The Morality, Pitfalls, and Questions of Neuro-Enhancing Drugs


Trent Wolbe:

Evolution is a nice, big idea. It connotes the glacial pace of an unmeditated act unfolding upon species, concepts, and ecosystems. It certainly doesn’t usually get branded as a feeling. But a couple months ago I felt this thing. Maybe a little like what a mommy feels when her fetus kicks the wall crossed with how the baby feels when it gets its pre-K diploma, and the best word I can come up with for it is evolution. Not the glacial kind, but the real-time, Matrix-flavored kind. I was too busy barreling through the wicked pipe of a 30-milligram Adderall to think about it much when it happened, though. Half an hour into my sunrise dose, I logged into, the extraordinarily put-together training site used by corporate operations to keep their employees up on hot software trends. As an avid Monday Night Football chyron fan, I had promised myself for years that I would learn After Effects as soon as I had the free time; the chemical wave pushed me through an especially potent laziness that has always kept me from becoming the motion graphics expert I knew I wanted to be.

In many respects, the evidently widespread fascination with Adderall (and neuro-enhancers in general) stems from the indication that current chemicals can be mixed in such a fashion that induces a state of consciousness in which productivity is honed to a bleeding-edge of capability. Feeling unproductive, tired, and distracted? Take thirty milligrams of Adderall and watch mountains of work dissolve before your pin-pointed eyes.

The experience is nothing short of revelatory. Previously encumbered by the bounds of your fallible human brain, Adderall highlights the scientific potential to unlock and whittle the human experience into whatever shape a person may desire. And yet, for all of the possibility, there are questions of endless importance that require answering: what side-effects might such enhancement pose for growing minds? What disruption might occur to our evolutionary process if the population becomes increasingly chemical-dependent? Are the benefits truly deserving of the cost — both financial and physiological?

In my eyes, the rise of Adderall poses many of the same troubles as the introduction of calculators into the classroom. With the ubiquity of tools capable of solving complex mathematic equations with little human intervention, the learning mind foregoes the historically necessary process of logical discernment. Without careful regulation, the learning mind can become dependent upon such tools — their minds incapable of contending with such complexity without help. Such is the concern with Adderall, insofar as its usage enables far greater human capability for intellectual work.

Although built for sufferers of A.D.H.D., Adderall — in my opinion — warrants sincere and balanced discussion. Technology enhancing the tangible human experience is becoming the primary goal of the industry, and I doubt it’s long before such experiential enhancements extend to the brain itself. Beyond the questions of morality, the scientific potential for human improvement is truly boundless. Just as we encourage the process of rapid innovation in the consumer and medical spheres, it’s fair to ask why this process should not extend to the human mind. Equally, it’s fair to recognize and discuss the evident human penchant toward cheating our environment.

Raising a great many of these important questions regarding the state of our digitally-distracted society, the morality of chemical performance enhancing drugs, and the potential danger such substances may pose to our evolutionary processes, Wolbe’s personal treatise into his Adderall addiction provides for an utterly riveting read. Equally, I would suggest Margaret Talbot’s 2009 piece for the New Yorker entitled, ‘The underground world of “neuro-enhancing” drugs.’

The Verge Interviews Dom Leca, Sparrow Co-Founder

In an interview with The Verge, Dom Leca, co-founder of Sparrow, sheds some light on his thoughts regarding development, email, literature, and design. Here's a particularly great excerpt from the interview:

Email is declared dead a few times a year. Why the staying power? Does it need to evolve?

How did you apply for your job? How do you negotiate a deal? How do you review your employee work? What tool are you using when you're sending message to your loved ones? SMS, Facebook messages, What's app, Kik are all great new means of communication but mail still has its own territory. Email definitely needs to evolve. Sparrow 1.x is an attempt to marginally change habits.

I am an enormous (and outspoken) proponent of what Dom and Hoa have envisioned in Sparrow, and I can't wait to see what new features Sparrow 2.0 holds (not to mention Sparrow for iOS).

Leca's perception of Sparrow as an agent of progressive change for email is ambitious, admirable, but most importantly, achievable. The inroads Leca and his team have made are fantastic, and if they remain on their current path, Sparrow is likely set to become one of the most memorable and influential apps in the Mac App Store (and elsewhere).

Vox Media Raiding Gaming Website Talent for Future Site

Vox Media, the parent company of The Verge, is at it again.

Having successfully poached dozens of top journalists from various technology weblogs in 2011 (most notably from Aol's Engadget), Vox Media is now scooping up talent from prominent gaming weblogs like Aol's Joystiq and Gawker's Kotaku

Business Insider is reporting that Joystiq's editor, Chris Grant, has been hired and tasked with poaching a "killer staff" for a future gaming website, akin to The Verge's unique approach to the weblog model.

Brian Crecente, the former editor-in-chief of Kotaku, is one of the most recognizable hires in the early days.

The model upon which The Verge has been built is intriguing to me, and I see it as a positive force in the modern Internet journalism arena. Although their content might lack any particular opinion, stance, or recognizable viewpoint, their technology news reporting is second to none.

I once frequented Engadget for the majority of my technology news, but since the Aol-induced exodus, it has recently been deleted from my Google Reader account and is slowly slipping from my consciousness. I take great exception to their app, Engadget Distro. Simply put, it is the embodiment of the much maligned "Aol Way." It presents news in an attractive way, but it lacks any semblance of substance. Moreover, Distro appears to be little more than an attractive ad-delivery system, and that does not sit well with me. Everything about Engadget has become unremarkable, and I expect they are (or will be) hemorrhaging readers. Without significant turnaround (or being sold by Aol), I can't see them faring well in the face of sites like The Verge.

Say what you'd like about The Verge, but it is unquestionably in much better shape than its competitors.

As such, Vox Media's approach is credible.

Poaching top talent and providing a new approach to the weblog medium is proving popular. If done correctly, Vox Media is quickly set to become a media powerhouse in the coming years.

In pursuing this model, Vox has done all that Aol has attempted to do in a comparatively painless and small period of time. I had once felt hopeful for Aol's revival, but the juxtaposition of the success of Vox and the rise of Arianna Huffington is difficult to overlook.


In case you're not on Twitter and you're missing the unfolding drama, Joshua Topolsky has posted an article, 'Horseshit,' responding to MG Siegler's review of the Galaxy Nexus (and in turn John Gruber's response). 

I don't have all too much to say on the topic at the moment, but I do want to ask, who on Earth still uses the word "horseshit?"

Oh well. As Jim Dalrymple says, "popcorn."