Across the globe, university students, lawyers, doctors and entrepreneurs are taking drugs to sharpen their focus and help them work longer. In this cinematic one-off POV documentary, we follow Nik Badminton on a journey down the rabbit hole into the world of smart drugs and cognitive enhancement techniques as he tries to better his career, his productivity, and ultimately himself. Are there real drawbacks to relying on smart drugs? Nik is about to find out.
Badminton immerses himself into the real-life world depicted by Hollywood films like Lucy and Limitless, which explore the notion that smart drugs can unlock our boundless human potential in one easy pill.
Badminton is a futurist with a hectic schedule that takes him around the world, and his back-to-back speaking engagements, conferences, media appearances have left him strung out, sleepless, and unable to focus. On a business trip to San Francisco, he’s introduced to a world of successful entrepreneurs and bio-hackers trying to get an edge in an increasingly competitive society by bio-hacking with cognitive enhancement drugs and techniques. Badminton wants to up his game, so he tests their promises of a smarter and more productive life for himself.
Badminton starts experimenting with these pills, giving us an intimate look at what it feels like to be on smart drugs. He meets Eric Matzner, founder of Nootroo and self-described ‘Brain Bro’ who tries everything and anything to get ahead of the game, including up to 60 pills a day. Badminton also visits HVMN and meets Geoff Woo who believes bio-hacking is an approach to the human body that marries the engineering mind with the rampant competitiveness of technological capitalism; it’s no surprise that Silicon Valley is the epicentre of the bio-hacking movement.
Taking these drugs and supplements and has helped Badminton to do more work than ever before, and he has managed to give multiple keynote speaking engagements in a row, but he has overextended himself…again. He’s feeling burnt out and thinks back to his emergency room visit a few months before when his blood pressure rose to abnormally high levels. He checks his blood pressure and comes to the conclusion that he needs to slow down.
He can’t keep this up. But he can’t stop either.
Badminton jets off to Toronto, home to Vancouver, and back to San Fran where he explores non-pharmaceutical approaches to bio-hacking like transcranial direct current stimulation, and Badminton joins a group of Wim Hof followers who optimize themselves through meditation and breathing techniques. Molly Maloof, a San Francisco doctor and avid bio-hacker recommends a hyperbaric oxygen chamber—a treatment which enhances the body’s natural healing process by inhalation of 100% oxygen. She also sees the key to optimizing oneself is a solid foundation of nutrition, sleep and exercise, and prescribes Badminton with various supplements and gives him wellness tips for physical activity, rest, and travel. Finally, he sits down for a heart to heart consultation with a life coach who helps him evaluate his decisions, options, and solutions in the myriad of pills and treatments on the road to optimization.
Will the fast-paced, levelling up culture of Silicon Valley and other cities like New York, Vancouver, and Toronto drive us all to be highly efficient, robotic versions of ourselves with all the nuances and human vulnerabilities eradicated? Do we really want to live in a world like that? In a broader sense, SMART DRUGS investigates the hot zeitgeist bio-hacking movement and asks the audience: are we losing sight of what makes us human?