Can LSD Make You A Billionaire?

"Shitty Acid", by artist Brian Lewis Saunders

“Shitty Acid” by Brian Lewis Saunders

Who wants to be a billionaire?

Just eat acid. That’s all you gotta do. If you believe CNN, that is…

Cult leader Lifestyle Guru Tim Ferriss shares his thoughts on using drugs to expand consciousness as an acceptable way for the tech industry to solve problems.

“using smart drugs is like pouring gasoline on the fire. Hallucinogens used very very intelligently help you decide where to put the fire”

Silicon Valley are now promoting hallucinogenic drugs on CNN. Is it time to legalize yet?

“psychedelics have a rich history in Silicon Valley. One of the most iconic users? Steve Jobs” 

Other iconic users include Douglas Englebart (inventor of the mouse and desktop interface), John Gilmore (co-founder of Sun Microsystems and the MAPS association for psychedelic studies), and Stewart Brand (founder of the Whole Earth Catalog and the WELL).

The Billboard Liberation Front was one of the San Francisco groups that seeded Burning Man

The Billboard Liberation Front was one of the San Francisco groups that fed into the early Burning Man. This art piece was produced by John Gilmore, and “dropped” in 1995

Author Ryan Grim sees Burning Man as the latest incarnation of Silicon Valley’s desire to be inspired by hallucinogens.

wired 1996Burning Man co-founder Danger Ranger, contributed to Mondo 2000’s Berkeley party house and got wired with WIRED. He attributes hanging around with this crowd (with their Stanford chemistry lab supply) as providing valuable “connections” to Burning Man that brought the tech crowd in to join up with the Cacophony Society’s Merry Pranksters. WIRED beat the drum for the tech industry with their Bruce Sterling cover story in 1996. Danger Ranger joined the Burning Man Project in 1990, prior to that with John Law he was a co-founder of the Cacophony Society, which grew out of their earlier involvement in the Suicide Club, which also begat the BLF. The Billboard Liberation Front “dropped LSD” in 1995, sponsored by Gilmore as the project’s Creative Director. First a giant neon ad for LSD, next to the freeway, ironically high-jacked by art guerilla cyber punks; next, a cover story on WIRED with a neon glowing Burning Man and a Mad Max-themed video from Dr Dre.

Even LSD mega-promoter Timothy Leary got all Cyberdelic, saying that the PC is the LSD of the 1990’s and admonishing Bohemians to turn on, boot up, jack in“. Presumably, in the 21st century the LSD of the Teenies is going to be Oculus Rift and the Burner-built Microsoft Holo Lens, where you can plug into Burner-built Second Life to attend Burning Man virtually at their Burn2 Regional.

From Wikipedia:

cyber punk maskTimothy Leary, an advocate of psychedelic drug use who became a cult figure of the hippies in the 1960s, reemerged in the 1980s as a spokesperson of the cyberdelic counterculture, whose adherents called themselves “cyberpunks”, and became one of the most philosophical promoters of personal computers (PC), the Internet, and immersive virtual reality…

In contrast to the hippies of the 1960s who were decidedly anti-science and anti-technology, the cyberpunks of the 1980s and 1990s ecstatically embraced technology and the hacker ethic. They believed that high technology (and smart drugs) could help human beings overcome all limits, that it could liberate them from authority and even enable them to transcend space, time, and body. They often expressed their ethos and aesthetics through cyberart and reality hacking.

steampunk mask 2R. U. Sirius, co-founder and original editor-in-chief of Mondo 2000 magazine, became the most prominent promoter of the cyberpunk ideology, whose adherents were pioneers in the IT industry of Silicon Valley and the West Coast of the United States 

io9 has a list of 10 great inventors who took drugs. At least 6 of the 10 were trippers:

6. Steve Jobs — LSD
LSD was a big deal for Steve Jobs. How big? Evidently, Jobs believed that experimenting with LSD in the 1960s was “one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life.” What’s more, he felt that there were parts of him that the people he knew and worked with could not understand, simply because they hadn’t had a go at psychedelics. This latter sentiment also comes through in his recently-published biography, wherein Jobs goes so far as to associate what he interpreted as Bill Gates’ dearth of imagination with a lack of psychedelic experimentation:

“Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology. He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas.”

“He’d be a broader guy,” Jobs says about Gates, “if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.”

5. Bill Gates — LSD
Which is funny, because Bill Gates totally did experiment with LSD, though an excerpt from a 1994 interview with Playboy reveals he was much less open about it than Jobs:

PLAYBOY: Ever take LSD?
GATES: My errant youth ended a long time ago.
PLAYBOY: What does that mean?
GATES: That means there were things I did under the age of 25 that I ended up not doing subsequently.
PLAYBOY: One LSD story involved you staring at a table and thinking the corner was going to plunge into your eye.
GATES: [Smiles]
PLAYBOY: Ah, a glimmer of recognition.
GATES: That was on the other side of that boundary. The young mind can deal with certain kinds of gooping around that I don’t think at this age I could. I don’t think you’re as capable of handling lack of sleep or whatever challenges you throw at your body as you get older. However, I never missed a day of work.

Francis Crick — LSD

Francis Crick — of the DNA-structure discovering Watson, Crick, and Franklin — reportedly told numerous friends and colleagues about his LSD experimentation during the time he spent working to determine the molecular structure that houses all life’s information.

In fact, in a 2004 interview, Gerrod Harker recalls talking with Dick Kemp — a close friend of Crick’s — about LSD use among Cambridge academics, and tells the Daily Mail that the University’s researchers often used LSD in small amounts as “a thinking tool.” Evidently, Crick at one point told Kemp that he had actually “perceived the double-helix shape while on LSD.” 

Read the full list at

As the Guardian points out, many people tried acid, but only one became Steve Jobs. Similarly, although many Burners take acid, less than a tenth of one percent are Billionaire Burners.

Taking LSD can make you lose your mind, like Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett who was a frequent acid tripper, and never recovered from one particularly large dose. In her brief article Operation Chaos, Mae B Russell  suggests that rather than coincidence, this may have been a deliberately engineered capability of the drug which was developed during World War II as a chemical weapon. LSD was researched by the military/intelligence complex for many decades, distributed for in hundreds of millions of doses (often gifted), and synthesized into many more variants than just “LSD-25”.

The whole acid scene began in Silicon Valley, and disseminated out of the Bay Area into Hollywood and then the rest of the world. How many of San Francisco’s Summer of Love Sixties hippies became billionaires? There are definitely a few. For every self-made billionaire in the Bay that did drop acid, there are many more who did not. Acid cannot make you a billionaire any more than going to Burning Man can make you a billionaire.

Mondo 2000’s original cyberpunk R U Sirious now looks back on the cyberdelic revolution rather ruefully:

Everything from Wetware to Techno Erotic Paganism image: Gord Fynes/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Everything from Wetware to Techno Erotic Paganism image: Gord Fynes/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Anybody who doesn’t believe that we’re trapped hasn’t taken a good look around. We’re trapped in a sort of mutating multinational corporate oligarchy that’s not about to go away. We’re trapped by the limitations of our species. We’re trapped in time. At the same time identity, politics, and ethics have long turned liquid. […] Cyberculture (a meme that I’m at least partly responsible for generating, incidentally) has emerged as a gleeful apologist for this kill-the-poor trajectory of the Republican revolution. You find it all over Wired – this mix of chaos theory and biological modeling that is somehow interpreted as scientific proof of the need to devolve and decentralize the social welfare state while also deregulating and empowering the powerful, autocratic, multinational corporations. You’ve basically got the breakdown of nation states into global economies simultaneously with the atomization of individuals or their balkanization into disconnected sub-groups, because digital technology conflates space while decentralizing communication and attention. The result is a clear playing field for a mutating corporate oligarchy, which is what we have. I mean, people think it’s really liberating because the old industrial ruling class has been liquefied and it’s possible for young players to amass extraordinary instant dynasties. But it’s savage and inhuman. Maybe the wired elite think that’s hip. But then don’t go around crying about crime in the streets or pretending to be concerned with ethics

For a true “rich history of psychedelics in Silicon Valley”, a good introduction is John Markoff’s “deliciously scandalous” book What The Dormouse Said:

markoff dormousetechnology never happens in a vacuum. The book was an effort to try to pin down how personal computing first emerged around the Stanford campus at two laboratories in the 1960’s: one was run by John McCarthy, and was called the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; and the other was run by Doug Engelbart and known as the Augmentation Research Center or the Augmented Human Intellect Research Center. Before there was Xerox PARC, which most people know about, and before the two Steves (Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak) in the garage creating the Apple computer, many of the technologies that became the personal computer were developed in these two laboratories on either side of the Stanford campus during the 1960’s. I tried to capture that work and the environment in which it took place, which was deeply influenced by the 1960’s counterculture and by the anti-war movement. [Source: Ubiquity]

image: Trey Ratcliff/Flickr (Creative Commons)

image: Trey Ratcliff/Flickr (Creative Commons)

image: Kordite/Flickr (Creative Commons)

image: Kordite/Flickr (Creative Commons)

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