“Limitless” a possible scenario for neuro-enhancement

Fiction can help promoting the dialogue about neuro-enhancement and related technologies. The movie “Limitless” is an example of how the silver screen can drive thousands of people to take a stand on the question of neuro-enhancement.

Improving cognitive performance through the use of drugs or medical devices is a fascinating topic not only for researchers but also for novelists and movie directors.

In 2011 the movie “Limitless” was released in the United States. Starring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, this blockbuster is based on the novel “The Dark Fields” written in 2001 by Alan Glynn.

The sentence written on the release poster “Limitless – What if a pill could make you rich and powerful?” gives a taste of the movie story: Eddie Morra, an author suffering from a writer’s block, changes his life completely through the use of a pill that gives him “the access to the 100% of his brain”. His empowered performance gives him the opportunity to create himself a new successful life. But at the same time it draws the attention of the organized crime.

While struggling with the side effects of the pill, Eddie has to decide whether he wants to use the pill for the rest of his life or not.

The movie imagines a world where a real neuro-enhancement is possible and it raises some ethical issues: is it fair to use a pill to gain money and success? Would it be dangerous for you and the people surrounding you?

As stated by Hub Zwart, member of the NERRI Consortium, in his paper about “Limitless”, the movie is a good starting point for a debate about neuro-enhancement. The use of fiction can help creating a scenario for the future. Books and movies about cognitive and neuro-enhancement can be important to promote a dialogue about the issues raised by the use of drugs or devices able to improve cognitive performance.