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See Inside October 2005

Smarter on Drugs

We recoil at the idea of people taking drugs to enhance their intelligence. But why?
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Any child can tell you that some people are smarter than others. But what is the difference between the brain of a Ph.D. student and the brain of the average Joe? If we can figure that out, then a bigger question follows: Is it ethical to turn average Joes into geniuses? Evolutionary theory suggests that if we are smart enough to invent technology that can increase our brain capacity, we should be able to use that advantage. It is the next step in the survival of the fittest. As noted psychologist Corneliu Giurgea stated in the 1970s, Man is not going to wait passively for millions of years before evolution offers him a better brain.

That said, gnawing concerns persist when it comes to artificially enhancing intelligence. Geneticists and neuroscientists have made great strides in understanding which genes, brain structures and neurochemicals might be altered artificially to increase intelligence. The fear this prospect brings is that a nation of achievers will discard hard work and turn to prescriptions to get ahead.

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