I admit that, I tend to overreact a bit when I accidentally see the news. Or when I look at those herds of good natured people blindly following (again) some trendy trend on social media, changing their profile pics into all colours of rainbow (including the newest addition: pitch black).
I can’t help but to draw conclusions which are usually, vastly different from what the mainstream is telling us. As a result, some people (not to say most of them) find me in a striking similarity to that nice guy from “Pacific Rim”, who has been immortalised in the famous meme you can see below…
But you see, there is reason for my specific stance. And I tend to believe it is a good one.
Long time ago, I wrote master thesis on the methods of influence and manipulation of masses, the ethics (or lack of thereof) behind them, their genesis, their philosophical and psychological basis. I had a privilege of having a tutor who is a specialist in Greek philosophy.
And so what was an unavoidable consequence under such guidance, was the necessity for me to confront such abstract concepts as the morals, the good, the evil and the truth.
I delved into mechanisms of controlling masses and how they evolved across the ages. I read through classics like Le Bonn’s “Psychology of crowds”, Machiavelli’s “Prince”, Sun Tzu’s “The art of war”, Schopenhauer’s “Eristics” and Plato’s “Gorgias” to name just a few. I never suspected that, It would be such a captivating research and that it would leave me a different man, quite literally. Firstly it taught me to respect the Truth. Secondly, it left me with a bit of a burden on my perception.
Never again watching daily news channel, reading newspaper or online magazine was the same experience. I started seeing patterns.
And I see them now.
There is a battlefield, where not tools of mass destruction but tools of mass manipulation are unleashed. And we are all in their range.
Divide et impera. People divided are easier to be controlled. Order through chaos. Create a problem so that you can propose a solution. Capitalise on the never-ending fight between the haves and have-nots. Feed the conflict, justify violence, label ideological enemies. Victimise certain “classes” so that they can revolt and overthrow the “oppressors”. Shift the paradigm, redefine the values, so that from the ashes of the old world order a New one can arise. Replace traditionally established institutions with a “more modern” ones, change language, radicalise relationships in the society, drive people to be in constant conflict with each other.
I can’t help but notice that all those tools and mechanism are set in motion to lead us… exactly, where?
This is a fertile ground for a whole range of articles which I promise to deliver in the future.
But for now, let’s start with an appetiser.
If you would like to start getting better grasp of the events that are unfolding behind our very eyes and on our streets, you do not need to study through a library of ancient texts.
Start by watching a few videos (while they are still on YouTube that is…). You can get on to Plato later (assuming you haven’t yet).
So here is my recommendation for step one.
Yuri Bezmenov aka Tomas Schuman, KGB deflector teaching Westerners the methods of soft diversion used by Soviet Union. In other words; how to influence masses to push the state over the edge. This is a lecture from 1984, but don’t be mistaken. It is horrifyingly accurate in explaining what is happening in 2020.
I would say enjoy the video, but I can assure after watching it (if you haven’t done that before) it will leave you in a quite grim mood. Knowledge can be a burden. But if there is one thing I learned from my thesis, it’s the fact that naked truth is always better than a blissful ignorance. Stay tuned for the next episode.
A decade of experience in project & product management in various organisations taught me a true value of the ability to maintain focus. Sometimes the hard way. Now in the times of work from home, cutting off distractions might be even more changeling than one would think. With tons of tasks at hand, tough questions from developers and stakeholders, messages on slack spamming every minute, urgent emails, kids yelling in the background and that annoying fly buzzing in the room , a simple task of replying to an email can become a bloodied struggle with oneself. Not to even mention of how one could attempt to write software specifications.
How do I get through such days and make the most out of them? Firstly I kill that f**ing fly. And then I apply a few simple rules, that not only help to keep my sanity in check, but also allow me to get the job done.
1. Prioritise & execute
Multitasking is a myth.
Don’t believe me? Try a simple exercise (credit to my Dad) – write on a blackboard in a row numbers from 1 to 10 in arabic numerals, and then in roman signs. Then do the same but with instead of going with one row till the end, switch between arabic and roman after each sign. See which method will take you more time…
That’s right. Unlike what some say about the art of management – switching through various tasks makes you actually LESS efficient. So what you need to learn first is to be able to pick up ONE thing at a time. Ideally the most important one. And get it though till the end (or at least a measurable milestone). Then another. And so on.
The method of Prioritising and Executing has been described at length in an amazing book “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. If you ever think of becoming a manager or about picking up on any leadership role – read it please.
2. Put the music on. Keep it on the loop.
I get it – apparently there are people who need silence to maintain focus. I guess those people have a luxury of having silence in their surroundings in first place. I am not one of them – so good headphones and good music are key to my performance.
There is a music for sports, music to sing to, songs for dancing with your wife, there is also a music you need to focus ON. Such music is not recommended at all.
You need the RIGHT kind of music, if you want to stay productive. The music that is not intrusive, that is repetitive so it gets you in the rhythm , that enhances clarity of mind. “De gustibus non-disptandum est” so I imagine such tunes will be different for different people. For myself, one of the tracks that kept me through a lot of usability diagrams and helped through producing some complex documentation was this one.
So find your tune. This will be a soundtrack for you life achievements. So better make it good.
3. Stay fit to keep the mind sharp.
Balance between your body and mind is paramount, not just to stay productive, but in the long run to simply stay alive. Lack of physical activity, wrong diet & not managing stress are slow killers.
So make sure you do exercise on a daily basis, ideally somewhere on fresh air. You will sweat some toxins out of your body and get bit more oxygen to that precious brain of yours.
Oh and if you happen to do martial arts, here is a bonus tip: throwing few kicks at boxing bag is an awesome way of acting out on those passive-aggressive e-mails you are getting from one of THESE clients…
4. Get breaks
Speaking of balance. Remember to rest. Ideally every 45-60 minutes, take a deep breath, switch your mind to something else. Change place. Walk a bit, stretch arms.
Let your mind take a break. It will gratify you by staying sharp.
Do not look at any screen. Do not check your phone. Especially not that Facebook feed…
5. Treat social media as poison for your mind (which they are).
Social media are designed to keep you in a dopamine-seeking cue-reward loop. All those developers behind every major social media platform are using their extraordinary skills and brainpower for ultimately, one single purpose.
To make a f***ing lab rat out of you.
With the same data-based cue-reward mechanisms, which are used to train animals those applications are to tame you and teach you to scroll/hit likes/post videos so that you can get that that neurological candy in a form of like/comment/new content.
And then come back for more. Know, that those apps are good at it.
So just do not give them any chance. Before hitting that “play video” button, before checking that notification you got – remember you are about to sip a bit of poison. And before you know it, you will drink from the whole bottle bottom up. This will cloud your mind, drain your energy and get you away from your goal.
Do not let them distract you. Stay focused. Get the job done. Chase your dreams.
So the NEW normal is here… and it is far from normal, isn’t it?
The coronavirus pandemic, within a matter of weeks, changed our world into a poorly directed science-fiction movie. It brought the economic crash and created shifts in societal behaviors that could redefine our civilization as a whole. It also became a catalyst for quite a few technological trends, that so far was known to masses only from dystopian fiction.
These emerging technologies are there to stay, and will further redefine every daily life. It is worth a look, what new trinkets became more popular in these turbulent times. And give it a thought or two, on where these things might take us if we do not tread carefully.
1. Machine learning and Deep Fakes
The application of self-learning algorithms and neural networks is so common nowadays, that every digital business needs to embrace them in order to keep up with the competitors. These technologies are accessible to everyone, through open-source libraries such as Tensorflow, Pytorch, or Keras. Since everyone can use those, it also opens the door for new ways of fraud and deception. Deep Fake technology is the best example. The ability to render the physical appearance of other people and literally put words in their (digital) mouth can have enormous ramifications. In mass media, social media, politics… pretty much everywhere if you think about it. New tools for mimicking faces, voices & even whole silhouettes are popping up on the internet, and becoming increasingly more accessible.
Someone once said that with the rise of Deep Fake technology, the only way to verify if the person we are interacting with is real will be to meet in with that person face to face. Well, in the age of global lockdowns, quarantines, work from home, and virtual meetings, that might get “slightly” harder. And hey, apparently (as you can see in the below video), deep faking will become so easy that even a make-up selling Instagram celebrity will be able to do it. Guess soon, when running the videos on YouTube we will need a certified anti-deep fake plugin so that we can verify its credibility. (Assuming we trust YouTube, that is… but that is a whole different story).So… fake it until you make it?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUfJOQKdtAk&t
2. Digital payment methods
Banknotes and coins were considered dirty even before the pandemic, so no surprise that as soon as it was discovered that virus can survive on some surfaces WHO made a recommendation to switch to cashless payment methods. Can’t say that e-wallet providers were specifically waiting for this, but they definitely have their moment now. And so card and mobile payments are on the rise. It is estimated that global total transactions of digital payments went up by 15% in 2020 comparing to the previous year (Bussiness2community). These payment methods are fast, comfy, and most importantly – clean. They are also trackable. Every digital transaction we make can be tied directly to us, and have no doubts – that data is being processed somewhere, even if for solely commercial purposes. For example; to enable the provided to tailor more personalized offers and services in the future. (So to say, for our own good, right?)Ah, and yes, and unlike with our classy, old leather wallet, you can make the e-wallet disappear, by simply turning it off. Or better – someone can do that for you, remotely. So in theory, assuming you did or said something naughty, someone, who was listening, can flip the switch and send you back to the good old stone age. Of course, commercial companies wouldn’t do that, would they? Oh, wait, they already did… you can read it about it here: Buzzfeed.
Thinking of dystopian trends, such situations just bring an eerie familiarity to the ultimate dystopia described in the last part of the Book we all know. Here is how it goes:“Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.”
I am not suggesting anything… however, if you think about it, it is peculiar on how what we understood by money evolved over the ages. First, people were trading good for other goods or services, then money was based on the value of the precious metals the coins were made of, then money became a representation of value in gold, then they were just based on trust. Now in the age of global mistrust, what exactly is money?Means of trade or means of control?
In the digital economy, more and more aspects of our lives are becoming tracked, measured, and categorized. Including collecting data from our bodily functions. But if Big Data was on the fast rise before, the global health crisis sends it skyrocketing towards the moon. Or to be more exact in our metaphor, it let it dive into the tiniest minuscules of our bodies. The All-Seeing Eye started to peek into places, which not so long ago we would only be reserved for medical staff. However, in times of war with the omnipresent virus, we became much more tolerant of most intrusive measures, sacrificing our privacy for the greater good. And so the innovative use biometric data, become the bread and butter in the coronavirus fight. Apps that can diagnose COVID-19 infection by analyzing our voice, seem like a reasonable and would not raise anyone’s eyebrows. ( Source: Inteligentliving) . Same for automatic fever detection devices, which are becoming standard equipment for more and more airports around the world. But how about, the digital immunity certificate, that is imprinted in your digital identity and defines if you are viable for travel or not? How about having such a certificate as a must-have for even obtaining a passport? Let’s take it even, further, what if such certificate defines on if you are able to move freely through any public space… like school corridors for example.What if the bare fact of having a vaccination, or having a negative result of your COVID-19 test would allow you to have special privileges over those who are not vaccinated or are untested?What if the untested are marked red, and those tested-negative get green? What if the green-marked and red-marked are separated, and the first ones get their meals through fast-lane in a school cantine while the others need to wait?Sounds disturbing? Maybe reasonable? While some debate ethical aspects of such scenarios ( for example Harvard) others just get the ball rolling. And no, not just China. One of the German Gymnasiums sparked a lot of public outcry by carrying in their school corridors the exact solution like the one described above. No more geek versus bully battles. Nowadays we’ve got good citizen green versus suspicious rebel red. (Source Focus.de, for those who know German).
In the meantime, while most think of how biometric data can help to stop the pandemic, others keep digging into how to make more money out of it (out of data, not a pandemic… or?).And by digging I literally mean digging.A Big Tech Company we all know and love patented recently a revolutionary solution that allows using biometric data to mine bitcoin. Or to be more exact, it exploits the idea of injecting people with microchip implants, to store and use the data of their body activity. Having such a microchip would allow its bearer, to retrieve cryptocurrency, by solving complex computational problems without knowing it. (Source Biohackinfo.)
So I guess, breaking a sweat on a math equation would get the literal meaning.Remember those human farms from Matrix? The vision of millions of bodies trapped in metal cocoons, bred and harvested for energy?
That patented solution hits a somewhat similar tune. Minus sentient robot overlords and near-perfect virtual reality enslavement, of course. At least for now… that is.
But hey! Assuming, good people are handling these technologies, then the sole purpose of it would be to make our life easier and better. After all, the governments and big companies are made primarily of good and charitable people. There is nothing to worry about then… right?
And since those microchips I mentioned earlier, would store our health and genetic information linked to our digital identity, we would always know who is marked red and who is marked green. Those eternal dilemmas on who to keep as friends on Facebook would disappear forever.
I will leave you with that thought. Stay tuned for the next episode.
Note: Burning pages is my attempt to capture some elusive thoughts and observations before they turn to ash. Call it a journal if you want.
It all started a long time ago, with a dream of flames.
I was going through a dungeon. As I was descending into the darkness, an eerie, unfamiliar feeling would get hold of me.
I felt that I am surrounded.
My assailants were not mere mortals. These were dead corpses animated by some nefarious spirits, pacing slowly towards me, ramping up their noose around me. I couldn’t see them but I KNEW, they were there, getting closer. This was that extrasensory knowledge that is given in some dreams. The noose was getting tighter, and so got the grip of horror.
The demons were coming and I had nowhere to run.
Then I heard that omnipresent voice. It was powerful, terrifying and it came from WITHIN. It brought the words, which would resonate through me:
“Go for forth and set the world on fire.”
And the flames would burst all around. And I felt… free. When I woke up, I was revigorated, fresh. As if something new has started. I thought I am about to change the world. Start each day by sunset, and become the super-version of myself.
Almost a decade passed since I had that dream.
I tried my best in all those years, but for what I know I can’t even change my 2-year-old son to make him stop picking his nose and eating its content (hope you had your breakfast by now, Dear Reader).
The intricacies of “changing the world” stuff (however one understands it) became even clearer to me, how gruesome that task is. Not to mention the getting up at sunset part…
It took a freaking pandemic to get me going, again. Things had to hit the fan really hard, so I could realize I that I can’t stay still anymore. That I am not immoral.
That clock is ticking. It shows 5.30 now and it is time to rekindle the flame.
So here I am setting a fireplace in this remote corner of the worldwide web.
Scribbling words, which will hopefully illuminate that rusty basement I got sucked myself into through the daily duties.
Words are carriers of creation, words are carriers of destruction. Just like fire. Scientists say that all the objects in the universe are contantly resonating collections of atoms, shaped by frequencies. The universe is an echo, one might say, of One Voice.
It was also words that brought doom upon our miserable species. One bite will not kill you, we were told. Yet it did.
What stories will I bring to you?
Food for thought, I hope, or rather, fuel for your Inner Fire.
It will be tales of how I strive to keep the flame in my mortal shell, alive and burning. How I stride through this Brave New World trying not to lose that spark. That is a great task at hand, cause, I am surrounded. We are surrounded. Like in that dream of the dungeon.
We are continuously entertained, dumbfounded, blindfolded, cheered to compliance. We are to remain meek and short-sighted. Muzzled and wearied, we are not to stick our noses from the basement of our overwhelming daily duties.
The news, technology, and entertainment creators are there forming their cordon around us. The puppet masters, the demiurges of modern society, are always there, ready to serve us, with their viciously concealed dopamine triggers.
They are armed with mass-media guns, firing sugar-coated brain bullets, that aim for our minds and our very souls.
We are living in times, wherein the abundance of information the most scarce resource is the Truth. So we need fire in our spirits, in our hearts, in our minds to stay vigilant.
In these crazy times, we need a Flaming Torch, in our search for the Truth. We need that fire not just to push away the darkness, but to burn through the veil that has been cast on our eyes.
We need the flame to scorch those glazing neons that are set on our path.
So I invite you to read and join me on that journey.
Keep an open and inquisitive mind. Tread carefully. Question everything. Do not settle on mediocrity, do not hide in the comfort of ignorance. Do not accept blatant stories , nor petty lies but dig deep for the Truth.
And when you finally grasp it, know, that you might get burned. Be ready for it. So in the end, your Inner Flame will become radiant and strong. Like a beacon of Light.