We at Democracy At Twilight
believe deep attentiveness
and long lasting memory storage is required to read books effectively.
Neuro-Plasticity a characteristic of brain development that tells
us even the adult brain is constantly adapting to our habits of
taking in information. The Brain adapts efficiently to the mode
of learning it is subjected to.
Neurons and synapses in the
brain will adapt to new patterns of exposure and dissolve old pathways
of learning such as were used to those who were once voracious readers
of books. Those who never developed a taste for reading books have
never had these
particular pathways of reflective and deep reading.
Many who were once such voracious readers have noticed
the difficulty that they now have, after years of exposure to
beneficial yet distracting Internet use.
They now have a struggle
reading any lengthily article in print or online beyond a page or
two. The ability to move information from our short-term working
memory to our long term memory is dependent upon our ability to
concentrate and reflect on what we have learned. Research indicates
the transfer of the memories may take several days to accomplish.
Thus we become much more
hyper-suggestible to the immediate exposure to episodic information
while losing the rich connections of richly contextual cognition
( i.e.. Isolated knowledge as opposed to deeper qualities of 'wise'
The Shallows is a book that Democracy At Twilight
would like to propose for group study.
On a different approach,
we also refer to an excerpt from
The Smart Swarm: How Understanding
Flocks, Schools, and Colonies can make us better at Communicating,
Decision Making, and Getting Things Done by Peter Miller , The
Penguin Group , New York, 2010. ($32,50 Cnd)
No one argues the fact
that there is much to be gained at observing structure and activity
in the animal and insect world to see how they adapt to and organize
their environment. The problem comes when
the intelligence is attributed to a random open source which frees
individuals to use such wisdom in a random open approach to ethical
behavior. ( I.e.. Utilitarianism: If it works, use it. )
So in using material from
this book we would make a different between animal or insect instincts,
and the human use of such knowledge, under which we are accountable
to a much higher level of how we use knowledge and the imagination
we add to it which no other beings can do.
We here quote from Chapter
Three: Termites - One Thing Leads To Another. ( Pp. 144 -148 ) where
Michael Kearns, a computer scientist at University of Pennsylvania
had the students at Levine Hall participate in a variety of computer
networked games on Choosing Optimal Coloration.One experiment involved
student seeking consensus rather than than uniqueness. We quote
" To make the experiments
more interesting, Kearns told a small number of students taking
part that they'd be paid a bonus if the group as a whole would select
red, while the majority of the students were told to select blue.
He didn't pick red players at random, though. He selected those
with the most neighbors in the network, those occupying hub positions.
Because of their roles as connectors, he figured, they'd have a
greater opportunity to be influential. Could such a well connected
minority impose its will on a less motivated minority?"
" He didn't tell
the students at the time, but this version of the experiment was
directly inspired by the Democratic presidential primary season
of 2008, which had dragged on for months without producing a consensus
candidate. 'It went on for so long that, at least for the first
time I've ever seen, Democrats were actually saying, you know, this
isn't good,' Kearns says. 'McCain is getting his campaign up and
running and here we are, fighting with each other. We're looking
bad.' Even so, nobody wanted to tell the main contenders they shouldn't
run. So the whole thing kept grinding on."
"What would happen,
Kearns wondered, if one or another of the candidates was able to
gain the support of key connectors in the Party? If a small, but
influential group of individuals put their minds to it, could they
win the nomination for their candidate? The answer was an unequivocal
yes. In 20 of 24 games, the minority was able to impose its preference
on the majority - even when they were outnumbered six to one. Being
highly connected in the consensus game turned out to be a powerful
Group behavior in humans
in fads, fashions and financial market herding have their reflections
in the flocking of birds and the schooling of fish. The instinct
to belong is a most powerful force in the natural and human world.
But the decision of the group is not always reliable. Strange things
can and do happen when individuals let peer pressure overwhelm their
People can completely ignore their own evaluation in deference
to the social context. Or to quote Peter Miller, " This was
the downside, of course, of a system in which individuals took their
cues mainly from one another." - p. 207 When the group strays
off course, they can do so in a dramatic way.
The instinct to conform
to the group is powerful. Miller quotes Simon Levin, a biologist
at Princeton saying; " "A group of teenage girls or boys
might decide they're all going to get tattoos, or wear rings, or
certain clothes" (ed. i.e.. purple ) he comments. "This
is not an isolated incident. They do so because there are exclusive
groups that form based on whether you are in or out.
So there's a lot of peer pressure. Part of it's imitation and part
of it's the pressure that comes from rewards that you get, or the
punishments that you get if you don't follow these behaviors."
- p 211.
The difference is that people, as opposed to herds, or flocks, or
schools of fish, have the faculty of reason, which they can allow
to overrule peer pressure which is seen to be illogical.
The question Democracy
At Twilight asks, is whether that little luminous screen of
constantly interrupting text fragments, cues from the outside,has
not crowded out the space for independent thought.
The Net Delusion
Side Of Internet Freedom
Affairs, New York, 2011
We ask readers of Democracy At Twilight
to serious consider reading the book pictured below by Stanford
Scholar Evgeny Morozov.
"THE REVOLUTION WILL BE TWITTERED"
declared journalist Andrew Sullivan after protests erupted in Iran
in June 2009. Yet for all the talk about the democratizing power
of the Internet, regimes in Iran and China are as stable and repressive
as ever. In fact, authoritarian governments are effectively using
the Internet to suppress free speech, hone their surveillance techniques,
disseminate cutting-edge propaganda, and pacify their populations
with digital entertainment. Could the recent Western obsession with
promoting democracy by digital means backfire?
In this spirited book, journalist and social commentator Evgeny
Morozov shows that by falling for the supposedly democratizing nature
of the Internet, Western do-gooders may have missed how it also
entrenches dictators, threatens dissidents, and makes it harder
- not easier - to promote democracy. Buzzwords like "twenty-first-century
statecraft" sound good in PowerPoint presentations, but the
reality is that "digital diplomacy" requires just as much
oversight and consideration as any other kind of diplomacy.
"Evgeny Morozov is wonderfully knowledgeable about the Internet
- he seems to have studied every use of it, or every political use,
in every country in the world (and to have read all the posts).
And he is wonderfully sophisticated and tough-minded about politics.
This is a rare combination, and it makes for a powerful argument
against the latest versions of technological romanticism. His book
should be required reading for every political activist who hopes
to change the world on the Internet." - Michael Walzer, Institute
for Advanced Study, Princeton.
In relation to recent social media swarming
elections, I quote from page 315, the book's concluding chapter
" The fact that do-gooders usually mean well does not mitigate
the disastrous consequences that follow from their inability ( or
just sheer lack of ambition ) to engage with broader social and
political dimensions of technology.
As the German psychologist Dietrich Dorner observed in The Logic
Of Failure, his masterful account of how decision-makers' ingrained
psychological biases could aggravate existing problems and blind
them to the far more detrimental consequences of proposed solutions,
"it's far from clear whether 'good intentions plus stupidity'
or 'evil intentions plus intelligence' have wrought more harm in
the world." In reality, the fact that we mean well should only
give us extra reasons for scrupulous self-retrospection, for, according
to Dorner, "incompetent people with good intentions rarely
suffer the qualms of conscience that sometimes inhibit the doings
of competent people with bad intentions."
Page 312-14 also includes a few sentences which speak to such utopian
documents as the Imagine Calgary:
One Hundred Year Plan that was adopted by the City
of Calgary in 2006.
" Thus, most digital visionaries see the Web as a Swiss army
knife ready for any job at hand. They rarely alert us to the information
black holes created by the Internet, from the sprawling surveillance
apparatus facilitated by the public nature of social networking
to the persistence of myth making and propaganda, which is much
easier to produce and distribute in a world where every fringe movement
blogs, tweets, and Facebooks.........The technologists... "largely
extrapolate from today or tomorrow while showing painfully limited
interest in the past," as Howard Segal, another historian of
technology, once mused. This, perhaps, explains the inevitable barrage
of utopian claims every time a new invention comes along. After
all, it's not historians of technology but futurists - those who
prefer to fantasize about the bright but unknowable future rather
than confront the dark but knowable past - that make the most outrageous
claims about the fundamental, world-transforming significance of
any new technology, especially it it is already on its way to making
the cover of Time magazine."
Lisa Rosner argues that "technological fixes, because they
attack symptoms but don't root out causes, have unforeseen and deleterious
side effects that may be worse than the social problem they were
intended to solve." When digital activism is presented as the
new platform for campaigning and organizing, one begins to wonder
whether it has side effects - further disengagement between traditional
oppositional forces who practice real politics, no matter how risky
and boring, and the younger generation, passionate about campaigning
on Facebook and Twitter - would outweigh the benefits of cheaper
and leaner communications. If the hidden costs of digital activism
include the loss of coherence, morality, or even sustainability
of the opposition movement, it may not be a solution worth pursuing.
- p. 304.
Of Google Search Alternating
What We Choose To Retain In Memory - News pdf