Sunday, 10 March 2013

smart drugs: Limitless?

Anna Friel: click for IMDB biography
Tonight Channel 4 showed Limitless with Bradley Cooper, Anna Friel and Robert de Niro. The film’s about a down-at-heel writer, Eddie Morra, who hasn’t managed to put a single word on a single page.

A former drug-dealer introduces Eddie to a new "smart drug", NZT-48, that changes the way he synthesizes disparate pieces of information while under its influence to produce insights and predictions people not on NZT can’t match. To cut a long story short, he overcomes his problems and by the end of the film has customised the drug to minimise the side-effects that has caused others to fall after sudden rises to fame, thus freeing himself from the need for a supplier.

click to read reviews on Amazon
It’s a story that would have warmed the hearts of those Enlightenment philosophes like Condorcet and Bentham who, in their different ways, believed humankind was endlessly improvable. Grumpier and more realistic individuals like Hume and Voltaire, however, would be more satisfied with the book on which the film is based. In Alan Glynn’s The Dark Fields, a sinister thread of growing conflict between the US and China is threaded through the book and, at the point of dying through withdrawals, the protagonist sees the US President on the TV, gorged on the drug, announce a war.

Smart drugs exist. Oxbridge Biotech argues that popping a pill to help you access more of your brain-power is no different from paying for private tutors. I disagree. Passing an exam - tutors or not - involves engaging your own mind and working hard to learn, because that is how to organically lay down neural connections that didn’t previously exist. The brain is the universe’s most complex machine, and boosting its performance with even the most smartly-engineered chemical is fraught with peril.

Where did I put that coffee?

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Check out reviews for Limitless on

Check out reviews of The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn on Smart Drugs: Are you Tempted? - Oxford Biotech


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