Mental performance enhancing drugs

Frankly, I’m surprised that mental performance enhancing drugs (“brain doping”) didn’t catch on before it did. I suspect it’s because the drugs proved harder to perfect than (relatively) simple ones like anabolic steroids. But they are here now with a vengeance. The really fascinating part is that we are only in the first generation of mind enhancing drugs.

Sure, we have attention drugs like Ritalin and Adderall to give you an edge up on tackling boring and repetitive tasks, as well as beta blockers like Inderal which block adrenaline receptors in the brain, allowing calmer, better performance and decision-making in high anxiety situations. And there’s always good old caffeine, that stalwart of gamers everywhere, which improves reaction times and attention, albeit at the expense of getting a bit jittery.

But I’m looking forward to the second generation of mind enhancing drugs. So far there hasn’t been anything revolutionary. But what if we develop drugs that markedly increase memory? How about logical reasoning? There’s nothing stopping us from coming up with a drug that increases general intelligence (until the drug is broken down by your body, anyway; the effects wouldn’t be permanent).

Once we develop these drugs, how could anyone possibly say they were a bad thing? Imagine all the benefits to society if popping pills made our scientists smarter! Imagine all the increases in efficiency of business if executives gained better memory, thus being able to better stay on top of all of the things they must keep track of while multitasking? It could be a whole new revolution in humankind, akin in magnitude to the Industrial Revolution!

We’ve already come up with truly mind-blowing drugs, like psilocybin (mushrooms), marijuana, LSD (acid), MDMA (ecstasy), and others. But they’re not so much useful as they are mind-altering. Sure, some amazing things have come out of them (including great music and possibly personal computers). But they also have all sorts of downsides, and are primarily used by people looking to get high, not people looking to be more productive. But I foresee the second generation of mental performance enhancing drugs bringing about a new revolution in human intelligence, and to that I can only say, bring it on.

2 Responses to “Mental performance enhancing drugs”

  1. lee Says:

    Of course nearly every drug has side effects, so those would need to be considered. Also, having an improve memory may prove to be as much curse as blessing. Beside from that, testing such drugs is problematic. What if they are tested on cats and dogs? Would we get Satchel and Bucky? Even if we don’t, how could we measure long term effects on cognition? Have you ever read Flowers for Algernon? One fear would be that they leave you less than you had to begin with.

    Then there are the socioeconomic implications. If the drugs are costly, then those with money would control their distribution. It could be that even if they had long term drawbacks then those with money could pay someone in need to take them and arrange to own the work products produced while the person is enhanced. If things work as they usually do in this world, the temporarily enhanced will suffer long term health effects which would not be taken care of after they were no longer of use.

    If the drugs were nearly ideal, then still those who control their distribution could play god. Would only the stupid be enhanced to normal? Only the rich? Would intelligence be commoditized with all the ugly implications of that? How does this play into the current odious stereotype that intellectual pursuits are somehow less than manly?

    And really, what does being intelligent with a good memory do for an individual? The phb is better off economically and seems happier than Dilbert.

  2. drinian Says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Erdos

    After 1971 he also took amphetamines, despite the concern of his friends, one of whom (Ron Graham) bet him $500 that he could not stop taking the drug for a month. ErdÅ‘s won the bet, but complained during his abstinence that mathematics had been set back by a month: “Before, when I looked at a piece of blank paper my mind was filled with ideas. Now all I see is a blank piece of paper.” After he won the bet, he promptly resumed his amphetamine habit.

    Of course, YMMV (greatly, and disastrously).