Re: Eliezer vs crack

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Thu, 18 Sep 1997 23:51:54 -0500

Anton Sherwood wrote:
> Eliezer writes
> : I've been convinced that drugs are evil. ... if I go after drugs
> : it will be with bioengineered viruses, not guns and policemen and
> : warrantless searches.
> So ... your holy plague wipes out the coca plant; beneficial uses of
> coca cease (are coca extracts still used in medicine, or are Novocaine
> and Procaine wholly synthetic?); and some genius on the Dark Side of
> the bio-Force cooks up a new drug, which might be less benign than
> crack but that doesn't matter; what counts is that it is not vulnerable
> to your anti-coca. Now what?

The New Drug isn't prohibited, so no crack ghettos form.

> Have you any comment on the idea that crack is a product of prohibition?


> Smugglers want a high potency/volume ratio; also, if users have limited
> opportunities to get their hit (unlike drinkers who can buy their drug
> anywhere and openly extend their intake over a whole evening) they want
> that rare hit to be stronger than beer.
> What's the difference between David Pearce (who?) and a ghetto user?

David Pearce is the author of "The Hedonistic Imperative" and - IMSOHO - a
great and *experienced* cognitive engineer. I hope that someday my
"Algernon's Law" page grows into the neurosurgical equivalent of his great
neuropharmacological masterpiece. Hedweb is the first place to check for
anything relating to the neurology of pleasure, motivation, and so on, which
covers a great deal more territory than you might think. As a master of
pharmacology - his motto is "Better Living Through Chemistry" - he catalogues
the neurological and subjective effects of modern-day drugs for brightening
your life and even your mind.

I think I'll probably beat him to market simply because neurosurgery is *so*
much easier than neuropharmacology. But a substantial amount of what I do is
simply and directly derived from the invention of surgical equivalents to his
chemical catalogue.

IMSOHO stands for In My Sort Of Humble Opinion.

Anyway, that's the reason why I wouldn't interfere with him if he decided that
cocaine was a Good Thing in and of itself. I'd probably check his data before
I swallowed the stuff myself, but I'd never interfere with him.

I'm not quite sure what his perspective would be on my proposal to eliminate
cocaine. As I and a few others pointed out, cocaine would pop up again sooner
or later no matter what kind of virus I hit it with. I don't know whether
he'd like my viral warfare, although he would probably be disturbed by the
shadow of Prohibition and criminalization that everyone is rightly nervous
about. I suppose he might feel that it was his duty to oppose me on such an
issue. Anyway, I get the impression that he looks on drug abuse the same way
I might look on self-performed lobotomies. Stupid, incompetent, and dangerous.

I'd almost certainly call him in as a consultant in any case - for the
withdrawal cases, to increase willpower, and maybe to make less dangerous
alternatives to crack available.

Anyway, from reading his list of Good Drugs for Family Usage, I get the
impression that cocaine is a crudely targeted pharmaceutical with
indiscriminate side effects, and that many well-targeted alternatives exist to
replace it. More expensive? Probably, but as I pointed out in a different
thread, we're running out of work, not capacity.

--       Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.