‘Spiderhead’s Existential And Ethical Questions

Is our experienced ‘reality’ just a result of chemical reactions in the brain? Is it matter over mind, or mind over matter? If the first is true, there would hardly be need to mind the mind. Instinctively, we know that the latter is more true, as we do mind the mind, which in turn minds matter better, with us seeing the positive effects of doing so. What if there are those with extremely negative emotions and poor ‘reason’, who seem that they should be ‘guided’ by drugs? Of course, this should be done if there are severe biological imbalances that cannot be otherwise helped.

The movie imagines the further steering of those deemed as difficult repeat offenders towards obedient ‘good’ behavior, by manipulating their perceptions, emotions and actions with drugs. This is where ethical red lines are crossed to enter dangerous untested territory. Pushed to the extreme, a human might make another resemble a weaponised robot, whose free will can be switched on and off, made to experience more or less greed, lust, anger, fear and such within seconds.

But this offers no self-redemption, which is what it is supposed to be – self-redeemed, not with artificial and temporal ‘reformation’. Granting others the power to experiment with our minds is as if to give away our free will. Not that it is wise or possible to relinquish free will totally, what unfair is if there is manipulation to sign it away, suggesting it is not a big deal, when it is one of the few ‘things’ that truly matter – meaningful autonomy. The struggle with decision-making keeps us human.

What if there is overdose of a mind-control drug? What is a supposedly ‘healthy’ dose? How about none? Is that not the best to work towards? Dependency might lead to problems of addiction and perceptual distortion. The problem to solve is the mind afflicted with the three poisons of greed, hatred and delusion. But if drugs are administered by those also afflicted with the same poisons, how can the drugs really solve problems created by these poisons? Will this not create more problems?

How are we supposed to be ideally? Who are we really? We cannot be that fluctuating at the surface, those superficially expressed emotions, that are ever-fleeting, rising and falling in the moment, without permanence and substantiality. Our true underlying nature is our Buddha-nature, that is free from the three poisons. It is our truly ‘residual’ nature, that potential for purity that has been there all along. It is to be realised by purging the poisons spiritually, not chemically.

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