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The Debate on Smart Drugs

By Jonathan Roseland  Connect    

IQ2The Intelligence Squared Youtube channel is one of the few places that transcends the internet echo chamber by pitting teams of elite experts against each other for well over an hour to explore the nuances and challenge our preconceptions of decisive issues. This week they debated smart drug usage on campus, which I watched with keen interest..

I've personally used over 60 smart drugs, I've also spent about 10 hours a week for the past 4 years on Pubmed studying the human clinical trials. This is a rabbit hole that goes deep and I've explored it thoroughly, so I watched this debate with much interest.

Some snarky remarks and insights of mine at different time-stamps of the debate...

14:40 Smart Drugs don't exist. FALSE. This guy obviously hasn't tried them. See these meta analysis papers and studies
22:55 Smart Drug addiction. NOT a thing. I've cycled on and off smart drugs multiple times and never experienced any withdrawal symptoms. Actually the that's not entirely true, the week I went off coffee was pretty rough. I've also dialogued with hundreds of other Biohackers and have come across virtually no cases of self destructive addiction to these drugs.
27:00   Life isn't fair and smart drugs do give one an unfair advantage. To paraphrase the moderator; while smart drugs are potent weapons in the cognitive arms race in our increasingly competitive intellectual economy there are actually lot of other cognitive enhancement options that can be used to level the playing field.. Dual N-Back brain training, mindfulness meditation, healthy diet and lifestyle can be equally effective performance enhancers as dropping Modafinil or Racetams.
41:00 "Smart drugs are an epiphenomenon of our competitive environment"
42:00 I think she is actually referring to Ayn Rand's short science fiction story about a completely equal society,Anthem, worth a read 
50:00 She nailed it! Our economy is desperately in need of invention and hard work. Competition is the primary enabler of progress. Let's enable competition!
52:00 The aussie confirms she really is Karl Marx reincarnated! For those who share her concerns the good news is that Smart Drugs are a tremendous gift to the downtrodden proletariat (tweeting courageously about the oppression of the 1% on their iPhones!). Since virtually any student can afford them, they are a tremendous enabler of equality.
1:00:00 They kept drawing a comparison between sports doping and Smart Drugs. This is pretty crappy comparison. Sports are comprised of arbitrary rules to make them fun games for the athletes and spectators. The (mostly) free market that students are competing in is (mostly) a pure meritocracy of ability.
1:05:00 The Coffee question completely exposed the irrationality of the opposition's arguments.
1:16:00 Rita made a really good point that smart drugs are enablers of volition. When you really want to work hard, they enable you to do so, when you want to relax different smart drugs help you to really relax. Smart Drugs if anything drastically improve quality of life
Overall it's kind of a silly motion, since students are using smart drugs and they are going to continue to do so. All the students who use Smart Drugs are wishing that smart drugs would be outlawed since it would just potentiate the unfair advantage they have.

IQSquared consistently books the top experts in the world pro and con the motion being debated. So it says a lot that the best objections the opposition could come up with was that smart drugs might make you a workaholic (which I've agreed with elsewhere!) I'm satisfied that the motion was carried and the skeptics in the audience were swayed by the philosophical rationality and scientific arguments of the pro smart drug team.
If you enticed by this subject I'll direct you to a series of videoblogs I've done demystifying the smart drugs and #biohackinghere:

Finally... has +400 pages of information demystifying Lifehacking, Biohacking and Smart Drugs - that's kind of an overwhelming amount of information. As soon as you join the Limitless Mindset Community (It's free!) we give you instant access to an interactive infographic which visually breaks the widely disparate topics we cover in exhaustively in our articles, videos and podcasts.

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