The Sunday Post for May 22, 2016

How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist

A peek inside the designer's mind, and how navigation and other tricks by designers and companies trick you into feeling like you have choice, when in fact you're being guided through a very specific experience. The author, Tristan Harris, was Google's design ethicist, so is deeply familiar with all the techniques.

By shaping the menus we pick from, technology hijacks the way we perceive our choices and replaces them new ones. But the closer we pay attention to the options we’re given, the more we’ll notice when they don’t actually align with our true needs.
The empty brain

More brain stuff! In Aeon, Robert Epstein looks at the brain, and as the subtitle says "Your brain does not process information, retrieve knowledge or store memories. In short: your brain is not a computer".

Our shoddy thinking about the brain has deep historical roots, but the invention of computers in the 1940s got us especially confused. For more than half a century now, psychologists, linguists, neuroscientists and other experts on human behaviour have been asserting that the human brain works like a computer.

To see how vacuous this idea is, consider the brains of babies. Thanks to evolution, human neonates, like the newborns of all other mammalian species, enter the world prepared to interact with it effectively. A baby’s vision is blurry, but it pays special attention to faces, and is quickly able to identify its mother’s. It prefers the sound of voices to non-speech sounds, and can distinguish one basic speech sound from another. We are, without doubt, built to make social connections.

We’re in an amazing black cultural moment. Can we avoid the backlash?

Syreeta McFadden in the Guardian, looking at the exposure and relevance of black culture in popular media, and how white America is bound to respond (Donald Trump sure seems to be a paranoid freakout to our first black President to this observer).

This artistic triumph isn’t a new movement, then, but rather reads like one because this time around, creators aren’t making work that over explains black life or that makes white society comfortable, centered or even included. Beyoncé’s Lemonade was made to speak to black women. Larry Wilmore’s N-word use at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner wasn’t meant for the white people it offended. Shonda Rhimes is the most successful showrunner in television, creating space for black actors to feature complex representations of black life. Claudia Rankine’s critically acclaimed volume, Citizen, explicitly interrogates micro aggressions that shape black life in America.
What does it mean when we call women girls?

Robin Wasserman on the popularity of books with "girl" in the title, and what it's like to be an author who wrote one.

As a dedicated contrarian—someone whose few attempts at trend-chasing have culminated in baroque, Wile E. Coyote-esque failure—little makes me feel more alien in my own skin than finding myself accidental avatar of a cultural fad. Which is to say, I’m not really the zeitgeist type. And yet it seems I’ve written a book with “girl” in the title. First prize: Free ride on the bandwagon, like it or not.