The Addiction Algorithm

“Just as freedom is first and foremost a spiritual yearning, addiction and Fascism are first and foremost crises of spirit.” - Jeff Einstein

ian bremmer art

Our lives in the digital 21st century are ruled by tens of thousands of digital algorithms. But here’s the one that matters most:

Chemical destiny minus meaningful ritual = addiction.

Here’s how it works, step by step:

  • We are wired for addiction by virtue of the simple fact that our brains are chemically motivated to pursue pleasure and avoid pain.
  • All of our time is spent in relationships with various people and things.
  • The rituals we build around each of the relationships in our lives dictate how, where and with whom we spend almost all of our time and money.
  • There are two kinds of ritual: meaningful (those that contribute to and promote our physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing), and self-serving (those that contribute to and promote our obsessions and addictions).
  • Over the past two generations, the institutions (family, meaningful labor, education and organized religion) that once championed meaningful ritual, moderation and common sense in our lives have been obliterated, marginalized or co-opted by a deliberate, corporatist onslaught of digital narcotics.
  • We all became hopelessly addicted to an endless supply of digital narcotics as the meaningful rituals in our lives were replaced by the rituals of our digital obsessions and addictions. By the early 21st century, addiction became the default social condition, the rule rather than the exception.

We now live in a Brave New Digital World, a society ruled and controlled by a state-sanctioned meta-addicti0n to all things media and all things digital. Like the citizens of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, we are undone in the digital 21st century less by the things we fear, and more by the things we love and invite into our homes and lives. In the end, our meta-addiction to all things media and all things digital steals our time and money and freedom — just like any other addiction to any other narcotic…

FacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagramFacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
twittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailtwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

True Entitlement is Top-Down

“In a society of default addiction and excess, the quality of life becomes a function of deliberate subtraction and disintermediation.” - Jeff Einstein

6a01053686a547970c017d3e73793e970c-pi

By Jeff Einstein

We speak of the need to trim entitlement costs from programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Food Stamps. We describe the effort to do so as a political third rail. But the current discussion about entitlement programs is a classic misdirect. What we call entitlements are in fact table scraps, what’s left over after the media/digital elite and their minions at all levels of government devour everything else. The truth is that true entitlement always begins and endures at the very top as an artifact of elitism and a tool of class warfare…

True and enduring entitlement begins and ends not with Food Stamps, but at the top in the hallowed halls of Congress, where Republicans and Democrats alike stop selling influence as career politicians with an 85% incumbency rate, only to start buying it as highly paid lobbyists.

True and enduring entitlement begins and ends not with Social Security, but at the top in the ivory towers of academia, where shameless administrators sit atop billion-dollar endowments and sports programs, and engorge themselves at the expense of middle-class parents whose children emerge with a lifetime of debt and few career prospects. All while students and tenured faculty champion diversity of everything except thought, and attack freedom of speech in tribal defense of some presumed and privileged right not to suffer the ignominious insult (real or perceived) of systemic micro-aggression and cultural appropriation.

True and enduring entitlement begins and ends not with Medicare, but at the top in the opulent cabins of private jets and convoys of armored Cadillac Escalades en route to global warming conferences.

True and enduring entitlement begins not with Medicaid, but at the top where the cult of celebrity deigns to inveigh against social injustice and income inequality while walking the red carpets of televised award ceremonies too numerous to count.

At the end of the day, the entitled scoundrels in high-tech, media and Wall Street, the entitled scoundrels in Washington, D.C. and the entitled scoundrels in academia are all the same entitled scoundrels at different stages of their careers…

FacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagramFacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
twittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailtwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Addiction as Chemical Destiny

“Just as freedom is first and foremost a spiritual yearning, addiction and Fascism are first and foremost crises of spirit.” - Jeff Einstein

CHEMICAL DESTINY minus MEANINGFUL RITUAL = addiction.

Over the past two decades I have come to believe that addiction is chemical destiny by virtue of the simple fact that our brains are wired to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. Couple that with the quasi-sober understanding that we now live a time when the supply of affordable (and legitimate) narcotics — analog and digital alike — is suddenly universal and utterly relentless.

We now live in a Brave New Digital World, a world where addiction is the default condition, the rule rather than exception. In the world of default addiction, meaningful rituals (those that improve the quality of our spiritual, physical, social and emotional lives) have been replaced in large measure by self-serving rituals of convenience (those designed to protect and promote the interests of our many addictions), and those who profit from them.

To sum things up: we live in a society with functionally limitless access to a bottomless supply of affordable narcotics at a time when we’ve already lost or sacrificed our institutional ability to resist. Of course, our actual resistance is rarely as strong in fact as we expect it to be in fantasy. Likewise, the actual narcotics almost always net stronger in fact than we imagined them in fantasy.

Meanwhile, the meaningful rituals (the lifestyle rituals designed and codified  our spiritual, physical, social and/or emotional wellbeing) designed specifically to improve the quality of our lives are being crowded out, obliterated by the incessant demands of self-serving rituals (those built to protect and cater to our obsessive compulsive behaviors and addictions).

Each self-serving ritual devoted to our obsessive-compulsive behaviors and addictions is time devoted away from the quality of life.

The quality of life, however, is decided by the quantity and quality of the rituals we invite into our lives. Because ritual is how we manage our lives. Ritual dictates how, where and with whom we spend almost all of our time.

Self-serving rituals are those we devote to our obsessive compulsive behaviors and addictions. They dominate our lives in early 21st century America and consume almost all our time: a 2015 report from the USC Marshall School of Business concludes that the average American now consumes 15.5 hours of media per day.

Meaningful ritual — ritual designed and employed to enhance our spiritual, social, physical and emotional wellbeing — stands between us and wholesale surrender to our chemical destiny as addicts.

FacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagramFacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
twittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailtwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Nature vs. Nurture…

“I’ve had layovers in airports that lasted longer than most of my corporate jobs.” - Jeff Einstein

Nature vs. Nurture: a false dichotomy…

Want someone truly different and truly entertaining to address your school, civic, religious or business group? I’m a veteran public speaker with hundreds of radio, TV, trade show, university, corporate and community appearances over three decades. Contact me today and let’s talk it over.

 

 

 

FacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagramFacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
twittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailtwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Digital Technology, Addiction and Kids

“HDTV is history's most perfect narcotic.” - Jeff Einstein

Here’s the generic pdf version of Digital Technology, Addiction & Kids, my live presentation to educators and parents. Total runtime for the live presentation is about 90 minutes. Nothing like it anywhere else…

 

Want someone truly different and truly entertaining to address your school, civic, religious or business group? I’m a veteran public speaker with hundreds of radio, TV, trade show, university, corporate and community appearances over three decades. Contact me today and let’s talk it over.

FacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagramFacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
twittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailtwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Trailer — Brave New Digital World: The Revelation

“The 20th century had media visionaries like Lippmann and Huxley and McLuhan and Postman. The 21st century has Jeff Einstein. Brave New Digital World: The Revelation is a brilliant and profound work of media and social criticism.” — York Eggleston

Below is the trailer for my new PPV video, Brave New Digital World: The Revelation — a video manifesto for the 21st century. In it I talk about what happens to our time, money and freedom in the rise of a dystopian society ruled and controlled by a state-sanctioned meta-addiction to all things media and all things digital. “What happens to the quality of life for ourselves, our families, our communities and our country,” I ask, “when addiction emerges as the default social condition, the rule rather than the exception?”

You can watch the full 45-minute feature version right now, right here!


Want someone truly different and truly entertaining to address your school, civic, religious or business group? I’m a veteran public speaker with hundreds of radio, TV, trade show, university, corporate and community appearances over three decades. Contact me today and let’s talk it over.

FacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagramFacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
twittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailtwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Sun Valley – Where Aristocracy Preaches Democracy

“All healing begins with gratitude.” - Jeff Einstein
Sun Valley
The foxes gather to discuss the henhouse…

By Jeff Einstein

Just in case anyone asks: The annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference is where the world’s largest drug cartel gathers in central Idaho each summer to fix prices, examine old and new alliances and debate distribution strategies. In other words, it’s where the vastly entitled Kings and Queens of commercial media, high-tech and entertainment collude with their investment and political bagmen in broad daylight.

It’s the Carrollean place where up is down and down is up, where freedom of the press in 21st-century America is celebrated, despite the fact that the paycheck of every reporter in the room is signed by someone else in the room.

It’s the Carrollean place where down is up and up is down, where the true beneficiaries of campaign finance reform in Congress and on K Street promote the cynical myth that where the money comes from is somehow more important than where it always seems to wind up.

It’s where true entitlement begins and ends, where Social Security and Medicaid and Medicare and Food Stamps are revealed for what they truly are: table scraps left behind by history’s most rapacious drug dealers.

It’s where the AllenCo gods make the aristocratic thugs of OPEC and the drug kingpins of Mexico look like bit players in a community playhouse, and where anti-trust and monopoly laws are simply too mortal to apply.

It’s obscene and intolerable. I’d write my senators to complain except they’re way too busy raising money to buy campaign ads…


Want someone truly different and truly entertaining to address your school, civic, religious or business group? I’m a veteran public speaker with hundreds of radio, TV, trade show, university, corporate and community appearances over three decades. Contact me today and let’s talk it over.

FacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagramFacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
twittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailtwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Election 2016 and Politics as Blood Sport

“All addictions, regardless of the narcotic, eventually steal our time and money and freedom.” - Jeff Einstein
Who to hate: Yankees or Red Sox?

By Jeff Einstein

Happy to say that I’ve long since reached the age where a conversation with an old friend is in fact a conversation with someone old (where the word “old” describes the actual friend, not just the friendship). In one such conversation with an old friend some years ago, I mentioned that I’d been raised as a devout SF Giants fan, and therefore hated the LA Dodgers by virtual birthright.

“Why did you hate the Dodgers?” she asked. Her question stopped me in my tracks. “Never really thought about it,” I said. “Just seemed like the right thing to do.”

Years later it occurs to me that the real benefits of sports loyalties might have less to do with the love or civic pride they engender, and more to do with the broad license they confer to hate someone else. Granted, it was fun to be a Giants fan and grow up in proximity to the incomparable Willie Mays. But it was really fun to hate the Dodgers, each and every one of them. A Giants/Dodgers series was blood sport, pure and simple.

These days my Giants-Dodgers love/hate relationship has been replaced by the Yankees and Boston. And while it’s been a great blessing to witness the individual and combined  greatness of Rivera and Jeter and Posada and Pettitte over the past couple of decades, it’s been an unmitigated blast and obligation to hate Martinez and Ramirez and Pedroia and Ortiz.

In essence, sports loyalties provide us with the legitimate excuse to express our irrational hatreds (much more fun and far less conditional than love) without the bothersome need to explain ourselves.

Same with politics, especially in Election 2016, where more Independents and Republicans will vote against Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump, and vice versa: more Independents and Democrats will vote against Donald Trump than for Hillary Clinton  It’s not just an election. It’s a free kick, a license to exercise our irrational hatreds.

Of course, the most partisan and politically correct among us on both sides will argue that they don’t hate their opposition, only their policies. Reality, however, suggests otherwise. Electronic media like TV, the Internet and smartphones sell emotion, not reason. Commercial advertisers (including and especially political campaigns) champion platitudes like love and respect and liberty and individual empowerment but in fact sell only fear and envy. The medium is the message, and in blood sports the true message is always about the Coliseum, not the gladiator.

Remember: in commercial media the ads aren’t there to support the content any more than the Coliseum was there to support the gladiators. In commercial media the content is there to support the ads — just as the gladiators were hauled in to support the Coliseum (and Rome). The Romans didn’t care which gladiator prevailed any more than Budweiser cares who wins the Super Bowl.

Fast forward: TV Everywhere is the American Coliseum of the 21st century. Blood sport is blood sport: while they may give voice to every manner of reasonable argument for doing so, the Democrats of MSNBC and CNN hate the Republicans of FOX, and vice versa. Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, sports and politics used to be about sports and politics. Now everything is about TV.


Want someone truly different and truly entertaining to address your school, civic, religious or business group? I’m a veteran public speaker with hundreds of radio, TV, trade show, university, corporate and community appearances over three decades. Contact me today and let’s talk it over.

FacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagramFacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
twittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailtwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

My Smartphone is a Blithering Idiot

“We spend all of our time in relationships with other people and things. How and where and with whom we invest our time within these relationships is governed by the rituals we build to service them.” - Jeff Einstein
iphone1-1024x492
Darwin had it right, only backwards…

By Jeff Einstein

Note: the following article was first published by MediaDailyNews in April, 2012

My pre-teen daughter has a smartphone that’s way smarter than I am. But she almost never uses it as a phone; mostly, she texts, snaps photos and plays games on it. Seems like the actual phone is the least-used function on her smartphone.

My smartphone is a blithering idiot (but still seems smarter than your truly). Just signed up for the No G/No App/No Bar/Drop A Call/Skip a Hyphen Plan from T-Mobile, and it suits me fine.  My daughter, however, is mortified. By everything I do.

In fact, I discovered some time ago that all of my authority over her (to the extent that it exists at all) for the foreseeable future is directly related to my ability to mortify her in front of her friends. All I have to do is threaten to bust a move. Suddenly, I’m drunk with power.

My mobile phone remembers all the phone numbers I long ago forgot. Still, somehow I manage to dial the occasional wrong number. Apparently, I’ve not only forgotten all the phone numbers I once was compelled to carry with me in my head, I’ve forgotten how to dial them as well. Kind of a technology-induced Alzheimer’s: I get stupider as my phone gets smarter.

I remember when my father took me to Disneyland in 1968.  A seasoned sports writer, he was in Los Angeles to interview O.J. Simpson, who’d just won the Heisman Trophy. In Disneyland, we happened on the AT&T/Bell Telephone exhibit, where they were introducing the push-button phone.  It was a simple display: a standard rotary dial phone alongside a new push-button model, both beneath a giant stop watch, and all accompanied by a strapping young man in a snappy Bell blazer.

Unfortunately for AT&T/Bell Telephone, the unctuous young man selected my father from the crowd to help demonstrate the superior speed and ease of the new push-button phone. He gave him a 10-digit number to dial, first on the rotary phone.  My dad, with years of experience dialing the phone with one hand while watching Willie Mays on the field and typing 60 wpm with his other hand, blazed through the 10 digits in a heartbeat — without even looking at the phone.

I could see the beads of sweat already starting to form on the brow of the handsome but hapless AT&T/Bellboy. “Well,” he said, half-anticipating the disaster just ahead of him, “if he dials the number that fast on the old phone, we can only imagine how quickly he’ll dial the same number on the new push-button phone.”

Keep dreaming, I thought to myself. Years later — having long mastered the push-button phone – my father would call me at all hours to ask why his Windows desktop task bar suddenly wound up at the top of the screen, or why he had just incurred yet another cryptic system alert: YOU HAVE COMMITTED AN UNSPEAKABLE ACT!

He passed away just before smartphones hit the market, but I can imagine him still seated somewhere in front of his antediluvian Underwood, still puzzled and still outmatched by his own technology. I can even imagine his very next question: “Can you help me change the ribbon?”

I miss him. Sometimes, it seems like life these days is just an endless string of fatuous euphemisms. I spend most of mine just trying to figure out how best to manage my time with all of my time-saving digital devices. Stephen Covey was right: Rather than trying to prioritize our schedules, we should schedule our priorities. We need to put first things first. Think I’ll text that thought to my daughter.


Want someone truly different and truly entertaining to address your school, civic, religious or business group? I’m a veteran public speaker with hundreds of radio, TV, trade show, university, corporate and community appearances over three decades. Contact me today and let’s talk it over.

FacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagramFacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
twittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailtwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Get Lost: Siri, GPS and Why Me?

“Political correctness is the Frankenstein monster resurrected from the body parts of humor and proportion.” - Jeff Einstein
cartoon6392
Digital accountability: blame Siri.

By Jeff Einstein

Note: This article was first published by MediaDailyNews in April 2012.

“A journey is like marriage. A certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” — John Steinbeck

How can we take a wrong turn these days? How can we discover the twists and turns and back roads of serendipity when the fastest-route box is the default selection on MapQuest or Google Maps? How can we possibly learn anything if Siri and GPI forever prevent us from making any mistakes en route? How can we be found if we’re never lost?

Our obsession with the destination — with getting there as fast as possible — all but obliterates the lessons and rewards of the journey, and we wake up one morning to discover that we’ve become prisoners of efficiency. Perfect prisoners to be sure, but prisoners nonetheless. Turns out our only real mistake was not turning off our digital masters while we still had the chance.

I was in Newport, Rhode Island, recently with my girlfriend. We stopped for breakfast on Thames Street and sat at a table next to a tourist family: a mother, father and two teenage boys. The father and two boys were all heads down, completely immersed in their respective smartphones while the mother — with no one to talk to and no technology to conceal her boredom — sat quietly and fashioned a brave smile when she looked my way.

Her eyes, however, were plaintive and sad, and betrayed her silence as if to ask, “How do I compete with this?” She sat without a word, ill-equipped in the moment and quite beyond redemption.

A tourist as well, I was clearly outmatched by my own technology, an early generation cell phone and a digital camera. Turns out that two digital devices are at least one too many for yours truly. I was forever pulling out the wrong device at the wrong time, the phone when I needed the camera and the camera when I needed the phone. I understand, however, that the new smart cameras come with phones. Amazing.

If a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, then what I know about digital technology must make me Public Enemy No. 1. Then again, who needs to know anything these days when we have Google and Wikipedia and Siri? Go ahead, ask me any question. I once took pride in things I knew, but that’s a harder claim to fame these days — especially when the primary lesson at the end of the day is how little I know about anything.

Meanwhile, my greatest achievement (with the exception of my daughter) is my undiminished sense of wonderment. I still see cathedrals in a grove of redwood trees (and vice versa), and still hear poetry in baseball each spring. Could be that I’m just easily and constantly amused, like all simpletons. Or maybe the result of too many drugs ingested over too many years.

But I think wonderment and happiness are basic choices we make as conditions of the journey, things we impose on our own worlds in our own time while our worlds impose conditions of their own, replete with riddles and rhythms we can’t possibly fathom. We call the conditions that life imposes on us destinations, and perhaps the most meaningful question we can ask of them — good or bad — is, “Why me?”

Try asking Siri.


Want someone truly different and truly entertaining to address your school, civic, religious or business group? I’m a veteran public speaker with hundreds of radio, TV, trade show, university, corporate and community appearances over three decades. Contact me today and let’s talk it over.

FacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagramFacebooktwitterlinkedinrssyoutubeinstagram
twittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailtwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail