My best friend is part-human, part-machine. Not in a cool way like Colonel Steve Austin in the $6 Million-Dollar Man. I mean part of his brain is controlled like a bot, kinda’ like when Captain Picard was assimilated by the Borg.
My friend and his family escaped from an authoritarian regime and now live here in the U.S. If you chat politics with him, he’s a fierce opponent of government censorship, repression, and control. Like millions of others, he was enamored by the possibility of an outsider like Donald Trump draining the swamp and bringing government back to the people. And like many of those others, somewhere along the way he completely lost sight of the principles he believed in and transformed into a QAnon conspiracy theorist. He never consciously chose to follow the mysterious Q, adopted a manifesto, or officially applied for cult membership. But the ecosystem he surrounded himself with has slowly, steadily, and decidedly transformed him over the last five years.
Of course, my friend would vehemently dispute my characterization, because he prides himself on his critical thinking skills and independent thinking. And truth be told, he does possess a curious intellect and solid thinking skills that he demonstrates well in his successful career. But my experience of him is that he’s blind to the fact that he cannot access that function of his brain when the discussion turns political.
If someone sends him a link to an article critical of Trump, he has an immediate whataboutism protocol that kicks in and he fires back an article critical of Biden, Hillary or some other liberal. (If the article is in the New York Times or Washington Post, he’ll immediately disregard it as liberal propaganda. But if the same outlet published something critical of a liberal, it’s accepted as personal testimony from Jesus.)
If you tell him President Biden is doing a great job on the vaccine distribution, he’ll immediately say, “Thanks to President Trump and Operation Warp Speed.” He is physiologically incapable of recognizing anything less than perfect concerning President Trump and his sycophants, or anything positive about anyone he sees as a foe of Trump. If you showed my friend video of Trump drowning kittens in front of children, he would instantly defend the great job Trump was doing controlling pet overpopulation. (Most of you assume I’m exaggerating to make a point, but I assure you I’m not.)
These reactions from my friend and the millions of other QAnon followers are not conscious conclusions formed as a result of receiving information, evaluating it, and forming a response. They’re knee-jerk, almost instinctive responses, as you would expect from a bot.
Before we go further, it’s important to recognize that there are millions of liberal-leaning Americans who also apply identity labels for themselves and are infected with the equivalent mind viruses. (I can testify that Trump Derangement Syndrome, or TDS, really is a thing, being a member of a TDS Anonymous 12-step group.)
Another friend is a proud socialist. He even wears a t-shirt with the slogan, “There is no excuse for billionaires.” He’s definitely in the “Burn It the Fuck Down” caucus. He also is a beautiful soul (a poet no less), works a job, and plays a mean centerfield. He’s one of those people who literally would give you the shirt off his back. But when it comes to politics, like my other friend, his ideology prevents him from critical analysis of his beliefs. Both of these guys represent millions of people who share their beliefs and are textbook examples of what I’ll label the botification of humanity. (Apologies for the use of a non-existent term, but what happened with my friend and millions of others requires the construction of a new word.)
People in this situation are still human of course, but in certain blind spots, they essentially act as robotically as a bot. Bots don’t evaluate and process information, they simply react to stimuli. For example, a clever fellow named George Mack created the @nntalebbot Twitter bot. When someone tweets out a quote from Taleb, the bot retweets it. (There is a similar one about Naval Ravikant.)
I posit that botification is a revolutionary new development in the Matrix. Not the Matrix in the movies, but the real one which is occurring in the world today. This is a cataclysmic development in human behavior, and no one is even talking about it. In America and around the world, there’s an ongoing discussion about online radicalization and the ferocity of the partisan divide, but no one is looking at the dangerous devaluation in people’s ability to think. There are now millions (arguably billions) of people who have farmed out their education, information gathering, and thinking processes to the social media companies and other elements of the datasphere. The influence of technology is so omnipresent in our society, that in certain situations, it could be argued that they’re more bot than human.
This new Matrix was formed organically from the interaction of people, surveillance, data collection, artificial intelligence, machine learning, algorithms, and marketing. Here’s how I defined it in my Radical Rebirth book:
The real Matrix is a collection of machines used for surveillance and data-gathering. (This includes every online search you perform, what you buy, every website you visit, your social media posts, the things you ask your voice assistants, the apps running in the background on your phone, and what you stream for entertainment.) Then this data is exploited to manipulate your habits, moods, identity, beliefs, and behaviors. The objectives are to make you feel powerless, needy, and helpless – and drive you to take self-destructive actions that reward the managers of the Matrix.
This isn’t a conspiracy theory, because there’s no premeditated conspiracy by anyone here. This Matrix isn’t a conscious invention by evil parties to enslave you. It’s the unintentional, collateral result of the mass adoption of the Internet and its related technologies. The Matrix has transformed millions of people from sentient human beings to someone (something) that is essentially a reactionary bot. Their normal intellect and thinking abilities are effectively disengaged. (I explored the process on how we adopt labels for ourselves and in essence volunteer for a lobotomy here.)
Neither side can seemingly process the nuances and discern the difference in reality. What they can’t seem to understand is that two things can both be true, even if one of them doesn’t pander to their worldview.
You can only process nuanced thoughts like these above if you:
In previous posts we discussed the concept of first principles that cannot be broken down or deduced any further. Elon Musk brought a lot of awareness to the concept of first principle thinking and now there seems to be a stampede of people who like to believe they practice such thinking. What shocks me is how many of them sell that belief to themselves, while they’ve inadvertently constructed a principle-free bubble to live in.
In the case of my friend, he fled authoritarianism but can’t see the irony of him sending memes and voicing support for voter suppression tactics, systemic repression policies, or overturning a free and fair election. Intellectually he supports free will and democracy, but when his hero loses a popular vote his partisan bias overrides his ability for higher level thinking. Likewise, the woke liberals who say they believe in freedom of speech but want to ban controversial speakers from college campuses and cancel anyone who disagrees with them. Both sides have allowed the bot programming to override the thinking process required to be congruent with principles. They ascribe certain labels to themselves or fall prey to cultish thinking, so they no longer recognize how wildly inconsistent and incongruent they really are.
Rick Warren wrote a book titled The Purpose Driven Life that sold millions of copies. If instead, he had chosen to write How to Live Life Without Principles, pretty sure he would have sold billions rather than millions. Because there is a billions with a ‘B’ number of people who find living by principles difficult, perplexing, and most inconveniently, very inconvenient.
Neither Trump nor the radical social justice warriors who want to defund the police and open the borders are the real issue here. Both sides have entrenched their positions and thinking, and now only robotically demonize the other side. As much as my woke friends would like to assign all the blame of demagoguery on Trump, he is simply the latest in a long line of wannabe despots who have plagued democracy for at least 25 centuries. (Hat tip to Cleon who founded the first #MAGA movement “Make Athens Great Again” and persuaded his fellow Athenians to murder every man in the city of Mytilene. Aristotle said of Cleon: “He was the first who shouted on the public platform, who used abusive language, and who spoke with his cloak girt around him, while all the others used to speak in proper dress and manner.”) Trump’s ability to keep his cloak girt around him and his followers mesmerized will primarily be determined by his agility is staying ahead of the prosecutors and creditors. At some point he will move on to the great Twitter feed in the sky and history will nestle him into a spot somewhere between religious cult leaders like David Koresh, L. Ron Hubbard, and Jim Jones – and the political demagogues such as Joseph Goebbels, George Wallace, and Ma & Pa Ferguson.
Meanwhile Bernie Sanders, AOC and other extreme leftwing partisans will reap their judgment in the public square as well. Communism is one of those great ideas that sounds good, looks good, and looks good on paper. It just doesn’t work in the real world. Their reduced calorie version they call Democratic Socialism will ultimately reach the same results it’s creating in Venezuela right now. If you massively penalize the producers, people eventually stop producing or move somewhere else.
The much more pressing issue is whether the millions of people who have surrendered their critical thinking ability to reactionary bot functions are ever going to take back their minds and become rational humans again.
What we call society is just a collection of people. And when you assemble a large collection of people, you can be certain that a vast majority of them are living out knee-jerk reactions based on the mind viruses they are infected with. I posit that the principal distribution of mind viruses today is occurring on the Internet, mainly upon the social media platforms. And furthermore, that the most effective, mind-influencing, behavior-changing medium doing that today is memes. Not memes the mind viruses, but memes, the cute, clever, and compelling slides and short videos being produced to influence a point of view.
This is another situation which requires me to invent another new word. America and the world have devolved into a memeocracy: a state where power will be held by whoever can best manipulate a simple-minded population through memes. A memeocracy is not the opposite of a meritocracy, but a perverted offshoot of it. Instead of advancing based on merit, you advance based on the merits of your ability to employ memes effectively to manipulate simple minded people. And that’s where we’ll pick up on the next post. Until then, would love to see your comments below. Provided of course, they’re actually thoughtful human responses, not automated bot replies.
Previous post: God Has an Affiliate Program