Saturday, 1 September 2012

How the Cuddle Hormone Oxytocin May Improve Your Life

Human enhancement always sounds good on paper, but if you look at how enhancement techniques are actually being used, you may be excused for having doubts about the whole enterprise. Just take the neurotransmitter oxytocin, which has been celebrated as a wonder drug, a "cuddle hormone" and "love hormone". It is supposed to enhance our social competence, to make us nicer and more considerate, more attentive to the needs of others, generally more trusting and at the same time more self-confident. It even increases the sexual drive in men.

All that sounds really wonderful, doesn't it? And sure enough, the pharmaceutical companies have quickly realised the potential of that little hormone, so that meanwhile you can buy it on the internet as a nose spray - which has been welcomed by some enhancement enthusiasts as an important step towards the urgently needed moral improvement of humanity. However, the way such sprays are marketed speaks a different language and makes it very clear what this is really all about. Just take the aptly named 'Liquid Trust Enhanced', which is sold and marketed by Vero Labs (for a handsome amount) as "trust in a bottle" and openly advertised as an extremely efficient tool to manipulate other people. Under the slogan "Trust is Power" it is described what the spray can be used for and how you can benefit from it. For instance, if you happen to be a salesperson, Liquid Trust Enhanced will help you to sell more because, if you spray yourself with it, people will be inclined to trust you: "Close the deal! Sell more of your products and services!" Yet even if that doesn't work out, never mind, you will get a pay raise anyway because your boss, too, will be impressed by you even without a particular reason, and will trust in you if you beguile him with your irresistable oxytocin smell: "Give your career a powerful boost! Ask for a raise - And GET IT!" It is also useful in private matters, because it will make it much easier for you to start personal and especially sexual relationships: "Meet more women because they trust you more." So there can be no doubt that this fantastic product is not only "the ultimate career builder", but also "the ultimate sales tool for relationships".

I think the example shows very nicely how on the one hand the enhanced human may become more capable of manipulating the world around him (including other people), but on the other also more prone to be manipulated by others. It seems that the more extensive the control we gain, the more extensive is also the control that we may be subjected to.

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