Aeon Magazine has an amazing article on the history of technology in paranoid delusions and how cultural developments are starting to mirror the accidental inventions of psychosis.
In his article, Jay applies the same keen eye for history and culture and explores how the delusions of psychosis are carefully intertwined with culture.
Persecutory delusions, for example, can be found throughout history and across cultures; but within this category a desert nomad is more likely to believe that he is being buried alive in sand by a djinn, and an urban American that he has been implanted with a microchip and is being monitored by the CIA. ‘For an illness that is often characterised as a break with reality,’ they observe, ‘psychosis keeps remarkably up to date.’ Rather than being estranged from the culture around them, psychotic subjects can be seen as consumed by it: unable to establish the boundaries of the self, they are at the mercy of their often heightened sensitivity to social threats.
The article covers everything from Victorian delusions of electrical control, to the breakdown of novelist Evelyn Waugh, to the fiction of Philip K Dick.
It’s an excellent piece, and even those who have a special interest in the history of psychosis will find it full of fascinating gems.
By the way, it looks like Jay’s book The Air Loom Gang is about to be re-released in a newly updated version, under a new title The Influencing Machine.
Link to ‘The Reality Show’ in Aeon Magazine.