[extropy-chat] limits of computer feeling

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Wed Mar 14 04:47:12 UTC 2007

On 3/14/07, gts <gts_2000 at yahoo.com> wrote:

On Tue, 13 Mar 2007 19:44:57 -0400, Stathis Papaioannou
> <stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:
> > Secondly, one of the advantages of mind modification is that you can put
> > limits on your desire for pleasure, or your desire to increase pleasure.
> > Even drug addicts who have little control over their cravings can do
> > this to an extent, otherwise they wouldn't live long enough to indulge
> > another day.
> I'm sorry and embarrassed and probably wrong to imply that I might know
> more about drug addiction than you, but I hope you will at least allow me
> to speculate about this subject. :)
> Seems to me that, contrary to your supposition, serious drug addicts
> (e.g., those who inject heroin or cocaine into their bloodstreams) see
> almost no limits to their possible pleasure.
> John Clark made the point that something like side-effect-free drug
> addiction might explain the Fermi Paradox. I agree wholeheartedly, and add
> that such a capability, if it were present in a sentient population, might
> lead to its own extinction.
> Why should any being have sex or engage in other possible procreative
> activities if it is just as pleasurable to turn up the pleasure knob? Drug
> addicts are wrong about many things, but they know better than to think
> naively that sexual orgasms are the ultimate pleasure available to humans.
> Sans procreativity, civilizations die.

As it happens, I do deal with people who have drug abuse problems on a daily
basis, working as a doctor in public psychiatry. Most are not actually
addicts, but even those who are at least profess a desire to work, have
relationships, and so on. Their problem is, as you suggest, that these other
activities seem bland by comparison with their drug of choice. They say
things like, "I wish I didn't like smack so much", or "I wish I found
spending time with my family as exciting as using ice". The ones who really
don't care about anything except the drug and don't *wish* to care about
anything except the drug are very rare and often have another psychiatric
diagnosis, such as depression or schizophrenia. So, if they had the power to
modify their minds so that they no longer were tempted by the drug, or to
keep the pleasurable effects of the drug but assign them to any other
activity, most addicts would do so.

If I could summarise the drug addiction-like risks of mind modification

- unlimited pleasure instantly available
- no side-effects
- no negative feedback/ satiety mechanisms

- ability to turn off addiction/ craving at will
- ability to reassign pleasure without loss of intensity to purposeful

We can't know how things will work out for sure, but I think in a posthuman
society although there will be a pool of people who withdraw to idleness in
computer heaven, there will be a dynamic equilibrium with those who are
living what we today would call productive lives, and there is no reason why
new posthumans cannot be created at any point to maintain the balance (it
goes without saying that sexual reproduction will be a quaint affectation in
a society where minds can be created and edited at will on computers).

Stathis Papaioannou
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