Debate around brain enhancement drugs

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123 Responses to “Debate around brain enhancement drugs”

  1. Antinous says:

    and I had a Mosburger with Kototenzan

    Do you have an in at the Koto stable? I love Kotooshu, and I mean that in the worst possible way.

  2. Takuan says:

    I don’t even know if Sadogatake is still alive, sorry

  3. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Add me to the list of people who disagree with Disarticulate (1): speaking as someone who really does take three 20-mg. doses of Adderall a day, the effect reported by that commenter on the Chronicles of Higher Education website is quite real. In my case, a lot of the benefit goes to getting my neurology revved up closer to normal.

    If I still had access to Cylert, my favorite medication for a quarter-century (now banned courtesy of Ralph Nader, Public Citizen, and Dr. Peter Lurie, who IMfirmO are all in the pocket of Big Pharma), I’d be getting effects closer to what that commenter reported.

    I’ll also confirm what Cupcake Faerie (29) said about Paul Erdos: my ability to navigate and do math varies in direct relation to how well medicated I am. I once realized my drug tolerance had crept up on me when I lost the ability to derive a 15% tip from one week to the next. On the other hand, when I was first given Cylert, I would dream about topology, queuing theory, and fibonacci numbers.

    I find I’m very mildly offended by the commenters who (1.) refer to us medicated types as “pill poppers,” (2.) say we’re kidding ourselves if we think this class of drugs improves our mental acuity, (3.) think that enhancing your mental acuity necessarily suppresses your judgement, and (4.) advise us that all we need to do is eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, exercise to stay fit, and do a little meditation to tone up our brain waves, and everything will be just ducky.

    I’m restraining myself from making fun of them, and their blandly privileged assumptions that what works for them works for everyone; that those of us who report different experiences don’t know what we’re talking about; and that we’ve simply failed to notice that a healthy lifestyle will fix all our problems.

    Glad to hear y’all are enjoying the kind of life that lets you believe that. Honestly, I am. I just want you to notice that it’s not a universal condition.

    Another mild irritation: people who think we should wait until some indeterminate point in the future when we understand this better. Thanks, but I’m having my lifetime right now.

    No one here is anywhere near as irritating as that piece in Sadly, No.

    David Carroll (18) and Tom (36, 64) are nevertheless irritating. David Carroll fears that having some people take performance-enhancing drugs violates the autonomy of those who don’t. By me, his viewpoint amounts to saying that if we don’t accept what we were given in the genetic lottery, we’ll be offending those who got a better initial deal. I’m in favor of the autonomy of people who find that neurologically enhancing drugs help them live a better life.

    Tom draws a distinction between mere intelligence, which he thinks is what’s boosted by these drugs, and sober thoughtful wisdom, which he identifies as what he has. He refers to people who want to modify their own neurochemistries as “atomistic autonomists,” a term he neither supports nor explains, and then says that the notion of “autonomy” being put forward (say what? by whom?) is illusory.

    But the really funny part is where he explains that self-medicated people shouldn’t be allowed to use their enhanced abilities to get access to first-rate schools and other privileged communities. He asks, “What kind of society do you want to live in?”

    My answer: I already live in a society where access to the best jobs and schools is strongly determined by performance enhancers like money, power, and connections. New technologies are new forms of power. We live in a competitive and pluralistic society. We’re not going to stop the use of performance enhancing drugs. The real question is, who’s going to get to use them?

    Has anyone here seen a TV series called The Swan? In it, young women volunteer for thorough makeovers, including plastic surgery and major dental work if it’ll help, plus counseling and other guidance. Then there’s a big reveal: look how much more beautiful they are!

    Anyway, the program got a lot of criticism for inculcating false values. Big deal, sez I; girls are getting those same false values beamed at them from dozens of other sources. What’s unique about this show’s message is it tells girls that these things can be bought. The “natural aristocracy of beauty” isn’t natural. Granted, poor girls can turn up beautiful, and rich girls can be homely; but to the extent that effort can change appearance (and it can do quite a lot), rich girls have a big advantage.

    We’re going to be seeing that same pattern with regard to mental acuity and neurochemical enhancements. Kids from privileged backgrounds get better medical care and more knowledgeable teachers and school counselors. Their parents have the resources to shop around for the right doctors and the right diagnoses that will give their kids an advantage.

    Right now there’s an problem with kids who claim to be learning disabled so that they can have extra time to take their SATs and ACTs. To quote the LA Times:

    The number of students who get extra time to complete the SAT because of a claimed learning disability has soared by more than 50% in recent years, with the bulk of the growth coming from exclusive private schools and public schools in mostly wealthy, white suburbs.

    The predominance of rich, white teenage boys among those claiming disabilities troubles members of the College Board, which owns the examination. Their fear is that the accommodations, rather than helping those with real disabilities, increasingly have become a way of gaming the system–allowing privileged families to gain advantage on a high-stakes exam.

    “We are concerned about people taking advantage of it who are not really qualified to, but have been smart enough to step around the rules,” said College Board President Gaston Caperton. “And, secondly, that people who are not as [economically] advantaged have equal access to accommodations.”

    Demands for special accommodations–which schools usually approve based on a psychologist’s recommendation or sometimes a doctor’s note–are similarly on the increase on other high-stakes tests, such as those that involve admission to law or medical schools. A Times analysis of data supplied by the College Board shows those taking advantage of special accommodations on the SAT–usually extra time–are disproportionately clustered in well-to-do pockets along the Boston-New York-Washington corridor. More recently, the practice has spread West to similar wealthy, highly competitive communities in the Los Angeles area as well as in the San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Barbara and San Diego.

    Two more articles on the same subject:

    http://irascibleprofessor.com/comments-12-23-00.htm
    http://handelonthelaw.com/news_details.aspx?News=2432

    Can you doubt that people will be moving heaven and earth to get performance enhancers for themselves and their children? In fact, I’ve heard fairly solid rumors that they already are. Heypal (33) has heard the same rumors, except Heypal’s heard them about medical students and interns:

    “i have heard for a long time of medical students and interns using ‘supplements’ (not just vitamin b) to increase alertness and mental acuity during long hauls. i’ve heard that for some, there is practically no way for them to withstand the physical and mental pressures without an amphetamine boost.

    i’m not a doctor, so i don’t really know. that’s just what i heard.”

    Why med students and interns? Because they know the drugs exist, they know their effects, and they have relatively easy access to them.

    Credit to Maddy (55) for nailing this one:

    Years of learning guitar vs. putting a chip in the head. Please. I wish I could had that chip 8 guitarists ago. Or, as I always say to my right-wing pals on all things progress-vs.-ethical: so you’re telling me if you could engineer your child to not have X disease, Y poor vision, etc.–you wouldn’t? people will be ethical for about the first five seconds, and then the competitive and better-better-best drive will take over and we’ll deal with the consequences … I may not know everything but I know human nature …

    I know readers like BitWiseShiftLeft (28) are concerned that the use of enhancements will broaden the gap between the rich and the poor. That’s a possibility. However, what’s certain is that if enhancements can be had, then social measures that make it more difficult to get access to them will be far more of an impediment to the poor than to the rich.

    A few more bits and pieces:

    Takuan (42), enhancement generally works against normalization. For instance, severe or long-term depression is depersonalizing, whereas a lively, healthy mind tends to individuate itself.

    Noen (30): Adderall, Ritalin, Cylert, and Modafinil really do work, and they’re very different drugs. Adderall is the current top-of-the-line amphetamine formulation. It does what amphetamines do. Ritalin has fewer side effects, but is much wimpier. Cylert (Pemoline) is not an amphetamine, and I’m not sure they ever figured out how it works, but it’s excellent. (Rot in hell, Ralph Nader, you corrupt tool of the pharmaceutical industry.) Modafinil (Provigil) isn’t a stimulant at all. It won’t wake you up. What it does is keep you from getting any sleepier than you were when you took the pill, by inhibiting the formation of certain neurochemicals. Big Pharma loves Modafinil because it’s new, singular, and very expensive.

    Three other drugs should be mentioned. Phenylpropanolamine was developed as a decongestant, but proved to be a temporary appetite suppressant, so it was repackaged as a diet aid. Its best-known trade name was DexaTrim. It’s been withdrawn from the market. As a stimulant, it had some unpleasant side effects, especially if you kept taking it for any length of time, but it was clean enough for one or two rounds, and it was easy to get. Pseudephedrine hydrochloride, a.k.a. Sudafed, is still on the market, though harder to get than it used to be. It’s a stimulant, so if you need more of a buzz to get through an exam than coffee affords, it’s your best legal option. Xyrem, a.k.a. Gamma Hydroxybutyrate, is not a stimulant at all. However, if you suffer from poor sleep, one dose is good for about four hours of solid Zs, and two consecutive doses will get you eight hours, which can do wonders for your performance next day. Remember to set your alarm clock for the fourth-hour intermission so you’ll wake up enough to take the second dose.

    FreshFromDetox (4), if we inevitably had to pay some other price to balance out the good done us by drugs, then insulin, aspirin, and antibiotics would have much weirder and more emphatic side effects than they do.

    Virtual gummed gold stars for this thread go to comment #40 by Spinobobot, and to Zuzu overall.

  4. Village Idiot says:

    Quote #119 “This point deserves to be underscored for anyone relying solely on demonizing propaganda such as “Faces of Meth” / “meth mouth”. Most of the “aging” meth addicts appear to have undergone is due to the secondary effects: not eating, not bathing, not brushing teeth, not sleeping for days on end, etc.

    Partly. The symptoms of meth abuse differ regionally, and that’s due to the ingredients used. In the Midwest there’s a lot made from anhydrous ammonia (it’s available for stealing from tanker cars) and meth made from that stuff creates more psychosis (and does it quicker) than West Coast meth made from different recipes (which has been a problem since the 1950′s, btw).

    Meth cookers are almost never chemists; that’s the main problem. They don’t use pharma-grade reagents, and do not understand the concept of “limiting reagent” or have accurate enough scales. So, if 2 parts of chemical A react with 3 parts of chemical B, and you add 3.010 parts of chemical B instead, you’ll have some “B” left over. Since nearly all of the ingredients of bathtub meth are toxic, anyone consuming home-made meth is consuming unreacted toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and other residues contained in the ingredients and solvents since they were never “Pharmaceutical Grade.” There’s a reason for that grade of purity!

    Pure, pharmaceutical-grade methamphetamine is less toxic and has fewer side-effects than caffeine, interestingly enough.

  5. disarticulate says:

    That last quote sounds like placebo side effects.

  6. imn61 says:

    This doesn’t make sense to me. If the brain works so much better with a bit more dopamine (with no side effects), then why isn’t it that way in the first place?

    I was diagnosed with ADD some time ago and I was prescribed Ritalin. I don’t take it regularly since it doesn’t seem to make much difference as far as my supposed ADD is concerned, but I have used it a few times when cramming overnight and it’s great, much better than caffeine. But after using Ritalin this way to avoid sleeping, I’m pretty tired and I need a good night sleep to fully recover; it also tends to fuck up my mood. For these reasons I only use it as a last recourse. I don’t see how someone could use it everyday and benefit unless they have a problem in the first place (i.e. ADHD).

  7. comforteagle says:

    I take omega3 fish oils & ginkgo. I’m not sure they qualify as enhancements as much as supplements giving me essential ‘stuff’ to make my brain work as it is supposed to rather than how it does on my junk diet.

  8. freshfr0mdet0x says:

    “The fire that burns twice as bright burns only half as long . . .”

  9. Rich says:

    #1 has never taken 60mg amphetamine before!

  10. Antinous says:

    It all sounds good until your body stops producing its own serotonin or some yet undiscovered neuropeptide that regulates a vital function. It seems pretty arrogant and risky to start adding chemicals when our knowledge of brain biology is so primitive. Given recent studies suggesting that some common antidepressants not only fail to alleviate depression, but make the patient worse, I’ll take a pass on this one.

  11. heydemann3 says:

    Long long ago John Brunner wrote this nice novel called The Stone That Never came Down, about the creation and release of just such a compound into the British populace. He saw it as a Good Thing. It is full of the 1973 vision of the future. Still a good read.

  12. Antinous says:

    The number of students who get extra time to complete the SAT because of a claimed learning disability has soared by more than 50% in recent years, with the bulk of the growth coming from exclusive private schools and public schools in mostly wealthy, white suburbs.

    San Francisco (tiny, widely wealthy) has the same number of disabled placards as New York City (huge, widely impoverished). NYC requires a regular review by a city doctor. In SF, you give them a note from your personal MD, they give you a placard.

  13. Registrado says:

    I just had a flashback to 1993, Mondo 2000, and nootropic bars…

  14. Trent Hawkins says:

    to #6 – The big problem with anti depressants is that they are very easy to mis-subscribe. Like a lot of easy fix pills, they have loosely described symptoms that anyone can have. After all, who isn’t stressed out, depressed or is tired from time to time? The worst thing is that a lot of these drugs that treat depression, or my favorite restless-leg-syndrome, have really bad side effects for people that stop taking them, so once you start you may never be able to stop.

    All in all i’d be very skeptical about taking newly developed drugs until some serious long term studies are done on them.

  15. GeeksDreamGirl says:

    Does anyone else have Jonathan Coulton’s song “I Feel Fantastic” in their head after reading this? ;-)

    “The steak tastes better when I take my Steak Tastes Better pill!”

  16. zuzu says:

    This doesn’t make sense to me. If the brain works so much better with a bit more dopamine (with no side effects), then why isn’t it that way in the first place?

    Because we were not designed, but evolved by accident. Look at how ridiculously our vagus nerve works. There’s a chasm between “good enough” and “optimal” — especially since we define “optimal” socially for ourselves.

    Considering how much people love their (prescription) drugs — whether they like to admit it or not — we continue this farce of a war on “recreational drugs” because something in the popular psyche resists acknowledging that we’re all a bunch of tool using cyborgs.

    This is also why oral contraceptives (i.e. “the pill”) has been such a political battleground — it’s an openly admitted recreational drug for altering the “natural” function of a human body to a “synthetic” one deemed preferable by the body’s owner. (Unlike when diseases are invented to fit within normative medical ethics… such as Erectile Dysfunction for an excuse to use Viagra.) While in a strictly positivist medical analysis, oral contraceptives are safer than aspirin and could be sold Over The Counter (OTC).

    However, the dialogue between The Chronicle of Higher Ed and Nature about Modafinil and Orexin-A is basically just a rehash of the nootropic articles R.U. Sirius used to write for Mondo 2000. In other words, “You mean knowledge workers use performance enhancing drugs such as Adderall? No shit!

  17. David Carroll says:

    Are we going to have to start making students pee into a cup after taking the SAT now? Physical performance enhancing drugs are banned for good reason, and not just because they are bad for you.
    I would imagine that these drugs for your noggin will rightly get banned too..

  18. Universal Placebos says:

    Maybe you’d be interested in our story. Having become interested, and absorbed a lot of the online (and growing) discourse about the ‘placebo effect’, a small group of us (one a practising homeopath) set out to find how we might buy products actually branded as ‘placebos’.

    There are historical precedents for such, listed in Wikipedia and elsewhere, and there are interesting studies on the ‘informal’ (deceptive?) prescription of placebos by modern physicians – e.g. provision of antibiotics to treat a virus, provision of saline injections – with all the accompanying ethical dilemmas.

    But the closest we’ve come to a branded placebo is CEBOCAP, available through Walgreens in three strengths (!) by prescription only (!!) – see http://www.walgreens.com/library/finddrug/druginfo.jsp?particularDrug=Cebocap&searchChar=

    It seems that Cebocap is manufactured by Forest Pharmaceuticals (www.frx.com/products/index.aspx) but we can’t find any reference to them on the Forest site. Cebocap is also listed at http://www.canadacure.com/drugsearchAtoZlist.asp?Search=n,
    but that site notes that it’s “Only Available By Prescription … and Not available in Canada”.

    There are some great spoof sites around, like the article in the Onion already referred to in this thread, and we have a terrific spoof poster from a head site called Tripzine. But no REAL placebos ;-)

    As adherents of homeopathy, criticised by many as one big placebo anyway, we’re fascinated by this. We’re able to source plain sugar pills, since that’s the base for many of the homeopathic remedies, but no one seems to have taken the step (had the nerve?) to come straight out and label something as a placebo. Perhaps it’s the assumption that the patient mustn’t *know* it’s a placebo s/he’s taking, but as also cited elsewhere in these pages, there are tantalising suggestions that even in such cases the placebo effect may still kick in. (And it’s not so strange anyway to imagine why ‘no blind’ placebo tests – on placebos – don’t often take place!)

    Like homeopathy and other CAMs, the value of it all seems to reside in intangibles, which makes it so problematic for materialist views of the world – values such as trust, intention, confidence, mutuality, relationship with practitioner. It’s like the placebo can offer us the affordance of ‘getting out of our own way’ and allow room for the body’s innate capacity to heal.

    So … the long and the short of it is we recently decided to set up a website as a clearinghouse for information and references to the placebo effect, and to actually package and offer placebo pills for sale online. As far as we know, we’re the only ones actually doing it, rather than just joking about it. And the content of our placebo pills? 100% sucrose. Why should anyone buy a bottle of placebos rather than, say, eat the occasional few grains of sugar from a bowl, or self-inject saline? As we say, we think it has to do with the contract, the intangible qualities involved in engaging with a formal interaction which inspires healthy somatic affects. This goes to the heart of homeopathy as well – we don’t see placebos and homeopathy as uncomplementary (to use a phrase).

    It’s early days, but so far the reaction has been good. Our intention is absolutely serious, stemming from our commitment to CAMs, but we also want to hold the information lightly, have fun with it, and take a bit of a poke at the medico-pharmaco juggernaut.

    Check us out if you like – http://www.placebo.com.au

    With best wishes

    Universal Placebos

  19. zuzu says:

    Physical performance enhancing drugs are banned for good reason, and not just because they are bad for you.

    And that reason is…..?

    I would imagine that these drugs for your noggin will rightly get banned too.

    And to hell with all of the lives saved from the innovations that would have been. Certainly you wouldn’t want a cure for AIDS from some kind of “druggie”? You can afford to wait for an “normal” person to do it eventually, right? :P

  20. Adam Stanhope says:

    A good-naturedly critical article about coverage of your talk appeared earlier this week on the liberal political humor blog Sadly, No:

    http://www.sadlyno.com/archives/8960.html

  21. zuzu says:

    Also, the Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE) has been working on these issues for quite some time now. Give them some of your money and/or attention.

    The Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE) is a network of scholars elaborating the law, policy and ethics of freedom of thought. Our mission is to develop social policies that will preserve and enhance freedom of thought into the 21st century.

    Growing knowledge in the neurosciences, enhanced by exponential advances in pharmacology and other neurotechnologies (technologies that make it possible to monitor and manipulate the brain’s electrochemistry) are rapidly moving brain research and clinical applications beyond the scope of purely medical use. The definitions of “medicine” and “mental health” are expanding from treatment and prevention, to improvement and enhancement.

    The CCLE is dedicated to protecting and advancing freedom of thought in the modern world of accelerating neurotechnologies. Our paramount concern is to foster the unlimited potential of the human mind and to protect freedom of thought.

    The CCLE supports technological advances, and believes that the application and regulation of new drugs and neurotechnologies are best channeled by a renewed allegiance to the fundamental right to freedom of thought. Our guiding principles are privacy, autonomy and choice:

    * Privacy: What and how you think should be private unless you choose to share it. The use of technologies such as brain imaging and scanning must remain consensual and any information so revealed should remain confidential. The right to privacy must be found to encompass the inner domain of thought.

    * Autonomy: Self-determination over one’s own cognition is central to free will. Decisions concerning whether or how to change a person’s thought processes must remain the province of the individual as opposed to government or industry.

    * Choice: The capabilities of the human mind should not be limited. So long as people do not directly harm others, governments should not criminally prohibit cognitive enhancement or the experience of any mental state.

  22. fltndboat says:

    A combination of meditation and a good imbedded brain wave entrainment program works mind as a muscle. You can train yourself as a brain driver instead of a pill popper. The Monroe inst. programs, Anna Wise mind mirror, and Dr. Jeffrey Thompson all have good products that you can trust.

  23. mdhatter says:

    “I’m talking about being able to take on twice the responsibility, work twice as fast, write more effectively, manage better, be more attentive, devise better and more creative strategies.”

    Can it set the arm you break while patting yourself on the back?

  24. Viscount Haldane says:

    In my experience, people who use amphetamines (Adderall, Ritalin, etc.) as “brain enhancers” are just fooling themselves. The guys who were doing this when I was in college were quite far away from being the best students.

  25. David Carroll says:

    ZUZU (#12)

    One answer is that the use of enhancements violates a persons autonomy. If you know that some people are choosing to use a drug to score higher on the SAT, you would feel compelled to do the same. That would force you into taking a risk you might otherwise not take.

    For more reasons please goto:
    http://www.thedoctorwillseeyounow.com/articles/bioethics/perfdrugs_10/

    As for the bit about stifling medical innovation because some kid isn’t allowed to take a pill to effectively cheat on an exam: You’re kidding right?

  26. Drew from Zhrodague says:

    #10 – I met Sasha at a couple of parties a while back. Nice guy. We spoke about party topics, and some of the recent work he was doing. I declined the pellet he offered me, as I was already on my way to sillyworld. Odd to see a post here referencing someone I knew.

    #52 – “Come on guys, 99% of these smart-drugs are vitamins or plant extracts.”

    Uh-huh. Same thing with schedule-classified drugs — heroin is a plant-extract, isn’t it? So is asperin.

  27. zuzu says:

    @ 18 David Caroll

    One answer is that the use of enhancements violates a persons autonomy. If you know that some people are choosing to use a drug to score higher on the SAT, you would feel compelled to do the same. That would force you into taking a risk you might otherwise not take.

    That’s an absolutely ridiculous conclusion.

    How would you know, in advance, what any one particular person “would feel compelled” to do?

    You’re merely arguing for equal outcome — everyone equally mediocre.

    (My mind reels at how you’ve managed to doublethink what “autonomy” means. Seriously. Real autonomy and self-ownership requires morphological freedom.)

  28. James Turner says:

    I went to a talk at the Science Museum (in London) the other day about amperkines – a new drug that doesn’t improve focus, but actually promotes the growth of new brain connections increasing the speed at which we learn. I find the idea of messing with brain chemistry a bit creepy, but the idea that we could at some point in the future take a pill to make us not just temporarily more focused, but permanently smarter seems to me like a good thing – although the issues of whether it would be available to everyone or only to the rich is a tricky one. Either way I think I’d like to get my hands on some of these pills!

    Also I’m hoping that an overdose would give me psychic powers.

  29. mbagen says:

    Currently only a few drugs are legal in the USA, most of which are terrible for you and provide no enhancement. Of the illegal ones, few provide any worthwhile effect and. The logic behind illegality in drugs has been and always will be insane. This relates here to the most extreme of degrees. Now regulation and prohibition of drugs will not only limit one’s consciousness expansion and recreation, they will actively forbid people from legally exploring the possibilities for those willing to explore the potential benefits of modern pharmacology for the human brain.

    In short, it’s my body and I’ll put whatever I damned well like in it. There is no worthy justification to the contrary. This is the clearest example this argument will ever see.

  30. noen says:

    Oh, I’m getting a very strong whiff of objectivism here Zuzu. Is that where we’re headed? ‘Cause if it is can we get to accusations of groupthink already?

  31. Takuan says:

    1. We need more research. More money for research. More research purer than research for the next big hit drug and moneymaker. MORE RESEARCH. And more research for the victim substances of the Warondrugs Industry. I will be relaying the above note about cluster headaches and psilocybin to someone afflicted. Ten gets you one his doctor never mentioned it.

    2. Dear Teresa; the pinhole view through this board of the mustard seed sized slice of you that you disclose to the world is not enough to judge if what you say in your case includes all significant effects of daily Adderall. I didn’t know you before , I don’t know you now. There is an extremely high probability you are sufficiently disciplined and together enough to be objective about yourself. In view of that, I revise my previous opinion somewhat. It was a lazy opinion anyway since my circumstances don’t permit much experimentation.

    3. We are always trembling on the edge of savagery and total social collapse. A little economic depression, a plague, a few wars …it won’t take much. I will probably choose not to survive if it really hits the fan, my duties are mostly done. For those that will carry on, advantage will go to whoever is least dependent on the extras of a developed society. Are you really doing your children any favours if you try to give them advantage with an artificial aid that may not be there one day?

  32. zuzu says:

    Oh, I’m getting a very strong whiff of objectivism here Zuzu. Is that where we’re headed?

    I don’t think so. I don’t care for Ayn Rand, and the personality cult of the Randroids at the ARI freak me out. Also, the philosophy of objectivism is broken/inconsistent in more ways than I can keep track of.

    hehe, I wonder if we’re fast approaching a Bioshock analogy though? ;)

    More seriously, could I broach the suggestion of reading Twilight of the Idols?
    or perhaps, Human Action?

  33. David Carroll says:

    ZUZU (#18 ):

    Careful. You’ll call me a communist next.

    I don’t think I am going to convince you so before you make me read all of Wikipedia, I will withdraw.

  34. coaxial says:

    @19 Zuzu:

    It’s not equal outcome, it’s ensuring a level playing field!

    Of course we can predict that if it was to become known that someone in a competition had an undetectable unnatural advantage, that others would feel compelled to eliminate that advantage by engaging in the same practice.

    To say that wouldn’t happen is just absurd. We see this all the time. Baseball has/had rampant steroid use because a significant number of players were using, and others wanted to eliminate that advantage. People crowd around at the door to make sure they get in to some event. Do you honestly believe that people will sit back and say, “This person, and perhaps many others, have an advantage over me in this important competition that I could easily eliminate, but I will choose not to.” It’s absurd, because it isn’t rational.

    @21 Noen:
    Yeah, Ayn Randians just aren’t as much fun when they’re not in giant armored suits carrying creepy little girls around in underwater cities.

  35. nanuq says:

    There always seems to be a “window of opportunity” between the time when a drug is first developed and marketed as a cure-all or performance enhancing drug and its inevitable banningg. Check out the history of cocaine, heroin, LSD and mescalin which all started out as legal medications and only became illegal when the addiction problems became apparent. Any psychoactive drug tends to follow the same path after a while. First the hype, then the banning (or severe restriction).

  36. Takuan says:

    oh and Dear Teresa, by way of one of the nicest compliments I know; if you had been born a few hundred years earlier, you would unquestionably have been burned. An honour to have met you.

  37. zuzu says:

    Baseball has/had rampant steroid use because a significant number of players were using, and others wanted to eliminate that advantage.

    Yet for some reason LASIK surgery to obtain superhuman eyesight “isn’t cheating”. Steroid use seems to have a taboo-like disproportionate bias.

    Do you honestly believe that people will sit back and say, “This person, and perhaps many others, have an advantage over me in this important competition that I could easily eliminate, but I will choose not to.”

    Not everyone has to be a baseball player. You know the risks going in. Their diet and exercise regimentation isn’t very far off from the risks of drug use. Look at how many pitchers blow out their shoulders or other joints.

    It’s not equal outcome, it’s ensuring a level playing field!

    No such thing considering the genetic lottery / inheritence, and soon genetic engineering will allow us to “dope” our children with a galaxy of genetic advantages.

    Of course we can predict that if it was to become known that someone in a competition had an undetectable unnatural advantage, that others would feel compelled to eliminate that advantage by engaging in the same practice.

    To attempt to put some kind of conclusion on my general argument in this thread. I think this false dichotomy of “natural” and “artificial” is at the heart of the issue, and that it constitutes an irrational socio-cognitive bias that we need to confront. I think Syd Mead said it better than I can:

    The fashionable ideology that “artificial” lacks the inherent goodness of “natural” is an appealing, but hopelessly simplistic notion of the intellectually chic. Artifice is the result of a deliberate intent to make. Nature also “makes” things, using a set of basic building blocks common throughout the universe. Exchanging infinite time for deliberate design, nature has ingeniously built plants, planets, galaxies and unimaginable constructs which seem to structure the universe itself. What we call “natural” is simply the result of whatever set of rules nature has followed in fashioning our observable reality. On planet Earth, nature has manipulated the common elements to fashion everything from bacteria to the molten core of the planet. Discoveries in the “nano” technologies of bio, molecular, and micro engineering will re-edit the nomenclature of “natural” versus “unnatural”, blurring if not erasing the line of distinction between “machine” and “organism”, “natural” and “unnatural”, “God-given” and “man-made”.

  38. schmod says:

    Please. Go easy on your EBEs

  39. bitwiseshiftleft says:

    I personally don’t see why people consider performance enhancement to be wrong. Certainly, most performance-enhancing drugs today wreck your body and/or mind, which is a good reason to restrict or ban them. But if a perfectly safe, effective, reasonably-priced performance-enhancing drug with no significant negative side effects came onto the market, why shouldn’t we use it? I mean, we condone the use of other mind-altering substances, like alcohol and caffeine, and those have negative side-effects.

    Sports fans point out that competition forces everyone to use the drug, just to maintain an even playing field. But if it gives the crowd a better show, and this is offset only by the cost of the pill, it could easily be worth it.

    In the academic world, this is even more true, as researchers purportedly make lasting contributions to human knowledge. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to make better contributions? Because it would be unfair to people who choose not to do so?

    The one remaining problem that I can see is that it would widen the gap between rich and poor in an area where that gap is already too wide. This is a serious issue, but I think that it could still be worthwhile.

    @#17: I’m not going to argue that speed should be an accepted way to get ahead academically, but have you heard of Paul Erdos?

  40. Cupcake Faerie says:

    The great mathematician Paul Erdos took amphetamines and claimed they were helpful to his thought processes. From his Wikipedia bio:

    “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.[4] 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. ”

    The guy lived to be 83 and made many significant contributions to several branches of mathematics.
    While it proves nothing in regard to the idea that people can safely take certain drugs and be just fine for it, a genius like Paul Erdos did get away with it and seemed better for it.
    He probably just liked the tingly feeling he got from them.

  41. noen says:

    @ #22 Zuzu
    Well, I am greatly relieved. I just wanted to know in light of… previous unpleasantness, so I asked.

    As far as class consciousness and all that… it seems to work pretty well for me to look at who has power, who doesn’t and how that all plays out. Because when I look around… it’s robber barons and their toaddies as far as the eye can see. I see no reason to change that assessment yet.

    Re: psyche enhancing drugs – I don’t trust big pharma to tell us the truth about anything any more. Not if they think they can make a buck. It’s only recently that we learned that Prozac and related drugs are little better than placebo. They sat on that research for a long time. Billions of dollars given to them for nothing. Adderall, Ritalin, all the rest, it’s just different types of speed. Take your go pills kids.

    It’s all a fraud I think. Big pharma, nutrition, insurance. Nothing more than one big confidence game with the GOP and Dems in on the take. Hell, they have been perfectly happy to sell us drugs that killed people, and they knew it and worked hard to keep that from the public, and people think they can trust them with their minds? Are you insane?

  42. cuvtixo says:

    “check out the history of cocaine, heroin, LSD and mescalin…became illegal when the addiction problems became apparent.
    LSD and mescaline are not addictive. No chemical dependence and repeat abusers are likely to have an underlying mental illness and are trying to self-medicate, or to relieve withdrawal from other drugs.
    Adderall is illegal in just about every country except the U.S. Even in Mexico Adderall and Ritalin are tightly controlled and require a script from a Mexican physician. Oxycontin is highly addictive and many times more expensive than morphine– although DEA actively investigates prescribers of morphine than oxy. You will find drugs are outlawed and controlled for Political reasons more often than Public Health. “Mari Jane” and its non-psychoactive hemp is exhibit #1

  43. Tweeker says:

    CUVTIXO, Adderal and Ritalin are schedule two controlled substances in the US. This is the same schedule that morphine, oxycodone, and hydromorphone are on. The cheapest opioid painkiller is methadone, also CII. The DEA keep a very close eye on all of the painkillers which are not adulterated with toxic NSAIDs (which kill 7,000 Americas each year).

    These drugs all require a script, which is limited to a maximum of one month at a time etc.

  44. heypal says:

    i have heard for a long time of medical students and interns using ‘supplements’ (not just vitamin b) to increase alertness and mental acuity during long hauls. i’ve heard that for some, there is practically no way for them to withstand the physical and mental pressures without an amphetamine boost.

    i’m not a doctor, so i don’t really know. that’s just what i heard.

  45. stovis says:

    #30

    < >

    Nutrition is a fraud?

    Say what?

  46. Antinous says:

    Why is everyone so concerned with performance? Have a nap. Learn to meditate. Do a little exercise to get some oxygen to your brain. Enjoy life.

    Anti-depressants don’t work and end up making you more depressed. Oops. Drugs for ADD make the ADD worse. Oops. Sports drugs have serious health consequences. Oops. Marijuana smoke is more carcinogenic than tobacco smoke. Oops. Cholesterol lowering drugs increase the rate of heart attacks and strokes. Oops. I’m pro legalizing drugs but, except for alcohol which repeatedly proves to be beneficial in moderate quantities, you’re an idiot if you take drugs that you don’t really need. In vitro does not equal in vivo.

  47. Tom says:

    Part of the question not being much discussed here (except possibly by Noen) is: “What kind of society do you want to live in?”

    One answer is a society that is the logical result of the kind of atomistic autonomy desired by those who say “Go for it!” to anyone who wants to do anything to alter their physiochemical state.

    Another answer is more cautious, conservative, and sceptical, worried that enhancing intelligence without enhancing wisdom is more likely to produce the next thalidomide or Enron than a cure for HIV.

    I’m firmly on the side of the sceptics, for a couple of reasons.

    For one, the notion of “autonomy” being put forward is illusory, for the reasons already given by others. The replies to those reasons are only relevant if we are willing to suspend our ability to draw valid statistical inferences.

    In a world where really effective cognitive enhancing drugs are permitted, it is a matter of statistical certainty that anyone not taking them will not get into the best schools, because their SAT scores will be mediocre. As we are already talking about a completely irrational selection process (using SATs is not rationally justifiable) what will result is a self-perpetuating culture of people unwise enough to take cognitive enhancers to pass critical exams. There is no reason why we should expect they will do the same when the stakes are different: for example, when they are making life-and-death decisions in engineering or medicine.

    The atomistic autonomists fail to take any of this social, statistical, evolutionary reality into account.

    Please note that I am not against people using cognitive enhancers: I am against them using them to gain access to institutions whose members are already highly privileged. If they want to cure HIV without the benefit of a university education I would be the last person to stop them. But y’know: most people who take these things aren’t going to cure HIV.

    For those who would argue that no one would be forced to take performance enhancing drugs, I suggest you look at the world of body building. There are “open” and “natural” competitions, and the difference is purely a matter of drugs. There’s no point in putting naturals into an open competition because they can’t put on mass the way drug users can.

    So having open use of cognitive performance enhancers would mean that no one would be able to not use them if they wanted to pass the artificial hurdles that we place on university access. This is, of course, primarily a critique of the way we grant access to universities, which is anti-scientific and stupid. But until those and other anti-scientific means of gate-keeping are fixed, the use of cognitive performance enhancers should not be allowed to influence who passes through them.

  48. Takuan says:

    when deciding to use a drug; question one: would I give it to my kid?

  49. noen says:

    @ 34 Stovis
    Yes, everything you think you know about diet, what makes you fat or doesn’t, what’s good for you or not, is most likely false. A lot of nutrition science is based on badly structured studies.

    There is no “clean re-install” for your mind. If you mess up hacking your brain that’s it, you’re done, thanks for being a warning of what not to do. There are no do overs, no replacing damaged wetware. And in light of the fact that we don’t know nearly enough and in my opinion can’t trust all the players in the game, it strikes me as reckless for me to experiment with my mind.

  50. Takuan says:

    actually,no. You brain can repair and grow around damage and do amazing things. The synaptic patterns of addictions , for example,can be re-written.
    These are true possibilities.

    The penalty for taking them as true certainties is a vegetative coma.

  51. arkizzle says:

    #37

    Takuan, I gotta tell you, most of the drugs in my life are/were vastly inappropriate for kids. Following your logic, I wouldn’t have taken any at all, and that would have been someone else’s life.

  52. buttseks says:

    I think we’re all hoping for a drug that will give us Jean Grey-like psychokewhatsits powers.

  53. zuzu says:

    This is, of course, primarily a critique of the way we grant access to universities, which is anti-scientific and stupid. But until those and other anti-scientific means of gate-keeping are fixed, the use of cognitive performance enhancers should not be allowed to influence who passes through them.

    If the problem is the university system, then fix the problem there. If cognitive enhancers further exacerbate that the university system is antiquated and inefficient compared to distributed “wikiscience”, then scrap the university (or rather, wise HR departments would stop relying on the meaningless credential treadmill). Like dinosaur business models, obsolete systems must be allowed to fail according to the consumer demands placed upon them.

    The atomistic autonomists fail to take any of this social, statistical, evolutionary reality into account.

    Rather, I think the issue danced around is normative versus positive assessments. The “social / statistical” camp imagines how society “should be” and then attempts to engineer the data to match their preconceived hypothesis. The “atomistic autonomists” allow the data to inform the hypothesis in an emergant manner.

    But y’know: most people who take these things aren’t going to cure HIV.

    Actually, I don’t know, and that’s precisely the point. We’re grappling with an epistemological problem. I’m convinced by arguments such as James Surowiecki‘s “Wisdom of the Crowds” — that even the smartest expert cannot draw upon as much information as fast as necessary to make decision as well as an informed group.

    I cannot know in advance what particular strategy is best for everyone. But I can experiment in my own life and use the feedback to adapt accordingly. Life is exploratory, not some “safe” routine to be carried out mechanically with as few “mistakes” as possible. “The funny thing about regret is, it’s better to regret the things you have done than to regret the things you haven’t done.”

  54. Takuan says:

    Dear`Arkizzle

    I see you take my point.

    Yes, do what thou wilt, dare all. Just understand what you risk.

    We have incredible capacity to mend damage. There is a price for every experience. The rule of thumb regarding looking to the next generation may keep us alive and somewhat functional longer – as individuals. I also propose it for species survival. Only as a brake,, mind you. I think we owe in part our collective progress and survival to consciousness expanding and altering substances. Certainly a large part of the richness of our cultures.

    What I find extremely worrisome is the normalization of brain targeted drugs. Ritalin for any child not comatose and biddable. Tranquilizers for the ordinary working person, anti-depressants for anyone dealing with the glorious birthright of pain and misery called having a life. The idea of a competitive edge from drugs is even more of a slippery slope. It will become an arms race and develop its own life and power.

    The same way I know I am cheating when I go armed instead of relying on naked flesh, I also fear the idea of depending on molecular adjustment over native wit.

  55. Village Idiot says:

    If you pop some fuses in your head and are looking to repair some of the damage, eat or take extracts of Lion’s Mane mushrooms (Hericium erinaceus). For other issues, psilocybian fungi may be helpful.

    Fortunately, Lion’s Mane is a really tasty gourmet mushroom. It contains a new (as of 1994) class of compounds called erinacines that stimulate neuron regeneration (along with strong anti-tumor compounds). This would qualify as brain enhancement AND repair, which is handy if you’ve tried lots of the other enhancers.

    And FYI: psilocybian fungi are an effective treatment for OCD, cluster headaches, and depression. However, when using them medicinally the proper dosage is only a small fraction of the amount consumed for a recreational trip. Cluster headache sufferers have reported getting up to 6 months of relief by drinking a single cup of dilute tea that does not have a high enough alkaloid content to create the cognitive disturbances that some folks pay good money for. UCLA is studying this class of drug right now.

    Under-doses of Psilocin have been found to enhance vision, hearing, reaction time, and endurance. Psilocybian fungi have a minimum of 10,000 years of documented human use (via cave paintings), and psilocin stimulates the linguistic cortex very strongly, as seen in test subjects who were given MRI scans after receiving a dose. That raises some interesting questions about it’s possible role in the evolution of language. Psychoactive fungi grow throughout the African savannah so they were available probably all the way back to Homo habilis. There is some concern about their most striking side effect, even though it only manifests at higher doses: breaking old thought patterns and cultural imprinting which can lead to fits of unfettered free-thinking and deep personal insight.

    So, magic mushrooms appear to be the original performance enhancing drug, and it’s still among the best and is the safest one by far. I’m sure it helps that psilocin is almost identical in molecular structure to serotonin, but as these particular molecules are impossible to patent, pharma companies have no incentive to explore the possibilities.

    Whatever you do, just be careful as you dance through the minefield (mind-field?) of life, but not too careful. Nobody makes it out of here alive, so you won’t escape your fate whether you try everything or nothing at all. Somewhere in the middle is a tolerable path… Welcome to the razor’s edge.

  56. zuzu says:

    more likely to produce the next thalidomide or Enron than a cure for HIV.

    Do the historical research on thalidomide sometime. Only the one chiral isomer causes the tetragenic effect, and it only does so during one particular week in pregnancy. But “flipper children” tends to incite a kind of mass hysteria not particularly conducive to scientific reexamination.

    However, we’ll never know how many people die because of a lack of new drugs and diverse drug development pipelines because of how the thalidomide tragedy was spun to serve the agenda of expanding FDA power to require proving efficacy and not just safety — because those deaths caused by unavailability of drugs are blamed on the disease rather than a lack of drugs. (c.f. Peter Rost)

    Nothing more than one big confidence game with the GOP and Dems in on the take. Hell, they have been perfectly happy to sell us drugs that killed people, and they knew it and worked hard to keep that from the public, and people think they can trust them with their minds? Are you insane?

    Don’t you remember what happened with COX-2 inhibitors (e.g. Vioxx)??? Merck published that larger long-term population studies revealed the risk of MI, but the FDA wanted to bury those results to save face and not expose that they are, as we all are, quite fallible. The FDA preferred to let people die to maintain their God-like perception among the public — security theater as it were.

  57. Takuan says:

    we are our synapses. Alter your brain too much and even if you physically regenerate tissue,you loose the arrangement that constitutes the information

  58. stevew says:

    There were some books about this that I read 40+ years ago:

    The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley, 1954 (mescaline)
    The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test byTom Wolf, 1969 (LSD)

    and this one about the origins of Christianity:

    The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross: A Study of the Nature and Origins of Christianity within the Fertility Cults of the Ancient Near East by John Marco Allegro, 1970

    Many people, now in their late 50s and early 60s tried all of these for curiosity and/or fun. Overdoses did not confer psychic powers.

  59. Maddy says:

    ZuZu — me too! I have always loved that Athletes routinely advertised Wheaties as making them bigger, stronger and faster (which they knew was not the case), but when we REALLY DID find something that makes you big, stronger and faster — that’s cheating. I have people in my life who have benefited from drugs, and who have suffered because of. It doesn’t mean you go to the extreme either way … Maybe some day athletes will advertise “hey kids — make sure you have your fast-twitch muscle fiber enhancer every morning!” …

  60. Jeff says:

    Takuan, there was an interesting story about moths this morning on NPR. Apparently when the catapillar truns into liquid goo, somehow information in the catapillar brain gets transferred to the buttefly brain. No one thought this could happen, since the original brain is taken apart and is no longer there. So, we may actually have proof that we are MORE than our brian. We might actually have DNA with memory, just like Frank Herbert said. If we could clone ourselves and “wake” up, wouldn’t that but a new twist on the After Life?

  61. cbarreto says:

    That’s much of bullshit in this business of brain enhancement drugs or “smart drugs”. I myself tried a wide range of combinations and the most noticeable effect I experienced was strong nausea from hidergine (even in 1mg doses).

    Not to mention that nobody can assure anything about long term effects.

    Best thing is to eat well, sleep well and exercise enough.

  62. absolutetrust says:

    Everything we put into our bodies has an effect on our state of being. Everything. Different bodies respond differently to the same material. Only you know which ones work for you. My doctor definitely does not. My government definitely does not.

    Teach self empowerment. Teach people to make their own smart choices. Teach people to recognize the effects of different substances on their beings. Teach caution.

    Pay attention to your own trip and let me explore mine as I wish.

  63. searconflex says:

    #45

    and sex (if you’re lucky)

  64. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Village Idiot: I’ll vouch for that. Before I was diagnosed and medicated for narcolepsy, I was taking in caffeine equal to thirty cups of coffee a day. Pharmaceutical amphetamine is much kinder to your system.

  65. zuzu says:

    and sex (if you’re lucky)

    (or wealthy) ;)

    Sex is the superset of “eat well, sleep well, exercise enough”. :D

  66. HPLUS says:

    There is an excellent PowerPoint presentation called “From Grain to Grin: Nootropics, Past, Present & Future.” The PowerPoint is available for download at http://www.life-enhancement.com. Go to the lower right-hand corner of the page under “Highlights” to find it.

  67. Spinobobot says:

    I teach a class at a university in Nashville on issues involving technology and human identity, focusing primarily on issues of so-called “human enhancement” such as are talked about here. I think a major reason why enhancement is so problematic is that it helps to shatter the egalitarian myth (“All [people] are created equal…”) that underlies so much of popular thought in America and other democratic nations.

    The problem, though, is that this is indeed a myth (if taken factually, rather than as an ideal). Not only are all people not born with equal capacities, it is not the case that people’s strengths and weaknesses “balance out”. No one is perfect, sure, but some people are extremely lucky in having many strengths and few significant weaknesses, while others are extremely unlucky for the opposite reason.

    Instead of trying to deny this and pretend that competition is fair if people stick with what they’re born with, a true egalitarian might well advocate research into enhancement technologies along with public subsidies to allow individuals who want to compete not to have to be winners in the genetic lottery. I am of course oversimplifying here, but my point is that it is by no means clear that advocates of HE technologies are necessarily elitist or undemocratic.

    I am convinced that this will be one of the foremost ethical problems of the 21st century (which is why I study it). Our unquestioned assumptions about what counts as “human” or as “natural” are in for a bumpy ride, particularly as the biological and brain sciences (not to mention the possibility of cybernetic or nano-enhancements) become more refined and produce safer and more effective tools to increase human abilities.

    I suspect that there will be many bans implemented in the EU and US, but public opinion in SE Asia is much friendlier to genetic, neurological, and other enhancements. This may well contribute to the rise of China and its neighbors over a declining West which will simply not be able to compete in our global economy.

    One thing is for sure: this issue is not going away anytime soon.

  68. Sparrow says:

    Anything I can legally (or even just conveniently) get that will make my brain work better, I’ll be first in line.

    I’ve already had to deal with a Promethean educational system that seems designed to slow down the fast kids and rush the slow ones to produce a uniform product. (“Do you want fries with that?”) If something can improve my mental performance without excessive risks, or even just reduce the effects of ADD or keep my judgment from being impaired by sleep deprivation, I’m all for it. I think the people who are afraid are the ones who are already on the left side of the bell curve, and I’ll be happy to leave them in the dust.

  69. arkizzle says:

    #42

    Takuan, you know, when I read your comment (#37, your other comment hadn’t surfaced yet) I thought it seemed, at face value, uncharacteristically ‘sensible’, from your keyboard.. :)

    I missed your implied point and agree entirely with the things you wrote back.

    I wonder how long it will be, because it will happen, before we have forgotten about personal (ha!) computers, and are chasing the Moores-Law WetWare GHz curve, waiting for Apple et al to release the new iThink OS, or for linux to finally get the latest SpeedBrain drivers ported over..

    We will integrate technology into our bodies, more and more, provided we (and our current technological drive) continue to exist.

    As to, “The penalty for taking them as true certainties is a vegetative coma“:

    Please god (little ‘g’), please let Microsoft become defunct before we have computer-in-brain capabilities.. Dear sweet Jeebus, please..

  70. UrinalPooper says:

    So like every other argument involving the advancement of human capabilities we have luddites in one corner and progressives in the other.

  71. bingbong404 says:

    I’ll stick to that drug that “enhances” my capabilities in the opposite direction: beer.

  72. Maurik says:

    So many arguements, about dietary SUPPLEMENTS!!!!!

    Come on guys, 99% of these smart-drugs are vitamins or plant extracts.

    Just adhere to a healthy diet: 5 fruit/veg a day, lay off the salt, sugar and fat. That glass of wine perhaps and a cup of coffee and you’re cruising.

  73. zuzu says:

    I wonder how long it will be, because it will happen, before we have forgotten about personal (ha!) computers, and are chasing the Moores-Law WetWare GHz curve, waiting for Apple et al to release the new iThink OS, or for linux to finally get the latest SpeedBrain drivers ported over.

    The Economist had an article in their latest Technology Quarterly about exactly that conundrum vis-a-vis Cochlear implants (and the real-life cyborgs using them).

    Biomedical technology: As cochlear implants improve, people who use older versions of the technology could face a difficult choice

  74. Jeff says:

    Moderator: quite the post. It’s good to see people talk openly about things that need talking about. Especially effective candor, IMHO, works very well to help people realize that there are different answers for different people, with regard to many issues. I’m glad you found what works for you. It would be a much better world if everyone could.

  75. Takuan says:

    I’m just in it for the money

  76. Maddy says:

    Years of learning guitar vs. putting a chip in the head. Please. I wish I could had that chip 8 guitarists ago. Or, as I always say to my right-wing pals on all things progress-vs.-ethical: so you’re telling me if you could engineer your child to not have X disease, Y poor vision, etc. — you wouldn’t? people will be ethical for about the first five seconds, and then the competitive and better-better-best drive will take over and we’ll deal with the consequences … I may not know everything but I know human nature …

  77. arkizzle says:

    #54

    ZuZu, that’s a great article, and a very interesting indicator of the shape of things to come.

  78. arkizzle says:

    #56

    Even forgetting the helping-the-unfortunate or competitive-enhancement angles; I would have a dictionary/encyclopedia implant tomorrow, no question. Or a digital-quality long-term-memory, total recall etc (no, not martian delusions)..

    GoogleBrain anyone? (a longstanding joke between my girlfriend and I, when we can’t remember something)

  79. Antinous says:

    Just to throw a turd in the punchbowl, you can’t mention cochlear implants without mentioning that there’s a movement against them by people who feel that they imply that deaf people are defective.

  80. Clif Marsiglio says:

    I took Adderall for a while.

    I gotta say, I got a LOT done on it. Was able to do twice as much as I could before.

    I’ve had severe ADHD even before it was called this. in the 70s, I was just called hyperactive by my doctors. Couldn’t sit straight for 10 minutes. Heck, I have a hard time driving more than a half hour because the dotted lines on the road start doing something to my head…I’ve driven off the road before. On the amps? I can drive for 7 hours straight.

    But it is weird — I’ve learned enough coping strategies that my life is now centered around being able to switch roles every 10 minutes. The only time I need these is if I’m driving or taking a class. If I had tried these earlier, I can’t imagine how different my life would have been…

    Anyhooo…what was I talking about…already bored.

  81. Nelson.C says:

    How are we to trust the judgement of people who may be screwing with their organs of judgement?

    Anyhow, there are enormous evolutionary pressures on the human brain: it has 2% of the mass and uses 20% of the energy of the body it resides in; and it is so large that just giving birth is risky to a human mother. If it wasn’t generally as efficient as it could be at getting a human being through life, evolution would make it so fairly quickly. Tweaking your brain chemistry to achieve some temporarily useful effect is almost certainly going to have some kind of penalty, elsewhere or -when.

    Myself, I’ll stick to judicious use of caffeine and sugar, but don’t let me stop the rest of you brave pharmaceutical pioneers.

  82. arkizzle says:

    #59

    Having never heard the argument before, my first thoughts are: “how utterly ridiculous”.

    That someone should not enjoy the benefits of technology – to improve the senses 99% of the world enjoys – just to make a point about equality and social-semantics, seems incredibly selfish of the group involved.

    Should people not take medication to improve their health, because, somehow, people who have ailment-x don’t have “defective” immune systems?

    Deaf people are NOT defective, but parts of their hearing-system are.

  83. zuzu says:

    Possibly related to the previous item: many of the things we think of as symptoms of amphetamine abuse are actually caused by the behaviors that accompany it, rather than the drug itself. These include malnutrition, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and severe sleep deprivation. Also, bathtub amphetamine tends to be much harder on users than the pharmaceutical-quality stuff.

    This point deserves to be underscored for anyone relying solely on demonizing propaganda such as “Faces of Meth” / “meth mouth”. Most of the “aging” meth addicts appear to have undergone is due to the secondary effects: not eating, not bathing, not brushing teeth, not sleeping for days on end, etc.

    You know how the medical establishment tends to underprescribe and undermedicate for pain? They do the same thing to us, and are at least as self-congratulatory about protecting us from the dangers posed by adequate medication. The basic test is the same: if the patient feels rotten and has a diminished standard of life, they know they aren’t overprescribing, and are satisfied.

    This point also deserves underscoring. People are actually surprisingly good — on the whole — at self-regulating.

  84. zuzu says:

    Just to throw a turd in the punchbowl, you can’t mention cochlear implants without mentioning that there’s a movement against them by people who feel that they imply that deaf people are defective.

    Yeah, the topic of deaf culture goes back to this issue of embryo selection for deafness.

  85. Takuan says:

    what was that story again, the blind/deaf/mute village called Keller…..??

  86. Tom says:

    Zuzu @42

    However, we’ll never know how many people die because of a lack of new drugs and diverse drug development pipelines…

    Actually, we can be pretty sure the answer is “not very many”, because we know that drugs have little positive and possibly even negative impact on lifespan. Americans are far more heavily medicated than Canadians, and we (Canadians) live longer than Americans.

    “It doesn’t work! We need to do more of it!” is a not good basis for policy.

    My comment on most people taking these things not curing HIV was based in part on empirical data on how the average person uses their university education today. Military research, individual medical research and litigation all get vastly more people involved in them than vaccine development, public health, civil engineering, or peaceful conflict resolution.

    Intelligence is not wisdom, and the pursuit of intelligence at any cost is unwise. Structuring major social institutions around pursuit of intelligence at any cost is extremely unwise. And that is what the atomistic autonomists are asking us to do.

    –386–

  87. zuzu says:

    Deaf people are NOT defective, but parts of their hearing-system are.

    And so reveals the fallacy of normative medical ethics. Although I personally agree with your opinion, in so far as my own body goes, I am neither deaf nor identify as a part of deaf culture. (Though I welcome the opportunity to practice ASL.) There’s some real integrity to the concept of “differently abled” (while at the same time I frown on the Americans with Disabilities Act), because just think of the reverse with people who refuse to gain new features.

    In microeconomics, the opportunity to gain and the risk of loss are considered substitutable, but according to behavioral finance our psychological evolution generally has us irrationally biased against risk. We fear losing something we have more than we fear losing an opportunity to gain something we don’t have yet. I think this translates to features or abilities so-called “normal” people take for granted, like hearing.

    Ultimately the trick is to throw out this notion of “normalcy” or “healthy” and recalibrate our concepts of medicine around a subjective theory of value of self-ownership. In other words, as I mentioned earlier: morphological freedom.

    (This is where I might really start picking some fights with people over the problem of mandates vis-a-vis socialized medicine. I’ll just say that the medical establishment is already hard on people in the body modification (BME) community… to the point where clandestine surgeries are performed. Even in a best case scenario, human enhancement under an HHS department will be like Johnny Mnemonic’s brain implant being “licensed for dyslexia” according to his traveling papers / passport.)

  88. Antinous says:

    how utterly ridiculous

    It is the normal reaction, but if they’re happy, why should they change. You could make an identical argument for plastic surgery. If you knew that people would be nicer to you, you’d get a better job, you’d find a more attractive mate, why wouldn’t you have your face completely redone? If you click on my moniker, you’ll see my answer to that question. I’m just saying that it’s a slippery slope. People should do what makes them happy, and doing something just because it’s possible rarely does so.

  89. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Jeff, I juggle what works for me, and wish I could still get the drug I used to take.

    Having a neurochemical disorder makes you as mindful of your shifting mental acuity as diabetics are of their blood sugar levels. I didn’t have anything to say to Clif Marsiglio’s self-description, but I did appreciate it. I know quite a few neurochemical cases. The ones who cope are all good at using nonstandard methods of navigation.

  90. Takuan says:

    self-regulation removes the doctor’s power – what do you give them in return?

  91. arkizzle says:

    #62

    Wow, that’s quite scary.

  92. zuzu says:

    Actually, we can be pretty sure the answer is “not very many”, because we know that drugs have little positive and possibly even negative impact on lifespan. Americans are far more heavily medicated than Canadians, and we (Canadians) live longer than Americans.

    You’re assuming that the metric of lifespan is salient. Aside from the calorie restriction / methuselah mouse people, lifespan may not be a very significant measure of one’s life.

    My comment on most people taking these things not curing HIV was based in part on empirical data on how the average person uses their university education today.

    Again, however, none of us are gifted with deterministic foresight. The future is uncertain, and in the long run our actions have plenty of unintended consequences. Moldy bread led to penicillin. Smoking in the lab led to artificial sweeteners (ok, maybe not the best example). But for all anyone knows, Monsanto’s new tool they’re developing to splice genes to make greener grass for suburbanites is the key to curing HIV; in fact the direct approach of trying to cure major diseases seems to be the slowest and most expensive road to take.

  93. arkizzle says:

    There’s some real integrity to the concept of “differently abled”

    Yeah, I just can’t imagine how hearing a bus coming behind me isn’t considered “better” than not.

    I don’t speak to the ideas of deaf culture or sign-language or the equality of interaction here, and don’t want to get into the semantics of “normal” vs “natural” (being deaf is clearly as natural as not, as it occurs naturally), but a useful extra sense just seems better than not having it, whether it’s hearing or x-ray vision.

  94. imn61 says:

    “Heck, I have a hard time driving more than a half hour because the dotted lines on the road start doing something to my head…I’ve driven off the road before. On the amps? I can drive for 7 hours straight.”

    Manual or automatic?

    I used to drift off a lot when driving. I’ve switched to a car with a manual transmission and I find it much easier to stay focused. Coincidentally I found an article on PubMed on how those with ADD perform better on a driving simulator with a manual transmission vs. automatic.

  95. Antinous says:

    Again, however, none of us are gifted with deterministic foresight.

    You’d better get R & D on that one.

  96. zuzu says:

    But for all anyone knows, Monsanto’s new tool they’re developing to splice genes to make greener grass for suburbanites is the key to curing HIV; in fact the direct approach of trying to cure major diseases seems to be the slowest and most expensive road to take.

    Oh, please please please make the opportunity to watch (or read) James Burke’s Connections if you have not already, for an elaborate examination of precisely this topic.

  97. Antinous says:

    a useful extra sense just seems better than not having it

    Try telling that to someone with eidetic memory.

  98. arkizzle says:

    #66

    Agreed, mostly.

    It just sounded like the group you mentioned didn’t like the treatment in anyone, full stop (or “period” in your parlance).

    In the same way as you used plastic surgery to make your point, I will say, some deaf people would be happier to hear, than wave a flag for their lot.

  99. zuzu says:

    You’d better get R & D on that one.

    The last guys to try it didn’t turn out so well.

  100. arkizzle says:

    Try telling that to someone with eidetic memory.

    Try telling that to Johnny

  101. Antinous says:

    It just sounded like the group you mentioned didn’t like the treatment in anyone

    That was, in fact, the case. Which opens a whole other can of worms. Specifically regarding deaf parents who don’t get cochlear implants for their children. As soon as I open my mouth to get outraged about that, I remember how pissed off I get about gender assignment surgery for infants. “How can an intersexual grow up with a normal life,” the surgeons bleat. Well, it’s a better deal than choosing the wrong gender. When I was at my yoga teacher training, I asked one of the sunyasins how they get off telling us not to eat meat when they sit on sheepskin rugs. Her wise response, “There are many questions. And some answers.”

  102. arkizzle says:

    Antious, it’s funny you mention it, I actually almost requested eidetic memory in my post above.. GoogleBrain

    Turn-on-and-off-able, of course :)

  103. zuzu says:

    Not all traits are clearly (or universally) beneficial. The content of melanin in your skin has been generally inherited from the consequences of solar environment. Namely, that more melanin is great for UV protection but poor for Vitamin D production, and vice-versa. So which degree of melanin expression is “healthy” will depend on your environmental conditions.

  104. arkizzle says:

    #77

    That’s a bit fucked up!

    Surely gender assignment is something to be chosen by an adult, with caution, rather than a something preventative, chosen for a child by anyone else.

    I’d never heard the notion until you mentioned it.

    Presumably growing up in an honest environment, having grown with the issue out-in-the-open, and with the knowledge of having a choice at some point is the wiser course of action..

    The consequences are indeed awful, as you suggest.

  105. Antinous says:

    Not all traits are clearly (or universally) beneficial.

    That brings us back to the brain enhancing drugs. When you’re 20, you want to be awake and alert 22 hours per day. At 50, not so much. If the drugs cause permanent changes, you might spend a century living with your adolescent choices. It’s like getting a Winona tattoo, but on your brain.

  106. heydemann3 says:

    Takuan-
    the story you’re thinking of is [u]The Persistence of Vision[/u] by John Varley, found in the collection of the same name.

  107. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Marja (112), that entire argument is based on the assumption that enhancements will have long-term costs that equal or exceed their benefit. We have no evidence that that’s necessarily going to be the case.

    I think what you and others have in mind is amphetamine and the speedfreaks who take it. That doesn’t give a balanced view of the subject. Amphetamine’s only one of the drugs used for neurological enhancement, and it’s got some notable idiosyncracies.

    Chief among these is the extent to which it builds up tolerances. Really committed speedfreaks are taking amphetamine in quantities that wildly exceed therapeutic doses. I once compared notes with an ex-speedfreak friend of mine. At the highest doses I’ve ever been given by prescription, I was taking as much amphetamine in a month as my friend used to take in a single day.

    Another oddity: not everyone who gets completely strung out on speed recovers, but a surprising number of them do. Even if they were into serious long-term abuse and were taking amphetamine in very large doses, people who stop taking it tend to go back to being more or less normal.

    Possibly related to the previous item: many of the things we think of as symptoms of amphetamine abuse are actually caused by the behaviors that accompany it, rather than the drug itself. These include malnutrition, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and severe sleep deprivation. Also, bathtub amphetamine tends to be much harder on users than the pharmaceutical-quality stuff.

    I only know of one drug that swaps one-time short-term benefits for guaranteed long-term damage, and that’s only if you classify intoxication and disinhibition as benefits.

    Back to Marja again:

    “in effect, if some people are using the drugs, everybody else does get punished for not using the drugs. That is an attack on everybody else’s autonomy.”

    The polite and ladylike response to that would be to observe that you’ve derived a very large conclusion from a very contrived argument, and that you’re willing to trade a potentially wide and diverse variety of benefits in order to address a single small and limited problem.

    I have narcolepsy. It’s a neurochemical impairment. All too often, having a bad case of narcolepsy means you don’t have much of a life. I’ve been staving that off ever since I was diagnosed, and I’ve mostly done it by taking drugs. The set of drugs that are helpful if you have narcolepsy has a real big overlap with with the set of drugs that are classified as brain enhancements. Many of the other drugs are helpful for people with other neurochemical problems.

    We are very, very interested in this subject.

    Here’s what you don’t understand: you neurochemically normal types already have the advantage. You just take it so much for granted that you don’t know it’s there. It’s a wonderful piece of privilege to think that everyone can be on an equal footing when they take tests.

    So here’s my true and unladylike response to your argument: if the tradeoff’s between allowing access to the kind of drugs that improve my neurological function, and your getting to enjoy a sense of completely unimpaired autonomy, then [bleep] your sense of autonomy; and the same goes for everyone else whose biggest worry is how they score on a single test.

    Takuan (113), I just wish my Adderall had more effects. You know how the medical establishment tends to underprescribe and undermedicate for pain? They do the same thing to us, and are at least as self-congratulatory about protecting us from the dangers posed by adequate medication. The basic test is the same: if the patient feels rotten and has a diminished standard of life, they know they aren’t overprescribing, and are satisfied.

    The assumption that social collapse may be imminent is becoming less common. But whether or not parents think in those terms, the competitive ones are still going to try to grab off whatever advantages they can score for their kids. If society doesn’t crumble, advantages remain advantages. If it does crumble, the poor and underprivileged are going to get zapped first, so being in a privileged position is still an advantage.

    The difference between enhancement and no enhancement isn’t all that unlike the difference between being young and old. When you’re young, you learn quickly and you have a lot of energy. We don’t spend a lot of time worrying that children would do better in later life if they had less energy and less capacity to learn when they were young.

    Thank you for the compliment, by the way. I’ve always figured they’d stuff me in a nunnery at the earliest opportunity.

  108. Antinous says:

    Surely gender assignment is something to be chosen by an adult, with caution, rather than a something preventative, chosen for a child by anyone else.

    Currently, the parents choose a gender and the surgeon ‘repairs’ the infant. As you might expect, half the time, they choose wrongly and the child grows up with gender dysphoria. Grown up, mutilated intersexuals have advocated for waiting until the child’s psychological gender becomes clear, effectively letting the child choose. The problem is that parents don’t like hemming and hawing when their friends ask if it’s a boy or a girl. Of course, they say that it’s for the good of the child. Parental comfort and child suffering have a long history as partners.

  109. Takuan says:

    Heydemann3 san;

    thank you so much…..*tapping*

    http://dl.nlb.gov.sg/digitalk/dig/31PersistenceOfMemory.jpg

  110. Takuan says:

    “The basic test is the same: if the patient feels rotten and has a diminished standard of life, they know they aren’t overprescribing, and are satisfied.”

    ooh! valuable pointer! I shall remember that one, thank you.

  111. dculberson says:

    It’s also in the John Varley Reader, a (relatively) recent release.

  112. Marja says:

    (I posted a fuller version yesterday, but it doesn’t seem to have made it through.)

    I think that some of the so-called “progressive” commenters are misrepresenting the so-called “Luddite” commenters and/or misunderstanding the so-called “Luddite” arguments. I hope that we discover brain enhancements with fewer long-term risks, and with greater short-term advantages.

    Now high-stakes short-term tests, interviews, etc. encourage people to take short-term enhancements that will work for that day even if they have long-term costs that would normally outweigh the enhancements.

    This can create dynamics similar to arms races: where everybody has to spend more money on weapons than everybody else, even if they prefer to spend no money on weapons. They end up spending more and more on weapons and creating less and less security. Or similar to crowded rooms: where everybody needs to talk above the background noise from everybody else.

    These are bad, m’kay? Now the test, or the interview, is supposed to measure something: perhaps knowledge, perhaps reasoning, perhaps personality factors, but always some aspect of long-term functioning.

    If the drug gives a one-day advantage without a corresponding long-term advantage, or gives a test-taking advantage without a corresponding advantage in what the test was intended to measure, then the drug defeats the purpose of the test.

    There are several ways around this problem. One is to make sure that nobody uses the drug during the test. Another is to spread the test over several days. Another is to use multiple tests. Another is to redesign the test. It may be that the cheapest solution is to make sure that nobody uses the drug during the test.

    Otherwise, we can have everybody use the drug during the test. This gives nobody an advantage, and puts everybody at risk.

    Or we can have some people use the drug during the test, and other people not use drugs. This means that those using the drug get an advantage in the test which does not match their performance outside of it, and those not using the drugs get a disadvantage in the test which doesn’t match their performance either. in effect, if some people are using the drugs, everybody else does get punished for not using the drugs. That is an attack on everybody else’s autonomy.

  113. Takuan says:

    t’was a great read when I first saw it in….. Galaxy???

  114. Antinous says:

    Undermedicating for pain is a nightmare. Most health care facilities have a pain management specialist or team who can be consulted. Unfortunately older physicians tend to be more controlling about referring out. Younger ones seem happier to turf out a sometimes unpleasant task. At a correct level of pain meds, you get good pain relief without being high (sorry Tak-kun.)

    I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. I do everything lifestyle-wise to remain pain free and I take about one Vicodin per day. I’ve been doing it for years and have no urge to take more. If my doctor was stingy, I’d end up lying, hoarding and generally acting like an addict. Physicians frequently drive those behaviors by making patients desperate.

  115. Takuan says:

    yes Antinous, this is true

  116. TEKNA2007 says:

    I like this quote in the NY Times article:

    “I think the analogy with sports doping is really misleading, because in sports it’s all about competition, only about who’s the best runner or home run hitter,” said Martha Farah …. “In academics, whether you’re a student or a researcher, there is an element of competition, but it’s secondary. The main purpose is to try to learn things ….

    Doctor Farah, what planet are you on, and where can I buy a ticket? It sounds like you’re in a better place.

  117. Antinous says:

    In academics, whether you’re a student or a researcher, there is an element of competition, but it’s secondary.

    That’s so ass backwards. Not in the least because it’s a hell of a lot easier to cheat in academics that on the baseball diamond, drugs or no drugs.

  118. Takuan says:

    depends who is watching

  119. Antinous says:

    By the way, that was my sports reference for this century, if you don’t count Kotooshu.

  120. DCer says:

    Americans are far more heavily medicated than Canadians, and we (Canadians) live longer than Americans.
    ————

    I have long argued that Canadians are more aggressively nationalistic than Americans as well, despite denials.

  121. holtt says:

    “angry, testy, hyperfocused, they don’t want to be bothered”

    Honestly, that’s not too far off what I see in a lot of my friends whom I’d consider exceptionally bright, or myself when in “the zone” without any kind of pharmaceuticals. Just hard core passion and creativity.

  122. Takuan says:

    and I had a Mosburger with Kototenzan. A good boy,concerned about his mother.

    Or was it a biggumakku at Akasakamitsuke? Time wounds all heels.

  123. Takuan says:

    whether you make your brain chemicals or ingest them, the alteration is voluntary.

    Endorphins were my first addiction

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