Date: Fri Feb 15 2002 - 12:57:46 MST
I think the real relevance of the drug addiction issue to Extropians
is how it prefigures the conflicts which will arrive when more powerful
brain alterations are possible.
Drugs provide only crude tools for altering mental function. In the
future we will probably have much more effective means. However these
will not necessarily be any more socially acceptable. Someone could still
change his mind into a vegetative euphoric state, or into a goal-driven
socially-oblivious obsession. They might still abandon children, or not
pay creditors, or harm whatever other victims are offered up to justify
penalizing drug use.
What should the Extropian attitude be towards brain alterations?
Does society have the right to require people to behave in certain
conventional ways? Can they be allowed to seek their own path even if
it looks to outsiders like a mistake?
And to the extent that we do want to enforce certain rules, like not
allowing violence to others, or requiring attention to children, should
we ban the technology, or just punish the behavior? Should we say that
applying electronic currents to the brain is illegal, like we now say
that injecting heroin is illegal? Should someone who abandons their
children be treated differently if they have also altered their brain?
Given the complexity of biological alterations which will be possible,
I think the only sensible approach is to judge behavior and not the
means and motivation behind it. Rather than saying that drug users
should be penalized because they sometimes abandon their children,
we should say that abandoning children is illegal and people who do
so should be punished, whether they are using drugs, or have altered
their brain in any other way, or were genetically altered at birth,
or are just plain normal human beings (if that means anything).
Knowing what lies ahead, doesn't it make sense to adopt the same position
with regard to drug use today? Surely Extropians don't need to be trapped
in the same back and forth, liberal vs conservative arguments we can find
on the editorial page of any newspaper. We have a unique perspective on
the problem, and we should bring that to bear in analyzing these issues.
For most people, the prospect of brain alterations is nothing more than
science fiction, of no relevance to present day issues. Extropians should
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