Zombies!

I’m currently “reading” (on abridged audio) World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. WWZ is a “look back” at a saliva-spread contagion that takes over the mind of a biologically dead host, turning them into zombies that can only be killed through the destruction of the brain. The book starts with the identification of Patient 0 near the Three Gorges Dam. Currently, I’m at the Battle of Yonkers, where a a FutureCombatSystem equipped force battles an enemy (the zombies of New York) who are biologically incapable of being disoriented. An amazing read.

While the origin of the zombies is never fully explained, one hypothesis of the oral history is that it was a Chinese military experiment gone wrong. Freakily, scientists have developed a wasp that turns cockroaches into zombies (Slashdot, Nature). Nothing can possibly go wrong.

From the more social of the sciences, back in 2001 John Bargh and some others discussed “The Automated Will: Nonconscious activation and pursuit of behavioral goals” (14 page PDF) Across five experiments, the social scientists found evidence of sub-conscious will that “promote goal directed action [in] achievement [and] cooperation… increase in strength until acted on… promote persistence at task performance in the face of obstacles… and… favor resumption of disrupted tasks even in the presence of more attractive alternatives” (1024).

Meanwhile. Renee Friedman in Archeology weights evidence (tongue-in-cheek, we hope) of a Zombie attack in Hierkonopolis, subtitled “weighing the evidence for and dating of Solanum virus outbreaks in early Egypt.” Perhaps the PLA is off the hook?

Watch out for zombies!

0 thoughts on “Zombies!”

  1. Dan,
    I'm sorry, but I can make neither heads nor tails of Bargh's paper. Do you comprehend it?

    As for the novel, well, IMSHO, the Battle of Yonkers was rather depressing. Would make a great movie scene, though. Learned (from John Reilly's Long View) that they're making a movie from it.

    BTW, did you read about the “quislings” yet? (Waitasec–I think that came after the BoY…) Interesting concept. I wonder how plausible it is, psychologically-speaking.

  2. Jayson,

    The most important bit of the Bargh article is the paragraph on page 1024, under “general discussion”:

    “Taken together, the results of the five experiments support the proposal that behavioral goals can become activated without any consciously made choice required. Once activated, these nonconscious goals operate in ways known for consciously chosen goals. They promote goal-directed action (achievement in Experiment 1, cooperation in Experiment 2), they increase in strength until acted on (Experiment 3), they produce persistence at task performance in the face of obstacles (Experiment 4), and they favor resumption of disrupted tasks even in the presence of more attractive alternatives (Experiment 5).”

    In other words, your volition — your “will” — is not only not necessary controlled by your conscious self — your conscious self may not even be aware of it.

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