In the upcoming years, I hope that our society will collectively recognize the powers of psychedelics and more specifically the chemical compound, psilocybin. Psilocybin, the active ingredient found in “magic” mushrooms despite being about 100 times less potent than LSD, is capable of "altering perception of space and time, causing visual distortions, euphoria, and life-changing experiences." Before President Nixon and the U.S. federal government declared a war on drugs in the 1970's, research studies in this space showed promising results. Although research in this area was completely halted during this time, it is now a growing field of study. “Multiple studies suggest that psychedelics may facilitate neuroplasticity at the cellular and network levels allowing the brain to form and reorganize connection” (Mass Gen).
Ultimately this means that these drugs have the potential to change patterns in brain activity that formerly caused suffering, addiction, or close-mindedness/mental blocks. “Its potential indications include depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, quitting smoking, alcohol addiction, cocaine addiction, cluster headaches, and cancer-related or other end-of-life psychological distress. Additionally cancer-related psilocybin therapy is considered one of the most promising areas of research for the drug” (Healthline, NYU Langone). For addiction and depression, it has in many cases outperformed years of therapy, providing a faster relief in single use cases. Author and Professor of science and environmental journalism at UC Berkeley, Michael Pollan has been a leading advocate for a shift in mindset on psilocybin and LSD. He wrote the book How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, about the history and future of psychedelic drugs.
As noted in his book, individuals who take psychedelics frequently report similar kinds of meaningful experiences including reflecting on what’s important, seeing the bigger picture, realizing that each individuals’ perspective is a slice of a collective truth, feeling at one with all living things and the environment... Based on my understanding of psilocybin and the research findings in the field, I believe that widespread use of the drug will positively impact individuals and our systems and societies at large. I also feel that widespread acceptance and recreational use is feasible. As scientific research continues, we will have only more answers and more trust. Psychedelics have been legalized in many areas including Brazil, Jamaica, the Netherlands, Native American Reservations in the US, and most recently the state of Oregon. In order to tackle our world’s most pressing problems: climate change, racial and religious tensions, bipartisanship, we need more perspective and less ego, more acceptance and more open-mindedness, and if a chemical compound found in nature shows promising results to do that, we must comprehensively study it and take seriously its potential applications.
5) Final Lessons
I think the following ideas will be contagious 10 years from now:
Veganism- I predict that veganism will increase and a large percentage of Americans will stop eating meat (much more than today). Eating meat will eventually be seen as just as inhumane as slavery. The mistreatment of animals and excess use of water will no longer be tolerated by the masses.
Another T**mp? :/ - I hope not, but with extreme progress in minority rights, animal rights, environmental work, and other important sectors, resistance will inevitably arise, and the large base of trump supporters will fight to be heard, finding a new leader to represent them. Unless we can bridge the extreme political divide and information gap, this seems like an unavoidable reality.
Electric Vehicles Everywhere - (Overall great news though) All companies will pledge to be fully electric; companies are already taking pledges to work towards this goal within the decade, and accountability will only increase. Additionally, companies like Tesla are producing electric vehicles at scale, and the US government has aggressive plans to build a strong charging infrastructure network. (Hopefully we will have come together by then as a planet to take collective action on climate change and will still be alive.)
Movement for Indigenous People -Native Americans and Indigenous people continue to be heavily oppressed in the US and have not yet seen a major movement voicing their stories and fighting for their rights. As our collective consciousness develops, I predict that this will be a major movement pioneered by the BIPOC community in the US.
Three most valuable ideas and questions from this course:
- What we do not learn from history, we are condemned to repeat. (Even when we do learn lessons, we may still repeat our past failures). To quote my midterm, just as the plague will come again, human nature will repeat itself. We are greedy, tribal, egotistical, creatures with limited awareness of the full scope of things. Majority of the time, we are incapable of just enjoying our incredible fortune to exist for a brief moment in time in space. Society advances, social problems may reside, but it takes as little as one populist leader or a pandemic to revive the evil parts of human nature that so many have desperately worked to destroy, as we’ve seen time and time again. Strong systems will endure longer than weak ones, but the tides will inevitably sway back and forth, our nature merely repeating itself in different scenarios.
- Despite this cycle, there is hope. We’ve made immense progress as a species over the course of our existence and although we have dark sides, we also have beautiful, innovative, empathetic sides. If we choose to invest in the “good” parts of human nature in the ways in which we design the systems we operate in, we can perhaps create a more equitable and just world. As Camus writes, “there are more things to admire in men than to despise." It's up to us to choose where to focus our attention.
- Remaining questions: What will be our future as a human race? Will our good sides prevail over our dark sides, or will we destroy ourselves before we reach our full potential? Only time will tell.