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New -- 21 March 2008

Isn't it amazing how upset some people can get when someone else -- it's always the 'else' that causes the trouble, of course! -- when that proverbial 'else' goes to considerable extremes in order to improve themselves by allegedly unnatural means? When it comes to physical characteristics, the complaints concerning cosmetic and/or plastic surgery to erase the ravages of aging, the use of steroids by athletes to improve their competitive standings, and the enormous increase in breasts implants [pardon the pun] by aspiring females in their quest for improved mating possibilities... all of these things seem somehow wrong or sinful; especially from the viewpoint of conservative Republicans who believe that all such wrongful actions should be done only on the sly, and never spoken of openly -- what happens in the Capital... stays in the capital!.

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It's as if the complainers, the upsetees are arguing that when it comes to survival of the fittest, said survival can only be had by natural means. Otherwise it's not... well... fair.

What a load of... well... let's put it this way: Where else could be find the mystery and suspense of not knowing if her breasts are real or... enhanced? What would we gossip about if face lifts, boob lifts, and increased weight lifts were somehow okay, if they were acceptable and just a routine matter of course? Far more importantly, how would we justify the fact that someone else is looking better, doing better, and competing better than ourselves, than to claim unfair advantage. If one is born with the biceps of Hercules, fine; and if one works their tale off in their quest to become Mr. Universe... that's okay as well. But if the "cheater" uses anything other than genetics or decades of work and effort... somehow they's not okay.

Keep in mind that society seems okay with dental renovations of the teeth that mother nature gave us. Apparently, no amount of chewing is going to improve our bite without external help. But if it's okay to correct physical defects brought on naturally by birth, accident, bad diet, or simply aging... why not all the other physical enhancements?

One area which lately is really giving a lot of people fits -- to the ludicrous extreme of Congressmen with apparently nothing else of substance to do holding official hearings and inquiries on the subject -- is the use of drugs/steroids by professional athletes. While said congresspersons may be spending hundreds of dollars on a haircut -- in order to look their professional best -- someone else combining drugs with strenuous physical workouts are... well... unprofessional.

The protestations against steroids and the lack tend to fall into two categories.

One is the health angle, i.e., that taking drugs, steroids, and all sorts of other stuff is bad for you. It's not healthy. It might fatten your pocketbook... to the point where you can afford the cost of future therapies, but in the short term, it's just not a good thing to become addicted to. The fact that you can pretty well do some notable damage in an intense workout apparently fails to convince the protestor that such claims are really pretty ridiculous. On the one hand, there is the implication that prescribed drugs for all manner of real, imagined and alleged problems are okay, but just trying to become better than one is -- particularly without sweat, pain and all sorts of other crap -- seems to somehow be unfair, sinful, and contrary to the notion of 'just shut up and take it like a man/woman!' How can our kids look up to our professional athletes as heroes to worship, if they are risking their health in order to stay employed? Come to think of it, why do we need professional heroes to begin with?

For that matter, how can anyone follow a career in which their health is being constantly denigrated by their job -- suffering everything from intense stress (the really big killer in terms of health) to a work environment that is singularly unhealthy in every respect? How many professionals are finding their employment to be a massively serious threat to their good health? And how many are taking drugs to alleviate the problem -- as opposed to taking drugs to improve their performance on the job?

The second category of protestation of steroids, et al, is the competition angle. How can we play fair when one compeditor is using drugs to help him or her defeat the others? We will ignore, for the moment, the fact that cheating in almost any other form is rampant -- with or without congressional investigations into the subject. Worse yet, how can we compare all those heroes in the record books with the current batch, when the difference is inevitably going to be drugs in one form or another?

The great flaw in this latter argument is that it assumes that fair competition is a good thing. This is, however, not a valid argument. Why should competition be fair? If some are willing to work harder... isn't it okay for them to best their fellows? If they prepare more, is that fair? But if they use drugs for the same purpose, then it's bad? What a load of.. well... you know... barn carpeting!

One has voluntary rules in game playing only because it's by mutual agreement. It makes the game simpler and probably more entertaining that way. (There is, however, a board game based on the old television series, Dallas, in which wheeling and dealing was the basis of the game, but where the official rules specifically included the fact that one could lie, cheat, and steal in the process of the game. One could make agreements with the other players and then later renig. My kids were simply outraged when they discovered their dad following the rules! One of the highlights of my parenthood.)

When it comes to professional athletes, there is really no reason that they cannot go to the extremes that they often do -- particularly when this is how they make their living! If one complained about people working extra hours at their job, would they be brought up before a U. S. congressional committee to answer charges? For that matter, does anyone in Congress even know that people are working extra hours at their job?

Very importantly, the use of drugs, medicines, herbs, stimulants (such as coffee!) as enhancements are not just for physical purposesl. There are also emotional enhancements, everything from prozac to vallium. Considering the intimate connections between the physical and emotional, it's actually hard to separate them when it comes to drugs, healthletics, and every other form of diligently trying to feel better, to do better, and to be better. Then there is booze, pot, and a whole host of other legal and/or illegal means to pursue happiness.

The next step in the Brave New World of enhancements, obviously, are obviously brain enhancements. As Benedict Carey [1] as noted:

"So far no one is demanding that asterisks be attached to Nobels, Pulitzers or Lasker awards. Government agents have not been raiding anthropology departments, riffling book bags, testing professors' urine. And if there are illicit trainers on campuses, shady tutors with wraparound sunglasses and ties to basement labs in Italy, no one has exposed them."

Carey goes on to talk about the use of prescription drugs such as Adderall, a stimulant, and Provigil to among other things promote alertness and aid students in improving their academic performance. Obviously, any student having learned their lessons in the beneficial use of drugs in competing with fellow students will likely carry that lesson into their careers, where the competition is very likely going to be even more fierce.

Is there a problem here?

One argument that there is a problem here is that -- according to some -- one must struggle in order to build character, the Neanderthal view of "no pain, no gain". From an Epicurean and/or Hedonistic point of view, this is really ignorant. What is the point in seeking out pain, when the universe will happily provide as much as you can or can not handle without any effort whatsoever on your part. But if the Pursuit of Happiness has any merit, then perhaps doing whatever in order to improve your odds is not such a bad thing. If you can have your dark chocolate and eat it too...?

On the other hand, don't let me dissuade you from seeking all the pain, guilt, remorse, sorrow, and other pitiful excuses for not winning the rat race. All members of the rat race are, by definition, still rats; but if it's your destiny, choice, and goal to incur all manner of painful experiences, far be it for anyone to prevent you in your benighted quest. This is, after all, a Free Will universe. Well... maybe. Probably... Not totally clear.

In any case, if you can feel better with some pain killer when you've been injured, then why not feel even better with some unnatural means? Let's face it: if you're about to go into a negotiating session with Donald Trump, you're going to need every advantage. Right? [Of course, given Trump's reputation as one tough negotiator, perhaps a little thought -- even though aided by drugs -- might convince you that in order to losing your shirt to Trump, you might want to simply avoid any and all such negotiations. And you may very well not need drugs in order to see that avoidance is often preferable to a run right up the middle of the line composed of 300 pound behemoths.]

Side effects? Oh yeah! You can bet on it. For example, Joshua Foer [2] has had his own romance with Adderal and has noted the unfortunate aspect of the prescription drug tending to make people anti-social (i.e. they became so focused and intense in getting their work done, that distractions became a real pain and were not to be tolerated for any reason). It also was credited as reducing one's creativity. This is spite of the fact that dozens of famous writers were riding high on drugs when they were pumping out some of their best work. These visionaries, according to Foer, included W. H. Auden, James Agee, Graham Greene, Philip K. Dick, Jack Kerouac, and John-Paul Sartre.

There are, of course, side effects. One often needs a down day after a day of prolific production. There is also the more serious side effect of possessing Adderall without a prescription is a felony in many states. And, of course, taking anything to extremes can lead to everything from obsessive compulsive to psychosis to psychological dependence to some heavy duty withdrawal after prolonged use.

As they say: anything taked to extremes is likely to cause problems -- both long and short term. On the other hand, the judicious use might be a real bonus. But even such "judicious use" will likely incur the wrath from various allegedly scholarly quarters, wherein they will claim that enhanced performance (physical, emotional, and mental) is, no matter how you cut it [pardon the pun], somehow not a good thing. For example, Carey has gone on to say:

"In his book “Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution,” Francis Fukuyama raises the broader issue of performance enhancement: “The original purpose of medicine is to heal the sick, not turn healthy people into gods.” He and others point out that increased use of such drugs could raise the standard of what is considered “normal” performance and widen the gap between those who have access to the medications and those who don’t — and even erode the relationship between struggle and the building of character."

The ignorance compacted into this short paragraph is so astounding that one wonders it Fukuyama was on drugs at the time he wrote it.

We've already trumped (so to speak) the connection between struggle and character. As for the gap between the haves and have nots (in this case, access to medications), what is going to materially change if some of us avoid the drugs, while others will most assuredly not so limit themselves. The Survival of the Fittest is not about fairness, about building character, or avoiding an increase in "normal" performance. Furthermore, if one glances about the world, one is likely to encounter a slight degree of differences in the access to medications of all kinds.

As for what constitutes "normal", why in the world would anyone want to be normal? Better yet, why would anyone want to limit the human race to some norm, or to some caste system whereby everyone is supposed to stay in their place and not aspire to something far better?

The place where Fukuyama (as reported by Carey) really misses the point is the bit about the "original purpose of medicine..." In other words,

Why NOT turn healthy people into gods?

For those familiar with Star Trek; The Next Generation's character of "Q" -- played by the irrepressible John de Lancie -- how much fun would you have with Q's capabilities? Admittedly Q was not known for stellar [pardon the pun] qualities, and acted primarily as a thorn in the side of everyone on the Starship Enterprise. At the same time, Q was both entertaining and entertained; i.e., he had a LOT of fun. But at the same time, he did no real harm. As they used to say in medical circles, "first of all, do no harm." There's a lot of character in that statement!

Have you ever thought about what it might be like to have the body of a well designed -- artistically and engineering wise -- "fully functional" android body, but with all the hopes, aspirations, memories, dreams, and loving relationships you already enjoy? In other words, what would happen if all the pains and frustrations of outrageous fortune, organs and bodily parts gone astray, and the general ineptness of the human body to deal with its earthly environment... what if all of these annoyances were history? Would you sign up for one of those new and improved models? We can make you veilly good deal! One dollar. Cheaper than Wal-Mart. Siriusly!

What if you could have it all without negative side effects?

Of course, it might be somewhat wise to prepare for such a body with a good course in spiritual responsibility... if only to ensure that in joining the gods in Valhalla -- or where ever they're hanging these days -- that the gods are open to new members.

Which of course, leads us to the subject of spiritual enhancement with the use of drugs, herbs, and all manner of means with which we can out spirit the Pope, the Dalai Lama, the Grand High PooPah of the Seventh Ascendency -- and anyone else of that crowd or comparable stature -- and do it on a day when they're stoked with their own personal form of drugs -- Adderall, steroids, prayer, mediation, what have you.

Ah yes, such enhancements might very well make us god-like! They might also give us an immense amount of static and major league problems if we have not properly prepared ourselves with all the necessary prerequisites.

The latter might sound like a disclaimer of sorts -- and in fact it is -- but it's also suggesting that we as a human race get over this no pain, no gain, guilt-for-any-occasion mind set and set about us the goal of actually increasing the quality of the species. Instead of panicking at the mere thought of members of Homo sapiens becoming Homo sapiens enhanced; instead of shuddering at the prospect of surfing the changing universe into new and even more exciting times and epochs, why not be all that we can be -- and without the necessity of having to become a member of the United States Marine Corps (which incidentally, is notoriously unhealthy what with death, maiming, dismemberment, and the dissolution of your personality and uniqueness being a typical and common side effect).

As for all of the drugs that might spiritually enhance one... you won't find any on this website. In the true Epicurean fashion of "no pain, good", this author is not inclined to bring the wrath of the authorities down upon him. The author also believes that anyone not capable of doing their own extensive homework is almost assuredly not ready for any enhancement.

As succinctly as possible, let us be clear that this is one of those cases where the candidate for Homo sapiens enhanced needs to do their own home work.

Besides... Otherwise, it wouldn't be fair.

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[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/09/weekinreview/09carey.html

[2] http://www.slate.com/id/2118315/


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