Wireheading

Not sure where this post goes, as it belongs in Ethics (philosophy), Science and Psychology, and all of them in equal measures I think. So I’ll just take the most general category.

Anyhow, Wireheading. I just came across the word for the first time today, though I’ve been aware of the concept for a long time. Let me briefly explain:

Many people have an ethical framework based on the idea that the most moral thing is that which creates the most human happiness, or the most human pleasure, or things along those lines. This is not a particularly unusual view point, though I’m sure each person who does hold something like this view has their own nuances to it, caveats, etc.

With modern technology advancing at a rapid pace, a technology we currently call Wireheading may be possible (no idea on the time scale for that) – “Wireheading is the artificial stimulation of the brain to experience pleasure, usually through the direct stimulation of an individual’s brain’s reward or pleasure center with electrical current. It can also be used in a more expanded sense, to refer to any kind of method that produces a form of counterfeit utility by directly maximizing a good feeling, but that fails to realize what we value.

There are many different proposed forms of Wireheading – as in the definition above, one form is directly stimulating our reward and/or pleasure center. Another would be creating a simulation of life that would be more enjoyable than any actual life we could live if we had decided not to Wirehead. Maybe some other forms of it as well.

Suggested reading:
wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Wireheading
lesswrong.com/lw/1o9/welcome_to_heaven/
lesswrong.com/lw/1op/a_much_better_life/
lesswrong.com/lw/1lb/are_wireheads_happy/

My own stance: In the 2nd article above, the dude talks about 3 kinds of ‘meanings in life’, and my idea sorta rolls along with the second – I wouldn’t mind a sort of internet-connected-wirehead-type-situation, in which an artificial life is simulated – NOT just simulating our reward/pleasure centers, but rather simulating our sensory experiences fully – in which we could continue to create and explore the creations of others, but with a much lower cost than how much creations currently cost. Such an existence would open up humanity to astoundingly more creative outlets than currently exist, imo. We wouldn’t need farmers and brick-layers anymore, everyone would be free to pursue that which fulfilled them most, and to share it with everyone else, always.

Would we still create though if we have everything we want? Doesn’t necessity have something to do with creating?

The idea of wireheading itself kindof repulses me, though i don’t have a real good reason for it. I guess it’s to be expected because i’m still geared to the world of today, and not a world where wireheading is realised, as is explaned in the quote from the second article below :

Of course it is not longer a trap, only if the idea could be fully realised, and only if it would stay that way.

Anyways, wireheading = the ultimate realisation of the last man.

Agree with Diekon. Utter lack of pleasure in overcoming resistance is the end of the line. The opposite of meaning as I see it.

Wireheading is economically unsustainable. The fact is any wirehead matrix would require external physical resources.

I’m not sure why it deserves any attention if it’s not an organic lifestyle.

I once read a about a study where scientists literally wireheaded [is that proper usage?] mice. It was crudely done, but they implanted a device in the mouses brain that artificially stimulated the pleasure/reward system - primarily dopamine if I recall correctly. Then they put a little lever in the cage with the mice. When the mice pushed on it, the reward center was stimulated on command. The mice learned quickly and soon became disinterested in anything but the lever. They didn’t eat, sleep, or bother socializing anymore; they were obsessed. After a while, the scientists put an electrified grate in front of the lever. The mice electrocuted themselves to death, lever under foot.

Would love to know how this would work on an ascetic or smarter than average person…

Did they give you this study to read in a rehab by chance? I mean…it just sounds like some privately funded think tank kinda stuff.

Do you think an ascetic person would even volunteer to have such a device implanted in the first place?

I’ve met many addicts of all different sorts. Many of them tended to be smarter than average in my opinion. Of course I can’t verify that with official tests it anything. Contrary to what many people seem to want to believe, addiction is not always a result of low intelligence or even a general neglect for oneself.

Haha, no. I first heard about it from a documentary I saw. Although, it admittedly was sympathetic to addiction and such, so I suppose you could be right. Why does it strike you as dubious? I don’t find it hard to believe in the least.

I’ll try to find more info on it.

My point wasn’t about whether they would volunteer or not, but about an outcome: would an ascetic remain so…

An ascetic probably gets sublimated pleasure from controlling him or herself. Sense of self kudos translating into endorphins or serotonin or whatever. I’ll bet if you could hook into the sublimated process, they’d be pressing that lever like any good mouse - though the version I heard was rats.

I can’t say the idea is appealing to me. I’d rather have my reality the old fashioned way.

Of course…[dramatic music] perhaps we already are wireheaded, but their intention was not to give us just happiness since just happiness turned our brains into drool.

Well all is seems to show is that you can teach people to do certain things if you know that they like certain things. I don’t see a whole lot of anything new there. You could probably create an experiment with enough controls to make people shoot themselves over a glass of tea if you set it up right. The truth is…your study sounded interesting. That’s why I think it’s dubious, I guess. Most science is actually very dry and boring.

Actually, Smears, you may be right after all. I’m glad you did find it dubious. You should have since I failed to provide any evidence. Anyway, it turns out that the area they stimulated may not have delivered pleasure, as the scientists believed at the time. It may have just produced a desire to be restimulated.

Here’s more: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/happiness_formula/4880272.stm

Sorry all for the spurious info. I should know better.

For real new science only happens like every 100 years or so…everything else is a commercial.

If you read the ‘suggested reading’, you’d have known that already. They talk about the experiment, and the result you posted above.
tsk tsk. :wink: jk

As for it being ‘economically unsustainable,’ I don’t mean this to sound mean, but you’re probably unfamiliar with the term FAI as used in the article. The idea is that it completely WOULD be sustainable, at least insofar as humanity is sustainable in the first place (ie humanity probably isn’t eternally sustainable – we’ll no doubt perish completely one day, and probably not even FAI can stop that…but at least FAI can wirehead us until then :slight_smile:

But no, it would be completely sustainable. The idea is that it wouldn’t even happen unless it was anyway, so if it’s not sustainable, it doesn’t happen (except maybe for the extremely rich, some of whom might prefer to be wireheaded while the rest of humanity toils away).

And yes, I think creation would continue in a wireheaded world to an extent we never could have seen in our current world (not talking of the ‘stimulate the pleasure center’ wireheads, of course, no creation there).

“If it was possible to become free of negative emotions by a riskless
implementation of an electrode - without impairing intelligence and
the critical mind - I would be the first patient.”

Dalai Lama

Since you become dependent on an applied technology, you stop training and impair through lack of exercise your intelligence and critical mind. Also, it’s important to remember what he means by negative emotions here, which refers to ego-oriented behavior, i.e. hedonism, etc. Hording pleasure for oneself is negative - so pleasure itself is neutral - it can be positive or negative.

Your intelligence and critical mind wouldn’t take any hits in the form of wireheading I’ve suggested. Definitely in the form that involves just direct stimulation of pleasure center, but that’s not the one I suggested. If anything, it would get more exercise.

There are no happy revolutionaries. Negative emotions produce changes. It’s one thing to have intelligence and to think critically and something else to act. A negative emotion makes you get off the couch.

What’s the value in ‘producing changes’ if everyone on the entire planet is living the best possible life that they could live? I can’t see a reason to change that. ‘Revolution’ in such a world becomes synonymous with ‘devolution’ – we could only make humans less, not more, happy/fulfilled/creative/everything good.