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如果大家都服用聪明药,会怎么样

更新时间:2018-9-25 21:09:01 来源:千亿千亿国际娱乐官网 作者:佚名

What would happen if we all took smart drugs?
如果大家都服用聪明药,会怎么样

Honoré de Balzac was a great believer in the cerebral power of coffee. The renowned French writer had a punishing schedule – every evening, he would scour the streets of Paris for a café that was open past midnight, then write until the morning. It is said that he would consume 50 cups of his favourite drink in a single day.

巴尔扎克(Honoré de Balzac)坚信咖啡具有醒脑作用。这位法国文豪有着繁忙的日程安排——每天晚上,他都会在巴黎的街头寻觅一家午夜时分还开门营业的咖啡馆,然后一直在里面写到次日早晨。据说,他一天能喝50杯,可见他有多喜欢这种饮料。

Eventually he graduated to eating whole spoonfuls of coffee grinds, which he felt worked especially well on an empty stomach. As he put it, after a mouthful of gritty coffee: “Ideas quick-march into motion like battalions of a grand army to its legendary fighting ground, and the battle rages.”

到了后来,他开始整勺整勺地吃咖啡粉,他觉得,空腹的时候效果最好。他是这么说的,吃下一口咖啡粉,“灵感纷至沓来,就像一支声势浩大的军队前往传奇的战场,战斗正酣。”

It may have worked. Balzac was prolific, and produced nearly 100 novels, novellas and plays in his lifetime. He died of heart failure at the meagre age of 51.

咖啡可能在他身上的确有着神奇的效果。巴尔扎克是个高产的作家,一生创作了近100部长篇小说、中篇小说和戏剧。51岁的时候,他死于心脏衰竭。

For centuries, all workers have had to get them through the daily slog is boring old caffeine. But no more. The latest generation has been experimenting with a new range of substances, which they believe will supercharge their mental abilities and help them get ahead.

几个世纪以来,所有工薪者都指望着乏味的老咖啡因能帮助他们打发日子的煎熬。但现在不用再这样了。最新一代正在试用一系列新玩意,他们相信这些物质能增强他们的智力,帮他们取得成功。

In fact, some of these so-called “smart drugs” are already remarkably popular. One recent survey involving tens of thousands of people found that 30% of Americans who responded had taken them in the last year. It seems as though we may soon all be partaking – and it’s easy to get carried away with the consequences. Will this new batch of intellectual giants lead to dazzling, space-age inventions? Or perhaps an explosion in economic growth? Might the working week become shorter, as people become more efficient?

事实上,其中一些所谓的“聪明药”早已服者甚众。最近一项涉及数万人的调查发现,回应问卷的美国人当中有30%的人在去年服用过聪明药。看起来,我们很快就会参与其中,而且很容易被结果冲昏头脑。这一批服用了聪明药的新知识巨人是否会带来令人眼花缭乱的太空时代发明?又或者是经济的爆炸性增长?随着人们工作效率的提高,每周的工作时间会缩短吗?

Mind bending?

头脑弯曲?

To answer these questions, first we need to get to grips with what’s on offer.

要回答这些问题,我们要先了解现在有什么样的聪明药。

The original “smart drug” is piracetam, which was discovered by the Romanian scientist Corneliu Giurgea in the early 1960s. At the time, he was looking for a chemical that could sneak into the brain and make people feel sleepy. After months of testing, he came up with “Compound 6215”. It was safe, it had very few side effects – and it didn’t work. The drug didn’t send anyone into a restful slumber and seemed to work in the opposite way to that intended.

最早的“聪明药”是吡拉西坦,由罗马尼亚科学家久尔贾(Corneliu Giurgea)于20世纪60年代初发现。当时,他正在寻找一种能潜入人的大脑,让人昏昏欲睡的化学物质。经过数月的测试,他拿出了“化合物6215”。它很安全,没有什么副作用——实际上根本没有效果。这种药不会让任何人进入安睡状态,这似乎与预期截然相反。

Piracetam did have one intriguing side-effect, however. When patients took it for at least a month, it led to substantial improvements to their memories. Giurgea immediately recognised the significance of his findings, and coined the term “nootropic”, which combines the Greek words for “mind” and “bending”.

不过,吡拉西坦倒是有一个很有意思的副作用。病人服用一个月后,记忆力得到了显着改善。久尔贾立即意识到这一发现的重要性,还创造了nootropic(聪明药)这个词,它由希腊语中的“头脑”和“弯曲”两个词合成而来。

Today piracetam is a favourite with students and young professionals looking for a way to boost their performance, though decades after Giurgea’s discovery, there still isn’t much evidence that it can improve the mental abilities of healthy people. It’s a prescription drug in the UK, though it’s not approved for medical use by the US Food and Drug Administration and can’t be sold as a dietary supplement either.

现在,吡拉西坦深受学生和年轻专业人士的追捧——他们希望找到提高成绩和工作表现的办法,尽管在久尔贾发现了这个药物数十年之后,依旧没有太多证据证明它可以提高健康人士的智力。在英国,吡拉西坦是处方药,但美国食品和药物管理局没有批准将其用于医疗用途,也不能作为膳食补充剂出售。

Texas-based entrepreneur and podcaster Mansal Denton takes phenylpiracetam, a close relative of piracetam originally developed by the Soviet Union as a medication for cosmonauts, to help them endure the stresses of life in space. “I have a much easier time articulating certain things when I take it, so I typically do a lot of recording [of podcasts] on those days,” he says.

得克萨斯州的企业家、播客主持人登顿(Mansal Denton)在服用苯基吡拉西坦,这是吡拉西坦的近亲,原本是苏联为了宇航员开发的药,帮助他们承受太空生活的压力。他说, “服用之后,我的表达能力会变强,所以在那段时间我会录制很多(播客)。”

In fact, this scenario is fairly typical of smart drugs. Though many have a passionate following of regular users, often their benefits on the brain are either unproven, or minimal. Which brings us to the least exciting possible consequence of a workforce saturated with them: nothing would be any different.

事实上,这种情况在聪明药当中是相当典型的。虽然许多聪明药都有热情的忠实拥趸,但它们对大脑的作用不是未经证实,就是微乎其微。这给我们带来虽然大家普遍服用却最不令人兴奋的后果:没有任何的变化。

Brain gains?

补脑?

Take creatine monohydrate. This dietary supplement consists of a white powder, which is usually mixed into sugary drinks or milkshakes, or taken in pill form. The chemical is found naturally in the brain, and there is now some evidence that taking some extra creatine can improve your working memory and intelligence.

以水肌酸为例。这种膳食补充剂呈白色粉末状,通常是添加到含糖饮料或奶昔中,或以药丸形式服用。这种化学物质自然存在于人的大脑中,现在有一些证据表明,服用一些额外的肌酸可以提高记忆力和智力。

But though it’s relatively new on the scene with ambitious young professionals, creatine has a long history with bodybuilders, who have been taking it for decades to improve their muscle #gains. In the US, sports supplements are a multibillion-dollar industry – and the majority contain creatine. According to a survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs last year, 22% of adults said they had taken a sports supplement in the last year. If creatine was going to have a major impact in the workplace, surely we would have seen some signs of this already.

尽管对于雄心勃勃的年轻专业人士来说,这种药相对较新,其实健美者已经服用了好几十年,他们用它来帮助增加肌肉。在美国,运动补剂是一个价值数十亿美元的产业——其中绝大部分的产品都包含肌酸。根据益普索(Ipsos Public Affairs)在去年的一项调查,22%的成年人表示,他们去年曾经服用过运动补剂。如果肌酸对职场有重大影响的话,我们肯定已经看到了一些迹象。

Of course, there are drugs out there with more transformative powers. “I think it’s very clear that some do work,” says Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist based at Stanford University. In fact, there’s one category of smart drugs which has received more attention from scientists and biohackers – those looking to alter their own biology and abilities – than any other. These are the stimulants.

当然,有些药物的改变效力更强大。斯坦福大学的神经学家休伯曼(Andrew Huberman)说:“我认为有些显然是有效的。”事实上,有一类聪明药受到了科学家和生物黑客(也就是那些想改变自身的生物性和各种能力的人)的更多关注。就是兴奋剂。

Two increasingly popular options are amphetamines and methylphenidate, which are prescription drugs sold under the brand names Adderall and Ritalin. In the United States, both are approved as treatments for people with ADHD, a behavioural disorder which makes it hard to sit still or concentrate. Now they’re also widely abused by people in highly competitive environments, looking for a way to remain focused on specific tasks.

两种越来越受欢迎的药物是安非他命和哌甲酯,它们作为处方药的名称是阿德拉(Adderall)和利他林(Ritalin)。在美国,这两种药都获得批准用于多动症(ADHD)的治疗。多动症是一种行为障碍,它使人坐立不安或者难以集中注意力。现在,这两种药被处于激烈竞争环境下的人滥用,他们希望找到一种方法能集中注意力在特定任务上。

Amphetamines have a long track record as smart drugs, from the workaholic mathematician Paul Erdös, who relied on them to get through 19-hour maths binges, to the writer Graham Greene, who used them to write two books at once. More recently, there are plenty of anecdotal accounts in magazines about their widespread use in certain industries, such as journalism, the arts and finance.

安非他命作为聪明药的历史可不短,工作狂数学家埃尔德什(Paul Erdös)靠它熬过19小时的数学狂欢;作家格雷厄姆·格林(Graham Greene)利用它同时写作两本书。更近一些,杂志上有很多这两种药在某些行业被广泛使用的逸事,像是新闻、艺术和金融行业之类。

Those who have taken them swear they do work – though not in the way you might think. Back in 2015, a review of the evidence found that their impact on intelligence is “modest”. But most people don’t take them to improve their mental abilities. Instead, they take them to improve their mental energy and motivation to work. (Both drugs also come with serious risks and side effects – more on those later).

那些使用者发誓说这种聪明药的确有效——尽管不是你想象的那种效果。在2015年,对证据的评估报告发现,他们对智力的影响“不大”。但大多数人吃它并不是为了提高智力。相反,他们用它来提高精力和工作动力(这两种药都存在很大风险和严重的副作用,后面还会讲到)。

One consequence of taking stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin is the ability to stick with mentally taxing tasks, especially those with a clear reward in sight at the end. One study found that people considered a maths task “interesting” when they were on the latter.

服用阿德拉和利他林这样的兴奋剂,一个后果就是能够坚持繁重的脑力任务,尤其是那些能看到最后有明确奖励的任务。一项研究发现,服用利他林的人会认为数学“很有趣”。

If the entire workforce were to start doping with prescription stimulants, it seems likely that they would have two major effects. Firstly, people would stop avoiding unpleasant tasks, and weary office workers who had perfected the art of not-working-at-work would start tackling the office filing system, keeping spreadsheets up to date, and enthusiastically attending dull meetings.

如果所有的工薪阶层都开始服用处方兴奋剂,可能会带来两种主要影响。第一个影响是,人们会停止逃避不愉快的工作,那些很会磨洋工、疲倦的办公室职员,会开始处理办公室的文件系统,进行电子表格的更新,积极参加枯燥的会议。

And secondly, offices would become significantly more competitive. This fits with the general consensus about the long-term side effects of smart drugs more generally, though whether it’s a good thing is debatable.

第二个影响是,办公室的竞争意识会显着提高。这符合对一般意义上的聪明药长期副作用的普遍共识,尽管这是否是好事尚值得商榷。

“There seems to be a growing percentage of intellectual workers in Silicon Valley and Wall Street using nootropics. They are akin to intellectual professional athletes where the stakes and competition is high,” says Geoffrey Woo, the CEO and co-founder of nutrition company HVMN, which produces a line of nootropic supplements. Denton agrees. “I think nootropics just make things more and more competitive. The ease of access to Chinese, Russian intellectual capital in the United States, for example, is increasing. And there is a willingness to get any possible edge that’s available.”

营养公司HVMN的首席执行官兼联合创始人杰弗里·胡(Geoffrey Woo)表示,“在硅谷和华尔街,越来越多的脑力工作者在服用聪明药。他们就像是比拼脑力的职业运动员,赌注和竞争都很激烈。我认为聪明药只会让竞争越来越激烈。比如,在美国,越来越容易获得中国和俄罗斯的知识资本。因此任何有助于获得优势的东西都不会放过。”

But there would also be significant downsides. Amphetamines are structurally similar to crystal meth – a potent, highly addictive recreational drug which has ruined countless lives and can be fatal. Both Adderall and Ritalin are known to be addictive, and there are already numerous reports of workers who struggled to give them up. There are also side effects, such as nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, stomach pains, and even hair loss, among others.

但两种聪明药缺陷也不容忽视。安非他命在结构上近似冰毒,冰毒是一种效力强大、高度成瘾性的消遣性毒品,它毁掉了无数人的生活,甚至可能致命。阿德拉和利他林都会让人上瘾,并且已有很多关于上班族想戒掉它们的报道。它们还有很多副作用,像是紧张、焦虑、失眠、胃痛,甚至脱发等。

Finally, a workforce high on stimulants wouldn’t necessarily be more productive overall. “One thinks ‘are these things dangerous?’ – and that’s important to consider in the short term,” says Huberman. “But there’s also a different question, which is: ‘How do you feel the day afterwards?’ Maybe you’re hyper-focused for four hours, 12 hours, but then you’re below baseline for 24 or 48.”

最后,使用兴奋剂的劳动力不一定效率更高。休伯曼说,“有人会想,‘这些东西危险吗?’——就眼前来说,这是你需要考虑的。但还有一个问题,就是:‘第二天感觉如何?’也许你有4小时、12小时的时间注意力是高度集中的,但之后的24小时或者48小时,就都低于基线了。”

Given these drawbacks, it seems fair to speculate that prescription-strength stimulants aren’t likely to be changing the world anytime soon. But there is a milder version out there, which you can buy over the counter in nearly any café, newsagent, or supermarket: caffeine.

考虑到这些副作用,似乎可以推测,医生处方开的强度兴奋剂不太可能在短期内改变世界。但还有一种比较温和的版本,你几乎可以在所有的咖啡馆、报摊或者超市买到,那就是:咖啡因。

In the United States, people consume more coffee than fizzy drink, tea and juice combined. Alas, no one has ever estimated its impact on economic growth – but plenty of studies have found myriad other benefits. Somewhat embarrassingly, caffeine has been proven to be better than the caffeine-based commercial supplement that Woo’s company came up with, which is currently marketed at $17.95 for 60 pills.

在美国,人们消费的咖啡超过了碳酸饮料、茶和果汁的总和。哎,还从来没有人估算过它对经济增长的影响,但大量的研究已经发现了它具有数不清的其他好处。让人有点尴尬的是,事实证明,咖啡因比杰弗里·胡的公司推出的以咖啡因为基础的商业补剂效果要好,目前后者的市场价为60粒17.95美元。

Another popular option is nicotine. Scientists are increasingly realising that this drug is a powerful nootropic, with the ability to improve a person’s memory and help them to focus on certain tasks – though it also comes with well-documented obvious risks and side effects. “There are some very famous neuroscientists who chew Nicorette in order to enhance their cognitive functioning. But they used to smoke and that’s their substitute,” says Huberman.

另一个常见的选择是尼古丁。科学家们越来越意识到,这种药物其实是一种强大的聪明药,它能够提高人的记忆力,帮助他们专注于特定任务,尽管也存在大量可证明的风险和副作用。休伯曼说,“有一些非常有名的神经学家为了增强认知功能,而嚼力克雷尼古丁咀嚼胶(Nicorette)。但他们过去是吸烟的,这是他们的替代品。”

So what would happen if we all took smart drugs? It turns out most of us are already taking them every day, as we sip our morning coffee. But Balzac could have told you that.

那么,如果我们都服用聪明药,会怎么样?事实证明,我们当中大多数人每天已经用上了——这就是我们每天早晨喝的咖啡。但这是巴尔扎克原本早已告诉过你的。

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