23 February 2010

One Drug to Rule them All

 "It is far more powerful than I ever dared to think at first, so powerful that in the end it would utterly overcome anyone of mortal race who possessed it. It would possess him"  - Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring

Modafinil tris by Arenamontanus
Professor Barbara Sahakian, speaking at the Royal Institute on Monday, is a softly spoken academic. She's an unlikely-looking herald of a new world order, but that exactly is what she is for in her laboratory in Cambridge she is testing a collection of smart drugs that boost attention, memory and cognition and which, just possibly, could change what it is to be human.

She is disquietingly relaxed about it all; I wasn't certain that she realises the power of what she is helping to unleash.

Life as a Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology is varied. Some days she gives Ritalin to test subjects and monitors their improvement at Tetris; other days she slips the Ring idly on to her finger just for fun, and walks the halls of academia invisible and unseen (far away the Nazgûl stir).

The smart drug of choice at the moment seems to be Modafinil: with few known side effects and seemingly non-addictive it reliably boosts attention, concentration and cognition no one knows exactly how. What's not to like? Her drug-ingesting students are occasionally  asked how it feels. They tell her it feels good, and they scurry far away to make preparations for their exams.

How can you get some? Unfortunately it's prescribed only as a treatment for narcolepsy so it would take some dedicated fakery to get it from your GP, even if she is Private.  If you want it merely to become superhuman (this is called an off-label use) you'd need to buy it from a reliable source on the internet. Alas Professor Sahakian didn't give reveal her favourite, merely observing that when you buy something on the internet you need to be careful, or you might end up with an inert sugar pill. (not unlike the NHS)

It was an intriguing talk.

Smart Drugs offer a world where we all can become brighter and more focussed. Where the effects of old age are staved off, and where no one need fear the terrible loss of self that is dementia. It's an artificial boost for the mind - like plastic surgery for the body, but a lot less dangerous. It's the way we will all live someday: if Modafinil was cheap and legal now it's hard to imagine who wouldn't try it.

And eventually, like the one ring, perhaps it will gain control of us.

"A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness. And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings. Yes, sooner or later - later, if he is strong or well-meaning to begin with, but neither strength nor good purpose will last - sooner or later the dark power will devour him"

 ***updated ***


Burgin Streetman said...

What's next? Mandatory drug testing for the Nobel Prize?

Botogol said...

I don't know scribbler, if someone has a Nobel quality idea, do we mind if she took a drug? The idea is still a good one.

Do we mind where an author's stories come from?

Burgin Streetman said...

I guess there's no way to level the playing field when it comes to the mind....

Botogol said...

do we even want to?

M4GD said...

From a puzzled reader who neither like pills nor talking on the phone:
Hmmmm Ahhh …Mr. Botogol: Why do I have the feeling that you have started experimenting with these smart drugs Sir?!
Evidence: You suddenly started following your OWN Blog (your pic is among your followers)!!! So,…What’s up? ’esplain yrslf ’ Sir?
How does it feel to follow one’s own blog? Do the pills promote ‘the consciousness of oneness’? Or having a doppelganger? Or…? Or…?;-)