I Am So Not Limitless

on May 10, 2011 in Misc

I saw the movie Limitless this last weekend.  There’s a scene in it that just about every writer can identify with.

It’s the one where Bradley Cooper’s character is trying to write his novel and can’t even get the first sentence down.  He stares at a blank computer screen forever.  He looks and feels like hell.  He has a contract with a publisher that he can’t fulfill.  Then along comes a Magic Pill that makes him use 100% of his brain and he writes the whole book in just over four days.  The publisher swoons in ecstasy over the manuscript.

Talk about the ultimate writer’s fantasy.

Then again, an unpublished novelist getting a book contract without a track record or even a manuscript is the ultimate fantasy element in this movie.

Anyway my point is that if it weren’t for the nasty side effects of the Magic Pill, it would be so tempting to have a supply of them and that way be like Bradley and get stinking rich and learn languages nigh instantly and write whatever you want perfectly and freaking fast.

Of course I’m talking action hero fantasy here.  But I couldn’t resist tracking down a few rumors about brain-enhancement science research.  Here’s an interesting factoid I found:

There’s a field of research dealing with something called a transcranial magnetic stimulator.

Basically the researcher applies a bunch of electrodes to a subject’s forehead, which attaches him/her to the stimulator.  Electromagnetic pulses are then directed into the person’s frontal lobes to “enhance” them.  Doesn’t hurt in the least.  But after about 10 minutes you can ask the person to draw something like a cat and, while the electrodes are still pulsing away, the odds are pretty good the individual will draw a far better picture than he/she ever has before.

This same researcher used TMS on a group of university students, 40 percent of whom exhibited new and “extraordinary” mental skills including performing mathematical functions.  Take the students off the machine and they go back to being normal.

And that’s the interesting angle of Limitless – the scenario of a poor, unemployed schmuck writer morphing within minutes into a genius.  Of course the drug’s brain enhancement ability is temporary, and like I said the side effects are hell.  But in real life maybe something like TMS will turn out to be safe and the effects permanent.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep plugging away at my usual sub-genius level.  And writing my books over a LONG period of time.

4 Responses to “I Am So Not Limitless”

  1. Robert L. Read says:

    But Helena, allow me to point out that what you set up in the Becoming Layla project partially accomplishes this, though hard work.

    I recently began reading Georges Hebert’s Practical Guide to Physical Education. Hebert is the grandfather of parkour, and the inspiration of David Belle’s father, in addition to being the inventor of the obstacle course for military training. His seminal work has never been translated to English. I can read it in the original French (badly) because I have studied Spanish, Latin, and Esperanto. As you pointed out, Professor Evan Hale did the same thing but more so—he developed an ability to learn languages almost instantly.

    I think parkour represents the same thing in a physical sense. Lockpicking may be the same way.

    I’m all in favor of TMS or whatever we can do, but let us not forget that we already have the keys to extraordinary human ability—it just takes years to make the key fully turn.

  2. Helena says:

    Robert — Of course you’re right, but when I see movies/fantasies like Limitless, I still have my usual wishful moments of “what if?” Then again what’s funny is that after writing and editing (and re-editing about fifty times) The Compass Master, I feel that going back in the next few months to studying languages will seem easy. Hell, practicing French verbs will be playtime. As a writer, you must know just what I mean.

  3. Ciara Knight says:

    Hi Helena! I think it’s been awhile. I’ve been in a mad dash to get out a manuscript. :) How’s things going?

    I learned a long time ago that things like this come with a price. A price that is usually to hi for what I’d want to pay.

  4. Helena says:

    Ciara — How great it is that if you have to be busy, it’s with a manuscript-to-be-published. Congrats! And Limitless definitely showed a high price to pay for being limitless.