[Better Brains] Psychedelics and Transhumanism
by Alex Nichols
Sam Harris in his essay Drugs and the Meaning of Life puts it brilliantly when he states: “Teach a person to meditate, pray, chant, or do yoga, and there is no guarantee that anything will happen. Depending upon his aptitude or interest, the only reward for his efforts may be boredom and a sore back. If, however, a person ingests 100 micrograms of LSD, what happens next will depend on a variety of factors, but there is no question that something will happen. And boredom is simply not in the cards. Within the hour, the significance of his existence will bear down upon him like an avalanche. As the late Terence McKenna never tired of pointing out, this guarantee of profound effect, for better or worse, is what separates psychedelics from every other method of spiritual inquiry.”
Transhumanists realize there are exciting developments in bioengineering, robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and other new, accelerating technologies.
Enhancement is swiftly arriving, but let’s not forget there are other, more traditional means to improve our lives that are available right now. For example, the deeply complex world of psychedelics. How do psychedelics relate to transhumanism? Psychedelics are a way we can explore and enhance ourselves. Researchers consider psychedelics to be powerful tools “that have negative effects if used improperly, like all tools”, but they also “can help people overcome serious problems.” (Pinchback 2008).
Ayahuasca, for example, has a rich history of providing profound psychological, spiritual, and physical experiences. Ayahuasca experiences indicate, “there is an aspect or level of reality which is non-material… this defines the essence or the foundation of all Existence.” (Shanon 1998).
Studies show ayahuasca reduces activity in the part of our brain that is responsible for generating our sense of self, our ‘default mode’. It is speculated that the “default network could be how psychedelic drugs cause what users describe as a disintegration of the self, or even a sense of oneness with the universe.” (Miller, 2013). We have always been limited by our boundaries of cognitive functioning and thought - psychedelics liberate us from our boundaries and enable us to feel “everything is interconnected” (Shanon, 1998) [[pantheism -- DNI]]
The feeling of being connected to everything is a transcendent emotion, an “enhanced” state of consciousness, that transhumanists should promote because it enriches our lives.
Moderate use of psychedelics (using them as tools to open the gates of perception) offers a number of mental health benefits worth considering. The psychedelic experience reminds me of ophthalmologists enabling us to see the world from a different lens.
For example: “people who used psilocybin or mescaline throughout their lives, as well as people who used LSD in the past year, had lower rates of serious psychological distress, outpatient mental health treatment, and prescriptions for psychiatric medications.” - Krans, 2013.
Additional research points to dramatic benefits attained with just a few doses coupled with therapy sessions (Ginsburg, 2014).
Perhaps most intriguingly, psychedelics have been used to alleviate the stress of individuals who are terminally ill in ‘end of life’ care. Examining this group, Johns Hopkins University found a reduction of fear and a more accepting mindset, after therapeutic administration of psychedelics (Collective Evolution, 2014).
Transhumanists seeking technology that boosts mental health should embrace these often tabooed, “traditional” medicines as a potential means to better ourselves. I encourage transhumanists to explore ancient psychedelic tools - to enhance ourselves here and now.
1. Collective Evolution; Psychadelics Don’t Harm Mental Health; They Improve It (2014)http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/01/14/psychedelics-dont-harm-mental-health-they-improve-it/
2. Feriegla, Joseph Maria; Ayahuasca and Mental Health Among the Shuar (2009)http://www.singingtotheplants.com/2009/03/ayahuasca-and-mental-health-among-shuar/
3. Ginsburg, Natalie; What Psychadelic Research Can Teach Us About Mental Health (2014)http://www.huffingtonpost.com/natalie-ginsberg/what-psychedelics-research-mental-health_b_4988635.html
4. Harris, Sam; Drugs and the Meaning of Life (2011) http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/drugs-and-the-meaning-of-life
5. Kraus, Brian; Psychedelic Drugs Linked To Lower Risk Of Mental Illness (2013)http://www.healthline.com/health-news/mental-psychedelics-not-linked-to-mental-health-problems-082213
6. Miller, Greg; Open Your Mind To The New Psychedelic Science (2011)http://www.wired.com/2013/04/psychedlic/all/
7. Shanon, Benny; Ideas and Reflections Associated with Ayahuasca Visions (1998);http://www.maps.org/news-letters/v08n3/08318sha.html
[Just a few “pages” of their ads:] Books [listed to the right of the article online]
Alex Nichols lives in San Francisco, where he works as an Account Executive for Lyft. He attended the University of British Columbia in Vancouver BC where he studied psychology and philosophy. Alex enjoys reading, Judo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, backpacking, and debating the ethics of future technologies
[Note: “Better Brains”, “Train Your Brain”, “Discover What Your Brain Can do” as in Lumosity [http://www.lumosity.com/landing_pages/503], etc. -- you’ve seen those ads all over the internet. Transhumanism. Don’t think so? Check out the book and video ads in the article below after the references (just a few of the “pages”!) -- and lots of “religious” ones; see also: https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=%22Lumosity%22+%22transhumanism%22. Well ...... will make it easier for you to transfer your brains into computers in 2045 so that you can fuse into The Singularity and Cosmic Consciousness! And note the classic gnostic signals being given: the “self” in gnosticism is the only non-material “piece” of the ultimate divine from which we emanated (and why we are literally part-divine); and the “inner connectedness” refers to the gnostic cults being pantheistic (only one living breathing thing in all of reality) -- not to mention polytheistic and paganistic. Shades of “New Age” in this article -- which is simply just the last-named version of ancient gnosticism. “Transhumanism” is the latest version, and is definitely gnostic [https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=%22transhumanism%22+%22gnosticism%22&spell=1]..This article sounds like a hard sell by very savy drug peddlers for gnostic transhumanists to push psychedelics! And yet another pitch for transhuman-type end of life “care”. Are you anti-euthanasia activists ready? The article first appeared here.-- DNI]