In “Inconsciente Colectivo”’s lyrics, Charly García puts freedom in opposition to the “transformer that consumes the best you’ve got” (el transformador que se consume lo mejor que tenés). What “consumes the best you’ve got” is a mechanism that today embodies forms that were unthinkable, that put in risk the human capacity to decide freely.
There are subjects discussed in our times that, due to its level of complexity, are not even known. However, they have a relevance that deserves to be spread among citizens.
Let’s start by discussing a practical aspect.
The brain acts by itself:
We are bombarded with tons of information (websites, phones, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) and our brain starts to act automatically. At times, we focus on something and then, when we stop doing the effort, our mind continues to run itself. That is why we chew without thinking what we are eating (that is why we eat too much), why we rush to every place we go and why we sometimes forget where we were. People are on their phones nonstop, activating their brains permanently.
Excessive behaviors are easier to notice if we are talking about our bodies. If we ate all day long, we would feel heavy and we would start a diet. But we don’t do the same thing with the heaviness of the mind. We keep on consuming.
We see without seeing, we act without feeling. The majority of our actions are compulsive, not conscious.
The mind works automatically. It randomly goes from one idea to another, like the pigeons that jump from one tree branch to another.
As a result, we live constantly tired. We’ve discovered that we are losing interest in things or that we are stressed or depressed.
Is in those times that we feel tired and we numb ourselves with pills or alcohol.
Mind and body are integrated, acting through the association of thoughts, feelings, sensations, behaviors, all useful for our daily lives.
The problem emerges when we dive into this associative loopholes that limit us, sicken us or destabilize us.
For instance, when we say “doctor”, we immediately think of “nurse”, “hospital” and the whole imagery of the place, but, if we ever get sick and go to the hospital, the word doctor would produce us a tummy ache.
When we go to a place we know and see something that triggers a thought, our brain relates it to other aspects that might be involved to it: a bar nearby, a museum around the corner. That is to say that, without seeing or hearing anything, the mind identifies the place by association, which might produce a state of discomfort if something negative occurred in that place.
Our mood also generates associations. That is to say that, when we are depressed, we see things differently, even though everything is okay or it doesn’t have actual relevance. When a part of our body hurts (our back, our foot or our stomach), we see things negatively. When we walk on the street and see someone we know that doesn’t greet us because they didn’t see us, we start thinking: “Did I do something wrong? What did I say to upset him or her?” and start to think automatically, without realizing.
The mind also examines alternatives of what could happen, which is very useful, but if we lock up ourselves on that, we get tired. When we think about taking a flight, we start thinking whether it will part or not, whether it rains and tons of other suppositions. That happens in several situations. We ask ourselves “what if…” or “what if I have said or do”, “what if I had made this decision”, etcetera.
Neuroscience and Law
This presents an issue: if the mind works automatically, then, who am I? If I say I want to go to bed, but the mind continues to think, why can’t I dominate it? Does it have to do with something external?
In philosophy, this topic was studied 2500 years ago, mainly in the rich debate that took place among the wise men that inhabited the proximities of the Ganges River in India.
In the past years, in the field of neuroscience, it has been conceived that there are tons of decisions that are a consequence of the interaction between neurons, like if our brain were a computer program.
In Law, however, all of this has been left aside because arguing about this element would affect the civil or criminal responsibility or contracts because, in every case, the premise is that people make decision consciously.
Nonetheless, a technological phenomenon was born that has opened dialogue among these 3 branches, which aim to the protection of the person.
The conflict arises when philosophy and science show us that many of our decisions don’t respond to what we could call “I”.
This affirmation has had an enormous impact on criminal imputation, in witnesses’ declarations or in the consumer’s decisions dominated by marketing.
Law must maintain a notion of the individual’s responsibility for the decisions that he adopts, due to a principle of legal security. However, there has been improvements in the design of instruments in order to protect that capacity.
Kids at risk
It is undeniable that children start receiving information from a premature age because they engage with phones, they lunch while playing videogames, play in the internet seven or eight hours a day. Parenting and schooling start to face complications in the process of teaching.
These minds are used to act automatically and homogenously, according to the rules provided by the information they consume.
Who gives them this information?
It is necessary to know that nowadays massive multinational companies that operate in a global scale, transmit information that has been curated and deeply studied. Each internet game, digital publicity, each news come from a well-studied process of marketing research that is based on human conducts.
The consequence is the standardization of conducts evidenced in how everyone likes more or less the same things. It also limits our critical spirit because of all the distraction surrounding us.
We are assisting the birth of one of the most intricate social control systems in the history of humankind.
That is why Law has started to pay attention to the regulatory possibilities within companies that operate Internet, to the protection of consumers, to publicity and to videogames and its effects.
The Law must have an active role in this field because it must protect the person and a way of doing that is by protecting his or hers autonomy, his or hers capacity to think, critic, value and socialize.
Also, education has a significant role. In some schools it has started to prohibit the use of phones during class and breaks. In other areas, self-control techniques are being taught. Less phone, use it less before going to sleep, have some rest.
In addition, medicine has spread relaxation techniques. If we are conscious of not having control over what the mind does, we start to understand the problem and increase our freedom.
The worst thing about this is, while we are absorbed by our daily lives, we are not seeing the new society that is arising, which has an incredible control over conducts.