THIRD WAVE PODCAST
Can Psychedelics Be Used As Nootropics?
Jesse Lawler, host of the Smart Drug Smarts podcast, joins us this week for a discussion on nootropics, transhumanism and the psychedelic experience. Jesse shares his opinions on using psychedelics for self-improvement, and where he sees the future of psychedelics in mainstream society.
- Psychedelics will be a major part of the cognitive advancement of humanity
- Microdosing is a nootropic that can help with ‘big picture’ problem solving
- A psychedelic microdose could be a component of the perfect nootropic cocktail
Jesse had always been curious about psychedelics – but growing up in the Nancy Reagan era of psychedelic hysteria meant that he fostered an irrational fear of drugs. It wasn’t until he was 27 that he discovered that psychedelics posed no physical danger to people, and he tried his first dose of a psychedelic.
Now, he tries to fit in a full-dose psychedelic experience every few months, as part of his regimen of self-improvement.
“Psychedelics prove to you that there’s more than one way of seeing the world,” Jesse says. However, he urges caution. High doses can be as terrifying as they are joyful. He suggests that they should be used sparingly and with a skeptical mind.
Jesse’s opinion on the mystical experience induced by high doses of psychedelics is fairly rational. He believes that, although a mystical experience might feel very real, no one is in a position to accurately judge its meaning on the basis of subjective experience.
Psychedelics will absolutely become a part of our cognitive evolution, says Jesse, and he believes that people will look back on prohibition and not understand why we held ourselves back for so long. At the same time, we must not be afraid of taking huge leaps in the technology of mind – we didn’t lose our humanity when people started using walking canes or eyeglasses, and we won’t suddenly lose our humanity by using brain implants or by microdosing psychedelics.
Jesse uses a variety of nootropics in his daily life – some to give him focus with tasks like coding, and others to help him with more creative tasks. Microdosing falls into this latter category, Jesse suggests, allowing him to approach more abstract problem solving.
When it comes to the future of psychedelics in society, Jesse believes that we won’t see a huge change once they become legal: “Just because psychedelics will get more popular doesn’t mean that they will be truly ‘popular’ on the same level as alcohol or tobacco. I don’t think there’s going to be a massive change.”
Regardless of whether psychedelics will ever become mainstream, there will always be a dedicated core of self-improvement enthusiasts using psychedelics to become better people.
0:00:29 Paul Austin: Hey listeners and welcome back to The Third Wave Podcast. I’m your host, Paul Austin, just as a brief introduction again for those of you where it’s your first time listening and if it’s your first time listening, welcome. I’m recording this from Montreal where I am staying for the next week or so. I had an event last night in Montreal, we had about 30 to 35 people there, which was a really, really great event. It was very informal and it was just a classroom discussion about various things related to microdosing psychedelics and I met a number of wonderful people, some of whom listen to this podcast and so if you are listening to this podcast, then I thank you all for attending that event last night. I’ll be in Montreal for the next week or so and then I fly to London for Breaking Convention, which is a conference for three days in Greenwich in London and I’m super, super excited for Breaking Convention.
0:01:27 PA: If you’re attending Breaking Convention, please reach out to me at the conference and say hi, if you’re listening to the podcast. I would really appreciate meeting you and just saying hi and maybe hearing a thing or two about what you think about the podcast. I’ll be presenting about microdosing and why microdosing is interesting from a social perspective and why it is opening new paradigms in terms of our understanding of building bridges with the larger mainstream culture from the psychedelic subculture so I’m super excited to do that. Breaking Convention, next weekend, June 30 to July 2nd.
0:02:04 PA: Now this morning, I am drinking a really interesting thing called Four Sigmatic coffee (use coupon code thirdwave for 15% off). I had emailed the owners of this after seeing Four Sigmatic coffee on the Tim Ferriss podcast and it’s basically like coffee… It’s mushroom elixirs with reishi, chaga, cordyceps and lion’s mane. They come in these little disposable packages that you could just put in a coffee cup and put in hot water and you have basically a mushroom coffee.
0:02:33 PA: As they say, “We make drinking mushrooms and superfoods delicious and easy to do with our mushroom coffees, mushroom superfood blends and mushroom elixirs. We sell tins for at-home use in singles or packets, which are convenient to carry. We love blending our products with a cup of hot water and nut milk or mixing them into our smoothies and shakes.” And I’ve noticed a significant difference just in my mental acuity, as well as my overall presence as I’ve been consuming these so I’m going to continue to consume these little packets and I’ll keep you all updated on how they go but I’m really excited so far with the potential for consuming more mushrooms and not necessarily psilocybin mushrooms.
0:03:11 PA: Yes, I do microdose with those from time to time but even just general mushrooms are really, really good to consume, they’re extremely healthy. So that’s what I’m drinking this morning, it’s really nice. I’m enjoying it. It’s pretty rainy here in Montreal so it’s a warming presence on an otherwise cold day.
0:03:29 PA: Now getting to the podcast. Per usual, we will start with, This Week In Psychedelics and then we’ll go ahead and get into introducing this week’s guest. This Week In Psychedelics, a British woman has died in Paris after accidentally ingesting N-BOMe, N-B-O-M-E, thinking it was cocaine. Again, a story like this highlights the need for both harm reduction education, the importance of testing your substances so N-BOMe, N-B-O-M-E, is often passed off as LSD as well so there are stories of people who, for example, will think they’re consuming LSD, which is non-toxic. Even when consumed in extremely high amounts, LSD will not kill you. N-BOMe will kill you. It’s a research chemical that’s much cheaper to produce than LSD and it has somewhat similar effects, somewhat, somewhat, but not really.
0:04:14 PA: Anyway, if you consume it, you can die, as this woman did. And so again, this highlights the need for harm reduction, for testing your drugs before you use them and of course, we’re actually just legalizing these substances that we already know exist and that are perfectly safe, like LSD and mushrooms so that people don’t die from taking a drug they think is something else. This is super, super important.
0:04:37 PA: So we are building up a partnership with a drug testing kit site. I won’t say the site yet ’cause we haven’t quite finalized it but once we do that, we will be making them widely available on our website and I encourage you, I highly encourage you, if you’re going to use an illicit substance, to test your substance before you use it. It’s important.
0:04:58 PA: Second piece of news, good news. Mexico has legalized medical marijuana. The Mexican president used to be opposed to cannabis legalization but has since made comments at the UN about the need for moving beyond prohibition to effective prevention. This is the first step in Mexico legalizing marijuana, which I hope happens sooner rather than later as their drug war creates so much chaos and hurt and harm in their society, in our society.
0:05:23 PA: We really have imposed a lot of our colonial, silly, western, whatever you wanna call it on them, forcing them to make all these drugs illegal and we, as in the United States, has created a lot of chaos, wreaked a lot of havoc in Mexico and I’m glad that they’re finally stepping up, legalizing medical marijuana and I think that will eventually lead to the full legalization of marijuana. It’s inevitable, in terms of where society is going, and the cat’s out of the bag at this point and there’s a reason I’m doing this podcast now and I wasn’t doing this podcast three or four years ago or there wasn’t a podcast quite like this that really existed.
0:05:57 PA: That’s because the time is now to start also discussing the legalization, the full legalization, not just the medicalization but the full legalization of psychedelics so that will be on the horizon and we at Third Wave are taking very active steps to make this a legitimate possibility. It’s starting with education and community building but it will quickly segue into leveraging specific tools that we have available at our disposal to exponentially accelerate the conversation about the need to have these substances and more on that later but we have some exciting things in the works which I will be happy to share with you guys when the time is right.
0:06:33 PA: Third little piece, a clinical trial has shown for the first time that components of cannabis can help treat children with a rare form of epilepsy. Cannabidiol oil contains no psychoactive compounds but is used all over the world to treat medical conditions and this story is from PBS, “First Marijuana Substance Reduces Seizures in a Clinical Trial.” We had some thoughts about this, and we knew this from various anecdotal reports but now of course, we have science to show us that we were right so the clinical trial has shown this for the first time and this is really good news. So that’s it for This Week In Psychedelics.
0:07:08 PA: We’re gonna transition now into the podcast guest, who is Jesse Lawler, who is host of the Smart Drug Smarts podcast and he joins us this week for a discussion on nootropics, transhumanism and the psychedelic experience. Jesse shares his opinions on using psychedelics for self-improvement and where he sees the future of psychedelics in mainstream society.
0:07:28 PA: Now, Jesse runs in one of my other more entrepreneurial-oriented circles, which I hung out with for about a year and a half in mid to late 2014 up until early 2016 and so I started to transition into building bridges with the larger psychedelic community and I met Jesse at a conference in Bangkok in October 2015. It was the Dynamite Circle Conference. Basically, it’s a conference for digital nomads, people who can live and work remotely wherever in the world and there’s a conference where they all come together and they hang out for a couple of days and it’s in Bangkok and I went and I met Jesse there and got to know him quite a bit, heard his story about how he met Ken Kesey, which you will hear on the podcast, many many years ago before Ken Kesey died in 2001 and Jesse’s just a really…
0:08:20 PA: He’s a great guy. He’s very sharp, he’s a really sharp guy and he’s into psychedelics and I was happy to bring him on the show to discuss microdosing, to discuss these things like nootropics because his insight is valuable, it’s rational and it makes sense. I think you guys will enjoy this podcast. If you do enjoy this podcast, I’m going to ask you to please consider a donation to support this podcast. I was listening to the Sam Harris podcast the other day and Sam Harris made a really good point about the need for listener-supported podcasts and listener-supported media. More particularly, there’s a lot of things going on right now when it comes to media where we’re understanding that all our media is bought out by corporate interests, and the only way to change that is by start supporting media that we like and so I’m just gonna read this from Sam Harris because he says it much better than I do and those of you who listen to Sam Harris understand that he is usually on point.
0:09:15 PA: So he was talking about how he wanted to make his podcast exclusive for people who support him with donations. He was starting to do, Ask Me Anything podcasts, that would be only for them so this is what he was saying.
0:09:30 PA: “Some of my podcasts will be exclusive for supporters and some people, even supporters, may not be in agreement with this because one of the reasons you support the show is to make it freely available to everyone. I appreciate the sentiment but there’s a deeper issue. I’m trying to inspire a culture of sponsorship which goes against our tendency to expect all online resources to be free. Due to human psychology, only a tiny percentage of people will be moved to fund the creation of content that they can get for free without any other incentive. Many people say they can’t afford to support, even a few dollars a month would be a sacrifice and they feel badly about this. My response to this is, don’t be insane. That’s why this podcast is free. Even if you are not in that situation and giving a few dollars a month for this show puts you close to your edge of comfort, stop supporting the podcast. I don’t want anyone making a tangible sacrifice to support this show but if you’re getting enough value from the show that you’re happy to treat it like an extra cup of coffee once a week or once a month and you’re fortunate enough to not have to do the math on that, then your support is hugely appreciated because you’re making this podcast possible.”
0:10:27 PA: And this also digs into another issue and another common thought particularly from millennials is “I don’t have to pay for digital content and I will never pay for it because it’s free. I don’t have to.” This is a cultural problem. It is a cultural problem. There’s a lot of confusion about where the future of digital media is going and about what it will take to make a good future. This reminds me and I’m gonna transition out of Sam’s thoughts into my own. This reminds me of the Renaissance and the commonalities that we’re seeing now with the printing press and the internet and in the Renaissance, the 15th century, the 16th century, these patrons, Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo and all these artists that really imbibed a culture at the time with this creative flair, they were supported by kings.
0:11:10 PA: They were supported by really, really wealthy people and that’s really where the enlightenment kicked off and that’s where the push towards rationalism and the push towards a Descartesian way of thinking and then industrialization and now where we’re all at today and largely why a lot of us are alive is because of the Renaissance.
0:11:29 PA: Now we have a similar thing going on now, there are parallels between the internet and the Renaissance and now we have the ability because of the internet, to crowdsource massive amounts of support. So instead of it being top-down hierarchical like it was in the Renaissance in the 16th and 15th century, we have a chance to make it decentralized by having listener-supported media, listener-supported artists, creative types and that’s why what Patreon has done and what they built and what you are doing in supporting this podcast is so important.
0:11:58 PA: A few more things about why having a listener-supported podcast is such a good thing because I’m producing this podcast myself and I don’t have any sponsors and we won’t have any sponsors, we won’t have any advertisers. It will just be me. I am not accountable to anyone except to my audience, except to you. I can say whatever the fuck I want. I can explore any topic, I can talk to any guest and whatever happens here, no matter who gets offended, no one can fire me. Only you, my listeners can fire me and really you can’t even fire me. Some of you can stop supporting the show or stop listening, even offending a significant part of the audience won’t put the podcast in jeopardy. This means I’m completely free to take the conversation in any direction I want.
0:12:23 PA: There’s almost no one that you get your information or entertainment from who is in that position. No talk show hosts, no academics, journalists, who have that freedom because I can engage in that topic without worrying that someone will disapprove or that my publisher will cancel my contract or that my university will fire me or that YouTube will suddenly demonetize my videos. We… I am in a rare circumstance of total intellectual freedom and we’re just beginning to figure out what to do with that freedom and so if you support this podcast, you amplify that freedom. You make that freedom possible for a longer period of time and so if you decide to support the podcast or if you’re already supporting the podcast, thank you for doing that and like I said, patreon.com/thethirdwave. It would mean a lot, if you can afford it, to support the podcast. Sponsorship will become increasingly important.
0:13:32 PA: Okay, getting off that and I wanna now introduce the host, Jesse Lawler who actually, I’ve already introduced. I just got so excited about reading that, that apparently I forgot I introduced him. So support the podcast. It would be really, really phenomenal if you could and as well, please leave a review on iTunes and that’s it. Enjoy the podcast with Jessie and stick around for when the podcast is finished because I’ll be answering a few questions from audience members. Enjoy.
0:14:14 PA: I know a little bit about your background, I know you lived in LA for a period of time before you moved off to Ho Chi Minh City and did the digital nomad thing for a period of time but yeah, if we could just start with your story and how psychedelics tie into that, that’d be really cool.
0:14:28 Jesse Lawyer: Yeah. I grew up in a Nancy Reagan era of psychedelics and Just Say No to drugs in general and was duly scared. I had the fear of God put in me about anything that was no-no under the eyes of the law and really honestly, played everything completely safe based on false information about what actually was safe or dangerous for a very, very long time. The first time that I ever did psychedelics, I was already 27 years old and yeah, I’d always been curious about psychedelics in particular. There was never any other drug that I had any curiosity about. I’ve probably drank like six beers in my life just ’cause that’s the thing that you do and that was back in college but decided after beer number six that I just wasn’t gonna acquire the taste and never went any further with that.
0:15:13 JL: But I was always really curious about what people described in psychedelic experiences, mostly LSD but the whole panoply of what’s talked about under the psychedelic umbrella but at the same time, I was shit scared and I was just like “Oh God. Is it worth it? What’s the long-term cost of trying this once to see what it’s like? And maybe I’ll just do it once and never do it again but then I’ll have seen behind the veil or whatever.”
0:15:35 JL: And luckily, as I started to do more research into it, I came to the understanding that there actually is not… There’s no addictive potential in psychedelics and while you might scare the bejesus out of yourself and potentially drive yourself nuts [chuckle] I guess, for lack of a better term, you’re probably not gonna do any physiological harm to yourself at all. I was lucky in that I don’t have any history of mental illness or serious depression or anything like that in my family so I felt like I’m probably a good candidate to try psychedelics and eventually got around to it and pretty much been a… I’d say, at least annual user of psychedelics ever since the age of 27.
0:16:14 JL: It’s probably something I’ve not gone more than a year without doing either LSD or mushrooms at least once and preferably more than once if it’s something that I have available and I have the time and inclination, I’m around friends and wanna do it, it’s something I try to work into my schedule, I’d say, every two to three months, do a good psychedelic trip seems about right for me.
0:16:36 PA: And when you do those experiences, when you have those experiences… So, for example, when I started doing psychedelics when I was 19, I think, obviously psychedelics, they act as an amplifier to some degree, meaning they kind of help you dig into what you are already experiencing and see it really for what it is or maybe you have questions on your mind. People in ayahuasca circles will call these intentions, they’ll blow those up so you can really dig into them. When you had those first experiences when you were 27, what were those like for you?
0:17:06 PA: For me, it was always like I was on a personal development kick so it was always like “How can I… ” At the time, I was quite socially awkward so for me it was like “How can I be better socially?” And I would see myself objectively like “Oh, I really fucked up that situation.” Or “I did really well in that situation.” And so whenever I came out of psychedelic experiences, it was like “Okay, when I interact with this person or that person, I should slightly change how I’m interacting so that it can be a more positive experience.” What were those early experiences like for you?
0:17:34 JL: Yeah, I’d say that I never got out of being on a personal development kick. I’m 40 years old now and I’m still trying to tweak the dials and stuff and be a slightly better version of Jesse Lawler. But yeah, I’d say that one of the things that has always struck me with psychedelics is how acutely aware it makes me of trying to see how other people are reacting to me and did I say something that just offended somebody? Did I make a social misstep that… Partially because the world changes under your feet when you’re on psychedelics. You don’t necessarily have the same intuitions about “Oh yeah, I’m behaving as I should in this situation.” and you might second guess yourself a lot, especially if you’re feeling at all anxious about things and I just thought that was interesting, that it can really pull the groundwork out from under you, as far as how your inner relationships with other people are going, even if it’s close friends or a girlfriend or whatever it is.
0:18:29 JL: So yeah, I guess, doing psychedelics with other people and watching those relationships change both in the short term in the minutes and hours that you’re under the effects of the experience and also in the long term when you’ve really bonded with somebody after a few psychedelic sessions, those things can be really intense and the lasting effects obviously, go well beyond the time period that the chemical is in your system.
0:18:50 JL: So yeah, I did see that those sorts of things have always been front and center for me when I am experiencing a psychedelic trip, is just watching not just how I… The things I’m interested in and the colors that the world now appears in and things like that but what does this do to my relationships, what does this do to my sense of personal identity? And when identity is altered, are there things that I miss about the pieces of identity that have fallen away? Are there changes that I like that “Hey, I should try to be more like this what I’m completely sober and on a normal working Tuesday.” Those are all interesting questions to explore.
0:19:26 PA: And yeah, those are really interesting questions to explore. I think one thing that I do wanna mirror back to you or even dig a little bit into, is this concept of bonding that you talked about with psychedelics and when we take these substances in, especially groups of people, they often can facilitate these really meaningful relationships with people who maybe previously we were just acquaintances with and I think that’s also interesting from an identity perspective because obviously we know that when we take psychedelics, they help… They have these eco-dissolving properties. It makes sense that the identity of I, the identity of me, starts to dissolve into then “Okay, what are these other people feeling around me and how am I… ”
0:20:09 PA: Not necessarily how am I different than them or how am I interacting with them but how are we on the same wavelength, so to say. Where are we connecting and how are we connecting and what are ways that we can facilitate a stronger connection, are questions that I seem to always be asking myself when I’m under the influence of psychedelics and some of my best friends who I consider to be my best friends in life right now are people who I’ve done psychedelics with and I think that speaks to the power of them in terms of facilitating connection between people.
0:20:41 PA: Do you have any personal stories or anything of psychedelic experiences that you had that really stick out in your mind? I know you had mentioned to me when we had first met in Bangkok that you had met Ken Kesey? Was that when you were on psychedelics?
0:20:53 JL: Yeah.
0:20:55 PA: Or was that just completely separate from…
0:20:56 JL: No, no. It was completely… When I met Ken Kesey, I was 17 and he actually, he offered me marijuana but I refused. I was like “No, I’ve never smoked anything.” In retrospect, I kind of feel bad that I… Obviously, Ken Kesey’s dead now and is sort of a legendary author and psychedelics advocate and I feel like “Man, I could have smoked a joint with Ken Kesey.” But anyway… Passed up that opportunity but no, it was a decade on before I actually touched any psychedelics myself.
0:21:23 PA: Any impactful experiences that really stick out to you in terms of personal stories or anything like that?
0:21:27 JL: Yeah. There’s only been one time that I have done a… What’s called a heroic dose in the literature. I did over five grams of dried psilocybin mushrooms at one point and I sort of defy anybody to do that much mushrooms and not have it be one of the most impactful experiences of your life. Probably had both the most revelatory happiness and terrifying existential angst that I’ve ever had in my life, within probably a two-hour window while on that particular trip.
0:22:00 JL: But you learn so much of yourself when you sort of go that far from your… The moorings of your identity kind of to the far end of the playing field where you never normally see and it’s impossible to not, I guess, as an adult, stray that far back into sort of the child-likeness of receiving raw sensory input and not being able to contextualize it. Things like that, without having that affect you in a large way.
0:22:23 JL: For one thing, it’s almost sort of… It goes without saying but psychedelics prove to you that there’s more than one way of seeing the world and I feel like that is a really valuable insight, not to be understated and kinda one of those things that it’s useful to continuously remind yourself maybe every couple of months, maybe every couple of years but just to remember that every day reality is only one prism to look at things through, which isn’t a sound too hippie dippy and it’s not to say that there aren’t rights and wrongs and moral absolute and things like that. I think that’s a separate conversation but just being aware that somebody can have distinctly different perceptions of reality than you might have, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong or unjustified in the way that they’re behaving.
0:23:06 JL: If you had their brain chemistry, you’d be behaving the same way. Whether that’s somebody that’s schizophrenic or whatever it might be. Whether it’s… So yeah, I feel like high dose trips for me have been really, really useful. More so, I’d say, than having fun recreationally, going out with some friends, dancing or doing a micro dose, maybe coming up with a term or phrase that you might not have otherwise. The few times that I’ve done higher doses, it can get so bizarre and yet such an interesting vantage point that you can kind of remember and look back on months and years to come.
0:23:39 PA: And I think that’s why as you’ve mentioned before, once every few months, once every six months, once every even year seems to be a pretty good rule of thumb for these psychedelic experiences because some people, they almost get so into the experience itself, whether that’s with Ayahuasca or mushrooms or other high-dose substances that they I think forget that the experience… You’re going through that experience not for the experience itself necessarily but for what you come out of it with and often times when people keep going through these high-dose experiences, like you said, you get pulled so far away from your identity, that if you don’t give yourself space and time to process it and integrate it, then it’s really difficult to contextualize such a weird experience in a way.
0:24:24 PA: I think this is why I like micro-dosing because micro-dosing seems to be this way to kind of have this little constant reminder of okay, these are the things that we can take away from high dose psychedelic experiences but it’s a way to more integrate it on a more consistent basis without being overwhelming.
0:24:43 JL: Yeah, that’s a really interesting point about micro-dosing. I was thinking as you were saying that, it’s kinda like the space program. What we got out of the Space Program from the 1960s wasn’t necessarily getting footprints on the moon or some cool snapshots from space. It’s really what did society pick-up in terms of technology and organizational systems and Teflon and whatever it is that we all get to use back on earth now, even if we personally weren’t the ones that got to go to the moon or were directly involved and I kinda feel like that’s what high dose psychedelics do for people is, it’s not about the experience itself, although that’s certainly interesting and memorable, it’s about what you can kind of glean from that and apply back to ground level reality.
0:25:23 PA: Yeah and this seems to be one of the major… I was just talking about this with someone earlier today. This seems to be one of the major differences between what was going on with psychedelics in the 50s and 60s, at least publicly, with Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey and what’s going on now with psychedelics. In the ’50s and ’60s, it seemed to be a matter of Ken Kesey and the cool-aid. The acid tests that he did with The Grateful Dead in California where they just basically gave people thousands of mics of LSD and they just went off their face but really they didn’t take a whole lot back from it besides “Oh, I just wanna drop on a society.”
0:25:56 PA: Whereas now, it’s more like okay, you’re having these experiences. These experiences are interesting, these experiences are important but really the usefulness of these experiences is not in the experience itself but it’s in what are you getting from the experience. Whether that’s alleviating depression or whether that’s creativity and thinking about something differently and I think that’s one of the major differences, important differences between now and the ’50s and ’60s and I think that’s also why we’re seeing this psychedelic renaissance because people are finally understanding that psychedelics aren’t just this thing that you take and you trip out on and then life goes back to normal or you join a commune or you go crazy.
0:26:33 PA: No, psychedelics are these things that you do. You create a container for them, you have the experience but most importantly, you come back into society, you come back into culture, you come back into life with these insights and you try to apply them to build better systems in which we live.
0:26:49 JL: Yeah. I wish that more people were familiar of the story of, I forget the guy’s name but he won the Nobel Prize for the creation of polymerase chain reaction, which is basically the invention that revolutionized the study of DNA. It allowed people to take one little strand of DNA and make mzillion copies of it and led to things like 23andMe and all the scientific testing that we have now to do with basically anything that requires DNA amplification and he came up with the concept of polymerase chain reaction while on an LSD trip and openly credits LSD as having been instrumental in that.
0:27:23 PA: Yeah that was Kary Mullis…
0:27:25 JL: Kary Mullis, okay.
0:27:26 PA: Is the guy’s name and he’s quoted as saying and this won’t be an exact quote but I’ll paraphrase; basically he said “Could I have invented it without LSD? Well maybe but we’ll never know.” He’s basically like “I took a lot of LSD and I consider that to have been impactful in my experience in life and it definitely made a contribution to my professional work.”
0:27:49 JL: And I feel like a part of that story and one certainly not to be missed is that if he wasn’t a world level expert in those topics and cellular biology and things like that anyway, all the LSD in the world wouldn’t have given him that insight. It’s not something that “Okay, give the 15-year-old LSD and maybe they’ll come up with something great.” It’s like no, he was an expert in his particular craft, had reams of information sitting there in his brain waiting to be cross-pollinated in a certain way and only because he was already just swimming in expertise was he able to do something interesting with this extra burst of creativity.
0:28:23 PA: Yeah, I think the same thing applies to Steve Jobs who said LSD was one of the three most important things that he’s ever done and that doesn’t mean that every tech person who takes LSD is going to become a world famous entrepreneur. What that does mean though is maybe Steve Jobs wouldn’t have been as impactful if he hadn’t done LSD but Steve Jobs was still a brilliant asshole…
0:28:44 PA: Who made things happen basically and LSD was a catalyst but by no means was it a magic pill and I think that’s also something that’s important to talk about when it comes to psychedelics is these can be tools and these in themselves are technology to facilitate awareness and understanding and creative breakthroughs but by no means should they be perceived as a magic pill that if you do it, you’ll get this outcome.
0:29:06 JL: Yeah, I feel like right now we’re on the end of a pendulum swing obviously, with psychedelics having been prohibited for 50 years or so at this point. Those of us who I guess were looking at it from sort of a balanced perspective are trying to push the balance back towards awareness and legalization and basically putting this as a choice on the table of things that a person could do with their time but it necessitates us to push the pendulum in that direction for now but of course… I’m sort of a lifetime contrarian and it’s like, if psychedelics were completely legal and everybody was using them all the time, I would be the one reminding them like “Hey, you can actually get yourself in some severe trouble like major anxiety, it’s not necessarily for everyone and they’re not a salve or solution for all problems.”
0:29:48 JL: And so I guess your point about it being a tool and a technology is the right one. It’s like you can use a fire to stoke an engine or to heat your house or to burn the house down and lynch people or whatever so just to be aware that psychedelics are a double-edged sword for sure.
0:30:02 PA: Oh yeah, yeah, they definitely are. This is why I liked Stephen Kotler’s book so much, Stealing Fire, because he makes that very clear that with great reward also comes great risks. While psychedelics can have an immediate impactful effect for things like depression and PTSD and creativity, they’re also risky for that same reason because the impact can be so immediate and so, I think that’s why we need to approach them with reverence and respect and use them sparingly to a large degree because like you said, there is a level of over-compensation that’s going on right now in the psychedelic space and I think it’s important that there is a sense of caution and there is a sense of reminding people that these are useful, that they’re tools but they’re not a panacea and they’re not gonna solve all the world’s problems, by any means and that even if we do legalize them and they become medically available and eventually legal, there’s still gonna be a shitload of other issues that we have to deal with as a society and a culture and I think psychedelics will help to alleviate many of these issues, like when it comes to depression and PTSD but by no means will they be the one key that will unlock everything else.
0:31:08 JL: Right and I think something that’s also maybe not talked about a lot with psychedelics but maybe should be is that because these are drugs that affect the brain, one of the things that they can do is give things, ideas, emotional salience that they might not normally have. They can make things feel incredibly important and incredibly real. It’s like, I forget the book, I think it was Doors of Perception where Huxley talks about a chair or a piece of fabric and he says it was like the chair was suffused with chairness. It wasn’t just this instance of a chair, it was like it became the archetypal chair representative of all chairs everywhere and it’s true that psychedelics can make things feel profoundly important and self-evident in a way that few other things can but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are profoundly important or self-evident. It just means that you’re pushing the biochemical buttons in your brain that make them feel that way and I’m sort of like the ultimate skeptical rational guy.
0:32:08 JL: I don’t like a lot of woo-woo and I just want people to be aware as they do psychedelics to still kind of, afterwards at least, hold up the reality filter to things and just because you have a strong emotional response, doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a clear or correct answer hidden in that response.
0:32:24 PA: Let’s run with that a little bit because I’d be curious to press you on a couple of questions related to that, especially because you do come from the skeptical rationalist perspective. Sam Harris, I think, ascribes to a similar perspective. Sam Harris is also someone who’s had very impactful experiences with psychedelics as he outlined in his most recent book, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion. What are your thoughts on this concept of a mystical experience? Do you think that is just biochemical, that it’s just our brain sending messages? Or do you think that there is some profound awareness, there is some oneness to the universe, some unity to all life forms like what Huxley talks about in The Doors of Perception. What’s your perception of that relationship between the biochemical interactions and this overarching idea of this mystical experience?
0:33:12 JL: I’m deeply aware of the fact that psychedelics can make you feel like you are a part of something greater or that all is love, the universe is one, everyone is my brother, whatever it is. Those feelings can be very pervasive and profound on psychedelics but at the same time, feeling is a terrible thing to go on when searching for the truth. People have feelings that lead them in terribly wrong and dangerous directions so I don’t trust any feeling on its own merits nor do I think that that’s something that people should do either personally or at a societal level, politically. Feelings are just not good indicators of what we should do.
0:33:47 JL: My feeling about mystical experiences, I guess, is that they might feel very real and they might be very real but nobody, not me, not anyone, is in a position to really accurately judge whether something is real on the basis of a feeling. That’s just not the right metric to use and so I feel like we have to go back to Occam’s Razor. What’s the likelihood that you had some profound revelatory insight that defies rational analysis or that you pressed a chemical button in your head that made you feel like you had a profound revelatory insight that defies rational analysis?
0:34:20 JL: I go for Option B in that choice. What I don’t like about dogmatic religion or really anything dogmatic is a lack of accountability to evidence, to rational analysis or essentially anything dogmatic. It comes down to because I said so. If you push the why question far enough, the answer is always because I said so and that’s just not a very good answer.
0:34:40 PA: That’s an interesting concept and it’s something that I think about often between subjective and objective experiences because this idea of rational analysis, this idea of coming to truth, of using… Yeah, coming to an idea or a concept of truth is often done with an objective quality, meaning; when we get out of our brains, when we get out of our subjective experiences, is there something that we can consistently agree on that is truth between a large amount of people’s subjective experiences? So this is the foundation of science, right? How do we eliminate or control for variables so that we can understand if we do X, Y will happen?
0:35:16 PA: Hey, listeners. This is just a quick interruption from our regularly scheduled programming. We are introducing a text to donate for listeners in the US and Canada. All you need to do to donate to Third Wave is text the word Give to 616-918-3200. Again, the word Give, G-I-V-E to 616-918-3200. Give 616-918-3200 will prompt you for how much you can give, $1, $5, $10 or anything else and the payment is taken directly through credit cards. Your donations will go, again, into our Patreon campaign, into the general funds to make sure that we can continue to create a high quality podcast for all of the listeners who are currently tuning in.
0:36:07 PA: We’re hoping to set up funds for special projects later on, like psychedelic sponsorships and we believe that engaging the psychedelic community is an important part of building something together and so we are now offering this option. That’s it, back to your regularly scheduled programming.
0:36:23 PA: And so that’s why, for me, I think science has brought us a long way and I think science will continue to answer questions that we need to be answered. At the same time, I struggle with the fact that we have largely done away with paying attention to people’s subjective experience. Meaning, for example, with the research they’ve done at Johns Hopkins, which again, is getting back into science and objectiveness but at the same time, the research that they’re trying to do at Johns Hopkins, what Roland Griffiths did in 2006, is he proved that psilocybin could elicit a mystical experience and that there were six qualities to a mystical experience and that because Psilocybin could elicit a mystical experience in an individual, that it would have X, Y and Z benefits.
0:37:10 PA: And so, from my perspective, that seems like a good way to saddle the line between these more woo-woo things of oh, I felt this concept of overwhelming love with everything else. I felt this sense of deep connection, this sense of oneness and the concept of needing to feel like we can ground that experience in real tangible benefits that we can prove exist in a wide number of people and I don’t know if that means that what’s going on inside our heads when we take a psychedelic is just biochemical or if it is allowing us to tap into something greater than ourselves.
0:37:48 PA: I often look at thousands of years of philosophy in terms of Buddhism, in terms of the Upanishads and The Bhagavad Gita, these concepts of epistemology and the process of knowing…
0:38:01 JL: Good job on pronunciation there, by the way.
0:38:03 PA: Thank you. Yeah. It’s just for me, I feel like we have almost over-compensated in a way, where we’ve gone so rational, we’ve gone so materialist, where we’ve also lost touch with paying attention to ourselves and our intuitive needs and our subjective experiences to come to some understanding of how reality exists. This is just me pontificating. I don’t know. Feel free to dig in and kinda pick apart as necessary. I would love to.
0:38:32 JL: Let me dig in, man.
0:38:33 PA: Sure. Please do, yeah, yeah.
0:38:34 JL: Because honestly, I’m as interested in the human condition as the next guy, maybe more so but we’ve been talking about philosophy and religion and the love of a mother for her child and these ground level of human things for thousands of years, at least going back to Plato and Socrates and those guys. There’s a long, long tradition of this and to a large degree, it doesn’t make very much progress. We’re not seeing anything that’s radically new philosophically, that hasn’t been talked about forever, where we really make progress is with science. It’s like the reason that we’re talking on a Skype call right now, versus having to be sitting at around the same wooden picnic table, is because of science. It’s everything that advances in our lives and makes our lives palpably better and the reason that we don’t have rickets and that I’m alive at 40 and healthy instead of being probably already dead ’cause the average age was 35. All that stuff are the fruits of science.
0:39:31 JL: Science makes progress year in, year out, every year. For the last, at least 400 years or so since the Scientific Revolution got under way. Science keeps bringing us bounties. Religion, mysticism, all this stuff, it’s flat-lined. It has been flat-lined since people started writing stuff down and I just feel like people are not appreciative enough of what science does and it kinda hurts my feelings, I guess at a very deep level, when people say like oh science isn’t great but science is really the only thing we have that keeps us living lives of squalor and misery.
0:40:02 PA: Now, interesting, do you think there will be a point where we reach a diminishing returns of science? Even before we hopped on this call, we talked about how… Not before we hopped on this call but before we really started recording, we talked about how with this constant progress, we will probably, at some point transcend humanity, we will transcend being homo sapiens. Do you start questioning the notion of progress at all costs at that point, when we start changing the definition of what it means to be human or do you think that is simply evolution and that maybe the homo sapiens is just a lesser species and that we’re using science to build us into something that is kind of trans-human?
0:40:41 JL: I don’t really agree with the premise of lesser species. I don’t think that humans are necessarily the be all end all and I think you could make an argument that there’s more ants on Earth than there are people. Maybe ants are the dominant species. It’s like evolution isn’t aiming at a certain direction nor does it have an end point. It just… We happen to be here in 2017 talking about where we are now and on the current playing field of planet Earth, we look pretty good but the human species is changing and evolving and certainly always has been.
0:41:10 JL: You can see, like in differences in races within humans, how you have different varieties of alleles that are more or less likely to give you certain diseases based on whether you were exposed to malarial conditions for the last 600 years of your ancestry or whatever it is so we are constantly changing. We’re certainly I think going to be changing at an accelerating rate going forward now that we have the ability to make technological upgrades to our physiology.
0:41:36 JL: I think that’s threatening to a lot of people but I always sort of try to bring people back to the idea that we’ve been using things like canes and eyeglasses for a long, long time now and that really hasn’t fundamentally changed what it means to be human and people aren’t scared of these technologies because they’ve been with us so long and it might be that the brain machine interface that we have in 20 years or 50 years, that’ll look old at 150 years from now. People will have gotten used to the idea by then but like all species, we’re probably naturally cautious and change kind of gets some people excited and makes other people kinda scrunch up and get scared and we’ve got a spectrum of responses to that, I feel like, which is natural, it’s kinda what you want.
0:42:19 JL: You want the early adopters that are willing to test things out, the Luddites and stick in the muds. People like my mom that didn’t buy a microwave oven until it was already like 1995. [chuckle] It takes all kinds but I feel like the human species is going to change. It’s in the process of change already. It has been in the process of change since before any of us listening to this podcast were born and whether we wind up having partially silicon brains or being uploaded to a computer for a long-term backup and storage or whatever it might be, things are gonna look really different in the future than they do now but I don’t think there’s gonna be a clear dividing line where, you were human yesterday, you’re not human today or society was 100% human yesterday, society is now a human plus species X tomorrow.
0:43:06 JL: It’s gonna be a slow sort of fractal splintering as people have more and more options with their biology and some people select to opt in to those things and other people don’t and I think that’ll be really interesting to see kinda the… I don’t wanna say speciation ’cause that implies that one person might not be able to breed with somebody else, which is the technical definition of a species but you’re gonna see, maybe what we would consider technological sub-species of humans form and that’ll be really, really interesting.
0:43:36 PA: I’m glad we’re talking about this now because this is something I talk about, especially in relation to micro-dosing and transhumanism and concepts like this, is ideally, we also then have a political system and a larger societal system set up that lets people be what they want to be. Meaning, that you’re not forced to choose to upload yourself to a computer, you can do that if you wish but you don’t need to necessarily and I think that would be a great world to live in, in the future and you’re right on point with all of these things but I do wanna ask a follow-up question and that follow-up question is; from your understanding of psychedelics and from your experience with psychedelics, what role do you think those will play in the next 10 to 15 years in facilitating this transition?
0:44:16 PA: Do you think they’ll become tools and technology in themselves that will help to kind of create the next level of super human in terms of optimization? Do you think psychedelics will just open a door into understanding the human brain better so that we can create additional technologies that aren’t necessarily plant-based that will bring us to the next level? What role do you think psychedelics will play in the next 10 to 15 years in helping us become better humans?
0:44:42 JL: Yeah, great question. I think you touched on sort of the two main avenues where I feel like psychedelics are and will continue to be most useful. One is the expansion of the creativity of the psychedelics user of basically a smart person that has a strong basis of knowledge in one or more domains, taking psychedelics and kinda having their creativity amplified in the short term and maybe getting some insights they might not have had otherwise and then the second one is the study that scientists would be able to do looking at the brains of people on psychedelics, not necessarily the insights that the people are having but just how the brain is operating.
0:45:18 JL: What playing with the various serotonin receptors… What’s actually happening there morphologically that causes these incredible perceptual experiences that can be so profoundly different from what we typically think of as reality.
0:45:31 JL: I think if we’re talking to AI or robots or something like that, 100 years from now, in the future and you’re kinda having a fireside chat with them, they’re gonna look back at this period of our history or the late 20th century and say like “You humans had this chemical tool to override your own operating system and you chose to make it illegal and not to use it when that was what you needed in order to sorta hack your own brain.” People won’t be able to understand why we did it. We’re gonna look back on it and just be shocked that we were handed the keys to the cognitive kingdom and made the keys illegal for 50 years.
0:46:05 PA: Yeah, I think that’s right on par and I think that even speaks to the larger kind of war on drugs. Is we have these substances that can help us understand the human brain, the human mind. Not only psychedelics but also things like cannabis, for example and more and more research is coming out about the efficacy of THC and CBD oil for X, Y and Z and we’re definitely living in a time period where some of these reigns are starting to come off but we’re still, I would say in the dark ages and I think we will continue to be in the “dark ages” until we can fully study, research and understand what these things are doing to our bodies and our brains on a short term and longterm basis.
0:46:43 JL: Yeah and I think psychedelics will continue. I should say brain chemicals broadly will continue to be an incredibly powerful tool but more and more, they will probably be augmented by more specific technologies that might be able to target certain regions within the brain or even certain tissues, individual cells, whatever it might be because anything that you’re putting into your blood stream, it’s kind of grossly hitting your whole body at once. It’s a very shot gun blast at the broad side of a barn sort of approach and I think we’ll be able to have physiological effects on ourselves in a much more targeted way that’ll make what we do now look pretty archaic in the near future.
0:47:21 PA: What are some of those technologies that outside of psychedelics that you are interested in or that you know about?
0:47:26 JL: For example, for the last couple of years, they’ve had technologies, this is an intrusive technology where somebody will actually have a brain implant but for people that have untreatable epilepsy, for example, they’ve almost have that problem solved. You take off a small, I think it’s a circular piece of the person’s skull and kind of on the bottom of that put a wired system to listen for the electrical storm that is indicative of “Hey, we’ve got epileptic seizure coming on” and kind of put out just a pulse of electricity to kind of diffuses things, that throws off the electrical series of events leading up to what would be a seizure and again, it’s a technology that will look not terribly impressive in 20 years but it’s the kind of thing that we can already do with brain implants and I feel like that sort of technology is going to just get more and more powerful.
0:48:16 JL: And as things get further miniaturized and as things which right now most of our brain technologies tend to be either transmitters or receivers but not both and once we’re able to kind of get a two-way electrode-device inside a brain where it can both check out what’s going on in the nearby neurons and also transmit signals to those nearby neurons, that’s gonna be a real game changer.
0:48:38 PA: What would the impact of that be? Just to kinda have a more concrete idea, for example, what usefulness would that have in terms of depression or in terms of creativity or in terms of serotonin systems? If it can do both of those things?
0:48:50 JL: Honestly, it’s like the sky’s the limit. I mean the brain is the operating system for our whole physiology. This could be everything from if you’re strengthening signals in a motor cortex. You know the stories about like, a tree falls on a kid and a 110-pound woman is able to throw this giant tree off the kid and pull the baby out from under and you’re like “She was 110-pound woman, how did she do that?” It’s because based on the emergency she was in, her motor cortex was firing harder. It’s not that her muscles got stronger, it’s that her brain was basically given the go signal harder than it ever would in a normal situation.
0:49:23 JL: So something like that is something we could stimulate within the brain. On the other hand, the brain’s also doing emotional thinking and social thinking and so just depending on where this stimulation or the suppression of the activity is in the brain. I mean you could almost do anything. It’s like asking, what could a computer do? The sky is the limit.
0:49:43 PA: And I think that’s why like Elon Musk’s project, what he’s trying to start to do with neuro-link in terms of mapping the brain is really fascinating but also incredibly difficult because of how complex it is and obviously, these tools like psychedelics and these other ones, brain implants, maybe EEG scanning, whatever is starting to develop will hopefully lead to, it seems to all be leading to coming up with some map of the brain and once you have a map of the brain, we can manipulate it in certain ways to do these things like you’re talking about.
0:50:12 JL: Right. Yeah. I mean right now, there is still so much to learn and of course, the brain is the most complex thing in the known universe everybody says it but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. The number of connections in even any given neuron of which we have 86 billion is just jaw dropping so despite the power of all of our computers being able to sort of map one of these things and to connect to them in real time is beyond our current capabilities and probably will continue to be so for while but you gotta start somewhere and we are getting a good start now.
0:50:40 PA: We definitely are. Now one topic that I definitely wanted to hit on is obviously nootropics and smart drugs because obviously you host the Smart Drugs Smarts Podcast and I just wanted to hear your thoughts on both psychedelics as nootropics but also generally, other nootropics that you’re interested in or that you’re using or that you think show potential for convergent thinking or creative thinking or whatever it might be. So first, let’s start with, what’s your understanding of psychedelics as a nootropic?
0:51:11 JL: Nootropics is a term beset by turmoil. The dictionary definition of nootropic is not really what anybody uses anymore but a perfect sort of according to Hoyle nootropic has to meet five criteria and is essentially a wonder drug. It’s non-addictive, it has no physiological downsides. You can’t build up a tolerance to it. It has to help you perform better on like cognitive and executive tasks and god, what is the fifth plank? And it has to be neuro-protective. So pretty much, there’s very few things that meet all of those criteria.
0:51:46 JL: So right off the bat, you could take psychedelics out because you do build up a tolerance to them. If you take LSD in the same amount on two back-to-back days, it’s not gonna have as much of an affect the next day so boom, psychedelics are now not a nootropic. That being said, when you look up nootropics online, the vast, vast, vast majority of all your search results are gonna be based on the marketing version of nootropics, which is something which makes your brain do something that your brain does better and that’s a quite a bit more broad.
0:52:12 JL: You hear people talking about things like Adderall as nootropics, which again, Adderall certainly wouldn’t qualify under the stricter definition but if we’re gonna kinda go with the more lax definition of nootropics as being something that offers an acute benefit to the brain in some capacity that you might want to amp up your brain in, then I definitely think psychedelics qualify because they are clearly a creativity enhancer. I mean, I don’t think anybody would argue with that statement.
0:52:42 JL: So for creativity enhancement, I think off the charts good and as you’ve mentioned several times for anti-depressive effects, they do seem to be mood boosters, I think, for most people, at least in lower doses before there might be some level of compensatory anxiety that kicks in and most people tend to get more work done or at least enjoy being in their own skull more when they’re in a better mood. I have a hard time cooing something if it’s “only improving your mood” only improving your mood seems like a pretty high upside to me.
0:53:11 PA: What would be some other nootropics then and I’m gonna kinda get to a final question after this but what would be some other nootropics then that you might use on a day-to-day or monthly basis to help with the various tasks that are non-psychedelic?
0:53:25 JL: Yeah, so I’m a big fan of something called an Aniracetam. There’s a family of chemicals called racetams, actually the original nootropic, the one for which the term nootropic was coined was called Piracetam and there have been probably 30 different chemicals now with that chemical suffix, some of which are quite a bit stronger than the original but yeah, Aniracetam is maybe not a daily thing for me but I’d say I take Aniracetam about four days a week and I’ve actually have done Aniracetam and LSD together and not enough to, don’t take this one to the bank but I feel like Aniracetam has ratcheted up the perceptual qualities of LSD quite a bit. I’ve taken like a microdose of LSD with some Aniracetam and it felt like a whole lot more than a micro dose. That was interesting to me.
0:54:10 JL: I also have used, pretty extensively, both Modafinil and R-Modafinil and on occasion Adrafinil, all of which are sort of chemical cousins of one another, which is basically the prescription drug Modafinil is an anti-narcolepsy drug. It’s helped to… Made to help people stay awake but probably, I’d say 75% of the people in the world that are using Modafinil are using it more for the alertness and wakefulness qualities, not ’cause they actually are narcoleptics but yeah, I’d say those would be among my go-tos and then there’s a lot more sort of vanilla variety stuff like fish oil supplements and things like that that are certainly worth having in your medicine cabinet but maybe not quite as exciting.
0:54:48 PA: So let’s say you’re working on a project or let’s say you’re working on a couple of different projects. How do you decide “Hey, today I have to do X, Y and Z so I prefer this sort of substance,” or “Today, I have to do X, Y and Z so I prefer this sort of substance.”?
0:55:04 JL: Yeah, that’s a great question. For me, the usefulness and also the interesting aspect of all of these brain affecting drugs is the fact that I think of it as like Batman’s tool belt. Batman doesn’t use every tool in his belt at one time and if he did, he would hurt himself but Batman’s a smart enough guy to get the lay of the land “Here’s the situation I’m in, here’s what I’m trying to accomplish. Now, what tool do I have that best fits this task?”
0:55:27 JL: And for me, I generally would kind of divide what I wanna do on any given work day into “Is this more of a creative task or more of numerical logical put on the blinders and don’t let yourself get distracted and go for it task?” Something more… Like people oftentimes talk about focus and creativity. Like “I wanna be super focused and super creative” and I always kind of roll my eyes a bit ’cause I think of focus and creativity as being opposite ends of a spectrum. The more creative you are, the less focused you are and vice versa.
0:55:58 JL: And so, if I’m doing a day where I’m a computer programmer in my real life and if I’m gonna be writing code that day, that’s much more likely that I will be drinking coffee and/or taking R-Modafinil and basically just sort of putting on the chemical blinders, getting myself somewhat stimulated and going into my coding hole, helping my fingers work real fast across the keyboard. I’m not necessarily looking to be epically creative, I know what I wanna get done and I’m looking to accomplish it with minimum of fuss. On the other hand, if I’m gonna be writing a blog post or even having sort of an interesting freewheeling conversation like this one, like today was an Aniracetam day for me, then Aniracetam would probably be my normal go-to or if I was feeling frisky, maybe even a micro-dose of something.
0:56:43 PA: Yeah and so when, for example, if you had to code, would you take a micro-dose?
0:56:49 JL: No, I wouldn’t. Here’s the thing, coding is a lot of different skills rolled into one and it’s like if you’re not a computer programmer, it might not always look that way but there’s kind of the coming up with the big idea of “How am I going to solve this problem?” or like “What actually needs to happen to the architecture of the software?” and then there’s kind of the laying the nuts and bolts out. When you’ve already solved the conceptual problem of what you’re trying to do but you still need to build the pieces that do it, that’s a much more paint by the numbers, run the code, check it for bugs. If you find a bug, act like Sherlock Holmes and isolate where it is, eliminate, eliminate, eliminate, until you’ve only got one potential source of the bug left and then that one’s it, sort of a much more analytical rational thing that I don’t think micro-dosing lends itself to that at all.
0:57:35 JL: There might be programmers out there that disagree with me but that’s not what I would wanna be on a micro-dose. When I would wanna be on a micro-dose maybe is when I’m trying to come up with the big picture problem solving of what’s worth doing?
0:57:46 JL: What if a user is trying to use my piece of software, how might they use this in a different way? What did they say they want versus what do they really want? Like if they, the old Henry Ford quote about “If I’d asked the people what they want, they’d have said faster horses.” Trying to out-think the person who’s asked you for a fast horse and think “Ah, how could I build this in a better way?” Those are sort of the more micro-dosey questions and they could apply to building software but I wouldn’t say they actually apply to the code writing part of building software.
0:58:13 PA: So then as a follow-up question to that, maybe not even a follow-up question, I just kinda wanna add my two cents, I guess, to that.
0:58:19 JL: Yeah, yeah, go for it.
0:58:20 PA: That makes me think then there are probably specific people who have specific roles on teams that would be better off using X substance compared to Y substance. For example, with my role in my team, I’m more or less the visionary, I’m the conceptual framework guy. I’m the one who’s kind of thinking at the outskirts, at the edges of ideas, trying to piece together new things and then create these new models in which then we can execute an X, Y and Z task. So I’m often building the concepts and I’m having my team execute them and so for me, micro-dosing is usually my go-to and it’s usually the only really “nootropic” not in it’s exact explicit term but just generally in its…
0:58:58 JL: Yeah, yeah.
0:58:58 PA: That seems to be my substance, whereas, I have a guy on my team, he’s our developer. He’s building an app for us right now and he’s doing the things that you spoke about. He’s just executing so for him, it might be something else. This makes me think again about psychedelics, about the psychedelics renaissance, about the growing popularity of psychedelics in terms of going forward with artificial intelligence and with automation, a lot of these rote tasks that previously we needed human computing to do will be done by computers, will be done by non-humans and so, that also makes me think about micro-dosing as a technology and tool and why it will probably only continue to grow in popularity because the people who are valued and will be valued in our future economic system will likely be those who can think of the outskirts, who can come up with new concepts and new ideas. Who can problem-solve at complex levels and they will want something that facilitates and accentuates that process. Do you agree or disagree with that?
0:59:52 JL: I do tend to agree with that, I think that… Yeah, that kind of keep your head down and get the work done is gonna be less and less something you would say to a human member of your team or staff, that kind of stuff will increasingly be automated. I’m sure that we’ll find plenty of other uses for humans that still might not be the heights of creativity but I think the general trend will be that people will be going in a more creative or more social direction and I guess we haven’t talked much about socialization but I think most of the… Where dopamine amplification, smart drugs are not necessarily the ones that are gonna make you at your social best.
1:00:29 PA: Yeah, let’s talk a little bit about those. What are those dopamine amplifications and how are those different than micro-doses, for example, of LSD.
1:00:36 JL: Well, yeah. I guess, the classic two that people talk about are the ADHD drugs methylphenidate, which is better known as Ritalin and Adderall which for some reason they just call Adderall. It probably has a chemical name but Ritalin and Adderall are the two and they’re used interchangeably. I’ve spoken with doctors who prescribe these and some people respond better to one, some people respond better to another. It’s kind of a toss up and oftentimes when they decide that this person or this kid has ADHD, they’ll just flip a coin and prescribe one. If they don’t respond well to it, then they’ll try the other one but both of them are amphetamine based compounds and tend to promote a lot of dopamine.
1:01:14 JL: When people have ADHD one of the things that’s going on there, at a biological level, is that they do not have as much available dopamine in their brain as your normal middle of the bell shaped curve brain. So the goal with giving that drug is to bring in the brains level of dopamine up to a normal level so the person can sustain attention at a normal level.
1:01:37 JL: The flip side to that coin is if you give somebody who does have a normal brain one of these dopamine promoting drugs, it’s still gonna promote the release of dopamine but it’s gonna give them more dopamine than they might ever normally have cruising around their brain and this can lead to a person being very, very motivated but it can also lead to them being snappy and overly aggressive. Just depends how people will get when they get highly motivated and aggressive. Some people that can be a good thing for them personality wise, other people not so much. It’s like how alcohol can make some people happy drunks or some people angry drunks. It’s like… It really varies person to person but I’ve spoken with…
1:02:12 JL: I’ve never done Adderall myself. I’ve done methylphenidate twice just to see what it was like. I had a friend with a prescription so he gave me a couple of pills but I’ve spoken with a great number of people who have done Adderall and they almost to a person talk about it, making them more snappy and robotic in their emotions and having the time to put up with people and the opposite of what you would want in a drug that’s going to make you relate better socially to your fellow man or woman.
1:02:40 PA: Well and this is why micro-dosing is so interesting to me and I think that this is partly why people who do have ADHD are starting to really get into micro-dosing is because even those who do have ADHD when they’re taking these medications, Adderall and Ritalin, I think it also makes them feel like robots, to some degree and I think there’s an aspect of when they do micro-dose, it helps to humanize them a little bit. It helps to loosen them up while still getting some of these benefits of focus, at least at lower levels for certain individuals.
1:03:06 JL: One more thing on psychedelics and the social aspect, which I probably should have mentioned earlier but I feel like one of the real benefits to psychedelics socially is just how vulnerable they make a person. It’s like, you really feel vulnerable and exposed and the world is a less familiar place and that makes you feel less comfortable and when you’re around other people in this state of heightened vulnerability, one of two things can happen; either it goes badly. People take advantage of that vulnerability, in which case, it can be a really negative experience.
1:03:40 JL: Or conversely, if you find out that the people you’re around, they really are friends, they nature you as necessary. They’re accepting of the fact that you are in this exposed vulnerable mental state then that can really build feelings of trust and empathy and you wanting to reciprocate with whatever kindness that you can give them seeing as… How you’re exposed and could you… Could have taken advantage of you but elected not to do so and I feel like when people do have really good social experiences, that’s a big part of it. It’s just sort of the forced chemical vulnerability.
1:04:13 PA: That is, that is, totally and that often elicits connection and elicits shared compassion and shared understanding and shared empathy and I think that in itself is such a medicine for us when we live in these cities that are very isolating and feel isolating because I think there’s a sense of we’re so disconnected from nature and we’re so disconnected from these other things that as humans, we evolutionarily have relied on in a way and with that disconnection, I think that’s partly why psychedelics are really effective as a medicine, not only for depression but for social anxiety as well.
1:04:50 PA: There’s been a lot of research lately that’s been done with MDMA for adults that have social anxiety and it’s super, super, super effective and so just the other night, I went dancing in Berlin with… I took about a quarter gram of MDMA and I… With someone who I’m seeing and it was just a beautiful experience because of that vulnerability, again, because of that sense of connection and so I think tying this back into our conversation about nootropics and micro-dosing versus Adderall. I think is again is why micro-dosing is really taking off is yes, it’s helping people with focus and yes, it’s helping with creativity and again, maybe these are on different days or maybe people are just confused, I don’t know but people are self-reporting some of these benefits but I think more importantly, it’s seeming to have this anti-depressant effect and it’s helping people to kind of facilitate connection and emotional understanding with those who are around them and with someone who’s been taking Adderall for a long time, who’s been diagnosed with ADHD, who’s felt like a robot for five years and all of a sudden, they can find a substance that has some of the same benefits, meaning they can actually remain engaged and focus while not feeling like a robot, that’s a really powerful tool.
1:06:01 PA: That’s a really powerful technology and that makes me really hopeful for where we could see things go in the next few years.
1:06:08 JL: Yeah, awesome. I agree.
1:06:10 PA: Cool. Let’s wrap things up. I did wanna ask one more question and we were touching on this until we went off on the tangent but we were talking about work and we were talking about meaning and we’re talking about how in five or 10 years with a lot of these rote tasks that we’re doing now, that humans are doing now, they’ll be automated and handed off to computers. Going forward in the next 10, 15, 20 years, where do you see work going? How do you see us as humans doing work, finding meaning and purpose in work? I know… We didn’t get much into your background but you were one of the people like myself… You moved to South East Asia, I believe you…
1:06:50 PA: You obviously have your own podcast but you also run another business, if I’m not mistaken so you’ve been able to create some level of freedom for yourself. Do you think that sense of freedom, that level of freedom will be democratized for everyone in first-world countries because of automation and AI so we’ll finally have time freed up to do creative things? Or do you think we’ll continue to fall into the same hole of finding purpose and meaning in only exclusively work and maybe struggling with just enjoying life as it is? I’m just curious to hear your thoughts, three to five minutes on where you see work going?
1:07:27 JL: Yeah, well, I think prediction is a dangerous business.
1:07:30 PA: Agree. Yeah, I know, I know.
1:07:32 JL: There’s probably more failed predictions than there are accurate predictions out there. So take everything here with a major conjectural grain of salt but one thing, I’ve seen articles written in Forbes magazine or whatever back in 1985 by very, very smart people saying that based on the level of technology 10 years from now, nobody gonna need to work or people are gonna work eight hours a week on average or things like that. Predictions that, again, they were backed up by credible speculation at the time but they obviously didn’t come to pass. I mean, we’re still kind of working as many hours per week, for most people as we have for the past 50 years or so I think. I think that’s, within a small margin of error, that’s a pretty accurate statement.
1:08:11 JL: I think that we will continue to come up with new crap that we want and the new normal will continue to evolve to fill 40 hours a week-ish of most people’s time. I mean, I think that there’s already a lot of industries that we have that don’t need to exist but that exists, kind of to fill a labor void. Like I mean, do we really need new lines of women’s shoes every year? Do we really need all the professional sports teams and the legions of people that make their living analyzing how players ran into one another on the field? It’s like “No, we don’t need any of that.” I mean none of that really does anything productive for society, it just entertains us and I feel like what we’re gonna see is a shift in the number of jobs that actually do something that’s kind of like ground level productive, like growing a vegetable versus something which is basically glorified entertainment.
1:09:02 JL: I think that there’s gonna be a whole lot more glorified entertainment in the business landscape and a whole lot less ground level required for human sustenance and survival kind of stuff but I don’t think that you’re gonna see everybody working three hours a week then looking around wondering what they should do with the rest of their time.
1:09:18 PA: One follow-up question, just because of our conversation about psychedelics, do you think the medicalization and potentially eventual legalization of psychedelics might help us to snap out of this kind of societal-wide need for superficial shit that we don’t actually need? Or do you think that, yeah, I’m just curious kind of contextualizing this a bit, when I first did psychedelics, it was just a major… One of the biggest impacts it had on me is understanding how superficial our culture was and how much waste and materialism there was and that’s when I… After I did psychedelics, that’s when I first got onto like minimalism and understanding Buddhism and Stoicism and some of these concepts.
1:09:58 PA: Do you think that with more and more people doing psychedelics that could catalyze this shift in the way that we spend our time or do you think that’s not necessarily going to happen?
1:10:08 JL: Okay, well here’s I guess the thing that jumps out at me is like, you like psychedelic, I like psychedelics, the people that are listening to this podcast like psychedelic ’cause they’re listening to a podcast about psychedelics. [chuckle] but all that being said, I think that it’s not accurate to assume that just because psychedelics will get more legal and that they will probably get more popular, that they will ever be truly popular. I don’t think LSD is gonna be what Coors Light is or something like that. It’s not gonna be something that people are gonna be doing to the last man or woman with enough frequency where I feel like it will be changing society at that fundamental level.
1:10:46 JL: I think that we’re still gonna be looking at the Joneses thinking you know, how come he has a nicer car than me or a nicer pet robot or whatever it is. I do not think that, even though at an individual level, psychedelics might change how people view acquisition and consumer culture and things like that. I just don’t think it’s gonna be a massive ground swell of change ’cause I don’t think everybody else in the world is gonna like psychedelics as much as we do.
1:11:09 PA: Yeah, I think you’re totally right about that. I think psychedelics have always been, to some degree, elitist. I think psychedelics have always only been used by a select few in our culture. That’s about 10%, 10% to 15% of people have used psychedelics at some point and it’s probably closer to 1% in terms of those who use them semi-consistently or on occasion. Many of those people who have done psychedelics just did it once, thought it was a bit funky and weird and then never touched again.
1:11:32 JL: It’d be fascinating if you could find a way, I don’t know how you would do this experiment but if you could, like had a massive Truman Show sorta world and you had no social or legal prescription against psychedelics. It was just like something you could do if you wanted to but you didn’t have to that kind of thing. What percentage of people would be really into it and think “Wow, it’s just amazing that I can push these buttons in my brain” and what percent of people be like “Ah, that can get scary sometimes. I’m not interested” or “Well you know, it made my little toe feel weird. I don’t wanna do it again.”
1:12:02 PA: Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think that’s a really good question. What percentage of people would be interested in it? From my perspective it seems like a lot of people who are interested in psychedelics, especially as they get older, are kinda the ones on the outskirt, the slightly crazy ones, the ones who kinda wanna change things, who are activists or entrepreneurs or creative types. Where it seems like a lot of the people who kinda keep our systems running, just the everyday people who are doing the tasks, your garbage men or the school teachers or the people who are just showing up every day and just doing things, the ones who follow the rules, they seem to be less interested in psychedelics and more interested in things like alcohol and tobacco and caffeine and I wonder if that’s always been the case to a large degree in societies and cultures historically? That would be a really interesting question to dig into.
1:12:47 JL: It would.
1:12:48 PA: Great. Well, I think that’s a great way to end Jesse. Can you just tell our listeners where they can find you so that, whether that’s your podcast or website or Twitter handle, it’d just be great if they can know where…
1:12:58 JL: Yeah, yeah, I’m conspicuously easy to find. I’ve got a podcast called Smart Drug Smarts and the website is appropriately named smartdrugsmarts.com and yeah, I haven’t been using Twitter all that much but I technically do have a Twitter account. It is a Lawlerpalooza. My last name is L-A-W-L-E-R and it’s kind of a play on the band concert thing Lollapalooza.
1:13:18 PA: Perfect, great. Well thanks again for joining us Jesse and yeah, it was a pleasure to have you.
1:13:22 JL: Yeah, thanks for having me.
1:13:40 PA: Okay, just a couple of questions this week. One is from Androkles,one from [unclear speech]. The first question is; can psilocybin negatively affect anxiety? The general answer to that question is probably yes. I know people who have started to micro-dose with mushrooms or micro-dose with LSD. They have some level of general anxiety, it will often accentuate and amplify that anxiety because it’s making them more aware of the issue in their life that’s creating anxiety. Higher doses could lead also to issues with even more anxiety.
1:14:17 PA: However, it can also help address issues of general anxiety. Anxiety is such a broad, wide-ranging thing that it’s hard to really narrow down in terms of how it could affect the individual so if you really, really struggle with anxiety, generally anxiety, I usually recommend people first try to find some head space, meditation without any extra substances or going hiking or spending a weekend away and reflecting and thinking can often help to address some underlying issues.
1:14:47 PA: The second question is what differences are there between micro-dosing and LSD or micro-dosing and psilocybin mushrooms? I can only speak about my personal experience and that is reflected with others’ experiences as well, from other people. However, this is largely individual so just take this with a grain of salt.
1:15:05 PA: My experience is that LSD tends to be more extroverted, more engaged in the outside world, more creative-oriented whereas, psilocybin tends to be much more internal and reflective. Now of course, the basic difference between LSD and psilocybin mushrooms is LSD lasts for 12 hours, psilocybin mushrooms last for six hours. LSD is a semi-synthetic, psilocybin is a natural plant compound.
1:15:26 PA: Now LSD is also a dopaminergic, meaning it casts this sense of excitement to a more energy, high energy and so it’s a general pattern and this isn’t a hard and fast rule, absolute rule but as a general pattern. Those who are micro-dosing LSD tend to be more in creative pursuits, wanting to build something or overcome creative resistance or access flow states and it’s seeming to help them engage a little bit better with the outside world and engaging with relationships, becoming more extroverted, this sort of thing where psilocybin tends to be more an internal, reflective.
1:15:58 PA: It’s like, if you’re dealing with an issue or struggle and you want time to think about it and really mull it over, maybe micro-dosing and psilocybin and going for a walk or meditating will help you deepen your thought process to understand things that are going on but when I’ve micro-dosed with mushrooms, I typically don’t wanna work in front of a computer screen. I like to go for a walk outside or be in nature. So those are the differences for me.
1:16:23 PA: Again, it’s largely variable though depending on the person.
1:16:25 PA: Now, next week, that’s it, so we only have two questions but next week, Mark Manson, the New York Times bestseller and author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck from markmanson.net will be on the podcast so tune in for that podcast next week and then after that, the following week, we’ll have the psychedelic comedian Shane Mauss will be on the show. So we’ve two exciting podcasts coming up so make sure to tune into those. Again, if you enjoyed this podcast, please consider a donation and leaving a review on iTunes. And that’s it.