• Welcome to droqen's forum-shaped notebook. Please login.

The Hacking of the American Mind

Started by droqen, August 12, 2022, 12:37:04 PM

Previous topic - Next topic


re: Robert H. Lustig's
"The Hacking of the American Mind"


Quote from: p1, John Butler YeatsHappiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.

My kinda quote! Damn!


August 12, 2022, 12:49:32 PM #2 Last Edit: August 12, 2022, 12:52:18 PM by droqen
Quote from: p6entire industries and governments have pushed hedonic (reward-generating) substances and behaviours on their unsuspecting populations for profit, which has only caused further unhappiness.

I thoroughly expect Lustig to get more into the explicitly stated link here later in the book: reward-generating X unhappiness.


Starseed Pilgrim presented a broken hedonic loop.


Quote from: p7[..] the toxic environment in which we currently find ourselves [..and] how we remain there. ([..] the punch line is that it's not about personal responsibility, but only you can help itself, because no one else will.)

It's not true that no one else will, but I like the dichotomy presented here. It may not your personal responsibility... but it may still be your personal problem.


Quote from: p32.. this is very likely why there are so many different definitions of happiness--many different on-ramps, many different roads, many different speed limits--but only one destination for contentment.


Quote from: p69-70There's a price to pay for reward. It used to be measured in dollars, pounds, or yen, but now it's measured in neurons. As the monetary price of reward fell, the physiological price of reward skyrocketed. [..] overstimulation with multiple rapid firings can cause those receptor-containing neurons to go into overdrive, leading to cell damage or death, termed excitotoxicity.


Quote from: p84-86Substance abused used to be scarce--a luxury for most of us--and dopamine was at a low ebb. [..] Alcoholism became a major societal problem throughout Europe in the 1700s once it became available and cheap. [..] But despite our affinity for alcohol, the dopamine rush still remained a luxury, out of the reach of most people, either due to religion, morality, reputation, or expense. [~] Slowly but surely, advance in technology, commodity crop farming, and globalization have made various rewarding substances readily available, and the ability to engage in rewarding behaviours not just possible but almost constant.

An interesting thought -- what if the virtue of the 'difficulty' of difficult games is that they allow us to hold dopamine addiction at arm's length? The ineffable value of difficulty, of rare reward, is that I am drawn to it because it is an organic way to avoid the decline of psychic reward due to dopamine tolerance? On an earlier page the author describes the phenomenon:

Quote from: p72-73As an illustration, let's choose a peanut butter cup, the cheapest of all thrills (but it just as easily could be a shot of espresso or vodka [or a win in a videogame]). In terms of the reward neuron[..]: Get a desire (dopamine). Get a fix. Get a temporary rush (EOPs). Yum. But, man, that peanut butter cup was so delicious. [..] Go ahead, eat the second one--they come two to a package, after all. Get another rush; this one won't last as long as the first one because there are fewer receptors. Tomorrow, you go get another package [..] but you just can't recapitulate that gustatory nirvana again. More should be able to do it: the next day, you buy the six-pack. And now that extra fix means your receptors are down-regulated even more. So you decide to put the pedal to the metal: the economy-size bag how now become your standard, and it's just giving you way less response than you ever had.

I can feel this sharp decline keenly when I play a game that bombards me with excess reward.

I wonder if it was never about the difficulty, but about the enforced pacing -- a game's scarcity of reward prevents those rewards from coming too close and quick for me to feel how reduced they are as a result of my satisfied dopamine receptors.

That's what's nice about walls around a reward; they're a substitute for self-control, and so without thinking, the experience is richer and less fragile. Until I've mastered the ability to break down the walls! Hahaha. So you need harder games.


Basically, I'm pondering this:
What if easy rewards aren't inherently worse -- hard-earned rewards aren't inherently more rewarding -- but easy rewards are too easy to binge on and that dynamic creates negative emotions (for some) towards easy games and easy rewards?