This article was shared by by many people, and there's something in it that caught my eye, and it is the subject of today's high octane speculation.
In brief, the article is about Chinese mind manipulation experiments, which, according to the article, are being fought in the Chinese court system by some of its victims:
The article intrigues, because it links the symptoms of the victims of these Chinese mind manipulation experiments to those experienced by American and Canadian embassy personnel in Cuba. Normally, the bulk of the article would be the subject of today's high octane speculation.
But today, it's not. It's rather that curious caption beneath the picture that begins the article:
A woman looks at a functional magnetic resonance image (fMRI) showing the effect of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Kant's 3rd Critique on the human brain during the Wellcome Collection's major new exhibition "Brains: mind of matter" in London on March 27, 2012. (Emphasis added)
Now, I don't know about you, but I'd rather listen to the fingernails of a dozen hands scraping on a blackboard, or a thousand alley cats in heat making all the noises that alley cats in heat make, than listen to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring; after all, the latter did cause a riot at its Parisian premier in 1908. At least 1908 Parisians could recognize a cacophony when they heard it. To drive the point home, someone on YouTube actually released a "performance" of the "work" done completely on harpsichords, and while I love the harpsichord, in this case, it was like tossing the alley cats in heat inside the sound box of a few dozen harpsichords, and letting them have at it.
But I digress. What fascinated me about the caption was the implied study of macroneurological patterns - if I may call them that, after all, I'm not a neurologist - that emerge when humans contemplate large "works" like, in this case, the Stravinsky, or Kant's "3rd critique." The reason this caught my attention requires a bit of explanation. In my book Microcosm and Medium I wrote about the fact that beginning in the 1970s, DARPA (then ARPA) had sponsored a series of studies of the response of the human brain to specific words. Over time, lots of tests on different subjects, specific brainwave patterns emerged that were associated with specific words.
This enabled the researchers to build up what I called an "electroencephalographic dictionary", that is to say, a database of specific brainwave patterns associated with specific words. Initially it was reported this "electroencephalographic dictionary" consisted of no more than a couple of thousands of words, but allegedly, over time and continued research, this has grown considerably. The goal was to use these brainwave templates of words not only to read a person's thoughts or interior mental conversations, but also to project thoughts into that conversation; literally, to be able to conduct conversations, as this article also points out.
But when I wrote about this in Microcosm and Medium, I began the book with an examination of the 18th century Baroque doctrine of the Affektenlehre, i.e., the idea that certain specific musical-rhetorical procedures - combinations of tempo, instrumentation, choice of key, in addition to the actual melodies, rhythms, and harmonies and their various permutations - could be used by the knowledgeable and skilled composer to evoke universal human passions and responses. The doctrine was quite elaborate, and may seem to some people to be a quaint artifact of "antiquated thinking," until one recalls that film music does precisely the same thing: deliberate manipulation of emotional responses - even physiological responses - by purely musical techniques well known to composers.
With that idea, let's return to this strange caption: what if one could build up, not "electroencephalographic dictionaries" but a similar database of responses to much more "marco-sized" intellectual constructions such as an entire piece of music, or an entire philosophical dissertation, or a particular work of art or literature? If so, then one is approaching a more empirically-grounded type of Affektenlehre than the 18th century experiments of the Bachs and other Baroque composers.
But notably, it's a difference of quality of data, not a difference in the fundamental concept itself.
Or to put it country simple: Affektenlehre may be coming to a mind manipulation research laboratory near you.
See you on the flip side...