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The Loop

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The Loop

How Technology Is Creating a World Without Choices and How to Fight Back

Hachette Book Group USA,

15 min read
7 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Technology is transforming human behavior.

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Sophisticated technologies and deepening knowledge of unconscious human behavior drive people to fundamentally change their behavior without knowing how or why – and often for the profit of technology companies. Unconscious forces drive human behavioral patterns, such as racial bias and addiction. Contemporary technologies can harness those forces for political and economic purposes. Technology feeds humans’ worst predispositions – emotional, political, even aesthetic – back to them in ways they can’t resist. NBC technology correspondent Jacob Ward describes the three “loops” by which technologies compromise how people make decisions and live. Ward’s passionate insights will engage anyone concerned by digital technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) affecting contemporary society – and their own decision-making.


“Unconscious habits” inform human experience.

Following the First World War, seriously damaged men streamed through Austrian medical clinics, and many had disjointed perceptions of the world. For some, ordinary peripheral perceptions that people usually don’t notice were accentuated and unbearable. 

Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Otto Pötzl treated and researched these patients. His 1917 essay about one patient described how the brain receives and processes information without all of it entering consciousness. Subsequent research showed that the reality humans experience is only the best, most efficient version the brain pieces together from an overwhelming excess of information.

The brain isn’t a “closed system.” The brain can unconsciously reconstruct perceptions from all the senses and unconsciously assimilate and communicate emotional states. Researchers are increasingly identifying the unconscious patterns and predispositions people develop over the course of their lives that guide their decisions and actions. The science behind this may be young and undeveloped, but people in politics and business already exploit people...

About the Author

Jacob Ward is a technology correspondent for NBC News, reporting on technology’s social implications.

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