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Studies show that people have different levels of intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is another way of saying a person's body chemistry is such that it produces enthusiasm for doing hard work and creating great things. I predict that someday a drug will be able to mimic or stimulate whatever body chemistry produces intrinsic motivation. When that drug is developed - and I predict that it will be, or maybe it already exists - could it ever become legal and widely prescribed?

For a drug to become legal it needs to be safe, and it needs to address a real medical problem in a way that benefits society. Let's assume this motivation drug produces the same body chemistry that any naturally-motivated person enjoys. That sort of drug seems safer than introducing entirely foreign chemistry to a body. It would probably be no riskier than testosterone injections or other hormone therapies, meaning there would be some risk, but not enough to keep it off the market.

The next hurdle involves labeling a lack of motivation as a medical problem. I think that would be the easy part. Any pharmaceutical company that creates such a drug would spend huge amounts to get that designation. And their argument would be solid. A lack of motivation can ruin a person's life as well as the life of anyone who is economically linked to that person. That's a strong argument. The definition of a medical need is fairly flexible.

Obviously some unmotivated people are influenced by their circumstances more than their body chemistries. It's hard to feel motivated if you're surrounded by people who feel doomed, look doomed, and tell you that you are doomed too. Still, we see highly motivated people emerge from just about any form of poverty. So we know that chemistry - if it is just right - can overcome environment. As a practical matter, it might be cheaper and easier to tweak the motivational chemistry of people who are in bad circumstances instead of trying to fix their circumstances and hope that's enough to stimulate their natural motivation.

I can also imagine Republicans and Democrats being on the same page and supporting such a drug. Republicans think poor people lack motivation, so a motivation pill would fit right into their ideology. Democrats tend to go where the scientific consensus leads (evolution, climate change), and if science says unmotivated people can be helped by a prescription drug, why not?

This idea is easy enough to test. I believe the medication for ADHD acts like speed (and feels like motivation) for people who don't have ADHD. Just pick a poor community and put a random sample of volunteers on the drug and see what happens. If the drugged kids get better grades and the drugged adults increase their incomes compared to peers, and they have no worse side effects than ADHD patients, you have everything you need to allow doctors to prescribe the drug off label.

I think you'll see some version of this happen after science finishes chipping away at the glorification of free will, and society starts to understand itself as a bunch of moist robots that sometimes need chemical tuning.

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Nov 22, 2013
Marklar,you probably drink because it released dopamine. People like us really like/need dopamine.Thats a bad way to get it though. Its easy to lose control of it. I went through a rough time a while ago and started drinking. I didnt know why I did it at the time,but I DID know that when had a little alcohol,paradoxically,my emotional control was better

If you had inherited a congenital kidney problem,you'd go to a cardiologist. If you were diabetic,you might go see a specialist. You have a condition that affects your brain,so its not unreasonable to go see a psychiatrist.

I suggest going,and trying whatever he tells you. I didnt want the kind of drugs he prescribed. But I listened and did what he said. He put me on adderall. (or the generic version actually) Tha helped a lot. Then he added Clonidine. I started on the instant release type,but switched to kapvay,the exteded release version of the same drug. (thees also a patch) Obviously adderall is amphetamines. Actually a mix of four isomers. Its a stimulant. So is Ritalin (methyl phenidate) Clondine hoever is NOT a stimulants. THere are few others lik ethat too. Dont let the stigma scare you away from trying to get help.

First,yo dont HAVE to take what the doctor prescribes,and if you dont feel comfortable with a medication,he can try something else. But you probably wont respond to it like normal people do. It doesnt so much calm you. Thats what it looks like to others,,I gives control,th ability to NOT say that stupid thiing in a meeting. Or for many,the control to force yourself to get upanddo to force yourself to do something.It stimulates and boosts the parts of your brain that provide those functions. Thats why it appears paradoxical. And studies have show that its not addictive in the doses that are used clinically. An addict takes 10x that. There are also non stimuant drugs like Kapvay. There s a couipon out there that gets your first prescription free.
Nov 21, 2013

There is a reason adderall,which is a mix of amphetamine isomers affects the brain like it does.(Im a chemist actually,so Im well aware of the structures of these things. It turns out my spazzy,spaced out,distracted personality is a stereotype for scientists so its the perfect job for me. Remember Doc Brown in Back to the Future) Its also the reason methamphetamine does,as do the cathenones (bath salts on the street),as well as the pseudoephedrine in cold caps and ephedrine in ephedra herbal supliments. Its not that they are all only a tiny bit different than meth. ALL of those share the same carbon skeleton with dopamine and epinephrine. They fit the reuptake sites in your brain (and in the rest of your body,but the brain is what we are concerned with here) for those neurotransmitters. But they are different enough that they jam them up,so your brain cant reuptake them,and the levels increase. The slight differences in functional groups and side chains subtly alter their properties,which is why methamphetiamines have different and more side effects than amphetamines,and phenylethyl amine is broken down so fast it barely affects you,while pseudoephedrine has trouble penetrating the blood brain barrier due the polar OH group beta to the phenyl. (the catecholamines like dopamine and norepenephrin cannot penetrate the blood brain barrier at all,which is why you cant just take strait dopamine to boost the levels,due to their two OH groups attached to the ring). Pahermecutical companies often take a molecule like amphetamine and make subtle changes to try to avoid certain side effects or enhance effects. So just because something is similar to meth,does not mean its the same. Cold caps (pseudoepehdrine) are used to make meth,by a simple reduction of the OH group,or bath salts,by an oxydation of it,but cold caps are neither.
Sep 25, 2012
Oooh, I hope it happens. I've been using coffee as my primary motivating drug for years and of course there are many unpleasant side effects, foremost for me being crankiness. I just spent the last 20 days decaffeinating for the first time in over a year and the difference in my personality is tremendous. I look up at the sky and feel a slowly spreading sense of peace and joy and happiness at just being alive. I don't find myself !$%*!$%* and complaining internally about every little imagined slight or inconvenience. I'm not overbooking myself with a million good ideas and feeling hamstrung by my inability to actually do them all right now immediately. Random strangers are smiling at me again. The whole world seems a wonderful place.

I came up with two related mottoes for myself. Relaxed == happy. Caffeinated == crazy. Also: relaxed == realistic. caffeinated == unrealistic.

I've long been looking for an alternative to coffee. I've tried many things including legal and quasi-legal smart drugs: Modafanil and others like it. Let me also say that I was saddened when ephedra was pulled off the market. Green tea is a little better, but nothing can get me doing the most tedious boring task for hours on end easier more readily than coffee does.

My most recent favorite over the counter motivator is an herbal concoction called "Attend" hailed by some as an effective street legal alternative to Ritalin. It works extremely well for getting me into a state of very high mental agility. However, there's always the pesky problem of having to get to sleep at a sensible time and get up again and do it the next day.

I actually have a sizeable Google docs spreadsheet where I keep track of the various stimulants I've tried and record their subjective side effects, just so I can remind myself why I swore this one or that one off.

I've always wanted to try Ritalin and other ADHD drugs as I'm pretty sure all my coworkers have a lifelong prescription they are relying upon. I can't bring myself to lie to a doctor though to try to get it.

I vote for this new drug your are proposing. Or, perhaps a new social infrastructure that doesn't demand extreme competition as the only way to survive. In all honesty, I much prefer being relaxed and would live that way if I could.

Sep 25, 2012
You have free will to create (design your program), You do not have free will over the use of your program. You program yourself and the world uses you accordingly... You are the programmer and the world is the user. It's why habits are so difficult to break... deeply ingrained into your program... it would take a vast amount of reprogramming to get that function out and rebuild... especially if that function is used many times. Want to be a billionaire? Create your program for such use. eg. you wouldn't use an mp3 program to create graphics. Why would the world use a career program to utilize a billionaire? You are welcome for today's epiphany ;)
Sep 25, 2012
whtllnew, I think you have a point. This discussion made me think a little about free will. The more I think about it, the more subjective it becomes. Science say your brain is chemical reactions. However if you consciousness (free will) can influence those reactions, that brings up questions.

Also, if we really do have a non-testable metaphysical component (soul), as an aside I believe we do, which can also influence which chemicals our brains release to some degree all science would see is the end result and jump to the wrong conclusion. But I don't want to get too off track here.

Suffice to say, I think that you are right in that free will may be outside of science's realm of legitimate authority.
Sep 24, 2012
Marklar, it's funny you mention vodka -- funny in an ironic way, not meaning to make light of your situation. One of the hallmarks of Asperger's in adults is alcoholism. My father is an alcoholic, and after I learned about Asperger's, it was plain as day that he has it, as well, and suddenly a lot of his behavior over the years made more sense to me.

I don't know why most people drink, but I always did because it enabled me to just GET OUT OF MY HEAD for a while, to stop microanalyzing everything to the point of paralysis. Taking Adderall to me is like having an alcoholic buzz -- that heady, love-your-neighbor feeling that comes from a couple of beers -- but without the associated loss of motor skills or reasoning faculties. The two things feel very, very similar to me.

Nowadays, I still like to drink, but I don't feel like I have to in order to connect with others.
Sep 24, 2012
Motivation is definitely a combination of things, in my mind. Having energy, priorities, some optimism (or confidence) and skills are requisite. Time and money, too, when it comes to many things.

I expect that a small subset of those things can be addressed by chemistry. It seems likely to me that the poor lack things that chemistry can fix, but the things working against them are many-fold: Culturally, they're going to have their priorities screwed up. Educationally, they're not going to have high-demand skills. Time and money, obviously, in short supply. And the biggest issue, of course, is that society needs lots of low-skill, low-motivation people to do low-paying jobs, and relatively few high-skill, high-motivation people... we like to save those up for the children of people with high-skill, high-motivation people.
Sep 24, 2012

[What if science comes up with a drug or cybernetic implant of some sort that promotes a person's natural free will? IE it really exists, or is theoretically possible at least, and all it needs is a little boost. Then what?]

Science has done some wonderful things but here we come up against something it is ill equipped to handle. Scientifically speaking how would you even go about defining free will in such a way that you would know how to measure it, how to enhance it and whether or not you had succeeded? Scott will tell you that science has reached a consensus that free will doesn't exist but my take on that is the scientific approach to things is more geared towards explaining behavior and, therefore, proving the nonexistence of free will than it is towards finding it.
Sep 24, 2012
I have a follow-up question for Scott:

What if science comes up with a drug or cybernetic implant of some sort that promotes a person's natural free will? IE it really exists, or is theoretically possible at least, and all it needs is a little boost. Then what?
Sep 24, 2012
Cube_Dweller: you bring up an interesting point.

Motivation to do what exactly?

We each have our own ideas of right and wrong, sometimes those ideas clash. So you can't guarantee that people, once motivated, will do the right thing. You have to assume at least some of the people will use their new found motivation towards malignant ends.

For example, if part of the motivation drugs has an inhibition reduction effect, you could see things like illegal drug rates, adultery rates, and crime rates go up because people won't have as much restraint towards stopping themselves from doing those things.

Depending on the how it works, this could be used towards darker ends as motivation might mean more motivation to do what the people in charge want and less motivation to do what they don't like. IE if the oligarchy wants everyone else to be sheep, the drug will motivate them towards sheep-like behavior.
Sep 23, 2012

I have an IQ in the 150s to 160s depending on the test and my mood, but lead an unremarkable life. I had ADHD as a kid and through choice was never medicated but saw a therapist. I dropped out of college and have since drifted from job to job (all of which required degrees) in various fields. I am adequate in a number of hobbies and sports and am a lapsed pilot. You get the picture.

I have great ideas every day which I give away freely (I didn't before) because I know I'll never do them myself. My friends often berate me for this but love to hear my ramblings when they're in an area they understand or are interested in.

I've encountered many people with various mental peculiarities and I count myself among the lucky ones, but I would welcome a drug more effective and less harmful than alcohol (it's a normal week day at 02:30 and I've had 1/3L of vodka). I used weed in my teens and that was really mind numbing (I first wrote 'a real mind number'). I've never felt smarter than when I stopped. It is a demotivator, the opposite of your hypothetical drug.

@delius1967: I'm currently driving an uninsured, unregistered car, so I know what you mean.
Sep 22, 2012
Though only speculation but by experienced observation I would bet a hefty sum the current billionaire role model Zuk was fueled by adderall in his fb en devours. How is that for motivation? ;)
Sep 22, 2012
It's called Nuvigil... nearly $600 - 30 count... If you can afford it or have great insurance just go to your doc and say I have "Work Shift Disorder". All the rage in intellectual professions... and of course there is amphetamine based Adderall, but accompanied by the jittery / psychological downsides. Brain doping for optimal performance and stamina is a big thing right now for the intellectuals, you don't hear too much of it because they are "intellectuals" and properly dose for optimal performance, not to binge and get high for getting highs sake.
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Sep 22, 2012

Beautiful post. I'd even go further. These people who never let up bragging about their work ethics know full well that making phonecalls isn't work compared with the jobs of most people. They know that it's not even a trade and doesn't require the slightest technical skills. This prevents them from feeling like "real men", so they have an inferiority complex and a pathological need to lash out and style other people as lazy.
Sep 22, 2012
So in a nut shale, your proposing putting a large population of unmotivated people on amphetamines to motivate them....

Not such a good idea.... If you think about it.

Considering Aderall is only a single methyl group, a carbon, and 2 hydrogen atoms away from methamphetamine's chemical structure.

Amphetamines in general can be highly addictive and very dangerous if abused, Causing amphetamine psychosis.

I suspect the kid who shot up the movie theater out here in colorado was doing, and abusing prescription amphetamines. Trying to keep up with his demanding PHD coarse work.

You would be amazed how many students I have met the past few years who are open with their usage of unprescribed aderral medication as a study aid.

You would also be amazed how many of the unprescribed, and prescribed abusers become psychological messed up by those same drugs.

But now as a afterthought, thinking about the history of amphetamines. Maybe there already is a years old psycho stimulant government program being implemented...

Hence why the huge technological advances the pat 100 years.
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Sep 21, 2012
Scott has ignored the motivation to achieve an altered state of consciousness. Which is highly relevant as the folks he assumes are unmotivated often possess a very high drive to achieve altered states and have proven very inventive in order to get that done. ADHD drugs, ground up and/or taken at higher doses do that very nicely. Scott would be quite popular distributing such study materials in da hood. It might even turn to riches - though that might mean holding Scott up to acquire a local monopoly on the good powder. Was that the pharmacological success Scott was after?
Sep 21, 2012
I'm from the UK but having worked with Americans over the years, I have found that many have strong motivational impulses. I also noticed that those same people could let go of the past very easily and concentrate on the Now and the future with relative ease. Scott has commented before how he can't even read the same book twice so I assume he is one of the strongly motivated people whereas here in the UK we do tend to look back a lot into our history and 'we've always done it that way'. What I am saying is that motivation is often a cultural thing as well as a moist robot thing.
Sep 21, 2012
Many comments have pointed out that success may not be a matter of motivation. Perhaps a better target outcome for your drug would be to give people the ability to defer gratification.

There was a famous study (I think at Stanford), where they put 2-year-olds alone in a room with a single marshmallow on the table. They told the kids that if they waited five minutes and did not eat the marshmallow, they could have two. They tracked these kids through adulthood and found an extremely strong correlation between success and the ability to wait for the second marshmallow.

So, you would be providing the ability to defer gratification via a one-time pill, which would appeal to those who favor instant gratification.
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Sep 21, 2012
My motivation pill gets deposited in my account every two weeks.
Sep 21, 2012
Why is it assumed that poor people are poor for very simple reasons. One sited often, is being motivated. Sure, some people are lazy. Plenty people are unmotivated. A lot of these people are also rich. I don’t think poverty is always a function of motivation. I highly doubt a man working on a trash truck so his children can eat or go to college is less motivated than a rich kid, college student with all expenses paid by his or her parents. Sure, maybe the college student will earn more money, but that money is not in direct proportion to their motivation. There is always a myriad of factors that go into these things. I’m not saying these are unknowable, just that people tend to have surface level thinking in order to feel just a little superior.

Perhaps it’s the myth of the self-made man/ ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ idea so prevalent in this country. America is great for this if other factors such as education/skill, motivation & opportunity, are also present, but we are deluding ourselves to think that everyone has an equal shot at the same success. We don’t all start at the same starting line, nor do we all have the same obstacles laid before us. One thing missing from the motivation argument is that opportunity is not equitably distributed (sometimes by design). Not that it should or can be. This is why aspiring actors move to California in the first place, to be close to the where opportunities are. No amount of motivation in a vacuum will affect change when there is no opportunity of which to take advantage. Recent college graduates are faced with this very problem.

Also, everyone calling poor people lazy and yelling about how you have such strong work ethics, where were you and the likes between 1619 & 1865, when this country was being built?
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