I'm now officially out of the closet... no, not that closet, the other one, about taking cognition enhancer drugs: The Times, February 27, 2010: Bring 'smart drugs' out of the closet, experts urge Government (written by Lucy Bannerman).
Overall, the problem set we have today with cognition enhancers seems to be:
Basically we have a situation here were we have use of enhancers that can be unnecessarily wasteful or harmful. This is because there is not much consumer information, medical oversight, legal access (grey medical markets are problematic), product development, or research for coming up with good and safe enhancers. The reason for this lack is that the use is stigmatized, seen as irrelevant or immoral, and there is little money or political capital in changing the situation.
I think this should and can be changed. We need to get people to discuss how they fit enhancers into their personal and medical lives. We need to find out what actually works and what the price is. We need to discuss what we want to use medicine for in this century, and how we want to set up the payment system.
Now I need another cup of tea.
Practical Ethics: Cognitive enhancers: unfair at any dose? - another post about the ethics of academic use of enhancers.
It is surprisingly often people use the word "coercion" in such a broad sense that it loses all meaning. Am I coerced into wearing socially acceptable clothes by the views of my fellows? Influence, even when it affects the value of different outcomes, is not enough to be coercion. There has to be someone who forces or tricks me, by reducing my options or the rewards of certain options.
It is also interesting to see how people assume current institutions are the end-all of institutions: if some new technology doesn't work with them, then that technology will be bad. The fact that institutions change (and often surprisingly fast) is often lost on us.
And by the way, the new book above has a chapter by Nick and me on the wisdom of nature as applied to enhancement.
Izhaki, I and co-workers have demonstrated that honey bees like nectar with nicotine and caffeine. Nice to know not just humans use cognitive enhancers.
Wild animals sometimes use intoxicants (besides using the drugs as nutrients) or even self-medicate, although I am unsure if anybody has good data on how common it is. It would be strange if the *only* effects of secondary metabolites in plants were to discourage consumption or provide nutrients of different kinds.