In the midst of this ongoing crisis, a common sentiment echoes from many corners: “We trust in science.” However, this commendable statement masks an uneasy truth beneath its surface. Over the past three decades, the vanguard of scientific innovation has been shrouded in an impenetrable veil of secrecy. Unless one is privy to the clandestine world of intelligence services, grasping the true state of contemporary science remains an elusive endeavor. Thus, belief may appear as the sole recourse — a necessity born out of opacity — yet it scarcely qualifies as the cogent response.
Take, for example, the revelations made available on the website of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Their pages disclose the existence of microchips, minutely refined and carefully engineered to escape the body’s immune response. Deployed globally, these chips enable real-time monitoring of soldiers’ heart rates, a technological marvel born in the crucible of ‘hidden science’. Interestingly, the same state-owned entity has its fingerprints on the production of the contact gel found in our test sticks.
One could dismiss these insights as fodder for conspiratorial discourse, a label frequently bestowed by the skeptical or incredulous observer. “Ah, a conspiracy theory, Mr. Benders!” they might cry. Yet, this information isn’t squirreled away in some obscure corner of the internet, it is plainly stated on the company’s own platform. If there exists a conspiracy, it is not one of my own creation.
This segues into the paradoxical realm of ‘hidden science’ under the broader umbrella of Vulture Capitalism, a realm largely dictated by the ‘might is right’ principle, and operating absent oversight. This model allows those with the necessary power and resources to control and direct scientific progress, often in a direction that bolsters their own position and amplifies their influence.
The potency of scientific knowledge becomes a currency, and much like any other currency, its distribution is rarely egalitarian. It is concentrated in the hands of a select few who can leverage it to their advantage, while the majority is left with little more than the choice to ‘believe’ in it. Such a system – where power is unchecked and the true state of scientific progress remains a closely guarded secret – raises profound philosophical questions about the nature of scientific inquiry, the democratization of knowledge, and the ethical considerations that should guide these processes.
‘The conspiracy theory’ is a marketing strategy
It appears that people are often incapable of discerning the roots of a particular inclination. When there was a mass exodus from newspaper readership, and the media began to hemorrhage its influence, a strategy was crafted: “Only we are trustworthy, all others are suspect.” It is a strategy glaringly transparent, yet if one pounds the drum long enough, a class of people will emerge who truly believe that spoon-feeding from the government’s hand is the only valid and ‘scientific’ path.
When I observe individuals who trumpet such marketing strategies as though they were sacred truths, I cannot help but think: what gullible fools. However, more often than not, there is a deeper undercurrent at play: society is structured much like a junta, where success hinges on the amplification of these very marketing messages. These individuals are more akin to cynical opportunists than gullible fools, but there is no doubt that their self-perception mirrors that plucked from the diaries of Anders Breivik: they see themselves as crusaders, the noble knights of civilization.
The self-image of these individuals, akin to noble knights of civilization, can be regarded as a manifestation of Baudrillard’s hyperreality, a distorted echo of reality created and amplified by the mass media. This illusory self-perception becomes the reality in the minds of these individuals, who interpret and interact with the world through this lens of delusion. They find their identity not in authentic human experiences but in grand narratives and fabricated ideals spun by the mass media, thereby immersing themselves in an artificial reality.
Such a self-image becomes a simulacrum, a copy without an original, as Baudrillard would argue. The noble knight of civilization doesn’t exist in our physical reality, but is rather a product of idealized media narratives and images. This simulacrum, although a mere creation of the media, can have profound influence on an individual’s behavior, beliefs, and choices, shaping their reality. The irony, however, is that this reality is not reflective of the objective world, but is rather an artificial construct, devoid of depth and authenticity.
In this Baudrillardian hyperreality, the delusion is not merely a consequence of personal fallacy; it is a structural effect of a society deeply enmeshed in spectacle and simulacra. The individuals who embrace the role of ‘noble knights’ are not simply misguided, but rather, they are products of an environment that blurs the line between the real and the artificial, that substitutes substance with appearance, and authenticity with the performative. In this sense, their delusion could be seen as a symptom of a society that has lost touch with reality, a society that, as Baudrillard might suggest, prefers the comfort of illusion to the discomfort of truth.
Back to the Microchips
Back to the microchips that cannot be detected by the body’s immune system. The ultimate Big Brother, and not fiction, as its clearly presented as fact on the Darpa website:
What is the competitive advantage gained from monitoring an individual’s heart rate? Recalling that a decade ago, American surveillance infiltrated the privacy of all, even to the extent of bugging Chancellor Merkel’s phone, one might assume that such practices have been abandoned in the silence of intervening years. Yet, the capability to monitor heart rates worldwide presents an immense opportunity for financial and military advantage. The question then is, what is this advantage weighed against? A naive belief in American ethical superiority?
The concept of surveillance through biomedical technology poses a significant philosophical conundrum. It questions the very fabric of our understanding of privacy, autonomy, and trust in institutions. The capacity to monitor the heart rate on a global scale is emblematic of a greater shift towards ubiquitous surveillance and control. This surveillance extends beyond physical actions into the realm of biological functions, blurring the boundary between public and private, external and internal. This dystopian scenario echoes Michel Foucault’s concept of “biopower” where power is exercised on bodies and populations.
The lack of transparency in this process is concerning. Transparency is fundamental to trust, and in its absence, suspicion and doubt flourish. The trust placed in science should be predicated on the principles of open inquiry, peer review, and replicability. However, when science is obscured from public view, it ceases to be a shared endeavor of truth-seeking, and transforms into an instrument of power.
Don’t Look Up
Last year’s cinematic tour de force, ‘Don’t Look Up,’ catched my attention, but not for its ostensible narrative about a comet or climate change; instead, it stood as a potent allegory for the ongoing coronapandemic. The film’s primary message was relentlessly driven home: the threat is real, even if your political representatives are the epitome of narcissism and folly.
A curious feature of ‘Don’t Look Up’ was the ubiquitous presence of Xanax, supplanting the role typically occupied by alcohol in cinema. Every character in the film appears to consume this potent and highly addictive benzodiazepine as though it were a harmless daily supplement. Whether this was intended as a satirical comment or a social critique, it is a telling detail that mirrors past portrayals of casual smoking in films.
I fear this reveals more about the film’s financial backers than it does about societal norms.
Benzodiazepines, in my estimation, represent an instance of science run amok. The designers of pharmaceuticals that are so dangerously addictive that withdrawal may induce a stroke are not merely misguided—they are malevolent. Scientists who lend their expertise to such endeavors are more culpable than common criminals, much like a physician who facilitates torture is more reprehensible than the one executing it.
Yet, for those who subscribe to a belief in science, such ethical derailments are seemingly imperceptible. This suggests a sad truth: these individuals do not genuinely adhere to the principles of science. Were they truly aligned with the scientific method, they would declare: ‘I do not believe in science.’ True scientists understand that science itself is devoid of ethics. Pertinent discussions that should have transpired decades ago are now deferred to dystopian fiction like ‘Black Mirror.’ This provides us with stirring entertainment, but it also fosters a society where real discourse never occurs—it is forever derailed.
The film concludes with an ominous triad: perpetual danger, rampant Xanax consumption, and the re-emergence of religious faith. In the closing scenes, a family huddles together, uttering prayers as God seemingly returns to his flock. Meanwhile, the military might symbolized at the outset by an empty airplane fuselage, assumes a divine trajectory as it departs for other planets in a plot twist that feels contrived and predictable.
In synthesizing these themes, the film not only reflects the current socio-political landscape but also highlights an essential dilemma: the ethical and philosophical quandaries posed by rapid scientific and technological advancement. These range from the management of public health crises to the role of pharmaceuticals in our lives and the intersection of science, religion, and politics.
Psyborg / Hyperreality / Dzogchen
What I coined the psyborg also exists in Buddhism, where however they only name the technique used to get rid of it, its named Dzogchen:
Dzogchen, also known as the “Great Perfection,” is a tradition of teachings in Tibetan Buddhism, aiming to bring practitioners to realize their inherent Buddha-nature, the innate state of enlightenment that is said to be present in all beings. Unlike other forms of Buddhism that can sometimes focus on more gradual paths to enlightenment through moral conduct, meditation, and understanding of doctrine, Dzogchen places the emphasis on direct recognition of our enlightened nature that is already present. It’s often considered the highest and most direct path to realization in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.
Now, drawing a connection between the concept of Dzogchen and our previous discussion, we can consider the view of reality from the Dzogchen perspective. In Dzogchen, the ultimate reality is seen as a kind of primordial purity that is ever-present and unchanging, despite the illusions of the material world. This parallels the exploration of truth and delusion in our conversation.
Just as the Dzogchen practitioner seeks to cut through illusion to experience the true nature of reality, so too we have discussed the necessity of piercing through the illusions perpetuated by unchecked scientific development, unethical pharmaceutical practices, and the manipulation of public discourse. The essence of this reality, much like the essence of the scientific pursuit, should ideally be the recognition and understanding of a fundamental truth, unfettered by distortions and fabrications.
Furthermore, Dzogchen practice emphasizes the role of the individual in achieving realization. Similarly, in our discussion, it’s the individual who is called upon to critically engage with societal norms and beliefs, to question accepted narratives, and to strive for a more ethical and truthful approach to scientific progress.
In the Dzogchen tradition, direct realization of one’s inherent enlightened nature brings about a profound transformation of perspective, facilitating a compassionate and wise engagement with the world. Likewise, a direct and unclouded understanding of the state of the world—achieved through critical thinking and ethical engagement—can lead to a more compassionate, wise, and just society.