“The word psychedelic, coined by psychiatrist Humphy Osmond in 1956, means “mind manifesting,” being a portmanteau of the Latin word psyche (meaning mind or spirit) and the Greek word dēlos (meaning manifest.) Osmond was a pioneering researcher who studied the effects of LSD on alcoholism, and his phrase for this special class of mind-altering substances not only edged out his friend Aldous Huxley’s clunky alternative “phanerothyme”, but also usurped the previous word for these drugs— “psychotomimetics”, which means “mimicking psychosis.” As it turns out, we have Osmond to thank in part for shifting our understanding of psychedelics as tools that can manifest hidden parts the mind or soul, rather than dismissing them as perplexing drugs that make us psychotic.
Language is code, and words do matter. Software, being a collection of code, is bound by the language in which it is written and the limits of its vocabulary and syntax. One could say that all software impacts our consciousness in some way, from grandma’s dopamine-fueled enjoyment of a casino game to the banal ubiquity of spreadsheet programs at shitty office jobs everywhere, to the way that weaponized Facebook ads affected elections in 30 countries. But thanks to Elon Musk and other pioneers in brain-computer or brain-machine interfaces (known as BMI), software, in conjunction with brain-implanted hardware, will soon have the power to impact our psyche directly, at the level of our neurons.
As revealed in great detail at a recent launch event, Neuralink is a BMI device that consists of a small computer chip that gets implanted into the brain, with dozens, or eventually thousands of tiny electrodes that are precision-inserted into the brain by an advanced neurosurgical robot. These electrodes are connected to the implanted computer chip by 5 μm wide threads, which are 1/10th the width of a human hair, and they have the ability to both read when neurons are firing (called neuronal spikes) and to directly stimulate neurons to fire—literally to manifest things directly into the brain. The more electrodes that are implanted into the brain, the more clearly the mind can be “read” and “written” to, both recording our brain’s activity and stimulating us to think, feel, and perceive things by activating networks of neurons…” Continue reading