Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Under The Wire

In the 1970's Larry Niven introduced us to the Tasp, a "weapon" that allowed the wielder to directly trigger the pleasure center in an opponents brain, leaving them writhing on the floor in pure ecstasy. Then he took the concept a step further, introducing the wirehead, where the user has a wire physically run from a socket in his/her skull to the pleasure center. The design used an interface called a droud, which contained a timer that would break the circuit so the current addict could remember to stop to eat, piss, and so on. All conveniently installed in the local head shop (giving new meaning to the term), just like getting your ears pierced.

Now, the FDA is on the verge of approving a droud and wirehead system built by Cyberonics. They already have such a device, which connects directly to the Vagus nerve, and is used to treat epilepsy. Now they want to use it to treat depression. Presumably, initial versions will be much less intense than Niven's technology.

Niven's early work had a particular emphasis on extrapolating the consequences of events and actions. One of the consequences he foresaw from wireheading was that all other forms of euphoriant addiction (such as heroin, cocaine, etc.) would be eliminated, unable to compete with rapture from a wall socket. Of course, replacing the need for addicts to steal, cheat, and prostitute themselves with a clean, inexpensive alternative addiction is something the American public will never accept.


Post a Comment

<< Home