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Followup On Pausing Alcohol
"Pour him out of here!" --Mae West
[This is a followup to the prior post “On Pausing Alcohol”.]
Why did I stop drinking? 1/3 watching the collapse of ~all the scientific studies[*] that claimed to prove health benefits of alcohol; 1/3 the wonderful/terrible Andrew Huberman podcast; 1/3 I got tired of dragging during the day, and discovered through experimentation that even a single drink the night before was interfering with the next day.
Was it hard to stop? No, not at all. I’m apparently missing the genetic predisposition to addiction to at least alcohol. My friends would say I am addicted to other things, but those seem to be mostly productive obsessions. Obviously many other people have a different experience when they try to stop drinking.
Why not drink a little on weekends? At least for me, it’s easier to either have a habit or not have it, than try to straddle.
What replaces the ritual of drinking? I have found green tea to actually work very well. Also, complaining.
Aren’t you just one of those preachy converts who proselytizes to virtue signal? No, I am not happy I made this change, and I definitely do not recommend it.
Do I look down on friends who still drink? Hell no, I envy them!
Isn’t alcohol fundamental to human history? Absolutely. Many books have been written about the role alcohol played throughout the development of civilization. For a long time, alcohol were how you got water that was safe to drink. Also for a long time, distilled alcohol was the most effective way to transport and sell grain crops — George Washington grew and sold rye this way. And alcohol has been key to cultural formation and social bonding for many centuries, as you see in the history of the Greeks and Romans. But none of that means it’s good for ME. And the transition from alcohol to caffeine during the 1600s and 1700s in Europe seems to have catalyzed the Enlightenment, so.
Was Prohibition a good idea? Yes in theory, no in practice. No in practice because of all of the reasons we know from the actual history. But yes in theory; I think it’s pretty clear that the Prohibitionists really were right about the downsides of alcohol, particularly its causal link to violence and other forms of antisocial behavior. A good book on this is Daniel Okrent’s “Last Call”.
Should CEOs ban alcohol at company events? Yes. This is very difficult to do but seems like an overwhelmingly good idea. People who study violent crime will tell you that alcohol is implicated in most violence — either the perpetrator or the victim or both is drunk. On the ground, you see the same thing in many cases of workplace sexual harassment and assault. It’s better if everyone is sober when at work, even when work means an offsite or a conference. More companies should do this. Drink on your own time, not company time, is not an unreasonable stance.
Would 20th century America have turned out differently had cannabis been legal this whole time and alcohol banned? Yes, I think so. Less violent, for sure. As dynamic, probably not. Better or worse? I have no idea. A timely question as our own culture seems to be shifting from alcohol to pot right now.
Is there a brewing (I see what you did there!) fad of not drinking in Silicon Valley? Yes, for sure. However, it seems to be running parallel to much more use of cannabis and hallucinogens, at least on the West Coast. So it’s not exactly asceticism.
Elon’s response to my original post included his comment “Alcohol is a legacy drug”, which I think points to the future. The most common drugs people use today — caffeine, alcohol, cannabis, opium, nicotine, khat — are naturally occurring. The few human-engineered drugs in common use today are particularly potent — LSD, MDMA, fentanyl — but that doesn’t have to be the case. We should be able to engineer better and healthier alternatives to alcohol, cannabis, et al. The civilizational consequences of this could be profound.
What’s the best counterargument to all this? That life is not lived to be safe, that alcohol helps people bond, mate, and reproduce, that alcohol encourages people to fight and fighting drives civilization forward. That men and women should work hard and then play hard, the Greeks had their Dionysia and the Romans their Bacchanalia, and we should too. Frankly, over the long sweep of human affairs, this is probably right, but I’m still not drinking for a while.
[*] It really is striking/shocking how completely this whole area of scientific research has collapsed. This is part of the generalized replication crisis that’s ripping through science. More to come on this. TLDR is it is no longer crazy or even particularly controversial to say that most of what we know as science is simply fake.
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