Contemporary politics and the ensuing organization of consensus currently employ techniques and methods never used before.
We are going through an era in which completely new mechanisms operate within the traditional Parliamentary political representation, inherited from the liberal and democratic thought of the eighteenth century and of the following century. These mechanisms are much more powerful than those that – in the modern imitation of the Athenian agora -formed the will of the people and the guidelines and directions of the government.
Democracy of Ancients and Democracy of Moderns – just to use the simile of Benjamin Constant – were basically similar, but different in their functioning.
The number of citizens did not constitute a substantial difference, except that, according to Constant, modern democratic citizens delegated to the ruling class what did not fall within their being “private individuals, with private interests”.
Again according to Constant, the reason lay precisely in the new category of “private individuals” who, with a view to maintaining their wealth or work, deemed it right to delegate to someone else their power to make and break laws. Nowadays the private sphere does no longer exist. But not in the sense of the society of “one thousand eyes” and of continuous supervision and surveillance, but because the very category of “private” is over even in the political discourse.
Hence a mass totalitarian society, with a repressive apparatus that applies to everything would previously have been the subject of the strictly personal sphere of life.
Everything has currently changed, but everything still appears to be similar to the criteria and principles we have studied in the manuals of history of political doctrines. This is not the case.
Meanwhile, since the beginning of the 20th century, Eduard Bernays, Freud’s nephew and the father and pioneer of public relations, had established some connections between Sigmund Freud’s psychology (and with Gustave Le Bon’s Psychology of the Crowds, Mussolini’s favourite book) and political practice.
That was the beginning of what we now call “corporate communication”.
The suffragettes smoked and that was an operation funded by Bernays through the US tobacco producers.
The exaltation of sex – following the publication of the Kinsey Report and the mass spread of the contraceptive pill-changed and upset the consumption styles and habits of vast masses of young people who, in the 1960s, were to shape the consumption habits of what Galbraith called the “affluent society”.
That was the objective, not sex.
Hence, based on what discovered by Sigmund Freud, with a view to selling or prompting and inducing political behaviours, there was the need to “work” above all on the unconscious.
Currently, whatever is implanted from outside into the unconscious – if repeated constantly – always becomes real in the future.
The real for itself always becomes in itself, because what individuals think -in crowds, but solitarily (Riesman’s “lonely crowd”) -becomes either consumption or political behaviour, which is basically the same.
The subconscious has a huge power, i.e. controlling all subjective experiences. It is the autopilot of life, also from a practical viewpoint.
Nowadays no one speaks to the “reason”, the myth of the eighteenth century, but to instincts, to the subconscious, even to the unconscious.
The whole mechanism of the subconscious is already well in place and ready at 7-8 years of age and continues all lifelong.
With a view to reprogramming it, we need at first to limit the external and environmental negativities.
Indeed, we need to look for fully “positive” people, things and environments, as well as information.
Needless to say, this rule is carefully followed by all political propagandists and, above all, by advertisers.
Currently politics always follows the rules of consumer goods advertising. The leader is a testimonial. The script is the program and the government an oligopoly.
With a view to de-programming the “negative” mind, we need instead to visualize – as in a daydream – positive situations which we have already experienced.
We also need to reprocess the feelings of joy, which reach the subconscious immediately, well before the other ones.
The subconscious mind always and only knows the present.
Past and future are conceptual notions and processing – hence they are conscious. The subconscious interprets the negative of a negative proposition only as negative.
Creating positive propositions that counteract the negative ones processed and produced by the subconscious and then continuously repeat these actions. This is the basic technique.
This is, in short, the subjective mechanism that is currently used in political and commercial communication.
What are, however, the current technologies used to program and reprogram people’s minds?
We can mention the theory of social warfare, the virtual but all-out clashtaking place in the minds of citizens of a target country, using current technologies.
The aim of any reprogramming campaign is, in fact, to make the enemy (the enemy people, indeed) think like us.
It is a new kind of manipulation, much wider than the one carried out with the old disinformation or with the intelligence intoxication that was the non-violent part of the Cold War.
The most used information technologies are now Precision Targeting – which sends messages and behavioural inductions to a specific group – as well as the wide range of Artificial Intelligence mechanisms that are used to simulate online the behaviour and thought in relation to the primary information we wants to convey. There is also the algorithmic decision-making, which processes information through specific algorithms in view of formulating recommendations or taking fully automated decisions.
This holds true both for decision-makers and for the vast mass of users, citizens and voters of the aforementioned decision-makers.
We can also mention the Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies, which create partially or completely artificial environments for both the programmers of the public opinion and the public itself.
But also the Internet of Things (IoT) is used in this field, by correlating machines and sensors for the construction of a Complete Reality, which becomes facts and data to be spread as such.
In this context of complete manipulation of information, which becomes the Complete Reality, also voice interfaces are useful. They allow to exchange information between the Source and the User or between Users, thus allowing the psychological reinforcement of news.
Again in the field of information manipulation, blockchains are also important. They allow to control and process information only through the users enabled to use the “chain”.
We should also recall the computerized programs that generate completely false videos and images – fakes which, however, are absolutely plausible.
Precision Targeting is used above all to reprogram groups of pre-selected individuals, who provide the Web with a continuous flow of information, from mobile phones, from the Web and from the other channels, to those who can selectively access the Web. All this is currently used, above all, through social media.
In this case, we have already reached the phase of neuromarketing, which changes the desires and habits of specific population groups, by combining the mental effects with the emotional ones.
As if it were a sign which, according to De Saussure, is the indestructible connection between signified and signifier. But the product of neuromarketing is not at all a language sign.
In this case, the above mentioned technology could be used for indirect facial recognition, manoeuvred by Artificial Intelligence systems.
Facial recognition will enable those who manoeuvre -also temporarily – the Web to quickly check the emotions of millions of people, and we all know how important emotions are now to tamper with the psyche and communicate concepts that often have very little relevance at conceptual and even at emotional or mental levels.
By 2035 these technologies are expected to be spreading like wildfire, since they are very important both for commercial operations and for political marketing.
Artificial Intelligence is the primary axis of development of all the other technologies we are talking about. AI will be used above all in verbal and textual recognition, as well as in the collection and analysis of very broad spectrum data, and for the processing of raw initial data, again in a very large population.
AI, however, will above all be used for defining an automated decision-making that can support the human decision-makers when they do not know, remember or understand all facts and, above all, the underlying determinants of facts.
We will get to imitate, without realizing it, Elsa Morante’s book “The World Saved by Kids” and certainly what is happening in global communication already guarantees this future to us. They are more manipulable. They have no memory and they are perfect for the Brave New World that stands before us.
We can easily imagine what all this means for advertising, for the selection of markets, for business decisions but, above all, for the development of political platforms, both in terms of the electoral process and for the more specific decision-making process.
The next level will be content, which will often be produced directly by AI systems.
But let us better analyse what algorithmic decision-making is.
It is often currently applied in medicine.
Disease analysis, therapy forecasting, statistical analysis of diseases and their effects, both at subjective and population levels. In the near future, however, other sectors will be ever more like the banking system. Human Resources, even political decision itself, will be the subject of these applications, which will often become so complex as not to be understood – in the future – by the computers using them.
If you collect a lot of data, it is increasingly likely that a sequence of decisions or simple new data is not recognized by the program operating in the computer.
Also for AI networks we will have a process of learning by doing.
There are two dangers. Firstly, that the private ownership of the most important databases makes competition between systems impossible; secondly that the algorithms are hackable or manipulable by third parties unknown to the system.
There are also Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.
If we proceed with the increasingly analytical and obsessive adaptation of the devices to the Ego of the User, or to his/her tastes- considered, for some reason, immutable – we risk an ideological drift of new technologies, i.e. that of hyper-subjectivism and, as happens in current educational practice, that of the permanence of the mass Ego in an eternal childhood.
The “Minor Ego” advocated by some people is a very real risk and it is not even clear how a super-massified production can be adapted to the increasingly self-referential psychologies of the Consumer Ego.
Not to mention the natural limit – currently often evanescent – that the Augmented Reality keeps between the imaginary and reality – a limit that, in the propaganda and political implementation of the Virtual Reality, could become very dangerous to cross.
Immanuel Kant spoke of the 100 gold Thalers that can be in your pocket or just in your imagination, but that cannot certainly be mistaken one for the other.
Hence beyond any technological processing, Reality is never the Imaginary.
Although the imaginary can induce behaviours very similar to those that the subject would have if subjected to reality, the one that – as Voltaire said – has “hard head”.
By Internet of Things (IoT) we generally mean an environment full of machines that interact with one another through the Web.
As can be easily guessed, the IoT information potential is huge.
Human consumption habits, but also communication, ways of life, lifestyles, exchanges between subjects, positions and information exchanged between individuals will be part of huge databases.
Probably, in the future, it will be difficult to find exactly what is needed in those databases, considering that the bias of the IT and data storage systems tends to increase with the quantity and complexity of data.
It is estimated that, by 2030, there will be over one and a half trillion sensors connected to IoT networks, which will be worth half of the entire Internet traffic of “simple” users.
According to Deloitte, the entire IoT market is expected to be worth a trillion, in addition to further 750 billion for IoT network connection modules.
It can be easily imagined to what extent this makes it possible to hack data not only from IoT networks, but also from all other networks connected to the Internet and ending up in an IoT structure.
By 2030 blockchains will be the basis of financial, control, check and analysis networks.
It will be the beginning of virtual monetization, which is, in itself, the opening of the financial gates of Hell.
The miserable level of the current economic thinking allows it.
Nevertheless, all this technological development – between imagination and reality – will lead us towards a society of the unverifiable and probable, with no possibility of responding to a government financial or information fake and with an increasing penetrability of information networks, to which the whole social fabric and not only its control will be delegated.
However, the society of the imaginary 100 Thalers – believing that the imagined ones are already in the pocket – will not be able to pay anything.
Giancarlo Elia Valori