Cyberspace Web





Enter the web.


Nootropics appear to be both a blessing and a curse packaged in a small and elegant black box. They combine our deepest desires with our innermost fears, omniscience and psychosis linger within Pandora's innocent little Diapid pill. Nootropics' bipolar nature seems highly reminiscent of Derrida's pharmakon.

Let's listen to Derrida's definition of this paradoxical concept:

The common translation of pharmakon by remedy [remedÈ] - a beneficient drug - is not, of course, inaccurate. Not only can pharmakon really mean remedy and thus erase, on a certain surface of its functioning, the ambiguity of its meaning. ..... This medicine is beneficial; it repairs and produces, accumulates and remedies, increases knowledge and reduces forgetfulness. [my italics]

Now now, isn't this interesting? I have the strangest sense of deja vu, for some reason.

Its translation by "remedy" nonetheless erases, in going outside the Greek language, the other pole reserved for the word pharmakon. It cancels out the resources of ambiguity and makes more difficult, if not impossible, an understanding of the context. As opposed to "drug" or even "medicine", remedy says the transparent rationality of science, technique, and therapeutic causality, thus excluding from the text any leaning toward the magic virtues of a force whose effects are hard to master, a dynamics that constantly surprises the one who tries to manipulate it as master and as subject.

Plato's conviction that writing is a mystical, suspect and dangerous power contrasts markedly with the king's assertion that a pharmakon can be used to produce positive or negative effects. As Derrida points out, a text can take on different roles through assuming anagrams, much like a remedy achieving diverse effects in different contexts - in fact, the diversity may well be characterized by the metaphor of a medicine versus versus that of a poison.

We must note, however, that the anagrammatic quality and the contextualization of the pharmakon may be revealed at various atomic levels. For instance, in the case of a text, one might consider anagrams of a word, whereby the letters are arranged in a different order to come up with diverse semantic units. One may also consider reordering a set of lexia to come up with remarkably diverse narratives. Although the technology that Plato had access to predates hypertextuality, the notion of the anagrammatic text on the level of lexia appears to be protohypertextual. Similarly, in the case of a medicine, one may consider arranging various molecules (analogous to rearranging the letters within a word) to produce a specific drug, or one may attempt to take various medicines in different combinations (analogous to different orderings of a set of lexia) as well as attempting to use a certain medicine to treat different symptoms (which would be analogous to the same hypertext being read by a multitude of unique individuals).

In short, nootropics and hypertext appear to be parallel in that, in both cases, their existence thrives on powers that threaten to undo all they stand for. The effect is multidimensional in both cases: Although the multidimensionality of hypertext will be discussed in various other lexia throughout this web, the problematics of nootropics unfold as follows: Firstly, nootropics promise increased intelligence and concentration alhough they may ultimately cause headaches, fevers, or in some cases, serious neurological disorders. Secondly, and far more importantly, the promise of omniscience and hyperreality (a term denoting the totality of the semantic connections between all cognitive concepts ever created, invented or discovered by humanity) falls short when the effects of nootropics turn out to be temporary. Aspiring to Platonic perfection and ending up with pitiful pathos characterizes a paradoxical pharmakonesque experience.

Herein lies a clue.