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Published: March 28, 2018 (5 years ago.)

The book in...
One sentence:
Mass communication and the understanding of its manipulation potential has created a two-tier society where those (vast minority) in control of the communication apparatus are able push the buttons of the human organ (the rest of the world) to sing whatever tune they dictate.

Five sentences:
The same way signals can control an electronic machine, messages can control the human machine; feedback can amplify or attenuate these messages for maximal impact. Messages delivered via the global communication network beget a world state where those that control of the media will compel cooperation or ruin to all who stand against it. These controlling messages can be hidden in the white noise of unneeded communication, which will give rise to a proliferation of useless communication and will likely dumb down of both sender and receiver. Eventually the machine delivering the messages, through automation [AI], will start to make decisions on its own and we might very well find ourselves making a bargain with a monkey paw machine that won't understand our nuance delivering us straight into hell. Alternatively, the machine may never be out from under the thumb of the ruling class yet through their lust for control lead us to a different, albeit irrelevantly so, hell.

designates my notes. / designates important.


This is a wonderfully nightmarish book. Weiner may have been carrying water for the oligarchs or he may have been a scientist that was simply driven by curiosity, but he - at least later in his career - recognized how extremely powerful his (and Bertalanffy’s) contributions were when in the wrong hands. Hands that they, like every other weapon, will always find their way to since the sociopaths that are willing to do whatever it takes to ascent the power structure are exactly the last ones that should be trusted with these kinds of tools.

The work is very apropos in the sense that today with the rise of social media in general as a worldwide communication we can not only see the effects of propaganda and nudging “followers”, but we can see it in effectively real time. I have little doubt that the Arab Spring (which in great part organized on Facebook) or the Black Lives Matter protests/riots would have almost certainly never happened without social media allowing for the instant communication (that can so easily be hijacked) to amplify sentiment in a kind of feedback loop we now-a-days call echo chambers.

I think the BLM summer was a great case study in how media can deliver a message that pushes individuals into groups (black vs white) and then injects a spark to ignite the whole powder keg. After the protests/riots were sufficiently ramped up (but still seemingly controllable by the media), the dial was turned down, Joe Biden was selected, and everything calmed right down.

Personally I think the people with their hands on the levers and dials that are controlling the human machine were testing how far they could push the masses. Once a critical mass had been reached they dialed everything back so as not to create a Frankenstein’s monster that might very well end up being uncontrollable.

To this end, I submit that memes, podcasts, Youtube, Twitter, etc are the tip of the psychological spear being driven into the minds of the masses. These new tools of worldwide communication allow ideas like diversity (which is anything but diverse), multiculturalism, LGBT, and a host of other deleterious effects on the civilizations of the world.

At the same time these “modern” ideas are pushed, any criticism is minimized. Censorship in the regard is a blunt instrument and even the least savy among us can spot it. On the other hand, those in control of the algorithms (or even manual curation) of the (social) media platforms can use techniques such as boosting, trending, and shadowbanning to manipulate a message’s reach are much more like surgical tools. These techniques are nearly impossible for the lay person to ever spot.

In the end the result is that the ruling class has set us against one another in black vs. white, man vs. woman, young vs. old, and any other number of artificial divide and conquer digital echo chambers. Somehow we have since allowed this digital tail to wag the real world dog. This is EXACTLY what Weiner warns against in this book.

Weiner is very early in his warnings about AI, which we are seeing the rise of, but I don’t think it is anywhere near djinn/monkey paw level. That said, I think automation through AI is certainly going to reduce the need for a lot of human labor in the coming decade or so. People that thought certain jobs that needed a human touch are going in for a series of rude awakenings.

Other Notes:

Exceptional Excerpts

messages as a means of controlling machinery and society,

This matter of social feedback is of very great sociological and anthropological interest.

Cybernetics takes the view that the structure of the machine or of the organism is an index of the performance that may be expected from it.

With the airplane and the radio the word of the rulers extends to the ends of the earth, and very many of the factors which previously precluded a World State have been abrogated. It is even possible to maintain that modern communication, which forces us to adjudicate the international claims of different broadcasting systems and different airplane nets, has made the World State inevitable.

In other words, when there is communication without need for communication, merely so that someone may earn the social and intellectual prestige of be­ coming a priest of communication, the quality and communicative value of the message drop like a plummet.

All this changed in the war. One of the few things gained from the great conflict was the rapid development of invention, under the stimulus of necessity and the unlimited employment of money; and above all, the new blood called in to industrial research.

this [automation] will produce an unemployment situation, in comparison with which the present recession and even the depression of the thirties will seem a pleasant joke.

“The machines a gouverner will define the State as the best-informed player at each particular level; and the State is the only supreme co-ordinator of all partial decisions. These are enormous privileges; if they are acquired scientifically, they will permit the State under all circumstances to beat every player of a human game other than itself by offering this dilemma : either immediate ruin, or planned co-operation. This will be the consequences of the game itself without outside violence. The lovers of the best of worlds have something indeed to dream of!” -Pere Dubarle

In comparison with this, Hobbes’ Leviathan was nothing but a pleasant joke. We are running the risk nowadays of a great World State, where deliberate and conscious primitive injustice may be the only possible condition for the statistical happiness of the masses: a world worse than hell for every clear mind. Perhaps it would not be a bad idea for the teams at present creating cybernetics to add to their cadre of technicians, who have come from all horizons of science, some serious anthropologists, and perhaps a philosopher who has some curiosity as to world matters. -Pere Dubarle

Funny, there are tons of anthropologists shooting for exactly what he describes. Maybe not some many philosophers, other than to assuage potential guilt.

Its [Pere’s machine] real danger, however, is the quite different one that such machines, though helpless by themselves, may be used by a human being or a block of human beings to increase their control over the rest of the human race or that political leaders may attempt to control their populations by means not of machines themselves but through political techniques as narrow and in­ different to human possibility as if they had, in fact, been conceived mechanically.

Let us remember that there are game-playing ma­ chines both of the Monkey’s Paw type and of the type of the Bottled Djinnee. Any machine constructed for the purpose of making decisions, if it does not possess the power of learning, will be completely literal­minded. Woe to us if we let it decide our conduct, unless we have previously examined the laws of its action, and know fully that its conduct will be carried out on principles acceptable to us! On the other hand, the machine like the djinnee, which can learn and can make decisions on the basis of its learning, will in no way be obliged to make such decisions as we should have made, or will be acceptable to us. For the man who is not aware of this, to throw the problem of his responsibility on the machine, whether it can learn or not, is to cast his responsibility to the winds, and to find it coming back seated on the whirlwind.

Table of Contents

· Introduction

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· Preface

page 36:

· 01: Cybernetics and History

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· 02: Progress and Entropy

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· 03: Rigidity and Learning: Two Patterns of Communicative Behavior

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· 04: The Mechanism and History of Language

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· 05: Organization as the Message

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· 06: Law and Communication

page 131:

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· 07: Communication, Secrecy, and Social Policy

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· 08: Role of the Intellectual and the Scientist

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· 09: The First and the Second Industrial Revolution

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· 10: Some Communication Machines and Their Future

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· 11: Language, Confusion, and Jam

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