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Tailsteak

Good God, altering someone's natural hormonal balance in an attempt to control their sexual or violent tendencies, what a horrible inhuman dystopianoh wait that's already a thing we do.

Of course, any neurologist could tell you that if you were going to start tinkering with human neurochemistry in order to refine society, testosterone is less important than serotonin, endorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin. Now, you're rightly thinking that having some borg implant wired into your skull that balances those chemicals to keep you in a perpetual smiling haze would be horrific, but that's only because you're imagining 100% control, which simply isn't possible.

What if oxytocin nasal sprays were available at every convenience store, next to the energy drinks and the hangover-B-gone? "Snort 1-2 doses to temporarily increase empathy, charity, arousal, and feelings of intimacy", the label might say, "All natural ingredients. Non-addictive. Do not exceed 5 doses per day. Not for use by children under 12, pregnant women, or anyone utilizing antidepressant medication". I'm not gonna lie, I'd at least try that. I suspect most of you would too.

I think resistance to this sort of tampering with the brain - with human nature itself - is based on three factors.

The first is a very healthy antipathy for the the idea of "control". I don't want some doctor (or worse, some politician) controlling whether I'm happy or sad or aggressive! I want freedom, free will, self-determination, choice! If I choose to be sullen and irritable and aggressive and depressed, so be it! ...of course, no one would choose to be sullen and irritable (except, possibly, as a reaction to some edict against it), so really the resistance here is with the idea of some authority figure imposing chemical happiness from above.

The second factor is the opposite, really - opposing these advances as being unnatural. Who are we to play God? Far better to let God (in this case, the role of "God" will be played by nature and random chance, as God never chooses to act through humans) be in control of our brains. Anything else would be a subversion of the natural order of things. I have personal beef with this one, as someone who would not have survived childbirth without the use of modern medical science. (You may have noticed, on occasion, that I draw myself with an oddly-shaped head. Now you know why.) Nature tried to kill me and my mom. "Natural" is not a synonym for "healthy" or "good", and "Nature" is neither God nor my friend. Besides, this sort of argument is only ever made against new advances. I, for one, celebrate the entirely unnatural advances of soap and agriculture and vaccination and polyester.

Finally, we have mind-body dualism, the persistent idea that we have a "self" and a "free will" that is, somehow, entirely independent from the molecules and electrical impulses that make up our cerebellums. Now, religious belief in afterlife and so forth notwithstanding, I happen to think that all forms of mind-body dualism should have gone the way of orgone and phrenology some time after Phineas Gage. The idea of some ethereal extra-dimensional force that represents one's true self is appealing, but only if one doesn't think about it too much. If there is such a force, it either has its own inherent natural laws that it has to follow, or it doesn't - it's either just as much a squishy machine with inputs and outputs and predetermined responses as your brain is, or it's a random number generator. Like it or not, your brain is you.


And, as a side note, since Lily is not in this scene to do so, I'd just like to point out that Ellen's statement in panel 3 boils down to "I've got a thing for deep voices and angular jawlines, and I think all the rape and war ever is an acceptable price to pay for that".


0536-------------------------------------

(Wednesday night, INT: EB and JH's apartment, living room)

EB: If we accept that neurochemistry determines behaviour, and that it's a good idea to pre-emptively alter it to get the behaviour we want, why not just dope everyone up all the time? A cocktail of drugs, whatever makes people happy and productive twenty-four-seven?
JH: Okay, I'll bite. Why not?
--------------
EB: Because we'd be losing something, Jamie! Like the Florenovians, we wouldn't be fully human any more!
JH: Human nature changes. Our lifestyles would be incomprehensible to someone from the neolithic or medieval eras. They might not see us as fully human, by their definition of the term. We've advanced to be happier and more productive.
--------------
EB: Well, I'll admit, I am a little biased in favour of your gender. As a heterosexual woman I am, by definition, attracted to masculine characteristics - musculature, deep voices, and yes, a certain sort of... assertive behaviour. I really don't want to live in a world populated exclusively by bitches and their ambulatory Hitachis.
--------------
JH: Well, again, if it's any comfort, you won't live long enough to live in that world.
EB: I dunno, I was kind of hoping to survive until Saturday...




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