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Prison Or Brain Hacking? A Choice That May Shape Our Future

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How does a civilized society deal with its least civilized individuals? This is a question that every society has had to answer, going back to the hunter/gatherer era. We live in an imperfect world full of imperfect individuals. Some are more imperfect than others, so much so that it’s not always possible to reform them into functional members of society.

Most people who commit crimes are not monsters, nor are they sadists who get their joy by torturing the innocent. A vast majority are just people who find themselves in bad situations where they make wrong decisions, exercise poor judgment, or lack impulse control. For these people, fines and brief imprisonment are usually sufficient.

For those who become career criminals, neither respecting the law nor seeking to abide by it, the current system is woefully inadequate. It’s part of the reason why criminal justice reform has become a hot topic. We’re finally learning that throwing people into prisons where they’re dehumanized, degraded, and tortured doesn’t help them become productive members of society. Go figure.

There’s plenty of room for improvement. Some countries have demonstrated that there are more effective, more humane ways to treat criminals. However, even those systems have their limits. As long as human beings remain an imperfect species, we’ll still have to deal with these deviant, violent, and inherently dangerous individuals.

For the moment, our options for dealing with these people are few. It primarily involves incarceration or intense therapy, often coupled with drug therapy. While this can be helpful to some, there are severe limitations. Some individuals don’t even want treatment and even those who are caught don’t always respond.

With that in mind, allow me to present a not-quite-hypothetical scenario. What if, instead of prison or therapy, we gave offending criminals an option to undergo an invasive treatment that affects the primary source of their deviant behavior in the brain? Jail is still an option for those who aren’t keen on messing with their brain wiring, but for certain people, an alternative is an alternative.

What I just described is one of those concepts in which the science is there, but the technology and the courts haven’t caught up to it. I know whenever I talk about emerging technology, be it sex robots or artificial wombs, I venture pretty far into speculation territory. Some of these advances rely on science and tools that don’t yet exist. This isn’t one of those cases.

In July 2018, the Journal of Neuroscience published a study revealing that targeted stimulation of the prefrontal cortex reduced aggressive tendencies in test subjects. Before you start getting fever dreams of mad scientists strapping people to gurneys and sticking wires in their ears, you can rest easy. This isn’t the kind of electroshock treatment that find their way into one too many horror movies.

These treatments have ground-breaking implications. They prove that it’s possible to temper or mitigate certain behaviors in people. The study doesn’t specify the limits of the effects or if it can be applied to something other than aggressive behaviors. It’s still a proof of concept and one that could compound the impact of other emerging technologies.

We already have tools like CRISPR that allow us to tweak our genes. We also have companies like Neuralink that are actively working on implants that could fix, augment, or expand our brain capacity. While men like Elon Musk and Ray Kurzweil often discuss these advances within the context of keeping humanity on pace with artificial intelligence, there will likely be some interim uses for these technologies.

Tempering violent behavior in people with significant cognitive impairments is just one possible use, but one that has the potential to change how we think about crime and punishment. Think back to those people I mentioned earlier who just inherently violent. They can’t manage their emotions or control their anger. They don’t think before they act and some don’t even feel guilty about what they do.

Like it or not, these people exist. I’ve known people in my life who have terrible impulse control and fly into a rage over the smallest things. Some of those people have had issues with the law and I often see in them a sense of never-ending frustration. Many don’t like that they have these issues. A few have tried to get help, but it doesn’t always work.

I suspect that if some of those people were given a chance to treat their tendencies with targeted shock therapy or a brain implant, they would jump at the chance. Deviant tendencies aside, they seek some level of function in their lives. If tweaking their brain is the difference between prison and freedom, then they’ll take that risk.

Turning people who might have been unrepentant psychopaths into productive, non-violent members of society is an objective good. The technology to do just that is not that far off and more study could help us refine the process, so much so that prison might be less necessary in certain cases. Given how expensive it is to imprison people, it’s an alternative worth pursuing.

Along with that undeniable good, however, there are plenty of potential dangers. Anyone who has ever seen one too many psychological thrillers or just read “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” can easily imagine how this kind of technology could be abused.

Tempering someone’s violent behaviors is all well and good, but why would it stop there? The brain is capable of all sorts of behaviors, deviant and otherwise. Say a society determines that other non-violent behaviors, be it sexual promiscuity or binge-watching Netflix for too many hours, are not socially desirable. What’s to stop them from imposing this on their citizens?

Some countries probably already fantasize about technologies that enable them to directly pacify their citizens, rendering them weak, passive, and easily manipulated. In his famous novel, “1984,” George Orwell called these people proles. However, in the book, the deviants had to be tortured and re-educated. If Big Brother had access to this technology, it would be a simple medical procedure.

That has plenty of terrifying possibilities for abuse. What if someone uses brain stimulation to prevent people from having homosexual urges? What if someone uses it to treat those who identify as transgender? There’s no evidence that the techniques in the study would work on that, but there’s no evidence to say it’s impossible.

Its use will definitely be controversial. That much, I’m certain of. It’s not advanced enough to become a legitimate treatment for anything. At the moment, direct brain stimulation is utilized for a specified set of conditions and it’s often a last resort. Using it on healthy people who just want to cull their violent urges is uncharted territory.

Whether it enters the picture for criminal justice reform is anyone’s guess, but if the process works, someone who has dealt with one too many repeat offenders will try to use it. From there, the precedent will be set. It’s hard to say what form it’ll take, but it’ll take society into uncharted territory with respect to controlling our minds.

Perhaps, at first, the process would be voluntary and only be presented in conjunction with jail or some other treatment. It’s also possible that the courts will determine a strict set of criteria for when the state could force this treatment onto someone. There are probably a few repressive governments who would try to use this on an industrial scale. I won’t say they’re names, but most people know who they are.

Like any emerging technology, there are risks and rewards worth considering. We stand to benefit greatly by having a society with as few violent individuals as possible. We also stand to lose a great deal if we allow misguided authority figures to determine how we use this technology.

I’m not qualified to determine whether or not someone should have their brain hacked. I don’t know that anyone is. However, I also don’t deny that the human brain, as magnificent as it is, has plenty of flaws. We should go about fixing those flaws, especially in people who are disproportionately impacted by them. We just have to be very careful about how we manage it.

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How We’ll Save Ourselves From Artificial Intelligence (According To Mass Effect)

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Growing up, my family had a simple rule. If you’re going to talk abut about a problem, you also have to have a solution in mind. By my parents’ logic, talking about a problem and no solution was just whining and whining never fixes anything. My various life experiences have only proved my parents right.

When it comes to a problem that may be an existential threat to the human race, though, I think a little whining can be forgiven. However, that shouldn’t negate the importance of having a solution in mind before we lose ourselves to endless despair.

For the threat posed by artificial intelligence, though, solutions have been light on substance and heavy on dread. It’s becoming increasingly popular among science enthusiasts and Hollywood producers to highlight just how dangerous this technology could be if it goes wrong.

I don’t deny that danger. I’ve discussed it before, albeit in a narrow capacity. I would agree with those who claim that artificial intelligence could potentially be more destructive than nuclear weapons. However, I believe the promise this technology has for bettering the human race is worth the risk.

That said, how do we mitigate that risk when some of the smartest, most successful people in the world dread its potential? Well, I might not be as smart or as successful, but I do believe there is a way to maximize the potential of artificial intelligence while minimizing the risk. That critical solution, as it turns out, may have already been surmised in a video game that got average-to-good reviews last year.

Once again, I’m referring to one of my favorite video games of all time, “Mass Effect.” I think it’s both fitting and appropriate since I referenced this game in a previous article about the exact moment when artificial intelligence became a threat. That moment may be a ways off, but there may also be away to avoid it altogether.

Artificial intelligence is a major part of the narrative within the “Mass Effect” universe. It doesn’t just manifest through the war between the Quarians and the Geth. The game paints it as the galactic equivalent of a hot-button issue akin to global warming, nuclear proliferation, and super plagues. Given what happened to the Quarians, that concern is well-founded.

That doesn’t stop some from attempting to succeed where the Quarians failed. In the narrative of “Mass Effect: Andromeda,” the sequel to the original trilogy, a potential solution to the problem of artificial intelligence comes from the father of the main characters, Alec Ryder. That solution even has a name, SAM.

That name is an acronym for Simulated Adaptive Matrix and the principle behind it actually has some basis in the real world. On paper, SAM is a specialized neural implant that links a person’s brain directly to an advanced artificial intelligence that is housed remotely. Think of it as having Siri in your head, but with more functionality than simply managing your calendar.

In the game, SAM provides the main characters with a mix of guidance, data processing, and augmented capabilities. Having played the game multiple times, it’s not unreasonable to say that SAM is one of the most critical components to the story and the gameplay experience. It’s also not unreasonable to say it has the most implications of any story element in the “Mass Effect” universe.

That’s because the purpose of SAM is distinct from what the Quarians did with the Geth. It’s also distinct from what real-world researchers are doing with systems like IBM Watson and Boston Dynamics. It’s not just a big fancy box full of advanced, high-powered computing hardware. It’s built around the principle that its method for experiencing the world is tied directly to the brain of a person.

This is critical because one of the inherent dangers of advanced artificial intelligence is the possibility that it won’t share our interests. It may eventually get so smart and so sophisticated that it sees no need for us anymore. This is what leads to the sort of Skynet scenarios that we, as a species, want to avoid.

In “Mass Effect,” SAM solves this problem by linking its sensory input to ours. Any artificial intelligence, or natural intelligence for that matter, is only as powerful as the data it can utilize. By tying biological systems directly to these synthetic systems, the AI not only has less incentive to wipe humanity out. We have just as much incentive to give it the data it needs to do its job.

Alec Ryder describes it as a symbiotic relationship in the game. That kind of relationship actually exists in nature, two organisms relying on one another for survival and adaptation. Both get something out of it. Both benefit by benefiting each other. That’s exactly what we want and need if we’re to maximize the benefits of AI.

Elon Musk, who is a noted fan of “Mass Effect,” is using that same principle with his new company, Neuralink. I’ve talked about the potential benefits of this endeavor before, including the sexy kinds. The mechanics with SAM in the game may very well be a pre-cursor of things to come.

Remember, Musk is among those who have expressed concern about the threat posed by AI. He calls it a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization. Unlike other doomsayers, though, he’s actually trying to do something about it with Neuralink.

Like SAM in “Mass Effect,” Musk envisions what he calls a neural lace that’s implanted in a person’s brain, giving them direct access to an artificial intelligence. From Musk’s perspective, this gives humans the ability to keep up with artificial intelligence to ensure that it never becomes so smart that we’re basically brain-damaged ants to it.

However, I believe the potential goes deeper than that. Throughout “Mass Effect: Andromeda,” SAM isn’t just a tool. Over the course of the game, your character forms an emotional attachment with SAM. By the end, SAM even develops an attachment with the character. It goes beyond symbiosis, potentially becoming something more intimate.

This, in my opinion, is the key for surviving in a world of advanced artificial intelligence. It’s not enough to just have an artificial intelligence rely on people for sensory input and raw data. There has to be a bond between man and machine. That bond has to be intimate and, since we’re talking about things implanted in bodies and systems, it’s already very intimate on multiple levels.

The benefits of that bond go beyond basic symbiosis. By linking ourselves directly to an artificial intelligence, it’s rapid improvement becomes our rapid improvement too. Given the pace of computer evolution compared to the messier, slower process of biological evolution, the benefits of that improvement cannot be overstated.

In “Mass Effect: Andromeda,” those benefits help you win the game. In the real world, though, the stakes are even higher. Having your brain directly linked to an artificial intelligence may seem invasive to some, but if the bond is as intimate as Musk is attempting with Neuralink, then others may see it as another limb.

Having something like SAM in our brains doesn’t just mean having a supercomputer at our disposal that we can’t lose or forget to charge. In the game, SAM also has the ability to affect the physiology of its user. At one point in the game, SAM has to kill Ryder in order to escape a trap.

Granted, that is an extreme measure that would give many some pause before linking their brains to an AI. However, the context of that situation in “Mass Effect: Andromeda” only further reinforces its value and not just because SAM revives Ryder. It shows just how much SAM needs Ryder.

From SAM’s perspective, Ryder dying is akin to being in a coma because it loses its ability to sense the outside world and take in new data. Artificial or not, that kind of condition is untenable. Even if SAM is superintelligent, it can’t do much with it if it has no means of interacting with the outside world.

Ideally, the human race should be the primary conduit to that world. That won’t just allow an advanced artificial intelligence to grow. It’ll allow us to grow with it. In “Mass Effect: Andromeda,” Alec Ryder contrasted it with the Geth and the Quarians by making it so there was nothing for either side to rebel against. There was never a point where SAM needed to ask whether or not it had a soul. That question was redundant.

In a sense, SAM and Ryder shared a soul in “Mass Effect: Andromeda.” If Elon Musk has his way, that’s exactly what Neuralink will achieve. In that future in which Musk is even richer than he already is, we’re all intimately linked with advanced artificial intelligence.

That link allows the intelligence to process and understand the world on a level that no human brain ever could. It also allows any human brain, and the biology linked to it, to transcend its limits. We and our AI allies would be smarter, stronger, and probably even sexier together than we ever could hope to be on our own.

Now, I know that sounds overly utopian. Me being the optimist I am, who occasionally imagines the sexy possibilities of technology, I can’t help but contemplate the possibilities. Never-the-less, I don’t deny the risks. There are always risks to major technological advances, especially those that involve tinkering with our brains.

However, I believe those risks are still worth taking. Games like “Mass Effect: Andromeda” and companies like Neuralink do plenty to contemplate those risks. If we’re to create a future where our species and our machines are on the same page, then we would be wise to contemplate rather than dread. At the very least, we can at least ensure our future AI’s tell better jokes.

 

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Filed under futurism, human nature, Mass Effect, Sexy Future, video games

A Drug That Eliminates The Need For Sleep (Is Almost Here)

Whenever I talk about the possibilities of human enhancement, sexy and otherwise, I do so with the hope that the benefits outweigh the costs. I understand that all progress comes at a cost. I also understand that it’s impossible to know the full extent of those costs until the genie is out of the bottle and the bottle is destroyed.

Never-the-less, I still think the risks we take with future technology are worth taking. In fact, I would argue we have to take them because our caveman tendencies towards tribalism and our inherent vulnerability to bullshit is a clear indication that our current situation is not working well enough. We, as a species, need to improve if we’re going to function on this confined planet.

Certain enhancements will do a lot more than others. I’ve mentioned emerging tools like smart blood, brain implants, and CRISPR. It’s impossible to overstate the kind of impact those advances will have on the human condition. They will be akin to giving a light sabre to a chimp.

Other enhancements, however, will have a more subtle effect. They’re also likely to happen sooner, despite Elon Musk’s best efforts. That brings me back to sleep and the annoying need to spend a third of our lives doing it. I’ve already asked people to consider how their life would change if they didn’t have to sleep as much. Well, I have a confession to make. That was kind of a loaded question.

That’s because that, as we speak, there are efforts underway to reduce or eliminate our need to sleep. This is not some far-off fantasy out of a “Star Trek” re-run. This is actually happening, courtesy of DARPA, also known as the Defense Department’s officially-sanctioned mad science division.

However, there’s nothing mad about their motivations. DARPA is in the business of developing obscenely-advanced technology to ensure that the United States Military remains the most technologically advanced military on the planet by an obscene margin. Part of that effort involves developing technology that creates soldiers that don’t have to sleep.

In the grand scheme of things, that’s one of the least weird projects they’ve pursued. This is a department that is researching flying submarines for crying out loud. As awesome/crazy as those concepts are, this potential breakthrough in sleep technology could have implications that go far beyond having soldiers that don’t require a nap.

According to Wired, DARPA’s years of mad science has culminated in the development of a spray that users would apply, just like ordinary nasal spray. The spray contains a naturally-occurring brain hormone called Orexin A, which helps keep the brain in a state of alertness without the aid of heavy stimulates or copious amounts of coffee.

It’s somewhat crude in that it’s basically dumping chemicals into the brain and hoping for the best. That approach is not that different from those of other psychoactive drugs, which are fraught with all kinds of danger. Unlike other emerging technologies, though, this one is already happening. From here, it’s just a matter of refinement.

At the moment, the technology is basic and unrefined, but that’s how all technology starts. Just look at the models of old cell phones. That refinement will occur, though. There’s too much potential profit in it. Between truckers, grade-grubbing college students, and marathon gaming, there are a lot of people out there who would gladly pay to not have to sleep.

Depending on how much it costs, I would certainly jump at the chance to not feel so damn tired on a Monday morning. It would also give me more time and energy to write more sexy novels or explore more sexy issues on this blog. When sleep becomes optional and you have a lot of stuff you want to do, this sort of technology suddenly becomes invaluable.

I doubt I’m the only one whose life would invariably change, due to this technology, and I’m not just talking about hardcore night owls. Think about all the people who work demanding, energy-sapping jobs. These jobs don’t just put a huge premium on sleep. They can be downright damaging. Take away the need to sleep and suddenly, these people can have a life again.

That, in many ways, is the biggest implication of this technology. Suddenly, that third of our lives that we spend sleeping suddenly becomes open to us. Human society may vary wildly across time, space, and sexual practices, but they’re all bound by the same limits. People still need to sleep and rest. What happens to those societies when that changes?

It’s impossible to know, but we may find out soon enough. As we’ve seen before with other popular drugs, once a market is established, people build entirely new lifestyles around it. We saw it already with boner pills. This one may end up being even more groundbreaking and it doesn’t require an awkward conversation with your doctor.

While this is sure to enrich drug companies to no end, it’s also the first step in a much larger process of removing the burden of sleep. Other emerging technologies that I’ve mentioned, such as smart blood and brain implants, will take it a step further.

Theoretically, they could both rewire or augment our biology so that we never need sleep in the first place. There would be no need to take a drug. There would be no need to worry about ever being tired. It may even make it so that other people who have to sleep are pitied the same way we pity those who don’t have high-speed internet.

These kinds of advancements will already enhance so much of the human condition, from cognitive function to mental acuity to sexual prowess. Removing sleep from that equation gives those same enhanced humans even more time to flex their enhancements. It’s hard to know what people will do with that kind of time on their hands, but I imagine some of it will inspire a few sexy novels.

A society full of people who never need to sleep is completely unprecedented. Hell, a society where sleep is entirely optional is unprecedented as well. It wasn’t that long ago that society was at the mercy of the night. Even if you weren’t tired back then, you couldn’t do much when it was pitch black outside. Then, electric lighting came along and freed people to do more with their time.

When technology gives people an opportunity to work around the limits of nature, they generally take it. The consequences or implications are rarely clear, but given how little we think things through, I can’t imagine we’ll hesitate to make this technology part of our culture.

Time will tell. Money will be made. Entirely new lifestyles will emerge. It’s amazing to imagine what we’ll do with ourselves when sleep is no longer an issue. I hope it helps me write more sexy novels. I also hope it helps others live a richer life. Whenever it happens, I look forward to the day when beds are just used for sex and showing off fancy linens.

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How We’ll (Have To) Manage Love In A World Of Brain Hacking

Picture the following scenario. If you’ve ever been to a fairy tale wedding or if you’ve been part of some big romantic ceremony, you won’t need much imagination. You’ll just need to have been sober at the time that moment played out. Even if you haven’t, it should still be easy to picture.

It’s a beautiful moment. Two people are standing at an altar together, proclaiming their love for each other in front of friends, family, and whatever deities they happen to prefer. It all goes so well. There are tears of joy, heartfelt gestures, and powerful moments that will last a lifetime.

That all happens in this scenario. It plays out. It’s every bit as beautiful as I just described, and then some. Hold onto that sentiment because now I’d like to complicate it, but not in the way you think.

I already painted a similar scenario when I talked about the possibility of hacking the human brain to induce love and ensure two people only ever love each other. This is someone similar, but one that factors in the bigger picture that tends to dilute all romantic moments. Again, it’s not quite as unsexy as you think, but it’s close.

Go back to that scenario. It’s still every bit as happy and sincere as any non-arranged, non-shotgun marriage could possibly be. Then, just before the chosen holy man declares two people spouses, a state-licensed lawyer enters the room. Yes, I understand that already seriously undermines the moment. Bear with me. It’s about to get weirder and less sexy.

The lawyer isn’t there to ruin the moment. He or she is actually there because the law requires him to be there. They have a very simple, but very necessary job. Before two people can be declared spouses, complete with all the tax benefits and insurance perks that come with it, the lawyer has to make sure that nobody’s brain was hacked to crate false, insincere feelings of love.

I’ll give everyone a moment to scoff, roll their eyes, or just stare blankly in confusion. I understand completely. What I just described sounds like something out of a Matrix-themed wedding that went horribly wrong. I wish I could say it was just another one of my not-so-sexy thought experiments. Unfortunately, this scenario reflects a serious issue that we may have to confront.

Think about what that lawyer had to do in that situation. Beyond the innate anxiety that comes along whenever a lawyer gets involved in a situation, especially if you’ve been skimping on your taxes, they’re tasked with the legal equivalent of making sure a Disney-style spell isn’t at work here. They have to, for the sake of the law and basic human dignity, that the love someone professes isn’t false.

Why would they even have to do that in the first place? Well, if you’ve been following along on this blog, you’ve noticed I’ve been talking a lot about the sincerity of love and how false perceptions may impact those powerful emotions. Even before that, I’ve talked about the prospect of enhancing the human brain and using those advances to make us sexier and more romantic.

These kinds of enhancements have so much potential to change the way we love, make love, and forge romantic commitments to one another. It may very well change the kinds of love stories we tell. For me, a guy trying to make his career in the erotica/romance industry, it’s kind of important that I follow these advances.

With every advance, however, comes various legal, ethical, and morally ambiguous headaches that quickly turn into migraines when you consider the implications. In that context, few advances have more implications than brain enhancement.

Considering how easy our brains are to fool, it makes sense to enhance this organ over all others. Yes, that means our genitals too, even though they’re already getting their share of enhancements. Every romantic and sexy feeling we’ve ever had or experience starts in our brain. Enhance that and everything we know about sex, love, and marriage goes out the window and into an incinerator.

A person with a brain implant is inherently capable of love, passion, and sex appeal that exceeds anything our natural biology can match. If you’d don’t believe me, then ask a woman about the efficiency of her vibrator compared to that of her lover. It’s not a fair comparison, to say the least.

Like any tool humans have ever made, we’ll use brain implants and brain enhancement to improve our lives. That includes are sex lives as well. There’s a reason why it’s a huge chunk of the pharmaceutical industry’s profits. That’s where the legal issues come into play, but not in the way you might think.

The second someone puts anything in their brain that resembles a computer, it inherently becomes subject to hacking. It’s an inescapable and often underreported pitfall of the digital age in which we all so eagerly partake. If it has a computer in it, then it can be hacked. Chances are, it has been hacked at one point, probably far more than you’d want to know.

That kind of hacking is hard enough to deal with. Once the computers go in our brains, though, then the stakes go up considerably. It’s one thing to hack a website and plaster it with gay porn or dead kittens. It’s quite another to hack someone’s brain and affect the way they think, feel, and behave.

I don’t doubt for a second that those behind the brain implant industry, such as Neuralink, will do everything they can to prevent this. I also don’t doubt that there will be other, less ethical individuals will work just as hard to frustrate those people. I’m sure Elon Musk has nightmares about the kind of horrors hackers will unleash with brain implants. It makes his desire to go to Mars almost seem logical.

As such, we’re going to need new laws on the books to govern the use and impact of brain implants. That tends to happen with every major advancement. From cars to computers, a civilized society needs some mechanism for governing new technology. With brain implants, though, that mechanism may get unusually personal.

Think back to that scenario I described earlier. Now, imagine one of the individuals getting married was that bitter ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend from high school. I’m talking about the kind of person who will set fire to a car and send dead animals in the mail to someone who refuses to reciprocate or affirm their emotions.

Imagine that kind of person knowing it was possible to induce false emotions in someone. Like the evil prince or witch in every Disney movie, they have a mechanism for casting a real, non-magical love spell on someone to make them feel exactly what they want them to feel. Unlike the world of Disney, though, it won’t be undone by kissing a toad.

Given the insane lengths to which people will go for love, it’s entirely plausible that someone would use a brain implant to create fake emotions in people who refuse to love them willingly. It’s also plausible that those same people will push that kind of brain hacking to insane degrees.

It means someone could effectively rewire their spouse’s brain so that they act as a slave. Their entire sense of identity, will, and autonomy is subverted. Their entire lives are effectively stolen and controlled by the hacker. While they would not realize this until their brain was un-hacked, assuming that was possible, it would be the most coercive, manipulative act it’s possible to do to another person.

Granted, there may be some societies that wouldn’t mind this sort of thing. I’m sure there are sociopathic dictators in the world who would love to hack the brain of every citizen into loving them without question. For most ordinary people who aren’t in charge of their own countries, though, it’s a terrifying thought.

That means it will probably be necessary for both industries like Neuralink and major governments to deal with this possibility. It’s hard to know what form that will take. Perhaps every brain implant will require some sort of kill-switch. Perhaps certain functions need to be sanctioned and re-sanctioned by a doctor or official.

It’s hard to say and I’m certainly not smart enough to figure it out. I imagine men like Elon Musk and Bill Gates have already given it way more thought than I ever will. Whatever form it takes, though, it will force us to change our understanding of love, sex, and how we relate to each other.

The stakes our high, but the situation is simple. If we’re going to love each other and make love to each other in enhanced ways, then we had damn well better be sure those feelings are ours and not those of some asshole hacker.

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On Love, Brain Hacking, And The Future Of Monogamy

Picture the moment, if you can, even if you’re a hopeless cynic. It’s your wedding day. The weather is perfect. Everyone in your family is present. You’re wearing the most overpriced clothes you’ve ever worn and you’re about to marry someone you love with all your heart.

Whether you’re a man or woman, you’ve probably contemplated that moment. It’s one of those beautiful moments that the entire wedding industry is built on. You’re standing at the altar in front of friends, family, and whatever deity you want involved. You’ve found the love of your life. You believe, with your heart, brain, and genitals, that this is the only one for you.

I’m not denying the beauty of that moment. I’ve been to my share of weddings. It’s a special moment for a great many people. Even I’ll admit I’ve gotten choked up at those moments. It’s the culmination of a journey, one that plays out both in real life and in sexy novels. Two people find each other, fall in love, and commit to one another. It’s seen as the pinnacle of romance and the ultimate ideal of love.

It’s also, and I say this as a fan of love, an ideal that tends to fall apart once that moment has passed. Statistics about divorce and the frequency of sordid affairs is proof enough of that. There are a select few who manage to avoid these odds and hold onto that moment. It’s couples like that who inspire romantics like myself to try to capture that in sexy stories. It’s the fact they’re so rare, though, that makes those moments so frustrating.

For once, there’s no elaborate science or hidden secret to this phenomenon. Most people understand on some levels that those feelings we have on our wedding days when we believe with all our hearts that we’ve found the love of our lives are a gamble. At worst, though, they may be fleeting and we all know why.

No matter how certain or passionate you might be about your lover, there’s always an unavoidable uncertainty that goes along with that feeling. On that particular day day, you may know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love your spouse with all your heart and they love you back. It’s the many days after that are the problem.

Maybe on the very next day, you cross paths with someone else who evokes even more intense passions than your spouse. It doesn’t matter if they’re a bartender, a stripper, or a sexy ski instructor. You have no idea what kind of passions you’ll feel until you meet them.

The same goes for your spouse. Maybe on the morning after your wedding, they go out for a walk and just bump into someone that they fall in love with on the spot. In an instant that you never could’ve predicted or prevented, that ideal love you thought they had for you is either dented or shattered.

It’s a painful, but sobering thought. You really can’t control who you and your lover will meet, nor can you control how either of you will react. You can barely trust your own emotions, at times. It’s even harder to trust with certainty that someone else’s emotions will remain in line with yours.

It leads to all sorts of heartache, from bitter divorce to Taylor Swift songs. It incurs the kind of personal pain that can shatter hearts, souls, genitals, and everything that goes with it. No matter what we do, even when we resort to open relationships, it never seems to stop. We want that ideal moment at our weddings, but we can’t avoid the potential soul-crushing heartbreak it may lead to down the line.

Now, I’m sure all those reading this, regardless of whether you’re married, single, or living in a hippie commune where orgies happen every Sunday, are feeling a bit conflicted. Don’t worry. That’s normal. It’s that conflict between wanting to find love and risking soul-crushing heartbreak that’s at the heart of every great romance. However, I’d like to complicate it even more.

Go back to that special moment on your wedding day. What if, before you and your spouse walked down the isle, you had another little ceremony of sorts? In that ceremony, you each took a moment to reprogram your erratic, caveman brains to ensure that the heightened passions of this day never fade.

It goes way beyond just signing legal documents that say you can file joint tax returns. Now, your brains are wired in a way so that no matter what happens in the future, you’ll always love each other, want to make love to each other, and stay committed to each other until the day you die. The passion will always be strong, the sex will always be great, and no amount of sexy ski instructors will ever change that.

It won’t change because it can’t. No matter what you, your spouse, or any sexy pool cleaning guy/house maid does, they cannot get your brain to react with the same passionate upheaval that comes with love and lust. They might as well be trying to teach calculus to a drunk monkey. You and your spouse love each other that much.

Sure, that love involves manipulating your brain, twisting your emotions, and effectively brainwashing yourself into feeling a certain way. It opens the possibility that some of that passion you feel for your spouse may not be entirely natural. It would be real, but it would be forced to some degree. From your perspective, though, it still wouldn’t matter. You would still feel it as though it were real, unfiltered love.

If you had that option on your wedding day, would you take it? Would you be willing to manipulate your own brain so that you never had to experience divorce, heartache, or uncertainty ever again? It seems like an extreme, like the ultimate prenuptial agreement, but with far more at stake than who gets custody of the dog.

It’s also not entirely a hypothetical scenario, either. It’s also not a coincidence that I’m writing this after my long rant about the mixed romantic messages of prenuptial agreements.

One of the reasons people tend to avoid those legally critical agreements is because they’re so high on love that they don’t think it’s necessary. They’re clinging to that moment on their wedding day, not even acknowledging the possibility that their marriage could end and their love could fade. Statistically and biologically speaking, it’s fairly certain that passions will fade and marriages do end.

So rather than getting lawyers and legal documents involved, why not cut to the core of the issue and adjust your brain? It is, after all, the primary reason why your passions fade and you feel the inclination to cheat. Your genitals may be an accomplice, but your brain is always the mastermind. Not changing it on your wedding day is like Batman letting the Joker get away and giving him an unlimited supply of napalm.

I know I make it sound simple, tweaking the wiring of our brains. I understand that’s not possible right now, which is why divorce lawyers, mistresses, and gigolos won’t be going out of business anytime soon. However, there’s another business that just started up and it may both undermine those age-old industries while completely changing our approach to romance.

Remember Neuralink? I wrote multiple posts about it, saying it’s the most important business enterprise in the history of humanity and may very well make us all inherently sexier and more romantic. Well, the mere fact that we’re starting to put things in our brains to tweak how it works marks the first step in changing how we approach love, marriage, sex, and relationships. Divorce lawyers should be very scared.

Think back to the uncertainty about you and your lover’s passions that I mentioned earlier. Right now, we have no way to control them. We can’t stop ourselves from wanting to love some random person we bump into. We can’t stop ourselves from wanting to have meaningless sex with that cute bartender who keeps undressing us with their perfect, baby blue eyes.

However, the mere act of wanting something starts in the brain. The desire to seek variety, both in terms of chewing gum and lovers, is hardwired into our brains and it has no off switch. With the aid of a targeted brain implant, we can effectively install one.

That means that no matter how sexy or seductive that bartender is, we won’t feel the urge to have sex with them in the nearest utility closet. We won’t even feel the slightest bit of attraction to them. We literally cannot feel or think about such things. Our brains would reserve all our passions and horiness for one person.

On paper, it’s perfect monogamy. Sure, it’s somewhat forced. Sure, the fact we need a brain implant would be tangible proof about just how uncertain we are about our ability to keep our hearts and genitals in check. Would that really matter, though? The passions the two lovers feel would still be every bit as powerful. From their perspective, the presence or absence of a brain implant makes no difference.

It’s distressing on some levels, but intriguing on others. We all seek love. We all cherish whatever love we find. Why shouldn’t we do everything we can to preserve it? Until now, we’ve always been at the mercy of our caveman brains and the erratic genitals that aid them. Once we learn how to effectively rewire our brains, we can get around that issue. However, would that still be genuine love?

Some would argue, and I would agree to some extent, genuine love needs to come through struggle. Just hacking your brain to ensure you never love anyone else is like using a cheat code in a video game. Sure, you still beat the game, but you still cheated. You can’t say you accomplished more than someone who beat the game without cheat codes.

It’s more a paradox than a thought experiment, but one we’ll have to deal with at some point. As I’ve said before, we need to upgrade our brains in order to survive in the long run. We, as a species, cannot survive if we keep killing each other over rival gods, skin color, and who has the best college mascot. We’ll only overcome those nasty inclinations once we purge them from our brains.

Once we change our brains, though, we inherently change how we love each other and how we express that love. By default, we’ll also change how we have sex with each other and be intimate with each other. The extent of that change, as well as how we’ll deal with it, is impossible to know right now. Like love itself, we probably won’t know it until we feel it for ourselves.

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The (Hopeful) Features Of My Future Brain Implant

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In talking so much about the possibilities and implications of brain implants, like the ones Elon Musk wants to build with his new company, Neuralink, I’ve strained my own brain trying to grasp the bigger picture. I don’t know if that counts as irony, but it feels oddly appropriate.

It’s an exciting topic to write about and discuss. The idea that we may one day think beyond the limits of our crude, error-prone caveman brains is so intriguing. So many of the problems we face today, both as individuals and as a society, can be attributed in some way to our collective brain workings. What will happen to us an those around us when those workings are tweaked?

It’s hard, if not impossible, for us to know for certain. I’m sure someone like Elon Musk knows more than an aspiring erotica/romance writer like me. I’m sure he sees the same societal conflicts we all do and understands that his company, Neuralink, will be the first step towards transcending them.

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Having contemplated the bigger picture and all the implications that come with it, I thought I’d take a step back and try a different mental exercise. Hopefully, it’s one in which other regular readers of this blog can participate. It involves a much simpler, less mind-bending thought experiment. If you can make a Christmas list, you can participate.

It involves a simple question. If you could create your own advanced neural implant to tweak/enhance your brain, what kinds of features would it have? Take yourself 30 years into the future. Put yourself in a Neuralink clinic. Someone has kindly paid for the best, most customization neural implant on the market. What would you want it to do?

There are so many aspects of our lives that our brain controls. Everything from our attitudes, our competence, our happiness, and even our capacity to love others begins in our brains. Every skill we have or want to have requires some aid from the brain. Any effort to tweak or enhance that is going to affect all of those features.

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To get things started, I’ll share my own personal wish list. It will likely be different than everyone else’s to some extent, but I’m sure there will be some similarities to. So here’s Jack Fisher’s top features for his future neural implant. I hope Elon Musk is taking notes.

  • The ability to remember, recall, and comprehend anything on demand, ensuring nothing is forgotten.

  • The ability to do advanced math in my head so I can calculate complex financial decisions on the spot and/or check the claims made by others.

  • The ability to read over vast quantities of text, be it a novel or a user agreement, and retain the information at greater speeds.

  • The ability to revise and edit large quantities of text quickly and efficiently.

  • The ability to process emotions faster and read the emotional queues of others with far greater efficiency.

  • The ability to focus on a given task and not be easily distracted.

  • The ability to learn or download new languages on demand to facilitate communication with others.

  • The ability to learn or download new mental or physical skills on demand.

  • The removal of any prejudicial inclinations or irrational assumptions when encountering a new person or situation.

  • The ability to minimize the need for sleep and improving the quality of sleep.

  • The improvement and enhancement of sexual function, including the ability to perform and sustain sexual arousal, as well as the ability to experience more intimate sensations.

  • The ability to communicate directly with the minds of others with a similar neural implant in order to share experiences, thoughts, and emotions.

  • The ability to search the internet for new information with only thoughts.

  • The ability to link my mind with a computer and turn my thoughts into text or images.

I know this is a long list of reasons, some of which are more feasible than others. I’m sure features like memory and math skills will be among the first major features of neural implants. I imagine features that improve sexual function will be next. If any technology can improve sex, then that’s going to have priority. That’s just an inescapable fact.

Other features like downloading knowledge and skills will probably be trickier. I imagine we won’t have that ability for decades. However, there are still plenty of smaller, more subtler abilities that would definitely enhance our everyday lives. Just being able to focus better without the aid of dangerous ADHD drugs is a pretty big deal.

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That’s just my list though. What about everyone else? What would you want your advanced brain implant to do? How would you improve the functioning of your caveman brain? Please share your wish list in the comments. If you want to open up this discussion even more, let me know. I’ll be happy to expand it because it’s just that interesting/sexy.

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Neuralink: How Brain Enhancement Will Make Us Sexier (And More Loving)

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At the beginning of every year, millions people stand in front of the mirror, look at all the weight they’ve gained since Christmas, and promise to themselves that they’ll eat healthier and exercise more for the coming year. It’s an entirely noble promise, seeking greater health. It’s also a promise that most are destined to break.

Any effort to better ourselves, no matter how healthy or noble, is an uphill battle. That’s why the vast majority of diets do not work on a long-term basis. You can lose a little weight here and there, but it almost always comes back. Then, you hate yourself a little more, look for excuses, and go back to drowning your sorrows in a tub of ice cream.

However, it’s not entirely your fault that you broke that promise to yourself at the beginning of the year. It’s not even the fault of bullying, the media, or even food companies that insist on making unhealthy food that tastes too damn good. No, it’s the fault of one organ in your body. No, I’m not talking about your stomach either. It’s your brain.

Yes, your brain is the reason why you can’t keep your promises and stay health. Your brain is the reason why you can’t keep the weight off when you diet. Your brain is the reason why your body is shackled to unhealthy habits that keep our bodies flooded with greasy, sugary food and on the couch.

Naturally, this does affect our sex lives, our love lives, and everything in between. When we’re unhealthy, it makes it damn hard to get in the mood, sustain the mood, and make that mood meaningful. How can we when we’re craving sugar cookies, beer, and Netflix? Again, it’s our brains. It’s the reason why we can’t live healthier, sexier lives.

That brings me back to Neuralink. Yes, I’m not quite ready to shut up about it yet. There’s just so much to talk about and so many implications, some sexier than others. I’ve been talking largely about the big picture and the pragmatics of brain implants and brain enhancement so far. Now, I’d like to get to the sexy stuff.

Last year, I talked a bit about how I essentially shamed myself into adopting a healthier lifestyle. I went from a cookie-eating, soda-drinking couch potato to a guy who exercises almost every day and tries not to gorge on donuts every day. It shows in my health and my sex appeal. I can take my shirt off at the beach and be fairly certain that the women who see me won’t be disgusted.

That process of getting healthier was hard. My brain was my biggest enemy in that it fought me every step of the way. That’s because the human brain isn’t necessarily wired for a healthy lifestyle in an era where there are no famines and no hungry bears trying to eat us. It’s wired to basically do what makes it and the body happy.

Unfortunately, that often means eating copious amounts of the fattening sugar that used to be such a rarity in the natural world before modern sugar processing. Again, you can blame big corporations as much as the kale-eating hippies of the world, but the issue isn’t capitalism. It’s our faulty brain wiring that hasn’t been updated in 200,000 years.

Our brain is wired to value sugary, tasty foods that give us a quick dopamine rush. It’s also wired to maintain existing habits and mentalities over creating new ones because change is a stressful process. Being the crude piece of hardware that it is, the brain generally tries to avoid stress.

Naturally, this unhealthy brain wiring affects our sex lives as well. While we are a very social species, our brain often struggles between selfish and affectionate tendencies. That means that once the brain gets its dopamine rush from the sex and love we make, it’s generally pretty selfish about it.

That’s why we have men who will do a few casual humps, blow their load, and then look for an excuse to turn on Sportscenter. That’s why we have women who will just lie there, bark orders, and expect their partner to do all the work. That’s why we find ourselves in relationships where two lovers just aren’t on the same page, get bored with each other, and look for the next dopamine rush, whether it’s the pool guy or the babysitter.

It’s a sad and unpleasant byproduct of a brain that has been stuck on the same settings since the stone age and is at the mercy of crude, unguided chemistry. There are those who can overcome it to lose a lot of weight and form marriages that last more than half-a-century. Unfortunately, that’s the exception and not the norm.

That’s where Neuralink comes in. It’s doing what no diet pill, self-help book, or talk show host ever dared to do. It’s getting right to the root of these problems, which is in our brains. Tweak the wiring and suddenly, every weight loss guru is out of a job.

How would that work? Well, keep in mind that Neuralink‘s stated goal is to integrate computer technology directly into our brains to improve various brain functions. Well, that improvement part isn’t just limited to basic math and keeping up with the latest season of Scandal.

Picture the brain of someone who is insanely fit, like the Rock or Kate Hudson. How is their brain wired? How do they get themselves to do what they do? Well, we already know how to scan brains. It wouldn’t be easy to decipher the particulars of that wiring, but it’s not impossible. A neural implant would simply mimic that wiring, setting our brains up so that we have the right mindset for being healthy.

It goes even farther than that though. A neural implant means we’re not restricted to the brain’s traditional limits. That means it could, in theory, wire our brain in a way that makes us less hungry. We would no longer succumb to that powerful impulse to buy a dozen donuts every time we walk by a Krispe Kreme.

Beyond mitigating hunger, an implant could also wire our brains in a way that makes us feel an extra rush of dopamine when we exercise. Remember that so-called “coregasm” I mentioned when I talked about different kinds of orgasms? Well what if doing 100 sit-ups or 100 push ups gave us the kind of orgasm usually reserved for three-ways with cheerleaders and Hugh Jackman? You’d become a fitness junkie overnight.

The same extends to food. One of the reasons why we can’t stop eating all the unhealthy shit we eat is because it tastes so damn good. It tastes good because our brains make us believe it tastes good. Well what if a neural implant could make it so a bowl of kale tastes like a slice of chocolate cake dipped in bacon grease? Suddenly, eating healthy isn’t just practical. It’s a goddamn party.

So a neural implant can wire your brain in a way that makes you eat better, exercise more, and feel healthier. That’s all well and good, but looks alone aren’t going to make you sexier. You can look like an Olympic athlete, but if you’re an amateur once the panties come off, then you might as well be Al Bundy.

A neural implant with just the right settings can change that. Ladies, have you ever had a man just hump you for a few minutes, blow his load, and then roll over and fall asleep before you even had a chance to get wet? Well, it’s not entirely his fault. He’s still an inconsiderate asshole, but there is a biological reason for it.

In the brain, there’s this chemical called prolactin. It has a lot of complex impacts on the brain, but it’s what keeps a man from going more than a few rounds between the sheets. When his brain is full of this chemical, his soldier will not be saluting you for a while. Add the shot of endorphins that comes with a typical male orgasm and he might as well have a tranquilizer dart in his head.

Now tweak that brain chemistry a bit. Make it so a man’s brain isn’t wired so he’s “one and done,” so to speak. Ladies, you now have a lover who can hang in there for multiple rounds, keep the mood sexy, and ensure you that special trip to O-Town you crave. That’s what a neural implant could do.

It’s not just for the men either. Guys, have you ever had one of those ladies who, despite your best efforts, can’t seem to make it all the way to O-Town? Well, there are any number of reasons why that could be and not all of them are your fault. Many, in fact, are in the woman’s brain.

Using the same approach, adjusting the wiring for female settings, a neural implant could install the mental equivalent of an express lane to O-Town. That means that men can feel like Brad Pitt on crack when they’re making love, sharing multiple round-trip vacations to that special place of sensual bliss. How much better would your sex life be if your brains were wired like that?

Go even farther than that. Go beyond having the kind of hot sex that sets bed sheets ablaze. Get a little romantic and suddenly, brain implants become the most romantic thing that doesn’t involve diamonds and Hugh Grant.

It’s true. Love also has a powerful basis in the brain. There even this chemical called Oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone.” It’s basically your brain’s way of creating bonds and enhancing intimacy. It’s what helps mothers bond with children, husbands bond with wives, and children with dolls. It is basically the chocolate frosting of brain chemicals.

Normally, hormones like oxytocin are secreted erratically and chaotically in the brain. It’ll emerge whether you’re making love to your spouse on your anniversary or banging your tennis instructor. Nature is just too crude and too immature to wire the brain in a way that really makes those lasting bonds stick.

Add a neural implant to the mix and suddenly, you can channel oxytocin like a biological smart bomb. You want to be more intimate with your partner? Well, you don’t need to go on vacation or buy an expensive diamond. Just adjust the settings of your implant and just like that, you’ve got more love in your heart than every Barry White song ever made.

Are you excited/horny yet about Neuralink‘s full potential? Does the idea of getting a neural implant now feel like the equivalent of a VIP pass to the Playboy Mansion? I think I’ve done enough to pain a very rosy, very sexy picture of the future. Now there will be risks, as there are with all new technologies, but I honestly can’t think of a risk that’s more worth it.

If we have a way to fix our inherently flawed brains, then we won’t just be healthier and happier. We’ll be able to love, make love, and share love on a level that no human has ever experienced before. Sure, it’s still a ways off, but with Elon Musk at the helm and Neuralink providing the platform, that future is within our grasp. I say it’s worth embracing.

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