Tag Archives: Thought Experiment

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

fajb_brain_hacking_01_sep2012

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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What If We Didn’t Have To Sleep?

Last week, I went to bed early in hopes of getting some extra sleep. The next couple of days were going to be long and busy. I wanted to be as rested as possible in anticipation. Any over-worked college student who ever tried to do this in anticipation of an exam probably knows where I’m going with this.

My hopes were quickly dashed because I ended up lying in bed for several hours, tossing and turning, trying to will myself to sleep. I was tired and usually I’m pretty good at falling asleep when I need to, but not on this night. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t get the rest I wanted.

It was frustrating, but easily resolved the next day with more coffee. However, in recalling that frustration, I found myself thinking back to all the other nights where I just lay there in bed, trying to sleep and failing miserably. It led me to one inescapable conclusion. That’s a lot of wasted time that I could’ve used to do something else.

With that time, I could’ve written dozens of more sexy novels. For all I know, one of them might have been a masterpiece and a best seller. Sure, it’s more likely that most of them would either be average or crap, but the fact is I still would’ve written them.

With that time, I also could’ve read more books written more content for this blog, or worked out more. How much healthier or more well-read would I be? Sure, a lot of those books might have been comics, but I’ve shown before that comics can provide some pretty uncanny insights.

With that time, I could’ve just done more of the mundane stuff that gives me joy. I could’ve played more video games, danced to terrible pop music, or binged-watched more of the shows that my friends and family keep recommending.

My point is that I’ve wasted a lot of time in bed, failing to fall asleep. I doubt I’m alone either. How many others out there struggle to fall asleep at night? Seeing as how the market for sleeping pills is around $58 billion, I imagine it’s more than a few.

I’m not saying sleep is a waste of time. There’s a biological need associated with sleep. Like food, not getting enough of it will actually kill you in the long run. That puts sleep just above sex in terms of the needs hierarchy, albeit not by much. While the need for sleep is somewhat of a mystery, we know we have to do it. We just don’t realize how much of it consumes our lives.

As it stands, we spend about a third of our lives sleeping. That means every day we’re alive, we’re stuck only living part of it. That’s a lot of time that we end up losing. That leads me to a simple, but colorful thought experiment. What if we could get that time back? What if we, as a whole, didn’t have to sleep or only needed a little to be refreshed?

This isn’t one of my overly sexy or overly disturbing thought experiments. This is basically akin to wondering what it would be like to have superpowers, something most people do on a daily basis when they’re stuck in traffic. Not sleeping may not be as impressive as flying like Superman, but it would incur an undeniable impact on our lives and our society.

Some of it might be good. Some of it might be bad. Some of it might be downright mundane. For certain people, not sleeping just means more time sitting on the couch watching “Star Trek” re-runs. Whatever the case, it has many possibilities for better, for worse, and everything in between.

As much as I enjoy sleeping naked, I would prefer to have more time and energy to do more things. I might even end up doing those things naked anyways so it wouldn’t be too much of a loss. Sure, that might cause some legal issues, but I’m willing to make that trade-off.

There are a lot of things I’d like to do, try, or explore. The problem is often a confluence of time, energy, and focus. I don’t always have enough of all three and sometimes one overcompensates for the other. The need to sleep is the only factor that ties into all them.

I get that there are some who genuinely enjoy sleep. I admit it’s a great feeling, waking up on a Saturday morning, feeling rested and refreshed. However, is it really worth all that time we miss? Who’s to say that what we do with that extra time won’t be just as rewarding? Like I said, there are trade-offs.

I’m not sure what I would do if I didn’t have to sleep so much, but I like to think I’d be able to do more and be better. What about you, the wonderful readers of this humble, yet sexy website? What would you do if you had an extra eight hours of life every day? Would you be more productive? Would you be happier? Would you succumb faster to the looming plague of boredom?

It’s a non-disturbing, non-sexual thought experiment that I encourage everyone to try it and share your thoughts in the comments. We’re all the mercy of our need to sleep to some extent. It’s interesting to imagine what our lives would be like or what kind of person we’d become if we had more time to work with.

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A (Partially) Sexy Thought Experiment: Work Vs. Life

Here’s a question I’m sure everybody has asked themselves at some point in their lives, probably during a long day at work or during mid-terms at school. What if we didn’t have to work? What if our jobs was not critical to our survival?

That’s actually a question a lucky few don’t even have to answer because they live it. The trust fund babies of the rich elites, some of which go onto be the rich, arrogant shits on Instagram, already know that luxury. To them, it’s their perverse concept of normal. The idea of working to survive might as well be alien as having to cook their own meals. It just doesn’t resonate with them.

It’s because there are so few rich, arrogant fucks like that in this world that we can’t answer the question completely. Sure, we all fantasize about how we would live if we won the lottery. I sure have. That’s why I didn’t ask what you would do if you didn’t have to work. I asked what we would do so that means no elaborate fantasies about quitting your job.

By we, I mean us as a society. I mean us as a functioning, lawful, economically viable society and not some liberal utopia that exists only in Bernie Sanders’ dreams. I ask this question because I’ve been talking a lot about poverty recently. I’ve also talked about potential solutions, including the still-radical notion of a universal basic income. Now, I’d like to turn off the cold, harsh reality of politics and facts so we’re free to speculate.

I’m an erotica/romance writer so contemplating fantasies is easy for me. I kind of have to be good at it to write the stuff I write. That often means twisting and stretching my imagination in ways that even a team of Russian gymnast porn stars can’t match.

Every so often, I do try to think in extremes, like radical redesigns of the human body. Other times, I try to think of something a bit more feasible, like entirely eliminating all sexually transmitted diseases.

This experiment falls somewhere in the middle. It hasn’t been tried yet, but there are some places in the world that are conducting active experiments. The results of those experiments are a long ways off and it may be decades before a country has the balls to try it. Even so, like driverless cars and VR porn, it is conceivable that this will happen within my lifetime.

With that in mind, I want to create a scenario for people to imagine. It’s a scenario I think applies equally to men and women alike. The year is 2065. Society has progressed to a point where machines and AIs do pretty much all the work that humans used to do. This is an ongoing trend and one that will likely accelerate.

As a result, basic things like food, water, shelter, and utilities are pretty much free. No intensive labor is needed. To ensure that everyone has the means to live, every adult over the age of 18, although that age could be fluctuate depending on certain conditions, receives a regular basic income that’s today’s equivalent of $52,000 a year, which is the median income in 2013 for the United States.

Without getting into specifics about how the nuts and bolts of this system would operate, let’s just assume for the sake of the experiment that people receive this money the same way the elderly receive social security checks today. They can do with it what they please. They can still work. They can just sit home all day, smoke weed, and watch Netflix if they want. They have that freedom.

What would this do for our collective lives? What if working and surviving were no longer the same thing? This isn’t just a luxury for a bunch of rich fucks on instagram. This is an entire society where nobody has to worry about their next meal, their next rent check, or their utilities bill.

For some people, sitting at home all day, smoking weed and watching Netflix, is the first thing that comes to mind. However, not everybody is wired to do that and only that every day until they die.

People are diverse, eccentric, and erratic. They have all sorts of varying tastes, motivations, and aspirations. Many are stifled because they have to spend a good chunk of their time and energy working just to survive. How many more people would be inclined to pursue different passions if they didn’t have to work?

For someone like me, that passion involves writing erotica/romance. I know if I didn’t have to work, I would certainly spend more time writing more books. I may even find time to write about things I’ve never even contemplated. Not having to worry about money, food, or poor wi-fi would free me up to pursue entirely new ideas.

Beyond the lonely erotica/romance writers of the world, that extra time and energy could translate into more time focusing on family affairs. Parents could spend more time with their children. They would even have time to raise more children. As I’ve stated before, the birth-rate tends to decline when the economy tanks. Would a world like this lead to a never-ending baby boom?

How many families fall apart because the parents are too stressed to hold it together? How many children turn into assholes because their parents don’t have time to love them? How many families never even get started because the stress of work keeps them from having sex?

This is where the thought experiment takes on its sexier connotations. In this world, we don’t have to spend as much time worrying about work, money, or making the next rent payment. We actually have time to get out there, meet people, and form new social connections. Yes, some of these social connections would result in more sex.

Given the decline in sexual activity among millennials, who often enter a lousy job market with thousands of dollars in student debt, I can’t think of anything that would boost more libidos. When you’re less stressed and have more time, you can devote more energy into pursuing the relationships you want, sexual or otherwise.

Now for some uptight religious types, this is downright horrifying. There’s a reason why institutions like the Catholic Church and various protestant denominations revere the whole “protestant work ethic.” The impotent old men who run these institutions know that if young, sexy people are too busy working, they won’t be able to engage in large levels of fun and fornication. If they don’t know, it’s indirectly implied.

Maybe that ethic applied for an era where it took hundreds of people to farm land and hundreds more to protect that land from bandits, but in a future where technology and automation deliver our essentials, it’s kind of outdated. Like sacrificing a goat to ensure the rains come, it doesn’t need to be part of society anymore.

Being the optimist I am, I believe that a future like this will be a lot sexier than what we have now. I concede there will be those who use exploit this world and become fat, lazy slobs that would disgust Homer Simpson. However, I believe that the vast majority of people would use this world to forge new intimate connections.

Some of those connections will be simple fan clubs. Maybe more people will get together to share their fondness of baking dildo-shaped pottery. Who knows what gets certain people excited? Sure, some of those connections will lead to more sex, some of it of a kinky variety that will make every Catholic priest and mullah alive today faint in horror. I still think that, overall, it would be a net gain for the human race.

These are still the ramblings of an optimist who’s trying to make a living writing erotica/romance novels. This experiment may play out very differently in the minds of others, depending on how cynical they are about human nature or how many Nirvana songs they’ve listened to.

Whatever your outlook, I encourage you to do this experiment. I encourage you to contemplate a society where nobody has to work to meet their basic needs. What kind of society would it be? What kind of person would you be in that society? It’s an intriguing thought and, like so many of the others on this blog, one that has a lot of sex appeal.

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