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Alcohol as a social technology to check the trustworthiness of others (plus.google.com)
164 points by ivank on May 25, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 116 comments

In Japanese business culture, being in one's cups is a socially acceptable excuse for saying virtually anything, regardless of e.g. relative social status or non-desirability of the message. Accordingly, many of the really important messages internally and externally are passed after hours with a beer in hand. (Incidentally, people will even treat you as being drunk even if you're only sipping coke, because it is mutually socially important that you be seen as being drunk. I mean, after all, you couldn't possibly verbalized that complaint to your boss while being sober, right? So clearly you're drunk.)

Tangentially, I've seen "Nomu-nication" (Nomu "to drink" and Communication) be a central part of almost all business in Japan -- both internal and external.

One experience I had with my Osakan clients always stood out to me -- I've met multiple businessmen who say they won't make a deal with a vendor they haven't gone drinking with, because the alcohol shows what kind of person they really are.

I think alcohol serves a similar function at least here in Western Europe, albeit less obviously. I've noticed that many people 'act' drunk well before they are. Having a beer in hand is permission to let your guard down a bit.

I mostly approve, but a danger I've found is that people can get stuck in it, even if they don't necessarily become alcoholics.

Funny you mentionned Japan. Staying 'cool' while getting drunk with Japan's manager of my previous employer landed me a CTO position in Japan. He was saying it was a proof that I was a reliable person.

In Eastern Europe it was (is, maybe, I haven't been there in a decade now or so), a social lubricant for _all_ the occasions. Birthday parties, any holidays -- state, unofficial, religious. Any business deal or venture. Birth of children, deaths, graduations. Celebrating buying a new car. Visiting someone for the first time. etc...etc... Any one of those are a reason to drink alcohol. Not just a reason to drink it, it is suspicious not to. Yes, it can be very mentally demanding to not drink. There is a constant barrage of offers (Oh just have a little shot. Just taste it. We are drinking for the health of so and so). I have family members back home that struggle with alcoholism. Those that are struggling are able to handle it pretty much just by avoiding most such functions. Cousin so and so is having a party? -- "Yeah, I'll just find some excuse to not go, as they will drink themselves stupid and I can't handle the nagging". Stuff like that. You go to visit someone for the first time, and you refuse a drink, that is borderline an insult to host. You gotta tell them it is under strict doctors' orders to get out of it. "It looks like you have a hangover? No problem. Guess what the cure is? -- Yap. More alcohol in the morning.". Stuff like that.

It's like this in SE Asia as well. Socializing pretty much always implies drinking. It's a struggle for me because I've never really enjoyed drinking and I've found that as I get older it takes me longer to recover from it. Even a few drinks now and I have trouble sleeping well and I'm mentally fuzzy the next day. This is not conducive to writing code at all.

Hopefully one day Cannabis will mostly supplant alcohol as the social drug of choice.

> Hopefully one day Cannabis will mostly supplant alcohol as the social drug of choice.

I hope not. I find the smell of Cannabis to be nauseating (almost like a swamp or distant sewage plant), and I wish people would consider that more often before smoking it in social settings. I realize that alcohol can smell as well, but it usually takes quite a lot of it for me to notice at least.

Another consideration: It's a lot easier for non-participating guests to abstain from alcohol than from Cannabis. Apart from peer pressure concerns, I can abstain or moderate my alcohol intake while still participating in social activities, regardless of the alcohol intake of my friends. When Cannabis is smoked in an enclosed hotbox though, I have to choose between intoxication and leaving.

I don't mind the brownies though.

I know this is a little off topic, but I always wonder if Cannabis becoming legal in more places, like the US, would result in more innovation with regards to the actual smell of cannabis. Perhaps more convenient ways of ingesting/inhaling that don't result in such a strong odor? Maybe biological manipulation of the strains to specifically eliminate the aspects of the plant that give it such a strong smell while maintaining the effects? You have to think that the primary providers of Cannabis to date have not had much incentive to tackle this problem, but like you said, the more and more prevalent it becomes in society, the more necessary it may become.

I found the recent episode of the tv show VICE that focused on the booming entrepreneurship in Colorado around cannabis to be really interesting and it will be interesting to see what comes of that test environment within the US.

You may find UCLA professor Mark Kleiman's thoughts on the future of legalization interesting. Basically he predicts a big shift towards vaporization, e-cig style.


> Perhaps more convenient ways of ingesting/inhaling that don't result in such a strong odor?


smoking (or vaporing) makes much more sense in a social situation. eating pot food takes a while to kick in, sometimes hours. it's not ideal and the experiences are not identical.

Personally I don't mind the smell but, as other posters have suggested, I think it's likely that less intrusive and safer methods of consumption will become popular as Cannabis moves into the mainstream. Vaporizers and edibles are both good alternatives.

Not just SE Asia, Japan, Korea, pretty much as well.

> Hopefully one day Cannabis will mostly supplant alcohol as the social drug of choice.

No thank you. I don't like smoke. I'd prefer tea or coffee.

Just keep in mind that Cannabis isn't without lasting side effects. Over time, people get burnt, ain't quite as sharp as they used to be, some flip their lid in ways that aren't precisely comedic.

yes, but I would say alcohol is more likely to cause problems like those.

What social benefits does cannabis provide that are remotely comparable to those of alcohol?

I wonder what sort of reaction cultures like this would have to the invention of an alcohol-neutralizing prophylactic. Put yourself in the mind of the people-who-want-other-people-to-get-drunk, and picture someone who can drink like a fish but won't actually get even slightly inebriated--and who purposefully put themselves in this state, instead of "just being that way." How do you feel about that person?

drinking and not getting drunk is a feat of strength, something to brag about, oh did you hear so and so can drink 1L of Vodka and still drive home!"

Ireland is similar. If you refuse a drink people might ask if you're on antibiotics.

I currently live in Poland and have lots of family here. One of my cousins is an alcoholic in recovery and whenever his family has a party he leaves the house. It's just easier for them to not be there.

> We are drinking for the health of so and so

As if it were a way of praying or wishing!

Yes, and that is the standard, default line you say when you drink "Na Zdorovie" == "For health!"

Where I grew up in Michigan: exact same thing. As a kid the omni-presence of social lubricant was great! But the cost grew over time. Many of my friends and family killed themselves with drink and drugs, and some others were wiped out by alcoholism.

"I don't trust anyone who doesn't drink" is a politically incorrect but still pretty common sentiment.

Edit: I think I'm getting some "shoot the messenger" downvotes. Whether or not you agree with the statement, I maintain that a lot of people feel this way.

The deleted comment with a lot of replies was:

> I go to IT/comp-sci conferences and often meet people who don't drink, ever. These people won't have a single glass of wine or beer. I had to ask myself why. If someone told me they used to be an alcoholic and completely quit alcohol, I'd have nothing but respect, but this is not what these people are about.

> They'll claim they don't like the effects of alcohol, but the truth is they think drinking is unprofessional. They're afraid of losing control, of looking foolish. To me, this symbolizes conservatism. These are people who are not adventurous. They won't try some unknown dish on the restaurant menu, they won't want to go to a restaurant from a culture they're unfamiliar with. They might think shellfish are disgusting and weird. They'll want to go to some chain restaurant and have a steak with fries.

> I don't like these people. Why? Because they're unadventurous people, who have most likely never tried pot even once in their life. They don't like new ideas. They're afraid that one drink will make their life deviate ever so slightly from the usual boring predictability they crave. If you present them with some new idea, they'll give you nothing but doubt, a long list of reasons why your idea is risky and might not work, and thus isn't worth trying. You shouldn't be developing your own programming language, Java does everything you need, it's Turing Complete. Fuck these people.

I'm not a steak-and-fries person at all (or even a sandwich-and-salad or rice-and-veggie person, which I've internalized as my own safe defaults); I go out and have unfamiliar dishes quite often. If I want to do something amazing and interesting I visit a new country or go on a 20km walk. And I've invented two programming languages as well :) However, I avoid alcohol specifically because it's just not something that I see myself needing in my life, and with the secondary goal of legitimizing nonconformism and pursuit of one's own values in general. I actually see drinking as a more "boring" choice than not drinking.

I appreciate that you reposted the deleted comment to quell my curiosity and that you were considerate enough to not include the original authors username.

One of the big reasons I was curious about the content of the comment is that I have been thinking about comment karma and the utility of deleting comments lately. Comments like this make a strong case against being able to delete comments. In order for karma to be most effective it seems that it must not only quantify a user's positive contributions but also the user's negative contributions. If a user knows they can make potentially dumb/offensive comments and delete them before taking a karma hit they do not need to filter their thoughts before hitting submit. In my opinion clicking submit is an implicit statement that I stand by my comment and that it was submitted in good faith and is a sincere expression of my opinion.

I am not entirely sure what the purpose of delete is. If someone asks "what is the X of y?" and my response is factually incorrect the comment/answer will be downvoted. People that see my downvoted answer will know that it has been judged "unacceptable" by the HN community; so I do not think there is a reason to worry about spreading false information. If the question is not about a factual matter and my opinion is judged unacceptable by the HN community so be it. I made my comment with the best of intentions and should stand by what I said in the comment.

One reason I find the delete, or edit useful is, sometimes I'll type up a comment come back a while later, read it, hit post without really thinking, and then go back and see the context, and realize I'm an idiot[0] and quickly edit or delete the comment before anyone else finds out.

[0] http://xkcd.com/481/

It seems like you are saying that the utility of the delete function is that it allows a user (you, me and everyone else) to submit comments without thinking about the content and quality of the comment. What is wrong with increasing the incentive to do a "am I being a moron check" before hitting submit?

I don't drink. Why? If I drink I have terrible hangovers and can't function the next day. I go to the gym 3 times a week and on weekends I do rock climbing. I'm trying to get a job as a fulltime developer and that requires me to try get as much programming as I can in a single day. If I go out to drink and get myself wasted then I'm wasting my precious time. I got drunk a lot of time already and seriously can't imagine why would I want to do that instead of working on myself in my free time.

But I guess I'm just one of unadventurous people.

Having some stupid chemical mess with your head is an obstacle to processing new ideas and experiences as they deserve.

I never drink but have spent the vast majority of my free time for more than a year writing a programming language. lol :)

> "I don't trust anyone who doesn't drink" is a politically incorrect but still a pretty common sentiment.

It's not "politically incorrect." It's just kinda dumb.

In communist Poland there was a proverb "Who doesn't drink - is the UB (Polish KGB) agent".

Political correctness really has little bearing on how I evaluate a statement. PC doesn't mean it is right, non-PC doesn't mean it is wrong.

I mentioned it because I think there a lot of people who might agree with the statement but are self-aware enough to realize they shouldn't say it out loud.

'pc' is invariably shorthand for 'im gonna get self righteous about my right to be an asshole'

I don't follow. Are you trying to insult me?

it wasn't aimed at you but it's nearly always directly transcribable that way. i have a grudge against the term 'pc' -- i understand that it typically refers to an archetype of a ~hyper-offensible liberal that lives in seattle~ or something but it's nearly always invoked against people who have genuine reason to have grievances with the language and implications used. i won't go into detail because it frankly doesn't matter, but that is the case here with me.

Is there a preferred shorthand?

I do not agree with the statement and I am curious what your point was when you added "I maintain a lot of people feel this way"? Racism is politically incorrect and also a common sentiment.

Would you downvote someone who said "racism is a common sentiment"? If you said that and were subsequently downvoted, would you still maintain that a lot of people feel that way? That's what I mean.

"I don't trust anyone who doesn't drink" is a politically incorrect but still a pretty common sentiment.

It is. It's one of those archaic masculinity expectations that hangs around. "Real men" are supposed to eat red meat, be promiscuous (until 30 or so), and be experienced with liquor. Men who don't enjoy getting hammered are seem as "off", unhealthy, or aloof.

We might hate that it is this way, but mainstream business culture (which has successfully colonized the Valley, making that ecosystem a Disneyfied farce of entrepreneurship having little to do wtih true technology) is still heavily invested in gender roles and "real men" nonsense. Being a nondrinker is a pretty serious professional handicap because, ultimately, people give professional favor (promotions, good projects) based on personal affinities that can be hacked with chemistry (specifically, ethanol) but rarely (certainly not reliably) with hard work.

This is really interesting to me, the idea that the valley is infested with typical alpha male pursuits. The popular concept is a skinny jean wearing hipster tapping away at a coffee shop. They may get hammered on craft beer but I have never heard that associated with proving masculinity.

Maybe that was true in some distant past, but in my time in the startup world (about 16 years) it's never really been true. It's actually the thing I think Mike Judge has really nailed in "Silicone Valley" on HBO. He tells the story from the perspective of a bunch of nerds being thrust into the broader culture of the Valley. The culture of "drink ups" and beer on tap in the office.

The reality of the Valley has much more in common with my fraternity house in college than anything else really. That's not to say that the hardworking hacker doesn't exist. They absolutely do! They are the ones everyone else in the Valley is taking advantage of.

This is the second time I've heard someone use the noun-phrase "drink up" on Hacker News, and it puzzles me; it's not something anyone says up here in the PNW. What does it mean? Clearly there is drinking involved, but what is the context?

Or founding WhatsApp...

I've noticed that some 'nerds' can actually overdo alpha male things when opportunity arises. Perhaps this is analogous to a closeted gay person trying really hard to come across as straight (I know a few personally, and sometimes it pains me to watch this behavior), or the pick-up artist 'community'. I've been like that myself when I was younger.

(I'm not saying it's a bad thing; just something I've noticed)

> "Real men" are supposed to eat red meat, be promiscuous (until 30 or so), and be experienced with liquor.

You forgot watching sports.

It's not the watching of sports that's manly; it's expressing the sentiment that you think the professionals can do better and if you're actually mature enough not to do that, being able to provide some kind of sophisticated analysis of the action.

Note that in every case, it's actually a subtle matter of one-upsmanship. Eating redder or more meat. Sleeping with more or better-looking women. Drinking harder or larger quantities of liquor.

Writing more lines of code in a more obscure language.

I'm not sure where you're getting these ideas, but I'd venture to guess that you don't actually believe in the things you're attributing to other people.

You could find plenty of guys willing to defend sports on their own terms. I don't think, if you let them talk for a day, they'd come out with anything like what you're putting in their mouths. I do think the things they'd tell you about sports are plausible enough as the "real reasons" they're fans. In my (admittedly not deep) experience, analysis of the action is a big thing. Criticizing the performance might rise to the level of a minor phenomenon. People are perfectly happy enthusing over great things that their heroes have done.

Just because people use sports as a vector for expressing manliness doesn't mean they don't enjoy it. Drinking beer because it helps you fit in doesn't mean you don't enjoy drinking beer. You can always have more than one reason to do something.

A man might enjoy throwing around a football because of the visceral experience of a solid catch, the nostalgic recollection of doing it with his dad, the anticipation of doing it with his son in the future, the vicarious simulation of a quarterback he looks up to, the amorphous pleasure of exercising, and because he can throw it further than his buddy.

Actually, I agree with all of what you just listed. But no one watches sports because they can throw the television farther than their friends, no one watched chariot races then or watches NASCAR now because they drive better than their friends, and no one watched gladiators because they routinely trounced their friends in battles to the death. Sports aren't there to satisfy the urge to show that you're better within your group than the rest of the group. They're there to satisfy the urge to tribalism, to show that your group is better than other groups.

Not really. We're talking about two different motivations.

Yes. People from San Francisco want the 49ers to win, because they're representatives of a kind. But there's nothing particularly manhood-affirming in this experience. People don't want their team to win in order to feel more masculine; as you said, it's a tribalism thing. That's why sports-watching is accompanied by other activities, like exclusion, beer-drinking, steak-grilling, and so on.

The reason you watch sports to affirm your manhood is because you feel you know better. You could, in their shoes, stomp the other team into the ground. You could tell your team what to do and they'd do it and they'd win. This isn't tribalism; such people would happily switch sides in order to prove they could win from there, too.

Listen to the content of the conversation. A bunch of guys, sitting around, agreeing with each other on what they would have done instead. If their team loses, the tribally motivated will say, "Better luck next time." Those who are motivated by masculinity say, "Should have done it better." It's indistinct if their team wins; they have nothing to prove because they backed the right horse.

People usually don't watch sports to affirm their manhood. Activities for doing that tend to be active. But when they do, it's not about tribalism.

Nothing you've said relates to anything I've said, though. The complaint is over the judgment of sports-watching men that if you're not interested in sports (for the usual reasons), you're not a real man. That has nothing to do with whether, if you want to be reassured that you're macho enough, you go watch sports.

You're right that people give professional favor based on personal affinity, what I'm not sure you're right about is that it's so wrong to do so. If I don't like you, then it's likely that your direct reports will feel the same way, as will potential clients or partners, which is a risk to the business, so I'm not likely to choose you for a position that puts you in a position to interact with many people. Most high senior positions require a ton of soft skills, so you're probably going to hit a ceiling unless you prove that you have them. Making your manager and peers like and trust you is step 1; the best people go far beyond that very quickly.

Nobody ever promised that career progression would be based on coding chops, especially when each jump up the ladder means less time coding and more time people-hacking.

Likeability is neither transitive nor uniform across a population. It's quite common for someone to be well-liked by some people and disliked by others for quite arbitrary reasons; it's also common for two people that you both like to dislike each other. Actually, highly successful people seem more likely to show this polarization, where they are liked by some and hated by others, simply because they are less shy about putting their personal opinions out there and people will have a wide variety of reactions to those opinions.


> I'd have nothing but respect, but this is not what these people are about.

Presumably if they or their family members have struggled with alcoholism they wouldn't tell some stranger at a tech conference about it right after finishing talking about the latest trends in REST-ful API design.

Imagine the exchange.

* "-Yeah hateoas is totally not worth it, we tried it and it was just a pain to implement without seeing any benefits"

* "-Let me get buy you a beer"

* "-Nah, my father was an alcoholic who beat my mom and me growing up, he then left and killed himself. So yeah, I'll just pass".

* "-......<silence>....Yeah, cool, I'll just move over there to meet some friends. Nice talking to you."

Sometimes you won't know the true reason, you'll just hear a socially acceptable light cover. So don't always assume they are just prudish and conservative.

And well, actually there are a lot of people who just don't enjoy drinking. You know like there are some that don't enjoy pizza. They just don't. They like hamburgers better, always.

As someone who drinks but gets to meet a lot of 'straight edge' people since I get involved in the punk scene and have been for quite a while. You'll be surprised how interesting, adventurous and far from conservative some of these people who don't drink or do drugs are.

In fact some of these people would argue that is you the one that's boring, the one that needs of external ideas because you can not come up with them your own, or that you're not brave enough to go in adventures or doing what you call take a risk if it wasn't for the booze/drugs.

Here's some lyrics from "Straight Edge" by Minor Threat * I'm a person just like you But I've got better things to do Than sit around and fuck my head Hang out with the living dead Snort white shit up my nose Pass out at the shows I don't even think about speed That's something I just don't need

Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong wrong.

Do you not see the issue with using a single data point about a person to judge them as closed-minded? Do you not see how that in itself is much more closed-minded?

I smoke pot every day. I've tried any natural hallucinogen I can find, multiple times. I'm a raging liberal. I'm a part-time cook that almost certainly could talk and cook circles around you when it comes to cuisine. I promise you I'm very adventurous.

But I often refuse alcohol during the week, and almost always in professional settings. Why?

1. Alcohol makes me excessively nauseous 2. Alcohol makes me excessively tired 3. Being nauseous and tired ruins my day 4. I don't like the implication that in order to be part of a professional setting I should be expected to drink alcohol

And that's it. None of the nonsense reasons you included above. Hopefully at your next conference you'll lose the entitled attitude, realize you know nothing about these people, and try to talk to them whether they drink or not. Or hopefully they'll just be able to avoid you and enjoy a conservation with someone who has a real understanding of people.

If someone told me they used to be an alcoholic and completely quit alcohol, I'd have nothing but respect, but this is not what these people are about.

What is the problem with people deciding not to drink for philosophical, religious, psychological or other reasons? While I embrace the philosophy "try anything once," I have a number of friends who don't drink for a variety of reasons and it doesn't impede my ability to enjoy their company or respect them as people. Their motivations are different from mine, and that's okay.

At this point it's like beating a dead horse, but it's so strange to trust people having an history of severe alcohol abuse in the past, but distrust people that would preemptively stop themself from drinking knowing they'd go the wrong way.

One of the best coders it's ever been my pleasure to work with is a strict teetotaler and is, in every respect, the opposite of your stupid stereotypes.

You accuse others of being "conservative" and then you proudly mistrust anyone who isn't just like you. Do you see the irony?

I'm a moderate drinker myself, BTW, before you start thinking you're being dogpiled by prohibitionists. I try to judge people on their ability and character, not irrelevant window-dressing.

Being conservative with alcohol doesn't reasonably imply being conservative with everything else in life. Plus, alcohol does have many realistic potential dangers - so being somewhat cautious is appropriate.

You're making a lot of assumptions. There are a lot of people that just don't like the taste of alcohol. (Specifically beer).

This is my case, and it's actually frustrating for me. I'm not interested enough to force myself to acclimate, the way most people would have done in college due to peer pressure. So I'm stuck with either being the entertaining freak when coworkers go out for a beer, or being anti-social.

The irony of being a freakish social outcast amidst a group of nerds is not lost on me.

I started on cocktails and eventually found craft beer I like. It takes time.

But, yeah, I've been the non drinker. People don't know what to do with you, and they get annoyed. They project things onto you (like judgment), and don't even try to understand your motivations. It sucks. Groupthink is powerful and pervasive, and nerds have no problem adopting it if it suits them.

Wow. You are an idiot.

Please don't. Comments like this have no place on HN, regardless of how idiotic someone else's may be.

We ban people for this kind of thing when they don't have a history as a positive contributor. Your history seems excellent, though, so hopefully the favored penalty here—extremely mild admonishment—will do the trick.

On another note, I'm happy to report that many users flagged this comment. That is a good use of comment flagging. (When you think a comment has no place on HN, you can flag it by clicking on "link" to go to the item page for that comment, and then "flag". We monitor those flags and take action based on them.)

I appreciate this and your response. I think I was having a bad day at the time. Regardless, I agree that my comment was unhelpful and didn't add to the discussion.

I think the author has made a number of errors in there post and seems to gloss over the numerous social problems that arise from alcohol consumption. Th reason Alcohol is consumed by a significant portion of the population is because its a drug that society doesn't perceive as a drug. It carries all the negative physiological and social effects other drugs have but it doesn't carry the negative association of being what we consider 'a drug'.

Yes It's a form of social lubrication and it might be pleasant to consume but its efficacy as a form of verifying trustworthiness is tenuous as best. Most high functioning alcoholics would be able to maintain an air of trustworthiness which is why alcohol itself can be such a destructive force.

It's interesting that alcohol is explicitly banned in Islam You could use the approximately 1.1 billion muslim(probably closer to 500-800 million practicising) population as a control abstaining group and look at whether communities that consume alcohol have a higher propensity to trust each other or not.

Edit: At the end of the day I think regardless of any philosophical debates the simplest answer might be that people consume alcohol because being drunk feels good.

>Th reason Alcohol is consumed by a significant portion of the population is because its a drug that society doesn't perceive as a drug.

Thats a rather modern view for a practice that may be as old as humanity itself. Your comment doesn't explain why Alcohol was popular when cocaine and other opiates didn't carry negative associations.

Alcohol (in the form of beer) was - for some periods in history - more safe than drinking water. The beer making process (boiling water as well as the alcohol in it) was good at killing bacteria[1]. Bacteria in water was a pretty significant problem for towns without a proper sewage system.

(Note that you'll find some internet sites claiming this is a myth. I don't find their arguments compelling at all: most seem to argue that water was drunk as well - which is no doubt true.)

[1] http://www.westsussextoday.co.uk/news/county-news/latest-new...

Boiling water before drinking it does have a positive effect on safety. That's beyond dispute.

I'm not one of those who claim beer was drunk instead of water - I'm just pointing out that the more positive association of alcohol compare to other drugs does have some kind of possible historic and scientific basis.

> why Alcohol was popular when cocaine and other opiates didn't carry negative associations

We've rewritten history to help ignore this, but they were quite popular.

Laudanum used to be heavily used in the US, and even Sherlock Holmes was written to be a regular, casual user of cocaine (Dr. Watson viewed it as "his only vice", such as a smoker of tobacco pipes, but had no medical objection to it).

> had no medical objection to it

Actually, he did. Watson tells Holmes early on (in The Sign of the Four, I think) that using cocaine might damage his powers of observation and deduction; and in the stories after Holmes' return, Watson mentions several times that he felt obliged as a medical man to wean Holmes from the drug, and that he gets worried when there is a long period without Holmes having a case because Holmes might be tempted to start using the drug again.

Cocaine and other opiates have been popular, only recently have they been sidelined.

Yeah, gee, I wonder why? Maybe it's because one has a tendency to induce heart attacks, and the other group is treacherously addictive.

But, consider that cocaine is a "new world" drug, specific to the South American continent, as an indigenous herbal extract, mostly until the 19th century, when highly purified extacts became a popular part of western society.

Meanwhile use of opiates dates back to ancient times, given that Opium is dead simple to produce. But again, it was really in the 19th century when good equipment, and precise measuing tools permitted chemists and drugists to purify highly addictive perparations of the wider variety of drugs. Prior to that, the poppy's medicinal qualities were known and used, but expertise and well-crafted instruments which could readily facilitate powerful extracts weren't as widespread. Otherwise, people were limited to whatever was grown locally, and would be required to cultivate and harvest their own supply, instead of relying on trade.

Alcohol is super simple to obtain. You just need some carbohydrate and time.

Was alcohol cheaper / easier to produce?

The other drugs are addictive.

It turns out, alcohol is actually more addictive than nearly all of the "other drugs", and it's one of the only drugs for which the withdrawal symptoms can be fatal.

I'd love to read the research on this.

Not sure if you are being serious but... ever seen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcoholism ?

> banned in Islam You could use the approximately 1.1 billion muslim

It's not because it's banned Muslims don't drink it. At least in some places. I have a friend who made numerous trips to Saudi Arabia, where the Muslim Law is supposed to be at its strictest form, yet you just need to drive out of town to find alcohol and access to other forbidden forms of pleasure.

It's just like if you said "so they banned prostitution so it does not exist anymore". People always find ways to access things they want to get.

I'm confused. Muslims don't drink because it is banned. Some Muslims drinking doesn't distinguish from the fact that its banned, just like some Muslims who murder people doesn't mean Murder isn't banned.

I don't think you understand what I'm saying. I was referring to the fact that in Saudi Arabia, it's not a super niche minority drinking alcohol. It's readily available, and everyone knows where it is.

Everyone who wants to know where it is does. Alcohol in Saudi is like cocaine in America.

Look, have you been in Saudi Arabia? If you know everything better than anyone else, then there's no point to comment on anything.

Well yeah I used to live there. I'm just sharing opinions and ideas thats all. I'm not intending to offend.

Please don't be rude on Hacker News.

I didn't mean to be rude, but point noted.

Drinking makes me suicidally depressed, so I stopped many years ago and have witnessed as a result this exact phenomenon. The new neighbor, coworker, potential partner or aquaintence are all super friendly and welcoming until the first time there's an opportunity to get drunk with them, and you don't (no matter how politely or subtly you demure). After that, the relationship fades. I've seen it time and again. It's annoying, but I've accepted it as reality now. I do get frustrated at how it inhibits my career - it's basically impossible to build a strong network without drinking (or at least is to me. Maybe you're some super gregarious teetotaler, but I'm not) and without a strong network you naturally lose opportunities both personally and professionally. If you can drink without issues, I'd highly recommend it - you'll have a happier, more successful life.

> If you can drink without issues, I'd highly recommend it - you'll have a happier, more successful life.

I think this depends on your definition of "happy" and "success".

Actually as a drinker, I always envied the way smokers got to network in the workplace. I started working at the same time as a smoker. I was generally more extroverted than him, but he ended up knowing way more people in the company than me, because of his cigarette breaks.

I'd argue it can also be used as a social technology for testing people's tolerance of values different from their own. If I say I don't want to drink but someone keeps pushing me to anyway, I don't bother pursuing any kind of meaningful friendship with them, as why would I want to be friends with someone who wouldn't respect my values?

It kind of works that way from the other side too.

Any group has a set of "norms" that, if you deviate from them, it's hard to belong to the group. Go to a heavy metal concert wearing a pink shirt, or a linux conference wearing a tie, or (some) churches wearing shorts, or the 1980's without parachute pants, or any one of a million other things. So if there is a group where social drinking is the norm, when you reject that norm, you stand out. This is not always fatal to group membership but it usually makes it harder.

Seen in this light, in some contexts, someone pushing you to drink may actually trying to be say "I'd like you to be a member of this group", and while you see them as not respecting your values, their motivation is trying to help you belong.

(Hackers as a group tend to claim they reject the concept of "norms" although my personal take is that they just have a different set of norms.)

> someone pushing you to drink may actually trying to be say "I'd like you to be a member of this group"

And my response (like that of logicchains, I expect) would still be "No thanks, I don't think it's my kind of group". So the signaling works fine both ways.

Oh great, now my desire to not cause brain damage to myself makes people think I have something to hide.


Alcohol use doesn't imply brain damage. Alcohol abuse does.

No, alcohol use above some level, which nobody knows precisely risks brain damage. Some people prefer not to take the risk, even though it may be small.

The CIA spent millions of dollars researching truth serums and didn't find anything that reliably worked. While I think the author is partly correct, this is probably a function of set and setting in addition to pharmacology.

I think If they found something reliable they wouldn't say it.

But considering their extensive use of water-boarding you're probably right.

Interesting! Powerful! But why? It's a novel thesis, but not too novel as to seem unfamiliar. It provides a simple solution to an age old problem. How can I know if I can trust someone? Just get them drunk! Secretly, of course, I'll remain sober enough to judge their sincerity. It also ties together two enjoyable drives. Domination in business and drink. The presentation as revelatory give us the feeling of being in on something important and the allusions to an ancient culture gives it weight. Finally we are drawn by the notion of technology. This is a tool that we should be using to our advantage. Moral considerations are dispelled by the (popular) allusion to our brains mechanistic nature. I applaud the author but this is pure HN linkbait.

alcohol is part of society simply because having low levels of it in stored water killed pathogens.

as well as preventing your entire medieval village of dying of cholera, this technology also permitted long ocean voyages (it's said that the Pilgrims only landed at Plymouth Rock because they ran out of beer).

now it's entrenched and not going anywhere.

That's a whole lot of words to replace "In vino veritas". Also explains why teetotalers like me are sometimes considered suspect.

I recently faced a mutiny/mobbing/uprising. One of the key differences between me and 'them' was the amount of drinking going on.

I've come to realize that drunk programmers are just doing their jobs.

From the Maltese Falcon:

Kasper Gutman [to Sam Spade]: I distrust a man who says "when." If he's got to be careful not to drink too much, it's because he's not to be trusted when he does.

I will very much second this one. That said, there is something for shy people. They sometimes think they have something to hide when they actually do not. So it can be a little bit of a bad tell if you don't realize it can sometimes be a lack of self confidence as opposed to a need to hide something.

Uh, isn't this an objectively ridiculous statement? If you never said "when", you would overdose and die.

If he's got to be careful not to drink too much, it's because he doesn't care to die.

It's not just ridiculous, it encourages a lack of self-control so as to appear trustworthy.

It also highlights the modern dilemma: should I be a person of integrity, or can I just appear to be one so I can reap most of the rewards?

Interesting idea, but the neurobabble bits don't really add much. Everyone knows alcohol makes people less inhibited, so do we really need to cite the fMRI data first?

Also, shared embarrassment and nostalgia.

When you go drinking with someone and both make fools of yourselves, you now have a mutual trust built on knowing things that most people don't know. That's also the purpose of hazing rituals in fraternities: you've seen each other do disgusting things, so you trust each other.

Then, there's the nostalgia factor. Being drunk is moderately interesting but it seems to have a high rate at which it produces nostalgia. Even though the after-effects are (for me, anyway) sufficiently bad to counteract any pluses of drunkenness, the sort of nostalgia on which business connections seem to be build is enhanced with alcohol.

I don't know why this is, but if I had to guess, I think that Timothy Leary's "8 circuits of consciousness" theory is, at least to this, relevant. Alcohol causes regression into a childish, emotionally volatile state. It's a time-travel mechanism. It allows people to instill in themselves an illusion that a connection goes back farther in time (and is therefore deeper) than it actually does.

It seems that Slavic cultures are founded and based on an collective alcohol consumption. So many men cannot even go to bed with a woman (especially wife) without getting drunk first. And those almost "religious and mystical" visions Slavs are having (and later proudly telling each other) within onset of delirium..

So, please, don't teach a Slavic about booze.)


> More likely people don't tell as convincing lies when they're drunk.

This is literally in the first sentence.

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