And the white knight is talking backwards

Sep 17, 2009, 3:10 PM |

Interesting lead story, Pills to Make You Smarter, on the cover of the current October SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. It makes one wonder whether the proposed drug testing for chess players in the Olympics were the right drugs for which to be tested. The thing is, this is not only a story about 'cognitive enhancers' to come, but ones already in use. For example, beta blockers are used for stage fright.
(I've got fire water right on my breath And the doctor warned me I might catch a death. Said, "You can make it in your disguise, Just never show the fear that's in your eyes."
Your brow is sweatin' and your mouth gets dry, Fancy people go driftin' by.The moment of truth is right at hand, Just one more nightmare you can stand.
See the man with the stage fright  Just standin' up there to give it all his might. And he got caught in the spotlight, But when we get to the end He wants to start all over again...)

Ah, yes, the best Rock & Roll band of all time-THE BAND! This from their song, appropriately named, Stage Fright. Brings back memories, real good memories. They did not have beta blockers back then, so they use the 'cognitive enhancers' available at the time!
Watched this program on public tube some time ago about a pianist who was simply unable to perform until he was turned-on to 'cognitive enhancers'. He's now considered to be one of the very best. The program focused on the ethics of taking 'cognitive enhancers' and whether or not it is ethical, in the way society is debating the use of steroids among athletes.
Which got me to cogitating...What happens when a chess player is 'hit with a shot'? His heart rate increases and starts pounding like a jack-hammer in his chest. That is not the case if one has taken a beta blocker; one stays cool as a cucumber.
The article says, '...more than 1.6 million people in the US had used prescription stimulants nonmedically in the previous 12 months'. I wondered how many of them play chess? Also, 'On college campuses, one quarter of students have reported using the drugs.'
What really got me was this, by James Cascio, an associate of the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California: "The perceived increased cognitive focus and clarity was very much of a surprise. My experience was not that I'd become a superbrain, It was more an experience of more easily slipping into a state of cognitive flow, a state of being able to work without distraction."
I do not know about you, but that 'state of cognitive flow' sounds like something I would like to be in while sitting at the chess board!
Then my balloon was deflated upon reading: 'The same researchers found little cognitive benefit in healthy elderly males.' I had the same kind of feeling upon being informed I was too old to donate sperm!
All this reminds me of my favorite Science Fiction novel, THE PLAYER OF GAMES, by Iain M Banks. The players prepare for the game ahead by 'glanding'. It could be my peak rating would have been much higher if I had done the right 'glanding' years ago!