The Future of Being Human
The Moviegoer's Guide to the Future
Pharmaceutically-enhanced intelligence and the movie Limitless. The Moviegoer's Guide to the Future Episode 5

Pharmaceutically-enhanced intelligence and the movie Limitless. The Moviegoer's Guide to the Future Episode 5

“I don’t have delusions of grandeur, I have an actual recipe for grandeur.” — Eddie Morra

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Image: Midjourney

Chapter 5 of Films from the Future: The Technology and Morality of Sci-Fi movies, read by author Andrew Maynard

In this episode: The movie Limitless
A Pill for Everything | The Seduction of Self Enhancement | Nootropics | If You Could, Would You? | Our Obsession With Intelligence

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It’s funny looking back and remembering that this was one of the toughest chapters to write when I was working on Films from the Future. It wasn’t so much the topic as it was me struggling with colds and brain-fog — to the extent that my inability to think in a straight line actually found its way into the narrative!

As it turned out, it ended up being one of the chapters I’m most pleased with. Strange how seeming adversity can sometimes sharpen your writing skills — even in the absence of mind-altering pharmaceuticals.

The idea of being able to selectively enhance cognitive function through chemical means — the theme at the core of Limitless — still intrigues me; not because I’m enthusiastic about using such a technology myself, but because the social norms and expectations around chemicals-based augmentation seem so different to physical augmentation (a topic that we’ll revisit in later episodes).

What intrigues me even more though is how an obsession with improving “intelligence” often reflects our biases and preconceptions around what intelligence actually is.

This is important as we explore augmenting human intelligence, whether this is using pharmaceuticals, prosthetics, implants, or other means. But it’s just as important when it comes to artificial intelligence — a topic touched on toward the end of the podcast.

It still feels slightly weird to me recording these chapters and listening to myself. I’m constantly reminded that the voice in my head is infinitely more professional and polished than the one that ends up hitting the microphone. However, I live in hope that there are a few listeners that find this useful, regardless!


About Films from the Future: I started writing Films from the Future in 2017. The intent was to explore the deeply complex landscape around emerging technologies, the future, and socially responsible innovation, in a way that would be accessible to most readers, and at the same time provide nuanced and important insights that weren’t available anywhere else.

One of the challenges with most books about tech and the future is that they take a polarized stance — we’re either all going to die unless we do something different, or technology is going to save the world. These sell — people love reading about extremes. But they’re not that helpful when it comes to navigating a deeply complex tech innovation landscape where there few right and wrong answers, where it’s important to weave together insights from many different areas of expertise — including the arts and humanities, and where dialogue and discussion are far more important than preaching.

And so I set out to write about emerging and converging technologies in as inclusive and accessible a way as I knew how, with the aim of taking readers on a compelling journey into the future where their thoughts and ideas were just as important as mine.

The result was a book that uses movies as a way to open up conversations about what responsible innovation means in a world that’s changing faster than ever before, and where new technologies are transforming how we think about the future and what it holds.

Of course some of the technologies it covers have moved on since I started writing the book. But at the end of the day this is not a book about science fiction movies, or about specific technologies, but about how all of us can think differently about our roles in ensuring the future we’re building is better than the past we leave behind.

I hope you enjoy these recordings of me narrating it — this is a book that reflects my voice quite deeply in the writing, and so it only made sense for me to one day actually read it aloud!

For more information on the book, visit


The Future of Being Human
The Moviegoer's Guide to the Future
A compelling and often-surprising journey of discovery through the world of emerging technologies, and the challenges of getting them right. Based on the book Films from the Future: The Technology and Morality of Sci-Fi Movies, and read by the author Andrew Maynard For more on the book, visit