March 1, 2008

Using a brain implant to help motivate yourself


Nato Welch said...

That's great. Let's just pick up the Apple branding on that, and freight it with all the lock-in, DRM, control freakery, and other misbehavior that large companies with avaricial market-control longings are known for the world over.

I won't be getting one of these until I can get it from a vendor I can trust, switch, using openly-licensed, patent-free techniques. And perhaps not even then, presuming I continue to have an informed, nonduressed consent in the matter.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, but isn't he really just talking about designer addictions? What would happen once you reach your goal and cut back on the dopamine? Withdrawal?

Terry said...

Just a thought - what would stop you from bypassing the activity aspect and turning into a dopamine addict? That is to say, just ratchet the iplant up to full volume, and sit in a electrochemical fugg until the organism (i.e. you) expires because you forgot to eat.

sergiy said...

This is awful. First you give yourself some arbitrary goal, like learning a new language -- which you aren't normally motivated to do because it's miles away from what you should be doing to improve your life or the lives of others. Then you use an implant to goad your brain into doing it?

Roko said...

whether this thing comes with apple branding or not, I'd love one! In fact, I could see such a device as being pretty much the most important piece of technology I encounter in the next decade.

How can we help make this happen?

dylan said...

sergiy, perhaps this is a good way of short-circuiting the short-sighted selfish decision making we've evolved and help make far-sighted altruistic goals as instinctual as eating fatty food.

It might also be helpful to curb addiction to goals which are only useful in the context they evolved in, ie selfish hordeing of resources and eating to excess, which are now dangerous and detrimental to society as a whole.

Properly managed this could help change global motivations to create a better society. It could help make our good intentions and intellectual decisions become real motivating factors above the convenience we all crave.

I think it'd have to be an individual choice to opt-in and people should always have the option of opting out and selecting their own motivators - I'd never trust anyone else to fiddle with my psyche on such a fundamental level - but given that control it could help overcome all sorts of barriers.

God knows I'd do a lot more for myself and others if I had a bit more motivation!

Christopher said...

Anonymous, some sort of withdrawal is a possibility, but unlike addictive drugs, which completely flood your brain with dopamine, the iPlant would give you just enough to let you enjoy doing what you want to do. There must be limits to the strenght of the current and the lenght of time you can use it in one day, and it must be exceptionally hard to 'cheat' like Terry suggests. This will require some of the 'control freakery' Nato Welch worries about, but I think it's a bit like trusting Google Health - sounds crazy now but once people see how secure and useful it is they might reconsider.

Sergiy, there are pro-social applications too! Read the second chapter of the short story, it explores the idea of people motivating themselves to do cancer research.

Roko, great :) Post the video on your blog. Join the forum and help drive the discussion. Also you can have papercards and A4 posters posted to you that you can leave in strategic places, no cost. At this stage it's all about spreading the word, creating public demand, formulating the objections and developing a good plan of action.

gc_1976 said...

I agree with Sergiy. This sounds extraordinarily unnecessary and open to abuse.

Also, if we want to want to do something (like exercise more), but we don't... perhaps there is a more sane and simple way of resolving that issue than introducing technology that will undoubtedly change who you fundamentally are in ways you won't anticipate.

Tommi said...

gc_1976, there were experiments with mentally disordered people 40 years ago (by Heath) and the results were considerably beneficial.

If the idea catches on, it will be increasingly possible to fine tune the stimulation to result in just the kind of life you want, with little to no side effects, making it more appealing to healthy people as well.

Self-discipline is a great thing but not every one is up to be very self-disciplined. Why is it such a bad thing if someone would like to 'cheat' a little in this game of life? Would you feel superior that someone would be able to achieve the same things as you without the hard work?