Want to be cleverer…?

One of the problems with human beings, apart from their inherent ability to overpopulate the planet, insistence on watching team sports and blocking the middle lane, is their tendency to invent things without fully understanding the ramifications. If Thomas Edison, inventor of the mechanical phonograph cylinder, had known in 1877 that this would lead to ten Westlife albums, including a Frank Sinatra covers album (Allow us to be Frank – No, put the vintage 50s mic down) because presumably the legendary crooner failed to truly nail those standards like five Irish chancers on stools could, would he have burnt his phonograph blueprints? The list of regrettable inventions is endless, from Segway scooters, to Iphone covers with fucking massive mouse ears, to shoe umbrellas and those metallic reflectors for tanning your neck.

But, perhaps there’s none more ill-thought out than smart drugs. Modafinil claims to help keep up with workloads and is popular among students – with as many as 25 % taking them to increase smartness, and yet they STILL need Safe Spaces. Of course smart drugs to make you feel more intelligent have been around for millennia, often in the shape of beer, which can make you so bright that you encase your head in concrete inside a microwave for a bet.

The main reason that smart drugs are an ill-thought out invention is that another problem with humans is individual unflappable belief in their own intelligence, particularly when confronted with other humans, who are invariable stupid; and this is before they’ve taken any Modafinil. Imagine walking around actually being more intelligent than people and the idiocy you’d have to endure. Although paying for car park tickets via your phone might finally be possible, you’d have to do a lot of parking to make it worthwhile.

However, smart drugs do appear to increase cognition. Fighter pilots even take them to improve reaction times, which aren’t entirely necessary for writers sitting in coffee shops, but are appealing nonetheless.

And it certainly is appealing. Writer David Adam in the Sunday Times described how he took one as an experiment, and went to his usual cafe to write. As its effects kicked in he could barely type sentences quick enough. The words felt sharper and better than ever before. It sounds like being strapped to MS Word rather than an F-16 breaking the sound barrier, but was a thin line nonetheless. I wonder if it’s like writing a book on speed, only to discover in the morning that you’ve transcribed the English dictionary. Apparently it even increased the size of Adam’s screen. He didn’t declare if this applied to other things, but what a cheap way to upgrade your laptop. However, someone else reported that the drug helped him focus, but it was on the wrong things – such as playing video games on his Smartphone. Because if there’s one thing mankind needs these days is increased use of their smart phones; which have been smarter than their owners since the iPhone 4s, and don’t require Modafinil, only recharging twice a day.

There have been other inadvertent consequences of taking Modafinil. Psychiatrists, in their usual habit of throwing medications at pathologies to see which one sticks, treated a 45 year old Turkish woman for sleeplessness with Modafinil, only to find it increased her sex drive, much to the alarm of her 75-year-old husband. Another reported side effect is severe headaches, which was clearly something this woman didn’t suffer from, but her husband wished she did.

Yes. I think it’s best to be thick, life is hard enough without knowing with certainty that you are invariably right, about everything. It might even lead to thinking you can record a Frank Sinatra covers album. Just say no people, don’t put the tool into stool.

My novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance

and here


and on ebook here –