Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Technology and transcendence: a report from the recent Mind States VI conference

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 13, 2005

By Luke Maroney and Dawn Montefusco for SiliconValleyWatcher

mindstates conference poster medium.jpegWhile VCs were sailing their boats and enjoying the sunshine of Memorial Day weekend, 500-plus psychedelic geeks and silicon hippies gathered at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco for the 6th annual Mind States conference. Now that the buzz has worn off, it’s time to give a rundown of what happened at this unique event, subtitled Technology and Transcendence.

The West Coast conscious heard the latest developments in everything from techno-biological enhancement to current psychedelic research, herbiculture and visionary art. The most interesting thing, however, wasn’t the chill room or the mescaline-packed San Pedro Cacti but the substance of the sessions.

Marc Pesce, the writer, educator, and technological guru, gave a presentation called "Hyperpeople," in which he described a world interconnected by social technology where "we no longer need to rely on mass media to get our information."

Pesce commented on the evolutionary pressure that the information explosion is forcing upon us. Audiences are abandoning big broadcasters in favor of direct relationships with independent amateurs. "After all," he said, "the amateur only wants to satisfy himself and his friends, while the big broadcasters have to satisfy advertisers."

The use of knowledge swarms like wikis and blogs to share information is creating a vast network of free media. A new trust is forming between peer-producers and peer-consumers, and this trust is breaking down the dependence upon mainstream media. "We can now be our own TV stations," Pesce said.

As these networks emerge, the jump between the technological collective and the conscious collective becomes easier to make. In effect, the technology is creating a virtual conscious collective. “It sounds hippy dippy, but science is now proving that it’s true." said Piers Bizony, author of Invisible Worlds and another presenter at Mind States.

But Pesce warned that these subterranean worlds of virtual reality have a seductive quality. He said he used psychedelic drugs to expand his thinking, giving him a different world view that he says enhances creativity. Toward the end of his lecture he asked: "Where is the outside world? Where are the voices of others? Do you see the light in their eyes?"

His question seemed to have a double meaning. On one hand, advances in technology are validating previous concepts of collective consciousness. But as skeptics of psychedelic drugs have said, what happens when you don’t come back from the trip? Or, in this case, back from the virtual world?


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