Re: For Anders Sandberg Re:Sociopaths

Anders Sandberg (
25 Oct 1999 15:58:45 +0200

"Robert J. Bradbury" <> writes:

> On 25 Oct 1999, Anders Sandberg wrote:
> > (Antisocial personality disorder actually seems to be the most biologically
> > well-defined personality disorder).
> Sure, you could postulate a faulty gene or two in the "face/emotion"
> recognition circuits and have a person that simply cannot "read"
> other people and is therefore insensitive to them. Doesn't take
> much to go from that to "antisocial" or sociopath.

Actually, I would look for genes dealing with the connection frontal lobes - limbic system, like for example the medial forebrain bundle. But I would expect antisocial personality disorder to be multifactorial. The face/emotion recognition problem could be shared with (say) Asperger's Syndrome.

> > Some are likely easier to treat than others, but the main
> > problem is of course that if you have a less-than-optimal personality
> > you may not realise it is bad for you ("I'm all right, it is everybody
> > else who are idiots!").
> Or we (as a society) may not be organized to deal with the non-norms
> since our structures are organized for the "norm".

This is largely true, but I guess ASPD would be a handicap even in more broad-minded societies. It is IMHO more of a cognitive deficiency than a social one, although it is largely expressed through dysfunctional social behavior.

An amusing take on this appeared in my sf scenario, where people who by current standards are sociopaths hold respected positions in the libertarian society on the planet Atlantis. As long as you know that you are dealing with a sociopath, have a society where it is harder for individuals to be coercive and can treat the worst cognitive problems it is not a major disadvantage (just make sure the contracts are binding). But this is after all science fiction. (Coming to a web near you - but I think I might have to censor some ideas, I have to write up papers on them first :-)

> > Usually people get treated for antisocial personality disorder because
> > they got caught after some crime - *they* don't consider themselves
> > sick in any way. There are likely plenty of antisocial people out
> > there who are not ill enough to get forced into treatment but remain
> > ill enough to mess up their own and others lives.
> Yes, and its going to be very interesting when we start to uncover
> the polymorphisms in those genes and unravel their contributions
> to "mal-adjustment". ... Hey!, I'm not a mal-adjusted sociopathic
> little twerp, I'm just "being" me!

This is actually a deep transhumanist dilemma. On one hand we want morphological freedom, including the freedom to redefine our minds far beyond what is currently human. On the other hand, we acknowledge the risks of getting stuck in bad, irrational attractors that are not just subjectively bad but also have objective bad effects on the person, such as being an antisocial twerp. How to set up an infrastructure that enables us to augment ourselves and have personal freedom, but still limit the risks of getting trapped into bad personality states that we might (when having them) not want to leave? Maybe self-augmenting people should participate in some kind of peer group to be reviewed?

I'm reminded of one of Harry Harrison's stainless steel rat novels where the protagonist takes a sociopathy-inducing drug to find out what his enemy is going to do, and then of course don't want to change back. Fortunately he had hidden a sleep grenade under the drug bottle and then erased the memory of doing so...

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
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