Filmmaker Ann Shin features Nik Badminton, as he tests state-of-the-art pills to increase his intelligence in her documentary entitled Smart Drugs, which airs Sunday on TV. (Stephen Chung/Fathom Film Group)

VIDEO: Langley filmmaker delves into the brain game

In her Smart Drugs documentary airing Sunday, Ann Shin examines efforts to increase intelligence

Miranda Gathercole/ Special to the Langley Advance Times

In a business world filled with ever-increasing pressures, many professionals are turning to drugs to cope.

But not the illicit substances found on the streets. These tycoons are using “smart drugs” to sharpen their focus, improve their productivity, and ultimately, better their performance in all aspects of their lives.

Do these cognitive enhancement drugs actually work? Langley-born director Ann Shin was surprised to find out.

In her new documentary, Smart Drugs, which airs on the Documentary Channel Sunday, May 12 at 9 p.m., Shin follows businessman Nik Badminton as he tests state-of-the-art pills and therapies marketed to increase his intelligence.

“My friend and co-producer Melanie heard that a lot university students – 25 to 30 per cent – and white collar professionals, like programmers and doctors, regularly use cognitive enhancement drugs like Modafinil and Adderall to help them focus and work longer,” Shin said.

“So she and I wanted to take a close look at why this was happening. That led us into the whole world of bio-hacking, where people try everything from drugs, to hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or wearable tech to up their brain game. It’s an intriguing and sometimes disturbing trend.”

Shin grew up on a five-acre mushroom farm in Murrayville, just up the hill from Porter’s General Store. In university, she studied literature and anthropology, but was always drawn to stories – something she believes she got from her dad.

She completed a masters in literature, and began working at CBC radio as a current affairs producer. It was through radio that she discovered her love for long-form story telling, leading her to switch her career to TV to direct and produce documentaries.

Shin’s award-winning work has aired on the CBC, TVO, HBO, ABC, Documentary Channel, PBS, Discovery Channel, HGTV, History Channel, and Slice.

With Smart Drugs, Shin thinks its important to look at the trend as a reflection of society.

“We think our brains should be upgraded the way we upgrade our iOS or DOS systems. It’s a dehumanized view of intelligence that could invite a reckless approach to tinkering with our minds and bodies,” she said.

“I hope they’re surprised by the ingenuity that’s happening in the field of bio-hacking, and I hope to also raise some concern about the number of people taking smart drugs,” Shin said.

“I hope it makes them question the value of ‘upgrading’ our brains, and really pause to think about what is sacrosanct to human life. It’s important to communicate that to those around you, and make your position known socially so that maybe there could be a counter bio-hacking movement. Maybe within the next few years there will be a kind of ‘back to Eden’ anti-bio-hacking movement.”

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