Most of the book is written, but there is still one missing chapter–on mind drugs. I expect it to divide into three categories:
1. Recreational drugs. These have a long history; the issues they raise are not new. Presumably progress in the relevant technologies, including understanding of how the mind works, will produce improved versions, drugs that give more pleasure with fewer risks.
2. Enhancement drugs. A few of these have existed in the past, with coffee and Coca leaves obvious examples. Currently some drugs, including Ritalin, are used by students taking exams to temporarily enhance their performance. I gather that modafinil drastically reduces the need for sleep and is said to be used by the military for that purpose. Physical enhancement drugs–steroids–have gotten quite a lot of negative attention, although I have not seen any thoughtful discussions of what, if anything, is wrong with using them.
It seems likely that over the next decade or two better such drugs will become available, for temporary and (perhaps) permanent improvement of mental performance. What interesting consequences are likely to result?
3. Control drugs. This is the interesting and scary category, so far mostly limited to fiction. What happens if there is a drug you can feed someone, perhaps without his knowledge, that will make him temporarily credulous, willing to believe what you tell him? A drug that will make him obedient? A drug that will make her fall in love with you or him feel loyal to you? All of these are real behavior patterns, presumably connected in part to brain chemistry–and we are becoming better chemists.
There are a few hints of such things already. Ecstasy is said to make users temporarily empathetic; empathy might make you more willing to believe someone's story of why he needs help, and provide it. Oxytocin seems to have some effects on trust, sexual bonding, maternal behavior; perhaps an engineered drug could provide similar results of a stronger and more controllable sort. Insects respond sexually to pheromones and there is now a little evidence of similar effects in humans; what perfume manufacturers have long claimed might turn out to be true. And of course knockout drugs from chloral hydrate to rohypnol–a very crude sort of behavior control—have a long and dishonorable history in fiction and fact.
The purpose of this post is to ask for help with my unwritten chapter. What facts don't I know that I should that are relevant to the development of mind drugs over the next few decades? What non-obvious consequences are worth thinking about and how might they be dealt with? Will we, for instance, expand the "absence of duress" requirement in contracts to make a contract unenforceable unless both parties submitted to suitable blood tests immediately before signing, to make sure that neither was acting under undue chemical influence?