// Patrick Louis

Internet: Medium For Communication, Medium For Narrative Control — The Big Picture: Mass Hypnosis or Mass Psychosis

The creation of the world

  • Internet: Medium For Communication, Medium For Narrative Control
  • Part 4 — The Big Picture
  • Section 3 — Mass Hypnosis or Mass Psychosis
Table Of Content
  • Relations With Well-Known Dystopia
  • Attention, Awakening
  • Mind Control and Mass Hypnosis
  • Alienation and Mass Psychosis

The internet brings with it technological advancements that remind us of dystopia that sci-fi writers have talked about. So let’s go beyond what we’ve tackled so far and project ourselves in hypothetical futures to posit bigger consequences.

The two archetypical stories of dystopian futures are Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and 1984 by George Orwell.

In Brave New World, Huxley presents a hedonistic future that is governed by techno-science and eugenics. The people conform and adhere to the societies rules for the following reasons:

  • The future of people is predetermined based on their genetics, their place is chosen and what makes them happy too.
  • The people are conditioned in their sleep, while unaware, to find certain perspectives more enticing and to always be happy and satisfied of their position.
  • It is a future in which pleasure and happiness are everywhere, and it makes everyone prone to accept the status-quo. Who will rebel against pleasure?

We can see some parallel with neoliberalism, consumerism, and the passivity or paralysis we’ve seen earlier. However, we’ve also seen how people can’t deal with such world of templatized lives, even when pushed by the internet.

Mass production, homogeneity, predictability, and consumption of disposable consumer goods.

In 1984, Orwell presents a world of constant surveillance by Big Brother. This surveillance is extended through self-surveillance between individuals with a thought police. The world described is believed to be in perpetual war (forever war), historical facts and news are rewritten or negated to fit the accepted narrative, and language is used in a powerful way to accompany it.
The fictitious world employs many of the propaganda techniques and the eunemics we’ve encountered.

We can see some parallel with the previous sections related to the surveillance economy, the return of the collectivist narrative, and the internet wars of memeplexes that use censorship, call-out, canceling, and social cooling to keep everyone in check.

In one of these worlds facts are eliminated and in the other facts don’t matter. Today we see both of them, censorship and speech itself as a censorial weapon. Two techniques used to make people docile and well-behaved, two techniques that are omnipresent on any communication channel but even more on the internet. We’re in the center of an information warfare.

Beyond dystopian worlds, the attention economy on the internet carries with it questions related to the very nature of consciousness.

When we talk of attention we also indirectly refer to themes such as awareness and awakening. These are then tied to spiritual practices. For instance, how we pay attention is an inherent part of Buddhist practices.
Hence, attention can be said to be the outermost expression of our consciousness. Losing control of it would be the equivalent of losing oneself or being detached from reality and be brought into a fabricated universe.

In an attention economy, we would then live in memeplexes of ideas, packaged, wrapped, and opened effortlessly to let us access these collapsible concepts, these portable philosophical ideas, stories, emotions, narratives, and meanings.
We are what we focus on, we live what we are aware of. Our reality is limited by our perception of it.

We all think that the way we live is the best way to live. We all think that we see the world as it is, that we’ve come to the best possible conclusion about our direction in life. However, that’s just our definition of normality. And this normality isn’t even ours as most of it happens without us being there. We often can’t justify why we do what we do or why we like what we like.

When we spend so much time on the internet, and will possibly spend much more in the future, we’re indirectly unaware that it is defining us.
Looking around us, for some it might appear more explicit than others as they get caught in apparent internet cults or are memeoids combatant of their memeplex, but aren’t we all?
Isn’t most of the content that is fed back to us a reflection of who we already are? And as the internet takes a bigger part of our lives, will everyone get stuck in loops of paralysis like we’ve seen before?

One question we can ask is whether it’s possible to engineer these wants, to use mind control or hypnosis to make people more inclined to give their attention or perform specific actions.

A far-fetched, or not so far-fetched, concept from sci-fi is a psychotronic weapon or electronic harassment. This abstract weapon is a representation of the totality of all possible methods and means, be them suggestive, pharmacological, paranormal, technogenic, or others that influence the psyche of a person for the purpose of modifying their consciousness, behavior, or health.
While this idea is often associated with lunatic conspiracy theories, it’s interesting to tinker about the possibility that the internet could indirectly be used in the future, or now, for such ends.

One way to be able to achieve this would be to get a direct interface to the brain. The neurotechnology for brain scanning, which used to be limited to laboratories, is slowly getting more accessible, transportable, and less invasive. There are instances using electrical activity circuits, rhythmic sound or flashing light, ultrasonic or magnetic simulation, all to modify brain waves and patterns of electrical activities in the brain. These can work both as reading devices or output devices.

Today, these are still used mainly in labs to treat neurological and mental illness, and improve mood and cognition. The USA FDA has approved in 2008 transcranial magnetic stimulation to treat depression, pain, and migraine.

However, we can imagine that when this becomes more mainstream, when brain-related data starts to be common on the internet, that ad-tech companies will jump on the opportunity to access whatever comes out of these new body sensors.
There is nothing more private than thoughts. This can give the ability to know and predict what someone’s mental dispositions are, with whatever this implies: from knowing their cognition style, to identifying cognitive strengths and weaknesses, to perceiving personality traits, and to determine their aptitudes or likeliness for certain information.
When in the wrong hands this could be called a neuroweapon.

Having this type of information in the wild would be the most advanced form of social cooling, full-on paralysis, a forced “psychocivilized” society, not far from Huxley’s brainwashing dreams.
This is why researchers and human rights activists are starting to think about adding new rights: cognitive liberty, mental privacy, mental integrity, and psychological continuity.

Another method to alter minds that has been tried in the past is by using chemicals and pharmaceuticals drugs. The research has shown, at least as far as the public knows, that they aren’t very effective and their applicability comes with a lot of technical difficulties.

Some mind-altering and stimulating chemicals are already readily available on the market of most countries. Others such as hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana, heroin, LSD, and truth serums aren’t as available everywhere but the intelligence community showed that they weren’t effective when it comes to applying a particular military objective or operational deployment. This is because their effects isn’t reliable nor the information that people give when under them — people could become drowsy and spurt out fictitious stories.
Yet, we can imagine that these can be used without a particular goal but with a more generic approach. This is why some of these are now being introduced and tested as psychiatric drugs to treat anxiety, depression, or mania. They force people to enter new states of minds and emotions. Many of them work by returning overactive or underactive neural networks and signal to more “normal” levels — a reset button on the brain.
These drugs can also engender the opposite effect and actually increase confusion, anxiety, and depression. Some military have been using them for torture to force the person to cooperate or surrender.

An additional topic in relation to mind control is hypnosis.

Hypnosis is a state of awareness where someone detaches their of attention from their environment and get absorbed by their inner experience, their feelings, imagery, and cognition. These inner experiences and imageries are induced by a clinician that will guide the process.
The imagined feels real in that state, bridging the gap between the left and right hemispheres, the hypnotic reality. Similar to a trance state or meditative state, an obliteration of the ego.

Three things happen in the brain of the hypnotized person:

  • The activity in their salience network decreases, a place in the brain related to worry, so they get absorbed in the moment.
  • The brain-body connection increases.
  • There’s a reduction, even a disconnect, between the actions and the awareness of them.

As we said, this can be seen abstractly as a link — by using imagery — between the left-intentional brain (logical, rational, abstract, critical), and right-involuntary-state brain (emotions, feelings, instinctive, intuitive).

In practice hypnosis is studied and used along other forms of therapy such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) to fix misbehavior. It is used to increase the effectiveness of suggestion, give access to the mind-body link and unconscious processing. Alone it is not very useful, but it facilitates other kinds of therapies.

Hypnosis can be self-taught but it is most often administered by a clinician. It starts with a relaxing phase where the patient focuses their attention, giving it away, an induction step. This could be done in multiple ways, be it a visual focus or auditory one. The next step is a suggestion phase which consists of the clinician guiding the patient by helping them create a visualization of events and scenarios, be it verbally or using imagery, to help them address or counteract unhelpful behaviors and emotions.

In a sense, this is very like guided meditation where someone sits in a relaxing position, calmed by a mantra or sound, and is guided by a master that will help them address their inner woes.
“In hypnosis, you’re so absorbed that you’re not worrying about anything else.”

However, studies show that only a minority of the population is hypnotisable, about 10-20% are highly receptive to it. It has been shown that hypnotisability is a genetic trait and follows a Gaussian or bell-shaped distribution. So most research related to hypnosis focuses on this part of the population.

Now, related to our main topic, this doesn’t seem like mass hypnosis would be possible, nor very actionable either. Yet, we can imagine a world in which daily activities, wandering online, becomes a trance state and where imageries are transmitted using compacted packages such as memes.
Still, that is far from the truth as most studies show that it is almost impossible to make someone do something against their will. Moreover, only an extremely small part of the population would be both willing to do “evil” biddings and also be susceptible to hypnosis. But wouldn’t these fringe people be easily findable on the internet and band together anyway?

Homo homini lupus.
Men is a wolf to men.

When the psychology of a whole population changes it can create a deleterious unstoppable snow-ball effect.

Indeed, it is becoming ever more obvious that it is not famine, not earthquakes, not microbes, not cancer but man himself who is man’s greatest danger to man, for the simple reason that there is no adequate protection against psychic epidemics, which are infinitely more devastating than the worst of natural catastrophes. — Carl Jung

When a society loses the grip on reality, becomes driven by uncontrollable fear, when mental illness becomes the norm rather than the exception, social alienation takes over, a psychic epidemic.

All one’s neighbours are in the grip of some uncontrolled and uncontrollable fear… In lunatic asylums it is a well-known fact that patients are far more dangerous when suffering from fear than when moved by rage or hatred. — Psychology and Religion

Mass psychosis happens when a large portion of society descends into delusion, similar to what happened during the European witch hunt.
It is a paranoia taken to the extreme caused by a rise in anomie, societal stress, and a flood of negative emotions.
“A mysterious, contagious insanity”.

We can already see how this can be amplified on the internet where these types of emotions, ambiguity, confusion, fear, and doubts thrive. We’ve discussed amply the cultural insecurities and cognitive dissonance in the previous sections.

We can also wonder if these can deliberately be induced in another population through PSYOPs.
Don’t we also see the rise of this phenomenon through the memeoids and their memeplexes, taken over by ideas so powerful that they possess them, consume them, even destroy them? Mobs and self-justice carnage and destruction.
Moral absolutism, and categorical imperatives are cognitive distortions because most of reality and the living of everyday life takes place in the gray area, between the extremes.

Those who control the flow of information in a society, the ideas we accept as true or false exert a great power over the course of civilization.

This concludes our review of future societal meltdown, be them hypothetical sci-fi scenarios or realistic ones. We’ve started by taking a look at the relation with well-known dystopian stories such as Brave New World and 1984. We discussed the parallel with today’s internet, censorship and speech itself as a censorial weapon. Then we’ve talked about the deep inter-relation between attention, awareness, and consciousness. We’ve said that a control of attention is a control of reality but that online we’re often only given back what we already want. Next, we’ve wondered about different ways to engineer the “wants” of a person, from mind-control weapons, to getting access to data taken directly from the brain, to drugs and chemicals, to hypnosis. Finally, we’ve discusses mass-psychosis, the state of a society where mental illness becomes the norm and reality is distorted to fit an invented narrative.

Table Of Content

References








Attributions: Hieronymus bosch, outer wings of the Garden of Delights, c. 1510




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