The acid test

Timothy Leary and Ram Dass (the former Richard Alpert) were key pioneers in research into the use of LSD as a mind-expanding drug. As you are probably aware, this history of LSD since then has been spotty, both in the medical and legal senses.

LSD has been variously described as a way to experience the world around you as a way to go on a “trip” to an alternate reality, and as a way to enhance your perception of the world around you. Which brings us up to the now.

There is a lot of debate these days about whether the future will belong to Virtual Reality or to Augmented Reality. The former is generally billed as a trip to an alternate reality. When you don your Morpheus or Oculus or similar device, you are transported to another world — a world of infinite possibility, as its proponents promise. Kind of like LSD.

Augmented reality promises something quite different. It holds out the hope of enhancing the world that we physically inhabit, transforming it in all sorts of ways but not taking us away from it. The promise is that the place where we actually are will become more vividly present. Kind of like LSD.

These two opposing visions are nicely encapsulated by the most famous utterances of the two great pioneers of LSD research, respectively:

Timothy Leary said “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”

Ram Dass said “Be here now.”

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