#104 Trying and failing to appreciate unfinished work
I’ve been asked (again, recently) by multiple people in different settings what I can do with, or how I can apply, my research? “What can you do with this?” translates into: What value does this have to the marketplace in terms of employment and career prospects? When I tell people for the first time that I research the philosophical intersection of psychedelics and technology, I can see the vertigo creeping into facial muscles. It’s probably scarier for me than for them. I won’t discuss everything in detail here, but I usually start off by discussing what I learned and what hypotheses I put forward in my master’s thesis. Then, I discuss the papers I’ve published thus far and the book chapter that’s coming out later this year. I tell them about my first book on psychedelics, written for a general but intelligent audience, which by the way is 75% complete as of today. (I’ll send submissions to publishers when I achieve 90% completion.) If you are the Ukrainian from my master’s program that tried to dissuade me from writing about psychedelics for my thesis topic, the recent American woman and South African man, or the countless others I’ve had this discussion with, hopefully today’s stream sheds additional light about my ambitions.
First, I think the investigation of anything related to psychedelics automatically puts many people in a defensive or uncertain position. Many people know nothing about what this class of substances do, what kinds of experiences they produce for experiencers, their history, their taboos, their potential. So, when someone tells them that he filters psychedelic-induced visionary states through philosophy, particularly philosophy of technology, people don’t have anything to grab onto, conceptually speaking. It’s not only far beyond what laypeople consider during their daily lives, but also beyond what academics traditionally investigate. Academics too tend to shy away from anything related to psychedelics while philosophy of technology didn’t exist as a discipline until the 1970s. Psychedelic technology and its philosophical exploration is unchartered territory for everyone including me.
Second, the response I get when telling people about my research interests is fascination or befuddlement. People say “cool” or “right on” or “I see where you’re going with this” or “You should be on Joe Rogan’s podcast.” On the other hand, people say in addition to what I wrote above: “I don’t get it,” “how do you make money from this,” a condescending “good luck” or “I wish you the best.” I admit to not earning a living from my current research. I’m a bartender 40 hours a week and philosophically hustling another 40 hours per week in my spare time to get my ideas off the ground. The first draft of my first book will be complete by the end of this year, at which time I can begin my second book that will be complete by the late 2020s. Earning a PhD is still on the table, depending on the philosophy department and my future mentor/professor with whom I want to collaborate and learn with.
Third, and related to the earning a living aspect—which isn’t happening at present but will happen, is what good or utility does my research have for greater society? This question requires a healthy dose of faith to answer it. I have faith that what I’m doing is going to pay off. I have faith that I’m going to discover something about psychedelics and their application that no one has yet discovered. In fact, my faith is reinforced by a conviction that I’ve already partly accomplished this, just haven’t disclosed my at-present half-baked ideas yet. You see, most people focus on their present moment and respond accordingly. My current research isn’t read, referenced, or discussed by anyone today. It’s not for people today, but rather for people 10, 25, 50 years from now. I’m not particularly interested in how psychedelics and technology intersect now; I’m interested in how future technologies can be applied to visionary states. I’m setting myself up to be the authority on this topic when it hits. And when it does, I will have positioned myself as the expert on this topic because no one is asking the kinds of questions and doing the theoretical and practical research that I do. It’s impossible to communicate everything that’s in my head to others. I write my goals out in 10-year chunks. After my first 10-year group of goals are complete, you will have a much better idea of what I’m doing and where I’m going. But even then, you won’t fully know what I have in mind, what my grand why is, until my next 10-year group of goals is complete, and the next, and so on. I remind myself often: Those with vision can see, those without it cannot. Of course, things don’t make sense to people when I discuss my ideas; they don’t see what I see for they don’t have the puzzles pieces that I have. They don’t appreciate just how high I’m aiming and the potential of my research. I choose not to disclose my grand why and some smaller whys because I’d be wasting my time and theirs. Also, most people would pass judgment before I accomplish that seemingly crazy impossible thing. I think being tight-lipped is more fun (at least for me); a shock and awe campaign will get more people’s attention than if I laid everything out ahead of time. I’m enjoying my relative obscure “under the radar” status at the moment. It’s peaceful, and I consciously save time by doing my research rather than convincing others about its worthiness before it has even been done.