The Landing of “Brainpeace”

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
28 August, 2018
Editorial: 232
Fecha de publicación original: 12 septiembre, 2000

You don’t know anything until others know you know

The world’s three major cell phone manufacturers have agreed to label their devices according to radiation emission levels. So when we use mobile phones from now on we will know how large the electromagnetic field transmitted to our bodies is. Whether the gadget fries our neurons or just tickles the interstices of the brain is still a matter for speculation. In addition, the cell phone, and this is the important thing, is one of the most flagrant cases of the dilemma between risk and need in a world that revolves around information and how to get it to each and every one of us. Before we realise it we will be living in a radio-electric “cloud” whether we choose to or not. The creation of “information and knowledge habitats” will bring us face to face with specific Information Society pathologies and open up a whole new field of hitherto unknown environmental action: the ecology of the mind.

At present there are 570 million cell phones in the world. Even the most conservative projections estimate that this figure will triple over the next five years. And that is just the tip of the iceberg: all sorts of wireless gadgets that will keep us connected to information centres via the Internet are about to burst onto the scene. Information and the equipment that makes it reach us, this is the combination that symbolises the new economy and will shape the new ecology. Taking another look at it, we could say there is really nothing new in all this and that the same thing has been happening for quite a while already with computers, television, radios, etc. The difference now, however, lies in the scale, the persistence, the closeness and mass use: sooner or later we will all form part of the new model no matter what our personnal degree of integration. We could compare it to the automobile age: even though one doesn’t own a car, our whole society -physically and mentally-is shaped by motor transport.

In addition to this, the raw and processed material of the so-called new economy is based on, and aimed at, one thing – our brains. Over the years to come, the “workload” we are going to submit our neurons to will make what we have seen and experienced up until now seem like child’s play. Will we be up to it? Will we be able to deal with the b
oatloads of information and knowledge that our neurons are going to be plugged into? Will they be able to handle the growing volume of material that we are going to ask them to process or the radiation emitted by the devices we are going to use to deliver it to them?

The industrial society was essentially based on the processing of physical and chemical materials extracted from the earth. The most obvious result of this activity was pollution of the environment, from air to land and sea. The atrocities committed by industrial development in different ecosystems led to the rise of environmental policies which, in a transnational context, resulted in the creation of Greenpeace whose objective was to turn everything industry had turned brown back to green just by just touching it.

The Information Society will involve a substantial paradigm shift. Its basic commodities are information and knowledge transported by equipment (computers and similar technology) whose raison d’etre lies in our brain activity. This is the environment which will determine the economic and social changes we will undergo. Moreover, there is no the division that was typical of the industrial society: some people commit atrocities and the rest have to put up with them and suffer the consequences. In the Information Society, because of its characteristics and properties, the demands on the brain are extensive and intensive, especially in the personal sphere. Each and every member of society is involved in this process, either actively or passively.

How long will the Information Society’s environmental organisations take to make its appearance? If the result of physical and chemical pollution of the planet was a “Greenpeace”, then contamination of our brains by information and knowledge will have to be opposed by a “Brainpeace”. If it seems too early yet to say exactly what that contamination will be and where and how it will be produced and how we will defend ourselves from it, in other words, what action we will have to take, the fact is that the first hints of their general outline are already in view and we still have no idea what to do about them. For instance, we don’t know how we will transfer to brain ecology the idea that “those that contaminate pay up” or how “Brainpeace” activists will defend neurons from liquidation by an excess of information or the presence of harmful or toxic information, or what actions will be effective in these cases.

The Independent Group of Experts on Mobile telephones in Great Britain, in a recent report published last spring, quite clearly recommended that children should not use these systems. Nevertheless, all the figures point to the fact that it is precisely amongst kids that cell phones have become more popular than “Star Wars”. Young people in Japan, for example, are in the grip of “i-mode” fever, a gadget that has them constantly connected to the Internet, navigating web pages, sending and receiving e-mails and consulting thousands of services of all kinds, such as the “Top 10”, so they can listen to the latest hits in their pockets. At the moment, ten million Japanese wear the i-mode as though it were just another piece of clothing. Europe is not lagging far behind.

Over the last year, the age group experiencing the biggest increase in cell phones sales was that of 12 to 18 year olds.
So far, research into the effects of mobile phones has come up with conflicting results. What is more, all studies so far have been based on research into precisely the sector of the population that, as far as we know anyway, least uses cell phones, namely rats. Extrapolating from data on these “accursed rodents” and transposing it to adult human beings, is a dubious leap to take. It will not be easy to reach any obvious conclusions for a long time. And by then, if things go badly, and our worst fears are confirmed, “Brainpeace” will already have lost an important battle. And that’s before the Great War, of which we are just experiencing the first few skirmishes, has begun: the invasion of every nook and cranny of our brains by the thousands of millions of stimuli generated by the Information Society. Brain ecologists are going to have their work cut out for them for a very long time to come during the next century.

Translation: Bridget King