Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dear Dumbass: What Drugs Will Make Me Smarter?

Dear Rick,

Which are the best nootropics for an average seventeen-year-old student?


Hey Michele -

Unfortunately, most of the nootropics I know are intended to preserve brain function in older people. Older, unhealthy people often have brains that work like crap. When you're in traffic, check out other drivers. You can tell just by looking at some people that their brains don't work very well - they appear dull and stunned and out-of-it (even if they're not texting). Some people with dazed looks may be on drugs (especially in LA, where I live), but often it's their bad health habits taking a toll on mental function. 

Being only 17, you haven't had much time to wreck your brain, so all the drugs that promise to restore brain health aren't going to be much help (assuming their claims happen to be true). Your best bet might be coffee. It's widely available and generally harmless, and the current thinking seems to be that it's good for you. I started drinking coffee two years ago. Until then, I fell asleep nearly every afternoon at work. Now I'm alert - maybe too alert - all day. Coffee doesn't make me smarter, but it does make me better able to do work. More than about two-and-a-half cups in a day however, makes my heart gallop a little, so be careful with it.

There are some habits which seem to preserve brain function throughout life (based on studies of older people whose brains still work) -
Always be learning and engaging in activities which require you to think.
Do the whole "healthy mind in a healthy body" thing - eat reasonably well and engage in physical activity.

Being 17 is lucky - you're young enough to take full advantage of the coming biotech revolution, which will bring us stuff that really will make us smarter, instead of the iffy, half-assed nutritional supplements we have now.

Another couple ways to be effectively smarter without brain drugs -
Read about smart people to see if they have strategies you can emulate. Richard Feynman, for instance, was proud of not being overly smart (which is BS - he was very smart) but instead, of having figured out problem-solving tactics which let him come up with approximate solutions to most problems within a couple of minutes.
Become a ninja at internet searching. For the first time in history, we have instantaneous access to nearly all information. Being better than most people at retrieving and using information takes you 80% of the way to being a genius.


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