Re: Homeostatic routines (was Re: definitions for transhumanism)

Anders Sandberg (
11 Apr 1998 21:28:09 +0200

PaR <> writes:

>For example, if you were to take a starving, battered Kurd and provide
>him/her with the lifestyle of the "average american" (whatever that
>is), the kurd would likely be exstatic - would have an "enhanced"
>emotional state of consciousness if you will. However, after some
>time, what usually happens is that that persons consciousness returns
>to "homeostasis" to a point where s/he would no longer be in that
>exstatic, elevated state. (In this example) living this new lifestyle
>would eventually become "normal" and blase.
> This same phenomenon occurs with people who win the lottery.

OK, I see what you mean.

The two examples are actually slightly different. In both there is a
sudden emotional change, but it is temporary (this is what you refer
to as homeostasis). But in the lottery example, there is no real
change in circumstances: the world looks about the same, and the
person's cognitive model is not changed - there is just more money. So
usually it is spent in accordance with the person's personality and
reality map, which doesn't lead to any dramatic changes. Compare this
to moving to a different culture: you cannot avoid it, it is a
persistent pressure forcing you to re-value your old maps. People who
move to a new culture do change, and does not return to their old
selves when they move back to the old land.

One could perhaps model this as elastic and plastic deformation: if
you squeeze a rubber eraser it will quickly return to its original
shape, but if you leave it clambed overnight it will be permanently

> Haven't you ever notced, either in yourself or from watching others, that often
> the times of greatest pleasure are ones that involve _change_
> from one situation to a much better situation. Regardless of how
> "good" either of the sitatutions "actually" are.

"Good" is not a scalar potential function (to use a physical analogy
again), it changes. I think the concept of flow (a la Mihály
Csíkszentmihályi ) is a good model for when we achieve true
happiness. He suggested that we achieve it when we feel that our
abilities are just right for the task at hand, they are being
exercised at their fullest, but we also make progress. It is then we
use our true capacity, and this creates what he calls mental order and
leads to a growth process (I'm mangling his argument awfully here). So
it is the task of moving from one situation to the other that is
important, the start and end states are less important (even if it is
of course much easier to feel good while moving towards a better

> What is wrong with having a highly dynamic personality? I suspect that
> this may become quite common in post humans.

It is not the dynamic personality that is troublesome (we already
switch our personalities slightly to fit the situation), it is having
a highly dynamic set of core goals and values that is bad. If they are
too fluid, they shift before any goals can be achieved and hence the
individual becomes very inefficient.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y