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The Future of Mental Health

Current notions of mental health are, at best, far from perfect. Our most "advanced" pharmacology can produce only crude anti-depressant agents. As is the way with everything, however, our technologies are improving, and one day our decendents (or future selves) may experience a form of true mental health and life-long happiness now physiologically unimaginable.

The metabolic pathways of pain, malaise and suffering evolved only because they served the survival of our genes. Our species has already started to tinker with our own genetic source-code. Our natural tendency toward consciousness augmentation will inevitably lead us to explore every chemical, genetic-engineering, biotechnological and nanotechnological path to safe and sustainable bliss. Current pharmacological empathogens offer only a tantalizingly cruel glimpse of a state of mind more beautiful than the drug-naive mind can imagine. 

Enhancement of the brain's natural pleasure, motivation and reward center, the dopaminergic system, for example would be highly beneficial to both the individual and, for the most part, society at large. A new motivational system based on gradients of well-being could produce a society of over-achievers who experience much more fulfilling and enjoyable lives. Hyper-dopaminergic states can in fact increase the range and diversity of actions an organism finds rewarding. Their productivity may also far eclipse our own. It may seem ambitious or implausible now, but such enhancements are technically feasible and may one day entirely abolish all forms of human suffering.

"Two hundred years ago, before the development of potent synthetic pain-killers or surgical anesthetics, the notion that "physical" pain could be banished from most people's lives would have seemed no less bizarre. Most of us in the developed world now take its daily absence for granted. The prospect that what we describe as "mental" pain, too, could one day be superseded is equally counter-intuitive. The technical option of its abolition turns its deliberate retention into an issue of political policy and ethical choice."

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