July 25 2008 / by AJ0111
Category: Health & Medicine Year: General Rating: 5 Hot
In the past we have consumed certain drugs because they keep us awake or make us feel good, even if they had dangerous side effects; but soon we will come across powerful drugs and techniques to boost our cognitive capabilities.
As an example, a recently developed drug has caught some attention. In the healthy human being, Provigil fatigue and suppresses sleep. That sounds great when you walk into your office exhausted and you can’t imagine going through the rest of the day without it; but it was originally used in the treatment of narcolepsy. (The off-label use of this drug resulted in a $425 million penalty for Cephalon), the producer.) Provigil is known to boost working memory, executive function and attention and has attracted a variety of fans ranging from athletes to the French military.
In comparison, tobacco was promoted in 1560 for their medicinal uses, and as early as the Stone Age humans chewed plants containing caffeine to stimulate awareness, ease fatigue, and elevate mood. We’ve seen how both the caffeine and nicotine industries have shaped today. Provigil, our contemporary counterpart, is newer to the game but its effects are stronger and safety is still debated. Might they be even safer than caffeine and nicotine? How will Provigil and other developing enhancers shape the future?
From an ethical dimension, humans have been taking drugs for a while, including the aforementioned, and in a way we have co-evolved together with them. They were useful to us, and so we helped them to reproduce and scale. We might try to imagine how the world would be without coffee and cigarettes – might that lead to lower productivity or other negatives? It’s certainly difficult to quantify. Jumping forward, what if we increased productivity by 10% by using new drugs such as Provigil? How would/will this transform our economy? How intrusive are we willing to get?
Similarly, brain implants have entered the market for people with mental illness. It is possible we will live to see them applied commercially-). They could possibly change the way we think, interact with each other, and work. People may opt to stay awake for days in a row, or cram a week’s worth of work into several days. Thus, yet another ethical question rises: how much chemical control do we want to assume over our bodies? Enough to change our emotions, ease our sadness, or live in a state of euphoria?
As we have been making technology around us smarter and smarter, we’re now being offered the choice to upgrade ourselves. How might attaining higher levels of hyper-consciousness change the shape of humanity?