Oxycontin Genocide

I picked up on an interesting article, originally published in the Guardian, via io9 this afternoon:

A pill to enhance moral behaviour, a treatment for racist thoughts, a therapy to increase your empathy for people in other countries – these may sound like the stuff of science fiction but with medicine getting closer to altering our moral state, society should be preparing for the consequences, according to a book that reviews scientific developments in the field.

Drugs such as Prozac that alter a patient’s mental state already have an impact on moral behaviour, but scientists predict that future medical advances may allow much more sophisticated manipulations.

My knee-jerk reaction was to check the date. Nope. Not the first. All good.

My next reaction was two-part, and it went something like this: “Wait… haven’t they heard of Pax?”… followed briskly by: “So, I should start brushing up on my gun kata then?”

While I’m fairly sure this is a highly selective & leading article, it did make me think. You probably heard it: that sound like a squid swallowing a rusty chicken? That was me.

This kind of research makes me deeply, deeply uncomfortable. I’ve always been very open about the fact that I’ve been on anti-depressants in the past, several times, and while I know they definitely did their job, I hated being on them with a passion.

Or, actually, with an absence of passion. Because I wasn’t chemically capable of feeling any kind of passion for anything. That’s how they work, after all. So I can tell you from personal experience that you won’t find me lining up to voluntarily take any kind of pill that messes with my brain which – and here’s the important bit – I do not need.

My moral compass generally points somewhere in the vague direction of north-ish, I’ve been known to give up my seat on the bus, and I’ve only bludgeoned irritating neighbours to death with a blunt instrument in my mind’s eye. So, in this instance, why would I agree to take medication for the sake of making me more moral(again, -ish) than I already am?

And that’s it, isn’t it? I wouldn’t. Not voluntarily.

Meulen also suggested that moral-enhancement drugs might be used in the criminal justice system. “These drugs will be more effective in prevention and cure than prison,” he said.

Now, you knew that was coming. We’d start by medicating the murderers…

Kahane does not advocate putting morality drugs in the water supply, but he suggests that if administered widely they might help humanity to tackle global issues.

“Relating to the plight of people on other side of the world or of future generations is not in our nature,” he said. “This new body of drugs could make possible feelings of global affiliation and of abstract empathy for future generations.”

… then we move to medicate the masses – because it’s all for the Greater Good.

Sure.

Thank you for the venom, right?

The full article is here.

If anyone wants to tell me that this is an April Fool, that’d be grand. And otherwise? I’ll get my (brown)coat and start stashing the art under the floorboards.

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2 comments

  1. I’ve read about Oxytocin recently, in Sleights of Mind (p.211). It’s produced naturally by our bodies, and when con artists gain our confidence that’s what they’re stimulating to encourage us to empathise with them. So for one thing it could make us much more gullible.

    1. That’s entirely true: oxytocin’s the “love” hormone, produced in massive quantities during labour to help new mothers bond with their babies, so I can see how it could be abused.

      I’m sure I read something in that article about how raised doses of it will increase empathy within the immediate “family” group, but decrease empathy towards “outsiders” – and in that context, it makes a lot of sense. Just goes to show that when you start tinkering with the mind, you never know quite what you’re going to get, so the idea of doing it for non-essential reasons makes me a bit iffy – partly because I’d really rather not end up being a space cannibal!

      (Of course, the Oxycontin in the post title is an utterly shameless My Chemical Romance allusion… 😉 )

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