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Context

We're approaching the technological capability to build digital interfaces to the brain. A future government body introducing a new mandate that leverages these devices to somehow guarantees justice and harmony amongst humans. The mandate proposes that it reads the "value" of an individual, a hypothetical measure ranging from -10 to 10 that represents his suffering or pleasure. However, it modifies his perception of his value to be that of the average of all humans value. Once put in place, no human can control this system, and will gradually take effect over a month. It will also be inherited by children.

Assuming the government has found a way to guarantee the participation of all humans, what could possibly go wrong?

Old world

Each person's subjective experience of suffering to pleasure ranged on a scale -10 to 10, called the "value".

New world

Each person experiences the average of everyone's old world value.


Note: The average value that everyone experiences is gradually scaled up if it consistently remains near zero and is gradually scaled down if it is fluctuating for too long. This is similar to how the effects of recreational drugs go down with regular use and return when not used for long enough.

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closed as unclear what you're asking by Frostfyre, Renan, chasly from UK, elemtilas, kingledion Nov 28 '18 at 21:58

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE! We're glad you could join us! When you have a moment, please click here to learn more about our culture and take our tour. This question is very unclear and far too broad. I can't even see how your title question clearly relates to the body of your text. You should delete this question and reask it in our Sandbox because I believe the clarification process will be long. $\endgroup$ – JBH Nov 28 '18 at 17:39
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site, reubenjohn. I'm just going to point out that if everyone experiences the average of a value between -10 and 10, then everyone will experience a value of 0, because that's, well, the average. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Nov 28 '18 at 17:46
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    $\begingroup$ You know, @Frostfyre, I was just thinking about that and agree with you. How does everyone on a planet react to tasting chocolate milk? I suspect (but can't prove it) that most would experience between 2 and 8 with a world-wide average of maybe 4. But his note says that will reduce (assuming 4 is a high sensitivity, whatever that is, it isn't clearly defined), meaning given enough time every experience will average to 0, which increases sensitivity, so over time sensitivity will fluxuate between 0 and 1. It's messy and feels programmy. I wonder what he's trying to achieve? $\endgroup$ – JBH Nov 28 '18 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ I think that there's not really enough information here to answer, so I'm flagging for closure. $\endgroup$ – walrus Nov 28 '18 at 17:53
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    $\begingroup$ From experience with systems like these (not neccesarially hooked up to brains), the implementation details matter greatly when exploring what goes wrong. Time constants and fixed points and frequency responses all become incredibly important with a feedback loop like this. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Nov 28 '18 at 19:16
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What you describe is remarkably close to thought experiments done on Utilitarianism, a philosophy trying to maximize "utility." You happen to be using the "average utility" metric, so we can look at how Utilitarianism fails with the average utility rules.

The first and most obvious failure of such a system is that it highly encourages us to go out and kill all the unhappy people. That quickly raises our value/utility metric. The Dr. Who episode "Smile!" explored this issue.

Other issues will arise depending on how well your "value" metric measures things. People will quickly identify what counts as "suffering" and "pleasure" by this arbitrary metric and artificially shift activities accordingly.

Or will they? It's not clear what it means to have someone perceive a suffering/pleasure level. If you think about your own experiences, the world is dramatically more complicated than that. This was one of the lessons of the movie Inside Out. As a child grows up, they start experiencing strange emotions like "bittersweet" which don't fit into a nice easy linear scale. "Bittersweet" is quite clearly completely unlike "neutral," but its hard to put them on a -10 to 10 scale in a way that shows the difference. The brain would have to find its way of resolving this complex nuanced system of emotions with the draconian sterile slider from this computerized system.

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  • $\begingroup$ That Doctor Who episodes is not a good example because people were afraid of being killed, and fear reduces utility. That is a better example of wannabe utilitarian robots that don't really understand humanity causing problems, not a failing of utilitarianism or the concept of utility. The only way utilitarianism would conclude that killing unhappy people is ideal is if no one had a problem with people being killed, which we all know is not in line with how humanity functions. $\endgroup$ – forest Feb 19 at 2:23
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Pleasure Farms

In order to artificially increase the average, some rich guy or government would grow thousands of people and inject them with dopamine or other drugs keeping them in a semiconscious state of pleasure. Then when their bodies are spent and they would go through a withdraw from the drugs they'd just kill them with an overdose.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good point! Even though everyone is happier, it's still ethically wrong! I'm assuming the pleasure farms will overdose the people right before they experience withdrawal. $\endgroup$ – reubenjohn Nov 28 '18 at 19:03
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No one would want to do anything.

Your happiness is, essentially, unconnected to any action you take. Watching a movie you enjoy affects your happiness and an imperceptibly small level: you spend two hours watching, and you get one eight-billionth of a movie's value out of it. A movie is about 7200 seconds long, or 43 000 frames. Would you wait in line for two hours for a 1/200000 chance to watch one frame of your favourite movie? I wouldn't.

This us called emotional blunting. If you've ever known someone who goes on the wrong SSRI and stops caring about anything, it's like that. In this case, just much, much worse.

Civilization could easily grind to a halt. Everyone would feel neutral about it and then starve to death. They wouldn't mind, so maybe that's fine. But if that's going to happen either way, you might as well turn everyone up to 10.

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What can go wrong? Survival. Our senses of how things are, or mood, or urgency to act in general or particular have been rigorously designed to balance our health as individuals, families, clans/tribes/nations not only on human terms, but quite as importantly on biological & environmental imperatives.

Short-circuiting that organic relation with something purely human, wired into all the neuroses of others particularly, would be lethal. We don't exist merely as a species, in reality far more importantly as a part of a far greater whole. That can't be unplugged or greatly distorted. We are already far too concerned about the human sphere at the expense of the planetary sphere as it is.

The state of various societies already, to a large extent, represents an average of sorts of what average people will put up, the extent to which they will suffer being manipulated, how much aggression they will tolerate, poverty for some, great wealth in others.

If it is some push for a more egalitarian world we are seeking, short of bloody revolutions, far better it be built through a culture which values the general welfare more explicitly, the acquisition or hoarding of personal wealth less lustily. There are almost always nations/cultures around showing the better way. The rest is down to courage, will & energy.

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If I understand the question correctly...

Demand for some products and services would plummet and others would far surpass supply.

People living and perfectly happy in climates and environments others generally do not would suddenly find themselves very unhappy indeed.

Though that begs the (question) does somebody feel a desire or need for something based on value, even if they have had no personal experience of it previous to the switch?

The Golden Rule 'Do unto others as one would have done unto you' is a failing appeal, as broadly speaking people do not 'do unto others' rather they 'take unto themselves.'

If everybody liked the same things though..everybody would have the same physical and emotional wants and needs despite differences in neurology and biochemistry and experience?? I think I must be mistaking the question, because people would no longer be people.

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