Sci + Society,
Smart Drugs,

#043: Is Cognitive Enhancement Ethical?

August 03, 2014

In Episode #43, we speak to Dr. Nicole A. Vincent and Dr. Emma A. Jane, co-authors of the article “Put Down the Smart Drugs,” discussing the ethics of cognitive enhancement. Jesse weighs in with his own views on the speculative rights and wrongs of nootropics use, and the friendly debate highlights important issues for us to consider in our ever-changing environment.

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Show Notes
  • 00:02:30

    This Week in Neuroscience: The Secret to Staying Young Forever?

  • 00:04:10

    iTunes Listener Review thank-yous

  • 00:04:57

    Intros to Nicole and Emma and an invitation to join the public forum at the Cognitive Enhancement Conference in Delft, The Netherlands

  • 00:06:10

    Decisions of the individual and effects on the broader environment

  • 00:09:27

    Keeping up with “the new normal”

  • 00:11:00

    Coffee drinking as a comparison to normalizing a larger range of nootropics

  • 00:12:22

    Pain-killers and cold medicine: “Soldier on with Codral”

  • 00:15:12

    Pressure to perform in the workplace trumping individual well-being

  • 00:17:19

    Military use of Modafinil and the existence of a better social arrangement?

  • 00:20:33

    Thoughts on the definition of workplace negligence and perceived expectations placed on employees

  • 00:24:30

    Bad vision, driving, and bringing everyone up to a baseline of full functionality

  • 00:26:57

    The dangers of establishing what normal should be

  • 00:29:04

    Deciding on a “cognitive baseline” and how guidelines change with the times

  • 00:30:50

    Hysterical reactions to new technology, and planning ahead for a positive future

  • 00:33:13

    Placing reasonable expectations on individuals

  • 00:35:45

    Allowing for serendipitous offshoots of new inventions

  • 00:38:12

    Considering how different types of experimentation might lead to negative results

  • 00:39:30

    Mobile phones: the positives and the negatives

  • 00:41:16

    Comparison between “old-school” and modern enhancers and the benefits of regulating use

  • 00:44:25

    Our ability to make realistic decisions based on our predictions

  • 00:45:20

    An argument for further investigation: Don’t make “the perfect” the enemy of “the good”

  • 00:47:53

    Ruthless Listener-Retention Gimmick: Blueberries and neurogenesis


  1. Theosis says:

    Oh wow this episode annoyed me.. not the podcast per say, but the guests where very wishy washy with the science of this might happen, or could happen and 3 generations of different thinking might result in some different standards to live by so regulate this and create the norm.

    I actually believe we have to many regulations on things proven to be safe in this country (Australia) for example Piracetam has just be scheduled as requiring a prescription for Epilepsy. :@

    Massive Quods to Jesse, so many times was thinking something and he would voice my thoughts..

    Also admire smart drug smarts for giving guests room to express their opinion, even though it might be opposed to my own.

    1. Jesse Lawler says:

      Thanks Theosis. This episode (even though the guests and most of the listeners are on opposite sides on the enhancement debate) was among the most fun ones for me to make. Conversations like this — as long as all involved keep their cool and keep it about the issues, not about attacking the people on the other side — are just invigorating to participate in. I look forward to more like this in the future.

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