Stanford Research Institute: The Changing Images of Man

Any student of the rise and fall of cultures cannot fail to be impressed by the role in this historical succession by the image of the future. The rise and fall of images of the future precedes or accompanies the rise and fall of cultures ….In the end, the future may well be decided by the image which carries the greatest spiritual power.

Fred Polak (1973)

Vitruvian Man


From the very beginning of human existence, Man has relied upon mythological images and symbolic metaphor to help bring meaning and purpose to his life. Today, we use these images as snapshots in order to define the many evolutionary stages of human history, helping to condense the complexity of each era into a single, easy to understand archetypal symbol. For example, when we think of Man in prehistoric times, we imagine him as a spear wielding master of nature – just as the early cave paintings depicted.

During the Ancient Egyptian era, he became the master of his fellow man and is most commonly represented by the iconic golden image of King Tutankhamen. As scientific method emerged during the Renaissance of early European modern history, Man stepped out from underneath the mystical authority of God to become, not only the dominant force in nature, but the master of the universe – apotheosized by Leonardo Da Vinci’s perfectly proportioned Vitruvian Man. Even more recently, our multi-national, industrialized, globally conscious epoch can be summed up by the image of a tailored suit wearing Modern Man On The Move – trading his spear for a brief case.

These mythological images – or symbolic metaphors – fulfill an important purpose in the evolutionary process, helping Man not only understand who he is but who he was, and most importantly who he will become in the future. Without these strong self-images Man loses his sense of identity, the very structure of society can fragment and the risk of losing our meaning and purpose becomes a very plausible reality.


The Modern Man on the Move. Briefcase Man


As we have seen over the last several decades, it certainly seems as though Man has lost grip with his true identity. Our Western world is undergoing such a drastic technological transformation that it has proven increasingly more difficult to define Man with a single iconic image and this is characterized by today’s massive societal instability and unprecedented chaos that threatens to overturn our Western traditions and values. It certainly should come as no surprise that, as we analyze the cause and effect of unbridled technological advancement: like how the division of labour reduced once fulfilling lives to the most mechanized, menial of tasks; or how urbanization led to an unhealthy dependency upon institutions; or, how the standardization of the Western school system robbed Man of his individuality, that we are now seeing a crisis of identity unfolding in this most nondescript of eras – an era that can only be defined by its inability to be defined.

Following the 1960’s, a large section of the population became disillusioned. People began voluntarily disengaging from society in search of an meaningful identity but failed to find one in a culture driven by faceless commoditization and consumption. At the time of Stanford Research Institute’s study in the 1970’s, society had already existed without a true sense of purpose or meaning for a considerable length of time, and according to the experts, this lack of a strong self-image was having an immense negative impact on western society as a whole. The Western world was in desperate need of an image makeover. But, what would the next image of Man look like? And, in what direction would this image take us? These were the questions that a small group of scientists and consultants working out of Stanford University in Santa Clara Valley California (soon to be known around the world as Silicon Valley) were determined to answer.


“Might it be possible that a more adequate image of humankind could lead to a renewed sense of wholeness and to better behavior-both individual and collective?” pg. 15.


Published originally in 1974, and revised in 1982, The Changing Images of Man was the culmination of an eight month study administered by the Urban and Social Systems Division of the Stanford Research Institute. As they explain in the introduction, various intellectuals from the fields of social sciences, humanities, engineering and physics collaborated in an attempt to:

“1) illuminate ways our present society, its citizens, and institutions have been shaped by the underlying myths and images of the past and present.

2) Explore the deficiencies of currently held images of humankind and to identify needed characteristics of future images and,

3) Identify high-leverage activities that could facilitate the emergence of new images and new policy approaches to the resolution of key problems in society.” Essentially, the basis of their study was to identify and consider the viability and efficacy of all the possible ways in which they could socially engineer the American public towards a new self-image. The key research staff at SRI was led by Project Director O.W. Markley and assisted by an Advisory Panel with several well known public figures including world famous behaviorist B.F. Skinner from the Harvard Department of Psychology; Henry Margenau from the Department of Physics at Yale; well known cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead from the American Museum of Natural History; and popular mythologist and author of The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell.


“Society grows ever more complex, specialized and interconnected, and the production and distribution of essential goods and services is increasingly dependent on the continued integrity of human institutional systems. Human systems, however, depend on trust, agreement, and political law rather than on unchanging “natural” law, hence they are inherently less stable in times of rapid cultural change than are “natural” systems. They are particularly sensitive to breakdowns caused by war, terrorism and simplistic attempts at societal reform.” pg. 10


Within the three hundred page report, the researchers at SRI identified seven different functions of society in which the power of images could be used to acquiesce the population into a state of subservience. These functions were mainly derived from Joseph Campbell’s previous work on mythology and his knowledge of past civilizations. They included: mystical, cosmological, sociological, pedagogical or psychological, editorial, political and magical. Contained within these 7 functions are the many institutions, government agencies, organizations and groups that serve as authorities in society. While the researchers found Joseph’s mystical and magical functions to be largely ineffective due to the public’s inability to consider the former anything more than superstition and the latter to be negatively associated with the diminishing power of the church, they did find the other functions worthy of further exploration.


The cosmological function is “to form and present images of the universe and world in accord with local knowledge and experience. This function is performed in our society today by the scientific community and we see a grossly exaggerated reliance on the word of scientific ‘experts’ and the emergence of a new quasi-religion called ‘scientism’.

The sociological function enjoys perhaps the widest interpretation and includes the social sciences, various social programs, special interest groups, non-profit organizations, non-governmental organizations as well as mass communication, Hollywood, and the entertainment industry. Today this function most assuredly includes social media giants like Google, YouTube, Facebook, Yahoo! and Twitter – all of which just happen to have got their start mere miles away from SRI within the city boundaries of downtown San Jose California, right in the heart of Silicon Valley.

The pedagogical or educational function includes the public school system as well as the higher learning institutions of academia and has proven to be most effective in shaping the direction of western society. Today, both the public classroom and the university campus have become perfect breeding grounds for the enforcement of social order and the manufacturing of public opinion and are now the ideological battleground upon which the very fabric of western values and traditions are being viciously shredded to pieces – primarily led by violent, ill-informed protests at Berkeley University, which just happens to be located in Oakland, just north of Stanford.

The editorial function of society is performed by the “funding agencies (government legislatures and departments of program planning, foundations, and so forth) who also represent special interests in the selection of which aspects of reality should be collectively ignored and which attended to”. Today foundations like Ford, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Gates and Open Society all play major roles in the shaping of society not only domestically but on an international scale. (see my previous articles, Philanthropic Foundations and Why They Are A Problem, and How Foundations Created Academia in which I go into further detail).

The political function is distinct from the strictly sociological function and “appears wherever a myth or institution of society is deliberately employed to represent the claim to privilege and authority of some special person, race, social class, nation or civilization”. Today our society has been inundated with these types of social justice authorities demanding equality of race, class, gender, and ethnicity.


According to the Changing Images of Man, the authoritative powers within the above mentioned 7 functions were then applied to all four “sources of societal problems” in order to affect the very beliefs, values and perceptions of society. These four levels are made up of: (1) the state of society, (2) behaviour, (3) motivations, and (4) basic values. As figure 7 demonstrates below, we see how the state of society can be directly affected by the individual actions and behaviours of its citizens. The scientists and researchers at SRI had rightly concluded that it is upon the foundation of our basic values and perceptions that our motivations are built; and our motivations will manifest themselves into reality through our behaviour while our collective behaviour as a society ultimately determines the general state of our society as a whole. Which raises the obvious question most pertinent to this specific discussion. Where do our values and perceptions come from?

The stability of the State no matter the ideology is entirely dependent upon the behaviour of its citizens. And those behaviours triggered by motivations stemming from our perception of basic values first established in early childhood and then reinforced through the repetition of Norbert Weiner’s feedback loop. This constant entrainment a necessary aspect in the maintaining of order. 

Our beliefs, values, and perceptions originate from our culture. In fact, they are a direct result of the above mentioned 7 functions of society. We are born into an already well established set of cosmological, sociological, pedagogical or psychological, editorial, political, magical and mythical beliefs that we are forced to adopt for fear we may fail to conform within the larger societal belief system. The SRI referred to this process of indoctrination as the “directed emotional conditioning” of children. pg. 170
As we grow older and gain more information, our values and beliefs and perceptions are further implanted within us in much the same way a plant photosynthesizes the energy of the sun – what SRI called “objectively constructed reinforcement patterns” pg. 170. We become a product of our environment. Those who step outside this construct are quickly stigmatized as social outliers – contemptible contrarians who are then ridiculed into submission by the majority. The very existence of this social construct depends heavily on the effectiveness of both our initial conditioning and the subsequent reinforcement of patterns. Of course, this was well understood by the assembled scientists at SRI. Interestingly, the shaping of thought in order to steer society in a predetermined direction is the very definition of brainwashing. The only thing left for SRI to decide was which of the many techniques proposed would be implemented? What behaviour modification strategies would prove most effective in the establishment of a more docile, benevolent society? These questions formed the heart of the study.

“Only if such mentalistic and pre-scientific concepts as will, freedom, and consciousness, and so forth are cast off, Skinner asserts, does man have a chance to attain a truly peaceful, rational, and humane society in the future.” B.F. Skinner, pg. 30


The research staff at SRI left no stone unturned in their search for ways to inculcate the masses, even considering the viability of telekinesis, bio feedback, telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, hypnosis, subliminal messaging, hallucinogenics and psychotropic drugs. Each strategy was identified and discussed at length over the 8 month study then summarized within Chapter 4, Influence of Science on the “Image of Man”. The study called upon behavioural scientist B.F. Skinner to offer his expertise on the examination of ‘man as a mechanism’ and to elaborate on his operant conditioning techniques. Also discussed was the viability of “genetic modification”(6); “brain surgery to prevent aggressive behaviour”; “electrical brain implants”; and “sophisticated electronic surveillance mechanisms to detect ‘aberrant’ behaviour patterns”. Incredibly, they also “proposed the development of chemically based “psychotechnologies”, (primarily to bring control over the tendencies of national leaders, in an attempt to lower the possibility of nuclear war)”. SRI also “urged the development of a ‘psycho-civilized’ society such that dangerous behavior in man can be modified by electrical stimulation of the brain” while they also considered the “profound moral questions” that arise from such activities “which, if unresolved, might propel civilization toward Brave New World and 1984”. pg. 170, 84.


The branch of this school of thought which has proved most successful emphasizes the technique of operant conditioning, a term originated by B. F. Skinner to denote a systematic procedure whereby the actions of an organism are brought under control by giving it a reward if and only if it behaves in a specified manner. This technique has been successfully used-in education, psychotherapy, and in prisons to alter whole behavior patterns of individuals. Certainly, the techniques that have been developed within the view of “man as mechanism” are powerful and efficient. They work. Hence if integrated and reconciled with other views of man – views which have more adequate ethics and metaphysics (both terms that the behavioristic scientist insists are not part of his concern) on which to guide their application – this view and its products could conceivably be of great benefit to mankind. pg. 30


The psychotropic drug scenario proposed by SRI was eerily reminiscent of Aldous Huxley’s Soma, and was found to be one of the more easy to apply. Nearly forty years later, we are witness to the horrific results. Coincidentally or not, the dramatic upward statistical trend of prescription drug use in America began in the years immediately following SRI’s report and is only matched by the rising death toll attributed to it. A seemingly never ending list of antidepressants, anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers, and hypnotic sedatives like Adderall, Ambien, Ativan, Dexedrine, Lithium, Paxil, Prozac, Ritalin, Valium, Zanax and Zoloft have continued to flood the market ever since. As those who lived through the 1980’s would know, the number of prescription drugs on the market was relatively minimal to what we see now. According to recent statistics compiled by the CDC, nearly half of the US population was on at least one prescription drug during the years 2011 – 2014; one quarter of the population was on two; and 10% were on five or more (1)(!) According to more recent research published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of Americans on prescribed drugs in 2015 was 59%, while those on five or more jumped to 15%.(2) In another report, the American Psychological Association found a threefold increase in the use of antidepressants from the years 1988 to 2002 (3) while research compiled by David Muzina, MD, a psychiatrist at the Medco Neuroscience Therapeutic Resource Center found that the number of children receiving atypical anti-psychotics doubled from 2000 to 2010.(4)


In the year 2018, we have the immense advantage of hindsight with which we can evaluate the situation more closely and even cursory analysis of the statistics reveal a rather unsettling trend. To even the most ardent advocate of psychotropics there remains a disturbing condition worthy of future consideration. Firstly, it is undeniable that prescription drug use exploded in the years immediately following Stanford’s report, resulting in some unintended consequences; and these consequences are further being substantiated by an ever growing mountain of corroborating statistical evidence. And now, with the addition of Changing Images of Man as primary source material indicating both intent and motive, it becomes entirely possible that this has been a premeditated, coordinated scheme to drug an entire nation into submission. Even the eternal optimist must admit that the numbers are indicative of a deeply corrupted, degenerate system that risks growing completely out of control. And to those that remain skeptical of the conclusions being drawn herein I invite you to research the sources cited as they are offered for your perusal below. I challenge those doubters to research the ever-widening medical qualifications for depression, attention deficit disorder and the absurdity of a future in which the entire population of North America – over 350,000,000 people – are diagnosed by alleged experts as either depressed, psychotic or both.


A rather different approach to understanding (and controlling) behavior, also of proven effectiveness, is through the implementation of remotely activated electrodes in the brain. The “psycho-civilization of society” has been advocated by means of various techniques of behavior modification such as operant conditioning (Skinner, 1971), electrocranial stimulation (Delgado, 1969), and psychochemical drugs (Clark, 1971). Only if such mentalistic and prescientific concepts as will, freedom, consciousness, and so forth are cast off, Skinner asserts, does man have a chance to attain a truly peaceful, rational, and humane society in the future.” pg. 30


This conveniently leads me to the next strategy proposed by the SRI in which they deliberated the advantages and disadvantages of a public opinion dependent on the word of ‘experts’. This phenomenon, they say, resulting from the general public’s inability to keep up with an increasingly more complex society; that without adequate time to research for themselves, the masses would become overly dependent on the opinions of experts. And as anyone who has studied the Trivium will be aware, this reliance on expert opinion amounts to nothing more than a logical fallacy – the argumentum ad auctoritatum. Yet when we turn on the television or open a newspaper we are continuously asked, ad nauseam, to accept simple two word phrases like “experts say” as the irrefutable truth and today this has resulted in enormous consequences to society that SRI even predicted – as evidenced by the following excerpt:


“…the viability of a democracy depends upon the informed decision-making capacity of its citizenry, i.e. the “relative political maturity” of the people must at least maintain parity with the complexity of the issues confronting the public. If the acquisition of relevant knowledge

does not proceed at about the same pace at which the decisions become complex, then relative political maturity will decline. This may have two consequences:

(1) increasing reliance placed upon the “expert” to maintain order and control, with a resulting compromise of our democratic processes, or

(2) reluctance to give control to the “expert” but, with an increasing inability to make informed decisions, the result is that the system may truly go ‘out of control.'” pg. 61


In consideration of the readers time, an effort has been made to keep this blog within reasonable limitations, which dissuades the author from enumerating on all of the possible scenarios discussed within the pages of the Changing Images of Man, however I do wish to cover one final one. One in which the researchers at SRI considered a scenario involving what they referred to as “friendly fascism”. A scenario described by its creators, Gross and Bertram, that would “severely reduce individual freedoms….under the slogans of democracy and 100 percent Americanism…in the form of an advanced technological society, supported by its techniques – a techno-urban fascism, American style”. And when one compares the points proposed below for a fascist society, with the world today, we see a striking similarity unable to be explained away by mere coincidence. For anyone above the age of forty who have asked themselves how the image of our world can change so drastically within the last couple of decades, the following selection may provide some clarity:

• Application of military surveillance technologies to urban police problems.

• Utilization of behavior-changing drugs and operant conditioning in schools.

• Government attempts at management of news.

• “Personality screening” and maintenance of files on “pre-delinquent” children,

through cooperation between elementary school administrations and local, state, and

federal authorities.

• The cross-correlation of computer-based files containing personal data (e.g. credit,

employment records, tax status, insurance, criminal record, education).

• The introduction of legislation to control access to techniques for self-initiated

alteration of consciousness (both non-drug and drug induced). pg. 170, 171.


It is interesting that within a decade of publishing the Changing Images of Man, we see the meteoric rise of both Silicon Valley and the world wide web; both originating directly from out of this innocuous private research institute colloquially known as the Farm. Through the use of primary source material, we see the blueprint from which a plan is devised to socially engineer the American public through it’s various institutions and agencies, followed by the establishment of the very tools to best facilitate the plan.(!) We also see a deep military affiliation with the project in that the internet stems directly from out of the Pentagon’s Arpanet program and the Stanford Research Institute is one of three original hubs for the internet (see diagram below), as early as 1969. Stanford University is centered within a few miles radius of all of the social media giants Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo!, and all of these survivors of the dotcom era have major ties to the US intelligence community while also conveniently forming the main framework that is social media.

Is it just coincidence that these were the lucky few to survive the dotcom crash and then go on to dominate the web? Today, we see the Defense Department investing billions of dollars of venture capital into Silicon Valley technology and it’s a harder argument to make that this is all by accident or coincidence than it is to argue that it is by design. Especially when we compare the proposed strategies covered above with what has manifested within society today. There remains no doubt in this author’s mind that The Stanford Research Institute’s Changing Images of Man is a playbook from which originated a plan of full spectrum dominance over society that, as of the writing of this article, has progressed to near completion.


Today, it certainly seems as though society has become directionless, rudderless. And maybe all of the ‘hither to and fro’ of technology has served to mask the deeper issue of societal stagnation. The once archetypal image of the family-orientated, nuclear father of the 50’s has been persuaded to shun the responsibility of manhood and embrace narcissistic perpetual leisure, and as one looks around, there is considerable evidence to suggest this to be true.  As a society, we seem to lack a clear picture of where we are going or what we are supposed to do next and as we wait for the next image to appear, we will continue to endure chaos. What will the next Image of Man look like? Will he adapt to the imminently approaching era of digital, distributive networks? Maybe he has fallen victim to the trans-humanist movement and will emerge from behind the curtain only half of a man and half a machine. Perhaps he continues down his present path and becomes a simulacrum of a man – a soulless caricature of his former self in the image of Homer Simpson or Peter Griffin. At this point, no one knows for sure, but what is alarming is that as the social science experts; television talking heads; and the authorities of State, forcibly remove the word Man from our vocabulary, and the word son from even our national anthems, any way you choose to look at it, Man as we have known him is quickly disappearing. And it is the opinion of the author that we must initiate this image ourselves because if we allow a totalitarian government to provide it, we most certainly will not like the image that we are given, and the perfect antidote to a tyrannical authority remains a well developed, intelligent individual.


You can follow the author on Twitter, Gab, Bitchute, Steemit, Trooth and Minds @TriviumMethod and on Facebook as Duane Hayes/ Diego Garcia and on YouTube at The History of Propaganda.


1. Health United States Report 2016. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

2. Washington Post article

3. American Psychological Association

4. Medscape