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CHAPTER 2: In which the protagonist realises he is not really the protagonist.

Psychedelicacies

A selection of choice cuts from the world of psychedelic subculture and medicine, accompanied by some personal reflections on the psyche and the path to healing.

  • Written by Nick Stebb
  • Category: Psychedelicacies

Neuromancer and the Myco-Matrix: Part 3

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Chaotic attractors

I ended the first in this trilogy of posts by posing a question: what are we heading towards? Will the transition to a new economic paradigm (the use of cryptocurrencies and the blockchain) leave us in a place of empowerment, or under a continuation of the economic slavery via debt peonage that we're experiencing under late-stage capitalism?

In a series of talks including Terrence McKenna, Rupert Sheldrake and Ralph Abraham (recorded as a series of 'trialogues') the trio explored the idea of ‘chaotic attractors’: states of order situated at some point in the future, which lead events towards them as if we were all vectors on a deterministic drive towards an advanced or evolved point of organisation. McKenna pontificates:

Is it credible that perhaps the universe is a kind of system in which more advanced forms of order actually influence previous states of organisation? This is what emerges in Ralph Abraham's work with chaotic attractors. These attractors exert influence on less organised states and pull them toward some kind of end state.

If one runs with this idea, two key questions arise: can we analyse current trends and, through projection, visualise possible forms of these attractors? If there is an intelligence guiding our seemingly continuous state of chaos towards a more ordered form, where does this intelligence originate?

In Neuromancer, our protagonist Case expands his sphere of consciousness by jacking into the matrix. As he hacks through new database defences he absorbs the power of the information within those networks (very much like Elliot in Mr Robot). There is a clear progression in the book from Case as a disconnected, off-grid and atomised individual to a highly aware, jacked in group member whose power rivals that of the most advanced artificial intelligence. Each new piece of technology or data he has access to helps him act to expand the realms of what he can experience. When he begins, the matrix is a relatively simple construct. By the time he encounters Neuromancer, at the end of the book, the experience is more like a waking dream. Here I see clear parallels with the chaotic attractors of the trialogues. There is a trend towards increasingly complex forms of order emerging from the chaos.

Microdosing - bringing order from chaos

There is more information coming to light recently about the potential cognitive benefits of micro-dosing on psychedelics. I have dabbled myself and I must agree with the reports of higher mood and enhanced states of creative flow that many have been able to achieve whilst under the influence of minute doses of LSD. It comes as no surprise that, in articles such as this, there are anecdotal reports of the use of psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms in tiny doses to give an advantage to tech industry workers in Silicon Valley. 

The link between tech innovation and acid trips is not new, with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates both having cited experiences with the drug as influential. Hopefully, more evidence will continue to emerge(that is scientific rather than anecdotal) to provide data that might back up the reports. Already, pioneering brain scans (as described in this article done in 2016 on a subject under the influence of LSD showed that “psychedelics increase communication between parts of the brain that are less likely to communicate with one another, and decrease communication between areas that frequently do.” This could be a massive advantage in the competitive tech start-up industry, where every company wants the sharpest and most innovative minds on board to help them get to that 'next big idea' before their competitors. And what is the hottest new tech trend in which an edge could turn a huge profit? Blockchain.

Fungal Architects of the Crypto Revolution

Blockchain technology is one of the most dynamic and innovative technologies of the moment. From Bitcoin’s fertile soil there have sprouted over a thousand new cryptocurrencies. Some work using the Bitcoin blockchain framework (or an adapted form of it - such as Litecoin).

Many more work using Ethereum’s smart-contract based platform which allows a greater versatility and a huge number of applications. Beyond that, there are IOTA and Nano, which use yet another innovative structure, more eco-friendly due to the lack of resource-heavy ‘mining’ for coins for the creation of a public ledger.

The depth of this field is mind-boggling. If you are struggling to get your head around Bitcoin, it might be surprising to hear that in cryptocurrency circles it is widely regarded as an outdated technology. I consider myself tech-savvy and I still get lost in the innumerable technical terms that have arisen around the technology. A cognitive edge in this sector could be a great help, and it makes me wonder how much of the coding for these applications is being done under the effects of micro-dosing.

One of the more ambitious projects using blockchain is Golem, which is building a supercomputer harnessing unused computing power from nodes on the network. They boast of the technology: “It can never be owned by anyone.” 

The claim may be true, but this project reminds me eerily of the A.I. named Wintermute in Neuromancer, which via an "Internet of Things”- type mechanism (one of his more prescient depictions of our technological future) is able to kill members of the Turing police using a gardening robot. Ironically the police officers' remit is to take down A.I. that break the 3 laws of robotics and become too powerful to be allowed autonomy. Whether A.I. of this level of malevolence and self-awareness is possible is a point of great debate, but the infrastructure will soon be there to allow such an agency to have real consequences in our physical world.

Returning to the meat-locker

What are the implications of this when we go back and take into consideration Paul Stamet’s claims on fungi being the architects of our existence? Are we moving towards a technological singularity via a psychedelic-assisted digital financial revolution? I don’t make any proclamations here - it is just personally fascinating to explore these ideas and I offer them to you for discussion in the comments section.

According to Moore’s law, the pace at which technology is increasing in complexity is exponential. It would seem that this is driving us towards a technological singularity... or is the singularity pulling us towards it, like a chaotic attractor? I see the implications of the law going far beyond the physical and material based notion of the doubling of transistors. This is symbolic of an exponential rate of change that is evolving the human experience away from the corporeal sensation towards a dissociated virtual-reality based existence, minimising the human connection. The human experience as detached from meaning physical sensation is more like a dream. We cannot exist purposefully without the physical balance to our mental life, so perhaps that will be the chaotic attractor that sucks us through time towards the enlightened state of harmonious balance on a personal, social and planetary level.

I’ll leave this on one last quote from Neuromancer. There is a definite pullback at the end of the book where it seems that Case and other characters such as the artificial personality construct Dixie Flatline realise the frugality of a purely digital existence, ironically devoid of connection.

It was a place he’d known before; not everyone could take him there, and somehow he always managed to forget it. Something he’d found and lost so many times. It belonged, he knew – he remembered – as she pulled him down, to the meat, to the flesh the cowboys mocked. It was a vast thing, beyond knowing, a sea of information coded in spiral and pheromone, infinite intricacy that only the body, in its strong blind way, could ever read.