Cyberspace Web





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Nootropics, or smart drugs, are thought to enhance mental abilities. More specifically, they improve cognition under the typical conditions often found in modern-day lives: mental and chemical stress as caused by environmental toxins, sustained mental effort as experienced through involvement in intensive long-term projects, and the physical stress that usually accompanies lengthened periods of physical exertion. The concept of nootropics seems closely linked to the use of amino acid supplements in order to protect soldiers under battlefield stress. A variety of drugs fall into this catagory, among them various amino acid precursors to neurotransmitters and other compounds associated with mental function, such as piracetam, vasopressin, hydergine, choline, DMAE and centrophenoxine.

The 'heightened' consciousness achieved through the use of smart drugs differs considerably from those achieved by other, more stereotypical drugs. For example, Ecstasy usually provides an unconditional atmosphere of sociability, happiness and goodwill towards everyone, as noted in Nicholas Saunders' seminal work, E for Ecstasy. Cocaine evokes a rush of excitement and a sense of well-being and confidence. The effects of heroin are commonly described as a wave of pleasure and intense relaxation, with any worries or physical pain fading away to nothingness. The various sensations associated with most other drugs have little to do with the after-effects of smart drugs, however. Nootropics induce a peaceful yet alert state whereby one feels profoundly relaxed although simultaneously experiencing a state of intense concentration. This altered consciousness can be described as loose and creative as well as mentally quick and focused. Smart drugs facilitate metabolic activity across the corpus callosum. Consequently, the two hemispheres of one's brain achieve a mode of superconnection, resulting in an enormous increase in the amount of information flowing between them.

Smart drinks are one of the most popular smart drug subcategories - various 'recipes' constantly circulate around the cognoscenti; and in the last couple of decades, such information has been freely available from such public domain sources as the Usenet and the World Wide Web. This represents a very recent reversal in trends, however - until the early origins of the information age and the associated networking mentality in the late 1960s, information was treated much like a commodity to be denied from others in order to maintain power. This has meant strict control on the flow of information, which, due to the physical limitations of ancient technologies, has been quite easy to achieve. Historically, authorities have chosen to limit access to information that has been considered harmful for the welfare of the public (or, more often than not, the welfare of the selfsame authorities). Even today, the same trend has its supporters, as witnessed by the short-lived Communications Decency Act of 1996 which would have translated into censorship of Internet content, a blatant violation of the First Amendment. The fallacy in the logic of censoring information is that information, in and of itself, is inherently harmless. Its active use may cause hazards, yet even then, certain applications may not necessarily prove to be dangerous. Nootropics constitute a remarkable case in point, in that they completely fulfill and equally completely defy the prospect of posing a danger against society.

The paradoxical nature of information (potentially harmful yet highly beneficial), as well as its parallelism to nootropics, suggest a link to Derrida's pharmakon.