Did you know that scientists are learning how to manufacture and implant memories? Artificial intelligence is writing music?
We are a moment away from arriving at the intersection of human and machine brain. Soon, we’ll be able to boost our intelligence, peak our creativity, and do anything short of set the curtains on fire with our eyes.
In the final frontier of the mind au naturel, we are seeing the first signs of brain hacking. Ingestible cocktails of natural and lab-derived supplements, called nootropics, designed to tap our brains for all their worth. Nootropics, or “smart drugs,” are a new category of cognitive-enhancing supplements garnering a cult-like following with the “work smarter, not harder” class.
Nootropics are designed to augment your performance through mechanisms like increased blood flow and more neurochemicals dialing in to help you think. These “rewiring” effects are touted as the long-term benefits of using, while supplements like yerba mate and L-theanine are nootropics’ alternative to ADHD drugs and coffee and are intended to take effect immediately. As a recent New York magazine article put it, “Think Adderall without the lack of creativity, coffee without the jitteriness, LSD without the spiders, nicotine without the cancer, and cocaine without the sniffles.”
It’s highly likely the increases in competition, pressure and pace of our lives correlates to our rising reliance on modulators, boosters and enhancers. Our “work hard, play hard” mindset has moved the needle into a zone we can no longer naturally sustain, and the harsh, one-size-fits-all pharmaceuticals on the market do not appeal to our preference for bespoke solutions. What’s ahead? A spike in products created to turbocharge the healthy human body rather than aim to correct, heal, or catch up to the standard.
Nootropics can be bought individually or in compounds, just as you might buy isolated Vitamin D versus a Multi-vitamin. The varying classifications of these drugs can make them difficult to find all in one place, so online channels tend to be the preferred channel for buying. However, health food stores can be a good place to start.
Creating custom combinations of two or more individual components are called “stacks” which you can tweak to be completely unique to your needs. A browse through the r/nootropics feed is typically canvassed with users crowd-sourcing for tips and recommendations on optimizing their stacks. ESports gamers and Wall Streeters want sustained energy and focus; creatives want heightened senses and creativity—you can even expect nootropics to make a play to the 1B strong ranks of 65+ year-olds who will be seeking anti-aging solutions by 2030.
David Richmond, a marketing strategist and freelancer, has dabbled in “stacking” with natural supplements Lion’s Mane mushroom and Brahmi. When projects demand creativity on a switch, he feels they help him get in gear. In his opinion, unlike coffee or other over-the-counter substances, he says, “They keep me clear-headed and alert without anxiety. It’s something I can take at 6pm and not worry about being jittery at bedtime.”
Powerful wallets are being enticed by the potential these brain snacks have. In 2015, Andreessen Horowitz, a venture capitalist who is known for early bets on AirBnb and Facebook, made a $2 million investment into smart drug subscription startup Nootrobox. As such, considerable efforts are being devoted to developing a favorable government policy to ensure a healthy future for the industry on track to disrupt the $1.3 trillion global pharmaceutical market.
Before you open your Amazon tab, know that the jury is still out on the efficacy of these claims. These drugs are not FDA-approved and just this year the American Medical Association published their discouragement for brain-boosting with nootropics. For example, racetams, a class of “nootrients” showing promise for improved brain function, also carry potential risks of brain “fog” and subdued mood– although most side effects are collected from testimonials rather than the medical community. For now, labels still can’t promote human consumption and the market remains a Wild West for entry.
As an office of Futurists, we were unable to resist experimenting with a Nootrobox subscription of our own at BrainReserve. The more straightforward capsules like “Rise” for a morning kickstart and “Sprint” for a brain jolt were the group favorite, while the chewy coffee cubes, called “Go Cubes” sat on my desk getting stale until a lost bet (unfortunately) took care of them. The effects we experienced were seemingly unnoticeable, but without more consistent use, it’s hard to say if they weren’t just swallowed by our office’s unusually high energy level. The pill bottles have mostly become office-enhancers in the form of paper weights.
Our prediction: Supplements are just the first step in a long journey of brain hacking. Just as we improve bodies with pacemakers and hearing implants, brain augmentation will one day take the form of a chip embedded inside of us. We’ll be free from the hassle of dosing to compete with our AI peers, instead enhancing our most human traits– like compassion and perception– to contribute where code cannot.
In the meantime, my only sage wisdom? Avoid anything advertised as chewy coffee.
This piece was first published on Forbes.com, read the original here.