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Since the dawn of time, human beings have been looking for ways to improve their performance, whether physical, mental, or spiritual. Often times the motivation for self-improvement is based upon the belief that it will lead to greater prosperity, while at other times individuals are motivated for altar with stick reasons, such as the desire to improve the world around them. From inventions, medical technology, governments, education, and fitness, the human race is, if nothing else, on an ambitious quest to further itself and improve its surroundings.
The most accessible means of self-improvement are typically through education and fitness. At least in the west, people tend to believe that it is an inalienable right to have access to a college education. For others around the world, the blueprints is not as clear since gaining access to food and shelter are still high on their list. The recent refugee crisis illustrates just how fragile societies can be when confronted with famine, war, and economic instability.
Fitness is become an industry for self-improvement due to the fact that human beings are spending less time on physical tasks. The change in occupational demographics over the last century shows that in the United States and Europe, fewer families are engaged in agrarian occupations. As well, manufacturing jobs, which used to make up a large proportion of the workforce, have now moved to countries like China and India, whose labor costs are far less than their Western counterparts.
Technology has exceeded most expectations in its ability to connect the world, and make the average individual more productive. After all, using a word processor on one’s laptop is far more efficient than having to set typeface. Also with the proliferation of digital content, individuals are able to access information far faster than ever before, because they do not have to go to a bookstore or library to find meaningful data… It is as close as their next Google search.
This leaves perhaps one final field for the exploration of human potential, and one that is still developing at breakneck speed. Pharmacology, or medicine-based solutions to the human condition, has long had a place in fields like psychiatry. Centuries ago, someone who was treated by a shaman or member of the clergy to expel an evil spirit or chase away a curse, would very likely be treated with antidepressants in the 21st century. Sometimes the technology moves faster that the regulatory environment, as Geoffrey Woo wrote in the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies. For people interested in ‘bio-hacking’ or enhancing their performance, nootropics and research chemicals are now finding a place among those who wish to explore the boundaries of the human mind in the comfort of their own living room. Controversial although they may be, research chemicals from China are readily available online and a number of individuals who are already educated, fit, and healthy, are using them as a way to explore what they perceive to be unlocked potential. While this phenomenon is not entirely new, having it has roots in the 1960s, it is the interface between technology and pharmacology that makes research chemicals a new frontier for human potential.
Though human beings, our friends and family, even we ourselves, are always on the lookout for something that can give them an edge, increase their sense of well-being, allow them to be more prosperous, and open up a new Vista for enjoying life, one has to ask if there are any limits. Is the insatiable desire to improve oneself merely indicative of a deeper neuroses, something unresolved within the human heart that has yet to be addressed? Could it be that the almost fanatical degree of attention paid to celebrities and sports stars is breeding a sense of discontent among otherwise normal human beings, because they feel inadequate when they compare themselves with those who appear to have it all? Perhaps instead of searching for the next thing, or looking for ways to improve some new aspects of one’s life, the human race as a collective whole would be better off if we turned to look to the needs of one another rather than living as captives to our own insecurities.