Better living through MIND CONTROL
December 27, 2005 5:13 PM   Subscribe

ESB (Electrical Stimulation of the Brain) can be used to create feelings of intense euphoria and (in some unintentional cases) paranoia. Since we don't know too much about what's inside our skulls, to what extent should we be allowed to control it?
posted by pantsrobot (23 comments total)
If it is your own head, do what you want and of course take responsibility for any consequences. Why do we as a society feel compelled to protect people from themselves?
posted by caddis at 5:17 PM on December 27, 2005

Because this can be used to create pleasure. And that's SINFUL.
posted by kafziel at 5:20 PM on December 27, 2005

Didn't Woody Allen already invent this in the movie Sleeper? Or maybe it was in Barbarella?

I can imagine myself 20 years from now bitching about how young people have it so easy: "Back in my day we didn't have no fancy-pants Electrical Stimulation of the Brain. All we had was mechanical stimulation of the genitals and had to rely on $90 hookers, alcohol, and internet porn, and even then it was all over in 60 seconds. Kids these days have it too easy."
posted by Meridian at 6:01 PM on December 27, 2005

Also in Demolition Man.
posted by puke & cry at 6:19 PM on December 27, 2005 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure Larry Niven was writing about this in the Sixties.
posted by maxsparber at 6:29 PM on December 27, 2005

Yes, watch for this to be outlawed if it can result in any meaningful change in the state of your mind. Double-speed illegality if it induces any kind of pleasure or hallucinations.

After that happens, watch for black market ESB speakeasies. I look forward to it.
posted by mullingitover at 6:47 PM on December 27, 2005

They've already got the pleasure device for women. Nice to see that this works on everyone...

However, I wonder if this is going to be incorporated in the "holodecks" of the future to stimulate pain, pleasure and other feelings.
posted by wazzits at 7:02 PM on December 27, 2005

No post about brain electrodes would be complete without a mention of Michael Crichton's The Terminal Man.
posted by TedW at 7:08 PM on December 27, 2005

Wireheading has been a sci-fi concept for a good while. Somehow, though, I don't see it taking off as a new social scourge, unless brain surgery becomes as cheap as a vial of crack.
posted by RylandDotNet at 7:15 PM on December 27, 2005

Why do we as a society feel compelled to protect people from themselves?

I think it has something to do with not seeing the necessity of dealing with 2nd-order effects.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:16 PM on December 27, 2005

Heh, I didn't know it had been so thoroughly explored in fiction already. I wonder how reality is going to match up
posted by pantsrobot at 7:16 PM on December 27, 2005

maxsparber I'm pretty sure Larry Niven was writing about this in the Sixties.

Ah yes, the Tasp, "A device that induces a current in the pleasure center of the brain, at a distance."
posted by Meridian at 7:25 PM on December 27, 2005

maxsparber I'm pretty sure Larry Niven was writing about this in the Sixties.

Make that the 70s. Meridian nailed it.
posted by whozyerdaddy at 7:46 PM on December 27, 2005

I knew my fellow nerds would help me out on this one.

Wasn't Louis Wu a wirehead?
posted by maxsparber at 8:07 PM on December 27, 2005

To me this really resembles the mood stimulators in Blade Runner (the book, not the movie). You could simply dial a mood you wanted to feel and the BAM! instant emotion. One of my favorite moments in that book is when the wife dials up depression just because she feels she should experience it every once in a while.
posted by cyphill at 8:08 PM on December 27, 2005

maxsparber: Indeed he was. I think Niven's best treatment of the idea, though, is in Death by Ecstasy, a Gil Hamilton story.
posted by infidelpants at 8:09 PM on December 27, 2005

Fortunately, our emotions are more complicated than simple microelectrode arrays can create. Since we really have very little idea of the way the brain really creates the different emotions, and can only observe transient charge differences as moods occur, worrying about mind control is a bit pie-in-the-sky. Certainly we can stimulate a mass release of endogenous opiates, but is that true ecstasy? No more than a shot of heroin.

In the meantime we had better watch out for more insidious forms of mind control...
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:26 PM on December 27, 2005

...At his console he hesitated between dialing for a thalamic suppressant (which would abolish his mood of rage) or a thalamic stimulant (which would make him irked enough to win the argument).

"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same. I'll dial the maximum and you'll see a fight that makes every argument we've had up to now seem like nothing. Dial and see; just try me." She rose swiftly, loped to the console of her own mood organ, stood glaring at him, waiting.

He sighed, defeated by her threat. "I'll dial what's on my schedule for today." Examining the schedule for January 3, 1992, he saw that a businesslike professional attitude was called for. "If I dial by schedule," he said warily, "will you agree to also?" He waited, canny enough not to commit himself until his wife had agreed to follow suit.

"My schedule for today lists a six-hour self-accusatory depression," Iran said.

"What? Why did you schedule that?" It defeated the whole purpose of the mood organ. "I didn't even know you could set it for that," he said gloomily.

"I was sitting here one afternoon," Iran said, "and naturally I had tamed on Buster Friendly and His Friendly Friends and he was talking about a big news item he's about to break and then that awful commercial came on, the one I hate; you know, for Mountibank Lead Codpieces. And so for a minute I shut off the sound. And I heard the building, this building; I heard the - " She gestured.

"Empty apartments," Rick said. Sometimes he heard them at night when he was supposed to be asleep. And yet, for this day and age a one-half occupied conapt building rated high in the scheme of population density; out in what had been before the war the suburbs one could find buildings entirely empty . . . or so he had heard. He had let the information remain secondhand; like most people he did not care to experience it directly.

"At that moment," Iran said, "when I had the TV sound off, I was in a 382 mood; I had just dialed it. So although I heard the emptiness intellectually, I didn't feel it. My first reaction consisted of being grateful that we could afford a Penfield mood organ. But then I read how unhealthy it was, sensing the absence of life, not just in this building but everywhere, and not reacting - do you see? I guess you don't. But that used to be considered a sign of mental illness; they called it 'absence of appropriate affect.' So I left the TV sound off and I sat down at my mood organ and I experimented. And I finally found a setting for despair." Her dark, pert face showed satisfaction, as if she had achieved something of worth. "So I put it on my schedule for twice a month; I think that's a reasonable amount of time to feel hopeless about everything, about staying here on Earth after everybody who's small has emigrated, don't you think?"

"But a mood like that," Rick said, "you're apt to stay in it, not dial your way out. Despair like that, about total reality, is self-perpetuating."

"I program an automatic resetting for three hours later," his wife said sleekly. "A 481. Awareness of the manifold possibilities open to me in the future; new hope that - "

"I know 481," he interrupted. He had dialed out the combination many times; he relied on it greatly. "Listen," he said, seating himself on his bed and taking hold of her hands to draw her down beside him, "even with an automatic cutoff it's dangerous to undergo a depression, any kind. Forget what you've scheduled and I'll forget what I've scheduled; we'll dial a 104 together and both experience it, and then you stay in it while I reset mine for my usual businesslike attitude. That way I'll want to hop up to the roof and check out the sheep and then head for the office; meanwhile I'll know you're not sitting here brooding with no TV." He released her slim, long fingers, passed through the spacious apartment to the living room, which smelled faintly of last night's cigarettes. There he bent to turn on the TV.

From the bedroom Iran's voice came. "I can't stand TV before breakfast."

"Dial 888," Rick said as the set warmed. "The desire to watch TV, no matter what's on it."
Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep ?
posted by y2karl at 8:43 PM on December 27, 2005

Since we don't know too much about what's inside our skulls, to what extent should we be allowed to control it?

Interesting question. I'm no acolyte of the idea of free will but if we, for the sake of argument, assume that it exists: doesn't that mean that we have the innate power to control what goes on inside our skulls by force of will?
posted by spazzm at 9:21 PM on December 27, 2005

spazzm: It starts getting super-meta here. Can you control what controls your thoughts of controlling? urgh. What about the bedridden and the invalid? Wouldn't controllable stimulation be better than boredom interspersed with pain?
I wouldn't want someone setting limits on what I could dow ith my own brain any more than someone setting limits on how much of my arm I'm allowed to cut off (as a made up example)
posted by pantsrobot at 12:28 AM on December 28, 2005

Bender?! Are you jacking on in there?!
posted by mulligan at 7:25 AM on December 28, 2005

I wouldn't want someone setting limits on what I could dow ith my own brain any more than someone setting limits on how much of my arm I'm allowed to cut off (as a made up example)

Drug laws already do that and if the people responsible could outlaw suicide in a way that made sense, they'd probably do that too.
posted by creeptick at 9:05 AM on December 28, 2005

From Scientific American, an article I read a while back... a very interesting bit of history:
The Forgotten Era of Brain Chips
posted by madc0w at 3:00 PM on January 17, 2006

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