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Technology is Natural for the Mind

Some may be surprised to read such a statement. Technology is natural in the sense that it amplifies the natural tendency of the mind to be continuously stimulated by external events. Introspection, meditation, and the silence of the mind are the most unnatural experiences for the ego-mind.

The “natural” evolution of the psyche creates, at best, a healthy and strong ego. Going beyond this stage requires a lot of “unnatural” work, mostly by developing an observing attitude called meditation. The tools of technology are more congenial for our minds than meditation. Through technology, we can even write about meditation in our blogs (as I also do, and yes I am aware of the paradox) and on social networks (which I avoid). By feeding the mind through every means we never risk abandoning our cherished identification with the mind’s contents.

Disengaging from the chatter of our minds is one of the most unnatural activities that humans can do. Information technology feeds our mind with information, a product that the mind loves to crunch on, and also with ideas, concepts, emotions, and beliefs, keeping the ego-mind at the center of the show.

Technology is natural for the ego-mind, the level with which humanity currently identifies. The digital-binary technology reflects perfectly the duality of the mind, where the either-or modality is reflected even in the inner functioning of computers.

The information society, as the peak of an historical process, will probably last for a shorter amount of time than the industrial one. If we follow the esoteric system of the seven bodies, the next step after the mental plane would be the awareness one, in which the mind is observed, known, and explored from the inside.

The semantic web, sometimes called Web 3.0, is the first step toward meta-information, toward a self-awareness of information that simulates, though limited on the mental plane, the observing attitude of inner exploration.

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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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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.

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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.

Order on Amazon.

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Reading as Contemplation versus Reading as Compulsion

In the middle of Twitter-mania and the push toward writing and reading fast, updated and short-lived information, it is good to be reminded about different ways of reading by two spiritual teachers from two very different paths. One is from Carlo Maria Martini.

The Christian tradition developed lectio divina (divine reading), a method in four steps: “lectio, meditatio, oratio, contemplatio” (reading, reflecting, oration, meditation). Those successions are the products of theological and anthropological reflections on the way the believer approaches God’s word, in order to assimilate them and transform them in real life, in action. (Carlo Maria Martini, Lectio Divina e Pastorale: A Cura di Salvatore A. Panimolle, Ascolto della Parola e Preghiera, La “Lectio Divina”, Città del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1987, p. 217).

The second is from the Indian mystic Osho.

To read is to know a certain art. It is to get into deep sympathy. It is to get into a sort of participation. It is a great experiment in meditation. But if you read the Gita the same way as you read novels you will miss it. It has layers and layers of depth. Hence, path – every day once has to repeat. It is not a repetition; if you know how to repeat it, it is not a repetition. If you don’t know, then it is a repetition.
Just try it for three months. Read the same book – you can choose any small book – every day. And don’t bring your yesterday to read it: just again fresh as the sun rises in the morning – again fresh as flowers come this morning, again fresh. Just open the Gita again, excited, thrilled. Again read it, again sing it, and see. It reveals a new meaning to you.
It has nothing to do with yesterday and all the yesterdays when you were reading it. It gives you a certain significance today, this moment, but if you bring your yesterdays with you, then you will not be able to read the new meaning. Your mind is always full of meaning. You think you already know. You think you have been reading this book again and again – so what is the point? Then you can go on reading it like a mechanical thing and you can go on thinking a thousand and one other thoughts. Then it is futile. Then it is just boring. Then you will not be rejuvenated by it. You will become dull. (Osho, The Search: Talks on the Ten Bulls of Zen, Rebel Publishing House, 1977, p. 122).

I wonder if the compulsive search for the latest news/messages and for an unending flow of information could be a reflection on the mental level of the everlasting freshness experienced by an enlightened soul. Such a condition re-creates itself anew at every moment, keeping the mind free from the burdens of the past.

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Social networking and instant fulfillment

Dali Soft Watches[en]

The New York Times’s article Is Social Networking Killing You? quotes the neuroscientist Susan Greenfield telling the Daily Mail about social networking:

My fear is that these technologies are infantilizing the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment.

I already wrote about her in No identity and I appreciate her efforts in advising people about the inner transformations caused by technology.

When, in Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, the governor asked youths if they never faced a difficulty which couldn’t be overcome and had to endure a long time between a desire and its fulfillment, after some silence (during which the director started to become nervous while waiting), one of them confessed that once he had to wait almost four weeks before a woman whom he was attracted to conceded herself to him. The strong feeling associated with the waiting was “horrible” according both to the youngster and the governor, which the latter added that our ancient people were so stupid that, when the first reformers came to save them from those horrible feelings, they would reject them.

In Huxley’s Brave New World people were conditioned even before being born and life was engineered 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.

The whole world of technologies revolves around avoiding idle time and silence. Waiting became equivalent to frustration and efficiency and speed are the qualities most cherished in technological fields. Internet technology brought the tendency to speed to new levels, which was already present in traditional media like radio or TV, where pauses or silences are consciously avoided. I don’t have a TV since a long time, but in the rare cases I do see it, I notice a progressive acceleration in editing and switches of context, with a drive to avoid vacant spaces, short though they may be.

The Internet experience, even though interactive, is even more extreme in this trend. Our attention is split between different applications which produce much input and flow of information which interact faster and faster with our clicks.

But the most fulfilling human experiences need a certain time to be internalized. To enter the flow of a dance, in making love and in meditation, time is needed. Looking for instant fulfillment is a childish peculiarity. The ability to hold and feel frustration is a gym to bring awareness to our feelings and to create a bigger container for them.

In one spiritual workshop I experienced the association between the activation of the shakti energy of kundalini and frustration. The activation of energy is modulated by the capacity to feel frustration and, staying in it without acting it out to discharge it.

In a certain way, meditation itself is an exercise in acceptance and awareness of frustration. There are few things as frustrating as sitting without doing anything and observing thoughts arising, sometimes trivial or boring, at other times associated with impatience or with feelings difficult to hold. Ecstatic states can be achieved during meditation as well, but, usually after that, some inner knots get melted in the form of awareness.

Technologies avoid reflective time and tend to minimize the gaps between a want and its fulfillment, causing irritation when there isn’t a quick response to our inputs, feeding the persistance of a childish attitude toward reality this way.

However, the quest for a null gap between a desire and its fulfillment reminds me of the condition described by spiritually realized people who, living in the “here and now,” don’t have any separation between what the mind desires and reality. There is a synchronization with reality, where the mind doesn’t filter any more what should be from what we want. Since there isn’t anybody any more who wants anything, the alignment with reality is total. Those states are not exclusive for enlightened people, but everybody gets a glance of them, even though for a short time. Somehow, looking for evermore speed at a technological level shows the need, limited to the mind’s plane, to enter the continuous flux which cancels frustration and desires themselves.

Anyway, on the mind’s plane, for as much as we can reach more speed (and if fact is the goal of most technological development), frustration is not going to disappear: rather, the quest for fulfillment becomes evermore greedy in a mechanism which reminds one of addiction. The mind, in itself, won’t ever have enough desires, information, or speed. Somehow the mind looks for the liberation of the desires/frustration couple, seeking immediate fulfillment, but finds instead reiteration and their multiplication.

See also:

Information Dopaminated

Taking away attention

Disembodying at broadband speed

Computer addiction as survival for the ego

Multitasking to nothing

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L’articolo del New York Times Is Social Networking Killing You? cita le parole della neuroscienziata Susan Greenfield al Daily Mail a riguardo dei social network:

Il mio timore è che queste tecnologie portano ad un’infantilizzazione del cervello in uno stato simile a quello dei bambini piccoli che vengono attratti da ronzii e da luci brillanti, con una scarsa capacità di concentrazione e che vivono al momento.

Avevo già scritto a riguardo della Greenfield in Senza identità ed apprezzo i suoi sforzi nel mettere in guardia sulle trasformazioni interiori causate dalla tecnologia.

Quando, ne Il mondo nuovo di Aldous Huxley, il governatore chiese ai giovani se non avessero mai incontrato un ostacolo insormontabile e subire un  lungo intervallo di tempo tra la coscienza di un desiderio e il suo compimento, dopo un certo silenzio (durante il quale il direttore iniziò ad innervosirsi per l’attesa) uno dei giovani disse” Una volta dovetti attendere quasi quattro settimane prima che una ragazza ch’io desideravo mi si concedesse”. Il governatore quindi chiese “E avete provato, di conseguenza, una forte emozione?” “Orribile!” disse il ragazzo. “Orribile; precisamente” disse il Governatore. “I nostri antichi erano talmente stupidi e corti di vista che, quando vennero i primi riformatori e si offersero di salvarli da quelle orribili emozioni, non vollero aver niente a che fare con essi.”

Ne Il mondo nuovo di Huxley le persone vengono condizionate già prima della nascita e la vita era congegnata in modo che ogni desiderio venisse soddisfatto in tempi brevi. In caso di emozioni spiacevoli c’era a disposizione il soma, la droga perfetta senza effetti collaterali.

Tutto il mondo delle tecnologie è fatto per evitare i tempi morti e il silenzio. Attendere è diventato equivalente a provare frustrazione e la rincorsa all’efficienza e alla velocità sono le qualità più apprezzate in campo tecnologico. La tecnologia di Internet ha portato la tendenza alla velocità a nuovi livelli, già presente nei media tradizionali quali la radio o la televisione, dove vengono evitati  accuratamente le pause ed il silenzio. Pur non possedendo la televisione da tempo, nelle poche volte che mi capita di vederla noto un’accelerazione progressiva nell’editing e nei cambi di contesto, manifestando una volontà di evitare pause e vuoti, per quanto brevi siano.

L’esperienza su Internet, pur se interattiva, è ancora più esasperata in questa direzione. La nostra attenzione è divisa tra diverse applicazioni le quali producono parecchi input e flussi informativi che interagiscono sempre più velocemente con i nostri clic.

Ma le esperienze umane più appaganti richiedono un certo tempo per essere interiorizzate. Per entrare nel flusso della danza, del fare l’amore e della meditazione ci vuole tempo. La ricerca dell’appagamento immediato è una caratteristica infantile. La capacità di contenere e sentire la frustrazione è una palestra per portare consapevolezza alle nostre emozioni e per creare un contenitore sempre più ampio per queste.

In un workshop spirituale ho fatto esperienza dell’associazione tra l’attivazione dell’energia shakti della kundalini e la frustrazione. L’attivazione dell’energia viene modulata dalla capacità di percepire la frustrazione e di stare con questa senza agirla o senza scaricarla.

In un certo senso, la meditazione stessa è un esercizio di accettazione e di consapevolezza della frustrazione. Ci sono poche cose altrettanto frustranti che sedere senza far nulla ed osservare pensieri che emergono, talvolta banali e noiosi, altre volte accompagnati da impazienza o da emozioni difficili da contenere. In meditazione possono giungere anche stati estatici, ma solitamente dopo che si sciolgono alcuni nodi interiori al fuoco della consapevolezza.

Le tecnologie ci evitano ogni pausa di riflessione e tendono a minimizzare gli intervalli tra un desiderio e la sua soddisfazione, causandoci irritazione quando non c’è una risposta rapida ai nostri input, alimentando così il perdurare di un’attitudine immatura verso la realtà.

Ma la ricerca di un intervallo nullo tra un desiderio e il suo appagamento mi ricorda la condizione descritta dagli individui spiritualmente realizzati i quali vivendo nel “qui e ora” non hanno la separazione tra ciò che desidera la mente e la realtà. Ci si “sincronizza” con la realtà dove la mente non filtra ciò che è da ciò che dovrebbe essere, ciò che è da ciò che si vuole. Non essendoci più nessuno che vuole alcunché, l’allineamento con la realtà è totale. Questi stati non sono esclusiva di un illuminati, ma chiunque ne ha fatto esperienza, seppur per un breve tempo. In qualche modo la ricerca di velocità sempre maggiore a livello tecnologico manifesta il bisogno, limitato al piano della mente, di entrare nel flusso continuo che annulla la frustrazione e i desideri stessi.

Tuttavia sul piano della mente, per quanto si possa raggiungere velocità sempre maggiori (e di fatto è lo scopo della maggior parte dello sviluppo tecnologico), la frustrazione non è destinata a sparire, anzi, la ricerca di soddisfacimento diventa sempre più famelica in un meccanismo che ricorda la dipendenza. La mente, in sé, non ne avrà mai a sufficienza di desideri, informazioni, velocità. In qualche modo la mnete cerca la liberazione dall’accoppiata desideri/frustrazione cercandone la soddisfazione immediata ma trova invece la reiterazione e la moltiplicazione degli stessi.

Vedi anche:

Dopaminati di informazioni

La cattura dell’attenzione

Rendendoci incorporei a velocità di banda larga

La dipendenza da computer per la sopravvivenza dell’ego

Il multitasking: strafare per niente

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Awareness of feelings and Internet addiction

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CyberPsychology & Behavior has presented a study entitled “Alexithymia and Its Relationships with Dissociative Experiences and Internet Addiction in a Nonclinical Sample.”

Alexithymia causes difficulty in understanding, differentiating and communicating emotional states. It is not considered a clinical condition, but a personality trait, shared among more or less 7% of the population, with a slightly greater prevalence of males. The term is relatively recent, being coined by Peter Sifneos in 1973. The subjects usually lack imagination, have little intuition and scarce introspective capacities. One of the predominant characteristics on the relationship level is a limited capacity of having emotional connections with people since they are not able to see both in themselves and in others the shades of emotion, but just obvious ones of “feeling good” or “bad.”

As often happens in the fields of psychology and psychiatry, interpretations of the causes for alexithymia are divided between those who consider the genetic and neurochemical factors as predominant, and those who think that the reasons are to be searched for in psychological factors (for example, too-intensive emotional experiences which lead to defending oneself from them, or lack of recognition of the son’s or daughter’s emotions by the parent).

Another characteristic of alexithymics is an attenuated capacity of controlling their impulses, so much so that some of them discharge the tension caused by the unpleasant inner states by compulsive acts, such as abusing food or substances, or through distorted sexual behavior.

The authors of the study (Domenico De Berardis, Alessandro D’Albenzio, Francesco Gambi, Gianna Sepede, Alessandro Valchera, Chiara M. Conti, Mario Fulcheri, Marilde Cavuto, Carla Ortolani, Rosa Maria Salerno, and Nicola Serroni e Filippo Maria Ferro) worked on a sample of 312 students, identifying the factors associated with the risks of developing Internet addiction.

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CyberPsychology & Behavior ha presentato uno studio dal titolo (tradotto) “Alexitimia e la sua relazione con le esperienze dissociative e la dipendenza da Internet in un campione non clinico

L’alexitimia è la difficoltà a comprendere, a differenziare e comunicare gli stati emozionali. Non è considerata una condizione clinica, ma un tratto della personalità, condiviso da circa il 7% della popolazione, con una leggera prevalenza di soggetti maschili. Il termine è relativamente recente, essendo stato coniato da Peter Sifneos nel 1973. Questi soggetti di solito hanno una vita fantasiosa carente, poca intuizione e una scarsa capacità introspettiva. Una delle caratteristiche predominanti a livello relazionale è un’altrettanto scarsa capacità di rapportarsi emotivamente con il prossimo in quanto incapaci di vedere in sé e negli altri le sfumature emozionali al di là di quelle grossolane quali “benessere” o “malessere”.

Come spesso succede nel campo della psicologia e della psichiatria, le interpretazioni sulle cause della alexitimia si dividono in chi ritiene che i fattori genetici e neurochimici siano predominanti e in chi invece ritiene che le cause siano da trovarsi nei fattori psicologici (ad esempio, esperienze emotive troppo intense che hanno portato a difendersi da queste, oppure una mancanza di riconoscimento delle emozioni del figlio/a da parte dei genitori).

Un’altra caratteristica degli alexitimici è l’attenuata capacità di controllo degli impulsi, tanto che alcuni scaricano la tensione degli stati interiori sgradevoli con atti compulsivi quali l’abuso di cibo o di sostanze oppure tramite comportamenti sessuali distorti.

Gli autori dello studio, Domenico De Berardis, Alessandro D’Albenzio, Francesco Gambi, Gianna Sepede, Alessandro Valchera, Chiara M. Conti, Mario Fulcheri, Marilde Cavuto, Carla Ortolani, Rosa Maria Salerno, Nicola Serroni e Filippo Maria Ferro, hanno lavorato su un campione di 312 studenti, identificando i fattori associati con i rischi di sviluppare la dipendenza da Internet. E’ stato rilevato che gli alexitimici avevano più esperienze dissociative, una minore autostima, più disturbi di tipo ossessivo-compulsivo e un maggiore potenziale di sviluppare la dipendenza da Internet. In particolare, lo studio ha rilevato che la difficoltà nell’identificare le emozioni è associata in modo significativo ad un rischio più elevato di sviluppare la dipendenza da Internet.

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Google Lively is dead

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Google recently discontinued Lively, the Second Life-like project. Even though that’s only one out of many of Google’s projects, it’s symbolic of a turning point from representation to reality.

In 1978, Jerry Mander in Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television (Quill, 1978) wrote:

In one generation, out of hundreds of thousands in human evolution, America had become the first culture to have substituted secondary, mediated versions of experience for direct experience of the world. Interpretation and representations of the world were being accepted as experience, and the difference between the two was obscure for most of us.

Thirty years later, it is not just about America and not just about TV. The detachment from direct experience grew layers. The attitude of substituting reality with mental representation was also one of the causes of the current financial problems, which constructed the illusionary “wealth,” considering information flowing through the cables as real goods.

Affirming that nothing is real is true both on the neurophysiological and spiritual levels. We have all heard that, especially in the Eastern traditions, the world is “maya,” an appearance, or illusion. Also, one of the mantras of people who populate the virtual worlds is to question reality saying that “there is nothing real in reality” since our experience is in any case mediated by our senses and by our nervous system which, starting from the mechanism of vision itself, only interprets reality. Following this line of thought we can say that there’s no objective reality and perhaps there’s no reality too, since every experience is mediated by our nervous system.

There’s an apparent concordance between neuroscientists, technical creators of virtual worlds and spiritual teachers. All of them, in different ways, say that the world in an illusion.

Since the times of Buddha and Plato, that the world is our representation has been a philosophical, metaphysical, psychological and spiritual assumption much before science and technology came into our lives. Philosophers and mystics expressed this in a much more sophisticated way than any software environment or technocrat.

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Recentemente, Google ha chiuso Lively, il progetto ispirato a Second Life. Anche se questo era solo uno dei molti progetti di Google, il suo termine rappresenta un punto di svolta dalla rappresentazione alla realtà.
Nel 1978, Jerry Mander ha scritto in Quattro argomenti per eliminare la televisione (Quill, 1978; ed. italiana: Edizioni Dedalo, 1982):

Dopo centinaia di migliaia di generazioni, l’America, nello spazio di una sola generazione, è diventata la prima cultura ad aver sostituito l’esperienza diretta del mondo con suoi sostituti mediati e secondari. Interpretazioni e rappresentazioni vengono accettate come esperienze, e la maggior parte di noi ignora quale sia la differenza tra le due.

Trenta anni dopo, questo discorso non riguarda solo l’America e non è più solo relativo alla televisione. Il distacco dall’esperienza diretta si è fatto sempre più grande. La sostituzione della realtà con una rappresentazione mentale è anche stata una delle cause dell’attuale crisi finanziaria, perché ha creato una “ricchezza” illusoria dove le informazioni che attraversavano i cavi venivano considerate come beni reali.

Affermare che niente è reale è vero sia a livello neurofisiologico che spirituale. Tutti abbiamo sentito dire, in particolare nella tradizioni dell’Oriente, che il mondo è “maya”, apparenza e illusione. Inoltre, una delle posizioni ricorrenti delle persone che popolanoi mondi virtuali è mettere in dubbio la realtà affermando che “non c’è nulla di reale nella realtà”, poiché la nostra esperienza è in ogni caso mediata dai sensi e dal sistema nervoso i quali, a partire dal meccanismo stesso della visione, non fanno altro che interpretare la realtà. Secondo questo modo di pensare, possiamo dire che non esiste una realtà oggettiva e che forse non esiste nemmeno la realtà, in quanto ogni esperienza è mediata dal nostro sistema nervoso.

Tra i neuroscienziati, i tecnici creatori di mondi virtuali e gli insegnanti spirituali esiste un’apparente concordanza: tutti, in modi diversi, sostengono che il mondo è un’illusione.

È dai tempi del Buddha e di Platone, e anche prima di questi, ovvero molto prima che la scienza e la tecnologia entrassero nella nostra vita, che si parla del mondo come rappresentazione, a livello filosofico, metafisico, psicologico e spirituale. I filosofi e i mistici hanno espresso questo concetto in modo molto più sofisticato di qualsiasi ambiente software o tecnocrate.

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Meditation on bookmarks

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I was browsing my bookmarks accumulated over a couple of years, both on the browser and in sites devoted to saving and organizing them. Like many people, I added bookmarks as pointers to pages which are interesting to read but reading which I postponed or for pages I’d already read which I wished to keep for some still not clear future use.

At the time when I added the bookmarks, the pages seemed revealing or interesting and the themes involved worth pursuing more deeply. Then just a few of them had the same appeal after some time. Looks like the mind’s creativity, in order to develop something, has to fecundate many ideas, as in pro-creativity where just one sperm cell among millions will fuse with the ovule.

It was revealing to see how mental interests have a transitory nature, how we can get driven by them, how we go to a certain extent following their path and then drop them. Meditation practices are about being aware of the mind’s addiction with thoughts and then coming back to concentrating on something, for instance on the breath. In meditation we can be taken away by any kind of thought and it can take some time before we become aware that we have been hijacked and taken far from our concentration. The very awareness of being sidetracked is somehow the essence of meditation.

Satprem quotes Mère on the mind’s nature saying, “They are [a] world of suggestions. There come[s] the wave of a suggestion and then everything is frightening, then the wave of another suggestion and everything is romantic, then another one and everything is beautiful.”

When we are on the Internet the structure of links is a metaphor of the mind’s functioning which jumps from one branch to another. But when we are following mental stimulations on the Net we are not in a meditation practice and we have more difficulties in focusing internally and in letting go of the mind’s suggestions. Internet technology has a peculiar way of feeding the attachment to mental material.

At the same time there are mechanisms to simulate the detachments of the same, for instance through sharing our “own” bookmarks with others in social networks or letting our writings wander around on the Web. But what’s different with a real letting go is that we get detached from one mental stimulation to go to another, and never come back to the observing awareness which can drive us back to our center.

Since the mind’s contents are transitory in themselves, we can easily understand why Web sites and Web applications have a transitory nature as well. What was hip and “wired” a few months earlier quickly becomes “tired.” We know that once the novelty is gone, neurophysiologically, we don’t get the same “high” as before. Becoming interested in anything new is an ancient mechanism of our nervous system which rewards our attention to novelties that could be potentially threatening.

The process of digitalization of reality includes more and more human activities, among them connections with people through social networks and dating sites. I wonder if this attitude of being interested in something and then being pulled in other directions, always for something “new” is leading to considering human beings as another mental whim, given the number of “friends” people have in social sites and the ease with which they can add or delete them.

Object relations psychology tells us that we project our emotional relationships on other people and even on objects, and it seems that the online world is well suited to feeding mental projections on others, since we have less reality checks and our imagination can go unobstructed.

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Stavo navigando tra i bookmark che avevo accumulato negli ultimi due anni, sia quelli salvati sul browser che sui siti dedicati al salvataggio dei bookmarksi. Come molte altre persone, mettevo un bookmark sulle pagine che mi sembravano interessanti, ma che avrei letto in un secondo momento, oppure su quelle che avevo già letto e che pensavo mi sarebbero servite, in qualche modo non ancora ben definito, in futuro.

Quando inserivo i bookmark, le pagine sembravano interessanti, originali e meritevoli di approfondimento, ma dopo un po’ di tempo ben poche di esse conservavano la stessa attrazione. Sembra che la creatività della mente, per sviluppare qualcosa, abbia bisogno di fecondare molte idee, un po’ come nella “pro-creatività”, in cui un solo spermatozoo, tra milioni, riesce a fecondare l’ovulo.

Vedere quanto siano momentanei gli interessi della mente è stata una rivelazione: ci lasciamo prendere da essi, li seguiamo per un po’ e quindi li abbandoniamo. Le pratiche di meditazione richiedono il divenire consapevoli della dipendenza della mente dai pensieri e quindi il tornare a concentrarsi su qualcosa, per esempio sul respiro. Nella meditazione possiamo lasciarci distrarre da qualsiasi tipo di pensiero, e possiamo anche avere bisogno di molto tempo prima di renderci conto di essere stati “dirottati” e allontanati dal nostro oggetto di concentrazione. La consapevolezza stessa che siamo stati sviati è in un certo senso l’essenza della meditazione.

Citando Mère sulla natura della mente, Satprem dice: “Esistono universi interi di stimoli. Arriva l’ondata di un certo stimolo e tremiamo di paura, poi un’altra ondata e tutto sembra romantico, quindi un’altra ancora e ogni cosa pare meravigliosa”.

Quando siamo in Internet, la struttura dei link è una metafora del funzionamento della mente, che salta da un ramo all’altro. Ma quando seguiamo gli stimoli mentali in Rete, abbiamo più difficoltà a focalizzarci interiormente, come invece accade in meditazione, e a lasciare andare gli stimoli. Internet alimentare in modo unico e speciale l’attaccamento ai contenuti mentali.

Allo stesso tempo, esistono meccanismi per stimolare-simulare il distacco dagli stessi contenuti, per esempio attraverso la condivisione dei nostri bookmark nei network sociali o lasciando che i nostri scritti vaghino nel web. La differenza rispetto a un distacco autentico, tuttavia, è nel fatto che in rete abbandoniamo un attaccamento mentale per sceglierne un altro, senza mai fare ritorno a quella consapevolezza osservatrice che può riportarci al nostro centro.

Dal momento che i contenuti mentali sono transitori in sé, possiamo capire senza difficoltà perché anche i siti e le applicazioni web hanno natura transitoria. Ciò che in un dato momento è alla moda e interessante, dopo pochi mesi diventa obsoleto. Sappiamo che, una volta esauritasi la sensazione di novità, dal punto di vista neurofisiologico non sperimentiamo più le stesse emozioni di prima. Acquisire interesse verso le novità è un antico meccanismo del nostro sistema nervoso, il quale ricompensa l’attenzione verso le novità che potrebbero essere potenzialmente pericolose.

Il processo della digitalizzazione della realtà include sempre più attività umane, tra cui le relazioni interpersonali attraverso i network sociali e i siti di incontri. Mi chiedo se questo atteggiamento di attrazione verso le novità, con la loro rapida sostituzione non appena diventino obsolete, ci porto alla concezione anche degli esseri umani come di un ennesimo capriccio mentale, data la quantità di “amicizie” che nascono nei siti sociali e la facilità con cui queste ultime vengono create e cancellate.

La psicologia delle relazioni oggettuali ci dice che noi proiettiamo le nostre relazioni emozionali sulle persone e persino sugli oggetti, e sembra che l’universo online faciliti in modo particolare le proiezioni mentali sugli altri, perché abbiamo meno possibilità di riscontri con la realtà e la nostra immaginazione può procedere senza ostacoli.

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Mail Goggles

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Last week, Google Labs introduced a new service, Mail Goggles. This service is intended to

prevent many of you out there from sending messages you wish you hadn’t… By default, Mail Goggles is only active late night on the weekend as that is the time you’re most likely to need it.

Headlined “Stop sending mail you later regret,” Mail Goggles, when enabled, will ask you a few simple math questions “after you click send to verify you’re in the right state of mind,” in other words, preventing you from sending an email while drunk or in any other altered state of mind.

Google, in addition to being motherly, feeding us with almost infinite information, now seeks to acquire a paternalistic role for itself by helping us in regulating and setting our limits. This simple software starts as usual in an innocent and low-profile manner, but marks the beginning of an intervention regarding our intentions and inner lives.

It would be interesting to know if Google keeps a record of our test results and what they would do with that information: show advertisements about alcohol addiction recovery or food supplements to protect from alcohol toxins?

The idea in itself is not bad. The time spent to solve a simple math problem can give space to a healthy pause and could divert our thoughts in another direction, letting us consider our message in a different light (though I doubt people who indulge in drinking will enable the feature or keep it enabled for long anyway). The last thing that the condition of alcohol unawareness wants is to stop, reflect, or stay in an empty space where running thoughts could be transformed and maybe melted by the emptiness (through a very low-tech activity called “meditation”).

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La settimana scorsa Google Labs ha introdotto il nuovo servizio Mail Goggles. Questo servizio è pensato per

prevenire molti di voi dal mandare messaggi che vorreste non aver mai mandato… Per default, Mail Goggles è solamente attivo nelle notti dei fine settimana in quanto questo è il momento in cui ne avrai molto probabilmente più bisogno.

Dal titolo “Smettila di mandare email di cui poi te ne pentirai”, Mail Goggles, quando attivo, chiederà di risolvere alcune semplici operazioni aritmetiche “dopo che si clicca su Invia per verificare che ti trovi nel corretto stato mentale”, in altre parole impedendo di mandare una email mentre si è ubriachi o in un altro stato mentale alterato.

Google, oltre ad essere materno nell’alimentarci con quasi infinite informazioni, ora inizia un ruolo paternalistico nell’aiutarci a regolare e definire i nostri limiti. Questo semplice software, nello stile di Google, come sempre inizia in modo innocente e senza molto clamore, ma segna l’inizio di un intervento in relazione alle nostre intenzioni e alla nostra vita interiore.

Sarebbe interessante sapere se Google tiene un archivio dei risultati dei nostri test e come intervengono su tali informazioni (mostrare pubblicità sulla guarigione da dipendanza alcoolica o dei supplementi alimentari che proteggono dalle tossine dell’alcool?)

L’idea di per sé non è male. Il tempo speso per effettuare delle semplici operazioni aritmetiche può dare spazio ad una pausa salutare, sviare i nostri pensieri in un’altra direzione e farci considerare il messaggio in un’altra luce. Tuttavia, dubito che le persone che si concedono all’alcool abiliteranno la funzione o che comunque la lasceranno attiva per molto. L’ultima cosa che l’inconsapevolezza dell’alcool vuole è quella di fermarsi, riflettere o di stare in uno spazio vuoto dove i pensieri che corrono potrebbero essere trasformati e magari sfumarsi nel vuoto (tramite un’attività a bassa tecnologia chiamata “meditatione”).

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The yogic geek

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The methods of tracing and controlling our Internet activities have become constantly more varied and sophisticated. Cookies are probably the oldest method (since 1994) to trace – mainly for advertising purposes – the websites that are visited.

Governments, not only in dictatorships but also in Western countries control every piece of information that passes through the Net. One of the famous projects is Echelon, which gives access to every information sent on email, instant messaging and telephone. Beyond this, the police as well can have access to the data regarding Internet use in order to monitor users.

But on the whole we are accomplices to the information that we send. Google History keeps track of all the search we do on the Net. Google Desktop and similar services index everything that happens in our computer.

RSS readers like Google Reader know our interests by managing our subscriptions to blogs. Tracing cancellations and new subscriptions, it is possible for them to map the way our thoughts evolve.

As if this were not enough, we expose ourselves directly in social networking sites, forums, and blogs with our written words and our photos. Sometimes, we need this for getting an identity on the Net in exchange for some attention from others.

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Le tecniche di tracciamento e controllo della nostra attività su Internet sono sempre più variate e sofisticate. I cookies sono forse il modo più vecchio, fin dal 1994, per tracciare i siti che vengono visualizzati, perlopiù per scopi pubblicitari.

I governi, non solo dei paesi dove vige la dittatura, ma di tutto l’occidente controllano ogni flusso di informazioni che transita sulla rete. Famoso è il progetto Echelon, tra gli altri, che dà accesso ad ogni informazione mandata via email, telefono e instant messaging. Ad aggiungersi a questi, gli organi di polizia possono accedere ai dati di utilizzo della rete per monitorare gli utenti.

Ma perlopiù siamo complici delle informazioni che trasmettiamo. Google History tiene traccia di tutte le ricerche che eseguiamo in rete. Google Desktop e servizi simili indicizzano tutto quanto avviene sul nostro computer.

I lettori RSS tipo Google Reader conoscono i nostri interessi gestendo le nostre iscrizioni ai blog. Con le cancellazioni e le nuove iscrizioni possono tenere traccia di come si evolve il nostro pensiero.

Se non bastasse, ci esponiamo direttamente nei siti di social networking, nei forum, nei nostri blog con le parole scritte e con le nostre foto. A volte ci serve per darci un’identità in rete in cambio di un po’ di attenzione da parte di altri.

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Brain waves facing a screen, and meditation

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Meditation and staring at a screen share the same brain waves, but are actually different internal states. It seems that looking at a screen hooks people seducing them with a fake feeling of relaxation through the presence of alpha waves and even lower brain frequencies.

This relaxation, though, not being integrated with an attentive and aware observation of the contents of the mind (as happens in meditation) gives rise instead to an internal restlessness and stress, often unrecognized until it becomes full-blown.
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La meditazione e l’atto di fissare uno schermo attivano le stesse onde cerebrali, ma di fatto corrispondono a stati interiori diversi. Sembra che osservare uno schermo porti le persone in uno stato di finto rilassamento, tramite l’attivazione di onde alfa e di quelle a frequenza ancora più bassa.

Tale rilassamento, tuttavia, non essendo integrato da un’osservazione attenta e consapevole dei contenuti mentali (come avviene in meditazione), provoca stress e agitazione interiori, che spesso non vengono riconosciuti fino a quando non esplodono.

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The Tao of Google ranking

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When I was a child I believed that somewhere, somebody had the answers to all my questions about the world and about existence. It was because of knowing that sooner or later even I would have access to that knowledge that quietened my cognitive anxiety.

The very fact that knowledge was present somewhere, though hidden, I felt it was certainly obtainable, as if it was present in the air and just needed the proper antennas for being picked up. The Web didn’t exist then, nor did Google that provides almost the entire repository of human knowledge, and of course neither did I know Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic fields theory, much less the mystical ideas on universal consciousness.

But what happens to the process that produces knowledge, when we get it instantly through a Google search? Any media, mentioning McLuhan, is at the same time an extension and a castration. Google is an extension and a castration concerning our research and answer-finding capabilities.

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Da piccolo mi confortava pensare che “qualcuno” da “qualche parte” avesse le risposte alle mie domande sul mondo e sull’esistenza. Immaginavo che in questo modo prima o poi anch’io avrei potuto accedere a tale sapere. Questo pensiero mi placava l’ansia conoscitiva.

Il fatto che la conoscenza fosse da qualche parte, per quanto nascosta o poco accessibile, la sentivo comunque come disponibile, come se questa fosse presente nell’aria e necessitasse solo delle antenne giuste per essere captata. A quei tempi non esisteva il web nè Google che ci mette a disposizione quasi l’intero scibile umano, naturalmente non conoscevo le teorie dei campi morfici di Sheldrake e tantomeno le parole dei mistici sulla coscienza universale.

Ma cosa succede al processo interiore della conoscenza quando possiamo accedervi in pochi instanti tramite una ricerca con Google? Ogni media, ricordando McLuhan, è allo stesso tempo un’estensione e una castrazione. Google lo è rispetto alla nostra capacità di ricercare e di trovare risposte.

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