The Ethics of Krypton
What is it that makes Superman so interesting? Is it is seemingly god-like abilities, or his humanity? We find Ironman nearly as interesting and as with Batman he made himself more than he was. They were born like any of us and raised themselves to a higher station in life. If there were easier ways to get ahead in life, would it be ethical to use them?
The world of sports has been plagued for years by the use of various performance enhancing compounds. We've seen legends come and go as their secrets are revealed. In sports it seems rather clear that drug-enhanced performance contradicts the spirit of the game. It is unsporting.
Yet, there aren't nearly as many rules in the game of life. If you can find a shortcut to where you're going without throwing other people under the bus, without breaking the law...shouldn't you? I don't believe working harder than necessary is a virtue. Is there value in having the grit to approach challenging tasks? Definitely. But, is it virtuous to waste time doing something that could be done faster with the same level of quality and impact on your community, family, etc.? There seems to be a compelling case for the set of drugs commonly known as smart drugs or nootropics.
Is it safe? No one knows. For the sake of argument, let's assume it is.
So then, what are the arguments against it? Well, it might be addictive. Things like meth are known to be addicting. Adderall is just brandname meth. The notorious Modafinil (known as Provigil) acts on dopamine receptors--it would be silly not to at least question the potential for addiction. Provigil is designed to keep narcoleptics awake. Well, what do you imagine happens when you're already awake and in no danger of suddenly dozing off?
Apart from the chemical dangers, the lure of super-powered concentration is fairly obvious. In the same way that people fall into other addictions as a result of societal pressures and their own aspirations, smart drugs are tempting to a degree few things in life are. Who hasn't imagined having a super power? Who hasn't wished life was better?
Even if you were to use smart drugs and not suffer from addiction, the fallout of chronic consumption is completely undetermined--it just hasn't been studied in any meaningful trial.
So, for now, it might be better to hold off. Not because it's unfair or unethical, but because the symptoms are undetermined.