Who is being manipulated? How is the manipulation being done? Who or what are the manipulators? On what occasions does multi-manipulation occur?

Unlike other animals, the human being is able to manipulate objects in very precise, complex and diverse ways. Indeed, the multi-manipulative capacity of the human hand, allows us to write, draw, use a keyboard; play a piano or violin; pull levers and push buttons; plant seeds and drive cars; hammer nails into wood; weave, knit and sew clothes; caress, hold and inflate balloons.

Manipulation has many guises. Think of a diamond-cut jewel, it has many faces, cut and polished – it has been manipulated--multi-manipulated. When dough is kneaded, or the sculptor squeezes and shapes clay, they are manipulating. Each hand-movement itself entails millions of physiological, physical and chemical events. And these events also exert effects upon millions of other similar events in a multi-causal way. This is the philosophy of determinism-- determinism writ large upon this planet--multi-manipulation on a grand scale. But it does not stop here, but extends beyond our solar system, across space and time in all its multitudes of objects such as galaxies, nebulae and interstellar gases. According to Einstein, space, time, matter and gravity are bound up together. If we manipulate matter, space and time are manipulated and vice versa. Gravity or motion dilates time so it slows down.

Either the Big Bang, God, or both, are the first manipulators in the universe. They effect multiple manipulations throughout history, from the beginning of time and space. Some cite the laws of physics as equivalent to God. We are all subject to these laws, they underwrite our existence—they manipulate all events, including ourselves—we cannot escape these manipulative forces upon us--we cannot deny the force of gravity.

An infant learns that it can push a round peg into a round hole, but not a square one into a round hole. Who is being manipulated? Whilst we ourselves are manipulators, we are manipulated by circumstances—the nature of the physical world—the laws of physics. What we cannot manipulate is the logical infrastructure of the physical world. It is logically impossible for the round peg to fit the square hole—this is the logic of appearances. And it is the same for everybody—we are all manipulated by nature in precisely the same ways. Of course, Edward is a boy and Lucy a girl; Edward is taller and heavier than Lucy; but they still subject to the same laws, despite their personal characteristics. Thus we are confined—there are only certain possibilities open to us. Individual freedom is negated. None can escape; all individuals in every country and culture are subject to these ubiquitous forces. And yet we seem to possess free will—or at most, self-determinism.

The human being is an ingenious animal. He has defied gravity by inventing airplanes and developing rocket science--even though finally the Russian space station Mere, succumbed to the force of gravity! Disease and disability have also been attacked, giving more freedom and control to individuals whom once unable to walk, run or speak, can now do so. Since the renaissance the average human mortality rate has doubled. Through the multi-manipulative forces of science, individuals attain greater manipulative powers themselves If one is looking for a prime example of multi-manipulation--one only needs to look at science. Scientists seek to create controlled environments in order to observe specific subtle phenomena. This invariably led to multi-manipulative exercises in the replicative processes of scientific research and the mathematical manipulation of its data. The theory of probability is invoked to establish the statistical significance of its results—was it by chance, a freak accident—or was there a real causal link? Did x manipulate z?

The fruits of science have led to the expansion of technology—single manipulative processes have been multiplied by invention, engineering, electronics and computers. Mass-production allows the production and distribution of food, medicines, goods and services etc., to millions of people. Unfortunately it also allows the production of weapons of mass-destruction, exportation of war, torture, misery and death! Our everyday lives today are manipulated, by technology—refrigerators, washing machines, telephones, TV’s, videos, computers etc.

Human behavior is limited by the regulative forces of cultural institutions—traditions that evolved out of a need to control en mass, the excesses of possible human behavior. Thus we have such institutions as political parties, religious organizations, legal systems, the police, military, education, hospitals and health service, psychology, psychiatry and the mass-media. By these cultural institutions we are all being manipulated. However, cultural institutions do change, and we effect cultural transformations--we create, we can manipulate culture.

There is a big debate (nature/nurture) about how much society or individuals contribute to sin or virtue, genius or imbecile. Some argue that free will allows us the choice to determine our fate. Fatalists resist such ideas--learning to swim will not alter the fact that if it is someone’s fate to die by drowning, he will die by drowning. Personality, intelligence, genius, disease, physical appearance, athleticism, sexuality; have all been cited as being largely determined by genes. Thus all human beings, from the moment of conception, are manipulated by forces of which they had no choice. Others argue that all these things are largely determined by society, by cultural forces.

The growth of technology has led to the creation of the mass-media--and here everyone is manipulated--the advertising industry tries its best to manipulate us. The considerable amount of money spent on advertising, is a testament to the fact that it must exert a significant effect upon society. Politicians employ advertising agencies and spin-doctors to win votes and buy power.

The mass-media of newspapers, magazines, books, periodicals, TV and film all exert control over humanity. Markets are created; no longer is it sufficient to merely sell and cater for basic needs and wants like food, clothes and housing--now however, utility is not enough—style is marketed and sold. One does not just buy a washing machine--we are manipulated by appearances. Lifestyle in now the overriding battleground fought by advertisers.

All possible human traits are exploited by advertising, whether they are positive (strengths) or negative (weaknesses). There is no logical consistency to the messages being sent out—they are competing against each other—they all want a slice of the market. The market today has become much more complicated and fragmented—now no longer does everyone have a model T-Ford or a Hoover vacuum cleaner—now there is multifarious diversity of varieties of common objects. However, we do have Bill Gates and Microsoft Windows, which is rather ubiquitous! (But there are some features demanded by public and government, i.e. Health and safety, moral restrictions).

Nowhere is the forces of multi-manipulation more visible than in pop music, fashion and celebrity culture. When film was the dominant mass medium, popular fashion was dictated by the silver screen Nowadays, pop music, fashion, TV, videos’ are the dominant forces that shape our lives. Film-makers, advertisers, magazine editors, record companies, pop stars, all use sex to sell their products. Through suggestion and titillation, the public are seduced—they consent to these images and are willingly exploited—one could say they wanted to be exploited; they desired to be manipulated--we are manipulated whether we choose or not! The peacock attracts a mate by presenting a dazzling aesthetic display of its feathers—trying to seduce by beauty, and secure future progeny—is the peacock a slave to itself or its specie? Are we?

Cosmetic surgeons manipulate other people’s faces and bodies, and other people are manipulated by other people’s desire for those faces and bodies. Whilst fashion and the canons of beauty are said to change over history, it has been said that there are universal attributes of beauty that lie in the favoured proportions—the golden section or ratio derived from ancient Greece. This still appears applicable to the beauty of form such as the human face and body. We desire these ideal proportions, thus, we manipulate ourselves in order to manipulate others; the desire for good body shape, physical fitness, dictates what we do and what we eat! Machinery manipulates things in largely precise and predictable ways. Seismographs are manipulators, transforming earthquake vibrations into graphical data; magnetic fields manipulate compass needles northward; ECG (electrocardiogram) displays various features of the human heart. The human heart is manipulated by love—and hot air balloons are directed by the wind!

A human body is often considered as a machine. The tree is more passive, the human more active. We live in our bodies—constrained by their architecture. Le Corbusier once described buildings as machines to live in. Our bodies are like this. A distinction can be made between voluntary and involuntary manipulation. E.g. A windmill, through its mechanism, energy is manipulated—windpower is transformed into mechanical or electrical energy. Here the process of manipulation is involuntary—a product of all machines. And through machines, human beings, their creators, manipulate things voluntarily.

Any ‘adaptive’ process is a form of manipulation. An airplane’s dynamic form is an artificial adaptation (unlike the bird’s natural adaptation of wings, feather and flight). In both cases however, the adaptation is identical with manipulation: - air is being used to provide lift and move through it—thus we manipulate, and objects manipulate.

Are trees machines? Trees are manipulators—they suck up water through their roots; expel it from their leaves; absorb carbon dioxide and sunlight, combining them to generate glucose and oxygen. They grow and exploit any favorable condition for growth and nourishment—nature is opportunistic—survival depends on the ability to adapt to the environment and manipulate it.

Roy Amiss, 2001.