BREAD AND BUTTER FLY
Bateson used the fictional Bread and Butter Fly (from Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There) to illustrate the double bind in terms of natural selection. The gnat points out that the insect would be doomed if he found his food (which would dissolve his own head, since this insect’s head is made of sugar, and his only food is tea), and starve if he did not. Alice suggests that this must happen quite often, to which the gnat replies: “It always happens.”
The pressures that drive evolution therefore represent a double bind. And there is truly no escape: “It always happens.” No species can escape natural selection, including our own. If the environment becomes toxic, that species will die out unless it transforms into another species, in which case, the species becomes extinct anyway.
Identity is situated in time. When we think of it we mentally put it into a period in time, where the other associations of that time give us context and anchored meaning. The death of an archetype anchors us as young forever. Kurt Kobain is forever beautiful and tortured and Jimi Hendrix was brilliant and I am just like them.
We live forever with the ghost-identity of our younger selves as we idealize and stereotype in fact a natural consequence of the increased reward drive in the adolescent brain of the neural circuits using dopamine, a neurotransmitter central in creating our drive for reward. We define ourselves through our reward drives.
In Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’, James Stewart character is unable to accept the loss of loved one, he keeps looking for her, finds a look-alike and then sets about transforming her, Pygmalion-like, into a reincarnated version. His identity thus lives on, in the clay golem he recreates. When we perceived archetypes to die, we thus are losing a part of ourselves. We are no longer able to look at them and see ourselves, reflected in their perception. We thus mourn a loss of a part of ourselves.
The sense of self comes from habitual and repeated thoughts; novel thoughts make the self dissolve. Adopting X as an identity makes you optimize for being predicted as X. The territory itself is structured by some kind of repetition. The self-reference effect arises when objects that are related to the self draw extra focus. Memes, myths, and egregores run in group combinations, not individuals, and shape our thoughts and cognitive processes. It is on the level of thought that the self begins to buckle under the strain of contradictions.
SENSE OF SELF: BATESON CONCEPT OF THE MIND
Every birth is a resurrection with foreknowledge of the future because each individual is the result of natural selection. We are born only once but we “are” many other people who pre-existed us. The self is a function of all other selves. Your identity fluctuates. You cannot be yourself twice.
The mental characteristics of a system are not contained in a single control mechanism (consciousness does not emanate from the brain), but are distributed across the entire system. Just as it is incorrect to assume that the mind is in the brain (it is in the brain plus the body plus the environment), so it is incorrect to assert that the computer itself exhibits mental properties: it is the computer + the programmer that does.
The view that the self is aligned with the concept of being-in-the-world by Heidegger. From this observation he derives the idea that everything is mind, and that minds contain minds, the largest mind corresponding with what people call “God” These narrow definitions of selfhood, most of us grew up with, as Bateson saw it, were not just philosophy-related problems but could easily turn into environmental crises.
In the quantum world it is the observer that “collapses” reality. There is no reality until someone observes it. Each “wave” that describes a system is ultimately connected to all other waves. There is an equivalence of sorts between General Relativity and psychology. Every person “warps” the psychological universe of everybody else nearby.
RULES OF SOCIAL MEDIA:
Post at least twice a day.
Don’t post every day.
As an agent, you have to use Facebook.
Facebook is a waste of your time.
THE METAMEDIUM AND THE DOUBLE BIND
“All those people who seek to control the behavior of large numbers of other people work on the experiences of those other people,” Once people can be induced to experience a situation in a similar way, they can be expected to behave in similar ways.”
R.D. Laing, in The Politics of Experience.
The child’s sense of self is growing up among a set of contradictions, because he lives in two worlds. The sense of self play over our overextended central nervous system and mind has become a combination of library, post office and mail order. The Meta-medium (after all, the Web can play host to any other form: text, images, video , and audio).
Social networking sites represent an important form of network activity with new friends and existing relationships. The Internet is a double-bind because we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. News, writing, and information of all sorts is now often not available any other way.
The effects of technology do not occur at the level of opinion or concepts, but alter sense ratios or patterns of perception steadily and without any resistance. VC does not find signifieds in which to invest. Instead, it offers the equivalence of all signifiers, thereby deterring them from signifying anything. The system of interpreting signifiers overgrows its referents. It develops with no relation to whatever it signifies.
Cybernetics redefined the problem of “spectatorship” by transforming the spectator from an individual into a site of perceptions and cognitions — an “interface or infrastructure for information processing.” Where radio, cinema, and television had promoted conformity and passivity, cybernetic media promised to facilitate individual choice and free expression.
Cybernetics concerned itself with self regulating systems and how their identity and functioning was maintained through mechanisms of information, control and feedback. Bateson could see the discipline’s immediate applicability to social interactions and the exploration and explanation of social systems.
The “Californian Ideology” was an “anti-statist gospel of cybernetic libertarianism.” With their critiques of mass media, and their alleged tendency to produce authoritarian subjects, some believed digital media could offer salutary alternatives.
But what happens is this: Algorithms take someone’s opinions and project them into the future, via predictions that powerful institutions then act on. If the identities constituted in this way are false, the reifications they generate do real work, and can cause real harm.
ECOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY AND CYBERNETICS
In his book Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Bateson applied cybernetics to the field of biological ecology and homeostasis. He saw the environment as a collection of processes that included those of people, their sense of self, communities and ecosystems. Each program involves rivalry and dependence. — system has adaptive changes that rely on feedback loops to maintain equilibrium and preserve homeostasis by changing multiple variables.
Bateson also saw that all three systems of the person and their sense of self, culture and environment were all part of one supreme cybernetic system that governs all rather than only interacting systems. This supreme cybernetic system would be outside the individual’s self and may be equated with what many people call God, while Bateson referred to it as Mind. Though Mind is a cybernetic system, it can only be distinguished as a whole and not parts.
So what is the problem? He saw the system collapses as the result of Occidental and western epistemology. According to Bateson, consciousness is the bridge between person, society, and ecology cybernetic networks and the system mismatch due to confusion results in the destruction of the entire supreme cybernetic system or mind.
Bateson thought consciousness as developed by Western epistemology was directly at odds with Mind. At the heart of the matter is scientific hubris. Bateson argues that Occidental epistemology perpetuates a system of understanding which is purpose or means-to-an-end driven.
You can see the web as as a vast meta-medium, or as a regular McLuhanesque medium, with nothing meta about it. Purpose regulates attention and narrows awareness, restricting what enters consciousness and thus restricting the amount of knowledge that can be produced from awareness.
Other sources of fact and fiction have gradually been eliminated. Additionally, Western epistemology propagates the false notion that man resides outside the meta-mind and this leads man to believe in what Bateson calls control theory based on false knowledge.
This is the double-bind. A meta-medium grown out of technical thinking, and today the computer, the internet, and the rush to AI are the manifestations of such thinking. They are the result, not the cause.
In Occidental epistemology as a way of thinking that leads to a mentality in which man imposes autocratic rule over all cybernetic systems. By imposing his autocratic rule, man alters the world to match him, thereby unbalancing the normal cybernetic structure of managed competition and reciprocal dependency.
It’s probable that man will never be able to manipulate the entire metamedium because it does not function in a linear fashion. What eventually may happen, is that man’s technical ability coupled with his intellectual hubris gives him the power to irrevocably damage and ruin the supreme cybernetic system.
THE PRISONERS DILEMMA
“Look at it, every day more lusers than users, keyboards and screens turning into nothin but portals to Web sites for what Management wants everybody addicted to, shopping games, jerking off, streaming endless garbage-”
― Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge
One of the reasons we talk of “split” states of consciousness, or amnesia; or talk of the body acting automatically or as being inhabited by the character we are playing. The only reason we don’t crash is because of bi-location which allows 1/2 of the brain to do the driving while another part disappears down the rabbit hole. Individuals may find themselves, more in tune or involved with the mask world and less with the real world.
Kids might already be well-versed with the term “behavior modification,” but they might not fully comprehend its meaning or think it is a joke, They are bewildered when they enter the nineteenth-century environment that still characterizes the educational establishment where information is scarce but ordered and structured by fragmented, classified patterns, subjects, and schedules.
‘Real-time auctions’ allow ad-brokers to see who’ll pay the most to place an ad on a web-page. But the losers in that action still come away with new information about you. Is it any surprise that ad rates at the major publications are falling?
A useful concept to understand is interpellation. The medium delivers dual messages similar to the pair pioneered by Walmart. “Good news! Treats await!
Information systems have made the world more efficient for you. With Facebook the free service is social connecting, and with Google it is an efficient search engine. We are ‘hailed’ into resuming our identities. You identify me and I become the me that you have named. The position we take is relative to a superior and central ‘Other Subject’, exercising emotional authority.
Social media platforms are designed by the businesses that operate them to maximize engagement so they can sell ads. They learn to exploit the fact that people have cognitive biases and split states of consciousness that make them want to be cocooned in comfortable filter bubbles. They ignore and refute anything that might challenge beliefs that factcheck as wrong but comfortable.
The Medium who calls to us is interpellating us a position we recognize and accept. The act of identifying thereby establishes identities. The position we take is relative to a superior and central ‘Other Subject’, exercising emotional authority. Our identity is thus defined by the other and we recognize ourselves as an image or a reflection of the Other.
Everything gets magnified by Network effects. Network effects are feedback cycles that can make a medium become ever more influential or valuable. Facebook attracts people because of the people already on it. People use Apple products in part because there are so many apps in its store. The consistency principle leads you into a cycle of investment.
Facebook wants you to have only one identity, so that you are more legible and can reliably influence the options put in front of you. In order to continue to participate, I’d have to accept Facebook’s philosophy.
Twitter suggests that meaning will emerge from fleeting flashes of thought de/contextualized. The idea of reputation is an embodiment of an idea about what a person is, where meaning comes from. Google wants you to be “open” so that it can search all the data related to you.
specialized queries with localised results, each place in the world will have a different list of what is important, true, or ‘relevant’ in response to any query” Personalisation and customisation enhance relevance of search results.
IDENTITY BECOMES CURRENCY: MAKE IT
A five minute blog is going to have the same marketing impact as letting an 2-year-old create your brand identity. The physical build of a blog will take months to get right. The challenge for people s is to find out where they are, how they move and what they find of value. The reputation economy is predominantly controlled by far more influential, and complex, factors. It’s not exactly a scam, but very few people do well with it because it does exactly the opposite of cutting out the middle man . The real investment comes in the personal time necessary to make an impact.
In this medium, identity becomes currency but not money. Many people think of social media as an inexpensive alternative to pricey paid media options. The build is just the tip of the iceberg. Reciprocity takes the form of self-promotion. Culture is nothing but advertising. People must stir up social media attention and keep feeding users more content in order to draw out more likes. With the endless stream of posts of each person in social media, video production, gaming, and other content sources, it’s almost impossible to determine where one person ends and another begins.
Digital marketing has been all about creating real state. Creating real state turns to building on other people’s property. Websites, micro sites, Flash demos, virtual offices are just some of the digital spaces. There are literally thousands of places to engage with your reputation online. The challenge for brands is to find out where they are, how they move and what they find of value.
An early blue check will get superrich fast, or a new user will get a free service or earn a windfall from sudden exposure. This will happen to only a tiny token number of people, though. Meanwhile, trinkets tossed into the crowd spread illusions that the emerging information economy is benefiting the majority of those who provide the information that drives it.
The illusion that everything is getting so cheap that it is practically free sets up the political and economic conditions for cartels exploiting whatever isn’t quite that way. When music is free, wireless bills get expensive.
Silicon valley has conditioned us that these external factors are the determining factors for “success”. They’ve created for us a certain ideal in our head that we need to achieve before we are even allowed to feel valuable. People must develop social media networks in order to ‘make it. Once they’ve made it, the main thing they have to sell is their social media network. Why are we competing on sheer tonnage, instead of focusing on quality and singularity.
Deviating from common expectations of the medium costs idiosyncrasy credits. Like dressing differently, viewing shows that nobody else is concerned about and not seeing the series that everybody is thinking about — they all drain a small nonconformity budget.
What we’re facing now is a classical prisoner’s dilemma . Our identities are ensnared because what we perceive as our peers are acquiring and launching, investing and expanding, so in turn they’re succumbing to competitive pressure. The older training of observation has become quite irrelevant in this new time, because it is based on psychological responses and concepts conditioned by the former technology — mechanization.
We cannot weigh the option independently; We must consider what others (with the same options) will do. If others invests, we should also invest in order to protect our market position. So we invests. Others go through the same reasoning, and eventually also invest.
If we and others thought of the meta-medium in a different way, and not competitive pressure, they would turn down more of these “opportunities” Sure, investment fuels growth. “More is not necessarily better
But competitive pressure saps profitability. From 1997–2001, online retailers played the same game with every price-slashing gimmick they could conjure. I got a pair of Paragon surfboards for $150 from a Web site I never did use again. Thousands of people lost their plum jobs, and thousands more their retirement savings. No macro event is unprecedented and the current gamification of our identities is no different.
People look for opportunities to express their needs for self-preservation. However, since they know that their needs cannot be fully satisfied, they simultaneously fall over themselves to destroy the memory of the false fulfillment they have had. The Medium flatters participants into thinking that they are taking part in a daring intellectual exercise, while activating anti-intellectual feelings. Repressed awareness of the false nature of their own satisfaction produces ambient aggression that people take out on strangers.
The essential hypothesis of the double bind theory applied to Silicon Valley is that we find ourselves in a communicational matrix, in which messages contradict each other, the contradiction is not able to be communicated on and the unwell person is not able to leave the field of interaction.
A double bind is a dilemma in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other. The person cannot confront the inherent dilemma, and therefore can neither resolve it nor opt out of the situation. In some circumstances this might be emotionally distressing.
Double binds are often utilized as a form of control without open coercion. The use of confusion makes them difficult both to respond to and to resist. A double bind generally includes different levels of abstraction in the order of messages.
A mother is physically withdrawn from a boy in Bateson’s classic example but pressures the youngster to take the blame. The kid now faces a double bind: to say the truth how he’s furious with the mother and leads to denials and much greater alienation.What makes sense at one point is ridiculous at another. It’s a message about a Message set.
EXAMPLES OF DOUBLE BIND
a. Son: Can we go to the park and play soccer?
b. Father: What a beautiful day for working in the garden.
The second method of disqualification is sleight-of-hand. Sleight-of-hand occurs when the second response (b) answers the first (a) but changes the content of the previous statement:
a. Daughter: We have always gotten along well.
b. Mother: Yes, I’ve always loved you. . .
In the above example, the mother has responded to her daughter but has switched the issue from getting along well to love.
Literalization, the third type of disqualification, occurs when the content of the previous statement (a) is switched to a literal level in the second statement (b) with no acknowledgment of the change of frame:
a. Son: You treat me like a child.
b. Father: But you are my child.
The fourth method, status disqualification, happens when a person uses either personal status or superior knowledge to imply that the previous message is not valid:
a. Mother: I have observed that he doesn’t play very well with the other children.
b. Son: But I do, Mama!
a. Mother: He doesn’t realize because he is so little . . .
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THAT SITUATION ARE:
a) the individual is involved in an intense relationship in which he or she feels they must get the communication right;
b) the other party is expressing two orders of messages, and one denies the other;
c) the ‘victim is unable to comment on the contradiction, i.e. he or she is unable to make ‘metacommunicative statements’ that might help to resolve the mess. These situations, endlessly replayed, result in an individual unable to read accurately the context of messages, and unable to communicate effectively or coherently. In short, he or she will live in a world of disordered messages, where active and appropriate deciphering will be experienced as dangerous, and possibly only known, as a nameless, felt, perpetual angst. Rings a bell?
This is but one interaction, albeit a pivotal one; We need to look at the double bind and the schizophrenic dilemma and the internet as part of a continuum of human experience of communication, that involve intense relationships and necessity of discriminating between orders of message.
WHY THE DOUBLE BIND
In naming a difficult interaction it introduced an interactional perspective to psychotherapy. It foreshadowed and gave momentum to the development of family therapy. If interactions could be problematic and pathology producing, then they also might have the capacity to be organised interventively.
The metamedium suffers from unsolvable communicational and existential knots. Just when we know the facts it pressures us to lie. This is different from lying or hypocrisy, which are merely human, not structural, weaknesses. It goes far beyond the well-known industries that knowingly propagate untruths, including used-car dealers and politicians. These individuals are embedded in a larger structure that demands falsehood. The “fuckedupness” is actually embedded in the structures around us. It is no longer a matter of misinformation, but of systemic double bind conditions. People are simply doing their work, so it is part of the job description to establish the difference between fact and reality.
The double bind hypothesis offered substance and further perspective to such psychoanalytic concepts as denial, splitting, projection (some of the primitive or primary defenses) and the complex process of projective identification. How one party gets another party to carry their own damaged and damaging feelings can seem like a mystery, and its description, at times, can seem like psychic hocus pocus.
Covid pandemic has settled forever the argument about when technology is a human right. We are faced with a crisis of both finance and tech thanks to the crisis in public health. As economies implode, taking down those few remaining smaller firms with ties to places and people, we are experiencing a quiet wave of consolidations. Big Tech firms (flush with tax-free, offshore cash) ‘rescue’ these smaller companies and absorb them, barrelling towards a future in which the world can be a better place.
Search engines and social networks were created with the aim of eliminating checks and balances. This explains why they can create problems such as privacy invasion and news distortions. Philosophies evolve towards becoming totalizing ideologies by natural selection. A philosophy (or guru) that leave room for unanswered questions invite competition and will find themselves displaced by more totalizing rivals. After all, it is easier to remember a single ideology than many — or to watch a single YouTube channel.
Every rich-enough belief system wants to be the single source of answers to all questions. The meta medium wants the algorithm to run the show with as few humans in the loop as possible. The aim is to improve “customer service” by “lowering prices.”
Now the system amplifies for ruthlessness, lack of flexibility, along with self-absorption, which would increase the significant areas of conflict in a potential relationships with culture, art and other mediums. The new meta Medium has amplified capital. When pushed to its extreme, capital “becomes a person through corporations and tech: Most people, from truck drivers to the literary Brahmins, are still blissfully ignorant of what the media do to them” “It is the medium itself that is the message, not the content.
Many believed that the Internet generation would swiftly outmaneuver the more ponderous institutions of the previous era. What we forgot is that technology magnifies power in both directions. The powerful behemoths woke up to the potential of the Internet, and they have more power to magnify.
We are overextended people that pretty much solely rely on comparison to other overextended people to feel valuable. We find difficult if not impossible to adjust to the fragmented, visual goals of our education after having had all our senses involved by the new medium; we crave in-depth involvement, not linear detachment and uniform sequential patterns.
Our natural instinct is to bring all our senses to bear on a book nor a musical instrument almost as if it was a screen and print music resolutely rejects that approach.
McLuhan notes the way roads and highways designed to provide freedom of movement have reversed into traffic congestion and urban sprawl. In the meta medium we have all become “huckster” and “mark” on the downward sliding scale of Cut -Me-Own-Throat Dibbler. He cites the example from classical Greek drama of the concept of hubris, when a character’s overweening pride leads to his own fall. The ancient Chinese Taoist text the Tao Te Ching, which refers to the same concept of excess leading to its opposite.
The continuing implosion of fantasy as the foundation of identity makes people neurotic, depressed and sick. People are trying to ride out the disenchantment with a bad counterfeit of integrity. Traditionally false identities were linked to lies, temptations, deceptions. Remember the medicine man.
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