Cerebral World

The heroin addict is a paradoxical thing; from the outside, she is an inert, comatose lump of flesh but from the inside, she is in heaven. What’s going on? Can the brain somehow overcome accepted reality and replace it with a different version? Is the imagination that powerful?

Take another example, one I can personally attest to. I was having serious relationship problems with a girlfriend one time; I was in love with someone I didn’t like (yes, it can happen). I was at home in a distressed state, feverish from the conflicting emotions boiling inside of me. Suddenly, I had a flash of inspiration. I decided to leave her.

The decision prompted a mood swing of scandalous proportions. From an anxious, depressive, quivering mass of jelly, I transformed into an ebullient, laughing, prancing, fist of humanity that wanted to play loud rock music.  The idea of leaving her solved all my problems. But here’s the thing. The situation regarding my girlfriend was exactly the same as before I had the idea. Nothing had really changed apart from my cerebral condition and yet the result of that simple idea was undeniable. It was as if I had taken a powerful drug that induced hysterical euphoria. Entering this Cerebral World produced real physiological effects of sheer pleasure. The only difference between myself at that point and a heroin addict was that I was animated.

This was an extreme case but more subtle examples of Cerebral World can be seen everywhere. Take, for example, a collector of birds’ eggs. Such a collector would risk life and liberty in acquiring a protected egg. In reality it is just another egg, like a hen’s egg, but the idea of it being rare motivates the collector. It is the idea of rarity that is pivotal.

As with rarity, exclusivity is part of the idea. It is no good being rich if you can’t differentiate yourself from the poor. The wealthy Elizabethans would apply lead arsenic to their faces to make themselves look white. This endangered their health but it also marked them out as being different to the poor who were sunburned from having to work outdoors in the fields. There is no rationality behind this behaviour. Powerful ideas do not seem to follow any higher logic. Cerebral World is a dangerous place.

Money is just an idea and it pivots on greed. But money is a function of status. Most positions of status in our society has financial wealth as a requirement or has it as a by product of that status. But status is still only an idea. It is the idea of status that people crave.

So, the idea of being rich would produce a pleasant sensation in my brain (leaving aside the cause for this). Being richer than most people in society would produce even more pleasure. Being the richest person in the world would, presumably, produce the greatest pleasure. But being rich in practical terms only increases your options and, as you can only do one thing at a time, past a certain point, being richer becomes meaningless. And yet people are still driven to greater irrationality by the idea.

Does this mean that we can enjoy a fulfilling existence purely on a cerebral plane? Is this where consciousness is heading? If there was a meditative practice that produced a constant state of bliss, would this be acceptable? Is it possible? What if the meditative practice produced the dark and the light – the lows that give meaning to the highs – so that the pleasure maintained its potency – would that be acceptable?

Now the tricky part. What if a brain technique was developed which had the property of enhancing any idea that the user had to a level which exceeded the reality of achieving that idea. Thus, a poor person could use the technique and achieve a level of smugness that no amount of real wealth could achieve. Imagine the effect on corruption.

What about a paedophile? Suppose the technique could simulate the pleasure that they experience when molesting and murdering a child so effectively that they no longer offend in real life. Is that acceptable, desirable, beneficial?

Imagine the suffering this would reduce and the pleasure it would promote. Could we still apply the concepts of good and evil to pleasures that were purely cerebral? Would that be progress? Would society tolerate the thought, or could cerebral manipulation make even the most revolutionary thought acceptable?

Ultimately, the heroin addict id doomed. The comatose form does not do well in evolutionary terms. Actual reproduction is required. Maybe Cerebral World is an evolutionary dead end too. Still, I enjoyed thinking about it.

Leave a Reply