LSD and AI research..

It is interesting to compare the historical developments in two research fields that may seem unrelated – Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD). Both fields have had a long and tumultuous history, going through periods of intense interest followed by neglect and controversy. However, as of now, both fields are experiencing a resurgence. It is worth exploring their similarities, the factors that have shaped their evolution, and what the future holds for them.

Wikipedia Contributors. (2023, December 1). History of lysergic acid diethylamide. Wikipedia; Wikimedia Foundation. ?
  1. The Early Days

AI research gained momentum in the mid-20th century after the invention of the programmable digital computer in the 1940s. The field was established as a separate discipline at a workshop held at Dartmouth College in 1956. On the other hand, LSD was first synthesised in 1938 by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann, but its psychedelic properties were not discovered until 1943. Therefore, both fields have their roots in the mid-20th century and were initially regarded with curiosity and optimism.

2. The Golden Age

Between 1957 and 1974, the field of Artificial Intelligence saw rapid growth due to the increasing speed, affordability, and accessibility of computers. Similarly, during the 1950s and early 1960s, research on LSD saw significant progress, with the drug being used to treat alcoholism and as an adjuvant to psychotherapy. This period can be considered a golden era for both fields, with remarkable advancements and high aspirations for the future.

  1. The Long Winter

AI and LSD research both encountered significant setbacks. By the mid-1960s, the study of LSD came to a halt due to its perceived association with countercultural activities and drug abuse. Similarly, AI experienced declining funding and interest in the late 20th century, as the high expectations set in the early years were not fulfilled.

Wikipedia Contributors. (2023, September 24). DeepDream. Wikipedia; Wikimedia Foundation. ?

4. The Influence of LSD on Silicon Valley

It’s interesting to note that LSD may have contributed to the growth of Silicon Valley in the 1960s. Influential figures, such as psychologist Timothy Leary, promoted the use of LSD and encouraged people to “turn on, tune in, and drop out”. This countercultural movement may have impacted the open-minded and innovative culture that drove technological experimentation in Silicon Valley (ie. this is Northern California!).

  1. The Revival:

Fast forward to 2023, and we are witnessing a resurgence in AI and LSD research. Generative AI is experiencing explosive growth, with one-third of organisations using it regularly in at least one business function. Meanwhile, LSD research is also seeing a revival, with new studies exploring its potential for treating various psychiatric and behavioural disorders (I am not sure if one-third of organistions are using it in thier buisiness processes 🙂

6. The Future:

While the revival of both fields is promising, there are concerns about the future. Just as LSD was banned due to its misuse, AI could face similar regulation challenges. As AI becomes pervasive, many experts express concerns about how it may influence people’s lives in the future.

We can learn from the past and navigate the future of both AI and LSD research, ensuring that these powerful mind altering tools are used responsibly by good people! Yes, the histories of AI and LSD research share surprising parallels that are worth further exploration. Both have experienced periods of growth, setbacks, and revival and may have influenced each other (for better or worse!).

Books to read

  1. How to Change Your Mind: by Michael Pollen: Books. (2018).
  2. Psychonauts: Drugs and the Making of the Modern Mind by Mike Jay (2023).



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