The Arrow

There are no answers; only choices.

Musings on Drugs

Posted by thearrow on December 27, 2008

Still fighting my sore throat with, what else, Tylenol. And it works, except I’m in la-la-land again and can’t really concentrate on doing anything. Today’s NYT column by Judith Warner, Living the Off-Label Life, did keep me focused, though. Warner asks us if we would be willing to take a drug that would enhance our brain’s performance under the everyday barrage of information, disruption, and tasks on our never ending to-do lists. She goes through the list of cons of cognitive enhancements, the main points being that they would render meritocracy and fairness meaningless, and that they still seem unnatural and inhuman.

But then she turns to the reasons why we should perhaps consider, as suggested by the authors of an article in the science journal Nature, accepting the “benefits of enhancement.” Life as we know it is not the life our brains have been prepared for. We are trapped in a rat race, whether we like it or not. In my job I have to cope with interruptions and new tasks all the time, regardless of what’s on my plate already. The workflow changes continuously. I feel overwhelmed and I don’t even have kids, which bring a whole new layer of complexity to your life. So I think I’d be very tempted to take one of those brain-performance enhancers.

That and the chip storing the images of the artworks I’ve seen, and I’d be the perfect cyborg :). Perfect until we’ve brought about some new challenge for ourselves, for which we have to invent some prosthetic device/drug to help us cope. The biggest problem is our feeling of inadequacy at not being able to do it all. And everyone around keeps marching on; no one yells “stop!”

Maybe we should just learn to say “no,” you know. But I think we’ll sooner start taking drugs than do that. As Warner said, “It’s disturbing to think that we just have to make do with the world we now live in. But to do otherwise is for most people an impossible luxury.”  Normality is fading rapidly into history.


9 Responses to “Musings on Drugs”

  1. Wandering Elf said

    Am citit cu atentie articolul lui Judith Warner. Pare devil in disguise. In primul rand, nu sunt convins ca avem (creierul) nevoie de enhancers. Apoi, fiecare “enhancement” din asta vine cu side effects. De ce nu zice nimic de astea? Uite, de ex. Gingko biloba, nu ai nevoie sa faci shtudii de milioane de dolari ca iti dai seama ca biloba ar fi ceva bun pt. asa ceva. Dar tot biloba creste tensiunea in capilare, iar alea pot face poc. Inca o data, daca nu e verificat de evolutie, atunci vei avea un fine print pe undeva.

    Ai pus f. bine degetul pe rana: the feeling of inadequacy and we should say ‘stop!’.

  2. thearrow said

    E, sigur ar fi side effects, la fel cum sint si de la banala cafea, de care abuzam demult. Ea nu le propune ca solutie, doar se ingrozeste la perspectiva ca am putea ajunge sa trebuiasca sa le folosim.

  3. Wandering Elf said

    Una e uz, alta e abuz. Abuzeaza de apa si vei vedea side effects.
    Un exemplu celebru: Philip K. Dick lua amfetamine pentru a scrie. A luat pana a facut poc la modul propriu. Adevarat, a scris in over-drive, dar nu intotdeauna de cea mai buna calitate. El cel putin a avut scuza ca “trebuia sa spuna”, sa explice ce i se intamplase, chestie care se petrecuse cand el era sub influenta altor droguri.

    Iei enhancers cand ai probleme. De exemplu, daca suferi de narcolepsie si risti sa adormi la volan, atunci ti se dau amfetamine. Altfel, nu vad de ce ai lua. Ideea asta de ne-adaptare a creierului, de neuro-darwinism social cu proptele farmaceutice mi se pare fishy. Ca sa vorbesti de inadaptare si darwinism socio-neural, o generatie nu e suficienta. Si tipa nu e f. clara daca e pro sau contra in articol. Adica, poti sa citesti articolul in ambele sensuri.

    O sa citesc sursa primara, cea din Nature, si revin.

  4. Wandering Elf said

    Cetit. E un sofism de inalta clasa. Banui ca “incurajat” de farmaceutice. O sa comentez pe blogu-mi. Thanks for pointing it.

  5. thearrow said

    Pai eu cred ca ea nu e pro deloc. Isi pune doar problema ca am putea ajunge si acolo. Nu e loc suficient in a column sa ridici problema mai mult decit ipotetic, deci nu incapeau argumente stiintifice, plus ca ea nu e scientist. The pressure to perform better under so many demands is real, so her question is legitimate. Of course pharma would be happy if we all jumped on that :).

  6. […] de Wandering Elf pe decembrie 27, 2008 Semnalat (si bine comentat de Arrow), articolul lui Judith Warner din NY Times, este scris in asa fel incat sa nu supere pe nimeni. In […]

  7. Wandering Elf said

    The pressure is very real, but this is not the issue. Amfetaminele si alte cele nu dau cognitive improvement per se. Cognitive improvement este un efect secundar.
    Am scris deja despre chestiile astea.

    De ce zic ca este Warner este pro, in afara de ce este din articolul ei (asa incepi un articol “impartial”? Cu un deal faustian?). Unu, ca nu spune deloc de cei doi legati direct de farma. Ori e flaky, ceea ce nu cred, ori a pasat problema. Apoi, nu discuta deloc efectele secundare. Nimic, absolut nimic din ceea ce inseamna adictie, metabolism crescut, presiune vasculara, efectele sleep deprivation.
    Si-a facut articolul dintr-un telefon cu avocatul acela? Vorbim de EvZ, sau de NY Times?

  8. thearrow said

    Da, cam suspect ca nu a scurmat un pic mai mult de suprafata ca sa expuna legaturile cu pharma, desi e constienta ca autorii pot sa para vinduti. Parca ea tot nu mi se pare complet pro; poate asa, cu un piciorus, nu stiu cum sa zic :). Pina la urma cei mai suspecti mi se par autorii articolului din Nature, care propun chestia asta cu nonsalanta si au si interesele cam imbirligate cu partea cealalta. Nasol.

  9. alt.L said

    always look on the bright side of life! you should just drink tap water, improve your mood and get rid of all these silly worries 😀

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