Monday, December 12, 2005


Very interesting work by Richard Doyle of Penn State, suggesting LSD and other psychedelics catalyzed engineering breakthroughs by allowing visualization and unleashing of the creative imagination, beyond the limits of verbal or linear logic.


Before their possession became a criminal offense in the United States, tryptamines (e.g. Psilocybin), phenethylamines (e.g. mescaline), and Cannabinoids (e.g. Cannabis Sativa and Indica, THC) were given to engineers and designers to break "creative logjams" and promote innovation in the Cold War United States. In the late 1950's and early 1960's, for example, the Ampex Corporation(inventor of the Video Tape Recorder) studied the effects of LSD and mescaline on their engineers, and the result was a growing body of literature and data on tryptamine and phenethylamine "regimens" and their effects on technical innovation.These regimens included precise and intensive rhetorical practices such as the epigraph above – although essentially ineffable, psychedelic experience was treated as fundamentally and essentially programmable. This talk will look to the history of these highly programmed human subject trials and the role of rhetorical practices in them in order to evaluate more recent claims by inventors and researchers such as Mitch Kapor (Lotus, spreadsheets), Mark Pesce(Virtual Reality Markup Language) and Kary Mullis (Polymerase Chain Reaction) that psychedelics played an integral role in the invention of their breakthrough technologies. Given the importance of programming to psychedelic experience, the talk will suggest that psychedelic adjuncts were useful to engineers and scientists less because they "expanded" consciousness than because they catalyzed a practiced progamming of affect, a programming whose signature is a successful dwelling with massive and often transhuman interconnectivity. Perhaps meditation is the first design practice of an evolutionary response to such a design environment, as one must become still in order to navigate the overwhelming informational landscape that ensues: both the psychedelic and the transhuman condition encounter enormous amounts of information, an onslaught navigable only through a practiced letting go.Successful "programming" of psychedelic experience drew on old code indeed to manage the unfamiliar affects: mystic and shamanic practices have left an archive from which researchers have sampled, a psychedelic commons. Audio and visual adjuncts for psychedelic experience such as chants, music, mantra and imbricated images (such as [mandala]) appeared to work as devices for orienting but not determining the exorbitant and difficult to communicate multiplicity that is psychedelic experience. The talk will close with a sugggestion that users and designers of interactive technologies integrate the tropes of this old code to help highly networked, mobile and volatile wetware adjuncts recall their participation in the biological systems as well as technical systems with which they are enmeshed, "the moist, pulsating pattern." Such psychedelic or "life manifesting" technologies indeed put the ego and its ontologies into dissarray, but in so doing they invite the evolution of dissipative structures capable of a sustainable interaction with complexity, the partipatory and co-evolutionary superorganism Lynn Margulis, James Lovelock and William Golding dubbed "Gaia" in their sampling of Greek tradition. This capacity for consciousness to reflect on and tune its own ecosystemic conditions enables us to become search engines for dissipative structures with an increased capacity to process information through the momentary breakdown of symmetry.TrippingOnThePast

Wiki: EcoDelic


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