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LSD: The Geek's Wonder Drug (wired.com)
417 points by mkrecny 2096 days ago | hide | past | web | 293 comments | favorite



In college I lived with artists. A few of their artist friends come over with big sketch pads, pencils and whatever else artists use. They all drop acid while telling me they can't wait to see their amazing creations once their minds are opened. I went out for a few hours and came back to find them all sitting around the living room.

One sketch pad had a long black squiggle on it, the same design you'd make if you fell asleep while holding a pen to paper, and the rest had even less (One was literally two 1" lines forming a 90 degree angle). The next day they described the night as a huge success even though they never really attained any of their stated goals.

I don't doubt they had a good time, but seeing them utterly fail to use the drug as a tool kinda makes me skeptical of the productive benefits.

As a side note, if you want your ego stroked then ask a student artist for his opinion of your work. In the two years I lived with artists not a single negative comment was spoken by a student of anyone else's work. It was a guaranteed self-congratulatory feedback loop.


I have several drawings and paintings that I did under the influence that still amaze me today. I could never reproduce the techniques or forms. There were many times that I wouldn't spend the entire duration drawing/painting, but I had several marathon creation sessions under the influence of LSD.

We would always make sure to have plenty of supplies. Art or otherwise. Pen and paper was probably the most difficult. The effects on your vision are pronounced and drawing can be... hard. I always enjoyed oil pastels the most. Thick and flowing pools of color. Man those were good times.

I was in art school at the time, and critique (the ability to give and receive) was one of the greatest things I walked away with. We would formerly critique on a regular basis in class.

> I don't doubt they had a good time, but seeing them utterly fail to use the drug as a tool kinda makes me skeptical of the productive benefits.

This is akin to coming onto a software project, seeing a huge tangle of grotesque code produced by some other programmer(s), and determining that the tools were at fault. In both cases it is not necessarily the wand, but perhaps the magician.


I would also be interested in seeing scans. LSD has been a wonderful experience for me, undertaken roughly once a year, but with beneficial and creative effects that last much longer.

I think the OP missed the point-- LSD isn't Aderall, it isn't something that makes you push out more. Rather, it can unlock doors that were perhaps holding you back.


Or perhaps it can open doors that will end up holding you back. There are people who are legitimate acid casualties. I know a guy who now has social anxiety so bad that he rarely leaves his house. This was most certainly not the case before he indulged in copious amounts of LSD and Psilocybin.


Good psychotherapy can heal him. I suggest "Changing Personal History" or more powerful (but harder to learn) "Core Transformation" from NLP.

P.S. There is a huge amount of inefficient and even dangerous psychotherapy schools, and there is quite a lot of inefficient stuff in "NLP", that's why I recommend exactly the above techniques.


Weed will much easily make you paranoid in my opinion. But in fact, too much introspection can go wrong and plant ideas that don't make you go forward.

There is a saying of a guru: "If something goes bad, just drop some more acid" but I am not sure if it is a good advice, only that it doesn't work with weed.


Anyone that is not a doctor or pharmacist who says anything along the gist of "If you aren't doing X while taking drug Y, then you need more of drug Y" is an idiot. Everyone is different, dosages will be different, and interactions, chemically with other drugs and psychologically with other issues, will always be present.

I'm all for anyone doing whatever they want with drugs, psychoactives in particular, but taking more is usually the wrong answer. Psychoactive drugs are not a cure-all or magic key that opens creative inspiration in uncreative types, just as much as taking Vicodin won't give you an erection lasting for more than 4 hours.


I'd be interested in seeing any scans you might have.


I'm a little hesitant, but it is hanging here on the wall so:

http://i.imgur.com/mhg4c.jpg

This was an 8 hour marathon of oil pastel madness. I was in my tiny apartment with 6-8 friends and literally spent the entire time engrossed in this thing. The background was the technique that I could never get back. This was a series of this basic type of drawing I did. There were 4 and this one I like the most. Gave one away to some chick I was seeing :/

http://i.imgur.com/HZ2yG.jpg

Bic pens have always been a favorite as well. These are actually meeting drawings from a fairly recent (sober) time, but are representitive of the drawings I don't want to go dig out and scan. My brain didn't do this prior to LSD ;)


These are wonderful and thank you for showing them. The images speak more powerfully than simply saying "yeah LSD helped me out."


Thank you. Those are some cool drawings and the painting definitely deserves that frame.


Thanks, it is the only artwork from that period of my life I have up. Still puts a smile on my face :>


Wow! Those are amazing by any standard. In fact, is selling an option?


hey, thanks. I don't do much artistic creation outside of the silly sketches anymore so they are essentially priceless to me. Cheers though :>


FYI, my comment got 6 upvotes...


Just curious Y not? I think they are great!


I got out of art school and went into a more technical field doing 3d graphics for training applications. Had kids, stopped doing drugs, eventually switched over to programming computers... I always threaten to get back into it and really do miss it. The creation of images more than the psychoactive chemicals ;0


Those meeting drawings remind me of Ian Miller: http://www.ian-miller.org/


Wow those colours in the first one are amazing!


They're really nice. Thanks for sharing.


So you say, it's impossible for you to draw those without lsd usage?


Not LSD related, but drug related:

A friend of mine tried to program while on Salvia (I gave him the programming problem to solve: basically implement Solomon Golombs self-describing sequence) and as he scribbled notes on paper, he kept muttering phrases like "what is she saying to me now". We didn't check the results until the next morning, but it turned out he had figured out an O(1) closed form for the sequence - it was very simple and very fast. He claimed a woman told him the answer.

I have since searched for good solutions to the same problem and the only thing I could find that is better than O(n) is a 70's paper on the sequence. The solution in the paper was complex (I didn't understand it - actually, I don't know if it even came up with a closed form or not...), certainly not as short and simple as the one my friend came up with. Sadly, we didn't think much of it and didn't write it down - which, of course, means I have no proof to back this story up[1]. Still, it was a pretty strange and interesting thing to witness.

[1] We also only tested it with a handful of numbers and did not make any attempt to formally prove its correctness, so its not impossible that it was just coincidence that it worked for the test inputs (we only verified low input numbers against the naive implementation). Still, I like to think it was a full solution.


I just can't visualize anyone doing any kind of meaningful thinking while in the influence of salvia divinorum, or scribbling, the effect is just too strong and too disconnected from our reality. The only thing in your story that gives it a bit of credibility is this: "He claimed a woman told him the answer."

Anyway, not enough to convince me.

Edit: of course, I would like to know more :)


I don't care if you believe me. I cannot prove it, so I won't lose sleep if you think I made it up. For me, its enough that I witnessed it.

Having said that, I obviously simplified the story and I have a pretty good theory of how he came up with the solution (since I now know the guy a lot better). I actually think he has a very very slight case of autism (never diagnosed, but over the years, there have been some hints that it may be the case). I of course don't believe that a woman actually told him the solution, I think the autism is what helped him come up with it (since properly autistic people are able to do some amazing things) and the drug made him trip out and believe a woman spoke to him.

As for not believing that somebody could do things on Salvia, I disagree. Normally I don't like to admit to drug use on the internet (since its easy to figure out who I am), but what the hell. Maybe I'll come to regret it later... While I haven't taken any in a few years, I have taken Salvia many times over the past ten-ish years (and I took it that night with my friend too). I have taken it in the middle of the day, in the sun. I have taken it at night, in a dark room. I have taken it at a party (despite people saying its not a party drug). Each time the experience was very very different. It depends on your surroundings and on your mood. Yes, salvia is extremely intense and gives a very disconnected experience, but I think the actual extent depends on the factors I mentioned above. For example, every time I took it at night, it was a very weird and "heavy" experience, but when I took it in the sun, it was a bright and happy (almost mdma-like) experience.

I don't know if you get this on Salvia, but most people I have spoken to about it have said they experienced something similar. When on Salvia, theres this feeling of "pressure" pulling you into the experience (often its a feeling of something pushing or pulling you some direction, perhaps spinning around, falling or weightlessness). I've got this every time (that I remember, there may have been times when I didn't that I don't remember). Every time I've tried to resist it and go against it, I broke out in heavy sweats. When we did the programming problem, it took a LOT of effort to resist it to write in the notepad. After a few minutes, I gave in and forgot about the notepad (skin soaked with sweat). I guess my friend was able to resist it more than I was. But. honestly, I don't remember the exact details, nor do I remember anything about the trip I had or what I wrote in my own notepad, since my friends was much more interesting and this happened maybe five or six years ago.

My point is that it is hard to resist it, but its not impossible (at least, for a while) and while resisting it, you can be tripping and still do things (well, kind of). But, at the end of the day, if you don't believe me, thats fine. Maybe you can try it for yourself? Just be aware that (in my experience) there will be an intense "pressure" pulling you away from what you're trying to do and you may have to try pretty hard to resist it.


You shouldn't worry about some random person on the internet believing you or not, but sharing experiences is good anyway.

The woman part was the interesting part to me because thats something recurrent, the presence of a woman (maybe not a woman, but a femenine entity)

I get the pressure while on the effect, and most of the people I have seen smoking extract here at home do too (some just getting pulled to a specific direction, others feel a rotating force). Not everyone gets the same physical effects but a lot of it is common. Something that happens to me that so far only one friend has shared is being split in two (we feel it on the tongue, the nose, the chest, the whole body, left is separated from right).

But the physical aspects of the experience are not what I find problematic for trying to do something like scribbling, it is the mental aspect. Do you even know that you are under the effects before they are already fading out? do you remember that you wanted to scribble? do you know who are the people there with you? mm.. do you even know that there are people there?

How did you guys (in your experiment) consume it? smoked extract? smoked leaves? chewing leaves?

After such positive results, did you ever try the experiment again? if not, why not? (if I had such experience I would like to try more and more)


I'm not worrying if people believe me ;-) My lengthy post was because you said you were interested in hearing more details. If you believe me then great, but if not, whatever.

The pressure aspect is very interesting. As far as I remember, I've always had it, but it varied each time. I've never experienced the splitting in two; that would certainly be strange. I remember one trip where it felt like I was slowly rotating, so that roughly 50% through the trip I was upsidedown. When I rotated the full way and was upright again, I instantly snapped out of it. I often had those kind of "when X happened, I instantly snapped out" experiences actually (another time I was walking around and it felt like I was falling (the pressure) away from where I took salvia (in a car), bouncing off people to get back "up" to where I was and when I got back, I sat into the car and the door shut, I snapped out of the trip).

Hmm, good point. Honestly, it was too long ago and I don't remember. I do remember that after a little while I gave up and dropped the pen. As for knowing if there are people or not, I've had different experiences each time - sometimes I forgot about people completely and was lost in my own world, other times the people were there with me (eg, the car trip I mentioned above, I was interacting with people and it felt like I was bouncing off them to get back to the car, kind of like being the ball in a pinball machine).

I've only ever smoked extract, usually in a pipe (the other times in a bong). I have smoked different strength extracts, the weakest being either 5 or 10x, the strongest being perhaps 50x and most often 30 or 35x. I have never tried it any other way (due to availability). I don't remember what strength it was that night or if we used a pipe or bong.

I didn't try it again. Thinking about it now, I really don't know why, it seems obvious that I should have, yet somehow it never ocurred to me to do it again. We thought it was a bit of a laugh really, which is probably why we didn't put any effort in recording the solution. Kicking myself now, of course. I remember that day we were doing projects for class or soemthing, so perhaps thats why we decided to program on it, while other days we wouldn't have been, but we did a lot of random programming, so I don't think thats why. I don't have a good answer for it really. Then over time I ended up taking salvia less and less until I stopped altogether, for no other reason than that I just didn't feel like it. Then they banned most formerly-legal drugs here, so now I don't think I can even get any anymore (afaik anyway, I never actually checked after most headshops were closed down here). I kinda want to repeat the experiment now!


> I have taken it in the middle of the day, in the sun. I have taken it at night, in a dark room. I have taken it at a party (despite people saying its not a party drug).

I was kinda hoping you were going to run with that and turn that into a "green eggs and ham" tribute poem.


This is HN, man. Post the solution here and see if it works or not.


I can't. We laughed it off and didn't think much more of it until much later, but by then we lost the notebook. Like I said, I have no proof, sadly.


In the case of this story, it's not what they drew while they were in a clinically insane state, but what doors that state opened for later sober pondering. Which may or may not have been productive.


To add balance to the statement about asking an art student to give an opinion of your work to get your ego stroked, I had a far different experience. I went to art school, and from foundation year (where you learn a smattering of everything: drawing, painting, sculpting, etc.) to senior year (when I focused on film and animation) I constantly had my work reviewed. Sometimes I got effusive praise, and sometimes I left class devastated. Usually, the feedback was right-on, usually honest, and usually came from a good place. Learning how to express criticism of another's work, and learning how to accept constructive criticism of my own, was one of the most valuable skills I learned from school.

To make this germane to hacking: I'm kind of baffled that peer code review isn't the cornerstone of this industry. No one works best in a bubble, and everyone has something to teach and to learn.

One last thought -- context for feedback matters. It's a helpful, kind, human thing to do to give someone some helpful encouragement, even when it hasn't been earned yet.


Code review takes too much time. You can take a painting that took 100 hours to make, and start delivering useful criticism after a minute or so. Giving useful feedback on a programming project that took 100 hours will take much, much longer.

Also, art is meant to be examined - that is its primary purpose. Source code, not so much.


I'll agree that while a project is being bootstrapped, peer code review could be cumbersome. Once a project has matured enough, some amount of code review, done incrementally, shouldn't be a burden. At that point, if you're typing out reams of code every day, you might be doing it wrong ( something code review could help catch [ e.g., "Library X does this; you don't have to re-implement it" ] ). The point would not be to circle back after 100 hours of work to review, but rather every (say) 10.

I don't agree that source code is not meant to be examined ( but maybe we work in totally different fields ). I regularly read source code from my coworkers, and they regularly have to read mine. Often, the developer who wrote the code is not available for questions, or isn't with the company any longer. My own code might as well have been written by another developer if I look at it after about a year. All these issues could be mitigated or muted by another set of eyes, either by sharing the knowledge ( "Why did Bob do this?" might be answered by someone else who'd reviewed the code ) or by asking the questions initially ( "Bob, why did you do it that way?" Bob: "Because of X -- I'll leave a comment in the source ).


I've found that it's not the actual code review that's helpful, but preparing for a code review. It forces you to describe the code clearly, which often makes the code clearer in the process. Plus you try to anticipate the comments your co-workers will give.


Art is meant to be examined as much as food is meant to endure chemical tests!


if by "chemical tests" you mean compatibility with the human digestive tract and metabolism, then yes


I mean no. It looks very wrong to me to think that art's primary purpose is to be examined. Am I the only one?


Nope. I think art's purpose is to change and mature you, if you let it.

It's just that the Internet is home to a lot of people that believe rationalism is the only valid way to perceive the universe, when in reality it is just one way to do so. Personally, I found myself unhappy when I restricted myself to it. The universe seemed cold, empty, and cruel. I think a lot of people hit this stage and then just give up completely.

It's really sad.


I only meant "examine" as in "observe", "look at", "listen to", as opposed to "use", "run" or "execute". I never meant to make the universe seem cold or cruel. Sorry about that.


To quote the great philosopher Karl Pilkington: "Art is just something for your eyes to look at."


>I'm kind of baffled that peer code review isn't the cornerstone of this industry.

It is. In safety critical situations. In situations where millions are at stake for a few hours of downtime.


> To make this germane to hacking: I'm kind of baffled that peer code review isn't the cornerstone of this industry. No one works best in a bubble, and everyone has something to teach and to learn.

Richard P. Gabriel has been advocating an MFA program for hackers. I don't think it's gotten off the ground yet.


Nine drawings by an artist while on LSD: http://www.cowboybooks.com.au/html/acidtrip1.html

There is a distinct diregression, regression, and then a peak of intense beauty.


This series is breathtaking. I don't think I've experienced anything beyond what beer does- this is a fascinating experiment to see from the first frame to the last. Thanks for the link.


There's a major difference in the way the mind of a scientist or engineer works versus the mind of an art student. Whenever I take mushrooms, I usually follow a "schedule" of things to do and try. Others I know will literally lay on a couch for 10 hrs.


"Others I know will literally lay on a couch for 10 hrs."

You can't tell how much the person is getting out of the experience just by looking at them. They could just lie on the couch for ten hours with their eyes closed and be having one of the most profound experiences of their life. In fact, someone who is using the drug for introspection is almost certainly getting more out of the experience than someone who is using the drug to explore the world. Most serious psychonauts recommend taking the drug laying down in the dark while blindfolded to get the most out of it.

I mean think about it, you're about to have one of the five most important experiences of your life, on par with death or the birth of a child.[1] Do you really want to have that experience while in a movie theater watching Harold & Kumar?

[1] source: http://csp.org/psilocybin/

"Even at the 14-month follow-up, 58% of 36 volunteers rated the experience on the psilocybin session as among the five most personally meaningful experiences of their lives and 67% rated it among the five most spiritually significant experiences of their lives, with 11% and 17%, respectively, indicating that it was the single most meaningful experience, and the single most spiritually significant experience. Furthermore, 64% of the 36 volunteers indicated that the psilocybin session experience increased their sense of well-being or life satisfaction either moderately or very much, and 61% rated that the experience was associated with moderate to extreme positive behaviour change."


I remember hearing a story, maybe from Ken Kesey, of someone who was given LSD during a medical trial and left with a pen and pad and told to write down how they felt about their mother. The researcher would be back later to get their notes and ask questions.

Research returns and is disappointed to find the pad empty and the subject unwilling to talk about his mother. The reason? He's just seen God and is busy drawing God on the wall.

So he utterly failed at his assigned task, but he had (arguably) achieved something far more important.


I'd recommed The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test to anyone interested in Kesey stories and LSD in general.


Absolutely this, from a personal experience. (Throwaway since a decent amount of people know who I am here.) I smoked a sizable amount (~4x my usual amount to get high) of marijuana one night with friends. They later reported me as simply staring into space, looking around, and saying random words from other languages. However, I was having one of the most incredibly profound, enlightened moments in my life, getting closer to understanding the basic questions behind life and what it is.


I'm not saying they didn't enjoy it... I've had my trips like that before too. Just saying some people approach it differently.


What things have you tried?


Nothing major... About a dozen different strains of magic mushroom, lsd, pot a few times, and opium once. I don't smoke hardly ever, but I do try to trip a few times a year.


I think pavel_lishin is asking what things have you tried while on mushroooms - you indidcated that you plan out what you want to do and 'try'.


Ahh, haha. I see. I've watched certain movies and shows that I found profound without tripping (surprisingly the most profound thing I've watched is the Futurama episode, Godfellas). I've done many many artistic things, drawing, painting, etc. We built things with legos before. Listened to different kinds of music. Played with animals (I swear my dog could sense something was up... never seen him in such a lovey mode). Once I mixed highlighter fluid with bubbles and created a "universe" on the wall in our basement (no windows, and all black lights at the time). I've done the mundane like play video games (went for an hour in GTA-IV sailing out to sea.. it never ends). Played music alone and with friends (recorded some). I've tried reading books. One time I took a programming quiz because I'd forgotten to and it was due within the hour (extremely hard). One of the most profound things I did was go on a several hour walk through only back alleys with friends and reflected on urban decay. There's more, but thats the best I can think of off the top of my head.


> Played with animals (I swear my dog could sense something was up... never seen him in such a lovey mode).

Psylocybin (however you spell it) actually tends to leak out through your sweat pores, so your dog was probably having just as fantastic of a time as you were.

When we did shrooms last time, we petted our cats for about an hour. Shortly after that, they went into the hallway and started chasing imaginary flies on the walls - leaping full-on into the wall, only to bounce off. They've been prone to that sort of thing ever since. :)


You plan out simple fun things like watching a movie or go to a party. But after started, you won't get bored for sure, you may even try out new personalities just to see how people will react to that.


As Mr. November pointed out, I was more curious about the sorts of tasks you set out for yourself.


I did shrooms a few dozen times throughout my college years. Most of the time it was in a group environment just for fun. Sometimes we would try things like the artists you mentioned, but as we were all bio/engineer types it was never serious.

That said, I did perform a handful of solitary experiments where I would lock myself in my room with a programming assignment working non-stop for some 5-7 hours. The output was remarkable. But the drug was rough on my system and would take me days to recover.. so no more than once a month. Eventually stopped doing it altogether after a bad experience.



Thanks for that link....I had come across Alex many years ago but the name and link got lost, I was attracted to his work as soon as I saw it.


I took a pottery class last winter and I observed the positive feedback loop in action. As someone who is not used to constantly bullshitting, it really threw off my chi to listen to an overly peppy woman tell me how amazing my work was even though we both knew it was garbage.


How did you discern that she knew?


That's hilarious, the exact same thing happened to me. I used to draw some pretty interesting stuff while in college.

Then I took some mushrooms with a pen and paper in hand. All I could draw was stupid smiley faces. It was just inane gibberish.

So yeah, I guess there is a bit of a myth about LSD and creativity... at least anything that involves fine motor skills and concentration. In this context it was a creativity killer.


I can't imagine producing anything of any quality on LSD.


I can certainly believe this - LSD is screwy like this.

On one of the very few occasions I used it, I had what I thought was a profound understanding of how everything in the universe was connected together. I couldn't recall what the big idea was afterwards (or to this day), but I'm quite certain it was just my brain making up nonsense.


A better observation would be to see if it had an effect on their work over the next few weeks or months.


It was not functioning as a tool... immediately? It's a interesting experience, if they couldn't produce it while it was happening it that doesn't mean it didn't influence them in the long run.


If you have any predisposition towards psychosis, in family history or personally, please avoid LSD.

For those firmly rooted, it might be pleasurable or productive to become a little less so. If you're already sometimes on the edge, LSD can push you over.

This happened to one of my best friends. Growing up he was crazy, creative, always saw things a little differently, prone to manic behavior. After a year of regular LSD use he was unable to form a coherent sentence. Please be careful.


I'm very positive on LSD in general, but even to me, "a year of regular LSD use", or any kind of "regular" use sounds extreme and dangerous. I guess I take it for granted that something so intense should be approached with a great deal of respect and caution. I do find it odd that people naturally "get" this for things like driving a car, hang-gliding, back-country skiing, skateboarding, parkour.... but often shut down mentally when the subject is illegal drugs.


I would also strongly advise against regular use of LSD.

I think LSD trips are highly influenced by your state of mind and intention towards the trip. Sometimes I've tripped looking for a spiritual event or revelations, and they often show up (in some form or another). Other times I've done it more 'just for fun' and there hasn't been as much revelation in it.

LSD has been one of the most profound experiences of my life. I now reserve it for special occasions, and combine a bit of ceremony to it. It's a powerful substance, so treat it with the weight it deserves.


Where do you get it?


Yeah, if 'regular use' is more than once a week for a year, that's a lot of LSD. Psychosis might not be the causal element there, a shitload of lsd might be the causal element.


I know of very close people having big and long psycho troubles just with one trip.


LSD isn't effective more than once a week. If you took LSD two days in a row, it simply wouldn't do anything the second day.

http://www.quora.com/Is-there-some-sort-of-refractory-period...

I guess you could take it two, max three times a week.


Your first sentence and last sentence are contradictory. Additionally, the information you linked to could be a typo but it actually says that "This means that you should be able to dose the same quantity of acid again to achieve similar effects."

I don't personally use LSD, but I believe this information to be correct: "There is a short period of tolerance after use. Using LSD two days in a row is likely to lead to a diminished experience the second day, though spaced 3 or more days apart, this effect is nearly non-existent." (via http://www.erowid.org/chemicals/lsd/lsd_basics.shtml) Yes, using it two days in a row will result in a less powerful effect the second day but most people wouldn't attempt it that soon anyways (I'd assume).

I only point this out as this thread makes LSD seem like a wonder drug and I'd want new users to get the correct information.


Wow, I left the original statement there because I thought it was a week. Corrected with a citation and got slaughtered. Don't mess with HN's LSD, huh!


Hope you find it odd that people regularly smoke cigarettes as well. Because the point is not whether a drug is made legal or not by your congress of the moment, but whether the benefits of it outweight the health danger.


People smoke cigarettes primarily because they are profoundly addictive, both chemically and psychologically. That confounds ordinary risk/reward analysis, and so I think it is a red herring here.

Also, the "Hope you..." phrasing makes your comment come off as a bit sneering/condescending, just FYI.


When I am reading HN, it's almost always during time outside the office in the smoking area, or in front of my house, smoking a cigarette, like now.

I would certainly agree that nicotine is profoundly addictive, and the cigarette as a delivery system equally so. It reduces anxiety (especially useful to smooth the effects of caffeine), acts as an apetite suppressant (long nights hacking can be interrupted by a five-minute smoke break rather than a thirty-minute food break), and is a mild stimulant. One issue here, though, is that as you become addicted, most of the anxiety you calm with cigarettes is caused by withdrawal symptoms or even fear of withdrawal symptoms, like headaches, hand tremors, dizziness, blurred vision, all very unpleasant. The pavlovian response is pretty strong: inhaling cigarette smoke gets you the effects within seconds. In the case of withdrawal symptoms, you have this discomfort, and it is relieved almost instantly after you inhale. People with anxiety disorders or depression have a strong tendency to self-medicate with nicotine.

Psychologically, it's nice to have something to do with your hands while standing around outside waiting. Like time in the shower, sometimes I have my best ideas outside smoking, thinking about nothing in particular. And an excuse to get up from the computer and go out for a little while is great, too. There are social benefits as well, if you live in a neighborhood or work at a company where there are people coming and going, happy to converse outside.

So the addiction goes fairly deep, and is often not understood by non-smokers. The fact that you see, in almost any major metropolitan environment, homeless people smoking is a pretty good indicator. Personally, there are times when I have opted to smoke rather than eat or sleep, and it is confounding but there's a deep urge anyway, as if my body were telling me that I "needed" to smoke, in the same way that it tells me I need to eat or sleep.

I've made a number of attempts to quit, and have found the nicotine patches to be the most useful method. (I have a couple of boxes of them at home, waiting for Monday to roll around.)


FYI, for me, Chantix is a quit smoking wonder drug, it made it surprisingly easy for me to quit my 15 year pack-a-day addiction.


Per the Wikipedia page it looks interesting, although I've been almost successful with the patch in the past, and know essentially what to expect. I had used the gum (the gratification wasn't quite instant enough) and the "e-cigarettes" (nicotine vaporizers) before with neither working for very long. I had also tried (ill-advisedly) Adderall, which is supposed to calm nicotine cravings for some. (It really only made me giddy and scatter-brained. A very fun drug that made me almost entirely useless.) Should my next attempt work out the same as my previous ones, I'll definitely look into Chantix.


What's been working for me over the past year is Swedish snus. It has definitely broken me of the 20 year addiction to the process of smoking cigarettes. It's amazing how much of the addiction was to everything about smoking other than nicotine. Snus is a borefest. Avoid any of the American snuses (Camel/Marlboro), it'll turn you off to the idea before you get started because they're sweet and gross and barely have any nicotine. I recommend the "General" white portion and/or mint, and the mini-portions are unnoticeable.

Easy to reduce on because you know exactly how many milligrams you're taking (like methadone or something) because of Swedish labelling rules. I'm hoping to be off snus within the next three or four months, but there's no big hurry because it's pretty cheap and very safe in comparison to other tobacco products.

Internet ordering directly from Sweden is easy, and some of the fancier US tobacco shops are starting to carry it - so you might get lucky.


I'm grateful fairly frequently that I never went beyond sampling cigarettes as a kid. So a bit by chance, I don't smoke now, and I'm sure as hell not going to start as an adult.

It's just profoundly clear to me (from your comments, from similar discussions with lots of other smokers) that there's no going back to a pre-smoking life. Life after quitting smoking (or any other deeply-rooted addition, I suspect) is not at all the same as a life where you never started; that bridge is burned.


Well, once you're off, the benefits start to pile up quickly. Food tastes better, you don't cough up strangely colored things early in the morning, your lungs don't burn, etc. It's still an incredibly difficult addiction to quit, much moreso than I expected before I started smoking. When not smoking, I do tend to miss all of the benefits, especially the extra time to think, but I've in the past replaced it with taking brief walks to get some coffee or tea.


I think most smokers start at a young age; if you're not a smoker by age 25, there is little chance of you becoming one after that. This is why a lot of cigarette advertising is subliminally targeted at young folks.


Thanks for posting this. I've had two friends profoundly affected by the drug. One is now schizophrenic after taking a large dose and will have a lifelong struggle. Thankfully he is supported by his family and his mom is a psychiatrist.

The second took a large dose about a decade ago and after being a very conservative straight guy. Mormon. Straight A's. Didn't take drugs or drink. He immediately dropped out of school, moved in with a prostitute and decided he wanted a sex change. That was 10 years ago. Last year he had sex reassignment surgery in Thailand.

In both cases I suspect the drug opened pathways that were suppressed. I see LSD as a truly mind altering drug. In rare cases it alters minds for the better. In many cases it exposes latent problems that can be debilitating and life-destroying.


I honestly can't tell if you're presenting the 2nd story as a good thing or a bad thing. I doubt that LSD made your friend transgendered (especially since it's been 10 years).

Given that your friend is transgendered, it's probably a lot better that she figured it out while in school instead of when she was 40 and had a wife and kids, even though dropping out of school and getting one's sex reassignment surgery in Thailand are pretty bad ideas.


One small point of confusion with your otherwise good post: Some of the Thai surgeons are the best in the world for that particular procedure... going there is not typically considered a bad decision.


Actually Thai surgeons in general are very good. I recently entrusted my fiancee to one and the medical care she received was outstanding.

The fastest growing tourism segment here is medical tourism. High quality care at a relatively low cost & lots of good food.


My mistake. Thanks for correcting me (both of you). I had gotten the impression that people went to Thailand for cheap surgeries that usually worked out but that it was a little sketchy/suboptimal/risky.


If he's not a Mormon anymore, I'd call it a net win.

The real question is: is he happier now?


I've lost two good friends to this. Definitely be careful. A lot of government drug propaganda may be bullshit but it doesn't mean there aren't dangers.


I don't want to disagree with your opinion of the cause of your friend's psychosis, as you observed the process and I didn't, but as a general statement I'd like to put out there that the time of life when schizophrenia presents (late teens, twenties, early thirties) correlates with the years when people usually experiment with drugs. This has been true since before LSD existed.

http://schizophrenia.com/photos/szage.onset.gif

from

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8178665?dopt=Abstract


I have no idea if this is rooted in scientific fact, but I've had such a similar experience I almost wonder if we are talking about the same guy. The sad thing is that we almost certainly aren't.


Here is a good video that explains what it's like to develop psychosis after taking LSD. The actual talk starts at around the 2:40 mark:

http://vimeo.com/15959433

Note though that his experiences were relatively minor compared to what some other people go through. Here are a couple songs about the same basic experience:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7HBCSF9nfs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSSmLYAjvRg

There's no question that people with a family history or other predisposition toward mental illness shouldn't use LSD. In general shrooms seem to be somewhat safer, probably because they last only a third as long. They're still not safe for someone with mental illness or a predisposition toward it, but they seem to be mostly safe for everyone else as long as those partaking take the time to learn and follow all of the relevant best practices. (Including being old enough; you always hear about all the psychedelic researchers who lived until old age, but what you don't hear is that none of them discovered drugs until their 30s.)


Yeah, you're not kidding. I took shrooms, A (LSD), E, smoked some marijuana (not much), tried cat a few times and generally partied it up for maybe a decade. At some point I found out that my mother had suffered from schizophrenia, which would explain why I got my money's worth out of marijuana, shrooms and A. I had a pretty hard time working out what was real.

Bad trips were something else. We're talking about seeing everything bad about myself and humanity, which considering the basically selfish nature of a human is quite something. Very black-and-white, good-and-evil thinking, alternating between extremes. Synthesizing sounds, colors, physical things around me. When I read about people going nuts or harming themselves, I'm not surprised. Very black-and-white thinking can lead to some alarming thoughts.

I'd find that if I spent a few hours spiralling on that I could lose the ego totally and emerge with a very objective sense of the world. A world in balance, things as they should be, personal and friends' faults accepted, insights into myself and others. I definitely made some amazing self-discoveries, but at significant risk.


Reminds me of Paul Erdős, who used amphetamines (think Adderall) for a similar purpose.

After 1971 Erdős also took amphetamines, despite the concern of his friends, one of whom (Ron Graham) bet him $500 that he could not stop taking the drug for a month. Erdős won the bet, but complained that during his abstinence mathematics had been set back by a month: "Before, when I looked at a piece of blank paper my mind was filled with ideas. Now all I see is a blank piece of paper." After he won the bet, he promptly resumed his amphetamine use.


The difference is that amphetamines, though potentially addictive and dangerous, can actually help you do math or programming. I'm skeptical that people can code better (if at all) while on LSD.


It's not that you code better or write math equations better... It's a temporary change in the state of your mind which helps you see things from a different perspective. Think of a time when you were stuck on a really hard problem and then went away from it for a while only to have the solution pop in your head... It's kinda like that, but on an entirely different level.


I've taken small doses of LSD (half a hit) with great success while coding or creating more traditional art. I find that the small dose makes it easier for me to imagine where bugs might be, visualize and compare algorithms, and consider both high level architecture ideas as well as low level details simultaneously. That said, I've only tried it a few times back in college, so I don't have many data points.

Larger doses work differently, and less directly for me. They tend to help me gain greater perspective on my life and my work. It can give me a renewed energy and excitement for what I am doing, or, conversely it can help me realize that I am on the wrong track, and will motivate me to make changes that help me live a more fulfilling life. I often end a strong experience with so much energy that I can't wait for the next day to begin so I can put into action everything I had been thinking about. I code vastly better when I have a deep understanding about why I am coding.

As with anything, these experiences have diminishing returns, so spacing them out over years has helped me keep them 'productive'.


> I'm skeptical that people can code better (if at all) while on LSD.

Here's another reported success: "Use of LSD-25 for Computer Programming" by Dennis R. Wier http://www.maps.org/news-letters/v18n1/v18n1-MAPS_24.pdf (Previously on HN: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=654168 )


You can manage to code while on LSD but it is very hard. After trying it a couple of times I decided it just takes out the fun from both LSD and coding.


I have ADD and am a coder. I am on Concerta (methylphenidate, a derivative of methamphetamine) and find that my interest in math, as well as programming, has increased significantly.


I can confirm this. Concerta increases my performance, but I actually need it to function day-to-day. My ADD was only noticed at age 20 because despite suffering badly from it, I kicked ass in school. When I first took Concerta it was one giant ball of what the f*ck: was this vast quiet possible?


Me too, though I prefer dexamphetamine.

I've given dex to other programmers on occasion; they're often amazed at how much it helps them concentrate and get things done.

It's kind of like coffee that WORKS.

Hence my favourite programming beverage: grind your beans, sprinkle finely powdered amphetamine on the top of the basket, and make yourself a nice motherfuckiato.


Any of them ever end up with a bad amphetamine habit after that?

That's mighty addictive stuff, for someone with the wrong combination of genetics and psychology, this could be really bad.

The drug war is full of nonsense - but amphetamines are regulated for a good reason.


Note: Methylphenidate is not actually an amphetamine derivative, although it's similar in structure and function.


Yes, it is a derivative of methamphetamine. Adderall (amphetamine) and Concerta both are used to treat ADD.


Err, no. Methamphetamine is significantly different from methylphenidate. Methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin, etc) is more closely related to amphetamine, but still not a derivative. It's like saying that thebaine is a derivative of codeine due to them being similar in structure.


If we're getting technical it's merely in the same family as methamphetamine. Meth causes a _much_ larger dopamine response which among other reasons is why people find it awesome and addictive.


The only reason why you wouldn't is because you can't always choose what draws you in. If you can keep your focus pretty much anything is possible; you're not handicapped in the same way as you would be on alcohol for instance. For some interesting reading, see this [0] about a SF bike courier who works while tripping.

[0] http://www.erowid.org/experiences/exp.php?ID=84954


I've played chess under the influence of psilocybin with a sober friend. I was massacred.

There are creative aspects to programming, and you might gain some insights that are applicable, but I'd save the implementation till you come down unless the dose was rather small.


It's not so much coding that can benefit, but conceptualizing the architecture of the system as a whole, which is where the greatest gains in efficiency and elegance are to be found.


I am very grateful for my experiences with LSD, and wouldn't trade them for anything in the world.

The best way I could describe its practical long-term effects, (once you've come down and realized you haven't broken your brain) is that your previous knowledge has been helpfully flagged as invalid, allowing you to acquire new knowledge in a less stupid, more nuanced manner. Everything you knew about groups of people, genders, categories of objects, in short all the knowledge that allows you to assess a situation and make sense of the world is marked as fallacious, and your mind is now freed to learn how the world works in a more sophisticated manner.

I think everyone should take the opportunity to try it out, if given the chance to do so in a comfortable setting (comfortable socially - roughing it in the wild is fine, maybe even encouraged).


The best way I could describe its practical long-term effects, (once you've come down and realized you haven't broken your brain) is that your previous knowledge has been helpfully flagged as invalid, allowing you to acquire new knowledge in a less stupid, more nuanced manner.

I am curious about whether or not you have ever tried living in another country with a different language and culture for an extended period of time, and then returning to live in a more familiar culture. That too can have the effect of flagging previous knowledge as invalid, allowing you to acquire new knowledge. Perhaps you have done this as well, but I'm not sure about that from what you say about yourself here. As G.K. Chesterton put it, "The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land."


I've taken enormous (read: irresponsible) quantities of psychotropics over the course of my life: psilocybin in particular, but I've had experiences with everything from pure LSD to exotic molecules without names.

The intensity and resonance of those experiences are such that it's sometimes hard to reconcile with the small fraction of the population who have known them. It's an essential part, to me, of the human experience.

That said, when I was younger I didn't always treat them with the respect they deserve, and it's difficult to determine in retrospect the effects they've had on my life - in part because I was still not yet fully formed when I began. I don't regret the path I've taken, but in retrospect it seems a fluke that I've arrived where I am with my sanity (arguably) intact; or even that I've arrived at this age at all.

To me, these are incredibly powerful tools, with amazing potential for both creation and destruction - but the infrastructure to support their responsible use didn't evolve at a pace to match their sudden explosion into mainstream awareness in the 60's, and the results were terrifying to many; alcohol can be an amazingly destructive drug, but societies have had thousands of years to grow comfortable with its effects, and to learn to mitigate its worst excesses.

As a result of this (perhaps rightly deserved) fear and confusion, we've collectively overreacted, not only banning them outright, but elevating their status to one of our most fiercely prosecuted taboos. I sincerely hope that this will change at some point, and that it will coincide with an evolution of the knowledge and wisdom required to use them responsibly.

To me it's evident that there are strong positive outcomes to be gained, from personal and artistic growth to effective treatment for psychiatric afflictions - but more than any other substances I know of, these drugs are chameleons that can change form entirely in response to one's approach to them. They rarely reward foolishness or irresponsibility.

Now, as ever, cultists are everywhere; I put my trust in science. And I hope that as the stigmas attached to these substances subside, our governments have the sense to entrust the exploration of this potential to scientists.


There are probably some people reading these discussions and considering taking an "hallucinogen" for the first time.

If you're thinking about it, please, do your homework. Thoroughly. As others have cautioned, drug use can catalyze psychosis, the permanent emergence of bipolar disorder, etc. Consider these risks as they relate to you in particular (your family history, etc) very carefully, and if you decide to go ahead, be sure you prepare with as much care, consideration and thoroughness as it deserves.

And if you do, I'd consider avoiding LSD unless you can guarantee its legitimacy and purity. Mescaline is readily producible from common cacti (San Pedro, et al), has a long history of safe use by e.g. native americans §, and will likely provide you with a more helpful experience. It's also much harder to take too much of than e.g. psilocybin or LSD, which are very easy to consume a psychiatrically dangerous dose of.

There is a wealth of information out there - some of it spurious, but much of it helpful. I would encourage wider use of psychedelics, but I strongly qualify this encouragement. Not everyone should try them: some people are irreparably damaged by their first trip, and I don't claim to be able to say why; nor will they reward being treated without the utmost respect.

That said, after almost a decade of abstinence from tripping, I discovered mescaline, and I intend to continue to use it up to a few times a year. Thus far I've found it to be an extremely rewarding and positive force in my life; I'm an atheist, but you could say it's my replacement for religion.

§ http://www.wired.com/medtech/health/news/2005/11/69477 - "Peyote won't rot your brain"


While I'm ranting: if your interest lies in becoming more productive as a programmer, these are not the droids you're looking for. Some people have put forward anecdotal evidence to the contrary, but I personally can't see it being either likely or worthwhile (taken in isolation).

Good sleep, meditation, regular exercise, a good diet, vitamin or fish oil supplements, possibly responsible use of some stimulants (caffeine, dexamphetamine, methylphenidate, etc - I do NOT advise using methamphetamine), quiet work spaces, trying different tactics (e.g. pomodoro technique) for minimising disruption and improving your concentration, fostering dedication to your craft - all of these are much more likely and FAR less risky candidates for making you a better programmer.

And as others here have alluded to, psychedelics yield diminishing returns. One or two trips could change your life and transform your outlook, hopefully for the better; using a psychedelic experience to collect and align your energies up to a few times a year could be a positive influence. Taking them more often than that qualifies as abuse, and will not help you.


And may even reduce you to ranting and muttering to yourself ...


Not sure if it's sarcasm or not, but I do that often without any drug influence whatsoever.

Edit: ok, I scrolled up and now I've got it. I'm a bit slow today, maybe I need some stimulant after all...


My tuppence: I was an average student, perhaps an underachiever - I was the youngest in my class... Anyway around about the closing years of high school I discovered the recreational joy of LSD, which I took despite superman comics warning me of the dangers. For a while I dropped out (3 years) and enjoyed a life that was devoid of computers (until that point I had spent all my time on 8bit then 16bit computers, leading up to an 8086 pc). I lived in a bedsit and had no outlook or any desire to "get a life". At some point during an acid trip, I found myself alone and spent a long time in introspection about where I was and where I would like to be. Long story short, fast forward 20 years, I'm married with a beautiful daughter, a great senior technical job with a very public FTSE 100 media company, a couple of irons in the fire with personal software projects I'm writing (in fact, I'm actually procrastinating here, I should be coding!) and a generally great life. If I had continued on my "wastrel" route those years ago, my life wouldn't have been as rosy (though perhaps less stressful). I attribute my conversion from waster to nerd entirely to my experiences with LSD. I thoroughly recommend it to others (though I will caution that I have seen downsides in some of my comrades, not deaths you understand, but longer lead-times to achieving their goals). This article (though lacking in specifics) does resonate very strongly with my life experience. Final question (to myself) would I use LSD again? Answer... not sure, I've done a whole lot of living in the last 20 years, not sure I want to reprogram the grey matter at this stage - maybe again in 10 years...


I've had a relatively drug-free life, although I've often volunteered to be the sober friend while everyone else imbibes. I've never regretted it, I've had some great times not on drugs.

But if you've ever seen Little Miss Sunshine, the grandfather has a perspective on drug use that I've adopted wholeheartedly:

Don't you start taking that shit. When you're young, you're crazy to do that stuff.

What about you?

I'm old! When you're old, you're crazy not to do it.


I agree, with my proven addictive personality (i'm a smoker!), I'm terrified of morphine (and less pure versions), I have been in situations where the big bad H or opium was offered but have always refused not because I was really afraid of harm or of legality but because I was afraid that I would like it too much. I've long held to the morbid fact that as soon as I get my cancer/heart-failure/other terminal diagnosis, then I'll be starting Opium use with gusto!


My sole, true goal in life has been to attain deepest levels of consciousness, connectedness with the being, and crystal clear clarity and to do so without external dependencies like drugs.

I have struggled a lot with the odds and gotten only a few moments of what I am after. But I realized one thing in the process that it requires quite a bit of unlearning, forgiving, accepting, non-reacting and seeing it as it is. I still haven't lost any amount of belief in the feasibility of my experiment as I have gone closer to it - the fact that the degree and duration of my experience can be controlled by me alone is a powerful realization.

Baba Ram Dass' book referenced in one of the comments on the wired site might be worth trying out - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00486UF8Y/ref=s9_simh_gw_p...


Out of curiosity - do you ever drink wine with a meal? Have a beer with friends? Sip coffee discussing exciting new projects or dissecting a problem?

These are all "drugs". Anything we put into our body, food or otherwise, is a "drug" and serves to alter us in some way.

You will always have "external dependencies". You are dependent on food and water to live, social interaction to love and to feel friendship, and other humans to make your life possible through manufacture, farming, and medical care, among other things.

We all have external dependencies. One of the beauties of ingesting hallucinogens is that this is the first realization you will likely have.


I used to drink occasionally, of course. But I have been consciously cutting my artificially created dependencies wherever I can.

There is a big difference between dependency on food and dependency on beer for example. Need vs. Want. I don't need beer to survive, I do need water. Beer I will use to lighten up, enjoy - water to satisfy thirst and keep the body working. Drugs fall in mind made wants. Taking drugs to set yourself free of bonds and compulsions that kill your being, joy, clarity - that's illogical - you are trading one dependency for other.


Do you eat food for enjoyment?


I am not sure what you are getting at. Why is your focus on giving up - mine is on not letting it matter. I am not claiming to have given up on food - giving up is not what I am trying to do - my focus is happiness with understanding and minimalism. Minimalism does not equate to starving yourself to death. It involves doing everything "needful" without attachment or false pretenses or expectations. Doing nothing extraneous.

I am also not claiming to have been 100% done - it's my steady journey towards that goal that I was sharing. It's all about changing gradually with full understanding instead of looking at it as a means to some end.


> Why is your focus on giving up - mine is on not letting it matter.

That's some trivial reframing -- if you stopped eating food, it would start to matter.


That would be missing the point of course. Read my previous post - there is difference between food and beer that I illustrated.


GP: "and to do so without external dependencies like drugs."

Are you reading this as "without (any) external dependencies, for example, drugs"?

That is a bit silly (as you're trying to point out).

Try "without external dependencies similar to drugs" (i.e., chemical substances that may dramatically alter physical & mental operation and are not at all required to lead a healthy life).

Rule of thumb -- if you find yourself explaining to someone that "you need food and water to live" or something else similarly basic, you've either misunderstood their point, or are talking to a 4-year-old. :)


I disagree. They're illustrative more than condescending, similar to your "rule of thumb".

The idea is that we alter our bodies through external actions in innumerable ways all the time. The idea that "drugs" are somehow different and not part of the human experience strikes me as an oversimplification.

It reminds me of people who don't like things with "chemicals" in them. Chemicals are in everything... and food is the ultimate drug.


Something you should know about Be Here Now...

It was written during the brief period in Ram Dass' life when he wasn't taking LSD. He returned to the practice shortly thereafter, because he found that he needed the insight to stay on the path he had set for himself.

Also, Neem Karoli Baba never took the LSD; he performed a magician's pass and hid it in his clothing. So all that nonsense about his guru taking 900 mikes and not changing consciousness was just that, nonsense.

NK Baba later ground the LSD up with some holy ash and gave it to his closest disciples, who were blown away by the holiness and power of his darshan, no doubt.

Reference: the interview with Ram Dass in Zig Zag Zen.


I predict that LSD will become much more popular in the near future due to services like The Silk Road and Bitcoins. While other drugs can be detected quite easily in mail with scanners and such, LSD in plotter form can't be detected without actually opening every letter.


For people like me, who didn't know what "Silk Road" was in this context: It's an anonymous market for drugs using Tor. [1] Bitcoins are used for paying.

[1] http://www.bitcoin.org/smf/index.php?topic=3984.0


Most drugs are not mind expanders, but blockage solvers. We care a lot about what others say and think. This is blocking our creativity. But you don't need drugs to solve this blockage. You can train yourself letting creativity flow and don't care about what other people say.

A simple method is to start extreme. I think this applies to both graphic creativity as for programming creativity.

They also call it "out of the box" thinking.


I agree.


There's no reason to attempt to prove (because you can't) or even speculate (because it doesn't matter) whether any of the "best" programmers anyone has or could suggest have done LSD or still do on a regular basis. However, I find it odd when people seem to insist that LSD is completely unnecessary or necessary to do things. Like it has been brought up before, Steve Jobs cites LSD as one of the most important experiences of his life. To rate it that highly would imply that he feels it somehow changed his psyche in such a way that it impacted who he is today. If that's the case, then you could (not concretely, but with good certainty) argue that LSD can have a positive effect on people's creativity. In fact, it does not actually matter whether it does or not so much as whether people perceive that it does (this could all be a placebo effect). Thus, the worst arguments that can be made on each end of the spectrum are that a) LSD is always unnecessary to foster innovation (Steve Jobs would argue it fostered his innovation in a way that wouldn't have happened if he hadn't tripped) and b) that everyone should do LSD at least once because it will enable them to accomplish more than otherwise possible. The choice is obviously personal and would work out beneficially for some and be fruitful for others. The important part is to remove the stigma of doing illicit drugs and to recognize that they can provide psychological benefits that are otherwise unrealizable OR acid can give you the best time you've ever had sitting on a couch. Most people that do it develop personal realizations that don't extend beyond themselves and that's all. It would be nice if people stopped passing judgment on those who belong to the other camp and instead offered their insights into why they have or haven't felt compelled to do acid. (Full disclosure: I've tripped about a dozen times over the last four years)


I don't know that Steve Jobs is creative as much as he is an unrelenting perfectionist. He doesn't design things, Apple's recent success comes mostly from his ability to say "No, that's not good enough. Try again."

Maybe his confidence to do that comes from having experienced some sort of revelations or profound experiences on LSD that make "good, but not good enough" products seem even more mundane and pedestrian to him.


That's a good point, although I would argue that he is in fact extremely creative. However, his creativity isn't physically manifest. It lies in his ability to translate abstract ideas about UX paradigms into devices. You're right though, LSD could have / may have given him a new conception of what is "perfect" that led to a his particular brand of perfectionism.


Let me chime in here with some personal experience. I am pretty much addicted to marijuana in terms of working and enjoying it.

That is, I don't really enjoy programming nearly as much compared to when I am a bit baked. Mind you, I can work.. but it feels like such a chore (not always but I'm talking typically). There are a lot of us like this.

As for LSD.. I have had many revelations while tripping, some I've had to later reject (which is a difficult process) and probably some that I should but have not yet. However, have learned a tremendous amount from whatever it is that is happening while tripping.

I really think most people should trip their face off at least once. What it feels like is that you are tapping into something truer and deeper (when you are tripping, the hallucinating reality is the 'real' reality, that is how you experience it). I don't know what is actually happening, but it can be just absolutely amazing, or absolutely devestating.

Take for instance, having an intellectual idea of the universe; like what it actually is. Some people are fascinated by thinking about these things anyway, others can't be bothered.

Now imagine, instead of having some mathematical and intuitive understanding of the 'building blocks' of the universe.. you were thrown into hyperspace and pulled of your body and shown what the universe is, and what your place in it is. And it's a truly beautiful, elegant thing. And many many people have seen the same thing (it's the universal 'mystical experience').

It's like you were pulled out of the matrix, if just for a bit, and you can actually talk to other people about it, because it happens to lots of people who trip.

Whether it is actually giving insight or not (it could definitely be some idiosyncratic interaction that lsd is having with your brain to make you see things in a certain way); it's at the very least fun, and can have a drastic effect on the way you oritent yourself toward reality.

It can also affect your mental processes--LSD has the effect (at least in me) of continually changing the level of abstraction I am thinking in. You see a situation, then you see the bigger picture of that situation, and on and on until your mind can't even fathom any thing anymore.

You set out to write a bash script to move some files, you suddenly realize an amazingly better way to do bash scripting, which makes you realize some basic change in the OS that would make UI 1000% friendlier, then you realize we shouldn't be using computers at all, then you realize you are here on earth for a purpose and you are wasting your life then your buddy is like--YO you're spacing off and the chain of thinking starts over.


> You set out to write a bash script to move some files, you suddenly realize an amazingly better way to do bash scripting, which makes you realize some basic change in the OS that would make UI 1000% friendlier, then you realize we shouldn't be using computers at all, then you realize you are here on earth for a purpose and you are wasting your life then your buddy is like--YO you're spacing off and the chain of thinking starts over.

But let's be honest here: If your goal was to write the script, that sounds horribly unproductive.


But is your goal to write the script? Or is it to enjoy your time here on Earth?

If writing that script at that time made sense and you were enjoying it, nothing could stop you from doing it. If you were wasting time and an unfocused individual, you'd see that.


"But is your goal to write the script?"

Yes. Because if you are writing a script, it obviously serves a purpose.


I think that the semantics behind the question implied end goal, as in is the ultimate goal of writing a bash script simply to write a bash script or is it something more, something beyond that? One would almost certainly reason that the answer must be the latter, yes?


Right; you shouldn't be writing bash scripts while tripping :)

I was just giving an example many people here would be familiar with so I could actually go through examples of each 'new level.' The whole thinking pattern goes on over and over starting with new 'seeds' to abstract from.


What about the next day when he uses his insight to write the script in 1/10th the time?


Please remind me not to ask you to write any scripts for me.


Why? eof's comment was wonderfully open and honest, but jpk's response was true. In the description, it's not clear that the script even got written. Would you accept this result if you had hired a freelancer to write the script?


I think the point is that EOF realized that there was an underlying problem to the bash script to begin with.


>>> What it feels like is that you are tapping into something truer and deeper

It might feel like you are tapping into something truer and deeper, but that doesn't mean that you are.


Ultimately, all our experiences are subjective and we can't be sure that any of them are authentic. Perception is reality. LSD really makes this fact stand out.


Perception isn't reality. Incorrectly perceiving an oncoming car will prove this.

There are perceptions and there are facts. This is true whether the facts are easily knowable or not, and extends as much to the existence of God and other such questions as it does to the sum of two numbers.


"There are perceptions and there are facts."

Do you dispute that facts are also perceptions?


Facts are a subset of perceptions. Not all perceptions are facts.


Not all facts are facts.


Case in point.


I say that explicitly:

"Whether it is actually giving insight or not (it could definitely be some idiosyncratic interaction that lsd is having with your brain to make you see things in a certain way); it's at the very least fun, and can have a drastic effect on the way you oritent yourself toward reality."

There is something seemingly objective about it though in that others seem to have very similar experiences.


From a great number of people's reports about their experiences while using psychedelics, they all seem to follow a common theme (things about opening their mind to God, communing with the great underlying themes of life, opening previously locked doors in their minds). If a plurality of people report having the same experience, then to me, that validates it.

Then there's the solipsist point of view, which is to say, it doesn't matter that someone else thinks you are deluding yourself, because all that is knowable is in your own mind, so you aren't capable of validating anything anyway.

Either way, the experience is validated, to one's self or to the world.


The experience which is validated by many independent tests is the feeling of tapping into something truer and deeper. I don't think the GP is questioning the feeling, just the actual truer, deeperness of it.


The question that scientists and other empiricists ask when considering ideas is not "is it true?" but "is it useful?"

Do people bring back useful (in the engineering sense) knowledge from their times tripping/rolling? Are they more likely to experience e.g., fruitful insights akin to Kekulé's vision of the benzene ring as an ouroboros, as a result of having consumed these drugs? If so, then the drugs may indeed live up to the claims that they grant access to "truer and deeper" levels of reality. Otherwise, their users are simply fooling themselves. (Although fooling yourself can prove useful; the almost universal belief in deities among humans fulfills some sort of purpose, though it is my belief that that purpose is no longer relevant.)


You're using the word 'useful' as a euphemism for 'practical,' and missing the point. You cannot expect to fully grasp a wholly subjective experience through a predominantly rational mindset. Better to simply discard the intellectual point of view for this topic and attempt to engage it otherwise.


Care to expand on that? Do you know something outside your mind? No, your mind is the knowledge, your mind is your truth and your reality. Your own perception is all that exists and you have no evidence outside of intuition (which is in the mind) for the existence of some extra-mental world.


If he feels like he's tapping in to something deeper, then isn't that enough? It's his experience after all. It doesn't require objective validation, does it?


I couldn't have said it better myself. Except for me, weed keeps pushing up the levels of abstraction (good for architecting software), but LSD makes things hypperreal. IMO, LSD should only be taken on a desolate beach at night, with people who are dear to you.


Right; I definitely don't recommend tripping and trying to code :)

Or the woods, or a psychedelic show in the woods :)


Actually, my dream has always been the aurora borealis.


I've seen several and they are underwhelming. Those photos of glowing curtains of color are taken from space, here on earth they just look like dim green glow (brief explanation below). You are not missing anything, I promise you.

Most of the energetic particles from the Sun are deflected around the Earth by the magnetosphere, but some get trapped. Electrons trapped in the Earth's magnetic field (the magnetic mirror effect) are accelerated along the magnetic field toward the Polar Regions and then strike the gases into the upper layer of the atmosphere, called the ionosphere. In the ionosphere, the speeding electrons collide violently with gas atoms. This gives the gas atoms energy, which causes them to release both light and more electrons. In this way, the gases of the ionosphere start to glow producing the spectacle that we know as the auroras.

Variations in colour are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding. The most common auroral color, a pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora.


I really hope that anyone reading this doesn't heed this advice. I used to live in a smallish city in Canada where aurora borealis was a common nighttime event and every time I've been back and seen them again I've appreciated and been wowed by them more. The hubble telescope can produce for more detailed and composed pictures of the stars but they are nothing compared to the time I spent star gazing in the Atacama desert in Chile here on Earth. By not seeing the aurora borealis you definitely are missing something. Exactly how much is what you need to see by experiencing it for yourself.


Agreed. I saw the Aurora Borealis once whilst flying from the US to the UK - I happened to wake up and look out the window at just the right time and was absolutely mesmerised, just stared and stared until our heading changed and it was no longer in sight. I thought it was absolutely beautiful.


Agreed. I've only seen one in my life, but it was a fully amazing experience.


>I've seen several and they are underwhelming.

Wow I would hate to have your perspective.

The Northern Lights are breathtakingly beautiful, considerably more wonderful than what you're seeing in photos, do not listen to this person.


What in the name of Albert Hoffman has the title got to do with the actual article? They talk about a couple scientists and a symposium on LSD.

How is this a 'geek wonder drug'? CAFFEINE is the geek wonder drug. LSD probably contributes less than 5% of the world's drug-induced geek accomplishments.


I respectfully submit that caffeine is geek oxygen.

If we're casting around for a "wonder" drug, I'd suggest looking at dexamphetamine sulphate, modafinil, etc.


If caffeine were geek oxygen, I would be dead.


This article doesn't do a very good job explaining what it is that makes psychedelic drugs so intellectually interesting. I'd recommend listening to Terence McKenna talking about his childhood and how he discovered psychedelics.

http://matrixmasters.net/archive/TerenceMcKenna/215-McKennaT...

Alternatively, listen to Alicia Danforth's amazing talk on giving psilocybin to terminal cancer patients to ease end of life anxiety:

http://vimeo.com/10931182


Can't resist: "Metaprogramming is the language feature that helps you write code that you won't be able to understand once the LSD wears off."


One of my best friends committed suicide at age 18 in 1995. If LSD was not part of his life, I am sure the suicide would have never happened.


I don't want to sound callous -- I'm sorry for your loss, that sounds awful -- but your comment doesn't give enough context to gain any insight. It just sounds like "drugs are bad, mkay."


The problem is that some people can't handle LSD or other hallucinogens and won't know until they are dead, hurt, or mentally screwed. It's this risk that makes them bad.


Some people aren't capable of healthy romantic relationships and will cause and experience a lot of pain through trying to have them. Should we stop everyone from trying because some percentage will end up in abusive situations, or with broken hearts, or even dead? Risk alone doesn't make something bad, just risky. The question is if the potential rewards make the risks worthwhile, and the answer for LSD for many is clearly yes. Learning how to deal with risk is just part of life.


I've had a lot more friends die from not being able to handle driving licenses than all other causes of friends dieing added together.


I'm very sorry about your friend. While LSD can provide great rewards, it is emphatically NOT for some people, or situations, or moods, or stages of life. It is extremely powerful and requires care and respect.

Of course, the same could be said for driving a car, having children, and a lot of other things that can make life better. Research and education are the proper responses to such risks and dangers, not banning the activity for everyone.


I'm very sorry to hear about your friend and his drugs abuse however this statement is pure speculation. I don't find drug abuse to be a convincing argument for prohibition - in the US, it has only escalated violence and addiction rates. There are obviously negative ways to use drugs. The article is about a positive way.


You can't know that it's speculation. You didn't experience it.


I am alive. I doubt I would be if I hadn't taken LSD at the right time.

(not trying to invalidate your argument at all, btw. and I am not saying that LSD is the only way or the best way it could happen. But it's the way how it did happen.)


That really sucks that your friend killed himself. Having lived through it, maybe you know for sure LSD was the reason he did it. But perhaps he was covering up something else.

If I killed myself today, not a whole lot of people would know why. They might attribute it to something they knew about, but very, very few people know about the thing that makes me want to kill myself.

So what I'm saying is maybe you're right - I certainly have no idea why your friend killed himself, but maybe it could have been something that was devouring his mind that he kept covered up.


What makes you want to kill yourself?


Haha nice try


What do you gain by not giving an answer? What do you stand to lose?

What do we lose by not hearing your answer? What might we gain?

Your call, of course.


Strangely enough, it's not something I'm comfortable talking about. This is why not many people know about it.


One of my best friends committed suicide at age 32 in 2005. Because LSD was not part of his life, I am not sure why the suicide happened.


Or: One of my best friends committed suicide at age 32 in 2005. I think LSD was not part of his life, so I am sure that is not why he killed himself. Anyway, you get the point. People die, sometimes I wonder why.


I offer some of the highlights of my personal experience with LSD, anonymously, due to the very unfortunate stigma. I'm very positive on its ability to unlock potential, trigger insights, expand perspective, and facilitate learning, even in spite of having experienced a few bad trips. Although the experience is deeply personal, I'll try to offer the most concrete accounts I can.

First, of all the hundreds of little insights, interesting trains of thought, and connections made between previously unrelated ideas, there is one revelation in particular that floats to the top of my mind. It's this: LSD confronts you, in an extremely visceral way, with the fact that the entire universe that you perceive and interact with, the whole world and everybody in it, is entirely in your own mind at all times. Sure, it's perfectly reasonable to believe that it's all derived from an objective, external world - but you've never interacted directly with that one, and in fact you can't.

Now, you might say that you already "know" this, philosophically. You can even do the smug, Internet know-it-all thing and say this is completely pedestrian, name-drop Descartes and a bunch of other philosophers, and hit me with a zinger about how this is about as deep as "The Matrix". But I'm not claiming that LSD leads you to the philosophical idea; I'm saying that it slaps you right in the face with it, viscerally. It doesn't tell you, so that you have to think about it in the abstract; it shows you, literally with your own eyes. It's the difference between knowing what the Grand Canyon looks like from pictures, and standing on the edge of it.

It is very common for people to describe the onset of their first trip in terms of waking up, for the first time, ever. I'd describe it this way, too. It feels like waking up for the first time, and realizing that you'd been dreaming your whole life. Of course, this is really just an analogy, and it's more than just a feeling. It's a sudden shift in your actual perceptual processes, which are largely chemical, and have now been altered. But by the mere fact of them being altered, you realize that the default way of perceiving is just that - just a default. It isn't more "true" or more "real" - it's a default, it's massively culturally constructed, and it's characterized by a certain amount of non-questioning of assumptions. What's a color? What's a country? What's a "week"? What's a leader? What is solid? Which way is up? What's a job? Your brain starts trying to decompose every concept into basic principles, and you realize that for a lot of things in the human world, there are none. Just made-up, widespread beliefs that cause lots of people to act as-if, and in so doing, make them "real". Again, there is a difference between merely realizing this philosophically, and being transported outside of the web of culturally-reinforced beliefs and observing it from the outside.

So there's a lot of shedding of constructed concepts. What's left when all that chaff blows away? Whatever it is, it a) seems a lot more real, and b) is obscured in normal consciousness. I'm not suggesting that it would be desirable to permanently lose the ability to think on the level of appointments, check-writing, stop-lights, prospectuses, and the rest of the "mundane". I am definitely suggesting that what is left of experience after all that is obliterated from consciousness is worth seeing. There are parallels here with Buddhism and enlightenment traditions. It's also extremely common for people to offer meditation as a substitute. It's perfectly fine if you don't want to do illegal drugs - hardly anyone will fault you. But don't fool yourself that you're getting the same effect. I've practiced meditation too, and while it does alter consciousness, there are many meaningfully different altered states - they are in no way equivalent or substitutable. (Think about it - if you can simulate an LSD trip by meditating, do you simulate a K trip by meditating differently? Can you meditate yourself to a heroin high by a different technique? LSD isn't just another interchangeable "enlightened" state - they're all specific in their sets of effects. I have no doubt that I too have missed out on plenty of profound experiences by not taking, doing, seeing, or achieving any number of things. It's a big world.)

Sadly, this is turning into a wall of text, and I could still go on for the rest of the day. So, I'm going to force myself to wrap up with just a few more short highlights:

* I learned OpenGL while tripping. The subjective experience was of the information slipping into my brain effortlessly. Normally, I have to read sentences and paragraphs multiple times for them to "sink in". That time, I just skimmed, and understood. The next day, sober, I wrote a couple of neat height-field/terrain programs in OpenGL. Of course we've all learned dozens of even more complicated topics without any drugs, so this anecdote is meaningless, right? All I'm talking about is what it felt like to learn it. It felt effortless by comparison to the way I normally learn. Placebo? Selective memory? Your other favorite bias? Might be interesting to know definitively - but I still had a really good time that night.

* I once won a game of Mastermind on the first turn, without making any other guesses. This seriously freaked out the other people at the table. I wasn't tripping at the time, but I was in a distinctly "trippy" mentality - so much so that I was having a mini-flashback by the end of the turn. What I had done was to realize that the room was a closed system, containing the information about the winning pattern, and that as part of that system, I might have access to the information via other channels. Basically, I just paid very close attention to the other person's body language as I fingered different colored pegs, and allowed him to inadvertently "tell" me the correct colors and order.

* I once did a drawing of a woman from the neck up, while tripping. When I started drawing her hair, I got lost. I was drawing hair for what seemed like hours. I was hiding dozens of other, nested, drawings inside the texture of the hair. It still looked more or less like hair, but if you really looked at it, it was teeming with a whole bunch of unrelated drawings. Sure, I could do the same thing now, but it had never before occurred to me to try that. There is something about tripping that is inherently amenable to that kind of recursive, fractal thinking.

In short, don't knock subjective experiences. The enjoyment of music is a subjective experience, is it not?


There's a lot of truth here, but I think you're neglecting to give yourself the credit due for correctly assimilating it.

To me one of the more present dangers of the "acid experience" is that the tripper latches onto the alternate state they experience and devolves into crapping on about chakras, energy fields, or little elves that live in their garden; the real lesson, as you've rightly identified, is not that the new experience is objectively real - it's that our "normal" daily experience is entirely subjective.

It's not necessarily the most natural conclusion, however, and I suspect that maintaining this kind of scientific (read: sane) outlook becomes increasingly difficult with frequency and intensity of use.


"What's a color? What's a country? What's a "week"? What's a leader? What is solid? Which way is up? What's a job? Your brain starts trying to decompose every concept into basic principles, and you realize that for a lot of things in the human world, there are none."

While I've personally never tried LSD, my favorite is, e, which offers a similar, but different, opening of the mind. Since I've never tried LSD, I can only say that e opens one in an emotional way, one that allows you to empathize and understand the universe in a way that you otherwise wouldn't. It also invokes an odd existential dialog within oneself about how the world works and why we think the way we do.

I suppose I quote you because as a musician and software engineer, it is often the case that I ask myself why it is that certain things are the way they are. For example, anyone that's studies AI realizes that one of the harder concepts is that of _understanding_.

How do we make a machine understand when we ourselves don't understand the _why_ around us?

Drugs like e and LSD present an insight to us that allows us to realize that the answer is a lot more distant than just what we perceive.


I've never taken LSD, but I've done mushrooms once. After the effects started I was outside near a bay and it was humid. I started asking things like "What is wet? Is the wetness from the air different from the wetness of the water?" and I started putting my hands into water to discern the differences. Our "watcher" took us back inside and handed me Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations.

I read it cover-to-cover in about 2 hours and I thought it was the most amazing material. The structure of that book is very much like the thinking process of someone on hallucinogens, or rather, a dialogue between a person on LSD who's babbling and a completely sober person trying to refute the babblings. It ends up making sense though.


>The structure of that book is very much like the thinking process of someone on hallucinogens

Wittgenstein wasn't eating any hallucinogens as nice as that might be to consider. The structure of his works follow the thinking process of somebody who has grasped intersubjectivity at an unprecedented level.


>"What's a color? What's a country? What's a "week"? What's a leader? What is solid? Which way is up? What's a job? Your brain starts trying to decompose every concept into basic principles, and you realize that for a lot of things in the human world, there are none."

Sounds like a day with a toddler ...

Excepting the fact that mine have never got in to the "why" phase (I blame my need to over describe and analyse everything and constantly ask them why) - breaking down concepts gets complex pretty quickly. Explaining a day off turns in to the complexities of royal [male] succession. Life's fun.


The two are very different....

He said it perfectly when he said it "slaps you in the face" with this idea.

It's like all your input filters and mechanisms for categorizing things are stripped away, and your mind just gets raw input - filters you normally don't even realize are there. This makes a speck of dirt on the floor just as interesting as the hot chick standing next to you - and it can make it difficult to impossible to utter a coherent sentence, let alone put together a coherent thought - it's more like raw, pure sensation, unfiltered.

Of course, there's the psychedelic part, with visual disturbances and sensory weirdness too.....

There is no guarantee of good feelings or euphoria like you get with E.... it can best be described as simply "an experience"


if you were to read all of these posts, you would find a common theme: we all experience a new level of consciousness when we trip. However, regardless of what this new experience was or through what method it was achieved, the presence of a new conscious experience proves that their are different types even levels of consciousness.

this epiphany occurred to me through a drug induced change in consciousness. i realized that every material thing in this universe is just a product of my consciousness. this then got me thinking: how is it that material is a product of my consciousness, yet science tells me that my brain (a piece of material produces consciousness).

I flirted with this paradox for months. I concluded that everything in the universe is just a system of interconnected systems of the same energy. I thought of the things in the universe as just different manifestations of a single type of energy at different points in space and time.

Then I read about Amit Goswami and learned some very useful scientific jargon for what i was experiencing. Anyone who is interested in "conscioussness" should research this man - he is leading a thought revolution

http://www.amitgoswami.org/


I'm very suspicious of the use of the word "quantum" as a crowbar to pry open respectable science and fill it with new age bullshit.

I can definitely sympathise with the flavour of insight you're talking about though, and this guy seems to hold some credentials, but phrases like "make brain circuits of positive emotions" trip my hippie detector.


This is exactly what the doctrine of Theosophy is getting towards.

http://www.wisdomworld.org/setting/IntroductionByCompiler.ht...


There is a theory that the connection between the right and left hemisphere of the human brain has been diminishing over generations (The ancients used to audibly hear the voice of the gods, which was likely the right hemisphere, but that ability diminished around 4-5000 years ago).

I wonder if all these psychadelic drugs are doing is enhancing the communication between right and left, or perhaps suppressing the left such that the right takes greater charge? The left does, after all, have very narrow focus as opposed to the right, which processes greater but less focused patterns.


I tought exactly that, when I watched Jill Bolte Taylor's Ted talk.[1] She tells her experience of getting stroke in her left brain, and many things were very similar to some of my psychedelic experiences.

[1] http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke...


That's actually a very interesting biological question that I've never thought of before. It would be nice if the US would loosen its restrictions on testing of Schedule I drugs so that this could be studied more concretely with modern fMRI and so forth. (You'd think they'd be more understanding with LSD, they did run a program for 5 years where they unwittingly dosed people with the drug to no realized detriment...)


Interesting idea. As I understand it, most of these drugs take the place of existing neurotransmitters like seratonin, or modify their action on receptor sites.

Let me put forward a metaphor: you're currently experiencing reality indirectly, through an imperfect lens which throws into focus an internally coherent system of perceptions we might colloquially call a "seratonin hallucination". You could think of the changes that occur after taking e.g. LSD as replacing that lens with another one.

Is it a less accurate one? Almost certainly it's one less valuable in helping our ancestors adapt to the evolutionary pressures they faced than our normal neurochemistry; in terms of representing an "objective" reality though, there may be some ways in which it affords a more faithful depiction.

Or perhaps not; it's hard to say. I think the value lies not in the affordance of new and more authentic powers of perception, but in shaking up the assumptions we make about how objectively truthful our "normal" experiences might be.


Having read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicameralism_(psychology) , a few thoughts ...

Classical psychedelics like LSD tend to impart hallucinations which are reinterpretations of familiar objects: hearing a song in the sound of flowing water perhaps, rather than a disembodied voice dispensing commands; seeing a cloud as an intricate organism dripping with lacework skirts drifting in the eddies of an invisible current, rather than a creature standing in the middle of the room with no basis at all in reality.

Furthermore, it's generally pretty obvious to those involved that what they're seeing is an "hallucination"; the deliriants, such as scopalomine, are another story, and an altogether more terrifying class of drug.

Bicameralism's emphasis on bona fide auditory hallucinations, especially disembodied voices issuing commands, is quite distinct from the subjective experience of most psychotropics; the inhibited self-awareness and metareflective capacity described by the article - the "zombie mind" - is almost the opposite of a trip, where every perception seems saturated to the point of overflow with deep, often autobiographical, meaning.

What you're suggesting bears some similarity to the writings of Aldous Huxley:

""One explanatory model for the experiences provoked by hallucinogens is the "reducing valve" concept, first articulated in Aldous Huxley's book The Doors of Perception.[7] In this view, the drugs disable the brain's "filtering" ability to selectively prevent certain perceptions, emotions, memories and thoughts from ever reaching the conscious mind.""

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallucinogen#Psychedelics_.28cl...

In summary, I'd suggest that it's quite possible that inter-hemisphere communication is increased, but certainly so is the way the entire brain functions.


This is a really interesting theory to me (and probably many others). Care to share some links, documentaries, or documents regarding this topic? Would love to know more.


I assume this is a reference to the 1976 book _The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind_, by Julian Jaynes.

Richard Dawkins wrote of it: “It is one of those books that is either complete rubbish or a work of consummate genius, nothing in between! Probably the former, but I'm hedging my bets.”


I first encountered this theory here:

http://deoxy.org/alephnull/jaynes.htm

There's a few related pages worth reading:

http://deoxy.org/alephnull/rhetd.htm


I've read a few books over the years that touch upon the subject, but I don't remember anything online (It's been quite a number of years since I've visited the subject).

I do know that Colin Wilson subscribes to the theory, so some of his nonfiction works might be helpful (I seem to remember something in The Criminal History of Mankind).


Here you go - bicameralism on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicameralism_(psychology)


It is amazing what psychedelics can bring to the table. Once you step outside of the stream of consciousness society creates for us, it's tough to want to be apart of it again. You feel free. No longer a cog in the machine, but perhaps more an observer or tinkerer. I realized for myself that I no longer have to be a part of that. It is truly out of the box thinking. I find myself outside of the box and generally I'm trying to find the boundaries. This may or may not effect my programming abilities, but it definitely puts the time I have in this world into perspective. The ability to abstract and visualize connections between objects has most definitely increased since experimentation, but I'm not sure if that's a bi-product of myself programming more, or the drugs themselves. All I know is that I would never take those moments back, the bad and the good, as they have shaped who I am and what I strive to be.


Around the world, there are many different patterns of regulation of drugs, and here in the United States, schedule I controlled substances like LSD can be used for legitimate medical research. Research on new drugs is a multibillion dollar industry in several different countries. But there is a dearth of well statistically controlled studies of the safety and effectiveness of LSD for any purpose. Indeed, medical research more often pursues the issue of how to help emergency room patients who appear for treatment of psychotic symptoms triggered by illicit use of LSD.

On the specific issue of programmer or scientist creativity and productivity, that too is a much researched field, but again there are not well controlled studies showing that anyone increases productivity or creativity in any occupation while using LSD. The checkered academic career of Timothy Leary is instructive in this regard. What research shows makes a huge difference in the productivity and work quality of programmers and scientists is steady deliberate practice building up problem-solving skills and growth mindset, along with accumulation of domain-specific knowledge.

http://stuff.mit.edu/afs/athena/course/6/6.055/readings/eric...


It's cause LSD isn't eligible for patent. Research funds are overwhelming steered toward drugs or medical devices that are patentable.


It's worth noting that Timothy Leary espouses some silly shit, and I'm not sure he improves the perceived legitimacy of psychotropics, despite his intentions.


You have to see this video, dedicated to Albert Hoffman (nominated for Academy Award in 1998):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xqcjNUqIAw

YouTube keeps deleting it, so in case link goes bad, just search for this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/More_%281998_film%29


LSD is steroids for meditation. A cheat and a shortcut to the hard work. But it certainly seems to work ;-)


This is what I understand it to be, as per Doors of Perception. It is on my to-do list when I'm 70.


Did anyone else see Limitless?

Did anyone else look at the symptoms of the drug he took (the fictional "NZT-48") and think, "hmmm, sounds like a more extreme form of MDMA"?

Haven't tried it myself. Heard lots about it.


why did you think it was more related to mdma versus an amphetamine? i remember when i saw limitless the first time, i kept thinking 'is this movie just about adderall and vyvanse?'


I had the same reaction as grandparent, so that's a good question. In my case, maybe it's just because it's the closest drug I've used that matches the description from the movie and I've never tried other amphetamines.

The bright blue skies and sun dappled leaves. The pronounced extroversion and talkativeness that makes you think you're a suave genius. The fearlessness. Like Jay-Z said, "MDMA has you feeling like a champion." MDMA is an amphetamine, so presumably all amphetamines may share these traits. If Adderall does it quite to the same degree as MDMA, I envy diagnosed sufferers of ADHD.


I've taken MDMA (Molly) and Adderall, separately. MDMA was good every time. The Adderall only gave me sweaty palms and the inability to stay seated. They don't compare to each other, at least for me.


I've heard stories about people who were able to solve problems faster -- and tackle much bigger problems in their head -- while rolling. In fact they recommended using the drug for this purpose rather than just taking it and dancing at a rave or something, because the latter increases the risk that your brain will burn out. A bit like flooring it in neutral vs. flooring it in gear.


That was more like Modafinil & Cocaine than MDMA. Seriously, MDMA will never help you find patterns in the stock market.


All of you people wondering why people often talk of "seeing God" and other mystical experiences while on LSD, here's the thing:

for the most part, those experiences are false

However, we tend to associate the parts of our life that are more contemplative with the religious or the supernatural. That is why the _descriptions_ are often religious in nature. That is, however, a limitation of our culture. Because we have traditionally delegated those states of mind to the idea of religions, of Church, of God and so on.

LSD will tear you apart and put you back together and you will be better for it. However, even if it was immensely important for me, do not take LSD, even if for this reason alone: it's illegal. I regret my LSD times for that reason alone. I think society is wrong in that regard, but I still like society and I am willing to put up with it being wrong once in a while.

If you want to experience the whole mind-bending experience, go study Philosophy. Read the complicated, boring, dreary stuff. Read Kant and formal logic and everything you can put your hands on. Whatever little thing LSD may have done to some people, Philosophy will do to you a thousand fold. It's the harder path, but it will give you skills that you can control at your will, and it will make you better in every area of your life, permanently.

Philosophy is the whole book to LSD's Cliff's Notes.


Not going to read the article, but will say that it produces interesting and uncontrollable cognitive leaps. Your mind is more explorative in its creativity. However, there are massive problems with using it this way: you do not remember very much and cannot think coherently.

As for it making everything seem hyper-real and 'true', yes, it also does that but it is false. If you were to remember everything from a trip, the likelihood of most of it being useful or correct is probably pretty low.

Lastly, I agree that it is too dangerous -- I don't suffer from psychosis but nevertheless my one experience was not enjoyable. It turned bad; I believe I had a panic attack which I acted upon in the worst possible way. You do not want to experience feelings of failure on LSD. Trust me. My body created physical sensations based on my own thoughts and I lay on a bed shivering...

However, I guess it had a profound and positive effect on me. I realised that the experience was not the one that I wanted from life and it made me reflect on who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live. I realised that one of the best things about my mind has always been the clarity of thought that I have in comparison to many people. I refuse to let that go and since then I've actively sought purpose.


Before jumping off any drugs, I have done more than ten years testing in testing in expanding of consciousness including LSD trips as well. Those were really impressive. You can see sound, hear colors, every surface gets alive. But the best ones happened in the countryside. When you understand the way Universe is build, how things work etc. That was wonderful!! The consciousness was expanded... but it was just a bubble. Because when it ended after 12 hours, I understood that I knew all those things, that I had those strange super-senses. But now I have only some flashbacks and cannot explain others how the Universe is built. So my opinion is that life is like climbing the mountain. We all started climbing up. But on our way we found all kind of interesting things - bars, parties, working, career, family, relationships etc. And climbing made some sideways, making our journey up slower. Some even stopped or even rolled down. But everybody still have that knowledge of being on the top of the mountain. It's deep inside. And then we found that weed, mushrooms, lsd, salvia etc. helps us "opening our minds". But it's just like someone grabs you by your hair, pulls up to the top of mountain, shows you what's over there and ... releases his hand. So you just fall down, luckily to the same place where you've taken, if not lower. I got it only after several years of meditation when you do your consciousness expansion step by step. But the "trip" you can get out of that is the one you cannot compare with any drugs trip you have got before. At least it worked for me. So be careful with all those trips as it's very easy to get on the hook because it's much easier to have one cube either than sitting for hours in meditation. But we all have all choices. And it doesn't matter which you choose as it's your choice.


Is this really a matter of discovering new patterns? Aren't those patterns just mutations and combinations of already-known patterns?

In that case, wouldn't a better process be to expose yourself to new experiences, especially those that challenge you or take you out of your comfort zones? How about reading books and watching movies you have not viewed before? That would have a similar effect, right?


Are you arguing for it or against it?

>expose yourself to new experiences, especially those that challenge you or take you out of your comfort zones?

I haven't, and am not saying you should, merely pointing out that you seem to object on principle rather than for a reason. Drug "education" when I was in grade school amounted to massive scare tactics, usually without supporting evidence, while they now give you similar things for ADD (but you pay a hell of a lot more, and the chemicals have only existed for a few years). There's a lot of general, unsubstantiated fear in this area, and a lot of irrational trust in drug companies.


I think it's cool to come out and say this. I have also had extremely positive experiences with drugs as a geek.


Sounds like self-delusion fed by gratification. I know which engineer I'd rather interact with.


Don't forget, that line of respect goes both ways.


Steve Jobs admits to taking LSD.

I rest my case.


"one of the two or three most important things [he had] done in [his] life".

source: http://articles.cnn.com/2011-01-17/tech/steve.jobs.life_1_ap...


Would anyone like to speculate what the other thing or two is?


The two most obvious things would be founding Apple and his daughter. Pure speculation, of course.


Recruiting John Scully.


Founding the Apple?


sex


um..... get married and have a family?


On the other hand, I remember reading that Feynman never wanted to mess with his mind and avoided experimenting with drugs.


Surely you're joking.. he talked about experimenting with LSD, marijuana, ketamine, and sensory deprivation tanks. After becoming a heavy drinker he said he eventually gave up alcohol because he didn't want to damage his brain.


While I have great respect for many people whose lives have been changed for the better by LSD, I have never taken it. Many of the mind-expanding experiences they report are my daily experience.

To quote Salvador Dali:

I don't use drugs.

I am drugs.


This underscores something that's been running around in my head for awhile. I'm almost certain that I had a previous worldview - one that was highly ordered and rational - was completely wrecked by the aesthetic experience. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, as re-writing your worldview is a scary process.

But I found a certain solace in the aesthetics: valuing individual moments more, breaking the spell of materialism, thinking deeply about rather abstract concepts, and not being afraid to embrace mystery when necessary. None of these require the aesthetic experience, they're just by-products of a mind that is being expanded. And they're quite similar to the insights of people on this thread who reported dropping acid.


if you were to read all of these posts, you would find a common theme: we all experience a new level of consciousness when we trip. However, regardless of what this new experience was, or through what method it was achieved, the presence of a new conscious experience proves that their are different types and even levels of consciousness.

this epiphany occurred to me through a drug induced change in consciousness. i realized that every material thing in this universe is just a product of my consciousness. this then got me thinking: how is it that material is a product of my consciousness, yet science tells me that my brain (a piece of material) produces consciousness.

I flirted with this paradox for months. I concluded that everything in the universe is just a system of interconnected systems of the same energy. I thought of the things in the universe as just different manifestations of a single type of energy at different points in space and time.

Then I read about Amit Goswami and learned some very useful scientific jargon for what i was experiencing. Anyone who is interested in "conscioussness" should research this man - he is leading a thought revolution

http://www.amitgoswami.org/


A related excerpt from BBC Horizon documentary on Psychedelic Science with interviews including Micrsoft's Bob Wallis on the use at the Homebrew Computer Club and Kary Mullis (who claims that LSD was intrumental in the development of the Polymerase chain reaction) :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2WurhYEQyY [Flash video!]


I'm a bit shocked here about people who expect LSD to make people code better or create better art and if it does not they complain it is "not effective".

Things like LSD (or meditating, running, ...) allow you to to get your mind into a state that enables you to look behind nature, people, society and everything else. It's not a productivity tool and should not be used as such I think :-)


Please be careful before you go out and drop acid thinking it'll make you a better developer. Psychedelics like that are powerful.

And by powerful I mean I've had bad trips where I thought I was being raped, and hallucinated a giant penis staring at my face for eight hours.

On the other hand, acid is one of the best drug out there if done right, it unclutters minds.


Only thing I'm high on these days is life. To each his own, though.

"The goal is being high, not getting high." -Be Here Now, Ram Dass


At first I misread the headline as "Lisp: The Geek's Wonder Drug".

Ha, maybe that works too ;)


another view of supposed 'creativity benefits' to engineers:

http://www3.sympatico.ca/ian.g.mason/John_Markoff.htm


I don't see LSD as a "geek's wonder drug", and I'm skeptical of many of its purported benefits. Are those benefits real? Sure, but so are the risks. Could most of those, for most people, be better achieved (given enough time) through other means, such as yoga and meditation? Probably. To use geek terms, recreational drug use scales very poorly. I know a fair number of people who've used LSD once or a few times and consider it a very positive experience, but acidheads and frequent users seem to be among the most boring and damaged people I've met.

Do I think these drugs are evil or that no one should use them? Of course not. They have incredible therapeutic potential and it's a travesty that they're illegal. On the other hand, I think a lot of people overstate their power (in terms of the ability to improve oneself) relative to alternatives. Do these drugs (LSD, MDMA, mushrooms, ayahuasca) have a place, for some people and in some circumstances? Absolutely. Should psychedelic therapies be researched and made available? Of course. Should anyone go to jail or be considered "evil" or "hedonistic" for the curiosity to try some psychedelics? Obviously, no. That said, I think a lot of "geeks" tend to overstate the benefits and downplay the dangers of recreational drug use, especially as a lifestyle. Timothy Leary was actually a mess toward the end of his life, and I've seen a few "psychonauts" crack up.

There may be benefits of long-term recreational drug use that I'm wholly ignorant of, having never gone down that road and having no intention to do so, but what I've seen around me recommends against that pattern. I prefer meditation because, although it requires more time and patience, it scales better: you get accelerating positive returns, and safely as well.


I don't see this article or the people it quotes advocating recreational use by any means. I think those who have studied psychedelics the most are the strongest proponents of moderate, intentional use in a safe atmosphere. I don't think the substances themselves should ever become a lifestyle, but the clarity and spiritual invigoration that they can help to provide and maintain, along with other practices like meditation, can make life much richer.


A lot of the benefits that would be hard to achieve through time may be due to the shocking aspect or intensity of some of these drugs. Think of a rite of passage, it stresses people out of their normal thought/reaction/logic structure in order to help form a new one. Usually promises are made or responsibilities given that are then psychologically attached to the event. Given that, how the event is structured and to what ends is very meaningful.

The damaged people might be due to more factors than the drug. Besides possible use amphetamines or other drugs, too, your experimental pool would only consist of those who would choose to use these drugs a lot for lengths of time and advertise this. There are some decent studies on use of peyote and ayahuasca where participants use it weekly or more for many years. They scored the same on physical well being but scored higher than the control for mental well being.

BTW, I totally agree that the term 'geek wonder drug' is inappropriate.


The term "rite of passage" is very fitting.

I've been thinking about this stuff all day, and trying to figure out how to reconcile the potential rewards with the dire risks involved; should I recommend dabbling with this crazy mojo, or should I tell people to leave it the hell alone and not to risk it?

I suspect some of the appeal for those of us who've been down this path, especially when young, was the risk itself; because "we are a generation of men raised by women," and we wanted to test ourselves against every boundary we could find - even the borders of reality itself, if we could find them - and to be tested ourselves.

I suppose the socially accepted alternative is to get as drunk as you can and pick a fight.


What you say about indigenous peyote and ayahuasca users is very true. This is a very different use pattern from U.S.-style recreational use. For one thing, non-shamanic users are using doses that we'd consider sub-psychedelic, at least most of the time. The shaman knows the person and if he or she is ready before a person is taken to a level that would be considered "tripping" by our standards. People are only taken to that point when they are ready and know what to expect. Still, you're right that these practices (indigenous/religious psychedelic use) are not especially harmful-- a lot safer than our cultural institution of heavy alcohol use.

The illegality of these drugs, in my estimation, actually encourages irresponsible use patterns, through hard-to-control dosage and intermittent access. There's definitely a mentality of "trip hard now because you may not be able to get this stuff in a year" in the U.S. psychedelic culture, and the drug laws are culpable for creating it.


Great example of irresponsibility. As we can see in the other "success" stories written here, many unsuccessful people -exceptions are the role models- tries it to be creative.


If you need to take psychedelics to 'unlock the wonders of your mind' or whatever just to do some simple programming, software may not be the field for you.


I don't think anyone is saying it's a necessity, just arguing the benefits. I seriously doubt it enhances code quality during the trip but the ideas and ways you visualize the problem may be drastically different. I'm guessing it's kind of like those ah-ha moments in the middle of the night when you solve a difficult problem.


Do you drink coffee or tea?


I don't drink coffee. I have. Sometimes I have tea when it's around. They're both very successful at doing absolutely nothing for me, so much so that up until a couple years ago, I wasn't convinced that everyone is just bullshitting about it. Much like when you'd go to a house party in high school and people who've had very little (or perhaps unknowingly, nothing at all) go on about how drunk they are.


I don't know about you, but I've never imagined myself talking to god while drinking tea.


But you do imagine a god?


Don't worry, you only exist because god imagines you


neither. I have realized that caffeine dulls my senses (and it makes me care less about things in general). I drink tea once-in-awhile, but generally try to avoid anything with caffeine. I also sleep much better at night.


Yes. Are they psychedelics? No. Weird how that doesn't contradict my original point at all.


Wow. It sounds like your mind could use some unlocking.


So we're restricting it to psychedelics? Any reason for that?


in the words of dylan - "don't criticize what you can't understand"


Indeed, if you want to do just simple programming in your life.


Taking some introspection and getting to know oneself better is something many people should do.

Psychedelics are an intense way of doing this.


indeed, the unexamined life... Acid use means taking your life and examining it from every angle. A key point I like to get across to people I discuss acid use with is to never imagine that experiences you have whilst under the influence of LSD are as discountable as their known experience with alcohol - with LSD the reprogramming sticks (for better or worse!)


You misunderstand. I don't mean 'simple' as in base, uncomplicated, or trivial. What I mean is there's no programming problem so complex that it requires the use of a hallucinogenic to understand or solve.


It's not just about solving problems. It's also about finding the inspiration or the right approach. coding an algorithm that is predefined and coming up with something like page rank or OOP paradigm are not problems in the same category. psychadelics can definitely help in the latter category.


I understand and I agree with you taking psychedelics is not an everyday task. One does not take a trip to solve a simple problem, but to find ideas and new viewpoints. Those actually could be useful, even in your field. Software or not.


How do you know? Have you solved every problem there is to solve? And of all the problems you have solved, have you done so in the most elegant and efficient way possible?


If I haven't solved every problem there is to solve, is my assertion less true? Is your argument "There are problems in software engineering that can only be solved by dropping acid?"

The best programmers in the world -- those who work together to solve the most complex and aggressive problems asked of the human mind -- are those who come to work every day, solve problems, and write code, and go home. They don't spend their time justifying "lifehacks" like taking LSD for that extra "edge" over other programmers.


The concept of "getting an edge" is so not what we're talking about here.. not quite the opposite but the attitude of wanting to get an edge is the exact opposite.

It's about wanting to know more and to expand your horizons for their own sake. Look at some of the "best programmers in the world". Lots of crazy beards in that group, right?


It can't be justified, that is all. I don't know that there are problems that can only be solved only by taking LSD, but neither can I categorically say that there aren't any at all, as you just did.

How do you know? That is what I asked, and you haven't answered me. You're making assertions about the best programmers in the world that you can't possibly back up. How do you know that some of them don't take LSD?


Those who, drop acid are curious. They try, they search, and sometimes they find some new ways of thinking.

They won't be exceptional programmers because of this, but being a professional and still being curious is not something hardly imaginable.


>If I haven't solved every problem there is to solve, is my assertion less true?

Either that or you've discovered some property of 'complex' problems that precludes the use of LSD to solve them. Otherwise, yes, it is less true (i.e. baseless and false).


Not that I plan on trying it, but how do you really know that?

Such a broad statement strikes me as saying something akin to 'I can prove there is no God.' As much as I believe it to be true and want to see it proved, I just can't say for sure.


Prove it. You made a statement; burden of proof on you.


I'm sorry. You're asking me to... enumerate every single problem in software engineering? I don't see the point. How about we take one of the most impressive, extreme cases of software ingenuity: launching the Space Shuttle.

http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/06/writestuff.html

"But how much work the software does is not what makes it remarkable. What makes it remarkable is how well the software works. This software never crashes. It never needs to be re-booted. This software is bug-free. It is perfect, as perfect as human beings have achieved. Consider these stats : the last three versions of the program -- each 420,000 lines long-had just one error each. The last 11 versions of this software had a total of 17 errors."

Do you think that perfection, that stability, in the face of lives at risk for every mistake, is a suitable place to suggest that taking LSD could make them better? These are the best programmers in the world, by many standards. And they're not writing node.js servers and map-reduce queries, they're using billions of dollars of hardware to achieve manned space flight. And they don't take LSD.

"It's strictly an 8-to-5 kind of place -- there are late nights, but they're the exception. The programmers are intense, but low-key. Many of them have put in years of work either for IBM (which owned the shuttle group until 1994), or directly on the shuttle software. They're adults, with spouses and kids and lives beyond their remarkable software program.

That's the culture: the on-board shuttle group produces grown-up software, and the way they do it is by being grown-ups. It may not be sexy, it may not be a coding ego-trip -- but it is the future of software. When you're ready to take the next step -- when you have to write perfect software instead of software that's just good enough -- then it's time to grow up."


"And they don't take LSD."

Says who? The article says 260 people worked on that part of the code. I'm sure they're all security-cleared and background-checked up the wazoo, but i'd wager that more than a handful of those 260 have had psychedelic experiences at some point.


The shuttle is an excellent example of many things, but not necessarily of a conceptually difficult task. It's hard, but it's not mind-bending. The hardest part comes from having to prove the systems correct because lives depend on it.


"Mind-bending" is a bit of a weasel word. What is the difference between "hard" and "mind-bending"?

Do you have any experience of the challenges of spaceflight software to demonstrate that all problems are of "sub-mind-bending" difficulty?


Hm, fair enough. It just seems to me that it's a lot of number juggling and physics calculation.


While I am not an expert on the shuttle flight software, these are some challenges in flight software in general: Consider the problem of orbital insertion around a moon of saturn, or around an inner planet, or an asteroid. Not only does the guidance and control subsystem have to react (i.e., actuate the thrusters whose thrust can vary by orders of magnitude) within a razor-thin margin, but each scientific instrument has requirements as well, and introduces its own perturbations (e.g., extension of an antenna boom causing vibrations). Plenty of PhDs, and PhD topics to be found in this and associated problems. ANother example, consider space network links. You can't just use TCP (it's been tried, and it simply breaks down), you need to engineer a protocol -- in fact a whole new suite of protocols -- from the ground up that provides the same reliability but over much faultier links. Although TCP is simple in concept (just ACK/NACK till you got everything, right?), 30 years of its evolution shows that it is anything but. Both of these problems necessarily involve some bending of the mind to solve, and I image there are related ones for the folks in the manned-space sector

EDIT: and among other things that I'd consider important to mention, there are significant robotics challenges, autonomous behavior and decision making (with associated problems in formal model verification), along with the general high degree of fault tolerance required in just about every software (and hardware) subsystem. I think many of the hardest problems in CS can be found in the spaceflight domain.


If you read the article, it is about scientist/people who state lsd helped them with their ideas. Not in working.


You're right - there's no point trying to 'find the right approach' when it comes to space flight. But not every piece of software has to get every little detail right. When the issue is more about figuring out what you're trying to accomplish with software than accomplishing something perfectly, creativity is very important.




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