things of little relevance

intellectual candy
April 20, 2009, 8:19 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

It makes no sense to ban the use of neuroenhancers. Too many people are already taking them, and the users tend to be educated and privileged people who proceed with just enough caution to avoid getting into trouble. Besides, Anjan Chatterjee is right that there is an apt analogy with plastic surgery. In a consumer society like ours, if people are properly informed about the risks and benefits of neuroenhancers, they can make their own choices about how to alter their minds, just as they can make their own decisions about shaping their bodies.

Still, even if you acknowledge that cosmetic neurology is here to stay, there is something dispiriting about the way the drugs are used—the kind of aspirations they open up, or don’t. Jonathan Eisen, an evolutionary biologist at U.C. Davis, is skeptical of what he mockingly calls “brain doping.” During a recent conversation, he spoke about colleagues who take neuroenhancers in order to grind out grant proposals. “It’s weird to me that people are taking these drugs to write grants,” he said. “I mean, if you came up with some really interesting paper that was spurred by taking some really interesting drug—magic mushrooms or something—that would make more sense to me. In the end, you’re only as good as the ideas you’ve come up with.”

“Brain Gain” from the New Yorker.


2 Comments so far
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Hmmm, maybe. I’m not sure whether or not they should be banned, but to me the annoyance lies in ritalin/adderal abusers’ relation to other people. It’s sort of an infantile argument, but it simply isn’t fair to others for the privileged to, as you say, sneak by without being punished. I think an even better equivalent of “brain candy” would be muscle candy: steroids. You can use the exact same arguments for both, and it seems like it’s even more unfair in the academic world, where the economic divide is felt even more strongly…

Also, Ritalin kills your soul. The End.

Comment by Julia

I completely agree with everything you said, but I’ve calculated the cost. During finals week, given most people’s average coffee intake, Adderall actually turns out to be a cheaper alternative. When it comes to myself, I’m not a proponent, but I could definitely see its appeal.

Comment by Lucy

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