Monday, April 2, 2012

A summary of the book

Anti-Social Engineering the Hyper-Manipulated Self by Brian Taylor
When one does philosophy, one dismantles strings of concepts into their respective parts to examine both the parts themselves and the relationships the parts have with each other. This semantic reduction provides us the best possible opportunities for finding truth. This was exactly the type of skill Brian Taylor needed to write his new book Anti-Social Engineering the Hyper-Manipulated Self, postpaper publishing, ISBN: 978-0-557-99909-5

The book began as a series of blogged essays in a response to the “Authenticity” movement presented by the like of Eckhart Tolle, Andrew Cohen and to a lesser extent, Dr. Phil. These men, and others, were coming to conclusions on the idea of authenticity that were, among other things, subjective fallacies, rife with interpretation and possibly counterproductive. On the other side of the coin we had skeptical guru Michael Shermer or perhaps Richard Dawkins making up one half of the “four horseman of the non-apocalypse.” These men, “scientists,” were and still are guilty of the same faults as their spiritual counterparts, interpretations rather than knowledge. Brian Taylor wanted to know, “Are there any actual answers in the arena of the self and its power?” As it turns out, reality is far stranger than ever before known and we actually know so much less than we think we do, if it can be said that we know anything authentically, at all.

After four years of research into our ideas about the self through the ages, the sciences of the self and what the self is, this book comes to the conclusion that the modern self, you and I today, are not only manipulated, but that manipulation is sought out, required and pre-programmed. This is a book about how we are all being intentionally hyper-manipulated without our knowledge, by whom and to what end.

To “anti-social engineer” is to counter this phenomenon of modernity through critical consciousness, dubbed “assignee's prerogative.” This self direction is aimed toward eudaemonia, which is an Aristotelian idea roughly meaning “happiness and promotion,” and it is further suggested that virtue is found in the mean between excess and deficiency, in these concerns. This sounds rather simple in such a paragraph form, rest assured, chasing the meanings and relationships of these ideas to any philosophical depth requires a maze of rabbit holes and someone to guide you through them. Taylor is nothing if not thorough in this regard.

Entertaining, personal, conversational, exact and profound, this book has a strange undercurrent, almost a charge running through it. Most clearly defined in it's most opinionated moments, there is a subtext, not a call to arms but to a social contract. Taylor says, throughout the book, that it is specifically battling social engineering, the command, hidden or not, “think this about that.” Yet, he too wants us to think a certain way, a centrist “golden mean,” a path of no extremes. Making an argument against his ideas is difficult, regardless of the talking points he uses. (These vary from possible moral objections we may hold for prostitution or murder, to social norms such as supporting the troops or the war on terror.) In his most controversial moments, when objectivity is at its thinnest, the author's existentialism shines through and he suggests it's better to not claim to know something than to suspect something incorrectly. The exception to this rule is when the social engineering is secret, malicious, degenerative or merely in error.

There are things that we can do anti-social engineer our hyper-manipulated selves and Taylor spells these tasks out clearly. Firstly, social engineering, be it delivered by a television commercial, ideology, civility, social construct, etc. is to be expected and recognized. Then Taylor presents us his Philosophy Generator which is described as “a dismantling of paradigm” and a way to determine if any particular social engineering is more persuasive or manipulative. If we are able to first know what it is we are deciding, then do our best possible thinking on the matter, which is what working through the Generator is for, we should be able to be confident in our decision, whatever it may be. Furthermore, given the standardization of awareness, contemplation and centrist philosophy, it should be expected that the same benefit experienced by individuals would transfer to societies.

The book ends with a chapter called “God wears a yellow hat.” It is concluded with a list of 24 interesting intentions, (23 actually, one of them is missing,) this list is not meant to be a complete index of the topics discussed, but rather an indication of the book's scope. The war on terror, the war on drugs, food transportation, consumerism, capitalism, communism, false flags, rehumanization via technology, God, 2012, patriotism, culture, globalization, human rights and religion. There is an entire chapter devoted to a reasonable discussion between the two sides divided over the conspiracies associated with September 11, 2001. This book discusses conspiracy as it dismantles thought, which is a strange dichotomy. Taylor seems to want to convince us that he is a reasonable man, with a reasonable method and if such a man can find a reasonable conspiracy, we can take the suggestion from the fringe to the mainstream. He may be right. However, this is not a conspiracy book, this is a book about thinking.

One comes away from the experience of reading this book enticed to do more and this is the goal. Anti-Social Engineering the Hyper-Manipulated Self is about taking responsibility and looking ahead, prudently. It doesn't want to take anything away from you, you're entitled to have your beliefs as the author has his. We need our beliefs and we even need social engineering, these things are part of a natural, healthy species. The dangers of our beliefs are represented by the lack of awareness of them and the inability to think critically about them. Taylor argues that, if in fact we are not thinking well about the things we believe, we are not living up to the reasonable purpose we have as human beings. This appreciation of hyper-reality and our place in it defines our authenticity and is the promise expressed by the 21st Century Enlightenment.

Link to Anti-Social Engineering the Hyper-Manipulated Self (free pdf)

Relevant and Popular Essays:
America's Nervous Breakdown
On the right to Anonymous Protest
Problems with Patriotism
the War on Reason
Capitalism isn't Evil, it's Stupid

Shame Theory
Conservatism is Unnatural

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