I just asked this question with regards to using cognitive enhancing drugs to assist with your coding job.

It wasn't as good of a question as I thought it would be, considering I left out specific details to not bring attention to a possible ethical issue.

However, should I reveal the source and name of medication in order to make this a better question?


GlenH7 has attempted an Atwood Transform on the question in order to make it more on-topic to programmers.

  • Why don't you want to disclose it? Or can you not say for the same reason? Also, the question seems more like a Workplace issue to me - it isn't clear why it's programmer specific.
    – psr
    Aug 10, 2012 at 20:41
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    @psr I don't think revealing the actual medication would improve the question, it's not essential information (but it would be if you'd want to post on Skeptics ;), and it might make the question a bit more localized.
    – yannis
    Aug 10, 2012 at 20:42
  • @YannisRizos - More local, true. But currently it appears to not be especially specific to programmers, so it probably needs to be more local in that sense. Plus I'm hoping to see it in a comment or something so I can ask on skeptics. I'm pretty skeptical anything actually works, especially long term.
    – psr
    Aug 10, 2012 at 20:55
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    @psr I've already dropped the question in the Workplace's main chat room, asking the crowd there to verify whether it's suitable for them or not, but I do hope we find some way of keeping it here, it's a very interesting question. I'm out of ideas on how we could, though.
    – yannis
    Aug 10, 2012 at 20:56
  • @YannisRizos - If the drug has some properties that are reasonably programmer specific I wouldn't vote to close. But somebody probably well, either because it's not specific enough or because that one drug is too localized (even though questions about a bug for a compiler 11 people use aren't too localized on SO).
    – psr
    Aug 10, 2012 at 21:00
  • hulu.com/watch/381521
    – Tyler
    Aug 10, 2012 at 21:01
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    @YannisRizos If it's a question about legal or ethical implications of doing such things in the workplace, I woudl see it fitting just fine at Workplace. It's not a programmer-specific question. Details that would help woudl include if the job has any existing statements in the handbook abt substances at all, and what kind of cognitive enhancements.
    – jcmeloni
    Aug 10, 2012 at 21:01
  • @psr i'll be waiting for your question on skeptics ;)
    – Tyler
    Aug 10, 2012 at 21:02
  • @psr I didn't mean too localized in the sense that I'd close it as such, but in the sense that the general question is far more interesting (to me) than the one specific to the drug.
    – yannis
    Aug 10, 2012 at 21:03
  • @Styler - No go on skeptics. I can't follow the hulu link from here.
    – psr
    Aug 10, 2012 at 21:05
  • Why not? If it says it cant load the advertisement.. just wait 30 seconds and the clip will play
    – Tyler
    Aug 10, 2012 at 21:10
  • I don't think I'm going to ask on Skeptics. The Wikipedia article has a lot of information and I doubt they have any substantial addition. It looks like there is some supporting experimental evidence, but not enough for FDA approval for even more compelling reasons to take it, given it's possible adverse effects.
    – psr
    Aug 10, 2012 at 23:33
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    FWIW, I have edited the original question in an attempt to bring it more into the realm of on-topic.
    – user53019
    Aug 11, 2012 at 2:09

4 Answers 4


Asking about cognitive enchancing drugs is barely related to programming or software, if at all. Tacking "... for coding" at the end doesn't really make this question on-topic or constructive.

In my opinion, of course.

  • 2
    I agree this doesn't really feel on topic, however the community chose to close the question as "not constructive", indicating that the major problem of the question is not topicality. Any thoughts on how we could remove its not constructive elements (and perhaps ship the question to a more appropriate site?)
    – yannis
    Aug 10, 2012 at 21:58

So there are two questions:

  1. Is it ethical to use a drug to enhance programmer productivity
  2. is it ethical to use this.drug to enhance productivity

Specifying this runs the risk of making things too localized, but it's also necessary information to properly evaluate the question.

You could take the ultra strict stance of "No, it's never ethical to use a drug to enhance your productivity." But depending upon what drug you're talking about, like caffeine, you may have just indicted the entire programming community.

Likewise, you could take the opposite stance of "Yes, always okay because it made you better" (whatever better may be). But that opens the door for many harmful substances that most would strongly disagree with.

Part of an ethical question is understanding the ramifications of a decision. And those ramifications span from the immediate to the long term as well as from the personal to others around the programmer.

By knowing the drug, we can weigh in on if the side-effects are sufficiently beneficial or not to merit use. If a hypothetical drug would allow me to program like nothing else but leave me in an impaired start to where I may harm others, then I think the answer would be no.

An additional factor is by knowing the drug, we can know the potential legal ramifications of use. Some might argue that cocaine makes them an amazing coder, but most jurisdictions and employment manuals have prohibitions against that. Even with a legal drug, it's necessary to weigh the likely employment guidelines that would be in place.

One final thing about disclosing more details of the drug and purported properties is that the disclosure acts as an anti-BS filter. It's not some abstract, hypothetical, it's a concrete question.

The first question alone is too broad to be answered in a single question; there's just too many variables. The second becomes more interesting.

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    And I'll vote to reopen based upon your edits to the Q.
    – user53019
    Aug 10, 2012 at 21:14

This is a very good question that can be answered by programmers.

Unfortunately, it solicits polling, extended discussion, and debate, so it's not a good question for Programmers.SE.

I 100% agree with two points that @Yannis Rizos made in the comments section beneath the actual question:

  1. Just because it's closed doesn't make it an inherently bad question. It's just that it's not a good question for this site.
  2. This might be a good fit for Workplace.SE. The moderators over there have a much different understanding of what's constructive for that site. You might have better luck over there.
  • I agree it's not a good fit for Programmers.SE. Don't know about Workplace.SE, because I'm not familiar with that site. Let them deal with the problem.
    – Andres F.
    Aug 11, 2012 at 15:57

I think the only way to ask this question constructively would be to ask if there has been any professional that has published on the ethics of cognitive performance enhancing drugs in the workplace. This question is asking for an opinion on a very subjective topic.

This question could be asked on Philosophy by asking what would a specific philosopher (Kant, Nietzsche, etc) have said about the subject.

On The Workplace you could ask questions about policies that allow/disallow this. You could also ask about how to present this to Management/HR when requesting a policy change.

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