I am well aware that this question is on the border between the Worldbuilding and the Sci-Fi site. I decided to post it here, because I am seeking for a general society/worldbuilding answer and "Vulcans" are used here to help you paint the picture:

Imagine a humanoid race which starts its "sapient" era in a constant ADHD frame of mind. They find a solution by creating a society which fights these symptoms via excessive meditation and emphasis on pure logic.

And this race does very well. They evolve into a space faring civilization, even mastering faster-than-light travel.

It appears logical (pun intended) to me that, somewhere during this evolution process, they have to discover some sort of cure which helps them to get to the same frame of mind that long meditation sessions and/or other mind exercises put them in.

Even if it means taking a pill every 8 hours (assuming a 24 hour cycle on their planet and average need to sleep of 8 hours), this pill is still more convenient and, moreover, more logical to take than just continuing the mind exercises.

So, why do they decide not to take the pill?

Again, please note that Star Trek Vulcans are used just for example only and a solution does not have to be the from Star Trek universe.

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    Because Christian Bale will come along, not take the pill and start cracking helmets. imdb.com/title/tt0238380 :-) Another Hollywood movie with basically the same idea is Demolition Man. The gist of those is always, that plain suppression of emotions will somehow/sometime backfire. – Boldewyn Sep 20 at 10:10
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    By the title I thought you were asking about contraceptives. :-) – Pablo H Sep 20 at 13:49
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    Don't answer in comments, please. – L.Dutch Sep 20 at 14:41
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    @Boldewyn: There's even a Star Trek example of what you describe: Romulans. – Ellesedil Sep 20 at 20:56
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    I think that's not what ADHD means. It is not the same as impulsivity and lack of self control. You might just have several thoughts in your mind and switch back and forth. And your mind produces new and new thoughts. That's one possible aspect of ADHD. – rus9384 Sep 22 at 23:31

20 Answers 20

Traditional and cultural values

It may seem odd for a deeply logical society to hang on on tradition, but they may deem it logical to preserve their history and rituals so not to lose it, and to learn from the past.

Another aspect may be that it is a passage from youth to adult to master the meditation ritual and controlling your own emotions through self-control and hard work.

They do not like to be dependent

Another point to consider: Imagine the next generation of your "Vulcans": Never learned how to meditate and control their emotions with that method, and are now dependent on the pill. And now throw a sudden scarcity of that pill in the equation. The result can vary as you like, from sudden depression, anger bursts, riots,... And to turn this up to eleven, imagine a war, where the enemy blows up the pill factory at the start to gain a tactical advantage.

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    I don't think the traditional values are that great of an argument in this scenario, the second part though is where it's at. That makes absolute sense. Vulcans don't stay on their home planet where these pills are produced. They are scattered across the alpha quadrant. So everywhere there would have to be sufficient supply. Also: Imagine being shipwrecked or on a planet/city in a siege or a prisoner of war. They can't get these pills. – ArtificialSoul Sep 20 at 7:44
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    Precedence: Jem'Hadar and Ketracel-white – Eric Sep 20 at 17:44
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    The film Equilibrium plays with the second part of your answer. – chrylis Sep 20 at 18:42
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    To the second point. We have an equivalent in school. You must learn to add and subtract. Once you learn and advance to more difficult concepts, it is acceptable to use a calculator to perform menial portions of calculations. But the basic concept is important. You have to learn to meditate before the pill makes that process automatic. In fact the better you are a meditating, the more efficient/effective the pill is. – Jammin4CO Sep 20 at 18:50
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    @TimothyAWiseman Well, if we look at the Vulcans of Star Trek, they were sometimes really illogical. – DarthDonut Sep 21 at 5:47

Meditation has other (positive) side effects

Meditation is good for you! The positive side effects of relaxation techniques are not marginal, as they are for humans, they are very significant. Something about the Vulcan evolutionary heritage predisposes them to short, passionate lives.

Meditation instead helps to change long term biochemistry. Chemical processes that cause the short attention spans, also cause shortened lives. Meditation not only ameliorates the short attention span, but it also extends the life (Sarek lived to 203).

Pills have been developed that helped Vulcans to keep their attention, but they did nothing for the life span. So you could take pills and die of old age at 80, or you could meditate and live to age 200, along with all your friends. Such a wide discrepancy in life expectancy would easily explain why no one is interested in pills.

The pill has negative side effects

On the other hand, the pill might be the one causing negative side effects. The complex biochemical manipulations required for the pill to take effect are hard to replicate with a single pill administered orally. There may be some side effects.

Taking a page out of current scares, some complex molecules can have far reaching biological effects. If, for example, the pill causes infertility, that would be a pretty good reason for the government to ban it.

  • @StephenG "Hippie", LOL. Both your and Kindle's arguments are valid, Given the scope of the question, I would use the word discipline instead of meditation and there are examples of discipline providing benefit to the order of society. – userLTK Sep 21 at 7:00

Real-life answer here: It turns out that actually eliminating emotion, as opposed to its expression, is counter productive.

People with brain damage affecting specific areas of the brain (such as myself) are unable to experience emotion, even though they retain all other faculties. My problem solving ability is in the 98th percentile as of my last testing, even though my emotional response is next to zero.

The side effects are reduced ability to encode new memories, inability to prioritize or make decisions, inability to stay focused on a task, inability to recognize or respond to normal social cues, and inability to recognize that they are irritated until they flip into the fight or flight survival mode (to an outside observer they go from passive to all out rage in under a second under certain types of stress).

While we like to think we make decisions rationally, there is a growing body of medical literature that appears to point out that we make decisions almost 100% based on emotion, and then apply conscious reasoning to our decisions after the fact.

As we see with Vulcans, over the evolution of the Star Trek universe, they went from being portrayed as emotionless to being highly emotional but also highly disciplined. The vulcan word translated as "Logic" in star trek vulcan/english should more properly have been translated as "discipline".

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    This was especially true with the half-human Spock. – The Great Duck Sep 22 at 2:10
  • I dunno - the brief view we had of Spock's middle school years showed that bullying was just as pervasive on Vulcan as on Earth, just with a different cultural bias. The bullies found his buttons, cornered him in group, and for the pleasure of domination they pushed until he popped. Pretty typical middle school events. – pojo-guy Sep 22 at 2:48
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    It wasn't a question and I was referring to the last paragraph about how they are emotional. This was very true of spock. – The Great Duck Sep 22 at 2:50
  • "inability to stay focused on a task" Hm, so, lack of emotion can cause some ADHD effects (perhaps, not enough to call it ADHD). "we make decisions almost 100% based on emotion" Makes as little sense as dividing actions to conscious and unconscious, while they are somewhere in-between, often biased towards any side but very rarely actually being on either side. Unless we consider emotion to be equal with intuition. – rus9384 Sep 23 at 2:56
  • Very much so. I have a video tech on my team with ADHD, and our symptoms are eerily similar. The biggest difference is that he was born with his symptoms, and I can pinpoint physical damage. – pojo-guy Sep 23 at 2:59

Just to add to Darthdonut's answer which is very good. Taking a pill instead of meditating would save perhaps an hour or two per day per "Vulcan"... but there may be other problems.

Production Chain

But then you need to produce enough raw materials which would take a lot of workers worldwide to produce, you then need to refine those materials into the drug, requiring more workers and resources, which then needs to be transported around the world, needing more resources and workers. and that's before you start putting people into space where producing the drug might be difficult and storing might take up a lot of space for long duration missions. (i'm intentionally leaving replicators out here!)

Going to all that effort to produce something that people can solve themselves by a little bit of meditating seems pretty ILLOGICAL to me

Resistance

Then consider that there is not a single 1 size fits all ADHD drug (or most drugs), some drugs work for the majority of people but there will always be those that either have diminishing returns on the drugs effectiveness of their lifetime of use, or they are resistant to the drug from the beginning, do you leave those people behind?

Save time for...

This very logical species... would be unlikely to produce much in the way of film or video games, as those practices are not a logical use of your time. but time not working is important for the health of the people, so what are they going to do with their time that has been saved by taking the pill?

Side Effects

To my knowledge, other that the potential for a number backside or maybe back ache from sitting incorrectly Meditation has not negative side effects, however drugs can have a number of side effects.

  • "Going to all that effort to produce something that people can solve themselves by a little bit of meditating seems pretty ILLOGICAL t" there is a reason we factory farm – Andrey Sep 20 at 21:03
  • @Andrey: Agreed scaling up helps, but there is a limit to a planets ability to sustain a population, this pill would take up valuable space and resources required for food farming. and it still needs a large amount of workers from start to finish to complete the supply chain – Blade Wraith Sep 21 at 6:07

Taking the pill means to admit mental weakness

The vulcan society values people based on their capability for logical thinking. The most logical people are the most respected ones. But if you can not attain a logical mindstate free of emotions by yourself, you are a fraud. You do not deserve to be on top of society.

The human equivalent would be an athlet who is using doping. When you needed to take drugs in order to win, you do not deserve that gold medal.

Now why would a logical society care about this at all? The logical way to judge efficiency is to look at the results, not at how they were accomplished. A possible reason could be eugenics. You only want people with superior genetics to procreate. So it is important that everyone is able to judge the logic of other people in a natural state and only mate with those people who are the most logical.

The pill only gives you a temporary boost, but meditation makes you smarter in the long run

The pill might help a Vulcan to concentrate better for a short amount of time, but it doesn't improve one's cognitive abilities in the long run.

Regular meditation and mind exercise, on the other hand, lead to a permanent improvement. A vulcan who meditates for a few hours every day will become more and more intelligent over time. Taking the pill, on the other hand, won't have that training effect. Even worse: Being under the influence of the pill might interfere with the ability to train one's mind through mental exercise. So when they take the pill, they fall behind in their mental training.

A further way to nerf the pill could be to assume the Vulcans build up a tolerance for the drug over time. When they use the pill a lot, then they will need larger and larger doeses for smaller and smaller effects. Eventually it won't have any positive effect at all.

That means some Vulcans might take the pill in an emergency when they need a temporary intelligence boost, but they will avoid taking it over prolonged periods of time.

Because the pill is a quick fix that doesn't really achieve the goal

A frame of mind isn't simply a chemical state (or, the kind of mindstate they wish to cultivate goes beyond simply calmness/lack of emotion, and involves among other things a high degree of self-knowledge, the assimilation of particular values and worldview, and facility with advanced psychological techniques). Therefore, it can't simply be induced by a blunt instrument such as medication. It requires education and a degree of life experience, as well as a long period of self-cultivation and practise, to become adept at cultivating this mindstate. Although particular neurochemical signatures/blood chemicals/brainwave patterns are an outward sign of having achieved the necessary self-mastery, they are not the same so they do not consider it enough to induce them by chemical means.

Additionally, part of the process of self-cultivation could involve habituation against "shortcuts" and "taking the easy route", so they could have judged that it is worth spending years practising meditative techniques for the attendant self-discipline, even if pills exist that would appear to give the same or similar results more quickly.

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    I would have mad an answer similar to this. I've taken pills for various issues, insomnia, ADHD, I even tried pills for depression, now it might sound like I'm a chemical mess, but this is over a 20 year period. Pills for insomnia were the worst. Pills, at least the one I took, or depression, didn't do anything. I gave those up after 30 days. ADHD pills actually worked the best for what their objective was, but pills have issues, addiction, partial effect, side effects and crashes. They're not nearly the "solution" that the original poster suggests they might be. Pills are limited. – userLTK Sep 21 at 7:03

It is dangerous with long-term use

While this pill may solve the problem perfectly in the short term, long term use is dangerous as it triggers conditions such as early onset dementia.

Turns out meditation really is better than medication.

  • Yes, many psychoactive medications have undesirable physical side-effects over the long term. – ChrisW Sep 21 at 11:52

The pill is used in extreme situations (eg. combat) and sometimes recreationally, so it's not completely "banned" but the immense fear of not being able to live without it would be enough. [this fear being reasonable bc the pill requires a costly imported resource]

Also consider that the pill maybe has side effects with long-term use (psychological problems etc.) AND constant pill-taking IS a heavy addiction which would be a heavy argument in a logical society.

Also give the meditation some other benefit. Maybe boosted creativity / free thinking, thins which only come when you actually sit down and meditate. Another point could be that their body only needs like 4 hours of sleep, and only the brain needs 8 to regenerate. Here meditation could count as "half sleep" meaning you could reduce your sleep cycle to 4 hours at night + meditation (during which you can still think about stuff or so).

Just some random points, any combination of which would make a reasonable cause. Pick the ones that fit your world/story

The "Vulcan" pills, which their parents and doctors think of as "calming down" their child, are actually a depressant. So yes, they are calmer, yes they can focus better on a task, but they are also less creative, having less fun, and more bored.

That "Attention Deficit" is actually a fast and curious mind switching gears to take in something new, a "breadth versus depth" approach to life: They see everything, extract the novelty of it quickly, get bored with the mundane details and their attention moves on to the next thing that offers some novelty.

That "Hyperactivity" goes with it, that is action, play, having fun, trying to eliminate boredom.

Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity only become a Disorder when it comes to gaining a DEEP understanding of subjects and FINISHING things. But unfettered, the intense focus on novelty seeking can actually be channeled into creative thinking and invention: The creation of novelty.

Of course novelty is best created by people that have put in the hours to deeply understand a topic (mathematics, physics, biology, medicine, investing, law, engineering, etc). So these two opposite mind states can be complementary: The pill lets you put in the work. Going off the pill lets you see work in a new light and be creative about it. Back on the pill, you can turn that creativity into something you finish.

Of course you can substitute meditation for medication, but it isn't as quick or as effective. On the other hand, if the pill (like some medications) builds up in your system and takes weeks to biologically eliminate, then people that need to be creative on a long term basis might forgo the pill altogether after their education is complete, and then rely solely on meditation, or form partnerships with others that ARE on the pill and can take the creative thinking and run with it. Kind of like the partnership of Steve Jobs (an idea man) and Steve Wozniak (an engineer and programmer) in Apple.

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    ADHD pills are not depressants. They are actually stimulants. Generally the active ingredient is an amphetamine salt. They work by giving you enough frontal lobe activity to be able to focus on a task. – tbrookside Sep 20 at 11:25
  • @tbrookside Okay. For the sake of fiction, we can say the Vulcan's pills are depressants. They are aliens, after all, and that is what they discovered takes the place of their meditation. – Amadeus Sep 20 at 11:28
  • Sounds like Amadeus may be a fellow ADDult. – WGroleau Sep 20 at 14:58
  • @WGroleau The opposite, obsessive compulsive. In a good way! At least, it has made me a nice living for 40 years ... – Amadeus Sep 20 at 15:01

It appears logical (pun intended) to me, that somewhere during this evolution process, they have to discover some sort of cure which helps them to get to the same frame of mind as with long meditation sessions and/or other mind exercises.

Your assumption is highly illogical.

On what grounds do you make the assumption that they "have to" discover a cure in the form of a pill? As a writer, did you write into their character weaknesses "Has undesirable behaviors which can be solved by pills?" Are we so certain of our modern ability to solve things by popping pills that we assume all problems have to be solvable that way?

Of course you're not taking it to such extremes. But I wanted to point out that the assumption that you can just "take a pill and be better in the morning" isn't necessarily well founded. Indeed, it can be a question. Questions tend to spawn far more interesting world-building material.

We actually don't know what happens at an electrochemical level during meditation. In fact, if we take a step back, we don't even have an agreement as to what meditation actually is! There are many behaviors people do, and they all get lumped into the word "meditation." It's surprisingly imprecise, for such a useful concept.

Their particular meditation simply may not be conducive to pill popping. 100% of medicines have side effects. And, in this case, I'm not rounding up a 99.999% to 100%. It is a 100%. It's almost a definition. Everything that touches the body has some side effects, medicine or not. Oxygen has side effects. Did you know that the oxygen in your lungs is actually corroding the insides of your aveoli as we speak? Fortunately, our body has been doing this for a long time, so it keeps up with repairing the damage. However, divers breathing Nitrox have to pay attention to this. Dive with extra oxygenated air too deep, and the partial pressure of oxygen rises until it corrodes your lungs permanently and oxygen toxicity ensues (yes, the phrase is "oxygen toxicity")

In our society, there are many drugs whose side effects are brutal. Then there are drugs where the side effects are downright benign. Some of them are so benign that we can't even identify their side effects.

In our world, we find the medications for things like ADHD are benign enough that we can proscribe them to people with the relative abandon that's associated with the phrase "just pop a pill." But what about the Vulcans? Their ADHD may be more complex to cure. Their ADHD might have more side effects.

Also note that logic has a tendency to amplify some side effects. If this is a highly logical species, any small tweak to the logical parts of their brain could have sweeping effects on their life.

Indeed we can see an excellent example in the movie A Beautiful Mind. (spoilers are minor, but still protected by a spoiler tag)

The medications given to Nash have a tremendous effect on his work. While others might have used the pills without an issue, they have a tremendous impact on him. In a very emotional scene, he convinces those around him that he needs to get off the pill and began a long arduous climb to find a way to overcome his disease without the pill.

On a related note, while you mention that the Vulcans were creatures who valued "pure logic," when you dig far enough into the concept of logic, you quickly find that there must be more to life than pure logic. If that little something in the Vulcan life is small and fragile, a pill might severely damage it.

After some consideration I have realized that you can't. Within the constraints you've given us, you can't make this all-the-way plausible without a lot of extra work. Bear with me here because I know that's an unpleasant result.

You are phrasing this as a fixable biological problem. But you also have this race slowly becoming space-faring in an organic, natural way. Way before a race becomes truly space-faring (as opposed to our level of flinging tin cans around our star), they must have had tons of time with which to conquer genetic engineering -- we're talking thousands of years of practice messing with their own biology. We would therefore expect that they are biologically the best versions of themselves. Like supposing the fixable biological problem is "they're like humans with a way, way overactive testosterone production" -- well, they will presumably have found ways to engineer their DNA to reduce "testosterone production," whatever that means analogously to their biology. If they can do it with a pill then they can do it with a set of proteins. If the pill had side-effects they would have developed a mechanism that doesn't.

Your options would therefore seem to be:

1. They are newcomers to technology

They didn't become space-faring in a slow organic process. Some spaceship crash-landed on their home planet and they were able to reverse-engineer the warp drives but they are still technologically very backwards. They haven't figured out the genetic engineering yet.

This one is hard to arrange because often you need some technical know-how in order to reverse-engineer technology. If you can imagine dropping a train into the middle of 1000 BC, could its discoverers really figure out what it does? Would their metalworking be good enough? The same applies if we're analyzing some alien's technology trying to use it to learn space flight.

But you might be able to make it work with a sort of "pirate race" that just conquers others' spacecraft, and those pirates might indeed be Vulcan-ish -- heck maybe that's why they don't respect property laws; maybe those laws seem "illogical" to them.

2. The problem is not biologically fixable.

It might be that the problem is not biological. Maybe it's cultural, having to do with how they're raised. This species might have a strange social structure where all the children have to raise themselves together in a group without adult interaction. In the process they do not develop any innate discipline. Medication is only reserved for those children who cannot learn to cope with adult life after they start to interact with other adults and learn how to focus.

Or maybe it is biological, but it can't be fixed that way -- maybe their brains are wired with something other than neurons, call them Branch Fibers. The idea is that Branch Fibers can only work in a scattered way, so to apply those biological "cures" would not improve their focus--it would just make them think slower and slower until they stop. The process of totally re-engineering a brain for better scientific progress might be a longstanding open problem.

There are a lot of options here but they amount to the idea that a pill couldn't solve the problem in the first place. And you said it could so let's cut these options short.

3. It's not a problem.

In this case, the situation is not viewed as a problem in the first place. Like yes, children are scattered and unfocused and yes they need to learn how to focus, but that's a good thing--why would you want to change that?

Some of this is kind of like the previous one. For example if you think about the strange sorts of social structures that have evolved -- honeybees, wolf packs, anthills, human society -- it's not out of the question that maybe the biological "problem" has nothing to do with some hormone that's out of balance, but it's just how the species is biologically wired to raise its youth.

But some of it is more fundamental. So I come from a physics background so let me explain with a physics analogy. We don't normally talk about our scientists this way or advertise them this way, but one way to imagine, say, the achievements of Albert Einstein is that he got radically pissed off, that genius is 1% inspiration, 49% perspiration, and 50% aggravation. To eliminate that "negative" aspect in reality might doom us to never making revolutionary scientific progress. And I'm not saying that Albert ever showed those emotions to others, it's not a part of the historical record as far as I know, but you might imagine that that this is what was alive in him.

Let me clarify. Everyone who comes to a cliff they can't climb takes the downhill road away. You have to. Most such people then see "ooh there's a river down there, that leads to a lake," and so forth -- they find something else. But you have to get really pissed off at that cliff to keep returning to it week after week trying new strategies to get the heck up it. For Einstein at least in four of his major contributions (special relativity, general relativity, the equations to figure out Avogadro's number, and the EPR experiment) there is a common theme where the laws of physics said "there are two or more totally different physical mechanisms at play here, and you can't figure out which one is responsible."

That sort of thing apparently bugged Einstein so much that he kept returning and returning to those things, making mathematical models even though he stunk at math, just trying to break those systems. In the first case he was like "ARRGH what if reality just DOESN'T KNOW who's moving?!" and in the second case he was like "ARRGH what if NOTHING IS EVER REALLY FALLING?!" and in the third case he was like "AHA I FOUND IT SUCKERS, if we take Boltzmann's mathematics really seriously then the atoms that are too small to see could STILL induce a JITTER in the particles that we CAN see" and in the fourth case he was like "AHA I FOUND IT SUCKERS, my previous relativity theory says things need to be LOCAL and the LOCAL hidden variables theory predicts something DIFFERENT."

Of course he didn't say any of it like that, but I like to imagine that's what went on in his head. :-)

Similarly you might imagine that this ADHD scatter-brainedness has some sort of real purpose to these Vulcans such that they would never dream that you would want to get rid of it.

  • Maybe it is absolutely necessary to compete in a set of games that they like to play recreationally.
  • Maybe it is part of how they experience creativity.
  • Maybe their language does not allow them to refer specifically to a thing in itself but is based on circumlocution, so they always have to ambiguously describe the thing they're talking about rather than just specifying it by name -- and maybe that requires a lot of free-association neurons to both speak and understand; fixing the biological problem would render you mute.
  • Maybe they have a periodic biological urge to seek some sort of isolation in the wilderness away from the rest of their society where they suddenly find clarity on their life purpose, and these mark the various stages of life -- a kid who never had his/her first Calling would never have grown up. "You want to freeze a person in an adolescent brain stage while their body ages? Are you out of your mind?!"

But for whatever reason nobody thinks it's a problem that their brains are naturally ADHD-inclined, they just think that focus is a simple learnable skill that needs to be taught to every third-grader.

My idea somewhat mirrors the ideas of others, as this is basically a "the pills have a side-effect" answer... However... taking the pills makes their core racial traits (logical thinking) weaker over time, as these traits are / were a direct result of said ADHD frame of mind and their natural ways to deal with this issue. These traits are valued in their society and are, after all, what got them their space ships and advanced FTL drives...

In other words - taking a pill once? Not a problem. But stuffing everyone full of those pills over a prolonged time (especially minors) yields very undesirable results, as individuals become increasingly emotional and irrational, and this just isn't logical.

If everyone has it is it really a detriment?

Humans, we have these things called gallbladder which are useful in some cases but can be removed with almost no ill effect. So why does not everyone remove it like with wisdom teeth. Easy, there is just no point to it. It is a common point that everyone has their Gallbladder.

The same goes for you Vulcans, they don't treat their ADHD like symptoms because it is common between all citizens. Their culture would take this supposed deficit and account for it because everyone has it.

Is ADHD even a detriment to humans?

It is thought that ADHD was a genetic trait that was beneficial to hunter gatherers about 10,000 years ago. It could also be thought that soldiers throughout history would find the hyper attention is useful in battle to understanding what is going on. That is why we still have this trait in humans.

So the vulcans, with a society built around it could keep it and try to focus this attention. I could imagine them being very good pilots, soldiers and anything else that needs fast reaction time. They may even hire or select based on the level of ADHD that they posses.

So no, you would not want medication for ADHD in your vulcan culture as it is a beneficial part of who they are.

The supression of emotions by artificial means defeats the purpose of supression in the first place. Vulcan's logic was a pacifistic idea to curb their war-like emotions. It's been implied in Star Trek that a pissed off Vulcan is worse than a really pissed off human. The search for less killing found a large audience to the idea of pascifism and disciplined approach would be better as you are not dependent on anyone but your self for an action.

As someone who does have ADHD and does take medication for it, I can say that if there was a reliable method to meditate it away, it would be better. The stimulant medications actually can make ADHD symptoms worse when you're suddenly without them. If I do not have my prescription filled before I run out. This is because your body will build up a natural tolerance of the stimulant... and it doesn't go away when you suddenly come off the pills.

This tolerance manifests as a depressant to counteract the the stimulant... essentially your body pumps the breaks around the time of day you would take your medication... but your body doesn't know today you aren't taking pills, so it pumps the breaks at the same rate... but without the stimulation, this results in a withdraw that would actually make the symptoms worse.

Assuming the Vulcans could control this hyper-emotional state with either pills or meditation, the meditation would be preferable because you are never without it and can natuarally control yourself with self discipline. There will be days where you're going to forget to take the pills... or stranded in the wilderness because some Scottsman was drinking Scotch on the job and now the Transporters are down, or some god-like alien has decided he is going to use his phenomenal comsic powers to make all the senior bridge officers play Robin Hood... and hoping no one notices this is just like that time with the holodeck malfunction from two weeks ago. There will be times where you can't take your pills... but you can still self-discipline.

Of course, real life this is not the case for ADHD people... and is why they are disqualified from military service in the U.S.

Reliability

What happens when you run out of pills while hitchhiking through the galaxy? If you know how to meditate, you don't need those pills anyway. It's more reliable to learn a skill than to depend on pills.

Biology

Maybe they simply have very narrow throats and don't handle pill swallowing well.

It appears logical (pun intended) to me, that somewhere during this evolution process, they have to discover some sort of cure which helps them to get to the same frame of mind as with long meditation sessions and/or other mind exercises.

I agree, to us it seems like a logical thing. But perhaps the evolutionary history of your Vulcan analogues was radically different.

(This is long - skip to the end for the punch line.)

In the question you stated that the condition was present at the start of their sapient phase. In order for them to evolve past the hunter-gatherer societal stage they would have had to find a way to manage their mental state. Unless there's a convenient berry packed full of psychoactive chemicals that will do most of the work they are going to be stuck in that H-G lifestyle for a long, long time.

That doesn't mean they're stupid, just that without mental control they are unlikely to achieve much in the way of advancement. They just can't sit still long enough. Unfortunately that makes them pretty terrible hunters. They can't lay in ambush for hours at a time, they have to rely on more aggressive hunting tactics. And when the game is scarce the tribe suffers.

Until one day someone finds that eating a certain rare berry - poisonous in more than very small doses - lets them do something new. They can sit still and wait, without suffering, without having to react to every stimulus. This lets them hunt new prey that was impossible for them to hunt before. Unfortunately the toxins in the berry build up in their system and after a handful of hunts and they die.

For a while they sacrifice themselves for the good of the tribe, hunting with the berry to give the tribe a survival advantage. A few try to emulate the state without the berry, but are scorned as lesser beings for not being willing to sacrifice themselves.

And then the climate changes, killing off the berries and further reducing the available prey. Now the few who have been practising the slow hunt without the aid of the berries are the only ones able to provide protein for the tribe. Tribes that have no hunters capable of controlling their emotional state will die out, etc.

The young people would be trained in the mental discipline as a matter of survival. The best would be taken to be hunters, but eventually every adult would have some facility with the discipline. And now the primitive people will have a chance to develop past simple H-G and start the long crawl toward true civilisation. There will be some falls, some setbacks, etc. Enough to give a history filled with examples of what happens when you fail to learn control.

So by the time they're capable of creating a pill to control the emotions they have no need to do so. Hundreds of generations have practised and refined the mental discipline to the point where it is extremely effective. They retain all of their ability to innovate, they can release their conditioning when it makes sense to do so, etc.

They are silicon based and therefore "pills" are considered illegal.

They developed somewhat normally but the planet that they live on is actually mechanical and not biological in the same sense we are familiar with. As a result, while their brains are still just as complex of a structure, they are not regulated by hormones as much as electrical impulses throughout the body. In other words, some more organic sense of circuitry. Pills therefore are not like we consider pills to be, at least psychologically affecting pills. "Pills" for this race and due to their advanced knowledge of their own physiology are actually like microchips that reprogram portions of the body for some period of time or indefinitely. So for instance, you have issues with stomach acid or digestion? You need that stomach regulating DLC pack! As a result many years before meditation was used to curb violence and wars various corporations and world leaders attempting to use pills to regulate mental illnesses as a front to product mind control chips. Effectively they learned to make computer viruses, and well... these aliens of yours are glorified naturally occurring androids. Needless to say, it didn't go well. So it is therefore logical to assume that not everyone believes in and accepts the tenants of logic entirely and worship the 0's and 1's of the universe. Therefore one cannot assume there is not malice in such things and it best to remain in complete control.

You wouldn't let someone other than the manufacturer mess with your computer and reprogram it without you knowing exactly what they are doing with it would you? Well for this race, the only "manufacturer" conceivable would be a deity, and I don't think anyone is claiming a deity made these pills.

Even if you want a biological race, it could just be that part of the reason the wars occurred and this all happened is because all of the race was in some way either forced or chose as a collective to transfer their consciousness into machine bodies that would function 100% identically to their original bodies (aside from increased durability and lifespan). So a point of practice, pills of that form are taboo as anyone could try to use them as a means of rising to a form of dictatorship.

tl;dr If you can arbitrarily reprogram the brain, you never give anyone permission to do so. I claim this race is advanced enough that they can and therefore no one should be boldly given that power to do something no one should ever do.

I just have to say because this is just something that occurred to me. It isn't really relevant to what I'm saying as a reasoning here but it is just a general comment towards what is and isn't "logical". Really from what I understand at least logic is effectively just assuming a set of statements to be true along with statements that say what it means to "prove" a statement (I believe these are objective but variants might exist) and then only accepting statements that are true as can be proven as true from the starting statements and only accepting what is false from what can be proven as such from the starting statements. Statements that cannot be proven as such are just unknown (or potentially having no truth value at all). The reason I say this is that logical behavior is then just only doing actions according to what logic would say is the best action or correct action or however you wish to phrase it. So therefore a system of logic that is alien might not have the same starting axioms we do. For instance if a system of logic that had reasonable looking axioms could prove that universal extinction was ideal, then your alien race would move towards that goal. In this situation it's just that basically the pills are considered not ideal according to that logic. Of course "that logic" is effectively what we as answers are providing by various hypothetical situations but in a more meta sense the truest answer of all is just this:

Whatever axoims your race of pure logician aliens live by, the statement "These pills are a piece of shit and meditation is superior." is provable.

Bad reputation

Everyone who works longer than 6 hours gets at least a half-hour meditation break.

As it is possible to get rid of the unpleasantly paid break with this drug, the employers' associations were very interested in this drug.

After a long lawsuit in which a large online department store tried to force its employees to take the drug, it became a synonym for the obsession of companies, to optimize their employees, which is why the majority of the population rejectes the pill.

  • This is actually a decent answer and I really like it. It's pretty creative. It would also make sense in a country moving more towards logic if they decided to go communist or something (or maybe not a communist state per se but something with less money in wealth) than that would have an even worse symbolic meaning. It would be considered culturally to be a step back towards that past lifestyle. – The Great Duck Sep 22 at 2:26

Their health insurance didn't cover that sort of thing

While being a technologically advanced race, they still had some ingrained capitalist beliefs. This caused some issues with medical care and while technologically they had the pills available, they would cost thousands a month to actually take. Some nutter kept putting out videos on VulcanTube suggesting that meditation was the solution to all their ills, from the plague to cancer. Luckily it actually worked for this.

  • 1
    While basically correct, I was seeking for a way where nobody uses the pill. This kinda suggests that the wealthy Vulcans may still use the pill... But still, this answer made me chuckle :) – Pavel Janicek Sep 20 at 8:17

Vulcans don't take pills to control their primal nature because, so far as we're aware, there isn't one. Remembers, Vulcans are a completely different species with a biology and physiology all their own. Their blood isn't even red iron-based, it's green copper-based. Spock, the famous half-Human/half-Vulcan hybrid, had green blood and was sometimes seen to have very adverse reaction to certain Earth products (he once became intoxicated from a mint candy and passed out from a single breath of nitrous oxide) so giving them our medications would probably be a very bad idea.

Also, the Vulcan philosophy of logic and suppression of emotion are at the core of their civilization for very important reasons.

One, Vulcans are very spiritual. They believe that suppression of emotion is a source of not only inner strength but also self knowledge and enlightenment.

Two, their basic nature is much too unstable to be controlled by something that can be taken away. The Vulcan species without their control is more violent and unstable than the worst Klingon; they nearly obliterated themselves and even their homeworld with longtime nuclear war back before the Time of Awakening. It goes beyond necessary for each one of them to discover and harness their own self-control continuously from an early age.

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    (1) The question stipulates that the pill exists, so saying that the pill doesn’t exist is Not An Answer. (2) The question says that it is using “Vulcan” as a strawman / placeholder for a hypothetical cerebral humanoid race.  Quoting details of the biology of Star Trek Vulcans is not appropriate. (3) Your last paragraph says, “their basic nature is much too unstable to be controlled by something that can be taken away.”  What does this mean?  Are you just repeating your assertion that the pill cannot exist?  They can have the pill and still know how to meditate. – Peregrine Rook Sep 21 at 5:53
  • @PeregrineRook with 3 they are saying that the pill being used would be too risky for if it were taken away the results would be much worse than someone losing the ability to focus until more is obtained. Furthermore the existence of the pill can be countered as an answer. If someone can give an argument showing such a pill cannot theoretically exist then that should be a valid answer. We shouldn't punish people for showing that an asker's line of reasoning is flawed in some manner. – The Great Duck Sep 22 at 2:29
  • We human Earthlings are dumb.  We invent the calculator and we forget how to do arithmetic.  We invent the keyboard and we forget how to write.  We invent spell-check and forget how to spell.  We invent Twitter and we forget how to comprehend statements longer than 280 characters.  But these “Vulcans” are logical.  They won’t forget how to meditate just because they have the pills; they’ll remember, maybe by meditating a few times a year (and using the pills 99% of the time).  … (Cont’d) – Peregrine Rook Sep 23 at 1:07
  • (Cont’d) …  David seems to be assuming that the Vulcans would forget how to meditate, and become utterly dependent on the pills, if they started to use them.  Based on this premise, it’s plausible to conclude that they would decline to use them.  But the premise is made up out of thin air, and so the conclusion is unsound.  … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …  Regarding the existence (or nonexistence) of the pill, I won’t respond to what you said because I don’t understand what you’re arguing. – Peregrine Rook Sep 23 at 1:07

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