If operant conditioning works, then we should not comfort ourselves with fun activities and useless trinkets that do nothing to promote our success. In fact, they actually harm our chances for success by filling our experience-time with undeserved reward feeling.
In real reality, like the environment in which we evolved, pleasure and pain are tied to significant consequences. Natural selection works because death (or non-reproduction) is a real consequence. Pain is an internal prefiguring of death; pleasure, of life. Pain and pleasure were originally tied to feedback from the actual environment. The organism does something, the environment reacts, and then the organism interprets this reaction and then produces pleasure or pain. It is important that our reward/punishment system be tied to the Land of Real Consequences and not to something else.
- Your executive agency follows procedure X.
- As a result, your stomach is full.
- In response, your stomach releases CCK and other chemicals, thereby causing pleasure.
- Doing action X is thus rewarded.
Pleasure and pain are tricks of biology designed to mold the behavior of the pain- and pleasure-feeling executive agency that runs some of the organism’s actions. Creating pleasure after following procedure X is how the robot makes itself more likely to do X again.
Our actions are inseparably tied to the physical nature that sustains our existence. Our actions can lead us to safety, food, and sex; or they can hasten our destruction. The organism’s doings effect real consequences that determine its survival. The organism represents this causal import—to the tiny executive control center—as pleasure/pain.
Can something as complex as a human personality be the result of such a simple mechanism? The pleasure mechanism is so simple—binary, in fact. Yet by doling it out at different magnitudes (and in different qualities) you can create a complex and fine-tuned ensemble of actions.
This mechanism also works on action types. Because rules contain leeway, types of action can be discerned, considered, and executed. And thus from a lump of clay you can produce Itzhak Perlman.
Pleasure and pain are meant for real consequences. But we humans misuse them when we practice masturbation. Woe to the organism who has tied his behavior, feedback, and pain-motivator to an artificial reality!
Pleasure and pain are the most advanced motivators our body has invented. They are mean to promote continued existence. They are big-deal drugs and ought not to be self applied. Do you wear a VR helmet when you play tennis? Do you cover your tongue with a flavor-stimulating sheath when you eat? When you replace reality-tied phenomena with self-made proxies, you frustrate your own intelligence agencies.
Masturbation is the most dangerous expression of intelligence. Pleasure/pain should be tied to real status of survival and happiness. Masturbation short-circuits the action–consequence loop. When pleasure and pain are self-applied, you’re programming your robot with untethered patterns.
Premature reward is the most dangerous of all drugs.
Let us declare war on premature reward.