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Modern societies are experiencing waves of mass fear that sweep across national borders and spread globally. One of the significant events that plunged the world into a state of fear and anxiety was the coronavirus pandemic. How much does fear influence culture, society and politics, shaping new social practices and perceptions?
Let's figure out how, thanks to the pandemic, fear turns out to be a necessary resource to explain what is happening, govern society and form new identities.
Pandemic of fear and its psychological consequences
The modern world has entered the "viral" stage of information development, when threats take on a pandemic impact. As the global experience of COVID-19 has shown, a "pandemic of fear" has gripped the population with its traumatic consequences for people. At the same time, fear of a pandemic has become no less a serious problem than the pandemic itself .
The growing chasm between everyday experience and an overabundance of conflicting information tears apart the stable picture of the world, which appears in the guise of an impersonal and hostile force that penetrates into everyday life. As a result, there is massive anxiety about the uncertainty of change, which is experienced as an invisible threat that generates mental disorders.
According to a psychological study conducted at the beginning of the pandemic in China (January-February 2020), 16.5% of respondents had moderate to severe depressive symptoms; 28, 8% - moderate and severe anxiety symptoms, and 8, 1% of respondents reported moderate or severe stress levels . Similar studies in the United States (April-May 2020) showed that 41% of adult respondents had at least one sign of anxiety disorder. The revealed symptoms were observed three times more often than in previous years, and depressive - four times more often than in the previous year. In addition, the number of suicidal thoughts has doubled .
With the advent of the pandemic, the phenomenon of “corona psychosis” has spread, the symptoms of which are manifested in situations of social isolation. While in quarantine restrictions, people exhibit anxious reactions, have an obsessive fear of contracting the virus, and experience severe stress associated with uncertainty and loss of control over their lives . Moreover, a recent international study, conducted in 10 countries with different government policies, showed that the population's belief in the ineffectiveness of government actions increases the perception of the level of risk, and hence fear .
At the same time, the origins of the massive fear that manifested itself against the backdrop of the pandemic have deeper roots than it seems at first glance. They are found not only in the psychological dimension, but also in the social, cultural and political realm. Accordingly, we can talk about communities of fear, culture of fear and politics of fear. But first, let's deal with the very concept of fear and its varieties.
The phenomenon of fear and its typology
The concept of fear seems self-evident, but it remains multifaceted, which makes it difficult to define. An emotional state caused by experiencing a real or imagined threatening situation can be considered a common sign of fear. The orientation of fear does not indicate the experience of the present, but the projection of negative experience into the future, which is assessed as an impending threat. Fear signals danger and acts as a trigger that mobilizes the body's resources to avoid a potential threat to life. The specificity of human fear is determined not only by genetic and physiological mechanisms, but also by the cultural and historical conditions of its manifestation .
Neuralink will focus its brain implants on patients with disabilities in an effort to restore them to use their limbs.
“We hope that next year, after FDA approval, we will be able to use implants in our first humans - people with severe spinal cord injuries such as tetraplegic and quadriplegic,” said Elon Musk.
Musk's company isn't the first to go this far. In July 2021, neurotech startup Synchron received FDA clearance to begin testing its neural implants in paralyzed people.
It is impossible to deny the benefits that can be derived from the fact that a person will have access to limbs that are paralyzed. This is truly a remarkable achievement for human innovation. However, many are concerned about the ethical aspects of technology-human fusion if it goes beyond this area of application.
Many years ago, people believed that Ray Kurzweil did not have time to dine with his predictions that computers and humans - a singularity event - would eventually become reality. And yet we are here. As a result, this topic, often referred to as "transhumanism", has become the subject of heated debate.
Transhumanism is often described as:
"a philosophical and intellectual movement that advocates the improvement of the human condition through the development and widespread dissemination of sophisticated technologies that can significantly increase life expectancy, mood and cognitive abilities, and predicts the emergence of such technologies in the future."
Many are concerned that we lose sight of what it means to be human. But it is also true that many treat this concept on an all-or-nothing basis - either everything is bad or everything is good. But instead of just defending our positions, perhaps we can spark curiosity and listen to all sides.
Yuval Harari, author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humanity, discusses this issue in simple terms. He stated that technology is advancing at such a breakneck pace that very soon we will be developing people who will surpass the species we know today so much that they will become a completely new species.
“Soon we will be able to rewire our bodies and brains, whether through genetic engineering or by directly connecting the brain to a computer. Or by creating completely inorganic entities or artificial intelligence - which is not based on an organic body and an organic brain at all. going beyond just another kind."
Where this can lead, since the billionaires from Silicon Valley have the power to change the entire human race. Should they ask the rest of humanity if this is a good idea? Or should we just accept the fact that this is already happening?