Programming the Human Computer / by Chris Baldwin

By Justin

 

Week 1

I have been asked to write a blog about a documentary I have been slowly putting together over the last couple of years. This came as a relief as I’ve been struggling to fully explain what my documentary is actually about.

 

What’s it all about then?

I normally give the simple answer of “mental health”, which conjures up imagery of interviews with people talking about feeling a bit sad, explaining how they don’t like feeling a bit sad, and how they wished other people noticed and empathised about them feeling a bit sad... this actually covers about 13% of my documentary.

The documentary, my thesis, isn’t just a study by someone who feels bit sad, trying to help other people who feel bit sad.

My documentary is actually an attempt to explain the fundamental causes of what is fast becoming what I consider to be a global epidemic; an epidemic of sadness and unfulfillment!

Depression/anxiety diagnosis are on the rise! I feel people are looking for something to “blame”, I also feel they’re looking in the wrong place!

800,000 people kill themselves per year due to poor mental health. Thats 2191 per day. Suicide is the 2nd biggest killer of people between 15-29 years old.

Mental health awareness and support services currently receive 1% of global aid.

Let me pop that into perspective for you, in 2016 the average number of students in a UK secondary school was approximately 900 pupils. Image when you were at school; all those other students? Times that by 3 and thats how many people end their own lives each day.

 

The Struggle Is Real

One of the problems I've faced with my research is that its taken a much broader look at the problems with mental health. I have taken a much more holistic approach to the problem, which is fine until you come to explain it to people; people who need everything in their lives to fit into small and very separate boxes...

So when presenting my findings to people I often get, “you need to focus on one section of this,” or something along the lines of, “this has got nothing to do with that”.

The problems when narrowly focusing on just one thing, you tend to ignore anything that isn’t directly related to the subject being focused on. Which is fine in general and actually encouraged but when thinking things that effect a broad range of people in makes sense to take a much broader look at the possible causal factors.

 

ME, My big head and thoughts

The interviews and researching for my documentary is almost complete and the next phase is to edit it all together into something that makes sense... which will basically mean leaving a lot of things out! I wrote a 10,645 word dissertation on the whole thesis but it reads like the diaries Kevin Spacey (EW) wrote in the film, Se7en. When I was offered the chance to ‘blogerise’ my thesis I jumped at it as it will give me a platform to fully express/explain the full breadth of my thesis in a far less formal way.

I will, of course, provide links to academic papers, articles and documentaries which add weight to my ideas and hopefully achieve my goal of fully expressing what I feel to be the fundamental cause of virtually ALL problems in the world... imagine the level of ego required to actually believe I've solved everything!

FYI, its not 42.

 

The Trip

A step by step guide to my thesis and what ill be covering in the blog: -

• Evolution of the human brain.

• Beginnings of Consumerism – 1723, doctor by the name of Bernard Mandeville.

• WW1 – WW2 – Developing propaganda and using behavioural psychology – “psychological advertising”.

• Post WW2 baby boom generation – Edward Bernays – using fear of not fitting into the tribe as a way to market material goods – imagery of “happy” people using goods that they own due to being “successful” – the idea being that the ownership of these goods reflects how successful they are.

• Advertising (Mad Men).

• The concept that “happiness” is a key indicator of “success” and “success” meaning you are top of the tribe.

• 90s-00’s – development of social media.

• 2010 onward – posting selfies and other personal images on social media becomes more and more common place – “hyper reality” – people begin to exaggerate their lives via social media to show how successful they are, which indicates happiness (replicating codes and conventions of advertising imagery).

• Imagery people post of their “personal life” begins to emulate imagery used in advertising, the two begin to reflect each other (art imitates life) (https://psmag.com/environment/selfiestereotypes-are-hard-to-shake) – this extends beyond selfies – other research available

• Using the theories of Jean Baudrillard - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simulacra_and_Simulation and his work on the “hyper real”, my suggestion based on research and other academic papers is that “reality”, ie normal life with the full length and breadth of human emotion has been “replaced” with the reality we have seen in advertising over the last 100 years. The best way to picture this is thinking in terms of the film the Matrix.

• Addiction to joy and the need to be perceived as “better than others” to demonstrate social dominance).

• Attempting to replicate the life we see in adverts and on social media.

• Constantly trying and constantly failing to live a life that is in “reality” impossible is causing mass anxiety and depression.

• In turn, this social need to always be happy has meant that people with genetic/long term mental health disorders are ostracised from society.

 

THE BEGINNING

Right... now all of thats out the way lets get started shall we?

The first port of call with this insanity is to take a look at the B R A I N! Not the human brain, not just yet! We need to look at the development of brains in general...

So check out this chap here:

Yes, I'm aware I've just said “not the human brain”, then immediately followed that statement with a picture of the human brain. If you take a look at the labels someone else has taken to time to put in this picture you will see this cross section of brain is split into three separate levels.

These are the Neocortex, the Limbic system and the Reptilian brain. Now you may think that these are just labels to easily identify sections of the brain and what they’re responsible for, they’re not.They are three separate sections of the brain and evolved from bottom to top.

If you took a look at a cross section of a new build house you would basically see:

• Floor

• Walls

• Ceiling

The foundation of a house is built first, then walls then ceiling etc etc, our brains have been constructed, over millions of years, in very much the same way.

The reptilian brain is called so as we inherited it from reptiles, who inherited it from fish who evolved from single cell life around 542 (clearly 42 is part of the answer after all) million years ago during an event called the Cambrian Explosion. Here is a terrible 6 minute video hosted by a very pink man who (very basically) explains the reptilian brain.

Basically this “original” brain existed in pre-historic lizards as a mechanism to automise things like breathing, temperature regulation and basic survival like mating (genetic survival) and territoriality (defending territory, attacking those that “don’t belong”).

So imagine, there you are, a little dino walking through the jungle when suddenly you’re confronted by a possible threat, your “brain” kicks in, floods the body with hormones and you have the strength to either attack or run away, more commonly known as fight or flight. Its important to note at this stage that all actions “controlled” by the reptile brain were instinctual, no choices were made. Just like how our hearts beat etc.

Clearly, not dying is the most fundamental element of survival so this part of the brain became a raging success and all other life that survived did so due to having this basic biological algorithm, pretty sweet eh?

Sadly, this didn’t helper friend the little dino or any other dino when that asteroid hit the Yucatan Peninsula Mexico 65 million years ago and wiped them all out. Mammals survived though, thats us, well its not, its little rat things that became us. With that special survival program built into us...

 

NEXT WEEK:

The next 2 levels of Brain

The beginning and cementing of consumerism