Throughout my childhood, people have emphasized the idea of free will. They thought that people were free to make their own choices, and ultimately all routes people took were due to their self-guided actions. However, after watching the TED Talk by Ed Yong on parasites and manipulation, it’s not hard to see how this is applicable to society in general – and how we might lack free will. He gave multiple examples of how parasites, like the Gordian worm, would take over an organism and force them to do things they wouldn’t regularly do. The Gordian worm forces crickets to commit suicide by drowning, so they could survive.
I tried to tie this back into any concept I’ve learned in my social science courses, like psychology, but the nearest I could come to this was with classical conditioning. That involved some form of manipulation, but was only temporary and needed to be perpetuated numerous times. I found a greater relation to microeconomics, where the common assumption was that people will do things to make themselves better off. It sounded selfish when I was first told this, but even science has shown that organisms often do things because it’s better for them – even if it harms another.
The Gordian worm killed the cricket, but saved its own life instead all without the cricket’s knowledge. What if there’s a Gordian worm in our life? What if some being is manipulating us into doing these things we perceive as “self-guided actions”? The thought is terrifying, because our society has taught us to value individuality and freedom of expression. However, all of our plans might be the product of mind-control. If science has been used to tell us things about our society, like hygiene and disease, then I don’t know how I feel about science telling us that parasites can manipulate without batting an eye.