Researchers may soon be exploring new ways to enhance sensory sensitivity and create a science devoted to happiness, fun and pleasure.
Almost all of the medical research with psychedelic drugs to date has been focused on curing diseases and treating illnesses.
Despite countless anecdotal reports, and a few encouraging pilot studies, little attention has been paid to the reported ability of these remarkable substances to increase human potential and even less attention has been paid to their reputed ability to significantly enhance all aspects of human pleasure.
There was some research done with LSD and mescaline in the 1950s and 1960s that studied their effects on creativity, and there have been several recent studies linking psilocybin (the psychoactive ingredient in “magic mushrooms”) to an increase in spiritual values, but for the most part, psychedelic drugs are being researched as medical treatments for pathological psychiatric conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, cluster headaches, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.
However, one can envision a time in the not-too-distant future when we will have cured our most challenging pathological conditions and have more time and resources on our hands to explore post-survival activities.
It’s likely that we’ll then focus our research efforts on discovering new ways to improve our physical and mental performance. A science devoted purely to enhancing pleasure might come next and psychedelics could play a major role in this new field.
According to surveys done by the U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse, the No. 1 reason why people use LSD is because “it’s fun.” Tim Leary helped to popularize the use of LSD with the help of the word “ecstasy,” and sex expert Annie Sprinkle has been outspoken about the ecstatic possibilities available from combining sex and psychedelics.
Many hundreds of psychedelic trip reports have described long periods of deeply appreciating extraordinary beauty and savoring ecstatic bliss, experiences that were many orders of magnitude more intense than the subjects previously thought possible.
With all the current research emphasis on the medical applications and therapeutic potential of psychedelics, in research circles the unspoken and yet obvious truth about these extraordinary substances is that, when done properly, they’re generally safe and healthy ways to have an enormous amount of fun. There’s good reason why they’re so popular recreationally, despite being illegal.
When psychedelic research begins to integrate with applied neuroscience and advanced nanotechnology in the future, we can begin to establish a serious science of pleasure and fun. Most likely this would begin with a study of sensory enhancement and time dilation (slowing down the perception of time), which are two of the primary effects that psychedelic drugs reliably produce.
Perhaps one day our brightest researchers and best resources will be devoted to finding new ways to enhance sexual, auditory, visual, olfactory, gustatory and tactile sensations and create undreamed of new pleasures and truly unearthly delights.
Scientific studies could explore new and better ways to improve sexual performance and further enhance sensory sensitivity, to elongate and intensify our orgasms, enlarge the spectrum of our perceptions, and deepen every dimension of our experience.
Massage therapy, Tantra, music, culinary crafting, and other pleasure-producing techniques and activities could be systematically explored with psychedelics, and universities could have applied research centers devoted to the study of ecstasy, tickling and laughter.
The neurochemistry of aesthetic appreciation, happiness, humor, euphoria and bliss could be carefully explored with an eye toward improvement. Serious research and development could be used to create new drugs and integrate neurochemically-heightened states with enhanced environments, such as nanotechnologically-advanced amusement parks and super-realistic virtual realities.
In this area of research, it seems that psychedelic drugs may prove to be extremely useful, and countless new psychedelic drugs are just waiting to be discovered.
Maverick physicist Nick Herbert has suggested diverting a portion of U.S. military budget to fund the creation of a series of “pleasure domes.” Herbert’s “Pleasure Dome” project seeks to explore the possibilities of amplifying pleasure and although this project is little more than an idea at this point, it may be the first step toward turning the enhancement of pleasure into a true science.
When I spoke with Herbert about this project, he offered some interesting insight into the nature of pleasure.
“The Pleasure Dome Project is an idea to use fundamental physics to increase pleasure for the pursuit of happiness—to put the pursuit of pleasure on a firm scientific basis, rather than in the amateur ways we’ve pursued it so far as individuals,” he said. “Amplification and enhancement of the senses is probably the easiest way to do it. Find out how our senses work, and just increase that process.”
“I was talking with Greg Keith about the Pleasure Dome Project as we were walking down here along the San Lorenzo River, and noticed that there’s a pleasure research facility here on the beach—the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk,” he continued. “Places like that offer clues to the nature of pleasure. What happens here at the Beach Boardwalk? People get scared out of their life in safe environments. So, this must partly be what pleasure is. To be scared, but to really be safe. To be frightened, but secure. So we have to look about for new ways of doing that–scaring the hell out of people, but making them secure at the same time. So there’ll be some scary rides at The Pleasure Dome, I think, but ultimately safe.”