I remember reading a long time ago a novel where some people who, through a surgical operation had a wire connected to the pleasure center of their brains. They could just plug themselves in, it became an addiction. The were called wireheads. Does anyone recall what novel that was ?

  • 5
    Wireheads appear in several Larry Niven stories, but they are hardly a unique there. More detail would help. Aug 5, 2014 at 17:58
  • Thanks, that could be it, is there any story in particular where they are introduced ? Sadly, I cannot remember any more details. Aug 5, 2014 at 18:00
  • 1
    I believe it first showed up in Niven's Death by Ecstasy. Abuse (for pleasure) of a brain implant meant for something else occurs in a slightly earlier novel The Terminal Man by Michael Crichton. Incidentally, it also shows up in Spider Robinson's Mindkiller and the related books in that series. It's a pretty major plot element, although used in various ways.
    – K-H-W
    Aug 5, 2014 at 18:51
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    – Möoz
    Nov 20, 2017 at 2:01

1 Answer 1


Per wikipedia:

In Larry Niven's Known Space stories, a wirehead is someone who has been fitted with an electronic brain implant (called a "droud" in the stories) to stimulate the pleasure centres of their brain. In the Known Space universe, wireheading is the most addictive habit known (Louis Wu is the only given example of a recovered addict), and wireheads usually die from neglecting themselves in favour of the ceaseless pleasure. Wireheading is so powerful and easy that it becomes an evolutionary pressure, selecting against that portion of Known Space humanity without self-control. Wireheading need not use an actual brain implant; the pleasure centre can be remotely activated by a small device called a "tasp" (important in the Ringworld novels)

"Wireheading" appears in several Niven works, notably Flatlander and the Ringworld Engineers

She reminded me of a wirehead. You can't get a wirehead's attention, either, when house current is trickling down a fine wire from the top of his skull into the pleasure center of his brain. But no, the pure egocentric joy of a wirehead hardly matched Charlotte's egocentric misery. Flatlander - Larry Niven


Times change. Generations later, these same cultures usually see current addiction as a mixed lessing. 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.

And the joy comes pure, with no overtones and no hangover. Ringworld Engineers - Larry Niven

  • There's a line in John Steakley's Armor about looking like "K Dick wireheads", which led me to believe it was a reference that went further back, to Philip K. Dick. There's some speculation here to that effect. I haven't read enough pkd to know myself, though.
    – gowenfawr
    Aug 5, 2014 at 19:18
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    A wirehead / wireheads appear in our own space and time in Spider Robinson's 1977 novella "God is an Iron" which was expanded into the 1979 novel Mindkiller.
    – Spencer
    Aug 2, 2016 at 9:27
  • According to the linked Wikipedia article, (this) Flatlander is not a novel but a collection of stories including “Death by Ecstasy”. Nov 29, 2020 at 4:28

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