The moral quandary of a "happy" drug
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25-07-2011, 11:11 PM
The moral quandary of a "happy" drug
With each new year, neuroscience better comprehends the chemical combinations that our brain produces in correlation to each separate emotion we feel. It isn't implausible therefore to assume that eventually we will have mastered the recreation of emotions and possibly produced a pill form that triggers these chemicals and causes the desired emotion.

More specifically, I'm referring to the drug called "Soma" in Huxley's "Brave New World" novel. If you're unfamiliar, Soma is basically a government issued drug that sends civilians into a state of euphoria and was regularly distributed after a work shift and rationed out to basically keep civilians docile.

"All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects."

My question is, if we get to point where we can artificially create happiness, what are the moral ramifications of such a drug? Is it better to live a natural life with fleeting moments of true, intense happiness? Or is it better to "make ourselves" permanently happy? A sort of euphoric dream state. An emotional coma. We would experience much less suffering, but we would miss out on the raw, exposed nerve ending sort of reality that life provides.

Personally, I think it's analogous to asking whether we should live 20 years on the roller coaster of life or live 40 years in a plastic bubble for our own protection.

"Ain't got no last words to say, yellow streak right up my spine. The gun in my mouth was real and the taste blew my mind."

"We see you cry. We turn your head. Then we slap your face. We see you try. We see you fail. Some things never change."
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26-07-2011, 01:17 AM
RE: The moral quandary of a "happy" drug
I haven't read this book, but my two cents. Smile

I'd be worried about being used and taken advantage of. What if this drug were used to manipulate how a person feels towards abuse, war, or other criminal and moral injustices? Mind control through our emotions. If I couldn't feel bad ( in maybe an intuition sort of sense) about a situation and only felt happy and good, how could I trust navigating through the world to feel safe?

I wonder if these are the reasons many with mental illness decide not to take their meds... Hmmm....
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26-07-2011, 01:45 AM (This post was last modified: 26-07-2011 01:48 AM by DeepThought.)
RE: The moral quandary of a "happy" drug
A drug that short-circuits emotions could potentially make everyone a sociopath.

do-dee-do... mow targets down with my m16... dum-dee-dum... oh hey John how is your day going? Smile I'm hoping they let me finish early today after I clean up these bodies... Aw damn.. that one shit itself...

I think that sort of thing would backfire badly! Emotions aren't the only thing that matters.

“Forget Jesus, the stars died so you could be born.” - Lawrence M. Krauss
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26-07-2011, 02:12 AM
RE: The moral quandary of a "happy" drug
Emotion altering drugs? Oh, brave new world... Anyway, I'm for drugs that neutralise emotions. There are some decisions where emotions can indeed cloud our judgement and thus leading us to the wrong choice. Maybe administer this drug for certain purposes, such as interrogations. Without an emotional barrier, things can be settled quickly without problems or delay. Just modify the drugs such that it removes certain emotions, but definitely not our morality, such that one can still make moral, rational decisions. You know, without emotions interfering our lives, there will be no hate, no conflict... the world would be a lot more peaceful. The flipside which I acknowledge would be the absence of positive emotions that keep us going.

Here's an alternative. Emotion altering gases which is periodically released into the workplace to make workers happy. Now that may be wrong.

Welcome to science. You're gonna like it here - Phil Plait

Have you ever tried taking a comfort blanket away from a small child? - DLJ
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26-07-2011, 08:53 AM
RE: The moral quandary of a "happy" drug
Did someone say Soma?????




Anyways, we already have drugs like that, but they are prescription regulated. I've taken some. Interesting but there are serious downsides. Namely the comedown is awful. Imagine being perfectly content, and then the opposite.

But I think it's better to feel down when the circumstances permit it, to ignore true emotion is to take away the point. Why bother getting up if every day will be good? Every moment a perfectly happy one? There is nothing to strive for. We are gamblers by nature, we love winning. So if you take away the ability to lose you never win. Booooring.

Plus how will I know which foods make me happiest? Like pie? I wouldn't care about pie anymore. That would be absolutely awful.

"I think of myself as an intelligent, sensitive human being with the soul of a clown which always forces me to blow it at the most important moments." -Jim Morrison
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26-07-2011, 11:49 AM
RE: The moral quandary of a "happy" drug
I feel that most if not all of human progress was done because people weren't happy about something and went about to change it. If we are always happy about everything we have no motivation to act to change things, which would lead to total stagnation.

English is not my first language. If you think I am being mean, ask me. It could be just a wording problem.
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26-07-2011, 01:15 PM
RE: The moral quandary of a "happy" drug
(26-07-2011 01:45 AM)DeepThought Wrote:  A drug that short-circuits emotions could potentially make everyone a sociopath.

do-dee-do... mow targets down with my m16... dum-dee-dum... oh hey John how is your day going? Smile I'm hoping they let me finish early today after I clean up these bodies... Aw damn.. that one shit itself...

I think that sort of thing would backfire badly! Emotions aren't the only thing that matters.
I never thought of a pattern where altering your emotions would also alter your moral behavior.

Good thinking DeepThought

Ps:
I did read the book. It kind of freaked me out but I liked it.

Observer

Agnostic atheist
Secular humanist
Emotional rationalist
Disclaimer: Don’t mix the personal opinion above with the absolute and objective truth. Remember to think for yourself. Thank you.
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26-07-2011, 02:50 PM
RE: The moral quandary of a "happy" drug
(26-07-2011 08:53 AM)lucradis Wrote:  Anyways, we already have drugs like that, but they are prescription regulated.


Huxley's drug is a bit more potent. It's also used in the book as anti-riot gas in aerosol form. It's that effective.

“Was and will make me ill,
I take a gram and only am."

I suspect it would be a bit like concentrated weed mixed with ecstasy tablets. I would recommend Brave New World to everyone. It's also got a bit of an elitism/Gattaca vibe to its social structure.

"Ain't got no last words to say, yellow streak right up my spine. The gun in my mouth was real and the taste blew my mind."

"We see you cry. We turn your head. Then we slap your face. We see you try. We see you fail. Some things never change."
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26-07-2011, 04:21 PM
RE: The moral quandary of a "happy" drug
As long as it wasn't abused I wouldn't have a problem with the idea of a 'happy pill' or any other emotion controlling drug. I think that the consumption should be down to personal choice.

I see it like a GTA game, some people just use cheats straight the way through at every possible opportunity and beat the game that way, some people only use cheats when they are stuck and try to minimize their usage whist others never use them as they feel more accomplishment in beating the game without. With this possible drug there would be people who wandered round permanently euphoric, people who only used it when they felt particularly down/upset about something and people who never used it due to moral objections or the belief that to be continually euphoric would dilute the feeling. Objectively there is no 'best way', it's a purely subjective thing to say what is appropriate usage and everyone should be left alone to make there own decision (same as with cheating on GTA).

I'm gonna go out on a limb though and say that if such a drug were commercially available people WOULD NOT be left alone to make there own decision. People would didn't take it would jump to some non-existent moral high ground (think smoking) and campaign against the drug (most probably in the belief that because they think a drug-less is more fulfilling that it objectively is more fulfilling and therefore they are saving users from an 'unfilled' life), the silent majority would be ignored in favour of a retarded minority, the press would jump on the bandwagon, the one dubiously credible report that said there may be a slight health risk would be widely quoted whilst the thousand credible report say there were no health risks would be ignored (think MMR), the Government (despite knowing it was safe and having no moral objections) would have no choice but to appear to act leading to ridiculously high taxes on the drug and an eventually ban. The retarded minority would claim to have 'saved the worlds children' while no-one would realise how stupid the whole episode was, the press would jump on the next ridiculous bandwagon.

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26-07-2011, 04:52 PM
RE: The moral quandary of a "happy" drug
Probably anyone who's struggled with depression has wished for a "happy pill" at some point.

English is not my first language. If you think I am being mean, ask me. It could be just a wording problem.
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