Empathic Machine of Society


Alexander Liss






     Human society operates as a system. This system reflects specificities of individuals and individuals reflect the system as a whole.




Empathic Behavior


Being social creatures, humans perpetually communicate. Large part of this communication is not detected by Conscious. It goes via smells, body language, facial expressions, minute speech variations, etc.

A specific for social creatures part of this communication is defined by automatic minute mimicking of others' behavior. This mimicking allows a person to get a hint of others' state: what they think, feel, etc.

It is called here empathic behavior or empathic reactions.

While words "empathy" and "empathic" are applied to behavior detectable by Conscious, it makes sense to extend their meaning to include described above automatic not conscious behavior.

Simultaneous empathic reactions of a group of people lead to synchronized empathic behavior of the group, be that a large group or only a group of two.


Electric Machine


     On the detailed level, an individual could be viewed as an Electric Machine, where neurons are its wires. The perpetual stream of sensory information causes perpetual electric flow in this machine. Patterns of this flow define an individual.

     Simultaneous empathic reactions of a group lead to non-electric synchronization of electric flow in individual Electric Machines of the group.

The group should be viewed as a system and the synchronized electric flow in individuals of the group should be viewed as the electric flow in this system.

Consequently, stable patterns in electric flow of this system cause impressions (memory) in individuals and this flow is more likely to emerge again, when these people congregate in the group or another similar group again. Some of these patterns can't be seen in an individual in isolation. They are important patterns; they define a group and define social aspects of an individual.

This system is called here the Empathic Machine of Society. Efficient functioning of this machine is essential for normal functioning of a society and each its member.


Images and Culture


Stable patterns of electric flow in an individual are manifested in mind's Images. Stable patterns of electric flow in various groups in a society are manifested as a Culture of the society.

Hence, the Empathic Machine is a basic infrastructure of the society. Social sides of individuals are synchronized via this infrastructure. Images produced by the Empathic Machine in an individual, which cannot be attributed to a stand-alone Electric Machine, correspond to a social side of an individual. These Images are synchronized in a society and they affect individual thinking and behavior.

These synchronized Images are the Culture of the society.

Synchronization of Images leads to similarity of Images impressed into (memorized by) individuals or to a set of different Images carried by different individuals, which neatly fit into a coherent system of Images.

This balance of Images surfaces when individuals congregate into a group (actual or virtual). 


Conscious Communication


Emergence of new Images (emergence of new stable patterns in the electric flow), which contradict existing patterns, launches activity of Conscious. On an individual level, it leads to individual conscious analysis and in a group it leads to Conscious Communication between members of the group.

This Communication ranges from small talk to discussion of abstract ideas.

Conscious Communication makes the Empathic Machine more efficient. This allows members of the society to spend more time acquiring individual experiences.




Basic Images of a society (patterns of electric flow in the Empathic Machine) manifest themselves in Stories.

Stories (legends, myths, fairy-tales, etc.) play an important role in any society. However, stories of one society often are incomprehensible for another society and some of them are even repulsive. This is only a sign of differences in societies, different ways of thinking.

Passing of many of these Stories from generation to generation is often protected through tradition or even religion.

Many of religious writings and variants of their interpretation passed through generations represent just that - Stories reflecting basic Images, which shape thinking and behavior of the society.


Stories and Histories


Historic accuracy of Stories is irrelevant. They do not represent an interpretation of a chain of events. They represent something affecting everyday activity of members of the society - patterns of thinking. This is why there is no moral lesson in them.

Histories (there are as many histories as there are historians) could be viewed as a layer on top of these Stories. They present events of the past from the point of view of current problems of the society.

Some historians detect deep problems of the society and their writings are read many years. Others detect problems, quickly solved by the society or becoming irrelevant for other reasons, and their writings are forgotten.   




Various Barriers between individuals of a society, which impede their empathic synchronization, manifest themselves in a structure of the Culture of the society and define how particular individuals feel in the society.

Some of such Barriers are learnt from childhood and accepted as something natural. Other Barriers are artificially introduced by some groups and individuals. They are brought either to establish control over other groups or individuals or to protect themselves from perceived danger.

Each such Barrier diminishes efficiency of the Empathic Machine and diminishes ability of the society to adjust to new circumstances.

From the other hand, they prevent emergence of strong detached from reality patterns of behavior in the society, which could be dangerous for the society.

Strong rigid Barriers in the society, especially Barriers enforced by external circumstances, as geographic separation, could easily lead to a break-up of the society.

Introduction of new tools of communication and ability to meet each other more often leads to reduction of the strength of these Barriers.




     The electric flow in an individual Electric Machine flips randomly from one pattern in another. The Empathic Machine makes these flipping synchronized across individual Electric Machines.

     One could observe peculiar behavior of individuals in a group, which is not characteristic to individual's behavior in one-to-one setting..





Pathological Barriers


      Introduction of various Barriers between individuals, which impede their empathic synchronization, could lead to pathological development of a society and perversion of human nature of its members.

     Groups of a society living a long time in isolation from each other, often develop substantial inability to participate jointly in functioning of the Empathic Machine of Society. This leads to alienation, misunderstanding and consequent hostility toward each other.

The system of Images in these groups eventually diverge to a degree that their languages diverge and the society as a whole accepts the boundary between these groups as a stable boundary in the society.

     This is a well-understood problem. In many cultures, there are rituals of regular gathering of members of a society, which improves efficiency of the Empathic Machine of the society.

     When an individual raises Barriers between oneself and own society, this individual limits own ability to participate in the Empathic Machine of Society and thus limits own social side. In extreme cases, the individual is diagnosed as a sociopath, however even mild cases could cause an extreme discomfort to the individual and the society.

     In some cases, raising Barriers between oneself and an insane society is a needed measure to protect one's sanity. Still, this act leads to diminishing of the social side of individual and the individual has to compensate.


Rigid Barriers


     In an ideal society, there are no Barriers in the Empathic Machine. However in a real society, there are always Barriers and one has to be able to work with them.

     Rigid Barriers perpetually affect electric flow in the Empathic Machine and they define specific patterns of this flow. These patterns make an impression (memorized) and they persist even when Barriers are removed. Their persistence prevents emergence of new patterns, which should naturally emerge in the Empathic Machine without such Barriers.

     Hence, Rigid Barriers are reinforced by the nature of the Empathic Machine.

     A society, which wants to keep options open to be able to adjust quickly to new situations, perpetually reshuffles Barriers - changes their strength, removes some and adds some.


Rigid System of Images


     Basic Images shared by members of a society (mostly not consciously) define the Culture of this society and behavior of its members.

     A newly forming society or a society under attack actually needs a Rigid System of Images to define and protect itself.

     However, in a normal situation, low flexibility of the System of Images (stable patterns of electric flow) in the Empathic Machine of a society is a sign of pathological development in the society.

     Rigid Images are a manifestation of stable patterns of electric flow in the Empathic Machine. These patterns have areas, where one type of a flow touches another type of a flow - virtual boundaries.

     In a flexible System of Images, an area, which happens to be an area of a virtual boundary in one Image, is not a virtual boundary in another Image. However, in a Rigid System of Images, there are areas, which are virtual boundaries an about all Images.

     This is predisposition to creation of actual boundaries, which make the System of Images even more rigid.

     The result of such development is inflexible thinking and behavior in the society.


Con Artists and Demagogues


     Confidence artists (Con Artists) and Demagogues impose a set of Images on an individual or groups, which cause these individuals or groups to act for benefit of imposer and against own interests and against interests of the society as a whole. Usually, Con Artists are after someone's money and they need to impose their Images only for a short time, until they get money and disappear. Demagogues are after power, and they have to impose their Images on a group periodically, to maintain their power.

     They discover a weak point in the system of people's Images and provide a set of additional Images, which are mostly true, except one, which allows flipping of electric flow in the Empathic Machine to their benefit.

     This is difficult to do for a person normally engaged with the Empathic Machine: this person feels actions against the society as actions hurting oneself. Hence, Con Artists and Demagogues are essentially sociopath. They erected a wall between themselves and the society, which allows them to hurt the society and feel no pain.

     The nature of the Empathic Machine allows such behavior, as the nature of market allows trade in illicit drugs. Hence, it is difficult to deal with this kind of people as a class. One should not try to discern a particular lie generated by them, which caused a pathological flipping, and raise defenses against it. New lies are invented, when defenses against old ones are erected.

     These individuals should be clearly "marked" and all their communication should be discarded.


Craving for Authority


An immature society, which could fall under influence of Images of surrounding insane societies, needs a strict authoritative system, which allows it to maintain its own healthy system of Images. This need disappears with maturity of the society.

Craving for Authority, which one could observe in mature societies, is a sign of pathological development.

     In a society with many Barriers in the Empathic Machine, there is a craving for some system, which maintains the system of patterns of electric flow in the Empathic Machine in spite of disconnects caused by Barriers. The preservation of the society perceived as possible through some system enforcing the system of Images in the society.

     Such external reinforcement often comes in a form of rigid interpretations of religious texts or even in a form of a rigid organized religion.