How We Became Robots
The coronavirus crisis as a chance to realize and reverse our robotness
Make mistakes. You are a human, not a robot. (Munazar Bhat)
Robots don’t make errors. Robots function. Robots just follow their programs, ie their rules and laws.
The more rules and laws there are and the more strictly we (must) follow them, the closer we are to being a robot. Therefore, the coronavirus crisis made us even more robot than we already were.
And we are asked to watch each other follow the rules — to remind each other about the rules; to report deviations; to penalize infringements. The robots make sure that everybody remains a robot.
The more rules and laws there are, the tighter our scope for action.
Tight … that’s the original meaning of the word anxiety, which has the Proto-Indoeuropean root *angh- (= tight).
Fear and anxiety increase our robotness. Fear and anxiety make us introduce new rules and laws. We follow them because we are afraid of punishment. Since some people don’t follow the rules strictly enough, the rules become tighter. Rules that oppose our natural needs create fear and anxiety. What if we cannot follow a rule? What if we suppress our natural needs? (The coronavirus crisis offers such examples. See also my article “Fear & Anxiety — The Disregarded Factor.”)
Fear and anxiety are also triggered by threats such as germs, crime, natural disasters, and terror.
Rules and fear/anxiety make a vicious circle that is fueled by threats.
The coronavirus crisis shows this clearly.
However, we have been largely robots even before this crisis.
The word robot originates from the Czech word robotnik (= forced worker).
And that we are indeed. We are more than 99% forced workers.
The Austrian actor and comedian Roland Düringer boiled it down to an essence. He asked an audience of more than 500 people: “Who would continue with work even if you were not paid anymore?” The result: two out of more than 500.
These two people work voluntarily. Everybody else is a forced worker.
When we grow up, we learn a certain lifestyle. Society subtly forces us to live like that. If we follow the rules, we get rewarded. For example with money; grades; certificates; medals; titles; praise; love; etc. If we don’t follow the rules, we are insulted; outlawed; laughed at; hated; locked up; etc. These methods work because from the cradle we learn to want praise and approval and to fear punishment.
Social rules cover a spectrum from laws to fashion.
Following the rules costs money. We have to earn money. Therefore, at 99% we (collectively) work for money. Therefore, at 99% we (collectively) are forced workers. For this it suffices if a certain share of the work is enforced. It needs honesty to see that. The question asked by Roland Düringer puts it in a nutshell.
Here is an example how this conditioning happens in early childhood.
Imagine a child that plays. It is totally absorbed by its play, which is but a curious exploration of the world. (See my article “How to Grow Properly.”)
It is noon and a parent calls the child for a meal. The child says that it is not hungry. But it has to obey. It has to stop playing and eat.
Is the child indeed not hungry? Or is it just an excuse because it did not want to stop playing.
The child is not hungry for physical food because it has devoted its body and soul to its play, which is a curious exploration of the world. It is 100% focused on what it does. That’s how children are. A child that is focused on its play is just beautiful.
You may know such situations from yourself. If you passionately engage in something, such as a hobby, you are not hungry for food. You are hungry for what you do and you feed from what you do.
Can you imagine Pablo Picasso dropping brush and palette because his wife calls him for a meal?
This very idea is preposterous. But that’s exactly what is demanded from children.
Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up. (Pablo Picasso)
Our children are not at risk of dying from hunger. When a child is truly hungry for physical food, it shows. Every baby is living proof. So force the child to eat something?
The playing child is not hungry for food. It does not want to trade its curious exploration of the world for following meal times. Meal times are invented by society. There are no meal times in nature.
But the child has to obey. It is forced to eat.
This and similar situations happen over and over again. The child is programmed to suppress its natural mental hunger and, instead, follow the social rules. When we are older, we stick to meal times voluntarily.
(This example includes several other disturbing programmings. I discuss them in detail in Chapter 7 of my book “Curiosity: The Mental Hunger of Humans.”)
There are many more examples how we become robots step by step.
The coronavirus crisis made us more robot than we used to be.
And exactly this is a chance.
The strongly limiting new rules may make some of us aware of our robotness. We could question the rules — not only the new ones, but also those that seemed self-evident before the crisis, but nevertheless also just were more or less arbitrary limitations of our freedom.
We could do that. This is a personal decision. Rules are connected to anxiety as we have seen. Therefore, dropping rules requires courage and curiosity — the two antagonists of anxiety.
Book “Curiosity: The Mental Hunger of Humans”
Article “Fear and Anger — The Disregarded Factor”
Article “How to Grow Properly”
Article “The OTHER Story of the Eagle in the Chicken Coop”