Predictable Identities 27: Craving and the Pill

Kaj Sotala suggests a predictive processing-informed model of suffering in which a mind is stuck oscillating between two unpleasant interpretations of the world, each one disconfirming the other’s prediction in a painful way. 

Normally, a brain confronted with two contradicting views will pick the one matching incoming evidence and discard the other. But the brain also generates cravings, and they can break this resolution process.

Desires are manifested in your brain as a prediction. When you want pizza you predict the sensation of pizza in your mouth. If there’s no pizza currently in your mouth you can resolve the discrepance in two ways. Though your action, by grabbing a slice, or by updating and giving up on the pizza prediction. A craving is a desire that you can’t give up on, one that comes from a place too deep to overwrite with disconfirming evidence.

When you’re craving [money/sex/power] you predict strongly that you have them, to the point of almost hallucinating the orgy on your private jet. The lack of a jet or a confident plan to acquire one disconfirms the prediction. But then the craving rises again and overwrites the realization that your goal is unattainable, each prediction and disconfirmation creating mental suffering in an ongoing cycle.

There are two ways to break the loop of craving and suffering. One is to fulfill the desire, which works great (until another craving arises). But there’s another way: if you can convince yourself utterly that what you’re craving is unattainable, then your brain will suppress the loop at the stage of predicting the craved outcome. You will never get what you wanted, but the suffering will ease.

The internet has a term for it: blackpilled. The black pill must be completely impenetrable to work. If your brain can imagine even for a second that your craving is satisfied the cycle of suffering will continue. 

It is almost impossible for people to cleanse their soul of hope entirely unless in the grips of severe depression. Direct evidence of the world is too noisy to conclude anything with such certainty. The black pill requires a community and an identity reinforcing it, to convince one fully of their hopelessness.

Series Navigation<< Predictable Identities 26: Academic Identity

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About Jacob Falkovich

Jacob is so proud of his blog, putanumonit.com, that it's on his online dating profiles. He also tweets @yashkaf.

Comments

  1. Jenny Brien says

    If your brain can imagine even for a second that your craving is satisfied the cycle of suffering will continue.

    >It is almost impossible for people to cleanse their soul of hope entirely unless in the grips of severe depression. Direct evidence of the world is too noisy to conclude anything with such certainty. The black pill requires a community and an identity reinforcing it, to convince one fully of their hopelessness.

    Ah, Conversion Therapy

  2. Romeo Stevens says

    It’s much less bleak. You only have to investigate until it becomes obvious that you will never get the *eternal, controllable, satisfactory* version of the thing that you secretly believe it might be. You may say “I’m not thinking of things as eternal, controllable, and satisfactory. Well, have you checked? Like, closely.

  3. Not sure if this is true for everyone, but in my own experience the realization that depression was a desire for comfort / energy conservation helped somewhat. Sinking into that state was almost of the brain’s way of saying, “it’s ok not to try bc thing x is unattainable, so just sit here and wallow for a bit”, almost like just turning on the screen saver and sitting in low power mode until the spell passes. Not all depressive episodes are/were related to desire, but I think the concept of desire management and trying to realistically manage them is helpful one; again, speaking just for myself, a ladder out of these episodes is replacing (or distracting) the depression-inducing desire with a series of smaller, constructive (i.e. not eating an entire cake) but attainable desires.

  4. Eat the pizza! Enjoy the indulgence! Be OK with being fat!

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