Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Random thoughts for Today

Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll buy a funny hat. Talk to a hungry man about fish, and you're a consultant.
- Scott Adams
In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra.
- Fran Lebowitz

stewing on the more mundane things this evening....

Saturday, February 21, 2009

This is why we should Stop and Listen

Joshua Bell played his $3.5 million dollar violin (the 1713 Gibson ex Huberman Stradivarius) in the metro station in Washington DC. Very few people stopped to listen, and he pocketed $32 from his violin case during his 45 minute performance. This was a Washington Post experiment in 2007.

A world renowned violinist played for the people of DC, for free... and no one payed attention, because there was no media hype about who, and where, and why. We did not simply stop and listen to beautiful music.

And we wonder why our country seems to be going to hell in a handbasket.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Enhancement in an Overachieving World

I watched A-Rod yesterday, (Alex Rodriguez, the baseball player, for readers currently emerging from rocks) and he admitted to trying something that might have been a performance enhancing drug, if he used it properly, which he's not sure he did, sometime in 2001-2003. There has been a swirl of controversy about the issue of performance enhancers in general, including a book written by an old friend, Will Carroll. (shameless plug)

And the controversy continues into our schools and workplaces. We medicate our children with a class 2 controlled substance to get them to focus and behave in school. Those kids will readily admit it enhances their ability to concentrate, and when they are not on the drug, their performance suffers. So we are enhancing the children's ability to absorb information and pass tests. At what point did an entire generation of American children lose the inability to focus? We now diagnose adults with ADD and ADHD and give them Ritalin and Adderall. So they can focus and concentrate and perform at a higher level. And we now have an entire segment of the population that is on performance enhancing chemicals. Shall we get started on the anti-depressants?

But what society are we creating? It started out that all the ADD/ADHD kids were considered "possessing a disability", and schools were given federal funds based on that. However, I could probably walk into my local elementary/middle/high school to find that the vast majority of kids were on Ritilin, Adderall or some variation. So who has the disability now? I'm guessing the kids who don't have the performance enhancing drugs at their disposal.

Because these drugs do in fact work, there is now a large a black market for them. College campuses are rampant with the stuff. What I wouldn't have done in college to have the ability to take a pill and remain alert through an important lecture after pulling an all nighter to finish a paper.... Everybody wants an edge, don't they??!

Our workplace is suffering the same fate with performance enhancers and mood stabilizers. Use of these drugs by adults in the workplace is opening up some interesting issues. Will I be held accountable because I'm not on a performance enhancing or mood altering drug like everyone else? In other words, because I don't think 10 steps ahead, or I happen to be sad over a breakup? Is that the path we are on? A world where to compete means you must medicate?

They say Better Living through Chemistry. But is it? Is it that important to think so quickly that you miss seeing the world around you? Are we forgetting how to live in the process of moving from milestone to milestone?

So if we want to get the most out of our achievements, we are going to use every competitive advantage we've got. And for many in our society, that means Ritalin, Adderall, or Provigil (a drug used to treat narcolepsy and sleep apnea) or mood stabilizers and anti-depressants. It seems we are going to lose the ability to stabilize our own moods or focus out minds on a task if we rely on chemicals to do it for us. (And why, perhaps, are we losing the ability to do that as a society?)

And to get back to our performance enhancing friends in MLB, and other sports....
If its acceptable to use drugs to compete with our brains, why isn't it acceptable to use them to compete with our bodies? And if its NOT acceptable, what should we do about it?