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modern founding father, popped up
somewhere on the site.
The power of the Net is not lost on
dictators or military juntas. The Inter-
net is an extraordinary way to snoop on
conversations and to look at documents
sitting on hard drives in virtually every
connected state in the world---as the
recent exposure of a vast online spy net-
work, centered in China, made plain.
It is not altogether clear, from the data
we have, whether the Internet is a boon
to the spread of democracy or its bane.
The answer depends greatly on whether
you are asking the question from an
advanced democracy, from a state in
transition, or from a country firmly
under authoritarian control.
From the perch of a stable, prosperous
state, the Internet is mostly a construc-
tive force. True, we have hard problems
to tackle, like how much surveillance
we are willing to live with in the name of
law enforcement and national security.
And we ought to focus on ensuring that
our kids, growing up in a digital era, are
encouraged to use the Internet in safe,
creative ways. But by and large, the Inter-
net provides opportunities to improve
our democracies and our economies.
In less democratic societies, sophis-
ticated use of the Internet is limited to
the few and the elite. Too often, using
these tools puts activists at risk of greater
control by the state, through surveillance,
censorship, and imprisonment. Politi-
cal leaders in dozens of states around the
world are using digital tools to extend
the reach of their power through propa-
ganda, fear, and self-censorship. Resis-
tance is limited to an impassioned, but
widely dispersed, community of Internet
activists. Bottom-up resistance plainly
works at the margins: the tech-savvy
can elude most censorship and surveil-
lance most of the time (see "Dissent Made
Safer," p. 60). But so too can the smartest
of tyrants keep the bulk of their citizens
under greater, not lesser, control.
Digital technologies do not have a
nature. They are what we make them.
For those who care about human rights
and the spread of democracy, alarm bells
should be going o right now. The Inter-
net may not be the universally positive
influence we've been hoping for.
JOHN PALFREY IS THE HENRY N. ESS III PROFES
SOR OF LAW AT HARVARD LAW SCHOOL AND A
FACULTY CODIRECTOR OF THE BERKMAN CENTER
FOR INTERNET AND SOCIETY.
MEMORY BOOSTING DRUGS
SHOULD NOT BE MADE
AVAILABLE TO THE GENERAL
PUBLIC, SAYS MICHAEL K.
In an e ort to provide Alzheimer's and
schizophrenia patients with better, safer
medicines, biotech and big pharma have
embarked on drug discovery programs
targeting multiple cognitive mechanisms.
Several of the resulting medications have
progressed to late-stage clinical develop-
ment. For patients su ering from these
diseases, the new drugs have the poten-
tial to improve cognitive function over a
longer term than available treatments,
which fade in e ectiveness over time.
Given the leaky and lucrative electronic
trade in prescription drugs, it's likely
that these medicines will be available to
healthy people who hope to benefit from
them as well.
Who might use them? Students will be
tempted, as might players of any game
involving counting or remembering
(chess, bridge, and even poker and black-
jack). Certain professionals might desire
a boost in attention or memory: think of
interns and residents, or airline pilots.
Even the U.S. Department of Defense
might be interested in improving the
alertness of troops during battle.
But these potentially powerful medi-
cines should not be made available to
everyone, for two reasons. The first is
safety. The last several years have pro-
vided many examples of side e ects, some
life-threatening, that emerged only after
many thousands of patients had taken a
drug (notably the painkiller Vioxx). The
risks of harm far outweigh the benefits of
modestly augmenting cognitive function
in otherwise healthy people.
The second reason is that we still
know relatively little about learning and
memory and how they are integrated to
make judgments and decisions. Drugs
used to treat Parkinson's disease, which
target a signaling chemical in the brain,
have been linked in some cases to gam-
bling and compulsive shopping. Many of
those who might consider o -label use of
these drugs must use swift judgments to
make decisions that significantly a ect
the lives of others. While new medica-
tions might improve certain functions
(attention, recall) measured on cognitive
tests (see "Manipulating Memory," p. 54),
it's unclear what e ect this might have
on decision making. I am certain that I
would not want to be on a plane or in sur-
gery the first time a pilot or surgeon has
taken a cognitive enhancer.
Until we have a broad understanding
of the safety of these compounds and
deeper insight into how they might a ect
judgment and decision making, the FDA
and other regulatory agencies should
restrict the drugs to patients under medi-
MICHAEL K. AHLIJANIAN IS VICE PRESIDENT OF
RESEARCH AT ENVIVO PHARMACEUTICALS.
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