Brent Meeker writes:

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> > > 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.
Which presumes a well-defined "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.
Larry Niven imagined a future in which you would be able to plug into implanted 
electrodes in your brain and selectively stimulate different areas.  I think this was 
suggested to him by popular articles on finding a "pleasure center" in rats.

In "Ringworld", I believe. But that is the complete antithesis of what I was getting at, undifferentiated pleasure which destroys purposeful activity. Contrast an opioid like heroin with antidepressants. Heroin has an immediate euphoriant effect to which tolerance develops over time, requiring ever-higher doses, and apart from the destructive lifestyle due to its illegal status, it damages the personality because it is an end in itself, and every other activity and source of motivation seems insipid by comparison. Antidepressants have a delayed onset of action with no tolerance and drug-seeking behaviour (indeed, many patients doubt the association between the drug and clinical improvement for this reason), and they do not directly induce euphoria, but increase the motivation and ability to experience pleasure in activities which depression takes away. The problem is, they only work when a patient is clinically depressed (and even then not all that well in many cases), and do nothing if someone is merely unhappy or distressed about some aspect of their life. It would not be a desirable thing if there were drugs to eliminate ordinary unhappiness, because we need the fear of unhappiness as a motivating force: an example of how fixing one problem might create another one. But if we had a precise means of adjusting our minds, so that if you did not want a certain consequence X you could ensure that that X would not occur, it would be a different story. For example, even if you thought that suffering was noble, but did not trust yourself with the ability to eliminate suffering, you could simply program yourself so that you were no longer tempted to eliminate suffering.
>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.
I wouldn't download anything from Microsoft!

Brent Meeker
The first time Microsoft makes a product that doesn't suck
will be when they build vacuum cleaners.
      --- Bill Jefferys


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