I laughed my ass off when I read this headline.
Not that I disbelieved the possibility and plausibility of such a discovery. I was just surprised at the public announcement of such.
The announcement runs counter to other communities like the medical and government. These groups are worried that we (Americans) are already taking too many drugs, both for honest medical reasons too numerous to list and those drugs specifically designed to control and modify our mental state. We won’t get into the illegal drugs, which are almost always used to modify ones’ mental state.
Morality, as defined, is the principle behind deciding right from wrong. The word goes back to early western civilization (Latin root). Deciding right from wrong can be different, depending on the size of the group of humans. Personal right from wrong can change with the addition of a significant other; a family; a town; and so on.
So, to quote Mr. Spock, ‘Were I to invoke logic, however, logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many
outweigh the needs of the few.’
But what of free thought and independent choice?
“Everyone believes himself, a priori, perfectly free – even in his individual action, and thinks that at every moment he can commence another manner of life…But a posteriori, through experience, he finds to his astonishment that he is not free, but subjected to necessity, that in spite of all his resolutions and reflections he does not change his conduct, and that from the beginning of his life to the end of it, he must carry out the very character which he himself condemns.” – Arthur Schopenhaur
Hmm. Seems like those two got together for some Kohlinar and 40-year old malt. But, but, but, you may say; I don’t like your definition of right and wrong. Circumstances define the choice(s) available. The human animal(s) picks one or the other as it benefits him/them at that specific time. The mightiest of groups write the justifying narrative.
The Wiki page has a nice description about the phrase. Historically, this is the proven case. And currently, we have numerous countries disagreeing on what is right and wrong. Who will decide what morals are designed into these pills?
And if the above remains true, why would it be in pill form? Governments would be pumping immense quantities of the drug into the water systems, or make it a mandatory additive to foodstuffs. Justifying it all with the ‘benefit for the people’. Like taxes. Might makes right, right?
Putting my cynicism aside for a second (any longer and I start thinking about getting a subscription to the NY Times), let’s say the drug works and they program it according to The Three Laws of Robotics
, modified to human standards. As has been discussed about the Laws, there are situational loopholes you can drive a hovercraft through. Good for the many, screw the few.
Getting my inner geek in gear, we now move to a (IMHO) perfect example of what could go wrong with such a plan. In the cult-classic sci-fi television show, Firefly
, and the culminating end movie, Serenity, used a creepily similar situation where the government unleashed a drug into the atmosphere that made citizens more compliant. The negative result was a deceased population. The cause? Extreme mellowness to the point where they stopped eating, drinking, or moving. And if that wasn’t enough of a downside, those few of the populace that didn’t mellow became psychotic cannibals.
Right or wrong choice time. Is it desirable to have basic morality dictated (in pill form, etc.) by a small elite group of persons, or should natural selection and the commons of the peers enforce morality?