Manipulation techniques in the media

Many people are convinced that they have their own opinions: about politics, the economy, the latest news, sports, and so on. But instead very often their opinions are not theirs: they are born, grown, and orientated, under the astute guidance of newspaper columnists, or television news producers. The opinions of people fall into a furrow that has already been plowed previously.

media-manipulation-techniques-frontIn this article I decided to collect some of the manipulation techniques that the media use to influence the masses, among those that I’m able to see, and among those that impress me the most for how sneaky and damn effective they are. These techniques are used by the media more or less always for the same purposes:

  • get attention (and therefore get money through advertisements)
  • promote the agenda of some political party or corporation

Of course the people who are influenced by the media are never aware of it -they think they have “personal” and “free” opinions- so I hope that, if you are victim of one of these manipulation techniques, this article will be useful for you to realize it. So let’s start with an all time classic:

1. Keeping figures who don’t count much constantly under the spotlight

media-manipulation-techniques-spotlight-for-irrelevant-figuresA fundamental pillar of media manipulation is to keep at the center of the stage, constantly, figures who don’t count much. Often they are figures who are likely to make “hard” declarations, racist, sexist, that easily generate indignation in the public. These figures are typically unpopular and the media are perfectly aware of it, they keep on interviewing them frequently, and their nonsenses are immediatly broadcasted in all the news generating “flames” among people, i.e. fierce arguments.

From their side, these figures who don’t count much are often pleased for the attention received, and they’re not aware themselves of being puppets that are playing in a much bigger game, a game that has the real goal of keeping behind the scenes, far from the spotlight and unknown to the mass, the faces and the names of the figures that really count a lot: bankers, lobbyists, leaders of corporations, and these certainly are much less visible in the news.

It works perfectly: people channel all their hate and insults on irrelevant figures, without realizing that the practical life they have every day (alarm – coffee – rush out of the house – traffic – office – grocery…) depends instead very very much upon the decisions of completely different figures, who are far from the spotlight, and who can use their power undisturbed.

Maybe, sometimes, even these other figures have racist or sexist thoughts, but they certainly don’t make the error of vocalising them on television: they’re smart enough not to make any declaration that could negatively impact their public image, and they are very careful not to overexpose themselves. They prefer to leave the puppets at the center of the stage.

2. Keeping places that don’t count much constantly under the spotlight

media-manipulation-techniques-spotlight-on-parliamentDo you really believe that the parliament is the place where the important decisions are taken? Rarely. The important decisions by now are taken in completely different places: in private villas, on bar tables, in restaurants. And they are taken right by those figures that are unknown to the mass, who discuss contracts worth billions without the interference of tv cameras.

In the meanwhile there’s plenty of media coverage for what happens inside the parliament: the voting sessions, the declarations of the politicians, the bagarres in the main room when the opposition gets upset, the squabbles on marginal issues, and so on.

Let’s clarify: in theory in would make a lot of sense to keep the attention on the parliament… if the parliament really was the place where the laws are made. Unfortunately in practice, and this is true for many governments, the parliament in its entirety is a machine of monstrous inefficiency, that produces a law every once in awhile. It’s not a matter of right, left, center or opposition: it’s the whole parliament that is an unproductive organ.

And in the few cases in which they really get to produce a law, often the process is not very democratic. In fact there isn’t any dialogue between the parts: each politician gets up, takes the microphone, makes his declarations that the opposers barely listen to, and sits down. The scene is repeated with reversed roles. Then everybody votes following indications arrived from the top, from the leaders of the two factions, that often are not even sitting in the parliament, or are not even part of it at all (lobbyists, bankers, etc).

So in a similar way to the previous case, a second manipulation technique by the media -very effective- consists in putting the spotlight on the parliament, suggesting the idea that that in the center of the action, leaving instead that on the tables of a bar, few blocks away, someone else is deciding the fate of the country in front of a coffee.

3. Flooding blogs and online news with trolls

media-manipulation-techniques-internet-trollsIn case you’re not familiar with the slang of internet, in the context of blogs and online news websites, a troll is is someone who comments an article with specific purposes: create divisions in the community, ridicule the author, insinuate doubts between the readers, dampen the enthusiasm.

The estabilishment understood one thing: it’s easy to manipulate people through old monodirectional media, like television. With television the propaganda is delivered to the audience, and the audience can’t do much more than absorb it. But it’s a lot more difficult to keep internet under control. Non only there is a huge variety of opposition sites that spread “inconvenient” contents, but those same opposition sites allow a bidirectional exchange: the users can comment the articles, discuss among themselves, share contacts. And all of this is extremely dangerous for those who keep the power.

So the most effective technique they found to manipulate people -also on internet- is to flood these sites with trolls. Trolls who, as soon as a new article with potentially “dangerous” contents is published, get to work and fill it with comments loaded with skepticism, pessimism, sarcasm, or simply insult the other real users creating flames, so that, if nothing else works, at least they divert the attention away from the original theme that was discussed in the article.

Trolls are difficult to identify, especially because thanks to the anonymity typical of internet they can appear with different names, and seem numerically many more than how many they actually are. The effectiveness of their work stands on the fact that many people have a natural tendency to let their opinions align with the collective opinion (or at least that they perceive as the collective opinion).

In spite of this, with a little training you’ll develop enough sense to be able to unmask them with ease, and at that point you will also realize which are the sites that do real opposition to the estabilishment, because usually they’re exactly those where the troll infestation is more severe.

4. Distracting people with the rights

media-manipulation-techniques-pinkwashingMedia use different strategies to distract the audience, taking the general attention away from important themes and repositioning it on minor themes. A good example is the great relevance that they give to the “rights”, and of these a very popular case are the rights of women and homosexuals.

A word that explain this technique extremely well is pinkwashing, or in other terms “pink” brain washing, that is realized on people by governments and corporations. Media are full of examples of pinkwashing: food products that sponsor the research against breast cancer, interviews to politicians who repeat like a mantra the importance of having gay marriages, countries that promote LGBT tourism and encourage events like the gay pride.

All great causes obviously… if it wasn’t that these governments and corporations often are so friendly with women and homosexuals for convenience more than anything else (after all it’s a strategy that doesn’t cost much and brings great results in terms of reputation), but even more if it wasn’t that while as facade they are so sensible to the problems of these categories, behind the scenes they use horrible practices, that range from “not very ethical” to “criminal”.

In fact, from one side a food corporation remarks the importance of prevention in women’s health, on the other side behind the scenes they fill their snacks with chemical additives that cause addiction (often even carcinogenic…) and use marketing models that are destructive for the environment. From one side a government broadcasts frequent pro-gay spots on television and in the name of equality, on the other side behind the scenes they colonize foreign territories and practice racial segregation. And so on.

There’s a strong emotional component, that of women and homosexuals, that is exploited to manipulate the public. Among the people who belong to these categories, that often historically have been disadvantaged, and that more often have been victims of abuses, there’s a strong desire for validation. And those who control the media understood this well: they provide this validation by pushing constantly the button of their rights, so that then they can trample on the rights of many other categories without too many interferences.

5. Distracting people with meaningless problems

media-manipulation-techniques-meaningless-problemsA second technique that the media use to distract people is to discuss meaningless problems, and among these a case that I like to mention often is the case of dog abandonment.

In my country, Italy, it’s a great classic which is re-proposed every summer (probably each country has its own peculiar case). Looking at the coverage given to this “problem” in the national news, it would seem like every year the roads of the country are invaded by thousands of cruel people, who drive back and forth searching for a street pole at which they can tie their animal. The idea is ridiculous, but unfortunately it works very well because it takes advantage of the emotional component of many people who are passionate of domestic animals.

Obviously, we all agree that abandoning a domestic animal is a terrible practice, but giving so much coverage to this theme, that is numerically irrelevant, means to take room away fron the possibility of showing real problems, much more impactful for the life of people.

Unfortunately the method works, and the result is tragic and comic at the same time: while the parasitic banking system causes unemployment and debt, while in the middle east thousands of people are brutally tortured and killed, while there’s an epidemic of problems linked to the lifestyle, like depression and food intolerances… the news viewers and the readers of newspapers get angry and emotional for the abandonement of pets.

6. Demonizing the real opposition

media-manipulation-techniques-demonizing-real-oppositionThe estabilishment uses the mainstream media to neutralize the real opposers, those who reveal the abuses and start to gain enough consensus to represent a serious threat, with a simple but centainly effective strategy: they give them little coverage, and when they give them coverage, they sling mud at them.

It doesn’t matter that a politician, activist, journalist, philosopher, has a flawless past. If he’s identified by the establishment as a target, there are a thousand different ways to depict him in the media to make him appear as extremist, dishonest, immoral, crazy.

All they have to do is to take a long speech given by the opposer, maybe hours long, and from that speech extract a single phrase that can be misunderstood, and then publish it everywhere in the news. And simply in terms of images, the opposer can participate to a public event and talk almost always with a relaxed expression, but from the recordings of that intervention the media can extract anyway a single frame in which the oppositor had a scowling face, or was frowning, and place that on the first page with an insinuating title.

Obviously, if the person we’re talking about doesn’t have a flawless past everything becomes easier. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to discover that some governments, or various groups of power, have created entire offices dedicated to search for fiscal errors of the opposers, to try to tap them on the phone, and in general to dig trying to find their mistakes. If they made the minimal error, almost certainly it will be exposed sooner or later and will be published everywhere in the media.

7. Giving coverage to the fake opposition

media-manipulation-techniques-coverage-fake-oppositionThose who control the media know well that there is the need for opposition, at least one.

Many people “in the mass” often are not able to see the main causes of many of their problems (i.e. the parasitic nature of the banking system, the corporations that encourage consumerism, the government that works for itself and the lobbies rather than for the citizens), but this doesn’t eliminate the fact that they can feel the pain consequent to these causes: the frustration due to the lack of free time, the boredom/stress due to meaningless jobs, the unhappiness due to too many objects and too few human relationships.

The elite that holds the power understands well that this negative feeling needs a vent valve, otherwise there would really be a revolution that would change the system. And so they provide it, but setting up a fake opposition.

And it really doesn’t require a lot of work: there are many figures that spontaneously fit well the role of the fake opposers, it’s enough to keep them frequently under the tv cameras. Politicians who, in the interviews, declare their contrariness to the actions of the government (and then behind the scenes make agreements with it) or politicians who are really contrary to the actions of the government, but have such bizarre personalities and ideas that they almost succeed in making the main party of the government appear like the “lesser evil”.

8. Giving positive names to crap

media-manipulation-techniques-language-gamesAnother classic manipulation technique, used a lot in the media, is all based on language: they use names to which people instinctively associate a “positive” connotation to call some big crap produced by the corporations and the government.

A simple example, easy to recognize, are the commercials on television (note, to understand if a product/service is garbage you can apply this simple but practically infallible criterion: if it’s advertised on television then it’s garbage). There’s an enormous variety of snacks full of colorants, preservatives, various toxic sludge, whose names contain the words special, happy, diet, light, natural.

But then there are other examples of higher level manipulation, like many actions taken by the government, that are not as evident to the general public. War missions in foreign countries and military occupancy become missions of peace. Tax increments are included in plans for the recovery or treaties for stability. In my country the institute for fiscal monitoring is called equitàlia (from equity). And above everything else there is it, the nonsense word that clogs the news and is repeated everywhere in the media like a mantra: growth.

Political leaders and leaders of corporations continue to repeat everywhere the importance of having economic growth, and people often don’t realize what’s really behind this message, just because often to the word growth they associate something good.

The reality is that pursuing infinite growth -of the economy, the production, the population- on a planet with finite resources is a nonsense and dangerous. It would make more sense, in my opinion, to talk about development, but this words is never used in the media. The reason why the leaders of politics and corporations insist instead with economic growth is that growth generates taxes, and taxes pay the salary to the politicians themselves (who then re-distribute in cascade the money to the corporation “friends”), and allow them to do what they want to do.


Let your opinions be really yours

Many other techniques can be discussed, but these that I described in this short list are definitely among those that I “feel” more, and against which I consider more useful to keep the attention bar high.

It seems to me that there are evident effects of the media manipulation in many people, who have the habit to talk regurgitating someone else’s opinion, rather than talk giving voice to their own opinion.

media-manipulation-techniques-regurgitate-someone-elses-opinionsThe best method to avoid to fall in this trick, and to avoid that your opinion falls in the pre-packaged, pre-plowed furrow of the media is to apply critical thinking. Don’t believe a story simply because everyone else believes it, or because the source is an authority. Become aware that most media are constantly hunting for attention (“attention whores“), and that consequently they intentionally publish many news that generate strong reactions -rage, indignation, excitement- exactly with the goal of capturing the audience.

And always ask yourself, each time you listen to the news or read the newspaper, if the intention of the person who is spreading that news is really to show unaltered facts to inform the public… or instead his intention is to manipulate the publis, at his own advantage.


Notes:

Related: What is the “system”?, How to free yourself from the system

How your body uses the different nutrients

Here is how your body uses the macronutrients (those needed in larger quantities):

Proteins are used to build the structures, like muscles, nails, hair. These structures give a “shape” to your body, this is the reason why many bodybuilders stress the importance of eating high-protein foods. Some healthy sources of proteins are: legumes, quinoa, fish, eggs, tempeh, unsweetened organic yogurt, unprocessed organic meat.
Carbohydrates are used for energy, which allows your body to move. It’s a good strategy to get carbohydrates in the meals that precede physical exercise (think to athletes who eat a piece of fruit half an hour before performing). Some healthy sources of carbohydrates are: brown rice, fruits and vegetables, raw organic honey, amaranth, sweet potatoes.
Fats are used to build protective layers around organs, to digest fat-soluble vitamins, and as stored energy. It’s an old myth that “fats make you fat”: it’s processed junk foods that make you fat, instead. Fats are vital for your body. Some healthy sources of fats are: extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts like walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, peanuts.

And here is how your body uses the micronutrients (those needed in smaller quantities -but still necessary-):

Vitamins are used for many vital functions, for example they help metabolism, act as antioxidants, regulate cell and tissue growth. It’s important to note that many vitamins are sensitive to heat, so people who sistematically cook their meals at high temperatures (boiling, frying…) “kill” the vitamins and end up with a vitamin-deficient diet.
Minerals are used to build that part of your body which is actually mineral, like bones and teeth, that are made of calcium. They are also employed in many other important processes, for example magnesium supports protein synthesis, sodium controls muscle contraction and nerve function, iron makes hemoglobin in red blood cells that carry oxygen in the body.

Finally, even if sometimes they’re not technically labeled as nutrients or not included in the previous groups, here is how your body uses three other elements of your diet of vital importance:

Fiber is the part of the plants which is not digested in your body, -so it actually survives the entire transit in the intestines-, but it is used to make the feces more airy, soft, so they flow through the intestines easily. Fiber prevents constipation and diarrhea, and it is particularly abundant in the skin of many fruits and vegetables, and in the bran of whole grains.
Phytochemicals, the compounds in fruits and vegetables that are responsible for their organolectic properties (like color and smell), may have a huge number of healthy benefits. Most studies are still cautious, but I “guess” that in the future they will clearly show a strong correlation between phytochemicals and good health / disease prevention. Phytochemicals are very abundant in bright colored vegetables and fruits.
Water makes a significant fraction of the human body (variable from 55% to 75%), and it serves a number of important functions, for example: it regulates body temperature by sweating and respiration, lubricates joints, flushes waste in urine, keeps membranes moist, forms saliva, acts as a carrier to distribute essential nutrients to the cells.

Notes: For simplicity I grouped minerals all together in the micronutrients group, however sometimes a separation is made among microminerals (or “trace minerals”) and macrominerals.

Related: Density of nutrients

Cellar spider eggs

It seems like it’s reproductive period for cellar spiders: yesterday I found two mama spiders on the ceiling in my house in the countryside, each holding a ball of eggs. Very fascinating. I took these close pictures that came out very good.

cellar-spider-eggs-1 cellar-spider-eggs-2 cellar-spider-eggs-3 cellar-spider-eggs-4 cellar-spider-eggs-5Today, the situation for the first spider (yellow background) is the same, she’s still up there holding her eggs. The other one instead has released her offspring during the night, and now the baby spiders are all around in a small constellation.

The function of labor

The function of labor has changed profoundly in modern times: today it’s not about producing resources anymore, but rather about controlling the access to the resources. Incredibly, it seems like many people still have not noticed it.

funzione-del-lavoro-copertinaUnproductive labor

Every day a river of employees plunges into the traffic, and then they lock themselves 8 and more hours in the office… but practically they’re not producing anything. A minimal part of these workers, sure, really produces useful resources. Maybe they create innovative technological applications, or do research in the science field or nutrition field.

But unfortunately this minimal part is overshadowed, crushed by an enormous mass of employees who, in hours of fluff in front of the computers, doesn’t produce any concrete value for the society. I’ve also been part of this mass, and currently many of my relatives and friends are part of it, so I know well the feeling of “not having produced anything” and the end of a day in the office.

Why does this happen? Are the workers the cause, who are too lazy and demotivated, and who therefore in many hours of labor don’t produce anything worth noticing? Actually, just in minimal part. The main cause of the unproductivity are not the workers, but labor itself: it’s conceived bad, and even more importantly it’s not needed.

Labor is conceived bad

On the fact that the modern labor is conceived bad I’ve written already, so here I’ll be very brief.

The problem is that we insist in using a model of labor from the industrial age, obsolete, that was valid in the past, when an employee who was assigned to work at the lathe for 8 hours moving a handle, was really spending 8 hours moving the handle. But this model is still in use today, and applied to the intellectual labor, of concept, it doesn’t work. I will never repeat enough that the idea of carrying on intellectual labor for 8 and more hours a day is unrealistic.

There is the stubbornness to bind labor to the time that the worker actually spends working, like if the customers who buy a good/service would care about how many hours it was necessary to work to produce it. This bond doesn’t make a lot of sense, for a growing number of jobs. What makes sense, instead, is to bind labor to the value that is created and delivered to the customers.

Labor is not needed anymore

But there’s something even more interesting: the fact that labor is unproductive, actually, is not a problem. I know that this statement seems counterintuitive, but we need to consider that we reached a point, in history, where we don’t need to increase the production of resources, because there are already resources for everybody. As a matter of fact, there are definitely too many.

For example in terms of food. Currently we’re over 7 billion people on the planet, but we produce food to feed 12 billion. So we produce too much food and we throw it away, but we’re able anyway, in the meanwhile, to leave millions of people die of starvation (in Africa and other poor countries). The waste of the resource food has been put in numbers by a report published few years ago, that highlighted how a percentage between the 30 and 50% of the food produced on the planet never reaches a human stomach. And without consulting the numbers, we see it well in our houses and in the supermarkets: a lot of food is thrown away, too much.

And what can we say about the food for the mind? Even of this there is a lot, infinitely more than the amount that the current society seems to desire. The shelves of the libraries contain many great books, but the majority of people will not read any of these books, or at best just a handful, in an entire life. There are way more documentaries and interesting movies than those that the average person will ever watch, and the world is full of wonderful places (with natural and artistic beauties to be left breathless), but of these places the average person will see just a microscopic fraction in the span of a life.

My recent article “Rome vs Barcelona” (still unavailable in english), in fact, is born from my astonishment to realize that my city, Rome, is full of extraordinary places, and yet the majority of the people I know -many of them residing in Rome and surroundings-, has never seen them, and doesn’t even know they exist. They spend most of their time working (unproductively) and as consequence they don’t have a lot of residual time to “consume” the artistic resources of the city.

Another example is the resource house. Often there’s a discussion about the problems of those who don’t have a house, and have to live in the street, or the large families that live amassed in a couple of rooms. However it’s rarely pointed out that in the cities and in the towns there are a lot of empty houses, unused. Houses where nobody lives, and that are not even put on the market for renting by the owners.

These are few examples, but they should already make one thing evident: the truth is that today there is a disproportion between the amount of resources that the humanity has available (food, houses, art, knowledge, entertainment…), and the amount of these resources that are actually consumed: only a part is consumed, sometimes only a part which is ridiculously small.

For this reason the mantras repeated often by the politicians and the media, “we need to produce more” and “we need growth”, are a nonsense. Why should we worry about producing more, if the humanity already now has an immense patrimony of resources available, of various types, that is not used?

There’s not much sense in this river of workers that runs every day between the traffic and the office. Not only their labor is condemned from the start to be unproductive, because as I mentioned above it follows a model which is obsolete and absurd, but really it doesn’t even need to be, productive, because the humanity doesn’t need more resources.

All this labor is not useful anymore. Not to produce, at least, since the originary function of labor is over at this point.

Nevertheless people continue to work

Yes, nevertheless people continue to work, and even a lot. The big traffic snake activates every morning. The alarm, a coffee on the run, the nerves for the time spent in the traffic, and then hours and hours locked in the office, of which only a part to produce something useful, and the other part wasting time in meaningless activities. All of this should at least do “something”. All this labor should have some sort of function. And in fact it does have it.

The function has become to control the access to the resources.

funzione-del-lavoro-controllo-accesso-alle-risorseThe fact that the resources exist in great abundance, in fact, it’s definitely not a guarantee that everybody is able to access them, not at all. Today for example a lot of people cannot afford to eat healthy food, to own a house, to increase their knowledge through books and documentaries, to explore the world. And if they cannot afford it’s because there is something that is keeping them at distance: it’s exactly their job.

The job is the reason why people return in the evening tired at home, and don’t have mental energy to read a book or watch a documentary, so they end up watching the game shows on television.

The job is the reason why people don’t have time and energy to cook healthy food, which usually requires more time to be found and prepared, so they end up eating pre-packaged industrial foods, highly processed.

The job is the reason why people don’t have enough vacation days to leave their city to travel for some months around the world, so they end up having to be content of 2-3 weeks of freedom per year, in summer, in which obviously everything is more expensive: airplane tickets, hotels, entertainment of various types.

The job is the reason why people remain uninformed, too emtpied phisically and mentally in the evening to have the energy to search to alternative information to that provided by the mainstream television, and don’t see that it’s exactly the politicians and the heads of the corporations who decide that the resources have to be thrown away, rather than be made accessible to those who need them.

For example, the reason why a lot of house owners prefer to keep their properties closed and not rented, rather that putting them on the market, is that the government makes the renting not convenient. Between the high taxes and the zero support in case of infractions by the tenants, they created a system in which often is preferable to keep the resource house unused, rather than putting it on the market.

This is just one of the many modern paradoxical situations, but many workers don’t even notice these situations, because they are too absorbed by their job to wonder about the reality that surrounds them.

Keeping people busy and distracted, at this point this has become the predominant function of labor, since the old productive function is practically extinct. We arrived to a degree of development in which the essential resources, those that people concretely need (food, house, clothes, medicines and little more) are already produced by a small fraction of the world population for all the others, in great abundance, thanks to the support of the machines.

All the other workers instead, the big snake that runs every day between the traffic and the office, is dedicated to superfluous jobs, mostly unproductive, useful to auto-feed the big snake itself. From the banking industry, to the pharmaceutical industry (for the most part), to the corporations that produce processed food, to the various public offices, it’s definitely not a surprise that the workers return home in the evening and they can’t repress the feeling that they “haven’t concluded anything”: the fact is that there was nothing to conclude!

All that there was to do, actually, was to stay busy and distracted. And to achieve this their job helped brilliantly.

The advantages of unemployment

If you open your eyes, you will realize that today the people who struggle more to access the resources, those who for example struggle more to buy a house, or simply to maintain a healthy lifestyle, are exactly the people who spend more time in the big traffic snake. Those who hold their job tight as a precious, and who work a lot of hours.

To these people it’s often repeated that “working is the solution” to their problems, that by working more they will get more close to the resources that they desire. Instead, just the opposite is true: it’s exactly their working that is keeping them away from the resources. Their job is the problem. For example, it’s all those hours of work that take away from people the desire to discover what money is, how it’s produced, by who, how it works, taking them away as consequence the possibility to learn how to earn more.

Even if it’s continuously repeated everywhere, without applying any critical thinking, that “there’s the need of having a job” and that “we need to have more employment”, I think that today the entire society would have great benefits if unemployment would increase, significantly. Since a lot of labor today is unproductive and sterile, or maybe it is, productive, but produces anyway an excess of resources that is later thrown away, surely there would not be damanges if a lot of jobs would disappear.

There would be a lot of advantages instead: people would have more occasions to look around, inform themselves, to have a more complete vision of the reality they live in. They could prevent the diseases by maintaining a natural diet and a non stressful lifestyle, rather than curing the diseases after they manifest. They could tend to research, art, study. All activities, these, that would accelerate the development of the society, rather than its “growth“.

Because, it’s important to remark it, it’s from development that a society obtains well-being, not from “growth”. Infinite growth, on a planet with finite resources, doesn’t make sense. It’s just an empty slogan that the politicians repeat to carry on this system based on unproductive labor, because from its effects (the general lack of information in the population) only them, and few others who belong to corporations and media elites, get benefits.

The future belongs to unemployment

I want to try to answer to an interesting question: how will labor evolve in the future? Will people work as many hours as today?

robot-cashier-in-a-barI leave the answer to this picture, that I’ve taken recently in the airport of Barcelona. It’s one of the bars that sell beverages and sandwiches to the travelers. At the cash desk there is not only the human cashier anymore, who manages the payment by the customers. No: between the human cashier and the customer a robot stepped in, and a quite cumbersome one. So the customer doesn’t pay directly in the hands of the human cashier anymore, but he puts the money inside the robot intermediary, and from the robot itself he gets the change.

I found it amusing how the human cashier was almost buried behind the bulky robot, and I wondered how much time will pass before she will completely dissapear from there, leaving the robot alone to manage the transaction, in a completely independent way. Not much, probably.

In fact, even if the job of the cashier today is still mainly done by people, it’s quite easy to predict that in the future it will be almost exclusively done by the machines. The trend is already evident now in the supermarkets, where there is a constantly growing fraction of automatic cashiers that replace the cash counters with human operator.

For how many types of human jobs is this trend going on? A lot: essentially all the manual jobs, or those that require just a minimal logic ability, like accounting. For other jobs instead the shift still has to start. In the construction sector, for example, the buildings are still built with a lot of labor by the human workers, but it’s not difficult to imagine that soon also this job will disappear, and that the buildings will be “printed” with technologies like the 3D printers.

In the past we’ve seen the progressive extinction of a lot of human jobs, at a continuous rate, and I think that this rate will continue naturally in the future. The jobs that more rapidly will disappear will be the manual ones, while those with the highest chances of surviving will be the creative and artistic jobs, in which the human has the edge over the machines. And it’s exactly in this types of jobs that what counts is the value: the ideas, the intuition, the inspiration, the passion. All things that have little to do with the hours spent inside an office.

Even if a lot of people who have non creative jobs tend to be scared of change, opposing to the idea that their labor is not needed anymore (because the machines do it more efficiently and productively), the increase of unemployment is natural and physiological. It makes perfect sense that in the future people will work a lot less hours per week than what they do now.

A future scenario, toward which we can head, is one where more than now the machines will take care of producing the essential resources for people, while people will concentrate on activites aimed at development, like art, science and research. A scenario where the bound labor-income is very weak, and in which obviously those who will want to, will work a lot of hours per week, but they will do it for the passion, and not because forced by the financial system.

We are already heading toward this scenario, but in an incredibly painful way, at the expense of the enormous stress that many workers immersed in the traffic snake feel every day, and at the expense of their not being able to access the resources because they’re too busy working (unproductively) to access them.

Understanding that all this labor, at this point, has almost exclusively the function of social control, of regulating the access to resources that already exist in great abundance, is an essential step to facilitate the journey. Having read this article should have helped you taking it.


Note: The study mentioned about the waste of food is “Global food – Waste not, want not” by imeche.org.

Related: How to earn money without working, How to free yourself from the system

Important things I learned

These are some of the most important things that (I think) I learned, or that I am in the process of learning, in these last years of my life.

Spirituality

● The enormous power of the words thank you.

● The concept of consciousness. That there are different levels of consciousness at which people can live. That also music, movies, art, objects have their level of consciousness.

● It’s not consciousness that is created by matter, but exactly the opposite: matter is created by consciousness.

● Atheism has a fixed point of view, rather sterile. After graduating from the religious non-sense, a further graduation from atheism is possible, and necessary, to progress in the path of spiritual evolution.

● Chronic skepticism is a very counterproductive attitude. I used to be a chronic skeptic before, not believing “in anything”. These days I prefer to keep chronic skeptics at distance.

● I learned some great lessons from Eckhart Tolle’s books, in particular these three:

  • what being present means, the idea of being here and now. And I realized that only a fraction of the thoughts that flow in my mind are useful. The rest are useless, repetitive, distracting noise.
  • what the ego is. I realized that I do have an ego, and a terribly difficult one to tame.
  • the mechanism of drama that drives many human relationships. Most people tend to create unnecessary and avoidable drama, to feed a little “beast” they have inside, a beast that feeds on negative emotions.

Of these three concepts, I think I understand well the theory behind the first two, but I still suck at turning the theory into practice. There are still more unobserved thoughts and more pretense in me than I would like to have. With drama, instead, I think I do well both with theory and practice. I’ve never been a big drama queen.

● The best rule to apply with people who are trying to start drama is: do not engage. Let them scream, gesticulate, cry, while staying absolutely calm, composed, in silence, just replying things like “yes, you’re right”, until they turn off.

● Life is about finding balance in the middle of two types of awareness:

  • that we, human beings, have an enormous power and control over our lives, and we are able to realize wonderful, huge, sensational things.
  • that there are things in our lives that we don’t control at all, and those things could destroy everything we built, in any moment.

The trick is to recognize that both are true, but then decide to have faith, and work hard to realize the wonderful things.

● Healing doesn’t correspond to feeling relaxed and comfortable all the time. Healing, usually, happens through pain and struggle.

● The law of attraction makes great sense, however it seems like many people don’t get the part attraction of it. After believing that something will happen, it is necessary to work -usually hard- to make it happen.

● Every person can be a hero. Even if most people today consider courage as a trait reserved for movie characters only, everyone can cultivate courage and apply it to real life, this life.

● Life tries to “talk” to us constantly, and tries to teach us lessons all of the time. The people we meet, the events that happen around us, they usually carry a message for us. We must stay receptive, like an antenna, to get the message.

● Dreams deserve much more attention than they’re commonly given: “normal” dreams that we have during sleep, lucid dreams in which we can manipulate the environment -they are a lot of fun-, and also daydreams. It is true that, as I read somewhere, dreams are not meant to make us sleep, but to make us wake up.

● Jesus Christ, probably, never existed as an historical figure. He is a fictional character that was invented by the ancient Romans, as a tool of propaganda to dominate the Jews of their times. I heard about this theory in the documentary “Caesar’s Messiah”, and I consider it not only very credible, but also a super huge revelation!

Love

● Love is much bigger than just romantic love, the “couple relationship” type of love that is extensively depicted in movies and books. That is just a part, but there’s also the love for friends, family, strangers, animals, plants, art, work, life.

● Jealousy doesn’t make sense. It’s basically a consequence of mistakenly assuming that the couple relationship type of love is all the love there is.

● If there is a meaning of life, it is love. At the end of the story, what really matters is the love we gave, and the love we received.

Myself

● The most important and difficult challenge in my life is learning to manage my emotions. I am aware now that if I want to succeed at achieving my biggest goals, this is a necessary skill to master. I have no other way.

● I won’t make meaningful progress in life by learning a lot of new notions. I will make it, instead, by learning some specific notions, and by cultivating virtues like courage, honesty and discipline.

● Practicing introspection, to discover what’s inside myself, is very difficult and painful. It’s also the most exciting adventure. And it’s sort of weird: I research, I study, I make efforts, all this without even knowing what it is that I am searching for. But I have a strong feeling that I have to continue digging.

● The inputs that I feed myself with (movies, books, music) impact directly the way I think, and the way I feel. As obvious as it seems now, I wasn’t aware about this connection some years ago. These days, I consciously avoid watching horror movies, or reading books about killers and psychopaths, for example. I prefer to feed my mind with happy topics.

● There are so many things that I don’t know. But the more new things I discover, the more grows in me a sense that there are others to discover…

People

● Having original thoughts is extremely rare. Most thoughts that circulate in people’s minds are someone else’s thoughts.

● A lot of people, when they talk, simply regurgitate what they have been taught as kids. They do this over and over, their entire life, without ever applying some critical thinking to decide if those teachings made sense or not.

● Just because someone speaks louder, or has a microphone in his hands, doesn’t mean that he deserves more attention.

● There’s a huge difference between education and wisdom. Many of the people I know are fairly well educated, but very few of them are wise.

● The world is full of corruption, hate, dishonesty, and still in the middle of this mess there are some people with super beautiful souls. They are so precious that they are worth the quest.

● It’s a great skill to be able to talk, and act, without being driven by emotions. And it’s important to recognize when other people, especially those who are close, like family and friends, give advice that is dictated by their fears and insecurities, so to discard it.

● Many people never change. As much as they’re exposed to clear, useful information that they could use to solve their problems, they will ignore that information and keep on struggling with the same problems, over and over, for their entire life. It’s better not to lose time insisting in helping them, but to focus instead on those who are ready to accept solutions.

● The best way to deal with depressed people is to stay away from them. Happiness is a choice, and most depressed people simply choose to be unhappy.

● There are things that the masses do, but no matter how many people do them: they still make absolutely no sense, so there’s no need to join them. Two great examples in this category are:

  • turning to politics to have the problems of the society fixed.
  • working at jobs where time is traded for money.

Money

● Money is an exciting topic, and not boring as I used to think. Money is very useful to understand people’s emotions, especially fear.

● Money is ultimately just a mental construct.

● Money favors those who produce and control it (banks and governments) and enslave those who have to use it (citizens).

● Having a regular job is not the only honest way to earn money, passive income systems are another option, and a much smarter one under many points of view.

● Economy and finance are two very different things. Economy is more about people, how they behave in the market to meet their desires. It’s a much more concrete, useful topic to study. Finance instead is about paper money, banks, graphs, titles: these things are part of a circus that adds no value to the life of people.

● Making the transition from employee to entrepreneur requires a huge shift in the mindset. An entrepreneur needs very different skills: for example it’s necessary to understand more the psychology of people.

● Understanding the law of supply and demand is super useful, and not just for an entrepreneur who runs a business, but for everybody, because it applies to many situations in daily life.

● You can’t do the right things, if you’re in the wrong place. For example, even if you work hard, diligently and efficiently, but you’re providing your labor to institutions that produce zero (or negative) value for the society -like banking corporations or cigarette producers- then you’re illuding yourself that you’re “doing a good job”.

● I think I understand money enough, now, to be able to become very wealthy if I want, in a honest way, and without even working too much. However, I haven’t decided yet if this is really what I want. Lots of money would allow me to develop some beautiful projects on a big scale (like building hospitals, schools, educational media), but on the other hand, it would inevitably attract the attention of the government. And I’m not sure I want to spend my time dealing with such a gigantic and predatory structure. I need to reflect more about this.

● One of the craziest things of the modern world is that most people spend an entire life working for money, without even understanding what the working is for. They never take some time to learn how money is produced, by who, how it works.

● Few things will put you in an uncommon position as becoming financially free. While everyone around talks, acts and moves driven by the desire of making money, you’re part of a very tiny minority that focuses on other topics.

Health

● Having a healthy diet requires essentially two things:

  • developing a knowledge about nutrition (in particular understanding the concept of density of nutrients of foods).
  • discipline.

● Products based on refined flour (like pasta and bread) are almost as unhealthy as white sugar. It doens’t make sense, as I was doing until some years ago, to avoid sugar as a fundamentalist, but then splurge on pasta and bread everyday.

● If there is one food that I always have to stay alert not to eat, it’s burnt food. The black spots under the pizza, toasted bread, and grilled meat are loaded with a disastrous amount of toxins.

● Most of the honey sold in the stores is as bad as white sugar, because it’s pastorized, heated at high temperature, that’s what makes it as transparent and fluid as syrup. Raw honey is the way to go.

● Dairy products with reduced amounts of fat, or completely fat-free, are actually less healthy than their whole counterparts. The fat in milk, yogurt and cheese is useful to digest fat-soluble vitamins. So it’s better to eat these foods whole.

● Diet impacts the overall health, and also the body figure, more than exercise does.

● Exercise is useful, but too much of it can stress the body and worn it out. I used to go to the gym 3/4 times per week, these days I prefer to go a couple times and pay more attention to the way I eat, instead.

● Despite being super popular, jogging is actually not so healthy. When a person jogs, tissues and organs of the body jump up and down, up and down, up and down, and that’s quite stressing, and pro-aging, for the organism. It’s much healthier in the long run to prefer activities like moderate weight lifting, yoga, gymnastics.


Notes: I expect that these insights will be valid for many years to come, so I wrote this post as a reminder for myself, with some useful indications to follow in the future. It will also be interesting to see if I’ll change my mind about some of them, and if I will feel like adding more.