My latest Fast Company column is now up: "Should Creative Workers Use Cognitive-Enhancing Drugs?" (originally entitled "Me++").
We may face a choice between altering our brain chemistries and falling behind in the global economy.
And with that altered brain chemistry, are we sure that we're not losing something? Many of the cognitive enhancement drugs serve to increase focus and concentration. But "letting your mind wander" is very often an important part of the creative process. The "aha!" experience comes from the brain making connections between superficially unrelated subjects, and identifying a deeper link. How do enhancements that focus our attention affect this process? Is it possible that cognitive drugs enhance one aspect of knowledge work--productivity--while diminishing another--creativity?
Conversely, to what degree is the uproar over modafinil, ritalin, and the like just another example of futurephobia? There's a phrase I sometimes use when talking about this kind of issue: "Technology" is anything invented after you turn 13. That is, we tend to think of new disruptive innovations as being "technology," and hence disruptive, while ignoring older innovations that have become embedded into our larger environment, no matter how much they shape our lives.
Having been down with a flu for the past couple of weeks, with all of the brain-fogginess that entails, cognitive enhancement has definitely been on my mind.