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Technology and the Pursuit of Happiness

Article #82 • Written by Alan Bellows

The United States' Declaration of Independence asserts that all individuals have an unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In the years since that document was drafted, its phrasing has been subject to much interpretation, and laws have been enacted to limit the scope of those rights, particularly the latter two. For instance, forbidding one from taking mood-altering drugs alienates an individual from his or her liberty and pursuit of happiness, but this limit exists under the debatable reasoning that drug use generally tends to trespass on the rights of others, including their right to pursue happiness.

But what if there were a way to achieve the same "high" sensation as one can get from illegal drugs, anytime, anywhere, and without the chemical side effects and criminal motivation? Such a technology does exist, and has seen limited use in humans for several decades. The practice is known as evoking pleasure by Electrical Stimulation of the Brain (ESB), and despite its invention in 1954, few people have ever heard of it, and much fewer have ever experienced it. It sounds like the stuff of science-fiction, but it's real technology.

The brain's reward center was discovered quite by accident in 1954, when researchers James Olds and Peter Milner were studying a part of the brain called the reticular formation which, when stimulated with implanted electrodes, caused laboratory animals to avoid the action which brought on the sensation. In the early testing, the electrodes did not always end up in the areas of the brain that researchers were aiming for, and one such mistake led to a fortuitous discovery. The electrode on one particular animal missed the reticular formation and went went into the brain's septal area instead.

This animal behaved in an unexpected way: rather than avoiding the action which brought on the electric shock, it repeated the action continually. James Olds wrote the following for Scientific American magazine in 1956:

In the test experiment we were using, the animal was placed in a large box with corners labeled A, B, C, and D. Whenever the animal went to corner A, its brain was given a mild electric shock by the experimenter. When the test was performed on the animal with the electrode in the rhinencephalic nerve, it kept returning to corner A. After several such returns on the first day, it finally went to a different place and fell asleep. The next day, however, it seemed even more interested in corner A.At this point we assumed that the stimulus must provoke curiosity; we did not yet think of it as a reward. Further experimentation on the same animal soon indicated, to our surprise, that its response to the stimulus was more than curiosity. On the second day, after the animal had acquired the habit of returning to corner A to be stimulated, we began trying to draw it away to corner B, giving it an electric shock whenever it took a step in that direction. Within a matter of five minutes the animal was in corner B. After this the animal could be directed to almost any spot in the box at the will of the experimenter. Every step in the right direction was paid with a small shock; on arrival at the appointed place the animal received a longer series of shocks.

These early experiments found that applying a small electrical charge to the brain's reward centers provided a very potent positive-feedback mechanism. Even if an animal was deprived of food for 24 hours, when confronted with a choice between food and this particular type of brain stimulation, it would always select the latter. The researchers also built an apparatus where an animal could use a lever to trigger the electrical current, and after it learned how the mechanism worked, the animal would stimulate its own brain regularly about once very five seconds, taking a stimulus of a second or so every time.

This research led to a number of experiments where animals large and small were rewarded with electrode-driven pleasure when they took the particular actions the researchers were looking for. This positive-reinforcement conditioning was used to dramatic effect, allowing animals to become controllable via human-operated remote.

One of the most striking demonstration was done in 1964 by Dr. Jose Delgado of Yale University’s School of Medicine, when he caused a bull which was charging towards him to stop in its tracks and trot away. He had used a hand-held radio transmitter to energize the pleasure-giving electrodes which had been implanted into the bull's brain the previous day. Dr. Delgado was also known to "play" monkeys and cats like electronic toys.

Between 1950 and 1952, another man named Dr. Robert G. Heath experimentally implanted similar depth electrodes into human brains, the subjects mostly comprised of mentally ill patients from state mental hospitals. His experiments were met with uneasiness from the scientific community at the time, yet he continued. Upon the discovery of the brain's pleasure centers by Olds and Milner in '54, he put much of his research focus there. He found that using ESB in these areas of a human brain had a similar effect as it did on laboratory animals, bringing the subjects immediate pleasure.

From The Three Pound Universe:

A woman of indeterminate age lies on a narrow cot, a giant bandage covering her skull. At the start of the film she seems locked inside some private vortex of despair. Her face is as blank as her white hospital gown and her voice is a remote, tired monotone."Sixty pulses," says a disembodied voice. It belongs to the technician in the next room, who is sending a current to the electrode inside the woman's head. The patient, inside her soundproof cubicle, does not hear him.

Suddenly, she smiles. "Why are you smiling?" asks Dr. Heath, sitting by her bedside.

"I don't know ... Are you doing something to me? [Giggles.] I don't usually sit around and laugh at nothing. I must be laughing at something." "One hundred forty," says the offscreen technician.

The patient giggles again, transformed from a stone-faced zombie into a little girl with a secret joke. "What in the hell are you doing?" she asks. "You must be hitting some goody place."

Along with electrodes, Heath's team would sometimes implant a tube called a canula which could deliver precise doses of chemicals directly into the brain. When researchers injected the neurotransmitter acetylcholine into a patient's septal area, "vigorous activity" showed up on the EEG, and the patient usually described intense pleasure, including multiple orgasms lasting as long as thirty minutes.

In another controversial experiment in 1972, Dr. Heath wired up a homosexual man's pleasure centers in order to help him "cure" his homosexuality. During the initial three-hour session, subject "B-19" stimulated himself some 1,500 times. Dr. Heath wrote of the experiment, "During these sessions, B-19 stimulated himself to a point that he was experiencing an almost overwhelming euphoria and elation, and had to be disconnected, despite his vigorous protests." Since unnatural methods can bring about unnatural results, energizing the man's electrodes as he looked at erotic pictures of women temporarily "cured" him of his homosexuality, but once the electrodes were removed, he went back to normal.

Today, medical technology allows such electrodes to be completely implanted into the human body, including a battery pack the size of a book of matches. But these are a rarity, used only in very specific and extreme cases. Not even victims of intractable neuropathic pain or depression are permitted to have their pleasure centers wired. Individuals with happiness deficits are instead treated with drugs, which are both more and less invasive, depending on how you look at it. Medications don't involve holes drilled into the skull, but they do act upon the entire body, causing a host of unwanted chemical side-effects. Often they also result in a lifelong expense.

Some bioethicists feel that ESB technology should be made available to everyone, protected by the "pursuit of happiness" clause in the Declaration of Independence. Are there dangers in having euphoria just a click away, all the time? Would it be bad thing to have intense orgasmic pleasure at the push of a button?

It seems clear that the pleasure center of the brain evolved to guide our actions and to motivate us, by rewarding us when we do well. This is evidenced by the fact that the primary activity that we mammals have evolved to do-- to mate for reproduction-- results in greater portions of pleasure than any other natural activity. Therefore, it is possible that a pleasure-giving device would detract from our ambition and good judgment. Some people also worry that individuals who are raised without unhappiness and heartache would lack the "character" that makes us human. There is also the concern that most rewards decline in value after prolonged exposure, and some claim that this sort of technology would slowly erode a person's ability to feel good.

But these are all guesses, there is no way to know for certain how a human might change in response to such technology. One could also point out that many people never tire of other stimulations such as sex or pleasurable foods, and that while many people will naturally partake of those pleasurable activities a lot at first, most will gradually moderate the usage to times when it is most needed or appropriate. But nothing would stop an ESB-wired person from taking a day off work, putting a brick on the button, and enjoying an afternoon of bliss. As an added benefit over sex and chocolate, this technology isn't likely to result in unwanted pregnancies, disease, or weight gain.

The idea of putting electrodes into the brain is still too high on the creepy scale for most people, so there is little chance of the pleasure-o-matic concept gaining much following in the near future. But in the coming decades, when technological improvements on the human body begin to become commonplace, this sort of idea may just find some footing.

Article written by Alan Bellows, published on 26 December 2005. Alan is the founder/designer/head writer/managing editor of Damn Interesting.

Article design and artwork by Alan Bellows.
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93 Comments
Sapient
Posted 26 December 2005 at 09:14 pm

Buddhists believe to live a full and self-contained life it is imperative to suffer.

ESB to my mind (no pun) only serves the instant gratification society we increasingly contend with.
Do you find sex to long, boring and messy? Plug your self into a 9 volt battery and bing! (imitating microwave oven sound), your rocks are off...... and still time to catch the latest Dr Phil and Oprah special.

Having said that, as a treatment to clinical depression and similar conditions, ESB would be so much easier to control than the powerful mood altering drugs currently awash in the market.

Fantastic and thought provoking piece Alan, truly damn interesting!


Furnace
Posted 27 December 2005 at 05:12 am

If made readily available to the public, this would become the new, "Television lowers your IQ", but to the Nth degree. If it's been shown that an animal will risk starvation for this simulated pleasure, then I would expect to see a host of ignored personal and social duties if everyone had the ability to control this pleasure themselves. Everything we see in society is geared towards helping us reach goals that will eventually lead to more happines (lose weight to be more attractive to find love/sex), so this would be a huge blow to productivity.

The journey is it's own reward.

Hospital patients can control their Morphine intake, but it's restricted to one dose every eight minutes due to risk of overdose. Patients are warned of the addictive and even lethal effects of too much Morphine, but do you think that's going to stop someone from clicking that button all day?

I'd also hate to see what would happen should this be "hacked" in some way. Imagine a criminal taking control of your pleasure centers: "Never mind me... I'm just going to clean our your wallet."


Halley
Posted 27 December 2005 at 07:10 am

Sounds like something that if done right could be marketed well. People could give their significant others a gift certificate to the doctors office to get "140 pulses" for their birthday. But just like drugs, I don't see what would stop people from becoming addicted or dependant on it to feel good.


willy99
Posted 27 December 2005 at 11:59 am

check out this Christopher Walken movie called The Mind Snatchers.

looks like they were dreaming of this brain control device ... but ended up being right on 25 years later. yikes!
http://tesla.liketelevision.com/liketelevision/tuner.php?channel=1062&format=movie&theme=guide


Diegost
Posted 27 December 2005 at 01:50 pm

Hands down, the most interesting article I've read so far. If this sort of ideas are adapted to the regular people, I imagine 120kg (srry I'm argentinean, I measure weight in kilos) people sitting all day long watching t.v. and pressing a button repeatedly. Humanity in my opinion would slowly fall, to become some sort of automated piece of meat whose only purpose is to have pleasure. Even though I must admit, sometimes I would just love to throw it all away, plug myself to some machine and only for a moment, forget about all my current issues.


stox
Posted 27 December 2005 at 02:08 pm

An interesting movie that uses this technology as the basis for its theme, Michael Crichton's "The Terminal Man". Sadly, it is not currently available in either VHS or DVD.


Techni
Posted 27 December 2005 at 03:06 pm

I've never been able to have an orgasm, I'd love if they'd try this on me


joker790
Posted 27 December 2005 at 03:46 pm

Wow, hope this is coming to a town near me soon =)

spam link removed


Arkon
Posted 27 December 2005 at 08:49 pm

Larry Niven predicted this decade ago. See his Ringworld series for a description of current addicts and wireheads who use a droud to do just this.


Secret Ninja
Posted 27 December 2005 at 11:17 pm

I read the link, and it reminded me strongly of the movie Equilibrium


Anonymous User
Posted 28 December 2005 at 07:23 am

i can't help but think that some people who replied to this post actually think misery and unhappiness are good things. i mean all this talk of duty or sitting around like a vegetable all day. 1: our only duty should be to as happy as we possibly can be and live with as little pain as possible. 2. we already sit around like vegetables when we're watching t.v., playing computer games or being productive and working in dull mcjobs but we're very, very unhappy. i have no objection to people sitting around all day and being blissfully happy.

besides things will get done, deep rooted survival mechanisms will always kick in so you can get food and provide a shelter. otherwise we would have sex and gorge ourselves all day long. also not all wonderful, happiness inducing, illegal drugs are addictive.

this technology is wonderful and i think any moral objection to it is warped and quite possibly puritan.
also one curious fact: though buddhism states that to exist is to suffer scientific studies have shown buddhist monks to be clinically happier than most people. a region of the brain associated with happiness is found to be significantly larger in buddhist monks. so even these guys are pleasure seekers.


hoeken
Posted 28 December 2005 at 01:06 pm

Not trying to start a buddhist debate here, but buddhism states that 1. there is suffering in life, 2. suffering is caused by desire. 3. there is a way to end suffering and 4. that way is the eightfold path (basically eliminating desire/attachment)

suffering is not *neccessary* but rather something that comes with the territory. ultimately, buddhism is about finding happiness and accepting things you cant change.

more info: http://www.buddhanet.net/4noble.htm


Bryan Lowder
Posted 28 December 2005 at 02:04 pm

Niven's remote version was called a "tasp", and shooting someone with it was called "making someone's day".

No, no weight gain from continuous ecstacy, but a heck of a lot of weight _loss_. How would you remember to eat or eliminate? Or reproduce? Widespread use would be the end of humanity in a fortnight. I can appreciate, however, that some would argue that those humans had finally fulfilled their purpose.

I do think, though, that joy is not joy unless one also experiences sorrow.


hoeken
Posted 28 December 2005 at 02:07 pm

heh, i realized i didnt actually reply with what i thought about it. coming from the buddhist perspective too, i dont think this technology would be very good for the general public. alot of suffering comes from attachment to good outcomes (sex, money, feeling good, possessions, etc.) this would just be another thing for someone to become addicted to (pretty easily i would guess) and would just serve to distract.

who knows. the libertarian in me says make it legal and see what happens. my guess is some people would use it, some would abuse it, and some wouldnt touch it. and is that really so bad?


Anonymous User
Posted 28 December 2005 at 10:52 pm

hoeken in response. i am aware of those four points and that following the eightfold path and elimanating desire and attachment releases one from suffering. though i condensed it into "to exist is to suffer" for the simple fact that this is almost universally true. most people would kill to protect their t.v. set so i don't think they're ready for the eightfold path just yet. you will also note that i mentioned buddhists being clinically happier than everyone else, showing they're on the right track.

i attribute this to their lack of desire and attachment. i personally keep those things in very good check and as a consequence am very happy.

still back to electro-joy.
bryan said:
"joy is not joy unless one also experiences sorrow."
so would you beat a happy, joyous child just so they can experience joy as counter-relief to suffering? i think the natural state of man is joy and happiness and suffering is just what it is.
also having a button which gives you joy would in many senses eliminate all external need for it. i.e. it would eliminate desire and attachment.

if you get your rocks off by shopping for clothes and then realise how empty it is compared to a pop on the old neuro-stimulator, which one would you choose?

besides we all do things to get highs and rushes. everything from running to sex, drugs to extreme sports and meditation to fine wine. we don't do them all the time because we're not utterly oblivious to our survival needs. a sex addict still needs a roof over their head. an adrenalin junky needs to pay for his snowboard and parachute jumps. also i don't care how pleasurable it is if you're hungry and freezing you would still want not to be. the only thing is you could experience enough joy and subsequently optimism to do something about it.

happiness makes you more productive, not less. and you'll note that even the mouse took time out for a nap (he didn't really have to worry about a place to live or food, the nice scientists took care of all that).

in short more happiness, joy, ecstasy and laughter the better. period.

"nothing is true, everything is permitted."


Marius
Posted 29 December 2005 at 04:44 am

A device like this would, as all fun things inevitably do, become government regulated, taxed, and controlled. Perhaps the device would be self-limiting, or pay-per-zap so it would not be practical or possible to overdo it. Then there would be a plethora of ads in the back of Playboy or Popular Science selling magic boxes that override the controls so only those who think that x-ray glasses really work would pleasure themselves to death. Come to think of it, that's not such a bad thing, is it?


ExistenzKampf
Posted 29 December 2005 at 04:21 pm

Have any of you ever read Brave New World, by Huxley? Well, you should. We may be one step closer to our "soma" than we think. This is way creepy. I hope this never comes to fruition outside to scope of medical treatment and extremely regulated public use.


Drumstyx
Posted 30 December 2005 at 04:14 am

this is just too creepy. it just seems wrong, and i even smoke marijuana. i can't really explain it but it seems like you wouldn't really be human anymore while using it.


Anonymous User
Posted 30 December 2005 at 08:53 am

yup it probably would be taxed, controlled and legislated. but that shows the flaw with the way society is run rather than how augmentation might benefit or hinder us.

ExistenzKampf, i've read Brave New World and it's strange that you should be so against the technology unless it is heavily regulated. You do realise that in Brave New World it's an authoritarian structure which makes the place a dystopia? If you really want to see how the opposite might work read Huxley's utopian novel 'Island'. It's cool.

drumstyx. is somebody with an artifical hip or a pace maker or those electronic devices implanted to control epilepsy any less human? then why would a simple device to induce pleasure make us less human?
still good to hear you smoke marijuana at least you're obeying the pleasure principle.

peace out


ExistenzKampf
Posted 30 December 2005 at 03:34 pm

Dear Anonymous,

First of all, i'm glad someone else in here is somewhat well read too. And no I havn't read "Island" yet, but becuase of you it is now on my list.

As far as the topic goes, I really couldn't care less if someone wants to just click themselve away into euphoria. But the problem is just that, it's just a click away. Granted I guess it feels better and more intense then any "Natural" way of inducing pleasure, but something in the back of my mind just say's it's wrong. I think becuase it seems so inhuman. As if a part of our existence, all our pain and struggle for happyness has just become void. And now, we're becoming more machine than human.

This really opens itself up for more of a philosophical debate than I can't offer right now.


entropyfails
Posted 30 December 2005 at 09:46 pm

I feel very surprised that people here argue that wireheading could possible have any benefit for you whatsoever. Physical animals didn’t evolve pain because they wanted to, it ends up being a natural part of the universe and hence we have developed senses to deal with it. Did you see what happened to these poor tortured animals? They would rather starve than stop pressing the button. Can you seriously argue that such a thing would help any animal, humans included? A state of continuous pleasure harms life.

The search for neverending pleasure causes all of the emptiness and harm in our world to begin with. Giving it the ultimate satisfaction in the form of wireheading will kill all human life. But I don’t advocate banning self modification. I merely want to point out that you can never escape from this trap once you have it installed. You can never escape from that pursuit of endless pleasure to begin with, but giving it supreme control over your life will kill you.


id_oNe
Posted 31 December 2005 at 01:07 am

First off, have any of you seen The Matrix? I know its just a sci-fi movie, but the 'architect' (matrix 2) stated that he tried to introduce a world with no pain, no suffering. But the progam didn't take. millions of "crops" (humans) were lost. He believed that it is human nature to feel pain, and to suffer. To define their life, humans need to suffer.

I also believe this. For there to be joy, there also has to be an element of sadness. For pleasure, pain. Without pain, pleasure doesn't exist. Pleasure then becomes normal, and who wants normal? People seek pleasure to escape normal, and what is there to long for once unlimited pleasure is available?

I read another study similar to this one. Uses mice the same as this one, but instead of directing movement, the scientists wanted to see if the heartbeat of the mice is controllable by the individual mouse. So, they connect the mouse's brain up to the electronics to induce pleasure. Every time the mouse's heart rate goes down, the mouse gets the shock inducing euphoria. The mouse soon realizes what is making them feel so good, so gradually they reduce their own heartrate lower and lower eventually leading to their death. This is a very scary situation. A pleasure so enveloping that they forsake their own life for another jolt. In specific controlled applications, this can be a very useful feature, but given to the public for unlimited use would be catastrophic.

I played a game called World of Warcraft. I logged over 95 days playtime on this game (real life days, a little over 3 months solid playtime) in the course of a year. Sometimes I would play 20-25 hours a time without food, my longest stretch was a shade under 2 days. This is only a computer game. Not an electronic device glued inside your brain. Think of the neglect children would receive, times one would miss work/school/meetings/medicine taking or worse yet, the strive for excellence. That is what makes us as a race strive is the urge to be better than the next person. What would be become if noone cared? Thinking of the extreme case only, imagine our entire economy crashing because the CEO's and employees are sitting at home self-pleasuring themselves into oblivion. I realize this "comment" was a little long, but I wanted to get my point across.


jewels1000
Posted 31 December 2005 at 09:14 am

Techni said: "I've never been able to have an orgasm, I'd love if they'd try this on me"

I have always wondered why some individuals cannot reach orgasm. I would be curious if you have exhausted your options on trying to do so?


ross
Posted 02 January 2006 at 04:10 am

Just a few thoughts to ponder:

-Happiness is a drug
Anything from which pleasure can be derived is addictive
The more pleasure the easier it is to get hooked

-If this is marketed to the public people will flock to it like sheep
It will bring an end to all society

-This is potentialy the most devestating device ever invented
more destructive than any weapon could ever be
people will welcome the end of their free will with open arms

-Just like "A Brave New World"
Man will always fight to procure his Freedom
But what happens when ensavement comes under the guise of "The Ultimate Freedom"?

-Too much of a good thing is always bad

-Man was not designed to experience permanent bliss
we need to experience both ends of the spectrum or it's just meaningless

-To remove the rewards system from society and just "plug in"
would cause not only the destruction of society
but ultimately the downfall of the human race

-To me the loss of the will to live is the scariest thought imagineable


Anonymous User
Posted 02 January 2006 at 06:24 pm

ExistenzKampf: Good to hear you're going to give 'Island' a read.

OK now what interests me here or indeed with any conversation i have with people is that so, so many things are taken for granted or other things are not even factored in. Such as the idea that because people would be experiencing pleasure at the touch of a button they wouldn't be going to work or school or enacting laws and my response is why are these good? I consider most of society's ills to be a results of its institutions. work makes most people very unhappy, school makes kids dumb, law makes criminals of us all and politics well that's just dogs barking at each other and sometimes biting.

now a button which induces orgasmic pleasure is a little crude for my liking but i still want one. i'm very interested in transhumanism. the idea that we can transcend our biological limitations, that we can become smarter, healthier and more importantly happier. to me this idea that we have to suffer is a relic and it's no different from the medieval elite saying how poverty was a spiritual virtue. it's absolute rubbish. "it's time to tighten our belts" "we have to make sacrifices for society!" "no pain! no gain!"

yes we have physical pain but we also have a vast amount of natural pain killers in our body to deal with it. any serious physical injury and your body floods the system with every kind of pain killer imaginable. psychological pain is different and in my mind something that we do not have to experience and in fact is in many respects a product of society and conditioning. still i guess it's your own choice if you think that you can't really experience joy without pain, then keep inflicting pain and misery and duty and responsibility on yourself for the rest of your life.

if on the other hand you believe that ever increasing happiness, either naturally or artificially created is, something we should strive for then do it. because i think that happiness, joy and optimism is what will create a better world. not sacrifice, pain or politics.


Tapetum
Posted 02 January 2006 at 11:11 pm

My biggest concern, addressed by several others here, is that many people would use this kind of instant pleasure as a way to escape life, rather than to enhance it. Pleasure is not the same as joy, and substituting one for the other seems a recipe for disaster. It's the difference between masturbating and making love - one provides physical pleasure, the other provides that, plus the joy of connection to another human being. Indeed many of the most joyful things I have done have been physically painful, rather than pleasurable. Nor would I have chosen to make all of them physically pleasant even if I could. Duty and responsibility are not dirty words, and there is a special joy in accomplishing something that took effort and perseverance, and yes, even pain.

Misery in the mental sense, I do think of as something that needs to be lessened or eliminated. Unlike temporary pain, misery serves little ongoing need. Would I give a lot to be able to throw away the anti-depressant I'm currently on (and probably will be for life)? Absolutely. Would I be willing to have a device implanted in my brain to do so? Not without a heck of a lot more study on both animal and human reactions to this.

Anonymous, we do have a lot of the most potent pain-killers known to man available in our own neurochemical stores. However our body keeps its own tight regulation on them, which is not subject to conscious control. Given the evidence, I would say the body defaults to less pain control rather than more, as there are any number of diseases involving chronic pain, but very few involving too little. The reason for this becomes obvious when you look at the horror that is a body with insufficient pain receptors - leprosy disfigures horribly when left untreated, because the ability to know when it is hurt is one of the most fundamental needs of an organism.

Given that the same sort of balance exists in our mental pain (depression is much more common than euphoric mania), I would be very cautious indeed about anything that would tend to tip the balance the other way. This is not to say that the technology shouldn't be explored at all, merely that we should be exceedingly cautious.

But then again I'm cautious that way anyway. Redefining ourselves as humans is something that I believe is necessary, but nonetheless should be undertaken with great trepidation.


Joshua
Posted 03 January 2006 at 08:03 am

In light of the ongoing debate over torture and prisoner maltreatment in the "war on terrorism," I'm surprised that no one has yet commented upon this technology's military and intelligence-gathering potential. After all, what this pleasure-stimulation technology does is basically the opposite of torture. We may frown upon the use of torture to extract information from enemy prisoners, but what about pleasure stimulation instead? This technology, properly used to condition prisoners to provide truthful answers by rewarding them with a rush of pleasure when their answers check out, could be a boon to military interrogators without any of the moral/PR baggage that comes with torture and other punishment-oriented techniques that are the norm now.


Tapetum
Posted 03 January 2006 at 11:21 am

The difficulty there, Joshua, is that to provide good reinforcement for truth-telling behavior, the reward has to be immediate. So waiting for the information to check out would invalidate the conditioning. Conceivably one could train an inmate to respond truthfully by asking a series of questions to which the answers were known first until the response was well ingrained.

In general befriending prisoners, and providing positive response, gives better intelligence reports than torture anyway.


Anonymous User
Posted 04 January 2006 at 01:22 am

If this is released to the public humanity as we know it is screwed. What is life if not just a pursuit of happiness? If test mice (who follow basic instinct far more than us) would rather starve than not recieve this pleasure, then people, well, we would be screwed.

Think of it, why did you just read this article? Why are you reading these comments? Why do you do anything you do? The answer is simple; because doing so gives you the most pleasure that you can get with the resources at your current disposal.

The mere thought of this as a possibility scares me more than the threat of war. I have been through the "drug stages" like most, including ectascy which is known by anyone who has done it to be the most pleasurable expierience of thier life. Fortunitly I quit some time ago for numerouse reasons of which Im sure you can imagin. However, if ectacsy was available to me now at the press of a button, with no legal, health, or money issues, my life would be... well, much different from what it is now.

If you had everything you ever wanted, you would never raise a finger to get more.


rp2
Posted 04 January 2006 at 10:48 am

jewels1000 said: "I would be curious if you have exhausted your options on trying to do so?"

How about you keep to yourself. This is the Internet afterall...


fluffyb
Posted 05 January 2006 at 09:20 am

If you vote for me, I'll make you happy...
Watch this TV program to recieve 10 free pulses...
Buy sugar coated drypuffs for 25 pulses.

Um..

Work 5 extra hours to receive 10 pulses before you go home.


orc_jr
Posted 14 March 2006 at 01:23 pm

screw sadness, i wanna be a pleasure robot.. gimme the juice!


rp2
Posted 06 April 2006 at 11:37 am

Yeah, this seems pretty creepy to me too. Wouldn't you rather get pleasure from someone you love/love to be with? I mean, do you want the last person you see before you undergo orgasmic pleasure to be some random doctor/strangter?


Hayley
Posted 24 May 2006 at 09:20 pm

If people want this, more power to them. The rationale behind the author of the article (i.e. is this kind of pleasure really good?) would apply to many people, though. It's the same reason why a lot of people don't do drugs, I think (besides the dangers). The idea of artificially augmenting pleasure strikes many people as less pleasurable, ironic as that may seem. While some people would go for this, others would avoid it like the plague. Those that did use it might become so addicted to it that they would cease doing anything else...maybe even eating...but at least they would die happy....


Blake
Posted 13 June 2006 at 11:14 am

Reminds me of Hedonism Bot.


WolfManDragon
Posted 29 June 2006 at 10:48 am

Shadowrun's 2XS, CyberPunk, Spyder Roberson's Deathkiller, Tekwar

all these books have a type of wireheading or chip-heading, in them. Good reads as well, (tekwar is a maybe)


tigoldbitty
Posted 15 July 2006 at 09:46 pm

You guys are dumb. I still respect you.


explorer
Posted 13 August 2006 at 05:48 am

Interesting ; but not unexpected; article. There must be at least one more way other than electric current or Chemicals to stimulate the barain to achieve the bliss. I feel that by severe yogic practice or meditation the brain can be similarly stimulated to achieve the state of happiness.

Meditation and yoga was practiced by the ancient Indians; and is still being practiced widely but in moderation so that the ultimate bliss is not acheived.

It is claimed that yogis sits in trance for days or months (or years?) together concentrating and ultimately achieving the state of bliss, which they continued to enjoy with pride.

It is also claimed by these yogis that attaining the bliss through mediatation is the fulfilment of life and a person attaining such bliss is in control of his senses and is of extreme will power.

But meditation to attain such a state is a very diffcult; given the multitudes of distractions in present day life. The ancient with very few beings around and very minimal acivities and the quest to understand the secret of the universe would have accidently hit upon this method and persued it.

There is only one thing a human is supposed to do; irrespective of the era he belonged
to; and that is ( ). I would like whoever reads this to fill in. I will came back with my later.


NinerSevenTango
Posted 14 September 2006 at 05:42 am

explorer,

I would fill in the blank with the word 'Thrive".

Arguments over the definition may now ensue.

--97T--


Dave Group
Posted 14 September 2006 at 05:43 am

Just give me the Orgasmatron from Woody Allen's SLEEPER. BTW, the picture of the mice shows them slipping off to get batteries from their neighborhood dealer ("You go get the batteries, fellow rat, and I'll keep an eye on Learned Professor," says Doctor Rat.).


1c3d0g
Posted 14 September 2006 at 06:00 am

Sick, but interesting nonetheless.


HarleyHetz
Posted 14 September 2006 at 07:08 am

In my opinion, this ESB technology should be made available to everyone, how you choose to use it is your business. As long as you are not interfereing with the rights of other citizens, you should have the right to pursue your happiness anyway you wish. If you do indeed interfere with anothers rights, then you will be delt with accordingly, perhaps your device will be removed by court order, and not be allowed to be reimplanted for some period of time. This "punishment" would greatly reduce the number of times you desired to "interfere" with anothers rights.

If you go back and re-read the article, it did not say that any mice "starved themselves to death". It simply said that they were willing to go hungry for another shot of the juice. I would be willing to bet that eventually they did in fact eat. If not, that would have been reported as such.
As others have mentioned, our survival instinct would kick in, even in the weakest among us, and we would eventually go to work, pay our electric bill, stop by the grocery store and get food...and so on and so on.
Who among you can say that you have the RIGHT to deny me this pleasure, and how, pray tell, can you justify that? As long as I cause you no harm, what right do you have to tell me that I can not partake of this form of euphoria???


PaperConfessional
Posted 14 September 2006 at 07:44 am

Keep in mind, all these opinions are written without actually having experienced this. HarleyHetz, you assume that your "survival" instinct would kick in, but you've never had your pleasure center directly stimulated. Also, you assume that your survival instinct includes paying your electric bill and going to work- but it doesn't. Those things are somewhat further down the priority list. If people neglect to do these things while on other drugs that more indirectly stimulate the pleasure center (cocaine, amphetamines), why would they do them with direct stimulation?

So, in conclusion, if this technology did in fact result in a breakdown of society- masses of people leaving their jobs, stealing food when they need it, killing for a "high"- then yes; society has a perfect right to tell you that you cannot partake of it. Just because this is an "individual" activity does not mean that it doesn't intrude on the rights of others.


Xoebe
Posted 14 September 2006 at 08:43 am

In light of the ongoing debate over torture and prisoner maltreatment in the "war on terrorism," I'm surprised that no one has yet commented upon this technology's military and intelligence-gathering potential.

Joshua hit pretty close to what I was thinking. However, instead of intelligence gathering, I was thinking more along the lines of terrorism prevention. Behavior modification. There are a few different approaches.

1. Wire the subjects so that they become self made "pleasure bots". They do nothing all day but hit the wire and zone out. Not very productive, but at least they won't try and run away.

2. Stimulate them to provide information, as was suggested. Give them a jolt for being talkative and cooperative. If the information turns out to be good, later, let them have a half a day "holiday". Whee!

3. Train them to love America. (Ok, ok, Europe too. The West, then.)

3b. Conversely, wire the "unpleasant" brain center to teach them to hate their fellow terrorists. Or insurgents.

3c. Once fully conditioned, remove the wire and let them loose back at home. Get a bowl of popcorn and enjoy the show.

3d. Some agents could remain wired, and return to a "Love America Positive Response Center" (LAPREC) for periodic restimulation, i.e., more half day long "holidays". Bring a friend, get half off. (Well, there's an idea. You could even get the repatriated former terrorists to pay for the treatment. )

The general idea is so massively unethical that I would not suggest it for anything other than treating violent subjects like terrorists or insurgents. Accuse me of situational ethics, and you extra ice cream. It would of course have to be a black top sekrit program.

There certainly opportunities for civilian behavior modification, though. Overeating, drug addiction, violent crime. Under tightly controlled conditions, administered by doctors, all that.

Lastly, all those who think the sky would fall if everyone was self wired and would ignore work, food, their children, etc., to stay home and be plugged in all day, well I have this to say: You are absolutely right. It would easily be the most addictive thing to ever hit humanity. And, I really, really, really, want one for myself.


Shandooga
Posted 14 September 2006 at 09:04 am

Wow, what a bad idea. I predict that within a few years people will line up for the McClimax by the millions.


HarleyHetz
Posted 14 September 2006 at 09:12 am

PaperConfessional said: "Keep in mind, all these opinions are written without actually having experienced this. HarleyHetz, you assume that your "survival" instinct would kick in, but you've never had your pleasure center directly stimulated. Also, you assume that your survival instinct includes paying your electric bill and going to work- but it doesn't. Those things are somewhat further down the priority list. If people neglect to do these things while on other drugs that more indirectly stimulate the pleasure center (cocaine, amphetamines), why would they do them with direct stimulation?


So, in conclusion, if this technology did in fact result in a breakdown of society- masses of people leaving their jobs, stealing food when they need it, killing for a "high"- then yes; society has a perfect right to tell you that you cannot partake of it. Just because this is an "individual" activity does not mean that it doesn't intrude on the rights of others."

Quite the contrary, I KNOW my survival instinct would kick in. Just as it most assuredly did in the test mice. Again I say that if indeed it hadn't, that surely would have been reported!! And, if you read my post closely, I did say that you had no right to prevent me from enjoying this experience provided that I didn't interfer with your rights...you can't say that "I" would steal food from you or anyone else if this were hooked up to me...how do you know??? You are only guessing...hook me up and let's see!!


Shandooga
Posted 14 September 2006 at 09:27 am

Xoebe said: "

3. Train them to love America. (Ok, ok, Europe too. The West, then.)

3b. Conversely, wire the "unpleasant" brain center to teach them to hate their fellow terrorists. Or insurgents.

3c. Once fully conditioned, remove the wire and let them loose back at home. Get a bowl of popcorn and enjoy the show...."

This is what American media is for. It's a lot more efficient too.


damn_interested
Posted 14 September 2006 at 09:56 am

This is an ethical minefield. However, in the end I don't see why someone should intrude on the moral decisions of someone else (even if they get the government to do it for them). There was an effort to ban a widespread and even more destructive social ill once, it was called prohibition.

One thing is the economic implications one must consider. I think that employment/productivity issues are not what to worry about (Imagine if you could rig a system were a assembly lineworker gets a zap each time he repeats the menial task he would had to repeat a thousand times that day anyway). The issue is how much trade in luxury "pleasure" goods stimulates the economy. Shopping stimulates us in a base way, and most of the goods we choose to buy are wanted and not needed (even if you need a car, you don't need a porsche). One third of retail is done in the christmas season (or so I hear), entirely on superfluous goods. The thriving fast food industry depends on people getting a comfort food "fix".
All this demand could be replaced by "zapping". Meanwhile productivity increases in the service and industrial sectors thanks to a happily "zapped" working class. Overproduction and unemployment could cause economic collapse. That is, unless some cartel was to monopolize it, create scarcity, and take over as world drug-lord empererors. (Yes people, these are the only possible outcomes :P).


Zack Jordan
Posted 14 September 2006 at 10:14 am

HarleyHetz said: "Quite the contrary, I KNOW my survival instinct would kick in. Just as it most assuredly did in the test mice. Again I say that if indeed it hadn't, that surely would have been reported!! And, if you read my post closely, I did say that you had no right to prevent me from enjoying this experience provided that I didn't interfer with your rights…you can't say that "I" would steal food from you or anyone else if this were hooked up to me…how do you know??? You are only guessing…hook me up and let's see!!"

You assume many things, my friend.

Hopefully, whether a procedure is survivable won't become the criteria by which we decide whether to introduce it to society at large. There is more to life than survival. Even if the survival instinct occasionally overpowers the pleasure instinct, how many other things will you lose in the process?

Furthermore, what does that have to do with paying your electric bill?


circumstance
Posted 14 September 2006 at 10:26 am

I want this. And I want it now.


adastra
Posted 14 September 2006 at 10:34 am

orc_jr said: "screw sadness, i wanna be a pleasure robot.. gimme the juice!"

Me too, I wanna, gimme gimme, GIMME!

Seriously, I WOULD like to try it once, just to see what it feels like. Is the first one free?


HarleyHetz
Posted 14 September 2006 at 11:26 am

Zack Jordan said: "You assume many things, my friend.


Hopefully, whether a procedure is survivable won't become the criteria by which we decide whether to introduce it to society at large. There is more to life than survival. Even if the survival instinct occasionally overpowers the pleasure instinct, how many other things will you lose in the process?

Furthermore, what does that have to do with paying your electric bill?"

I was using the "electric bill" as an example that I would not ignore my responsibility as many have suggested would SURELY happen. You can't sit behind your little keyboard and give a prognosis on every individual in the world. You don't know what kind of willpower I have, nor do you have the right to surmise that I would not take care of my family, or pay my bills (electric included), or eat, or sleep, and that I would run around holding up liquor stores to get my "fix", and thereby deny me my God given right to a form of pleasure of my choosing.
Now, on the other hand, if enough people that were hooked up to the damn thing went around holding up liquor stores (and I'm not about to sit here and say it wouldn't happen...) then that would be another story, but how can YOU know if that is what would happen until we hook some folks up...SIGN ME UP!!!


topnotch
Posted 14 September 2006 at 11:49 am

I think this would be a great tool. Every one should have one of these and we could have it programed to go off when you do well,connect it to your saving account.On the otherhand if you commit crimes or are just a regular azzhole we could have it give a big ole zap to the reticular formation. We could completely do away with the prison system and put all that money into education.Woooo Hoooooo!


orc_jr
Posted 14 September 2006 at 12:10 pm

sure, maybe widespread distribution of such a device might bring about the collapse of modern society, but who would care? everybody would be happy. i don't think that's a bad thing.


bryon
Posted 14 September 2006 at 02:50 pm

Hey, that'd be sweet if Steve Jobs incorporated this in the next iPod!


another viewpoint
Posted 14 September 2006 at 02:56 pm

...I'm a firme believer in life, liberty and the happiness of pursuit!


etonalife
Posted 14 September 2006 at 03:17 pm

Wow! To think this was something of the future, and here it's been for the past 50 years! Damn Interesting!

Although I don't agree with this being illegal, it would be heavily regulated. I can't imagine anyone under 21 years old being able to get this. People will still learn what sadness, anger, and real happiness are, and by the time they are adults (and can afford this) I trust most people will make their decision based on their own personal history. Who are we to tell someone they cannot be happy?! Don't Tread On Me.

Inventive tools are stictly human. There is nothing non-human about this. Most of us probably would have died if it wasn't for all the 'non-human' tools we use now, like pumping a dead virus into us so we don't get sick or watching a collage of pictures real fast for hours on end.

I believe we have an obligation to give this to the people who need it. After that phase has been fully optimized can we consider its availabilty to the general public. I don't want to help fund average Joe's medical bill, but I would gladly pay for the procedure on someone who's life has been destroyed. But then again, why would healthy happy people want to pay for this when they can't even lower their arrogance to allow medical marijuana?


Drakvil
Posted 14 September 2006 at 03:58 pm

That would be the ultimate crime deterrent... if they do something bad enough, plug them into the wall current for a few seconds and burn the pleasure centers right out of their brain. Never feel good about anything again. I don't think they'd need to demonstrate the effects on more than one or two people to cut crime in half. (not intended seriously, this is an example of my strange humor)

I've heard rumors that the orgasmatron has been invented hundreds of times, but the inventors have never been seen again...

I can't wait until they are able to stimulate that portion of the brain without a physical intrusion. Something like a field effect from a headset. I could see this as a gret tool for becoming more productive with training software... the more you learn and demonstrate understanding to the training program, the better you feel. You can get yourself addicted to learning and being very productive in what you do. Stuff like Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing or Learn to Speak "X", or even software tutorials. [imagine what this would do for the learning curve in high school! Most people would have PhDs at 16!]

The whole thing about needing pain to feel pleasure or needing suffering is a cop out. Primitive religions use it as a way of explaining how bad things happen to people and simplistic philosophers use it to establish a yardstick for the joys they feel in life. I can gauge the joys in my life well enough by comparing how much I like chocolate compared to brussels sprouts and have no need of a red hot poker jammed into my tongue just to know I'd like passion fruit mousse even better than all the other stuff.

Did anyone see what happened to the older guy in the movie Brainstorm? They found him at home with the playback device hooked up in a loop... he just lay there twitching with a smile on his face.


cornerpocket
Posted 14 September 2006 at 06:06 pm

A lot of idle commentary appears to assume that ESB would be free or at least inexpensive and that it would enter the marketplace similarly to drugs, alcohol or medication. What if it ends up being prohibitively expensive, available only to those who have yachts and summerhomes and limosines? We are talking of a surgical procedure, after all. Much like the primary arguments about 'cloning' one's self, the wealthiest would have first shot and could easily keep it to themselves merely by keeping the price high. And obviously they would not want the working class to have this source of gratification, else who would do the heavy lifting??? It seems rather likely, should such stuff come to practice, it will be highly regulated and available at great expense.....at least until someone figures out how to do it in an alley with a coathanger.


adastra
Posted 14 September 2006 at 09:05 pm

Here's a thought from a different, but congruent angle. What if you were suddenly blessed/cursed with the power to do anything you want, to order the world however you wished, just by wishing it. Be invisible and visit the girls locker room? Hell, be visible and make them like your visit.
Anything you can think of is instantly yours.

When you get hired in a candy factory, management encourages you to eat all you want. It's not long before the hiree can't stand to eat another candy.

Wouldn't that power, that omnitpotence, be hell on earth? Absolute power would seem, to me, to be excruciatingly boring. Wouldn't the curious monkey get bored, even with unlimited pleasure?

Of course, I haven't had the pleasure, so I might be wrong.

Frederic Brown, the master of the SF short story, wrote one about a man who made a deal with the devil for granted wishes and eternal life. The caveat being: when the man got bored, which the devil knew all men did eventually, and asked to be released, the devil got his soul.
The man was an astronomer. He told the devil that to start with, he'd like to spend about 500 years studying Alpha Centauri and then he would move on from there.

I can't imagine pleasure without discovery. I mean pleasure that doesn't become one dimensional and boring when overused. Wireheading might make a mouse chose electrical stimulation over food, but I find it hard to believe a human would.

But I haven't had the pleasure. And I would like to try it. And I do take 200 mg of Zoloft every day. And I'm sure that I could try it once withou getting addicted.

Maybe that's what they all say, ehh?


CanDea
Posted 15 September 2006 at 05:47 am

I read something here on DamnInteresting a while back about a phenomenon where you hear about something new and then you're seeing it again and again... what was that called? Cos I just read about this in my psych book yesterday, and come here and here it is! Wonder where it will show up next!

Damn interesting stuff!


another viewpoint
Posted 15 September 2006 at 08:30 am

...rather than going to a doctor to have him install wires in your head, why not just put on a kitchen colander, add some alum foil..maybe even some copper tinsel. Then, get out and watch the reaction from passer-bys. That ought to give you a real lift...in particular when you know something that they don't.


HarleyHetz
Posted 15 September 2006 at 10:58 am

another viewpoint said: "…rather than going to a doctor to have him install wires in your head, why not just put on a kitchen colander, add some alum foil..maybe even some copper tinsel. Then, get out and watch the reaction from passer-bys. That ought to give you a real lift…in particular when you know something that they don't."

While I "DO" like the idea...I don't think it would give quite the same pleasure...


sierra_club_sux
Posted 15 September 2006 at 09:16 pm

1500 times in 3 hours... So while these individuals are stimulating themselves every couple of seconds they just ignore other feelings such as hunger, full bladder, etc.?


LoisAlene
Posted 17 September 2006 at 10:30 pm

CanDea said: "I read something here on DamnInteresting a while back about a phenomenon where you hear about something new and then you're seeing it again and again… what was that called? Cos I just read about this in my psych book yesterday, and come here and here it is! Wonder where it will show up next!

It's called synchronicity and it happens to me all the time. Pretty damned interesting indeed.


trillian
Posted 19 September 2006 at 11:31 am

explorer said: "It is claimed that yogis sits in trance for days or months (or years?) together concentrating and ultimately achieving the state of bliss, which they continued to enjoy with pride.

It is also claimed by these yogis that attaining the bliss through mediatation is the fulfilment of life and a person attaining such bliss is in control of his senses and is of extreme will power.

...There is only one thing a human is supposed to do; irrespective of the era he belonged to; and that is ( ). I would like whoever reads this to fill in. I will came back with my later."

To answer the last part first: reproduce. That's our main biological/evolutionary imperative, the only reason we as a species have survived to see multiple eras, and everything else is just a means of supporting that instinct. The ramifications of widespread pleasure center manipulation on our drive to reproduce (why bother milking the cow when you can get a milk i.v.?) have already been touched upon, so I'll skip that -

- in order to quibble about yogis and bliss. The euphoria brought on by extended meditation is generally considered a hazardous, if pleasant, distraction by serious practitioners. The ecstacy is a side-effect of meditation practice, as are periods of boredom, frustration, pride, and other illusory emotions which are to be surpassed. You could kind of compare it to the euphoric effect of the drug ecstacy, which is one of several reactions to the overall physical influence of the chemicals - along with, say, jaw tension and dilated pupils. Nirvana, by contrast, refers to the ultimate disinterested state of wisdom and compassion, in which one is freed from the illusions of both pain and joy. I guess in this context it would be most akin to closing off both the pleasure and the pain centers, or shutting down their need for stimulus.

Ideally, I don't think that pride enters into it much - which is very different from our Western experience, where televangelism still thrives, Billy Graham holds sway with the president, and God is supposed to shower the most worthy and hardworking Puritans with rewards his neighbor can damn well see. You don't catch too many Buddhist monks on TV, levitating in full lotus with a 1-800 number at the bottom of the screen. Although now that I think about it, that would be really funny.

I guess my point is that if you've got a proud, ecstatic yogi on your hands, you have someone who's partway to their destination. That, and that this pleasure center stuff really drives home the notion that our emotional sensation is an illusion we create for ourselves. Somehow I doubt that would detract from the experience of a little septal stimulation, though...


Quiggy
Posted 20 September 2006 at 02:18 pm

Pretty Damn Interesting. I don't think that this should be freely available to people, because an awful lot of people are just going to sit around until they die pleasuring themselves, but I see nothing wrong with allowing limitations, even if you have to pay an Orgasm Bill or something to your electric company.

Drakvil said: "The whole thing about needing pain to feel pleasure or needing suffering is a cop out. Primitive religions use it as a way of explaining how bad things happen to people and simplistic philosophers use it to establish a yardstick for the joys they feel in life. I can gauge the joys in my life well enough by comparing how much I like chocolate compared to brussels sprouts and have no need of a red hot poker jammed into my tongue just to know I'd like passion fruit mousse even better than all the other stuff."

Ah, but here's your logical fallacy: You say that you know that you like chocolate more than Brussels sprouts. If you never had anything that you like less than chocolate (i.e., Brussels sprouts), would you chocolate nearly as much? Probably not. If you had nothing that you liked less than chocolate, then chocolate would be your least favorite food, and you'd probably stay far away from it.


Tink
Posted 30 October 2006 at 10:59 pm

Well, untill this does become availiable to us all, then I guess we will just have to keep coming here to DI to get our brain orgasms. LOL

BzzzT!
Yipeeee!


3ThreeIII
Posted 29 December 2006 at 10:45 am

One of the survial traits that most human beings have "hard wired" into them is diminishing feedback.

All forms of stimuli, including base pleasure and base pain, that are repeated cause the human experiencing the stimuli to develop a tolerance to that stimuli.

I am not sure, nor does it matter, how this trait developed. But, it directly contributes to virually every change, both for advancement or destruction, that humans create.

The basic human condition is transitory. Only change is constant.


NaLalina
Posted 30 December 2006 at 07:01 am

This article should be corrected to reflect the following:
The Declaration of Independence is not a part of U.S. law; it's not enforceable. We currently have no right to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness.


NaLalina
Posted 30 December 2006 at 07:06 am

The pursuit of happiness is not the same as happiness itself. We can still pursue happiness when ESB technology is unavailable or prohibited.


Nonesuch
Posted 30 December 2006 at 09:56 am

A very interesting technology and discussion that I am pleased to have stumbled into here....making me ask questions such as... what shape would human learning take in light of a contentment enhanced way of living? There has been made mention of stagnation, starvation and death as a species, though I think the latter almost impossible ( in spite of ourselves).... what , if anything ,would lie beyond "click the button again".... and also if the buddist suffers to be able to understand and then surmount the obstacles to exist in a happier state, is a "rewarded" person not so far away from that in terms of dealing with this veil of tears?.... and of course, would we as individuals still be moved to read ,reflect and react with this forum and find/share the very real interests that we have here... and how?


tom_squick
Posted 17 January 2007 at 10:54 am

This is a huge untapped field. I know several people living with serious pain everyday. It would be a god send to be able to turn off the pain electrically in the brain without filling the rest of the body with mind and body numbing drugs.


aylowe
Posted 10 February 2007 at 03:55 pm

I think I understand some of the ethical problems with this technology. I'd be very wary about allowing people to go about their daily lives with such an appealing and addictive pursuit so readily available.

But what about terminally ill persons - persons on their death beds? People often die in severe mental and physical pain. Why not allow such persons access to this technology? If I'm going to die, I'd rather die in ecstacy rather than in excruciating pain.

It seems to me that in the case of persons who are just about to die, the ethics of this technology may swing the other way.


jesse
Posted 23 April 2007 at 03:59 pm

This is definately interesting.. I cannot believe i have never heard of it before. And while i feel that this kind of technology would be great to "play" with... or could be marketed great in replacement for strip clubs and "massage parlors" where STDs are spread, ...it could never replace the joy we recieve from human contact. As humans, we need interaction and bodily contact to survive. No matter how many "pulses" we recieve, it cannot compete with our biological need for closeness, compassion, and the deep connection we feel with one another when we have sex with our partners.


ZeTron
Posted 23 May 2007 at 09:11 am

Damn Interesting. I remember reading this article a few weeks back and just came across this article from Wired. The article is explaining something called Vagus Nerve Stimulation, or VNS. An electrode is implanted on a nerve that is linked to many areas of the brain that relate to depression. Doctors are implanting a device, similar to a pacemaker, which stimulates the Vagus nerve and in turn treats their patients depression. The VNS device is already approved by the FDA...


Gerry Matlack
Posted 23 May 2007 at 10:53 am

ZeTron said: " Doctors are implanting a device, similar to a pacemaker, which stimulates the Vagus nerve and in turn treats their patients depression. The VNS device is already approved by the FDA…"

The vagus nerve stimulator gets a good deal of use in treating epilepsy, as stimulating the vagus nerve has an effect similar to "throwing a wet blanket over the brain's activity." It was a treatment option I was considering for my own condition. Most doctors will pursue the medication route before they will recommend surgery for anything as they consider it less expensive and to have fewer risks of complications. (That's why they're called "Medical" doctors... they treat using "medicine".)


dennis
Posted 27 July 2007 at 07:41 am

Every problem has the same solution: the Lord Jesus Christ. Would I stop working to help the poor, if I could get a PLEASURE-O-MATIC? No, because the Bible commands me to "be zealous to do good works, help the poor, send Bibles to the Bible-less, food to the hungry, etc"....
Jesus said "sell all that you have , and give the money to the poor, and follow Me." He didn't create us for the PLEASURE-O-MATIC. He created us to Love Him , and love each other.
Did Jesus practice what He preached? Yes, He said "I don't have even a rock to lay My Head on".
Did He die for what He believed? Yes.
Are we to die, if necessary, for Christ? Yes.
I'm not against PLEASURE. But, PLEASURE is not our god.........the Lord Jesus is our God.

God is TESTING our faith. If we obey Him and the Bible, then, we have passed the TEST of our faith.


bytendei
Posted 01 February 2008 at 10:54 am

I would suggest a even more intriguing experiment which would be to wire the pleasure with an equal displeasure and see whether the subject would choose to experience the pleasure at the cost of experiencing the displeasure alongside with it.


Lukeal
Posted 07 March 2008 at 01:16 pm

I find it interesting that most people predict a massive failure of society and a grand implementation of laziness.
The most striking thing about this article was the ability of the researches to train the mice with positive reinforcement on demand. With only a little self-discipline, a person could use their 'pleasure' reward to reinforce all sorts of otherwise potentially boring/unrewarding tasks. Use it train yourself just like the scientists.
Instead of having that dessert, zap
Instead of having that cigarette, zap
Want to work out more, only zap yourself after a workout.

In any sampling of a population, you are going to get the big swings at the edges that would need to be controlled, like the monkey that just hits the button until it dies of starvation. That doesn't mean it isn't safe or advisable for the majority.


Mirage_GSM
Posted 15 August 2008 at 04:00 am

HarleyHetz said: "Quite the contrary, I KNOW my survival instinct would kick in. Just as it most assuredly did in the test mice. Again I say that if indeed it hadn't, that surely would have been reported!!"

It's great how you are so sure about that without doing the necessary research:
Wikipedia says: "Rats in Skinner boxes with metal electrodes implanted into their nucleus accumbens will repeatedly press a lever which activates this region, and will do so in preference over food and water, EVENTUALLY DYING FROM EXHAUSTION."

As someone else stated above, pleasure in all its forms is addictive. The more pleasurable something is, the stronger the addiction. The greatest limiting factors are availability and side effects. Availability limits the frequency of stimulation and side effects provide a motivation to shake of fthe addiction. Drugs cost money, so they few people can afford to take them regularly and some have debilitating side effects. Still many people ignore those side effects and steal money to appease the addiction, some of them until they die.
Consider computer games: MMOs are mostly not free, but they are cheap enough for people to afford continuously. Still people are dying because they cannot control their addiction enough to fulfill their basic needs:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_addiction#Deaths
And not only the addicts themselves:
http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=59697
Of course those are extreme cases and by far from the norm.
Now imagine a drug that is basically free (a new set of batteries a week is negligible), has no side effects (let's say a surgical procedure will be unnecessary in a few years) and induces more pleasure than any computer game without the frustration that a game neccessarily also includes...
I estimate the numbers of deaths from neglect of basic needs to be in the tens of thousands.
Even if people don't die -
Why would anyone still want to have sex? ESB is so much easier, faster, less messy and not dependent on headaches.
Why would anyone want to have kids? Kids detract from the time you can better spend zapping your brain.
Why would anyone go to work? What you get from welfare is enough to get the next set of batteries.

Someone mentioned saturation. Eventually the brain will be so accustomed to the permanent pleasure induced by ESB, that none of the other pleasures, that have for millenia motivated mankind to its achievements will matter anymore.

If ESB ever becomes freely available it will be the greatest threat our society has ever faced.


caazi
Posted 26 August 2008 at 09:42 am

Michael Crichton's book 'The Terminal Man' explored this topic completely, going into the dangers of this procedure used on humans. 50 to 100 electrodes were placed in the brain, each tested to see which electrode triggered which sensation. These ranged from smells, tastes, pleasures and displeasures. The test subject was a man with a neurological disorder, and ends up using the electrodes to constantly trigger pleasure.

It's a great book, and fully explores the pros and cons of such a subject.


ortho
Posted 20 October 2008 at 09:46 am

The best piece of literature of our generation in my opinion, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, deals precisely with this issue. It deals with a movie entitled "Infinite Jest", which is so powerfully entertaining, that when the person puts it on, they cannot take their eyes away from it, and end up killing themselves. This novel was written in 1996 but takes place ten years later, in which corporations now have the ability to buy years, one being "Year of the Adult Undergarment" due to people constantly defecating themselves, since they don't have the power to get up and go to the toilet -- the entertainment is too rewarding. If anyone found this article interesting and somewhat scary in its implications, I highly recommend the aforementioned novel. R.IP. DFW.


Cyber Rodent
Posted 20 April 2009 at 05:07 pm

Given this technology, without some form of limiter built in, people would in all likelihood rapidly degenerate into an endless loop of self stimulation. This kind of experience would be incredibly addictive. Think about it; you have the most enjoyable (orgasmic) sensation available to you at the press of a button. As soon as the initial "hit" wore off (probably only a few seconds duration), the user isn't going to think "that was nice, maybe I'll do that again tomorrow" - no, he or she is going to reach for that button right away, and keep doing so for as long as they are still conscious. Normally to receive a pleasurable stimulus, there has to be some cost (whether that be monetary, effort, or working within the framework of society's norms); here, we have instant gratification available with no perceivable penalty. With no "re-charge" time (or mess) as with sex (or other forms of self-stimulation), no ongoing costs as with drugs, food etc. and no limit to how often you can do it; who wouldn't rather constantly experience pleasure than the "ordinariness" of reality. (you certainly wouldn't want to go out to work or perform some useful function in society). So if everyone had the technology, the nation would grind to a halt almost overnight - absolutely nothing would get done, because you'd have a nation of wireheads all sitting around constantly triggering their happy place...

Note that the rats in the experiment preferred the stimulation of their pleasure centre over food (and other experimentation has shown that animals do in fact continue self-stimulating until death), so even the biological imperatives hunger overridden by these sensations (as soon as you feel something unpleasant - such as the sensation of your body dying of thirst, you could just drown it out with another flood of pleasure - which is much simpler that getting up and going to fetch some water (which would mean interrupting the chain of euphoria). My guess is you'd keep zapping away until you died of thirst/hunger/exhaustion - probably with a smile on your face... (I guess you could regard it as the most enjoyable way to commit suicide...)

Now, I imagine that the technology could be used medically for the treatment of emotional disorders (as suggested above) - provided that it was properly regulated to prevent tot addiction scenario from occurring (i.e. regulate the amount of stimulation so that it just counteracts the negative influence of the condition being treated without crossing the threshold of becoming actually pleasurable - simply leveling the field as it were). However, I cannot see it happening - and not for any ethical reasons, or because the powers that be are squeamish about authorizing the procedure; but rather for reasons of simple corporate greed. The big pharmaceutical companies are making massive amounts of money off of the public through the medications that are prescribed (often for a long term, even a lifetime), and they are not about to sit back and let a one-shot-fix solution come to the fore and take away all that revenue. Now if one of those companies were to buy out and license the technology - that might be another story... Then they'd make the cost of the procedure so high that only the uber-rich could afford it anyway... (like they do with many medications - medical science can treat a lot of conditions, but only the rich can afford it a lot of the time).


mjunk
Posted 22 April 2009 at 05:53 pm

Cyber Rodent said: My guess is you'd keep zapping away until you died of thirst/hunger/exhaustion - probably with a smile on your face... (I guess you could regard it as the most enjoyable way to commit suicide...)

I would like to think that having the ability to reason above that of the average rat (at least, most of us, I hope), we would be able to lay off the button long enough to sustain our lives. Even the most impaired drug addict will take at least minimal steps to preserve his own life. But I do see your point about the decline of productivity. Almost everything we do is for self gratification, either immediate or delayed. Who would be able to resist the most intense gratification to be had for simply the push of a button? But I do wonder what would happen over the long term. I can see it developing to the point where, due to constant exposure, the stimulus becomes attenuated. After awhile, you may prefer banging your thumb with a hammer just for the novelty of it.

And consider what comes after that...if the pleasure center of our brain becomes overloaded by direct stimulus, to which we have become inured, from what then will we take pleasure? None of the old pleasurable stimuli will work, since the "pleasure threshold" has been raised too high to be reached by any other means.


Flowerheart
Posted 30 April 2009 at 07:33 pm

NaLalina said: "The pursuit of happiness is not the same as happiness itself. We can still pursue happiness when ESB technology is unavailable or prohibited."

This reminds me of Will smith in the Movie the Pursuit of happiness, where he says how did Thomas Jefferson remember to add "Pursuit" in there.


mick sterbs
Posted 24 August 2009 at 02:05 am

Does anyone else recall seeing some old B&W footage of a woman being interviewed on TV, who had a brain implant and could give herself what amounted to an orgasm, at the touch of a button?

I don't think I'm misremembering it but it's possible that I'm mistakena and she was actually talking about it after the event, and that what she was describing was the experience on the table described above, the "goody place" bit.

I've been looking for this footage for years. I know I'm getting closer, but it still escapes me.

Many thanks
Mick


Rodger Wrighthead
Posted 27 August 2009 at 01:54 am

There are so many good applications that this technology could be applied as you could probably "train" yourself to like doing something that otherwise you would usually need to muster up some energy for: running, starting that essay, revising, waking up at a specific time etc.. There could be some application for this to be used instead of a pain killer or as a way of dealing with pain e.g. a soldier shot in a battlefield and needed an emergency medical evacuation would probably be a lot calmer with a device like this planted in their head (super soldiers?).
But all I can think about are the possibilities for people to exploit this technology if it were to become available to the masses:
"you are enjoying working in your cubicle 80 hours a week"
"you are enjoying assassinating that individual you know nothing about"
"you are enjoying cutting yourself"
"you are enjoying being raped... in the face"

The last idea may be a little crude, but it gets the point across.
Even as I was writing these ideas down the idea of it completely creeped me out. After "enjoying" someone exploiting that technology you would revert back to yourself and immediately not enjoy what has just happened by the looks of things.

Alternatively you could be living a life that you seem completely content with but has actually been completely programmed into you (I think slaves would be far less likely to disobey where they "enjoying" what they are doing or conversely if they felt worse not doing what they were told. Terrorist attacks could be undertaken by individuals that are “enjoying” blowing themselves up even though they have no affiliation with the terrorist organization they are doing it for or are even aware of what they are doing for a terrorist organization).

I can see why there would be some reluctance to make this technology widely available to the general public given the implications of control it has over other people.

At least with pills you still control over whether you take them or not. I would defiantly opt out of an implanted device where this technology presented to me.


Rodger Wrighthead
Posted 27 August 2009 at 02:12 am

Just clarifying.

Rodger Wrighthead said: "... what just happened by the looks of things. "

By "by the looks of things" I mean "by the look of things said in the article"


Rodger Wrighthead
Posted 27 August 2009 at 04:51 am

Also to clarify, I am not talking about full orgasmic stimuli but a much lower level stimulus of the "pleasure center" acting as more of a suggestion rather than full blown order (e.g. "I suggest you move your arm to pick up a gun, I suggest you move your arm into a position that points the gun at your own head, I suggest you move your finger to pull the trigger". My thinking is that the person might actually start feeling angsty about not doing whatever action you want them to do as their brain would be telling them that doing it is beneficial and so in comparison everything else that the do that is not that specific action is not).
Alternatively you could wait until someone becomes addicted, stop the device from working and then directly tell them the actions that they need to perform to induce the pleasurable feeling again (ahhhh so that explains "Two girls one cup" and "Two girls one finger"...).

DI article and I working on re-read my comments before I post them.


Targhan
Posted 17 September 2009 at 03:58 pm

Studies have shown that prolonged exposure to electric shocks causes brain damage. People would literally lobotomize themselves in "the pursuit of happiness".

Interestingly enough, the phrase was originally "life, liberty, and property", which makes a lot more sense.


Vampire
Posted 07 June 2012 at 03:17 pm

Wow! Wonderful idea, at least at first glance.

Can't say that this is a new concept for me, but I am pleased that this idea is getting some serious exposure. Personally, I love the idea of a "droud" (neural simulator of SF writer Larry Niven origin), although I would have to think that "wireheading" would conceivably be the most controversial issue of the next 50 years.

I want one, although I'll have to find the "surgeon" from Minority Report who performed Tom Cruise's eyeball transplant. I can't recall the character's name, or if he had one, but the part was played by one of my favorite actors, Peter Stormrare. Sorry for the digression.

As far as the "Orgasmatron" device is concerned, there is only one person who has the eloquence, clarity of thought, and god-like transcendent wisdom necessary to approve/disapprove of its legion applications: DanThinksDances&femaleGspot.

DanThinks, where are you now?

Alan Bellows once again transcends all expectation with his remarkably fascinating articles.

Thank you everyone for your insightful commentary.


Maddison
Posted 28 February 2015 at 05:03 pm

Seriously damn interesting. I feel like it would be like any drugs now, and not all bad. Although there would be cases in which people might zap themselves constantly and be addicted and fail at life and blah blah blah, there could still be a vast number of people that could use it for occasional pleasure and recreation. And there's also the factor of money. I seriously doubt this would be a cheap procedure which limits the number of people that could even have access to it, let alone abuse it. Just because some people might abuse the technology doesn't mean it's bad.


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