So, this question had me thinking, this as someone who comes from the field of machine learning. Why haven't chemicals enhanced our minds and bodies as much as was predicted in the early years?

From the 40s till about the 70s I would say, many scholars and general talking heads predicted that chemistry would not only revolutionize food, industry(which it has) but also completely redefine the limits of humans by extending life exponentially as well as give super-human like mental and physical attributes.

Seemingly, this has not happened yet. While chemistry has completely changed a lot of what humanity does, it has never quite lived up to expectations(much like mine). So what is the disconnect? Is it that we just need more time? I am suspicious of that as chemistry is an very old field by academic standards and from what I read has been seeing diminishing returns in research.

I ask this as someone with only a rudimentary understanding of organic chemistry. Thanks!

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    $\begingroup$ Ever heard of doping in sport? Ever heard of LSD? Chemistry did enhance human minds and bodies, but it comes at the cost of ugly consequences, hence it is generally forbidden, and rightly so. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ Obviously, I know of substances like that. If you'll read, the question is "as was predicted in the early years?" $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 0:43
  • $\begingroup$ Well, machine learning did not live up MY expectations, so it is 1:1 $\endgroup$
    – Greg
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 2:24
  • $\begingroup$ It pretty much depends on what your expectations are, but life expectancy has increased a lot in the last 100 years, due in part to (synthetic) antibiotics and other drugs such as for treating cancers. Now that antibiotic resistance is occurring apace chemistry will be needed again to provide new compounds to tackle this huge threat. The fact that Chemistry is old (but not as old as Physics/Astronomy) does not mean that there is nothing new to learn. $\endgroup$
    – porphyrin
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 11:04

1 Answer 1


This is not a limitation related to chemistry, but related to the lack of understanding of the human body and mind. There are a couple exceptions, such as the Cochlear implant (wich basically transforms a deaf person into a hearing cyborg), pacemakers, and some drugs that can enhance mental capabiliyties.


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