In 2017, the CIA declassified some 12 million pages of records revealing previously unknown details about the program, which would eventually become known as Project Star Gate. By the time the program was shut down in 1995, psychics known as “remote viewers” had taken part in a wide array of operations, from locating hostages kidnapped by Islamic terrorist groups to tracing the paths of fugitive criminals within the United States.
Publicly, the Pentagon continued to deny it was spending money on any kind of psychic research, even as reports leaked out in the 1980s of the details of the government’s experiments. Finally, in 1995, the CIA released a reportconducted by the independent American Institutes for Research, which acknowledged the U.S. government’s long-rumored work with remote viewing for military and intelligence purposes.
This is a prelude to a very interesting aspect of American history, where they believed that something like this works (much before the real time location and the Internet- surveillance technologies at scale). The obsession with mind control has percolated down to the current generation too- advances in “behavioral psychology” have created fascinating insights in human behavior “at scale”. Assuming the CIA’s Q-Tel links with the Silicon Valley and the oft-repeated attempts to create a panopticon, here’s another fascinating insight:
I believe that human beings, on some fundamental level as social creatures, need to have trusting face-to-face community with others. Forcing people indoors and abstracting their social interactions, forcing human contact into a communication channel that is both easily monetized and easily monitored, it harms our brains in a way that we don’t yet fully understand, in addition to giving untold amounts of power to private tech companies.
Most alarming is the “internet points”. On Reddit, this is called Karma. On Twitter, it’s likes and retweets. Ostensibly, this simple numeric score displays the community’s overall attitude toward a given piece of content. On its face, this appears to be a radically democratic concept; Everyone can vote! The reality is very different. Reddit, for example, has always obfuscated the true Karma score (“to prevent vote brigading”), and the position of a piece of content within the feed can be purposely decided by the Reddit home office, not by the community. This is incredibly, deeply sinister.
If you look back at the initial link, there’s something similar- mind control at scale.
The sad fact (and reality) is that these technologies are being used for the concentration of power. Imagine, a different use case- using the same technologies to encourage end users towards healthy lifestyle behaviours instead? AI can be a force for good.