I finally had time to read Brain Gain in a recent issue of the New Yorker, concerning the off-label self-medicating habits of people who feel they need extra brain power to juggle parties, work, and study. Er, is it brain power they're after, or the fantasy of adequate functioning in the absence of sleep?
I found this article both fascinating and depressing. You can sharpen your mind through exercise, healthy eating, learning, social contact, touch... so many things, all of which benefit your body and in some ways, your community as well, which initiates a longer cycle of improvement. Or you can take a pill that temporarily lets you do more than your body was ever intended to take on. And even outside the drug companies it seems an awful lot of think the pill option is a huge and positive advance for humankind. I'm going to go all moral and ethical about this and say Ew.
What really struck me though was Margaret Talbot's conclusion, in which she notes the challenge our technology-festooned society poses to the ability to focus on a particular task. Did I mention I learned how to use a drop spindle last weekend? Because I managed to focus on twisting loose animal fiber into string for two hours without so much as registering the time, and since then I've been pretty high-functioning on the whole time-management thing. Wouldn't it be cool to see a multi-million-dollar industry built up around that?