Making Boundless Space and Taking Back our Minds
Technology is incontrovertibly persuasive – intentionally so. Mobile applications have fine-tuned – ever perfecting – the classic incentive-reward feedback loop that classically entraps addictive behaviors. The neuropathways are created and then sealed by the neurochemicals that promote a sense of pleasure. It is like providing the paraphernalia needed to consume a drug and following you around to learn how best to keep you toking – better. And researchers don’t have access to enough data to really see the effects constant smart phone use is having on us and the developing brains of the young people growing up with tech in hand.
But Facebook does. Every digital trace left by each interaction (a “like,” a click) is caught and then sold through “microtargeted access to advertisers, political campaigns and others.”
Anyone in the app-creating business wants people to use their app. The user experience is specifically designed to orchestrate our behavior, incentives and rewards designed to the nanosecond to hook us. There are classes and seminars that outline the process and teach methodologies that promote the reward-seeking behavior. Every buzz and ding of our “smart” devices is encoded to keep our eyes or attention glued to this device that goes with us everywhere.
Yet this same data that can help social scientists research the impact of tech use is unavailable to them because it is “proprietary.” Facebook has made a few tweaks to remedy some of the exploitation of the data they collect. Yet I am bewildered by the fact that this colossal database yields programming that has enormous control over what we see – and even “choose” – and will give access to this data to those willing to pay enough for it – who will, in turn, use their tech to brandish control over our thoughts and behavior . . . but does not open their coffers to scientists who can learn from it to help us all understand it better . . . so we can make better decisions – autonomous ones. Decisions not coerced by Instagram or candy crush. Or “fake news.” Or . . . name your poison.
Boundless Mind, co-founded by neuroscientists, Ramsay Brown and T. Dalton Combs, addresses the reality of smartphone dependency and addiction by using the technology to its advantage. It is clear that, while sometimes initially helpful, wellness apps and centering tools don’t even approach the core of what makes this tech so powerfully habit-forming. Boundless Mind integrates AI into programs and apps that are designed to make this world better – make us better.
For instance, AppliedVR created virtual reality tech as therapy to assist patients with chronic severe pain. Boundless Mind applies its program to AppliedVR’s interface to “learn from patients’ past behavior in order to personalize the interface, making it uniquely rewarding for each user.”
But they are selective about whom they will accept as customers. Their team first debates the ethics behind the tech and how it will be used around consistent questions, keeping in place accountability to each other, and to the welfare of society, in general. Doing the “right thing” takes precedence over making a lucrative sale.
I absolutely recommend downloading Boundless Mind’s app, Space – beautifully named, Space is a little hack that helps to break the incentive-reward chain, if even a little. At the same time, it disturbs me to consider how much my reaction and responses to activity on my phone is targeted and designed with incredible precision to keep me looking, scrolling, clicking . . . . Yes, let’s start with something that is designed exclusively to break the addiction cycle. Then, can we please find ways to put our devices down? Just put them down.
What will you do today to replace one of your tech habits? Choose an action you will do one time today – the first time you want to check that facebook or instagram notification. Break the addiction. Be present. Be in that space where the sound ends and the silence begins – that space where you might hear the voice of God.
You can find links to boundless mind’s website and the Space app, and a transcript of this podcast on my website, eirenicole.com
And today, may you walk freely at the pace of grace.
Music: Bye Bye 2010 (ft. SmoJos), 2011 Pitx Licensed to the public under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ Verify at http://ccmixter.org/files/Pitx/29923