Friday, December 19, 2008

Cognitive-Enhancing Drugs

I read this fantastic paper in Nature magazine called Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy. It addresses a number of the objections to such use:
Human ingenuity has given us means of enhancing our brains through inventions such as written language, printing and the Internet. Most authors of this Commentary are teachers and strive to enhance the minds of their students, both by adding substantive information and by showing them new and better ways to process that information. And we are all aware of the abilities to enhance our brains with adequate exercise, nutrition and sleep. The drugs just reviewed, along with newer technologies such as brain stimulation and prosthetic brain chips, should be viewed in the same general category as education, good health habits, and information technology — ways that our uniquely innovative species tries to improve itself.
It's really a fascinating topic, but also a strikingly well-written paper, lucid, concise, and well-structured. It addresses objections it feels are not valid - "that it is cheating, that it is unnatural and that it amounts to drug abuse" - and objections it feels are substantive:

1. Safety
2. Freedom "from coercion to enhance"
3. Fairness

In each case, the authors "call for an evidence-based approach to the evaluation of the risks and benefits of cognitive enhancement."

As I've said, it's a great paper. Highly recommended reading in a topic that will only grow over the next 50 years.

1 comment:

  1. Them scientists've been playing too much Fallout 3, and gotten themselves addicted to Mentats!

    Not to worry, though, the town doctor charges only like 100 caps to clear an addiction.