25. The Industrialization of Human Folly
by Culture and Anti Culture
(For context see post 1)
Human error and foolishness are universal and have always been with us. The capacity for self-deception and self-indulgence lives in everyone. This is what the swindler, the rogue, the demagogue, the sellers of snake-oil of all kinds rely upon. In the last hundred years, however, a great change has come about in the understanding of how to deceive and manipulate people. Consciously apprehended propaganda and advertising are largely a product of the 20th century. Among the key personalities in developing and employing these techniques are Freud, his son-in-law, Edward Bernays (“Propaganda”), Gustave Le Bon (“The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind”), Goebbels, Hitler, Trotsky, Stalin, Lenin, etc.
Brain science has progressed greatly in the last two decades. Specifically, research regarding the neurotransmitter, dopamine, discloses that its release in the limbic region of the brain is the physical basis of addiction, as well as the motivation engineered through advertising and propaganda. The same neural forces that are the foundation for addictive behavior are those that underlie the desire for everything from fast food to SUVs. They also drive the craving for social media and web-surfing. These drives are extremely potent. Dopamine signaling in the limbic region is associated with anticipation of pleasurable fulfillment, which drives behavior, even in the absence of that satisfaction. And, like any other addiction, the screen and gadget addiction is compulsive, in part because withdrawal from it is so painful.
The insights from psychiatry, social psychology and brain science have provided massively powerful tools to exploiters and manipulators of all kinds. There is now a science of temptation. Coupled with electronic media, it has been employed to mutate human consciousness and behavior in a way never before possible. This has been essentially an industrial enterprise: highly organized, technical, complex and capital (rather than labor) intensive. Rather than meeting basic human demands, the possibilities for production are first developed, then the products created and marketed. There is not a fundamental human appetite for electronic gadgets and the software anti-world. The mass demand for such things comes from a hijacking of human instincts for novelty, anticipation and creativity. The current production-driven anti-culture is a husk of real culture from which, more and more, there is little escape. Greed and forward inertia are turning human activity on the earth into a vast, chaotic, meaningless machine. It will not have a happy outcome. If the current runaway train of production is not halted, a caricature of the Terminator film-future may be upon us, with robot consumers replacing the already programmed organic (human) ones.
In some ways this will be a self-correcting process. The current dopamine-driven American (i.e. world dominating) caricature of human society has no future. It is unsupportable even in the near term (resource depletion, environmental degradation, collapse in morale). It is the old problem–reform through forethought or catastrophic, involuntary correction.
Currently there is no choice for “society”, as the mass of people are stupefied and impotent. This is partly by design through schooling, to create a shallow orientation towards ultimately meaningless consumption. Individuals are largely powerless against the world-dominant technical determinants of production and consumption.
I am convinced that the remedy for this is living, direct renewal of human social contact and the revival of language through conversation, at least among a small portion of the population. (See Post 23-Conversation)
Discarded cell phones