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

Anders 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: Anders 18 March 2007 04:19:44PM 1 point [-]

Richard Hollerith pointed out that the glucose drinks only last for about an hour, which is true. It is less certain that they are followed by a dip in self-control or that their effect is by affecting the neurotransmittors. Even if it is, it is a start for some serious neuropharmacological hacking. The serotonin system is already of interest in this respect: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?tmpl=NoSidebarfile&db=PubMed&cmd=Retrieve&list_uids=17360806&dopt=Abstract

A real willpower enhancement is likely something much more complex. Ideally we would like to strengthen our second order desires (at least some of them, some of the time). That might involve finding some pretty disperse neural nets, or more likely having a close symbiosis with software acting as an artificial superego. Design and implementation is left as an exercise :-)

It seems that one could trap this kind of desires too by games fulfilling them. If I have creative desires, spending a lot of time creating in Second Life would meet them. Maybe one could create "games" that help the third world in some way, trapping people with an altruist motivation (my favorite example is the spiders in the comic http://www.e-sheep.com/spiders/ ). The worrying thing is when the game shapes or constrains the activity into something less useful than it would otherwise have been. First order desire games trap us by providing simple stimulation, second order games by providing complex stimulation and meaning. But just as the stimulation in Tetris is fairly scripted the meaning and interaction in WoW is limited. Perhaps the healthiest aspect of the online games is how many players deliberately set out to expand their scope and circumvent their limitations. Maybe that is the solution of game addiction: try to ensure that the games are expandable and could in principle become arbitrarily complex. But that will still not help the people content with fulfilling first order desires.