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      TESCREAL hallucinations: Psychedelic and AI hype as inequality engines


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          Background and Aims

          While many scholars have called attention to similarities between the earlier SSRI hype and the ongoing hype for psychedelic medications, the rhetoric of psychedelic hype is tinged with utopian and esoteric aspirations that have no parallel in the discourse surrounding SSRIs or other antidepressants. This utopian discourse provides insight into the ways that global tech elites are instrumentalizing both psychedelics and artificial intelligence (AI) as tools in a broader world-building project that justifies increasing material inequality. If realized, this project would undermine the use of both tools for prosocial and pro-environmental outcomes.


          My argument develops through rhetorical analysis of the ways that industry leaders envision the future of medicalized psychedelics in their public communications. I draw on examples from media interviews, blog posts, podcasts, and press releases to underscore the persuasive strategies and ideological commitments that are driving the movement to transform psychedelics into pharmaceutical medications.


          Counterfactual efforts to improve mental health by increasing inequality are widespread in the psychedelics industry. These efforts have been propelled by an elitist worldview that is widely-held in Silicon Valley. The backbone of this worldview is the TESCREAL bundle of ideologies, which describes an interrelated cluster of belief systems: transhumanism, Extropianism, singularitarianism, cosmism, Rationalism, Effective Altruism, and longtermism.


          This article demonstrates that TESCREALism is a driving force in major segments of the psychedelic pharmaceutical industry, where it is influencing the design of extractive systems that directly contradict the field's world-healing aspirations. These findings contribute to a developing subfield of critical psychedelic studies, which interrogates the political and economic implications of psychedelic medicalization.

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          Most cited references115

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          A Brief History of Neoliberalism

          Neoliberalism--the doctrine that market exchange is an ethic in itself, capable of acting as a guide for all human action--has become dominant in both thought and practice throughout much of the world since 1970 or so. Writing for a wide audience, David Harvey, author of The New Imperialism and The Condition of Postmodernity, here tells the political-economic story of where neoliberalization came from and how it proliferated on the world stage. Through critical engagement with this history, he constructs a framework, not only for analyzing the political and economic dangers that now surround us, but also for assessing the prospects for the more socially just alternatives being advocated by many oppositional movements.
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            The entropic brain: a theory of conscious states informed by neuroimaging research with psychedelic drugs

            Entropy is a dimensionless quantity that is used for measuring uncertainty about the state of a system but it can also imply physical qualities, where high entropy is synonymous with high disorder. Entropy is applied here in the context of states of consciousness and their associated neurodynamics, with a particular focus on the psychedelic state. The psychedelic state is considered an exemplar of a primitive or primary state of consciousness that preceded the development of modern, adult, human, normal waking consciousness. Based on neuroimaging data with psilocybin, a classic psychedelic drug, it is argued that the defining feature of “primary states” is elevated entropy in certain aspects of brain function, such as the repertoire of functional connectivity motifs that form and fragment across time. Indeed, since there is a greater repertoire of connectivity motifs in the psychedelic state than in normal waking consciousness, this implies that primary states may exhibit “criticality,” i.e., the property of being poised at a “critical” point in a transition zone between order and disorder where certain phenomena such as power-law scaling appear. Moreover, if primary states are critical, then this suggests that entropy is suppressed in normal waking consciousness, meaning that the brain operates just below criticality. It is argued that this entropy suppression furnishes normal waking consciousness with a constrained quality and associated metacognitive functions, including reality-testing and self-awareness. It is also proposed that entry into primary states depends on a collapse of the normally highly organized activity within the default-mode network (DMN) and a decoupling between the DMN and the medial temporal lobes (which are normally significantly coupled). These hypotheses can be tested by examining brain activity and associated cognition in other candidate primary states such as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and early psychosis and comparing these with non-primary states such as normal waking consciousness and the anaesthetized state.
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              On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots: Can Language Models Be Too Big?


                Author and article information

                Journal of Psychedelic Studies
                Akadémiai Kiadó (Budapest )
                25 September 2023
                [1 ] University Writing Program, Johns Hopkins University , United States
                [2 ] Center for Psychedelic Drug Research and Education, The Ohio State University , United States
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author. Gilman Hall 4, 3400 N Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218. Tel.: (410) 516 7545. E-mail: ndevenot@ 123456jhu.edu
                Author information
                © 2023 The Author(s)

                Open Access statement. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium for non-commercial purposes, provided the original author and source are credited, a link to the CC License is provided, and changes – if any – are indicated.

                : 01 July 2023
                : 02 August 2023
                : 03 August 2023
                Page count
                Equations: 0, References: 112, Pages: 18

                Evolutionary Biology,Medicine,Psychology,Educational research & Statistics,Social & Behavioral Sciences
                psychedelics,longtermism,transhumanism,neoliberalism,medicalization,artificial intelligence


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