Hey y’all. It’s a busy week for me, and it’s finally sunny in Emerald City, so I’m going to keep this short and useful.
Last week I discussed the root exploit of cognitive systems – hacking someone’s mind is all about defining their narrative. As cognitive security practitioners, we have to write our own narratives, define our own context. Coherence is the name of the game: does your worldview mesh with your lived experience? If you notice the world not acting as you expected it to, do you adjust your expectations accordingly? Cognitive dissonance is an opportunity to learn, but first you have to notice that you’re confused. This is cogsec meditation.
Today I’m bringing you a cogsec primer, or a roundup of primers. These are some of the resources that have helped me clarify my thinking. We’re not looking for overarching theories here. We need practical tips and constructive distinctions. These are all super useful and worth reading, so I’ll just organize them by length of time they take to absorb.
Much of the LessWrong material by Eliezer Yudkowsky is long and technical, so not a great place to get started. There are a variety of rationalist primers out there, which I trust you can find if you want. But the most immediately useful techniques are what he calls the Litany of Tarski and the Litany of Gendlin. They’re little mantras that center the mind in reality. If you find yourself confused, and you notice your own confusion, a great next step is to repeat one of the Litanies. Quoted in full:
If the box contains a diamond,
I desire to believe that the box contains a diamond;
If the box does not contain a diamond,
I desire to believe that the box does not contain a diamond;
Let me not become attached to beliefs I may not want.
The Meditation on Curiosity
The Litany of Tarski is actually a litany template that can be stated about any fact. Here’s another example:
If the sky is blue
I desire to believe that the sky is blue
If the sky is not blue
I desire to believe that the sky is not blue.
What is true is already so.
Owning up to it doesn’t make it worse.
Not being open about it doesn’t make it go away.
And because it’s true, it is what is there to be interacted with.
Anything untrue isn’t there to be lived.
People can stand what is true,
for they are already enduring it.
Cognitive Bias Cheat Sheet
Last year, a guy called Buster Benson distilled Wikipedia’s massive List of Cognitive Biases into a solution-oriented cheat sheet. It went viral. A few months later he distilled it even further, into a super-useful microformat. Check out the simplified cheat sheet here . If you like it, definitely check out the full list .
Time Well Spent
Philosopher and technologist Tristan Harris worked on design ethics for Google. It seems that didn’t work out too well, because the Goog is still a time-suck attention vampire and Harris is now pushing a contemplative-computing movement called Time Well Spent. He wrote a great essay last summer, called How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind — from a Magician and Google Design Ethicist . It’s a brilliant vivisection of the information age and how the software we use is programming us back. The other Time Well Spent articles are great too, but this one is a must-read. Have you ever wondered how the smartphone took over the world in a single decade? Harris shows how our dopamine systems and cognitive biases are used against us by the machine overlords.
Taxonomy of News Methodologies as Regards Factuality
It seems like 2016 was a wake-up year for a lot of people. If you didn’t already know that Faceboot was adulterating your “feed”, and that the major news outlets are all owned by just six megacorps, then 2016 was the year you found out. For those of us that were already culture-jamming and off-gridding, it was a welcome unveiling.
Adam Rothstein, an “insurgent archivist” and founder of the Portland Occupier newspaper, made a helpful guide for identifying the many varieties of Fake News . It’s a fun read, though long. It’s an exceptionally good thing to have on your bookmark bar, though, for those moments where you wonder, “Is this true? Who wrote it? What do they want from me?”
Okay, that’s it for the roundup. Let me know what you think after reading, and if you notice any difference in your thinking habits over the next week. As always, correspondence is how we write a new reality together.
Thanks for letting me into your head,
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