Saturday, November 25, 2006

Nootropics and Our Posthuman Future

According to Hubert Doucet, professor of bioethics at the University of Montreal, smart drugs, by making the human brain more efficient, transform the human condition:

"This leads us towards the post-human which will be totally dependant on technology, and we must ask ourselves to whom this will serve and what will happen to those who don't have access", wonders the bioethicist. He continues by explaining that many drugs like Ritalin, Prozac and growth hormones have lost their therapeutic function in order to gain an utility that is more esthetic and superficial. "In the United States, people worship individual rights, explains Doucet. In the context of a liberal economy, can the desire to protect the becoming of humanity as it is have priority over the rights of individuals to use some medication especially if they are willing to pay the price?" Will we have to test university students before every exam? Will companies force their employees to take these drugs to make them more productive? Those are, according to him, the many questions society will quickly have to face.

Despite the fact that most chemical drugs were at first created in pharmaceutical laboratories (LSD, heroine, ecstasy...), this new generation of "smart" drugs no longer has the effect of reaching nirvana. "In the 60s and 70s, there was a zeitgeist of liberty, creativity, claims Hubert Doucet, we were going to change the world! Today, it's disillusionment: we cannot change the world therefore we will conform to it. Rather than transforming our environment and reduce stress factors, we are transforming ourselves in order to better function stressed!"

Monday, November 20, 2006


I might be on (UK) television this evening, in part two of the three-part series The Martians and Us, BBC 4 at 9 p.m. (If not, then maybe in part three, next week.) Last week all the talking heads were interviewed in their book-lined homes. I was interviewed sitting on a camp-bed in an army barracks. (Thought I'd mention that just in case anyone thinks that's where I live.) The interview was mainly about the British SF themes of catastrophe and dystopia, so it's likewise far removed from my usual scientifictional interests - which are, as is known, all about space habitats and world ships upon whose vast beautiful interior landscapes hop myriads of cute fluffy bunnies, which get eaten.