Dr. Rupert Sheldrake Brings Science to Spiritual Practices |376|

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Dr. Rupert Sheldrake Brings Science to Spiritual Practices |376|
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Dr. Rupert Sheldrake finds scientific support for benefits of spiritual practices.


photo by: Skeptiko
Alex Tsakiris:
Today I’m so happy to welcome back Dr. Rupert Sheldrake to Skeptiko. Dr. Sheldrake who has, not only appeared on Skeptiko several times over the years, but through his encouragement and guidance was really instrumental in the creation of this show, is truly one of my favorite guests to have on.

So Rupert, welcome back. So good to talk to you again.

Dr. Rupert Sheldrake: Glad to be with you again Alex.

Alex Tsakiris: The reason for this visit today is this new book you’ve written, Science and Spiritual Practices: Transformative Experiences and Their Effects on Our Bodies, Brains and Health. Quite a new book, and I was saying, when we were chatting about it just a minute ago, it is great to see you back out there, just really hitting the trail with this book, doing a lot of appearances. It looks like you’re doing workshops and also lectures. So, how is all of that going for you?

Dr. Rupert Sheldrake: Well, it’s going very well. So far, this book is only out in Britain, it’s not coming out in the US until Autumn of 2018, but most of this activity is in Britain at the moment, so I don’t have to travel very far, but there’s a huge amount of interest in this and I’m really excited about all of the themes in this book.

Alex Tsakiris: There is a lot of interest. I started watching your interview with Russell Brand and I thought that was fascinating on a number of levels, how did that go?

Dr. Rupert Sheldrake: Well, Russell Brand is an extremely intelligent person. Here in Britain he’s very, very well-known as a comedian and as a, sort of, public intellectual. He wouldn’t like to be called that probably, but he’s very curious. He’s on a, kind of, spiritual quest himself after years of drug addiction, heroin addiction and alcohol addiction, sex addiction etc. He did a 12-step program which changed his life. He’s got a new book out himself called, Recovery, which is about recovering from addictions and he’s on a, kind of, spiritual mission at the moment.

He was curious and interested about this new book of mine and we get on extremely well. We had a really good conversation. He reaches a huge audience.

Alex Tsakiris: He does reach a huge audience and the other thing that I thought was interesting about the pairing and the conversation, we’ll try and link to it so everyone can see it, because it’s really a great conversation, but I think he’s this transitional, transformational kind of figure, in a lot of ways, in that pairing him with you, he’s calling bullshit on all the old atheistic, materialistic nonsense that you’ve called bullshit on for so long, but he’s doing it in a different way, coming at it from a different angle, and he’s pulling in a lot of different people. So, I think there’s an interesting synergy with that message, even though you’re coming at it from a lot of different ways.

Dr. Rupert Sheldrake: Yes, I think so. He’s become very disillusioned with the, kind of, consumerist society, and his message about addiction is not, are you an addict or not, but where are you on the addiction spectrum? Is it just compulsive Facebook messaging etc? He sees consumerism, all these as forms of addiction.

So, I’d mostly been interested in a critique of materialism as a belief system, as a world view, he’s more coming to it from materialism as a life style, a consumerist lifestyle. But, he’s extremely smart and he does get the point about the bigger intellectual picture.

In fact, one reason that we did this conversation, was that a few months ago he asked if he could come and talk to me, and this was just a private meeting, just the two of us, to discuss the kind of issues I was discussing in my book, Science Set Free, The Science Delusion, because he wanted to get up to speed on some of these issues in science, and he hasn’t got a scientific background. But, I must say, in our private conversation it became very clear to me, what an incredibly quick mind he has and how quickly he assimilates things and is able to summarize them.

Alex Tsakiris: That’s great, and as you eluded to, what I find is that everyone’s trying to just find a way to get to the other side, because clearly, the side, the science-as-we-know-it, the dopey materialism, has never really worked for people, but they’ve just, kind of, had to carry on because that’s been the thing. I feel like Russell Brand has just jumped over the other side and said, “Oh well, of course, some sort of spiritual deeper awareness of who we are is the only thing that makes sense,” and I think that’s a position that you’ve fought long and hard for and have, kind of, built the case for scientifically.

So, it’s just an interesting way of seeing those two things come together, because I think the Russell Brand’s approach is probably where most people find themselves. I mean, most people aren’t willing to do the work, but it’s nice that when they do say, “Okay, is there anything to really support this new belief I’m growing into?” they can turn to books like yours and say, “Oh wow, there really is a basis for this new understanding I have, or an old understanding I have,” because I think it’s deep within us.

Dr. Rupert Sheldrake: I think so too, yes.
 
#2


"Andrew Sims, past president of Royal College of Psychiatrists, has said: The advantageous effect of religious belief and spirituality on mental and physical health is one of the best kept secrets in psychiatry and medicine generally. If the findings of the huge volume of research on this topic had gone in the opposite direction and it had been found that religion damages your mental health, it would have been front-page news in every newspaper in the land"



"Research shows that belief in the paranormal and religion can be conducive to the health and well being of people. These beliefs can help people cope with grief, divorce, job loss, the fear of death, particularly in the terminally ill, and can deter suicide."


http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/03/video-lecture-by-john-lennox-explains.html#lennox_individual
Andrew Sims

Andrew Sims, past president of Royal College of Psychiatrists, has said: "The advantageous effect of religious belief and spirituality on mental and physical health is one of the best kept secrets in psychiatry and medicine generally. If the findings of the huge volume of research on this topic had gone in the opposite direction and it had been found that religion damages your mental health, it would have been front-page news in every newspaper in the land (from Is Faith Delusion)."​

more

In the majority of studies, religious involvement is correlated with well-being, happiness and life satisfaction; hope and optimism; purpose and meaning in life; higher self-esteem; better adaptation to bereavement; greater social support and less loneliness; lower rates of depression and faster recovery from depression; lower rates of suicide and fewer positive attitudes towards suicide; less anxiety; less psychosis and fewer psychotic tendencies; lower rates of alcohol and drug use and abuse; less delinquency and criminal activity; greater marital stability and satisfaction… We concluded that for the vast majority of people the apparent benefits of devout belief and practice probably outweigh the risks.​

Not in the video, but apropos:

Knowledge of the afterlife deters suicide. Lessons From the Light by Kenneth Ring and Evelyn Elsaesser p.257-258:

As far as I know, the first clinician to make use of NDE material in this context was a New York psychologist named John McDonagh. In 1979, he presented a paper at a psychological convention that described his success with several suicidal patients using a device he called "NDE bibliotherapy." His "technique" was actually little more than having his patients read some relevant passages from Raymond Moody's book, Reflections on Life after Life, after which the therapist and his patient would discuss its implicatins for the latter's own situation. McDonagh reports that such an approach was generally quite successful not only in reducing suicidal thoughts but also in preventing the deed altogether.

...

Since McDonagh's pioneering efforts, other clinicians knowledgeable about the NDE who have had the opportunity to counsel suicidal patients have also reported similar success. Perhaps the most notable of these therapists is Bruce Greyson, a psychiatrist now at the University of Virginia, whose specialty as a clinician has been suicidology. He is also the author of a classic paper on NDEs and suicide which the specialist may wish to consult for tis therapeutic implications. (14)

Quite apart form the clinicians who have developed this form of what we migh call "NDE-assisted therapy," I can draw upon my own personal experience here to provide additional evidence of how the NDE has helped to deter suicide. The following case​

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2012/09/skepticism-big-lie-activist-skeptics.html
Research shows that belief in the paranormal and religion can be conducive to the health and well being of people. These beliefs can help people cope with grief, divorce, job loss, the fear of death, particularly in the terminally ill, and can deter suicide.
...
Below I include links, quotes, and references to research that shows how helpful religion and belief in the paranormal can be to people.
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An Exploratory Study of the Effects of Paranormal and Spiritual Experiences on Peoples' Lives and Well-Being by J.E. Kennedy and H. Kanthamani,Original publication and copyright: The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1995, Volume 89, pp.249-265.

Recent research suggests that a world view that is open to aspects of life beyond the physical-materialistic realm can be conducive to health and well-being ....​

Religion 'linked to happy life' from news.bbc.co.uk.

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Professor Clark said: "We originally started the research to work out why some European countries had more generous unemployment benefits than others, but our analysis suggested that religious people suffered less psychological harm from unemployment than the non-religious.

"They had higher levels of life satisfaction".

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Even though churchgoers were unsurprisingly more likely to oppose divorce, they were both less psychologically affected by marital separation when it did happen, he said.

"What we found was that religious people were experiencing current day rewards, rather than storing them up for the future."

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But Justin Thacker, head of Theology for the Evangelical Alliance, said that there should now be no doubt about the connection between religious belief and happiness.

"There is more than one reason for this - part of it will be the sense of community and the relationships fostered, but that doesn't account for all of it.

"A large part of it is due to the meaning, purpose and value which believing in God gives you, whereas not believing in God can leave you without those things."​

Are Religious People Happier than Atheists? by By Susan Perry at minnpost.com

In fact, some research has found that people who regularly attend religious services can expect to live an average of seven years longer than their peers who never step inside a church, synagogue or mosque.

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New research has found “that the positive effects of religion depend enormously on where you live,” writes Upson. “Religious people may be happier than their godless counterparts, but only if the society they belong to values religion highly, which not all societies do.”​

Bereavement and belief in the Afterlife from candidaabrahamson.wordpress.com

Grief from the loss of a loved one is often overwhelming and crushing. Religions often try to ease that gaping sense of emptiness through ritual aimed at facilitating gradual release. And the literature on the positive effects of religion on healing is significant. Becker, in his 2007 paper, “Do religious or spiritual beliefs influence bereavement?: A systematic review,” analyzed 32 studies, covering a total of 5715 persons. 94% of the studies showed some positive effects of religious or spiritual beliefs on bereavement [all references below].

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There is a comfort that a belief in life after death brings, and it allows the belief holder to better reconcile his loss, to be less gripped by overwhelming fears, to adapt better, and, in some cases, to recover faster.

...​

Becker G. Do religious or spiritual beliefs influence bereavement?: A systematic review.” Palliative Medicine 2007; 21(3):207-217.

Billings AG, Moos RH. The role of coping responses and social resources in attenuating the stress of life events. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 1981: 4(2):139-157.

Braun M, Berg D. Meaning reconstruction in the experience of parental bereavement. Death Studies 1994; 18(2):105-29.

Clarke SM, et al. Religiosity, afterlife beliefs, and bereavement adjustment in adulthood. Journal of Religious Gerontology 2003; 14(2):207-224.

Davis C, Nolen-Hoeksemea S. Loss and meaning: How do people make sense of loss. American Behavioral Scientist 2001; 44(5):726-741.

Schoenrade P. When I die…Belief in afterlife as a response to mortality. Personality and Social Psychology Journal 1989; 15(1):91-100.

Smith P, Range L, Ulmer A. Belief in afterlife as a buffer in suicidal and Other bereavement. OMEGA–Journal of Death and Dying 1991-92; 24(3):217-225.​
 
#3
What spiritual practices are best?

My opinion:

Best practice if you want to experience ESP: Most people experience precognitive dreams when they keep a dream log.

If you want to develop spiritually and increase your psychic "in-tuneness": Meditate.

Spiritual healing is also easy to learn. But most people have a mistaken understanding of it from fiction and the news media, the link will set you straight and tell you how to do it.

If you have the opportunity, take classes in mediumship:
https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/psi_experience
The first time I tried to do mediumship in class I was astonished with the results. I did exactly what the teacher said and it seemed to work. After a short period of meditation, I looked around the class (we were sitting with the chairs in a circle) and when I got to one particular person it seemed like I was looking at him through a zoom lens. He stood out from the other students in my field of vision. I tried looking around again and the same thing happened when I got to him. Then I closed my eyes and in my mind's eye there appeared a tall man in a uniform. When my turn came to describe my experiences, this person said that his grandfather had been tall and wore a uniform on his job. The teacher of the class encouraged me to try to get more information and I tried again and saw a scene of the sea shore. It turned out the grandfather had also lived near the water. I had never experienced anything like this before in my life. I was in shock for a couple of days afterwards.

As the classes continued I had many other experiences. Once I gave a reading to a woman in the class and I saw, in my mind's eye, her and another woman sitting drinking coffee. I described what I saw but she said there was more than one person who fit the description. Then I saw the other woman smoking a cigarette and there were very unusual little square framed pictures on the wall behind them. With that information the other student knew exactly who the spirit was.

Once, early in the morning I was lying in bed at home and the image of a woman popped into my head. I saw her in profile and she had a very distinctive profile because of the shape of her nose. I had never seen her before, but later that day, this woman (living, not a spirit this time) with the distinctive profile showed up at church for the first time. It was shortly after I had started going there and we ended up in many of the same classes and became good friends.

Another time I was at home lying in bed awake very early in the morning, and the image of a man appeared in my mind's eye. I somehow knew he had been a veteran. At the same time, I thought of something I had read the day before and understood it in a new way. It was the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend and that insight would have made a great Memorial Day talk at church. However, I wasn't planning to give a talk during the service. After the service, though, there was a mediumship class. When I took my turn in class I started to give a reading to a woman, and the image of the man came into my mind's eye again. I described him and she recognized him as her father who was also a veteran. I explained that I had a message from him for the group and I spoke about the insight I had already received from the spirit. The woman said that that it was characteristic of the type of messages her father gave through other mediums.

In another reading I brought through a family member of a woman in the class and I saw a church, a fishing pier, and a box truck. It turned out the spirit was a deacon at the church, they used to go fishing at the pier, and he drove one of those larger square shaped ambulances.

Sometimes the mistakes are the most convincing part of a reading. Once during a reading I saw a swimming pool and I said, "You went swimming together". The person said, "no that's not right." I went on and continued the reading with other evidence but the pool came back. When I asked, "Why do I keep seeing the swimming pool?", the person said, "Well, she [the spirit] had a swimming pool in her back yard, but we never swam in it together". Skeptics will say mediums get their information from the person getting the reading but in this case it seemed to me that I was contradicting what the person was saying and sticking with what I was perceiving, and the information was eventually validated.

In one reading, I saw buildings in a foreign country I have never been to. I was able to find the same buildings on the internet in a photograph of the city.

I have also heard amazingly accurate information from fellow students when getting readings in the mediumship classes. One student was able to tell that when I was a child, my grandmother used to wrap snacks in a plastic bag and drop them out of her apartment window to me while I would stand on the walkway below. Another student saw a vision of a snowy field when bringing through my uncle. He had lived in a town called White Plains.

One time in class, a student brought through one of my spirit guides. Since we usually have not met our spirit guides in life, we usually don't recognize them from a description of what they looked like. However, spirits can identify themselves as guides because they are around us in during the day and can tell the medium things about us that a stranger wouldn't know. During this class, while giving me a reading, the student saw a flashlight with a propeller on top. I had no idea what this was meant. Later, as the class ended, some other people in the building were also leaving and they turned out the lights without realizing they had left us in the dark. I automatically reached into my pocket and pulled out my key chain on which I have a small flashlight. This flashlight is turned on by twisting the top. It is amazing that the spirit was not only able to tell the student about a flashlight that I completely forgotten about, but that they were also able remind me about it by arranging to have us left sitting in the dark.
More here:
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2013/03/spiritual-practices-and-their.html
Spiritual Practices and their Effectiveness
"What do they say about the underlying structure of the extended consciousness realms?"

http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/p/articles-and-links-arranged-by-subject.html#articles_by_subject_like
What is it like in the afterlife?
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2015/03/realizing-ultimate.html
You might have heard it said that "we are all one". What does that mean? The quotes below explain it. These quotes from: an ancient text, an advanced meditator, a near-death experiencer, a spirit communicating through an evidential mediums, a materialist atheist , Christian scripture, Christian theologians, a Native American medicine man, a Jewish Scholar of the Kabbalah, and a Sufi philosopher, all describe something very similar: ...​
 
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#4
Alex's questions at the end of the podcast:

How might science interface with and inform the kinds of questions we would have as spiritual seekers? What spiritual practices are best? For which types of people? Measured under which circumstances? What would that then say about the underlying structure and meaning of extended realms of consciousness?
 
#5
Alex, you invited Rupert onto your show and I think it behoves you to listen to him and pose your questions based on his lead. Instead, in this interview, you seem to have had your own agenda and imho didn't listen and engage. At one point when he was going to talk about the resurrection, for example, you even interrupted and cut him off. I for one wanted to hear what he had to say.

As a result, I don't think I as a listener felt very satisfied with the interview, and I suspect Rupert could be thinking to himself that it was a waste of his time. I'm little wiser as a result of listening and feel a bit deprived, if you really want to know. Could be that you might as well have asked your final questions without having the interview at all.

Rupert is no dunce, and if you let him speak, he'll doubtless say what he feels needs to be said in relation to his new book. But I don't believe you did, because (maybe subconsciously -- I'm not suggesting any malice) you wanted to follow your own point of view, and regrettably, I think that could have been at his expense.

Sorry if that seems harsh, but there you go: it's honestly how I feel.
 
#6
Just an unrelated comment:

Am I the only one who thinks Alex's voice is completely different in this interview?
The intro sounds like his normal voice, but in the interview itself its very different. It's younger and less husky, I don't know.
 
#9

What spiritual practices are best?
I think that for many people to stop using the internet would be a great way to start. It would give the biggest result for the least effort.

I lost power for two days a couple of weeks ago because of a snow storm, so I am speaking from experience.

Stay away from the internet, TV, radio, and newspapers for two days. Try it this weekend. See what happens.
 
#10
I think that for many people to stop using the internet would be a great way to start. It would give the biggest result for the least effort.

I lost power for two days a couple of weeks ago because of a snow storm, so I am speaking from experience.

Stay away from the internet, TV, radio, and newspapers for two days. Try it this weekend. See what happens.
Let me chime in here. I concur with you, regain your time from all of the above is a great way to become less stressed, more productive and essentially you got time to fool around with unknown things like meditation, ESP, prayer and who knows what. I am not looking for a badge of honour or achievements but the last time I bought or read a newspaper was 20 years ago, TV I watch when visiting my family abroad (which I rarely do) and radio... what was that again? Have this made me a better person? Nope, but it has allowed me to explore and experiment with "weird" stuff :)
 
#11
Stay away from the internet, TV, radio, and newspapers for two days. Try it this weekend. See what happens.
The only problem with that, is that the internet has given us so much as well. I am not on FB or anything remotely similar, but honestly, I would have failed to develop any distance from naive materialism without the internet.

David
 
#12
And the internet is bad for mental health - which cannot be good for spiritual development or discerning truth.


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Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?JEAN M. TWENGE SEPTEMBER 2017
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazin...the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/
Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs, and many of the distinctive characteristics of the Millennial generation began to disappear. In all my analyses of generational data—some reaching back to the 1930s—I had never seen anything like it.

...

The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone.

...

Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.

...


Is Social Media Contributing to Rising Teen Suicide Rate?by Elizabeth Chuck, Oct 22, 2017.
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/social-media-contributing-rising-teen-suicide-rate-n812426

Recent studies have shown a rise in both teen suicides and self-harm, particularly among teenage girls Sadie's age.

...

And just this past week, researchers in the U.K. published similar discoveries in a study on self-harm that showed a dramatic increase in the number of adolescent girls who engage in it: Self-harm rose 68 percent in girls ages 13 to 16 from 2011 to 2014, with girls more common to report self-harm than boys (37.4 per 10,000 girls vs. 12.3 per 10,000 boys).
 
#13
Part of the problem is that internet apps are designed to make you use them compulsively. It's not just that they use up all your time. They destroy your attention span. There are kids on the reddit meditation forum who say they can't meditate for more than a few minutes. And reading news and debating in forums etc causes many people a lot of stress. It is hard to get in tune with the spiritual "vibe" when you are stressed.

See quotes below: Facebook insiders admit they are destroying society and they knew what they were doing.

(And anything with likes and visual or audio notifications, is part of the problem. That includes skeptiko, e-mail, and pretty much every discussion or comment forum. But it also involves auto-play video's, daily streaks to keep you coming back every day, hiding the clock so you don't know how long you've been using the app, and games that use repetitive music to put you in a trance like state.)

Sean Parker (Founding president of Facebook): Facebook Exploits Human Vulnerability (We Are Dopamine Addicts)
https://www.axios.com/sean-parker-unloads-on-facebook-2508036343.html

When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, 'I'm not on social media.' And I would say, 'OK. You know, you will be.' And then they would say, 'No, no, no. I value my real-life interactions. I value the moment. I value presence. I value intimacy.' And I would say, well you're a conscientious objector that's okay you don't have to participate, but you know we'll get you eventually.'

And like, I don't know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and it begins, it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other. It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains.

If the thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them to really understand it, that thought process was all about: 'How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?' And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that's going to get you to contribute more content, and that's going to get you more likes and comments.

It's a social-validation feedback loop it's like exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you're exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology." The inventors, creators — it's me, it's Mark [Zuckerberg], it's Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it's all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.



Former Facebook exec says social media is ripping apart society
https://www.theverge.com/2017/12/11/16761016/former-facebook-exec-ripping-apart-society

Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a “hard break” from social media.
...

Palihapitiya’s criticisms were aimed not only at Facebook, but the wider online ecosystem. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” he said, referring to online interactions driven by “hearts, likes, thumbs-up.” “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”



Nir Eyal is showing software designers how to hook users in four easy steps. Welcome to the new era of habit-forming technology.by Ted Greenwald in technologyreview.com
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/535906/compulsive-behavior-sells/
Forging new habits has become an obsession among technology companies. In an age when commercial competition is only a click away, the new mandate is to make products and services that generate compulsive behavior: in essence, to get users hooked on a squirt of dopamine to the brain’s reward center to ensure that they’ll come back.​


Is the Internet destroying your attention span? We asked an expert. By Simon Hill, digitaltrends.com
https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/internet-age-attention-spans-experts-weigh-in/
“Think about the way digital information is conveyed, as short bits of information,” said Dr. Greenfield. “The idea of working on something in-depth over a long period of time is falling out of favor, because people are Googling, reading the first sentence of whatever comes up and then they’re done. People are using the Internet this way because most of the time they find what they want. When you find what you want you get a slight hit in your pleasure neurotransmitter because you’re getting satisfied, and as long as you get that hit you’re going to be more likely to keep doing it. We’re reinforced by that positive experience.”

...

“A concern that we have,” said Dr. Greenfield, “is that if you’re not using some of these deeper capacities for thinking, because you’re using a digital device as a section of your brain, then those skill-sets will atrophy.”
More:
How Technology is Hijacking Your Mind — from a Magician and Google Design EthicistTristan Harris May 18, 2016
https://journal.thriveglobal.com/ho...ian-and-google-s-design-ethicist-56d62ef5edf3“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they’ve been fooled.” — Unknown.

...

I’m an expert on how technology hijacks our psychological vulnerabilities.

...

I learned to think this way when I was a magician. Magicians start by looking for blind spots, edges, vulnerabilities and limits of people’s perception, so they can influence what people do without them even realizing it. Once you know how to push people’s buttons, you can play them like a piano.

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And this is exactly what product designers do to your mind. They play your psychological vulnerabilities (consciously and unconsciously) against you in the race to grab your attention. I want to show you how they do it.

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Hijack #1: If You Control the Menu, You Control the Choices

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By shaping the menus we pick from, technology hijacks the way we perceive our choices and replaces them with new ones.

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Hijack #2: Put a Slot Machine In a Billion Pockets

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If you want to maximize addictiveness, all tech designers need to do is link a user’s action (like pulling a lever) with a variable reward. You pull a lever and immediately receive either an enticing reward (a match, a prize!) or nothing. Addictiveness is maximized when the rate of reward is most variable.

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When we pull our phone out of our pocket, we’re playing a slot machine to see what notifications we got.

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When we pull to refresh our email, we’re playing a slot machine to see what new email we got.

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When we swipe down our finger to scroll the Instagram feed, we’re playing a slot machine to see what photo comes next.

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When we swipe faces left/right on dating apps like Tinder, we’re playing a slot machine to see if we got a match.

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When we tap the # of red notifications, we’re playing a slot machine to what’s underneath.

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Hijack #3: Fear of Missing Something Important (FOMSI)

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Another way apps and websites hijack people’s minds is by inducing a “1% chance you could be missing something important.”

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Hijack #4: Social Approval

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When I get tagged by my friend Marc, I imagine him making a conscious choice to tag me. But I don’t see how a company like Facebook orchestrated his doing that in the first place.

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Hijack #5: Social Reciprocity (Tit-for-tat)

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Like Facebook, LinkedIn exploits an asymmetry in perception. When you receive an invitation from someone to connect, you imagine that person making a conscious choice to invite you, when in reality, they likely unconsciously responded to LinkedIn’s list of suggested contacts.

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Hijack #6: Bottomless bowls, Infinite Feeds, and Autoplay

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News feeds are purposely designed to auto-refill with reasons to keep you scrolling, and purposely eliminate any reason for you to pause, reconsider or leave. It’s also why video and social media sites like Netflix, YouTube or Facebook autoplay the next video after a countdown instead of waiting for you to make a conscious choice (in case you won’t).

...

Hijack #7: Instant Interruption vs. “Respectful” Delivery

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Companies know that messages that interrupt people immediately are more persuasive at getting people to respond than messages delivered asynchronously (like email or any deferred inbox).

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Hijack #8: Bundling Your Reasons with Their Reasons

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For example, when you you want to look up a Facebook event happening tonight (your reason) the Facebook app doesn’t allow you to access it without first landing on the news feed (their reasons), and that’s on purpose. Facebook wants to convert every reason you have for using Facebook, into their reason which is to maximize the time you spend consuming things.

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Hijack #9: Inconvenient Choices

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Businesses naturally want to make the choices they want you to make easier, and the choices they don’t want you to make harder.

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For example, NYTimes.com lets you “make a free choice” to cancel your digital subscription. But instead of just doing it when you hit “Cancel Subscription,” they send you an email with information on how to cancel your account by calling a phone number that’s only open at certain times. Hijack #10: Forecasting Errors, “Foot in the Door” strategies

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Hijack #10: Forecasting Errors, “Foot in the Door” strategies

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Lastly, apps can exploit people’s inability to forecast the consequences of a click.

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People don’t intuitively forecast the true cost of a click when it’s presented to them. Sales people use “foot in the door” techniques by asking for a small innocuous request to begin with (“just one click to see which tweet got retweeted”) and escalate from there (“why don’t you stay awhile?”). Virtually all engagement websites use this trick.

...

I’ve listed a few techniques but there are literally thousands.

Smartphones Are Weapons of Mass Manipulation, and This Guy Is Declaring War on Them: Tristan Harris thinks big tech is taking advantage of us all. Can its power be used for good?by Rachel Metz October 19, 2017
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/...lation-and-this-guy-is-declaring-war-on-them/
... it persuades us to spend as much time as possible online, with tactics ranging from Snapchat’s snapstreaks to auto-playing videos on sites like YouTube and Facebook.

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... because tech companies’ business models largely depend upon advertising revenue, it’s not really in their best interest to push us toward, say, getting off the social network du jour and going outside to hang out with friends ...

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... a growing body of research suggests that the use of social networks including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter may have negative consequences, like increasing your chances of depression or social isolation. Indeed, simply having your phone around could lower your cognitive capacity.

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“Everything [Facebook] knows about me can be used to persuade me toward a future goal,” he says. “And it’s very powerful; it knows exactly what would persuade me, because it has persuaded me in the past.
 
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#14
And the news media is another conspiracy to make profits by making you compulsive (crazy):

5 Ways To Stay Sane In An Era Of Non-Stop Outrage By David Wong David Wong, March 01, 2017

http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-ways-to-stay-sane-in-era-non-stop-outrage

Hey, you know what happens when you read something really enraging on the internet? You get a hit of dopamine. And even though it's a "bad" feeling, you immediately want to feel it again, because anything is better than being bored. Well, people who know how to manipulate this mechanism rule the world. Here's what you need to know now:
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Ignore Headlines Telling You To Feel An Emotion
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Remember That People Literally Get Paid To Upset You
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Know That If You Can Be Trolled, You Can Be Controlled
....

 
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#16
...you seem to have had your own agenda and imho didn't listen and engage.
Alex did not seem overly combative or discourteous in this interview. He did his usual thing of asking difficult questions, which we like.

One weird thing I've noticed is that Alex is really irritated by the concept of Bible Inerrancy.

I was a F.U. Hard-Kore Atheist for many decades because I was raised in the Southern U.S. around snake-handling, tounges-speaking Pentacostal fundie nutjobs.

I learned my way past that to become somewhat of an esoteric Christian. I suspect my parents being Agnostics who never attended church actually made that easier for me than it will be for Alex who was forced to attend a church when young.
 
#18
I'd like to try to keep this thread roughly about the podcast, so it would be good if the discussion about the internet could be continued in another thread, please.

David
 
#19
Alex, you invited Rupert onto your show and I think it behoves you to listen to him and pose your questions based on his lead. Instead, in this interview, you seem to have had your own agenda and imho didn't listen and engage. At one point when he was going to talk about the resurrection, for example, you even interrupted and cut him off. I for one wanted to hear what he had to say.

As a result, I don't think I as a listener felt very satisfied with the interview, and I suspect Rupert could be thinking to himself that it was a waste of his time. I'm little wiser as a result of listening and feel a bit deprived, if you really want to know. Could be that you might as well have asked your final questions without having the interview at all.

Rupert is no dunce, and if you let him speak, he'll doubtless say what he feels needs to be said in relation to his new book. But I don't believe you did, because (maybe subconsciously -- I'm not suggesting any malice) you wanted to follow your own point of view, and regrettably, I think that could have been at his expense.

Sorry if that seems harsh, but there you go: it's honestly how I feel.
No - I disagree with this - Rupert was given a long period where he described his early life.I think it was reasonable for Alex to discuss the relationship between Christianity and spirituality. I was interested to learn that part of Rupert's decision to return to Christianity was the fact that some holy men he encountered had no interest in the welfare of mankind.

I liked this interview, and it looks as if his new book covers new territory.

I wonder if Susan Blackmore will be changed because she has/will be her going to Brazil to take Ayahuasca!

David
 
#20
Alex, I very much appreciated your point about Jesus having truly existed or not etc being important in itself - the "shut up and calculate" approach to "ultimate Truth" that seems to be advocated (among others) by Rupert Sheldrake is certainly interesting and worth analysing but, ultimately, it is unsatisfactory to me as it is to you.
So thank you so much for asking that important question. I was however not surprised by the answer (or rather, the way he avoided answering....). I have an extremely high opinion of Dr Sheldrake but I think that, like many other people, he has chosen the soft option of just saying "if Christianity and its rituals work (make me feel good), it's good enough, I don't need to know if any of it is based on something real". In other words, Christianity may "work" like a placebo may work, but as long as it works it needn't contain an "active ingredient" (= actually be the one and only revelation of the Ultimate Truth or even be based on historical facts). Anything goes, really, as long as it works (ie, any religion or belief in something 'spiritual'). I suppose even belief in the Tooth Fairy or Unicorns or Father Christmas would be perfectly OK if it worked, based on this approach - why not? So, I don't mean to be dismissive of what Dr Sheldrake said (or even of people who believe in Unicorns or in the Tooth Fairy) but, like Alex, I don't find this approach intellectually satisfactory.
 
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