Public persona (jmcarlin) Wed 8 Jun 05 22:56
The Publisher's Weekly review cited on amazon.com said that he hoped you had started on the sequal. Whether or not you have, do you have a sense about what the roots of the present means for the future? Have we reached relative maturity in the computer industry or do you see seeds of a next generation of revolutionary digital technology? Do you think, as some do, that the next revolution is likely to be even more distruptive: biological technology such genetic enginerring>
J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Wed 8 Jun 05 23:42
I am certain we will eventully have biomemetic gel-pack computing systems.
Cliff Figallo (fig) Thu 9 Jun 05 13:05
What acid meant to me: there's a lot more possibility out there than I ever thought! Of course, I didn't take it in the direction of technical invention. I went in the direction of social invention. Sure, two couples could get married. Sure, busloads of doper hippies could settle in the midst of the Bible Belt. Acid crushed the establishment mindset, or at least destroyed the walls that surrounded and protected it. It created a lot of mavericks from conformists. And it scared the bejeezus out of a bunch of people, too.
J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Thu 9 Jun 05 14:15
My experience (some years later, starting around 1978 or so) was that the patterns in the universe were every bit as complex and interrelated and infinitely rich as I could opssibly imagine, maybe more so. For me, acid showed that there is always more to reality than we can conciously process, but it's there none-the-less.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 9 Jun 05 17:15
I have to wonder if the meaning of LSD in the context of overall culture change -- sweeping culture-shifts from the free speech movement, to the post-bohemian psychedelic revolution and the related changes in music and literature, to the resistance to the war on campus -- is at least as important than direct experience of other realities. But perhaps the two things were inseperable.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 10 Jun 05 06:33
Psychedelics may have given some the nudge they needed to reframe the context for war and understand its futility, but I think there were other drivers that would have made war protest inevitable even without rearragement of the psychic furniture... e.g. news coverage that showed the reality of war, and the draft, which meant that theoretically any male of a certain age could be conscripted and shipped to the front lines.
J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Fri 10 Jun 05 08:19
Arethere aspects of computer hardware/software/theory that we can ascribe to a pschedelic influence?
Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Fri 10 Jun 05 10:30
i think jon is right. as for matisse's question--a good one, but i'd bet probably not. happy to hear otherwise. the serious work of scaling and connection-making (in, say, complexity studies) being done right now is in the acid-free '00s, and the ideas as hunches predated the 60s and 70s. there was just no scientific way of showing those hunches to be more than that.
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 10 Jun 05 11:31
(Jon, I think you misread me above. I'm not saying that getting high stopped the war in Viet Nam, I'm saying instead that some of the strong counterculture trends of that time -- the demands for free music and other kinds of communal cooperative boundary-changing just for example -- that are sometimes attributed to sixties drugs influences took place in a context where these political and social trends were inseperable from the inflences of drugs alone. This was true whether at Stanford or in the backwoods someplace making solar collectors and reviving bluegrass music.)
Howard Rheingold (hlr) Fri 10 Jun 05 11:33
I think the key influence is noted in the title of the book. The idea that computers could be used to help people think, communicate, imagine, design, solve problems -- Engelbart's "augmentation" -- was not the way the computer industry or computer science was aiming until the 1960s. And Markoff makes the case that the psychedelic and PC revolutions intersected culturally and geographically. John -- you also make the case that Silicon Valley, specifically a short radius around Kepler's bookstore, is where this happened. Where you there in the 1960s? Can you say more about that particular locus? And about Matisse's question?
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Sat 11 Jun 05 05:56
This is such a breath of fresh air...thank you for your book and getting this out into the open... For myself, being a child of the '60's in Seattle, for the most part of the 'revolution' and at Stanford for the first Earth Day, yada, yada there was a progression of my conscious development that encompassed drugs, spirituality, music, culture, politics, blah, blah...all at the same time... Not too surprising as I was at college and that is what is supposed to happen...but, and it's hard to recapture all of it (if you can remember the '60's, you were'nt there), several big arcs were ocurring all at once...the war (that thing we were all reacting/responding to in a variety of complex and not alway coherent ways) and all of the new people and ideas that were showing up on stage at major campuses around the country. All of the sudden there were Weatherman, zeitgeist freaks, commies, pinkoes, spies and god knows what all coming out of the woodwork as we took over the campuses, ROTC buildings, radio stations, etc and tried to interface with authorities - legitimate and otherwise. Just about the time we thought we had it loosely organized and worked out for a transition back to some kind of normalcy, the Black Panthers' showed up and demanded their cut of the revolutionary pie, and Herbert Marcuse declared the zeitgeist was in Seattle...very strange daze, those, and very dicey as to which way the wind was going to blow...I digress.. My point in all of this was that two big things were happening to many of us while our consciousness was being raised (changed? whatever)...our media input was radically changed - we had the Rolling Stone, Whole Earth Catalog and Co-Evolution Quarterly and a host of underground mags and periodicals to give us the "news" and we had the "Muse-ick" - that acid/drug driven cosmic news (or at least some of us heard it that way) and all the concerts and festivals with which to connect and all the street fairs, with hippies on parade...well you get the idea, there was a lot of ambience. I was a business major that week, with a stack of punch cards that reached the ceiling, just to make one stupid accounting procedure work...while my brain was able to conceptualize the whole enchilada of what I wanted these stupid machines to do....frustrated that I, and my friends, could already 'see it' and talk about it and communicate on what we thought was a high intellectual plain...but we could not get these machines to adapt or keep up....switched majors immediately and have been patiently waiting to be able to talk to these things - thank Gopod for Ray Kurtzwile, Scansoft and Dragon Naturally Speaking 7 and 8. That was the flavor of my relationship with computer technology at the time and some of where I was coming for --- leaving aside the whole 'purple haze' aspect of my perceived reality(ies)... Your book comes in right on target for me...thanks...Here we are almost 40 years later and still have not quite gotten to where I and my friends wanted to be back then, but it's a whole lot closer and a whole lot more developed than we thought and the "shared potential" of it all is pretty exciting...
Allegro ma non tofu (pamela) Sat 11 Jun 05 09:14
i want to say more than i said in my posting above, which may sound as if i think the 60s and 70s weren't special--sloppy prose and i apologize. they were very special. many things converged that had been freefloating around. it was a cultural skunkworks that brought them into actuality (the folks in john's book), and the impulse (and accomplishments) of that cultural skunkworks echoes thirty and forty years later. what i wonder these days is who's harboring a similar cultural skunkworks. india? china? is it here and i just can't see it under the '00 red-state/blue-state inanity?
Public persona (jmcarlin) Sat 11 Jun 05 11:18
Did we lose the subject of this topic? I've not seen a post by John for a bit too long for my taste.
John Markoff (johnm) Sat 11 Jun 05 15:11
sigh. you guys are amazing. It has been a rather full week. I made a presentation at PARC, where the audience was definitely more interesting than the speaker -- many people showed up including, Engelbart, Tesler, Taylor, Goldberg, Allison, Tesler, Lampson. etc. etc. As Saffo noted -- it was a little like discussing the finer points of Catholic theology in front of an audience of popes.... On the specific question posed by Matisse - my interests are sociological rather than psychological. That said there are some minor parallels to Kerry Mullis (who conceived of PCR while he was in an "acid fugue state" driving up to Mendocino). Two examples, one minor, one not. Tim Mott had smoked dope before he thought of the double-click UI concept. Dan Ingalls, who invented bit-blt, which is the key idea underlying the modern GUI, would only say generally that he would get in the mood for programming while smoking dope. On the other hand, two well known techies who were instrumental at PARC were hiking/tripping in Foothills Park behind Stanford one day when one of them realized that he had come upon the solution to the natural language understanding problem. They sat down in the grass to discuss the issue and the other one noticed some purple snakes crawling around them. Thus distracted, the natural language solution was lost... 8) (this story wasn't in the book) As for me, I grew up in Palo Alto in the sixties and in the seventies I was part of the non-Stalinist power structure research part of the Left. I stayed an activist until the late seventies when I looked around and realized there was no Movement any longer and it was time to get a job.... Two things that were very influential for me, were seeing the Galaxy Game, the version of Space War that was installed in the Stanford tressider union coffee house in 1971, and seeing an Alto at PARC in 1979
J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Sat 11 Jun 05 15:24
John, thanks for those examples, which are interesting. Perhaps a sociological version of my question would be: Are there things in modern computing that we can see arose from the psychedelic Weltanschauung, that is from the participants world-view, as opposed to simply who happend to meet and work with each other? Or another aspect of the question: Compare the fact that these people met each other, though the happenstance of the poltics, drigs, etc. or was (is?) there something inherent in the world-view of these activities that also had a noticeable impact?
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 14 Jun 05 12:57
>Engelbart, Tesler, Taylor, Goldberg, Allison, Tesler, Lampson Writing a book like this certainly gives a lift to your lifetime potential interesting conversations quotient, it seems! How cool. Is there more -- perhaps on a tangent you discovered -- that needs to be told, by you or others?
John Markoff (johnm) Tue 14 Jun 05 18:02
There is nothing that I found that is as clearcut as Kerry Mullis inventing PCR, however I think there was a convergence around Stanford of technology and the counterculture. The worldview was articulated most clearly by Brand's Whole Earth Catalog and it was the people at that intersection who were the first people to see that computing was becoming a medium and not a calculation tool. That set the MidPeninsula apart from what was happening on Route 128. In response to Gail: If I could do this over I think I would have framed it as a biography of Engelbart. He merits it. A good biography of Doug and his life and times is still needed. Howard Rheingold did some and I've done some more, but we've both just scratched the surface, I believe in chronicling the impact of Doug's Augmentation Reseaarch Center. (for example, the Augment project created an online journal that created a corpus of all of the activities of the project. It has been given to the Stanford Library special collection. I believe it runs to more than 300 or 400 linear feet!
Jef Poskanzer (jef) Tue 14 Jun 05 20:17
John Payne (satyr) Wed 15 Jun 05 10:02
John, are you aware of any more recent connections between biochemical augmentation and feats of creative prowess, whether technical or otherwise? I'm not familiar enough with what's out there to name molecules, but I gather there's a variety of new compounds in circulation, some legal some not, that are reputed to produce effects such as enhancing mental clarity, and, drug-free workplace policies notwithstanding, I expect that Silicon Valley is right in the thick of whatever is happening along these lines. Also, are you aware of any examples where institution of drug-free workplace policies resulted in the exit of enough of a company's best people to result in that company's decline as a force to be contended with in the market.
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Wed 15 Jun 05 17:37
Also, we've moved a long way from the beginning's of 'acid awareness' to sophisticated research in the neurological/biochemical sciences as well as modeling mind/brain....any comments in regards to where we are today in these respects and computing. I know there is a lot being done to actualize a neurological net, not sure how though, and not that up on current tech....my hunch is that this is all pretty much drug free. One big difference seems to be the quality of research assistants at grad schools today...they are all about healthy bodies/healthy minds and I should imagine would shun pyschotropics with the exception of the mental clarity types of drugs...ginseng extracts, etc. Am I about right, or are there other things going on... The other trend is that research is mostly happening at the corporate level not the grad school level, with the exception of the Big Three, MIT, Stanford and CalTech...corporate heads tend to be more targeted toward the possible VC at the end of the rainbow since their research belongs to the company and is pretty much locked up in the original signups.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 16 Jun 05 14:00
I read the Steve Jobs commencement address from Stanford, which someone will have a link to I hope, and noted his Whole Earth Catalog citation there. When I think about my own understanding of the 'net and specifically the Web, I realize that I had gone from thinking that this was the Peace Dividend we used to think about in terms of payoff from the end of the Cold War, to thinking that the counterculture was also part of the birth of this global 'lectronic village. That's a significant shift. It makes sense. Thank you for laying out this side of the story, John.
Tuning Up in California for Whatever Happens: POETRY BREAK! (kathy-ging) Fri 17 Jun 05 01:19
(written in the mid 60s before I moved to SF and rewritten in SF) Tuning Up in California for Whatever Happens Everything becomes as meaningful as it is now possible for you to see. Love everyday, man Like a holy day, a holy holiday of obligation to yourself, your garden, and this, your garden universe. Everyone who can plays a song in a park everyone who dares plays a song around town making it shine most all the time while the drones hum inside half listening for their birthday tune. Though you blow it, man, we'll sail through flashing, we'll flow out singing dancing while a flesh backed rainbow this side of paradise hails all nations to sun prance naked for the free can do no evil and love sweet love can be no crime. On the third after the last school day the angels sing tweedely tweet what our parents feared true is awful: this is the end, my friend, of all your plans the end year one of all our dreams, year one Katy O'Gin
It's a new sun to me (nukem777) Fri 17 Jun 05 03:22
echoing #46, that's it exactly...helped smooth out some synaptical gaps for me.
Matthew McClure (mmc) Fri 17 Jun 05 08:01
I think there may have been an aspect of politics as well as psychedelics that influenced the growth of the counterculture; we were discovering that our government had systematically lied to us. Combine that with elevated states of consciousness and you get a powerful force for change. I think it led to a questioning of authority that, in turn, led to more open-minded exploration of many things, including the possibilities inherent in 0's and 1's. I spent several years hanging out in the general vicinity of Kepler's (1964-1969), and there was a definite feeling of community combined with respect for one another. Lots of little communes, lots of jargon like "Do your own thing." The Midpeninsula Free University really did help foster a freedom of thinking that was transformational.
John Payne (satyr) Fri 17 Jun 05 10:03
Steve Jobs' commencement address at Stanford... Video http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/videos/51.html Transcript http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html
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