Facebook’s earnings come from our ‘likes’ and dislikes, our relationships and behaviours and connections. In this sense, Facebook is a machine which traffics in the things which make us human, and to understand its workings in full would mean seeing ourselves sold as bulk humanity.

Stinging Fly: Bland God

Me, myself, bye: regional alterations in glutamate and the experience of ego dissolution with psilocybin

Following a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group design, we utilized an ultra-high field multimodal brain imaging approach and demonstrated that psilocybin (0.17 mg/kg) induced region-dependent alterations in glutamate, which predicted distortions in the subjective experience of one’s self (ego dissolution). 

Nature

Seems reduced activity in the default mode network correlates with increased ego dissolution. Interestingly, both regular meditation and sporadic use of psychedelics seems to result in lowered DMN activity.

Related: spectrum of cognitive states.

The South Atlantic Anomaly

ESA reports that over the last 200 years, the magnetic field over the south Atlantic has lost around 9% of its strength. Nobody knows if this correlates with an overdue magnetic pole reversal, but I’m intrigued to be living in the epicenter.

Question 15: Which technology makes you feel most connected to others?

Part of an ongoing interview series about the use of personal technology.


Without a doubt, the most frequently cited technology making subjects more connected to others is WhatsApp, followed by Instagram, and other social media and the smartphone in general. The vast majority of subjects spontaneously name the above technologies, possibly primed from having spoken extensively about such media in previous questions.

Internet communication represents 90%+ of answers, including video conferencing, messaging, chatrooms, forums, memes, groups, finstas, digital photos, blogs and specific services like Netflix, iMessage, AirPods, Find my Friends, TicketSwap and Tinder. Every conceivable facet of digital communication has been mentioned, with emphasis on group communication alongside 1-to-1 tools.

Within digital communication tools, virtual reality technologies deserve a mention, including VR chatrooms, location-based entertainment and augmented reality technologies like projection mapping. The virtual clearly does not detract from social experience.

Outside digital communications, many cite music in all its form as creating a shared sense of connection. Loudspeakers, instruments, concerts – all partake in synchronizing emotions and leading to interpersonal connection.

The socialized mind, or shared knowledge between members of our species is often cited through technologies like books, language, writing, letters, art and even body language and hormones. Social technologies like theater, trains, bars, coffee and restaurants are also perceived as binding.

A significant minority of respondents reject the notion that technology even could lead to connection, claiming only unmediated human-to-human exchanges represent genuine connection, and that all virtual channels are inferior.

They would not be wrong, as digital communication of all sorts affect the message, by virtue of its encoding and decoding processes. Whether textual, videographed or virtually modeled, each medium imposes protocols for how communication takes place. This starkly contrasts with real-world encounters in which we share an environment, eye contact, pheromones and other non-verbal communication methods, allowing deeper rapport between people.

Of course the physical environment is limited to shared time and space whereas the virtual allows for shifts in all dimensions. The distant becomes proximate, the remote becomes immediate. Therein lies the treacherous nature of all media, particularly digital communications, in how it flattens all distances to arms length, reducing all hierarchies by connecting all nodes. Everything is here now. While the distant is brought close, so does the proximate recede, as all digital relationships are fundamentally equidistant, or flat. The natural hierarchy of physical order is reduced, putting all conversations into identical molds, framing the infinite complexity of human communication into binary choices – devoid of tone and nuance.

Internet language optimizes for speed and reach as seen with memes and clickbait. Accelerated through rapid feedback loops and algorithmic newsfeeds, native online vernacular easily overpowers older, less dynamic media. This reinforces recency bias, in which we give disproportionate value to new rather than old information, which in turn emphasizes our perception of acceleration.

By embracing slow, deliberate, human, present communication with others, we succeed in resisting the changes imposed by digital communication tools. Not by excluding them, but by embracing their distinctly digital abilities in order to enrich the physical. By coordinating offline encounters online, by leveraging one with the other. The technology making us feel more connected to others is the one we use for connecting with others – regardless of medium.

Interview #58

Part of an ongoing interview series about the use of personal technology.


When I did not have a phone, my friends treated our appointments like they were catching a train says Amanda, who recently acquired a smartphone after three years of not owning one. They had to be on time because I had no way of finding out if they messaged me.

My friends would curse me. They said it was impossible to keep me in the loop. Without social media or instant messaging it was like she did not exist among certain groups. It became more difficult to have conversations in real life because we did not know what the other person had been up to.

Amanda did not lose friendships or miss real-world events because of the self-imposed exile. Despite causing grief to some, she managed to strengthen the relationships with others, through elaborate email chains with close friends and long Skype calls with her family. These conversations kept her abreast of life back home throughout the three-year artist residence program abroad. Having recently returned to São Paulo when we meet at a late-night diner, she is still getting used to having a smartphone in her life.

It’s like you don’t exist if you’re not on social media. Nobody sees your work, friends don’t know what you’ve been up to, people don’t know where you are. Of course it can be liberating to reclaim your focus, to strengthen your attention and dive deeply into work – but after it is done, the work benefits from being shared – and the internet excels at promoting novel ideas. Amanda’s work after the residency was brilliant, but did not quite reach her intended audience because having lived offline so many years, there was no natural outlet through which to promote the work.

Surely not everything needs internet promotion to be effective. In fact, much beauty is created without the need to be experienced – like a monk chanting mantras from the mountaintop, knowing people below need not hear it to be positively affected – but unlike the monk, Amanda pays rent, and requires grants and other support systems to continue sharing her gift with the world.

In fact, if you work with any form of imagery like photography, fashion or visual arts, you are virtually required to have an online presence on places like Instagram. Journalists barely exist outside of their Twitter profiles, touring musicians rely almost exclusively on Facebook to promote their acts, and many families abroad only keep in touch because of WhatsApp groups.

It is easy to shun these platforms, calling them insidious and manipulative – which is a fair characterization – but it is difficult to integrate them into our lives without causing harm. Some people are perfectly capable of living without social media and happily concentrate interactions with other people face to face, or email and occasional telephone conversations. These people usually have jobs that require a certain detachment from society, like writers or professors, who generally benefit from maintaining distance from others.

Other people feel social media has actually enriched their lives exactly because it enables a light-touch communications protocol with distant yet important others in their lives. Some genuinely care about their childhood friend’s baby pictures, or enjoy receiving silly memes in the family WhatsApp group – to them, social media enriches both lived experience and relationships.

Acknowledging the negative effects of excessive social media use is easy. Just about everyone I speak with recognizes the ambivalent co-dependence we develop with our personal technology. There is no doubt whether technology robs us of valuable moments or demolishes our attention – that much is apparent. The question is how how do we arrange our technologies in such as way that minimizes the negative effects, like social polarization and the reverberation of violent discourse – while strengthening the effects that positively serve society.

Me and my smartphone have a deal says Amanda, I am to it what it is to me. They are equal partners but she gets the last word. Neither scorn nor adoration, Amanda allows each situation to dictate the response.

She regularly switches her smartphone off, ideally nightly, keeping the late night and early morning hours offline whenever possible. It feels like I removed an organ when the phone is off, but being offline feels like a healthy form of solitude, allowing me to be with myself.

Asked how technology could serve us better, she claims we should know when to say no to technology and that someone should write about etiquette in the digital age, because everyone is being affected by these changes, everyone complains about the state we have made for ourselves – especially in Brazil where work is regularly commissioned via WhatsApp. Entire project briefings and job scopes are frequently texted (or worse, sent as audio messages) to suppliers, who have to stay on top of messaging apps to remain in the loop. Digital illiteracy, she says, causes our attention to fragment and makes us lose touch with one another.

She calls the years offline her personal Tibet, an excursion into the unknown without leaving home. Perhaps one requires three years offline to fully appreciate the role smartphones have in our life, or perhaps we can learn from those who have climbed the mountain before us.

Question 7: How does it feel to be offline?

Part of an ongoing interview series about the use of personal technology.


Disconnecting is hard.

Turning down distractions in order to truly focus on something can be a heroic act for some, including myself.

It is easy to bounce between applications on my smartphone, easy to scan headlines, respond to text messages or double check email. Fills me with a sense of staying on top of things, of achievement, responsibility, duty. Connected to the world, to countless possibility, to everyone who isn’t me.

The internet is a constant reminder of the inherent connection that exists between every one of us. It can reinforce existing relationships between friends or family members — but shines when connecting us beyond geography, around affinity. Beekeepers, hobby guitarists and wilderness explorers all convene online to learn from each other and share experience. No matter how niche, if it exists, it can be found online.

I take relief in this sense of connection every time I reach for my phone. Even with notifications hidden or habit-forming applications uninstalled, the desire to tune in with the outside mind compels my hand towards the device more often than I think reasonable, and as with snacking fried food, compulsion usually trumps good intent. I conscioustly know better than letting addictive impulses govern my behavior, but acting out said self-control is beyond my ability most of the time.

These impulses reflect a recurring sense of longing, of wanting to reach into the ether for new ideas and pictures reassuring my friends are well. Not mere distractions, these moments are a shared sense of belonging. They affirm a particular relationship with others by maintaining very real social bonds separated in space and time.

The shared mind permeates the disconnected, individual mind. When away from the internet my thoughts lurch towards greater connectivity. Everything I do not know needs resolution, leading to investigating vocabulary definitions or wondering where my brother is traveling or whether it will rain next week.

The spell is only broken with sufficient intent. Sometimes it means ignoring my phone, preferably stashing it somewhere inaccessible. This technique is spotty and I frequently surrender. More often it means keeping the phone turned off and stored it away from the body. Only then does the mind unstick from the potentiality of online-ness. After a few seconds of panic followed by minutes of bewildered tabbing between tablet applications or notebook pages, the mind settles.

With a disconnected mind, I confront the blank page. Without the live wire of infinite potential poking my neurons I ease into inner exploration. Feed into all those memories, ideas and thoughts that have been looking for expression. Writing, dialoguing, wandering – no matter. The offline state invites a deeper, more deliberate state of mind.

Question 6: What worries you about the future?

Part of an ongoing interview series about the use of personal technology.


Nothing truly worries me about the future.

I believe humans are fundamentally capable of managing their collective affairs well, save for the occasional genocide. Despite showing virtually unlimited capacity for harming ourselves and the planet, I believe we tend towards betterment more often than descending into pandemonium. Overall, on average, the world improves. We should strive for elimination of suffering in ourselves and others, to which we seem to tend.

Most people I speak with disagree, citing climate change, extremism, hate, technological exclusion and many other concerns about our impending future. These issues are pressing, but qualitatively different from what I fear, which is not a particular future utopian or dystopian scenario, as much as the posture through which we carry ourselves into the future.

I worry whether we go forth thinking of ourselves as in control – or whether we feel defeated by our creation, as if technology has somehow already won and we are left suffering the consequences.

In many aspects, the Cassandras are right. Rescuing our environment from impending collapse looks increasingly unlikely and the effects of social polarization seem insurmountable. Over half of interviewees experience the future as out of control, governed by greater powers. Some event hint at predetermination – a future indifferent of our actions and intent.

I see the future as malleable. A limitless menu of potential outcome, possibility collapsing into actuality. Some outcomes are more likely than others – yet they’re all conceivable.

The primary factor determining which future we experience depends on how humans act collectively, such as through democratic elections or the formation of shared beliefs like money or religion.

The near future looks almost entirely like the present, plus or minus the events which might / might not shift the needle of plausible outcomes towards actuality. Existing power structures tend to remain while beliefs and culture change only at a glacial pace.

The exception seems to be technology, which delivers new possibilities at an accelerating pace. The mismatch between artificial clock speeds and our physical reality causes strife. Technology regularly outpaces us in our ability to understand and internalize its consequences, often harming some unwitting members of society in the process.

I worry about people not appreciating to what degree the future is something we actively create together, rather than something handed down from the past. All belief is malleable, all history is story, an agreed-upon narrative, changed by those who will. Whether in service to themselves or others, the future is crafted by individuals who commit to change. Public servants, parents educating children as better citizens, or software engineers building the systems that govern our collective decisions – we are all both actor and audience member in this play.

We can change the narrative.

In challenging the norm and understanding the consequences of our actions, we create reality. The emperor has no clothes. If enough people stop believing in something, it ceases to exist. The natural world is unperturbed by our thoughts. Most of the world we actually inhabit exists as shared belief. Our social roles, professions and relationships are mutually reinforced agreements. These systems could benefit the majority – and sometimes do – but often tend towards strengthening deeply seated power structures like financial capital or social status.

I worry about insufficient collective awakening. We make our own future. The more people realize this, the more pluralistic and inclusive our society can become. Democratic futures that benefit the majority. Failure to realize this shift is my greatest fear.

Question 1: Does it feel like the world is speeding up?

Part of an ongoing interview series about the use of personal technology.


Eight in ten people I speak with feel the world is speeding up.

One in ten claims the opposite, that the world is seemingly slowing down – or that it’s not changing in pace. Another ten percent are unsure, or believe the situation more nuanced than what can be expressed through binary answer.

Still eighty percent respond positively, often exposing relief – yes! – of course! – shocked the question even warrants asking.

The supposition could be dismissed as baseless. Objectively speaking, the flow of time remains unaltered, as many are quick to point out. I propose reality is partially constructed from our perception – which means concrete aspects of how we experience it is affected by how we perceive it.

In other words, the perception of acceleration (talking and thinking about it) partially reinforces the experience of acceleration (shortness of breath, anxiety), in an a potentially endless reinforcement loop.

The firehose of information one has to manage in modern life is often cited as the primary reason for perceived acceleration. Global twenty-four-seven news feeds, breaking scientific discoveries and paradigms, endless vacation pictures, potential new connections, memes and streaming video offerings all contribute to the sense of speeding up. Staying abreast with the world is a full-time job, and the amount of information we fail to absorb greatly outweighs our capacity to keep up.

Question 5: What is the first technology you remember using?

Part of an ongoing interview series about the use of personal technology.


My earliest technological memory is the alphabet. Specifically, as learned from observing a poster in my childhood room. The poster depicted the alphabet enacted by a pair of models photographed in the shape of each letter. The ‘A’ had them leaning head to head, extending the lower arm to form a bridge. The ‘P’ had one crouching on the back of the other, who was standing erect. A curious design artifact of the early 80’s, exposed to me as a toddler, provoking much curiosity.

I don’t remember when it changed, but at some point in my early childhood the letters acquired sounds and could be strung into sequences with meaning. I became an avid reader, devouring encyclopedias and novels before my first year in school.


When I ask people this question, an array of answers emerge, but most gravitate towards forms of media as their earliest technological memory.

Television, radio, cameras, telephones, video games and personal computers. Sony’s Walkman is often spontaneously mentioned for people born in the eighties, along with Nintendo and Sega consoles. A remarkable amount of interviewees voluntarily cite Tamagotchi, the virtual pet requiring constant attention for staying alive. Perhaps a precedent for how we engage with smartphones decades later.

While half the answers are media-related, a significant amount of respondents ask to reframe the question, establishing a broader definition of technology. Going beyond electronic devices, one can consider everything not of the natural world as technological. Acknowledging this, they cite toys, bicycles, cribs, kitchen appliances, typewriters, clothes and even speech as their first recollection of using a technology.

The ages people relate having these memories range mostly from 3-8, correlating with our earliest memories in general.

What stands out is how almost all answers revolve around objects. Artifacts we engage with physically. All external, all things that are interacted with.

Language might not be characterized as being technological, but so far nobody has mentioned play, socialization or painting – all of which children frequently do, and could be considered technological. Perhaps because of their inherent nature – because how deeply ingrained these activities are – meaning we don’t associate them with technology. We don’t see them as such.

Writing these words next to a playground littered with young children, this is particularly poignant. I see kids digging in the sand, telling stories, chasing each other and jumping from swings – none of which have been cited as technological memories.

The alphabet is artificial, a construction of symbolic manipulation. However, play – and creation – are in our nature. They are inherent, not fabricated. Extension of how the natural world works.

Berlin
12 June 2019

Question 8: How does the smartphone make you feel?

Part of an ongoing interview series about the use of personal technology.


The smartphone to me is an extension of my nervous system. It augments my memory, my senses, my intelligence – it annihilates the distance between myself and everything else – people, ideas, distractions. The most intimate of devices, the smartphone bridges my inner world with the outer. Links impulse with action. Thought with realization. Everything is knowable after the smartphone – every piece of information disambiguated – every whereabout deciphered.

With total information awareness comes a sense of perpetual fear of missing out. A sense of incompleteness, of finitude. We can never view all the stories, read all the links, know all the facts or play all the games – so we are left exposed to our shortcomings, faced with the inherent limitations of our human nature. The smartphone simultaneously enriches and malnourishes us. It gives a sheen of presence without requiring the effort of being there.

This interplay between expectation and reality can become a gently crushing force against our sense of personal well-being. It gives and it takes away. More connections, fewer conversations. More potential, less (sense of) achievement.

The answers I am given can comfortably be segmented into positive vs. negative feelings, with little ambiguity. It is worth noting however that most participants declare feelings on both sides of the spectrum, reminding us about the inherently ambivalent relationship we share with these devices.


Positive

Accompanied, Augmented, Available, Aware, Capable, Confident, Connected, Control, Coordinated, Delegated, Ease, Efficient, Empowered, Enchanted, Enthusiastic, Extended, Flexible, In touch, Intelligent, Lifeline, Love it, Oriented, Peaceful, Present, Reachable, Safe, Secure, Sociable, Soothed, Superman, Supported, Swiss-Army Knife, Useful.


Negative

Addicted, Annoyed, Anxious, Bored, Claustrophobic, Creeped, Crutch, Demanding, Dependent, Discomfort, Disconnected, Distant, Distracted, Dumb, Egoistic, Enslaved, FOMO, Followed, Frustration, Incomplete, Inflamed, Insufficient, Intruded, Invaded, Isolated, Judgmental, Lonely, Mad, Observed, Out of Control, Sad, Scattered, Separation Anxiety, Stressed, Trapped, Unfeeling.


Negative sentiments slightly outweigh positive ones, and no respondent claims exclusively positive or negative feelings. A steady minority report having no feelings whatsoever towards the device, reserving a purely utilitarian role for it in their lives.

Most respondents report ambivalence toward the smartphone in their life, aware of the balancing act between what it gives and what it takes. Love and hate, mixed feelings and conflict are frequently cited.

Almost nobody I speak to reports a sense of balance, or equanimity with their device. It seems most identify a tug-of-war-like struggle to contain the role of the smartphone in their lives. Furthermore, there seems to be positive correlation between the time spent on device and apparent dissatisfaction with it. The longer you use it, the unhappier you are (or become?).

Conflicted and dependent. Superhuman and powerless. Empowered and enfeebled.

Interestingly, a small number of respondents have declared an almost universal sense of improvement from having the smartphone in their lives. Most of them are 30-50 year old professionals working with or in technology – mainly entrepreneurs and software developers, who all seem to have grown up with a high exposure to technology. These report a mainly positive experience from having the smartphone in their lives, emphasizing how it makes them feel in control and on top of things. All of them are male. This observation might represent a peek into implicit power structures, and how technology favors certain classes of society, but is of little use if you’re not one of them.

Instead, we can learn from what they (and to a degree myself) have in common from having grown up around technology. Primarily, they seem to treat technology dispassionately, purely as tools. They also display higher than average technical abilities with their tools, and seem to have a mental ‘off-switch’ for when they can ignore the device (compartmentalization).

[Missing conclusion]

The Interview

Questions concerning the use of personal technology.


In April 2019 I asked a friend if they felt the world is speeding up. Without a moment of hesitation I was told: Yes – of course it’s speeding up!

The question felt intuitive. I frequently ask people about living in the present and how they are affected by technological change.

What differed that Friday was my newly found desire of documenting the answer, along with the dozen or so additional questions that followed:

How can technology serve you better?
By extending my human capabilities.

What is the first technology you remember using?
The tape recorder at age four.

More guided conversation than survey, the interview process has granted me a peek into the mind of 91 people, approximately one per day since early April 2019. Each conversation yields an new perspective, with patterns of perceptions and behaviors manifesting across time and space. The same questions posed over and over again – to a stranger in the park – at the end of a business meeting – or as icebreaker on a first date. Each session bringing insight into how we perceive the future, and how we feel about the technology we engage with daily.

What I have found is (mostly) reassuring. Despite the majority feeling a sense of perpetual acceleration (and often highlighting negative consequences of excessive technology use), everyone I speak with displays remarkable awareness of their predicament, and actively employ techniques for containing its effects on their lives.

This directly contradicts my own previous bias of masses unaware of technology affecting them, replacing perceived victimhood with a cautions sense of empowerment. The degree of awareness varies, as does the need for resistance – but every subject so far has displayed cognizance of this ambivalent relationship.

Countless patterns have emerged from the sessions. Having spoken to self-proclaimed smartphone addicts as well as digital minimalists — software developers and users — airline pilots, new parents, nomads, artists, executives, entrepreneurs, anthropologists, activists, janitors, government officials and several students and academics.

Respondents represent an as diverse as possible array of characteristics, but are limited to the people I meet or teleconference with. Young and old (aging from 15 to 75) and global. Most are urban smartphone owners, representing a possibly biased perspective – though I expect to remedy this by continuing the interview process indefinitely.

My intent with the interviews is uncovering the impressions technology leaves on us. How it shapes our perception of the world, how it affects our interpersonal relationships, and how we resist that which seems inevitable. We are all changed by it, and collectively partake in the perpetual creation of our technological environment. By downloading, registering and engaging with certain technologies (and not others), we determine the shape of the future.

I am trying to consolidate the findings through essays for each questions, linked below.


Questions

  1. Does it feel like the world is speeding up?
  2. Why?
  3. How could technology serve you better?
  4. How do you curb technology use?
  5. What is the first technology you remember using?
  6. What worries you about the future?
  7. How does it feel like to be offline?
  8. How does the smartphone make you feel?
  9. How does the future make you feel?
  10. What do you miss from using technology?
  11. What should change about technology?
  12. How has technology affected your relationships?
  13. When was the last time you switched off your phone?
  14. Does the Internet forget?
  15. Which technology makes you feel most connected to others?

Equanimity

Developing a balanced relationship with technology.


Every technology is both a burden and a blessing;
not either-or, but this-and-that.

Neil Postman

I start from the premise that we are living in a very difficult, very interesting time, a time in which a major historical period is coming to a convoluted end.

Almost everyone I talk to suffers from an ambivalent relationship with their personal technology. Especially the smartphone. Our lives are more connected and convenient, yet we feel disconnected and overloaded. We feel burdened from being constantly available online, yet can’t imagine ourselves considering the alternative. Instead of abandoning these facilities, we each develop techniques for containing our dependency. Some perform digital detoxes, others quit social media or turn their screens black and white. Each act, a small revolution against the pressure of change.

To better understand the transition we are going through, I have been conducting interviews asking people how they feel about technological change. Such as whether they sense the world is speeding up, how often they go offline, and what they feel about the future. In talking to people, multiple patterns have emerged.

Disconnect to reconnect

I am writing this because we are lost.

We are lost because we can no longer keep up with the amount of change affecting us.

Our world has become unknowable. We create more information than can be made sense of. The pace of transformation grows incessantly, compressing our temporal experience. We perceive time to accelerate while our capacity to react steadily decreases.

This affects us all. In fact, virtually everyone I interview perceive time to be speeding up, and few have found techniques for dealing with this phenomenon.

One frequently cited cause is that of technology: how it consistently creates new possibility, new pathways into the future, new paradigms to comprehend and new ethical quandaries. The rate of technology adoption is unprecedented yet increasing, leaving more people influenced by its grip. We are barreling down a one-way street with nobody at the wheel.

I am writing this because I feel (somewhat) capable of guiding (some of) us through this state of accelerating transformation. I grew up under circumstances affording a unique perspective on what’s going on. Born in Stockholm in 1982, at the cusp of the millennial cohort, into a computer-savvy household, and early internet user. This combination of factors significantly instructed my world view and relationship to technology.

My early interests were entirely digital: computing, coding, design, data organization. Picked up English from playing King’s Quest. First online experience at 8, first e-mail address at 10, online business at 14 (crafting websites in HTML). Digital photographer since 1998, blogger since 2001, native software pirate, online community organizer, tentative game designer and more. I grew up online. Having been born wired, I’ve spent more time connected than most, meaning my perspective might be valuable.

Having grown up on the early web instilled in me a sometimes forgotten set of values. The early internet was about small communities of likeminded, tech-savvy individuals congregating on message boards and email lists discussing minutiae of their favorite hobby with fellow nerds. There was almost no commercial activity, mostly academic and experimental initiatives.

Importantly, publishing on the web was understandable by most users. The technical barriers of learning HTML and hosting a domain were low enough for the average user to comprehend. The web began with a culture of openness, promoting democratic access to the global mind.

These values remain present in many online subcultures today, but have been ignored (or forgotten) by the average internet user. The web in 2019 bears little resemblance to that of 1999, let alone 2009. The vast majority of its use today takes place through behemoth information brokers. Instead of democratizing existing power structures, the internet became an extension of capitalism, especially private equity.

This shift affects practically everyone in modern society. We have come to depend on the internet for relationships, business, public affairs, information gathering and just about everything else imaginable. As technology seeps deeper into our lives, we need to constantly reassess its importance and role.

Unrestricted adoption of persuasive technologies affects practically everyone today. Smartphones and social media significantly affect our capacity to disconnect. Technologies once relegated to dedicated environments under temporary use have poured into our inner lives, from bedroom to bathroom. Like an umbilical chord to the networked mind.

We increasingly navigate the world through media, determining where to turn, who to meet, what to see and hear. Few (if any) interactions take place without technological mediation. This affects us in more ways than most people realize.

We outsource mind, memory and attention to the network. We trust external input over inner signals. Surrogate brains and artificial senses. Individually we experience increased anxiety and isolation, while collectively it strengthens extremist behavior and social discord.


Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.

Melvin Kranzberg

Assessing the role of technology needs to happen on both the individual and collective level. Personally most of us stand to benefit from a healthier relationship with the gadgets and services that govern our lives. Meanwhile, our societies are feeling the impact of technological unemployment and automation.

I believe the root cause for each type of imbalance to be the same: our inability to see technology in its true form. Technology can be considered a set of behaviors which augment our capabilities. Technology allows us to see further, hear better, communicate our thoughts and collectively build society. Technology naturalizes, or becomes invisible over time. The more we use it, the less we pay attention to it, and the further it becomes ingrained into normality (and how we expect the world to work).

I am writing this because technology is my second nature. It is my hobby, my medium and my job. Having spent an inordinate amount of time using, developing and making sense of technology gives me courage to make claims about the state of change. Doesn’t mean I’m right, but hopefully my experience can guide some of us towards better decisions.