Moral Enhancement

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Moral Enhancement
« on: August 10, 2020, 01:50:35 PM »
So this article discusses a leg of biohacking that I have long been interested, that is, hacking people's brains so that they become morally better people.  Of course, morality is one of those issues that is fraught with subjective view points (and other epistemological issues), but let's pretend that we all agree on the author's version of morality, i.e. the collective good.

How should society handle this technology?  I tend to object to it being mandated, but mostly because I fear the influence and power of those who would try to use the technology to manipulate people (never mind the issue of those who might be immune to it for whatever reason).

What do you think?
aka luke

Re: Moral Enhancement
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2020, 06:16:43 PM »

!


Re: Moral Enhancement
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2020, 06:24:30 PM »
i typed a bunch then realized this shits gay and i just wanna shit post here. but i look forward to other more thoughtful contributions

Re: Moral Enhancement
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2020, 10:22:33 AM »


I've decided not to ban you Ozmiander, because I think you can expand upon your shitpost to create something thoughtful.
aka luke

Re: Moral Enhancement
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2020, 10:23:23 AM »
i typed a bunch then realized this shits gay and i just wanna shit post here. but i look forward to other more thoughtful contributions

I think your gay shit might be a good start for where the conversation could go.  Feel free to go nuts.
aka luke

Re: Moral Enhancement
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2020, 12:39:15 PM »


It is not a shit post, just because my thoughts on the subject can be succinctly summer up in a Jay peg.

I've decided not to ban you Ozmiander, because I think you can expand upon your shitpost to create something thoughtful.

USER WAS BANNED FROM THIS TOPIC
Reason: You're going to get your nerves stapled.


Re: Moral Enhancement
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2020, 07:31:27 PM »
> mostly because I fear the influence and power of those who would try to use the technology to manipulate people

its literally manipulating people at their most basic level, so already you have the extremely large problem that "morally good" is a very subjective and mutable property

its kind of the same problem with eugenics. moral issues aside with eugenics, if you are trying to "breed better humans"
- we don't know what makes humans better. overall. is it intelligence? bravery? etc
- we don't know how to breed humans for individual traits because so much of what we are is environmental or situational. the smartest and best humans have been thru hell and survived. you give people a cushy environment they get fat and lazy. should we torture people to make them stronger?

even with animals you can breed for maybe one or two attributes. look at show dogs: they get bred for a specific look and end up dumb as shit with weird allergies, joint problems, intestinal problems, etc. the best dogs  [Ed. friendly personality, intelligence] of a given breed are almost always the ugly ones.

with cows, farmers will breed from good stock, then the offspring will be genetically tested to make sure they don't have any major obvious hereditary disease, and re-bred, and they try to avoid inbreeding too much.. its still a crapshoot. some cows with the same genetic heritage will do way better than other cows, and this is just going off things easy to measure like pounds-on-the-hoof per year, or feed conversion efficiency, or gallons of milk per day; its not even considering really important cow attributes like "this cow takes care of other cows" and "this cow is smart enough to find cover when a lightning storm approaches" or "for some reason the entire herd does better when this cow is around"

people are even more complex than cows, man

so, if you manipulate humans you could possibly make them "morally better" but what this means in modern times is just "be socially congruent" aka shut up, do your job, be a good little consumer. and, you can do all these things with cultural programming. i think america as a culture is *super* disruptive because we're always questioning everything, even ourselves, our own motivations, our own culture. like tons of woke people shit on america as a whole for its extreme racism - and we do have problems with racism - but we have far less problems than many other countries. we're all working on our shit, but most importantly - we are *expected* to work on our shit.we're expected to do better, improve, and there is a cultural norm of an expectation of one to interfere to stop clearly immoral situations. Even when that would be breaking the law or risking your own life. That's a big cultural difference! (compared to Respect Tradition No Matter What and You Never Tell Your Elders They Are Wrong)

Anyway, the first big question is "what is MORAL behavior" and anyone who answers this and has the power to actually physically change people's brains is probably gonna come up with "moral behavior is obedience to the law" and as you may be aware, strict adherence to the law is seldom moral.

Read some asimov, dude. If you program human brains, that just turns them into robots, now you have 80 years of robot sci fi stories you can draw on for thought experiments and hard questions to ask!

Re: Moral Enhancement
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2020, 09:16:11 PM »
Your point about eugenics is well taken.  I might not like that there are psychopaths, but they exist because they served a purpose in human evolution.

I think concerns that it could be used as a mind control agent are over blown though.  I'm convinced that our pleasure response is a much more effective candidate for that.  Why go through the trouble of subjugating your citizens do "the right thing" when you can bring them to heal through addiction?  (not that I discount your point, it's probably easier to convince citizens to take a "morality" drug than an addictive one).

Imagine this scenario: a bio-terrorist group makes a virus or other agent that makes people more altruistic.  What do they do with it?  Why they hunt down the world's economic elite and infect them with it, creating a class of people who no longer want to subjugate people in the first place.
aka luke

Re: Moral Enhancement
« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2020, 08:43:32 AM »
So I recall seeing a commercial for a medication where one of the side effects was "increase in racist thoughts".  If one pill makes you larger, another one will make you small.  So I wondered if there is a medication that could be used to treat some components of racism in some people (imagine the commercials for that: are you an unrepentant bigot?  Maybe Toleran is right for you). 

What does wetfish think about that?
aka luke

Re: Moral Enhancement
« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2020, 09:24:14 AM »
This is a good topic, I like it.

The author already highlights that we already have all the tools we need, we just have to implement them. They mention various drugs that exist, like oxytocin, psilocybin, and MDMA, especially if combined with therapy, can help people become more pro-social while also helping with other mental issues they're facing.

The bigger toolset is the one that all countries are aware of, but are not always great at distributing: education, poverty reduction, and healthcare. Look at all the places that have lower crime, more pro-social behavior, etc. Sure, we can say "these are more collectivist cultures, as opposed to individualist ones". But, is that even accurate? Is Sweden really that collectivist, for example? Or does a society become more collectivist, less individualistic, because less people spent their childhood in survival mode?

Poverty reduction works. Education works. Healthcare works. Poverty reduction helps people feel not desperate, allows the to fulfill their potential. Education builds on this, giving people more capability to take care of themselves and others, it exposes them to scientific reasoning and critical thinking; it also widens the generation gap and lowers birthrate because uterus-bearers have more job prospects beyond breeding (and school just takes time to complete). Healthcare also builds on this, as healthier people don't need as big of families to ensure they survive illness, since illness is less severe and less frequent; when babies survive, people's minds look to the future. Better healthcare includes community health and mental health, to further protect people and help people respond to stress and trauma, to support them through it in evidence-based ways.

Moral enhancement is generational. You work on the current generation by making things less desperate for them, so it's easier for them to cooperate. But the more important work is on successive generations, because our brains get shaped by trauma or lack thereof. As one of you pointed out, antisocial behavior including psychopathy is also a useful adaptation in specific contexts; we actually know what causes it, and it makes sense for humans who have been exposed to trauma as children and survive it to not be so trusting and altruistic of others. I took a couple of graduate-level classes in the philosophy of biology, and we extensively talked about psychopathy (sociopathy, same thing). And in my nursing education, we took child development classes and a number of other classes, so I could see a lot of the effects of childhood environment on the person. Children who are exposed to less trauma, less neglect, less developmental issues, who have "enough", are more likely to become well-adjusted adults, even if their parents kind of suck, and then they go on to help the next generation be better still.

This video is a great, quick primer on the power of poverty reduction:

HERE CUMS THE FUCK TRUCK TIPPED 111 CORAL FOR THIS POST


Re: Moral Enhancement
« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2020, 09:30:59 AM »
Also, pro-social behavior may well be much simpler to breed, as I mentioned above because much of it has to do with early development: gene-expression and epigenetics, rather than flat-out changing genes. Kids that grow up in low stress, supportive environments tend to be more likely to grow up as well-adjusted, pro-social adults.

Here is an interesting experiment in domesticating foxes. It turns out that focusing on a reduction in adrenaline response softened their ears, made their teeth smaller, and made them more mellow in a very short amount of time. There are longer reads and talks on the subject, but here's a quickie:

https://www.npr.org/2012/03/18/148758624/domesticated-foxes-mans-new-best-friend

Re: Moral Enhancement
« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2020, 09:43:49 AM »
One of the things we talked about was MAOA and its relation to anti-social behavior, including psychopathy. It's interesting, because it is tied to environment. People who genetically are predisposed to producing lower levels of MAOA are more likely to grow up to be psychopaths or otherwise antisocial, BUT only if they also suffered childhood trauma and/or neglect; otherwise, they are *less* likely than the average person to do so. So it's a gene expression thing, with other hormones acting on it.

The point of this, is that the ethics of reducing childhood trauma is pretty easy to advocate for. It's not much of a moral argument to say "we should be taking better care of kids". It can still be a political argument, as we have a lot of selfish shitheads, but it's on much easier moral ground than "we need to put this drug in the water supply to make people more moral".

This article isn't the best, but it is referenced and gives a very quick overview of the discussion:

https://selfhacked.com/blog/about-mao-a-and-what-to-do-if-you-have-the-warrior-gene/


"Later studies suggested that low-activity MAOA may predispose people to antisocial behavior in life only if they suffered traumatic events in early life [7]."

This is the article referenced with citation #7 from my quote:

Monoamine oxidase A gene (MAOA) predicts behavioral aggression following provocation
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2650118/


And another scholarly article from Nature, for the curious:
Association of monoamine oxidase-A genetic variants and amygdala morphology in violent offenders with antisocial personality disorder and high psychopathic traits

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-08351-w

Re: Moral Enhancement
« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2020, 09:47:02 AM »
On the topic of medicating the water supply to improve society, in addition to the fluoride we already put in to reduce dental caries, there is consideration of putting trace levels of lithium in the water, as it is an important neurotransmitter / component:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/shortcuts/2011/dec/05/should-we-put-lithium-in-water

https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/akzyeb/link-between-lithium-in-drinking-water-suicide-study

Re: Moral Enhancement
« Reply #13 on: August 14, 2020, 01:21:51 PM »
Medicines that modify one's powers of judgement can be dangerous; you're modifying the measuring-stick used to determine whether you should change the measuring-stick.  (eg. a drunk person often decides incorrectly whether it's okay to have another drink.)  It'd work if you can trust an outside observer (someone outside your own psyche), but holy frejoles we teach each other to shun trust.  We are constantly telling each other stories of when trust was abused and betrayed.  So why should I put my trust in someone else for an activity that modifies my own powers of judgement and evaluating whether the trust is deserved?

Re: Moral Enhancement
« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2020, 02:54:37 PM »
Medicines that modify one's powers of judgement can be dangerous; [...]

Good point. We can't even trust when to do something relatively benign but beneficial, like water fluoridation, because people *think* it might be mind control. Are people really going to take a drug with the express purpose of becoming more pro-social?