RE: computer pain

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Mon, 25 Dec 2006 18:09:34 +1100

Brent Meeker writes:

> > In fact, if we could
> > reprogram our own minds at will, it would be a very different world.
> > Suppose you were upset because you lost your job. You might decide to
> > stay upset to the degree that it remains a motivating factor to look for
> > other work, but not affect your sleep, ability to experience pleasure,
> > etc. If you can't find work you might decide to downgrade your
> > expectations, so that you are just as content having less money or a
> > menial job, or just as content for the next six months but then have the
> > motivation to look for interesting work kick in again, but without the
> > confidence- and enthusiasm-sapping disappointment that comes from
> > repeated failure to find work.
> I think that's called a cocaine habit. :-)

The difference between happiness that is derived from illicit drugs and happiness
derived from real life is that the former does not really last, ending in tolerance,
dependence, depression, deterioration in physical health, inability to work and
look after oneself, not to mention criminal activity due to the fact that the drugs
are illegal. This is because drugs are a very crude way of stimulating the nervous
system. It is like programming a computer with a soldering iron. The only time drugs
work well is if there is a relatively simple fault, like an excess or deficit of a certain
neurotransmitter, and even there you have to be lucky for function to return to
normal. Changing specific aspects of thinking or emotions without screwing up
other functions in the process would require much greater finesse than modern
pharmacology can provide, and greater efficacy than psychology can provide.

David Pearce in "The Hedonistic Imperative", and some science fiction writers (Greg
Egan, Walter Jon Williams come to mind) have looked at some of the consequences
of being able to reprogram your emotions, motivations, memories and personality.
No-one that I am aware of has explored how utterly alien a world in which we had
access to our own source code at the finest level would be. Perhaps that is one of
the things that would happen at the Vingean Singularity.

Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Mon Dec 25 2006 - 02:09:51 PST

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