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Do We Need an Ozempic Shot that Motivates People?
Overdosing on motivation could have disastrous unintended consequences.
We need an Ozempic shot that motivates people. That gives them the drive, inspiration, and hutzpah to take on the world and learn new skills. - @Jason
I keep thinking about this comment by Jason from the All-In Podcast. Not so much in terms of whether or not we actually need such a motivational shot, but in terms of the unintended consequences of such a shot, if it existed.
When Jason wrote this comment on X, no doubt he was thinking of the growing number of people we keep hearing about who can’t afford to move out of their mom’s basement. The people who either drop out of society to play video games or who meet an early end from a fentanyl overdose.
As much as these people could benefit from a boost of motivation, it’s unlikely they’d be the ones who would end up taking the motivation shot. Rather, the shot, if it existed, would likely be taken by people who need it the least.
Just look at what’s happening with Ozempic:
Ozempic wasn’t developed as a weight-loss drug. When its weight-loss properties became known, it became popular for that use in Hollywood—almost as far away as you can get from West Virginia, the obesity capital of the U.S. Ozempic’s first takers more than likely already belonged to a gym and lived near stores selling healthy foods. The drug wasn’t a last resort, just a convenience for those who could afford it and had easy access to it.
At this point, Ozempic is no longer an underground trend in Hollywood. It’s well known as a miracle weight-loss drug. Still, it appears that it’s mostly taken by well-off, already healthy people. According to a recent article in The New York Times, out of all of New York City’s neighborhoods, Ozempic is most widely prescribed in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. This neighborhood is not only one of the wealthiest in the city, it’s one of the healthiest, with high life expectancy and one of the lowest rates of diabetes and obesity.
If a comparably miraculous motivation shot came out tomorrow, we’d almost certainly see the same pattern. People who lacked the “hutzpah to take on the world” would be like the West Virginians to Ozempic—as far away geographically and culturally as possible from the epicenter of motivation-shot-takers. Meanwhile, people with no lack of motivation would jump at the chance to get more.
Let’s assume this hypothetical shot is much better than coffee, better than Adderall—more on the level of the drug from the movie Limitless, but without the side effects. Such a drug could be world changing. Think of all the people who regularly get struck with a brilliant idea for a startup or who feel inspired to help out in the community, but who fail to act on it because it would take too much work. What if these people all followed through and overnight humanity quadrupled its output of entrepreneurs and community volunteers? Societies the world over could be transformed by innovative technologies, more small businesses, and stronger communities.
But then there are the unintended consequences of such a drug. As Psychology Today notes, too much motivation can be detrimental. It can cause rash decision-making; it can lead people to neglect others who may be helpful; it can lead to increased anxiety and perfectionism. And as Forbes notes, too much motivation can actually hurt your productivity.
These consequences are worth considering, but I’m much more interested in the ways that hyper-motivated people, on the perfect motivation drug, could tear society apart piece by piece in pursuit of their personal ambitions. Think of Trump. A fundamentally lazy guy driven by diabolical ambitions. This leads him to engage in all manner of vanity projects that end in scandal and corruption—from real estate projects where contractors don’t get paid to a fake university to an attempt to subvert America’s democracy in order to hold onto power.
Vivek Ramaswami shows similar tendencies. Driven by a big idea and extreme confidence, he made an ambitious investment in biotech, made a fortune, and cashed out before it became known that the Alzheimer’s drug at the center of the investment was an utter failure. (It’s impossible to overstate just how much of a scam this turned out to be.) Now he’s running for president with outlandishly ambitious policy proposals. It seems the less he knows about a topic, the more confident he is in speaking about it. Michelle Goldberg aptly described him as the type of “callow and condescending nerd who assumes that skill in one field translates to aptitude in all others.” For example, his foreign policy, roundly criticized as idiotic, rests on a contention that he, personally, can get Putin and Xi to reconfigure the relationship between their countries, resolving the Ukraine dispute (largely to Ukraine’s detriment), and all for America’s best interest.
Imagine Vivek on a motivation shot.
Outside politics, all the prominent scandals across business and finance have been led by overly ambitious scam artists. Bernie Madoff. Elizabeth Holmes. Martin Shkreli. Sam Bankman-Fried. Adam Neumann. How many more of these people could society withstand before consumers and investors alike stop trusting claims made by startups? Or would an explosion of these types of hyper ambitious individuals ruin society before anyone had a chance to notice and take precautions?
On the other hand, maybe this brave new future of miracle drugs will give us a chance to actually achieve some form of equity in the universe. It’ll just be a matter of properly dispersing the drugs. Ozempic shots for insecure Upper East Side yuppies. Motivation shots for high-school dropouts and video game addicts. Double doses of each for West Virginians. And for god’s sake keep the motivation shots away from the megalomaniacs with presidential ambitions or world-domination fantasies.
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