The Power of Sound: The Shadow

· Futurism,shadow,negativity

In the current economic environment and social upheavals, long-term business decision-makers, product developers, CXOs, and founders may be experiencing worry and seeking insights to navigate these challenging times.

Creativity, a highly desirable psychological trait, has been closely linked with negative moods, counterproductive tendencies, and even dishonesty. In this week’s Power of Sound: Shadow, I bring to surface and explore the lesser-known aspects of creativity, shedding light on its connection to negative emotions, maladaptive thinking patterns, and the ability to hurt and deceive.

Additionally, it draws parallels between the concept of the shadow in psychology, as proposed by Carl Jung, and the impact of noise on our well-being. By understanding these dynamics, business leaders can gain valuable insights into the implications of noise and negative influences, while harnessing the power of positive signals and cultivating a more harmonious existence.

According to Timothy Wilson, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, the human brain receives 11 million bits of information per second from its environment but can only process 40 bits per second. This means it has to choose what tiny percentage of this input to process and attend to, and what huge batch to dismiss or ignore.

This is of significant importance since brains that are trained to channel their energies towards positive aspects amplify the likelihood of actually accomplishing their goals. Embracing my services as an investment will enable you to navigate future(s) challenges successfully, positioning your company and ultimately, your legacy, for long-term prosperity and growth.

One of the best ways to increase positive focus is to consciously block out some of the negative noise in those 11 million pieces of information. It’s not easy, as described in Power of Sound: Part II, our brains are hard-wired to pay more attention to threats from our environment but there are conditions you can use to distinguish between the “signals” (information that you should pay attention to) and the noise.

In its simplest form, noise can be categorized as negative/distracting, neutral, or positive, and it may not directly contribute to achieving our goals.

And keep in mind that some of that unnecessary negative noise is generated by YOU. Our internal voices that express doubt, fear, worry, imposter syndrome and anxiety are just as toxic as the external negative noise.

Pioneering research in positive psychology and neuroscience has found that by consciously decreasing noise, both your negative internal thoughts and excess external information, just by five percent, you can greatly improve your chances of finding those more meaningful positive signals.

By using any or all of three action strategies, outlined below, you can begin, today, to cancel negative or distracting noise and boost the positive waves that can conceivably bring you a major competitive advantage.

How are current leaders using this? Leaders, like Chade-Meng Tan from Google, encouraged employees to create a practice of quieting the brain through meditation to help cancel some of the negative noise of a multi-tasking and overstimulating working world.

And it’s been said that top financial advisors at UBS encourage investors to not follow the hourly and daily ups and downs of the market. Negative noise caused by obsessive checking of stocks leads to poor future financial decisions.

Recognize those signals. You need to practice boosting your signal-to-noise ratio. As noted, paying too much attention to the negative noise at work comes at the hard-earned expense of the valuable time and information that would help you spot some positive and workable opportunities and solutions.

Try these three criteria to determine what’s a good signal and what’s bad noise.

Unusable: If the information won’t drive you to change your behavior, it is unnecessary. By the way, most of the information your brain receives throughout its day fits in this category.

That news story about an earthquake and tsunami heading toward Guam? Unless you plan to do something to help the victims, useless. However, if you do want to help, click here.

Untimely: If you are not going to use the information imminently and it could change by the time you DO use it, such as a volatile stock market day or the proto-Metaverse

Distracting: Is it distracts you from your goals? Constantly checking and responding to non-essential emails and messages throughout the workday, leading to a loss of focus and productivity. Ex: Try to imagine no-email mornings.

Do these floods of information help you with your business, career or personal goals? If not, that’s what’s keeping you from completing them.

Here are some easy ways to cut down on your noise consumption by that five percent, thus allowing your brain to focus on more important and relevant information.

Leave the car radio off for the first five minutes of your drive.

Turn off the car radio when talking to someone.

Mute TV and Internet commercials.

Remove news media links from your bookmark tool bar.

Limit of the time you watch prediction news from “experts” trying to predict what will happen in politics or the markets.

Do not read about or listen to coverage of tragedies that you cannot or will not affect your behavior.

When working, listen to music without lyrics.

Another point to keep in mind, while you are looking for those next waves of voice/sound/noise. Sound has four very powerful effects, so sound can change us in powerful ways. It’s important to know this because if you really start listening, consciously, to these voices/sounds/noises, you could start to really change your environment, so those effects are not working hostile to you.

The first is physiologically.
Sound affects our bodies, and our body is about 70% water. Sound travels well in water, so we’re very good conductors of sound. By now, you should not find it surprising that sound has a powerful effect on us.  

Additionally, since hearing is our primary warning sense, any sudden sound will start a process. It releases cortisol, it increases our heart rate, it changes our breathing. This is because we’ve been programmed over hundreds of thousands of years to assume that any sudden or unexplained sound is a threat, and your body freezes, then decides to either fight or flight.

The second, psychologically.
Sound can affect our emotional state quite deeply. It changes our emotions and our moods and I’m sure you can think of a song that will make you happy or causes flashbacks of bad memories and feelings.

Bird songs, for example makes us feel relaxed and reassured, because we’ve learned over hundreds of thousands of years that when the birds are singing, we’re pretty safe.

Thirdly, sound affects us cognitively.
How well you work is very dependent on the sounds around you. You may remember or maybe hearing from today’s youngsters that doing their homework, is much better with loud music playing in the background.

Not true.

What we’ve learned is that the loud music is probably taking up critical batch of audio brain bandwidth and they’re not able to hear their internal voice so well. What's happening is that you may spend more time working, resulting in better outcomes, but you are not necessarily increasing your productivity per minute.

The final way sound affects us is behaviorally. We will tend to move away from unpleasant sounds if we can and even gravitate towards pleasant sounds. Sound can cause stress and make us behave negatively. It makes us less sociable, less helpful and less approachable if we’re in a noisy setting.

First popularized for military applications more than a decade ago, Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) are powerful amplification systems that direct a focused cone of sound, enabling instructions and announcements to be communicated across great distances. But from early on, LRAD’s have also been equipped with a “powerful warning tone,” as the manufacturer’s website puts it, that allows for “near instantaneous escalation across the force protection spectrum” to “shape the behavior of potential threats.”

However, outside of war zones, LRADs are being used with US law enforcement to control crowds, repel looters and general dispersal needs. Cops with their fingers on the triggers of futuristic incapacitating sonic weapons, or truck-mounted LRAD, alternating between making announcements to clear the roadway and using its pain-inducing crowd-dispersal alarm.  

A protester, who was caught a LRAD’s cone of sound said, “…it was definitely one of the loudest noises I've ever heard, but I wouldn't say it was immediately pain inducing. But for the next six days, I was feeling pain. It was like an earache. Any loud noises made it worse.”

When Havana Syndrome headlines splashed across the front pages of newspapers worldwide one of the most compelling theories was that US staff were victims of a sonic attack. Only a year after the US Embassy in Havana reopened in 2015, staff in Cuba were complaining about headaches, dizziness, and brain fog. There’s no hard evidence to back up the theory and no weapon has been found. While some believe Havana Syndrome may be a psychological illness, this does not explain how victims have been diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms despite not having experienced a concussion.

To make matters even more complicated, not every one of the hundreds of Havana Syndrome sufferers has had the same experience. In an interview with The New York Times, security engineer Mark Lenzi described the sounds he heard as marbles rolling around a metal funnel. Other sufferers described a disturbing cricket-like noise. Some heard a sudden loud noise or whirring before the onset of symptoms including loss of balance and splitting headaches.

Others heard nothing.

In 2017, the US State Department said officials were possible targets of an ‘acoustic attack’ and at least two people had "such serious health problems they needed to be brought back to the US for treatment".

It may surprise you to learn that the American military is already reportedly exploring microwave ray guns that could beam invisible booms and spoken words into a person’s head as a way to control crowds.

In a way, sonic weapons have been around for decades, and their chilling history has often involved secret operations, espionage and weapons of war.

Even the Nazis were rumored to be experimenting with acoustic cannons. This dark history of sound dates back to WWII and Albert Speer, the minister of armaments and a close ally of Hitler. Speer was reportedly designing an ‘acoustic cannon’ and the idea was to use reflector dishes to narrow the sound into a targeted beam which could cause death within a 100-yard radius but there’s no evidence the cannon was ever built.

During Vietnam, the US military launched a top-secret psychological campaign against the VietCong, blaring ‘haunting sounds’ said to represent the souls of the dead. Operation Wandering Soul inspired the memorable scene in Apocalypse Now where attack helicopters blast Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries.

When CIA spy and Panama strongman Manuel Noriega barricaded himself in Panama’s Vatican Embassy in 1989 to avoid drug trafficking charges, the US Army blasted him with Linda Rondstadt’s You’re No Good and The Clash’s I Fought The Law, presumably to prevent him from sleeping and concentrating.

Closer to home, the FBI also used ‘psychoacoustic correction’ at the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. At night, David Koresh’s compound was flooded with light and high-volume music blended with sound effects, screeching seagulls, sirens, and dentist drills among them.

A 2014 US Senate Intelligence Committee reported on the CIA’s use of ‘sound disorientation techniques’, including an instance where the Agency blared the Blues Brothers' Rawhide’ at Guantanamo detainees. Other news reports suggest detainees listened to music containing subliminal messages to persuade them to reveal al-Qaeda’s secrets.

Controversially, Israel's IDF military police corps deployed a device known as ‘The Scream’ after violent clashes in 2005 between Palestinians and Jewish sympathizers. "Protesters covered their ears and grabbed their heads, overcome by dizziness and nausea," CBS said in a report. "The vehicle-mounted device began sending out bursts of audible, but not loud, sound at intervals of about 10 seconds."

Also, Israel’s ‘Thunder Generator’, introduced in 2010, is so loud it could be deadly at close range, Wired reported, although it could also be used as a "good way of keeping stone-throwing youths out of a sensitive area without using excessive force".

Now post pandemic, everybody seems to be looking for a little peace and quiet these days. But even such a reasonable idea can go too far. The quietest place on earth, an anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboratories in Minnesota, is so quiet that the longest anybody has been able to bear it is 45 minutes. Inside the room it's so silent, that the background noise measured is actually negative decibels, -9.4 dBA.

When it’s quiet, your ears will adapt and the quieter the room, the more things you hear. It’s been said that you’ll hear your own heart beating, hear your lungs, and hear your stomach gurgling and other organs working, loudly. But this dark room isn't just for torturing people. Companies test their products in it to find out just how loud they are and NASA has sent astronauts to help them adapt to the silence of space.

For us mere mortals, the room is a deeply disorienting place. Not only do people hear their heartbeat, but they also have trouble orienting themselves and even standing in place. As shared in earlier thought letters, sound orients your position in the universe. In the anechnoic chamber, you don't have any perceptual cues that allow you to balance and maneuver. If you're in there for half an hour, you have to be sitting in a chair.

On a smaller but growing scale, even overuse of noise cancelling headphones can lead to further social isolation and reduced communication, which can negatively impact mental health. People who rely on noise cancelling headphones to block out the world, may miss out on important social exchanges, and their constant use can create a barrier between them and others.

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Whether you call it ghosting, the cold shoulder, freezing someone out, or shunning, the silent treatment can be a damaging choice of response. The silent treatment stimulates the anterior cingulate cortex, which is the same area in the brain that registers pain. This means that people not only feel emotional pain when given the silent treatment but also a certain level of physical pain. This can lead to damaging physical side effects if someone is repeatedly ostracized by someone important to them. Physical responses such as weight changes, rising blood pressure, and sleep disturbance have all been found.

I personally found it fascinating that use of the silent treatment is evident worldwide, in all cultures and manner of relationships.

Many of us are familiar with the idea of the silent treatment. We’ve likely either been the recipient, the perpetrator, or both at some point. And with so many ways to communicate today, there are even more ways to wield this damaging weapon such as through texts, DMs, social media responses, or email.

Keep in mind, that no matter the reason for its use, the silent treatment is not your fault. This subtle form of abuse can be overwhelming to handle, but there are ways to cope and respond that may avoid making things worse.

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Sound-based cyber-attacks refer to the exploitation of audio signals or frequencies in order to compromise computer systems, smartphones, or IoT devices. These attacks exploit vulnerabilities in the way sound is processed by these devices often targeting their microphones or speakers.

One example of a sound-based cyber-attack is known as ultrasonic cross-device tracking. Ultrasonic frequencies are beyond the range of human hearing, but some devices, such as smartphones, are capable of detecting and processing these frequencies. Malicious actors can embed ultrasonic audio beacons in advertisements, websites, or even physical spaces, which emit these inaudible signals. When a device with a microphone is in proximity to such beacons, it can pick up the signals and track the user's activities and behavior without their knowledge or consent. This method enables cross-device tracking across multiple devices owned by the same user.

Another type of sound-based attack is acoustic cryptanalysis (which happened to be my rap name in the 90’s). Cryptanalysis is the practice of breaking cryptographic systems or extracting sensitive information from them. In acoustic cryptanalysis, the attack involves analyzing the acoustic emanations produced by devices during cryptographic operations. By capturing and analyzing the sound produced by a device, an attacker can infer information about the cryptographic keys or algorithms being used, potentially leading to the compromise of encrypted data.

Sound-based attacks can also target voice-controlled systems or virtual assistants. By manipulating audio input, an attacker can try to bypass voice authentication systems or issue unauthorized commands to these systems. For example, an attacker may generate synthetic audio or play pre-recorded voice commands that trick the system into performing unintended actions, such as making unauthorized purchases or gaining access to sensitive information.

To mitigate sound-based cyber-attacks, manufacturers and developers must implement tough security measures in devices that incorporate audio functionalities. This includes secure audio signal processing, encryption of audio data, and protection against unauthorized access to microphones or speakers.

As technology evolves, it is crucial to stay vigilant and address the security challenges associated with sound-based interactions and communication to ensure the integrity, privacy, and protection of digital systems and users' information.

I believe it would be a safe forecast that in the next five to ten years, one of my clients will invent the “earlids” for protection from all these sonic attacks and negative background sounds.

By recognizing the potential links between negative emotions and creative thinking, understanding the maladaptive thinking patterns that accompany the creative process, and appreciating the role of deception in creative endeavors, responsible Managers can gain valuable insights into their own creativity and that of others.

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Ventures with me and my services can be a strategic safeguard for your personal and business futures, shielding you from potential losses stemming from outdated thinking, obsolete systems, technological advancements, market disruptions, and a lack of empathy.

Do you have a negative source of voice/audio/noise that pushes your buttons?

Let me know in the comments below.