Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Have You Discovered The Beginning That Now You Seek The End?

 vanityfair  |  No wonder we’ve entered a new era in Silicon Valley, with the tech elite having their own period of sex, drugs, and rock and roll—often without the rock, the roll, or even the sex. Last year, a number of rich founders began experimenting with microdosing drugs to make it through the day, as two people with knowledge of these habits have told me, by taking tiny amounts of MDMA and LSD, and a long list of psilocybin mushrooms to help take the edge off, but not so much that you’re seeing tie-dyed dolphins or 3D cartoon characters chasing you down Market Street. For Musk, the pressures of being at the top led the board of Tesla to worry about the founder’s use of Ambien to get to sleep each night after the “excruciating” toll running Tesla had taken on him.

Some have even begun building their own microdosing labs, hiring chemists and pharmaceutical scientists to make bespoke batches of hallucinogens to pop like Skittles when reality gets a little too real. During the pandemic, I’ve heard of founders going to far-off places to experiment with ayahuasca, peyote, and the new drug of choice, dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a synthetic drug that one person told me was “like doing 10 years of psychotherapy in five minutes.”

Then there’s the body hacking, which first made its way into the mainstream in 1984 by way of the sci-fi subculture novel Neuromancer but has since leapt off the page and into Palo Alto, where everyone seems to want to outdo their cohorts by pushing their bodies to extremes. You’ve got the Dorseys of the world bragging about how little they eat each day, the Zuckerbergs boasting of killing their own food, and an army of nerds now wearing every tracking device imaginable—from rings that follow your sleep to real-time sugar monitoring devices you inject into your arm—and then experimenting with all forms of starvation and sleep habits to show how in control they are of their bodies. There’s intermittent fasting, working under infrared heat lamps, calculating ketones, and working with “DIY surgeons” to implant magnets and microchips.

“I think this is all a result of a complete detachment from authenticity by these tech founders. They present a version of themselves that isn’t real, and then, when they look in the mirror, they see how inauthentic they really are, and the only way they can handle the illusion they’ve created is through drugs,” said one Silicon Valley insider who often spends time with the biohacking-obsessed ultrarich. “It’s all synthetic and it’s all an illusion.” The pandemic only heightened this, with people slipping into more extreme activities in their quest for control.

One Silicon Valley founder who sold his company to Google years ago told me that the year that followed the sale—when he had gone from an average American worrying about paying rent each month to seeing seven zeros at the end of his bank account—was one of the most miserable times of his life. “You think it’s going to solve all these problems,” the founder told me, “but it just creates so many more issues, both psychologically and existentially. You don’t know what to do with yourself anymore.” For Hsieh, the only thing he could do was run away from his demons and the reality in which he found himself imprisoned.