Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

Why not wireheading?

A ton of money and engineering is being spent on trying to reach the dream of full-body haptic VR. Many of the components are ready, and they're being pieced together bit by bit into a full system. The company furthest along doesn't really think of these as individually owned devices though (probably because their full thing requires a giant hydrolics-powered arm that swings you around and lets you 'run' in place), more of something you'd find at an "arcade" or other experience-center. To me that's a mistake, in-line with companies that try to justify space research with 'space tourism' for the ultra-rich, but we'll see how it plays out. Go-Kart tracks are still a thing after all.

Prices may fall, but by how much? Physics demands certain requirements of a powered machine capable of suspending and manipulating an average human, and that level of equipment isn't going to fall that much anytime soon without breakthroughs in other technologies.

All this leads me to the titular question, albeit my terminology may not be precise. Why not devote the money and time into figuring out wireheading? By that I mean not just implanting a wire to stimulate one's pleasure center, but the act of implanting a wire or device or devices that can input arbitrary signals to the brain as if they were real. (If someone has a better word I'm willing to update this post with it...) I'm not fully convinced that the combination of vibration, heat, and pressure will really simulate the feeling of holding a cat, but if you hooked up some signal loggers to my brain, you could have me hold a cat, record it, and then replay it later.

The vision of wireheading is that any vision or sensation that is possible can be fed into your brain and you will experience it as if it is happening. You don't have to actually be falling in order to experience the sensation of falling like you would for a suit system, you just have to convince the brain that it's falling. You don't have to have some complicated perfume system to synthesize a limited number of real odors to add that extra bit of immersion, you just have to convince the brain that it's smelling something. And so on.

It would be an incredibly complicated challenge. But the fruits of it are that it can apply to every human, and requires no physical space like room-VR or suit-and-arm-VR. It bypasses a lot of secondary concerns that come with any hardware solution like letting people with disabilities use it or having to clean and maintain things. Just stick some wires in my skull and we're good to go! Or maybe a 'hat' version can be developed one day, I don't care.

Finally the indirect brain research required would help us along the path to brain emulation. That could be a fruitful path to AGI and the Singularity, but something like an Em age would be fascinating as well.

Besides the live-in-a-simulation and game-like applications, there are full AR applications as well, commonly described with terms like 'neural laces'.

What's required to get these things going? There are a few hush hush companies like Kernel and Neuralink in the shallows, but how far will they get, especially being based in California? I worry sometimes if the world needs another non-nuclear war to kick start some ugly human experimentation studies again, like Unit 731, but ones that in any case need to be done to advance understanding. One of the only alternatives I can see is some crazy genius willing to self-experiment, but the odds of messing up are so high because he'd be experimenting on that which gives him the drive to experiment and understand the results, that he probably wouldn't get far, so we really need a number of such people. Could those companies find and fund them? Maybe. Finally, teams in places like Dubai or mainland China are the remaining chances. China is already on the move with developing CRISPR for humans, and if they discovered several edits that work on living human adults for desirable traits, I can see them successfully forcing such edits on their population. In the US we still have people opposed to blood transfusions.

Posted on 2017-09-11 by Jach

Tags: singularity


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