Issue 756
This week's practice 

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Dear Friends,

Last week I was talking to a friend who has a senior position at Google about the responsibility these huge tech companies have.  In particular we were talking about developments in technology that provides the means by which, via the use we make of the internet, our interests may be assessed and thereby directed to things that are perceived to be of interest to us.  Arising from this is a phenomenon called ‘filter bubble’.  By assessing our tendencies and delivering to us what it would appear to be of interest, there may arise the unintentional effect of enclosing us in a bubble of preconception, habitual thinking and prejudice.  Facebook’s algorithms perform filtering behind the scenes, producing significantly different streams of news based on what a user has liked.
This, combined with the other phenomena, ‘fake news’ may shut our thinking down rather than opening it to possibility, which was the original idea of the internet.  It was certainly Tim Berners-Lee's ideal when he originally created the internet.

Bill Gates sees a problem of people trusting in skewed and inaccurate information, of people entering into a ‘bubble’ of opinion and being locked in. 'Do people really want to be in a microcosm where the facts are wrong? Because over time, wrong facts don’t lead to good things.' You might like to hear what he has to say: Bill Gates on the dangers of 'filter bubbles'

Technology provides us with so much of benefit.  The hope is that these emails are of benefit, and they certainly wouldn’t be delivered if it wasn’t for developments in technology, but with greater facility comes greater responsibility.  He’s not the only one who is concerned.  Mark Zuckerberg wrote: 'I worry about these and we have studied them extensively.'  And this is something that, according to my friend, those at Google are equally concerned about, a concern which they are spending time and effort trying to resolve - 'how to burst the filter bubble'. 

It’s concerns of this nature and the advance of Artificial Intelligence that has led the American billionaire, Stephen Schwarzman to donate a £100 million to set up a college for the study of the humanities at Oxford University.  This is the largest donation to the university since the Renaissance.

The Renaissance is called renaisance because it was all about the rebirth of Classical wisdom, and undoubtedly it’s wisdom that’s required to meet the challenges that modern technology presents. As Stephen Schwarzman's puts it: 'It’s important to remember what being human is...Why are we here?  What are our values?  How does technology deal and interact with that?’ These are age old questions given increased urgency with the rapid advance of technology. They were evidently uppermost in his mind in the giving of this donation, as indeed it should be in all our minds.  After all it doesn’t need the internet to create our own small world of habitual thinking, and it’s this enclosed frame of mind that stops us achieving our true destiny.

Very best regards, William


This week's reflection

Breaking Out of the Bubble

'Filter bubbles' doesn't just affect the information that affects us, for we do have a tendency to create mental and emotional bubbles of one knd or another much of the time.  It is undoubtedly true that we will never discover our true destiny without making clear and conscious efforts to explore what has been given to us personally, to realise our own individual talents, and that won't be discovered by being locked in an habitual bubble of thinking and feeling. 

I habitually avoid the issue.  I don't face the challenges.  Better the devil you know.  I look through the job columns in the paper, and though I'm certain I could do most of those things that catch my attention, I convince myself that I can't because it would involve hard work and facing certain aspects of myself which I would rather leave unexplored.

No. Action is required, continuously, and this requires perseverance and determination, even when inertia seems to be in the ascendant, particularly then.

There are those times when negative emotion seems to rule out any possibility of discovering what it is that is given for us to do.  Here are examples of just this:

I have this very basic sense of failure.  When I hand in anything at work there is this profound belief in my own failure.

You can so easily get attracted to the trivial.  It has the sense of self indulgence.  I've seen myself in these situations when it feels completely justified to sulk and indulge in it!

Here's another story.  It's all about breaking out of a bubble:

Of late I have found that I am much more able to look at my role in life and not get so confused.  Last week there was good reason to practise 'Self Remembering'.  At work I am the chairman of the union branch, and have to represent members of staff.  I often feel myself getting annoyed with certain individuals on the management.  Some of their ideas are so short-sighted.  One can allow these attitudes to cloud the issue and to react and get angry.  I remembered what was said about giving to the situation rather taking from it.  This allowed me to let it all go, to step back and observe the whole in an uninvolved way.  It seemed so important to have this recourse so as not to add fire to fire.

When this happens the conversation takes place on a different level.  All that is left is a cool analysis of the facts.

Under these circumstances do you think he is more effective as a negotiator or less?  Indeed, do you think that by being ruled by reason he has developed a talent for it? A talent like this naturally arises because of clear connection and 'cool' observation.


Give expression to your true talents.

When you see some mental or emotional limit consciously burst the bubble.

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Plato Forum

Expand Your World INNOVATION/COMMUNICATION/CREATIVE THINKING Sunday March 2nd 10am-5pm understand what life is asking of you. Tickets including tea and coffee available in advance from the office - 15