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Welcome to Human “Beings” Suck, Part 1—a blog series dedicated to exploring the many ways in which the human species falls short of the mark. It’s no secret that humans can be deplorable creatures at times, wreaking havoc on each other and the world around them through their greed, ignorance, and malice. From blindly following authority figures to abusing power, ignoring policies, and conforming to the opinions of the majority, there’s no end to the ways in which human “beings” prove time and again that they are, in fact, pretty terrible and pathetic. So buckle up, grab a stiff drink, and let’s dive into all the ways that human “beings” suck.

Ethics? We Don’t Need No Stinking Ethics!

People’s sense of ethics is often instilled by fear of higher powers—from parents and teachers, to law enforcement, governments, and gods and spirits—and influenced by various factors, including their upbringing, education, cultural and religious values, as well as legal and social norms set by authorities and institutions in their respective localities and jurisdictions. Fear of punishment or retribution is the age-old deterrent for the majority of people, particularly in situations where they perceive that breaking a rule or norm could result in negative consequences. So without further ado, let’s slide down this rabbit hole by bringing up the subject nobody ever wants to talk about—the Milgram Shock Experiments!

It’s always comforting to know that people will harm others if an authority figure tells them to do so. The Milgram Shock Experiments were conducted by psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960s to investigate the extent to which individuals would obey an authority figure, even if it meant committing inhumane or unethical acts, such as torturing another person. Participants were told to administer electric shocks to a “learner” who was actually a confederate (in on the experiment) and not actually receiving the shocks. Despite the learner’s pleas and screams, many participants continued to administer shocks when instructed to do so by the experimenter. So basically, Dr. Milgram’s pioneering work successfully illustrates that individuals may be more likely to act selfishly or unethically if they believe there will be no consequences for their actions, or if they believe somebody else will take the rap. It has been argued that Milgram was unethical and doctored the results, but other researchers have pointed out this small, inconvenient truth for those of you still scraping the bottom of Pandora’s Box:

“[T]here have been well over a score, not just several, replications or slight variations on Milgram’s basic experimental procedure, and these have been performed in many different countries, several different settings and using different types of victims. And most, although certainly not all of these experiments have tended to lend weight to Milgram’s original findings.”

Russell, Nestar; Picard, John (2013). “Gina Perry. Behind the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments“. Book Reviews. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences49 (2): 221–223. doi:10.1002/jhbs.21599

It’s great to see how easily human “beings” can throw their morals (much less, human rights and fellow feeling) out the window and torture other people as long as someone else is willing to take responsibility. Give that guy a gold star! Speaking of obedience, let’s talk about some naughty nurses.

Do No Harm, Doctor? Well, If You Insist…

Moving on to the Hofling Hospital Experiment, this test proves that it’s not just blind obedience to authority that human “beings” are good at. The Hofling Hospital Experiment was a seminal study that explored the extent to which trained individuals in professional settings would obey an authority figure; again, even if it meant violating professional ethics and personal morals. Trained professionals in critical settings like healthcare are great at ignoring policies (and oaths, apparently) when someone merely posing as a doctor tells them to administer a dangerous dose of medication. In this experiment, participants were placed in a scenario where they were asked to administer a dangerous dose of medication to patients by a caller posing as a doctor, and despite the fact that the hospital had policies in place that prohibited such actions, a staggering 21 out of 22 nurses went ahead and obeyed the instructions, demonstrating how either inept or unethical human “beings” can be, again, when they think it isn’t their own skin in the game. Much less, how did the nurses even know the person speaking on the phone was actually a licensed medical doctor? Just remember this the next time you’re laying in the ER with a life-threatening emergency. This study serves as a chilling reminder of the potential consequences of blind obedience to authority, and highlights the importance of independent thinking and adherence to ethical standards in healthcare and other professional settings. Who needs hospital policies anyway, right? Just a waste of good red tape, in my humble opinion. Speaking of red tape, what happens when human “beings” are given absolute power?

Easy There, It’s Just a Simulation!

The Stanford Prison Experiment shows just how empathetic human beings can be when put in positions of authority, even when they know they are only roleplaying in a simulated environment. Absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely, as they say. In the experiment, 24 college students were randomly assigned to act as prisoners or guards. The experiment was supposed to last for two weeks, but it was terminated after only six days due to the extreme emotional and physical harm that the prisoners were experiencing. The guards quickly became abusive, using harsh tactics and dehumanizing the prisoners. The prisoners started exhibiting stress and psychological harm, experiencing panic attacks, depression, and some were even showing signs of a mental breakdown. The experiment highlighted the powerful influence of situational factors on behavior and demonstrated how power dynamics can quickly spiral out of control when individuals are given absolute authority over others. It also showed how quickly individuals can adopt roles and become entrenched in them, losing all sense of empathy and compassion for those they are supposed to be caring for.

It seems that the common thread throughout all of this research highly suggests that human beings are a neurotic/narcissistic species that is easily influenced by authority, fear, and social pressure. They’ll throw their morals out the window, ignore policies, abuse power, and even conform to the majority, all in the name of fitting in, being obedient, and avoiding negative consequences for themselves. If there’s one thing we can count on from human beings, it’s their ability to sink to the lowest depths of depravity and inflict untold suffering on their fellow creatures in pursuit of their own selfish aims. In the grand scheme of things, humans are nothing but a fleeting blip on the cosmic radar, a tiny speck of stardust with delusions of grandeur and an insatiable hunger for power and control—kinda like the Archons.

But hey, at least we’re self-aware enough to acknowledge our flaws, right?

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