Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 661, March 11, 2012

A great artificial hysterical fuss.

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The State vs. Superpowers
by Boris Karpa

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

Imagine for a moment you had a minor superpower. Let us say, for example, that you could sense the magnetic fields emitted by electronics and electric appliances. You could feel computer labs through the walls, or trace the power lines in the walls of your house by touching the wall with your finger. That would be really great, wouldn't it? It would be the sort of thing people write about in science-fiction novels.

Lepht Anonym—not her real name, of course—has just this sort of a superpower. Working on her own in a kitchen, this self-styled "DIY transhumanist" has implanted—using only limited anesthetics and a scalpel—a series of neodymium magnets in her palms and fingers. The results are fantastic—Anonym can now feel magnetic fields by touch, and pick up small metal items using the magnets in her hands.

"Where can I get this?"—you ask. Well, you can't. Certainly if you're an English subject, you can't—it turns out to be illegal for doctors to perform such a surgery there, and it would be illegal for Lepht Anonym to perform it on anyone else—subject to a ten-year prison term. Which is the only way this experimenting individual could get this done was to cut her own fingers open in her kitchen. Quality anesthetics are also virtually unavailable—which means this heroic lady was forced to contend with mind-blowing pain.

The state exercises—in England as almost elsewhere—almost complete control over all medical procedures, experimentation, and the use of medical skills. You are permitted the use of drugs of virtually every kind if they decide you have a "genuine medical need" for them—to restore yourself to what is considered human norm. Using drugs to enhance your performance beyond what they healthy norm is prohibited. The story of Lepht Anonym is not an exception—it is typical.

The people who control our culture—the mass-media, the schoolmasters, the intellectuals—will tell us these agencies are for our own good. That they exist to protect people from abuses by medical companies and charlatans. They are not in any way means to control our behavior. But if this is true, why can we not opt out? Where is the form I can sign that says: "I am aware of the risks, please let me get a professional to put the neodymium magnets in my body"?

There are no opt-outs, anywhere. And the problem is not only the state.

We have, as a culture, become so ridiculously risk-averse, so hilariously cowardly, that any even remotely dangerous self-experimentation is derided and stopped wherever it may be stopped. The hatred that the health socialists feel towards any kind of elective surgery, their outbursts of paranoia regarding breast implants, vaginaplasty and steroids is of the same cowardly type that prevents new space exploration, atomic reactors, anti-aging research.

Were we free to research not only curing individuals, but enhancing them, you could have your own magnet implants, and many other things beyond that. It's difficult for us to even conceive such a society. Five minutes ago you didn't even know this culture stood between you and this neat superpower. Do you have any idea what other things we've been stopped from developing and inventing?


Neither do I.

Boris Karpa is a translator and freelance writer in Tel-Aviv, Israel. He's available at

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