Monday, September 08, 2014

The Skinner Box

I'm a bit worried the internet is ruining my life. What if it's all a giant BF Skinner experiment? Think about it. The headshrinkers have discovered that you get a teeny, tiny dopamine jazz every time you see an email or a FB message come in. Or every time someone retweets something you've said, or leaves a message in your blog commbox. A friend of mine used to call them "love bubbles" and said it didn't take long after signing up for FB before she found she was pretty much addicted to them. She solved the problem by quitting Facebook cold turkey.

And then she became a cloistered Carmelite nun. So, you know...

I'm just remembering something I read a long time ago about an experiment with mice. The mice were addicted to some popular drug, and taught they could get a dose if they depressed a switch. Then they were put in a cage in which there was one switch for food and another for the drug. The switch for the food would work every time, but the switch for the drug would only work randomly. The mice ignored the food switch and clicked the drug switch constantly. When the food switch was turned off, they kept clicking the drug switch incessantly until they starved to death.

BF Skinner was a bad man, but he raised an important question:
[He] invented the operant conditioning chamber, also known as the Skinner Box. He was a firm believer of the idea that human free will was actually an illusion and any human action was the result of the consequences of that same action. If the consequences were bad, there was a high chance that the action would not be repeated; however if the consequences were good, the actions that led to it would be reinforced. He called this the principle of reinforcement.

Is the internet really just one vast Skinner Box?

Where's my tiny dopamine rush?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just want to point out that I'm an enabler. Have some happy chems.