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What's worth giving up? Should one sacrifice mental sharpness for a longer life? What's the exchange rate between I.Q. points and years? Between energy and stability? Is it worth taking drugs to get a bit of extra alertness? ("A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems!" Paul Erdös said ... but he also used amphetamines. Did his productive career justify the risks?) Nobody can study everything; is it better to sacrifice calculus or Shakespeare? Quantum mechanics or ancient history? Geology or figure drawing?

A couple of years ago, much to the amusement of my friends, I claimed that one of my New-Year's Resolutions was to drink more coffee --- a vow that was relatively easy to keep. Recently I quit for a month, got through the headaches of withdrawal, and found myself in a happy but somewhat less creative state (at least, it felt that way). Was the artificial boost from caffeine an unæsthetic trick, or a legitimate tune-up for the system? Are eyeglasses (or any other visual correction technology) to be scorned or embraced? How about antibiotics to fight infection, or insulin for a diabetic? Where are the lines to be drawn in modifying the body? The mind?

- Thursday, December 23, 1999 at 06:39:16 (EST) = Datetag19991223

TopicThinking - TopicLife

(correlates: TheNewTwenty, FastForwardFiftyYears, CelebrityImmunization, ...)

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