A few excerpts from the book The Second Genesis - The Coming Control of Life by Albert Rosenfeld (former science and medicine writer for Life Magazine)
Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1969 - hardcover, second printing
from pages 92 - 94
The Nazi philosophy is admittedly extreme, and is almost universally condemned as being sickeningly, psychotically inhumane. Yet even the Nazis could only rationalize their experiments by imputing an essential racial inferiority to their subjects. Once the subhumanity of a category of people is accepted, the next step is not too hard to take. Most of us accept the premise that it is all right to inflict horrible diseases upon thousands of healthy animalseven breeding them for that specific purposein the hope that the experimental findings will save some human lives. That inferior beings may be sacrificed to save superior ones, then, is a logical extension of such a rationale. In the past it was not a rarity for doctors to apply this idea to people. If an orphan, or the child of a peasant or a prisoner, had to be given smallpox to provide material for the vaccination of a prince, what royal physician would hesitate?
Any such practices are certainly deplored in the contemporary world, as they are bound to be in any milieu that preaches democracy and egalitarianism. But have we altogether graduated from such notions? In looking for experimental populations, is it not a little easier, more acceptable, for scientists of a technologically advanced nation to try out a new therapy somewhere in a "backward" nation (with that nation's approval, of course)? Or to seek a group of volunteers in some institutiona prison, an orphanage, a home for the aged? Charity hospitals have been a favorite site for the proving-out of experimental techniques, often painful and dangerous, and often having little or nothing to do with the disease of the subject being experimented upon. Some of the instances cited by Dr. Pappworth in his book are incredible enough to invite comparison with what the Nazis did. Often sick persons have deliberately been made sicker in order to study the illnesses. And Pappworth is openly skeptical of the means of obtaining consent. He feels reasonably certain, too, that the most egregious cases go unreported; his case rests almost entirely on reports by the doctors themselves in the technical literature.
Dr. Katz observes that "we have been satisfied with fulfilling legal standards rather than asking ourselves whether they conform to our own ethical standards. For example, we have experimented* on mentally retarded children after scrupulously obtaining consent from the administrators of the institutions without deliberating sufficiently whether or not it was ethical for us to proceed, especially when the experiments were unrelated to diseases for which these children were hospitalized. Indeed, we may have become so preoccupied with what is legal that we have neglected to define our position from our own vantage point."
A bizarre proposal for circumventing many of these dilemmas and for speedily acquiring a great quantity of knowledge about basic human physiology, has been put forth by Dr. Jack Kevorkian of the Pontiac General Hospital in Pontiac, Michigan. Kevorkian would like the legislature of some state that still permits capital punishment to offer the condemned man the choice of being executed in the usual prescribed manneror of being placed under anesthesia, never again to awaken, while a skilled medical team used his body and brain for experimentation and study. By using condemned criminals in this mannermen whom society has in any case ordered put to death, and who would thus be offered an opportunity to expiate their crime by making a major contribution to human knowledgeKevorkian believes that more could be learned in a single year in a single state than is now gleaned in decades of worldwide efforts. Aware of how much his proposal, when looked at superficially, smacks of the ghastly Nazi experiments, Kevorkian has written a bookprinted at his own expensespelling out the differences. He has talked to condemned prisoners, prison wardens, criminologists, medical researchers, and state legislators about his plan, believes he has found a lot of sympathy for it, and still hopes he can convince someone to carry it through.
*Dr. Katz's "we" here does not apply to any experiments in which he himself participated. It is rather an editorial "we" applying to experimental medicine in general.
from pages 185 - 186
A man of our time who feels overburdened by his confusionssexual and otherwiseand his responsibilitiesincluding his marital onesmight see distinct advantage in the more carefree kind of world that the new biology could make feasible. On a bad day he might even envy his imaginary counterpart in one of the possible societies of the not-too-far-off futurea man grown in vitro, say, and raised by a state nursery. Such a man, it is true, might never know who his genetic parents were, nor would he have any brothers or sisters he could call his own. On the other hand, if he considered all men his brothers, what need would he have for a few specifically designated siblings who happened to be born in the same household? Think how carefree he might be: no parents to feel guilty about neglecting, no parental responsibilities of his own, no marriage partner to whom he owes fidelityfree to play, work, create, pursue his pleasures. In our current circumstances, the absence of a loved one saddens us, and death brings terrible grief. Think how easily the tears could be wiped away if there were no single "loved one" to miss that muchor if that loved one were readily replaceable by any of several others.*
And yetif you (the hypothetical in vitro man) did not miss anyone very much, neither would anyone miss you very much. Your absence would cause little sadness, your death little grief. You too would be readily replaceable. A man needs to be
needed. Who, in the new era, would need you? Would your mortality not weigh upon you even more heavily, though your life span were doubled or tripled?
"Which of us has known his brother?" wrote Thomas Wolfe. "Which of us has looked into his father's heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?"
The aloneness many of us feel on this earth is assuaged, more or less effectively, by the relationships we have with other human beingsour deep, abiding relationships with our parents, our children, our brothers and sisters, our wives, husbands, sweethearts, lovers, closest friends. These relationships are not always as deep or as abiding as we would like them to be, and communication is often distressingly difficult. Yet there are deep, full, loving relationships. And perhaps they are not as rare as the studies and charts would suggest. And there is always the hope that each man and woman who has not found such relationships will eventually find them. But in the in vitro world, or in the tissue-culture world, even the hope of deep, abiding relationships might be hard to sustain. Could society devise adequate substitutes? If each of us is "forever a stranger and alone" here and now, how much more strange, how much more alone, would one feel in a world where we belong to no one, and no one belongs to us. Could the trans-humans of post-civilization survive without love as we have known it in the institutions of marriage and family?
* Taking a cool look at these possibilities, Gagnon and Simon are not at all sure the results would not be preferable to the current state of affairs.
Suppose people were as replaceable as, say, things, clothing, houses, buildings, offices, occupations? Our joys would be less intense, but so would our frustrations and sorrows. In the absence of a strong sense of possessiveness, emotional attachments would not be so all-consuming, hencein their viewthere would probably be much less trouble in the world.
from pages 191 - 224
Studying behavior in a small monkey colony, for example, Dr. Jose M. R. Delgado of the Yale University Medical School, a pioneer researcher in this area of brain research, found that by remote radio stimulation of certain areas of the brain (where tiny electrodes had been surgically implanted), he could set in motion an entire sequence of activities. Dr. Delgado in a lecture at New York's Museum of Natural History described one facet of his work with an experimental monkey named Ludi:
After different areas of the brain had been studied under restraint, the radio stimulator was strapped to Ludi, and excitations of the rostral part of the red nucleus were started, with the monkey free in the colony. Stimulation produced the following complex sequence of responses: (1) immediate interruption of spontaneous activities, (2) changes in facial expression, (3) head turning to the right, (4) standing on two feet, (5) circling to the right, (6) walking on two feet with perfect preservation of equilibrium by balancing the arms, touching the walls of the cage, or grasping the swings, (7) climbing a pole on the back wall of the cage, (8) descending to the floor, (9) low tone vocalization, (10) threatening attitude toward subordinate monkeys, (11) changing of attitude and peacefully approaching some other members of the colony, and (12) resumption of the activity interrupted by the stimulation.
The detailed knowledge that Delgado would have needed to make a monkey go through all this, starting from scratch, would be phenomenal, and certainly far beyond anyone's present grasp. But by taking advantage of patterns already there, as if preprogrammed in a computer, the mere stimulation of the right area of the brain can set the entire sequence in motion.
When you press a light switch, it is not the flick of the switch that turns on the light. It merely acts as a trigger to set in motion the chain of eventsthe flow of electrons through wires, the glowing of the tungsten filament, and so onthat results in illumination. But by knowing what to do, you do in fact control the light. In the same manner, when a space-flight controller at Cape Kennedy or in Houston finishes a countdown, it is not the sound of his voice or the pressing of a button that launches the astronauts into orbit. Yet, by triggeringor deciding not to triggerthis preprogrammed series of events, he does control the outcome. Similarly Dr. Delgado learned, without direct detailed interference in the submicroscopic events in the monkey's brain, to control the behavior sequence by controlling the trigger.
The whole sequence was repeated again and again, as many times as the red nucleus was stimulated. Responses 1 to 8 developed during the five seconds of stimulation and were followed, as aftereffects, by responses 9 to 12 which lasted from five to ten seconds. The excitations were repeated every minute for one hour, and results were highly consistent on different days. The responses resembled spontaneous activities, were well organized, and always maintained the described sequence. Climbing followed but never preceded turning the body; vocalization followed but never preceded walking on two feet; the general pattern was similar in different stimulations, but the details of motor performance varied and were adjusted for existing circumstances. For example, if the stimulation surprised the animal with one arm around the vertical pole in the cage, the first part of the evoked response was to withdraw the arm in order to make the turn possible. While walking on two feet, the monkey was well oriented and was able to avoid obstacles in its path and to react according to the social situation. In some experiments, three monkeys were simultaneously radio-stimulated in the red nucleus, and all three performed the full behavioral sequence without interfering
with one another.
The stimulus always worked unless it was overridden by a more powerful set of demands. A monkey eating after it had starved for twenty-four hours, for example, or a monkey threatened with physical danger, tended to pay attention to its hunger or its self-defense rather than be overwhelmed by the stimulation of the red nucleus. But in general, under normal circumstances, when not under any great pressures or threats to its life, the monkey performed as dictated to. "Examples of other patterns of sequential behavior, says Delgado, "have been evoked by excitation of several diencephalic and mesencephalic structures, showing that sequential activities are anatomically represented in several parts of the central nervous system." An understanding of the brain's geographical terminology is not necessary to the understanding of the implications of Delgado's findings.
Take a look, for instance, at another of Delgado's experiments, this one in a different monkey colony, where patterns of sexual behavior were triggered by the same kind of direct and simple stimulus.
Radio stimulation of the nucleus medialis dorsalis of the thalamus in a female monkey produced a sequential pattern of behavior characterized by a movement of the head, walking on all fours, jumping to the back wall of the cage for two or three seconds, jumping down to the floor, and walking back to the starting point. At this moment, she was approached by the boss of the colony, and she stood on all fours, raised her tail and was grasped and mounted by the boss in a manner indistinguishable from spontaneous mounting. The entire behavioral sequence was repeated once every minute following each stimulation, and a total of 81 mountings was recorded in a 90-minute period, while no other mountings were recorded on the same day. As is natural in social interaction, the evoked responses affected not only the animal with the cerebral electrodes, but also other members of the colony.
The probability that this much sexual activity would have taken place over this period of time in the normal course of events, without the electrical command from outside, is negligibly low. Yet, in each of these behavioral sequencessexual or otherwiseonce the series of events was set in motion, it then proceeded exactly as if the whole thing had been the monkey's idea in the first place. It seems likely that, when this kind of stimulated sequential behavior takes place, the monkey believes it is her own idea. This likelihood has been borne out in experiments with human beings. The subject has no feeling that his brain cells are being electrically stimulatedand would not know it was being done if the experimenter chose not to tell him. He only experiences the resulting sensations as if they had come normally and spontaneously.
ESB (not to be confused with ESPfor extrasensory perception; or BSPfor biosocioprolepsis) stands for electrical stimulation of the brain. ESB, the technique used by Delgado in his monkey experiments, stems originally from brilliant work done with cats back in the early 1930's by the Swiss Nobel laureate, Dr. Waiter R. Hess. "The principle of ESB," wrote Robert Coughlan in Life, "is simple: stick an electrical conductor into whichever part of the brain one happens to be curious about, turn on the current and see what happens."
The usual laboratory method, as described by Coughlan, is this: "The head of the anesthetized subject is immobilized. A tiny high-speed drill is used to bore through the skull and sink a minute well shaft through intervening tissue to the point chosen for investigation. With a micromanipulator the operator then inserts an assembly consisting of a miniature electrode attached to two insulated wire filaments. The other, or scalp-side, ends of these wires are then connected with a small terminal socket and the latter is cemented to the skull. Current fed into the socket goes down the pair of filaments to the electrode and supplies the stimulusas if the nerve cells there had all fired electrical discharges in unison.
"So incredibly exact have this technique and apparatus become," says Coughlan, "that a microelectrode only a millionth of an inch in diameter can be placed inside an individual nerve cell...without interfering with any of the cell's normal processes.
"Incidentally," he adds, "this procedure does not hurt the subject in the least Most parts of the brain, oddly enough, are not able to feel pain, and the electric current is kept at low levels." (It is this lack of pain in brain surgery that enables the wide-awake patienta victim, perhaps, of epilepsy or Parkinson's disease, to describe his reactions to the surgeon as various manipulations are in progress. Often the surgeon could not perform his task without the patient's verbal assistance to guide him.)
Experimental animals soon get used to their skull sockets, and, according to Delgado,"extensive experimentation by many authors [i.e., authors of scientific papers] has demonstrated that intracerebral electrodes are safe and can be tolerated for years, providing an effective tool for sending and recording electrical impulses to and from the brain of unanesthetized animals." Delgado himself has experimented with cats, dogs, mice, monkeys, and bulls. Othersamong them Dr. Carl W. Sem-Jacobsen in Norway, Dr. Robert G. Heath at Tulane, and Drs. Vernon Mark and William Sweet at Harvardhave gone on to implant electrodes in the brains of human beings. Obviously this has not been done casually, and the practice has been restricted to people who were patients rather than experimental subjectspatients whose ailments (epilepsy, intractable pain, anxiety neurosis, involuntary movement) could be helped by these techniques. "Accumulated experience," says Delgado, "has shown that electrodes are well tolerated by the human brain for at least one year and a half, and that electrical stimulations may induce a variety of responses, including changes in mental function. . . . The prospect of leaving wires inside the thinking brain could seem barbaric, uncomfortable, and dangerous, but actually the patients who have undergone this experience have had no ill effects, and they have not been concerned about the idea of being wired or by the existence of leads in their heads. In some cases, they enjoyed a normal life as outpatients, returning to the clinic for periodic stimulations. Some of the women proved the adaptability of the feminine spirit to all situations by designing pretty hats to conceal their electrical headgear.
Control of the brain would also provide control of those primitive areas which in turn control the basic functions of the body. "Buried at the base of the brain," Dr. Joel Elkes of Johns Hopkins points out, "in the midline, the center of the head, there are old, old regions, concerned clearly with survival. These areas control respiration, pulse rate, and blood pressure; govern salt balance and temperature control; guide certain built-in instinctual responses such as hunger, thirst, fight, flight, play, sleep, wakefulness, sex. These are the steering centers of the cerebral machinery."
ESB experiments have indeed already shown that an animal can be induced to starve itself (though it has gone hungry for some time) or gorge itself (though it has just eaten), or to perform sexually far beyond its normal capacity. The kinds of controls that can be exerted on animals and men by ESB range all the way from simple muscular movements to fairly complex social behavior. It has been known at least since the nineteenth century that electrical stimulation of the cerebral cortex could produce motor responses in animals. But until recently it was assumed that this could be achieved only with anesthetized animals, and that the movements would be clumsy and imprecise. But the newer techniques and miniaturized apparatus that made ESB possible have made it evident, as Delgado says, "that motor performance under electronic command could be as complex and precise as spontaneous behavior."
Delgado describes an induced leg movementthe flexing of a hind legin a laboratory cat as an example:
The evoked movement usually began slowly, developed smoothly, reached its peak in about two seconds, and lasted until the end of the stimulation. This motor performance could be repeated as many times as desired, and it was accompanied by a postural adjustment of the whole body which included a lowering of the head, raising of the pelvis, and a slight weight shift to the left in order to maintain equilibrium on only three legs.
Did all of these ESB commands disturb the cat emotionally? On the contrary:
The cat was as alert and friendly as usual, rubbing its head against the experimenter, seeking to be petted, and purring. However, if we tried to prevent the evoked effect by holding the left hind legs with our hands, the cat stopped purring, struggled to get free, and shook its leg. Apparently the evoked motility was not unpleasant, but attempts to prevent it were disturbing for the animal.
These reactions are not dissimilar from those of humans under ESB. This being the case, Delgado's further comment on the cat experiment is particularly to be noted:
The artificial driving of motor activities was accepted in such a natural way by the animal that often there was spontaneous initiative to cooperate with the electrical command.* For example, during a moment of precarious balance when all paws were close together, stimulation produced first a postural adjustment and the cat spread its forelegs to achieve equilibrium by shifting its body weight to the right, and only after this delay did the left hind leg begin to flex. . . . A variety of motor effects have been evoked in different species, including cat, dog, bull, and monkey. The animals could be induced to move the legs, raise or lower the body, open or close the mouth, walk or lie still, turn around, and perform a variety of responses with predictable reliability, as if they were electronic toys under human control. [italics mine].
Moreover, animals seem to enjoy being stimulated electricallyanother disquieting phenomenon if translatable to people.
* Dr. Gregory Razran of Queens College, New York, who has made a continuing study of Russian psychology one of his specialties, says that in the U.S.S.R., experimental psychologists of the Pavlovian persuasion have made a careful distinction between conditioned reflexes (e.g., salivation) that are triggered from the outside (e.g., the ringing of a bell), and those triggered by stimulation of an internal organ (e.g., the bladder). Reflexes triggered by internal stimulation, says Razran, are always much more unconscious. It is likely that ESB would fall in this category. Though the triggerer is on the outside, the stimulation occurs inside and appears to be indistinguishable from the natural occurrence of an idea.
Going beyond these simple motor activities and the more complex sequences of activities described earlier, Delgado and others found they could also affect moods, attitudes, and even the basic character of individual animals (which in turn affected the behavior of other animals) by stimulating the appropriate points or regions of the brain. A cat can be induced to start a fight with another cator a dogmuch larger than itself; or to cringe from a mouse, depending on the brain area getting the signals. A peaceful animal can be made to snarl and turn belligerent, while a normally aggressive animal can be rendered docile. Rhesus monkeys, says Delgado, "are destructive and dangerous creatures which do not hesitate to bite anything within reach, including leads, instrumentation, and occasionally the experimenter's hands. Would it be possible to tame these ferocious animals by means of electrical stimulation? To investigate the question, a monkey was strapped to a chair where it made faces and threatened the investigator until the rostral part of the caudate nucleus was electrically stimulated. At this moment, the monkey lost its aggressive expression and did not try to grab or bite the experimenter, who could safely put a finger in its mouth! As soon as stimulation was discontinued, the monkey was as aggressive as before.
"Later," Delgado goes on, "similar experiments were repeated with the monkeys free inside the colony, and it was evident that their autocratic social structure could be manipulated by radio stimulation." The boss monkey, under ESB, lost his aggressiveness, and the other monkeys crowded him without fear. This went on for about an hour. "About 12 minutes after the stimulation hour ended, the boss had reasserted his authority." In similar experiments at the Yerkes Regional Primate Center, Dr. Bryan W. Robinson noted that, as first one and then another male became dominant, "the female switched her allegiance to the dominant male, and then turned about and attacked the other guy." In an even more interesting version of the experiment, Delgado observed that the other monkeys in the colony "learned to press a lever in the cage which triggered stimulation of the boss monkey in the caudate nucleus, inhibiting his aggressive behavior." Thus one monkey was deliberately controlling the behavior of another by means of ESBa truly impressive demonstration of how little needs to be understood to exercise quite a lot of control.
Perhaps the most dramatic demonstration of what ESB could do in the way of turning off aggressionand how confident a scientist could be of ESB's powerwas a bravura performance by Delgado himself with a real fighting bull (into whose brain he had implanted electrodes) in a Spanish bull ring. Playing the role of matador, the cape-waving Delgado got the animal all worked up to the proper pitch of snorting, pawing ferocity. Then, standing there calmly as the bull charged, he stopped the bull within a few feet of him. He had literally turned off the bull's charge by means of a small radio transmitter he carried in his hand. ESB had rendered the bull as friendly as Ferdinand.
Often the stimulated area that makes an animal very angry is located quite nearby the area that makes it euphoric. An electrode implanted at one spot in the amygdala might, when ESB is applied, bring on a paroxysm of ungovernable rage; if it is moved only a fraction of an inch away, ESB will result in the most friendly, even loving, behavior. Could this produce a world where no one would ever be angry? Would this be a good thing?
This is not an idle question. The uses of ESB in the control of human aggression has already been convincingly demonstrated at a clinic in Boston which makes a specialty of studying violent behavior. It was organized in 1967 by a team of medical scientists attached to Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston City Hospital. The group includes two outstanding brain surgeons, Dr. Mark and Dr. Sweet, and its full-time head is a psychiatrist, Dr. Frank R. Ervin.
The typical clinic patient has "poor impulse control" with a quick-flaring temper and a history of repeated violent episodes. Many of these patients are incredibly destructive of property, and they may beat their wives, husbands or children with astonishing ferocity. One young wife who came in recently for help said that she had assaulted her husbandfortunately a very large, very tolerant man537 times in the last six years, with everything from fists to dishes to furniture. Violent people also frequently vent their impulses through sexual assault or multiple automobile accidents.
Though the violent patient usually has a "reason" for his uncontrollable rages, the reason can be incredibly flimsy: he may do major violence in response to a minor or imagined slight. A man may knock his wife across the room because she burned the toast. A teen-age girl may smash her room into a total shambles because her brother asked her to turn down the record player. Yet, between bouts of violence, this same person may be mild-mannered, charming and altogether likable. Once the rage is gone and the damage done, there may be a flood of guilt and contrition, sometimes followed by a near-suicidal depression.
In the 50-or-so cases the clinic has so far had the opportunity to study in some depth, there has been a startling frequency of correlation between deviant behavior and brain damage. The damaged or abnormal areas can often be pinpointed through ESBand the rage evoked at will by stimulation, and, depending on the site and extent of the abnormality, turned off by ESB as well. In rare cases, because of the ravages accompanying certain types of epilepsy or the presence of a tumor in the primitive brain, the damage is so extensive that the patient is violent nearly all the time. The damage apparently scrambles the electrical circuitry so that the cells in the affected regions are discharging electricity almost constantly, evoking impulses of rage and violence. There is no way to turn them off, except through drug therapy or brain surgery.
So far there has been great reluctance to perform brain surgery, except in extreme casesrepeated attempts at murder, for instance. Sometimes even relatively simple surgeryif any brain surgery can be called simplecan help for a time. At the Indiana University Medical Center, Dr. Robert Heimberger has found that by touching the afflicted area of the brain with a delicate "cryosurgical" probe (an instrument with a frozen tip) he can destroy the diseased tissue. This operation, performed on institutionalized patients who are violently destructive, keeps them calm for weeks or months at a time.
In many of the cases handled by Dr. Sweet and Dr. Mark, the brain damage is not obvious. But examinations in depth usually turn up some abnormality in the tissuedamage that is perhaps congenital, perhaps the result of blows on the head, or of some viral infection that reached the brain. There has lately been much interest in genetic causes of these abnormalities, too, especially since a recent case in France, where a violent criminal was found to possess an abnormal "XYY" chromosome. The Boston group has already incorporated a cell geneticist into the team to study these latest possibilities.
All this obviously has important implications for criminology and penology. When I earlier cited the imaginary example of a rapist being cured of his tendencies, transformed by brain surgery from a sadistic brute into a gentleman of sweet disposition, it probably seemed far-fetched. But we can now see that the possibility may be more immediate than anyone imagined. Early in 1968, a British court handed over a young incorrigiblea "compulsive gambler"to doctors for treatment by a leucotomy operation. After the story appeared in the London Times, the British Medical Journal expressed its qualms about what this sort of procedure might lead to in terms of sentencing criminals to treatment instead of to jail. Yet the precedent is already established: In cases of "insanity," the criminal is often turned over for psychiatric treatment rather than sentenced to prison (though he may spend an equally long time in confinement) on the grounds that it was his mental illness rather than the man himself that was at fault. Will the presence of brain damage or a bad chromosome soon be sufficient to absolve a criminal of guilt on the same grounds?
Of all ESB experiments carried out with animals, perhaps none was more astonishing than the series back in 1953 and 1954 in which Dr. Tames Olds (then at McGill University in Montreal) accidentally discovered the brain's pleasure centers. He had just learned how to implant electrodes in rat brains preparatory to studying rat behavior. But he was curious to know if the ESB technique itself might so disturb and distract the rats as to spoil his experiment. "I went up to the lab one Sunday afternoon," he recalls, "and took the first rat I had ever prepared with my own hands. Every time the rat walked into one corner of the testing table, I turned on the electricity to see if he would avoid approaching that spot thereafter. Instead, my rat liked it!"
Pursuing this windfall instead of his original idea, Olds refined his techniques, found that he could, by ESB, produce at will a state of bliss in the rat. Other researchers eagerly followed Olds's lead and confirmed that there were a number of pleasure centers in a variety of animals. Coughlan writes:
Many sites seem to be identified with specific pleasures, such as those of food, drink, and sex. But sometimes ESB sets up a complex, generalized response. This may indicate a higher satisfaction independent of specific pleasuresor possibly,
Dr. Olds suspects, that particular pleasure sites are packed close together and several are stimulated by one large dose of ESB.
The nature of this feeling of pleasure is scarcely definable: some have guessed that it combines the mystical raptures of the saints with the fleshly raptures of the sinners, in a diffused, ineffable delight. In any case, animals find the sensation completely irresistible. A white rat, if allowed to regulate its own ESB dosage by pressing a lever in its cage, will continue to press itat the fantastic rate of up to 8,000 times an houruntil hunger, thirst, or exhaustion force an interruption. But the interruption is brief: a sip, a bite or two, a few minutes' nap, and the rat returns to its orgy of pleasures. In an experiment by Dr. Joseph V. Brady at Waiter Reed Army Medical Center, rats went on this way 24 hours a day for three weeks straight. One would expect that such sybaritic rats would eventually wear themselves to a frazzle, burn themselves out before they were 30 days old, but to the contrary the ones at Waiter Reed showed no physical or mental damage then or later. And Dr. Olds' rats, after a series of ESB marathons cumulatively totaling hundreds of days, have seemed in better health and fettle than their littermates who were raised in identical conditions but without ESB.
Pleasure centers have been located also in cats, dogs, monkeys, apes, and bottle-nosed dolphins...and these creatures have responded to ESB in the same degree.
Later experiments by Dr. Heath, by Dr. Sem-Jacobsen, and again by Delgado indicate that the human brain, too, possesses pleasure centers. Patients under ESB, sometimes without knowing that ESB had been applied at a given moment, suddenly said they were experiencing highly pleasurable sensations. ESB was able, at times, to turn depression to gaiety, and lethargy to alertness. Shy people became suddenly bright and talkative, and normally reserved women grew languorously flirtatious. Some of Dr. Heath's mental and epileptic patients have worn electrodes for long periods of timeelectrodes they could themselves stimulate at will. This technique is called ICSSfor intracranial self-stimulation. ICSS devices have varied uses. A certain type of epileptic, for instance, feeling the first beginning sign of a convulsive seizure, can stop it instantly by pushing the button. A man afflicted with narcolepsy (chronic sleepiness) can stimulate himself into a state of wakefulness. In one patient with severe narcolepsy, the method worked so well that "by virtue of his ability to control symptoms with the stimulator," says Dr. Heath, "he was employed part-time, while wearing the unit, as an entertainer in a night club." This patient, like some others, had more than one button on his stimulator and had access to more than one area of his brain. He found that when he pushed one of the buttons "the feeling was 'good'; it was as if he were building up to a sexual orgasm." He pushed it frequently. So did another patient. On checking, Dr. Heath found that "regardless of his emotional state and the subject under discussion in the room," stimulation in this area "was accompanied by the patient's introduction of a sexual subject, usually with a broad grin. When questioned about this, he would say, 'I don't know why that came to mindI just happened to think of it.' "
One can easily imagine people in the future wearing self-stimulating electrodes (it might even become the "in" thing to do) which might render the wearer sexually potent at any time; that might put him to sleep or keep him awake, according to his need; that might curb his appetite if he wanted to lose weight; that might relieve him of pain; that might give him courage when he was fearful, or render him tranquil when he was enraged.
The notion of a man controlling his own brain is one thing. But the prospect that a man's brain might be controlled by another man is something else againnot to mention the control of masses of people by a few powerful individuals. Delgado, for one, does not take this latter possibility too seriously. He admits thatthrough such practices as requiring blood tests before marriage, compulsory smallpox vaccination, and fluoridation and chlorination of our drinking watergovernments "have established a precedent of official manipulation of our personal biology." He sees, too, that "governments could try to control general behavior or to increase the happiness of citizens by electronically influencing their brains." But, "fortunately," he concludes, "this prospect is remote, if not impossible, not only for obvious ethical reasons, but also because of its impracticability. Theoretically it would be possible to regulate aggressiveness, productivity, or sleep by means of electrodes implanted in the brain, but this technique requires specialized knowledge, refined skills, and a detailed and complex exploration in each individual, because of the existence of anatomical and physiological variability. The feasibility of mass control of behavior by brain stimulation is very unlikely, and the application of intracerebral electrodes in man will probably remain highly individualized and restricted to medical practice."
But not all scientists share Delgado's optimism about the remoteness of these prospects, especially since ESB is only in its infancy. The fact that it might be difficult or troublesome (and it could soon become less difficult and less troublesome) to apply ESB on a large scale would not necessarily deter someone who was sufficiently motivated to do it, and had the power to carry out his will. As for the "obvious ethical reasons," that would depend upon the individual ethics of the persons in powerand would of course carry no weight at all with ruthless types who invent their ethics as they go. It has been suggested that a dictator might even implant electrodes in the brains of infants a few months after birthand they would never know that their thoughts, moods, feelings, and all-around behavior were not the results of their own volition. Where then is free will, and individual responsibility An electrical engineer named Curtiss R. Schafer, who made a similar suggestion, added that "the once-human being thus controlled would be the cheapest of machines to create and operate. The cost of building even a simple robot like the Westinghouse mechanical man is probably 10 times that of bearing and raising a child to the age of 16."
"What does this imply" asks Robert Coughlan. "One hypothetical possibility . . .:the 100-socket, 600-electrode human being controlled by a transistor-timed stimulator worn perhaps, in the form of a lapel pin by men and of a jeweled brooch by women. Each individual's program would be pre-set and tailored to assigned functions and duties, but it could be changed instantly by overriding radio signals sent out by local (75-socket) controllers, who would be controlled by district (50-socket) controllers, who would be controlled by regional (25-socket) controllers, who would be controlled by a Master Controller (no sockets) who, in his wisdom, would control the behavior of everybody."
So much for the electrical half of the brain's electrochemistry. But the chemical half may turn out to be considerably more than half in terms of its fundamental functional importance. Not that electrochemistry is neatly divisible into halves. But it is feasible to think of the electricity and the chemistry as separate though interrelated modes of cerebral operation; and certainly to think of electricity (e.g., the application of ESB) and chemistry (e.g., the administration of drugs) as two distinct approaches to the control of the brain. Potent as the electrical approach appears to be, chemistry looks even more promising, hence even more threatening.
Though neural impulses can be electrically stimulated, their actual transmission along the nerve fibers and across the synapses is achievedas was demonstrated by Sir John C. Eccles and his colleagues at the Australian National Universityby the transport of key chemical substances," the principal transmitter in the central nervous system (CNS) being acetylcholine. And while thoughts and memories may go round and round in their electrical circuits, they appear to be stored chemically in the molecules of the brainwith implications for memory and learning to be discussed shortly. It has already been amply demonstrated that electricity introduced from the outside can turn on the chemistry in a given area of the brain and stimulate a variety of behavior patterns. In such cases it is the impingement of the electrical current that sets in motion the chemical reactions. Under normal circumstances, though, it works the other way around. The brain's cells are like miniature storage batteries, with an electrical potential that lies latent, stored chemically as positive or negative ions (atoms or molecules with extra electrons or missing electrons), until an appropriate stimulus sparks the electricity into action. This firing of the cells sets in motion the electrical currents that keep the brain and CNS functioningmuch as the storage battery in your car, once it is turned on, initiates the current that runs the motor. These weak electrical currents are what the electroencephalograph picks up; it is when they are no longer detectable that most physicians are now willing to consider a patient truly dead.
*One group of deadly "nerve gases" is known as clolinesterase inhibitors. By interfering with the activity of a single enzyme, cholinesterase, they effectively block a vital chemical cycle, thus turning off the nerve cells' chemical transmitting apparatus. When the nerve impulses stop, so does the heartbeat.
If the use of a broadside technique like ESB can give its possessor such powers over the brain, think what might be done if we knew how to manipulate the brain's chemistry in all its exquisitely refined detail. "rust as the DNA code determines the color of the eye, the shape of the nose, and the precise operations of such complex organs as the liver," writes Lawrence Leasing in Fortune, "so it also determines the cast of the mind. The new hypothesis is that DNA not only specifies the physical structure of the brain, but it also controls, directly or indirectly, all brain processes and mental activity through a molecular code that may be searched out and finally mastered."
Dr. Joel Elkes adds: "If certain behaviors are genetically coded, then these behaviors can be chemically released." Though ultimate mastery of these chemical codes is a real hope, we are now only at the bare beginnings of the necessary knowledge. In the words of Dr. Robert S. deRopp, "The scientist who attempts to study the chemistry of thought and feeling resembles a burglar attempting to open a vault of one of the world's major banks with a toothpick."
But an expert safecracker might, by thorough familiarity with the vault, figure out a way to do the job with a toothpick. There are events in science which the late Nobel chemist Dr. Irving Langmuir liked to call divergent phenomenaevents which, though tiny in themselves, when applied at the right place at the right time, can start a chain reaction of happenings out of all proportion to the triggering action. A favorite example of Langmuir's was the series of occurrences in a Wilson cloud chamber, where a single quantum event, such as the disintegration of a radium atom, instantaneously produces thousands upon thousands of water droplets. This understanding of divergent phenomena is what gave Langmuir, one of the original "artificial rainmakers," the courage to try to modify massive weather patterns by tampering in very small ways.
A few stray neutrons in a critical mass of refined uranium can set off a nuclear blast. A sudden cry can cause an avalanche, and the slippage of rocks along a fault can result in a major earthquake. So it should come as no surprise that a little bit of interference with the chemistry of a few key cells in some tiny areas of the brain can be a divergent phenomenon, triggering major biological events. Consider, for instance, the rainbow visions, the ascents and descents into private psychic hells and heavens, the telescoping of time, the bizarre and long-lasting inner experiences that are evoked by one twenty-thousandth of an ounce of LSDan amount too small to be seen of a tasteless, colorless, odorless substance. This is perhaps even more amazing than opening a bank vault with a toothpick.
At the base of the cerebrum there is a segment of the primitive brain called the hypothalamus which has a major role in a number of basic physiological functions. It has a role in sex, and in the sleep-wake cycle. It serves as the body's thermostat, its temperature regulator, as well as its appestat, or appetite regulator. If a man's appestat is off, he may eat too much and get too fator have no yen for food at all and waste away. ESB experiments have shown that when an animal's appestat is deliberately thrown out of kilter, the chemical signals it gets from its body as to its state of hunger or satiety become unreliable. So do the instructions it sends out in response.
By singling out the crucial cells in the hypothalamus, nearly all its functions can be altered quite radically. At the centennial celebration of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Neal E. Miller of Yale told of a series of experiments in which a thermode had been used, not to tamper with the basic chemistry of cells, but merely to heat or cool a tiny specific region of the anterior hypothalamus. The results were recorded with microelectrodes. Most of the nerve cells were found to be relatively unaffected by moderate temperatures changes. Miller said:
However there are some neurons here that increase their rate of firing when they are slightly heated, and others that increase their rate when they are slightly cooled. These cells seem to serve as, or be connected to, specialized "sense organs" for measuring small changes in the temperature of the surrounding blood.
Heating this region of an animal's brain causes panting and increased blood supply to the skin which serves to lower the body temperature. Cooling it causes the opposite effect of shivering and decreased blood supply to the skin. It also stimulates the secretion of the thyroid, which in turn speeds up the body's burning of fuel. In the experiments in which only this tiny region of the brain is cooled, these effects produce a fever, but when the whole body is cooled under normal conditions, they serve to restore the animal's temperature to normal.... Cooling this region of the brain will make a satiated animal hungry, so that it will eat, whereas heating this region elicits drinking. Thus, this temperature-regulating mechanism is tied in with hunger and thirst which motivate behavior that helps the animal to anticipate its need for the fuel it will burn to keep warm, or the water it will evaporate to cool off.
In short, a whole series of homeostatic mechanisms ranging from changes in metabolism to the motivation of the behavior of seeking food or water is touched off by the cells in the brain that respond to temperature.
Again a divergent phenomenona toothpick's worth of tampering produces a bank vault's worth of payoff. There is obviously great potential here for long-range medical and psychiatric benefits in the possibility of controlling body temperature, appetite, sleep, and sexual desire.
Still short of manipulating the cells' chemistry, there are yet other simple methods of achieving the same results as those obtained by heating and cooling. "Certain receptors in the brain," explains Dr. Miller, "respond to osmotic pressure so that a minute injection into the proper place in the brain of a solution that is slightly more salty than body fluid will motivate animals that have just been satiated on water to drink, and also to perform responses that they have learned to get water.... Conversely, a minute injection of water will cause a dehydrated animal to stop drinking or working for water."
Scientists have also now succeeded in going the extra steps to direct chemical interference. Studies by Dr. S. P. Grossman at Yale have shown, again in Dr. Miller's words, that "after a rat has been thoroughly satiated on both food and water, injecting a minute amount of acetylcholine or carbachol . . . will cause it to drink, while epinephrine or norepinephrine injected into the same site will cause the same satiated rat to eat." This experiment and other similar studies serve as clinching evidence for Miller "that the neuromechanisms involved in the motivations of hunger and thirst are chemically coded." Miller goes on to describe, too, how "yet other cells of the brain respond to specific hormones so that activities such as nest-building in rats can be elicited by injecting a minute quantity of the proper hormone into the correct site in the brain."
The effects of hormones used this way can be impressive indeed, as Dr. Elkes made clear in a Deerfield Foundation lecture in 1965. "A small dose of hormone, a steroid entering the central nervous system during an acute developmental phase," he said, "will so re-set its responsiveness that the whole program of behavior is one of male rather than female activity. Let me cite another experiment, coming from our own laboratory [at Johns Hopkins]. This was done by Dr. Richard Michael, and concerns adult cats. Dr. Michael implanted a minute quantity of hormone directly into a small area of the posterior hypothalamus. . . . He also implanted, in other animals, dummy material of the same dimension. . . .The cats implanted with small quantities of the hormone (silbesterol dibutyrate), although originally devoid of sexual activity, became sexually very receptive; dummy implanted cats did not show any such effects. With removal of the implants, the susceptibility disappeared." The Johns Hopkins researchers also found that the hormone does not travel very far, that it stays in the immediate vicinity of the implant, and that a few selected cells take up the hormone. "This," says Elkes, "is a remarkable instance of specificity of interaction in the CNS."
"Let us think this to the end," he then implores. "A small amount of hormone incorporated properly into the membrane of relatively few cells so re-sets the total machinery that it now responds to a male presence with a very specific sexual responsea program that runs down in about eight minutes or so in a cat. Put in another hormone, and this will not happen. Move the hormone a few millimeters away from the susceptible site and again this will not happen. Cells are thus apparently sensitized in a highly specific way."
So a surprising lot is getting to be known. "We now have methods available," says Elkes, "which enable us to map this chemistry of the brain in great detail, not only in terms of gross, macroscopic structureshall we say, the geography of the brain itselfbut also in terms of the layer by layer geology of the brain; and to determine the concentration of those materials in very thin areas of the brain and show how one area differs from another, only a few millionths of an inch apart. It can be done by elegant microtechniques which enable one to gauge the local concentration of materials; it can also be done by special staining methods which show up these materials in beautiful fluorescent arrays."
It is quite clear, then, that the brain can be controlled chemically in at least a limited fashion. And, since all the behavior patterns capable of being set in motion by ESB are based on chemical patterns that are stored and ready-to-go, and are chemically carried out, it follows that anything ESB can do, chemistry can do betteronce we learn how. At its best, ESB still requires the implantation of electrodes inside the brain and the cementing of sockets onto the skull, an exacting task whose end result is a relatively gross prodding of an area or site of the brain. Chemical controlinteracting directly with the substances in the brain cells without physical molestation, without destruction of tissue, without the necessity for electrodes or socketsis obviously the preferred method, and would provide much more precise control, not only triggering behavior, but modifying behavior as well, and modifying it virtually at will.
The required sophistication is still a long way off. In the experiments described by Dr. Miller and Dr. Elkes, the chemicals were applied directly to the cells of the brainsbut only, as in ESB, by means of microsurgical techniques. "Some of this work," says Miller, "has been done by biophysicists who thrust micropipettes with several barrels into a single nerve cell, using a conductive solution in one pipette to record the electrical activity of the cell, while minute quantities are injected electrophoretically via the other barrels. Studies with the electron microscope have verified other details. Yet other studies have used a push-pull cannula to wash out and measure for a group of nerve cells the greater production of the transmitter, acetylcholine, when they are active than when they are not."
These are remarkable achievements indeed, and only a clown would call the manner of achieving them unsophisticated. But widespread application of the results can come about only after scientists have learned to deliver the desired chemicals to the desired sites more easily. They are prevented from doing so by a set of circumstances which exist nowhere else in the bodythe so-called "blood/brain barrier."
Though the brain constitutes only one-fiftieth of the body's total weight, it requires a full one-fifth of the body's oxygen-rich blood supply. If circulation is cut off for more than a very few minutes, the result is permanent brain damage and, in a few more minutes, death. Since the brain's cells are constantly bathed in blood, it would seem that the simplest way to get drugs to the brain, just as to other sites in the body, would be to put them into the bloodstream, either orally or by injection. But the brain's cells are uniquely surrounded by a little-understood electrochemical fence, the blood/brain barrier, which admits only certain selected substances and keeps out everything else. Until this barrier is overcome, the cells will simply not take from the bloodstream many of the chemicals which, when injected directly into the cells, have such profound effects.
Even so, the blood/brain barrier does permit the passage of a varied inventory of substances, and it is no news that some of these substances can influence the mind's thoughts and perceptions, and hence the person's behavior, in striking ways. The Chinese described marijuana and its effects as early as the twenty-eighth century B.C. Over the centuries of recorded history there has hardly been a time or a place without some knowledge and practice of opiates or stimulants of one kind or another. Even the poorest people, even in the most primitive societies, have known where in the plant kingdom to seek solace or a moment of borrowed ecstasy. From the poppy fields of the Near and Far East have come opium and its derivative narcotics, morphine and heroin. From the female hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, which will grow anywhere in the temperate zones of the world including backyards and window boxes, come hashish and marijuana by all their multifarious names. Nutmegs and morning-glory seeds, cacti and coca leaves, have consistently provided kicks and calms for the inhabitants of the regions where they grow.
The news is that in recent years scientists have been raiding the herbals of folk medicine, testing the efficacy of many ancient drugs, finding new uses for them, extracting the active elements from the grosser content, synthesizing the vital chemicals, and creating new, wholly synthetic drugs in the laboratory. They have been getting down to the basic biochemistry of these substances as well as the brain's own key chemicals, and studying their complex interactions. They have built up an impressive arsenal of psychochemicals or "mind drugs"* and given birth to the lustily growing new science of psychopharmacology.
While these developments proceed, plenty of mind-affecting drugs are already on the market, and many that aren't, are on the black market. Dr. Donald Louria, Chairman of the New York State Council on Drug Addiction, estimates that some nine to thirteen billion sedatives, tranquilizers, and stimulants were manufactured in the United States in 1965. "This," he calculates, "means 35 to 60 pills or capsules for every man, woman, and child!" These are legitimate prescription drugs, though many find their way into illegitimate channels where they are dangerously misused and overused. There are, too, the frankly illegitimate drugs, most notoriously the narcotics and especially heroin, that claim their annual toll of misery, bondage, and death through addiction and overdosage.
Finally, there are the hallucinogens, also known as psychedelicsprincipally marijuana, which is relatively mild in its effects, and LSD, which is explosively potent. These are, at the moment, the most controversial of drugs because they have gained wide popularity among young people.
*Most people seem to know that the effects of these drugs are different in different people, but Dr. Elkes believes it cannot be emphasized too strongly that even "the same drug, in the same dose, in the same person may produce very different effects, according to the events which precede or follow a particular medication."
When doctors talk about drug abuse, they are usually referring to drugs that are self-administered, taken through the user's own volition. But, as in the case of ESB, there is considerable concern among scientists about the potential abuse of future psychochemicals in terms of the powers they might give the clever and ruthless over their fellows. Part of this concern is due to a familiarity with certain aspects of psychochemistry being investigated by the world's military establishmentswhose fascination with the mind drugs is hardly less than that of the psychopharmacologists themselves, though for different reasons. Major General Marshall Stubbs, at the time chief of the Army's Chemical Corps, told a congressional committee: "The characteristics we are looking for are. . . exactly opposite to what the pharmaceutical firms want in drugsthat is, the undesirable side effects."
Most of what interests the military is highly classified. However, Robert Coughlan in Life was able to offer an imposing catalogue of "incapacitating agents" being actively pursued.
The things these agents can do now are many and exceedingly strange. Besides the hallucinogens there are, for instance, euphoriants [italics mine]. They incapacitate by making their victim so witlessly optimistic about everything that he is no good for anything. As one Army medical attendant at a Chemical Corps tryout on human volunteers explained, "Even the worst food, like Army food, tastes absolutely delicious to them. They'll tell you it is the best they have ever eaten!" The opposite number of the euphoriants is the depressants. These drugs induce morbid gloom and prevent the victim from doing anything because he feels that nothing is worth doing. Also there are cataplexogenics. Their victim remains fully conscious, thinks normally and tries to respond to stimuli in his usual way, but he finds that his muscles don't obey. They might be rigid, flaccid, or limp, but in any case they are useless and he is immobilized.
Then there are the disinhibitors. These block or weaken the controls that normally keep behavior on a fairly even keel; the victim overreacts, with excesses of talking, imagination, emotions, and actions. (Alcohol is a familiar disinhibitor but a relatively mild one). In addition there are the chronoleptogenics. They distort the sense of time and since the victim cannot discriminate between hours and seconds, he loses track of relationships in which time is involved, becoming ineffectual and lost. And there are the confusants. They cause the victim to lose track of all relationships; the world is totally out of joint and everything in it (himself included) is uncertain, contradictory, overwhelmingly strange, and perplexing.
These descriptions have been generalized, of course. In practice the effects are variable and subject to many limitations. None of the compounds is 100 percent effective in all circumstances, and some are only moderately effective even under the best circumstances. The important point about all of them, however, is that they do exist, they do affect the brain and they do manipulate specific aspects of behavior. The rest is a problem of product development, so to speakof tinkering, refining, and improving, adding a new twist here and there to make them better and betteror, perhaps one ought to say, worse and worse.*
Among yet other possibilities, Coughlan makes ominous mention of "chemicals that increase suggestibility and hence could be extremely useful in 'brainwashing' prisoners of war or even (if diffused in water supplies, or perhaps in common table salt, as is done with iodine) in making whole populations receptive to propaganda. The Chemical Corps, through its liaison program with industry, receives hundreds of odd compounds monthly for testing and there is no telling what will turn up."
All of these new means of tampering with the human brain and behavior via electricity and chemistry invoke the same kind of fears and the same kind of moral dilemmas as those aroused by the biomedical developments explored in Parts I and II. They involve our definition of the good life, the role of the individual, the assignment of power and authorityand their limitations and restrictions.
*In the movie Goldfinger, it was some such incapacitating agent, all ready and perfected for cinema purposes, which the conspirators arranged to have sprayed on Fort Knox to put the guards out of effective action.
We all have qualms about those in power inflicting their will on the unconsenting masses. But what of those who choose to exercise the new controls on themselves, and who insist on their individual right to do so? Suppose a man wants to have electrodes implanted in the sexual centers of his brain and carry a self-stimulating pushbutton device to turn on his desire and capacity whenever he pleasesshould this be denied him? It is certainly not unusual for a patient suffering from feelings of sexual inadequacy or impotence to go to a urologist or psychotherapist for help; and the doctors do try hard to find remedies. If a physician decided that the implantation of electrodes was the easiest remedyand quite safefor a given patient, it might appear to be merely an extension of normal medical advice to send the man to a neurosurgeon and have it done. But many doctors would have great ethical qualms about proceeding.
In the controversy over the use and abuse of psychedelic drugs many intellectuals and artists have insisted that marijuana and LSD have many positive values to recommend them: insights into the self, expanded awareness, enhanced creative potential. Many argue for the legalization of these drugs on the ground that they are not addictive narcotics, and that their troublemaking potential is certainly no greater than other universally accepted commodities such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
One of the least investigated areas of the drug problem in our society is the "white-collar drug scene," a label coined by Bruce Jackson in Atlantic. Jackson gives a quietly hair-raising account of a pill party he was invited to in a major American city. The host, on pep pills, had not slept in three or four nights. Instead of the usual cocktail-party bar, there were candy dishes full of many-colored pills and capsules, most of them amphetamines and barbiturates available by prescription. Also on hand was a well-worn copy of the Physicians' Desk Reference, a handbook on pharmaceuticals for doctors. The pills were passed around, and the guests selected from them as they would from a tray of assorted cookies. It was not a wild party. There was music, but no drunkenness or sex play. None of the partygoers were teen-agers, college undergraduates, or hippies. They were all well-dressed, well-behaved, well-educated, and presumably mature adults in the middle-income bracket, some of them married couples who just happened to become "pillheads." They went regularly to such parties where the conversation centered mainly on the varieties of drugs, how to enhance their effects, how to insure a continuing source of supply to feed their habits.
Most of these people seemed to have no clearcut idea as to why they had become habituated to the pills, except that they consider life without the pills either too complex to cope with or too boring to tolerate. The amphetamines and barbiturates they use are all substances which get through the blood/brain barrier to influence the chemistry of the cells in those primitive areas of the brain that Miller and Elkes were talking about. The white-collar pillheads also use hallucinogens occasionally, smoking marijuana and taking LSD, substances that get through to some of the brain's higher centers as well, distorting and heightening perceptions, thoughts and feelings, sometimes intensely and for prolonged periods of time.
"Lately," writes Jackson, "attention has been focused on drug abuse and experimentation among college students. Yet all the college students and all the junkies account for only a small portion of American drug abuse. The adults, the respectable grown-ups, the nice people who cannot or will not make it without depending on a variety of drugs, present a far more serious problem. For them the drug experience threatens to disrupt or even destroy life patterns and human relationships that required many years to establish.
"And the problem is not a minor one," he warns. "Worse, it seems to be accelerating." One of his pillhead friends told him one night, "You better research the hell out of it because I'm convinced that the next ruling generation is going to be all pillheads. I'm convinced of it. If they haven't dysfunctioned completely to the point where they can't stand for office. It's getting to be unbelievable. I've never seen such a transformation in just four or five years. . . ."
As time goes on, and as the biochemists and psychopharmacologists pursue their research, the pillheads will have at hand an increasingly sophisticated array of psychochemicals to draw from. The noted psychologist, Dr. B. F. Skinner of Harvard, predicts that "in the not too distant future the motivational and emotional conditions of normal daily life will probably be maintained in any desired state through the use of drugs." Is this a good or bad thing? Aldous Huxley, in his younger dayslong before the prospect seemed to have any basis in realitybitingly satirized the whole notion in Brave New World. But he lived to wax lyrical in its favor in Doors of Perception, the result of his experiences with mescaline.
Do individuals have the inalienable right, as many argue, to take any drugs they please whenever they pleaseespecially if the drugs are nonaddictivewithout interference from the law, or, for that matter, from their physicians? Should free individuals not be the sole guardians and custodians of their own inner experiences If a man chooses to sit in a room and quietly enjoy his drug-induced visions, or whatever stimulation or lethargy the drug of his choice brings him, is it anyone else's business?
In the present state of psychopharmacology, yes, it is other people's business. Taking these drugs in an unsupervised milieu, in large dosages, and on a continued basis, is more than a little risky. The taker may do himself irreparable damage physically, psychically, and socially. He may be unable to function or handle his responsibilities, and not care one way or the other whether he does or not, thus leaving society to worry about him and his dependents. The risk is not all his own, because the inner experience he chooses to undergo can have devastating consequences for others, including his wife and children. Moreover, under the influence of drugs he may very well be a genuine menace to innocent bystanders. Drugs may distort his perceptions so that he is unable, say, to drive a car properly; yet his judgment may also be distorted so that he believes he is handling the car even more expertly than usual. He may feel a soaring sense of power, a delusion that can make him reckless and bring injury or death to himself and others. Or the drug may bring out latent paranoid tendencies, and, fearing an imaginary attack, he may attack first. So drug-taking cannot be a person's purely private affair.
Nevertheless, questions about the internal freedoms of the individual are valid enough. We do trust people to drink whiskey, which is a mind-affecting drugand we hold them responsible for the consequences, such as drunken driving. Why not trust them, in the same way, to smoke marijuana? Such questions will be even more valid, and more plentiful, in the years ahead. Drugs will presumably become more selective in their action, producing the desired moods and perceptions without damaging the user or curtailing his ability to function normally. (Our concepts of what constitutes "normal" functioning are also due for some changes, of course.) When these things come to pass, we may be hard put to attach any sense of moral wrongdoing to the mere taking of drugs.
Is it not, after ail, one of medical science's main purposes to provide us with medications to make us feel better? No one thinks it is wrong to eat whichever foods will most nourish our cells and coax them to their maximum metabolic efficiency. Yet foods are nothing but chemical substances derived from plants or animals that we grow or slaughter, and which we take in our bodies for the purpose of doing us good. In recent years more and more of our foods and our food supplements have become partially synthetic, which does not seem to have rendered them unacceptable. Why should it be considered unnatural, then, to take in any chemical substances that will do us good, especially if the side effects are negligible, even if they happen to be labeled as drugs instead of as food? Even foods are not devoid of side effects. They can, for instance, cause nausea and stomach aches. They can line our arteries with cholesterol. They carry small quantities of pesticides and radioactivity into our system. When we were children, we were all, at one time or another, encouraged to eat foods that we were told (probably erroneously) were good for our brains. Well, that's what the psychopharmacologists are working on.
A real danger inherent in promiscuous drug-taking, of course, is that people might become so enchanted with their drugged states that they have little desire for experience in the real worlda world which does not interest them, perhaps, because it seems both dull and hopeless, a world they were eager in any case to retreat from.
It is too bad that a world so full of intrinsic fascination and adventure can seem so hopeless and uninteresting to people who are neither ill nor poverty-stricken. Perhaps our creative people in all fields of endeavor, from politics to the arts, will want to exert themselves a bit to see that society begins to make better sense again, and that hope begins to seem worth hoping for again. What are people for? What are our human goals and values? What ought they to be? The questions repeat themselves. When we come up with answers that begin to satisfy us, perhaps we can then start building a society whose members will have little need and less desire to retreat from it via the drug route.
Even if individuals could be counted on to use drugs sanely and judiciously, this would only take care of the hazards of self-administration. How we use drugs on ourselves is one thing; how they are used on us is another. The mere existence of a versatile armamentarium of psychochemicals that can bring pain or pleasure, sleep or wakefulness, sexual desire or impotence, feelings of heat or cold, thirst or hunger or satiety; that can offer greater insights and intellectual powers as easily as they can deaden or disorient the mind; that can, in brief, control human brains and therefore human behavior in almost any desired way, holds out prospects that are not guaranteed to cheer us. Whose hands will they fall into? How can we insure that they will be used for our benefit, and not for the selfish or criminal purposes of private parties or of nations? The late Lord Brain voiced his hope "that the scientific freedom which produces this knowledge will act as an effective antidote for its misuse," but he admitted, in the same sentence, that "our experience of nuclear weapons may justify some skepticism about this."