Law in the Internet Society

True Awareness as the Only Means to Regain Personal Freedom

-- By SalmanAlmutawa - 11 Oct 2019

An Evolutionary Shift

An evolutionary shift is underway. Lessons of survival and human potential previously learned on the playground – those of the need to work with others to reach a common goal, to stand up to perceived threats, and to ultimately determine for oneself what is righteous and important in one’s life– are now interfered with and altered in frighteningly substantial ways.

That small internal space in which truth is sorted has been invaded by external players who ensure that attention is deviated towards intelligently-crafted sources of distraction and manipulation that keep individuals sucked in. The brain’s reward system is hacked, one like at a time, one share at a time, leading to a preponderance of the brain’s sources of dopamine and other feel-good chemicals to be gained exclusively from such activities. Such platforms also act as outlets for anxious thoughts that prevent the development of the necessary problem-solving abilities of growing individuals. Thus, there will be very little incentive to explore or develop the “real world”; whatever part of that remains intact after this prolonged exposure to altered stimuli.

This change, in altering the ways in which an individual feels good and solves problems respectively, means that such individuals are not only trapped by their brains and feelings, or even their network of friends who use these applications for convenience purposes, but fundamentally by the individuals and corporations who use and sell their behavioural information to third parties who target the very being of those customers, ensuring that they make certain decisions, such as how to conduct their daily lives, who to vote for, and what to purchase; leading to de facto control over these users without them even knowing it.

Human Subjugation

Rousseau once said that man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains. However, it appears that we will reach – or perhaps have already reached – a point in which man is actually not born free, but rather born with a genetic predisposition to certain reward systems and an altered perception of human reality which he inherited from his parents; namely those related to the usage of social media and other proprietary software, under the control and manipulation of other individuals, to feel good and relieve anxious thinking.

This will inevitably lead to a split in the human species, where one branch – those who are in the knowing and currently hold the power through technical expertise and knowledge of the detriments of such platforms – will become a species who will have the upper hand on those whose ancestors stayed ignorant of these on-goings and thereby inherited their brains and built-in reward and nervous systems.

This will lead to, or arguably has already lead to, a subjugation in which one class entirely controls the other. We do not speak of control in a metaphoric sense, such as corporate work that we see in modern capitalist society where individuals have a degree of awareness of this evident subjugation and arguably a degree of choice to take up such jobs or not, but in an actual literal sense, in which those individuals who use proprietary platforms will be under the false perception that they are exercising their free will in manoeuvring and “choosing” to engage with the platforms when in reality their “choices” are entirely a result of tailored feedback from the platforms themselves. That is the scary part; when total control is cloaked in a false sense of free will.

True Awareness

While the end goal is to completely eradicate proprietary software, for it has zero marginal cost beyond the initial cost of production and only acts as a means of human subjugation, any effort today to do such things has not garnered sufficient support from the majority either because they are unaware of the profound consequences of these platforms, or are under the belief that the negatives can be substantially reduced through piecemeal legislation in the area of security and data privacy. Both these possibilities rely on the existence of an altered belief as to the reality of the downside of proprietary software; namely human subjugation – the stripping away of what it means to be human. There is nothing that can be done but to completely shatter those chains by shining the light of awareness on them.

An alternative possibility, that individuals are fully aware of the profound consequences of these platforms but choose to operate them anyway, is a possibility which cannot physically exist; for such a decision would constitute a voluntary surrender of personal autonomy and subsequently the capacity to be human. Essentially, if one is truly fully aware that one’s choices are driven by someone else, then at that moment they would no longer be driven by that other for the fašade has been removed, but if, as the possibility suggests, that person continues to make those choices, then he will be both making and not making his own choices at the same time. He must be one or the other. Thus, one cannot physically continue in the face of true awareness, for the whole game collapses in that instance.

Awareness, like any realization, can come in many forms. Just like cigarettes, the cancer of proprietary software has already spread, and awareness is the only tool left in the arsenal to stop it from growing and to reverse its prevalence. As every cigarette box reads in bold “tobacco is an addictive substance which can kill you”, while showing a picture of burned out lungs, so too should every piece of user interface read “private software monitors your behaviour and passes that information to third parties who can use that information to control your daily decisions” with a picture of a chained human being. The stigma will slowly grow, and the conversation will slowly take place, and just like the decline of cigarettes, proprietary software too shall fall.

It seems to me that the primary investment of this draft is in rhetorical inflation. I recognize the ideas, many of which I stated myself in class. They have been modified not by being added to, but by being rephrased in more intensified form. Are "lessons of survival and human potential previously learned on the playground ... now interfered with"? Is "that small internal space in which truth is sorted" newly "invaded by external players who ensure that attention is deviated towards intelligently-crafted sources of distraction and manipulation that keep individuals sucked in"? That space came into existence in one corner of the human race less than five centuries ago, having been fleetingly glimpsed on occasion over the previous two millennia. "External players" wielding religious ideas and ceremonies and possessed of violence previously had the creation of distraction and manipulation all to themselves. Is the distinction between "true awareness" and "awareness" tenable? And so on.

From where I read, the way to improve the draft is to increase the level of substantive analysis that is yours, and to earn, rather than assuming, the strength of the rhetoric. As to the first, state your primary contributing idea clearly at the top, and weave the analysis of what others have said (whether Rousseau, or—for that matter—me) around the central theme of your own devising. As to the second, use information rather than adjectives to create intensity: show what is happening rather than telling the reader how big and terrible it is.

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r2 - 30 Nov 2019 - 14:45:52 - EbenMoglen
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