A supernormal stimulus, or superstimulus, is an exaggerated version of a stimulus to which there is an existing response tendency, or any stimulus that elicits a response more strongly than the stimulus for which it evolved.

Source. Emphasis is mine.

I) Diagnosis

Optimizing for superstimuli to the detriment of human health, as is currently happening with fatty and sugary foods, is one tangible way in which capitalism$^{1,2}$ hurts people. This particular situation is not a failure state for capitalism, a point at which it must either adapt or die, as it does not significantly decrease the productivity of capitalist societies relative to non-capitalist ones — not only have technological advances made fitness less necessary, but those non-capitalist economies which are competitive in the slightest are so enmeshed in the global economy that they, too, are suffering from the same problems (see e.g. China’s rapidly rising obesity rate).

Technological progress, however, is beginning to make it possible to optimize for superstimuli in a way that will significantly decrease our societal fitness. In the near future — perhaps in one or two decades — artificial intelligence and virtual reality will allow us to produce interactive multimedia formats which serve as superstimuli for the mind:

These technologies will collectively raise the willpower waterline required for people to channel their energy into productive efforts: a significant proportion of the population, perhaps barring those with certain personal quirks like blindness or a disdain for computers, will be sucked in, incapable of contributing to productive efforts except when forced to by considerations such as survival.

We’ll get more entertainment from games than from real life, more fulfilling social interaction with programs than from real people, and what social interaction we do have with real people is likely to be guided solely towards polarizing topics like politics. It’s yet to be seen whether our society can continue to thrive with so much of its members' excess energy siphoned by these new technologies, but, even if it can, it will certainly lose any advantage it previously had against authoritarian societies capable of curbing the proliferation of said technologies; even if it is capable of thriving on its own, it will no longer be able to outcompete non-capitalist societies.

II) Treatment

We are not totally clueless, though, and as we begin to see the disastrous effect of AI/VR-enhanced media, many people will call for the suspension of development, control of distribution, or even the destruction of all such technologies. As such action is necessarily incompatible with both a free market and the (prima facie) will of the people, this must involve an authoritarian turn. I see three major directions that responses to this new revolution will go down:

  1. Metastasis: We’ve finally achieved the dreams of our ancestors, creating a terrestrial paradise that can be inhabited by all. There’s nothing wrong with indulging in the fruits of our labor, so long as we spread these technologies to the entire world, against the will of despotic governments and religions if necessary.
  2. Resection: We’ve seen how these new technologies have turned our children into inhuman beasts, incapable of dreaming, building, thinking. Computers and the internet had their chance to raise the human condition; having done precisely the opposite of that, they must be destroyed. We must destroy all forms of social media, gaming, and erotica, using technology solely for basic communication and productivity.
  3. Management: We as a society are incapable of coexisting with these new technologies, but it wouldn’t be right to destroy them either: their advances can pose an extraordinary benefit to scientific, productive, and creative endeavors, so long as we use them wisely. Hence, we must prevent the proliferation of AI/VR-enhanced media, while ensuring that the mathematical and computational discoveries that make them possible continue to advance technology and the human condition.
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