Hack Me Now, for Humanity’s Sake

Design inner peace to better the world

Hello fellow humans. We’ve got all the ingredients here to do a lot better. This post proposes how we can start being more effective by designing apps to hack our brains into more altruistic states, both for individual and social wellbeingWe’re already programed by our content consumption. Let’s take control of the boobtube/feed/dialog/content & prompts to make the world abetter place. If you create, design, fund…read on, think and add.

Recent neuroscience is conclusive; the individual brain idling in a sense of scarcity/fear is more prone to hoard, deny, prejudice, bomb…but the brain feeling safe and content is much more likely to act with tolerance, kindness and generosity. Look at your feeds and they’re full of justified cries of anger, sadness, despair over the flaring up of pain all over the planet — wars, global warming, economic disparity and imminent disaster on far too many fronts. We unwittingly watch/read/’enjoy’ stuff that further makes the world seem really unsafe.

Yet, ironically, we need to consume calm, hack into sense of safety in order to predispose ourselves to solve the problems that terrify us. Fake it until we make it/walk a tightrope of optimism until it’s safe to look down. I’m not saying to ignore the news, just arm ourselves with ample ‘positive’ neural pathways so that you’re not put into a reactive deadened state where an innocent kid in a hoodie looks dangerous.

This isn’t creepy sci-fi. Creepy is that you’re unwittingly being manipulated by every great marketing ploy, game, and social media feed without your intentional direction. Time to take up the reins.

We can hack ourselves into more altruistic states.

Flash me images of abundance and triumph, make me dwell in a sense of gratitude and plenty, visualize-me kind, make me useful, and see how I behave after. See how I can respond to a cry for help.

If we design the right apps/hacks, it should actually feel good. Flip the news cycle upwards. Let’s addict ourselves to feeling good, building neural pathways that predispose us to act wiser/kinder.

Here’s some messy ideas

Millions of people play games like Candy Crush. Why can’t we tie-in real world ‘acts of kindness’ into such addictive structures? Reminder: when you act altruistically, you are improving your mental and physical health.

Please use this crude idea to improve-upon:

Your UI is a classroom of sleeping kids. You must wake them up. Every 10 points you earn wakes up a kid who leaps in joy and starts doing something interesting. Earn points by capturing or doing real random acts of kindness that you share online, for each ‘like’ or ‘view’ or something, you get a point…We get some sponsors for a contest around this — the top point earners get money every week. The top monthly winners are featured in a TV show, etc.

2. Create ‘happifying’ content: From subliminal flashes to short-format clips, let’s tweak the content-effect to our use.

Remember how they used to flash images of popcorn and cola during before movies and people flocked to consume them? Banned. Why not let us trysubliminal messaging with intention? You can explicitly select the messages and rate their effectiveness. A Quantified Self datafest. Flash me images of empathy, joy, triumph, success. Show me things that make me feel safe, enthusiastic, exuberant.

Let’s play around with simple emotional video clips. This guy made himself look faces every morning and noted that he felt better the next day. We have got to do a lot more research into this sort of easy/trigger-less behavior modification! So powerful and so effortless! Wowzers!

Inside smart houses…going off on a tangent here, but imagine a refrigerator that flashes you images of yourself in at your ideal weight, sweating, high on endorphins from a great run…and then you see your succulent healthy meal— oh god, i would love to do some AB testing on different images. Recall the study at the Stanford avatar lab that showed that if your avatar ate healthier so did you? I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about content to manipulate mood, even so far as making some prototypes — but it has been an ‘aha’ moment that led me from mere mood manipulation to seeing how getting out of reactive states can help humanity…because really, is there anything more important than stopping the insanity of wars, global warming and terror?

3. Popularize the concept that we need to nurture our individual mental states in order bring peace to the global state. Sounds like a self-help mantra, but behavioral science conclusions are backing this up! I am a desperate optimist that this benevolent brain-hacking can indeed save the world. Imagine, feeling safe and acting kindly spreading around like a hyperactive Ebola. Maps of tolerance clusters. If we don’t do something about all the terrible shit that is going on I’m scared my children won’t be able to splash in waves or run in fields. Read the books out there — talk about mental health/habits/cues. About mirror neurons, altruism, creating positive neural pathways to get out of reactive modes…

4. Design networks so everyone can be useful: The saying goes that it’s young men without jobs who create big problems. Everyone needs to feel useful. We are networked, but we need to design apps that show ‘real world’ useful connections between people. The local out-of-work rocker can come teach my 7 year old how to play electric guitar. I would pay him or give him karma points so he can get the massage therapist to come help him relax, or the person who cleans quickly but needs to work around their families schedule. Teenagers should be putting on talent shows inside old-folks homes, honing and feeling appreciated for developing their skills. And, able ‘old folks’ need to turn around teach those teenagers to knit, read, appreciate history, etc. This would actually be easy to make…must give it a go. Incentivize through contests, leader-boards.

Harness heuristics for our well being.

I want to credit these books that I’ve recently devoured for having inspired this spark.

Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment,.. by Rick Hanson

The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet by Ramez Naam

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products byNir Eyal

The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It.. by McGonigal Ph.D.
Steering by Starlight: The Science and Magic of Finding Your.. byMartha Beck

Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child, by Gottman PhD

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