Microdosing: from Silicon Valley to the rest of the world?

For those familiar with computing technology's early history in California, the convergence of microchips and mind-altering substances would be unsurprising. Early computing pioneers in California, immersed in the utopian potential of computing, also heavily participated and experimented with the burgeoning drug culture of the 1960-1970s West Coast. The popular book, From Counterculture to Cyberculture by Fred Turner, chronicles this early period, exploring how the “Californian Ideology” brought dissimilar communities of technology enthusiasts, environmentalists and San Francisco bohemians together. In their celebrated article, The Californian Ideology, authors Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron write:

This burgeoning collective, made up of enthusiastic computer nerds, slacker students, innovative capitalists, social activists, trendy academics, futurist bureaucrats and opportunistic politicians embraced the rebelliousness of casual dress, sexual promiscuity, loud music and recreational drugs together with a profound faith in the emancipatory potential of the new information technologies.

And while this earlier history only faintly influences the contemporary tech climate and community, it remerged at The Next Web Conference.

TNW Conference

Last month, Europe's largest technology conference, The Next Web, brought together the continent’s tech nerds for a 3-day festival at the Westerpark grounds in Amsterdam. Speakers from established companies such as Google and Microsoft presented alongside emerging start-ups. And while the conference’s primary focus was to discover the next big platform or app, one of the more popular keynote addresses centered on microdosing and enhancing creativity through psychedelics.

Paul Austin, founder of The Third Wave, presented a keynote titled, 'Microdosing: Psychedelics for Leadership Development and Workflow Optimization'. As the talk approached, the Transformatorhuis buzzed with anticipation, with eager attendees crammed into the small hall to hear the unique and unconventional subject.

Making the case for psychedelics

With a hall bursting with expectation, Austin sought to persuade the audience about the creative and personal benefits that can be achieved through microdosing. As Austin detailed, the history of psychedelics goes back to the earliest civilizations, where Inca and Maya used psychedelics for thousands of years. This period, Austin explained, is referred to as the First Wave of psychedelic use. The Second Wave, as Austin continued, began during the 1960s and 1970s counterculture, and was the first introduction of psychedelics into the mainstream.

However, the following decades saw a steady decline in the popularity of hallucinations and psychedelics. As a result, Austin, though his platform, the Third Wave, is committed to changing the cultural conversation around psychedelics, and building a resurgence around psychedelic use and purporting its medical and scientific research. This Third Wave, Austin says, is defined by the practical use of psychedelics, and their measured integration into the mainstream.



And while I was familiar with the microdosing agenda and its underlying principles, I was eager to discuss with other Dutch attendees, and hear how they received the presentation. To my surprise, given the progressive and liberal drug culture that thrives in Amsterdam, many people were skeptical, and some even hostile. For many, their conflict comes from micro-dosing's seemingly indulgent mix of work and pleasure. Therefore, while Dutch culture fosters an attitude of tolerance, and the city remains a renowned pilgrimage for vice, this apparent mixing of drugs and work unsettled the mostly Dutch audience. Austin also acknowledges this difficulty and hopes that his advocacy can help overturn this entrenched basis many people hold.

Looking forward

While scientific and medical research still needs to build a bridge between anecdotal claims and medical efficacy, bringing psychedelics into the mainstream stream also requires dismantling the social stigma around drug use. As Austin advocates, society has outlined rigid boundaries between acceptable and nonacceptable narcotics. However, Austin believes, once understood, low-dose psychedelic consumption offers enormous potential for entrepreneurs looking to boost creativity, personal wellness, and even, improve productivity and work more efficiently.

Author: Carlos Danger

Read more about microdosing in our encyclopedia.