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Revealing the Subtle yet Drastic Limitations of our Biological Minds.

I always enjoy David McRaney’s blog “You Are Not So Smart” with its epic and lengthy posts about the very many subtle and powerful limitations of our all-too-human wet ware. The latest post concerns the phenomenon of Ego Depletion, which is based around the core idea of one’s willpower being a finite resource, the repeated exertion of which becomes increasingly difficult. Some excerpts follow:

Taking control of the human mind includes making choices, avoiding temptation, suppressing emotions and thoughts, and acting in a way deemed appropriate by your culture. Saying no to every naughty impulse from raiding the refrigerator to skipping class requires a little bit of willpower fuel, and once you spend that fuel it becomes harder to say no the next time. All of Baumeister’s research suggests self-control is a strenuous act. As your ego depletes, your automatic processes get louder, and each successive attempt to take control of your impulses is less successful than the last.

The people who thought they got an energy boost tended to perform worse than those who actually got their glucose replenished. Thus, it seems as though you are more able to exert willpower and control, to make decisions and suppress naughtiness by eating and drinking beforehand, which sucks of course if the thing over which you need willpower are food and drink.

The current understanding of this is that all brain functions require fuel, but the executive functions seem to require the most. Or, if you prefer, the executive branch of the mind has the most expensive operating costs. Studies show that when low on glucose, those executive functions suffer, and the result is a state of mind called ego depletion.

It seems to me that this could well be one of the few low-hanging fruits that could be targeted to engender cognitive enhancement with little chance for deleterious side-effects. Such a system would simply consist of a glucose reservoir that responds to local glucose levels in the brain and is able to replenish glucose when the execution of will (via the employment of higher-order energy-hungry executive functions) depletes this resource.

By providing a consistent power-supply to our executive functions we would hope to engender better and more consistent concentration, decision making, pleasure delaying, distraction avoidance, and long-term goal acquisition.

I believe that this would be a serious enhancement to those who possessed it, sufficient for significant empowerment of such individuals to outcompete those who do not.
Joel Kalmanowicz's profile photoMark Bruce's profile photoSingularity Utopia's profile photoBrandon Frisco's profile photo
I read about this fairly recently, it's pretty amazing and helpful in understanding more about how we work!
+Jeronimo Roberto Miranda, the article is about the opposite: you "use up" willpower every time you 'control yourself', and so it is harder and harder over time. Glucose replenishes this willpower.

Of course, that's what the study is discussing - it may be an entirely separate issue whether it becomes easier and easier to control oneself for the same thing :)
One of my favorite blogs also, I've read a few articles that take this tact also recently. You know that he (David McRaney) is here on G+ and his page as well. Cheers!
I think, like muscle use, the results may depend on the scale of time one is talking about. Consider push-ups; the more push-ups you do right now, the fewer you will be able to do a few minutes from now. But on a larger time scale, the opposite becomes true; the more push-ups you do now (and with a certain frequency over weeks or months), the more push-ups you'll be able to do a year from now.
I wonder if monitoring blood glucose and eating some fruit when it dips below a certain index would accomplish much the same thing. Even in a snap decision you're still limited to the amount of time it takes for the physical brain to come to a decision. If your glucose level is optimal to begin with then the body might be able to cope with sudden demands without alteration.

FTA: "Modern life requires more self control than ever."

I'm skeptical. It's not that hard to keep from telling lies, stealing and resisting urges to kill your fellow man. As for the rest it's all up to the individual whether they take on pursuits which require self control.
I also like the idea of willpower as a "muscle" that can be built up through "exercise" and use +Joel Kalmanowicz and I believe that this is probably a real phenomenon +Jeronimo Roberto Miranda - I think of young children, who have very little self-control to stop their impulses, but as they gain experience and practice in controlling their urges they get better and better at it as they get older (although a developing brain and maturing cognitive architecture may well go a long way to facilitating this also). I like your analogy +Samuel Holmes in the same vein.

Thanks +Rich Pollett - I didn't know David was on G+ I'm going to go find and add him right now!

Re your last point +Richard Healy I found Sam Harris' book "Lying" to be quite instructive how easily little lies slip out of our mouths, and I suspect resisting urges to steal from and kill our fellow men is easier due to the far greater consequences of such actions - in every sense. But it is for smaller things, for both minor and major goals, self-control seems subtle and limited. I know myself that after a stressful day at work, if I'm at the supermarket getting things for dinner, I am far more likely to grab that chocolate bar to eat - which seems an awful catch 22: to replenish one's brain sugar or maintain a healthy diet.
Is depression the same thing as ego depletion? I think not. I'm not convinced the cookie experiment proves anything regarding willpower because there was no specific injunction to refrain from eating cookies in the initial experiment, thus people freely exercised their will to eat cookies. Self-regulation was not impaired, the depressed people were simply regulating a different self to the happy people. Too tired to read the remainder of long article.

OK reading a little more, the resistance of temptation does not create psychic cost, it merely hones perception of truth thus perhaps the resisters saw: "the puzzles were impossible to solve." Detecting impossibility actually seems to be an enhancement of will and self because energy is not wasted on needless tasks. Again with the word puzzles, depression is not ego depletion, people simply have a different will.

This statement is so wrong: "Rejection obliterates self control, and thus it seems it’s one of the many avenues toward a state of ego depletion." Depression, the depressed will, does NOT entail a depleted will or ego, it is simply will and ego with different priorities, for example the priority of not tolerating bullsh*t, which is actually advantageous, it is not a detrimental depletion of the ability to resist; it is actually the ability to see the truth.

That's all I am reading, I am going to sleep now. That's the most depressing article I've ever read but somehow I managed to type this comment and resist the urge to not respond to bullsh*t. I need to eat cookies now. Was that article an experiment?
I don't think depression is the same as ego depletion +Singularity Utopia, but I see where you're coming from. I think that the article explains how the groups were random and arbitrary collections of individuals - across a number of studies as it discusses - where their willpower was previously exercised or else was not rewarded in any way. I agree in some cases this could lead to depression - especially in any situations that involve even the slightest hint of ostracism.
Actually I am so smart. See my updated comment (expect for the missing words and other asfjhwasaslhfsfhzshf typos that is).
Why do supposed intellectuals insist upon causing great pain in our lives via their wrong-headed notions? Also: Grey on grey comments!!!!! ARRRAArrghhh
+Singularity Utopia that's a great perspective, thanks! Good to remember that the phrasing in studies can sometimes be arbitrary.

I recall reading about other studies which more explicitly tested 'willpower' and came to similar conclusions. The topic is discussed in NewScientist here:

... And an extract, with [edits]:

"The standard willpower depletion effect, confirmed by a 2010 meta-analysis of 83 studies, shows that after exerting self-control, people perform worse on the next self-control task [such as how long they take to give up on an impossible puzzle] without being given glucose between tasks. Researchers use lemonade these days: one batch sweetened with sugar (plenty of glucose), the other with diet sweetener (no glucose). After allowing up to 15 minutes for the lemonade to reach the bloodstream, subjects drinking sugared lemonade perform quite well at the next test, while those on diet lemonade fare less well.

This glucose research also suggests why dieting is so fiendishly difficult. In order to resist tempting foods, we need willpower but to have willpower, we must eat. The essence of dieting (restricting food intake) robs us of the psychological strength needed to succeed. Perhaps dieters should concentrate on filling up with healthy food so they have the willpower to resist fattening stuff."
Awesome read and at times quite shocking...

"They found that right after breakfast and lunch, your chances of getting paroled were at their highest. On average, the judges granted parole to around 60 percent of prisoners right after the judge had eaten a meal. The rate of approval crept down after that. Right before a meal, the judges granted parole to about 20 percent of those appearing before them."

That part is downright scary. Really makes you wonder about which other decisions might be influenced by such seemingly trivial things.
That part stood out for me too Koen, and had the same effect; it scared me. So much for consistency in the judicial process . . . if only defendants knew that their plight was mainly dependent on the concentration of glucose molecules sloshing around in the Judge's brain o_0

But of course the scary thing is that, if some of the most important decisions are subject to such seemingly trivial things then every decision probably is. Hence my contention that fixing this subtle limitation with some sort of integrated "glucose replenishment device" would constitute a substantial cognitive enhancement.
To +Mark Bruce and +Koen De Paus. If you wear a suit at court during your trial you are more likely to be found not guilty. Innocence somewhat depends on how smart you look. There are many factors causing human bias. If we are to judge the judgments of judges regarding the chemicals sloshing around their brains (after eating or not eating), then we also need to consider (regarding our comments) when we ate or didn't eat food, likewise when did the experimenters conducting the study eat or didn't eat food? Can the 60% average be trusted, what factors may have been missed or omitted due to the bias of the experimenters based on how much or little food they had eaten? These variations regarding justice relate to averages thus the averages do not mean such and such will definitely happen. Perhaps when the judge granted parole he was unjustly lenient. Perhaps when suitability for parole is unclear the slightest variations make people lean one way or another. For example the wearing of a suit doesn't mean you are automatically found innocent, it simply means when things are uncertain it is easy to tip things one way or another. The tipping point is something to consider. Things in the balance are precarious, suspectible to the gentlest breeze. If a person is truly innocent then I am sure wearing jeans and a t-shirt they could easily be found not guilty, likewise if someone really deserves parole then I am sure they will get it contrary to any averages.
Dear +Joel Kalmanowicz that is an interesting article form the New Scientist (thanks for extracts it is behind paywall). Off the cuff regarding food (glucose) being essential for willpower; it is important to consider the many people who died via hunger-striking, how did they do it if they are not eating? Where did they find the willpower if they had no food? Here are ten people who died during a 1981 hunger strike:

I am think Aron Ralston had not eaten for a while when he cut off his arm. For 5 days before performing the amputation he had only sips of water:
It's also pertinent to know about Self-Fulfilling-Prophecy. What were the experimenters trying to prove, what was their motivation and expectation regarding these issues? Why were they interested in this issue?
+Singularity Utopia very good points about hunger strikers and your last post especially: it seems to be fairly common practice in the social sciences to form a hypothesis, go get some data, and then "torture the data until it confesses", i.e. look at it every which way until it matches expectations.
It seems like this topic is resolving down to the question of free will. Aren't we really just highly complex pattern recognition machines, anyway? If guilt or innocence is recognized by the extreme patterns of what we think of as guilt or innocence, or if the distinction becomes less clear somewhere in between the two extremes and instead of deliberate thought, our 'decision' really depends on far more subtle patterns in the brain such as our breakfast, the time of day, how we slept the night before...
I don't think there is necessarily such an abstract disconnect from deliberate thought either. Isn't the ongoing process of learning simply the recognition and understanding of greater detail and complexity in the world around (and within) us? Perhaps people think more clearly with a full stomach during midday. Perhaps evolution has conditioned us to feel the most secure at that time when we are safest. When there is the least likelihood of personal danger (from starvation or nocturnal predator), your body does not need to heighten your brain's drive for personal survival and not unlike the idea of eastern chakras; when you have security (one of the first chakras) you are in a position, chemically, to respond more deliberately and intelligently, instead of relying on emotion and instinct. And if when we are thinking less selfishly and more altruisticly (sp?), aren't we more likely to recognize the limited results of prison as an effective solution, and simply a cruel punishment, that is really far more traditional than anything that actually serves the goal of lessening the crime in the country as a whole? Luke - How will I know the light side from the dark?
Yoda - You will know when you are calm. At peace. With a full stomach when the sun is high.
I think all of these studies can be quite true and valid, but the process we refer to as will power is likely more complex than we tend to think, and no one or even two or three relationships tends to dominate.
This topic is very intriguing to me, and seems to relate two of my favorite books on the human condition; The Human Use of Human Beings by Norbert Wiener, and The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck.
+Singularity Utopia You make some good points and your appearance is bound to play a large role as well but I doubt that much bias has been introduced in regard to the 60 vs 20% issue. Either the person did or did not get parole. I'd have to read the study myself to really make up my mind but the suggestion that the brain needs certain chemicals for optimal performance doesn't sound that farfetched to me. It's already been well established that lack of sleep or oxygen impairs judgement as well, this might just be another addition to that list.

Then again, there could be effects on perception instead of judgement, that eating lots of sugar might make you see the world through pink glasses which in return might make you more likely to grant a person parole.
I appreciate what you are trying to say +Singularity Utopia, and agree that there are numerous factors that might make one more or less likely to obtain a favourable judgement in court. But the study only selected for time; it pulled data from many judges, across many locations, and very many defendants who were there for many different crimes. It consistently showed that the Judges - regardless of all these other factors - made more thoughtful and considered decisions after eating (with glucose levels replenished) than when they were hungry (with glucose levels depleted).

Taken together with all the other studies it does make a lot of sense and is not at all farfetched. IMO.

And similar to what +Samuel Holmes mentions above I don't think your other examples are relevant counter-arguments to the study. Those cases are extreme survival situations. Its not like old Aron had any decisions to make or trouble his mind with anyway - he was stuck there with nothing to do and no choices only really one choice to make - to live or die, which tends to focus the mind on getting the job done. I'm happy for you to pidgeon-hole these studies as "only applicable to all situations excluding life-or-death", which seems to be rather relevant.
My main objection is the premise "you are not so smart" which is a defeatist outlook ignorant of the awesome power of human will. There is a shocking degree of ignorance regarding self-fulfilling-prophecies. The ego depletion theory has all the hallmarks of a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. The power of the mind to contradict reality has been extensively proven via various placebo studies. People also need to recognize the growing evidence about nocebos, whereby negative expectations regarding impaired performance will actually impair your performance. The you're not so smart ego depletion theory is a dangerous nocebo, it should be vigorously countered. With enough will anything is possible. Yes we do need to eat food to live but there are many examples of people showing extraordinary will and very skillful focus after not eating food for days.
The brain is extraordinarily limited to responding directly to the ever changing environments around us. They are in full and utter control and we have little if any free will. And to a larger extent we are limited by the weak around us as they do not understand most things more than one layer deep (where do we eat? for instance). The mass of what we see as far as science and technology go, is created by a select few whose environments and genetics allowed them to perform amazing tasks. We "smart" people juxtapose our intelligence and understanding of the universe on others when it is true that only 1/100 of then entire human race (or less) are equipped beyond the point of being told exactly what to do.

I find it easiest to argue a positive view of our future, and I have been quite guilty of doing this, but the truth lies in our limitations and our perceptions.
If you think the brain is limited then it will be, this is my point, do the research, don't look at things from one narrow perspective. Try to change your self-fulfilling-prophecy, your nocebo.
In my experience, and deep study of the brain, plasticity while beautiful, complex, and dynamic is not enough to overcome the tendency to respond to direct environmental stimuli. Yogi's and meditaters, who seems to break the rules the best are not really doing anything meaningful outside of making themselves feel more whole inside. Which is OK, but in the grand scheme of things, those on the inside (doing the experiments, innovating, mingling) are cognizant of the inherent limitations to our intelligence.

Put another way, and simply. If we really had free will and the brain was omnipotent, beyond it's inherent complexity, we would have hit the Singularity well before the year 1000. The problem is that the few who can do a little better than the rest for ourselves and families cannot compete with the massive gravitational pull of those captivated by zombie culture. I see no evidence that this has or ever will subside...although I will keep a look out ^^
Oh and +Singularity Utopia you are absolutely right about self-fulfulling prophecies and their power to control us. Another constraint it appears :(
I tend to want to agree and disagree with both +Drew Sowersby and +Singularity Utopia on the aspect of the potential and capacity of the human brain. On one hand, the human brain is virtually unrivaled for it's ability to learn and progress and conceive of what was once inconceivable. But it is not particularly will-power or individual scientific breakthroughs that set humans apart. All of what the human race has achieved should be attributed to is our ability to communicate. Compared to every other species on earth, the human race acts as one entity, as far as intelligence is concerned. Toss one human out in the wild on his own, and he may certainly survive, and even survive comfortably, at some point. But nothing would be possible if we didn't communicate with the detail and complexity that we are capable of. And while only a rare few may invent and build and discover and lead us... It is because of our sheer numbers that those few exist. No one needs to particularly excel, they just need to improve a tiny little bit, and be able to communicate effectively. And communication includes more than language. It includes all systems of feedback. And I tend to accept the necessity of the masses in order to have those in the extreme fringes. Such is the nature of evolution and life and intelligence. The 99% that simply follow are no problem at all. I tend to think more and more of individuals as part of a whole.

I love discussions about free will, but my understanding of how I think as a machine, though a highly complex machine, is quite sufficient without trying to define something I cannot define. In fact, my understanding of things has often been hindered by trying to define things according to constructs of language. Language fails to describe the brain because the brain operates more simply than language, not more complexly. I also think every point of growth as an individual, or a species, is a result of overcoming direct environmental stimuli. Not in any complete sense, but an ever increasing, ever more complex, yet never perfectly or completely attainable manner.
Just to add a couple of points in defense of David and his blog - firstly I'd say he is likely far more aware than most of us of the awesome power of human will, but also more aware of its outstanding limitations. The breadth and scope of his knowledge is readily evidenced by his writing and articles.

Secondly, I see the acquisition of this hard-won knowledge and subsequent recognition of these limitations of ours, not as defeatist in any way; rather I find it inspiring and empowering. The presentation of scientific facts is a beautiful thing to behold, and should never be dismissed just because they conflict with one's world view or impinge on something one holds sacred. I believe there is a sublime beauty to be found in any and all scientific facts*.

I also believe that a core tenet of Transhumanism is the honest recognition of our very real human limitations, and combined with the deep and endless desire to overcome them. The recognition of limitations such as the glucose-dependent fragility of human willpower and executive-function is a good thing, because it can then be targeted as something to overcome, just as I initially did in the introduction to the article in question where I stated:

It seems to me that this could well be one of the few low-hanging fruits that could be targeted to engender cognitive enhancement with little chance for deleterious side-effects. Such a system would simply consist of a glucose reservoir that responds to local glucose levels in the brain and is able to replenish glucose when the execution of will (via the employment of higher-order energy-hungry executive functions) depletes this resource.

By providing a consistent power-supply to our executive functions we would hope to engender better and more consistent concentration, decision making, pleasure delaying, distraction avoidance, and long-term goal acquisition.

I believe that this would be a serious enhancement to those who possessed it, sufficient for significant empowerment of such individuals to outcompete those who do not.

And amply sufficient for any such individual to outcompete even the strongest willed human, any day of the week. So those who ignored their limitation, who believed it was "only in the mind" and could be ignored with practice, would be doomed in a way - they would be at a disadvantage compared to those who embraced their limitation, learned from it, and engineered advanced systems (integrated adaptive fuel supply for the brain) designed to overcome it far more effectively than would otherwise be biologically possible.

* I know "scientific fact" can be an oxymoron at times, and regularly subject to change, tweaking, and modification depending on evidence.
Thanks +Mark Bruce for elucidating exactly what I was thinking but didn't have the time to write out properly.
As long as no one tries to track the future with specific dates I can listen in better....that is the only game that I have ever wanted to win, but couldn't. Very strong thought out comment. Great engagement +Mark Bruce
Dear +Mark Bruce you wrote: "The presentation of scientific facts is a beautiful thing to behold, and should never be dismissed just because they conflict with one's world view or impinge on something one holds sacred."

I agree scientific facts are beautiful and I never dismiss them. The conflict is scientific facts with scientific facts, the issue is what facts of science you adhere to? It is not an issue of science conflicting with a "sacred" belief, an accusation which I find offensive. Do you recognize neural-plasticity, placebos, nocebos, and self-fulfilling-prophecies are all proven scientific facts? Sometimes scientific facts are contradictory, thus the choice of which facts you adhere to is a personal one. I favor the facts which state our minds are very plastic, very adaptable, that our lives and the lives of others conform to our expectations therefore it is vital to have positive expectations of empowerment where we control our minds, where we are actually very smart without limitations.

Brain augmentation is good in theory but I think it is vital to have a competent brain initially, thus any augmentation will be much more profound. People can see brain augmentation as a cop-out for actually doing any real thinking now, a laziness of thought where people dismiss rigorous cognition because rigorous cognition is a problem they can fix when they get their brains augmented. Perhaps if people don't know how to actually think rigorously with determination prior to augmentation, then their augmentation will be less effective compared to someone who can actually think in a rigorous manner. It all depends upon what you are augmenting, but it is also important to know we can improve our brains now, merely by having an awareness of how our expectations shape our minds.
+Singularity Utopia, I appreciate the degree to which you hold to the idea of our power over our lives. Personally, I've found it jaw-dropping to experience just how far this can go--in a positive way, in my case! :)

As far as glucose goes, I don't see any conflict of scientific facts, too: the judge study controlled for many variables and supports the hypothesis that glucose intake is a strong factor in (willpower-related?) cognitive function. As with any other factor in any other bell curve, the degree to which this can affect individuals is expected to vary wildly. Some people are better at bending their bodies (and indeed, their entire lives) to their will than others. But all would benefit from a steadier glucose fuel intake--just to varying extents. On a personal note, I think I could outcompete a glucose-augmented "average person" without breaking a sweat, but I'd still rather soar to greater heights aided by it myself!

I think it's both very important to realise how much we are affected by both our expectations (including both direct placebo & nocebo effects and indirect shaping-of-your-whole-life effects), and the wetware machinery we are composed of.

You know, this glucose talk reminds me of coffee.
+Joel Kalmanowicz you wrote "...the judge study controlled for many variables...", but did it condition the judges to be aware of their alleged brain limitations? Did the study have a variable where judges were informed about the allegedly deleterious impact of low glucose, information where the judges were told they can counteract the impairment via positive thinking, a self fulfilling prophecy?

I am not convinced low glucose is always a limitation, it depends upon the severity of the deficiency, mild deficiency such as missing one meal could focus the mind thus the mind is less liable to deal with bullsh*t, the mind is perhaps less tolerant of nonsense thus unjust leniency could be a consequence of being fully satiated. The assumption seems to be the refusal of parole was wrong and the leniency was right, but there is no evidence to say which decision was right or wrong. You can explain how the decisions are based on lack of glucose or lack of food but you cannot prove, it has not be proved, which decision was right. Many criminals often go on to commit more crimes therefore I am inclined to think the depleted glucose state (where parole was refused) was the correct decision thus a brain low on glucose is an advantageous state.

So tell me again why "all would benefit from a steadier glucose fuel intake", where has the benefit been proved? All that has been proved is that glucose alters decisions, but it has not been proved what decisions are best. People have made assumptions about what decisions are best based purely on their bias.

It has actually been proved it is healthier to miss meals, or restrict calorie intake, regarding life extension. Here is an article regarding how starving yourself on alternate days could boost brainpower:

"The National Institutes for Aging said their research was based on giving animals the bare minimum of calories required to keep them alive and results showed they lived up to twice as long."

The brain enhancement of providing a constant supply of glucose could actually decrease intelligence. The above link explains:

"In one set of experiments, a group of mice were only fed on alternate days while others were allowed to eat daily. Both groups were given unlimited access to food on the days they were allowed to eat and eventually consumed the same amount of calories. Professor Mattson said he found the mice fed on alternate days were more sensitive to insulin and needed to produce less of it. High levels of the hormone, which is produced to control sugar levels after a meal or snack, are usually associated with lower brain power and are at a higher risk of diabetes."

See also:
+Singularity Utopia, you wrote "People have made assumptions about what decisions are best based purely on their bias", and it's interesting to consider the question you raise on the judge study: should those people have been paroled? The various limitations raised in your starting questions apply just as much to the other studies which you posted, of course.

Anyway, that's incidental: my statement about the benefits of steady glucose intake was flawed, as you pointed out. Thanks for helping me see where I jumped the gun. To rephrase: it seems all would benefit from better control of glucose intake. Whether it should be less frequently or more, it seems that you agree that glucose (or, more generally, food or energy) intake has an effect on the functioning of the human, for better or worse, weaker or strong, by individual. The judge study makes at least that much abundantly clear, don't you think?
I certainly meant no offence +Singularity Utopia. I was just offering my beliefs and opinions, which you are more than welcome to disagree with. And I agree that a "laziness of thought" is certainly a risk with any cognitive enhancement, like a laziness of body would be with an "exercise pill" for example.
Yes +Joel Kalmanowicz, as I said previously it is clear for some people at least slight glucose variation alters cognition but it is uncertain whether reduced or increased is best. I also recognize the limitations of all studies but it is important to point out there are alternate studies, one of which suggests decreasing food intake (starving on alternate days) increases brain power. I am not saying my views are definitely right but my views corroborated by science are equally plausible. Considering we don't yet know whether it is beneficial or not to increase or decrease glucose I insist the best course of action is self-improvement of our brains via the scientifically proven placebo effect, a positive self fulfilling prophecy. Most humans are currently not intelligent enough to artificially augment their brains, they are very likely to make themselves stupider due to improperly considered actions. We need to focus on creating advanced AI, which will then have the appropriate intelligence for determining the best course of action.
While I agree partially with this, willpower does have its limitations. The main fuel source is Lipid that helps neural synaptic triggers. The more every pushed the more they wear down just like a muscle. Once you consume fat this will help remedy that. Just like electrical engineering every element wears over time.

Though I think this problem stems more from the frontal cognitive lobe trying to suppress the hind brain. This is more a societal complex in my opinion. Meaning that we are trying to build a place we live in that suppresses instincts that have been developed over millions of years.

I think we should look into learning ourselves before we trying controlling it. There's a reason we like the things we do. We are trying to find need for survival and in doing so impulses will trigger because those have been embedded in your genome far longer than human have had the ability to rationally think.

The better option would be to enhance these instincts so they can happen quicker and with less brash and stumbling that happens so much in this current era.
P.S. the reason the executive function requires more fuel is easally explained in physics and engineering. The more new a technology is the less refined and efficient it is. While your hind brain has been molded over millions or so years the executive function is younger. Thus requiring more space and more fuel. Compare it to engines or computers of the past to ones now.
My fault 7 thousand was referring to the written word and verbal communication. You right about the executive function (good, better, best) being older than that. But I edited it to not focus on dates but more on the concept that things get better with time and refinement.
(this info is based off the earliest known society carbon dated to 7000bc so thats about 10000 years old now.)

on a side note, one of the 5-ht receptors actually controls flow of dopamine to this function. So if you are a person prone to anxiety this system actually slows down and the use of it become more inaccurate the higher your anxiety due to the reduced dopamine flow at that time.

That's part of my thesis that explains mechanical processes of it.
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