The Future Of Mind Enhancing Drugs

The site www.popsci.com has a nice article, entitled ‘Will Drugs Make Us Smarter And Happier?‘. Microsoft-employed transhumanist Ramez Naam, who has recently written More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement, gives us his vision on the impact of drugs in the not too distant future.

The intro of the article sets the tone just nicely:

June 6, 2025, 7:30 a.m. The alarm is going off, and I feel great. Thanks to Reposinex, I’ve had a full four hours of deep, restorative sleep. My head hit the pillow, and boom! I was right into slow-wave delta sleep. In the car, driving to work, I sip an Achieve latte. I love these things-they sensitize my dopamine receptors, shift my MAO levels, and send my noradrenaline levels soaring. I have no jitters, and my concentration is tack-sharp. Driving used to freak me out, actually. I was involved in a bad accident a few years back. Good thing the doctor prescribed that trauma blunter. I still remember the accident; it just doesn’t bug me anymore. I’m no longer one of those Human 1.0s-I’m a human with complete control of his brain chemistry.

This article paints a picture of what life may look like in a future where humankind has managed to get control of their brain chemistry. While the writer of the article seems to assume this type of technology won’t be here until 2025, I personally think 2015 would have been a more realistic date. Extrapolations show that the golden age of biotechnology will be from 2010-2020, with 2015 right in the middle. It’s entirely realistic to expect mind enhancing drugs in this timeframe… in my humble opinion at least.

The article goes on to describe how drugs, that were initially intended to help people with diseases, are used by healthy people to make them function better in daily life:

A pharmaceutical company develops a medication to treat a recognized physical or mental illness; people gradually realize that the drug can help healthy users too; doctors prescribe the substance to patients “off label,” meaning for purposes other than the ones recognized by the Food and Drug Administration; and other people obtain it illegally. Thus, college students end up popping Ritalin to help them ace exams. Concert pianists take propranolol, a hypertension and angina medication, to ease preperformance jitters. And coffee addicts switch to Provigil, a sleep-disorder medication, for powerful, enduring, jitter-free stimulation.

In the future, we are likely to see much more of this. After the completion of the Human Genome Map (HGM) in early 2003, the number of genetic based drugs being researched has increased by an order of magnitude, or maybe even two (I cannot recall the exact numbers, but they were pretty impressive). The HGM is just one example of a milestone that allows for exponential acceleration of biotechnology. But it is an achievement not to be taken lightly, as it heralds the era of cheap drugs.

According to Naam, the implications of drug enhanced minds are vast:

These drugs wouldn’t simply be nice to have, [Ramez Naam] and other enhancement advocates believe they would enable a societal transformation every bit as significant as the one wrought by computers.

The article goes on some more about the subject of mind enhancing drugs, and ends with some uninteresting opinions of Leon Kass and Francis Fukuyama. Both of them conservative naysayers, who are members of Bush’s Bioethics Council. These two gentlemen would have us believe that enhancing ourselves would make us lose our humanity, and that drugs are unnatural. I’m pretty sure they have more unconvincing arguments against our transhuman/posthuman future, but I personally do not care for them.

Naam delivers the deathblow to the conservative arguments of Kass and Fukuyama, by making one simple, obvious, and essential observation:

“The urge to better ourselves has been a force in history as far back as we can see. Embracing the quest to improve ourselves doesn’t call our humanity into question… it reaffirms it.”

This article is just one of many articles in www.popsci.com’s The Future Of The Body-section. Have a look. It’s fascinating stuff. Definately worth your time. And many articles are very good eye-openers.

2 thoughts on “The Future Of Mind Enhancing Drugs

  1. Adrienne

    This is kind of scary. I try to avoid drugs if at all possible, but I might be left in the dust one day.

    Great post.

  2. Jan-Willem Bats

    Adrienne,

    Thanks for that.

    Keep in mind that future drugs will be much more in harmony with our own bodies, as a direct result of our accelerating knowledgebase.

    We’ll take the advantages, and drop the disadvantages.

    Oh sure, drugs have a dubious reputation in the here and now… but no more in the future.

    The use of enhancement drugs will most likely be considered very normal, or even required. It won’t matter, you’ll *want* to take them.

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