The Cult Of The New Thing

Human beings.

If you’ve read this page on and off you may think I’ve got a bit of a problem with humanity, showing them up as fools repeatedly. This couldn’t be further from the truth as I’ve always been amazed by the invention and ingenuity of the human race. As a species we’re so smart at our best, not accepting any limitations and pushing ourselves further each time we encounter a problem. Of course, that’s humanity at their very best (and coincidentally a set of attributes that is shared by the worst of humanity too), but there must always be something that we compare the best of humanity to or how would we be able to appreciate the good things as much as we should? How would we know what to strive for? Who would we look to without something to believe in?

Which brings us to this tale of a human being who wants something a lot – in this case, an iPad 2. Such was the hype behind this frankly middling tablet “computer” (the lack of capabilities makes me a little wary of the computer definition) that seventeen year old Xiao Zheng decided he’d be willing to pay an arm and a leg for one if possible. After seeing an online advert that gave him the opportunity to gain some cash, Xiao got in touch with a middleman and arranged to have £2,077 given to him in cash. He arrived back home with an iPad 2 and a laptop computer (presumably to do everything that the iPad is incapable of). His mother got suspicious when she found the computers and noticed a deep red scar on his body. When questioned he admitted that he had been taken to the hospital and had one of his kidneys removed as he’d arranged over the internet. Such was the hype behind this device that a relatively sensible seventeen year old boy arranged to have one of his organs removed so that he could afford to have one of these devices to call his own. Worryingly Xiao isn’t the only teenager who is willing to go to extreme lengths to get hold of some Apple branded merchandise. Weibo, China’s home grown version of Twitter, recently got some worldwide coverage when a young teenager offered her virginity to the first person who would give her an iPhone 4. While many tried to talk her out of this insane proposition, some called it out as a joke or hacked account and others even offered her the phone to get their hands on her. One person did point out that the iPhone 5 will be out in a few months so she should hold out for that, but even the girl was not to be swayed by anything. Eventually it seemed that she had gone ahead with the deal according to the comments on that post and her replies to them.

Since he heard the immortal words “You want to murder half the world? There’s an app for that.”

So how can this have happened? How can a young boy sell organs and a young girl prostitute herself, both in order to get a phone that was out of date when it was released? Well, it’s down to human nature basically – more specifically the need for religion. Humans are hard-wired for religion and many different areas of the brain become active during a religious experience. Scans performed on mystics, monks, nuns and priests of many religions (from Catholicism to Buddhism) revealed that during their prayer and meditation routines the frontal lobe of the brain undergoes increased activity as the subjects concentrate on their activity more intensely. On the other hand, the parietal lobe (the part of the brain that helps us realise our place in a three dimensional space) features much less activity than normal, giving these people the feeling that they are apart from the world or in the presence of the divine. It’s only recently that technology reached the level that we can test such things, but the science of neurotheology has already come up with some very interesting results concerning the nature of our communication with divinity. I personally find these results are at their most interesting when compared to scans of the brains of fans of technology companies and sports teams. In these cases it seems that those super fans go through the exact same brain processes as people who are having a religious experience.

While it has long been known that religion provides a convenient way for our ancestors to answer the many questions behind our existences, the idea that we’re hard-wired as believers is something rather new and the entire point to neurotheology as a science. As the importance of a deity in our lives has been diminished by time and science that need to believe has been left empty and unfulfilled. Enter the brands, presenting themselves in a particular fashion and giving those pesky non-believers something to believe in. These sports teams and companies have been able to provoke that kind of religious feeling in their more susceptible fans, creating the same kind of devotion that religions once commanded and the same militant need to protect their devotion too, and I believe that it is this condition that Xiao Zheng fell prey to. While I’m not saying that he decided that Apple were his Gods and must be obeyed as they order him to sacrifice his kidney for an iPad 2, his mind experiences the same kind of euphoria from having their latest product as a Christian would feel from having dinner with Jesus, minus the whole slightly uncomfortable body and blood explanation. This need to believe combines with a need to belong inherent in all humans to create a cult mentality about certain brands. In short, this need to have something to place faith into, this need to feel a part of something bigger than oneself, the need to belong to a group and the need to have someone to take responsibility away by telling us what to do and think took over from the common sense these children had instilled in them.

So why is this happening with some things but not with others? The fact is that every well developed brand has that sort of power, but only a few know how best to capitalise on it and fewer still will actually use that power. Actually no, that’s not fair. Every brand that knows how to harness their brand power in that manner does so because money is to them what they make the brand out to be to us. Brands that concentrate on image (clothing and fashion-technology brands for example) are best able to build that feeling as they push the idea that the consumer needs their product to enhance their lives no-matter what. Brands that surround their products with mystery also are able to build some of that devotion up in their clients as a hidden product manages to build heightened levels of anticipation in the waiting congregation. Like the paradise promised by every religion, the hidden product is hyped up as the one thing that will come as a reward for a hard life, during the life itself. It doesn’t matter that the past five or six products have been marketed the same way, the new one being hidden for long enough allows the human brain to build it up to levels that the product in question could never actually manage to reach itself. We see the product as it cannot logically be, obsess over every minute detail of it and become sure that these small changes from what we’ve come to know will be life-changing things and the difference that can tip us from our current state into one of eternal joy.

Perhaps the cruellest part of all this is that we know we’re fooling ourselves most of the time. That rational voice pops up and tells us that this thing wont be as good as we’ve been thinking it will be. We listen to it and know it’s talking sense yet as soon as more information comes up then we’re off into our fever again. Should anyone attempt to talk sense to us then we’re likely to see that person as someone attempting to keep us from our happiness, most likely explaining them to ourselves as someone attempting to inflict their own misery on us rather than endure it alone. The vast majority of us are incapable of thinking that this person is trying to make us see sense as they are standing in the way of our religious fervour – our happiness – and, like the zealots of any religion when they perceive a threat, we react swiftly and violently towards it.

The new thing has a habit of replacing the traditional in life.

This new religion, this Cult of the New Thing is growing and nobody should be surprised about this. Given the knowledge in the world, many people are growing up without religion despite being hard wired for it. The established religions are so stoic in their ways and seem incapable of moving with the times to the point that when they do, it seems like they’re either betraying their own beliefs by going too far in the opposite direction or claiming to have changed while not doing a thing. These are institutions that are the same now as they’ve been for hundreds of years and have had their hypocrisies repeatedly exposed by the information age. How can we possibly expect our children to find solace in these societies? The Cult of the New Thing on the other hand is constantly growing and evolving with the trends, constantly coming out with shinier salvations and less barriers to entry. “Join us,” they say “and your life will be complete, at least until next year when you’ll have to buy in again.” This seems fair to many young people these days as all mainstream religions have a tithe of some sort and a yearly product release may actually work out cheaper in the long run. But as Xiao Zheng found out, new religions often call for prices to be paid in blood rather than a monetary tithe.

All this can be avoided of course. We can find our own miracles in the everyday world simply by opening our eyes and looking at it in our own particular way. A mathematician may weep at the simple beauty of the maths involved in the way a flower opens its petals while the artist may see a mish-mash of colours in tinned soup that affect the very core of their being in a profound manner. Should we open ourselves to these miracles in the world we’d have no need to place our faith in such shallow beliefs and practices as those that any religion, from the oldest practising to the Cult of the New Thing, can dream up. Only by placing our faith fully in ourselves and the world around us can we truly free ourselves from the shackles that bind us to false beliefs and impossible ambitions, and only then can we live out our lives as truly happy and complete human beings.


31 thoughts on “The Cult Of The New Thing

  1. "The Cult of the New Thing" is a result of entire world becoming a consumer world. We got used to have gadgets we don`t always need and when they become old we buy new ones. I am interested to see what will Xiao Zheng offer when his iPad2 and laptop got too old for new applications. A lung? A liter of blood? Definitely no kidney :left:

  2. You used to love my body. :awww: Still, I'll take the brain loving. :flirt:Darko, he's an Apple fan. Chances are he'll try the kidney again. ;)Aadil, there's a lot of people in the world desperate for someone to save them. I only accept the intelligent into the Brotherhood of Furie so they're left with the sects that will take anyone stupid enough to join. Which of those advertises more than others?

  3. Originally posted by Furie:

    Which of those advertises more than others?

    I think it's the product placement more than the blatant advertising that gets them. Based on American tv and movies one would assume that the rotten fruit is the only company manufacturing any form of technology on this planet! :rolleyes:.Which kinda works towards the 'invisible god' thing anyway! :p

  4. Apple, perhaps having read this article and realised they haven't had souls or body parts delivered for a while, have today announced that they'll be announcing the iPhone 5 on October 4th. I couldn't have timed this post better.Take a look at the adverts if you can Aadil. They're something like this:Here's feature that every phone has had for years. Here's a line implying that you can only use that feature on an iPhone. Here's absolutely no mention of the fact that the feature has been limited on the iPhone to be somewhat lesser than the existing feature on other phones. I've had them pulled up over faking full Youtube in their adverts before (the phone can't have Flash yet they were making out the full website worked for them) and now they're about to get in trouble over their video calling adverts as they say you can use it anywhere at all yet it can only be used over Wi-Fi.Karen, you know I love the typography and animated effects approach of Windows Phone to their UI. It's one of the better UIs out there at the moment and, once the Mango update hits later this year, you'll have a shitload of new toys to play with. Unfortunately the phones are too expensive for me as they can't handle all of my needs. I stick to Android but have spent a lot of time ensuring I get as close to a Windows Phone UI as I can with most applications. I even built tiles for my homescreen (using three applications working in tandem) that use graphics built for Windows Phones that open pop-up folders full of specific applications, rather like the hub approach of Windows Phone.

  5. So you would actually need a second non-iPhone to act as a wi-fi tether in order to use the video calling feature? And how can you even make a 'call' without a cellular network anyway? :confused:

  6. So you would actually need a second non-iPhone to act as a wi-fi tether in order to use the video calling feature? And how can you even make a 'call' without a cellular network anyway? :confused:

    The way their video calling works is a damn sight closer to Skype than it is to cellular video calling. Basically cellular video calling works by sending the data over several data connections, utilising the pipes set aside for regular voice calling as well as the pipes set aside for data. This means that the availability of video calling depends on the home network (virtual networks can't generally get in on the act), the strength of the connection and the how many other people are using data intensive features in your area. As networks get better (and the original plan for LTE meant 100MB per second minimum speeds across any mobile connection for all users) this technology would have come into its own and more and more people would have used it. As it is, it was introduced a couple of generations too early.The Apple way of doing things is different. Rather than working across a mobile data connection they decided that the only possible way to use such a feature was via Wi-Fi, meaning that call quality would likely be a lot better than most people were used to from video-calling but that you have to be at one of the few spots in the world with open Wi-Fi access in order to use it (something that is far less prevalent outside of America than it is inside). The thing is, the caller has to have an iPhone that are capable of running the software needed (it's an iOS4 feature so not available to any version below that) obviously but, due to the way they've built the feature, so does the person receiving the call. Microsoft are designing a similar (and currently top secret) version of this for their own devices based on the recently acquired Skype software, yet they've made sure that people on other devices will also be able to download a version of the application to use. As Skype has become a verb for web calling (rather like Google is a verb for searching) this is a hell of a big thing for them.

  7. I totally understand the lack of being able to handle all of your needs. Lonnie has an Android – simply because he's a developer and needs to have particular functions in order to be as efficient as possible. Me? I'm just a casual user who likes pretty stuff and fun. 😆 The WP7 is perfect for me – though I do wish the Marketplace had a lot more to offer. In due time, I'm sure. :up:

  8. The Marketplace is coming along nicely if slowly. Expect a large boost when Nokia joins up and devs who know how they are at selling phones join up. Then there's HTML5 which boosts your options. As one of the features of that is to cache data locally you could download web apps once and have them available to use even when you're offline. The big boys like to make out their systems are the only ones capable of handling HTML5 (see Apple presenting it to the world as something only their browser can do, despite others having a much bigger and longer influence on it) yet any phone with a browser will be able to get on board with it once the browsers are up to scratch.

  9. Originally posted by Furie:

    The big boys like to make out their systems are the only ones capable of handling HTML5 (see Apple presenting it to the world as something only their browser can do, despite others having a much bigger and longer influence on it

    And even if they get sued it's ok because the whole world 'knows' that they're god! :rolleyes:.

  10. Two things attracted me here,first is desperation as expressed by the boy and the girl and second is the techs in telephony…these two victims got it wrong for going that far…iphone doesn't even have enough to offer when you talk of Android and WP7 but the victims I guess were just obsessed with what gets updated with time..though I can note the frustration of not being able to get what you want at the time you want just sorry for them

  11. While part of me feels sorry for them, another part is pissed that they're not self-aware enough to have not done these things. These are the ones who drag down IQ scores the world around, and you know they'll have the audacity to breed at some point too.

  12. Now Rosie, that's the source of millions of debates throughout the years. It's usually been said as "Did we invent God or did God invent us?" but the advent of new religions from the mainstream style to self-perpetuating consumer cults has made us open our eyes to the fact that, whether our chosen deities exist or not, we need something to believe in. Something to make us feel better about the people we are. Whether that something comes as a set of rules that promise eternal life if followed, a gadget that gives temporary glee, or a phone shaped blog that encourages its readers to commit human sacrifice in its name… :left:Off track a little there, but the point is that we've no way of telling if humanity was created with the need for something to place faith in or if we evolved it over time. I personally believe that the species evolved it but the individuals had a spark of it to begin with. As children we're helpless if a parental figure isn't around and must rely on them for the simplest tasks. This need is there from an early age, before we're even self-aware enough to recognise it. It's very easy for something like that to mutate and evolve over time. At our very best and worst we're creatures that are thirsty for knowledge and this makes us ask questions. While we'll answer those questions with whatever science is available to us – string theory now while thousands of years ago it would have been whatever the wise woman around the fires told us was true – we never truly have all of the answers for sure. As that science all those years was basically people trying to explain their existence around the campfire, I believe that some of the concepts were wrapped up in mythical and magical creatures and beings in order to make the unexplainable by those standards seem explainable (the human ego there whereas now we know reality is made of bits of string…) and to soften the fact that this world is harsh for those innocents too naive to understand how that can be a good thing too.I think a combination of these two things helped this come into the collective consciousness of humanity. This need to put our faith and trust completely in someone else from such an early age gave us the seed that the constant amount of shite our inquisitive minds hear through our lives fertilised and turned into the fruit tree of faith.I also think I just explained Genesis too… 😉

  13. I wonder… has this hard wiredness evolved over the years since humans "started" with religion, or was it already there when our ancestors jumped down from the trees and we're only now seeing the results through short articles in the paper saying that a man was murdered last night because the murderer wanted his new Nikes?Interesting and thought provoking post indeed!

  14. Interesting parallel between that and children. But yes, something must be special with humans, as there are many other species with helpless babies roaming the earth who doesn't seem to have the same type of "hard wiredness".It would be so cool if they could find out more about cavemen and whether they had a religion (organized or not) or not. I think I read somewhere that there was some kind of ritual involved with burials (although I'm definitely not sure if I did or if I just think I did), but archaeologists haven't got any evidence of other religious rituals from that time.

  15. Originally posted by rose-marie:

    but archaeologists haven't got any evidence of other religious rituals from that time.

    If you read enough about 'primitive man', you eventually learn that there is more evidence of gentle compassion than of brutality. :left:.The current 'mainstream' belief seems to be that the Neanderthal man was not a direct 'human' ancestor, but that our primitive ancestors lived along side with them. It is also believed that it was our ancestors who viciously attacked and killed of the Neanderthals.Scientists have discovered Neanderthal graves that have bunches of flowers and jars, that may have contained food, buried with the bodies. Cave paintings are theorised to have been ritual/religious in nature.(note that this is just snippets of stuff I've read over the last thirty years or so.)Originally posted by rose-marie:

    But yes, something must be special with humans, as there are many other species with helpless babies roaming the earth who doesn't seem to have the same type of "hard wiredness".

    I'm not so certain of that. What makes humans different is only that we have more developed 'higher faculties' that enable us to express religion in a more definitive manner. You don't think that when a cat meows for food from it's owner that it's praying?All mammals exhibit ritualistic behaviour. Out in the wild, this behaviour is often mistaken for 'instinct'. Yet we now know that not only are younger animals taught how to behave by their parents and elders, but also that without that guidance, the younger animals become generally chaotic and destructive. But it is in domestic animals that we can see this 'religiousness' in animals when there is simply no logical explanation for a given behaviour.Some examples of animal "religion" of course, animals that became 'deities' also exist! :p.

  16. Rosie, there are so many experiments we could do to answer these things yet they're so completely unethical that merely mentioning the idea of splitting twins at birth and torturing one while letting the other live a closely controlled but otherwise heavenly life is frowned upon… 😦 Still, that doesn't stop scientists. We merely call it philosophy and pretend that we're considering hypotheticals rather than discussing results. ;)The ritual burials thing is in the back of my mind too, as something I'm not sure I've read or think I've read. 😆 If I remember correctly it's something like the first accepted sign of civilisation among cavemen is that they'd begun to bury their dead or perform some sort of ritual. They're scouring the world/have scoured the world and are looking for/have looked for groups of graves. I'd have to look into it further to see though.Originally posted by qlue:

    What makes humans different is only that we have more developed 'higher faculties' that enable us to express religion in a more definitive manner.

    That's the point exactly. For all we know, when Tils leaves a half-dead mouse on our doorsteps it's actually because she's worshipping us as a deity that brings food and water to her community and keeps the evil hoover at bay.So much of animal behaviour is alien to us. All these books come out with ideas of how animals communicate and what they mean by different things but, by their very nature, these tomes are only able to deal with the simplest of ideas such as "I'm hungry" and "I'm about to shit on the floor and roll in it". We accept these ideas as they come from so-called experts and somehow convince ourselves that these are the only thoughts that animals are capable of. It's pretty much how racism worked in the old world, where one idea is put forward by an expert and generally accepted as the whole truth by those who aren't experts.

  17. Originally posted by Furie:

    For all we know, when Tils leaves a half-dead mouse on our doorsteps it's actually because she's worshipping us as a deity that brings food and water to her community and keeps the evil hoover at bay.

    The parallels between that and Throwing a virgin into a volcano is almost frightening! :lol:.

  18. Originally posted by qlue:

    You don't think that when a cat meows for food from it's owner that it's praying?

    Well since you ask – no, I have never thought that. I also don't think that babies crying when they're hungry or need a change are really praying. I still believe that's instinct. The parents (probably) didn't learn the baby to scream first, and it quickly learns that it helps bawling if the need help.Unless, of course, you meant preying. :left:

Have Your Say:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s