Immersed in Alternative Realities

Alternative digital realities are emerging everywhere. They can be found in the form of immersive gaming experiences, mixed reality, VR, emerging Web 3.0 technologies and soon in digital Metaverse worlds. These alternative digital realities provide us with many hours of immersive, escapist entertainment. In most cases, we enter these alternative digital realities willingly and with full knowledge and intent. These kinds of alternative realities have their own seductive and addictive consequences, but they are at least recognized vices. It’s the unknown, unintentional, alternative realities that we become immersed in that are the most worrisome, and the subject of today’s post.

Expert influencers that work with and for special interest groups, politicians and military strategists have a common playbook that contains the following tools and techniques that are designed to change the way a person thinks by creating an alternative reality in their mind. Often the victims do not even recognize they are following a path to an alternative reality until it is too late.

We have all seen cases where formerly happy friends or family members becomes transformed into a bitter, agitated, and angry person, because of watching non-stop political talk shows and angry editorials. Often these transformations were no accident. They were part of a purposeful and well-planned strategy and campaign to change the way the person thinks by immersing them in an alternative reality.

These campaigns, designed to transform people’s thinking by immersing them in an alternative reality, follow an age-old strategy.

1. Identify your target audience.
2. Identify your goals. What thoughts, mental frameworks and actions are you wanting to promote, influence or change in your audience?
3. Understand your audience's’ emotional vulnerabilities. This is the backdoor that allows you to introduce an alternative reality.
4. Understand the demographic groups most vulnerable to mind manipulation. They are the lower-middle class, working poor, elderly, less educated and minorities. These groups are often discontent with their social status, financially insecure, and disenfranchised.
5. Use all relevant communication channels, social media, traditional media, and messaging platforms to coordinate the distribution and amplification of key messages that appeal to these groups, their vulnerabilities, and grievances.
6. Relentlessly amplify, share, and promote key messages until your target audiences echoes the messages back.
7. Truths, partial truths, and outright fictions can all be used to effectively influence an audiences’ thinking. Understand that consistency and credibility are less important than volume. Overwhelm your audience with a massive number of similar and related messages.
8. Use frequently repeated narratives, that agree with your causes, to prevent and defend against outside influences.
9. Focus your messaging on improving the “status” of your audience over other people groups.
10. Identify and promote your target audiences’ grievances.
11. Blame educated elites, opposing political parties, outsiders, corporations, foreigners, the rich, and minorities for all grievances.
12. Call all opposing voices, views and opinions biased, fake, corrupt, and unpatriotic.
13. Find a populous spokesperson willing to promote your audience’s grievances, and to say the crude and impolite things others only think.
14. Sow distrust in existing institutions, norms, and leaders.
15. Promote simplistic solutions to solve complex problems and grievances.
16. Empower your target audiences with “secret” insider information and conspiracies that make them feel special, smarter, and valued.
17. Give your target audience a glorious purpose, and a holy mission to champion and defend. Give them a path to status and recognition.

The influence techniques identified above appeal to an audience's base motives, not better motives. They tap into biases, prejudices, fears, and insecurities. They are easily integrated into narratives that blame others for problems, and that paint themselves as heroic characters in a grand struggle. These narratives alter our brains. They change the way we think. They give us an alternative reality that we often don’t even know we are in.

My hope is that by identifying and discussing the tools, strategies and techniques that are used to create alternative realities, we can be wiser.

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Kevin R Benedict

Kevin Benedict is a thinker, futurist and writer. He serves on the Future of Business team at TCS, and meets with executive teams globally.