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Home Workshop I've Changed My Mind ICMM 8 Setup (a workspace)
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Workshop - I've Changed My Mind
Автор: Alex   
26.08.2009 00:38
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8. Setup (A workspace)


You don't have to be rich to neurohack. You do need a workspace, however. You will need a place where you are safe. Materially, that's not too difficult to do; you don't need loads of room or loads of expensive tech (although it helps). If you have the cash to set up your own lab straight away then you can probably find everything you need on the Internet, up to and including your fMRI, but I've worked in some truly crazy conditions in the past including those with no plumbing whatsoever and still coped. You don't need modern tech to be safely hygienic; you just need to adjust the conditions. A garden shed is adequate, an attic doubly so. You need a water supply to keep things clean. If you're not sure your water's pure enough to drink, you bring water in containers or you purify it. You need three other things: a source of heat, a source of cold and a safe waste disposal system. You can't put clinical waste in domestic garbage, no dude, not even used electrodes. In some countries that means DIY incineration, and in other countries that's illegal so make sure you know the law for where you live.

You also need security, to protect your tech when you're not there and you when you are. An arrangement with anyone who might visit is necessary unless you are prepared for interruptions (not good). A sign on the door doesn't always catch the attention of a friend who's been out experimenting with lager all afternoon, and whom you really don't need to be talking to in the middle of a memory wipe. Make sure you have things arranged so this sort of thing can't happen. If privacy is difficult, working through the night or when others are at work can be helpful.

Power supply

If your mains supply is unreliable, stock up on batteries. If it's non-existent, get a generator and start wiring up.

You need emergency power in case of mains failure anyway. You also need surge protection and safe cutoff in case of shortout. When it storms, shut down, unplug, everything. I've seen a lightning strike come down a phone line and blow up a PC...if your head had been the other end of that circuit, well, you still wouldn't have got the insurance.

Hmm, sore point, insurance. Pay it or pay the price, is all I can say. Oh, and be sure to moan throughout the entire procedure.

Work with a computer you can trust to be enduringly reliable or at least fail regularly in well-expected and easily solvable ways. Even if you're really rich, when you're plugging your head into a machine, it's better the devil you know, than the IBM 666 building-integrated system with flashing lights and bells and touch sensitive CD trays and a speech synthesizer that crashes irrevocably in a fit of pique when somebody tries to look up the free software dictionary with animated characters and... All the fire doors in the building slam shut and... You get the picture. Think safety when you first set up. Think anti-static, 'leccy and ice don't splice, and places for putting drinks down should be lower than all equipment, including keyboards. Fire extinguishers for all possibilities and things to mop up messes should be there, and don't let people smoke next to anything that burns well without provocation. Watch where you keep the heater, kettle, toaster etc., because heat conducts and the thing about some chemicals is they don't boil for very long.


Costs can be violently cut on the tech front by indulging in the ancient art of building your own. (Plus you don't have to read the instructions.) Biofeedback tech is pretty cheap if you buy separates (BP and pulse, GSR, MCG are the cheapest, then EEG, ECG at the top end). Since the software you'll get with these will work in multi-input mode because all these kinds of signals are quite distinctly different, if you can build a junction box to send the inputs to the right places and plug that straight into the PC, and if you can make all this small and light enough to wear it, you'll have the equivalent of (if you'd bought it) a $900 system for only half that price.

When you're chemical hunting remember you are limited by storage and what license you have, as well as cost. Don't go and order a load of gear that has to be stored permanently in dry ice for example unless your family either knows about it and tolerates you or you face the possibility of your neurohacking session being interrupted by your partner or (worse!) mom shouting 'what have you done to the freezer dear?' Label everything always and if your kids are too young to read, teach them the skull and crossbones sign and put it on everything you don't want eaten.

Kids or pets in a laboratory can mean instant death in several nasty ways, most of which involve explosions. Set your boundaries and your design around what you are not prepared to risk.

Your own personal starting space

Neurohacking normally changes neurotransmitters and other chemicals on a temporary basis to achieve a desired change. Long-term drug use is another matter entirely. ...Time to admit it; what's your poison? Maybe you don't smoke or drink and you're not on anything prescribed, but how much sugar did you eat today? How many coffees and teas have you poured into your neurochemistry since 8am? We think nothing of this everyday neurohacking because almost everybody does it, all the time, and those who don't, seem terminally depressed, bored or boring. It's never occurred to most people, to look at their society and think, hang on a minute, why is everybody on drugs? Get real.

A good rant about drugs

I'm often asked my opinion about drug addiction, and whether my techniques could 'get people off drugs'. My views are based on both my own past experience and that of others, both philosophically and in research.

I find it curious from my current point of view that in our society, distinctions are made between 'drugs', as in illegal or other substances that people get addicted to, 'drugs' that people get from doctors or chemists, and 'drugs' such as sugar, coffee, tobacco, alcohol and junk food. All of these categories of 'drugs' affect the mind, and the behavior, profoundly. Sugar and junk food have as strong a link with delinquent crime as alcohol or amphetamines.R25 The side effects of regular use of Ibuprofen, Valium or Chloramphenicol are just as serious as those of tobacco, and worse than marijuana. (That was a qualifier...)

If someone suffers from depression, and they find a drug which relieves the symptoms, they are going to use it, because from their point of view they feel more responsible, capable and, bluntly, sane when they use the drug than when they do not. And which is preferable -a nervous, depressed, irritable person driving the family car, or a person under the influence of a drug that makes them feel sane and happy? My point is, I believe that many 'addicts' who choose not to stop are self-medicating to relieve an otherwise unpleasant or unbearable mental state. Many are doing this legally, with Prozac, Valium, alcohol, tobacco or chocolate. They know the substance is damaging their body and creating social problems. But in just the same way that the side-effects of pain-killers are still preferable to acute pain, the social and physical side-effects of addiction seem better than acute psychological torment. I will stick my neck out here and say that I believe any addict who chooses to continue is probably in this position. When I say 'psychological torment' I'm not referring to the effects of withdrawal. I mean the person was in psychological torment before they ever took the drug, and took it in the first place because they were looking for relief from that torment. They probably tried several drugs before finding one that worked. And the symptoms will return, and remain indefinitely, if the drug is stopped. So by asking addicts to stop we could be doing the equivalent of taking away the Prozac from someone with deep depression, or the Chlorpromazine from someone with schizophrenia. There is still social stigma attached to 'mental illness', and many people would rather not tell their doctors that they have a problem. Instead, they'll get drunk, or snort coke, or whatever. Many people don't even know they do have a problem, because there are so many people on drugs that it's become a 'normal' part of subculture.

Which condition are we treating, if we get someone 'off drugs'? -The addiction, or the condition which caused it? Should we assume responsibility for our own genetically inherited diseases, our neurological / neurochemical imbalances / disorders, or our viral infections? We don't get sick on purpose. We don't get psychologically distressed or depressed on purpose. Is a drug user guilty for taking medication with bad side effects, if nobody is providing anything better?

Why would anybody who is 100% mentally healthy ever choose to put anything into their bodies or minds if it didn't, overall, make them feel better? How many people are out tonight searching for anything that will? Psychoses and neuroses do not always respond to drugs from a doctor. An individual's mind, and neurochemistry, is unique. Sometimes, chocolate or tobacco or marijuana will do the trick. Should we, then, take this away from them, or make them feel guilty for doing it?

On the physical damage side, cortisol poisoning caused by anxiety increases the possibility of so many diseases / disorders, there is not enough time or room here to list them. It is definitely worse for you physically than smoking anything (and pretty nasty for your loved ones, too). What we should be doing is assessing why people need drugs (any drugs) and providing the safest drugs possible to relieve the symptoms each person suffers when s/he is 'straight'. This is what doctors try to do, although, with a patient, the illness is already recognized. Perhaps the biggest question should be why such a large percentage of the population suffers from mild-to-middling psychological disorders? There may be a clue to this in those organizations which succeed in 'curing' addicts -perhaps what they are actually doing is curing the underlying disorder, by showing the person that someone cares and giving them a bit of self-esteem, with the love, respect, affection and attention they maybe never got from parents, friends or partners, and the lack of which caused the depression in the first place? Human beings need to be nurtured throughout growth to be mentally healthy, to avoid insecurity and fear of abandonment. Insecurity = fear = anxiety = depression in a lot of cases.

How many people do you know who are 100% sane?

Current methods of legal interference in this are obsolete. If any person has to take any kind of medication to relieve any kind of symptoms, and that medication affects their behavior and/or performance, then they should be monitored by their GP and assessed for their ability to drive or operate machinery. They may need to register as disabled until a safer medication can be found or a cure is forthcoming. But without such a cure, expecting anyone to give up their medication and just suffer is perhaps a bit barbaric? The state would, of course, have to trash all the current drug laws and hand the control of substances over to the doctors and scientists. So a heroin manufacturer would have to pay taxes on that, and users would pick their supply up on prescription. Same for tobacco. And I reckon a lot more people would go for therapy / treatment than could be bothered to get their cigarettes on script every month...although if it were thought of as a medication, it would be more popular in tablets -who on earth would smoke it?

That the current situation does not strike humans as peculiar or even out of the ordinary is another testament to our acceptance of damage as the 'norm'. What you should be thinking right about now is 'how much of this crap can I stop shoveling into myself and still feel okay?' Because if you start removing what you don't need now, you will find it a lot easier to let go of more as we go along.

I am talking about things you do every day. The things you do once a week or once a month don't worry me; the effects wear off and you're not continuously under the influence. You're not causing tolerance to occur. Tolerance is bad news because it shifts the brain chemistry permanently into an artificially maintained state which backfires violently if the drugs or tech maintaining that state are withdrawn or supply is suddenly irregular. Be aware: you should not stop taking anything if you cannot remain sane and centered enough to learn to function without it. Get real.

One of the most damaging medications if used long-term is sleeping tablets. Drug-induced sleep often lacks enough REM time for us to assimilate and move memories around sufficiently. This slows down learning a lot. We need at least six periods of REM during a normal sleep, whether we remember them or not is pretty irrelevant at this stage, but happen they must, or part of our waking time must be spent in assimilation and this prevents alertness and attention. Eventually lack of REM leads to memory problems, and finally neurological disorders. Sleeping tablets, heavy narcotic use and alcohol abuse can all lead to this situation. So, less R&R, more REM.R26

I keep expecting some mainstream type to announce this soon because there's an awful lot of sleep research going on but so far (March 2004) they don't seem to have figured it out. What we need is a drug that induces sleep but doesn't prevent REM. If you're an insomniac neurohacker, there's a project for you. Personally I don't have any difficulty sleeping apart from resenting having to do so much of it.

Stay real. Giving things up because they are 'bad' for you is sentimental nonsense, and will harm your progress, unless you have got to that stage where your somatic (body) damage is affecting your state of mind. Otherwise, being mentally unstable is far worse for you than the physical side effects of drugs, (especially if you value sanity more than biology.) But as you progress with neurohacking work, you will start to find you will no longer feel a need for many things you originally used for self-medication. You will not so much need to give things up, as allow them to give you up as you pass beyond a need for them. When you get well, you won't need medication. So be gentle with you. A really good thing to go for as a first try is give up high density, fast-release carbohydrates; they trash both neuro- and body chemistry, cause diabetes and obesity, and contribute vastly to the aging process. If you can live without high-density carbs you will get the effects of calorie restriction without having to do any restricting. Once you get used to it, the increase in vitality is tremendous. Don't try to force yourself to give up things; do it the intelligent way. Provide yourself with something better, i.e., wait for and work on a better more stable state of mind, and you won't want the old crap any more anyway. At first, you'll do it more rarely, eventually not at all.

Also remember, if you are dependent on something to maintain your state of mind, you can always be controlled or thrown out of balance by someone else removing it. Not only that, but your ambient neurochemistry will affect every part of your perception and the weighting of every experience. The simpler to maintain your ambient state is, the easier it is for you, in the long run. To control your ambient, you need to know about how 'weighting' happens. The weighting of an experience depends on how much attention we consider it worthy of or are able to give it. The more intense the experience, the more attention and awareness we allocate to it, and the stronger the potential memory...

There are several rules, or rather, byelaws, I use in neurohacking, which you ought to know before we go on to methods.

Rule 1: No wanking in the office. –If you are caught up in EM (Emotional Masturbation; i.e., sentiment), never think you're capable of neurohacking. You won't be, until the feeling passes. It will pass. (No matter how strong it feels at the time).

Rule 2: As long as you know you've taken all relevant safety precautions, don't worry too much about making mistakes. A famous musician once said, "If you don't make mistakes, you're not really trying". Just remember, when you were first learning to walk, that you sometimes tripped over things. If you'd concentrated only on the things you tripped over, you would never have learned to walk. But you forgot the mistakes, and you concentrated on walking. So just keep practicing. You'll get there in the end. (Well, you can walk, can't you?)

Rule 3: Keep your motives pure and work with integrity so you can shove guilt up it's own asshole. To be free of guilt is to be free from deceit and anxiety –and you can be threatened and controlled only through your own anxiety. Anyone or any system trying to control you will always work on your anxiety. And that includes people who say anything personally nasty about you, or to you, that has no objective relevance to what you are doing.

Rule 4: Remember that you will become more like everything you are surrounded by. Everything you read, watch, listen to, everybody you spend time with, everything you look at or pay attention to; these things will change you, you will become more like them. You will start saying the same things, using the same mannerisms, moving like them, sounding like them, acting like them…So what and whom do you want to surround yourself with? Go look for galaxy class people. There are some stunning intelligences lurking around on the Internet. You are not alone.

Rule 5: There is no rule 5. If there were, it would say, 'support research –buy a beer for a scientist'.

Finally, a few warnings. There are many reasons why people choose a path but do not reach the goal. Led astray by the dark side are they. Some discover pleasure and happily wirehead their lives away or drown themselves in drugs like slugs in beer.

I'd treat wireheading with a good deal more caution than I would, say, heroin. Even SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) can create a habit as nasty as cocaine (except, they don't erode a massive hole on the inside of your bank account). Some are led astray by one or another drug they particularly like. Most illegal drugs are pretty crap and usually contaminated, but they are also best avoided because it's stupid to trash your career in research with a criminal record. Don't miss the secret that the ultimate high is not the deliberately highest high, and don't fall into the trap of thinking that some is good so more must be better. The ultimate high is an ambient of inspired curiosity and general well being, peppered liberally with excitement and relaxation. Feeling light-hearted and optimistic whilst still centered and aware is far more interesting than sitting around stoned, immobile and incoherent, like a load of dead people.

Some fail to reach the goal because of death. This is usually caused by misadventure under the influence of something. Don't think you're more competent than you actually are. You are not in this for cheap thrills, either. Neurohacking is a precision science, not a rave. In short, in both the physical and the psychological sense, don't drive over narrow bridges when you're smashed out of your mind.

Imagine feeling 'alive' in the way that you did when you were, say, nine years old, but with autonomy, with an awesome amount of knowledge and information at your disposal, and an endless supply of unknown to explore.

That's hyperreality.

Okay, now we're ready to go.

Structuring a neurohacking session

I've put together a 'preview the hack' questionnaire, which has evolved over the years to include a lot of my own shorthand so I was doubtful whether to include it here, however it is so useful that I will include it with the advice that you would be best writing your own, so just nick the ideas off it that are useful to you. Here are my categories:

Experiment Number:




Victim; sorry, subject: (details on subject + all data you collected)

Target: (Physical area and desired change or result) Desired and predicted effects on psychology.

Current platform (Current part of brain with highest increase in activity during communication with strangers)

Current format: (attachment/sentiment or bonding/emotion)

Relevant programming language: (Sensory motor, allegorical or intellectual).

Current relations to power supply: (self sufficient or dependent on others).

Starting space: (awareness of any dangers, fears, expectations or other states of mind that could affect results) I try to achieve the optimal learning space.

Database info: (predictions based on previous experience, knowledge and experimentation).

Useful media/input: (Things that will help)

Deleterious media/input: (Things to avoid).

Method base: (Destructive or constructive)

Hard/soft takeoff/attack/sustain/decay/release: (plotting the course of the action, sometimes with graphs, sometimes a set of notes, depending on the context, including an estimate of time involved.)

Entry point info: (I have a whole load of shorthand terms here so I will just briefly sketch each one for the sake of clarity):

Single entry point (One way in only, i.e. a particular emotion or a particular memory, or a surgical procedure with only one option, and usually irreversible. There is often only one trigger to achieve a desired result, e.g. intensity/sensory overload/ sensory deprivation/immediate disconnection or connection. It is fast and is usually done in one hit or a short series of consecutive hits. The effects are usually predictable. The more intrusive forms of single entry point hacking are really only useful for medical emergencies until our tech improves somewhat).

Multiple entry point (A choice of ways in, i.e. you can start with any one of a choice of memories or emotions to achieve the desired effect, or a chemical procedure acting at many sites, or multi-spectrum sensory stimulation. Used for an ongoing process of disconnection/connection that is usually done in stages. Usually reversible, it is slow and somewhat unwieldy and often has unforeseen side effects. The reversibility option decays over time.)

Feedback entry point: (Can use real-time biofeedback to amplify an effect).

Feedforward entry point: (In each stage you are setting up the success of the next stage).

Chain reaction: (Looking at the possibility and probability of unexpected, powerful, irreversible or weird consequences of a chain reaction in hormonal/chemical and behavioral results).

Real time side effects: (These might include, for example, sensory motor reflexes that could get you bruised if you don't take precautions. If you get taken by surprise by an experience you might burst out laughing, or yell. If you're really not sure what might happen, make sure you have a good assistant, and if you don't want to get misunderstood, soundproofing.)

Exit point effects (Temporary or permanent changes expected and observed which alter behavior, either directly in a sensory motor way, or indirectly by altering attitude.)

Best methods of entry (Physical, sensory, chemical, psychological, surgical, whatever. Neurohacking often demands a multiple approach, for example using a drug or drugs, biofeedback, and psychology techniques all at once. That's why it's good to get to know your tech and software before you start to mess about. If something goes wrong with the tech you want to be able to pull out of it smoothly, and possibly leave the hack totally unaffected. If you're not sure how things work and something pops your session is ruined by panicking about what it might have been or done. You should use biofeedback in ordinary conditions regularly before neurohacking with it or even trying it out with other methods.)

All these things need to be considered before you make a move.

Обновлено 26.08.2009 00:39