RE: Affective mental "illnesses" and Super-Intelligence

Billy Brown (
Mon, 18 Jan 1999 17:49:07 -0600

Dave Hall wrote:
> Question to Extropian and Transhumanist thinkers and philosophers: A
> manic-depressive with a decade long history of recurrent hypomania/mania
> mostly mild depressive episodes chooses after initial diagnosis and
> voluntary hospitalisation to forego the "benefits" of modern medication,
> 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?

Probably the former - unless the mood swings are so large that they prove impossible to manage, which is something that can only be discovered through experimentation. Of course, such projects are a lot easier and _much_ safer if undertaken with the aid of an understanding friend or significant other.

> It would seem to me (and admittedly my research on enhanced intelligence
> 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. Rather most biotech/medical research appears to be directed
> at finding "cures" and treatments and better ways to ensure medication
> compliance.

Well, its critical to understanding natural intelligence variations (check out Eliezer Yudkowsky's web site for some interesting thoughts in this direction). Certainly IQ can vary in kind as well as quantity - there is a normal human distribution of cognitive abilities, and there are people who stray from it to greater or lesser degrees. There is a strong tendency for the medical community to label anyone who doesn't fall close to the average distribution as 'sick', and try to 'cure' them - never mind that I might think I've got a good deal.

OTOH, I doubt that such studies will have much relevance to intelligence enhancement. It doesn't look like biotech is moving fast enough for that. Genetic engineering approaches might require detailed studies of natural variations, but they would take generations to get anywhere interesting. Meanwhile, neural interfaces will appear in the same time frame but lead to explosive innovation. Once you can wire a computer into your brain you can start figuring out how to use it do things for you - first math, then memorization, then more complicated tricks.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I