The Psychedelic in Society:
A Brief Cultural History of Tripping part 4
…Since the cataclysms of the Sixties and Seventies, a more tenacious if less overtly messianic subculture has grown up around the psychedelic. Nowhere in the industrial world is psychedelic consciousness more above-board and appreciated than in the computer software business, where it is regarded as the inspiration for cybernetics -- the very definition of twenty-first century communications efficiency -- by many of its most illustrious practitioners.
According to Jaron Lanier, a pioneer in the virtual reality industry, “…almost to a person, the founders of the [personal] computer industry were psychedelic style hippies…..
Within the computer science community there’s a very strong connection with the ‘60s psychedelic tradition, absolutely no question about it.
In the TNT docudrama Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999), Apple founder Steve Jobs is depicted on an acid trip in which he conceives himself the conductor of his own cosmic symphony.
Bob Wallace, one of the early developers of Microsoft, who now runs Mind Books, the online purveyor of tomes devoted to psychedelic and alternative consciousness, has said that his conception of shareware as a formal business application was psychedelically inspired. Lotus spreadsheet designer Mitchell Kapor, co-founder with Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet advocacy organization, has attributed certain “recreational chemicals” with sharpening his business acumen. Bob Jesse left his position as vice president of business development at Oracle, the world’s second largest software company after Microsoft, to head the Council on Spiritual Practices, a non-profit organization that advocates (among other things) the responsible use of entheogens (divine-manifesting drugs) for religious purposes.
Such a marriage of technology and psychedelic consciousness – and a resoundingly profitable and influential one at that -- might have been foretold by Marshall McLuhan’s 1968 observation that “the computer is the LSD of the business world.”
The possibility that industrial success might in any way be attributed to the psychedelic is not overtly bantered about in Wall Street boardrooms, where psychedelic acuity is not yet measured out in lucre as an asset or variable in a company’s fortunes. But according to author and media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, firms “such as Sun Microsystems that lead the Valley of the Nerds [Silicon Valley] recognize the popularity of psychedelics among their employees.” You need only one look at the covers of the cyber-age magazines Wired and Mondo 2000 to conclude that the computer cognizant have had at least some contact with the whirring currents of the psychedelic Mainframe.
The phrase “We’re all connected!,” often exclaimed during a psychedelic experience, might just as well be uttered by a PC user tapping into the mycelium-like World Wide Web for the first time. Cyberspace is, in many respects, an electronic mirror of the hyper spatial web of synaptic nerves running through the Universal Mind, the Indra’s Net of impulses and receptor sites that some say they’ve accessed by psychedelics.
(According to ancient myth, Indra, the king of the Hindu pantheon, created a vast web comprised of strings of jewels. Each jewel both reflected and was reflected by all the others, thus revealing both its uniqueness and its universality.) A sort of invisible yet real medium of contact between any and all points, cyberspace is a habitat for the mitosis-like proliferation of the idea germs called memes, and an endless mind field on which to explode the fractal equations that portray the parallel orders of controlled chaos in the universe.
There is no doubt that with the advent of the new millennium, the psychedelic culture will continue to rise, both responsibly and otherwise, as psychedelics are increasingly seen as tools for penetrating the veils of quotidian maya and mass-media illusion spun by corporate greed. According to the best hopes of the new psychedelic vanguard, the expanded intelligent use of these plants and chemicals will usher in an eon of shamanic vistas and stronger definitions true to primordial forms: a pagan, aboriginal order in which the spirit will reign pre-eminent.