Tag Archives: Drugs

Chasing the dragon in the Mushroom Kingdom?

 I think one of the big reasons why people don’t like drugs is that they disconnect value and reward.   We have at least two forms of motivation. There are desires that certain states of affairs obtain, which press us on untill we achieve our end. Then there is the release of rewarding feeling on completion. We have both hunger and deliciousness, lust and orgasm, ambition and the satisfaction of achievement.

Normally these are tied together. People pursue what they want and get given a high if they succeed. However drugs allow one to enter pleasurable states without doing anything else that they (or others) value. Leaving aside philosophical concerns about naturalness and responsiveness to reality, his can lead users to neglect their other desires.  This happens in two main ways:

1) The user  finds it harder to satisfy his other desires as the rewards associated with them are weaker in comparison to those from drug taking.

2) Drugs can be used immediately during the periods of boredom or restlessness which normally motivate people to work on plans with delayed satisfaction.

There is a prima facie analogy to be made between drugs and computer games. Furthermore, somewhere in the evolution from Pac-man man to full-blown virtual reality, games will reach a level where they will be appealing as the milder of our current recreational drugs. Will they receive similar stigma/regulation?

First some differences; games give their highs by exploiting our natural psychology. playing them is  just like being in a really exciting enviroment. Drugs may introduce something that our brain couldnt produce on its own.Also, unlike popping pills games consist of things we actually do like in themselves, such as making/executing plans, overcoming challenges by exercising skill.

The real problem is that these still serve ends we don’t value. No one really cares about saving a pixel princess like they care about helping real people. Assuming no liberalisation in peoples views on bare pleasure-seeking,  finding some non-hedonic value in gaming will be the most likely alternative to stigma.

This could happen if computer games went the way of sport and became an arena for gaining social approval. Sportsman and artists don’t realise that what they do is in itself as pointless as Pac-Man because they win status by doing it well. There already is competitive gaming, which has  gotten airtime on ESPN, but it’s not very prestigious. Some factors that might determine the path taken:

– Success in gaming must be related to traits that people actually care about. Strength, beauty, charm, health and wealth are currently not well represented. Skill, intelligence, determination are already able to be proven electronically.

– The game must be able to establish a clear hierarchy, visible to all, like football does. It must not allow just anyone to do well, or be susceptible to cheating.

– There must be a few established games thats are played widely and long enough to become a meaningful standard. This seems unlikely giving the pace of technology.

– Pace of technical development and growth of use. If kids plugged themselves into the matrix tomorrow it would cause a shock and be stopped. If it develops gradually from  techs everyone else uses it has a chance. Note how we use alcohol while condemning less powerful, but also less recent and popular drugs.

Im surprised I never thought to mention this earlier: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/5191678.stm