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  • So we've just seen that according to the 2nd

  • Noble Truth, the source of Dukkha, the source of

  • suffering and unsatisfactoriness is our craving, our attempt to

  • hang on to things that don't last including pleasure

  • and I used powdered sugar donuts as my own personal example of that.

  • The Buddha, as we saw, said that our failure to kind of grasp

  • this dynamic, was just another example of our failing to see the world clearly.

  • Now in this segment of lecture one, we're going to drill down a little

  • into the biological mechanics of craving, And of the evaporation of p, of pleasure.

  • And we're going to ask why it is that if the Buddha was right, why it is that we do

  • fail to get the picture about pleasure and how fleeting it is.

  • [SOUND] Now in Buddhist writing when, when the Buddha.

  • Talks about our failure to see things clearly.

  • He often uses a word that is typically translated as, delusion.

  • But I want to emphasize that sometimes that

  • word is a little bit of an overstatement.

  • So, for example, when I'm gazing at

  • powdered sugar doughnuts, you know, There's no point

  • where I'm you know, thinking that there are

  • foreign agents conspiring to assassinate me or anything.

  • There' not even a point where I

  • actually think the pleasure's going to last forever.

  • In fact, If you said, well do you think

  • it's going to last for 10 minutes, I'd probably say no.

  • But at the same time, as I look forward to eating those donuts, I'm thinking

  • a lot more about the pleasure then about the evaporation of the

  • pleasure and I'm certainly not thinking about you know, well maybe the sugar

  • rush will subside and then [UNKNOWN] I'm just focused on that moment of pleasure.

  • Now in other cases something more like delusion may actually happen.

  • You know, with infatuation.

  • If you've ever had a serious crush on someone, you, you may

  • recall that you know, you had a pretty distorted view of things.

  • You, you had a lot of trouble seeing any blemishes or deficiencies in the person.

  • It was all good, right?

  • And there was this idea that wow, should you ever be so lucky as

  • to find yourself in a relationship with

  • that person, everything would be better probably eternally.

  • And you know, relationships needless to say are

  • in fact you know, more complicated than that.

  • And so, too, with a, with say, a job you really want.

  • You're, you know, if you really want that thing, you're looking

  • forward to it, thinking about all the great things it's going to bring.

  • You're not thinking about the hassles that all jobs bring.

  • And there may be a sense that, if you

  • could just get this job, then you could relax.

  • Then you will have, arrived.

  • But of course, you haven't really arrived, you know, the

  • gratification is not going to last forever, it never lasts forever.

  • Now if you want to look at parts of the brain that are relevant to

  • the failure of gratification to last forever,

  • one obvious candidate would be the neurotransmitter dopamine.

  • If you read much in the popular science press, you've

  • probably read about dopamine as the pleasure chemical, the reward chemical.

  • The true story is actually a lot more complicated than that.

  • The effects dopamine has depend on the part of the

  • brain you're in, which neurons are involved, which receptors are involved.

  • And so on.

  • There's also the question of does dopamine actually

  • cause pleasure, or is it just correlated with pleasure.

  • The for our purposes the, the mere correlation is pretty much

  • enough, the fact that dopamine seems to be correlated with pleasure.

  • so, we're going to look at a little data from a study in which they monitored

  • very precisely the neurons in monkeys that are

  • involved with the release of dopamine and are in a part of

  • the brain where dopamine seems to be correlated with pleasure and reward.

  • So what they did, they gave a little

  • fruit juice To a monkey and here's what happened.

  • So that is a dopemamine spike.

  • If you want to ask, how long does that last?

  • How, how long are we talking about along that horizontal axis?

  • Well, that's about a third of a second of dopemine spike.

  • So, assuming that in this monkey dopamine is correlated with pleasure.

  • You know that's, that's pretty brief pleasure.

  • You know if monkeys could talk he might have said

  • this particular monkey might have said wow that was impermanent.

  • You know?

  • Maybe the monkey condition is very much like the

  • human condition and pleasure just tends to evaporate pretty rapidly.

  • And if that is the case then that's all the more reason to look at natural

  • selection as a possible explanation for why pleasure does evaporate.

  • You know, if, if monkeys and humans are exhibiting some of the same dynamics.

  • [SOUND] so the question is, why does natural selection

  • build brains like this, where pleasure is so fleeting?

  • Why not just leave that dopamine spigot on?

  • You could, you know, you could keep dishing

  • out dopamine for 10 seconds, 20 seconds, in principle.

  • But that doesn't happen.

  • Why is that?

  • And, and, and why do we seem, you know, not to really get the picture in our

  • everyday lives about how rapidly the pleasure is going to dissipate.

  • Why did natural selection design our brains like this?

  • Now, as I've said before, whenever I say something

  • is designed by natural selection, designed should be in quotes.

  • Natural selection is not a conscious designer, still it does

  • create animals that look as if they were designed by

  • a pretty smart designer with one thing in mind, to

  • get them to get their genes into the next generation.

  • So it is a fair thing to do, as a kind of thought experiment, to put ourselves in

  • the shoes of natural selection and ask If we

  • were designing organisms, how would we design their brains?

  • You know, if we wanted them to get their genes to their next generation.

  • Now, granted that eating helps them do that by keeping them alive.

  • Sex obviously helps them do that.

  • And even with humans and non-human primates, things like elevating their

  • social status helps them do that because it seems to be the

  • case that in primates and some some other parts of the animal kingdom, social

  • status is correlated with getting genes into the next generation.

  • So it is a fair question.

  • How would you design these brains if you were natural selection?

  • I would submit that there are 3 principles of design, that

  • would make sense if you want animals to reach these goals.

  • Okay, first of all, when animals do reach the goals,

  • they have food, they have sex they should get some pleasure.

  • Pleasure is what reinforces behavior, makes animals more likely to

  • do whatever led them to the goal in the first place.

  • Principle number two, the pleasure should not last forever.

  • Obviously if you ate one meal, and just blissed out, you know.

  • And, and, and never felt the, the unpleasant

  • sensation of hunger again, you would never eat again.

  • You would die.

  • Okay?

  • And if you had sex and then just kind of basked in the after glow for a really

  • long time, thinking about how wonderful it'd been, you

  • know, and meanwhile, in your species some other animal

  • had sex, said that was great, but you know

  • I'm starting to feel restless, I think I'll go

  • get some food, or do something to elevate my

  • social status, or maybe go find some more sex.

  • Well, that animal's going to get more genes

  • in the next generation than you will.

  • So these genes for restlessness and for you know, not being satisfied

  • for very long, that that animals has are going to do better than your genes.

  • The third principle of design.

  • I would submit, is that animals should focus

  • more on the pleasure that reaching goals will bring

  • than on the subsequent evaporation of the pleasure, okay?

  • You know obviously if you're focused on that pleasure.

  • If you're focused on, on how good it's going to

  • feel to reach the goal, you'll reach the goal.

  • Whereas if you're sitting there thinking you know, the pleasure's

  • going to be over in a nanosecond, why work so hard?

  • Well you know, you're going to probably wind up, you

  • know, sitting in your room alone full of ennui.

  • Reading existential philosophy or something, you know, and that's definitely

  • no way to get your genes into the next generation.

  • So, I would say that these, these three principles of design they make sense

  • in terms of natural selection and they,

  • they help make sense of Buddhist teaching, right?

  • The Buddha said that pleasure tends to evaporate and it leaves us unsatisfied

  • and it seems to be the case that pleasure is designed to evaporate so that

  • it will leave us unsatisfied and we will be motivated to go out and

  • do more work and, and, and check

  • off more bullet points on natural selection's agenda.

  • The Buddha said, we seem not to get the picture about pleasure.

  • We focus on the pleasure and not the fleetingness of the pleasure.

  • And that to makes sense in terms of natural selection.

  • Focusing on the pleasure is a good motivator.

  • Okay, let's back to that monkey.

  • Now.

  • In the data we saw about that monkey's

  • brain, we didn't see anything about anticipating pleasure.

  • And that's because in that case, the monkey couldn't anticipate

  • the pleasure, because the fruit juice came out of the blue.

  • The monkey was not expecting it.

  • They just dropped it on the monkey's tongue.

  • However later in the experiment.

  • They did make anticipation possible.

  • What they did was, when they turned on a light it meant that if

  • the monkey would reach over and touch a lever, then there would be fruit juice.

  • And they trained the monkey to, you know, behave in accordance with that principle.