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Clifford Pickover

Jacob’s Ladder, and From Beyond. But more importantly, we’ll be doing–writing books together, creating art, generating ideas. Anyone can participate in the Arch, but the upper realms are open initially to the movers, shakers, and dreamers who have achieved something in life, like writing a book, making a movie, patenting an invention, or simply becoming famous. 

It would include people like Xeni Jardin, Jeff Bezos, John Brockman, Maria Spiropulu, Connie Willis, Stephen Spielberg, Arthur C. Clarke, Dean Koontz, Freeman Dyson, Neal Stephenson, Alexandra Aikhenvald, Amy Chua, Maggie Balistreri, and Dr. Rick Strassman, a clinical psychiatrist who conducted DEA-approved research in which he injected sixty volunteers with DMT, one of the most powerful psychedelics known. Gradually, more people enter the upper Arch as they achieve and create, with those in the upper arch helping other ‘Archites’ as much as possible. In the Arch, we will start projects, make money, enhance our creativity, generate novelty, and push the limits of possibility. The Arch will also work on ways to locate creative and intelligent people in developing nations who do not have access to computers and attempt to foster a global education system.

Gradually, virtual cities will emerge and flourish around the Arch. Thousands will congregate to engage in creative activity. The Arch will break the barriers of time and distance, and permit unprecedented growth and opportunity. In the next decade, communities formed by ideas will be as strong as those formed by geography. The Arch and the Internet will dissolve away nations as we know them today. Humanity becomes a single hive mind, with a group intelligence, as geography becomes putty in the hands of the Internet sculptor.

Chaos theory teaches us that even our smallest actions have amplified effects. Now more than ever before this is apparent. Whenever I am lonely at night, I look at a large map depicting a hundred thousand Internet routers spread throughout the world. I imagine sending out a spark, an idea, and a colleague from another country echoing that idea to his colleges, over and over again, until the electronic chatter resembles the chanting of monks.

Returning to our discussion of the future of DMT research, Benny Shannon in The Antipodes of the Mind shows that very similar themes emerge in the DMT realities. More effort should be focussed on interacting with the mysterious beings inhabiting the DMT universe to see if they can offer the DMT psychonaut new information. Thus, research should be directed toward the development of methods that encourage psychonauts to explore the vast palaces and machinery, and ask the elves all sorts of questions to see if any information can be gained.  

Perhaps we can follow the lead of Stephen LaBerge, a psychophysiologist and research assistant at Stanford University who founded the independent Lucidity Institute in 1987. He researches lucid dreams in which the dreamer knows he is dreaming and sometimes controls the dream. Laberge developed electronic devices like the NovaDreamer, which is a sleep mask that emits a flashing light when the user is dreaming– detected by eye movement. The dreamer sees the lights through his eyelids, realizes he is dreaming, and thus increases the dreamer’s chances of becoming lucid. I wonder if anyone has studied the effect of DMT on lucid dreams triggered by the NovaDreamer device?

I would also like more research to include EEG analysis to see how the DMT state compares to the dream state. Additionally, researchers should study what I call the ‘Reverse DMT Experience’ or RDE, in which a person simply imagines DMT visions involving vast places, beings, and golden objects to conjure up an artificial visions of the DMT experience.  If this can be done in a lucid dream, perhaps we can more ‘safely’ generate the other universe and explore it.

I have a final idea as to where we should focus scientific funds. Experts have become very specialized, and science popularizes are often frowned upon by their more ‘serious’ colleagues. Thus, I would also devote money to training ‘generalists’ who traverse several fields and then bring together ideas in ways that specialists would be unable to do. 

David What are some of the similarities and differences that you see between the process of scientific creativity and mental illness?    

Clifford: The topic of madness and creativity is one that interests me greatly. In fact, this topic is central to my book Strange Brains and Genius. When we hear the phrase ‘weird scientists’ we often think of eccentric researchers marching to drumbeats which no one else can hear. In repressive times, they’ve been persecuted, but in more enlightened eras these nonconformists have had the freedom to make great contributions to science and society. Are their minds like our own, or are they so different that these geniuses should be viewed as entirely different beings? What do geniuses have in common, and how can we foster their continued emergence? Is there a link between their obsessions and their creativity? It’s clear that genius and strangeness are sometimes associated, and it is likely that bipolar disorder and temporal-lobe epilepsy have had a profound impact on creativity, religion, and even the alien abduction experience. 

As I considered the lives of a number of especially creative scientists, inventors, and philosophers, I was impressed by the number of individuals who had curious deficiencies mixed with their more obvious talents. A significantly large number of established artists have mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, and I have found a number of genius inventors, philosophers, and scientists to have had obsessive-compulsive disorder. Kay Jamison–a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore–suggests that mania can be conducive to creativity because it allows afflicted individuals to work long hours without sleep, to focus intensely, to experience a variety of emotions, and to make bold assertions without fear of the consequences. Bipolars take risks and are open to contradictions.    

David: To what extent do you think obsessive-compulsive disorder played a role in the formation of certain genius scientists?    

Clifford: First, note that most scientists do not exhibit bizarre behaviors, and most people with obsessive-compulsive disorders do not possess extraordinary creativity–yet obsessive-compulsive disorder seems to play a role in a certain kind of genius who invents by collecting materials with which to constantly experiment. Just consider Nikola Tesla (1846-1943), who was responsible for the first practical commercial use of alternating current (AC) motors, generators, and transmission lines. This same genius also had a fear of round objects (like a woman’s pearl earrings), an obsession with the number 3, and had an overwhelming fear of germs. 

Mental disease may cause individuals to overcompensate through constant creative activity. For others, the mental disease may actually ‘cause’ creative ideas. In studying mad geniuses, we find that many have had a sense of physical vulnerability and the existence of a psychological ‘unease’. Perhaps this unease keeps individuals on edge and serves as a source of creative tension. Their works often bear a personal mark, and a striving for dominance or power. Almost all ‘mad geniuses’ have had an irreverence toward authority, and a self-sufficiency and independence.  

Many of the trend-setting scientists experienced both social and professional resistance to their ideas. Nikola Tesla was often not taken seriously when he proposed correct ideas. Alexander Fleming’s revolutionary discoveries on antibiotics were met with apathy from his colleagues. Niels Bohr’s doctoral thesis on the structure of the atom was turned down by his university (the work later won him the Nobel prize). Joseph Lister’s advocacy of antisepsis was resisted by surgeons.
David: What is your perspective on research into psychic phenomena like telepathy and telekinesis?   

Clifford: At heart, I’m a skeptic and demand very strong evidence for claims of the paranormal. Readers may wish to refer to my May, 2001 Skeptical Inquirer article “The Antinoüs Prophecies: A Nostradamoid Project” in which I discuss my study of people who ascribe meaning to Nostradamus-like quatrains. I contend that Nostradamus’s poems are verbal ink blots–not really foretelling anything but permitting people to fit future history to rather nebulous images. I discuss this further in my book  Dreaming the Future, which also emphasizes the detailed historical meanings people ascribed to Nostradamus-like prophecies, which I randomly generated.  In particular, I composed quatrains of gibberish just by letting my mind wander and writing the first images that came to my mind. 

As far as I was

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