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Archive for July, 2012


Smart Drugs: Coming To Start-ups Near You

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

The New York Times had an excellent article on July 10th entitled “Taking Stimulants Not for a High, but for a Higher SAT Score”. As you probably know, here at CogCentral, we are big followers of the brain drug ecosystem and this was an excellent overview of the creep of brain drugs from college down to high school.

A high school senior said, “These are academic steroids.”

My favorite quote was from a freshman at an Ivy League school talking about her use during high school:

“Do I want only four hours of sleep and be a mess, then underperform on the test and then in field hockey? Or make the teachers happy and the coach happy and get good grades, get into a good college and make my parents happy?”

This is the trick with brain drugs: They make you smarter. This is a trait valued by third parties, so they make you better. This is particular compelling at a young age: A pill that makes people like you more. And not “fake like” like cocaine where you think they like you and then you realize that wasn’t true. Smart pills equal true like. Better performance. Powerful stuff.

I am surprised I have not yet heard stories of widespread abuse of these drugs in the start-up community. It seems like they would be a slam dunk. What engineer doesn’t want to sit down and just churn out code for hours?

A spokesman for a school district made the following naive statement:

“It’s time for a serious wake-up call. Straight A’s and high SAT scores look great on paper, but they aren’t reflective measures of a student’s health and well-being.”

Well h0-ho-ho, Mr. School District. Let me know when Harvard starts admitting kids based on exceptional health. He must really be kicking himself for sounding so dumb in the New York Times. So there is a pill that gives you straight A’s and high SAT scores, but you think it detracts from student health so high school kids shouldn’t take it.

High School was a long time ago, but as I recollect it, jeopardizing one’s health was pretty much par for the course.

How will people resist the call of brain doping? In a world of high performers, what is left for the people that don’t dope?