Collective self-deception

I just finished reading Global Brain. There were lots of parts deserving of comment, but I wouldn’t really be adding anything to the discussion except saying “Look, THIS” and pointing at quotes. Suffice to say, I think it’s worth reading (and if anybody wants to borrow it, they are welcome to – it’s actually quite short, since the book is essentially half references and notes).

Anyhow, there was one part that resonated with me that was related to my attempt to be open and honest about certain aspects of my life, which is unfortunately in conflict with what the law deems to be true. This particular piece is discussing a Baptist town in New York State which is fervently against this “era’s godless sins”, and how the reality was that most individuals indulged in those same sins to their holy shame, assuming that they were the only transgressors:

“How completely the annointed had commandeered collective perception became apparent when Schanck asked the closet dissenters how other people in the community felt about face cards, liquor, a smoke, and levity. Hoodwinked by suppression, each knew without a doubt that he was the sole transgressor in a saintly sea. He and he alone could not control his demons of depravity. None had the faintest inkling that he was part of a silenced near-majority.

Here was an arch lesson in the games subcultures play. reality is a mass halucination. We gauge what’s real according to what others say. And others, like us, rein in their words, caving in to timidity. Thanks to conformity enforcement and to cowardice, a little power goes a long, long way.”

Obviously that’s an extreme version of the issue I’m obtusely referring to, since within our personal groups there is openness about these things. But to go beyond that, and announce it to your work colleagues is to risk job loss. However, without facing that risk, we are buying in to the validity of those laws. I don’t suggest anyone do so, but it’s a difficult catch 22 situation to be in.

Drugs and Internet Culture

I while ago I finished “What the Dormouse said” by John Markoff, subtitled “How the 60s counterculture shaped the computer revolution”. Although I was vaguely aware of the use of LSD in the development of the internet and personal computing, this book made it a lot clearer… particularly about how prolific it was. It was actually used as an enabler for team planning meetings of major businesses! Circuit designers would use it to visualise and solve logic problems (how exactly they did this with the other associated effects going on, I’m not sure, perhaps dose high enough for loss of consciousness of the external world?).

In reverse, the internet itself is a prolific source of drug information. Users (double meaning unintended) are essentially anonymous, there is a large amount of information available. Knowledge of new “research chemicals” can quickly be disseminated. Books that have been made difficult to obtain due to their possibly controversial nature (e.g. Pihkal) can be shared P2P. Suppliers of various substances can actually sell and ship research chemicals to people despite local drug laws, partly by luck of the substances getting through local customs (some suppliers will even try multiple times if the first attempt is intercepted), but often these research chemicals are too obscure for authorities to be aware of their usage in a recreational setting. This, however getting difficult to carry out, as the authorities are also becoming more aware of the internet as a source of knowledge on recreational substances.

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