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FRIDAY, MARCH 11, 2016
 
I read an interesting piece by hacker - about his different attempts at hacking various closed systems. While most people attribute hacking to computers, and I tried to make note of other things possible to hack in my article Hacking Snail Mail, I never quite thought of hacking the mind. And for that reason I found the entire piece quite interesting - albeit it was quite short, and nowhere near the depth that I would have liked it to be. And being that I hadn't thought of the idea myself, it would be wrong of me to take credit for it - particularly because the hacker is quite a good computer hacker... and you don't want to piss those guys off.

So what exactly is hacking the mind? Probably a better word for it is manipulation. Getting someone to do something, or think something, without them realizing that you're the cause. As the writer of the article wrote: "You read my words I typed here, they entered your mind in both a consciousness and unconsciousness way. I transferred my thoughts into your thoughts..."1 And writing - if it's any good - does exactly that. It evokes a similar train of thought than the one the writer had at the time of writing - but it can also do much more. For example, were I to be making an argument - I could keep the argument far more subtle, making only the points and letting you arrive to the conclusion I intended all along.

But now isn't that a scary thought. Consider a website - one which you sign on to. How secure are you when you use that site? If you provide an email with a password, you are being pretty trusting. You trust that the password is encrypted. You trust that your email will not be sent to spam distribution lists. Many - a surprising many - will even use the very same password on the site that they do with their online banking accounts, their personal email accounts, their Facebook, etc. That's a lot of trust. And you put yourself out there very time you log on to a website - any website. We take it for granted, but unless you've explicitly seen the code, you never really know what it's doing under the hood, do you?

But now... I'm not talking about website you subscribe to. I'm talking about words that are written, that you subscribe to. You may not be giving me information about yourself when you read words I have written - but you are allowing me complete access to your mind. You have no idea what sentence is going to follow this one. You only assume it will be one which will maintain a logical flow - but you've completely entrusted yourself to me with something far more precious than an email password, or even a bank account password. By reading my very words, you've trusted your mind to me - or anyone else whose writing you read. Or anyone else who you listen to, or watch.

It's an altogether frightening thought. Would you give complete anonymous access to your computer - perhaps not allowing your files to be read, but allowing anyone to place their files on your computer? Would you let people upload their pictures, their music, their writing, to your computer? Maybe that doesn't sound so bad. But what about their viruses? What about their worms? Imagine if someone did that with the mind...

The best example of a mind exploit is the suggestion of failure - one I had learned about in a Neuroscience seminar from a Psychology course I took in college. What's most remarkable is that even telling the subject that they will be tested against a suggestion of failure - rather than simply given the suggestion of failure, yields the same results. In other words - my telling you about this experiment before even conducting it, does not change the results that people ultimately fail. I think it's in part because the subject regards this preamble as part of the suggestion that they will fail the experiment - so it does not affect the results.

Anyway: Given two patterned images in sequence - both having a unique hidden image - it is impossible to find the hidden image in one, if it is found in the other. Here are the two images... an explanation of why this occurs is below - don't worry, there's no spoilers.


Find the robin in the leaves



Find the face in the coffee beans


While many then go on to say it has to do with the color of the two images, and the difference in pattern, the actual reason my professor gave was this: In the initial phase, you don't know what exactly to look for. When you read "Find the robin" or "Find the face" you don't know what the face or robin looks like. Is it a cartoon? Is it an actual image? Is it only outlined by the pattern, but isn't really there? Is it the whole thing, or a portion of it? Are the colors true to life, or are they altered so that it is blended in? But then - and here's where the trick is - once you find the hidden image in one, you automatically assume the hidden image in the other will be similar. That is, if you find the hidden image in one - you assume that it will follow the same rules. If it's a cartoon in one, it will be a cartoon in the other. If the pattern traces the outline of one, it will trace the outline of another. If it has one orientation, the other will have the same orientation. But if both images have drastically different rules - a cartoon that is outlined by the pattern, rotated so that it is upside down - and the other is an actual image that is slightly obscured, with true-to-life colors, then it becomes virtually impossible to find the other. Unless the two images are not given in sequence, of course.

The manipulation there is a double-manipulation. For one, you're told that you will fail - and so the hard you try, the more frustrated you get, that it practically becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But also, and the stronger manipulation that you are completely unaware of, is that the two hidden images are entirely different in style. But nothing is said of this, and so you are manipulated into thinking they will be the same.

And just as all these illusions go - once you find the image, you can never not see that image.
Comments

Athropod160

Athropod160

I like your articles very much, especially this one. (This is the end of any relevant information so you, or anyone for that matter, can feel free to stop reading now if you already haven't, but I am relatively sure that someone will continue to read against their will because of the reasons that you have stated.) I found your articles when I was looking for answers for the question on the back of my milk carton, which asked: Can you name the tree that leaves go to? Ultimately, the answer was no. Even with that I proceeded to go to smartcarton.com and put in 118 and nothing happened! I looked it up on Google, and I found your article. I then proceeded to put the code that you provided and it was invalid also. Bottom line, you are similar to that of one of my friends, he is an excellent writer in things such as your milk carton article.

Note: I found the face, but I am not sure if I found the robin, I have an idea, but there is no way to be sure, unless I had the answer.
REPLIES: alishahnovin

alishahnovin

ALISHAHNOVIN

Replying to Athropod160:
I guess this article has been up long enough for me to reveal where the two hidden images... but first:

Show Spoiler



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