Will Drugs Make You Super-Human? (Adderall, Ritalin & More)

Press Start for “Will Adderall Make Us Superheroes?” by 8-Bit Philosophy, where classic video games introduce famous thinkers, problems, and concepts with quotes, teachings, and more.

Written by: Matt Reichle
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Edited by: Ryan Hailey
Animations by: Dean Bottino
Produced by: Jacob Salamon
Narrator: Nathan Lowe

Will Drugs Make You Super-Human?

It’s happening again, dear viewer. You must cram for your Biochem final tomorrow, your taxes have to be filed by the morning, and your sadistic boss is making you prepare a full analysis on the state of the doorknob industry. It’s going to be a long night. Thank god you have ADDERALL!

Now Biochem is a piece of cake, doing your taxes is EXHILIRATING, and there’s not a single thing more stimulating than the illustrious doorknob industry. You’re so focused, so efficient, so IN THE ZONE, it’s as if you’re SUPER HUMAN. Or perhaps, you’ve become something else entirely.

In the book “Our Posthuman Future,” Political Scientist Francis Fukuyama argues that neuropharmacological drugs like Adderall aren’t just a nice little boost when things get tough. They may be threatening the very idea of what it means to be human. Humanity is a complex concept. Although there is no single “x-factor” that defines human nature, there are some essential genetic characteristics that Adderal de-emphasizes: like rambunctiousness and inattentiveness.

Therein lies a problem – they arguably degrade the dignity of basic human nature. Characteristics that were once normal are now defects that must be cured. Imagine a world where all our “defects” can be eradicated- where you can choose your baby’s eye color, gender, hair color; where people can eliminate unwanted genetic traits, diseases, and construct a perfect designer baby.

For Fukuyama claims we don’t need to wait for science to perfect genetic engineering because we’ll get there much sooner through pharmaceuticals. Will such a world erase all difference? Will it narrow our definition of humanity? More importantly: Who decides what is normal and what isn’t? If your boss all the sudden doubles your workload, must you to do whatever it takes to keep up with his new standard of productivity? If you just can’t hack it, does that mean there’s something wrong with you? Are you now a sub-par worker? Or even – a bad person? Like all good citizens, we will do what is necessary to better ourselves- to be a winner.

Is our society approaching a dystopian nightmare where drugs like Ritalin and Adderall function as a form of control? Where a social mechanism dictates the changing standard for “humanity?” Are we slowly becoming Huxley’s zombified pill poppers from Brave New World? Perhaps the scariest thing is just how darn useful Adderal is. In fact, it works so well that it’s used as what Jasbir Puar calls “cosmetic neurology,” Where people who aren’t diagnosed with ADHD take the drugs to be “better than well”- to enable them to succeed within the system at levels far beyond their normal abilities.

Wall street brokers snort Adderall, Football players take it to focus on the field, college kids take it to study—it’s ubiquitous… For Fukyama, the danger of Adderall is that it produces a population who are changing their very nature in order to optimize their efficacy within the system. In the long run, it creates a population of compliant bodies to be easily managed and controlled —good productive workers that are able to focus beyond what is otherwise humanly possible. It forges super workers and an environment where if you are unable to keep up with your super zoned in co-workers… well, you might find yourself out of a job.

Kind of like the baseball players that couldn’t get into the majors in the 90’s because they weren’t on the juice. Then again, could the same not be said about drinking coffee to jumpstart your morning? Or a taking a shot of gin before asking out that hunny across the bar? Or taking a scoop of pre-workout powder before killing it at the gym? How do we draw the line between a harmless supplement and a reality-altering drug?

The difference, dear viewer, is that although coffee, alcohol, and workout supplements might assist you in performing challenging tasks, they don’t threaten the idea of what is “normal.” What makes Adderal dangerous is that pathologizes “normal” human attributes. Social pressures, like having to be able to stare at a computer screen for 8 hours uninterrupted, are addressed by the pharmaceutical companies on a large scale until NOT being able to do so is considered “abnormal.”

Fukuyama is most famous for his proclamation that we are living in the end of history, that the fall of the soviet union left us with only one real working system: globalized capitalism and liberal democracy. But 10 years after making this proclamation, Fukuyama paints a picture of pharmaceutical-aided human evolution that may threaten such democracy. If human nature is “fundamental our notions of justice, morality and the good life,” then what happens once that nature has been irrevocably altered? Will democracy disappear along with it? So dear viewer, what do you think? Is Adderal leading us down a dangerous path? Is it no big deal? Or is it the next step in human evolution?

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