Friday, March 07, 2008
Quinn Norton imagines a future drug called Morvigil which would cut your need for sleep, improve your concentration and make you smarter. She compares the effect of such a drug to the effects of coffee on the eighteenth century. It caused all sorts of problems but it also led to the Enlightenment. Morvigil would cause a second Enlightenment. The idea that coffee caused the Enlightenment is, to say the least, contentious. It doesn't make sense - the arrival of a simple stimulant would be equally likely to be correlated with a new Dark Age; that, in this case, it wasn't is neither here not there. But what is interesting is the technocratic rhetoric. Human enhancement is a dangerous delusion that will not go away. As demonstrated by the coffee-Enlightenment point, it is a consolingly simple idea. Obviously we can't enhance ourselves because, being human, we don't know what an enhancement would be. An interminable argument follows from this. I've had it a hundred times, but nobody has yet dented my ironclad scepticism on the matter. And now for some coffee, which, as it happens, always makes me deeply irrational.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 7:06 am