When Smart Drugs Do The Work

smart drugs

A world where most menial jobs will be taken over by robots is coming. And in that future, humans will focus on cognitively intense jobs where critical thinking and creativity are highly valued. How fast that will happen is an ongoing argument, but what is happening already, and will also become more widespread in the future, is the use of cognitive performance enhancers at school and at work.

As we discussed in A World Without Sleep, a scenario that could present itself is one where we choose not to sleep to be able to compete with robots; and that means using smart drugs.

Don’t you believe that in order to protect ones existing job and compete with robots people will go to great lengths to be smarter and more productive?

But there are dangers to the smart drug hype. An assumption we make for using cognitive performance enhancers, smart drugs, is their promise to deliver a better version of ourselves: smarter, more alert and more mentally agile.

But is all of this true? Do they really work?

As Martin King writes about smart drugs:

The effects and  effectiveness of nootropics depend on the individual but most of the effects “can be chased down to effects on alertness”  … they won’t extend your mental capacity to a high order of cognition.”  The Journal of European Neuropsychopharmacology in a study on the most common nootropic modafinal found that whilst most studies employing basic testing paradigms show that modafinil intake enhances executive function, only half show improvements in attention and learning and memory, and a few even report impairments in divergent creative thinking.

In a world that worships creativity, but rewards efficiency, smart drugs may become more common than you think. You see, smart drugs improve alertness, but they won’t make us more creative. There is evidence that this is the case.

But the challenge is that we live in a world of instant gratification, where the promise of a smart pill is a bigger motivator than one where we challenge and motivate ourselves to become better versions of ourselves without the use of cognitive performance enhancers.

Personally, I argue that we should opt to put ourselves in a natural state of flow just like competitive athletes do, using our biological chemicals, instead of using cognitive performance enhancers to improve our focus.

You see, we are both creative and motivated when we are in a state of flow, all we have to do is learn how to active the flow triggers.

Martin King joins us in this episode to discuss what a world where smart drugs will do the mental work for us looks like.

  • What assumptions do people make about smart drugs?
  • Will smart drugs make us smarter or ruin our lives?
  • What is the ideal scenario for smart drugs?
  • Can we all benefit from “having an edge,” or is it just a form of cheating that should be banned?
  • What if such enhancement was no longer a personal choice but a socially and legally enforced responsibility?

Do you have experience with smart drugs? What do you think the future holds?

Let us know what you think on Twitter @jorgebarba and @adrianpedrin.

Watch the live recording:

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Intro audio is by Arturo Arriaga, outro audio is Candyland by Guy J.