Learned helplessness, and is it too late?

A while back we were reading an article relating to tech privacy. At the bottom, someone left this comment:

I always get a kick out of all the “good advice” offered as a way around the Snoop Sisters’ machinations.

“Use alternative search engines” is one of my favorites – as if Big Tech has not already figured out around that teenie weenie digital barrier.

And that is the bottom line to all this obsessive spying: it’s digital stupid. There is no digital nut the tech billionaires cannot crack.

So while using your snoop-proof paths around the spies, just go ahead and “cc” Google and DARPA. Saves them a baby step or two retrieving your data.

Sadly, attitudes like this have become all too common when discussing privacy. Some might call it being black pilled, but it’s more than that.

The general concept is known as "learned helplessness." This phenonemon was discovered a few decades ago from some (highly unethical) experiments on dogs. To quote Psychology Today, "Learned helplessness occurs when an individual continuously faces a negative, uncontrollable situation and stops trying to change their circumstances, even when they have the ability to do so."

We see this in the comment above. Google and the CIA / NSA / DARPA / FBI are all-seeing and all-powerful, so there’s no point in trying to protect your privacy. A similar line of thinking comes from those who argue that VPNs are useless, since they are probably all controlled by governments anyway. And the same thing with Tor, encryption, and anything else relating to privacy.

We also frequently hear arguments like "I’ve been giving my data to tech companies for 10+ years, they probably already know everything about me. Why bother stopping now?" This is another form of learned helplessness.

As the name implies, learned helplessness has to be learned, and that means it can be unlearned. There’s no reason to believe the three-letter agencies are so powerful that they can control every major tech company, search engine, VPN, encryption algorithm, etc. These are the same folks who failed to predict and/or stop the collapse of the Soviet Union, 9/11, the election of Trump, the J6 undocumented tour group, and more. They might have an unlimited budget, but they most definitely do not have unlimited smarts.

The truth is that it’s never too late to reclaim your privacy. Don’t be helpless.