Entangled in the Web

Yfke Laanstra

It was spring 2017. My book 'Bits, Bytes & Bewustzijn' was finished, my writing work was done. It had found its way into the book stores and my message had been made accessible to the general public. In the form of a book with a free app. I remember very well that I realized the moment that it was finished. I wanted to rewrite another chapter, but all I had to say at the time had been said and it was in the right chronological order. I had just typed the last lines and with a huge smile on my face I proudly called my mother. 'It's done,' I yelled on the phone.

What a unique experience and what a relief to be able to put so much in perspective, to have so much empty space at my disposal to be able to outline a larger framework. About my passion for the cutting edge of consciousness and computer technology. How very helpful for myself, because this made it even easier for me to navigate and increased the urgency even more to bring this out to the public.

But the things I would realise about my book only months later were painfully confrontational and embarrassingly ironic. Even somewhat hilarious.

It actually started as early as during the preparations for the book launch. The build-up to this was one big drowning process. I was unable to steer churning streams of data in the right direction. I spent months reconciling in slides, information and research into finding that perfect image and that perfect structure. Day in, day out, I locked myself in my office, behind my screen, with yet another mind map in the works. Once in a while waves of inspiration came and I tried frantically to capture these in a framework. In vain. As soon as I tried, the inspiration would ebb away again and I would continue to struggle in persistent pools of despair. In the end I decided to relax a bit and trust in a positive outcome and was still able to unwind a bit on the day of the launch. But it was pointless: during the presentation I died a thousand times and I wished that I could crawl under my rock again, behind my safe laptop, in endless online surfing sessions. A tsunami of self-doubt, insecurity and judgment flooded me. Despite the positive reactions and the subsequent invitations to lectures. However, my fierce inner critic refused to make any positive statement. It was an intense experience, but fortunately, 24 hours later, I had picked myself up again: after all, an opportunity for growth had offered itself. I proceeded with courage. Many lectures followed and the experiences varied from being completely in my sweet spot to utter displacement and everything in between. Until at a certain moment I realized that I was hiding behind a beamer, in the shadow of technology, and didn't really show myself. I got the feeling I was stuck in a concept, in a format that didn't suit me. Allowing myself to be led by existing perceptions of technology and (unconsciously) helping to propagate them. But this wasn't my narrative. I didn't want to just warn humanity about technology, help strengthen some kind of polarity or herald the end of the world. I wanted to highlight the start of a new reality, where humanity and technology can go hand in hand. That is, with humanity at the wheel and consciousness as the key.

I became stuck, incredibly frustrated, tripped and fell. In the autumn I decided to unplug and reconnect to myself. I realised that I was running after my own book and hadn't (yet) taken the time to allow that what I had written down to sink into me deeply. To reflect on this and to mark my own position in it. The irony was, apparently this was not consciously necessary either: this process had already started at an unconscious level. I had bypassed myself, stumbled and had fallen on my head. My head that was really stuffed. To the point where I noticed that I was increasingly unable to properly concentrate, drowned in my own thoughts and was quickly overwhelmed. As in a bad joke I had to think back to the remarks in my own book about the emergence of new disorders such as Infobesitas.

Infobesitas
This is also referred to as data smog. An excessive intake of data, an information overload that leads to data congestion and decision-making stress and to an excessive stimulation of the senses.

However, as time went by, I couldn't really see the sense of humour any more. Before writing my book, I had already acknowledged to myself and my newsletter subscribers that I was addicted to my smartphone. At the time I thought that I had acknowledged this to its full extent. Perhaps a little light bulb should have been lit when my soul mate gave me a t-shirt with the text 'I love you more than wifi' ;)
Soon after the actual full extent became painfully clear to me. When I reread my own book, many paragraphs suddenly pinpointed some sore spots. Some very sore spots. I had to admit to myself that in some parts of the book I was totally describing myself.
Passages about the importance of spending time in nature, exercising, incorporating tranquility and relinquishing from spending time on your computer every now and then in order to recharge and reconnect to oneself. About how excessive computer use particularly activates your left hemisphere, keeps you occupied in your head, out of touch with your body. The negative health effects of the radiation. The possible addiction to smartphones, social media and the internet. The internet, the digital heroin. Ouch, how confronting. For someone like me who prefers to be glued to her laptop all day, endlessly surfing the internet and in the evening with the same ease switching over to her smartphone and smart TV. Who is very difficult to get outside and to get physically active. Whose world is mostly inside her head. Connected to the cosmos, sure enough. But where my strength is, there is also my biggest pitfall.

The other day I jokingly said to my partner: I am a Millennial who was born just a little too early. Millennials, also called Generation Y, are the generation that born between 1980 and 2000. In a world where the smartphone and the internet are commonplace and almost everything is available at the push of a button. A generation that is not known for its patience and that is based on convenience and instant gratification. Luck and friends can be 'ordered' online and no mountain is too high, until they have to climb it by themselves. From the beginning of this digital era I have embraced technology, I have become close friends with it. I'm also not known for my patience and expect instant results. I find it incredibly difficult to work steadily and over a long period of time at something, the smallest thing makes me change course or throw in the towel. Moreover, I am high-sensitive, very easily distracted and bored, always looking for the next big thing. New ideas, new input. This often results in an endless merry-go-round, looking for the perfect entry, the perfect perspective, the perfect design. In addition, I want to make a difference and also have big ambitions. Altogether more or less a recipe to actually get little done and, with an overactive inner critic, becoming frustrated and burned out. Another feature that Millennials are known for. 

I move about online just as easily, maybe even easier than offline, with the risk of getting more and more out of touch with the 'real', analogue reality. Given my insatiable hunger for knowledge, need for understanding and for analysis. My laptop, smartphone and tablet with wifi connection are willing, always available and they never complain. So much was clear by now: I had become entangled in the (worldwide) web. The web of which I had written extensively myself. Not overnight, but gradually. Like a virtual assassin. I had become more and more absorbed in it and got caught up in it, losing myself in the process. The big spider was lurking, ready to strike. Suddenly I realised: that's why the subject matter touched me like it did, of course, when I started to delve into it. That's what made me go deeper into it in the first place, on a subconscious level. Apparently this was my way of self-exploration. A painfully confrontational self-exploration.

In my book I talk explicitly about the importance of being human, with all its virtues such as empathy, love and attention. To explore what it actually means to be Human and I urge the reader in the chapter Slow Tech to guard this. To make sure that technology is and remains of service to this. Especially in the time in which we live today. It is this being Human, with its full emotional spectrum, that seems to be my biggest challenge. More than ever, because digital temptations are looming. And they are screaming for my attention. Increasingly I recognise how very dangerous this smartphone can be, if used unconsciously, and what really happens in and around us through these Smart technologies. How I increasingly drifted away from myself. How your and my attention and perception of reality are hacked. What the impact is on our social and professional lives and more importantly: on the connection to ourselves. By now I have come to realise that I am an experiential expert and I feel an even greater sense of urgency in getting this message across. Even I underestimated it to such an extent. Hugely underestimated it. For now my focus is on learning to use technology in a conscious manner and reclaiming my time and attention. This will enable me to consciously focus on what really matters to me.

And what I found somewhat hilarious? That all of this is actually so obvious that it seems like the proverbial elephant in the room. The thing we all know but nobody dares to say out loud. Let's first focus on our relationship with what we're all carrying in our pocket, instead of at this stage worrying about how artificial intelligence might herald the end of mankind. This is something that we will have to deal with at a later stage. First things first.

The biggest challenge of our time is not so much that robots will take over but that we have to make sure we don't become one ourselves.

Even when I write this, I feel that this touches me deeply. To me this is such a painful notion and I see this happening in and around me all the time. Even subtly promoted in the media: in films, games and series. Change can only start when you are aware of what's going on, of what needs to be addressed. After all, you can't change what you haven't yet acknowledged.

Today, I have adjusted my course, my priorities. Will you move along with me?

 

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Bits, Bytes & Bewustzijn (Consciousness) - book intro

Yfke Laanstra
'I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin.

I'm going to hang up this phone, and then I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible.

Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.'

~Neo from 'The Matrix

We live in an incredibly significant phase of our human evolution. A phase in which computer technologies are emerging that are capable of radically and beyond recognition changing what it means to be human as well as our reality over the next 15 years.

At an unprecedented pace, more will change in the next 20 years than in the last 300 years. This degree of immense growth is also called exponential growth. So far, our growth has been linear. This is particularly evident in the various stages of our industrial revolution. In 1784, the first phase of our evolution took place, which gave a boost to our evolution by the power of mechanical control by means of water and steam. The second phase (1870) brought us mass production through the power of electricity. The third phase (1969) gave us the digital world and introduced us to the information/communication driven society, through the advent of computers and the internet. In all these phases there was linear growth, so we saw a gradually increasing line from 1 to 2, 3, 4 etc. and each phase covered an average period of 100 years. The third (digital) phase develops on an exponential scale, so from 1 to 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128 etc. You can imagine that the higher the numbers, the bigger the jumps. At this rate, after 30 steps, you reach a billion. A characteristic of an exponential growth curve is that it first goes up slightly gradually, but then suddenly moves up in a practically vertical line. In this third exponential phase we now find ourselves, on the threshold of the fourth phase: where the line suddenly skyrockets up radically.

The driving force behind this exponential growth is the evolution of the transistor, the basis of the microprocessor: the so-called computer chip. An immense development in terms of production costs, size and capacity. Gordon Moore, co-founder of chip manufacturer Intel, introduced the first microprocessor Intel 4004 in 1971 with a capacity of 2300 transistors about the size of a small eraser at the end of a pencil. This chip evolved in 2004, 33 years later, to the Intel Pentium 4 Processor with 125 million transistors and in 2016, 12 years later, to the Intel Core i7 processor with a content of 14.4 billion transistors. If you want to see it with the naked eye, you have to enlarge it to the size of a house. Among other things, this evolution facilitated the arrival of the smartphone and created the size of chips that can be inserted into our bloodstream. This evolution in computer chips is also called 'Moore's law' as it was Gordon Moore who observed that capacity doubled every 12 to 18 months. The storage capacity has also been increased at an exponential rate. From bulky devices the size of a filing cabinet in 1956, worth $120,000 with a storage capacity of 5Mb, we have evolved to a microSD card in 2005 the size of 15 mm with a weight of half a gram with a storage capacity of 128Mb to even a memory card of 128Gb in 2014. A capacity increase of a thousand times in a period of only nine years. All this paves the way for many current, exponential developments in the field of nanotechnology, quantum computing, genetic engineering, virtual reality, Artificial Intelligence, brain-computer and human-machine interfaces. Within ten years we will be able to buy computers that match the calculating power of our own brain and less than 25 years later we will have computers with the capacity of all human brains united.

For example, if our fuel consumption had developed at the same pace, we could now run on one tank of fuel for the rest of our lives. If our cars were to shrink at the same pace as the transistor, it would currently be the size of an ant. If housing prices would have dropped at the same pace, we could now buy a house for the price of a candy.

Remember the Atari game console and the joystick? The advent of the global Internet? From the simple mobile phone and laptop to the arrival of the advanced smartphone? These are all developments within the timeframe of one lifetime.
Did you know that telephony is an invention already made in 1878, during the second phase of the industrial revolution? Followed, more than a century later, in 1983 by the mobile phone. Less than 25 years later, the smartphone was introduced in 2007. Less than 10 years later, our streets, our social and working lives and even our brains are completely dominated by this smartphone, which is now developing at an incredibly fast pace. In the coming years, the smartphone will be one of the most central links in the Internet of Things. Almost every citizen of the world has a smartphone, even in third world countries it is commonplace, in a shared first place next to the (smart) television.

The 21st century
We are now suffering from a collective obsessive screen addiction and there is even a term for the present-day information overkill: infobesitas. In addition to many other emerging disorders and syndromes.

Our reality is currently flooded by new computer technologies and wireless networks. Nowadays our lives are mostly spent online, time and distance are no longer a limitation. Tangible, analog products are replaced by virtual ones. Physical shops close, magazines become e-zines, workshops become webinars, conversations are held via Facetime, Skype or Whatsapp and Virtual Reality goes mainstream thanks to the Albert Heijn (Dutch supermarket chain) and mobile providers. We are in a reality in which the motto is that we have to be online 24 hours a day and not fall behind. A world in which everything and everyone is connected and we experience the world from behind our screens.

Everything is being digitized. All our actions are monitored, all our data is tracked, traced and stored. Mostly without our knowledge or consent. Thanks to whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, we have become more aware of this. Think of dates of our purchases, transactions, internet browsing, where we are located when, with whom we interact online and when, to all our health data in Electronic Patient Dossiers (EPDs). Data is the new oil. Oil companies used to have the power, but nowadays these are the big tech companies like Google, Apple and Facebook.

In addition, there is a growing Internet of Things where more and more things are connected to the Internet. Think of your car, household appliances, smartphone or (game) computer; often without the necessity of human intervention. The digital dimension no longer only exists on a computer screen, but is shifting to your everyday objects through the rise of smart products (smartmeter, smart tv and smartwatch), among other things. Everything will be linked to the smart grid: your work, your home and even your family. We already use the term smart homes and smart cities. The digital dimension is increasingly merging with our analogue, tangible dimension. With all its implications for your privacy, personal space, health and free will.

It is only a matter of time before parcels or smart products no longer contain RFID chips but become part of our vaccine doses, given that such chips or technologies have now reached the nanoscale. Obligatory or voluntary, who will say? Enabling your body to be remotely controlled and monitored by computers and Artificial Intelligence.

Drones, unmanned and remote-controlled flying objects, are now for sale at discount supermarkets and are toys for both children and adults. It's only a matter of time before drones start determining our sky view. Underneath, the Self Driving Cars, which are completely driven by artificial intelligence, determine their route, keep their distance and make autonomous decisions in the event of a car accident.

In addition, there is an extensive robotisation in progress. Complex operations are already carried out by robots, children have robot pets and there are experiments to have the elderly 'cared for' by robots in nursing homes. The implications and applications of robot technology are the subject of intense debate. Think of our production chains, our employment. For years, the army has been working intensively on experiments to deploy robots in war and crisis situations, and it is conceivable that entire armies will consist of robots that have to make decisions about life and death autonomously in war situations. This puts the term cyber warfare, digital warfare, in a totally different perspective.

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Why my fascination for consciousness & computer technology?

They seem like two topics that are miles apart, almost each others opposite. But nothing is what it seems ;)

SInce my early twenties I've submerged myself in everything there is to read about consciousness, personal growth & development and spirituality. Well, not everything; but much. In my urge to grasp, understand and analyze things, to connect the dots.

Back then, in the midst of a minor identity crisis, I decided to get treated by a psycho therapist. All I knew was that I felt emotionally unstable for quite a while, afraid to be by myself and that I could feel this panic inside my body but I had no clue of what was wrong with me. Actually all of this was triggered by a seemingly innocent communication training at work, in which the trainer could completely see through my masquerade. On the outside everything seemed perfectly fine but on the inside I was a complete mess for the rest of the day. All I could do was cry and I felt completely lost. I can still remember this as if it was yesterday. After walking around like a zombie for a couple of days I managed, through my employer at the time, to start my therapy treatments with this psycho therapist and off I went.

A holistic treatment
Looking back this is where my journey towards myself started, my true self and my purpose in life. Towards a holistic perspective on wellbeing and human potential. This led me, amongst others, to join a school where I got trained to become a Holistic Coach/Therapist in Amersfoort (The Netherlands), to a certification as a Holistic Health Counsellor at The Institute of Integrative Nutrition in Manhattan/New York. This also inspired me to name my business Holistic Consultant, my app Holistic PDA and my blog alias Holistic Hacker. My focus is on developing virtual products and services that contribute to the wellbeing and consciousness of its users.

But what exactly is a holistic perspective? To me it means to look beyond 'merely' the human body, beyond our five senses and beyond what we can map and measure. The realization that, with the naked eye, we cannot see most of the dimensions that are present, we cannot observe the fact that we ourselves consist of multiple dimensions. That apart from our physical dimension we also consist of emotional, mental, spiritual and astral dimensions.

Out of the Box
To me this means thinking beyond what is considered 'normal', moving outside of the box and never accept anything for a fact because it is said so. Simply because your parents have told you so, because it is common sense in your family, because society, schools, knowledge institutions or even Science says it to be true. Research everything yourself and draw your own conclusions.

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