With a Pill Called Modafinil, You Can Go 40 Hours Without Sleep -- and See Into the Future
[...] In trials on healthy people like Army helicopter pilots, modafinil has allowed humans to stay up safely for almost two days while remaining practically as focused, alert, and capable of dealing with complex problems as the well-rested. Then, after a good eight hours' sleep, they can get up and do it again -- for another 40 hours, before finally catching up on their sleep.
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Originally aimed at narcoleptics, who fall asleep frequently and uncontrollably, modafinil works without the jitter, buzz, euphoria, crash, addictive characteristics or potential for paranoid delusion of stimulants like amphetamines or cocaine or even caffeine, researchers say. As with an increasing number of the so-called superhuman, posthuman or trans-human drugs or genetic manipulations rapidly entering our lives, modafinil thus calls into question some fundamental underpinnings of hundreds of thousands of years of thought regarding what are normal human capabilities.
The implications for Washington are profound.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is searching for ways to create the "metabolically dominant soldier." Among the projects it is pursuing is the creation of a warrior who can fight 24 hours a day, seven days straight. "Eliminating the need for sleep while maintaining the high level of both cognitive and physical performance of the individual will create a fundamental change in war-fighting," says the Defense Sciences Office on its Web site. As usual, DARPA did not comment directly for this report.
[...] Caffeine -- the globe's most widely used drug -- today is a bigger food additive in dollar terms than salt. The U.S. soft drink industry alone sold 10 billion 192-ounce cases of bubbly last year, most of it caffeinated.
Humans have been manipulating their sleep chemistry for a long time. Caffeine is as old as coffee in Arabia, tea in China and chocolate in the New World.
[...] The effects of medicated sleeplessness on a vast healthy population is still unknown. "Before you start taking it for the rest of your life, find out what it does to your heart valves or some damn thing," Dement says. "A lot of people know the story of fen-phen or thalidomide. If you take it all the time, and try to stay awake all the time, there's a big chance that there may be some hitherto unknown toxic effect."
Nonetheless, modafinil (pronounced mo-DAF-i-nil) is distinguished by its apparently precise neurological focus. Nobody knows exactly how modafinil works, but researchers marvel at the way it seems to target very specific regions of the brain believed to regulate normal wakefulness. It's that narrow effect that is lacking in other stimulants, resulting in their notorious side effects.
[...] Says Stanford's Dement: "The real problem is the accumulated sleep debt, not daily need. It's established fact that lost sleep accumulates. You quickly become too tired to be functional." Even with a substance like modafinil that can keep you wakeful, if you don't ultimately catch up on the sleep you missed, bad things will happen, sleep researchers have always believed.
[...] "The next generation of wake-performing therapeutics will be more effective. You'll be able to stay awake for X amount of time and not add sleep debt. Ideally, it means being able to be up all day, all night, and all the next day and not have incremental increase in sleepiness or in sleep debt. It would be medication that gives you an interest-free loan."
"It could change the world. A complete paradigm shift. I'm not trying to plug my company. But we are in the forefront. We could see this being a reality, starting to become available, in about five years."
[...] "The final twist is that caffeine is a food additive," says Edgar. Replacing caffeine with modafinil -- "that would be the revolutionary next step. Just as one replaces sugar with NutraSweet. Everybody drinks soda pop with caffeine from the age of 5 up. Yeah. You're changing the world. Yeah. I'm telling you as a sleep scientist the kinds of things we see on the horizon. It's exciting. Changing lives. Saving lives. That's for certain.
[...] "The more far-out question is: What if we eventually had something that was absolutely safe that could substitute for sleep?" asks Dinges. "Is that the direction we want to go? Many would say yes. I don't know what the implications are for our species. Probably not bad. This is pure speculation. Should humans try to live without sleep? I don't know. We're already trying to do that."
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First, the things about it that I thought were ok:
The notion of a heavily-observed society, where everyone is monitored every time they go out in public (and sometimes private) was interesting, and there were some cool (and creepy) ideas attached to that, like personalized billboards and the talking cereal box.
I liked the character of the doctor in the greenhouse. She was the only interesting character, for all of the two minutes she was in the movie.
The cars were kind of neat.
What I hated:
How many times did they have to wave in our face that the cars were LEXUS?
The chase scene happening to end in the LEXUS factory was really stupid. How easy do you think it would be to wander in to an operating factory, in the downtown of a major city? It seems to happen all the time in Hollywood!
They have retina scanners everywhere, but the unprotected conveyor belt doesn't have any motion sensors to shut down when there's something in the way that shouldn't be?
Wait, did I say "chase sequence on a conveyor belt"? Yes, I did. Wasn't I told that this was a serious exploration of privacy and determinism, and suddenly we're in a Tom and Jerry cartoon?
They assemble the car around him (I am so sure), and then just drop the car off at the exit of the factory, ready to drive away? Rather than automatically stacking the cars into a shipping container? Did they assemble every car around its own driver, because they all seem to have driven away by the time he exits the amusement park ride, excuse me, the factory. Please keep your hands inside the LEXUS until it is fully assembled, exit to your right.
Plucked eyeballs bounce. Not only do they bounce, they round corners and roll really well, despite the sticky goo and inch long piece of optic nerve sticking out the back. Sorry, did I say Tom and Jerry earlier? I meant Itchy and Scratchy.
That scene would have seemed hackneyed and forced even in a crap-fest like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. (I loved the other Indy movies, but that one sucked and you know it.)
The rotting sandwich gag was just stupid, insulting, unbelievable, and completely out of place. Does having your eyes removed also remove your sense of smell, and sense of touch from your fingers?
It's as if you were watching North by Northwest and suddenly there was a guest appearance by the Three Stooges. You know, just to "lighten things up."
What was with the wooden balls, besides being a clumsy "lottery" gag?
Let me get this straight: they've got a society that retina scans you every time you enter a public building, even a store. Their network is to tightly centralized that the cops have the ability, on a moment's notice, to have these millions of cameras report back when they see a particular suspect. AND YET, they can't tell the system to, I don't know, stop opening doors for this person? Let him into an elevator but don't let him out?
Nobody, not even homicide cops, are lowjacked?
Even with all this central control, it never occurred to them, in all the years this system has existed, that it might be a good idea to cancel the security clearance of someone wanted for murder, instead of letting him walk into what appears to be the most tightly controlled room in the whole city? Dude: change the fucking locks.
And even though they have retina scanning down cold, we're to believe that it's still possible to sanitize a gun by giving it a quick wipe with a hanky. Because, you know, they wouldn't have any kind of DNA-profiling ability that could sniff out stray flecks of skin. That would be like science fiction or something.
We are then told that, off-camera, the killer managed to move the body and make it appear that the murder had taken place elsewhere. This would of course be easy, because, as the second murder that took place in the city in nine years, they're just not going to be paying very close attention to the crime scene. Surely they won't bother to notice notice any trivial details like, say, the puddle of blood being missing.
(In case you missed that idiotic moment in the movie -- they glossed over it really quickly -- just after Max von Sydow shoots the Fed in Sydow's office, someone exposits that Cruise just killed the Fed in his home.)
Cruise's ex-wife left him, and (we are told) moved out of their apartment in the city to a house in the country to get away from the memory of their dead son. And yet, she decorates a whole room in that house with her dead son's things, even to the extent of having a rusty tricycle sitting on the lawn outside.
And, as the capping insult, we are expected to believe that after these apparently-mostly-autistic psychics, who have spent at least the last (what did they say?) nine years of their lives, and very likely their entire lives before that, living on their backs in a vat of milk watching people die, really all they needed to live happily ever after was to sip herbal tea in a cottage in the woods? Oh, was it herbal tea? Or was it a commercial for General Foods International Coffees?
Everything that was good about Minority Report -- which was the approximately ten minutes of the movie they (obliquely) devoted to the details about how invasive the government was -- was handled better in Gattaca.
Everything else about Minority Report was complete crap, and Spielberg is a pandering, ham-handed clod.