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"There's a tendency to think that maybe if we can just throw enough hardware at the AI problem, then evolution can take care of the rest. Certainly that's how God went about making us."
- Rudy Rucker

  A transformer to step down house current for the wire providing current directly to the pleasure center of the brain.  

This is one of the more insidious pieces of technovelgy that you are likely to run into. The design is simplicity itself; The part you can see is just a "fist-sized droud that protruded like a black plastic canker from the crown of [the user's] head."

A small black cylinder protruded from the top of his head. An electric cord trailed from the top of the cylinder and ran to a wall socket.

The cylinder was a droud, a current addict's transformer.

...The droud was a standard make, but it had been altered. Your standard current addict's droud will pass only a trickle of house current into the brain.

From Death by Ecstasy, by Larry Niven.
Published by Galaxy Magazine in 1969
Additional resources -

A droud provides the current; the business end of the droud is inserted into an ecstasy plug embedded in the skull.

Here's a quote from a later book, Ringworld Engineers:

Current addiction is the youngest of mankind's sins. At some time in their histories, most of the cultures of human space have seen the habit as a major scourge. It takes users from the labor market and leaves them to die of self-neglect.

Times change. Generations later, these same cultures usually see current addiction as a mixed blessing. Older sins -- alcoholism and drug addiction and compulsive gambling -- cannot compete. People who can be hooked by drugs are happier with the wire. They take longer to die, and they tend not to have children.

It costs almost nothing. An ecstasy peddler can raise the price of the operation, but for what? The user isn't a wirehead until the wire has been embedded in the pleasure center of his brain. Then the peddler has no hold over him, for the user gets his kicks from house current...

Louis seemed to sag in upon himself. He reached across his smooth scalp to the base of the long black braid, and pulled the droud from its socket beneath the hair. He held it in his hand, considering; then, as always, he dropped it into a drawer and locked it.

Fortunately, no one really knows the precise place to insert the wire; also, the operation itself would be expensive, and keeping the site of the incision clean would be difficult. The author remarks that

Incidentally, droud was a typographical error I kept making for "crowd," as the shisp in hachiroph shisp was a typo for "ships."
The Words in Science Fiction
On the other hand, there is increasing evidence that (regulated) electrical stimulation of certain parts of the brain may offer hope to people who suffer from chronic mental illness. What was apparently the world's first brain pacemaker was installed in 1976; it delivers timed stimulation to the cerebellum and resulted in a great improvement for the patient.

More recently, the Vagal Nerve Stimulator (manufactured by Cyberonics Inc), sends a mild electrical pulse to the vagus nerve (10th cranial nerve), which stimulates regions of the brain believed to control emotions. The device, originally designed to help patients with epilepsy (and approved by the FDA for this purpose), is now being proposed for use with patients with otherwise untreatable depression.

Compare to the pleasure cap from Cordwainer Smith's 1961 novel A Planet Named Shayol.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Death by Ecstasy
  More Ideas and Technology by Larry Niven
  Tech news articles related to Death by Ecstasy
  Tech news articles related to works by Larry Niven

Droud-related news articles:
  - Brain 'Pacemaker' For Depression Sufferers
  - Neural Implant Technology Needs To Improve
  - Erotic Sensation Self-Stimulation Via Brain Implants

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