Locklin on science

Psychedelics are a waste of life

Posted in fun, Locklin notebook by Scott Locklin on January 17, 2021

Psychedelic enthusiasts are an irritation of modernity. People make wild claims about these substances. These claims are mostly demonstrably horse shit. I write this in the hopes that I’ll influence some young people to at least examine their choices. I don’t think psychedelics are the worst thing in the world, but they’re definitely not a good thing. I think their use is bad for  moral character, and I think it is trivially obvious that civilization has decayed since their use became popular and widespread.

My bona fides: I’ve used the things on and off from teenage years to my mid-30s, primarily for entertainment, but I also attempted various “man optimized” tricks with them that are presently popular. I’m a scientist, at least somewhat capable of reasoning and looking objectively at myself and others. I’m allergic to bullshit; even very popular bullshit -maybe especially popular bullshit. Psychedelic enthusiasm is popular bullshit.

I’m not even going to get deep into “psychological studies” because, as we all know by now, these are almost entirely bullshit: until recently they were saying you’d grow broccoli-like tumors on your noggin if you took the things. Now that enthusiasts who enjoy the things (instead of literal CIA mind control assassins and other government weirdoes) are involved in the “research” they’re being touted by irresponsible people as the next CBD oil panacea (and yes, CBD oil ought to be considered on all fours with snake oil unless you have some otherwise untreatable epilepsy or nausea). That’s the main reason I’m writing this: the enthusiasts are almost entirely unopposed at present. Not only are the enthusiast “researchers” unopposed, but people who are personal enthusiasts are generally unopposed and have unearned social status. I confuse the shit out of these people, because I have a fairly extensive history of use, but still maintain they’re about as personally useful as sniffing glue.

I’ll rely on a few statistics from the literature, but mostly I’m just going to rely on the humble tools of experience and rudimentary common sense. I won’t address their use in alleged treatment modalities for depression or whatever other than to vaguely doubt they’re any more effective than something like benadryl (which is apparently a pretty good anti-depressant, even if it does make your brain into swiss cheese taking it long term). I’d argue that the types of improvements in outlook measured as a positive outcome of psychedelic use would be similar for any novel, extreme and unfamiliar experience; most of which are less obviously bad for you. While you have Berkeley dipshits like Michael Pollan actively shilling for this nonsense, other Berkeley lumpy-head dipshits who are vastly more intellectually honest and scientific in their reasoning are at least raising doubts. It boggles me one need to credulously rely on “studies” -you just need to look around to know the irresponsible Pollans of the world are selling snake oil.

People who use the things on a regular basis think they bring back profound insights, because the drugs make looking at a flower feel profound. Yet, the actual insights brought back by people on their “trips” tend to be the type of thing a bit of self reflection would take care of, like “I’m mean to my family sometimes, and that’s kind of shitty.” I’ve yet to hear of any sort of improvement in creativity or even a single interesting idea anyone has ever brought back from psychedelics. Amphetamines have a vastly better track record of being useful stimulants for creativity; the last half of Paul Erdos career was fueled by benzedrine as have countless musicians, engineers and writers. There are many people who claim dropping acid made them more creative. But none of the people who make this claim are observably more creative than people who didn’t drop acid, and 99.9% of them are more mush-headed and self-regarding, which does seem to be a cognitive side effect of these drugs.

The feelings of profundity are another thing that irritates me. If trippin’ balls is the most profound thing that happened in your life, you lead a sheltered life. I’d put it at best on the same level as going on a roller coaster or committing a minor crime as a law abiding citizen.  I can think of any number of life experiences which were, for me, vastly more profound than tripping balls: sex, hunting in the forest (a primal altered state; every sense razor sharp), looking at nature through a microscope or telescope, old time religion, violence,  falling asleep, travel, newborn babies, heavy deadlifts, seduction, auto accidents, looking at the night sky, fighting, learning calculus and linear algebra, prolonged lack of sleep, love, dreams, even a really nice bottle of wine is more profound than muh trippin balls.  I mean, psychedelics are different from these experiences, they’re just not that amazing. I’m pretty sure (never tried; heard stories) taking a shitload of dramamine or robotussin is actually more amazing, and probably about as good for you.

The people who use aren’t good advertisements for their habits. While I know some who are heavy users, and some large fraction of my close friends are novelty seekers who have tried or used at one point or another, and everyone’s favorite burnout living in his cool apartment over mom’s garage is Joe Rogan, there are a lot of deserved stereotypes about people who use. Generally they’re more credulous about stupid things; astrology, weird nutrition, Q-anon, alien visitations, privilege theory, Russians under their bed, lost civilizations of ancient astronauts, magic crystals, whatever. I mean, that’s actually kind of cool: in principle you can talk to such people about anything. Except, perhaps, the idea that the church of psychedelics is worshipping a false god. The stereotypical “burn out” psychedelics user (who, admittedly, also probably smokes hella weed -which, if it needs to be said here, is also obviously bad for you) has all of the symptoms of pre-frontal lobe lesions; poor emotional regulation, apathy (drop out maaaaan), poor attention span and poor ability to concentrate and solve abstract problems, bad memory, poor impulse control. I’m not saying everyone that uses such drugs has brain damage, but a lot of users who identify with use of the stuff sure act like they do. On the upside, poor impulse control people are fun, and psychedelic users who are beyond hippy couch potato tier tend to do stuff which is more adventurous than most.

I suppose it may have been toxoplasmosis; no pictures of him with cats before LSD

Ernst Junger‘s novels got worse in literary quality after he dropped acid in 1948 too. Marmorklippen (1939) might have been his peak because of the foment in his life and his advancing age, or it might have been because he started punching holes in his brain later with his scientist friends. Can’t say, but I can definitively say that his literary style and creativity absolutely didn’t improve with use. Das Abenteuerliche Herz (1937) practically was psychedelic in its intensity (years before his use of psychedelics); he never wrote anything that visionary again.  Mind you, I think Eumeswil (1977) is a work of towering genius and I like much of his other postwar work as well, but his later work is complex, ponderous and doesn’t have the rays of artistic power that the earlier stuff does. Maybe the poetry is a young man’s flowering, and the old man is more of a thorn bush: but the point I’m trying to drive home here is acid absolutely didn’t nourish the flower -we must at least consider the possibility that it may have killed it.

In the US, rate of use is somewhere around 15-25% depending on the population segment and the survey. If there were some increase in creativity or insight or artistic or  improvement in technical/scientific change or personal awareness and social intelligence, this effect would be observable by now. We do not live in a time of great creative foment; the last 60 years since their introduction to Western Civilization have been vastly less creative than the previous 60 years. Very little to no great art, a dark age in architecture despite vastly more capabilities, chaos in interpersonal relations, even technology beyond improvements in lithography (a field noteworthy for lacking in dope fiends) has basically stalled for decades. On the other hand we do live in a time of widespread paranoia, credulity, political unrest, mass hysterias, mass mental illness, social decay, and declining standards of living. Pretty much exactly what you’d expect if a significant fraction of the population turned their brains into swiss cheese; just like your grandpa told you would happen. I’m not blaming psychedelics for the mess we’re in. I’m just inviting you to notice that things are at least not observably getting better despite widespread usage, and in fact are obviously getting worse, so the idea that psychedelics do something obviously and profoundly positive must be considered false when applied as a mean field theory.

The stuff is known to cause immediate personality changes after one use. Opinions obviously differ as to whether these changes are an improvement. This stuff was popularized by CIA mind control experiments after all. Do you think the spooks wanted people to be awesome independent minded supermen, or more mush headed and controllable? Think hard! Spooks are the ones who made it popular. Pretty sure cultures without psychedelics were more awesome than those where psychedelics have strong influence. Let’s take examples from architecture:

Wine and prayer

Peyote and howling at your spirit ancestors

 

Psychedelics are still used as models of schizophrenia and inducing schizotypical thinking in people. Again, schizotypicals who act like they have pre-frontal lesions can be fun at parties, but do you want to be that guy? Would you like to risk permanent  or at least persistent (for years) visual field disturbances? What about the people who experience complete psychotic breaks? We all know people who never came back in some sense from these substances, or who had severe mental illnesses afterwords. Enthusiasts will tell you some non-falsifiable happy horse shit about how they would have experienced psychotic breaks anyway, and the drugs just made it come out sooner.  This is incredibly stupid, and only the credulity induced by psychedelic use could make one take it seriously as an argument.  Sure, very few to no people actually die from taking such things, but losing your soul and becoming a shambling, muttering lump of flesh is arguably worse.

Microdosing is just as weaksauce. I tried it before it had a name, back when I was consumed with late undergraduate work. It was a terrible mistake. When you’re working to the limit of your mental abilities, such as trying to learn physics while working a full time job as a podunk redneck of dubious educational background, you notice when things are helping or hurting. Microdosing hurt, a lot. It is a nice stimulant; strong feelings of well being, and you don’t need morning coffee. It absolutely shreds your short term memory, and makes actual reasoning vastly more difficult. I tried lots of things to get an edge; at the time ginko and gotu kola were touted, and they might have had a mild effect which helped. Microdosing LSD definitely hurt; ridiculously obviously so. I was talked into it by a guy I knew who was gonna take a year off to microdose and learn topology. Rather than becoming Perleman or Grothendeik as he no doubt intended, he of course disappeared, literally never to be heard from again. I know people believe it helps them, but it’s entirely a subjective feeling; the science is pretty clear on this: no observable improvement on any axis. The risk/benefit ratio is vastly more obvious with speed and modafinil; both drugs help in the short term, but are ultimately probably rat poison. There is no microdosing version of Paul Erdos. The probability that you, as a special and unique snowflake, will be that microdosing Paul Erdos are basically nil. Not that you should want to be Paul Erdos; he was a genius, but he seemed to have a fairly miserable life.

Psychedelic use stinks of neoliberal suburban despair. It’s a shitty chemical induced bugman religion; a primitive and subjective one that produces no art, no beauty and no ideas of consequence. People get into this sort of thing because they’re bored, unimaginative and live in a shitty society; same as muh cummies sex degenerate people, except even more inward looking and pathetic. Widespread psychedelic use has brought no beauty or order to the world; it doesn’t make people better or more compassionate, it just makes them more compliant, subject to absolutely ridiculous conspiracy theories, and resigned to their fates as semi-lobotomized neoliberal bugmen. That said, if you still want to use such things, have at it. I don’t think you should be in jail (people who sell probably should be, and Michael Pollan ought to be flung into a volcano just on principle), but I reserve the right to make fun of you for being a credulous dipshit.

ps: even though I make fun of him for being a sperdo with a noggin even lumpier than mine,  this relevant SlateStar blog is pretty useful and good:

https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/05/09/is-there-a-case-for-skepticism-of-psychedelic-therapy/

 

Secrets of a successful shut in

Posted in Locklin notebook by Scott Locklin on November 15, 2020

My bona fides: I’ve effectively been doing the “work from home” thing since 2007. There’s been times here and there where I visit customer sites, or have been traveling a lot, but it is more or less the same thing for 13 years. I’ve helped build a couple of businesses, kept in decent shape, traveled, read many great books, written a few hundred thousand words for the general public, have maintained an active and satisfying social life and many great friendships. I’m no role model, but most people could do worse, and I did it all almost entirely with a 10 second commute from bed to desk. It may be new to you, but you can have a good life living like this. 

First thing: when you get up in the morning, get the fuck up. Then get some exercise. Touch your toes, swing a kettlebell, go for a run, do yoga. Doesn’t really matter what you do; just do something. Get your blood flowing to your brain before you get to work. Some people do their full exercise program in the morning; I train too hard to do that and be productive. So, for me, the mornings are just a little warm up (karate warmup or Farmer Burns, maybe Indian clubs routines), joint mobility (Pavel Tsatsouline and Max Shank routines) and stretching. 

 

Next thing: get dressed. Take a shower, put your pants on; you’re going to work, so you should behave like you’re going to work as in an ordinary work in the office day. I used to actually put on a tie and sports coat (this was before zoom meetings); it’s the right mentality to overdress when you’re working at home. Sure some of you can get away with doing work in your slippers and sweatpants; you shouldn’t try to do this if you’re new at it. Overdress even if you feel dumb. Put the slippers and sweatpants on when you’re done work.

When you sit down to do work; do your work in a special place in your house. If you’re new to this; take your laptop to a place which you put aside for your work. If you have a family, ideally this special place is somewhere they won’t disturb you much. Key is to pattern match on “this is work” -make all your habits agree with this work mindset. You should not goof off there, or if you do, make your physiology such that it’s different during work time and goof off time (aka standing desk for work, sit down for goof off time). You’re trying to fix your brain to the habit of working there.

Lighting: you need bright lights to be fully awake and at work. Nobody has mood lighting in their office. Factories are brightly lit; not always to view the workpiece; it keeps people alert. Open the windows, buy a corn cob light (google it; corn cob lights are amazing); do whatever needs to be done to have a brightly lit workspace. Not optional; if you try to work in a cave, you’ll be moosh headed and worthless and living a half baked life.

Not goofing off: you’re probably goofing off right now reading this. Don’t do it. Use a pihole if you have to and block off your goof off websites this way. Your brain does need little breaks; get up and walk around. If you have to take breaks using computer or checking social media or whatever; try to use a different device than your work computer. 

Pomadoro: the pomadoro technique is a great tool taught to me by Kevin Lawler. I don’t think it is universally applicable, but it is generally applicable. Anything you’re grinding out; pomadoro it. The little breaks keep you fresh, and the schedule keeps you working instead of getting stuck down the  wiki hole. The other thing that makes it super helpful; the regular interrupts keep you from going down a non-productive direction on your work tasks. 

Not over communicating: slack is sort of useful when your company is 20 people; it becomes unweildy beyond that. If you’re like me, your high impact stuff is small projects that don’t require much collaboration. I check slack and email once or twice a day unless I’m managing people, and have all alerts for these things turned off. For those of you who have alerts on your phone (fools!): those need to be turned off as well. Use the telephone for talking on; it saves lots of time compared to thumb typing on your stupid ipotato. It actually feels nicer too; you get no real human interaction from thumb typing, but voice is …. talking to someone at least.

Keeping a schedule: you need to keep regular hours, and not be on call at all hours of the day and night. If you’re working at home, you should be in front of a computer, working.  If you’re messaging people on slack over dinner, unless you’re C-level (and even then), you’re an imbecile and you have not only failed at your job; you have failed at life. 

One of the most difficult professions is that of creative writer. You’re completely alone with your thoughts; there’s nothing else, no process or outside world to interact with (there are successful team writers, but they’re rare). As such, they really “work at home.” One of my favorite books on this is Pressfield’s War of Art. Everyone who does creative work should buy this book and live his advice. For those who don’t, two takeaways; point your lucky work doodad at yourself to give you power, and say a prayer to whatever gods you believe in (or don’t believe in -Pressfield prays to ancient Greek muses). You’re prepping your brain for work.

Frens: no man is an island, during the imbecile lock downs which will occur in the West in coming months, you may become isolated. There are dozens of free video chat softwares out there if you don’t have a work zoom license you can use; stuff like Kosmi allows you to play games and watch videos together. If you have pals nearby and you/they don’t live with elderly family, you should go visit them; don’t be a covidiot. There’s lots of other stuff you need to get right as well; have friends, hobbies, religion, make your bed, clean your room. You should take care of all that as well. But I figured I’d mention talking to your pals, since sometimes people forget.