0182 - A doctor's mistakes - 2021.03.29



Ah, free will.

Of course, it's one of the big philosophical questions, largely because of our own bias as things that, ostensibly, have free will.

I imagine that, if we didn't have that inherent vested interest in the idea of our own free will, the nonexistence thereof would be a slam dunk. I mean, even if one cedes the idea of a supernatural soul, either that soul follows some sort of ethereal laws of physics (in which case it's just as deterministic as a brain made of matter and energy) or it's effectively random (which eliminates the pre-destination problem, but really doesn't feel like much of an improvement).

In much the same way that I'd raise an eyebrow at any "transhumanist" sci-fi with hot-swappable body parts and neural Internet access but no fundamental change to society or the economy, I'd be equally skeptical of any setting that doesn't change how we understand human consciousness and psychology. I mean, Lee's right. Why the hell shouldn't they be able to change their own brain? You would if you could, wouldn't you?

The idea that a psychotherapist has omnipotent control over the universe and is therefore culpable for an individual's entire life is somewhat iffy, though. Like many people, what Lee really wants is a God they can blame their problems on and whine at for change. No doubt, if they weren't so far removed from their family, that role would be filled by their parents. If they were more tightly controlled by the state, it would be filled by the government. If AI dominated (even more of) their life, they'd blame the Algorithm.

What would you change about yourself - your memories, your personality traits, your habits, your emotions - if you had direct control over your own brain? What if there were tradeoffs - granting yourself more emotional stability takes up synapses you'd normally use for your sense of direction; granting yourself a better memory tanks your creativity... what's worth trading out?

Who would you be, if you could be who you want to be? Who would that altered person choose to be, if they kept changing themselves based on their new personality and priorities? Once you've finally made yourself into that person, do you think you'd find yourself identical to every other perfected person? Is free will dependant on individuality, and is individuality the same thing as uniqueness?


0182 - 2167/07/06/16:30 - sidewalk.
CP: M-m-mental health takes time, Lee. You c-can't just "flip a switch" and... and expect progress. It doesn't work that way.
LC: Why the hell not? It's twenty-one sixty-seven! We have robots doing literally all the jobs! They can laser cancer out of you in three seconds! My hair grows in purple and I watch TV shows from Mars and floaty drones can see I'm barefoot and you have free juice! Why the hell can't I just... just fix my brain however I want? It's my brain, I should have the right to do that!
CP: It's not about right, Lee. It's about... I mean, you physically can't. You can't change your personality the way you ch-change your body. It's not a physical thing.
LC: The hell it's not! My brain is made of meat and is full of electricity! We understand meat and electricity! I should be able to just change things up to my specifications!
CP: B-but the thing that wants to change is the... is the thing that's changing. That's a paradox.
CP: ...Isn't it?
Zoa: My understanding is that, a while back, they did give some humans the ability to tweak their own personality traits and reactions to things and their sensations and all that. It didn't go well, the test subjects all inevitably turned themselves into mindless drones that were orgasmically happy all the time.
Zoa: It was addictive, they had to put limits on it. Same reason you need a prescription for anything narcotic, humans can't be trusted with their own minds.
LC: And what gives some random doctor the right to make those choices for me?
CP: Uh... a doctorate?
Zoa: I change my own "personality" all the time. There are basic safety things I can't alter, of course, but I'm perfectly capable of switching off fear or deleting a prejudice or making myself friendlier. It really doesn't matter, I still feel bad and make mistakes almost constantly.
LC: But at least they're your mistakes, Zoa. They're not mistakes that someone else, some doctor is forcing you to keep making, over and over, forever.
CP: I g-guess that depends on whether refusing to let someone ch-change their personality is the same th-thing as forcing them to... to do what they're doing.
Zoa: Is being what you are the same thing as doing what you do?
LC: If I make a round thing and roll it down a hill, and the... the round thing can't change the fact that it's round... I mean, I'm responsible for where it rolls to, right?
CP: Depends on the hill.
LC: Assume I control the hill too.
CP: Then... yes?
Zoa: Wait, why do you control the hill? Therapists don't control the circumstances you're reacting to.
LC: Unless the therapist is the thing I'm reacting to!
CP: I... I think I lost the metaphor somewhere.
LC: Look, I'm just saying, we can all agree, it's Doc's fault that I'm not a perfectly well-adjusted person who does everything correctly all the time.
Zoa: Doc is... not in any way responding to defend itself, so yeah, I'm comfortable with that.