orderly societies we all know that red lights have the authority to make us stop and green lights are authorized to let us go. This common sense means that we each act on what we all know, while trusting that others will too. We’re not just obeying laws; we are creating order together. Our reward is to live in a world where we mostly get where we are going and home again safely because we can trust one another’s common sense. No society is viable without it.
“All societies are constructions in the face of chaos,” write Berger and Luckmann. Because norms are summaries of our common sense, norm violation is the essence of terrorism — terrifying because it repudiates the most taken-for-granted social certainties. “Norm violation creates an attentive audience beyond the target of terror,” write Alex P. Schmid and Albert J. Jongman in “Political Terrorism,” a widely cited text on the subject. Everyone experiences the shock, disorientation, and fear. The legitimacy and continuity of our institutions are essential because they buffer us from chaos by formalizing our common sense.
Deaths of kings and peaceful transfers of power in democracies are critical moments that heighten society’s vulnerability. The norms and laws that guide these junctures are rightly treated with maximum gravity. Mr. Trump and his allies prosecuted an election-fraud disinformation campaign that ultimately translated into violence. It took direct aim at American democracy’s point of maximum institutional vulnerability and its most fundamental norms. As such, it qualifies as a form of epistemic terrorism, an extreme expression of epistemic chaos. Mr. Zuckerberg’s determination to lend his economic machine to the cause makes him an accessory to this assault.ImageCredit…Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
Like baseball, everyday reality is an adventure that begins and ends at home base, where we are safe. No society can police everything all the time, least of all a democratic society. A healthy society rests on a consensus about what is a deviation and what is normal. We venture out from the norm, but we know the difference between the outfield and home, the reality of everyday life. Without that, as we have now experienced, things fall apart. Democrats drinking blood?Sure, why not? Hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19?Right this way! Storm the Capitol and make Mr. Trump dictator?Yeah, we’ve got that!
Society renews itself as common sense evolves. This requires trustworthy, transparent, respectful institutions of social discourse, especially when we disagree. Instead we are saddled with the opposite, nearly 20 years into a world dominated by a political-economic institution that operates as a chaos machine for hire, in which norm violation is key to revenue.
Social media’s no-longer-young men defend their chaos machines with a twisted rendition of First Amendment rights. Social media is not a public square but a private one governed by machine operations and their economic imperatives, incapable of, and uninterested in, distinguishing truth from lies or renewal from destruction.
For many who hold freedom of speech as a sacred right, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s 1919 dissenting opinion in Abrams v. United States is a touchstone. “The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas,” he wrote. “The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.” The corrupt information that dominates the private square does not rise to the top of a free and fair competition of ideas. It wins in a rigged game. No democracy can survive this game.
Our susceptibility to the destruction of common sense reflects a young information civilization that has not yet found its footing in democracy. Unless we interrupt surveillance economics and revoke the license to steal that legitimates its antisocial operations, the other coup will continue to strengthen and produce fresh crises. What must be done now?
Three Principles for the Third Decade
Let’s begin with a thought experiment: Imagine a 20th century with no federal laws to regulate child labor or assert standards for workers’ wages, hours and safety; no workers’ rights to join a union, strike or bargain collectively; no consumer rights; and no governmental institutions to oversee laws and policies intended to make the industrial century safe for democracy. Instead, each company was left to decide for itself what rights it would recognize, what policies and practices it would employ and how its profits would be distributed. Fortunately, those rights, laws and institutions did exist, invented by people over decades across the world’s democracies. As important as those extraordinary inventions remain, they do not protect us from the epistemic coup and its anti-democratic effects.
The deficit reflects a larger pattern: The United States and the world’s other liberal democracies have thus far failed to construct a coherent political vision of a digital century that advances democratic values, principles and government. While the Chinese have designed and deployed digital technologies to advance their system of authoritarian rule, the West has remained compromised and ambivalent.
This failure has left a void where democracy should be, and the dangerous result has been a two-decade drift toward private systems of surveillance and behavioral control outside the constraints of democratic governance. This is the road to the final stage of the epistemic coup. The result is thatour democracies march naked into the third decade without the new charters of rights, legal frameworks and institutional forms necessary to ensure a digital future that is compatible with the aspirations of a democratic society.
We are still in the early days of an information civilization. The third decade is our opportunity to match the ingenuity and determination of our 20th-century forebears by building the foundations for a democratic digital century.
Democracy is under the kind of siege that only democracy can end. If we are to defeat the epistemic coup, then democracy must be the protagonist.
I offer three principles that can help guide these beginnings:
The democratic rule of law
The digital must live in democracy’s house, not as an arsonist but as a member of the family, subject to and thriving on its laws and values. The sleeping giant of democracy finally stirs, with important legislative and legal initiatives underway in America and Europe. In the United States, five comprehensive bills, 15 related bills, and one important legislative proposal, each with material significance for surveillance capitalism, were introduced in Congress from 2019 to mid-2020. Californians welcomed landmark privacy legislation. In 2020 the Congressional Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law issued a far-reaching analysis of the antitrust case against the tech giants. In October the Department of Justice, joined by 11 states, initiated a federal antitrust suit against Google for abuse of its online search monopoly. By December the Federal Trade Commission filed a landmark lawsuit against Facebook for anticompetitive actions, joined by a suit from 48 attorneys general. Those were swiftly followed by a suit launched by 38 attorneys general challenging Google’s core search engine as an anticompetitive means of blocking rivals and privileging its own services.
Antitrust arguments are important for two reasons: They signal that democracy is once again on the move, and they legitimate more regulatory attention to companies designated as market dominant. But when it comes to defeating the epistemic coup, the antitrust paradigm falls short. Here’s why.
The turn to antitrust recalls the anticompetitive practices and concentrations of economic power in the Gilded Age monopolies. As Tim Wu, an antitrust champion, explained in The Times, “Facebook’s strategy was similar to John D. Rockefeller’s at Standard Oil during the 1880s. Both companies scanned the horizon of the marketplace, searching for potential competitors, and then bought them or buried them.” He added that “it was precisely this business model that Congress banned in 1890”with the Sherman Antitrust Act.
It’s true that Facebook, Google and Amazon, among others, are ruthless capitalists as well as ruthless surveillance capitalists, but exclusive focus on their Standard Oil-style monopoly power raises two problems. First, antitrust did not succeed that well, even on the terms of its late-19th- and early-20th-century prosecutors and their aim of ending unfair concentrations of economic power in the oil industry. In 1911 a Supreme Court decision broke up Standard Oil into 34 fossil fuel industry companies. The combined value of the companies proved greater than the original. The largest of the 34 had all the advantages of Standard Oil’s infrastructure and scale and quickly moved toward mergers and acquisitions, becoming fossil fuel empires in their own right, including Exxon and Mobil (which became ExxonMobil), Amoco and Chevron.
A second and far more significant problem with antitrust is that while it may be important to address anticompetitive practices in ruthless companies, it is not sufficient to address the harms of surveillance capitalism, any more than the 1911 decision addressed the harms of fossil fuel production and consumption. Rather than assess Facebook, Amazon or Google through a 19th-century lens, we should reinterpret the case of Standard Oil from the perspective of our century.
Another thought experiment: Imagine that the America of 1911 understood the science of climate change. The court’s breakup decision would have addressed Standard Oil’s anticompetitive practices while ignoring the far more consequential case — that the extraction, refining, sale and use of fossil fuels would destroy the planet. If the jurists and lawmakers of that era had ignored these facts, we would have looked on their actions as a stain on American history.
Indeed, the court’s decision did ignore the far more pressing threats to American workers and consumers. A historian of American law, Lawrence Friedman, describes the Sherman Antitrust Act as “something of a fraud” that accomplished little but to satisfy “political needs.” He explains that Congress “had to answer the call for action — some action, any action — against the trusts” and the act was their answer. Then as now, people wanted a giant killer.
They turned to law as the only force that could right the balance of power. But it took decades for lawmakers to finally address the real sources of harm by codifying new rights for workers and consumers. The National Labor Relations Act, which guaranteed the right to unionize while regulating the actions of employers, wasn’t enacted until 1935, 45 years after the Sherman Antitrust Act. We do not have 45 years — or 20 or 10 — to linger before we address the real harms of the epistemic coup and their causes.
There may be sound antitrust reasons to break up the big tech empires, but carving up Facebook or any of the others into the surveillance capitalist equivalents of Exxon, Chevron and Mobil would not shield us from the clear and present dangers of surveillance capitalism. Our time demands more.
New conditions summon new rights
New legal rights are crystallized in response to the changing conditions of life. Justice Louis Brandeis’s commitment to privacy rights, for example, was stimulated by the spread of photography and its ability to invade and steal what was regarded as private.
A democratic information civilization cannot progress without new charters of epistemic rights that protect citizens from the massive-scale invasion and theft compelled by surveillance economics. During most of the modern age, citizens of democratic societies have regarded a person’s experience as inseparable from the individual — inalienable. It follows that the right to know about one’s experience has been considered elemental, bonded to each of us like a shadow. We each decide if and how our experience is shared, with whom and for what purpose.
Writing in 1967, Justice William Douglas argued that the authors of the Bill of Rights believed “the individual should have the freedom to select for himself the time and circumstances when he will share his secrets with others and decide the extent of that sharing.” That “freedom to select” is the elemental epistemic right to know ourselves, the cause from which all privacy flows.
For example, as the natural bearer of such rights, I do not give Amazon’s facial recognition the right to know and exploit my fear for targeting and behavioral predictions that benefit others’ commercial aims. It’s not simply that my feelings are not for sale, it’s that my feelings are unsale-able because they are inalienable. I do not give Amazon my fear, but they take it from me anyway, just another data point in the trillions fed to the machines that day.
Our elemental epistemic rights are not codified in law because they had never come under systematic threat, any more than we have laws to protect our rights to stand up or sit down or yawn.
But the surveillance capitalists have declared their right to know our lives. Thus dawns a new age, founded on and shielded by the unwritten doctrine of surveillance exceptionalism. Now the once taken-for-granted right to know and to decide who knows about us must be codified in law and protected by democratic institutions, if it is to exist at all.
Unprecedented harms demand unprecedented solutions
Just as new conditions of life reveal the need for new rights, the harms of the epistemic coup require purpose-built solutions. This is how law evolves, growing and adapting from one era to the next.
When it comes to the new conditions imposed by surveillance capitalism, most discussions about law and regulation focus downstream on arguments about data, including its privacy, accessibility, transparency and portability, or on schemes to buy our acquiescence with (minimal) payments for data. Downstream is where we argue about content moderation and filter bubbles, where lawmakers and citizens stamp their feet at recalcitrant executives.
Downstream is where the companies want us to be, so consumed in the details of the property contract that we forget the real issue, which is that their property claim itself is illegitimate.
What unprecedented solutions can address the unprecedented harms of the epistemic coup? First, we go upstream to supply, and we end the data collection operations of commercial surveillance. Upstream, the license to steal works its relentless miracles, employing surveillance strategies to spin the straw of human experience — my fear, their breakfast conversation, your walk in the park — into the gold of proprietary data supplies. We need legal frameworks that interrupt and outlaw the massive-scale extraction of human experience. Laws that stop data collection would end surveillance capitalism’s illegitimate supply chains. The algorithms that recommend, microtarget and manipulate, and the millions of behavioral predictions pushed out by the second cannot exist without the trillions of data points fed to them each day.
Next, we need laws that tie data collection to fundamental rights and data use to public service, addressing the genuine needs of people and communities. Data is no longer the means of information warfare waged on the innocent.
Third, we disrupt the financial incentives that reward surveillance economics. We can prohibit commercial practices that exert demand for rapacious data collection. Democratic societies have outlawed markets that trade in human organs and babies. Markets that trade in human beings were outlawed, even when they supported whole economies.
These principles are already shaping democratic action. The Federal Trade Commission initiated a study of social media and video-streaming companies less than a week after filing its case against Facebook and said it intended to “lift the hood” of internal operations “to carefully study their engines.” A statement by three commissioners took aim at tech companies “capable of surveilling and monetizing … our personal lives,” adding that “too much about the industry remains dangerously opaque.”
Groundbreaking legislative proposals in the European Union and Britain will, if passed, begin to institutionalize the three principles. The E.U. framework would assert democratic governance over the largest platforms’ black boxes of internal operations, including comprehensive audit and enforcement authority. Fundamental rights and the rule of law would no longer vaporize at the cyberborder, as lawmakers insist on “a safe, predictable, and trusted online environment.” In Britain the Online Harms Bill would establish a legal “duty of care” that would hold the tech companies responsible for public harms and include broad new authorities and enforcement powers.
Two sentences often attributed to Justice Brandeis feature in the congressional subcommittee’s impressive antitrust report. “We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.” The statement so relevant to Brandeis’s time remains a pungent commentary on the old capitalism we know, but it ignores the new capitalism that knows us. Unless democracy revokes the license to steal and challenges the fundamental economics and operations of commercial surveillance, the epistemic coup will weaken and eventually transform democracy itself. We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have surveillance society, but we cannot have both. We have a democratic information civilization to build, and there is no time to waste.
Shoshana Zuboff is a professor emeritus at Harvard Business School and the author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.”
(Submitted by Michael Kelly, H.W.)
A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America
What do UFO believers, Christian millennialists, and right-wing conspiracy theorists have in common? According to Michael Barkun in this fascinating yet disturbing book, quite a lot. It is well known that some Americans are obsessed with conspiracies. The Kennedy assassination, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the 2001 terrorist attacks have all generated elaborate stories of hidden plots. What is far less known is the extent to which conspiracist worldviews have recently become linked in strange and unpredictable ways with other “fringe” notions such as a belief in UFOs, Nostradamus, and the Illuminati. Unraveling the extraordinary genealogies and permutations of these increasingly widespread ideas, Barkun shows how this web of urban legends has spread among subcultures on the Internet and through mass media, how a new style of conspiracy thinking has recently arisen, and how this phenomenon relates to larger changes in American culture. This book, written by a leading expert on the subject, is the most comprehensive and authoritative examination of contemporary American conspiracism to date.
Barkun discusses a range of material—involving inner-earth caves, government black helicopters, alien abductions, secret New World Order cabals, and much more—that few realize exists in our culture. Looking closely at the manifestions of these ideas in a wide range of literature and source material from religious and political literature, to New Age and UFO publications, to popular culture phenomena such as The X-Files, and to websites, radio programs, and more, Barkun finds that America is in the throes of an unrivaled period of millennarian activity. His book underscores the importance of understanding why this phenomenon is now spreading into more mainstream segments of American culture.
(Contributed by Bulent Tokgoz)