Supernormal stimuli

Addiction, stimulation

 Consider these findings from Tinbergen, a researcher who coined the term supernormal stimulus:

Supernormal stimuli are exaggerated versions of the things we evolved to desire. Supernormal stimuli hijack the weak spots in our brains by supplying so much of what we desire that we don't want the boring, real thing anymore. Thus, we act in evolutionarily harmful ways - much like the bird who abandons their eggs. When you can eat pizza, who wants broccoli? When you can have 500 porn stars, who wants a "normal" mate? Why bother with the real life, you have much more fun in the game world, with much less effort.

While there are physical superstimuli, like drugs and junk food, we must be especially careful with digital superstimuli because there is virtually no limit how much stimuli can be pumped into you. A pizza can include only so much fat and salt and other stuff that makes your brain go brrr... But there's no limit as to how stimulating a video or game or virtual world can be. Nature has set no ceilings; it has only determined what we are stimulated by, so we always want more, at all costs.

We're already approaching a point with VR porn and "teledildonics" where one may rather mate the technology than a real person. Some would much rather move a video game character than their real bodies. At some point, we'll maybe create artificial children (perhaps in the metaverse) who simply are much cuter than real babies, and much less trouble. As fewer and fewer people have babies - intentionally or unintentionally - we realize that we aren't much smarter than the birds sitting on huge blue balls instead of their own eggs. As Yudkowsky writes, superstimuli may be the thing that leads to human extinction.

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