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Category Archive for 'Technosoul'

Upgrading to Heaven

Through technological achievements we try to compensate for our inner deficiencies. Unconsciously we even attempt to emulate advanced psychological and spiritual levels of human development, levels which can’t be reached by the conceptual mind. Technology is the contemporary method for the will to infinity. Quoting Alan Watts:

The sense of isolation and loneliness of the ego is one of deep insecurity, manifesting itself in a hunger to possess the infinite. . . . This will take the form of trying to make the finite infinite through technology, by abolishing the limitations of space, time and pain. In terms of philosophy it involves giving the human ego the value of God. . . . By the exercise of his brilliant reason he will abolish the painful finitude of being an ego. He will forget his loneliness in crowded urban life, in an orgy of superfluous communication and social agitation (Watts, Alan, The Supreme Identity, New York: Pantheon Books, 1950. pp. 101–3).

And in the ’50s the amount of superfluous communication was just beginning! We want to render the finite infinite because we believe we are separate from the infinite and from the divine. We’ve been told that human beings can’t reach the divine, at least in their earthly lifetime. Technology, then, promises redemption from limitation, imperfection and the original sin, fixing what has gone “wrong.”

Ken Wilber (1980) wrote:

Every individual correctly intuits that he is of one nature with Atman, but he distorts that intuition by applying it to his separate self. He feels his separate self is immortal, all-embracing, central to the cosmos, all-significant. That is, he substitutes his ego for Atman. Then, instead of finding actual and timeless wholeness, he merely substitutes the wish to live forever; instead of being one with the cosmos, he substitutes the desire to possess the cosmos; instead of being one with God, he tries himself to play God (Wilber, Ken, The Atman Project, Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing, 1980. p. 120).

And Aurobindo: “Every finite being strives to express an infinite which is perceived as being its real truth” (Satprem, 1974). Through technological advancement we try to grasp the infinite with the mind, then download the mind’s contents to the Net. Technology simulates the drive toward the spiritual plane, stepping beyond identification with the body – but prematurely, and in a withdrawn, schizoid way. It achieves the opposite result, however, of inhibiting the soul’s evolution. We cannot go beyond the body by bypassing full engagement with our body.

The body, being body-mind, holds our mental conditioning as much as the mind does. There is nothing like pure mind. Every belief, emotion, and conditioning is as much in the body as in the mind. Freedom from the identification with and limitations of body and mind begins with becoming aware of and inquiring into both.

excerpt from Chapter 13 of “The Digitally Divided Self : Relinquishing our Awareness to the Internet

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Lost in the Current

excerpt from Chapter 11 of “The Digitally Divided Self : Relinquishing our Awareness to the Internet

Human beings evolved with a terror of predators, so that visual or audio signals are associated with something potentially dangerous. When threatened, the instinctual brain mechanisms, located especially in the amygdala, become activated.

First described by Ivan Pavlov in 1927, the “orienting response” is our instinctive reaction to any sudden or novel stimulus, visual or auditory. This ancient survival mechanism is one of the reasons why it’s difficult to sit in front of a TV and ignore the moving images. Each time we attend to a new stimulus, the mechanism of reward is activated. On the neurophysiological level, dopamine is released, leading to a sense of well-being and euphoria – thus reinforcing our reaction and improving our chances of staying alive. Though we rarely encounter predators any more, the mechanisms remain in the brain. Whatever facilitates survival of the species is gratifying – like the pleasure of sexual engagement.

Attend to This!

The events on the Net which anticipate and activate the reward system are numerous: new email announcements, instant messages, Twitter or Facebook updates, new articles in blogs, video games, news. The amygdala is stimulated by all the media. And the Internet has multiplied the stimuli by concentrating the textual, visual, auditory, and interactive channels in a single medium.

The inner reward system makes us attend to information. By interacting with it we produce new information ourself. The reward system is activated even when we anticipate a reward. So a simple sound that signals an incoming email or IM text releases dopamine – even when a spam message is delivered.

A research presented to the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology Conference in January 2012 found that some people are so obsessed about checking their email and social networks that they experience “phantom” vibrations of their phones when no message had actually been received.

Any action that activates the reward mechanism also activates another mechanism: that of addiction. Even if they are not badly addicted, many people – myself included – experience difficulty stopping online activity. Stimuli which previously evoked a certain neural response, over time produce less effect. So, it’s necessary to have more stimuli that are more intense, more varied, and more frequently.

To achieve this, we need more computing power and faster Internet to manage the increasing number of events running simultaneously on the screen. Technological development is pushed by the greed for “more” and “faster.” The brain, particularly the amygdala and the hippocampus, mistakes the continuous stimuli with survival, so it becomes difficult to turn away from the source of stimulation.

While it’s difficult to ignore a nearby TV, the computer is even more powerful and complex, because it adds the frenzied activity of chasing and producing information to the passive staring at a screen. Besides the neurological triggering of the survival mechanism, much web content actually relates to survival – being sexual or financial, including online gambling, auctions and stock investing – which activates the dopamine shots.

Seeking social stimulation is not traditionally considered compulsive or addictive, but as technology co-opts social life as one more window present on the screen, it is possible to become a Facebook addict because of the dopamine reaction.

Fundamentally, both TV and computer screens are about moving images. Seeing something new moving activates the orienting response. While TV editors increase the number of cuts and effects in order to hold attention, the Internet generates an even larger number of interruptions as we open multiple windows, run several programs simultaneously, and communicate by instant messaging.

Since it would be nonsense to react physically to an image on a screen as if a beast were threatening us, like we did in ancient times when a potentially threatening change took place in our surrounding, we have learned to suppress emotions and inhibit our reactions. But they aren’t really gone, building up as tension in the nervous system. In bioenergetic terms, there’s a charge but no discharge. In other words, stress and frustration build, even though it’s often not perceived consciously.

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TV and the Internet: Dullness and Restless

Attention is one of the foundations of awareness. Without it, we have no protection against information which is poured into us. Without attention we cannot transform information into wisdom. Then without choice we ingest whatever is put in front of us.

Without attention we risk becoming servomechanisms of technology, clicking compulsively with no clear direction. An open mind without goals is very different from the lack of direction of a mind frenzied with the longing to be filled. Lacking attention we have no control over our intentions nor critical perspective for interpreting information.

Attention is an ingredient of mindfulness – the awareness of our inner state which includes our body, feelings, and sensations. Meditation techniques begin with focused attention and concentration.

With attention, awareness, mindfulness, “presence” and a quiet mind, we are nourished by our interiority instead of force fed by external stimuli. As attention is connected to our identity, weak attention produces a weak identity.

B. Alan Wallace, on page 6 of The Attention Revolution (Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2006) writes that “One progresses through each stage by rooting out progressively more subtle forms of the two obstacles: mental agitation and dullness.”

The strenghtening of the inner attention and concentration is a requisite for the progress toward an expanded awareness, which, in turn, “being lucid harmony (sattva) in action, dissolves dullness and quietens the restlessness of the mind and gently, but steadily changes its very substance. This change need not be spectacular; it may be hardly noticeable; yet it is a deep and fundamental shift from darkness to light, from inadvertence to awareness” (Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That, Acorn Press, Durham, 1982, p. 271).

TV definitely tends toward dulling the mind, as documented by Jerry Mander and many others. TV keeps the viewer glued to the screen both by giving a linear narrative and by quick edits and visual stimulation that leverage our ancient instinct. We can’t help but attend to any changes in our visual space, which in ancient times gave better chances of survival against predators. This mechanism of mental stimulation is even more present on the Internet than on TV because of its multitasking possibilities.

Also, the Internet, being composed mostly of small pieces of information competing for our attention, has a less linear narrative. Furthermore, the Internet, smartphones, and videogames don’t have a temporal structure; thus, there is no clear “beginning” or “end,” as in traditional media such as TV, where programs start and stop on a schedule. Thus, there’s no inherent end to online interaction. Online, we expect answers immediately, and with that expectation reinforced, our endlessly curious mind is pulled further into the current.

The positive side of dullness is relaxation and the positive side of mental agitation is a curious, active mind. A relaxed though active mind is a marker of a receptive, creative, and balanced mind. TV and the Internet seduce us by simulating those states.

For some time, I thought that TV promoted mostly dullness while the Internet causes mental restlessness, but those states are complementary and support each other. The two media are coming closer to each other. TV is presenting more “multitasking” capabilities by running text on the screen and by using quick cuts and edits, while the Internet is becoming more passive due to the presence of videos and an endless “real-time” stream of information (news sites, blog entries, Twitter, Facebook, Google+) that we browse mostly in a passive way. A great majority of people are lurkers and don’t contribute to the user-generated content, and even the active ones spend more time in a passive state rather than commenting or writing their own entries.

Also, TV programs have now less temporal structure. Shows and news morph into each other in a continuous stream, where there’s no more “end.” Jerry Mander, considering an increase in hyperactivity among children due to TV, writes in In the Absence of the Sacred (Sierra Club, San Francisco, 1991) that “television viewing, if it can be compared to a drug experience, seems to have many of the characteristics of Valium and other tranquilizers. But that is only half of the story. Actually, if television is a drug, it is not really Valium; it is speed” (p. 66).

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Reasons to Leave Facebook

We are all familiar with active music bands, politicians, and actors, but we know much less about them after they change or stop their careers, resign, or retire. Often, however, the most interesting stories happen after someone consciously chooses a new life path.

Similarly, while participating in Facebook, we know almost everything about the people who are active, but we do not know much about the people who have slowed down their participation or left the site. There are at least as many reasons to slow down our commitment to or leave Facebook altogether than to be part of it.

If you are one of those who have chosen to not participate, to step down or take the full exit route from Facebook, please share your experience. Why did you leave Facebook? What were your concerns? Did anything happen to trigger your decision? I am collecting such experiences for an e-book about Facebook and about people’s attitudes toward social networks.  The e-book will be free.

I am especially interested in exploring your story and the inner motivations that made you step away from Facebook. I will quote your words without exposing your name or email address. I only need to know your gender, approximate age, and nationality (which can be as generic as “Southeast Asian,” “South American,” “Northern European,” or “Middle Eastern”). Of course, you will receive a copy of the e-book. In some cases, I will edit your words for stylistic reasons, but will always respect your content.

Please send your experience to ivotoshan (at) yahoo (dot) it. It can be few lines or several pages long as you like. Anyway I will give it my full attention. In case I need greater clarification, I will ask you. Also, if you know somebody who might contribute to my research, please forward this message to them.

You can see my opinion about Facebook on the following articles,

Resisting Facebook

After a Few Months on Facebook

The Game of Facebook

Thanks for any help you might give to ths project.

Ivo

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Reading Aloud

“The printed or mass-produced book discouraged reading aloud, and reading aloud had been the practice of many centuries. Swift, silent scanning is a very different experience from manuscript perusal, with its acoustic invitation to savor words and phrases in many-leveled resonance. Silent reading has had many consequences for readers and writers alike, and it is a phase of print technology which may be disappearing” (Marshall McLuhan in a 1972 interview, from Understanding Me, MIT Press, 2005).

If nowadays we see somebody reading aloud, we may think that he is not fully literate. But we are not surprised to see people talking aloud on their mobile phones on the streets.

The advent of silent reading, according to McLuhan, had consequences both for privacy and for developing an individual point of view. Through Internet technology, we are back reading louder and louder. When we share our readings on social media, we read as loud as to the whole world, but what is weakening is the connection of words to our inner selves. It seems that, to hear our voices, we have to hear it in the echo of other people’s feedback through social media.

We no longer feel an inner resonance of what we read but need it to be bounced back to us by the infinite reverberations of the Net.

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The game of Facebook

In one of my rare Facebook appearances, I mumbled about the absurdity of spending more than an hour to carefully read (as it should be with people we care about) a friend’s updates of the last hour.

The last comment I received on my note (in Italian) was, “If you don’t like the game, just don’t play it.”  This friend is very active on Facebook, sharing words, videos, links, and whatever.  He is an artist and a spiritual researcher, a real friend with whom I have shared deep talks, meditation practices and fun, not a typical “friend” the way Facebook has redefined this word.  I feel he has a big heart.

After a few days, I realized that I had often heard people who are in spiritual work say that Facebook is just a game, and you can play it, enjoy it, but you can keep detached, knowing that it is a game of the mind that can be enjoyed, but we do not have to become attached to it, much as an enlightened being who could see the activity of his mind just as ripples on the surface of his consciousness.  Under this line of reasoning, consciousness is unaffected by those ripples.

I think there’s a deep misunderstanding under this assumption.  As long as is true that an enlightened being is beyond the hiccups of the mind and can observe them as a witness rather than a participant, for the rest of us, being involved repetitively with a tool is going to affect our relationship to the tool itself, as well as to the people on the other side of the screen.

Despite the confidence that we can be stronger than whatever activity we do for many hours a day, the reality is that we can and often actually do become attached to the tool and to the repetitive tasks connected.  Even spiritual researchers do.  If we feed the body continuously with unhealthy food or chemicals, chances are that we are going to feel the consequences.  This applies even to spiritually advanced people, since the body responds at least as much to mechanical stimuli as to a higher awareness.  A higher consciousness is not a guarantee of long life or health on the physical level.

Many spiritual teachers say that the mind also is a mechanism, and that the body and mind are actually a body-mind pair, in which the mind isn’t any less mechanical than the body.  Every spiritual researcher knows how the mind can be heavily conditioned by early experiences, external messages received, and even by the thoughts we produce.  Those conditionings cloud our awareness and don’t allow our lives to flow freely.
One of the classic teachings for the liberation of the mind is not to be dragged by the never-ending chatter of the mind, which is a source of distraction, a barrier to inner exploration, and the silence from which insights and depth come.

Why shouldn’t the mind also be conditioned by Facebook, not only in terms of the content seen there, but especially by the way we interact, by the interface itself?  While I have heard some people say that they look at Facebook’s messages in a “meditative way,” looking at the flow without becoming attached (and I wonder, anyway, if that is the non-attached view of a meditative mind or just plain indifference and boredom?), the interface and the way we communicate through Facebook is going to affect us more deeply than the actual content posted.  We know since McLuhan’s time that “the medium is the message.”

The very way we communicate, through scrolling and clicking the mouse (or the touch screen), by having windows on the screen, by associating friends with small icons, and communicating basically on a mental level with no embodied presence while being distracted by other events on the same screen, is going to morph our inner meaning of friendship and communication.  For younger people, this modality could even represent an inner imprinting.

Sites like Facebook tend to suck out our time and attention; they feed on our user-generated content, analyzing our words, messages, links, profiles, and friends for the sake of selling our data and attention to advertisers.  We can for sure play such a  “game,” but I would check first if I am the player or the one being played.

See also Resisting Facebook

After a Few Months on Facebook

The Digitally Divided Self: Relinquishing our Awareness to the Internet is on Amazon

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The Digitally Divided Self: Relinquishing our Awareness to the Internet

The Digitally Divided SelfThe Digitally Divided Self: Relinquishing our Awareness to the Internet is on Amazon.

ISBN 9788897233008
274 Pages – Format: 6″ x 9″ – $17.90 (discounted on Amazon)

It is nearly half a century since Marshall McLuhan pointed out that the medium is the message. In the interim, digital technologies have found an irresistible hook on our minds. With the soul’s quest for the infinite usurped by the ego’s desire for unlimited power, the Internet and social media have stepped in to fill our deepest needs for communication, knowledge and creativity – even intimacy and sexuality. Without being grounded in those human qualities which are established through experience and inner exploration, we are vulnerable to being seduced into outsourcing our minds and our fragile identities.

Intersecting media studies, psychology and spirituality, The Digitally Divided Self exposes the nature of the malleable mind and explores the religious and philosophical influences which leave it obsessed with the incessant flow of information.

I am deeply touched and extremely grateful to the people who took the time to read, support and endorse The Digitally Divided Self. Being my first English book, and basically self-published, I didn’t expect to receive many reviews, much less from such leading thinkers and writers – nor such positive responses.

It was also a surprise to find common interests around eastern spirituality with so many people into technology and media. This makes me hopeful for an evolution of the information society – from chasing external stimulation to inner explorations and silence.

Detailed table of contents, introduction and chapter 1.

Order on Amazon.

Praise for Digitally Divided Self

 “Quartiroli’s The Digitally Divided Self is a must read for anyone seeking to understand the ever-increasing hegemony of the digital world in the individual psyche. Drawing on diverse fields and traditions, the author analyzes numerous mechanisms by which IT separates us from ourselves. Readers stand to benefit from such an understanding that is a prerequisite for mounting a defense of one’s individuality.” —Len Bracken, author of several novels and the biography Guy Debord—Revolutionary

 ­“With great insight, Ivo Quartiroli captures the subtle as well as the gross impact that media use has on our individual and collective psyches. The challenge before all of us is how to adapt to the new technology in a healthy way that allows us to retain our essential humanity. He offers us a solution born of his experience and confirmed by neuroscience. This is a must read.” —Hilarie Cash, PhD, co-founder of reSTART: Internet Addiction Recovery Program

 “It is difficult to offer a spiritually based critique of today’s network culture without sounding like a nostalgic Luddite crank. Immersed in the tech, but also in various meditative traditions, Ivo Quartiroli is the perfect person to offer integral wisdom-tech with clarity and bite.” —Erik Davis, author of Techgnosis and Nomad Codes: Adventures in Modern Esoterica.

  “Aware of the profound and rapid psychological and social metamorphosis we are going through as we ‘go digital’ without paying attention, Ivo Quartiroli is telling us very precisely what we are gaining and what we are losing of the qualities and privileges that, glued as we are to one screen or another, we take for granted in our emotional, cognitive and spiritual life. This book is a wake-up call. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates should read it.” —Derrick de Kerckhove, Professor, Facoltà di sociologia, Università Federico II, Naples, former Director of the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology.

 “The Digitally Divided Self alerts us about the insidious dangers of our growing dependence on Information Technology. Ivo Quartiroli warns us that Internet can easily develop into an addiction that undercuts our connections with nature, with other people, and with our deeper inner reality. The spiritual nourishment coming from genuine relationships is then replaced by the empty calories of fake relationships, with the resulting deterioration of our personal and social lives. Using an incisive style, Ivo Quartiroli can be provocative, iconoclastic, at times exaggerated, but never boring. Behind each observation there are pearls of wisdom that are guaranteed to make you think.” Federico Faggin, designer of the microprocessor.

 “Global culture is not only the latest step in the human evolutionary journey. It is also, as Ivo Quartiroli shows in The Digitally Divided Self, a critical opportunity to apply non-Western techniques of awareness to ensure healthy survival in the 21st century.” —Michael Heim, author of The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality, Virtual Realism, and Electric Language.

 “Question the merits of technology in the past and you’d be called a Luddite. But now technologists are leading the way toward a new, more balanced view of our gadget-driven lives. Drawing from his fascinating expertise in computer science and spirituality, Ivo Quartiroli presents a compelling critique of the corrosive impact of the Net on our humanity. It’s a warning we must heed.” —Maggie Jackson, author of Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age.

“A profoundly premonitory vision of the future of the 21st century, The Digitally Divided Self unlocks the great codes of technological society, namely that the very same digital forces that effectively control the shape and direction of the human destiny are also the founding powers of a new revolution of the human spirit.” —Arthur Kroker, author of The Will to Technology and Canada Research Chair in Technology, Culture and Theory.

 “People today, especially young people, live more on the Internet than in the real world. This has subtle and not-so-subtle effects on their thinking and personality. It is high time to review these effects, to see whether they are a smooth highway to a bright interconnected future, or possibly a deviation that could endanger health and wellbeing for the individual as well as for society. Ivo Quartiroli undertakes to produce this review and does so with deep understanding and dedicated humanism. His book should be read by everyone, whether he or she is addicted to the Internet or has second thoughts about it.” —Ervin Laszlo, President, the Club of Budapest, and Chancellor, the Giordano Bruno Globalshift University.

 “The Mind-Body Split is a pervasive condition/affliction in the developed world, wholly un-recognized; yet fundamental to the great worldwide problems of health, environment, and economic inequity. Ivo Quartiroli’s Digitally Divided Self masterfully examines the effects of the insulated digital experience on the mind and the body self: exacerbating illusions and the Mind-Body Split; and contrasts it to the processes of self-discovery, growth, and healing: true inter-connectedness with nature, each other, and our selves. If the digital age is to solve our real problems, rather than create them, it will be with the knowledge contained in The Digitally Divided Self. Well done!” —Frederic Lowen, son of Alexander Lowen, Executive Director, The Alexander Lowen Foundation

 “Ivo Quartiroli here addresses one of the most pressing questions forced upon us by our latest technologies. In disturbing the deepest relations between the user’s faculties and the surrounding world, our electric media, all of them without exception, create profound disorientation and subsequent discord, personal and cultural. Few subjects today demand greater scrutiny.” — Dr. Eric McLuhan, Author and Lecturer

 “The internet is an extension of our central nervous system. When you operate a computer, you are extending yourself, through its interface, potentially all over the world, instantaneously. Extending yourself in such a disembodied, discarnate fashion only further entrenches your separateness, your ego self. In contrast, the introspective freeing from the physical through meditation also has the effect of creating a discarnate, disembodied state. That state is one that is progressively less identified with the ego self. This is the dichotomy that Ivo Quartiroli explores in The Digitally Divided Self. This book is well worth investigating.” —Michael McLuhan

 “We should all be asking the questions Ivo Quartiroli asks in this bold and provocative book. Whatever you think right now about technology, The Digitally Divided Self will challenge you to think again.” —William Powers, author of the New York Times bestseller Hamlet’s BlackBerry

 “It isn’t easy to find an informed and critical look at the impact of digital media practices on human lives and minds. Ivo Quartiroli offers an informed critique based in both an understanding of technology and of human consciousness.” —Howard Rheingold, author of The Virtual Community and Smart Mobs.

 “Ivo Quartiroli is mining the rich liminal territory between humans and their networks. With the integrity of a scientist and the passion of artist, he forces us to reconsider where we end and technology begins. Or when.” —Douglas Rushkoff, Media Theorist and author of Cyberia, Media Virus, Life, Inc. and Program or Be Programmed.

 “You might find what he writes to be challenging, irritating, even blasphemous and sacrilegious. If so, he has proven his point. The Internet, Ivo suggests, might just be the new opium of the masses. Agree with him or not, no other book to date brings together the multitude of issues related to how the seductions of technology impinge upon and affect the development of the self and soul.” —Michael Wesch, Associate Professor of Digital Ethnography, Kansas State University

 The Digitally Divided Self is a refreshing look at technology that goes beyond the standard, well-worn critiques. Ivo Quartiroli charts new territory with a series of profound reflections on the intersections of computer science, psychology and spirituality.” —Micah White, Senior Editor at Adbusters magazine.

Detailed table of contents, introduction and chapter 1.

Order on Amazon.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: From Awareness of technology to technologies of Awareness .. 1
Chapter 2:“It’s only a tool” .. 17
Chapter 3: The Roots of It .. 39
Chapter 4: The Digitization of Reality .. 53
Chapter 5: Intimacy and Sexuality.. 73
Chapter 6: Commoditizing and Monetizing.. 89
Chapter 7: Politics, Participation and Control .. 97
Chapter 8: Come together: the Rise of Social networks.. 115
Chapter 9: Digital Kids ..125
Chapter 10: Literacy and the Analytical Mind.. 133
Chapter 11: Lost in the Current .. 143
Chapter 12: The Digitally Divided Self.. 165
Chapter 13: The Process of Knowledge .. 189
Chapter 14: Upgrading to Heaven .. 205
Chapter 15: Biting the Snake.. 223
Appendix: The People of Contemporary It and what Drives them.. 233

Introduction

Like many people nowadays, much of my personal and professional life is related to technology: I use the Internet for keeping the connection with my work projects and friends wherever I am in the world. I published the first book in Italy about the Internet. I run a blog and a Web magazine, do my investments online, shop on the Net, do interviews by email and Skype, and have even indulged in cybersex. Right now I’m in Asia developing this book – which is full of references to Web articles, blogs and material found only on the Internet – with online support: an editor and writing coach in California, copy editor in India, book designer in Italy, and a printing and distribution service with multiple locations in USA. My life is immersed in the digital loop.

I have been involved in IT since I was a student. As I learned meditation and explored spiritual paths, I developed an inner observer and discovered states beyond the mind. Thus, I found myself going back and forth between processing consciousness and information. Slowly my focus has shifted from what we can do with technology to what technology does to us. As a first-hand explorer, I’ve observed the subtle changes of our massive use of the Net.

Just as a spiritual researcher can go beyond the mind only after having observed and mastered it, it is necessary to enter the digital world to step beyond it. We can’t become aware of its effects without being engaged in it. Since digital technology is unavoidable now, we need to master it without becoming lost in it, using its tools with our full awareness.

In this time, the intensification of mental inputs is a phenomenon that must be kept in balance. Our contemporary culture does not acknowledge anything beyond the mind, but in other traditions the mental world is just one of the aspects of our wholeness. In the West a sort of Cartesian “pure thinking” has been given priority. Although the mind is the best-known organ of thought, it is not the only cognitive modality. Nervous systems have been discovered both in the heart and in the belly, and the global awareness that can be accessed by spiritual practitioners is pervasive and non-localized. Yet these modalities cannot be represented digitally, so they are relegated to the sidelines.

Our technological society militates against uninterrupted conscious attention. Several authors have documented the effects of IT on attention, literacy and intellectual skills. It also intrudes on the silent time needed to be aware of inner transformations. We don’t realize we have become servomechanisms of IT – precisely because IT has weakened the inner skills of self-understanding. Shrinking of the rich range of human qualities to privilege only those which can be represented and operated digitally arises from the nature of the ego-mind and our particular Western history which has engendered – then valued – mental representations of reality. My focus here is to understand why the mind can be lured by the magic of the tools, while forgetting the person who is using them.

We believe we are empowered individually and politically as we post articles on our blogs and participate in social networks. In actuality, we feed the machine with our “user-generated content” which becomes candy for advertisers who then design ads based on what we say on Twitter, Facebook, and even our emails.

Jumping from information to self-understanding is necessary if we are to regain real freedom, a freedom from conditioning of our mind and the manipulation by information – whether self-created or from external sources. We mistake the transmission of gigabytes of data for freedom.

In our advanced technological society there is a reticence to acknowledge the inner, spiritual or metaphysical dimensions of life. What cannot be calculated – which is, thereby, “not objective” – is considered unworthy of investigation. Even more strongly denied is the relationship between technology and the impact on our psyche. Technophiles declare that it’s only a tool, as if our psyche could remain untouched by continuous interaction with digital media, and as if we could control its impact on us. We can indeed be in control of digital media – but only after we become fluent in those cognitive modalities which can’t be reached by such media.

To be unaffected by digital media, we need a Buddha-like awareness with sustained attention, mindfulness and introspection. Yet these very qualities which are needed to break out of the automated mind are especially difficult to access when we are drowning in information – information that is predominantly ephemeral and transient, and which lacks a broader narrative. Awareness is what gives meaning and depth to information, but for awareness to expand we need to empty our mind. A story will illustrate this. A university professor approached a master to learn about Zen. Tea was served, but when the cup was full, the master did not stop pouring. The cup, like the professor’s mind with its concepts and positions, was full. It must first be emptied to understand Zen. So, too, for the digital world.

The world over, people using the Internet click on the same icons, use the same shortcuts in email and chats, connect with people through the same Facebook modalities. This is the globalization of minds. In the process of the digitization of reality, regardless of content, we use predominantly the same limited mental channels and interact with the same tools. We bring the same attitudes, gestures and procedures to working, dating, shopping, communicating with friends, sexual arousal, and scientific research. And most of these activities are impoverished by this phenomenon. Everything is seen as an information system, from the digitization of territory (like Google Earth and augmented realities software) to our biology.

Judeo-Christian culture places nature and the world of matter at man’s disposal. Acting on them is a way to garner good deeds and regain the lost perfection of Eden. In this culture that has considered miracles as proof of the existence of God, we have developed technologies that resemble the miraculous and the divine. We are compelled to welcome the advent of new technological tools with the rhetoric of peace, progress, prosperity and mutual understanding.

The telegraph, telephone, radio, TV and other media have been regarded as tools for democracy, world peace, understanding and freedom of expression. The Internet is just the latest in a succession of promising messiahs. Yet we don’t have more democracy in the world. In fact, big media and big powers are even stronger, while freedom of expression has ceded to control by corporations and governmental agencies. The Internet, like TV, will be entertaining, dumbing people in their own separate homes where they will be unable to question the system. The Internet might already be the new soma for a society experiencing economic and environmental degradation. But with the huge economic interests connected to it, criticizing its effect is akin to cursing God.

Many technological developments appeal to people because they answer psychological and even spiritual needs – like the quests for understanding and connection with others. Already digital technology has taken charge of truth and love – the drives which are distinctly human. Those primordial needs have been addressed, on the mental level, with information. Reflected only at that level, our soul is left empty with craving for the real qualities, and our mind is left restless, craving more information and chasing after satisfaction in vain.

The need to extend our possibilities through technology derives from the need to recover parts of ourself that were lost during the development of our soul – the states of sharp perception, fulfillment, and peace. Information technology (IT) also satisfies our ancient drives for power and control, even giving us several options with a simple click or touch of a finger.

The endless multiplication of information can keep the ego-mind busy – and thus at the center of the show. IT is the most powerful mental “pusher” ever created, feeding the duality of the ego-mind (which is symbolically mirrored by binary technology). More than TV whose attractions are framed between the beginning and ending time of a show, the Internet, video games, and smartphones have no structural pauses or endings. Hooked on a “real-time” stream of information, they take us farther away from both the real and the appropriate time frames.

The computer charms us by reflecting our mind on the Net. Like Narcissus, we mistake the reflected image and enter a closed loop, charmed by our reflection. The Internet, since the beginning, has been considered a technology which could crumble central governments and organizations. Perhaps that forecast was an external projection of what can happen inside us: disturbance of the integration of our psyches.

Meditation helps us recognize that we construct reality and that the mind leads us astray. Meditation is a path back to reality, to truth, to knowing and mastering our minds – instead of mastering the computer as a way to outsource our mind’s skills. It is a way to expand our awareness and join the other global “Net” – of awareness that permeates everything.

Though I am Italian, I am publishing this book for the English market because it is a post-digital book which can be better appreciated in countries where digital culture has spread throughout society. In Italy, one politically powerful tycoon owns most of the media, and uses it to demonize the Net. In that setting, being critical of the Net invokes the accusation of aligning with power to castrate freedom of expression, which is the polar opposite of my intention.

I welcome every medium which expands our chances of expressing ourselves, but I am aware that true self-expression can happen only when there’s a true self, which can hardly be shaped by screen media.

I am grateful to my spiritual teachers who opened new dimensions for my soul in my journey toward awareness, especially the intensity of Osho and the brilliant clarity of A. H. Almaas. I thank my copy editor Dhiren Bahl (www.WordsWay-Copyediting.com) for his painstaking corrections of my English text and my editor David Carr (www.MovingWords.us) for his clarifications and stylistic improvements. I’m grateful to my friends, too many to list here, for the numerous talks bringing together heart and mind in sharing our passion for truth.

Detailed table of contents, introduction and chapter 1.

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The Digitally Divided Self. Table of Contents, Introduction and Chapter 1

The Digitally Divided Self

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: From Awareness of technology to technologies of Awareness .. 1
The Limits of Technology.. 3
What’s Not Computable Isn’t Real .. 4
The Promises of the Early Internet .. 5
From Information Processing to Consciousness Processing.. 6
All in the Digital Mincer .. 7
Technology Can’t be Challenged.. 8
Technology Uses Us .. 10
Feeding the Soul with Bytes .. 11
The Immortal Mind .. 12
Inner Prostheses and Amputations through Technology .. 13
Beyond the Mind.. 14
The Fragility of Beliefs and Information Technology.. 15

Chapter 2:“It’s only a tool” .. 17
Technology is not Questionable .. 18
Knowing through the Body .. 18
Technology “Does” Us .. 19
Technology is a Matter of Life and Death.. 21
Binary and Inner Duality.. 21
Knowing through the Heart.. 22
Our Identity With Tools – from Chimps to Chips .. 25
Reconnecting with the Inner Flow.. 26
From Spectator to Witness .. 28
Inner Holes and Techno-Fills .. 28
Pure Thinking Without the Body.. 30
Tools for Inner Growth.. 31
The Mind Itself is a Medium.. 34
IT Weakens Our Presence .. 36
Constrained to Produce .. 39 (more…)

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Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is much in the news recently but only as a commercial or technical phenomenon. His psychological roots (as with anyone) determine his actions in the world. A prime example of the Enneagram’s Type Five personality, Jobs offers an opportunity to understand this structure as it is seen through patterns in his life and behavior.

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple with Steve Wozniak, was born in 1955 while his mother was a single college graduate. Unable to support her baby, she put him up for adoption. It mattered to her that his adopting parents were college graduates. However, when the couple she had arranged with learned the baby was a boy, they reneged.

The next couple willing to adopt him did not have degrees. So she continued to nurture him for a few months until the adopting parents committed to seeing him graduate–though, ultimately, he dropped out anyway. As with Ada Lovelace, regarded as the first programmer, someone rejected at birth, grew into an icon in IT.

In line with the counterculture of the 70s, he explored LSD and went to India for a spiritual retreat. (He now identifies himself as a Buddhist.) In 1978, repeating his own history, he fathered a girl who was raised on welfare while he denied paternity on the grounds of being sterile.

Continuing to move with the times, he became one of the most innovative and often controversial entrepreneurs in IT. Apple gave new meaning to personal computing, introducing visual cues and user-friendly interfaces.

In 1998, the Dalai Lama gave permission for Apple to use his image with the words, “Think different.” China at the time was not an attractive market for Apple products. But business is business even for Buddhist ex-hippies. Under Jobs, Apple blocked a number of applications related to the Dalai Lama from the Chinese iPhones. Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller responded, “We continue to comply with local laws…not all apps are available in every country.” And recently Apple admitted that child labor was used in factories in China that produce their hardware.

However, his life with Apple was not a straight road. In 1985, he was fired by the board of directors. He then founded NeXT computers, later bought by The Graphics Group which turned it into Pixar, the most prolific computer graphics company producing Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Ratatouille. In 1996, Apple bought NeXT, bringing Jobs back to his original company as CEO.

In 2004, he was diagnosed with a rare, operable form of pancreatic cancer. Five years later a liver transplant allowed him to continue his creative mission.

In many parts of the world, adopted children are considered as “nobody’s children.” Perhaps a scanty identity drove him to India in search of his soul, but then he chose to construct a more acceptable one. Through prestige and money he built a well-defined “I”—iPod, iMac, iPhone, iPad. Through many anecdotes about his management style, we know Jobs as one of biggest egos in the IT world.

A pattern that emerges from the overview of his life is a repeated dropping out and redefining himself. Rejected by mother, potential parents, the very company he started; rejecting his education and his daughter; to nearly being rejected by life through major health problems.

Even making a home has been hard. Legal and bureaucratic problems surrounded a historical mansion he purchased in 1984 in Woodside, California. After living in its almost unfurnished state for years, he planned to demolish it to build a new house, but a local preservation group stopped him. He spent years renovating an apartment on the top floors of a New York City building, but never moved in. He seems in perpetual search for both inner and outer home, bouncing back from every difficulty with new tools and renewed energy to lay before the world.

Withdrawing into the Mind

Steve Job’s story is typical of the Type Five personality in the Enneagram (even thought elements of Type Seven are present too), a pattern shared by many people in the IT world. This psychospiritual system discriminates nine styles of personality. Probably of Sufi origin, it was brought to the West by George Gurdjieff around 1900, then spread in the 1970s as Oscar Ichazo and psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo elaborated the core qualities of the nine types. It was later popularized by Don Riso and Russ Hudson, as well as by Helen Palmer. A.H. Almaas elaborated the spiritual dimension in the 1990s.

Early ontological insecurity about survival can shape a schizoid personality, to which Enneatype Five is the closest. Rationality and orderliness are valuable defense mechanisms against the threat of being separated from life, assembling everything in its own place.

Type Fives escape into their mental world for safe haven. They want to be accepted for their capabilities, often disappearing from the scene to stay with their own minds and develop skills. These give them confidence to re-enter as talented (thus, accepted) persons with innovative ideas to display.

They are most successful by creating a niche which no one else occupies, giving them an acknowledged place in the world. Apple’s technology is proprietary, guaranteeing Jobs his unique place and highlighting the greedy aspect of Five personalities to horde—whether it is keeping their emotions and possessions to themselves or proprietary information.

The schizoid Type Five personality seems more widespread than others in the modern, technology-dependent world. The possible reasons for this are worth contemplating.

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Frontal Lobes Development and Technology Use

Neuroscientist Gary Small, co-author with Gigi Vorga of iBrain: Surviving the technological alteration of the modern mind writes:

Teenagers desire instant gratification – they want to satisfy their needs and do it now, not later. Their underdeveloped frontal lobes often impair their everyday judgment. Many teens feel they are invincible – danger will bounce off them. Today’s obsession with computer technology and video gaming appears to be stunting frontal lobe development in many teenagers, impairing their social and reasoning abilities. If young people continue to mature in this fashion, their brains’ neural pathways may never catch up. It is possible that they could remain locked into a neural circuitry that stays at an immature and self-absorbed emotional level, right through adulthood.

Then he writes that when we act in a way that gratifies our needs instantly, the brain’s emotional centers, the parts of the brain which aren’t able to plan for the future, take over.

What’s the role of the frontal lobes? From Wikipedia:

The frontal lobe reaches full maturity around age 25, marking the cognitive maturity associated with adulthood. Arthur Toga, UCLA, found increased myelin in the frontal lobe white matter of young adults compared to that of teens. A typical onset of schizophrenia in early adult years correlates with poorly myelinated and thus inefficient connections between cells in the fore-brain…The frontal lobe contains most of the dopamine-sensitive neurons in the cerebral cortex. The dopamine system is associated with reward, attention, long-term memory, planning, and drive. Dopamine tends to limit and select sensory information arriving from the thalamus to the fore-brain. A report from the National Institute of Mental Health says a gene variant that reduces dopamine activity in the prefrontal cortex is related to poorer performance and inefficient functioning of that brain region during working memory tasks, and to slightly increased risk for schizophrenia…The executive functions of the frontal lobes involve the ability to recognize future consequences resulting from current actions, to choose between good and bad actions (or better and best), override and suppress unacceptable social responses, and determine similarities and differences between things or events. Therefore, it is involved in higher mental functions.

If there’s a time in history where a long-term vision is needed, it’s now. Both in the environmental and financial areas we are going to pay the cost heavily for a short-term view. Environmentally, we exploited the planet’s resources as if they were infinite with a very short-term view of the consequences of our decisions.

Financially, the credit craze privileged the consumption today over the bill tomorrow, putting the whole system in a mess which nobody knows if and when it will ever recover. Without a well-developed frontal lobe, the higher mental faculties of long-term planning are substituted by short-term childish gratification.

The frontal lobes “determine similarities and differences between things or events.” It seems that the frontal lobes integrate the qualities of clear mental discrimination, which allows us to make subtle distinctions and to recognize the truth.

On a spiritual plane, “discriminating awareness” is an important mental quality to develop in the path toward an expanded awareness. Even though the qualities of mental discrimination are going to be overcome in the advanced stages of the path, those stages can’t be bypassed. While the absence of mental discrimination in an enlightened being means joining a larger awareness which doesn’t depend on the conceptual mind any more, in a person who didn’t train his mind and soul it means a schizophrenic state.

Without well-developed frontal lobes in the population, political leaders can easily manipulate truth, gain approvals with highly emotive messages and contradict themselves often – with no consequences. If people can’t see the big picture any more, focusing only on the last novelty with a weak memory, there’s not even any need any more by states to threaten the freedom of the press. Simply, people won’t be bothered by consistency and truth any more. Then promises and declarations by politicians can be disproved without even being noticed.

Damage to the frontal lobes include distractibility, poor attention and poor memory. Those damages also cause inability to plan ahead and indifference to people and the world around, alternated with euphoric and uninhibited behaviors. Those symptoms are related to physical damage to the frontal lobes and it would be going too far to apply them to the use of technology: however there’s a strong resemblance of those symptoms with Internet addiction or with attention deficit disorder.

Many pediatrics associations suggest to parents to avoid video technology in the first 2 years of age, while the Waldorf education method refrains from exposing a child to technology till much later to respect the cognitive and emotional development of children. Without need of brain scans and neurotechnological tools, the mystical sensitivity is able to connect with the inner nature of the mind.

If frontal lobe development is being stunted in young people by the massive use of technology there’s little surprise that those symptoms are rising in young people as well as in older people who have already had their frontal lobes developed, on different levels of intensity. On a widespread level, with the fast pace of technology, more and more people experience difficulties in concentrating on a long task, as for instance in reading books.

So will the world resemble Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where society was structured in such a way that every desire was satisfied in a short time? In case of unpleasurable feelings, there was soma, the perfect drug with no side effects.

I feel the conflict between short- and long-term goals will be at the center stage in the next few years, as well as the one between the mind frames for specialization versus seeing the whole picture. System theory and the science of complexity are important developments toward a vision of reality which takes complex interactions into consideration, but basically they are founded on the same thought modalities of specialization and reductionism.

For instance, now we have much more knowledge of the complex environmental interactions but we are still far from seeing the whole picture. Like the search for the elementary particles, there will probably be no end in that knowledge. Though the more we progress in environmental knowledge, if we just rely on information, the more we risk making bigger disasters looking for “solutions,” as in the geo-engineering proposals to “hack and fix the planet” in order to reverse global warming.

We can probably find good advice in ancient Taoist, American Indian, or just philosophies of organic farmers on how to interact as human beings with nature and, it would be much better if we join those philosophies with scientific data.

What is needed in the complex world is to conjoin the science of complexity with a sensitive intellect connected both to the inner world of the soul and the outer world. An intellect which can pierce reality and thoughts, with an intuitive and large vision, a kind of wisdom which allows wise people to know the depth of reality through direct contact.

See also:

Social networking and instant fulfillment

Saving time through technology

Metabolizing information

Mental territories

 

Italiano:

Il neuroscienziato Gary Small, co-autore con Gigi Vorga di iBrain: Surviving the technological alteration of the modern mind scrive:

Gli adolescenti vogliono una gratificazione immediata – vogliono soddisfare i loro bisogni e lo vogliono ora, non dopo. I loro lobi frontali sottosviluppati spesso deteriorano le capacità di giudizio. Molti adolescenti si sentono invincibili – i pericoli non li toccheranno. L’ossessione odierna con le tecnologie del computer ed i videogame sembra arrestare la crescita del lobi frontali in molti adolescenti, deteriorando le loro capacità cognitive e di ragionamento. Se i giovani continuano a maturare in questo modo, potrebbe essere che i percorsi neurali dei loro cervelli non vengano mai sviluppati. E’ possibile che rimangano bloccati in un immaturo circuito neurale, assorbiti da se stessi a livello emozionale, fino all’età adulta.

Quindi scrive che quando agiamo in modo da gratificare i nostri bisogni istantaneamente, i centri emozionali del cervello, le parti che non sono in grado di pianificare il futuro, prendono il sopravvento. Qual è il ruolo dei lobi frontali? Dalla versione inglese di Wikipedia:

I lobi frontali raggiungono la piena maturità circa a 25 anni, dando la maturità cognitiva associata all’essere adulti. Arthur Toga, UCLA, ha scoperto un’accresciuta mielinizzazione (sostanza che avvolge la fibra del nervo, NDA) nei lobi frontali dei cervelli dei giovani adulti a confronto con quelli degli adolescenti. Un tipico inizio di schizofrenia nei giovani adulti è associato ad una scarsa mielinizzazione e quindi una connessione inefficiente tra le cellule della porzione anteriore del cervello… I lobi frontali contengono la maggior parte dei neuroni sensibili alla dopamina nella corteccia cerebrale. Il sistema dopaminico è associato con la ricompensa, l’attenzione, la memoria a lungo termine, la pianificazione e la motivazione. La dopamina tende a limitare ed a selezionare le informazioni sensoriali che arrivano dal talamo alla porzione anteriore del cervello. Un rapporto del National Institute of Mental Health afferma che una variante genetica che riduce l’attività della dopamina nella corteccia prefrontale è collegata a una performance scarsa e inefficiente in quella ragione del cervello a livello delle capacità di memoria, ed è collegata ad una certo rischio di schizofrenia… Le funzioni esecutive dei lobi frontali coinvolgono la capacità di riconoscere le conseguenze future che risultano dalle azioni correnti, la capacità di scegliere tra azioni buone e non buone (o migliori), sopprimere risposte socialmente non accettabili, e determinare le somiglianze tra cose ed eventi. Quindi, è coinvolto nelle funzioni mentali elevate.

Se c’è un tempo nella storia dove è benvenuta una visione di lungo termine, questo è ora. Sia nelle aree ambientali che finanziarie stiamo pagando il pesante costo di una visione e breve termine. A livello ambientale abbiamo sfruttato le risorse del pianeta come se fossero infinite con una visione di brevissimo termine sulle conseguenze delle nostre decisioni.

A livello finanziario, la follia del credito ha privilegiato il consumo oggi sulla bolletta di domani, ponendo l’intero sistema in un caos dove nessuno sa se quando potrà riprendere il suo corso, se mai potrà. Senza i lobi frontali sviluppati, le facoltà mentali superiori di pianificazione a lungo termine vengono sostituite da un’infantile gratificazione di breve termine.

I lobi frontali “determinano le somiglianze tra cose ed eventi”. Pare che i lobi frontali integrino le qualità di chiara discriminazione mentale, che ci consente di fare delle sottili distinzioni e di riconoscere il vero.

Su un piano spirituale “la consapevolezza discriminante” è una qualità mentale importante in un percorso verso una consapevolezza espansa. Anche se le qualità di consapevolezza discriminante andranno superate nelle fasi avanzate del percorso, tali fasi non possono essere saltate. Mentre l’assenza di discriminazione mentale in un essere illuminato significa l’unione con una consapevolezza più ampia che non dipende più dalla mente concettuale, in una persona che non ha preparato la sua mente, porta ad uno stato schizofrenico.

Senza lobi frontali sviluppati nella popolazione, i leader politici possono facilmente manipolare la verità, catturare consensi con messaggi ad alto contenuto emotivo e contraddirre se stessi frequentemente, senza alcuna conseguenza. Se le persone non sono più in grado di vedere le cose in prospettiva, e si focalizzano solo sull’ultima novità con una scarsa memoria, non c’è neanche più la necessità da parte degli stati di minacciare la libertà di stampa. Le persone non saranno semplicemente più interessate alla coerenza o al vero. Le promesse e le dichiarazioni dei politic potranno essere confutate senza che questo venga neanche notato.

I danni ai lobi frontali includono distrazione, scarsa attenzione e scarsa memoria. Questi portano inoltre incapacità di pianificare il futuro ed indifferenza alle persone e al mondo circostante, alternato a comportamenti euforini e disinibiti. Questi sintomi sono collegati a danni fisici dei lobi frontali e sarebbe aecessivo applicarl all’uso della tecnologia, comunque c’è una forte somiglianza tra tali sintomi e la dipendenza da Internet o il deficit d’attenzione.

Molte associazioni di pediatri suggeriscono ai genitori di evitare le tecnologie video nei primi due anni di vita, mentre il metodo di educazione Waldorf di Steiner suggerisce di non esporre un bimbo verso la tecnologia per un numero maggiore di anni, per rispettare il suo sviluppo cognitivo ed emotivo. Senza necessità di scansioni cerebrali e di strumenti neurotecnologici, la sensibilità del mistico può connettersi con la natura interiore della mente.

Se la crescita dei lobi frontali viene arrestata nei giovani a causa del massiccio uso di tecnologie, non c’è da sorprendersi se tali sintomi siano in crescita sia nei giovani che nelle persone meno giovani che hanno già avuto uno sviluppo dei lobi frontali, a diversi livelli di intensità. Su un piano generale, con il ritmo veloce della tecnologia, un numero ctrescente di persone ha difficoltà nel concentrarsi in un compito di lunga durata, come ad esempio nella lettura di un libro.

Quindi il mondo assomiglierà a Il mondo nuovo di Aldous Huxley, dove la società era concepita in modo che qualsiasi desiderio potesse essere soddisfatto in breve tempo? In caso di emozioni spiacevoli, c’era il soma, la droga perfetta senza effetti collaterali.

Credo che il conflitto tra obiettivi a breve e lungo termine sarà centrale nei prossimi anni, analogamente a quello tra le strutture mentali che portano alla specializzazione rispetto al vedere le cose in una più ampia prospettiva. La teoria dei sistemi e la scienza della complessità sono stati degli sviluppi importanti verso una visione della realtà che prende in considerazione le interazioni complesse, ma si basano sulle stesse modalità di pensiero della specializzazione e del riduzionismo.

Ad esempio, ora abbiamo molte più conoscenze sulle interazioni complesse ambientali ma siamo lontani dall’avere un’immagine completa di queste. Come per la ricerca delle particelle elementari, probabilmente non vi sarà fine a tale conoscenza. Tuttavia, più facciamo progressi nella conoscenza ambientale, se facciamo solo riferimento alle informazioni, aumentiamo il rischio di produrre dei disastri maggiori nella ricerca di “soluzioni” come nelle proposte di geoingegneria per “hackerizzare e mettere a posto il pianeta” per far fronte al riscaldamento globale.

Probabilmente possiamo prendere dei buoni suggerimenti dall’antico Taoismo, dagli Indiani d’America o dalle filosofie dei contadini biologici su come interagire con la natura come esseri umani, e sarebbe molto più efficare se potessimo combinare tali filosofie con i dati scientifici.

Ciò che serve nel mondo complesso è l’unione della scienza della complessità con un intelletto sensibile, connesso sia al mondo interiore che a quello esterno. Un intelletto che possa penetrare la realtà ed i pensieri, con una visione ampia ed intuitiva, un tipo di saggezza che consente di conoscere le profondità della realtà tramite un contatto diretto.

Vedi anche:

I social network e l’appagamento immediato

Risparmiare tempo con la tecnologia

Metabolizzare le informazioni

Territori mentali

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Personal orgasm

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Many human activities began as social ones and were shared and with time got transformed into individual and personal ones. This happened especially with the media and technologies. Two examples: transportation, where cars (which are mostly used as a means of personal transportation) imposed themselves on other forms of travel; and the media, where TV, for instance, started being viewed collectively, went on to a TV set for every family, then to one for every single member of the family.

At the root of this there are obvious commercial reasons: the more a product becomes invidividual the more the sales. But this is not the only reason. Commercial needs are coemergent with psychic transformation – the one affects the other. The tendency toward individuality also develops in areas which were “traditionally planned” to be shared.

One of those is sexuality.  Masturbation is an evergreen activity, but it hasn’t always been accepted historically. It has been condemned for a long time, mostly through religious rulings, even scaring boys that it would make them blind. Even though masturbation is still not socially accepted in many parts of the world, especially for women, during the so-called sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s women established a more direct and aware relationship with their bodies, which included the right to masturbate withour guilt feelings.

But then, as anything which starts as counterculture and a spontaneous social movement, once it becomes somewhat accepted in the mainstream, it then becomes part of the economy, which makes products out of it.

Masturbation is expanding. Among the reasons is the AIDS emergency which produces suspicion compared to the “golden years” of free love; another one is the fast growth of singles and in general of short-term relationships.

Thus a big market is being opened, a market made of objects, porn, sex toys of the more variegate kinds, even remote-controlled and technologically complex sex machines, the Rolls Royce of sex toys. This phenomenon can be creative, fun, and liberating, but at the same time marks an anthropological transformation.

At first glance it seems that sex is becoming technological, but actually it is technology which in the process of digitalization of reality is assimilating human activities more and more. Social life is moving in a digital realm through social networks, the search of a partner and sexual meetings through the dating sites sites, and human biology is seen as a long list of DNA codes.

Becoming part of the big hotchpotch of technology, sex in turn is becoming “personal” and “at click range,” where pleasure, according to what technology offers, has to be immediate, personalized, with various options and, of course, efficient: a guaranteed and quick orgasm. A long wait for orgasm would be as annoying as waiting for a website with a slow Internet connection.

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Molte attività umane sono iniziate come sociali e condivise e nel tempo si sono trasformate in individuali e personali. Questo è avvenuto in particolare per i media e le tecnologie. Due esempi per tutti: il trasporto, dove l’automobile si è imposta sulle altre forme di trasporto ed è perlopiù utlizzata come forma di trasporto personale, e i media, dove ad esempio la televisione, iniziata in forma di visione collettiva, è passata ad una televisione per ogni famiglia e poi ad una per ogni componente del nucleo familiare.

Alla base di questo vi sono ovviamente ragioni commerciali per le quali più un prodotto diviene individuale maggiori sono le vendite, ma non è la sola ragione. Le necessità commerciali sono coemergenti con la trasformazione della psiche, l’una influenza l’altra. La tendenza verso l’individualità si sviluppa anche su aree che erano “tradizionalmente progettati” per la condivisione.

Una di queste è la sessualità. La masturbazione è un’attività sempreverde ma non è sempre stata accettata nella storia. Perlopiù tramite dettami religiosi, è stata condannata per lungo tempo, fino al punto di terrorizzare i ragazzi dicendo loro che sarebbero diventati ciechi. Anche se in molte parti del mondo la masturbazione non è tutt’ora accettata socialmente, in particolare per le donne, durante la cosiddetta rivoluzione sessuale degli anni ’60 e ’70 le donne hanno instaurato una relazione più diretta e consapevole con i loro corpi, includendo in questa il diritto a masturbarsi senza sensi di colpa.

Ma poi, come qualsiasi cosa che inizia come controcultura a partire da un movimento sociale spontaneo, nel momento in cui diventa un minimo accettata, entra come parte dell’economia e vengono creati dei prodotti al riguardo.

Ecco che si apre allora tutto un mercato fatto di oggetti, pornografia, sex toys delle specie più variegate, anche con il controllo remoto via Internet da parte del partner, e sex machines ingegneristicamente complesse, le Rolls Royce dei sex toys. Il fenomeno può risultare creativo, divertente e liberatorio, ma allo stesso tempo segna una trasformazione antropologica.

A prima vista sembra che il sesso stia diventando tecnologico, ma in realtà è la tecnologia che nel suo processo di digitalizzazione della realtà sta assorbendo sempre più  attività umane. La vita sociale si sposta in un ambito digitale con i social networks, la ricerca del partner e degli incontri sessuali sui siti appositi, e la biologia umana viene vista come una lunga lista di codici DNA.

Diventando parte del gran calderone della tecnologia, il sesso a sua volta si sta rendendo “personal” e “a portata di clic”, dove il piacere, secondo le offerte della tecnologia, dev’essere immediato, personalizzato, con opzioni variegate e naturalmente, efficiente: l’orgasmo deve essere garantito e veloce. Una lunga attesa per l’orgasmo diventerebbe fastidiosa quanto l’attesa di un sito web con una lenta connessione ad Internet.

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Cars, Bytes, and Territory

Dali Apparition of the Town of Delft.jpg[en]

Nicholas Carr writes about technological time and space on Realtime kills real space and Real time is realtime. How does technology changes our perception of the territory?

I am buying a house in a village in the Appennines mountains with some land annexed. As it often happens in those mountain areas, the properties are broken up into small portions which reflect the complicated hereditary and family lines, where every single small piece of land has its own identity. The fields’ names vary: sometimes they refer to events which happened there, or to the characteristics of the territory, and there are funny and odd names as well.

Every field has its own personality through its name, its own history, its own micro-“genius loci,” which was known and experienced by the local population. But not anymore. The names and their locations in the territory are vague memories of some elderly people of the village. Google Earth will not be able to track down their names, but even in that case they would be like names on the tombstones, emptied of their souls.

During the last 50 years or so, the population of the village dropped from 200 to currently around 20. As with other places, the factor contributing most to the change in the territory has been road construction leading to the massive use of cars which came with industrialization. Roads have changed the geography of places, moved the places of residence and work, and forced many people to own cars. Individual means of transportation instead of collective ones have been privileged due to a series of economic reasons connected with the car industry.

Besides places, cars have also changed sociality in a massive manner, starting from removing children playing on the roads, to lack of public spaces for meeting, and development of big commercial centers which can be reached only by cars.

The massive transfer to cities and their suburbs during the last decades moved us away from an immediate and felt relationship with the territory, which is now mostly seen as a road from one place to another. At a certain point the ever-spreading use of mobile phones outdistanced us further from the territory, moving our attention to somewhere and someone else while we are staying in a certain place.

Al Gore’s father promoted the American highway system, and his son became one of the greatest promoters of information highways. As highways place everybody in car boxes, the Internet has placed us in front of a screen, mostly indoors at home or in an office. Even when we are on some territory we are connected while mobile through some gadget – again in front of a screen. When we drive along the road we get a digital representation of the territory through GPS systems, adding a further layer between the external space and our presence and attention in it.

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Nicholas Carr scrive sullo spazio e il tempo tecnologico a Realtime kills real space e Real time is realtime. Cosa cambia la tecnologia nella nostra percezione del territorio?

Sto acquistando una casa in un villaggio dell’alto appennino emiliano con dei terreni annessi. Come avviene spesso in quelle aree montane, il terreno di proprietà è diviso in piccole porzioni che riflettono le complicate linee ereditarie e famigliari, dove ogni singolo fazzoletto di terreno ha una sua identità. I nomi dei campi sono dei più vari: talvolta si riferiscono a fatti avvenuti nel luogo, oppure a caratteristiche del territorio, e vi sono anche nomi buffi e stravaganti.

Ogni campo tramite il suo nome ha la sua personalità, la sua storia, il suo micro “genius loci”, che era conosciuto e vissuto dalla popolazione locale. Ora non più. I nomi e la loro locazione nel territorio sono un vago ricordo di pochi vecchi del paese. Google Earth non ne potrà rintracciare i nomi e anche in qual caso sarebbero come nomi sulle lapidi, svuotate dalla loro anima.

Il paese è passato nei decenni da una popolazione di circa 200 persone a una ventina. Come per molti altri luoghi, il fattore che ha più contribuito a cambiare la vita del territorio è stato la costruzione delle strade e l’uso massiccio delle automobili che è andato di pari passo con l’industrializzazione. Le strade hanno cambiato la geografia dei luoghi, hanno spostato  i luoghi di residenza e di lavoro e hanno costretto molti ad avere un’automobile. E’ stato privilegiato il trasporto individuale piuttosto che  lo sviluppo del trasposto collettivo per una serie di interessi legati al mondo dell’automobile e di tutti i suoi annessi.

Oltre che i luoghi, le automobili hanno cambiato la socialità in modo massiccio, dal togliere i giochi dei bambini in strada, alla mancanza di spazi pubblici di incontro, allo sviluppo di grandi centri commerciali che possono essere visitati solo con un’automobile.

Il massiccio spostamento verso le città e le periferie dei decenni scorsi ci hanno allontanati da un rapporto immediato e vissuto con il territorio, che viene visto perlopiù come una strada per andare da un luogo all’altro. Ad un certo punto il massiccio uso dei cellulari ci ha distanziato ulteriormente dal territorio, spostando la nostra attenzione in un luogo “altro” verso qualcun altro mentre ci troviamo in un certo luogo.

Il padre di Al Gore promosse il sistema autostradale americano e il figlio è stato uno dei più grandi promotori delle autostrade dell’informazione. Così come le autostrada hanno posto tutti quanti nelle scatole delle automobili, Internet ci ha posto tutti quanti di fronte ad uno schermo, perlopiù all’interno di qualche casa o ufficio. Anche quando siamo all’esterno nel territorio siamo connessi in mobilità tramite qualche gadget, di nuovo di fronte ad uno schermo. Quando percorriamo una strada  in automobile otteniamo una rappresentazione digitale del territorio attraverso i sistemi GPS, ponendo un ulteriore strato tra lo spazio esterno e la nostra presenza e attenzione ad esso.

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