Re: Controlling the male sex drive

Anders Sandberg (
29 Jun 1999 20:14:52 +0200

"J. John Bloch" <> writes:

> And Anders Sandberg <> replied:
> > So what is the different from getting a limbic implant which you
> > gradually tune from "Libido = 584" to "Libido = 36"? It is still a
> > conscious mean of change.
> While the decision may be a conscious one, the process itself would be
> autonomic. Such a behavior-modification implant would not really involve any
> true shift in personality, since (presumably) if it was removed one would
> revert back to one's previous state.

It is not obvious that this would be so. Our minds change all the time, apparently striving to be consistent in some sense. Take the effects of antidepressant drugs like Prozac; they can help a person out of a negative mental state, and once the person is back at normal levels the treatment can sometimes be discontinued, and the person will remain healthy since the negative feedback loops have been broken.

> I would still favor a slow and gradual
> process of change that actually addresses the root causes of the undesirable
> behavior, rather than something that merely attacked the symptoms.

Sure. This is of course a valid criticism of the above way of treating depression; the relapse frequency is lower among people who have been given therapy and hence learned cognitive tools to deal with depression than people who have only got out of it through medication. However, I think it is wrong to say that the therapy deals with root causes of depression (which I consider a largely biological problem, although the interplay between a faulty serotonin system and thinking are important here), I would rather say it just provides a more efficient and long-lasting defense.

The same would go for changing personality. Different methods have different advantages and disadvantages; there is nothing making a through method requiring a lot of effort inherently better than a quick trick, they have to be evaluated depending on what one wants to achieve.

>(Just as

> I would favor giving people a third eye through genetic engineering rather
> than physically implanting mechanical eyes in every newborn's forehead, to
> take an extreme example.)

The problem here (beside the obvious ethical one about modifying non-consenting individuals-to-be) is that it doesn't work for us - we weren't born with third eyes (assuming they are desirable), so we have to get them in other ways than genetics. And to a child, it doesn't matter if the eye was implanted at birth or genetically induced.

> Then Anders Sandberg <> wrote:
> > What I worry about is that the tendency to suggest that the "solution"
> > to many personal problems today is to not see the problem as a problem
> > needing a real solution but something to be accepted. It is even more
> > obvious when you discuss death. A lot of psychology seems based on the
> > idea of making people worry less by accepting various bad things
> > rather than changing them ("I'm fat and crave sugar - but I feel good
> > about it!").
> Here we agree completely. But I would add a third possibility; some things
> that some people see as "problems" others see as positive attributes.

Of course. Having a green skin can be both a fashion statement and a problem, depending on person and context.

> To
> return to the issue of the male sex drive (and there's nothing that says the
> principle doesn't apply to the female sex drive as well), I would argue that
> the reason that it is so overwhelming is because it is so vital to our
> survival as a species. I believe that procreation is a good thing, and
> should be encouraged (especially among Transhumanists). Technologies and/or
> memes that deliberately cut down the birth-rate among the most productive
> and inventive members of society (and I include Transhumanists in that
> category) are ultimately detrimental to our species' welfare and should be
> avoided.

I think you take a slightly too universalist view here. You demand that others should do things for the good of the species; as I see it I don't care the least about the species - it is an abstraction rather than something real with a value - what I care about are individual humans and their happiness. Some get happy by not having children and others get happy by having them.

I seriously don't think birth-rates are very important - there are enough human genes around. What matters is memes: are people growing up into great individuals, with solid thinking and happy minds? Just making more bodies doesn't create more true humans. I also think it is a fallacy that productive and inventive people spread their good traits genetically; most experience suggests that it is memetic transmission rather than genes that make people productive. Besides, not having a family or extensive sex life can be helpful for being productive and inventive.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
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