As the crisp Californian air draughts through your dorm room window, you awake to another day at Stanford. Still on your bed, you stretch over for a small, blue barrel. “KLOTHO,” the label pronounces itself as you pull out a long ivory tablet from the cylinder and quickly gulp it down with a swig of water. You’ve observed this ritual every morning since that fateful day in High School, when you resolved to part with your 2.2-GPA self. But the voice of conscience persists in a corner of your head: am I a true Stanfordian, or a case of Klotho fraud?

The above scenario is fictional, but the controversy surrounding Klotho, a “brain-turbocharging hormone,” is very real. However, the ethical implications seem very much complicated. Is Klotho a legitimate means to boost cognition, or just a sophisticated way of cheating?

Primarily, the development of this pill seems to perpetuate a society in favor of “results that do the talking.” A work encompasses the life of the originator; every brushstroke of a painter epitomizes the strenuous effort and time the painter dedicated to producing the artwork, and only then the casual museumgoer is bewildered to encounter the artistry. Michelangelo so devoted himself to The Creation of Adam that his foot was even half-rotten; Edison famously celebrated his landslide after “finding 10,000 ways that do not work”; Einstein commented on the nature of a genius that “99 percent consists of hard work.”

Would we still bestow the same adulation at these masterminds if their works were the result of these chemical powers? Rather, wouldn’t we render ourselves into shrewd, yet soulless creatures? The answer seems conspicuous: in essence, we would be producing better brainchildren, but sublime effort and commitment, values that make our achievements sacrosanct, will be absent. This neglect bolsters the creation of a result-oriented social paradigm, where endeavors are denied while productivity is deified. 

As it happens, that effort is one of the last bastions of equality in an increasingly unequal world. Apparently, widespread acceptance of Klotho would wear down an already-fragile socioeconomic ladder, since only those who can afford Klotho would be able to bypass the otherwise necessary effort. 

But those who can rely on chemical enhancement would not be concern-free either. With Klotho, achievements that previously seemed demanding will come without particular effort, inflating their competence until the pills are out of reach. In their desire to maintain a lie, they will come to seek the drug at all costs, thus developing an addiction that might last a lifetime.  According to The Nature, Modafinil, another drug that has shown to improve cognitive function, entailed “high possibilities of abuse and addiction.”

Widespread Klotho use would reverse the world into not a place where the great minds come together to compete with their intellectual capabilities, but where tycoons wrestle on the efficiency of their tablets. The only benefit seems to be Klotho’s promising potential as a treatment for Alzheimer’s. 

Seonghyun (Sean) Yoon
Seonghyun (Sean) Yoon

Member of NLCS jeju
Member of Lucidity

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