4/09/2009

A Human Enhancement Success Story

As I think I've mentioned in recent posts, I am in the process of writing a dissertation, which I then hope to take parts of and modify and make into a popular book. (By popular, I don't mean that I assume it's going to be a success; rather, that it'll be written for a broad, unspecialized, general audience.)

And one of the statements that I'm going to make in my book is this: I have reached a state of optimal human functioning. I am now happier than I ever thought possible. I am more productive, more sociable, more giving; now I'm just an all-around positive thinker. And this happiness has not come at the price of stupefaction, but I am in fact now more creative and reflective than I have ever been at any point in my life. I now just use my intellect to advance my interests and those of others, rather than wasting so much mental energy in creating useless psychological conflicts for myself.

It doesn't matter to me whether you want to call it "happiness", "flow", "living according to nature", "flourishing", "transcendence", "enlightenment", or, if you'll pardon my Latin, "amor intellectualis dei", Spinoza's notion of the highest type of knowledge, "the intellectual love of God/Nature". Whatever you call it, I am now living it. Now, I of course expect people to take this claim with a grain of salt (until I can prove it, at least), but I have taken the first steps toward enlightenment, and I still see infinite room for growth.

Not only have I achieved a kind of natural transcendence, I've done it primarily by using only 2 widely available tools: ideas and drugs.

In terms of ideas, I have read many of the greatest books written in Western Philosophy on the human condition and its amelioration. I've also had a lot of help from teachers, colleagues, students, and contemporary commentators, whose interpretations of the history of philosophy have each in some small way shaped my own.

My favorite philosophers happen to be Hume, Spinoza, Aristotle, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein, in roughly that order. My own philosophy, which I am currently in the process of developing (while having the time of my life--I love creating my own system of ideas!), draws heavily on these thinkers, and particularly on others from the 17th and 18th Centuries (1600-1800), which I find especially appealing, because so many of them combine an appreciation of experimental, scientific method with an ethics of virtue.

My entire philosophy is based on a transhuman notion of personhood (i.e., one which recognizes that merely being a member of the species homo sapiens is not by itself morally significant; more simply, person does not necessarily equal human, although those two categories greatly overlap on Earth), from which I derive an ethics and a politics. I am now living my ultimate dream. I have become a creator! I am an engineer of conceptual systems. And, if my designs have any real value, then I will soon be awarded a Ph.D. defending them. I feel so fortunate that I almost think I've died and gone to heaven. The only downside that I can see, is that not everyone is nearly as happy as I am. But they could be, if they were able to construct a stable life philosophy for themselves, and find the right natural enhancements to ease the process of their transcendence.

This brings me to my second great tool, drugs--and here, I have to be more selective about what I can say. I do not distinguish between licit and illicit drugs, nor between "treatments", "recreational drugs", and "enhancements". For me, drugs only have two relevant qualities: safety and effectiveness.

While I try always to observe the laws of the place in which I happen to live, sometimes those laws are completely unjust. I won't say precisely what street drugs and prescription drugs I use for personal growth and spiritual development, but every drug I consume has been used by human beings for decades, and in some cases for centuries or millennia. They have relatively few side effects, and I am careful not to consume too many different drugs at once. I have spoken to medical professionals--whose names I won't reveal, of course--who have told me that what I'm doing does not pose a serious risk to my health. It's nice to have their assurance, but I know well enough from my own experience that I am living the way that human beings should: happily and healthily. (I almost never feel sick or in pain anymore.)

You may think such a state is "artificial", but I think that's a false distinction. Everything is natural, including technology. If there is a God, God gave human beings all the tools they need to achieve enlightenment as a species, but required humanity to achieve it through its own labors, over the course of many generations.

All the people who have come before, as well as everyone living today, are each contributing in their own way to the eventual enlightenment of the entire human species. I think that if we work hard enough to achieve it, we can make significant progress toward that end in our lifetime.

I have been able to achieve the first steps toward enlightenment at the relatively young age of 27 because I was willing to look past conventional distinctions, and I started trusting my own way of looking at things. My continual happiness and productivity is proof that I'm doing something right.

The War on Drugs needs to end. Paternalism in medicine needs to end. If we have freedom of religion in this country, then I should be free to invent my own life philosophy, and to develop my own special rituals and designate my own sacred substances. I don't care for wine, but it's legal. Why do I need a permission slip from a doctor to get my sacred substances? And why are some of them ruled so dangerous that I'm not allowed to purchase them at all, except by using black markets? This just endangers my safety, increases the cost of what I consume, and makes me have less respect for the laws of my state and country.

Enlightenment should not be a crime. I thought we had the right to the "pursuit of happiness" in this "free" country. What gives?

My intellectual and spiritual development is endangered simply because the government doesn't trust me to put what I rationally judge to be healthy and empowering into my own body. While by no means humanity's worst crime (not by any stretch of the imagination), it is today's biggest error in foreign and domestic policy in this country (aside from our various other tragic and pointless wars), and also in the other parts of the world that are coerced into fighting this fruitless conflict.

In short, it's a huge fucking mistake. And I'm not afraid to say it. We need to put it to an end. The War on Drugs has failed and has only made life worse for many, many human beings. It has created a two-tiered system of justice, in which poor minorities are disproportionately caught and punished for drug crimes, while middle class whites like myself are easily able to score whatever drugs we need under the table or "legitimately" by going to high-priced physicians, at prices that the poor cannot afford. It's simply unfair, and exacerbates existing inequalities.

(Incidentally, you wanna reduce healthcare costs? Make the prescription drug system optional. Don't force me to waste time in a doctor's office when I can judge for myself what medications are healthy for me. I'll pay for them out of pocket, since it's not for treatment but for enhancement purposes. I'm not saying let everyone do this, but at least those of us who educate ourselves should be allowed to experiment with whatever pharmaceuticals or psychedelics we desire in the privacy of our own homes.)

The puritanical morality of a backwards minority must not overrule the judgment and free will of individuals who stand to have a greater positive impact on society, if only they were allowed free access to the natural technologies that facilitate their growth.

As I interpret human enhancement, it just refers to natural means of reaching enlightenment. As far as I'm concerned, books, ideas, pills, genetics and cybernetics and nanotechnology--although all human inventions--can be tools for achieving a lasting, stable peace of mind and happiness. We now live in a remarkable age, in which transcendence will soon be achievable with ease! The labors of this and all past generations will not have gone to waste, for human beings shall be born anew as richer and fuller and freer and happier versions of themselves.

People worry that taking pills can only lead to an artificial, "doped up" kind of happiness. But that's not how these drugs work, if you use them correctly. I use different drugs for different occasions, but I am able to almost constantly view the world with simultaneous acceptance, love, and curiosity. I regularly say to myself, and believe, "I'm having the best time of my life!" even when I'm engaged in what seem to be mundane activities. It's truly remarkable, and has taken some time to get used to.

I know this story sounds too good to be true, but just ask those who know me. I have totally changed my temperament, in the course of about 10 years, through the proper combination of pharmacological and ideological interventions. But, now that I know how to do it, you don't have to go through the 10 years of heartrending soul-searching that I went through, the depression and the panic attacks, the awkwardness and anxiety, the total lack of self-confidence and endless second-guessing of my own judgment.

If you approach my system with an open mind, you may just be able to find a way to achieve the happiness you've always dreamed of. Most days, I feel like I'm living in heaven, or in some kind of computer simulation designed to maximize my personal pleasure. And do you know what gives me the greatest joy? Helping other people to be happy. I've learned that happiness is contagious, and that it has the power to overcome hatred, fear, and despair, if we are intelligent in the tools that we use to enhance our well-being.

I know that spiritual and intellectual enlightenment through technology sounds implausible (and it's also not something that most self-regarding professional philosophers would admit to, but I'm afraid these are the conclusions that my reason has led me to), but I think that this is the path that humanity is meant to take. Human enhancement is our destiny as a species, whether we are willing to embrace it or not.

You will not be able to stop me and people like me, but we pose no threat to you. We do not want to force anybody to use any technology they're not comfortable using. We just want the state to stay out of our business, and let us plot our own courses to transcendence. Some of us may fail, may kill or disable ourselves in the attempt, but it's a risk we are willing to take. As long as we do not also pose a danger to you, what right do you have to try to stop us?

We need to let people experiment with their own bodies to find happiness, freedom, enlightenment, or whatever kind of transcendent state or dynamic they seek. True religious and ideological freedom must include the right to the responsible use of spiritually- and intellectually-empowering substances.

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