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nikipedia's avatar

Would you plug into a happiness machine?

Asked by nikipedia (27497points) January 3rd, 2009

If you could plug into a machine that would give you the experience of happiness by stimulating your brain, would you use it?

What if it could sustain your physiological functions and you had no life obligations: would you plug in indefinitely?

(Credit to Robert Nozick and tons of science fiction writers before him.)

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24 Answers

syz's avatar

I’m pretty sure that I would not. But I could see some small temptation if I were suffering from severe depression or were to have some terrible tragedy befall me.

Jeruba's avatar

Would I want a world of sunlight without shadow, summer without winter? Would I want a life without difficulties and challenges, where everything is easy? Would I (tough one) prefer never to feel pain? Would I (yes! yes! yes!) want all my oatmeal cookies to be free of raisins?

Everything depends on how you define “happiness.”

tinyfaery's avatar

Just to define happiness, I’m going to go with happiness is a chemical reaction in the brain which produces feelings of comfort/ euphoria/ jocularity and the like.

Isn’t that pretty much why people do drugs? If you are talking about a machine, I think I’d try it at least once; I’d try a lot of stuff at least once. But, I’d rather just smoke some pot.

loser's avatar

I did! It’s called Fluther!

wundayatta's avatar

If I could have it fix what’s wrong with my brain, so that, occasionally, I could believe that I’m feeling happiness, I would. As it is, even when I think I’m happy, there’s always this underlying sense of wrongness—that I’ve missed the boar; screwed up, or something.

I always assume I’m wrong about human interaction issues. If someone tells me I did them wrong, and I have no memory of it, I believe them. I think I was always this way—not exactly believing enough in myself to be a good advocate for myself. If someone says I hurt them, then I believe it, and assume it was my fault.

If there was a pill that would let me be a little more on my own side, or that would let me have that (absurd) confidence that I’m the best thing since jam on toast, I would take it. I always doubt myself. I never believe that I’m good enough.

They tell me this is the result of a disease, not necessarily psychology. They give me pills, and at least I’m no longer so deep in the hellpit that I can’t see any light. But that doesn’t seem like it’s enough. I remember flashes of times when I believed I was good.

It seems that happiness is when you think you are good enough. It seems that happiness should happen more often than it seems to happen for me.

scamp's avatar

tinyfaery already said almost word for word what I wanted to say here. ( except I wouldn’t do it)

marinelife's avatar

No. An unending state of anything—even pleasure or happiness—stops one from striving, from emotional growth, from concern for others, from connection with the world and the moment.

mangeons's avatar

I would not. Is it really happiness if it is artificial? And what would be the point in life except to strive for happiness, success, etc.?

nikipedia's avatar

But what are we striving/growing/connecting for except to get to the end result of more happiness? Isn’t this just a shortcut? Why strive for happiness when you can just have it?

Why would being artificial take away from the subjective experience of pleasure?

asmonet's avatar

Maybe once in a while. :)

Seems to me I’d just end up wanting one more bump as soon as I walked away. I want to say there was a Star Trek episode years and years ago with a happiness gadget and the guy using it essentially fried his brain on happy. He started only liking it, eventually became addicted.

90s_kid's avatar

I need more happiness.

marinelife's avatar

@nikipedia I love your mind, and I have missed you!

Are you presupposing that happiness is the end goal of life or striving? Because I am not sure that is true. Life is a process. It just is. It is not clear to me that happiness is necessarily to be prized above all other experiences or feelings.

I would not give up my exquisite sadness when something touches my heart. Today, while searching for a baby shower present, I was reading The Runaway Bunny. I cried as the mother bunny described what lengths she would go to to find and care for her baby bunny in all sorts of hypothetical circumstances. It touched my core when the realization hit of the beauty of that and the poignancy of missing it as my own mother enters a time when I am caring for her rather than she for me. That feeling was every bit as precious as happiness.

I would not give up the excitement of learning something new. How vivid it seems.

I would not give up feeling fearful about something, but going forward. The sense of achievement when I did it is every bit as intoxicating as happiness.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

noooooooo! we actually had a discussion pretty recently in my psych class about how rats, when given the option between food and a button that released dopamine (something to that effect, i may have some words in wrong places haha) they would starve to death before they would stop pressing the button. as much as i treasure being happy, i’d rather live a life full of ups and downs than just waste away at a machine making me feel happy.

nikipedia's avatar

@Marina: Glad to have you back!!!! I’ve missed you too!!!

And brilliant answer. Sometimes pain is so exquisite.

augustlan's avatar

In my darkest days I’d have plugged in without hesitation. Now? Not on your life.

Maverick's avatar

ABSOLUTELY! I’ve been happy and I’ve been sad… Happy is better. I’m also more productive and live a better life when happy, so why not take advantage of that if it’s available?!

Jeruba's avatar

Happiness and feeling good are not the same thing.

Zuma's avatar

If happiness consisted of personal self-realization, accomplishment and a sense of moral connectedness, and a machine could provide an interactive virtual world—or an artistic medium within which one could achieve these things, of course I would. Imagine a world without drudgery where the potential for artistic collaboration, and the liberation of the human imagination could create elaborate live-in architectures, game worlds, economies and social systems that would otherwise be physically or practically impossible.

But, on second thought, its inevitable that whenever there is a reliable pleasure in this world, there will always be those who feel it their God-appointed duty to take it away from you. In their view, any form of pleasure that competes with their notions of “God’s Plan” will be regarded as a temptation, a vice, and a sinful lifestyle that can not be allowed.

Human versions of paradise can never be allowed to compete with the believer’s heaven, much less be actualized or regarded as a legitimate personal choice. So, religious killjoys can be counted upon to demonize the enterprise and make it illegal, ensuring that, at some point, you will be ripped from your pleasure machine, no doubt after you have grown long accustomed and adapted to it. And, of course they will feel the need to punish you for placing your own value choices above theirs, no doubt subjecting you to the unimaginable and pointless privations of prison, the way they do now with drug offenders.

But then again, after being radicalized by such an experience, one could take great pleasure in making sure that what goes around comes around. After all, if a machine can create great pleasure, it can also create inescapable prisons of unrelenting misery.

Jeruba's avatar

I would never be able to relax with it in any case because I would not trust those who controlled the machine.

If it were so great, why weren’t they using it themselves? If it weren’t so great, why would they want me to use it?

Nimis's avatar

I would* plug in for kicks.
But indefinitely? No way.

* That’s assuming that I could program criteria myself.
Also, are there side effects to using the machine?
And I’d want to know who’s running the damn thing.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Is the “happiness machine” just code for LSD :P
Sure id plug myself into it, but theres no way id want to be plugged in indefinitely. Just like i wouldnt want to be under the influence of anything indefinitely, its good now and then, but you need to be able to separate reality from “happy time”

marmoset's avatar

I like my occasional rushes of happiness/endorphins/pleasure just fine. happiness machine only works when human-powered :)

ubersiren's avatar

Maybe on occasion.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I get my endorphin rush from eating hot peppers…who needs a steeeeeenking machine?

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