Re: Affective mental "illnesses" and Super-Intelligence

Anders Sandberg (
19 Jan 1999 00:24:50 +0100

"Dave Hall" <> writes:

> Question to Extropian and Transhumanist thinkers and philosophers: A
> manic-depressive with a decade long history of recurrent hypomania/mania and
> mostly mild depressive episodes chooses after initial diagnosis and
> voluntary hospitalisation to forego the "benefits" of modern medication, so
> as to better learn to "use" the cycles to enhance thinking and ability.
> Prior to diagnosis, coping mechanisms were learned by trial and error but
> are felt to be sufficiently effective. This, of course, could just be
> warped, grandiose thinking and poor judgement as per the symptoms.
> Could this person considered to be a self-experimenting transhumanist OR
> irresponsible and delusional, a danger to society and to herself/himself?

Both. It depends a lot on the approach and how well it works; a person with mild swings could likely use them rationally, but if the swings are so severe that rationality is impaired it is likely that it is delusional. Of course, checking that rationality is impaired is hard to do "from the inside", for that you need to check past experience or ask friends.

But is this approach worth it? Does the total productivity/creativity/happiness produced increase with the swings, or would a more balanced state produce an overall better performance? It might be worth looking into.

> The reason I ask is that the subject of affective mental "illnesses" hardly
> seems to appear in transhumanist discussions, "science fiction" scenarios
> and essays.

I would guess it is more because it is regarded as counterproductive; few on this list would argue for the uses of the common cold, and could it or bipolar disorder be treated most would likely simply avoid them.

> It would seem to me (and admittedly my research on enhanced intelligence and
> so forth is still far too limited to say anything really sensible at this
> point) that studying what it is that made minds like Einstein's tick is a
> critical part of understanding true super-intelligence, and recreating it
> artificially.

I agree that understanding the brain (including through its disorders) will help us approach AI, SI et al but it is not clear to me that affective disorders are useful in themselves. It would be much better to be in a high energy active state for most of the time, with periods of deep, restful relaxation in between.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
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