Home > Professional voices—the experience machine.

Juman, Richard (2016) Professional voices—the experience machine. The Fix,

External website: https://www.thefix.com/content/experience-machine

What if a problem from Philosophy 101 could help improve our understanding of addiction? Would it make it easier for us to treat addiction without the stigma?

One of the most well-known philosophical thought-experiments is known as the Experience Machine, construed by the Harvard philosopher, Robert Nozick in Anarchy, State, and Utopia in 1974. It serves as an interesting vantage point from which to think about addiction.

In the experiment, the discussion that some will doubtlessly recall from an undergraduate philosophy course, we are presented with the possibility that one could be hooked up in a laboratory, to a machine that would perfectly simulate the experience of life, but with an important difference. Connected to “The Machine”, one would be able to experience the life that one dreams about, full of unalloyed accomplishments, thrilling victories, deep human connectedness, unlimited power or whatever other elements the individual views as reflective of the pinnacle of human experience. One could, for example, live the kind of life that figures such as William Shakespeare, Derek Jeter, Angelina Jolie, Hillary Clinton or Mick Jagger have actually lived. Of course, none of it would really be happening because you would be “floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain” but it would be experienced as real. The question posed by Nozick is if such a machine existed, “Would you plug in?” If you’ve never heard of this experiment before, it might be worthwhile to think about it for a minute before reading on......

Item Type
Publication Type
International, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
General / Comprehensive, Treatment method
Professional Voices is designed to provide a forum for clinicians to exchange ideas about good treatment and highlight concepts, techniques and interventions that have proved important in their work with clients. What do you think are the essential elements of effective psychotherapy in addiction treatment?

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