The Pupper Masters: Agency and Paranoia

Brain SlugJames Curcio writes:

As was reported previously on Disinfo, there has been much recent inquiry into the idea of our sense of consciousness and agency arising through the interaction of things outside our nervous system, such as bacteria in our stomach:

“The wave of the future is full of opportunity as we think about how microbiota or bacteria influence the brain and how the bi-directional communication of the body and the brain influence metabolic disorders, such as obesity and diabetes,” says Jane Foster, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.” ( article.)

This, however, is just one example of “control from afar,” and we see plenty of Manchurian Candidate material in the natural world through parasites, fungus, and bacteria that can selectively control animals to essentially do their bidding at the time and place of their leisure:

Speaking of ants, a study from the science daily on a fungus that can gain control of an ants nervous system to lead them to die in opportune locations.

“The fungus accurately manipulates the infected ants into dying where the parasite prefers to be, by making the ants travel a long way during the last hours of their lives,” Hughes said.

But getting the ant to die in the right spot is only half the battle, as the researchers found when they dissected a few victims.

“The fungus has evolved a suite of novel strategies to retain possession of its precious resource,” said Hughes.

As the fungus spreads within a dead ant’s body, it converts the ant’s innards into sugars which are used to help the fungus grow. But it leaves the muscles controlling the mandibles intact to make sure the ant keeps its death grip on the leaf.”

This fungus, by the way, is cordyceps, which I take frequently as a supplement. It’s one of the few supplements I’ve taken that has shown demonstrable results both as an immune booster and sexual stimulant. It’s a strange world we live in.

Another example of this kind of possession by parasite, is the gordian worm, which can take over a cricket and cause it to commit suicide in water, where the worm can then burst out and enjoy its new watery home.

LouseThere are more examples. Parasites that take over crabs. Fish. I speak in the Immanence of Myth, and frequently on Modern Mythology about our concept of self being a function of myth, that the barriers are permeable, that the “center” can indeed be said to be anywhere. But thinking about these interlocking biological systems, vying for supremacy, raises questions about how psych technologies in the future could be leveraged.

It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to wonder who is pulling the strings in many situations. How likely is it that the future could make prophets of the delusions of paranoid schizophrenics everywhere? Genetically engineered bacteria that can turn people into sleeper agents? Maybe madness today, but what about in twenty years? Or,

“Imagine a weapon that creates sound that only you can hear. Science fiction? No, this is one area that has a very solid basis in reality. The Air Force has experimented with microwaves that create sounds in people’s head (which they’ve called a possible psychological warfare tool), and American Technologies can “beam” sounds to specific targets with their patented HyperSound (and yes, I’ve heard/seen them demonstrate the speakers, and they are shockingly effective)” (Wired article.)

Asking this question was of course a big part of the legacy of Philip K Dick but it seems that we are entering that paranoia inducing future where — though government conspiracies are unlikely to ever remain silent or well organized — technology can be used to control minds, and our “true self” is at best a fiction and at worst a much sought after commodity. CIA ops and media obfuscation occur out in the open (making “obfuscation” a possibly inappropriate choice of words) and few seem to notice, or care.

As an example, leading headlines all over the world today spoke of CIA operations in Libya, which was really not hard to predict, any more than the Al Qaeda links with the “rebel forces” or the ongoing curious relationship between this organization and the US. Consider this:

“Why is the United States so opposed to Gadaffi? He is the main threat to US hegemony in Africa, because he attempts to unite the continent against the United States. This concept is called the United States of Africa. In fact, Gadaffi holds all sorts of ideas that are contrary to US interests. The man blames the United States government for the creation of HIV. He claims that Israel is behind the assassination of Martin Luther King and president John. F. Kennedy. He says that the 9/11 hijackers were trained in the US. He also urged Libyans to donate blood to Americans after 9/11. Khadaffi is also the last of a generation of moderate socialist pan-Arab revolutionaries that is still in power, after Nasser and Hussein have been eliminated, and Syria has aligned itself with Iran.” (article from an amusingly biased source but the point about Al Qaeda, as I said, is worth considering.)

Welcome to the bright future. It’s alright though. We all know this is just paranoid make-believe, right?

, , , , , , ,

  • Cystsexist

    Toxoplasma gondii anyone

  • Cystsexist

    Toxoplasma gondii anyone

    • Tchoutoye

      Yep, that’s my “favourite” one. It produces dopamine, not for itself (a micro-organism has no use for it) but to alter the behaviour of its host, causing what is called Fatal Feline Attraction. An infected rodent loses all fear of cats, actively seeks them out. When the cat eats the rodent the parasite jumps back to the cat to complete its cycle.

      Humans are also host to the toxoplasma parasite, Some countries have huge human infection rates (80%). Makes you wonder if human love for cats has anything to do with the parasite’s production of dopamine. The effect on humans differs between males and females. Infected men develop schizophrenic symptoms, become socially withdrawn and show reckless behaviour in traffic. Infected men are involved in 6x as many car accidents than non-infected men. Infected women, however, become more intelligent and more promiscuous.

      • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

        I find it interesting, because to pre-scientific-revolution populaces, these symptoms would be indescernable from demons: ethereal causes having dramatic impacts on behavior. Hell, a female infected by the toxoplasma, sounds like the prototype for a succubus, even draining males(by infecting them making them lose their mind).

        Makes you think…

        • Clean

          There’s also this obsession of the Egyptians with the cats (unless I’ve fallen into the cliché’s trap. I should investigate this) which I suddenly recalled.

          As you know, the human males infected with the Toxoplasma gondii become reclusive, they separate from their peers and stay more often in home, alone. Desmond Morris, if I recall well, said that the first inventors of humanity were reclusive. Reclusiveness is often related with invention, technique and intellectual growth. Maybe the cat’s parasite has something to do with it.

          Hah, I sound like an academic, but that’s because my English sucks a little.

  • Tchoutoye

    Yep, that’s my “favourite” one. It produces dopamine, not for itself (a micro-organism has no use for it) but to alter the behaviour of its host, causing what is called Fatal Feline Attraction. An infected rodent loses all fear of cats, actively seeks them out. When the cat eats the rodent the parasite jumps back to the cat to complete its cycle.

    Humans are also host to the toxoplasma parasite, Some countries have huge human infection rates (80%). Makes you wonder if human love for cats has anything to do with the parasite’s production of dopamine. The effect on humans differs between males and females. Infected men develop schizophrenic symptoms, become socially withdrawn and show reckless behaviour in traffic. Infected men are involved in 6x as many car accidents than non-infected men. Infected women, however, become more intelligent and more promiscuous.

  • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

    I find it interesting, because to pre-scientific-revolution populaces, these symptoms would be indescernable from demons: ethereal causes having dramatic impacts on behavior. Hell, a female infected by the toxoplasma, sounds like the prototype for a succubus, even draining males(by infecting them making them lose their mind).

    Makes you think…

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Maybe.

    But I don’t know if it’s absolutely necessary to appeal to an elaborate toxicological approach to explain why people short change themselves: It’s all about scalability, adjusting expectations.

    Slavery and plunder have been the dominant economic paradigm through something like 98% of human history; and there are a good many that’d say they still are, albeit in slightly modified rhetorical kit. Any parent worthy of the name introduces their children at as young an age as possible to their society’s apparatus of coercion, and makes certain that they are reasonably comfortable with it.

    Deference to authority, indifference to empirical reason, the cheap rush of schadenfreude available to anyone participating in the destruction of dissent–these are all absolutely necessary life skills for anyone even remotely concerned with reaching adulthood, let alone passing their genes on to the next generation.

    The biological critter explanation may have a point, but it does kind of unecessary in light of the overwhelming nature of the historical context. And it does also seem uncessarily negative to. If we really held individual feedom and agency in any regard, wouldn’t we spend more time fostering a more hospitable cultural environment?

    • Liam_McGonagle

      OOPTH–meant to edit–not to like.

      And WTF? No edit access to this one either? Heap it up on the other 66% of my own posts I can’t touch. Thanks, Disqus.

      Anyhow, some pretty glaring omissions/ spelling mistakes in the last para:

      ” . . . but it does [seem] kind of unecessary . . . ”

      “. . . unecessarily negative [,] to[o]. . . . ”

      I outdid my own self there in typos that time. Maybe I shouldn’t rag on Disqus too much. But then again there is a difference between typoes in a dashed-off post and bugs in commercial software.

      • justagirl

        LOL! maybe you should try to relax, edit your comment before posting, and lay off the redbull. spaz.

        • Liam_McGonagle

          OOps–you forgot to capitalize, bitch! Maybe you should learn basic grammar!

          Ha ha, it’s all good jokes among friends, right asshole?

          • Liam_McGonagle

            Listen, justagirl, learn not to go out of your way to say stupid, provocative things, okay? You brought this on yourself by a totally unsolicited comment. WTF was asking your opinion, buddinsky? If you’ve got nothing useful to say (and clearly here you didn’t) shut TF up.

            I basically have no beef with you, justagirl, but seriously, learn to mind your own fcuking business and let corrective comments slide without dumbass, poorly punctuated rejoinders, okay?

          • justagirl

            sounds like you need a diaper change. *ass pat*.

          • GoodDoktorBad

            Ooooo….teapots are a whistlin’…

          • justagirl

            time for tea already?… how many lumps do you want? (lol).

          • justagirl

            woah! is this about the small pecker thing? cuz… i had nothing to do with that.

          • Liam_McGonagle

            Let’s all give ‘er a hand, folks! Just a girl: self-proclaimed inventor of the penis joke!

            God damn it all, that was your great Oscar Wilde moment? Jesus, the introduction of the penis joke into a conversation where no one asked your uninformed opinion is like a fcuking calling card screaming:

            “Justagirl–idiot for hire”.

            Shut your goddamned trap you moronic imbecile.

          • justagirl

            you’re still thinking about me? almost 24 hours and that’s all you came up with? pathetic.

          • Liam_McGonagle

            I gave you a whole 24 hours and that’s all you can come up with? Jesus Christ, come back when you’ve mastered the fart or wee wee joke at least.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Maybe.

    But I don’t know if it’s absolutely necessary to appeal to an elaborate toxicological approach to explain why people short change themselves: It’s all about scalability, adjusting expectations.

    Slavery and plunder have been the dominant economic paradigm through something like 98% of human history; and there are a good many that’d say they still are, albeit in slightly modified rhetorical kit. Any parent worthy of the name introduces their children at as young an age as possible to their society’s apparatus of coercion, and makes certain that they are reasonably comfortable with it.

    Deference to authority, indifference to empirical reason, the cheap rush of schadenfreude available to anyone participating in the destruction of dissent–these are all absolutely necessary life skills for anyone even remotely concerned with reaching adulthood, let alone passing their genes on to the next generation.

    The biological critter explanation may have a point, but it does kind of unecessary in light of the overwhelming nature of the historical context. And it does also seem uncessarily negative to. If we really held individual feedom and agency in any regard, wouldn’t we spend more time fostering a more hospitable cultural environment?

  • Anonymous

    OOPTH–meant to edit–not to like.

    And WTF? No edit access to this one either? Heap it up on the other 66% of my own posts I can’t touch. Thanks, Disqus.

    Anyhow, some pretty glaring omissions/ spelling mistakes in the last para:

    ” . . . but it does [seem] kind of unecessary . . . ”

    “. . . unecessarily negative [,] to[o]. . . . ”

    I outdid my own self there in typos that time. Maybe I shouldn’t rag on Disqus too much. But then again there is a difference between typoes in a dashed-off post and bugs in commercial software.

  • justagirl

    LOL! maybe you should try to relax, edit your comment before posting, and lay off the redbull. spaz.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    OOps–you forgot to capitalize, bitch! Maybe you should learn basic grammar!

    Ha ha, it’s all good jokes among friends, right asshole?

  • Liam_McGonagle

    OOps–you forgot to capitalize, bitch! Maybe you should learn basic grammar!

    Ha ha, it’s all good jokes among friends, right asshole?

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Listen, justagirl, learn not to go out of your way to say stupid, provocative things, okay? You brought this on yourself by a totally unsolicited comment. WTF was asking your opinion, buddinsky? If you’ve got nothing useful to say (and clearly here you didn’t) shut TF up.

    I basically have no beef with you, justagirl, but seriously, learn to mind your own fcuking business and let corrective comments slide without dumbass, poorly punctuated rejoinders, okay?

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Listen, justagirl, learn not to go out of your way to say stupid, provocative things, okay? You brought this on yourself by a totally unsolicited comment. WTF was asking your opinion, buddinsky? If you’ve got nothing useful to say (and clearly here you didn’t) shut TF up.

    I basically have no beef with you, justagirl, but seriously, learn to mind your own fcuking business and let corrective comments slide without dumbass, poorly punctuated rejoinders, okay?

  • justagirl

    woah! is this about the small pecker thing? cuz… i had nothing to do with that.

  • justagirl

    sounds like you need a diaper change. *ass pat*.

  • Anonymous

    Ooooo….teapots are a whistlin’…

  • justagirl

    time for tea already?… how many lumps do you want? (lol).

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Let’s all give ‘er a hand, folks! Just a girl: self-proclaimed inventor of the penis joke!

    God damn it all, that was your great Oscar Wilde moment? Jesus, the introduction of the penis joke into a conversation where no one asked your uninformed opinion is like a fcuking calling card screaming:

    “Justagirl–idiot for hire”.

    Shut your goddamned trap you moronic imbecile.

  • justagirl

    you’re still thinking about me? almost 24 hours and that’s all you came up with? pathetic.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    I gave you a whole 24 hours and that’s all you can come up with? Jesus Christ, come back when you’ve mastered the fart or wee wee joke at least.

  • http://twitter.com/eyebeam eyebeam

    Hmmm last night I was wondering to myself, maybe we really are just vehicles for bacteria?

  • eyebeam

    Hmmm last night I was wondering to myself, maybe we really are just vehicles for bacteria?

  • Clean

    Yes! I was thinking the other day about the possibility that our personalities are formed by the combination of bacteria, parasites and other microorganisms. I thought that our cultures share many aspects because we share certain kinds of bacteria.

  • Clean

    Yes! I was thinking the other day about the possibility that our personalities are formed by the combination of bacteria, parasites and other microorganisms. I thought that our cultures share many aspects because we share certain kinds of bacteria.

  • Clean

    There’s also this obsession of the Egyptians with the cats (unless I’ve fallen into the cliché’s trap. I should investigate this) which I suddenly recalled.

    As you know, the human males infected with the Toxoplasma gondii become reclusive, they separate from their peers and stay more often in home, alone. Desmond Morris, if I recall well, said that the first inventors of humanity were reclusive. Reclusiveness is often related with invention, technique and intellectual growth. Maybe the cat’s parasite has something to do with it.

    Hah, I sound like an academic, but that’s because my English sucks a little.

21