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Artificial Motivation

Detect desired behavior and stimulate pleasure center to reenforce
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Stable neural stimulation electrodes that don't corrode have been a reality for some time now, and "pleasure centers" in the brain have been known since the 1950's. The ability to detect when someone is engaged in particular categories of thought based on brain activity could be used to identify when someone was, say, engaged in mathematics and reward them. Such a device would enable users to master difficult skills. Similar sensors coud be used to identify when the user is in the right exercize zone - proper heartrate, correct oxygenation, ideal blood glycogen, and reward them for it. This would overcome all procrastination at going to the gym to work out or at studying calculus. We could be much better people than we are otherwise able to be.
gregor-e, Jan 28 2006

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       How about a system that detects when people blithely simplify the very complex and interesting field of neurochemistry into a solved problem and are posting halfbakery ideas about it that go from functional MRI to "better people" in fewer than 200 words, and emits a mild electric shock to the poster?   

       But seriously. If you can just stick an electrode up your brain and kick the bliss-machine into overdrive (and I agree that you can, technically), why on earth would you bother being "better people"? I'd just try to keep myself fed and otherwise listen to Pink Floyd a lot.
jutta, Jan 28 2006

       Okay, how about a detector that observes when someone blithely states that by stimulating just one reward system in a human brain, that all other rewards, such as those deriving from mastry of new skills, are meaningless, and simply administers an overdose of heroin? Simple mindless euphoria isn't the be-all, end-all reward that wirehead wannabes imagine it to be. Humans have more than one reward system.   

       There's nothing all that complex about my proposal. Detecting physical and mental states is getting increasingly commonplace, without using functional MRI. I think even you would agree that observing physical states corresponding to ideal exercize would be fairly simple and is already commonplace. Simply augmenting this with a reward system that helps the user decide to come back to the gym tomorrow would make all the difference between an obese sofa-spud and a well-toned athletic body.
gregor-e, Jan 29 2006

       I know absolutely nothing of the topic, so I'm staying out of it.   

       On the other hand, I would like to get a non-harmful heroin shot frequently while listening to Pink Floyd. Bun.   

       Gregor-e's ironic statement does express my belief pretty well - being able to directly manipulate the reward center in the brain _would_ make other rewards meaningless. (And, for drug addicts, it frequently does). You start out with good intentions, then you press the button, then you very quickly look for a way of pressing the button some more. Man, that's a beautiful button.
But feel free to disagree with me; we'll probably find out how this stuff works during our lifetimes.
jutta, Jan 29 2006

       Turns out that most humans don't end up like the mindless wireheads of Niven's SF. From (who would have guessed it) wireheading.com:   

       "In the case of humans, our reward-pathways are (slightly) more anatomically diffuse than the average rodent. At least with present-day electrode-placement techniques, intra-cranial self-stimulation (ICSS) as practised by laboratory humans doesn't lead to uncontrolled hedonistic excess and death. Only depressed or deeply malaise-ridden human subjects compulsively self-stimulate when wired."
gregor-e, Jan 30 2006

       As long as the reward can be had only at predetermined intervals (not changeable by the incumbant) I think its a great idea. I would love the occasional bit of happy juice to keep me studying, too. I just wouldn't want to be a literal exercise junkie(shudder)
Voice, Aug 14 2008

       Well, I can't see where artificial stimuation would be fundamentally different from a natural stimuation, like during sexual intercourse. We all have a certain point we reach where the pleasure center of the brain is activated and endorphins are released, etc. The purpose of this is intended (from a biological point of view) to keep the human race propagating itself. However, a lot of people take matters into their own hands, as it were. I don't think people on the whole are prepared to be able to control what makes them happy or not. I think nature did a good job of making us who we are.   

       Besides, if this technology would be developed, what stops less-than-ethical governments from taking control of this and using against us? Up to the present day, we've only seen fanaticism that has been driven from a sense of belief or desire of control, mainly emotional forces. But have you seen the lengths people go to in order to satiate a physiological desire? I mean, smack junkies would do just about anything to satisfy their craving for a hit. Can you imagine a form of Nazi-ism that would employ a method like a positive stimulus every time they would kill someone? That, with the aid of propaganda and "brainwashing", would be absolutely terrifying.
WhereYouAt, Aug 14 2008

       So an addiction that makes you dependent on behaving as your betters want you to? Do you have any idea how horrible developing a dependance on something like this would be? Why not simply use currently available and well understood drugs that do NOT INDUCE A PAVLOVIAN REACTION TO YOUR CALCULUS BOOK. Addictive patterns are already far to easy to fall into, the risk of disastrous side effects would never be equal to the benefits. Even in cases of unipolar depression I feel that this would raise major functional and ethical questions.
WcW, Aug 14 2008

       Speaking as someone who actually, on a regular basis, puts electrodes in people's brains & electrically stimulates them ... this idea makes my skin crawl.   

       Actually, there's one very good thing about the idea: The collapse of society, famine, epidemics, and reversion to a preindustrial civilization will stop the spread of the technology before it wipes out the human race. Ultimately, I see an equilibrium involving a small wirehead aristocracy ruling a large, unimplanted pesantry. Since the aristocracy won't reproduce, replacements will be drawn from the peasants, who will tolerate the social inequality, and work diligantly, hoping, if they're very well-behaved, to be rewarded with a Beautiful Button.   

       [gregor-e] Your citation of wireheading.com failed to convince me, but after getting about halfway through the list of references there, I just couldn't stand it anymore & gave up. Can you give a link, or a citation for this, which you quoted: "with present- day electrode-placement techniques, intra-cranial self-stimulation (ICSS) as practised by laboratory humans doesn't lead to uncontrolled hedonistic excess and death" Sometimes, when I think something's crap, it turns out not to be. I'd like to track this down.
mouseposture, Aug 15 2008


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