Weekly Column

The Internet Is Acid, and America Is Having a Bad Trip

How we can hallucinate our way back to sanity

Douglas Rushkoff
Team Human
Published in
5 min readSep 4, 2018

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Credit: gpflman/iStock/Getty

It’s been 25 years since I first turned the manuscript of my first book, Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace, to the publisher. Well, 27 years if you count the first publisher, which canceled the book because they thought the internet would be “over” by the time the book was to be released in 1993.

Cyberia wasn’t really a book about the net so much as a whole conflux of new approaches to navigating the world. It wasn’t just a technological revolution, but a cultural renaissance involving everything from quantum physics and chaos math to fantasy role-playing games and hypertext. Cyberia, as I called this emerging movement, found its expression in comics, video games, the Gaia hypothesis, rave music, and virtual reality; books like The Tao of Physics, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, or Gödel, Escher, Bach; the lectures of Terence McKenna, Ralph Abraham, and Willis Harman.

It seemed as if the world was about to become a whole lot more like a lucid dream, where the future was less a place we arrived at than a thing we created together.

Computers and networks were part of a much larger cultural phenomenon: a realization that reality is a collaboration. We were coming to grips with the fact that we were living in a “consensual hallucination,” as science fiction writer William Gibson put it, where the things we imagine actually come into being. It seemed as if the world was about to become a whole lot more like a lucid dream, where the future was less a place we arrived at than a thing we created together. We were moving into what I called a “designer reality.”

That’s at least partly why the biggest technology firms of Silicon Valley resorted to hiring so many psychedelics users. (In Cyberia, I documented how many firms had to suspend drug testing or inform employees in advance.) They needed acid heads because they were the only people comfortable with hallucinating things into existence.

Timothy Leary, a Harvard professor once known as the high priest of LSD, often told me that…

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Douglas Rushkoff
Team Human

Author of Survival of the Richest, Team Human, Program or Be Programmed, and host of the Team Human podcast http://teamhuman.fm