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What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry

John Markoff · 16 HN comments
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Amazon Summary
Most histories of the personal computer industry focus on technology or business. John Markoff’s landmark book is about the culture and consciousness behind the first PCs—the culture being counter– and the consciousness expanded, sometimes chemically. It’s a brilliant evocation of Stanford, California, in the 1960s and ’70s, where a group of visionaries set out to turn computers into a means for freeing minds and information. In these pages one encounters Ken Kesey and the phone hacker Cap’n Crunch, est and LSD, The Whole Earth Catalog and the Homebrew Computer Lab. What the Dormouse Said is a poignant, funny, and inspiring book by one of the smartest technology writers around.
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Excellent links, haven't seen the Kay presentation before :)

For anyone interested in going down this (extraordinarily interesting) rabbit hole: the book What the Dormouse Said [0] by John Markoff paints a vivid picture of early (1945-1984ish) computer history. Featuring Engelbart, Jobs, Jim Fadiman, Stanford, MIT, Xerox, Tim Leary, and more. A light yet informative read; highly recommended.


What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry is exactly what you're looking for. It goes way back to before Xerox or Apple, getting up close and personal with the visionaries who dreamt that computers would one day augment human intellect, especially Doug Engelbart. I wish I was better at summarizing books - this is really really worth reading

What did I bring up again? I'm confused what this about at this point. I feel like you are trying to create cognitive dissonance where there is none.

Read these:

I'm talking about Ayurveda. To recap: you claimed that meat-based diets and pharmaceuticals cause more harm (in absolute terms) than Ayurveda, and I countered that the comparison is invalid because Ayurveda is practiced at a scale that's simply incomparable.
This is a very old argument that goes way back to the beginning of the entire field with Douglas Engelbart and his augmented computing project. At the time he was an outsider who thought the future of computing was enabling humans to do more as opposed to creating a general AI that would do it for us.

Some interesting reading:

I'd guess that more than half of people I know in tech have tried or occasionally do psychedelic drugs (LSD, Psilocybin, MDMA). There does seem to be a correlation with an interest in them and computers going all the way back to the beginning.

If you're interested in the history I found What the Dormouse Said to be pretty interesting.

Much like the old quote 'two big things came out of Berkeley CA - LSD and BSD, and we don't believe this to be a coincidence'. Not technically true, but I believe the spirit is right.

Francis Crick, Kary Mullis, Steve Jobs, Feynman, and many other of the most well known scientists and engineers of the past 50 years have gotten such a personal and creative benefit from psychedelics that they have publicly spoken about it despite their schedule 1 status.

Anyone interested in Doug Engelbart and his pioneering work at Stanford Research Institute (or computers in general) should check out What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry [0]. It goes back much further than Xerox or Apple to tell the tale of Engelbart's visionary Augment project and how his ideas led to the birth of the PC and the internet.

If you're not interested in purchasing the book, he gave an incredible hour and a half long demonstration of his system at the Fall Joint Computer Conference. Dubbed The Mother of All Demos [1], he displayed (for the first time in the world) remote video conferencing, hypertext, text editing, and a graphical windowing system. In 1968. Definitely worth a watch.


second that, this gives very interesting insight about the mixture of 60s counterculture, then still legal psychotherapeutic and/or recreational experiments with psychoactive substances and the beginnings of "personal" computing

reading this helped a lot realizing the innovation and impact "The Mother of All Demos" really brought and getting a understanding about the environment in which this was envisioned and implemented

Interesting. Quoting a review

"Markoff's book covers the years 1960 to 1975 and the area south of San Francisco around Stanford University that would later come to be known as Silicon Valley. I arrived in Palo Alto in 1980, after the period described in the book, but got to know most of the people Markoff depicts. I can report that if anything, he underplays the degree to which they behaved in ways that would today be considered outrageous and radical, and what I saw was said to have been mild compared with what had come before. [...]

And yes, there were drugs and naked people in the rooms where some of the code that now drives your e-mail around the globe was first set down."

"What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry" ( covers the story in great detail.
Mar 04, 2014 · GuiA on LSD, Reconsidered for Therapy
I'm glad the taboos around psychedelics research, especially as tools for therapy, are slowly falling down- there's some fascinating stuff in there.

To people who have never experienced drugs, grown up in a culture that demonizes them all indiscriminately, have a hard time wrapping their head around what they are/do exactly but are curious about them, I recommend this article by Sam Harris, a great neuroscientist[0]

For a slightly more in depth essay, Aldous Huxley's "Doors of Perception" [1] is a great book, albeit slightly dated.

There are also some extremely interesting synergies between the origins of the computer industry and the psychedelics/California counter culture era. John Markoff's "What the Dormouse Said" [2] is a fantastic read, although it requires knowing about computer history a little bit already. I learned from it that there was scientific research on LSD conducted in Menlo Park, a few blocks away from where I used to live.

There's also a great essay by Timothy Leary about parallels between psychedelics as tools for expanding the human mind and the computer as a tool to enhance the human brain in Brenda Laurel's book "Art of Human Computer Interaction Design". [3]

There's a great essay by Carl Sagan about his experiences using marijuana creatively/intellectually [4].

I had never tried any drugs before moving to California in my 20s, and had grown up in a fairly standard European culture of all drugs = the devil. Some changes occurred, and it turns out there's a really fascinating history and philosophy in there (especially w/ regards to parallels with computer history, as described in the aforementioned book).






Before entering the corporate work place I never touched anything. Once my one coworker started talking about it, the whole chain revealed itself, now it's super social to go smoke a joint with my bosses after work and have a beer, I love it.

I wonder how much I'm actually destroying my health by smoking weed every day, drinking coffee, and having some alcohol at least in a minor capacity.

I feel as if the emotional/mental pain I suffered by not having any outlet greatly outweighs the physical damage I'm doing to myself.

Now that I smoke/drink while working most of the time (self unemployed), I find that I am much more productive because I'm enjoying myself the entire time. Tunes, a drink, a smoke, and code.

Never seen talk on HN about drugs really. What's your routine like with HN? What are your experiences?

A vaporizer is perhaps a bit less social, but I find that it is much easier on my lungs than smoking. I'd recommend looking into them. I'm turned off by the pen-form factor/vapor liquid/nicotine scene, but a small vaporizer for ground plant matter is great.

One problem with vaporizers is that there isn't a great word to use to describe the action of using one. "Vap" sounds lame or maybe even show-offy, so I just use the word "smoke". ;)

Alcohol is what I truly appreciate though. The reason I smoke is so that when I want to unwind and tune out, I have options other than alcohol every time. Heavy long term alcohol use can be very bad for you, but by giving myself other healthier options I've managed to get my drinking back to 4-8 times a month (always Wednesdays, sometimes Fridays). Alcohol is what I love/fear, weed is what I entertain myself with between flings with booze.

I am starting to suspect that caffeine is a net-negative force in my life, as it constantly jostles my sleep schedule.

The social aspects of vaporizers probably depends on who you hang with. Everyone who I regularly get high with strictly uses a vaporizer when we are hanging out (or occasionally shares edibles). Not a lot of smoking going on. Of course, I am in my mid-30's and have friends of the same age or older, and most of these friends have stable jobs, such that spending $250+ on a vaporizer is a no-brainer.

The verb "vape" is what is commonly used with the people I know. It's not show-offy if vaporizing is commonplace. This is more recent, and I just said "use a vaporizer" in the past if I wanted to be specific.

Personally, I own both a non-portable vaporizer that can fill bags (Herbelaire) and a portable vaporizer (Pax). Both are used frequently and are easy to share with friends. I still smoke, but that is only maybe 10% of the time. I've been vaping for the last 17 years, starting with a home-made vaporizer made using a soldering iron.

As for alcohol: I enjoy it, but I rarely have the desire to drink it for it's intoxicating effects lately. I really enjoy the taste of beer (and wine is good too), but it's becoming rare that I actually want to drink one. What changed is that I started getting back in shape and exercising frequently (well, moderately). Due to being a new parent, I often get my exercise around 9pm-10pm as that is the only time that works for me. That means many nights, alcohol is just not an option. Also, I have been fairly consistent in eliminating unhealthy foods (I can count the number of times I have a sugary dessert in a month on one hand), and I've started to see beer as unnecessary calories. The fact that I lost enough weight to stop snoring is just affirmation that I should stick with this. I'll save drinking beer for social situations, rather than something I have with dinner.

Alcohol is probably much worse than weed or coffee over the long run. It's exceedingly hard to slowly poison your liver and brain over the course of a lifetime by smoking herb. It's easier than you think to do it drinking alcohol.

I'm not a teetotaler by any means. I drink a couple of glasses of something pretty much every other day. But that's about the limit of what a healthy, adult male should be drinking. Any more than that, especially over the long run, and you're setting loose a lot of chickens that will come home to roost when you're older.

I don't smoke weed with nearly the frequency I did when I was young. That's got less to do with my beliefs about its health effects, and more to do with being too busy. But every now and then, sure. Sharing a couple of beers and a joint is a fantastic social experience.

On a related note: SF is one of the most weed-friendly towns I've ever lived in, and there is virtually no stigma whatsoever here. One time I saw a dude light up right outside the freaking airport baggage claim, in broad daylight, and nobody around him seemed to care.

I agree with you on alcohol, but what's the problem with coffee? I'm curious because I drink it by the gallon.
The jury's still out on coffee in aggregate. Caffeine is a stimulant, and generally speaking, it has a host of positive effects on your processing speed, alertness, etc. Coffee may even have long-term positive effects there, though the evidence is inconclusive. Additionally, it might be neuroprotective.

There have been conflicting and sometimes contradictory reports on coffee's effects on cancer, cardiovascular disease, etc. Many studies suggest coffee has anticancer properties; other studies suggest it promotes certain types of cancer. Same thing with arteriosclerosis.

In terms of dependency, caffeine has been shown pretty conclusively to be habit-forming and dependence-forming. Almost anyone who's been a longtime coffee drinker and quits cold turkey will experience the side effects. But it's not clear whether coffee is doing you long-term harm, long-term good, or some combination of the two that nets out to being positive, negative, or neutral.

For my part, I've been drinking coffee every day since junior high. My stance is that it's been a net-positive in my life, regardless of what price I may pay later on. But that's one man's opinion. Not a scientific observation.

Also worth noting: coffee, marijuana, and alcoholic beverages are complex substances. There are active compounds in coffee other than caffeine. There are active compounds in alcoholic drinks other than ethanol. There are active compounds in weed other than THC. Studies that isolate the effects of any of these compounds aren't necessarily indicative of the effects of the substances themselves.

8 glasses of wine a week, at 250 ml per glass is 2 litres.

Weak 10% ABV wine would be 20 units. Normal 12.5% ABV would be 25 units. Strong 15% ABV wine would be 30 units.

UK advice is no more than 3 to 4 units per day for men, with a couple of days free of alcohol and no "saving up" of units for a binge. (The old advice was 21 units per week for men.)

Drinking above that limit long term has some health consequences

Problem drinking has several definitions, but NICE recommend assisted withdrawal at 30 units per day. (15 to 20 per day if there are co morbid severe mental health problems).

I don't care if people use cannabis (and I am strongly in favour of legalisation) but I fucking hate the refusal of many cannabis users to even contemplate any negative effects of cannabis.

I don't like the denial either. I had a girlfriend who got baked everyday. She always wondered why I didn't take her seriously. I wonder though if smoking a little weed might make programming more enjoyable? Right now I find programming tedious(just following directions--exact directions). I'm a very novice programmer, and that is probably the reason?
I've known a few programmers who can, but I most definitely can not.

I started out as a [web and print] designer in my late teens and was stoned all the time. It seemed like a dream to me - stoned and productive. As I moved into programming in my early twenties, I found myself completely unproductive when high. Very much akin to reading a book while very stoned, where I'd find myself reading the same page for a while, and then while trying to focus, read the same sentence 20 times and realize I haven't comprehended a thing. My attention span wanders far too much. And now, about 15 years into my profession as a programmer, any more than the smallest toke will make me completely incapable of coding effectively (though I can generally think programming problems through just fine).

As a comparison, I've programmed drunk plenty of times. These days, after a couple whiskeys, I'm fairly useless - although I think that's more a case of "I'd rather relax than work" over being incapacitated.

I used to as a student 13 years back. I preferred it. I have a proper job now so I don't. Slowed me down a bit, but I was also a bit more thorough, not making silly mistakes by rushing things. So overall, probably more productive.

I never tried drunk, but I doubt it would work for me.

Ever thought that maybe the fact that you didn't take her seriously had little to do with her smoking weed?
"Right now I find programming tedious(just following directions--exact directions). I'm a very novice programmer, and that is probably the reason?"

I would say that your current experience with programming is probably more a reflection on how much what you are programming actually interests you. You might be able to think of programming like painting; maybe you are painting a picket fence and find it to be the most boring thing in the world, or maybe you are painting a bunch of robots blowing each other up on a canvas. Some programming is dull and tedious, some programming is exciting and vibrant. Some people just don't like painting, and prefer pottery.

Can weed help? That seems plausible to me. Weed can make a shitty movie seem better, maybe it can help you enjoy your programming work more.

If you want to try that out, I recommend a sativa strain, not indica.

As someone who is addicted to cannabis, I strongly agree. It definitely has risks, and people should be aware of them. Of course it should be legal, but kids still need to be educated about the risks in school.
"I don't care if people use cannabis (and I am strongly in favour of legalisation) but I fucking hate the refusal of many cannabis users to even contemplate any negative effects of cannabis."

Don't get me wrong; I don't refuse to contemplate the negative effects of cannabis, of which quite a few have been hypothesized, some observed. When I said "alcohol is probably much worse than weed," I didn't say "weed is a free lunch." Just want to make sure I'm clear on that.

There are cannabinoid receptors in the brain (and other organs). Our current understanding of them is far from complete, and we know that smoking weed habitually will reregulate them, and not necessarily for the better. I'm not one of those hippy-dippy types who thinks there are no ramifications involved in smoking weed.

Everything excess in life is poison. Like they say, it is possible that you hate a thing which is good for you [emotional/mental pain], and love a thing which is bad for you [being a drunk].
Maybe. I'm not convinced that when things are going well we should try to make things go badly just to "feel the downswing too." I think it more has to do with the fact that life can have ups and downs, they aren't easily predictable, and one shouldn't be afraid to face them both in stride.
"I wonder how much I'm actually destroying my health by smoking weed every day, drinking coffee, and having some alcohol at least in a minor capacity."

Probably not at all. Cue the "correlation isn't causality" soundbite, but coffee consumption is negatively correlated with developing Parkinson's disease, and moderate consumption of alcohol has been shown by many studies to correlate with positive cardiovascular status. Haven't researched the literature on associations of weed with positive health outcomes, but it's interesting that smoking weed doesn't correlate with developing lung cancer.

You're probably just fine so long as moderation is your mode.

Personally, I don't use any illicit drugs, smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, or drink coffee. I never have done any of these things either. I used to drink soda pop, but I cut that out of my diet a few years ago. I'm not even really tempted to start any of these things either. Sometimes people give me some flack about it, but I'm used to that by now, and once they get to know me they drop the issue (except for a few people who simply refuse to let it go).

I don't know how much this is positively affecting my health, or if it is at all.

sounds like fun
When you stop smoking weed every day you have insanely vivid dreams for a few days, that's the only noticeable side effect I had. Weed can sap motivation if you let it too
I've had that happen to me when I have fallen asleep while high (sativa, if it makes any different). I avoid doing that now; the dreams were never frightening or disturbing.. just kind of creepy how vivid they were.
marijuana and writing code go together like song and lyric
It actually has the opposite effect for me.. Getting a little faded cranks up my usual ADD to the point where I can't do much of any productive work.

The things I could do with better focus and less of a need to seek novelty....

> The things I could do with better focus and less of a need to seek novelty....

Isn't it a need to seek novelty that makes you want to do those things?

To a point, but if you've blazed once you're not experiencing much new each time you do it. (At least I don't :P)

My problem is that anything, no matter how cool, rapidly becomes boring and uninteresting to me. Whether that be a game or a programming language or a project. Probably the single greatest stumbling block to advancing my career, knowledge, and overall life.

I have experience from three different substances that I thought I'd share.

The first other substance that I tried and did so several times was something called "Spice". It was legal in my country for the time being and you could order it online quite cheap actually.

It is a substance created to be as similar as cannabis and to be legal. However a couple of years ago they banned it in my country. The experience of the substance was pretty bad actually, but since I was so young and hadn't really done anything else I had nothing to compare it to. The first time I got really high on it was with my childhood friends. We sat on a bench in a small forest and lighted it up in a bong. I took several hits and felt nothing special at the moment.

So we started walking and soon I began to feel something, it was walking in a mist (not visually) but my head started to feel thicker and suddently we'd walked over 1km and it felt like it was in a blink of an eye. I started to panick since I had no idea what was going on and felt pretty scared. Every step I took my knees itched so bad and it wasn't very pleasant at all. It took more than 1 hour before I calmed down and I thought my heart would collapse or something. That experience sucked basically. But after that hour, I began to enjoy it a little but not that much. The drug mainly made you feel scared and it wasn't the best drug I've tried.

Second drug to do was cannabis if I recall it correctly. It was hasch and the I didn't feel much at all. It took me several tries (in seperate occations) until I finally got high. The experience from hasch was much better than spice. Imo, you can't even compare the two since the experience is so different, at least for me. I've also done marijuana several times and it is a really good drug, much better than its brown sister hasch from the times I've tried it anyway.

My weirdest experience is altough on LSA which is also legal in my country and we ordered it online, just as spice. As our understanding goes it's some kind of seed from a plant or something. So we just swallowed some with water. It is supposed to make you feel ill in the stomach in the beginning since I think it's poisionous for humans and I felt a little ill a while. But after like 1.5 hours the illness was completely gone but I didn't feel a thing.

So me and my friend walked around in our neighborhood and looked at stuff. It took a while until I realized this drug doesn't make you feel high at all. I was completely clear in my mind and I don't think I've ever been so clear-minded before or after taking that drug. It was a wonderful "feeling" and in those days I didn't program but if I would I think it would be a perfect fit. After spending some time, me and my friend seperated and I walked home. I looked upon myself in the mirror and I could not see any color in my eyes, just black and white (almost). It was a very very wierd experience since I looked so strange, but I didn't feel anything special unless more emotional and very clear-minded. I thought a lot on my life in general and what I wanted to do with it and so on. I felt happy in short, I felt that my life was really headed in a good direction and everything was basically good.

The clear-mindedness just continued through the day but as the drug wore of, so did the clearness of everything.

Unfortunately, several years after this usage my friend committed suicide and he had a lot of problems with drugs. But the problems did not originate in the drugs but rather on his family situation. He was a very intelligent guy and I miss him. He was depressed for a long time and even when we contacted the authorities for help he recieved none.

I hope you guys will get something from my experiences :) my general stand on drugs is very liberal even if a tragic event has happened in my life because I know the drugs weren't the real issue, just an escape.

Hey man thanks for sharing. The spice sounds terrible and I've heard nothing but horror stories. Sorry for your loss.
I thought I had things under control with weed. Gradually I realised I was using it to cope with chronic depression due to an earlier personal tragedy.

Weed probably is great when things are actually in order in your life, but you may be losing contact with reality precisely because it makes it possible to enjoy yourself the entire time. I think you have to be very mindful of that.

It's a painful processes, turning to face life directly, but I feel like I'm managing to do so day by day. Part of this processes involves speaking to a psychiatrist and starting an SNRI prescription.

I do plan to smoke weed again, cautiously, once things are "in order".

It's funny - when I used to smoke weed, I always felt like I needed to clear my daily todo list before hand. I would take out the trash I should have taken out, put clothes in the laundry, maybe respond to some lingering emails. It was quite productive.

Now I'm recapitulating that pattern at a higher level in life. At least, I hope that's what's happening...

nice comment
Thank you for this - I'm always concerned that people miss this. I recall someone I know noticing that they just didn't enjoy smoking anymore, and it was actually making them more anxious. Without going into a discussion about why this happened, it took them a long time to realize this because they were rationalizing their use, and using more to counter the fact that they were feeling "off" after the regular amount.

As a non-smoker, it's one of my fears that if this happens again, I won't be able to convince one of my smoking friends that this is happening to them. Mental dependence seems insidious in that way. Any pointers? Experiences to share?

this experience was mine, too. i really liked it at first, and grew to hate it because i kept doing it even though i didn't want to. is a great resource for quitting. if you read the posts there, you'll see that same story over and over and over.

Electric Kool-aid Acid Test[0] by Tom Wolfe is an interesting perspective on LSD as well. It starts with the main character, Ken Kesey, taking part in the CIA-run LSD experiments in Menlo Park. The book details his journey from straight-laced-not-even-alcohol to driving a psychedelic bus across the country and finishing with large-scale public acid trips -- all before LSD was criminalized.


[Edit to fix run-on sentence]

I second the reference to Doors of Perception. If you folks have the time, and you haven't already read about Sasha (Alexander Shulgin), give it a whirl. Wiki:

There's a movie on his life, isn't great but it's a decent watch, Dirty Pictures:

If you haven't read it, you should check out Hallucinations, by the neurologist Oliver Sacks. His books in general are super fascinating, but there's a really interesting section on drugs in that one, and specifically mentions psychedelics a number of times (which isn't a shock considering it's a book on hallucinations).

"LSD - My Problem Child" is also well worth a read IMHO. It's by Hoffman and it tells the story of its discovery, also giving a few of his thoughts on what happened afterwards.

Personally I'm not a huge fan of the "wonder drug that will cure all ills and open your EYES man" theories that abound around psychedelics. They can certainly induce a sense of the profound but I'm not sure they actually produce profundity.

That said, long term changes to thought patterns and moods are certainly evident and I think research in this area could be very useful.

I also think it's a person's own business what they take, that the dangers of "drugs" are vastly and deliberately overstated, and that the drug war is an inhuman waste of lives, time and money. That probably makes me some sort of crazy hippy radical...

They can certainly induce a sense of the profound but I'm not sure they actually produce profundity.

What's the difference?

Actual profound thought (to me) would be a meaningful realisation about yourself or the universe around you. LSD can make you feel this moment of profound realisation about things which are absolute nonsense.

This cheese is my brother, we'd all be at peace if everyone wore purple, god is a piece of bread with butter on both sides. When on acid these sorts of things can feel (subjectively) like the most awesome discovery, like the opening up of a whole new world of knowledge. Examined objectively afterwards they don't make a lot of sense, but subjectively, at the time, they felt extremely important.

That's all I meant.

I don't agree but you made me laugh
A profound revelation, I would imagine in this sense, is being defined as being based on experience that corresponds with some fact about yourself or the world as it actually is.

E.g. A fact about yourself - realising that you love someone.

A fact about the world - realising that all matter is energy condensed.

At least taking the "open your EYES man" statement at face value. But a profound experience on hallucinogenics is realising that ... ? What's the mechanism even meant to be to entangle the experience to the reality it supposedly represents?

Of course, there is the other meaning of the word; great, intense. Profoundly in love, profound hatred - and so on. Certainly drugs can induce that sort of profundity.

The drug experience fades with time, whereas the present remains experience.

That's probably not what I'd be thinking while tripping, more likely, at last, this is it, GOD!

and then Eden-like fading away into memory.

One of the classic effects of LSD (happens to many but by no means all users) is a sensation of ego death - ie, your sense of identity and who you are in the world is either eliminated or greatly changed. This, as you might imagine, is an extremely profound feeling ('a sense of the profound').

But, after coming down, does this experience have any grounding in reality? Did it 'actually produce profundity' or was it a hallucination, pure and simple?

Hope that helps capture the difference.

This is a subjective example but... In the last 6 months I've been prescribed medical cannabis and after trying it for the first time in my life I was able to understand and analyze both film and music more in-depth.

For example, although I had seen the Xena: Warrior Princess musical episode "The Bitter Suite" before numerous times it wasn't until under the influence was I able to emotionally and mentally understand the allegory of the episode.

Basically, the symbolism of Gabrielle having a "demon" child forced into her against her will, who Xena considered a monster and wanted to kill whilst Gabrielle blamed herself for it's inception is a very clear metaphor of a rape. It took a strong emotional attachment to the journey of the main characters to truly appreciate as well as understand the message encoded in the symbolism. It may not be "profound" as the meaning of everything but realizing that with my own devices was at least enlightening.

In my very limited experience mind altering drugs seem to turn off/lessen the assumptions one makes, to step outside the critical path and analyze information more in-depth.

[Edit] Correcting auto-correct

medical cannibals

Are those anything like medical leeches?

I'm here only to respond to you. I wish someone had warned me like this 9 years ago.

I understand how you're feeling about it. It was exactly like my first experience as well. 9 years later, I'm addicted. (Yes this is possible)

It's not apparent from the outside. Almost no one know that I smoke. I did lose my girl friend, who was pretty much the one for me. All warning signs were there, but I chose to ignore those. I'm able to hold on to an good programming job (ios/android programming) with a good salary, although I believe I am actually producing half my capacity, and having a lot more stress than needed. During the day, I can't wait to get home to smoke a little. Then a little more. Nights are pretty much a blur this way.

The effects you're experiencing fade away so slowly that it's hard to know when you're no longer actually enjoying the "high." And that's really dangerous, because you don't know that you might be getting addicted (everyone tells "marijuana is not addictive") so you smoke a bit more. Eventually it does end up consume you.

Some percentage of marijuana smokers do get addicted. I personally have quit smoking, never got addicted to drinking or anything else, and have never done any other drug. It almost feels impossible to stop weed though. I urge you to look it up online, there are forums where people talk about this.

So I suggest great precaution. See when you want to do it more, and more often. And when you start doing it instead of what you need to do. There's when danger is first realized, but often overlooked.

Maybe you're one of the lucky majority who will not get addicted -- in which case I envy you.

I hope the reason that this was prescribed to you is not very serious and you get well soon.

Buddy, do yourself a favor, stop reading online forums and go see a psychologist. You're blaming "addiction" but that's a smokescreen (sorry for the pun).
Sorry for being blunt, so you are putting your problems, your inner fight and challenges on cannabis?
That's a possibility. I might find out once (if?) I can quit for good. I wonder what might be hiding under that hazy mind.

I still suggest reading more about this, because it is not as well known as it needs to be. I actually found about on this thread. I'd recommend you to check it out if you have a little time.

I want to call out that I'm not against legalization, or people who can do it without any issues. I just want to point out that there are some of us who are actually having a lot of problems with it, and some care needs to be taken. This substance does require some respect and I feel totally powerless in handling it.

I appreciate bluntness; here's my blunt response to that thought.

Your comment and the comment you replied to have very quickly established an argument with two sides, a duality. This is a tired old debate that is based on a confused pseudo-theory about human nature.

I'll just address the side you have chosen. You're postulating that the person who has issues with the drug probably has issues in general. The logic seems to be that since the drug has no will of its own, it is a kind of neutral object that should not be blamed. Fine; that's reasonable enough.

But is there also an aspect of defensiveness? That is, this herb has a positive valence for you, and so any negativity associated with it must be shifted towards some essential source -- so that the neutrality of the drug is maintained.

Personally I think it's both amusing and sad that it's so difficult to have a rational, clear-headed conversation about these things. Part of that is probably because the issue of criminality looms in the background, making everything into a heavily value-loaded "statement," causing stigma and demonization and, on the flip side, valorization and blame-shifting.

It's the same thing but much worse with stronger psychedelics. The whole discussion becomes "are they good or evil?" And by extension, "are people who use it good or evil?" It's simply stupid, unenlightened, regressive.

Because the real discussion is "What should we do given that these molecules do exist?" How should we think about them? When are they useful and when do they cause harm? How do these particular kinds of harm work? How can we provide help and guidance to people who -- for whatever reason -- experience these molecules as a negative, seductive, destructive presence in their lives? How can we harness whatever good potential they have? Etc etc etc.

We're treating these molecules as if they were capricious Olympic gods, but they're just substances that happen to affect the human mind in different ways.

Lets have that amazing discussion then.

People who use drugs, needs them. If they can come to terms of not blaming drugs and continue using them, its fine. One can be drunk all his life and its good, because sober, he lost faith in humanity. One might understand that there is no point in anything and he can't live on unless he is doped up with something, either it be food, alcohol, cocaine, TV shows or workout. Whatever negativity you experience while on drugs can be great revelation to yourself and about yourself. Good potential is not only happy thoughts and work performance, clearer mind, but also the depths of hell you have crawled out(or not). And also what your actions changed in other people around. It is so complicated and fascinating.

What should we do? What is "Harm"? Injury, pain, depression, death? What is wrong in experiencing that? Or Fear? Could it be that drug war is beneficial to respecting and accepting drugs?

Can only really corrupt politician wake up the masses? And how many times it will repeat and repeat and repeat. When will one needs to change his way of life and thinking and throw away previous behavior completely.

And having conversation online by text is so uncomfortable for me, sorry, I can't write and hold thought long.

I was in the same boat as you are now. Plus I took other drugs as well from time to time. That went on for 7 years. Looking back at it know it's hard to imagine: during 7 years, I think there were only 2 or 3 days I did not smoke (or sometimes ate) weed. Now don't get me wrong: I had great fun and ultra creative moments a lot of times, produced quite nice music etc. But just as many times I was just high and not exactly creative at all, rather just laying in the couch like a zombie.

And then came the depression and all fun was gone, no matter how many drugs I would take in. Those days I would not even wish upon my worst enemies. They destroy you, and it takes a long time to get all pieces back together properly. Even now, again 7 years later, hooray for the magic number, I still have to cope with leftovers from back then.

So here's my suggestion to you: don't wait until the depression really kicks in, chances are high it will, but just quit asap. I know for a fact you won't believe me, neither did I, but it is actually way easier than you think it is (my experience + plus those of two friends). I just quit from one day to the other, never looked back, and the withdrawal effects were pretty mild - even pleasant. Here are some effects of quitting, as you will notice most are extremely postive.

- for a month or so I had a huge urge to be 'active' because I felt like I had tons of energy that had nowhere to go. Running biking, whatever. Sometimes I would just go out at night and climb trees. For fun. Didn't do that since I was a child.

- you start to remember things. Randomly. From your childhood, from a couple of years earlier, ... It's weird. I never knew where and why my brain kept those but suddenly they would just pop up.

- at the same time, the depression started to fade, also gone where the endless thought-circles about life in all it's aspects, and my position in it. I still have those thoughts, but they don't go in endless circles anymore, instead now I come to conclusions

- as a result of that, social interaction came back (not back to normal as it never was before, but back to acceptable levels anyway)

- as a result of that, I found a girlfriend, soon to be wife and likely mother of children

- one downside: from time to time there's still an extremely strong urge to get completely wasted. Now I always had this, the typical craving and search for a high, but after quitting with weed it only became stronger. Like my mind is still addicted to being altered. Lots of sports helps to suppress it, but I admit sometimes I still go wild, mainly on alcohol and preferrably when I'm my own. Seems like a small price to pay though.

this is an interesting post, i think it points at fundamental differences in how people think. why would it be any less real if it was a drug-induced experience created entirely by the mind? your normal waking form of consciousness is a drug-induced experience created entirely by the mind, the only difference is the difference in binding affinities of your natural neurotransmitters vs. some psychoactive drug. in my opinion, the profundity IS the feeling, the experience - there is no separation. your philosophy seems to come from a paradigm of knowledge trumping experience, but mine is just the opposite.
i'm not sure you've really answered the question, though i get your point.

one of the things LSD illustrates with intensity is that perception is reality. it blurs the line between between what is "profound" and "real" and "fake" and reassures you the line never existed in the first place. and really, it may not.

what is profound is not necessarily only what you conclude, but the experience itself. watching your mind and conscious contemplate and imagine in ways you literally couldn't have even contemplated or imagined.

I only heard about this phenomenon with shroom, good to know.
Both molecules are very similar and have been theorized to act very similarly in the way they affect neurotransmitters. However, as anyone who has experienced both will tell you, they are quantifiably and qualitatively different.
thanks for the reply, you seem knowledgeable about chemicals. Thoughts on DMT and Mescaline?
Thanks, I only have slight reading knowledge of the subjects (mostly Wikipedia, then following the sources at the end of the page). I've never done DMT or Mescaline though they seem fairly similar in affect, but extremely different in intensity and duration. My days with psychedelics have been few and far between for a while, though I'm sure there are others on here who have experimented heavily with these. I recommend checking Reddit too for a more diverse intellectual, social, and experience set regarding these types of chemicals.
I disagree that mescaline or any psychedelic is similar to DMT. Perhaps in a sensory deprivation tank. But it's not a question of intensity. DMT often lasts 10-20 minutes and has a near undeniable effect that you just traveled to another dimension. In my opinion, taking other psychedelics will just distort your environment.

DMT is nearly identical to serotonin and tryptophan, and similar to psilocybin and mesclaine. Whatever it does to the brain, it's not a typical effect of any other drug I'm aware of.

I asked because a friend of mine told me his experience felt like he was "watching his body from up above in the universe" and that it felt like he was stuck in a nightmare for a week.

seriously scared me from any desire to try.

One of the greatest risks is integration issues. Trying to square your experience with everyday life. I have experimented with DMT approximately 20 times over many years. It feels like skydiving through time and dimensions.

After 20 minutes you feel 90% normal. It's like having the most intense profound dream. You can have a fleeting sensation of wanting to return to the experience. But it is not addictive in my opinion.

Joe Rogan's given some eloquent descriptions of it. When he says it's like meeting God in a universe full of love, he's being literal. It feels natural. There's a sensation of an intelligence understanding force communicating with you. Making sense of it can be extremely challenging. I'd caution against doing it if you have any hesitation.

oh yeah, how reputable is erowid for information, do you recommend it or is there a better repository?
wow, thank you for the personal anecdote.

If you care to respond, were you aware of your surroundings/your body/your existence, or did everything not matter in the moment?

Is there any sense of time progression? Do you remember everything right after?

Can you hear any sounds from the environment you are in? (tv, radio etc)

It seems like this is something you would want to try only after being at a point in life where you are stable, mentally (emotionally), and physically (health).

Such a fascinating topic, thanks for sharing your knowledge.

"Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves. Here's Tom with the weather." - Bill Hicks

His stand ups are worth watching in their entirety too.
The intersection of tech culture (and notably Silicon Valley) and 60s counterculture is a fascinating topic.

The best book on the subject is, in my opinion, "What the Dormouse Said" by John Markoff [0]. It's a fantastic book, although it requires the reader to already have some knowledge of the people and historical events, as it is not meant to be a computer history primer.

But yeah, it's a great book, and a lot of stuff in there might surprise some readers. For instance, I learned that there was LSD research happening a few blocks away from where I used to live in Menlo Park :)

Timothy Leary also has an interesting essay in Laurel's "Art of Human Computer Interface Design" anthology[1] about what he believes are the intersections of computing as a human tool and psychedelics.

When you start to look into it, you'll realize that the tech industry and California's friendly attitude towards psychedelics have always somewhat gone hand in hand- and people who are not familiar with California's atypical culture might be surprised to know that some of the engineers and designers behind their favorite products share a few things in common with the ol' Timothy.

Queue the necessary: "There are two major products that come from Berkeley: LSD and UNIX. We don't believe this to be a coincidence."



Were any of the creators/contributors to BSD UNIX acid-trippers? Honest question
Given the number of contributors[1], it's hard for me to imagine the answer being "no".


Along the same lines, I found "From counterculture to cyber culture" [0] to be a fascinating read


Anyone curious about the very strong psychedelic-PC connection should read John Markoff's book:

"What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry"

Jul 03, 2013 · dlg on Doug Engelbart has died
Anyone who works in interactive computing should be familiar with Doug Engelbart's work.

Years ago, at one of the first conferences on interactive computer, after people spent all day presenting their new work, Andy van Dam--builder of the first hypertext system with Ted Nelson who named it--stood up and said "you should all be ashamed that you don't know your history. Doug Engelbart invented almost everything presented here years ago." And he was right.

I hope a lot of you are watching The Mother of All Demos But it's worth reading and understanding the reasons why Doug was working on all of this.

Doug and his crew at SRI had the goal of "human augmentation". Everyone else at the forefront of the computer industry thought we'd have general AI by the 1970s. They instead believed that GAI wasn't within reach. They believed that the things we wanted to build and accomplish as a society weren't doable with the communication tools we had.

They had the idea that computers could be tools to help individuals work. Since computers were multi-million dollar calculating machines, the idea that people would have a computer at their desk and that they'd help us to communicate and manage information was beyond-out-there.

But after leaving Engelbart's group at SRI, lots of his team joined PARC and built the modern GUI and networking.

For a history of the details, I highly recommend reading Markoff's What the Dormouse Said

[Bonus: If you like Engelbart's MOAD, also watch Ivan Sutherland's Sketchpad Demo.]

I only tend to comment about once-a-year on HN, but it would be impossible not to say something about Doug and the impact he's had on our world.

Edit: Sutherland's Sketchpad

I don't know the answer, but I am reminded of John Markoff's 2006 book What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry[1].

If you've forgotten what the dormouse said, listen:


I'm all for billionaires using their money to fund research, but that NRO article was so bad that I question his judgement.

1) I don't know what tech slowdown he's talking about. The cost of genome sequencing is falling at faster-than-Moore's law rates; that's probably the most significant growth area right now.

2) Thiel is a Singulatarian [3]; I thought the point of that was that exponential growth is inevitable. It's that coupled with this article that leads me to dub him bipolar. If you believe in the Singularity I presume you believe it will happen with or without any particular pool of money.

3) This paragraph. Maybe sounding like Grampa Simpson is required to get into NRO. And who in their right mind considers Robert Moses and Brasilia good models for anything?

> "towards the end Robert Moses, the great builder of New York City in the 1950s and 1960s, or Oscar Niemeyer, the great architect of Brasilia, belong to a past when people still had concrete ideas about the future. Voters today prefer Victorian houses. Science fiction has collapsed as a literary genre. Men reached the moon in July 1969, and Woodstock began three weeks later. With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that this was when the hippies took over the country, and when the true cultural war over Progress was lost."

Damn hippies! And here I heard that they helped invent personal computing [1] and saved physics [2].

[1] [2] [3]

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