About this author
Zack Lynch is author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World (St. Martin's Press, July 2009).
He is the founder and executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) and co-founder of NeuroInsights. He serves on the advisory boards of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, Science Progress, and SocialText, a social software company. Please send newsworthy items or feedback - to Zack Lynch.
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Brain Waves

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April 9, 2003

Stuck with 4000 Year Old Tools

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Posted by Zack Lynch

As the Economist reports, "the framework for global drug policies is set by three UN conventions, dating from 1961, 1981, and 1988. Between them, these conventions set rules prohibiting, in almost any circumstances, the production, manufacture, trade, use or possession of potentially harmful plant-based and synthetic non-medical drugs, other than tobacco and alcohol." 

Recently, several countries like Australia and Canada have begun to question the logic of this global prohibition, and are considering legalizing certain illicit drugs while placing a heavy emphasis on "harm reduction" programs. 

It is good to see that governments are asking some of the right questions, but the legalization of harmful and addictive substances, although a step in the right direction for reasons of cognitive liberty, is the wrong answer.  Instead, we need to make it legal to research and develop new recreational substances that can induce similar pleasures but that cause less physical harm and are non-addictive.  

Government regulated pleasure enhancing neuroceuticals are the answer.  We want government involved to ensure that the safety and efficacy are proven through intelligent clinical trials.  Governments must make mental enhancement a viable market.

Alcohol and tobacco are 4000 year old tools, isn't it about time humanity upgraded?

Comments (2) | Category: Neuropolicy


1. Zack Lynch on October 31, 2003 8:38 PM writes...

Here is the invention Moby would like to see:

The NY Times is having a little fun today by asking eleven famous people what invention they'd like to have (note that they're not all technologists). What they want actually says quite a bit about what sort of person each one is.

Moby wants non-harmful, non-addictive recreational drugs. (I think he means pleasureceuticals)


Both John Perry Barlow and Donald Trump want brain implants - but for very different (and telling) reasons. Barlow wants it for the informational value - so that he doesn't need to carry around all his other gadgets. Trump wants information to go in the other direction. He wants his brain to be able to tell his "people" exactly what he's thinking so he doesn't have to explain himself all the time. William Gibson has been paying attention to too much politics lately and wants all the news he reads to be color coded automatically to point out lies, spin and misperceptions - which would make for one very colorful news reading experience these days. Bill Joy wants his very own cone of silence , mainly to block out annoying people sitting next to him in restaurants (such a social guy, huh?). Gadget Man (and FCC chairman) Michael Powell wants a gadget that will fill out forms for him - not the online version (that tech exists already), but the paper ones. The best one of all, though, comes from former tennis star Martina Navratilova. Given the opportunity to suggest any invention possible, she just wants a tennis line judge who was always right .

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2. Matthew Mahoney on November 4, 2003 3:01 AM writes...

One 4000 year old tool most of our species severely under-utilizes (& as a result under-values): the developmental conversation. Entropy (or simply distraction) has hit hard the improvisational (ie non-coercsive) conversation in which both/all participants grow. Various commoditized uses of the tool survive ("where are you going this weekend"). My preferred future development would the further honing of each individual's ability to converse with others. This old tool has the capacity to be a literal biological supplement to any neuroceutical developed.

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