The 1960s: Drugs and Protest
Dormouse describes how political, social, and cultural forces came together to shape the early personal-computer industry on the West Coast: Engelbart and his colleagues were part of a community that included early experimenters with LSD and leaders of the antiwar movement.
Despite today’s conservative backlash against much of what the 1960s’ countercultural movement stood for, the Internet and the personal computer have been accepted, and they give us great tools to spread awareness. Though these tools can also be used to amplify propagandizing, there is reason to believe that they will ultimately give advantage to the truth. In this, the spirit of the 1960s’ struggle lives on.
Some who read Markoff’s book may feel nostalgic for the drug culture that developed alongside the personal computer, but I do not. For me, the stories about drug experimentation are sad stories of a quest gone awry. The promise was that LSD and other drugs would expand our creativity. But like other abused substances, including alcohol and, now, in America, even food, they have largely brought us personal tragedy. In the end, drugs such as LSD and marijuana give most users, not new creativity, but merely the personal and temporary presumption of the new, and at great personal cost.
The personal-computing and Internet revolutions have produced much of what the drug experimenters were seeking. They have given people long-sought enhancements of the ability to communicate and to learn. And now, with so much accessible to so many people through the Internet, we see hope for the expansion of creativity itself, and for the raising of collective consciousness. The Internet promotes creativity not through solitary, short-lived experiences, but through the use of a real, permanent, and shareable medium. It offers new awareness through access to the firsthand truth about what is going on in the world – if its users take the time to separate the truth from the flood of mass media and junk that the Internet also brings.