Saturday, May 27, 2006


Have you heard about this new drug Modofinil (aka Provigil?)?

It's one of these "human enhancement" "smart drugs." It's a drug that turns off the human trigger to sleep so that your body doesn't "need" to sleep!

This drug was originally aimed at narcoleptics. It turns off your trigger to sleep and increases your concentration.

So there are a number of questions that I think are valid about this thing... Some of which are:
  • Is it really safe? Don't we NEED sleep? Doesn't it at LEAST play a role in long term memory as well as other body regulation stuff?
  • Is it a good idea to have normal people compete with human enhanced people? It seems like this would increase the gap between the haves and have-nots. Ya' know? Some people will just not be able to compete. Imagine what it would feel like being a kid growing up around "enhanced" kids.
I heard about this drug on the Weekend America from APM for today. It's in hour two. I recommend you check it out. You can listen to the hour at their website. You can fast forward to this entry or just listen all the way through and learn about the band Camera Obscura at the same time. :)

Weekend America: May 27

The person who wrote the report on this drug apparently still has a few that he's been using. I wonder if it's a prescription drug? I wonder how easy it is to get it?!

[ NOTE: There are other human enhancements that not only involve drugs but also involve robotics and nanotechnology. ]


lucky649 said...

Modofinil came out in 1998. It is a prescription drug. It is not hard to get if you have narcolepsy or some other conditions.
It is not intended to replace normal sleep. It gives you little added concentration. I believe this drug was used by some pilots during combat and was responsible for one of the bombings of friendly troops.
It can cause serious head aches. It is less effective than other treatments for narcolepsy.

Anonymous said...

I use provigil(modofinil) once in a while. I dont have any sleeping disorders but its great for tough weeks when i need to get a lot done and dont get much sleep.

The drug wasnt made to replace sleep and no one would suggest u use it to replace sleep. Also you can still fall asleep while on provogil (modofinil) if you tried its not that hard ive done it plenty of times. Im not a doctor nor do i have any health related expirnce but when i use it I defintly feel 10x more focused and it defintly excites your brain
more then normal.

In my case when I use it I become curious about stuff that I normally wouldnt even think about. Solutions to problems come up quicker and easier. I personally feel that it can have more applications then for just people with narcelopsy. Theres plenty of articles that talk about using it to treat ADD and depression.

In response to your 2nd comment "Is it a good idea to have normal people compete with human enhanced people?" << Life isnt a competition and legal drugs that enhance you in anyway should be the choice of the person who wants to take it. For example a sking enthusist might want to buy the best possible skis so hes able to ski better hes not competing hes just skiing for fun. You wouldnt limit his choices of what type of skis he could get cause it doesnt concern you. Lets say Modofinil was a drug that tought your brain how to ski. Why should you care if a regular joe takes it to ski better?

As long as legal human enhancing drugs are avalible on to everyone who would want to take them it is a good idea :).

However in a real competion such as the olypics, of course you shouldnt be allowed to use any enhancing drugs. There was an article in the august 2008 issue of Popular Sicence which talked about Kelli White who used modofinil during the 2003 track and field world championships, post race when her blood was tested it came back with "higher-than-allowed levels of modafinil". So I guess they already have rules for these type of drugs in sports.

Ted said...

My point about competition is that the ability to *think* is so fundamental to succeeding in all parts of life that those who can afford the drug will be able to distance themselves even farther from those who cannot. It's hard enough trying to succeed when starting with nothing. A drug like this could make things even harder.

You certainly wouldn't want a powerful government forcing the drug on all of its residents (even the poor ones). Not only is that creepy, but it has the same effect as above but on a global scale.

The American dream is already arguably a farce -- an idea constructed by rich people to convince poor people to vote for politicians who protect the rich. Those poor people are convinced that they *CAN* become rich people some day, and so they don't want to do harm to their future selves. What they don't realize (or don't comprehend fully) is that the American dream is probably more like a continual lottery. We all buy our tickets, and a handful of people who we never meet but we see on TV end up winning.

A drug like this one would make it even harder for someone to live that dream.

Anonymous said...

Well based on what your saying should we then not allow College education? Since there are many people who cant afford it. Anyone with a college education gets an advantage over somone without. Advantages gained by financal wealth are fair the wealth had to be acquired somehow previously.

Another example you have a poor farmer and a rich farmer the poor farmer cant afford to buy any fertilizer and because of that his production is substantailly less then the rich farmer who is able to afford the best fertilizer there is. Should the rich farmer not be allowed to buy that fertilizer because the poor farmer cant afford it?

Yes the poor farmer is gonna have a really hard time competing with the rich farmer and will probably have to work much harder then the rich farmer. Theres nothing unfair about that. Having money isnt an unfair advantage. It would be unfair if the poor farmer had to pay 200 dollars for the fertilizer and the rich farmer had to only pay 100 or if the poor farmer wasn't even allowed to buy fertilizer that would be unfair.

Of course you wouldnt want a goverment forcing drugs down our mouths but thats why we have the consitution and the bill of rights.

The american dream is very much real. Its only not attainable by the uneducated or the people not willing to work for it. Its not handed to you a on silver platter you have to work for it and work hard. We live in a country with free market capatilisim which allows anyone to achive there american dream no matter whos in office.

Drugs that would enhance people would only speed up inovation and allow for a higher standered of living. Of course the american dream would just grow with us and become something more.

If all of a sudden you had a drug that turned humans into super thinkers we would only come up with more solutions to problems. Imagine these super thinkers were now able to produce a crop of grain that could yield twice as much and that crop costed just as much as the normal crop. Well then you would have twice as much supply but still the same demand making grain cheaper for everyone so now lets say everone spends $1 to fullfill there need for bread. A rich person has $1,000 and a poor person has $10 the rich person only spent 0.001% of his income on bread. The poor person spent 10% of his income on bread. But now that everyone can fullfill there need for bread for only $0.50 the rich person would now only spend 0.0005% of his income and the poor person would only spend 5% of there income. That would dramaticly effect the poor persons standered of living.

Anonymous said...

Evently these types of drugs will be like the vitamins of today and everyone will use them including athelets. It wont be frowned on nor will anyone even have these type of disscussions.

We already have it just to a lesser extent then what we're thinking about. Go to your local grocery store theres plenty of products that say they increase memory or focus.

Caffine everyone drinks it to be more active and increase focus.
Protien shakes for body building.

Instead of protien shakes u'll have muscle building shakes. Take a glass in the morning and your body naturaly builds muscle cells.

Evently medicne wont just be to prevent, cure or treat existing conditions but to enhance us and make us better. Today we're vacinating aginst the flu tommarow we'll be vacinating aginst death by injecting protiens that repair our organs and bones or just grow new ones from inside without affecting our old ones and when there done growing ur body simply gets rid of the old one.

Or mybe we'll just be able to backup the cells of the brain responsible for our memory and use stem cells to grow a new body and just copy paste our old memory cells into our freshly grown body :). death wont be the end but an excuse to get the latest updates in humanware.

Traveling speed will be limited to the fastest possible connection avalible. We plug our body in one port and exit in a duplicate body in a different port. Wait what am i thinking... Plug?!?! its all wireless just put your self in a comfertable return location and then begin porting to your desired location.

Modafinil isnt the start of all this humans were :) but modafinil is a microscopic step forward like so many other things we've been able to achieve :).

Ted said...

Trickle-down pharmaceuticals. Fascinating.

Regarding the food thing, what makes you think that more food leads to lower prices in the long run? Doesn't more food just lead to more people? It does in the laboratory, and history seems to show that human expansion also seems to be fueled by more food. With more people, you have more famine. Famine that wasn't related to a natural disaster didn't exist before agriculture.

So if this whole thing is a way to make minds that can engineer heartier grains which churn a greater amount of biomass (and biodiversitiy) into people, then I'm even less convinced that it's a good thing.