People I talk to are often intrigued by the nootropic topic, specifically how can they take supplements and get smarter. Maybe the reason for this is they’ve seen the movie Limitless or felt overwhelmed by the challenges of the modern era and want a boost.
These days I’ve come to believe that improved performance through nootropics is attainable to some degree, however certainly not anywhere near to the degree portrayed in the movie Limitless.
Instead, what I’ve found in the past 10 years of exploring various cognitive enhancement pathways and the brain in general is that nootropics provide not just a “boost” but a deeper understanding of my own mind and the depth and complexity of the world around us.
When I first started investigating the brain I worked my way through understanding neurochemistry, by reading neuroscience textbooks, countless medical studies and books like Eric Braverman’s The Edge Effect. From the understanding I had gained, I began consciously to deconstruct my moods and feelings in terms of various neurochemical phenomenon. Procrastination became just a lack of dopamine. Scatterbrained moments became low-choline moments. Wondering about the meaning of life was just a lack of serotonin. Excessive emotional sensitivity was usually not somebody else being a jerk but just a lack of GABA. This was the first level of my understanding of the brain, at the rudimentary, but useful neurochemical level. I learned how to recognize my brain chemistry states and to gently tune them with supplements.
With my further explorations into nootropics, especially the PDE4 inhibiting CILTEP stack I delved into a whole other level of experiencing reality. Weeks instead of passing by in a blur became much deeper longer period of time. Studying that had seemed hopelessly dreary and routine became entertaining. Ideas that had seemed like opaque walls became intricate and fractal like. Work became more creative and I became more flexible and adaptable in my approach to things. The world of ideas opened up and expanded. Similarities between ideas and disciplines became apparent. A graduate level textbook turned into a world of ideas instead of an inscrutable mental torture device. Friends personalities became more nuanced and multi-faceted. It became easier to respond creatively to the problems I would run into at work.
During all this, instead of escaping from life as many people who drink or do drugs try to do I was immersing myself more in life. Instead of escaping to less real worlds I was becoming more deeply appreciative of the one I was in.
Now just to be clear, I haven’t become a genius yet. I’m not about to re-invent quantum physics, become a chess grandmaster or invent the warp drive. However, the progress I made during this time period seemed real and meaningful.
Given my experience, the why of nootropics is to get more out of life and to create a more vibrant and intellectually interesting adventure. It’s to get into life and make the most of it and not to give up and drop out. It’s to break out of my cognitive limitations and become a little bit more than I could be otherwise. It’s to improve my personal and professional life not only through deeper intellectual understanding but also deeper empathy and creativity. It’s for those of us who are tired of waiting for the future to arrive and want to help create it.