Salvo 06.09.2023 5 minutes

Day Trippers

Woman with psychoactive drug pills on her tongue having psychedelic trip with hallucinations

Silicon Valley’s disastrous dance with psychedelic drugs.

According to a recent piece in the futurist publication Neoscope, a growing number of companies in Silicon Valley are “turning towards ketamine as a vibe cure.” Unlike the usual uppers that employees take to boost their productivity, ketamine is a “legal-ish” psychedelic drug that is alleged to dissolve negative feelings and “improve office vibes.” It can also become addictive and result in severe bladder failure. Nevertheless, companies are now hosting “‘ketamine-assisted therapy’ sessions” where “users lay down with cloth over their eyes, wait for a facilitator to inject a syringe of the psychedelic in their upper arms, and trip with their coworkers.” One career coach who pushes these sessions remarked that they are especially popular among “high-level female executives in Silicon Valley.”

There’s something darkly humorous about this phenomenon. Tech elites are tripping on drugs at their jobs to boost their performance. Despite being some of the allegedly smartest people on the planet, who are responsible for developing some of the most sophisticated products, they are dumb enough to believe in the power of hallucinogenic drugs to enhance their cognition and productivity. It’s as if they thought Brave New World and its miracle drug Soma was not a dystopian satire. Or that they somehow didn’t make it to the end of the Silicon Valley episode where Erlich Bachman’s plan to generate new ideas through a “vision quest” results in him being locked up and catatonic in a gas station restroom.

There’s also something deeply revealing about this. First, it suggests that Silicon Valley is no longer the vibrant place it once was. For so many decades, economists lauded it as the great incubator of brilliant minds taking risks and pushing the limits of what’s possible. In the popular imagination, people like Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Mark Zuckerberg tinkered in their garages and dorms, revolutionizing the world and becoming some of the most influential people in human history—like Newton but with more immediate impact

In truth, however, Silicon Valley is an intellectually-depleted place filled with self-important executives and anti-competitive monopolies. While it’s awash in capital (which, as this year’s bailout of Silicon Valley Bank proved, is safely backed by the federal government) and populated by hyper-affluent Big Tech moguls, it’s not exactly brimming with new ideas. Many companies have moved out in the past decade, and most of today’s technological innovations are happening elsewhere.

And sadly, no amount of drugs will change that. The idea that certain drugs will boost a person’s creativity or insight is largely a myth. Most research shows that it’s the opposite. Even though they help people feel good, drugs impair their minds and only help them escape from reality—not confront and find solutions to the problems they face each day.

This can be seen in the case of Paul McCartney, whose creativity and output during his solo career after the Beatles suffered enormously from his marijuana addiction. As Malcolm Gladwell explains in his book Outliers, the greatness of the Beatles didn’t come from their drug trips but from the many hours they spent practicing and playing. As it happens, Gladwell demonstrates that the same idea applies to most Silicon Valley legends as well.

Besides illustrating the decline and fall of Silicon Valley culture, the appeal of ketamine sessions for high-powered women also reveals a defect in today’s feminism. By most modern feminist standards, a woman who has risen to the top of the tech hierarchy has achieved total success. She has mastered Sheryl Sandberg’s art of “leaning in,” broken glass ceilings, and effectively obliterated the stereotypes that are purportedly holding back women in STEM. There is no reason that such a literal girlboss should resort to psychedelic drugs. Unless this narrative is just as fake as the one about Silicon Valley.

For all the progressive virtues these paragons of feminism display, it’s easy to see the parallels between their ketamine binges and a group of wine moms who look to improve the vibes of motherhood by imbibing bottles of “mommy juice.” At least the wine moms have something to show for their work: children who are somewhat supervised and primed to grow up and become productive adults. What do these female executives have to show for their personal sacrifices? A few drug trips, some token positions on corporate committees, and an addictive app? Are they really “making the world a better place”?

Although it may pain these executives to hear, they only have themselves to blame for their paucity of ideas and their idiotic reliance on drugs. By most accounts, they have abandoned the foundational values of common sense, honest work, and open discussion and have substituted them with the leftist anti-values of utopianism, idleness, and groupthink. Good ideas simply won’t emerge in such an environment—though plenty of bad ones will. The answer to their dilemma will only come with serious self-reflection and taking ownership for their mistakes—or leaving California behind altogether and moving to Texas.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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