When Hacking Eyes Are Smiling

People assume that the smile is an outward and visible expression of an inward and invisible emotion. Ah, but that is what we are meant to think. For the human smile is a case of neural subversion. It begins with babies, whose smile is created by natural selection to control the mother’s responses. We are all the descendants of babies who found the key to initiate the desired parental-behaviour sequences, while not a single one of us is a descendant of a baby who was murdered in its crib for not having managed this. The rest of life is just a riff on the exploits of this security hole; who can deny that a woman’s smile can make people fetch and carry, that a man’s smile can get him laid, that a politician’s smile can get him elected, that a salesman’s smile can sell you a pig in a poke, and so forth? Shakespeare complains that you “can smile and smile, and be a villain”, and yet it always works, we are almost defenceless against it.

People contrast “genuine” with “artificial” smiles (the latter don’t reach the eyes), but both are instrumental. A genuine smile is a natural manipulation, an artificial one is a mimicry of that natural manipulation.

Some people are much better at this than others: either they are better at the mimicry, or the programming that we call their natural personality is better, or both. There may in fact be two human subspecies, those who have the ability to induce others to do whatever they want; and the rest of us, who are farmed to provide them with sex, money and power on request.

It is said that the KGB used to run schools for advanced seduction, whose graduates were specially trained to sexually compromise Western politicians and suchlike. Eroticism and Communist bureaucracy is a startling juxtaposition; it would be interesting to know just how they went about it, and with what results. Was the intake restricted solely to women and men with a great natural gift for attracting and deceiving others, or is seduction so much a mechanical technique that it can be taught by, or at any rate under the aegis of, the secret police?

Another lesson is that the agents’ acting was so good that the targets never suspected, not even the ones who were in the Soviet Union at the time and might reasonably have entertained the notion that their beloveds were KGB operatives. This is an uncomfortable implication, opening up an epistemological abyss; for if the pretence of love can be that effective, surely it would be easier still for us to be deceived when we have no reason to suspect that the devotion might be an artefact of hostile intelligence services. Or perhaps the opposite sex should always count as a hostile intelligence service.

Posted on January 13, 2011 at 09:54 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, What Is This Thing Called Love?

2 Responses

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  1. Written by dwasifar
    on October 25, 2009 at 06:52

    I don’t think I can go with you on this one, Hugo. Do you mean to tell me that you yourself never smile genuinely – that all your smiles are planned and artificial?

    If most smiles weren’t genuine, then the artificial ones would have no effect – or at least not the effect you’re describing, which might fall under the rubric of adaptive mimicry.

  2. Written by Hugo Grinebiter
    on October 25, 2009 at 09:37

    I thought for a moment that I might have committed the “all banknotes are forged” fallacy, but on reflection, I think the problem is that we’re making the cut at 90 degrees to one another. You contrast the genuine and the artificial, I contrast the expressive and the instrumental. It’s the expression-of-interior-state model I don’t go for.

    Now, the instrumental comprises both the genuine and the artificial. When a baby smiles, it is not consciously planned the way it is with a politician, but is equally instrumental for all that. So the politician is artificially mimicking the untutored hacking behaviour of the baby. I think I’ll add some lines to make this clearer, though.

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