Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

SarahC comments on Superstimuli and the Collapse of Western Civilization - Less Wrong

60 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 16 March 2007 06:10PM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (82)

Sort By: Old

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: [deleted] 30 April 2010 12:31:56AM 6 points [-]

It's a relief to see this recognized as a problem by someone who isn't a cheerleader for a solution. I think the only solutions are going to have to be mental ones, related to the raising of children (or possibly something more biological/electronic); building better brains just might work, but protecting bad brains from temptation is like carrying water in a sieve.

Immigrant values are the best existing inoculation I've seen against superstimuli. I think I'm going to have to (re)create my own immigrant values to get work done -- shouldn't be hard, given the typical population of science departments. But there's no reason to think we can't improve on the past. There are techniques to improve delayed gratification skills. (See the marshmallow experiment.) Conceivably we could develop drugs or computer add-ons that make us better planners.

I think we need to be more alert to the vulnerability of what we think of as the "will." It can be hacked, by mental illness, by poverty (income and delayed gratification correlate very strongly from young ages), by bad habits of mind, by the internet, even by sugar.

It won't do to say, cheerfully, that "people are responsible for their actions " because circumstances can make them less responsible. On the other hand, it also won't do to be unconcerned with the real harm that comes from people lacking willpower. If it can be hacked in the opposite direction, we need to be working on that, NOW.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 30 April 2010 01:54:20AM 3 points [-]

This discussion of the psychological effects of too much porn suggests that what's needed is a fun ethic as well as a work ethic.

I think part of what's needed is not so much rules, as for people to have a better ability to tell when they're starting to go off balance, and then avoid what they're overreacting to.

Comment author: thomblake 30 April 2010 06:04:10PM 1 point [-]

as for people to have a better ability to tell when they're starting to go off balance, and then avoid what they're overreacting to

I tend to try to picture the little bars from The Sims.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 03 May 2011 01:33:08AM 3 points [-]

It won't do to say, cheerfully, that "people are responsible for their actions " because circumstances can make them less responsible.

On the other hand, if you don't think of yourself as responsible for your actions, you are going to have a much harder time resisting superstimuli.