It could be the most exciting thing ever to happen to over-worked middle-class executives: a cheap, legal, non-chemical “drug” that claims to have the effects of contraband substances. Last week, the first “digital drug” hit the iPhone store. It’s called Digipill, and its developers claim that twenty years’ worth of research into neuro-linguistic programming has gone into the product.
The app, which is free, uses “psycho-acoustics” to produce effects similar to controlled substances. The first experiments conducted on the relationship between sound and mood were performed in 1839 by a Prussian scientist; even today, Olympic athletes experiment with the human body’s response to sound in an attempt to improve their performance, says Digipill.
The product’s advertised effects seem more recreational than professional: the company claims that its “powerful audio pills” can induce “relaxation, confidence or losing weight”. Irish self-help author Brian Colbert is responsible for the “sophisticated production techniques” that have gone into creating Digipill.
According to Colbert: “Digipill has been uniquely formulated using specific blends of sound and language to gently engage and activate the mind. This makes it easier to bring about change, build new habits, and promote an overall sense of wellbeing.” So far, so self-help, but the promise of a new wave of apps that offer to make you “happy, reflective or even excited before a night out” may be cause for concern.
The commoditisation of the experience of fixing our mood is nothing new: supermarkets and fast food retailers have been doing it for a long time. But with addiction rates rising all over the world, internet-scale economics are now being applied to the business of getting a fix, encouraging us to paper over underlying trauma with ephemeral and potentially destructive remedies.
“The Digipill app delivers a range of fast and effective ‘pills’, all of which can be downloaded and taken with you wherever you go – which means you’re never far away from help and, of course, you never run out of pills,” say the marketing materials. “Digipill is designed to be used when fully awake and induces a state of very deep relaxation. It is strongly recommended, therefore, that the app should not be used when driving or operating machinery.”
Sound sinister to you? It probably should.