A report recently issued by the US Air Force Research Laboratory states that forcing enemies to perform without the benefit of sufficient sleep is a very effective weapon. To wield it properly, American forces must manage fatigue among their own soldiers. To this end, a new drug named modanifil is currently being tested—and deployed—that works differently from stimulants like caffeine and amphetamines. “Compared with amphetamines and caffeine, modafinil has shown less addictiveness, less cardiovascular stimulation, and less interference with scheduled sleep.”
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What’s the Big Idea?
Rather than enhance cognitive capacities beyond normal levels through the use of stimulants, modanifil counteracts the effects of sleep deprivation, returning soldiers’ cognitive abilities to levels consistent with a well-rested night. “The published experimental reports propose to ‘sustain,’ ‘maintain,’ or ‘restore’ what they call ‘baseline,’ or ‘pre-deprivation’ performance.” When today’s military technologists confront the problem of machine versus human performance, it is typically human performance that must be improved upon to meet the needs of machines.