These past two blog prompts, Sharp Things and Smart Things, juxtaposed with the overlying intention to connect the relationship between humans and objects have me deeply contemplating the process of human thought. Do we indeed control our own thoughts or do history, culture, education, and the media program our thoughts? In hopes to adequately express my reasoning (or questioning), I must first expose my synopsis of the two blog prompts essays in correlation to the weekly readings. I will try to link them all with a possible enlightening yet probably radical view, hence displaying my own perplexing thought. Personal note: My goal is to convey my perplexed train of thought but because of my indifference to the complex subject, I fear that I may do so erroneously.
John Cline intriguingly lures his audience to associate two diverse objects, the machete and iPhone, as both a tool and a weapon in his essay, “What Is a Machete, Anyway?” He cleverly frames the essay around the comparison of the machete in attempt to disguise the dangerous manipulation a smartphone imposes. Despite the humor and very little reference to the iPhone, Cline leaves his audience critically thinking about hazardous objects that we previously only viewed as a useful device to stay current with phone numbers, email, text, social media, etc.
” Saws Can Sing For Us” by Jacob Chisenhall
When reading the essay, one’s mind drifts to other sharp things initially made as an aiding tool that could also be used to hurt or kill someone. The picture above is of handsaws, which are commonly used for cutting, but in this case, they are used for creating music. Similar to Cline’s example of the machete, handsaws also have been portrayed and used as a weapon yet the above picture establishes a harmless and even an enjoyable use for a “dangerous” tool.
In contrast to Cline’s inference, Carla Diana imposes a more friendly perception to technology in her essay, “The Dream of Intelligent Robot Friends.” She frames her essay around the idea of our brains cultivating relationships with smart objects and thus presenting a tangible awareness of how humans and objects are indeed connected. Although Diana also presents a dichotomy between objects and humans by divulging her frustrations about an object’s programming, she indicates how we quickly pardon our frustrations in order to continue our people-object relationship by giving it living characteristic, such as “quirky.”
What truly makes an inanimate object dangerous? We have established that objects themselves are not dangerous until they are in the hands of a human. For example, a machete lying on a table is simply that: machete lying on a table. Only in the presence of a living creature is when it becomes dangerous, whether it is intentional (by picking it up and slashing at another being) or unintentional (by bumping against the table and causing the machete to fall, which could possibly severe a foot on the way down to the floor).
However, deep cogitation is provoked to contemplate potential digital weapons, such as the iPhone. Is this a gadget containing necessary tools to prevail in society or are we manipulated into thinking so? Can the human mind be programmed? If so, this idea implies that the iPhone is more than just a tool created by a beautiful mind but it has an underlying purpose: control.
Advances in technology are justified by the progress made in the medical field yet conspiracy theorists question the true intentions by those who hold power and influence over the economy. These people of power are referred to in this blog post as “tycoons” and “the elite” because these oligarchs possess most of the economy’s wealth and consequently have the power to influence and manipulate. However, even before revolution of electronic and digital technology, an accepted theory on how individuals are first molded lies within the education system.
Programming the Mind through Education
Formal education through schools, colleges and universities continues the systematic indoctrination where the ‘correct’ views and interpretations of science, history, and society result in exam passes and the ability to ‘get on’ in life.
— Ivan Fraser and Mark Beeston, The Brotherhood and the Manipulation of Society
In order to succeed in moving forward and become “productive members of society,” we must first pass all the tests. These tests are continuously evaluated and used as a measurement in order to progress onto the next level. Additionally, these tests are organized from a general knowledge every single person should know before moving forward, regardless of culture, language, ability (or disability), experience, etc.
This collective unconscious does not develop individually but is inherited.
— Carl Jung, The Concept of the Collective Unconscious
Most importantly, only select individuals compose these tests; therefore, they reflect a narrowed view and interpretation of subjects and societal norms. In other words, we learn from others (i.e. teachers, professors, administration, experts) but are we actually formulating our own subjective thoughts or are we merely conceptualizing that we control our thoughts but simply adapting to what society wants us to? What does it truly mean to be knowledgeable, well informed, or even an expert when we are subjugated to a statistical number used to devise an assessment in which calculates all human thought the same exact way? Therefore, I ask, is it implausible to be deemed an individual with distinct, unique thoughts when we are ultimately just programmed by our education?
Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do no organize the people—they manipulate them. They do not liberate, nor are they liberated: they oppress.
— Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Politicians, corporate executives, bankers, and media tycoons are successful in obtaining a position of influence in society whereby people are “subordinate to the prime motivation of profit.” These tycoons are oppressors and have a primary “interest in maintaining the status quo at all costs, ” which in turn “exert an irrepressible influence over every aspect of our lives, our thoughts and opinions.” In hopes to “live long and prosper,” we blindly accept this oppression since we have been programmed and manipulated through education, mass media, employment, religion, healthcare, etc. And ironically, we, the consumers and our need for things (Professor C), are the tool/object to which tycoons use to drive America’s capitalistic society.
Programming through Mass Media
For obvious reasons, this idea almost speaks for itself. As a result of its vast reach, media is the most manipulating system whereby influences the conscious and subconscious mind. Mass media, which includes television, movies, radio, newspapers, magazines, books, records, video games and the Internet, is a powerful force in manipulating “the organized habits and opinions of the masses.” Ultimately, it is an unseen mechanism to cultivate minds into “a single and cohesive world view, engendering a ‘standardization of human thought.’”
In less than 20 years, media ownership has dwindled down from 50 companies to a mere 5, which includes AOL Time Warner, Viacom, Walt Disney, Vivendi Universal, and Sony. This realization is disturbing because this means that the music we listen to, shows and movies we watch, the stories we read, games we play, and internet searches we perform are all fashioned from the viewpoint of only 5 companies…FIVE. These meager five companies are categorized as the “elite” because they own “all of the possible outlets” to reach the public. As aforementioned, the drive behind these elite (tycoons) is to influence and use people as objects in order to sell products.
The technique of psychotherapy, widely practiced and accepted as a means of curing psychological disorders, are also methods of controlling people. They can be used sustematically to influence attitudes and behavior. Systematic desensitization is a method used to dissolve anxiety so the patient (public) is not longer troubled by a specific fear…People adapt to frightening situations is they are exposed to them enough.
—Steven Jacobson, Mind Control in the United States
The attempt to alter the public’s view or perception on a subject becomes not only easier but also more deliberate, allowing more access to tap into our “primal needs and instincts in order to generate an emotional and irrational response.” Overall, the elite’s desirable outcome is for mass conformity, acceptance, and accumulation of state-of-art entertainment, which is achieved through desensitization. Desensitization is a technique whereby the media elite softens the public on a specific topic for several years before introducing a sometimes-radical concept. The public then greets the concept “with general indifference and is passively accepted.”
Are we advancing towards the micro-chipped concept portrayed in the motion picture, In Time? According to Ivan Fraser and Mark Beeston’s research, the answer is, “yes” and that the consumer population has been gradually softened since the 1970s to willingly receive this technology. For example, pets are electronically tagged in case they are lost, requirement of ID’s are “as common as a handshake,” ‘pay at the pump’ systems at almost all gas stations, and bar-coded cards are an experimental way supermarkets and drug stores can track and tally consumer purchases.
Even more shocking is the 1994 tycoon-funded research for the Intel Corporation to investigate about possibilities for an under-the-skin microchip used for identification and track financial transactions. The cherry-on-top, however, is the existing development of a bar-coding system that contains three sets of six numbers to which can be “installed” painlessly and within one half of a second on the skin. This technology was developed by IBM and is currently used on cattle.
In conclusion, I pose one final question…which object should we fear the most, the obviously dangerous tool or the subliminal tool used for manipulating us into viewing the former as dangerous?