Consent and Truth Serum Don’t Mix

Today’s writing prompt is kind of a strange one. It has one or two little logic missteps in it. If I had a vial of truth of truth serum, who would I give it to and what would I ask? That sounds reasonable, but there’s a parenthesesed caveat embedded in the question. It actually reads, “Who would you give it to (with that person’s consent, of course)”

Now what use is that? If I can give the serum to someone with their consent, then why wouldn’t I be able to trust their answers without it? The only kind of answers that you need truth serum for are the ones that aren’t given freely.

I understand the moral qualifier here, because if it weren’t there I would have to say, “I wouldn’t use it on anyone. I respect the minds and privacy of others, even my enemies.” I imagine myself saying this in a cinematic view with a dramatic pose. Even poking fun at myself though, it’s true. Unless I need to know where a bomb or a kidnapped child is, then I’m not going to use truth serum on anyone against their will. Most people wouldn’t misuse it, even if they could. Well, less than half of the people would misuse it anyway. That would make a boring question though. You would have lots of people insisting that they are above such cruel and unjust measures. A lot of people would say that if it they didn’t mean it.

So if I were to play around with this idea, I’d have to alter the question. I’d have to cut away the parentheses and use the serum on anyone, consent or not. Of course I then have to alter myself in this hypothetical as well. Instead of (with that person’s consent, of course), it would read (assume that your own conscience and morals are temporarily suspended so that you can use it on anyone you want). Now that’s a question. Let me think about it. Hm. Uhm… Let’s see.

Still thinking. I really don’t have an answer. I can’t think of anyone. Who do I know that has secrets I want to know? Probably a lot of people, but there’s no one with secrets I’m that concerned with. Even with morality magically cast aside, I don’t need this drug. I just don’t care what other people keep to themselves. Could I really be that secure? It almost seems more likely that I lack the imagination to come up with an answer. In any event, I don’t have an immediate answer.

What about people I don’t know? Why not some dipstick politician who has motives I’d like to reveal? There’s more than one of those. On the other hand, I’d have to come up with really meaningful political questions, something that would shake up the social landscape. Yes, I can think of a few, but why bother?

Am I avoiding that responsibility so that I don’t have to air a strong political opinion on my blog? I think it’s only because I wouldn’t want to hear it if the answers weren’t what I assume. What if this drug would only give the head of the TSA the opportunity to say that they think all their security measures really are necessary? I don’t think that would be the real answer, but I don’t know that for sure. That’s why I need the serum. Besides that, it’s kind of missing the point. That’s a good use for the drug, but I think the point of the question was not who has secrets, so much as what do I want to know.

What do I want to know? I’ve already said it, there’s no one I need to use this on. Oh, wait. I’ve got an answer. I’ve got the perfect answer. It’s deep and complex and unexpected and impressive. Ha hah! Be ready to be amazed!

For this answer, I can remove the parentheses. I don’t need to cast aside my morality for this subject. I don’t even need to worry about the first concession that it is used with consent, because the consent is obvious. I would use the truth serum on myself.

I know my own mind. I know my own motives. I’m confident about that. Wouldn’t it be an experience to know it without relying on confidence though? I wouldn’t mind asking myself why it is I do certain things and don’t do others. I would have to write the questions down before taking the drug, naturally. Just to hear my own genuine answers, without being filtered through my own preconceptions would be worthwhile. Then I would have answers that are closed off in my own head. What would I ask though? That was part of the prompt. Sorry, that’s no one’s business but my own. I’m not about to lay out my own self doubts publicly, however small and tenuous they may be.

That’s the best I could do. Now it’s time for me to read other answers to the question. I expect I’ll see one or two ideas there that I might have used if only I had thought of them.



  1. You’re the second person I have read so far that has picked up the fatal flaw in today’s prompt. If they consent, the likelihood is that they are already telling the truth and have nothing to hide so negating the need for serum or consent 😀

  2. “The only kind of answers that you need truth serum for are the ones that aren’t given freely.” Exactly! I mean, I appreciate the intent of the parenthesis, but the question kind of loses its point that way. If you would use it on yourself, though, it would be interesting to see what could happen if you just don’t know the answer to what you’re asking.

    1. Truth serum for consensual use only. That would be like playing a Grand Theft Auto game that doesn’t let you steal cars. If you’re going to indulge in the fantasy, then indulge.

      I’ve got to admit that I don’t think I would learn much about myself. I understand my own motives and desires without any serum. I do have clarity. I lack ambition, drive and social skills, but I do have clarity. Then again, after a particularly surreal nocturnal adventure, it might do me some good to have the serum handy just to ask myself, “What was that dream about anyway?”

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