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Monday, May 04, 2009

Performance Enhancement: Now It's Our Turn!

The New Yorker just ran an interesting article about the use of neuro-enhancing drugs. Drugs like Adderall, typically prescribed for people suffering from ADHD, create higher levels of concentration and focus for normal people. College students have flocked to them as they once did nicotine and caffeine. They're seen as survival aids in the more competitive schools, or for hyper-achieving students that want straight A's while devoting time to full time jobs, weekend partying, social action committees, student politics and playing violin for a neo-classical math-rock septet.

As I read the article, it seemed a perfect parallel to the dilemma facing professional athletes and the choice of whether or not to abuse steroids. Many of us have some pretty absolute convictions when it comes to the morality of steroid users like Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire. But it seems a bit grayer when we consider the risks taken by driven young scholars.

Here's a key bit of dialog between the writer and an admitted neuro-enhancement user:

I suggested that adults, too, might feel coerced into using the drugs.

"Yeah, in a competitive field—if suddenly a quarter of the people are more equipped, but you don’t want to take the risks with your body—it could begin to seem terribly unfair," he said. "I don’t think we need to be turning up the crank another notch on how hard we work. But the fact is, the baseline competitive level is going to reorient around what these drugs make possible, and you can choose to compete or not."

The interviewee above used Provigil in order to boost his performance at competitive poker. It seems disingenuous when he says that we don't need to be "turning up the crank another notch on how hard we work" when that's exactly what he wanted to do.

The steroid dilemma has gone from baseball to your workplace. Imagine if you could easily secure some drugs (that reported only mild side effects) that would make you alert and focused and productive, even on days when you felt sleepy, unproductive or depressed. Imagine that your competition is already doing so. Are you ready to make a decision on which competitive risks you'd be willing to take?

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6 Comments:

At 5/04/2009 05:05:00 PM, Blogger Olaiya said...

Just when you think our society couldn't get any more deeply fucked up. Yes, let's ratchet our productivity levels up yet another notch, because the typical 50 hour workweek and scant 2 weeks of paid vacation the average American is looking at just don't seem to be cutting it. All I got's to say is: Vivre la France! I'll bet you anything the Frenchies would laugh in the face of these performance enhancing drugs (while sipping a glass of red wine on their 2-hour lunch break).

 
At 5/04/2009 09:15:00 PM, Blogger lowcoolant said...

I'm ready to make a decision. My decision is no.

If you found the article interesting I recommend a movie called "Bigger, Stronger, Faster." It turns the entire conversation about steroids on its head.

There's a drug called Provigil? Do you have any idea how long it's been around?

 
At 5/05/2009 07:35:00 AM, Blogger Walaka said...

Your last question is framed as if it is asking something new. All my life, my "competitors" have done things I wouldn't do. This just adds one more to the list. It's really no question at all for me.

Besides, it's the rest of the world that has to take this shit just to keep up with me.

 
At 5/05/2009 10:34:00 AM, Blogger John said...

Huh... After reading the article I really wanted to try some Adderall. If it's non-addictive and offers only mild side-effects, and it's the sort of brain boost that could make the difference between actually writing your novel during National Novel Writing Month or not... well, why not? So long as you don't start taking them all the time, what's the harm?

The drugs have been compared to the mental stimulation gained from cigarettes and coffee... and no one back in college seemed to have moral qualms about using those substances. And from what I've read, those two things are way more addictive and potentially harmful than these modern distilled neuro-enhancers.

Are y'all just scared of the Brave New World?

 
At 5/05/2009 02:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What would Josh Whedon say?

~Pam

 
At 5/05/2009 04:10:00 PM, Blogger lowcoolant said...

What's the harm?

The harm is the flaming Hindenburg of cruel and endless ridicule crashing down upon you. A warship of ridicule with guns blazing, a warship piloted by people like me. Cruel and endless, Helium. Cruel. And. Endless.

The harm is the bitter unraveling of your self-esteem when people who don't require that stuff for the same output make fun of you. When they compare you to that tentacled creature in the Star Wars trash compactor. And you know in your heart that, indeed, you belong in a dumpster.

I've done my soapy share of laughing at you godforsaken junkies with your Folgers crystals and your American Spirits and your Wild Turkeys. And guess what? I love it! Party on! Give me more to mock as I sharpen my razor tongue and shovel fresh coals of disgust into my mind's engine! Trash, all of you! TRASH!! *sets wastebasket on fire*

 

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