Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Neuroenhance this!

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?

1 comment:

Karen said...

This is actually one of the reasons I'm so fond of knitting -- rather than forcing myself to cram more and more "productivity" into each minute of my already over-packed days, I love the feeling of just sitting and twisting string around needles, knowing that whether I actually make something wearable or not, I will enjoy the process. And my brain will enjoy remaining focused on the task at hand, rather than a zillion other things, none of which boil down to much of importance.