How Psychedelics Spur Technological innovation

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How Psychedelics Spur Technological innovation

Was LSD the catalyst behind some of technology's greatest innovations? According to Steve Jobs and co there is only one answer ... hell yeah!

“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important - creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.”

You'd be forgiven for thinking these were the ramblings of a philosopher or fledgling 'psychonaut', but no. Those are the words of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who was deeply affected by the creative prowess of LSD. However, couldn't this have just been purely coincidental or do psychedelics truly have the capacity to spur innovation?

A History Trip

For decades, medical studies involving LSD were banned, forcing foolhardy researchers to take their psychedelic fascinations underground. Dr. James Fadiman, one such mad scientist, conducted hundreds of 'trippy trials' in the name of research. Throughout the early 1960's, when such experimentation was legal, Fadiman and his team would get to work trying to uncover the inner workings of the LSD-flooded mind. Their base of operations was to be in Menlo Park (California), on the second floor of a shopping plaza - inconspicuously named „The International Foundation for Advanced Study“ (talk about smooth operators aye!). The test they conducted would hopefully uncover a range of different things, including whether LSD and creativity were linked and whether highly problematic questions could be solved under the drug's influence.

Peaking Pioneers

Among the 350 people who took part in the trips, a number were important pioneers from within the computing world. Doug Engelbart, the father of the computer mouse, who at the time was heading a project to use computers to augment the human mind at nearby Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Programmer and early employee of Cisco, Kevin Herbert also dabbled in a little LSD from time to time - particularly when he faced an intractable programming problem.

"It must be changing something about the internal communication in my brain. Whatever my inner process is that lets me solve problems, it works differently, or maybe different parts of my brain are used, " said Herbert. He then went on to say, "When I'm on LSD and hearing something that’s pure rhythm, it takes me to another world and into another brain state where I've stopped thinking and started knowing."

With such notabilities as Jobs, Engelbart and Herbert coming forward to testify their profound beliefs about psychedelics - for many that would be all the conclusive proof needed, ultimately taking their words as gospel. However,does the scientific research of today back the claims of those made years ago? Maybe so.

Exploring both pioneering scientific and medical research, Author Thomas B. Roberts (Ph.D.) outlines a future that embraces psychedelics in his book „The Psychedelic Future of the Mind: How Entheogens Are Enhancing Cognition, Boosting Intelligence, and Raising Values.“ In great depths, Roberts presents research on the use of psychedelics to enhance problem-solving, increase motivation, boost the immune system and deepen ethical values. The book not only reflects Roberts' personal research but that of a number of high profile figures and studies. One of which involving the American biochemist and Nobel prize winner Kary Mullis.. Mullis won the nobel prize for his invention of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), thus making DNA accessible. Mullis, like Steve Jobs and Kevin Herbert attributes (partially, to say the least) his breakthrough to that of LSD. Speaking in his own words Kary is quoted as saying...

“PCR’s another place where I was down there with the molecules when I discovered it and I wasn't stoned on LSD, but my mind by then had learned how to get down there. I could sit on a DNA molecule and watch the [indistinct] go by ... I’ve learned that partially I would think, and this is again my opinion, through psychedelic drugs ... if I had not taken LSD ever would I have still been in PCR? I don't know, I doubt it, I seriously doubt it.“