Monday, December 10, 2012

Brain Parasites

Speaking of refactored agency, here’s an article covering the new subfield of neuroparasitology. Apparently it is fairly common for one organism to biochemically take over another and influence its behavior, so the host ends up acting in furtherance of its occupier rather than itself.

When I read this, I had a momentary flash of all the other, non-biochemical brain parasites that have infected me: all the ideas and goals I have played host to, concerns for money and status and respect and righteousness. All the people I ever knew and felt a need to impress. All the things in the world that attempt to snag my attention and have planted a symbolic seed in my head that draws me in their direction. All these are parts of me but they are also introjected mechanisms with their own interests, divergent from my own.

But it is probably wrong to say that there is a true self in there that is being infected by outside agents. More like I am constituted by this chaotic assemblage, which is no more or less than human culture.


JSA said...

Somewhat tangential, but I've been thinking of this in light of the recent news about the professor who made robot that his flightless parrot can use to maneuver around the house. Basically, it raises the question of how we stack various intelligence levels on the food chain of rights. It's easy to say that the parrot is more intelligent than the robot in this case, and say that neither the parrot nor the robot deserve special rights. But it is also possible to imagine a robot that is significantly smarter than the parrot, yet is programmed to always do the parrot's bidding. And of course, something like toxoplasmosis tends to force sentient humans to do its bidding, yet we don't consider the neurovirus to have any special rights. This is somewhat rambling, and I don't have a clear angle on it yet, but in summary, I think that "control" *might* play into ethics of the rights of sentient entities. In other words, I think it's not just the level of sentience that will factor into the rights we grant to intelligences (human-created or otherwise), but also some factor based on where the sentience stacks up in a control food chain.

Ben Hyde said...

Why didn't anybody tell me about Zhon Kui?