Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States. Please give as you are able, and help support our work for a brighter future.

Search the IEET
Subscribe and Contribute to:

Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view

whats new at ieet

Consciousness is a Mathematical Pattern

Mindfulness-Based Therapy – Does it Work? (Summary, Part 3)

Mindfulness-Based Therapy – Examining the Studies (Part 2)

What’s on your Mind? - Mindfulness-Based Therapies and Mental Health (Part 1)

Digital Immortality Map: Reconstruction of the Personality Based on its Information Traces

Reverse Missionaries: Are African Churches Exporting Homophobia to the West?

ieet books

Surviving AI: The promise and peril of artificial intelligence
Calum Chace


rms on 'Scenario 2099: Rewilding, Population Implosion, Artificial Photosynthesis, and - Global Cooling?' (Oct 7, 2015)

Alexey Turchin on 'Digital Immortality Map: Reconstruction of the Personality Based on its Information Traces' (Oct 6, 2015)

rms on 'A Techno-Optimist Movement: For an Evenly Distributed Future
' (Oct 5, 2015)

CygnusX1 on 'The Simulated Future' (Oct 4, 2015)

Roy Alexander on 'Could Artificial Morals and Emotions Make Robots Safer?' (Oct 4, 2015)

etienne thillaye on 'Egalitarianism is not Radical' (Oct 3, 2015)

Rick Searle on 'How Nature Plays the Lottery' (Oct 3, 2015)

Subscribe to IEET News Lists

Daily News Feed

Longevity Dividend List

Catastrophic Risks List

Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

Technoprogressive List

Trans-Spirit List


Enframing the Flesh: Heidegger, Transhumanism, and the Body as “Standing Reserve”

Moral Enhancement and Political Realism

Intelligent Technologies and Lost Life

Hottest Articles of the Last Month

Seven Emerging Technologies That Will Change the World Forever
Sep 29, 2015
(117038) Hits
(4) Comments

The price of the Internet of Things will be a vague dread of a malicious world
Sep 25, 2015
(28179) Hits
(3) Comments

This Artificially Intelligent Boss Means the Workplace Will Never Be the Same
Sep 18, 2015
(16565) Hits
(1) Comments

Religion and Superintelligence
Sep 12, 2015
(8440) Hits
(0) Comments

IEET > Rights > Neuroethics > Life > Access > Enablement > Vision > Technoprogressivism > Staff > Kyle Munkittrick

Print Email permalink (2) Comments (5772) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg

Enhancers are Not “Cheating”

Kyle Munkittrick
By Kyle Munkittrick
Science Not Fiction

Posted: Mar 9, 2011

Placing a ban on cognitive-enhancing drugs won’t do anything positive, and neither will creating an attitude of disapproval.

Matt Lamkin argues here that universities shouldn’t ban cognitive-enhancing drugs like Ritalin and Adderall. Lamkin is a lawyer and, like myself, a master’s candidate in bioethics. He rightly believes that a ban would do little to promote fairness or safety among students. The rule followers would be at a disadvantage while the rule-breakers would be at a greater safety risk.

But Lamkin doesn’t believe we, as a society, should be OK with cognitive enhancement usage. Instead, he argues:

The word “cheating” has another meaning, one that has nothing to do with competition. When someone has achieved an end through improper means, we might say that person has “cheated herself” out of whatever rewards are inherent in the proper means. The use of study drugs by healthy students could corrode valuable practices that education has traditionally fostered. If, for example, students use such drugs to mitigate the consequences of procrastination, they may fail to develop mental discipline and time-management skills.

On the other hand, Ritalin might enable a student to engage more deeply in college and to more fully experience its internal goods-goods she might be denied without that assistance. The distinction suggests that a blanket policy, whether of prohibition or universal access, is unlikely to be effective.

Instead, colleges need to encourage students to engage in the practice of education rather than to seek shortcuts. Instead of ferreting out and punishing students, universities should focus on restoring a culture of deep engagement in education, rather than just competition for credentials.

drugsLamkin’s argument is that cog-enhancers are an easy way out for those in school. Struggling to study builds character and good habits. Though he disapproves of cog-enhancers, I appreciate his hesitancy to involve the law. Lamkin doesn’t believe policing cog-enhancing drug usage is necessary, but would prefer honor codes opposing cog-enhancing drugs. He believes honor codes cause one to “internalize” the value of not using the drug.

What is curious is that Lamkin doesn’t actually address what Ritalin and Adderall do for a student. As a person who has a legit prescription for Ritalin, and who knows his fair share of folks who’ve taken Adderall off-label, I believe I can speak to how cog-enhancers work in at least an anecdotal sense…


Kyle Munkittrick, IEET Program Director: Envisioning the Future, is a recent graduate of New York University, where he received his Master's in bioethics and critical theory.
Nicole Sallak Anderson is a Computer Science graduate from Purdue University. She developed encryption and network security software, which inspired the eHuman Trilogy—both eHuman Dawn and eHuman Deception are available at Amazon, the third installment is expected in early 2016. She is a member of the advisory board for the Lifeboat Foundation and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.
Print Email permalink (2) Comments (5773) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


Congrats on being published in Discover; that’s a big deal.
This is a good essay. You make a great case for concentration vs. motivation.
A study published in April of 2010 seemed to show that 71%of those misusing the cog drugs “screen positive for ADHD symptoms” (Peterkin, So, are the drugs in question for a majority of users really enhancement drugs?

Thank you for this important article.

YOUR COMMENT (IEET's comment policy)

Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: From Tunisia and Egypt to Wisconsin: Anonymous Hacker Group Helps Take Down Insupportable Websites

Previous entry: Ayesha Khanna Appointed as IEET Fellow


RSSIEET Blog | email list | newsletter |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

East Coast Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
56 Daleville School Rd., Willington CT 06279 USA 
Email: director @     phone: 860-297-2376

West Coast Contact: Managing Director, Hank Pellissier
425 Moraga Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611
Email: hank @