Re: Tragedy and Boredom was Re: Why just simulation? (fwd)

From: Nick Bostrom (
Date: Sun Mar 18 2001 - 19:36:55 MST

Samantha wrote:

>Hugo Alves wrote:
> >
> > "In any case, we can say with absolute confidence is that boredom is not
> > going to be a problem. Boredom is an emotion and already we have means
> > (drugs etc.) that can reliably dispel boredom for extended periods (albeit
> > sometimes with side-effects). It is unthinkable that a jupiterbrain SI
> > wouldn't be able to figure out a way of avoiding the boredom emotion if it
> > chose to."
>I find this exceedingly hideous. Your world/universe/whatever and what
>you think of it and yourself does not make you happy or bores you so you
>propose to invent or buy a drug to make you feel better without any
>necessity for self-examination and possible change?

If you want a period of self-examination and brooding, you may take a
"drug" that induces that state for a while. But if you want to have fun and
boredom is a problem rather than a state you find useful, you would tune up
your fun-parameters instead. My point is that emotions will come under our
control in the future. If we have too much or too little of an emotion, it
will be more effective to access your emotion equalizer and make the
requisite changes rather than fumble around with bungy-jumping or whatever
other primitive methods you currently have of trying to adjust your own
brain-state by moving things around in the external world.

> I have friends who
>take some of these anti-depressants.
> I have watched many of them have
>their creativity and a large part of their joy flattened in order to
>have a even-tempered ok-ness take its place.

This is exactly the tragedy of our current lack of control over our
emotions. Our imperfect tools apparently don't permit your friends to enter
the emotional states they would like to be in. Instead it shifts them from
a horrible state into a merely awful state. Your friends might be among
those who would most benefit from having access to their emotion equalizer.

People also tend to forget, for some reason, that being happy doesn't imply
being drugged out or sitting passively and staring at one's navel. On the
contrary, happiness is often an enabling emotion that encourages us to be
more outgoing and explorative.

If by magic we were given an emotion equalizer tomorrow, I think it would
be wise to be extremely cautions in the beginning. We still don't
understand very well all the functional and social roles of our emotions,
so there'd be a considerable risk that we'd mess up in some way or get
stuck in a subopitmal state. It would be a tool that might require long
practise to master (like playing a musical instrument).

Our emotions are a central part of our identity, so thinking about
technological ways of changing them might be scary, and we should
definitely be careful. But ultimately, I'm sure that even this barrier will
be broken (provided we don't go extinct first).

Nick Bostrom
Department of Philosophy
Yale University

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