Jun 302015

IDDQDBased on yesterday’s post, already two people asked why not just wirehead with a large and complex set of emotions.

I’m old enough to have played the original Doom when it came out (sooo old!). It had a cheat-code that made you invincible, commonly called god-mode. The first thing you notice is that it’s super cool to be invincible and just mow down all those monsters with impunity! The next thing you notice is that after a while (maybe ten minutes?) it loses all appeal. It becomes boring. There is no game anymore, once you no longer have to worry about taking damage. It becomes a task. You start enabling other cheats to get through it faster. Full-ammo cheats, to just use the biggest, fastest gun nonstop and get those monsters out of your way. Then walk-through-wall cheats, so you can just go straight to the level exit without wandering around looking for keys. Over, and over, and over again, level after level. It becomes a Kafka-esque grotesquery. Why am I doing this? Why am I here? Is my purpose just to keep walking endlessly from Spawn Point to Exit, the world passing around me in a blur, green and blue explosions obscuring all vision? When will this end?

It was a relief to be finished with the game.

That was my generation’s first brush with the difference between goal-oriented objectives, and process-oriented objectives. We learned that the point of a game isn’t to get to the end, the point is to play the game. It used to be that if you wanted to be an awesome guitarist, you had to go through the process of playing guitar a LOT. There was no shortcut. So one could be excused for confusing “I want to be a rock star” with “I want to be playing awesome music.” Before cheat codes, getting to the end of the game was fun, so we thought that was our objective. After cheat-codes we could go straight to the end any time we wanted, and now we had to choose – is your objective really just to get to the end? Or is it to go through the process of playing the game?

Some things are goal-oriented, of course. Very few people clean their toilets because they enjoy the process of cleaning their toilet. They want their toilet to be clean. If they could push a button and have a clean toilet without having to do the cleaning, they would.

Process-oriented objectives still have a goal. You want to beat the game. But you do not want first-order control over the bit “Game Won? Y/N”. You want first-order control over the actions that can get you there – strafing, shooting, jumping – resulting in second-order control over if the bit finally gets flipped or not.

First-order control is god mode. Your goal is completed with full efficiency. Second-order control is indirect. You can take actions, and those actions will, if executed well, get you closer to your goal. They are fuzzier, you can be wrong about their effects, their effects can be inconsistent over time, and you can get better at using them. You can tell if you’d prefer god-mode for a task by considering if you’d like to have it completed without going through the steps.

Do you want to:

Have Not Played The Game, And Have It Completed?  or Be Playing The Game?

Have A Clean Toilet, Without Cleaning It Yourself? or Be Cleaning The Toilet?

Be At The End of a Movie? or Be Watching The Movie?

Have A #1 Single? or Be Creating Amazing Music?

If the answer is in the first column, you want first-order control. If it is in the second column, you want second-order control.

Wireheading, even variable multi-emotional wireheading, assumes that emotions are a goal-oriented objective, and thus takes first-order control of one’s emotional state. I contest that emotions are a process-oriented objective. The purpose is to evoke those emotions by using second-order control – taking actions that will lead to those emotions being felt. To eliminate that step and go straight to the credits is to lose the whole point of being human.

  9 Responses to “God Mode is Super Lame”

  1. It used to be that if you wanted to be an awesome guitarist, you had to go through the process of playing guitar a LOT. There was no shortcut.

    Wait, there’s now a shortcut? I’m using Yousician to gamify learning the guitar (which I recommend by the way), which makes practising a lot more fun than it was, but it sounds like you’re talking about being an awesome guitarist without having to practise…

    • Whoops, sorry, no. :) I was making an allusion to video-gaming without being explicit, my bad. I meant that there used to not be shortcuts to winning things, you had to become good at the process first (couldn’t win the world cup without being excellent at the process of football-playing, etc), but with the advent of video games it became possible to have shortcuts to “winning” without going through the process.

  2. I don’t see a difference between watching a movie and wireheading. You’re a passive recipient of constructed sequential input.

    I have enjoyed Doom both in god mode and normal mode as a kid. God mode is not the same as jumping to the end, it is the fun of blasting your enemies with cheated superiority.

    Utimately: If wireheading is “super lame”, perhaps you (they) are doing it wrong.

    Although I have to say I am not pro wireheading; I don’t see human life to have a “purpose” at all, and morality has no right or wrong answers, things just happen to feel right or wrong to people for evolutionary reasons.

    • >I don’t see a difference between watching a movie and wireheading. You’re a passive recipient of constructed sequential input.

      A good movie takes you through the process of feeling an emotion(s). It’s not quite as good as real life, but it has some advantages (is predictable, doesn’t come with risk of death, etc). It’s not the same as simply turning on the emotion you want. Or as Watts’ put it in his (amazing) novel Echopraxia:

      “[…]it’s one of–you know, back when they couldn’t just induce desired states directly. They had to manipulate you into feeling things. With plot and characters and so on.”
      “Art,” Moore said. “I remember.”

      • >>I don’t see a difference between watching a movie and wireheading. You’re a passive recipient of constructed sequential input.

        >A good movie takes you through the process of feeling an emotion(s). It’s not quite as good as real life, but it has some advantages

        A good wireheading takes you through the process of feeling an emotion(s). It’s as good as real life, and it has some advantages. :D

  3. I may be misunderstanding how you use the term “wireheading”, but a sufficiently advanced machine could stimulate the right parts of your brain at the right time to give you the experience of watching a movie, and there would be no way to distinguish between the “real” experience and the “wired” experience. (Or substitute any of your other examples.)

    Both would produce exactly the same electrical signals in your brain, causing you to “see” the same things, “hear” the same things”, and “feel” the same things, in the same order. All of the stimulus we get is transformed into brain activity, so there is no reasonable difference between brain state A that was achieved via “real” interaction with the world, and brain state B that was achieved via wires.

    To put it another way, if I showed you a brain that had “experienced” climbing a mountain, there is no way to determine whether that was a lived experience or a programmed experience. (Again, given a sufficiently sophisticated machine.)

    • “Wireheading” is commonly defined as directly activating the end-state that is desired (such as a feeling of joy). In the classic example, by running a wire to the joy-parts of the brain and stimulating them. What you’re talking about isn’t wireheading anymore, it’s full-on Matrix-like simulation. I’m still undecided about how I feel about creating a full simulated world to live in, so I don’t have too much to say about it.

  4. But the difference between getting to the end and playing the game is mostly of which emotions are stimulated – we more enjoy the emotions produced by playing Doom without cheats than those produced by playing Doom in god mode from the 10th minute onwards. We seem to prefer the emotions we feel while having second-order control over achieving certain goals not directly related to the emotions we feel like “be a rockstar”, vs the emotions we feel while having first-order control over the same. And how is the process of playing Doom without cheat codes distinguished from the process of repeatedly pushing a button connected to certain electrodes in your head that produce the emotions associated with playing Doom without cheat codes? (Or just lying there while the computer chooses which electrodes to stimulate on your behalf?)

    I’m not actually pro-wirehead here, I’m just defeatist/playing devil’s advocate on whether we can actually get our values sorted out.

  5. Your guitar analogy has an extra complication you seem to be ignoring:

    Do you want to
    Be Able To Play Amazing Music, Without Spending 10,000 Hours Practicing or Be Practicing The Guitar?

    There are a lot of activities which are partially goal-oriented and partially practice-oriented. Practicing the guitar is often goal-oriented; playing is often process-oriented. I would like to be able to play the guitar really well more than I actually want to release a hit album, but I do not want to put in the time learning what motions of my fingers correspond to what sounds, getting those motions to be perfectly automatic, developing the proper calluses, etc. I would skip to the end of the practice and play awesome music, but I would not skip to the end of the playing and have something on iTunes.

    Except that there is the further complication that I might want something on iTunes now and make money from it, and then also play guitar. Some things are both goal-oriented and process-oriented, such that both the goal and the process are useful things. Some people enjoy practicing an instrument as well as playing it well; I would enjoy playing an instrument and the money from the sale of the album; I often like to know the plot of a movie independent of wanting to watch it; etc. Real life is complicated.

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