Reflectionist Issues in Humanistic Intelligence:

Accident as means of seeing the walls of hegemony's cell

Steve Mann, September 1, 1998
Also appears in the symposium proceedings of the Dutch Electronic Arts Festival, November 17 - November 29, Rotterdam, (DEAF98)
The forces of hegemony often manifest themselves as control systems to maintain social order, much like the obedience collars worn by dogs.

Obedience collars are said, by their manufacturers, to produce an "electrical corrective signal" when the dog deviates from its confinement space.

In addition to being a pleasant euphemism for "painful electric shock", the notion of a "corrective signal" describes quite well the dehumanizing "control systems" approach [1] to maintaining social order.

The "control theory" approach to maintaining social order [1] might, at first, appear to maximize happiness for all, but at some point one must ask whether Disnification leads to Prisonification [2], or if Singapore leads to Sing Sing.

Is the idyllic world a prison? Perhaps the prison grows around us so slowly that we don't see it, until an accident happens and we hit the walls of our cell, like Jim Carrey of the Truman Show who sails to the edge of the earth and crashes into its wall, suddenly discovering his confinement vessel --- the television studio as a prison with an illusion of freedom --- a prison one cannot see until an accident happens.

The accident is something the makers of the confinement vessel never envisioned. The accident reveals truths that are otherwise shrouded in lies manufactured by the control/containment system.

When Reflectionism [3] is successful we smash painfully into the mirror it has held up to us (society). At first it appears as an idiot or drunk, driving on the wrong side of the road, until we realize it is a mirror image of ourselves. Collision with the mirror, it is hoped, will reveal thuths otherwise hidden from us. It is not the detached grotesque cyborg entity in its tangled mess of circuits and wiring, but, rather, it is the idyllic society we have built that says "Please Wait, while I steal your time, your life, and your soul" [4].


  1. Steve Mann; "Empowerment"; Keynote Address; International Conference on Wearable Computing, 1998,
  2. Clifford D. Shearing and Philip C. Stenning; "From the Panopticon to Disney World: The Development of Discipline"; in Perspectives in Criminal Law: Essays in Honour of John LL.J. Edwards; pp335-349
  3. Steve Mann; "Reflectionism and diffusionism",; Leonardo, 31(2), pp93-102, 1998
  4. "Please Wait: A parody of the time thieves." Excerpt from Prof. Mann's Keynote Address; Virtual Reality Conference; Rio de Janiero; June 1-6, 1998;