Currents 091: Bruce Damer on Psychedelics as Tools for Discovery

Jim talks with Bruce Damer about genius and the use of psychedelics for creative thinking. They discuss the roots of genius, the discovery of fire, Einstein’s four great discoveries, building blocks of genius, endotripping vs exotripping, set, setting, & setup, the danger of over-relying on LLMs for knowledge, geniuses in the scanner, crosstalk in the brain, the prepared mind, Bruce’s lifelong experience of endotripping, rapid retripping, lucid dreaming, getting psilocybin from Terence McKenna, ayahuasca, Steve Jobs’s LSD experience, external constraints, Bruce’s epiphany about the origins of life, hypothesizing as a non-rational process, the stoned ape theory, psychedelics in Eleusis, human brain sizes & assisted birth, hypnagogic trip states, casualties of the early psychedelic era, a call for serious practitioners, a proposal for string theorists, Charles Manson & the importance of screening for wisdom, the increasing need for genius, and much more.

Canadian-born Dr. Bruce Damer has spent his life pursuing two questions: how did life on Earth begin? and how can we give that life (and ourselves) a sustainable pathway into the future and a presence beyond the Earth? A decade of laboratory and field research with his collaborator Prof. David Deamer at UCSC and teams around the world resulted in the Hot Spring Hypothesis for an Origin of Life, published in Scientific American in 2017 and the journal Astrobiology in 2020. The scenario has now passed its first key experimental tests in the laboratory and at volcanic hot springs around the world and has emerged as a leading contender for a general theory of abiogenesis. Implications of the work are now spreading through evolutionary biology, philosophy, AI and the search for life beyond Earth. New work with collaborators has proposed the urability framework, how life can start on many different worlds, and addresses some aspects of the Fermi Paradox.