Substance D, Soma, Melange – they’ve all been part of our culture for decades. Gabe Habash looks at the side effects for Publishers Weekly:
In fiction and in reality, medicine is designed and set up to operate with the best of intentions, to eliminate pain and disease and the things that push us toward mortality. In theory. In practice, we know that there are holes in this theory. But for all the problems in the reality of medicine, at least we don’t have to worry about these 6 fictional drugs, which were designed to make the world a better place, but failed in all types of spectacular ways.
1. Altruizine from “Altruizine” by Stanislaw Lem
Unintended Side Effect: It makes people too altruistic.
Lem, one of the most widely-read sci-fi writers in the world, wrote a short story within his collection The Cyberiad about Altruizine, a metapsychotropic drug that causes the user to feel the pains and emotions of others within a radius of fifty yards.
According to its discoverer, Altruizine
“will ensure the untrammeled reign of Brotherhood, Cooperation and Compassion in any society, since the neighbors of a happy man must share his happiness, and the happier he, the happier perforce they, so it is entirely in their own interest that they wish him nothing but the best. Should he suffer any hurt, they will rush so help at once, so as to spare themselves the pain induced by his. Neither walls, fences, hedges, nor any other obstacle will weaken the altruizing influence… We assume no responsibility for results at variance with the discoverer’s claims.”
The story, which has a full title of “Altruizine, Or a True Account of How Bonhomius the Hermetic Hermit Tried to Bring About Happiness, and What Came of It,” is about a robotic engineer who creates the drug and sends Bonhomius the Hermit (who is eager to help others) into society to try it out. What happens is people start experiencing things like the birthing pains of a cow, while others run into a newlyweds’ house to experience their new pleasures vicariously…
[continues at Publishers Weekly]