Friday, June 20, 2014

Cognitive enhancement: is this something the vet profession needs?

One surefire way I could enhance my academic performance would be to somehow prevent Hero from sitting on and eating my notes.
Have you ever had to have three, four, five, even six coffees to stay awake to cram for exams? Or maybe get through a late night exploratory surgery? I always thought of performance enhancing drugs as something that only high-level athletes indulged in, but in fact they are used by desk jockeys, students, veterinarians, surgeons, concert pianists and people in just about any field.

You might think you’re taking that No-Doz out of choice, but use of these kinds of drugs to facilitate work output is quietly becoming the norm. One pill to stay awake won’t hurt, will it? Think about it: if everyone did this all the time, it would become the new norm. Suddenly, the decision not to take these may not be a choice.

Take study for example. There are plenty of reports of people using drugs like Ritalin to enhance their concentration. And have you heard about people using beta-blockers to get over stage fright when defending their PhD? But Drs Nicole Vincent and Emma Jane reckon that taking smart drugs, or cognitive enhancement, is ethically risky business.

Check out their argument in The Conversation here. (Here's one of my favourite quotes below).

Advances in science and technology subtly shape our lives by gradually, and often imperceptibly, changing the moral, legal and social landscape. What we expect of ourselves and of one another also changes with the times. It changes with what we think people are capable of doing and what we think is reasonable to expect people to be capable of doing.

You can also view Dr Vincent’s Ted Presentation here.

If you don’t like the idea of an employer or indeed colleagues expecting an artificially enhanced you – to the point that you can’t fulfil your duties adequately without some form of cognitive enhancement - then it’s worth considering whether you indulge in any enhancers at all. We're already connected to employers and colleagues 24/7 via ever-present smartphones. Do we really want them, in some sense, inside us?

BTW, if you’re currently studying and stuck for study tips, check out this post on exam study tips;  or this post on how to study in vet school.