Jordan Lejuwaan • • 2 min read
Wireheading: The Conundrum of Uber-Hedonism & Simulated Bliss
Imagine, for one second, the ultimate bliss.
Ecstasy + that first kiss + the climax of your favorite song + winning the lottery + your best orgasm ever * 1,000,000,000.
Pleasure so fantastic that is almost hurts.
What if you could experience that 24/7 andnever
get bored with it?
Enter wireheading, a term coined by author Larry Niven for implanting a chip in the brain which constantly stimulates the pleasure center, yielding pleasure as described above. Sounds like science-fiction, no? Not completely.
In his essay “Physical Control of the Mind”, José M. R. Delgado, M.D. wrote:
“Studies in human subjects with implanted electrodes have demonstrated that electrical stimulation of the depth of the brain can induce pleasurable manifestations, as evidenced by the spontaneous verbal reports of patients, their facial expression and general behavior, and their desire to repeat the experience.”
Electrically stimulating some regions, eg. the mesolimbic dopamine system, results in extreme pleasure. This pleasure is said to be beyond that of food, drugs or sex. It is pure pleasure — something that the human body cannot ever tire of. Where as objects of desire grow less pleasurable as they are attained more often, the actual sensation of pleasure knows no bounds.
Here’s one more example to really nail in how amazing this feeling would be. There was a more extreme study in which lab rats could press a button to stimulate their own pleasure centers. The rats would forgo food and water and continue to press the button until they died of malnutrition. It’s a feeling that makes survival a secondary goal. Think about that for a second.
Let’s take one step back: would you want this?
The image of one’s self being hotwired to blindly feel out-of-this-world happiness sounds a little too Brave New World-ey at first thought. What would happen to relationships, family, jobs and all other aspects of ‘normal’ human society?
Let’s take one more step back: why do we value those things in the first place? Why does renouncing ‘the daily struggle’ for endless bliss immediately sound so wrong, so unethical… so inhuman? On a very basic level, all of our actions are motivated by hedonism anyways, so why not skip ahead to the ultimate form of hedonism?
In answering these questions, wireheading offers a unique way to ponder the meaning of life and the means for attaining that meaning.
I have yet to come up with a solid opinion on this so I’m interested to hear your thoughts in the Official Wireheading Discussion
If you’re interested in further musings on wireheading, check out the extremely informative and thought-provoking Wireheading.com.