[ExI] Scientists have found a drug that makes people more compassionate

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Fri Sep 25 23:43:09 UTC 2015

> On 25 Sep 2015, at 3:00 AM, Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote:
>> On 2015-09-25 07:21, Adrian Tymes wrote:
>> On Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 12:15 AM, John Grigg <possiblepaths2050 at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> "The drug, called tolcapone, prolongs the effect of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, a region involved in the regulation of complex thought and our emotions. And early tests suggest that it encourages people who take it to be more fair-minded when it comes to money."
>>> http://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-have-created-a-drug-that-makes-people-more-compassionate
>> Now let's see how many people howl in protest out of fear it might be used on them. 
> My favorite paper ever on enhancement attitudes is 
> Riis, J., Simmons, J. P., & Goodwin, G. P. (2008). Preferences for enhancement pharmaceuticals: The reluctance to enhance fundamental traits. Journal of Consumer Research, 35(3), 495-508.
> http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1055&context=neuroethics_pubs
> and they found only 9% of the respondents wanted a (fictional) kindness enhancer. People are not too keen on enhancing what they think is fundamental to themselves.
> (When professor Julian Savulescu heard of this result during one of my lectures he shouted "They're wrong!" - he is one of the leading proponents of moral enhancement.)

It's interesting to speculate on what sort of people and what sort of society we would have if it were a trivial matter to reprogram ourselves, so that our personalities and other psychological attributes were self-chosen. Would we make ourselves fair, hard-working, compassionate - all the things that people, religious and secular institutions throughout history aspire to, but only sometimes attain? I doubt that many people would actually want to make themselves evil, but maybe they would, in order to dominate the kind and gentle majority - who might then alter themselves in order to resist. It's hard to predict what would actually happen.
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