I have the answer to cure all the violence in the world today. Or I will do as soon as the predictions of Dr Michio Kaku come true and a particular kind of future tech is invented. See it’s all about empathy…
Futurists and professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, in an article in the Huffington Post about predicting what the next decade will bring, suggests that our very brains will be increasing plugged into the web.
‘In the next 10 years, we will see the gradual transition from an Internet to a ‘Brain-net’, in which thoughts, emotions, feelings and memories might be transmitted across the planet.’
Yep you read that right. Two thoughts immediately came to my mind upon learning of this possibility – good spoken and written language will continue to decline and degrade further as there is less and less need for articulate expression (I don’t need to tell you how I feel, I can just send the emotions across to you!) and secondly – that world peace could be achievable at last.
You see what this potential tech means is that you can not only store and share your emotions, but transmit them across the globe (and maybe beyond): Imagine if you will: ‘InstaSensation’, a new social media network that will constantly feed you the highs, lows and perplexing complexities of other peoples lives to add to your own.
And can you even begin to contemplate the sensory overload you’ll be getting through future entertainment – there might have to be counselling counters at the exits of cinemas after especially dramatic movies, perhaps even a Good Samaritan’s desk for the suicidals!
To be honest this doesn’t really sound like a good idea at first read. You’re all thinking: ‘I’ve got enough issues of my own without being overloaded by everyone else’s angst.’
On the other hand today’s ‘Facebook Addicts’ might be replaced by tomorrows ‘Emotion Junkies’. Why would you plug into someone else’s sorrow? Well why do we listen to sad songs today and hide our tears during a soppy film? Like everything else in our bodies, emotions need to be exercised too – and some of us do seek out the full range of our perceptions, especially those of us particularly empathic – oh yes, that’s a real thing.
Simon Baron-Cohen, professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge, is the author of ‘Zero Degrees of Empathy: A New Theory of Human Cruelty’ which explains that within most people are six degrees of empathy, and those at the top (with ‘empathy excess’) can literally feel the pain of others within themselves.
I say most people, because outside of these are those with ‘Zero’ empathy – which themselves are split into two types: zero-negative and zero-positive. The zero-positives are self-centered but have a ‘systemising’ nature which gives them a predilection to conform to the rules and norms of society, they embrace the concept of morality.
The zero-negatives on the other hand… Baron-Cohen hesitates to call them ‘evil’ as he thinks that too simplistic, but would concede they are the pathological group – people with borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. Or people that take us into wars, in other words.
Baron-Cohen writes: ‘Empathy is our ability to identify what someone else is thinking or feeling, and to respond to their thoughts and feelings with an appropriate emotion.’ So those with empathy deficit can deliberately and callously cause or directly inflict pain and suffering on other human beings and remain completely unmoved and unfeeling.
The professor won’t say it, but I will: they are inherently evil.
Can they be cured then? Well apparently your empathy level is part genetic and partly influenced by your formative environment – but to an extent, it can be influenced and programmed as it is potentially malleable. This is evidenced by the most heinous genocides and atrocities of history and, let’s face it, contemporary events – when even ordinary people were compelled to carry out acts of astonishing cruelty.
You see, of the big three dictators, there’s no way Hitler could have seen off 17 million people single-handedly, Joseph Stalin needed help dispatching 23 million, and Mao Zedong in even in his substantial 83 years on the planet would have struggled to achieved the title of the democide king of human history with the blood of an estimated 40 to 70 million plus souls on his hands, by himself.
In order to carry out your evil plans, you need to turn people to your way of thinking, propaganda does this – it’s been honed to perfection. Just watch Fox News for five minutes.
However if you are ‘FaceMotion’ friends with people in North Korea or right here in the jolly old Middle East for example, and I mean with ordinary people not the politically motivated types, it would be very hard, if not impossible to swallow the bogey-man bullshit peddled by some propagandists as a call to arms.
What did Jeanine Pirro of Fox News say live on air a few months back? Oh yeah: ‘Bomb them, bomb them, keep bombing them, bomb them again. They don’t operate the way we do. You can’t negotiate, you can’t mediate and you can’t bargain. You can’t even reason with these people.’
Okay when it comes to the Islamic State nutters she might be right, but that’s scandalous Class 1 Saber-Rattling right there, which can easily influence the low-empathy crowds (of which there are greater numbers) and the sort of thing that leads to calls to… well ‘bomb them, bomb them and hey, bomb them some more please Mr President, heck let’s A-bomb the shit out of them – yee-haa!’.
Anyway, I digress. The point was that if we do have technology that allows us to feel what others are feeling, then as a species I believe we would ultimately evolve to be more understanding, merciful, sympathetic, charitable, gallant and gracious.
If you can yourself feel how terrified, helpless and miserable the oppressed will feel, you may stop oppressing them. If you feel the heart-wrenching bewilderment, impuissance and overwhelming sense of loss of a suddenly-orphaned young child, you might not vote so quickly to orphan said child. And if you could feel the humiliation, pain and degradation of a rape victim you would probably do everything in your power to stop such a thing from happening. And so on, and so forth. You get the idea.
That is, of course, as long as you’re on levels 1-6 of the empathy scale. As for the Zeros, the Positives we don’t have to worry about it, as they will just go along with what everyone else believes is the right thing to do, so they’re not an issue. But when it comes to the Negatives, they need to be locked up before they get hold of this future technology and learn how to hijack it for their own nefarious means. Oh yeah… THAT could happen…
Anyway we’re waiting at least a decade before any tech like this might actually manifest itself. Meanwhile I suggest we all just open our eyes, ears and hearts and just talk to people that we fear or distrust. We’ll probably find they’re really no difference, and no more of a threat, than we are ourselves. Perhaps we can break down barriers and hostilities the old fashioned way. Maybe we don’t need ‘Brain-net’ after all?
Yeah. No. I don’t believe that either.
Hey Dr Kaku – hurry up with that tech will ya?!