I just read a story from The Guardian.
Modafinil: a prescription-only medication for narcolepsy that the NHS’s website describes as “a central nervous system stimulant” that prevents “excessive sleepiness during daytime hours”. Or, used off-label, bought via some off-shore pharmaceutical retailer, it’s what’s known as a “smart drug”. I hadn’t even heard of it a week ago, but it turns out they’re all on it, the students. They’ve all taken it on at least a couple of occasions, all five of the female final-year students who live in this particular flat, and all five of the male final-year students they’ve invited over to dinner.
“It’s not that it makes you more intelligent,” says Phoebe, a history student. “It’s just that it helps you work. You can study for longer. You don’t get distracted. You’re actually happy to go to the library and you don’t even want to stop for lunch. And then it’s like 7pm, and you’re still, ‘Actually, you know what? I could do another hour.’”
So what about this? See, we are entering a time where it will be possible to enhance our brain performance with various therapies and drugs. This medication they are talking about just makes you more alert and able to study more. You could argue caffein does too right? This is just the beginning. You have no idea how far down this rabbit hole goes. Let me explain the problems.
- Genetic research is beginning to tell us what genes lead to various characteristics such as intelligence. Soon there will be manipulation of babies to be smarter. It will happen.
- I am sure this will only be available to the very rich at first so it will certainly be argued that those children will have an unfair advantage over others. They will certainly have an advantage but will it be unfair?
- As this practice becomes more widespread, will companies demand genetic screening for prospective employees? Do they want to screen for illnesses, or intelligence or other factors? In a free society, shouldn’t they be able to?
- Our public school system is designed to teach to children of theoretically the same mental capacity. How will you teach these new designer kids? Will there be new private schools setup for them? Is that fair?
- Will the masses demand that the government provide these enhancements to everyone? How will that be paid for?
- Even without genetic manipulation, new drugs enhancing brain performance will almost certainly be developed. If those are widely used in the workplace, will we ban then from schools? Why would be ban them?
- If we don’t ban them, does that mean the teachers will have to be on the drugs too to keep up with the kids?
I don’t have answers for much of this but these types of questions are going to appear fairly soon (probably in 10 years). There is a massive amount of both good and bad that can come from this but make no mistake this is coming.
Here is a news report about Provigil, which is the same kind of drug just a marketing name.
Here’s a CNN report on the latest genetic testing.
Of course I have to include this scene as well for my geek friends. 🙂