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Suppose you were a skilled hypnotist, and so charismatic that you knew you could change the opinion of an average person simply by your choice of words. Would it be ethical to be that persuasive?

To make it interesting, let's say you believe in the rightness of your own views, and you are talking to someone who firmly believes the opposite. You both have the same information at your disposal, so it is simply a case of different opinions. If you knew you could sway that person with your words, without adding any new information to the mix, would it be ethical to do so?

I encountered this dilemma after learning hypnosis. You can extend the methods of hypnosis into normal conversation, the way a trial lawyer, politician, or top salesperson would. You can't turn anyone into a zombie slave, but obviously a skilled salesperson can close more deals than an unskilled one. Your choice of words has a huge impact on how other people form their so-called opinions. Where do you draw the line between a normal exchange of views and an outright manipulation of another person's brain?

Long time readers of this blog know that I view humans as moist robots who have no free will, and therefore morality is an irrational concept. But most of you disagree with that view, so for you this is a fair question.

Allow me to put it into concrete terms. Suppose I knew that I could use my powers of hypnotic persuasion, in the form of common words in this blog, to cause some portion of you to change your vote in the upcoming election. And suppose I believed I was helping the country by doing so. Would it be ethical to change people's opinions without adding any data to the process?
 
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Oct 24, 2008
You need to check out Derren Brown, Uk hypnotist/mentalist. He's a scary modern day ginger witch.
 
 
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Oct 24, 2008
Scott,

You mean like your earlier post about how McCain will win because of latent racism amongst US voters?

After all, the theory that someone would encounter his inner Klan member at the vote booth has been demonstrated to be a red herring. Still, it remains convenient as a rationalisation for when the vote suppression tactics deliver their desired results and McCain does turn out to be the winner of the presidential elections.

Planting these ideas beforehand makes it more likely for people not to rise against the rigged elections.

mbotta
 
 
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Oct 24, 2008
Mr. Adams,
I worked at the Pac. Bell Martin Ave. Santa Clara SSC/SSPSC. Until they moved to San Ramon. That IS how I made money.When I got board doing this I started robbing banks.
unomyname..
 
 
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Oct 24, 2008

Persuasion, however effective, is commonly accepted as being well within morality and ethics.
After all, what you do is just awaken/suppress some feelings or add connections between thoughts.

Btw, I guess that most of your readers agree with the "moist robot" idea, but the ones that disagree are most vocal (as it normally is).
 
 
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Oct 24, 2008
You asked:
"Would it be ethical to change people's opinions without adding any data to the process?"

When I accessed the blog, a "Visit the Obama website" ad came up right next to your entry.

So your question is moot ... you did add data to the process.
Any your attempt is moot, too ... I'm not a citizen and don't vote.
 
 
Oct 23, 2008
My Dear Mr. Scott Adams,

When sailors start doing the job of the captain, the ship is either hijacked or sinking. Words or no words.
 
 
Oct 23, 2008
Scott,

Your "therefore"s are usually much better than the really bad therefore in the following:

"Long time readers of this blog know that I view humans as moist robots who have no free will, and therefore morality is an irrational concept."

Honestly, as a moist robot are you any more capable of rationality than you are of being moral?

Or, if your point is that morality and rationality are exclusive (or at least not co-extensive), then the premise is completely irrelevant. How does free will address the relationship between morality and rationality?

How's this: morality is actually rational to the degree that adherence to moral principles will enhance, or has tended to enhance in the past, the functioning of civilization and the survival of large numbers of humans. A number of moral rules will be rational under that definition.

But again, rationality and morality are beside the point of determinism! Free will isn't what makes morality relevant to us moist robots, it's belief in "good" and "bad" and you can have useful definitions for those even when you don't have free will.
 
 
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Oct 23, 2008
It does seem to be un-ethical but considering most people have to be swindled into doing what is good for them any way, by someone who beleives they know better, I just dont see the difference, go for it.

Good intentions or not the people in charge are con men influencing the mass because they beleive they know better. And although history will prove them wrong we continue on this path anyway.

I cant bring myself to support either party, can you hipnotis me so I think im contributing by going to the polls, i really don't care who i vote for.

Locky
 
 
Oct 23, 2008
I don't think it's unethical because you're not forcing anyone to do something against their will.

That said, I'm not at all convinced that you could convince many people to change their vote. Why don't you argue for one candidate one day and the other on the next day?
 
 
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Oct 23, 2008
I don’t think there is anything to do with morality here. As far as I’m concerned, you are merely trying to persuade someone, albeit very effectively. Just because you know you can persuade that person 100% (or close to 100%) doesn’t make it immoral. What’s immoral is the content of your argument. If you’re trying to tell the other guy to kill his family then of course it is immoral. In your post you only say that “you believe in the rightness of your own views”, but chances are you could be wrong, so be careful of the great power that you possess.
 
 
Oct 23, 2008

Hi Scott,

You need to make it so the comments are all on one page, this way people that read this at work can copy and paste the comments all at once thus appearing to reduce the amount of time spend browsing the internet
 
 
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Oct 23, 2008
Wow... after reading that everything you say just started to make sense!

Your a genius!
 
 
Oct 23, 2008
I thought that you could only hypnotize people who were receptive to it. And, I thought that the suggestions used during the session would only "stick" if the person were agreeable to the suggestion. (For instance, you couldn't hypnotize a person to commit murder if that were morally repugnent to them.)

Isn't campaigning just another example of marketing? And while marketing is based upon psychology and uses emotions to encourage people to buy (typically fear on some level), it isn't really hypnosis.

 
 
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Oct 23, 2008
If you're going to make them vote for my candidate, that's moral.

If you're going to make them vote for the other guy, that's immoral.
 
 
Oct 23, 2008
I don't see how you could possibly run the experiment to check this. In order to change people's minds, you'd need to put words on the page. Those words are data. There would therefore have to be more data after than before. So how can you tell if it was some mystical unethical power that allowed you to force people to change their mind against their will?

Regardless, you don't need to introduce a mystical hypnotic power to have unethical persuasion. You can convince someone to act against their own interests through any number of reasonably well-understood psychological techniques. To use the car salesperson example, there are plenty of high-pressure sales techniques that get people to buy cars they don't actually want. One can argue that the salesperson hasn't actually changed the buyer's mind, they've used social coercion to get them to do something they don't actually want to do. To me, this clearly seems unethical.

If you'd like to read an interesting book about consciousness and how it evolved and whether or not we have free will, this is one of the topics that Julian Jaynes writes about in has fascinating (and controversial) book "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind". Part of this is a fascinating discussion of what consciousness really is and where it came from (his hypothesis is that we actually haven't had what we would recognize as free will for most of our history as a species, but developed it comparatively recently).
 
 
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Oct 23, 2008
This is exacly the themes of the 1971 sci-fi book "The lathe of heaven" written by Ursula K. Le Guin.

The plot revolves around a character, named George, whose dreams alter reality. George begins attending therapy sessions with an ambitious psychiatrist and sleep researcher named Haber. Haber uses hypnosis to control his dream to change the world for the "greater good". ...or for his own good?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_lathe_of_heaven

 
 
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Oct 23, 2008
It would not be unethical if the other persons opinion is changed forever. I am not assuming I know how hypnosis works, but if you get someone to vote for a candidate you support and in retrospect he realizes he was fooled, then it becomes unethical. But on second thoughts, the question of ethics is the one concerning the one who acts , not the one who experiences. This I believe because the one who comes under hypnosis of words and is influenced by them does not know with certainty what he believes in, and it does not really matter if he is hypnotized or not, as he no good inspite of being in his own mind.

I suggest do what you will if it changes the persons opinion forever.
 
 
Oct 23, 2008
At this point, we are already going to see a landslide victory for Obama, so, it's kind of a moot point for the presidential election, but since it could apply in the future, I'll hazard a go.

Provided we are merely speaking about YOUR actions-

As long as you believe yourself to be acting in a benevolent fashion, such that you have thought it through and are confident that your actions will being harm to no person involved or affected, I think you should change their minds if you can.

If you cannot ensure this, then you should not change their minds.
 
 
Oct 23, 2008
Every politician uses every available trick to "convince" voters, not just Obama. Obama is good at it, and it's probably the reason he's going to win. It's not a good reason to win, if you ask me. The politician who is the better speaker wins isn't a good thing in general.

Does that mean he is the wrong choice? Nope. I think he is the right choice. But because of other stuff, not because he's "brainwashing you", as smetz said.

I don't claim he isn't trying to. Of course he is. But the Republican party is doing the same.

Now, my friend smetz, why is it that dumb, ignorant people tend to vote for McCain? (note, I'm not saying everyone who votes for McCain is dumb and ignorant, just that those people tend to vote Republican), while smart, educated people (with high IQ) tend to vote Democrat?

Is it because Obama isn't brainwashing, like your PDF claims? Well, it could be, but it isn't. It's because McCain and the Republicans are doing the same thing. That's what politicians DO.

People still think Obama is a muslim, for crying out loud!
 
 
Oct 23, 2008
Are you talking about Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)? It doesn't wor.......

I...I mean it is the greatest thing ever.
 
 
 
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