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The Lounge: Chat. Relax. Unwind. > How programmable/programmed are humans?

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message 1: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13518 comments And yet another topic to accomplish the spectrum. Those dealing with advertising, social -networking and maybe politics would say that people are predictable and next/current stage - programmable. The debilitating effect of gadgets, TV, commercials, everything can even make humans more prone to it.
What do you think?


message 2: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan My personal dystopia is that human beings will be fitted with implants wired to the pleasure and pain centers in the brain and then conditioned from a young age into total conformity to the will of a ruling class free of such entrapment.

If you can hack the right interface - human beings are highly programmable.


message 3: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13518 comments Graeme wrote: "My personal dystopia is that human beings will be fitted with implants wired to the pleasure and pain centers in the brain and then conditioned from a young age into total conformity to the will of..."

Indeed, a frightening possibility


message 4: by Holly (new)

Holly (goldikova) It is bad and getting worse. In another decade or two those implants won't be necessary, Graeme. At this point only a small percentage of humans are capable of independent thought. The majority of humans are programmed, performing, parroting automatons.


message 5: by Annerlee (new)

Annerlee | 5 comments I'm amazed at how many people take messages and information at face value and don't ask rudimentary questions about ulteria motives, reliability etc. En masse, people are predictable and programmable, they are prone to manipulation by the media.

This isn't a new phenomenon. Think Goebbels and the 'Volksempfaenger' - a radio in every home to get the Party's message across. Think 'Bread and Games' in ancient Rome, designed to keep people on side and distract from the bigger issues of the day.


message 6: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin Don't forget this old saying: the average I.Q. of a crowd is inversely proportional to the size of the crowd. Just watch any large political rally.


message 7: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9526 comments Based on this thought, in one of my SF novels a group of advanced aliens had advanced this to an academic discipline - sociodynamics. The idea here was you can't predict what one individual will do under any circumstance, but get enough of them together and they are far more likely to respond in predictable ways. Göbbels was a master at getting people to believe what should have been unbelievable, and I think those big rallies were an essential part - get enough people together, get them "into the spirit" by waving flags and shouting some slogan, and they were converted to what they should normally be expected to be revolted by. Göring's point of giving them some externality to hate also does wonders. The dreaded Commies burnt down the Reichstag and the Jewish parasites were great things to hate, and if the crowd is big enough, the people don't even stop to ask, is this even true? (In this case definitely not.)

However, I dispute the "bread and games" of ancient Rome were to distract from the bigger issues of the day, except maybe one. Thanks to the greed of the patrician class and the extreme wealth inequality, there were masses who were unemployed. The "bread and games" was a sort of social welfare - to feed them and give them something by which they could fill in the day, and thus not plot revolts to sort out their financial difficulties.


message 8: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan REF: Wiki: Edward Bernays: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_...

Kinda required reading for this topic.


message 9: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9526 comments Graeme wrote: "REF: Wiki: Edward Bernays: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_...

Kinda required reading for this topic."


Great link, Graeme. The guy was obviously morally empty, but very interesting to see what could be done.


message 10: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13518 comments Graeme wrote: "REF: Wiki: Edward Bernays: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_...

Kinda required reading for this topic."


Yeah, an interesting insight. Now I see where you take an idea of big biz subduing the masses and how it could be described as 'good'. At least, if this is correct in Wikipedia "Bernays reported turning down the Nazis, Nicaragua under the Somoza family, Francisco Franco, and Richard Nixon."


message 11: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9526 comments I don't know about "good". Think of the United Fruit Company. They had a whole lot of land in Guatamala that they were doing nothing with, and it was essentially good farmland. The government wanted to take it to give to starving peasants, and the UFC refused and organised the end of the government by using the CIA to overthrow it. I struggle to see how that is "good". I also struggle to see why the CIA should be overthrowing governments just to support a dog in the manger US corporation.


message 12: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13518 comments As I understand from Wikipedia, Berney's philosophy was that ruling/subduing the masses through propaganda was good as opposed to chaos of brewing unruly people. I don't like this philosophy and don't see a merit in it. Prefer unruly than subdued-:)


message 13: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin That Edward Bernays was the epitome of a morally bankrupt person worthy of a bullet. And I agree with Ian that the CIA did a lot of very despicable and morally unjustifiable things in the past decades (probably still do from time to time when it deems that the situation justifies the means).


message 14: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9526 comments My view about the CIA is that they still do it. It is just that we don't get the details for some length of time.


message 15: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5381 comments I agree with you, Holly: "It is bad and getting worse. In another decade or two those implants won't be necessary, Graeme. At this point only a small percentage of humans are capable of independent thought. The majority of humans are programmed, performing, parroting automatons." The way I deal with this is to always question what I'm being told, and to bring my attention back to what's important to me and to what positive things I can do for my family and my community. The rest is pretty much beyond my control.


message 16: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Nik wrote: "As I understand from Wikipedia, Berney's philosophy was that ruling/subduing the masses through propaganda was good as opposed to chaos of brewing unruly people. I don't like this philosophy and do..."

... was that ruling/subduing the masses through propaganda was good as opposed to chaos of brewing unruly people. people making their own decisions and determining the course of their own life in accordance with their own conscience and free will.

Fixed it for you.


message 17: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13518 comments Thanks, Graeme, that's a very accurate description of 'behind-the-scenes' for most ideologies.


message 18: by Graeme (last edited Aug 08, 2018 11:55PM) (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Thanks Nik,

It all begs the question - should we expect candor from a dedicated propagandist?

Answer - when it suits his interests.


message 19: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9526 comments But will you believe it, Graeme?


message 20: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan What should I believe - if anything?

Why not instead, rely on reason and first hand evidence, the rest is conjecture and hearsay.


message 21: by Michel (last edited Aug 09, 2018 06:18AM) (new)

Michel Poulin Sometimes (many times in fact), when seeing a crowd roar in approval in a political rally at what is clearly non-sense from the speaking politician, I am tempted to reach through the TV screen and shake those idiots to tell them to start using their heads and think by themselves instead of buying every B.S. served to them by a politician they support. Unfortunately, sheep mentality seems to become more and more common.

The real danger is when such herd mentality pushes some people into acts of hostility, hatred or even violence. A good example would be the inflammatory declarations from Donald Trump to his supporters about 'the medias are the enemy of the people' and 'CNN is fake news'. This has already caused crowds in verbally threatening and insulting reporters present at those rallies or at the scenes of some other events.

An extreme example of programmable crowds is the number of deadly attacks by crowds in India against innocent individuals, attacks spurred by forged videos circulated on Internet there and claiming that strangers were kidnapping children for sexual abuse. Those crowds then attacked and killed strangers with absolutely no proof or evidence that those persons had committed any crime. Two of those persons killed had in fact simply asked for directions, something that was apparently enough to convince the crowd around them that they had come to kidnap local children. Such brainless, violent group behavior makes me seriously doubt about the so-called 'intelligence' of many people on this Earth.


message 22: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9526 comments The trouble seems to be that most people don't want to take the trouble to think. If someone can raise the rabble with a speech, and someone visibly agrees, then everyone else tends to agree. The question each person has to ask themselves is, how often in your life have you stood up against the crowd, or against established thinking, as a consequence of your reasoned opposition? For most people, the answer will be depressingly infrequently, and the rabble rouser has a relatively easy job if he has the odd person in the crowd to cheer, etc, at the right time.


message 23: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin Ignorance, low levels of education, racism and societal prejudices often facilitates the job of rabble rousers, like in the cases of mob lynchings in India.


message 24: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13518 comments People are tribal animals. It's cool to be part of the pack. Who would think that your fellow mates and their idol can be wrong?


message 25: by Rita (new)

Rita Chapman | 152 comments There are many people who are easily programmed - similar to those who can be hypnotised. Many are not. Now... if only I could programme a few thousand to buy my books!


message 26: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13518 comments Rita wrote: "... if only I could programme a few thousand to buy my books!"

Some PR dudes may know how. Too bad Manafort is a little bit busy -:)


message 27: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9526 comments But Manafort may end up with some spare time on his hands for reading :-)


message 28: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5381 comments Since I was a teenager, I've thought it was a good thing to be different, not to follow the crowd. My dad and Emerson and Thoreau and Frost spoke to me. Has it been the same for you guys? What have been your influences?


message 29: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan I wanted to follow the crowd, I was desperate to belong - I failed, and I had to come to painful terms with that failure.

I'm just different, particularly in how I think, and its taken most of my life to come to terms with non-conformity.


message 30: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9526 comments Most of my life, I have been going the opposite way to the crowd. I just can't help it. In Wenceslas Square, August 24, 1968, it was highly desirable, since I got some concrete between me and them when the machine guns opened up, but most of the time I see all these so-called peers doing their best to avoid me.


message 31: by Graeme (last edited Aug 11, 2018 04:34PM) (new)

Graeme Rodaughan WRT programming, the important thing IMHO is to establish psychological self defense techniques against any sort of automatism.

Habits are a good place to start, where did you habits come from, whose interests do they serve, your's or someone else? Can you get rid of them?

The concept of "Eviction," is something close to my heart.

I see my mind as a landscape filled with ideas. I'f I am to me lord and master of my own mind, then I need to be able evict any of those ideas.

To do that, they need to be refutable, if an idea is not refutable, I won't admit it in the first place.

Concepts like TRUTH, and CERTAIN(TY), are dangerous labels used to armor ideas against testing and eviction.

Something I see often is the conflation of TRUTH with FACT, such that they are used as synonyms. It is not unusual to hear someone state proudly that they have the facts and they have the truth in the same breath.

To avoid that error, and to avoid allowing ideas to armor themselves against eviction, I define the TRUTH narrowly as the antonym of LYING.

I.e. Someone tells the truth, or someone lies is a reasonable statement. (Whether they have the facts is another matter entirely.)

Any idea or habit you can't get rid of, has you, you don't have it.


message 32: by Graeme (last edited Aug 11, 2018 04:48PM) (new)

Graeme Rodaughan On reflection, both TRUE and FALSE operate in our culture as tag/labels as follows.

Using a Purpose/Function/Architecture map on these terms I come up with the following analysis.

The architecture of TRUE and FALSE is a lable/tag applied to other ideas.

The function of TRUE and FALSE as label/tags is to block enquiry/test of ideas.

The purpose of TRUE and FALSE as enquiry blockers is primarily about saving time, but it has a vulnerable underside.

We all have one very limited resource - TIME.

Our minds have evolved primarily to deal with hunter-gatherer lifestyles, in a stable world. Being able to label anything as TRUE or FALSE and then forget about it is useful.

Unfortunately, If I wanted power over you, to dominate you and get you to act against your own best interests and to act for my selfish interests than I have a big advantage if I can exploit a TRUE/FALSE label to insert an idea into your mind and have you believe something and actively avoid inquiring/testing it.

Ask yourself this, when was the last time you spent any real effort testing or inquiring about an idea that you had already deemed to be TRUE or FALSE with the view to REFUTE it?


message 33: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9526 comments As it happens, Graeme, I regularly test propositions to refute them if I can. It is part of my job, which, when carried over generally, tends to make me unpopular. It is why you see me often asking for real evidence, as opposed to allegations. However, on most propositions, I tend to avoid putting a TRUE/FALSE label on them as long as possible.


message 34: by Graeme (last edited Aug 11, 2018 07:30PM) (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Hi Ian, there are some deep nuances in play.

Science at its heart strikes me as an error detection system, not a truth delivery system. The history of science is a history refuting popular errors, and popular beliefs based on errors of fact, it narrows down to whatever is the irreducible "truth," or facts of our universe, and delivers marvelous practical powers. But all facts are contingent facts, simply waiting for the next piece of evidence that reveal a new paradigm of understanding.

And it ends up relying on very carefully measured differences in physical results.

The demonstration that Newtonian gravity broke down in the explanation of Mercury's orbit and that Einstein's gravity captured it beautifully is a classic example of shifts in understanding that occur.

Newton was in error, it was demonstrated. The more powerful understanding came with the new Einstein paradigm.

But there were plenty of people horrified by the shift, and what it said about the universe that they were living in.

Science is conducted by communities of human beings and can be just as hidebound, and resistant to change as any other community.


message 35: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9526 comments Hi Graeme,

What you missed out is that scientific theory is based on premises, and if these are wrong, so is the theory. Newton argued for three premises - his laws of motion, and a premise for gravity. There was an additional implied premise that what worked here worked everywhere in the Universe. Premises cannot be deduced because there is nothing to deduce them from - you have to look at nature, think, and as Feynman said, guess. Within his premises, Newton was absolutely right. Not only that, from what Newton knew, his premises seemed to be absolutely right and sufficient. Unfortunately, they were incomplete. From his equations, velocity is additive, no matter its magnitude, but unfortunately there is a speed limit you can't get around. Maxwell showed that limit was there for electromagnetism, and Einstein put together the consequences of that. There was a second incompleteness. What we call action, Newton assumed that was continuous (and he had no reason not to) but we now consider it to be discrete. This leads to quantum mechanics, which so many people have trouble coming to grips with.

But you are right in your last sentence. The best a scientist can hope for is that enough take notice and keep the idea alive until something happens that makes people change their mind. Quite often, nothing does, and I believe a number of truths are lurking unrecognised out there.

An interesting thing is you don't know whether you are right or wrong if you introduce a new theory. You probably believe you are (otherwise why do it?) but you can't know. Yesterday I published my account of the covalent bond (chemistry) from my guidance waves, an alternative interpretation of quantum mechanics. I am not expecting too many readers :-)


message 36: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Hi Ian, good luck with you're paper. At least you're having an honest go, and what more can anyone ask.


message 37: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Yeah, I didn't go into all the details...


message 38: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9526 comments Graeme wrote: "Hi Ian, good luck with you're paper. At least you're having an honest go, and what more can anyone ask."

Thanks Graeme. Actually, it is an ebook - about 240 pp, so it is not light reading.


message 39: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan They never are.


message 40: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13518 comments Ian wrote: "Yesterday I published my account of the covalent bond (chemistry) from my guidance waves, an alternative interpretation of quantum mechanics. I am not expecting too many readers :-)..."

Isn't it something that would fit nicely into a professional periodical for colleagues to refer, negate, debate?


message 41: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9526 comments The problem, Nik, is that I had tried that way with journal articles, but the methodology is sufficiently different from everyone else's that by the time I had filled one journal article either it was too dense to be comprehensible or it had not got far enough to convince editors it was worth looking at. As it is, in the ebook it takes about 50 pp to get all the background physics explained sufficiently well to get on to calculations, and then it is only by going through a whole lot of different molecules that a case can be built on that it might be worth considering. So the answer to your question, Nik, is yes, but it isn't practical.

Modern science publication has changed. When Einstein published his special relativity paper, which was radically different, he filled a whole journal edition, and that was sufficiently dense that it still did not really convince anyone for a long time. Now, editors in chemistry journals at least will reject anything that takes over 6 pp max without even reading it.


message 42: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5381 comments Well, that's not good, refusing to publish something over a certain number of pages So you have this e-book proposing a new theory. Do you just wait for the right person to read it? Can you send it to people who would understand it and read past the first 6 pages?


message 43: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5381 comments It's interesting, Graeme, what you said about truth - that it's the opposite of lying. But speaking the truth as you know it doesn't make it a fact. And facts are contingent on "simply waiting for the next piece of evidence that reveal a new paradigm of understanding." That's a cool way of seeing things.


message 44: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9526 comments Scout, I shall see what happens, but in science to get notice taken you have to campaign. It is like the market we are in - hardly anyone reads anything because there is so much. (In chemistry there ar something like 2 million papers published every year - nobody could read all those.) In fact it is often said that unless you have big name, the chances are no more than three people will read your paper - if you are lucky. The real problem in science is curation - it is extremely difficult to find something unless you have real knowledge of what it is. So going this way may be no more unproductive than going the authorised way, and just maybe it is easier to get attention. Who knows?


message 45: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Scout wrote: "It's interesting, Graeme, what you said about truth - that it's the opposite of lying. But speaking the truth as you know it doesn't make it a fact. And facts are contingent on "simply waiting for ..."

Thanks Scout, I was explicitly trying to avoid conflation of TRUTH with FACT, in my own life, as once I labeled anything as TRUE, or FALSE, I would stop thinking about it.

As a practical matter I still do that a lot, but I realize that it is an issue that needs to be addressed to stop garbage making it past my internal front door and taking up residence in my mind.

One of the flipsides of this, is I don't believe much of anything, especially at first presentation, but I'm also less likely (but not immune) to be sucked in.

For me, it is one of the defining challenges of our civilization. Ian points out above the vast flow of information just within the discipline of chemistry, add to that everything else that is happening and the scale of available information is enormous, but what of the quality of it all?

How do you protect yourself from getting swamped by information, and how do you determine what is fact and what is fiction, and where the lines blur...

We don't live by facts alone.


message 46: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5381 comments Ian, who are the curators? Only the editors of science journals? If so, that gives them too much power and an overwhelming job There must be a better way to be heard.


message 47: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 5381 comments Graeme, as you said, a fact (a thing that is indisputably the case) can change. I see it all the time. Some new study comes along that disproves a previously accepted "fact." You wouldn't think that facts are so wishy-washy. By definition, they are indisputable. My take on it is that humans like to have definite answers to things. It makes us feel in control. But, truly, we're not in control. I think I remember reading something you said to that effect.


message 48: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9526 comments Scout, yes, there has to be a better way. The problem in part is historical. In Einstein's day, you could easily read every article in your subject. When I started chemistry, you could still follow every paper in your specialised interest, chemistry having split into a huge number of sub-disciplines. But since then, there has been a huge increase in science spending, and a huge increase in output, and worst there are a huge number of journals, and a whole lot of people have discovered that as long as you have content, University libraries will buy them. Now even that doesn't happen, because most of them cannot afford it.

What has happened is we have gathered a huge mount of knowledge, but nobody knows what it is or means. We have no idea what we know! I have often suggested in various posts, etc, that there should be some people paid simply to go through specialist topics and ensure we know what we know about that. There are review journals, but somehow they have degenerated into listing what people are doing and listing the "generally accepted" results, but there is no critical analysis. The reason for that is nobody has the time. If you spend time doing that you don't get a lot of publications, and you lose your research funding. Because of the way funds are allocated, I think it has degenerated into a mess. As an aside, I know something about this because for ten years I was on one such national fund allocation committee. It was extremely time consuming, and while by and large I think we did a fair job, it probably wasn't a good one, but we did the best we could, given the various pressures.


message 49: by Graeme (last edited Aug 12, 2018 11:59PM) (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Hi Scout,

I make a distinction between ABSOLUTE and CONTINGENT facts.

Absolute facts won't be changed by new evidence. Statements such as 1 + 1 = 2 is true (a fact) by definition. In my experience, absolute facts are typically restricted to abstractions, like mathematics.

In the real world, the practical world of experiences in which we live, facts are contingent, they are subject to revision in the face of new evidence.

Say a man is sentenced to life imprisonment, he continues to plead his innocence, but all the available evidence, and the jury, and finally the judgement are lined up and declare him guilty.

The newspapers declare the facts of the case, a man has been found guilty of murder and justly sentenced.

Five years later a man makes a deathbed confession to the crime, an appeal is held, and the convicted man is exonerated of the crime and freed.

The newspapers publish a new story, and the facts are all different.

Unknown to everyone, except our 'innocent,' man is that he is indeed the killer, and the confessor was a mad man who wanted notoriety before he died.

Now the killer walks free, and no one is punished for the crime.

What were the facts?

In the real world we are faced with an endless array of information, some of it very well founded (like the value of the gravitational constant, velocity of light in a vacuum, etc), and descending from there through a range of 'facts,' to material that is an outright lie.

From my POV it's important to be able to clarify what I'm looking at, 'cause I hate being deceived with a passion.


message 50: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan The most striking narrative example of new evidence colliding with a previous belief system is Neo waking up in the Matrix.

REF: Youtube: Matrix (2 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8eKx...


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