Dear Reward Circuit

Pure altruism does not exist

When I transmit information on the net, do I do so out of altruism, for the simple pleasure of spreading knowledge? I would like to be selfless, but no. ‘Simple pleasure’ is far more important than it seems. I seek to stimulate my reward circuits. Without this initial starter, I probably wouldn’t write a single word. Its neural network connects the basal ganglia to the frontal lobe. When it is injured, the person shows extreme apathy. Any desire to undertake, or even to think, disappears.

Conversely, a runaway of this network triggers a manic state. Hyperactivity out of control, which easily switches to addictions. Is there an ideal setting for this circuit? Not really. It depends on neurotransmitters whose production changes under the effect of many factors, genetics, age, personal events, diseases, exogenous drugs. It’s easy to become addicted to your own reward circuit, as animal experiments show (the famous rat pressing the pedal injecting a stimulus into its pleasure center, until it starves). Perhaps the factor that differentiates us the most is the dependence on reward

What essential remark can we draw from this among our contemporaries? To transmit information is first and foremost to derive reward for it, before any abstract judgment. The quality of the information, its authenticity, its morality, all this is secondary. The priority objective is to get a like, a new follower, a retransmission, a real message of congratulations.

Fake news-excitement

Frightening observation, isn’t it? It explains the circulation of infox, which has become so dense that it creates brain traffic jams. The explosion does not come from an indifference to lies, as is often heard. It comes from the reward circuits, too eager to garner their burst of euphoria to wait for validation by reason. The infox is a small pressure on the pleasure pedal, which announces the excitement.

Are we just more learned rats? Would there then be no intellectual motivation to communicate? Of course not, will I support to finish this depressing post! But this logical motivation, beautiful and pure abstraction, comes second; we have to admit it. For it to emerge, I must regularly feed my reward circuit, with various pleasures, avoid any prolonged frustration, guarantee it its next dose by a favorable environment. In other words, it stops its hysteria when everything is going well for me.

Resistance to fake news, a matter of personal well-being?

Intellectuals, often freed from material contingencies, we tend to think that sophisticated pleasures naturally oust summary ones. Metaphysical rewards more seductive than food. Reason even offers itself the luxury of living them in true, consensual reality, rid of lies. Spontaneous refinement? No. Abstract festivities only have free rein if the concrete ones are satisfied or have the assurance of being so. The former overlap the latter.

A little leniency for infox propagators, which tweets & chats turn into hypersensitive vaporizers. When the finger lands on the send key as on a trigger, there is a hungry circuit behind.


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