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What Will Make Man Smarter?

- By Nicholas Kitonyi

The word "smart" has become a mainstay in every culture across the globe due to the increased use of smart devices. Yet the biggest challenge is making sure that man can keep up with the advances in technology. Are you afraid of AI?

This popular abbreviation for artificial intelligence has sparked several controversies and debates regarding whether there should be limitations. But is setting limitations admitting that human beings are not smart enough to keep up with their inventions? That's probably true, but most people will claim that by being organic in nature, there are some levels man never goes beyond.

In fact, there is a common myth that normal human beings only use 10% of their brains. However, scientists claim to have proven this to be false, and that human beings use 100% of the brain. So that's settled then; there is no room for human beings to become smarter. Or is there?

The need to become smarter is there, and this has sparked innovation in both the technology and biotech industries. Currently, there are several companies exploring the smart pill market. This is not about the Limitless movie pill, NZT 48, so don't get excited yet.

However, with drugs like Modafinil - marketed as Provogil - already showing that there are ways in which human beings can improve mental alertness, cognition and working memory, the smart drug industry could get crowded soon. To illustrate this, Teva Pharmaceutical (TEVA) has already entered the market with its generic version of Provogil.

As per this DuckDose.com profile, Modafinil is a racemic mixture, consisting of two isomers (S-Modafinil and R-Modafinil). The drug is primarily manufactured for the treatment of narcolepsy, which is a condition characterized by an extreme tendency to fall asleep whenever in relaxing surroundings. However, it is increasingly finding its way into the office with many employees and top CEOs now using it to boost their cognitive abilities.

This has in turn increased interest in the nootropics (smart drugs) market with more startup companies coming up with their own innovative ways to capitalize on demand. Smart Med is a San Francisco-based nootropics company and according to Dr. Vinh Ngo, its co-founder, the company receives patients from the likes of Facebook (FB), Alphabet Inc. (GOOG) (GOOGL), Uber and other tech startups.

Ngo's treatments include amino acids, nutritional IV drips, prescription drugs and testosterone therapy for men, which he says are intended to help clients become better versions of themselves. "Instead of preventing illness, we're actually optimizing health," Ngo was quoted in an interview last year.

Based on these developments, it is clear that the biotech industry is making progress in the nootropics market. But that's not the only avenue man is looking to explore in order to become smarter.

Some tech players have a more direct approach towards keeping up with AI, and according to Tesla (TSLA) and SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, the odds aren't as bad as they seem.

Musk's ultimate goal of colonizing planet Mars may be more popular among the masses, but there is a lot happening behind the scenes in his bid to save humanity. One of his latest moves was launching Neuralink, a startup that seeks to link the human brain with computers. Call it "brain hacking" if you may, but according to reports, Musk calls it the "neural lace" technology, which involves implanting tiny brain electrodes that may one day upload and download thoughts.

The ability to upload thoughts will make man smarter in several ways. First, schooling time will be shortened to the mere minutes if not seconds depending on upload speeds and nootropics would have no match for that.

However, the biggest challenge for merging brains with computers has been the implementation of theory into practical technology. In implementation, it is behind nootropics by several years, with prosthetics technology the closest thing there is to Musk's "neural lace."


In summary, the desire for man to become smarter is growing with every innovation. Nootropics seem to be the most realistic avenues but merging AI with the brain could be the ideal solution. It is an interesting scenario worth watching for the next several years as investors continue to weigh potential breakout industries for the future.

Disclosure: I have no position in stocks mentioned in this article.

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This article first appeared on GuruFocus.