I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist.
Stark authority was pitted against the subjects’ strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects’ ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not.
The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.
— Stanley Milgram
Back in 1961 a Yale psychologist named Stanley Milgram wanted to see the mechanism behind what caused seemingly well-adjusted normal people to be able to carry out often horrific authoritarian actions.
So he created an experiment to figure it out.
While I could go on for several pages explaining the Milgram Experiment, it’s probably easier for me to simply link to a good examination of it… This one seems to cover it well without a pay-wall or requiring a behavioral psychology degree: Milgram (1963) – Obedience to Authority
Once one is familiar with the Experiment, you begin to see parallels in current events… Which is why I’m pretty sure we’re living in a huge Milgram Experiment.
I mean, sure, there’s the usual sales and marketing confusion because a button is a different color, but that was expected.
The biggest issue so far is in “Teams”. In the business version of “Google Workspace”, when you create a meeting it automatically gives you a dial-in number for that meeting – in case someone wants to attend the video call via fax or something.
In Microsoft’s world, everything is an add-on with different licensing options… So to get dial-in capability you need to buy licensing for ‘meeting coordinators’ to create Teams meetings with dial-in numbers.
It’s not expensive; $48 per year per user – but that’s still enough to make my CFO cross… After all, it was ‘free’* with Google.
(*it’s not free – it’s in exchange for Google being allowed to tag and track you like cattle)
Anyway, Microsoft gave me a single dial-in license for a year, for actual free, to test it out – and it seems to work just fine in I.T. testing… So we gave it to one of the sales guys to test out.
No word back yet, but that’s usually a good sign.
Otherwise I’m just spending a lot of time right now figuring out all of the O365 services. The I.T. department has moved to Teams entirely for communications and we’ve started putting documents and whatnot from the internal fileserver into OneDrive.
I still have concerns about the security of OneDrive, but government agencies use it so it must at least get some review (I hope). For now I’m not putting anything sensitive in it until I get a chance to try and break it.
Other departments are slowly moving into SharePoint and Teams as well, and there haven’t been very many questions they couldn’t answer with online docs – so that’s good.
I’ve been a sci-fi aficionado / fantasy fan / comic nerd / role player / gamer pretty much my entire life, or at least since the early 70’s, and accordingly I like to think I’m pretty well versed in the lore and history of it all…
To paraphrase Bane;
“you think geekdom is your ally? You merely adopted nerdiness. I was born in it, molded by it.”
In general, the 80’s and early 90’s were kinda preoccupied with the apocalypse, so it showed up in pretty much every aspect of the the pop culture of the era. I mean, we were fairly convinced that we would all be vaporized in nuclear fire at any moment. And there was a shift in technology that was happening at a frightening pace for many – and it was already creating fantastically wealthy people with questionable morals…
This leads to why I’m fairly convinced that modern day reality is actually just a really good simulation of the 80’s and 90’s dystopian games I played, comics I read, music I listened to, and movies I saw…
Take “Judge Dredd” for example:
“A sprawling conurbation had sprung up in the 2020s, stretching from New York City to Washington and growing. Crime had skyrocketed in the overcrowded sprawl, escalating to the point where an alliance of street gangs under P Street Posse raided the White House itself and successfully intimidate juries into acquitting them. This lead to the rollout of the Judges in 2031 – a proposal backed by the citizens, who voted out the congressmen who opposed Eustace Fargo and President Guerney’s plan.
At first the Judges worked with the existing police forces in the conurbation, with the intention of easing them into obsolesce, and had to force their way through both police and local government. The Governor of New York attempted to oppose the Judges on constitutional grounds, quietly helping to escalate tensions to help his career – ironically he would be saved from a murderer by the Judges, who exposed his crimes and cemented their position.”
— Judge Dredd Source Material
That sounds vaguely like a collection of headlines from the last few months…
But it gets even better. Here’s a passage from the “Neo Tribes” supplement for Cyberpunk 2020 – written in 1995:
Gee, that’s not prophetic or anything…
The movies of the era were just as prophetic though; “RoboCop” showed us a future where mega-coprorations run the government while the general population wastes away consuming 24/7 media drivel – but that could never happen. Right?
And while aliens may not fill the world with subliminal advertisements, a-la “They Live“, that’s only slightly more dystopian than a world where tech companies target us with advertising algorithms that know more about us than our own family members.
And that dystopian prescience was even in the music. Take Queesryche’s incredible rock opera “Operation: Mindcrime” from 1988:
I used to trust the media To tell me the truth, tell us the truth But now I’ve seen the payoffs Everywhere I look Who do you trust when everyone’s a crook?
“Revolution Calling” — Queensryche
Or the Dead Kennedys’ “Trust Your Mechanic” from 1982:
TV invents a disease you think you have So you buy our drugs and soon you depend on them Pain is in your mind, got you coming back for more again and again and again and again Gonna rip you off, rip you off!
“Trust Your Mechanic” — Dead Kennedys
It really seems that the ominous predictions of the 80’s are coming true in the 2020’s.
Sure, we’re streaming media to mobile devices as well as vegging in front of the T.V., but the non-stop 24/7 media drivel is the same. And while we’re not hacking sentient mainframes in neon-drenched 3D cyberspace, corporations are certainly datamining our virtual lives for profit.
And, sure, aliens aren’t controlling us though advertising – but massive social-media companies built on complex invasive algorithms have no problem getting people to do some really weird stuff at the press of a button…
At the end of the day it really does seem as though we are living in the corporate dystopia the 1980s warned us about…
And we didn’t even get cool hoverboards out of the deal. 🙁
I took the plunge into the whole ‘connected home’ thing today… Picked up and installed a Sensi thermostat and tied it into Apple’s “Home Kit”.
The impetus for this was my utility company, who is giving $75 rebates on ‘smart’ thermostats and $25 off the bill every October if you let them read data from it.
They say this data collection is to help them monitor utilization amounts and times, and they can nag you a bit if you’re running the AC too much… But that’s it; read-only.
They have another program where they install a remote-operated switch on the AC that allows them to control it – but I’m not horribly interested in that.
The thing they’re beating around the bush about though is electric cars… Recharging 100 miles on your average electric car is the equivalent of running the AC for six hours. Sure, that makes it like $5 for 100 miles, but that 6 hours of AC equivalent makes it so the utility company gripes about regular folk using their actual AC for a couple of hours.
Anyway, so far the new place is far more efficient than the townhome I had last year… I just got the first utility bill and it was about half of what the bill was for March last year at the old place.
I attribute this mostly to the gas range. See, running the stovetop via gas for an hour is probably a nickel, while running two 3000 watt electric burners for the same time is probably close to a dollar. And 350 degrees for an hour via gas is also probably a nickel while the same on an electric range is also probably a buck… And my roommate runs the stovetop pretty much every other evening, and the oven probably twice a week.
So, by that estimate, I’m saving $20 or so per month just by having a gas range.
The new house is also way better insulated and has a lot more windows, which lets in more sunlight when it’s cold outside, so that’s less winter heating… How this holds up in the summer though? I’ll just have to wait and see.