Friday, June 16, 2006

The Attention Diversion Machine.

Consider the following EXAMPLE:
  • George suffers from great anxiety. One day he sees the advertisement of the the "Experience Machine" program, by the M.A.T.R.I.X corporation. He understand that they may offer him an alternative to his painful life, namely a life connected to a virtual reality lacking situations that could unleash his anxiety. He finds himself faltering about the perspective of connecting himself forever to the machine, so the experts of M.A.T.R.I.X. recommend him a different product, the Attention Deflection Machine. The Attention Deflection Machine consist in a scanner and a sound-synthetizer. The scanner examines the world around George looking for situations that may unleash his anxiety. The synthetizer creates sounds that are able to deflect George's attention away from the potential source of distress.
  • George finds this device much more agreeable than the Experience Machine. After all, he will be able to carry on in his life almost as before, inhabiting his own body, perceiving it, and perceiving reality. The only thing that differs is that this reality is not the whole reality, but who knows everything anyway?
  • George goes home, and the machine enables him to ignore the fact that his cat is dying, until he finally forgets about it (the maid brings away the dead body of the cat.) He also stops thinking about the fact that he was recently fired and had to find a job less paid than the previous one. He does not care anymore about signs that tell him that in his new work environment people don't like him. And he feels happier than before. Not that he positively believes his cat is healthy, his new job is good compared to the old one, and his collegues love him. He just fails to realize that the opposite is true.
  • Something similar happens with respect to George's perception of his own body. Of course, he does not get the sensations that he would get if he possessed a younger, stronger and more beautiful body. He does not cease feeling his body and the painful or annoying sensations that it produces. But he cannot understand their very existential meaning. For example, he does not realize his body is aging, getting weaker and less beautiful, also because he does not look at himself in mirrors. When pains are too strong, he cures the problem and forgets about them as soon as the pain is over.
1. Would you use the machine if you were George?
2. Would you use it if you don't suffer from a severe form of anxiety?
3. Would you also plug to the Experience Machine?
4. Do you find the Attention Diversion Machine more agreeable than the Experience Machine?

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