How can a society be anything other than 24×7?
There was a recent doco that I watched, looking at cognitive ability-enhancing drugs (Horizon; Pill Poppers. BBC). The initial part of the documentary focused on how drugs are ‘discovered’ and then looked more closely at some of the therapeutic uses of various drugs, specifically Ritalin.
(Incidentally, it is estimated that the average ‘healthy‘ person will consume more than 14 000 over the counter pills in their lifetime…)
The documentary touched on the benefits to the lives of those children and younger adults with behavioural and other cognitive issues, where correctly identified and treated.
Here’s where it gets absolutely fascinating!
The next part of the documentary looked at those professionals (specifically surgeons, but other professions as well) using medical supplements and pharmaceuticals to maintain concentration and alertness during complex procedures. Specifically ‘Ritalin’, a product traditionally used to treat behavioural and concentration disorders, but included other prescribable drugs too (incidentally, seeking to provide the sort of concentration and focus seen in aspects of the Autism spectrum and Aspergers’ Syndrome, though in less debilitating [sic] circumstances).
The ‘new’ uses of these drugs for people ostensibly without behavioural and concentration issues is bringing astounding results, including the reduction [sic] of some risks associated with surgeries requiring patients to be under anaesthesia for many hours, where the handoff to a ‘fresher, but different’ surgeon introduces a risk to the patient which could be higher than the risk of the primary surgeon soldiering on, or a less experienced surgeon to take over, to rest the primary surgeon
Don’t get me wrong – I am the first to want the best doing my neurosurgery (touchwood!) with the lowest amount of risk! However, what happens to these ‘cognitively enhanced’ professionals when they stop taking concentration and performance enhancing drugs?
What is the effect of a future organisation who is ‘cognitively enhanced’?
What are the ethics, and how does this apply in an organisation that isn’t surgery, but simply seeking a competitive edge? Does this mean that people with attention or cognitive underperformance can now be gainfully employed, or does this mean that healthy people are now expected and encouraged to be even further ahead of the curve, or worse, frowned upon if they aren’t!
Does this mean that only the wealthy (those that can afford) or executives can be cognitively enhanced, and therefore the divide between exec, management and operational front line becomes wider, leaving a bigger void in-between, and much harder to make the leap across? The Australian Public Service already has programs addressing the (widening) gaps between APS, Executive Level and Senior Executive Service, so it is reasonable to think that non-government organisations have the same issues, because the APSC is not renowned for its ability to move fast, or being on the leading edge of career progression and staff development.
How do we manage the change management plan for that? How do we support operational staff (have nots), management (want to haves) and the executives (haves) to work together (which they are less and less if you read recent treatises on ’employee engagement’) and to support career progression?
Does this phenomenon already exist, or does this make way for individuals to be identified to be ‘enhanced’ and become better strategists, better ‘somethings’ and the role of change management is to console those not ‘tapped on the shoulder’ or left behind or at least, divert the attention of those not fated for meteoric stardom?
Socially, are we expecting people to function at a very high rate for the whole 24 hours – not just at work? If we only do this professionally, what happens when we are returned to our ‘dull selves’ after work? Or perhaps even, on the way home from work (while driving)? What will this do to our relationships and our families?
Does this mean that the risks of the interim state are the responsibility of the individual or the organisation?
Or do we just stay ‘turned on’ in our 24×7 society and ‘expire’ sooner? Is this a cost we are prepared to bear?
Messy business, this…