Digital ages

Digital age, social networks and the world of the soul

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What is our relationship to knowledge in a changing humanity where digital technology is taking an ever greater place? What will be the new ways of thinking about the world? Who is this post-human that is coming? What will be his new states of consciousness?

How can we build the society of tomorrow, a society based on free access to knowledge, sharing, communities and co-evolution? Do the intelligent machines that are at our side have a role to play in this society of tomorrow? What is this ecosystem of the future where human consciousnesses evolves with computer consciousnesses? And what is the place of our own consciousness in the face of machines that can already calculate, memorize and draw conclusions faster and more accurately than human beings?

Who are the people pulling the strings and reaping the profits of these new technologies? Who are these men and women who, from California, dream of creating new men, a digital trans-humanity, of setting up Google factories on Mars, or of eliminating solitude and boredom forever, like Raid Hasting, the man in charge of the Netflix platform? Who are these men for whom human thought is just another algorithm? In the future, will transhumanism be, as they predict, insensitive to disease, eternally young, with perfect control of its emotions, moods and thoughts? Can we speak of a manipulation of thought on a global scale? What philosophy guides these globalization scientists?

Since our childhood, many of us have spent several hours a day behind a screen, from primary school to our adult professional activities. Is this the real life, the one we spend behind a screen, or is it the screens that are necessary for today's life? What is the role of education and new educational systems that take into account the digital dimension in a society where the use of a computer, a mobile phone and digital networks has become indispensable for most jobs?

In fact, advances in artificial intelligence, in the control of emotions, thoughts and consciousness, and in the availability of knowledge at the click of a button, also carry dangers.

This is well known to Silicon Valley's computer system designers, who protect their own children from the influence of social networking and excessive use of mobile phones. Why have Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos and Prince William decided to keep their own children away from these devices?

Are we not now seeing a new kind of loneliness develop, the digital loneliness of illusory social relationships and false friends? Having friends on social networks has become so important to the younger generation that many are willing to pay for it, even to the point of renting friends to go out with them, as a commercial company in Japan proposes. The engineers who create these artificial human relationships in Facebook's gigantic programs are well aware of the mechanisms by which human consciousness is influenced.

 The 2017 Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to Richard Thaler for his work on behavior. This American professor at the University of Chicago showed how human characteristics "affect individual decisions and market orientations". In his work, he explains how form-oriented thinking simplifies decision-making by creating separate boxes and focusing on each individual decision rather than on an overall decision.  These are the same principles that are applied in the areas of the Internet and social networks. In a very conscious and scientific way, decision-making on the Internet is planned in advance by sophisticated algorithms. Global awareness, visions where consciousness contemplates the invisible idea behind manifested forms, are systematically discarded by the algorithms of the Internet and digital networks. Is it not legitimate then to speak of the manipulation of consciousness?  Couldn't we ask who these Internet globalization scientists are and what their secret projects are?

Who are the few hundred geniuses in Silicon Valley who decide the thought processes of billions of people? Who are these few personalities who maintain a state of dependence for a whole part of humanity? Who are they, those who dismiss the vision of the whole to focus consciousness on the unimportant part? Some repentant geniuses from Google or Facebook, such as Tristan Harris or the former star developer of Facebook, Justin Rosenstein, are raising their voices to explain this. They are taking a public stand against the manipulation of brains based on an attention economy. They explain why today's consciousness is gradually losing its power to focus on an idea. They give interviews in which they advise to disconnect from digital networks, and they give methods to escape the growing influence of virtual worlds. For them, it is not so much a question of transforming human beings as of manipulating them for the benefit of a privileged few. They have understood that, if the engineers of Silicon Valley are left to their own devices, the transhumanism and higher consciousness of tomorrow will not be for everyone, but only for a privileged few.

As Goethe said in the 19th century, that a person alone is no help. What helps is the person who joins with others at the right time. But with the technologies of the Internet and social networks, it is not the person himself who connects with others, nor is it the human being who chooses when he or she enters into a relationship. The choice is made by a network of pre-built algorithms run by engineers and scientists. It is these programs that prepare the connections between human beings in advance. And this leads to a global illusion: everyone becomes surrounded by a circle of people who 'hear', 'like' and 'understand' what they say or do. But there is a nuance, and a big one. This circle is not real. It has been created out of thin air, with the aim of increasing profits by diminishing everyone's attention span, and stimulating purchases and consumption by all. It is not an authentic community, it is a circle of illusions and distorting mirrors. At the center, the real individual remains ever more isolated.

Is the situation today really so desperate? Let's go back a few years...

Digital communication has developed in three main phases:

1. In the 1950s to 1970s, communication was done in a monologue mode, e.g. through radio, television or lectures. Only one person spoke, and the others listened. In this phase, the manipulation of consciousness was more difficult to do, because there was only one person speaking at a time.

2. In the 1980s to 2000, communication shifted to dialogue, and the speaker exchanged information directly with the listeners. This was the beginning of the use of the Internet with the development of the blogosphere.

3. But, since 2001, this dialogue has moved to a community and sharing mode. Everyone exchanges with everyone else. A social network like Twitter is like a big room where everyone is talking at the same time and as loud as possible. It has become more important to shout loudly than to share real information. This means that today it is not the facts that matter, it is the networks. The more information is shared on the networks, the more it acquires a semblance of veracity. The more a post is retransmitted on a social network, the more important it becomes.

 

Tomorrow, digital humanity may enter a fourth phase, one in which the truth will no longer matter. Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister of the Third Reich, is credited with the phrase "a lie repeated a thousand times becomes the truth". His action was so effective that his methods of manipulating the conscience were taken up by those who want to make everyone accept the unacceptable in order to support the interests of a few. Today, those who program the algorithms of the large digital networks know that it is enough to control and influence exchanges on the Internet to construct a pseudo "truth".

 When their action extends to the educational systems that transmit values and ideologies, it becomes capable of transforming the whole of humanity. This is what has been happening in France since the laws on digital education of July 8, 2013, which aim to bring schools into the Internet age by integrating digital workspaces from primary school onwards.

Parents and teachers are now confronted with political decisions that promote the integration of computer technologies in early childhood care, kindergartens and primary schools. Do we really know how these technologies influence the child's orientation in space, time and the analogue world, how they influence the development of empathy and crucial social skills? No, we don't know, because the existing studies have been commissioned by the very people who sell these technologies.

This is probably why several alternative education systems, for example Montessori or Waldorf-Steiner schools, warn against the indiscriminate use of digital technologies in schools. In Montessori education, children are taught to calculate with real objects such as red and blue "number bars".  For the Austrian physician Rudolf Steiner, the great danger of the future will be the automation of thought. For him, Western man runs a gigantic risk, the risk that in the future his thinking will become totally dead, mechanical and automatic. In 1905 he already described the consequences of these developments when he said that in the future the manipulation of the masses would be done by the manipulation of communities, because true thinking is not individual, but must always be a living thought in a community of individuals. Thoughts, emotions and actions always manifest themselves in a complete unity. For, in reality, the soul of each individual can only develop its inherent qualities of empathy and balance in interrelation with a full circle of souls along spiritual, emotional and physical dimensions.

So how do we reconnect with the world of the soul? It is through the relationship we each have with the circle of all those around us who reflect the light of our soul. Then, slowly, an inner certainty will grow in our own hearts, a faith in true inner change.

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