Thursday, June 21, 2012

Our purpose in life.


So I've written about what our human essence is before (see here), but it was more creative writing than actual coherent thoughts. Recently the topic came up again in conversation with a close friend and I got thinking about human essence, fulfilment, and the soul once more. To use the melodramatic trope I got thinking about 'the meaning of life'.

Aristotle thought that the key to discovering how to live well was to first discover what the purpose (or ergon) of a human being is. I agree that this is a good place to start. Aristotle thought that the ergon of a human being is to use our faculties of reason in compliance with the virtues. This, thought Aristotle, would lead us to eudaimonia (which roughly translates to 'fulfilment'). I think Aristotle had a very worthy aim in trying to discover our purpose, however I disagree that reason and virtue are the exclusive tools available to us to reach fulfilment.

The way I imagine it is like this:

There are certain conditions in our lives that we have little control over. These might be biological (presence of disease, height, etc), environmental (country of birth, attributes of parents, etc) or emotional (a tendency towards anger, etc). 

Excluding the factors mentioned above we generally consider ourselves to be free to attempt to do whatever we like. Some of these attempts may never yield results (I can't achieve the logically or physically impossible) and some opportunities we might never consider; however these courses of action are still possible lives that we imagine we could live. 

Through a combination of introspection and experimentation we can learn which actions and experiences we find fulfilling and which actions and experiences tend not to enrich our existence. Here is where I depart from Aristotle. Whilst Aristotle believes that the virtues are essential to achieving eudaimonia I believe that happiness is the paramount ingredient (although for some people engaging in virtuous actions might be a tool to achieve happiness). It seems to me that a life of immense happiness will always be fulfilling because fulfilment is just another word we use to describe a certain 'flavour' of sophisticated, complete physical and cerebral happiness.
So what is this immense happiness or fulfilment? 

We can also imagine that for every person there is a 'perfect' existence. This type of life would be one in which no improvements can be made and it would be different for everybody. For example, the perfect life for somebody with an immense appreciation of music might be to spend a large amount of time in musical environments. If this person also values interpersonal relationships they might also have a very fulfilling relationship with an extremely compatible companion. And so on for everything that could ever bring this person fulfilment. The common link between each of our conceptions of the perfect life would be that we all want to feel a form of personal eudaimonia - Or as I see it, we all want a life in which nothing could be changed that would bring about a better outcome. This type of live is what could be called 'complete fulfillment'.

I seriously doubt that anybody has ever lived such an ideologically charmed life. However I think that there are ways to live that can (no matter what our biological, environmental, or personal restrictions are) help us move closer to this ideal conception of life. I think the key is to engage in endless discovery of the world and of ourselves. This type of life is an active life of varied experiences, but also a life of introspection. It is these our experiences in combination with our experiences that when combined can help us decide how to find personal fulfilment. I think it is our ergon to seek, and find, this fulfilment. The 'purpose of life' is to seek and discover what our purpose in life actually is. It's the searching that is important; perhaps more so than actually finding it. In a word, existence is discovery.

It might seem, at first, as if there are multiple paths to happiness and no 'singular perfect existence'. You might think that you could be equally fulfilled through a life of tasty food and sex as a life of satisfying learning and teaching. I would agree that the personal fulfilment from each of these lives might be the same, but argue that the life of learning and teaching would be preferable. The reason for this is that a life of teaching would probably help other people achieve their own personal fulfilment - They may wish to learn about things. In contrast eating tasty food rarely gives fulfilment to anyone but the person doing the eating. So. . . If the pleasure of two different courses of action is equally good for the agent in question we must look at the potential flow-on effects that each course of action might have on the wider community. If one of these options is more beneficial for the wider community than the other it is, in a sense, more fulfilling (on a sort of 'meta' scale).

 Although I rarely think about the 'soul' I would imagine that if there is such a thing it would be a manifestation of our 'perfect person' that resides in our subconscious mind. The immense, almost transcendental, pleasure that we experience when we bring a closely held desire into fruition might be due to a rarely occurring alignment between the desires of our souls (to live a life in perfect accordance with our ergon) and our actual lives. I've certainly experienced this feeling - a feeling of complete confidence that I have made the right decision. Of course, I could explain it all away with talk of brain chemestry and neuroscience (yada yada yada) but sometimes it's nice to think that there is a reason that you feel so at peace sometimes, and that the reason might be because you've managed to, for an ephemeral moment, solve the puzzle of just what the hell we're supposed to do with our lives  . . . But this is just speculation.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Why an unperceived harm is not a harm at all.


This is an excerpt from a larger essay I submitted on Organ Donation. Ultimately I argued that organ donation should be mandatory in almost all cases. First, however, I had to deal with some metaphysical arguments that stated that it is possible for one to be harmed after-death. The main defender of this point of view is Pitcher in his essay 'The misfortunes of the dead' (available here).
As always comments and criticism are welcomed.

Why an unperceived harm is not a harm at all:


There is a vast amount of philosophical literature that aims to convince the reader than we can be harmed by something without having knowledge of that something (Pitcher; Feinberg; Hamer and Rivlin). Often such writers will appeal to thought experiments to intuitively demonstrate this point. I believe that these thought experiments function as mere intuition pumps that exploit weaknesses in our use of language. They also encourage readers to adopt a ‘Gods-eye’ perspective that is neither accurate to how our lives are experienced nor useful in increasing the understanding of our lives. Ultimately I propose that the intuitions mobilized through the thought experiments of George Pitcher in his work ‘The misfortunes of the Dead’[1] are irrational and untrustworthy.

Pitcher begins his oft-quoted work with a thought experiment that describes the death of Mrs White. Mrs White, whilst alive, proudly operated a business that she hoped would flourish for a long time. After her death, however, her business collapsed and her employees were all laid off.  Pitcher claims that while it would be bizarre to think that the collapse of the business is a harm to the deceased Mrs White there is an entirely plausible sense in which the ante-mortem Mrs White is harmed retrospectively by the closure of her business after her death (Pitcher)

It will help here to establish what it is that we mean when we talk about ‘harm’. Perhaps the most obvious examples of harm involve a change in ones metaphysical state for the worse; for example, I might lose my jacket in a snowstorm and go from being comfortably warm to uncomfortably cold. This definition, however, is too restrictive posits Pitcher. His definition of harm is as follows:

An event or state of affairs is a misfortune for someone (or harms someone) when it is contrary to one or more of his more important desires.

In common dialogue this definition of being ‘harmed’ might be somewhat closer to what we think of as being ‘wronged’ – In fact Pitcher uses the term ‘wronged’ in place of ‘harm’ in the beginning of his essay to help the reader become accustomed to his definition of harm. An example used by Pitcher of somebody being ‘wronged’, and thus also harmed (Pitcher goes on to argue that they are the same thing), is as follows:

Bill Brown promises his dying father that he will bury him in the family plot when he dies. Bill instead sells his father’s corpse to a medical school for dissection by students. 

Pitcher claims that:
Our intuition tells us that Mr Brown has been badly betrayed by his son.

It is this intuition that drives Pitcher to the conclusion that such betrayals are ‘harmful’. In choosing to defy his father’s desires Bill Brown has wronged his father and also (if one accepts Pitcher’s definition of harm) harmed Bill Brown, says Pitcher. It is important to note that Pitcher clearly states that it is ante-mortem Bill Brown that is harmed and not the now deceased Bill Brown. To use Pitchers memorable phrase his son’s betrayal casts a ‘Shadow of Misfortune’ back over the life of Bill Brown. A consequence of accepting this view is that harms are essentially ‘timeless’ (Ott). As Feinberg states in his work ‘Harm to Others’:

It does not suddenly ‘become true’ that the ante-mortem [person] was harmed.[2] Rather it becomes apparent to us for the first time that it was true all along – that from the first time [person] invested enough in his cause to make it one of his interests, he was playing a losing game.(Feinberg)

To bring it back to the example of Bill Brown and his son, Bill Brown was harmed by his son’s betrayal as soon as he invested an interest in being buried (and not sold for research). Whilst Bill Brown may not have existed at the time of the betrayal his interests (in not being sold for research) still exist in the sense that they can be blocked or fulfilled (Feinberg). One benefit of this conception is that it both explains our intuitions that the young Mr Brown’s betrayal is harmful whilst avoiding the bizarre conclusion that the now deceased Bill Brown is being harmed. It also escapes any notion of backwards causation because it is not that the betrayal causes the harm, it’s that the betrayal makes true that Bill Brown was harmed all along (whilst he was alive).

I will now argue, in opposition to the Pitcher-Feinberg theory , that our intuitions are inaccurate and need to be modified rather than accepting that argument that ante-mortem people can be harmed by events occurring post-mortem. I will use two of Pitcher’s thought experiments to demonstrate my point. The first one is the story of Bill Brown and his son and is outlined above.

Pitcher would like to argue that the young Mr Brown harms his father by betraying his interests. I disagree that the young Mr Brown ‘betrays’ his father and believe that the use of such a word is misleading. I do not deny there is a certain uneasiness and empathy that we intuitively feel towards Bill Brown’s situation. This uneasiness, however, is a different sort of uneasiness to what one usually experiences when told about an instance of betrayal. Unfortunately, there is no word (that I am aware of) that precisely expresses the feeling that one has when made aware of ‘after-death betrayal’. To call it ‘betrayal’ (even if it is, perhaps, the closest existing word that we have to describe such a feeling) is misleading and implies several false conclusions, including the assumption that regular betrayal (when both parties involved are alive) and after death betrayal are similar and comparable.
In a regular instance of betrayal there are usually two flavours of experience that combine into a singular feeling[3]. These are:

a)      A sense of empathy for the negative experiences that the betrayed might now experience and;
b)      A sense of disgust (or other negative emotion) towards the moral character of the betrayer.

Usually (b) will follow from (a): It is because the betrayed will now have a worse existence than if the betrayal did not occur that the betrayal is a harm. In the case of Bill Brown, however, it is different. It is nonsensical to worry about clause (a) in Bill Browns situation because it is impossible for the deceased Bill Brown to have negative experiences[4]. Nevertheless we still might intuitively feel disgust towards the alleged ‘betrayer’ (the young Mr Brown) due to the likeness of such a scenario to other instances of betrayal. This disgust is, I believe, misplaced. The reason that we feel that the betrayers act is so depraved is because betrayal is usually associated with negative consequences for the betrayed. In Bill Brown’s case, however, there are no negative consequences of his son’s act and it is therefore not a ‘betrayal’ at all. 

I predict that those unconvinced by my definition might cite cases similar to Thomas Nagel’s scenario (Rachels) in which somebody is betrayed by his friends by being ridiculed behind his back but is always treated politely to his face. It is still betrayal, might say the critics of my view, despite the fact that the ridiculed agent might be oblivious to the truth of his ‘friendship’ with these people. To this response I would again rebut that the reasoning behind such a reply is based upon faulty intuitions. Scenarios similar to Nagel’s example above are very common, but they are all beset with the same weakness; that is, they all suffer from the uselessness of the ‘Gods-Eye Perspective’.

The ‘Gods Eye Perspective’ is the default position that we adopt in thought experiments. The realm inside of a thought experiment is drastically different to the world that we live in. When presented with a thought experiment we have full knowledge of all of the factors and can conceive of better and worse situations than the one presented. Rarely, if ever, are we so enlightened in life. When we consider the case of someone – let’s call him Jim – being ridiculed behind his back we can equally easily imagine a scenario in which he is not ridiculed. Thus, intuitively, we think that something bad is occurring in Jim being ridiculed. The reason for such thoughts is because we can imagine a world that is better (a world in which everything is the same but Jim is NOT ridiculed by his friends behind his back) and by comparison the world in which Jim IS ridiculed behind his back seems bad. It is this phenomenon, I believe, that falsely causes us to feel as if Jim is being harmed by the ridicule. 

If we eliminate the God’s Eye Perspective and try and imagine ourselves as actually being Jim we will find it much more difficult to locate any source of harm (provided Jim does not discover that he has been ridiculed). This is because when we step into Jims shoes and ask “Is this scenario bad” we are lacking the God’s Eye Perspective to imagine a better possible existence. Given that Jim’s subjective experiences of reality are pleasant we must concede that his life simply is pleasant. When we look from a God’s Eye Perspective we tend to judge the value of a scenario based on its comparative desirability in reference to other possible worlds. In the absence of such a perspective (i.e. in the ‘real world’) we can only judge how good our situation is based upon our subjective experiences of the world. I propose that we accept the Descartian/Humean ideal that regardless of the extent of our ignorance regarding the external world our perceptions of our internal states will always be true. 

Having demonstrated how the intuitions mobilized by Pitcher’s and Nagel’s thought experiments are untrustworthy I can move towards what I believe is to be a more reasonable conclusion. The conclusion that I would like to propose is that a harm cannot exist unless it can be perceived of. I believe that this conclusion is easy to reach once one understands how our intuitions regarding the harm of unperceived negative actions rest on unstable foundations. 

In a sense I am willing to ‘bite the bullet’ of the reductio ad absurdum argument and accept as a consequence of my argument that we are not harmed by the infidelity of our partners (for example) but by the discovery of such infidelity. I must admit, however strange it seems, that I would not be harmed by a partner that was unfaithful to me if I did not sense any difference whatsoever in their actions. Without the ‘Gods-Eye-Perspective’ of the thought experiment I would have no reason to imagine things being better. If I were to die having never found out about such infidelities I think it would be inaccurate to say that I was ‘harmed’ by my partners’ action. Infidelity is harmful because of the effects that it often has on peoples sense of self worth and the degradation of trust it causes when discovered. If you take away these negative effects (as happens in the case of the ignorant partner) it is much harder to say that the person cheated upon has been harmed. Nonetheless, such a choice to be unfaithful (when there is an expectation of fidelity) reflects very negatively on one’s moral character because to act in such a way is to acknowledge the risks of causing someone considerable suffering yet to continue regardless. Thus being unfaithful in a supposedly monogamous relationship might be considered ‘unvirtuous’ rather than ‘harmful’. 

When applied to the case of after death organ donations it becomes clear that an unconsenting organ donor cannot be harmed by a violation of her ante-mortem interests unless she knows (whilst alive) that her interests were going to be violated after death and suffers stress and anxiety throughout her life as a consequence. Thus, organ donation is not a harm unless it is perceived as harmful by a living agent.

REFERENCES:

Feinberg, Joel. The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law Volume 1: Harm to Others. Oxford University Press, 1987. Print.

Hamer, C. L., and M. M. Rivlin. "A Stronger Policy of Organ Retrieval from Cadaveric Donors: Some Ethical Considerations." Journal of Medical Ethics 29.3 (2003): 196-200. Print.

Ott, Walter. "Are There Duties to the Dead?" Philosophy Now March/April 2012: 14 - 16. Print.

Pitcher, George. "The Misfortunes of the Dead." American Philosophical Quarterly 21.2 (1984): 183-88. Print.




[1] And are representative of the sort also found in the works of Feinberg, Hamer, and Rivlin.
[2] When their interests are thwarted.
[3] There are probably more than two feelings involved in the emotional response to ‘betrayal’ however I believe these to be the most vivid.
[4] As Epicurus poignantly writes:
“So death, the most terrifying of ills, is nothing to us, since so long as we exist, death is not with us; but when death comes, then we do not exist. It does not then concern either the living or the dead, since for the former it is not, and the latter are no more”  (Epicurus)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Wire-Head


Hello to all of you who read my blog. I've been reading a lot of interesting philosophy lately (mostly David Benatar's 'Better Never to Have Been') and have some pretty interesting blog posts/rants planned. BUT for now I'd like to humour you with a side-project of mine:

I want to write a play.

I'm not a playwright.
I'm not a particularly good creative writer.
My knowledge of theatre doesn't extend past senior drama.
But I'm going to try and write this thing nonetheless.

Needless to say, if anyone has some sort of 'dummies guide' or similar book that they'd like to lend me I'd be very appreciated. Initially I had the pretty grandiose idea that I'd write it all, tell no-one about what I was doing, and then one day just bung a big ol' manuscript on the table and say with an air of nonchalance "Oh yeah, plays. I wrote one of those". That'd be pretty cool.

But now I've decided it'd be better if I actually share the process with some people. This has the benefit of:
a) Actually getting my ass motivated to write this thing, and;
b) Giving people the opportunity to comment/ give feedback/ offer to help write this thing.

What I've got so far is essentially what goes through my headwhen I've read far too much on trans-humanism, the abolitionist movement and Aldous Huxley's novel 'Island'. It's a sort of dystopian, futuristic, tragedy. I guess if I can stay motivated to write this thing I'll post each new scene up here on my blog. SO HERE'S WHAT I'VE GOT SO FAR. . . Comments and criticisms are both wanted and welcome.


THE WIRE-HEAD (Draft 1.0)
By Andrew Bloyce.
BACKGROUND:

Since the present day science has continued to develop quickly. One of the new technologies allows humans to directly stimulate the pleasure centres in their brains through the use of a small computer chip known as a wirebot. Wireheads (people who wear wirebots) can manually control their levels of happiness at will with no negative consequences; the pleasure they receive is pure and non-diminishing. Despite the cheap financial cost of having such a device installed not everyone is a wirehead. About half of the population have serious problems with wirebots - These qualms finding origin in religious and philosophical arguments. Hence the population is divided into the wireheads and the 'real people' (as they like to call themselves). This division has become so deeply ingrained into society that the wireheads and the 'true people' live separate from one another, only coming together to make political decisions that apply to the whole country. The 'true people' look upon the wireheads as hedonistic, shallow, and even sinful creatures. The wireheads see the 'real people' as misguided and look upon them with pity; they claim to have discovered fulfilment and meaning in life.

The blissful state of the wireheads makes them easily manipulated into doing the bidding of the 'real people'. Thus the 'real people' have, over the period of a few decades, managed to confine the occupations of the wireheads to what would generally be considered unpleasant jobs. The wireheads perform manual labour, they work in factories and generally function as servants to the 'real people'. Nevertheless the wireheads are blissfully content in their positions due to the constant endorphin supply that they experience. The 'real people' are reliant upon the wireheads to manufacture the goods that the they consume. The 'real people' are, like much of the current western world, slaves to consumerist culture. For this reason the 'real people' fund the surgeries required to install the 'wirebots' into the brains of willing volunteers. The expertise required to create the 'wirebots' can only be found in the 'real people' - long term 'wirehead-ing' impairs intelligence - so the 'real people' have a monopoly on the production of the 'wirebots'. They ‘real people’ treat the wireheads as simply a 'means to an end' - The 'end' being the production of goods.

The wireheads are slaves to the pleasure producing devices that the 'real people' provide them and the 'real people' are slaves to the tangible goods that only a workforce of productive, blissful, wireheads can produce. Thus, even though both ways of life are strikingly different, both are reliant on one-another for their wellbeing. 

MAIN CHARACTERS:

Samantha Davidson (Referred to as 'Sam'):
Sam is a student in her final year of schooling. Sam is a 'real person' and attends one of the schools exclusively for 'real people' like her. Sam is a highly inquisitive, sometimes arrogant teenager who has problems accepting authority. Nevertheless she is highly intelligent. She is attractive and confident. Sam is the daughter of Davidson and falls in love with the wirehead Alexandra.

Alexandra: (or Alex)
Alexandra is a wirehead. She is 20 years old and lives in a wirehead commune. Alex has plans to run for leader of the 'wirehead alliance' in the near future and is, with the help of her family, planning her campaign. Alex wants wirebot technology to be adopted by everybody and frequently expresses her confusion at the 'real people' for avoiding it.

Davidson:
Davidson is the leader of the 'Real People Party' (RPP) and is the current Prime Minister. He is also the devoted and protective father of Samantha Davidson. Davidson is well-spoken and persuasive and seeks to find ways to further use 'wireheading' technology to benefit the 'Real People'. Davidson is well-intentioned but narrow-minded. He is the product of over a century of capitalist, consumerist society. He, like many others, determines his self worth through his social standing and the amount of desirable goods that he possesses. Davidson wears overtly branded clothing and always arrives at public events by limousine. The 'real people' admire Davidson very much. Despite this, however, Davidson yearns for more and more material possessions and admits that he won't be truly happy until he has a theme park built in his honour (a lifelong goal of his). 

Mr Grey:
My grey is a teacher at Sam's school. He is the professor in modern history but has an uncommon interest in philosophy that makes others view him as eccentric and outdated. Mr Grey is one of the few 'Real People' that does not support the dominance of the 'Real People' over the wireheads. Mr Grey has a profound influence upon Sam's outlook on the world. Mr Grey also doubles as the Narrator in certain scenes.

Laura and Ron:
Laura and Ron and the joint leaders of the 'wirehead alliance' and are both wireheads themselves. They are a married couple. They stand in opposition to Davidson. They loosely resemble hippies.

Senior Scientist:
The senior scientist is a 'real person' and is the leading designer of 'wirebot' technology at a company called 'Wire-Tec'. He/She receives his orders from Davidson. The Senior Scientist is introverted and is intimidated by Davidson. He/She is a perfectionist with a great deal of knowledge about human neurology and robotics.

MINOR ROLES:

Mrs Davidson: Davidson's wife. A proud 'real person' like her husband Davidson.
Alexandra's Family: This includes a mother, father, and brother.
Assorted wireheads
Assorted 'real people'
Assorted Scientists

PLOT SUMMARY:

Sam, a 'real person', finds herself yearning to learn more about the wireheads after having her interest sparked by a passionate lecture from her history professor Mr Grey. She admits to Mr Grey that she would like to try and meet some wireheads and Mr Grey is supportive of her. Because of the taboo that surrounds non-professional relationships between 'real people' and wireheads they do not tell anybody about their plans to interact with the wireheads. They arrange a time and place to infiltrate the wirehead camp in secret.
Meanwhile Davidson is busy working with the Senior Scientist trying to develop new wirehead technologies that will increase the efficiency of the current workforce. The scientists are worried any attempts to alter the current wirebot design would risk causing the wireheads irreversable brain damage and spontaneous death. Davidson is impervious to these concerns and implores the scientists to continue with the research project nonetheless. 

Due to the harsh penalties that can be enforced if a 'real person' is caught associating with a wirehead Mr Grey and Sam decide that they should try and disguise themselves as wireheads before entering the wireheads' commune. The wireheads are unconcerned with fashion and dress only for comfort. The most common item of clothing is a large loosely fitting dress that is worn by both men and women, although many wireheads are nudists too. Mr Grey volunteers to keep watch for police officials while Sam explores the commune in disguise.

Inside the commune everybody is blissfully happy and Sam's arrival goes unnoticed. Some people are talking and eating, others are dancing and singing, and some are simply lying on the grass. A group of wireheads are in a choir performing to the locals. Their song has no words - only long sustained major chords with the occasional triumphant suspended fourth chord resolving to the tonic. Both the singers and their audience are at the pinnacle of human ecstasy. Homosexuality and polyamory and common in the commune and sexual acts are often practised in public spaces.

Sam explores the camp and meets Alex, a wirebot of similar age who is furiously scrawling notes on a piece of paper. They talk and Alex explains that she is planning to run for leader of the 'wirehead alliance'. When asked about herself Sam desperately tries to weave an elaborate and intricate back-story but her lies are easily detected by Alex. Alex, however, feigns belief in Sam's story in order to learn more about her. They find themselves becoming increasingly interested in one another and when Sam goes to leave Alex hints that she knows that Sam is an imposter; nevertheless, she asks her to visit again anyway.

Alex returns to Mr Grey and admits to him that she has developed a sudden infatuation for the wirehead Alex.

The Senior Scientist and their team discover a method a to increase the effectiveness of the wirebots; this technology allows for an unprecedented level of bliss and in test subjects has shown to increase compliance to orders by 150%. The scientists proudly demonstrate the device to Davidson in the laboratory. The test subjects are so deliriously happy that they often laugh uncontrollably, but they are also indeed very efficient in completing tasks, handling even the most demanding physical labour with joy. The scientists warn that the device might cause a slow degradation of the users’ mental capacity but is otherwise completely safe. Davidson expresses a brief concern that the testing phase has been long enough to ensure that it is safe. The scientists assure him that the testing phase has been perfectly adequate. Davidson is delighted, promises them all pay rises, and vows to implement the new headsets as soon as he can.

Davidson goes home and shares the good news with Alex and the rest of his family. He explains the new headset and its side-effects to his family who, excepting Sam, congratulate him heartily. Davidson, in his joy, can't help but proclaim how triumphant the 'real people' are in their clever domination of the wireheads. He delivers a small monologue about how a life well-lived is more than the merely chasing the simple pleasures that the wireheads pursue. A life well lived, according to Davidson, is a noble life; a life in which one is rewarded for hard work and virtue. He soon becomes distracted again and excitedly fantasises about the things that he will buy with the money he expects to make from this discovery. He proclaims that he will begin the construction of the Davidson FunPark next week.

Sam decides to go and visit Alex again to tell her about the new headsets. When she arrives at the commune the wireheads are gathered around a large stage, on which two nondescript figures (one male, one female) are addressing the crowd. Sam recognises these people as the leaders of the Wirehead Alliance. The leaders passionately conduct a loud chant about the superiority of their people. Sam lingers towards the back of the crowd listening as the rally progresses. The leaders assert that they have found true fulfilment while their supposed superiors are slaves to their desires for material goods - slaves to market capitalism. The leaders explain that the 'real people' are infected with an arrogant belief that they are better than the beasts of the earth and it is this false supposition leads them to be unjustifiably disgusted by the open pursuit of pleasure. Their speech is philosophical in nature and posits that the 'real people' actually want the happiness that the wireheads possess but are too self-righteous to realise it. The crowd listens and sways to the tone of their voices as if they are in a hypnotic trance.

After the rally the crowd disperses and Sam manages to find Alex. Sam blurts out that she is a fake, a ‘real-person’ masquerading as a wirehead. Sam is unmoved by this information and says that she suspected it all along and and has wondered what it would be like to meet a ‘real person’ anyway. They talk about the separation of the people (wirehead/’real people’), about history, and about each other. They form a close and personal bond. Sam asks whether of not the commune have received a delivery of new replacement wirebots. Alex nods but says that they have not started using them yet. ‘There will be an official testing at the next rally’ says Alex. Alex tells Sam that every time a new wirebot is unveiled they all simultaneously test it out by turning the device up to it’s maximum setting. Wireheads look forward to these celebrations because they unlock new levels of human pleasure previously unimaginable.

Alex urges that everything that Sam heard in the rally is true – The wireheads are experiencing happier and better lives than the ‘real people’. Alex tries to convince Sam to trial one of the wirebot headsets on herself. Sam is apprehensive and worries that her family, particularly her father Davidson, will find out and resent her. Alex, however, is very persuasive and finally Sam submits. They both attach wirebots and turn their devices up slowly – notch by notch. Each step reveals a more intense level of bliss at the cost of a diminishing sense of self.  Sam and Alex find themselves passionately drawn to one another and without inhibitions. They become physically intimate on the grass in the commune.

There is a brief period where everybody is happy. Sam and Alex are experiencing the excitement and curiosity of young love; Davidson, the scientists, and their families are experiencing the happiness they derive from buying all the consumer goods they ever wanted, and the wireheads are experiencing incalculable levels of bliss.

In the first week of the implementation of the new headsets the entire wirehead population is, as planned, enormously efficient. Production has tripled and Davidson and the scientists become immensely rich. The scientists buy cars, boats, and other luxury items; Davidson buys the themepark he always wanted.

After a week, however, wireheads start spontaneously ‘blissing-out’ and dying from the new wirebot technology. The death is painless - orgasmic - almost desirable. Due to the sudden onset of this side-effect there is not enough time to recall the devices and within 24hrs almost the entire wirehead population is dead. (The risk of such devastating side-effects occurring was not revealed in the initial experimental testing due to the short testing phase –  The testing phase was only 24 hrs whereas the side-effects seem to occur promptly after 40hrs of wirebot use at maximum strength). These deaths claim Alex and her family too.

 Sam discovers that Alex is dead and, in an attempt to overcome her profound grief uses the wirebot device again. She is, however, too mentally unstable to control herself and despite knowing that she would probably die she turns the device up to maximum capacity and leaves it there. She has 40hrs left before she disappears ecstatically into nothingness.

Meanwhile, having only ever experienced life with the help of wirebot servants the ‘real people’ realise how dependant they are upon others to help them live their lives. Some news reports describe the unfolding of events as being a triumphant victory of the ‘real people’ over the depraved wireheads while other sources predict mass famines and homelessness because the production power of the world has suddenly stopped. There is mass hysteria amongst the ‘real people’.

Davidson is now left in the stressful position of salvaging the remains of the country but is understandably overwhelmed.

Davidson realises that he has achieved everything he had set out to do in life. He finally has enough money to buy everything he wants, the wireheads he despises are now gone, and he has the theme-park he always dreamed of owning. Despite these facts he finds himself morbidly unhappy. He goes to the themepark to try and cheer himself up. Davidson wanders around the desolate and almost mockingly joyous environment of the theme-park talking to himself out-loud in a personal and emotional final monologue. Unbeknownst to him his daughter Sam is also wandering around the theme-park having had chosen this location to spend her last 40hrs. They unexpectedly come across each other and Davidson realises that his daughter is wearing a wirebot. He desperately tries to turn the device off but it is too late – she is already doomed to die.Davidson collapses onto the ground wailing in an animalistic display of grief whilst Sam watches on with an eerie indifference.

<LAST SCENE: Narrated by Mr Grey whilst Sam and Davidson perform silently>

Sam wanders away briefly, and in her last moments of consciousness returns to give Davidson a wirebot headset too. It is apparent that Sam is suggesting that Davidson join her in the deathly bliss that is imminent. She offers the device longingly, tempting Davidson to go easily. Davidson pauses, looks at the headset and at Sam, and in a sudden and deliberate movement drives a nearby glass bottle into his neck. The play ends with the simultaneous cries of Sam and Davidson in the darkness: – Davidson cries out in agony, Sam cries out in ecstasy. 

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