Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday, January 4, 2010

Wanting vs. liking

I think this is really central to our understanding of human nature. Scientists are now starting to distinguish pleasure from wanting. This really rings true to me: we often seek things we don't particularly like, and fail to seek things we do like.

When this author talks about wireheads, he's referring to people who have had an electrode placed in their brains, directly stimulating a particular brain center. That sort of thing offers tremendous insight into how we operate.

Hacking Humanity

I believe that mankind's biggest challenge today is not technological, but psychological. We could wipe North Korea off the map, but we have no idea how to turn it into a stable, happy society. We have unbelievable creature comforts, but rampant depression and anxiety.

Think of medicine a few hundred years ago: if you went to the doctor with a lump on your arm, he'd probably start bloodletting. Now, the doctor will say, "Ah, that lump is a . Take this pill for two weeks and it'll go away." And he'll be RIGHT. I think we can get to the same level of expertise with human behavior. "Doctor, I broke up with my girlfriend six months ago, but I still have depression. Doctor: Hm, you need 6 hugs a day and 20 minutes of exercise, and you'll feel better in 3-6 weeks."

Note that I'm not just talking about self-help; that's a huge industry with very little rigor to back it up. I'm talking about the kind of scientific caution that has worked so well in other branches of science. And that's why I've created this blog: to post those little gems that change the way I think and behave.