A pill that makes you sad and happy

Imagine a drug that makes you horribly nauseous and miserable for the first 59 minutes after you take it, but then makes you feel hedonistic bliss for a final 1 minute. The other effect of this drug is that during the those first 59 minutes, it blocks the transcription of long-term memories so that by the next day you only remember the final 1 minute.

  1. Assuming you did not know the full effect profile of this drug until after taking it the first time, would you expect yourself to take it a second time?
  2. Assuming you would decide not to take it a second time during the 12 hours while you still remember how horrible the first 59 minutes were, how would you prevent your future self who only remembers the bliss phase from taking the drug again?
  3. If you were King in the world where this drug existed, what policy measures (if any) would you enact to improve the welfare of your subjects’ interactions with this drug?
  4. If you were trapped on a deserted island with an inexhaustible supply of the drug and no way to prevent your future self from taking it each new day, would your subjective life be one of ecstasy or misery?

5 comments

    • bigjosh2

      Great Video, Thanks! Very much related, and I think important. His vacation example is very close to what I am trying to ask about, but even worse. Framed his way, your whole life *guaranteed* to be a vacation that you will forget when it is over, so what vacation life do you pick knowing this?

  1. zeph

    This reminds me of my own thought experiment, first occurring to me many decades ago. It’s similar to vacation example in the TED talk linked by John (Thanks!), but more philosophical and speculative (without the applicability that Daniel was following).

    Suppose you were offered an incredibly pleasurable 1 week vacation, during which you would experience as much joy and satisfaction as humanly possible. But you would completely forget this experience at the the week (consciously and unconsciously). How much value would such a vacation have for you? How much would you pay?

    Or suppose that for that week, you would be intensely miserable – in terrible pain or nausea or other malady, albeit with no long term effects and again you would completely forget this experience at the end of the week. How much would someone have to pay you to undertake this experience?

    How would your answer differ, if at all, if you got recordings of your experience – photos, videos, audio recordings, notes you took – but still did not remember having those experiences?

    Then vary the time period. What if the duration of either was a month or a year or 10 years? (or as you say, a lifetime). Would that change anything?

    • bigjosh2

      Well framed. Again, I am concerned that as the length of the expunged vacation/hellscape gets longer, it basically just becomes a life (assuming you do not believe in an afterlife or reincarnation where you can remember your previous life)

    • bigjosh2

      If it turns out that people value having the pictures of things they can not remember, then we should start fabricating happy pictures of things that never happened to give us joyful false memories. Oh, wait…

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