Nature has a commentary on the use of “cognitive-enhancing drugs” in healthy and “diseased” individuals. They opine:
The debate over cognitive-enhancing drugs must also consider the expected magnitude of the benefits and weigh them against the risks and side effects of each drug. Most readers would not consider that having a double shot of espresso or a soft drink containing caffeine would confer an unfair advantage at work. The use of caffeine to enhance concentration is commonplace, despite having side effects in at least some individuals. Often overlooked in media reports on cognitive enhancers is the fact that many of the effects in healthy individuals are transient and small-to-moderate in size. Just as one would hardly propose that a strong cup of coffee could be the secret of academic achievement or faster career advancement, the use of such drugs does not necessarily entail cheating.
Cognitive enhancers with small or no side effects but with moderate enhancing effects that alleviate forgetfulness or enable one to focus better on the task at hand during a tiring day at work would be unlikely to meet much objection. And does it matter if it is delivered as a pill or a drink?
There seems to be some ingrained human reaction against what is considered “cheating” (which is one those things whose obvious definition to one person might be considered ridiculous by someone else); this would be the major barrier these drugs will have to overcome in order to being commonplace.
Shelly Batts at Retrospectacle asks the question I was thinking when I read this article:
A commentary today in Nature, by Sahakian and Morein-Zamir, poses the question: if you could take a pill which enhanced attention and cognition with few or no side effects, would you?
But I ask, why wouldn’t you?
Frankly, I do enjoy having my “attention enhancers” in the widely-used and socially acceptable beverage form, but I can imagine a world where it’s socially acceptable to pop an IQ pill, and it doesn’t seem that bad to me at all.