Hacking the nucleus accumbens

FFFUTURES #7, Sept 29, 2020

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I don't want to get into the weeds of defining Perception and Reality. Suffice it to say that we rely on how we perceive reality to determine what reality truly is. This is why our minds experience XRS (extended reality stations) as a true escape from reality. To our mind's perception, this is a real portal to another reality.

Now, "perception" also plays a role in how we use the word "escape." For example, people with access to an XR Station think of "escape from reality" as just another entertainment activity. But for refugees being transported out of Xinjiang, waiting in limbo to be assigned to a new region, "escape from reality" is a whole different thing.

The reality is that these portals are restricted to affluent people. And affluent societies use these tools for amusement. Distraction is an escape, and escape is just a distraction.    

But for a refugee floating in the middle of the ocean in one of the cruises provided by the UN, "escape" is a word long forgotten, same as "distraction," "entertainment," and "amusement." Introducing them to XR Stations ends up having unintended consequences, as the commissioner Jüri Kaljul learned after receiving 350 refugees last month.

It's getting obvious that people who did not have the opportunity to grow up using this technology are not just behind those who did: they may actually not have a chance to ever catch-up.  

There are reports of people generating neurological disorders after using XR Stations, addiction being the most common one. The data seems to indicate that people from communities that live below the extreme poverty line are more vulnerable and susceptible to this type of addiction.

Their minds seem to experience XR not as a distraction, but as an actual portal to a different existence. Being able to simply "turn-on" this other reality is so alluring that it ends up fixated in their nucleus accumbens, the brain structure that plays a core role in the reward system.

The latest report from the European Commission for the Control of Alternative Realities proposed the use of XR Stations as a "humane path to alleviate damaged minds from decades of severe deprivation of basic human needs." As expected, this created a revolt in purist groups: they claim the humane approach would be to find a real solution, instead of just passing the buck to a station that generates fake realities. 

But then we come again to the beginning: Perception and reality... If a mind perceives a synthetic reality as its own absolute reality, then who are we (just another group of minds in the outside) to judge what reality truly is?

👁️ Omnirealities

Area15 does not exist

Area15 is a unique immersive entertainment complex at Las Vegas that offers extended reality art installations, retail, and other forms of entertainment. But due to the pandemic, its opening is being scaled down.

Although this gallery makes the bold move of putting extended realities experiences at the front of entertainment (and in a physical space), it’s confronting the unfortunate irony of a space dedicated to escape reality that can’t escape the reality brought by the pandemic.

🔮 Future Scenarios

The EU is launching a market for personal data

Anna Artyushina, a public policy scholar specializing in data governance and smart cities, writes an analysis about the European Union initiative to set up a pan-European pool of personal and non-personal information with aims for it to become a one-stop-shop for businesses and governments looking to access citizens’ information.

This new strategy represents a radical shift in the EU’s focus, from protecting individual privacy to promoting data sharing as a civic duty.

The plan describes the creation of mechanisms called data trusts to manage people’s data. Which is an odd approach considering the fact centralized models create headaches in terms of governing regulation, transparency, and security.

The report is based on this document: A European strategy for data (PDF)

💀 Not a Cylon

Wayne Barlowe, @waynebarlowe_thedarkness

Wayne Barlowe, @waynebarlowe_thedarkness

Wayne Barlowe, @waynebarlowe_thedarkness

🧠 Common Enemy

From viral conspiracies to exam fiascos, algorithms come with serious side effects

John Naughton, professor at the Open University, writes for The Guardian:

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, A-level and GCSE examinations had to be cancelled, leaving education authorities with a choice: give the kids the grades that had been predicted by their teachers, or use an algorithm. They went with the latter.

The article describes different scenarios in which the use of AI/ML ends up disrupting the social fabric, especially when is used for taking decisions that affect the “offline world“.

The side-effects of machine-learning within the walled gardens of online platforms are problematic enough, but they become positively pathological when the technology is used in the offline world by companies, government, local authorities, police forces, health services and other public bodies to make decisions that affect the lives of citizens. Who should get what universal benefits? Whose insurance premiums should be heavily weighted? Who should be denied entry to the UK? Whose hip or cancer operation should be fast-tracked?

📿 A Return to Faith

An excerpt from “Every Last Breath: A Memoir of Two Illnesses”

Tablet mag shares an excerpt from Joanne Jacobson’s upcoming book Every Last Breath: A Memoir of Two Illnesses. The book follows two chronic illnesses as they grow intertwined: the author’s mother’s respiratory illness, and Joanne’s own diagnosis with a rare blood disorder. Her writing shares the discovery of transformation among relapse and remission.

At this season of the year we look back, and then forward: hoping for signs, trying to accept the fact of change ahead that we cannot know. Who will live and who will die? Who in their time, and who not their time? Who by fire and who by water? The ancient poem provokes us as we recite it, placing before us the inevitability of hurt. This year I feel a tug at my throat, feel my mother struggling for breath, as I join her and the voices of the televised congregation: Who by strangling and who by stoning?


Crows possess higher intelligence long thought a primarily human attribute

Crows know what they know and can ponder the content of their own minds, a manifestation of higher intelligence and analytical thought long believed the sole province of humans and a few other higher mammals.

Are you hacking with futures and other realities? Do you have comments, stories, or suggestions? I’d like to hear from you. Reach out: heyfffutures@gmail.com

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