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There are things that people do which makes them feel an extreme sense of guilt, often ending in suicide or the least self mutilation as a mechanism to ''punish oneself'', there are also people who are relieved of the sense of guilt after receiving a punishment they deem reasonable, there are people who feel guilty endlessly even after they are forgiven. This can be observed in extreme cases when killers and rapists end up taking their own lives or most commonly when teens mutilate themselves as a form of punishment for being failures. People feel guilt for different things, one might joy at the idea to skin and mince a rabbit while an other might puke just thinking about it, one might get aroused at the idea of rape while another will feel mental stress just imagining it. There is also a contrast between intent and feeling, there are people who wanted to kill, people who brought themselves to put a knife to the throat of another person but where paralyzed, froze, and didn't manage to kill. There was a will to kill, but their body simply said ''no''. Being us social animals, these emotions and self constraints are really useful in an evolutionary sense. People devoid of any emotion are people free to cause as much chaos as possible and societies can not evolve with too many chaotic individuals. Similar emotions can be observed into other social animals or animals which were bred to be more social like foxes, ferrets, cats and cattle.

My question then would be, for an evil overlord who wants to doom the entire human population to chaos, would it be possible to release a virus which rewrites the human brain to never have any constraints? never any regret, guilt, fear ... all the other emotions should remain except those who block or punish people from or for doing things they believe to be wrong.

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    $\begingroup$ So, a virus that turns humans into drunk sociopaths? $\endgroup$ Jun 16, 2021 at 18:42

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Rabies is one of the more famous "mind-altering" viruses. While it shows no specific symptoms at first, more come as the disease progresses. From the symptoms listed here, it's quite apparent that rabies can do a lot since it affects the brain.

More relevant to what you want, a doctor suggests here that rabies are capable of removing fear, and thus makes canine victims more aggressive while affected by symptoms and more likely to bite.

Answer: Therefore, it wouldn't be impossible for a virus to be designed that removes other inhibitions to certain behaviors.

The rabies virus basically destroys the brain and sends the victim into a coma, but it does not have to be so aggressive

Possible Problems: Transmission might be difficult. Rabies is transmitted through saliva (and other fluids) after it's already reproduced in massive numbers in the brain. Basically, biting. But then it's obvious that something is wrong.

It's difficult for such viruses to be transmitted through the air because of all the defenses that the body has. Your hypothetical virus targets the nerves, but it would be difficult for it to gain access to one as an airborne virus. The virus has to get through the nose and mouth, which are both solid defenses against pathogens.

If you don't care, you can handwave it by saying the designer of the virus mashed together two or more viruses so that transmission is easier.

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    $\begingroup$ To add: Parasites, gut flora/fauna and others also influence people their behaviour. A parasite makes mice and accidentally humans lose fear of cats and find a sort of attraction. Gut flora/fauna influences a ton as well. In addition, the transfer method of a virus can change. With many DNA methods like CRISPR-CAS it is possible to engineer to great detail, even though we don't know the full extent or how the DNA works precisely in all organisms. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Jun 17, 2021 at 14:49
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Drug addiction

The human brain already has a reward pathway which drives a person to perform certain actions based on the outcome. You do not need to reprogram the brain, all you need to do is hack the reward pathway. Drugs can do this quite easily. High dependence and weak mindedness can do all of the things you are describing. People who are sufficiently addicted can sell their house or rob family and friends to buy drugs, all you need is something sufficiently addictive. With creative license you could just invent a drug 1000 times more addictive than fentanyl which would effectively enslave anyone exposed to it.

With a little bit of psychology you can have people not only obsessed with getting their next fix, but willing to do increasingly ridiculous things in order to get there. If you control the only supply then you can set the terms, start off by accepting money - then demand that your addicts introduce more people to the drug in order to get their doses. As more and more people become addicted this might be enough to destroy society but in order to speed things up maybe you want to blow up a few police stations, murder a few politicians, set fire to some orphanages, etc. Your army of meth zombies is ready to do your bidding, in a kind of lumbering and physically uncoordinated way.

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"would it be possible to release a virus which rewrites the human brain to never have any constraints?" -- yes.

What you want is called sociopathic behaviour and, while there are probably several mechanisms that end up with sociopathy, we are pretty sure we know a couple of reliable ways of achieving it.

This is because diagnostic techniques like fMRI have made possible to diagnose the early stages of many types of cancer, and we now know that damage to some very specific structures in the brain results with very high probabilty in equally specific behavioral changes (in some cases, the resurfacing of those changes has allowed to suspect a relapse of a pathology even before it was possible to positively confirm it instrumentally).

In this case, our evil overlord needs to inflict specific damage to the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex or sgACC (see here and here) or to its serotonine/noradrenaline mechanism.

There actually exist, or so it is rumored, specific drugs that will temporarily "turn off" guilt and remorse; at the very least, the research is there.

A virus cannot directly inflict this kind of damage to the brain (and anyway, there is no known criterion for targeting that area selectively), but it should be possible to use a retrovirus to rewrite specific DNA locations and slightly change the appropriate serotonin receptor genes. Apparently, a single-nucleotide alteration is all it takes for some effect to show itself; after some research, I am sure our evil overlord can do better.

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From the point of view of having a virus able to cause permanent major emotional changes in humans.

Obstacles

Obstacle: Blood-brain barrier. This exists to protect it from many different sources of harm. This also makes the brain difficult to medicate for benefit or harm.

Obstacle: Viruses, on average, are small. They generally have just enough payload to enable construction of more virus. The question could easily involve complex set of instructions witch may not fit in the virus envelope. Especially when dealing with multiple emotions, what might cause target behavior in one person might have no change at all in another person. This implies complexity. Complexity means a more complex and thus larger solution.

Obstacle: We don't have medications that reliably affect/do what question asks. Medication is hard, medication that is trying to affect something that is complex and poorly understood is harder. To get commercially viable medicines that affect subset of these behaviors would be decades of research by sizeable teams.

Plausibility

From a hard science point of view plausibility at current understanding is close to zero. It is not impossible in theory, but practically in the next fifty years, no.

From a don't let the facts get in the way of a good story, such as a universe where radioactive insects give super powers, it would be very plausible.

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