The Steve Jobs way: Exploring the intersection of psychedelics and technology

The Steve Jobs way: Exploring the intersection of psychedelics and technology

Summary: Silicon Valley's roots are in a radical counter-culture that once embraced LSD as a possible creativity booster.


The Psychedelic Society of San Francisco and Bay Area Software Engineers (BASE) hosted a talk earlier this week by John Markoff (above), senior science reporter at The New York Times, that discussed the influence of 1960s counter-culture on the development of the computer industry.

(Image: Tom Foremski)

The talk was based on Markoff's excellent book, What the Doormouse said. It's well worth listening to if you are interested in the early history of Silicon Valley and the often overlooked individuals who were vital to the development of the Internet, PC industry, and the software industry.

Markoff said he grew up in Palo Alto, in the heart of Silicon Valley, as it was just being created. He delivered newspapers to Steve Jobs' house, and also to the one that Mark Zuckerberg lives in today; "There goes the neighborhood," he quipped.

Markoff interviewed a lot of early computer pioneers for his book, but he said that he didn't find much evidence of LSD, pot, or other drugs having contributed to great breakthroughs; however, it wasn't the direct subject of his research, which was focused on the counter-culture of the times, primarily the anti-war movement and its effect on spurring the development of the microcomputer/PC.

But he did paint an incredible picture of how the use of psychedelics in the 1960s, when LSD was still legal, sparked great curiosity among engineers, and even companies such as Ampex exploring the use of LSD to boost the creativity of its engineers.

Douglas Engelbart, an extraordinary computer pioneer, (left) took LSD to experiment with creativity.
(Image: Tom Foremski)

Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, said that taking LSD was one of the "two or three" most important things he had done in his life. As Silicon Valley entrepreneurs seek to emulate Steve Jobs' remarkable success by adopting his confrontational management style, his passionate focus on design, will they also adopt his interest in psychedelics?

Daniel Jabbour, software engineer and founder of The Psychedelic Society of San Francisco.

Topic: Apple

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  • That might explain NEXT

    And why he thought snyone would buy into it
    • Jobs' experiences with LSD ended in 1970s. None of his later activity had

      ... anything to do with it whatsoever.
    • Apple bought it

      ...made Steve Jobs a tidy profit, and prompted his return to Apple. NeXTStep was also the immediate ancestor of MacOS X, which has done very well, even though it was a radical departure from the MacOS tradition.

      On the whole, not a bad investment of his time and money.
      John L. Ries
  • Being Fruitarian

    Probably not LSD, I believe Jobs' creativity was triggered because of his apple diet. He has nothing to eat and was forced to eat apple day in and day out.
  • LSD + Problem-Solving

    LSD has helped us win four Nobel Prizes, create the Internet, Unix & BSD operating systems which are the digital infrastructure of the electrical & telecommunications grid and many scientific & engineering platforms, and Apple & Microsoft personal computers.

    It has helped us discover both the composition of our very own DNA and multiply it via the polymerase chain reaction, unlock psychotherapy in the treatment of anxiety and schizophrenia, cure migraines and cluster headaches for up to a year with a single application, cure methamphetamine addiction, cure alcoholism and create Alcoholics Anonymous, cure childhood autism, and at less-than-psychedelic doses and with a thousand times less material it has lasted longer and is more effective than synthetic opioids in the treatment of pain.

    It has opened new avenues of spiritual insight and understanding for millions, evolving human consciousness and enhancing creativity to accelerate the arts of music, cinema, medicine, photography, painting, architecture, literature, dance, nutrition, and invention. It helped divert the United States from using more oppressive mechanisms of control by catalyzing racial, gender, and economic reforms into a lasting impact during the mid-20th century.

    Discovered by serendipity at the same time in our history as the atomic bomb. Soon classified as a compound not considered legitimate for human use, even though it comes from natural sources, is non-toxic and non-addictive. In its crystalline form it is luminescent, and under a microscope looks like how may experience it inner-visually, a landscape of living waves, mountains of life to summit, all light, love and information arriving from the divine Sun, and our life, our struggle as a new species, taken to heart.

    LSD has been known to cause mental problems in people who have never taken LSD.

    The experience of LSD completes the hemispheric energetic manifestation of the human body and mind, de-keratinizing the crystalline myo-fascial integrations of personal history and amplifying bioelectric transmission, facilitating a transformative space of body and a transpersonal mode of thought, whereby one can initiate new ways of attaining meaning, purpose and happiness.

    It allows one to know of this mystery through a lens that cannot be seen, because it begins at the very core of the human being’s interface with the world, perception availed to the numinous, open to the aboriginal essence of self, illuminating the mission of our animal code and the destiny of the human race.

    How is it possible that a being with such sensitive jewels as the eyes, such enchanted musical instruments as the ears, and such a fabulous arabesque of nerves as the brain experience itself anything less than a god?

    There are no formative series of events, no intellectual rationale, no admixture of literature and sharp knowledges, that would allow the human being to finally feel the simultaneous culmination of self-realizing integration that one is unique, relative, embodied, creative, spirit, animal, and divine.

    This qualia makes it intimate and sacred, because it impresses upon the person a new genre of feeling that is unlike anything heretofore expressed from the self, and in a duration that is completely foreign to the usual cognitive modes and spectacular imprints of daily life.

    When the world that you roll with your feet is no longer a labyrinthine sphere, we just may find that the simplicity of life is in the full presence of living our lives and on this land one thrives in this walk with patience and love.

    You are more than you know and we are stronger than they say. You are marvelous. You are alive. You are eternal.