Catching Fire: This spring I read an amazing book by Steven Kotler & Jamie Wheal, called Stealing Fire. It explores the wild and provocative world of expanded consciousness and the variety of ways people are working to achieve it.
A quick summary of this book is that the authors explore the variety of ways that we are trying to expand human consciousness. They have a fresh take on some taboo topics, and shed some light on activities that have been bouncing around the periphery of popular media for a while (i.e. burning man).
One story I picked up from the book I wanted to share here.
The Bliss Point Hacked
Here's an example of what I mean. From various sources, people have said that granulated sugar is a relatively new invention (on the evolutionary scale). First discovered in India, for most of the history of mankind access to "sweets" sugar was something that was restricted largely to berry season, or if you happened across honey come. Fats? you only found those in nuts, certain oils, and animals. As my middle school economics teacher told me all those years ago, "We are the wealthiest people of all time. No other civilization could afford to feed food to animals on the scale we do, in order to have a ready supply of meat." Fat too was scarce. And salt? Hey, they paid Roman soldiers in it. And as little as 70 years ago, JRR Tolkien made a box of salt Sam's "most precious possession" in the Lord of the Rings. Salt, Sugar, and Fat. The hat-trick of modern processed food.
If you get the balance right, you can light up a persons mouth, mind, and soul. According to Kotler, that's exactly what has happened over the last 25 years. The perfect balance of sophisticated salts light up our taste buds on that first mouthful. The sugar lights up your brain, and millennia of evolution taught us to load up when we get a chance to ingest those calorie dense fats. You never know when you might find them again right?
Today they estimate 50% of the adult population is overweight to the point of being obese and 30% of children.
The book implies that we are on the cusp of many such "optimizations", some of them directly related to human consciousness. I enjoyed reading the book, and if you like to see how the future might be different, I definitely recommend you give it a read.