Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 17 Jun 05 12:26
It's been two weeks since this discussion began and I want to thank John Markoff and Howard Rheingold for joining us here. Though our virtual spotlight has turned to a new conversation, this topic will remain open and available for additional comments and/or questions.
J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Fri 17 Jun 05 14:47
I wish John and Howard had joined us more often!
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Fri 17 Jun 05 19:28
Although it's assumed, let's not forget that most of us traveled "East" during those years of spiritual searching...so many of us were idealistic Kennedy kids, going through the trauma of a system that seemed to be lying to us, a change in consciousness about who we were and what we really wanted, before we even had a brownie or got on a hookah or dropped or were dropped or whatever...it was a pretty mixed cosmic bag where everything was up for review...
Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Sun 19 Jun 05 10:18
somewhere above it was mentioned that the whole earth effort might have been the first time people realized computers could be used for something besides number crunching. if by people is meant a group of savvy but non-computing types, maybe (though even this is not quite right). in 1945 konrad zuse, on the wrong side of ww ii, published a programming language called plankalkul, which he wrote could be used for solving mathematical problems, but also for other kinds of symbolic processing, such as chess. a number of chess programs were written in the 1940s, not only by turing (who saw the possibilities of symbolic processing including machine intelligence at least as early as 1947) but also a slew of others. at bell labs, a favorite dictum of richard hamming in the 1950s was "the purpose of computing is insight, not numbers," which his colleagues parodied as "the purpose of computing is not yet in sight." and of course the entire effort of artificial intelligence was about symbolic processing, the first such working program realized in 1955. the whole earth/sri/stanford ai effort had many antecedents, and it takes nothing away from their collective brilliance to point this out.
J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Sun 19 Jun 05 10:43
I believe Ada Byron (http://www.well.com/user/adatoole/bio.htm) is credited with the first recorded insight that computational devices could be used for almost any purpose that can be mathematically described.
Lee Felsenstein (lee) Sun 19 Jun 05 15:32
To put in my two cents, (belatedly because of a crushing work load readying a truly meaningles product for production) , I want to makethe case that I stated in an unpublushed Letter to the Times, responding to a stupid review of Dormouse. My primary point was that the Whole Earth Catalog and its derivatives deserve credit for creating the demand for personal computers. The reviewer (in the busiiness section) derides Stewart for having been useless, and notes that the Altair was produced in Albuquerque. QED. But MITS (the manufacturer of the kits) was swamped ed with unexpected orders. Why? Stewart had been thumpoing the tub for years about how the coutnerulture needed to be conversant with technologies, up to and including. My secondary point was that Englebart's 1968 "Mother of all Demos" would havebeen sufficient in itself to have culminated his work, or at least to have propagated his basic ideas far and wide. The "obtuse" (my word) reviewer derided him for never getting to product development, and I pointed out the significant differences between the two disciplines. I remember being jazzed by the range of posibilities when I heard what had to be at least a third-hand account of the demo while participating inthe potlucks at People's Computer Center in 1973. Multiply that out and Englebart had a massive impact on the shape of products to come. My acid was the realization, at about age three, that allthe bricks in the wall _actually fitted together_ and the vision I had of the row of brincks breaking the surface of the back yard to form the border to the path actually could have gone _all the way down_ to whatever we all rested upon. Who needs the chemical stuff?
Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Sun 19 Jun 05 15:58
ada was perceptive, but i decided not to go quite that far back. lee, agreed on both points you make
David Gans (tnf) Mon 11 Jul 05 09:04
Nobel Prize genius Crick was high on LSD when he discovered the secret of life BY ALUN REES August 8, 2004 FRANCIS CRICK, the Nobel Prize-winning father of modern genetics, was under the influence of LSD when he first deduced the double-helix structure of DNA nearly 50 years ago. The abrasive and unorthodox Crick and his brilliant American co-researcher James Watson famously celebrated their eureka moment in March 1953 by running from the now legendary Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge to the nearby Eagle pub, where they announced over pints of bitter that they had discovered the secret of life. Crick, who died ten days ago, aged 88, later told a fellow scientist that he often used small doses of LSD then an experimental drug used in psychotherapy to boost his powers of thought. He said it was LSD, not the Eagle's warm beer, that helped him to unravel the structure of DNA, the discovery that won him the Nobel Prize. Despite his Establishment image, Crick was a devotee of novelist Aldous Huxley, whose accounts of his experiments with LSD and another hallucinogen, mescaline, in the short stories The Doors Of Perception and Heaven And Hell became cult texts for the hippies of the Sixties and Seventies. In the late Sixties, Crick was a founder member of Soma, a legalize-cannabis group named after the drug in Huxley's novel Brave New World. He even put his name to a famous letter to The Times in 1967 calling for a reform in the drugs laws. More: http://www.mayanmajix.com/art1699.html
J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Mon 11 Jul 05 09:09
holy shit. cool. Some day, I hope, real proper research on psychedelics will resume. There is a lot to learn.
Low and popular (rik) Mon 11 Jul 05 09:49
That is just wonderful.
Andrew Alden (alden) Mon 11 Jul 05 10:05
Has this been corroborated anywhere else? It's just the kind of thing that friends-of-drugs would want to believe. Also, I don't appreciate the slam on English-style "warm beer."...
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 11 Jul 05 10:24
That does hurt the credibility a bit. Funny how a little ignorant opinionated assertion can tarnish an interesting story! Then again, it is possible that Crick himself described cellar temperature beer as "warm" and the thing is an odd paraphrase. If accurate this adds to the lore of the orbweaver spider's overly-perfect web and Doc Ellis's no-hitter, each done on LSD. Along with a lot of music and visual arts compositions, and some computer innovation, of course. I think these storeis will start to emerge now as people get to a certain time in life when they feel safe telling such tales. It oddly ties in to this study somebody pointed out in The WELL <news.> conference today: Are Genius and Madness Related? Contemporary Answers to an Ancient Question http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleId=164902206 The description of the creative cluster in the article sheds some light on how a little bit on controlled "madness" has possible value (leaving aside the dangers of madness, which we all know about) Very interesting!
Dan Levy (danlevy) Mon 11 Jul 05 14:21
I think I am going to have to unearth some of the hypotheses that I have come up with under the influence of psychedelics. Perhaps I discovered something important.
nape fest (zorca) Thu 14 Jul 05 10:58
that made my day.
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Tue 2 Aug 05 07:20
Andrew Brown writes from off-Well: I have no idea whether it is true that Crick used acid in his attempts to crack the double helix, but I doubt it because it would surely have come out earlier. What I do know is that there were at one stage lots of drugs around one of Crick's spinoff projects, the dissection, and later the sequencing, of the nematode c. elegans. The following story, pulled from my book, (http://www.thewormbook.com) came to me in 2001 from a very distinguished source describing the early Seventies at the Medical Research Council lab in Cambridge: "each of the newly identified mutants had to be further tested, for touch sensitivity (you tapped them with an eyelash hair), tolerance of different temperatures, and drug resistance. 'These were still the Sixties, really' said someone who was there: when they were testing for drug resistant mutants, they used every drug they could get their hands on hands on, legal or not. But the worms never did anything very interesting on cannabis or LSD, and one morning, so the story goes the labâs stock of acid had quietly disappeared from the refrigerator. 'The worms did not consume it', I was gravely told." I have seen a photograph of one of these parties in which one Nobel Prize winner is smoking an unusually fat and irregularly rolled cigarette. But no one ever attributed their insights to anything more than hard work (and brilliance).
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Tue 2 Aug 05 10:12
We are what we are, going into and coming out of the casual drug experience. These guys and girls were all brilliant before they took drugs...maybe a few walls came down and some boxes were broken while they were relaxed and took their minds off their various projects for a time, but it still all came back on them to do something with the various insights that may have arisen during a good 'session' of drugs or partying...most of just filed it all under "wasted time".
from ANDREW BROWN (tnf) Wed 3 Aug 05 08:53
Andrew Brown writes: Another comment for the discussion Now that I have looked at the original story, it is clearly not true, and for the following reasons. 1) It appeared in the Mail on Sunday. I have done enough work for them not to believe a word they print without corroboration 2) The timing is very odd: the work on the double helix was done in 1952 and 53, which is a long time before any real knowledge of LSD spread in the world. 3) The original source is reporting a story third-hand 4) Crick denied it. The "Print a word and I'll sue you" is not a non-denial denial. It's a straight-up denying denial. After all, he is not just accused of having taken LSD (which would make his life as a Brit difficult at La Jolla) but also of being the inspiration, albeint possibly unwittingly, of a gigantic criminal enterprise. I believe that the couple who made all that acid got something like 20 years. In British terms, that's fantastically libellous and someone as respectable as Crick would sue. I wouldn't be in the least surprised if Crick and Sydney Brenner experimented with acid in the Sixties. But that would be a different story, and I've got no evidence for my suspicions, just a feeling for what that milieu was like and a suspicion that almost all the consciousness researchers got interested in the subject from bending their own. Certainly, one British consciousness researcher of my acquaintance is a heroic consumer of dope, and partial to acid as well. But I'm not going to <mmmmph>. -- Andrew Brown
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