Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mind hacking: a priori not unexpected.

Hypnosis can be strongly counter intuitive and has been associated with some pseudoscience, which leads some people to dismiss it out of hand. However, I don't think its actually an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence. To be a bit more specific, the claim is that it is possible to use sensory data to systematically get brains into states that are out of the ordinary and not conducive to making cave man babies.

I'm not a hacker by any means, but hacking human minds and computer programs are similar in principle. Both involve finding corner cases and exploiting them.

We were designed by just about the stupidest thing that can actually produce designs. Every part of our brain was designed with no foresight at all - one base pair at at time. Because of this, more complex functionality is added on top of the more basic circuits needed to do things like feel hunger and crave food.  This is the kind of optimizer that designs things that work most of the time in the specific EEA.  This is not the kind of optimizer that produces designs that handle corner cases elegantly. If human programmers tend to produce programs that other humans can hack, then we should expect our own brains to be hackable at least to some extent.

Of course, once you know what to look for, mind hacking is everywhere in small amounts (it continues to amuse me how many diverse places you can look to find evidence against Intelligent Design, and how much you miss if you don't actively fight compartmentalization). But most of what you see is subtle priming effects or things that take social status and time to be significant.

It gets interesting when you find out how it works and then max out the dial. It starts to get scary when you go meta and use these hacks to reconfigure the brain so that your hacks work better.

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