Friday, May 8, 2015

Cell Phone 'Zombies': The Masses Are Asses Who Would Choose Electric Shocks Instead of Being Alone With Their Own Thoughts

A quick followup to yesterday's edition of The Chauncey DeVega Show where I had the good fortune to chat with zombie horror author Joe McKinney.

The zombie is one of America's great cultural and literary gifts to the world. Of course, tales of reanimated dead people are not unique to the United States (e.g. was Jesus Christ, assuming he existed, a zombie? Golems; the Haitian zombie in the Vodou tradition).

But, the genre and narrative conventions offered by George Romero in his seminal Night of the Living Dead continue to define how the global public understands the idea of "the living dead".

The zombie is a powerful metaphor, one that can be used in many ways. At the most basic level, the zombie is simply an unthinking, dead, automaton who is driven by the impulse to consume living flesh. While they may not (yet) eat the living, there are in fact many "zombies" in American society.

Some of them are mindless consumers, others are drunk on religion, and many are addicted to smart phones, social media, video games, and other types of technology.

While the "zombies" in Stephen King's book Cell are human beings driven to madness by a signal sent through their cell phones, and in Videodrome filmmaker David Cronenberg envisioned a world where television made murderers, the human brain's propensity for seeing out gadgets and novelty has reduced many people to the level of hypnotized, unthinking, automatons.

They are a people afraid to be alone with their own thoughts.

Researchers at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville have some chilling insights into how too many Americans would choose pain and electric shocks over introspective thinking.

As reported in the journal Science:
In a new study, people who were asked to spend a few minutes alone with their thoughts disliked it so much that they would zap themselves with electricity during their alone time.
The experiments detailed in the journal Science hint at a fraught relationship with inward-directed thought, an ability the study authors call an "integral part – perhaps even a defining part – of what makes us human." 
Tuning out the world around you and thinking about the past or imagining the future is (as far as we know) a uniquely human trait. But scientists at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville wanted to prove whether this was actually an enjoyable experience. 
They set up six experiments where they asked college students to spend between six to 15 minutes in a bare room entertaining themselves with their own thoughts – with no cellphone, books or distractions. More than half, 57.5%, indicated that it was difficult to concentrate, 89% admitted that their mind wandered at least a little, and 49.3% indicated they didn’t enjoy the experience very much.
Science continues:
The problem wasn’t unique to college students. The researchers then pulled participants from a local church and farmers' market from age 18 to 77 to do the at-home experiment, and the results still held. 
But how unpleasant is it, really, to be alone with your thoughts? To find out, the researchers gave study participants the same instructions – to spend time with their thoughts – but before the experiment, they asked them to rate certain positive stimuli (attractive photographs) and negative stimuli (small electric shocks). They were asked, if given $5, how much they’d pay to experience or avoid each stimulus again. 
But during the thinking time, people still chose to electrically shock themselves rather than be alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes. A full 67% of men who previously rated the shocks as unpleasant – so unpleasant that they would actually pay money to avoid them – still chose to zap themselves at least once during that period. (One man apparently shocked himself 190 times, and was treated as an outlier.) And 25% of women who said they’d pay to avoid the shocks also voluntarily subjected themselves to the electric sting.
I am not suggesting that all people should be immersed in the life of the mind. I am however deeply worried about the type of politics and civic culture that are created by a people who are bereft of imagination and afraid to be alone with their own thoughts.

America is a death culture that is violent and sociopathic in how it both behaves abroad and treats "the least of those" among its own public at home.

Perhaps, America's zombie politics are simply a reflection of its self-medicating cell phone obsessed mindless technology addicted citizens?

Here is a wrinkle and a complication: the zombie is not evil; it is a creature acting on impulse. By contrast, the global plutocrats and dream merchants who have engineered America's (and increasingly the world's) zombie politics know what they do and to what horrific and cruel aims they are working.

They are the real monsters.


Justin M. White said...

I'm honestly not too concerned with these results. They are similar to the kinds of experiments done with child discipline. At a very young age, children can't stand to be inactive. A few minutes sitting in the center of their bed is enough punishment to get message across. It doesn't surprise me that adults have the same negative reaction to being deprived of stimuli. Teenagers cut, pierce, smoke, tattoo--at least in part because they have very little control over the things they would rather be doing. This leads them to internal, and often unpleasant, feelings.

At least, that's my take on this. I wouldn’t read too much in to this study. I prefer to try and remember those times of extreme isolation in my childhood, and what my responses to them were.

chauncey devega said...

Exactly. Adults acting as children. Explains much doesn't it? You said alot of truth there which you may not have realized.

kokanee said...

Kurzweil predicted that in 2019 that:
The computational capacity of a $4,000 computing device (in 1999
dollars) is approximately equal to the computational capability of the human brain (20 quadrillion calculations per second) —

The Tianhe-2 supercomputer, installed at China’s National University of Defense Technology, remained in the number one spot on the Top 500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers...
The machine — its name means “Milky Way” — is capable of performing 33.86 quadrillion floating point operations — or FLOPS — in a single second. A floating point operation is a math problem that involves fractional numbers, and when measured in quadrillions is usually referred to as a petaflop. By comparison, the most powerful Mac you can buy from Apple, the Mac Pro, can be configured to top out at about seven teraflops, or seven trillion FLOPS, making the Chinese supercomputer about 4,837 times more powerful by my math.—

Justin M. White said...

Story of my life

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Damn nice sharing.

From what I have read of Hegel, his ideal society was composed of individuals who only entered the public in order to compete with their own community for the resources.
I'm not sure if I understand fully ...

I feel america is like a hyper Hegelian nightmare.

drspittle said...

The article and comments are brilliant. Thank you all.

kokanee said...

Damn, nice sharing back! I'm adding Hegelian nightmare to Brave New World, Orwellian nightmare and Kafkaesque nightmare. From my very limited research, a Hegelian dialectic has a thesis, an antithesis and a synthesis. A Hegelian nightmare has a thesis, an antithesis which makes the thesis worse and a synthesis which starts the the process over again while moving the society toward a more devious goal. It's a big false flag event. For example, take 9/11:
Thesis: Terrorist attack on America.
Antithesis: GWOT (Global War on Terror) —which creates more terrorists!! Rinse and repeat.
Synthesis: Then the talking heads endlessly talk about how the best way to stop terrorism. Meanwhile, the bar is slowly moved to a totalitarian police state. Of course, black and brown people go first while white people stand idly by.


If you have more sources, please share!

TenarDarell said...

But during the thinking time, people still chose to electrically shock themselves rather than be alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes. A full 67% of men who previously rated the shocks as unpleasant – so unpleasant that they would actually pay money to avoid them – still chose to zap themselves at least once during that period. (One man apparently shocked himself 190 times, and was treated as an outlier.) And 25% of women who said they’d pay to avoid the shocks also voluntarily subjected themselves to the electric sting.

The different responses in the experiments just seem significant. Why would the men and women have different preferences about the electric shocks? This is a serious question; there have been studies about women, men and pain tolerance including that pain in women is woefully under-treated. What is it about the socialization of women that allows them to be alone with their thoughts rather than seeking distracting and painful sensations?

Women are surely socialized to pay attention to other people's feelings from a very early age and that requires a great deal of thought. Does one need more empathy to anticipate, and therefore choose to avoid pain?

So maybe the question is, do zombies have empathy? Without empathy, maybe zombies cannot imagine the future. Perhaps, in the end, the people who run the world and the country need more empathy so they can be alone with their thoughts rather than shocking themselves over and over again by voting against the ACA.

joe manning said...

Like Night of the Living Dead we're a nation of zombies beset by militias.

Afraid to be alone with our thoughts because we've replaced collective consciousness with virtual reality.

The demise of the USSR left no counter-ideology to inveigh against capitalism.

The political vacuum was filled corporatocracy which immediately implemented a regime of hard fascism.

The right was free to run amok and construct an ugly reality which forced folks to take refuge in denial and fantasy.

Our fantasizing keeps hope alive but its no substitute for a counter-ideology or a utopia which would instruct our politics.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

When people are first getting into meditation they are advised to sit for five to fifteen minutes a day and slowly increase their time. I'm not surprised people find sitting alone with their thoughts unpleasant. I am in a little awe that people would choose painful stimuli to avoid their own thoughts.

Is it possible that this study could be replicated any time in history or anywhere today and get similar results? I wonder what cultural qualities there would be that prevents people from shocking themselves in their loneliness.

What other implications might there be for other negative behaviors? Abuse, drug dependency, self mutilation, even conspicuous consumerism.

joe manning said...

Lets not write off Hegel. Right Hegelians understandably see dialectical thinking as a conservative continuum but left Hegelians see it as a dynamic progressive process.

OldPolarBear said...

Sorry I am so late with this; I started listening to the podcast Saturday but didn't have time to get very far into it. I finally finished it last night and am only now getting around to commenting.

Your thing about "fake" libertarians: Digby had a good post on this the other day. She pointed out that the Tea Baggers, etc., only hate big government when it helps certain people, but love all the militarism and authoritarianism when it's directed against others.

Some people just can't stand to be alone with their thoughts. I have known some who would simply walk into the house when they got home from work and would flip on the TV before anything else. Some relatives used to have the TV on pretty much every waking hour. They had multiple TVs in different rooms, like the kitchen, the bedroom, the living room, the den. One time we were over there with a bunch of other company and every single TV was going.

A long time ago, you could go to the doctor's office and they might have an aquarium and maybe an "easy-listening" FM station playing softly. Now there is always a TV. There is a regional supermarket here that built a giant, new fancy store a couple years ago with a huge deli and a sit-down eating area with high ceilings, two stories up. High on the walls were mounted flat-screen TVs, on every wall. I stopped counting at 14. The really funny (not) thing was that at least half of them were tuned to Fox News. At least the sound was low enough I could ignore them while I ate (the food is quite good).

Contrary to a lot of people, I spend probably way too much time in my own head, with my own thoughts.

Really enjoyed the podcast.

chauncey devega said...

Glad you liked it. Joe is a great guest. Maybe we have transitioned from TV to the Internet as room fillers and for stimulation. I wonder if there were similar concerns about radio and other types of media/mechanical reproduction. These are old concerns. My worry and that of serious people who study such things is that our brains are not prepared for how the Internet and all of this stimulation are impacting our cognition. We have come along way from the debates over TV as a "hot" or "cold" medium.

Dan Kasteray said...

Needing to belong is one of the most fundamental human needs; its why isolation is such an effective form of torture.

And who is to say that we've all folded against the right wing fanatics? The odds are against us but we've been warring against the moneyed class in one form or another since we started having money.

You can't expect easy victories against our own fundamental nature

Dan Kasteray said...

My mother came from a deep church going culture where church served to zombify people. It worked to kill feeling

joe manning said...

Yes, elites are invariably in a loosing battle given their small numbers relative to the people.

Dan Kasteray said...

Progress isn't guaranteed but it is historically favored