I am just as much flesh and blood as the next red-blooded American, but I also am honest enough about myself to realize that almost everything I do is automatic. Most people just assume they have free will and total control over their thoughts and actions, but if you watch yourself closely you will soon discover you are mostly responding to events with your usual habits. If your habits are normally well programmed by your past experiences you will pass as a normal human being, as I almost always do, but it’s your vast accumulation of habits that is responding to the environment you find your body immersed within and not your conscious self.
Earlier this evening I was in a coffee shop setting with a dozen or so other people and we were discussing what it means to be a human being, when after an hour or so of the expected philosophical and silly definitional quibbling, I piped up with the statement that I was a Zombie. That seemed to shock everyone and they looked at me for a few moments like maybe I was about to pull off a rubber mask of human appearance and they should run screaming into the street to warn the rest of humanity to go fetch their flaming torches. No one seemed to be calmed much when I explained that all of our behavior is beyond 99% a playing out of our habitual learned responses. Nor were they much impressed with the reassurance that most of what our consciousness was doing was guiding which set of habits was appropriate to the venue which the body found itself within. Our consciousness was guiding our external attention to what was most interesting at hand and mulling over what was appropriate to expose of our mass of habitual learning to that external world, and when challenged to keep our more rabid behavior suppressed.
The group had several graduates in philosophy who seemed to think mentioning the names of various philosophers was communicating information, and there was even the obligatory run to the dictionary to define the word “being” which Webster conveniently defined so broadly as to mean almost anything whatsoever. The conversation was going absolutely nowhere as far as I was concerned even though a lot of reasonably intelligent conversation was filling the air. It wasn’t my job to do so, but I kept trying to softly guide the conversation to the essence of the argument, which we had previously attempted to define. That worked fairly well, but it would only take a minute or two to drift away into blurry general nonsense.
We ended the encounter with a round robin of each person giving a short monologue on what they got out of our two hour session. I observed that we humans usually went away with what we personally had said as being what interested us most and that it was the human condition to think that way. Another point: everyone seemed to think that we individual human beings were pretty spectacular, but I said I didn’t think much of us as individuals, but that as an entity of inter-communicating beings we had achieved astounding things.
I’m looking forward to meeting with these people again and will be trying to challenge them again to look at the box they are in.