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Category Archive for 'Society'

You Can Tell What Somebody is Like by the Company They Keep

At the end of September 2009, an experiment done at MIT on social network analysis could identify which students are gay just by considering the data available on their Facebook pages. Through analyzing their online friends and the connections between them they could infer their gender preferences with a degree of accuracy. This raises more questions about online privacy.

I wrote in Google, Privacy and the Need to be Seen that we are apt at showing ourselves online in trying to fulfill the natural human need for mirroring, to be seen and understood, which probably hasn’t been actualized in the proper way at the proper time in our lives. Also, our skills for self-recognition and inner mirroring is becoming weaker and weaker because of the growing pressure from external inputs, mostly by the Net. No time for reflection and no empty space.

Social network analysis can infer much more about us than our sexual preferences. The ordinary mind in itself, as most spiritual teachers say, is quite mechanical in its behavior. Joining this mechanistic nature of the mind with the amount of available data which most people spontaneously show on the Net is such that a well-written software could guess many of our ideas, opinions, tastes and, most important for marketers, which products we’ll be willing to buy.

Psychoanalysis, neuro-linguistic programming and any other science of the inner being knows well that our beliefs and ideas are for the most part created by the conditioning acquired during our lives, especially in childhood.

Marketers have a special aptitude for cataloging people on the basis of their personalities, attitudes, lifestyles and preferences. But they aren’t interested in understanding the roots of those attitudes or in going beyond them. More than anything else, marketers are interested in the conditionings which have been created through a compensation for an undeveloped inner quality.

For instance, we might “need” some sort of external appearance (goods, clothes, gadgets, make-up, muscles or a slim figure) to compensate for a weak sense of self-worth, or we could need to connect frequently with people online because we aren’t able to keep in touch with our inner self and for the lack of authentic real-life relationships, thus needing computers, connections, smartphones and such gizmos.

Marketers, as well as psychoanalysts or spiritual teachers, are interested in knowing us and our conditionings, but the former are interested in making them stronger, reinforcing our “needs” instead of liberating us from them.

The understanding of marketers of the human soul is quite superficial since they don’t really need to go into the depths of people’s souls to exploit their weaknesses commercially, as much as a pusher doesn’t need to know the reasons why his client needs drugs.

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Spinning the Net Out

Pew Internet released a report on Social Isolation and New Technology contradicting previous studies on the subject:

This Pew Internet Personal Networks and Community survey finds that Americans are not as isolated as has been previously reported. People’s use of the mobile phone and the internet is associated with larger and more diverse discussion networks. And, when we examine people’s full personal network – their strong and weak ties – internet use in general and use of social networking services such as Facebook in particular are associated with more diverse social networks.

I also think that Facebook users have real-life connections as well, but since Facebook has spread massively, my feeling is that the pre-existing real-life relationships are being sucked into Facebook too.

In the beginning, TV used to show and describe reality, and people would talk about what happened on TV. Starting around 20 years ago, I noticed that TV talked more and more about what happened on TV itself in a self-referencing way. I saw that mostly through other peoples’ TV sets since I don’t own a set myself. Seeing TV only rarely makes me more aware of the macro-changes. At a certain point, TV didn’t just show and talk about reality any more, but made reality itself, which was then commented upon by TV itself and by other media.

The Net followed a similar but slightly different path. A few years ago, the Net was limited to a small percentage of the population and it was immediately self-referential, encouraged by the easy mechanism of the link system.

Then, as social networks spread, people populated Facebook and similar sites. Recently, I noticed that real-life conversations got more into “what happened on Facebook” and this in itself fuelled the growth of the social network itself. People didn’t want to feel “left out” so they flocked to Facebook. Suddenly, people would feel left out if they weren’t present on the Net and in its happenings, more than if they weren’t present in face-to-face meetings.

The Net got priority. Without it, many real meetings can’t happen anymore as they are organized as Facebook events. Since we spend more and more time online, without the Net, we could even become short of arguments in our real-life conversations.

Many people into technology welcome the interaction between the Net and real life, seeing that as something which balances both and which takes the Net out of a cage. The problem is that the process of digitalization of reality is quite greedy and tends to incorporate every aspect of reality, absorbing the wholeness of reality starting from the mental level, representing it digitally as if everything could be translated into bytes. So in the end, reality becomes sucked into the Net, which has to be lifestreamed or lifelogged in order to become realized. Reality can be considered real only when can become digitalized.

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The techno-nihilistic capitalism, interview with Mauro Magatti

Ivo Quartiroli: Prof. Magatti, how would you define techno-nihilistic capitalism, the subject of your book, Libertà immaginaria: Le illusioni del capitalismo tecno-nichilista (Imaginary freedom: The illusions of techno-nihilistic capitalism), and what are the differences with the previous stages of capitalism?

Prof. Mauro Magatti: The idea is to give a complete picture of the last 30 years which began with the coming of so-called neo-liberalism in the Anglo-Saxon countries. My book traces and develops the hypothesis of authoritative colleagues, especially the works of Boltanski in France, Bauman in England and Beck in Germany.

The idea is that those 30 years represent something as unitarian, which is detached from the previous stages (which I call “societal capitalism”), and is based not only on the nation state, but on the social and economic effects which the nation state is not able to load and which are usually referred to as “the welfare society.” The fundamental peculiarity of techno-nihilistic capitalism is a kind of new vision of the world, a new weltenshaung, which makes nihilism, traditionally a philosophy which expresses itself in stages of decadence when the established values had to be destroyed, a useful vision for accelerating both economic and technological growth on a planetary scale.

There’s a capitalism which tries to free itself from the cultural background which the national state established. This capitalism defines itself in an alliance between a technique which is supposed to be intangible, in a very thin cultural setting, or even when it is absent and, on the other side, a full availability, a full manipulability of every cultural meaning, which has to be continuously redefined, transformed, and overcome.

Quartiroli: You affirm that technology gives an imaginary freedom, yet many people, based on this very interview, could well say the opposite. I came to know about your book on the Net, sent you an email and you graciously agreed to be interviewed by me. We use Skype for the interview and then I will publish it in my blogs. This gives us a broad freedom. We don’t have any editorial limitation regarding space or length and we don’t have a director to approve our conversation. Online, we don’t even need to publish it before a certain date. And even better, we can reach hundreds or maybe thousands of readers in every corner of the world directly.

Kevin Kelly, one of the most passionate supporters of technology, in his recent article “Expansion of Free Will” says that, “Technology wants choices. The internet, to a greater degree than any technology before it, offers choices and options.” And more, “the technium continues to expand free will as it unrolls into the future. What technology wants is more freedom, expanded free will.” The idea of freedom and expansion of our possibilities is chased by every technological gadget and by every software which interacts with us. All seems very pleasurable, free and fulfilling, so what’s wrong in this expansion of our options?

Magatti: Kelly’s quote is excellent and gets to the point. Techno-nihilistic capitalism, passing the previous stage of societal capitalism, legitimates itself through this increasing of possibilities, which then is connected to the expansion of choices.

Nobody can deny that, in general terms, to go from a condition where we have less opportunities and choices to one where, instead we have the possibility of expanding our doings, in a way expands our freedom. For instance, when we can move easily and quickly from one part of the planet to the other, we get more chances to “do.”

The point is, what happens in a world where the freedom of choices, where this increase of opportunities is being produced with the speed we experience in our personal and collective lives? We should ask ourselves whether this increase has any effect on the very freedom we want to achieve.

A tangible example to make the point: freedom is somehow like the eye. The eye opens to what is in front, is a sense organ somehow indeterminate since it is connected to what is being seen. The fast-increasing choices in the individual experience give us an excess of things we can see, as fundamental changes in our way of seeing, and we are even subject to the powerful systems which are there to put things in front of our eyes.

This brings the risk of becoming people who are driven from the outside: something is being presented as a choice, which is pleasurable and which increases our power and our fulfillment, but with the risk that freedom implodes on itself and that will deliver us completely to something which is external of ourselves.

To this first problem there’s a second one: all of those opportunities presented to us aren’t as real for most people as they are supposed to be. Therefore, the opportunities in front of us are kept only in an illusory and fantasized state and we withdraw them in. To give a banal example, miraculous or even magical solutions, as would be winning 130 million euro on the Lotto which would allow us to do anything we wanted to, at least in our fantasy.

Because of those two reasons, that world with expanded possibilities which is theoretically associated with an increased freedom, then carries the risk of encaging freedom again. In the book I don’t envision a world where we go back in limiting our opportunities, but to ask ourselves about our freedom and understanding if we are as free as we think we are.

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The Digitally Divided Self

There’s an unusual but apparent alliance between two philosophies which are barely aware of and rarely come into contact each other, which conjure against the physical reality and the body. The first “philosophy” is represented by what have variously been called Cyberspace, Technopoly, Cyburbia and other names.

I prefer to define it as “The Digitalization of Reality,” wherein more and more human activities are being translated into bytes. Work, communication, media, entertainment, friends, dating, sexuality, culture, shopping, politics and causes are among the growing number of human needs that have gone digital.

While the Internet was something which earlier we mostly visited, now we are inhabiting the virtual worlds full-time and engineer them according to our mental projections. The Cartesian dream of a mind without a body has almost been fulfilled (even though in his old age Descartes, in Passions of the Soul, affirmed that “the soul is jointly united to all the parts of the body”).

This separation has a long history of Western thought starting from the Judeo-Christian separation between body and soul up to people like the transhumanist Hans Moravec, the artificial intelligence researcher Marvin Minsky, or the singularity guru Raymond Kurzweil who want to download the biological human mind to a safer mechanical medium in order to achieve nothing less than immortality.

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Mother Google

This is an updated article of an older post. Some time ago, Gmail added another “much-needed” feature we all were waiting to see (italics mine).

How often do you try to chat with somebody and they don’t respond because they just walked away from their computer? Or maybe you’re in the middle of chatting with them just as they need to leave. But you still need to tell them something – something really important like you’ve moved, where you’re meeting…or ice cream! We need ice cream! This is why we built a way to chat with your friends even when they’re away from their computers. Now you can keep the conversations going with a new Labs feature that lets you send SMS text messages right from Gmail. It combines the best parts of IM and texting: you chat from the comfort of your computer, and your friends can peck out replies on their little keyboards.

It is quite amazing to read so many words in a single paragraph which convey the meaning of need, abandonment, attachment, nourishment. The whole passage reminds one of a baby who doesn’t want to get detached from the  person who provides care and attention. Our primary object-relationships are being transferred to technology and, Mother Google provides us her umbilical cord and the milk to nourish us.

I don’t believe in conspiracy theories and I don’t think that those words have been chosen carefully to manipulate people’s psyches. The digitalization of reality has gone so far that we are now substituting every human need, even the most basic ones, with technology. So those words are just the natural outcome of our intimate relationship with technology.

This feature of Google will be a panacea for anxious people who can’t detach themselves from the machine and the people whom they chat with and need to keep the connection.

Of course, people can block or stop the SMS messages at any time, but the silence of becoming isolated from the Net could become too eerie to bear. The pressures of the unknown neglected inner self asking for attention will probably be pacified again with some gadget connected to the big mama-net with its sweet bytes flowing down reminding us that we aren’t isolated anymore.

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Maybe I would Not Appreciate Pink Floyd’s Music if it was Digital

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The digitalization of reality, in its race toward incorporating more and more of human life, is  well advanced in the area of the media, probably because the media are already a mental construction, a half-way between a direct approach to reality and a mental interpretation.

The media had their physical counterparts and supports which, in time, became less and less “embodied.” Music production – and especially music reproduction, for instance – went from heavy equipment to small MP3 readers. Now we have virtually no physical equipment any more for music, nor for movies and, books themselves are going digital, being contained in small memory chips.

Damasio demonstrated that the brain can’t be understood without the body and the emotions which inform thought and decisions. Analogously, a piece of information without a physical support misses something. As with thoughts, we can’t really detach the media from their physical counterparts. Our relationship with music, for instance, is a multi-sensorial one, being not only auditory, but tactile and visual as well. Beside that, music is a social experience too. And we should not forget that we can feel an attachment to the physical support of music (in the form of LPs or, less, CDs) and paper books or magazines.

The New York Times recently published an article, “Serendipity, Lost in the Digital Deluge”, saying, “there is just too much information. We can have thousands of people sending us suggestions each day – some useful, some not. We have to read them, sort them and act upon them.”

I wrote in “Does the Internet Really Broaden Minds?” how the variety of sources available on the Net bring traffic only to a very restricted set of websites instead of broadening the scope of our search. The same applies to references to scientific papers and music where just 0.4 percent of tracks account for 80 percent of downloads. Researchers have found that when people are more connected to each other on the Net, they tend to concentrate on an even smaller number of sources.

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La digitalizzazione della realtà, nella sua corsa ad incorporare sempre più aspetti dell’umano, è particolarmente avanzata nell’area dei media, probabilmente perché questi sono già una costruzione mentale, una via di mezzo tra un contatto diretto con la realtà e un’interpretazione mentale.

I media hanno avuto i loro equivalenti fisici e i loro supporti i quali, nel tempo, sono diventati sempre meno “incarnati”. La produzione musicale, ad esempio, e in particolare la riproduzione della musica, è passata da pesanti attrezzature a minuscoli lettori MP3. Ora praticamente non abbiamo quasi più alcun supporto fisico per la musica, per i film e anche i libri stanno andando verso il digitale.

Damasio ha dimostrato che il cervello non può essere compreso senza il corpo e le emozioni che informano i pensieri e le decisioni. Analogamente, un frammento informativo senza un supporto fisico manca di qualcosa. Come per il pensiiero, non possiamo veramente separare i media dalle loro corrispondenze fisiche. La nostra relazione con la musica, ad esempio, è multi-sensoriale, non solamente uditiva, ma anche tattile e visiva. A parte ciò, la musica è un’esperienza sociale. E non va dimenticato che possiamo sviluppare un attaccamento anche per il supporto fisico della musica (nella forma di LP o, in misura minore, di CD), dei libri e delle riviste.

Recentemente, il New York Times ha pubblicato l’articolo “Serendipity, Lost in the Digital Deluge”  (La serendipità persa nell’inondazione digitale), scrivendo “c’è troppa informazione. Possiamo avere migliaia di persone che ogni giorno ci mandano dei suggerimenti, alcuni utili, altri no. Dobbiamo leggerli, selezionarli, smistarli e agire su di essi”.

Nell’articolo “Internet ci porta all’apertura mentale?” ho scritto di come la varietà di fonti disponibili nella Rete porta traffico solamente ad un insieme molto ristretto di siti web, invece di espandere la portata della nostra ricerca. Lo stesso fenomeno si applica alle citazioni verso gli articoli scientifici e alla musica, dove solamente lo 0,4 percento dei brani rappresenta l’80 percento dei download. I ricercatori hanno scoperto che quando le persone sono più connesse tra di loro in Rete, tendono a concentrarsi su un numero di fonti ancora più ristretto.

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Those Tiny Chips With Huge Smelly Footprints

Low Tech Magazine presented the article titled “The monster footprint of digital technology” in which they show how the power consumption of our high-tech machines and devices is hugely underestimated:

When we talk about energy consumption, all attention goes to the electricity use of a device or a machine while in operation. A 30 watt laptop is considered more energy efficient than a 300 watt refrigerator. This may sound logical, but this kind of comparison does not make much sense if you don’t also consider the energy that was required to manufacture the devices you compare. This is especially true for high-tech products, which are produced by means of extremely material- and energy-intensive manufacturing processes… The energy consumption of electronic devices is skyrocketing…There are multiple reasons for the growing energy consumption of electronic equipment; more and more people can buy gadgets, more and more gadgets appear, and existing gadgets use more and more energy (in spite of more energy efficient technology – the energy efficiency paradox described here before).

However, most of the energy involved in electronics is not much about their use. Larger amounts of energy are being used for the production of the technology, the embodied energy.

The energy used to produce electronic gadgets is considerably higher than the energy used during their operation. For most of the 20th century, this was different; manufacturing methods were not so energy-intensive…Advanced digital technology has turned this relationship upside down. A handful of microchips can have as much embodied energy as a car… The embodied energy of the memory chip (of a computer) alone already exceeds the energy consumption of the laptop during its life expectancy of 3 years.

The trend in the manufacture of electronics is going toward more energy-intensive processes and heavier costs in terms of raw materials and resources. Did the fast development in computer processing speed and memory, coupled with the huge amount of energy needed for manufacturing them make them faster and more productive? Every Windows user knows that after one or two years of use the operating system becomes cluttered and slows down considerably.

Defragmenting the hard disk, cleaning the registry and uninstalling applications have little effect. The cooling fan runs often, often the hard disk works like hell with no apparent reason, operations get slower and slower. This can be blamed on the poorly-engineered Windows operating system, but even alternatives like Apple or Linux, though better, don’t come any closer to match the development in hardware at the software level

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Today I go on strike

I support the call by Diritto alla Rete against Alfano’s proposed law which would silence Italian Internet.

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Indranet joins the July 14 initiative to defend the freedom of information

Logo bavaglio Network

I joined the July 14 initiative started, among others, by Alessandro Gilioli, Enzo di Frenna and Guido Scorza against Alfano’s proposed law which would strongly limit the freedom of the press and the Net. Blogs which join will show only the protest’s logo on their home pages on July 14.

Even though I was enthusiastic about the Net having contributed by publishing the first books on the Internet in Italy, I think the network is no longer an instrument of social and consciousness transformation as much as could have been envisaged around 10 years ago, for many reasons, among them the infinite distractions and the race toward novelties.

Also, I do not believe that freedom is in prevalence in the freedom of words. The silence of the mind goes more in depth and creates a wider freedom. But, as Almaas writes: “There is nothing you can ultimately say, but you have to exhaust all the words.”

Perhaps the secret goal of the Net is to let words rotate as fast as to create – like a windmill – white color as the sum of every color. Words can exhaust themselves only after being expressed in full totality and freedom, not due to a law which would limit their scope and which would bring us not beyond words, but at a previous level.

I wish as well, that more days of silence will be realized, even without the opportunity of a righteous protest.

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Belonging 2.0

Several news sites recently reported that British Airways is asking its staff to work for free up to a month in order to cut the company’s costs. Such news would have been unbelievable just a few years ago. Here in Europe, having a solid trade union tradition, such a proposal would have been mocked as something suitable at most for Japanese people who are willing to sacrifice for their company.

But this is the brave  new world of 2.0 where we are becoming more and more eager to participate and contribute. We are not only viewers anymore, but actors in the society of the spectacle. On the Net, we feed social networks with our “user-generated content” and help companies to advertise their products. “More than four in five bloggers post product or brand reviews, and blog about brands they love or hate,” according to the State of the Blogosphere 2008.

To feel a sense of belonging and to contribute to our community is an authentic human need which gets exploited by companies. It is easy to obtain: first, real communities have been impoverished by a massified urban living – family members themselves have been isolated by TV, video games and other media, and individuals have been relegated to an indoor life connecting with each other mainly through the Internet.

In such a condition, our sense of belonging can easily slip to social networks, companies and brands which don’t actually care about us, apart from being instruments of promotion and sites-filling.

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After a Few Months on Facebook

After a series of resistances to Facebook I experimented with the social network in the last few months. The first resistance was about presenting a “self” of mine, the same for all people in my friends’ list. This created some perplexity for me. I like the variety of human beings and have always mixed with people of the most variety: adventurers, hippies, artists, travelers, therapists, entrepreneurs, scholars, rich, poor and creative mixes of those natures. My self, being composed of a mix of different personalities, tends to show different facets of my nature where these can find correspondence. Inevitably, this creates more intimate and personalized relationships but at the same time they are limited by a subset of our personality.

With Facebook and the public profile which widely embraces our personality, I was afraid of not being recognized “for what I am” by some individuals. It reminded me of One, No One, and One Hundred Thousand, the latest novel and a masterpiece of Luigi Pirandello. Basically we are “One,” but for the majority of people we are not “No One,” while in front of the multitude of people who know us, we are “One Hundred Thousand.” We are a different person in the eyes of each person. Without going to the spiritual level where we can say that actually all of us are “nobody” and “everything” at the same time, remaining on the levels of the personality construction and object relationships, Facebook is an interesting experiment.

On the Net we are often anonymous in many spheres: in our Web surfing, in social networks and in forums, we mostly use identities which do not identify us precisely. Facebook is an attempt to reunify the various personalities and to give a center of consciousness to the fragmentation of the online personality. It is an attempt to overcome – even though limited to the digital area – the various object relationships. Facebook can represent an evolution of the adolescent search of one’s own personality, a stage when there are attempts to give ourselves an identity through experimenting with life and people and often hiding behind anonymity.

So, here I am with my “real me” on Facebook, the same in front of everybody, unifying the pieces of my history and therefore the pieces of my psyche. What will it be like, this public “me”? As a lowest common multiple where my relationships and human qualities can be creatively expanded through sharing with friends, or will it be as a highest common factor where only the common qualites will be kept, the ones which most people can accept? It seemed to me sometimes the former at other times the latter.

When in the offline community human relationships are evermore distant and formalized, where almost the whole territory has been turned into a cement jungle, where non-commercial places for meeting are becoming rare, where the time for real meetings itself becomes absorbed more and more by technological gadgets, Facebook has arrived to the rescue for helping us to find again the sense of belonging and to keep in touch in contact with people.

The first thing which struck me was that Facebook proposed to me to update my status writing in the third person: “Ivo…,” which I could have completed with “has gone to the beach,” “has had lunch with friends,” “is writing an article,” etc. We write this way in the perspective of others, to be seen and read. The third person has a double function. From the one hand to present oneself in the third person supports the inner observation. The very fact of presenting oneself from the point of view of others helps the awareness of ourselves. On the other hand, speaking in the third person can feed the ego even further, maybe for the very fact that in speaking of ourselves we are feeding an attention which is not that of inner observation, but that of the ravenous ego to be seen and recognized.

After a couple of months the initial proposal became, “What’s on your mind?” Facebook is giving more importance to the “Twitter-like” functions, stimulating the flow of daily messages almost in real time. The way of meditation is to let the thoughts pass by, not becoming attached to them. After years of working on myself, one of the few things I have learnt is that the mind excretes thoughts continuously, that the vast majority of them are not interesting and most of them do not even belong to us. Most thoughts present themselves in the form of conditionings and repeating others’ words and thoughts, with few variations on the theme. Now that I start to attach less to my thoughts, letting them flow with a certain indifference, here comes Facebook which elevates them to the “news of the day” ranking. Well…

Anyway, I played around a bit with Facebook, wrote some notes, gave links and uploaded photos of my travels. Once I was on a tropical island, taking pictures and thinking of how I would have presented them on Facebook. Instead of living the situation totally, I was thinking of how to picture it and how to present it inside a media, moving away from the direct experience on many levels. Even the mind which interferes is a part of the totality of experience and I accept it with great pleasure, but when it exaggerates, I put it aside in a corner.

I remember when I was a child and when something interesting was happening, sometimes the adults would tell me, “Oh…think of when you’ll tell this to your friends (or at home).” It used to make me mad because it got me out of the flow, whether I was playing or watching a show. For many years I did not take pictures of my trips and in some way if I have started doing it since the last few years, it is also due to the pressure of sharing them through the Internet.

Every time I connect to Facebook I browse the flow of my friends’ updates. There are those who write several notes in a day, those who seldom write, there are funny or serious appeals, a female friend of mine writes, “Something is dying inside….”If she writes it in a public way it is a desire for sharing, but it is strange to see this message running with dozens of other signals mostly ordinary and often banal. I know something about this friend’s life; it wouldn’t be appropriate to reply in public for asking further details but at the same time I would not want to use Facebook as a platform email for sending a personal message. In this manner we enter Facebook for continuing a talk which can happen much more easily through ordinary email. I choose not to send any comment or message in Facebook, reserving myself for communication with her in other ways (by Internet, through IM or email because we live in different nations). I also ask myself if I am avoiding deeper contact, being in my turn taken over by the avalanche of superficiality.

Using Facebook I tend to decrease individual contact. More than communicating I found that I was broadcasting, transmitting to an audience. Almost every day the audience increases, the number of friends expands. The effect is seductive and gratifying for the ego, but it is a different thing to communicate to a public rather than to a single person. With each of them there is a unique story and a unique relationship. Of course, it is possible to send personalized messages by Facebook too but for this purpose a mailer program is better, while the structure of Facebook gives more emphasis to broadcasting. As a mailer I use Eudora, an old software, but still functional and “ecological,” which works even with a slow Internet connection or through a mobile phone connection. Differently, it is almost impossible to open Facebook pages with a connection which is not ADSL to send just a private message.

I have noticed that after about 50 “friends” the flow of messages becomes such that it leads to loss of sense and value. I tend to scroll the messages with the mouse as if they were newspaper items. As when in some countries everybody is hooting on the road, the meaning of the signal gets lost, hearing gets anesthetized and it becomes only a background. McLuhan had noticed how technologies and the media become as much an extension as an amputation of the body/mind’s faculties.

The nature of the mind is such that after some time it erases any interest; through the repetition of the stimulus less attention is given to the same type of input. The mind chases novelties. The same happens to me with the feed of the blog I read. As soon as a blog has been discovered I follow its articles with interest, then tend to look through them quickly. I would not want to “evaporate” my friends’ messages in the same way.

Giving news regarding myself on Facebook makes me become lazier and having an excuse for not contacting people personally. And what about those who aren’t on Facebook? Most of my friends are not on Facebook and sometimes they do not even use the Internet. Since there is a limit to the time which one can dedicate to communications, those inevitably get penalized.

The really important news of my friends, including those who are on Facebook, anyway did not come through Facebook: they reached me by direct contact, on the phone or by email. In any case I’ll play the game of Facebook more, but I could decide to stop at any moment by sending a note to my contacts. Apart from the above-mentioned reason, it would be enough for me not to be connected to a fast Internet line for some time to make me lose the will to wait for minutes for looking through mostly banalities, with all the respect I have for my friends.

Facebook undoubtedly is the best engineered social network site, nevertheless I foresee the fall of its popularity as it has happened with other very popular sites such as Second Life or MySpace. Facebook will be more persistent than the others because it is linked to people we know in real life. But as the mind has constructed the game of Facebook, the mind will dismantle it. The mind loses interest about everything, especially if something remains only on the mental plane. Facebook’s strength consists in being a bridge between the purely mental world and the world of real relationships. In this reciprocal exchange between the virtual and the real on one hand some virtual meetings can be “real-ized” but on the other hand real people can be “virtualized,” reducing them in our psyche to a small icon and a flow of bytes which scroll on the screen. Similarly, various appeals and different causes risk counting in the real world as much as a discussion between prisoners during the air hour.

All of what I have written was without considering the problems connected to privacy – which would be an alarming separate chapter.

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Memory

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Scientists have come close to the possibility of erasing a one-month-old guinea pig’s memories. A protein called α-CaMKII is involved in the storing and regaining of memory.

In particular, researchers increased the levels of this protein at the moment when the guinea pigs remembered the pain consequent to a shock. This increase caused dissipation of the memory connected to the shock, and not just temporarily. The memory seems to be completely lost, as if the fact had never happened. Possible applications of this research are seen in overcoming memories of painful traumas.

Apart from the risk of engineering soldiers who can commit any brutality and forget it chemically, this approach to traumatic memories is a mechanical type without a holistic vision of human beings. The idea is still about having a war against something, as with medicine (“the war against cancer”, against microorganisms, etc.) instead of becoming aware of it.

Memories and traumas enter every cell of the body, and I have an impression that it will probably be possible to inhibit access to a certain memory, but it will not remove its energetic charge in the person. The extreme precision of awareness can act in a way that memories are not removed but are integrated into wider acceptance which becomes part of our experience and growth.

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Gli scienziati si sono avvicinati alla possibilità di cancellare nelle cavie i ricordi di un mese precedente. Una proteina di nome α-CaMKII  è coinvolta nella memorizzazione e nel recupero delle memorie.

In particolare, i ricercatori hanno aumentato i livelli di tale proteina nel momento in cui le cavie ricordavano il dolore conseguente ad uno shock. Questo aumento ha portato alla dissipazione della memoria legata allo shock, non solo temporaneamente. La memoria sembra persa completamente, come se il fatto non fosse mai avvenuto. Le applicazioni possibili di questa ricerca vengono viste nel superamento dei traumi dolorosi.

A parte il rischio di trovarsi con dei soldati che possono compiere qualsiasi efferatezza e dimenticarla chimicamente, questo approccio verso i ricordi traumatici è di nuovo di tipo meccanico/organico senza una visione d’insieme dell’essere. L’idea è ancora quella di fare la guerra a qualcosa, come avviene per la medicina (“la guerra contro il cancro”, contro i microorganismi, ecc…) invece che prenderne consapevolezza.

Il ricordo ed i traumi entrano in tutte le cellule del corpo e la mia impressione è che si potrà forse anche inibire l’accesso ad un certo ricordo, ma questo non toglierà la sua carica energetica nella persona.  L’estrema precisione della consapevolezza può far sì che il ricordo non venga rimosso ma che venga integrato in una accettazione più ampia che lo rende parte della nostra esperienza e crescita.

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