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Erik Davis' Interview of Bruce Damer for Wired Magazine
feature about Terence McKenna

Interview of Bruce Damer on Wired Magazine feature about Terence McKenna Interview held on 12/17/1999
by Erik Davis of Bruce Damer for a special article on Terence McKenna to be published in Wired Magazine, Spring 2000.
Note that this interview ended up on the cutting room floor so I am including it here for historic record

Erik Davis: What role do you see Terence's ideas and presence playing in the larger cultural dialogue at the moment, especially as it regards technology, the future and especially (for you) the creation of virtual worlds?

Bruce Damer: Here is a longish but I think interesting reply which may give you a few insights into how Terence and I and others have been trying to merge our worlds.. Well, as you probably already know, psychedelics played an important role throughout human history (and recently reemerging in the very heart of technological society) in reshaping world views and deep cognitive structures. We heard this message loud and clear from presenters at Terence's recent ALLChemical Arts conference in Kona Hawaii. Some of the world's leading writers, artists, musicians and creative thinkers revealed how their perspective on the universe and ability to fashion art were powerfully informed by mind-altering experiences. Our session at this event "Psychoactive Cyberspace" talked about how Gibson's "consensual hallucination" is now being made real. While most of us still experience Cyberspace as streams of text or reams of pages, a new Cyberspace is emerging that is closer to the original vision of cyber-punk theorists, Hollywood FX men and fiction authors. We call this new medium "inhabited" or "virtual world" Cyberspace, and this is today represented by real-time 3D "worlds" of all kinds, many hosting visitors as "avatars". When I say "we" I mean the membership of the Contact Consortium ( which I cofounded in 1995 to create a catalytic community around this emergent Cyberspace.

See the initial AllChemical Gathering with Terence from Kona Hawaii, February 1999 here

Scene in-world of the AllChemical Arts Gallery in Cyberspace
and the Original ALLChemical Arts conference pages (now offline).

One of the special interest groups in the Consortium, VW-PSYCH, is focused on the mind-altering properties of virtual worlds and the psychology and clinical psychiatry of extensive world use by "citizens". I know from years inhabiting and building avatar spaces, my own cog structures have been indelibly changed. I sometimes see trees as algorithms, and information flowing everywhere. I tend to view groups of people differently too. In avatar worlds you often converse while flying over crowds, so I now occasionally see myself out of body. A NASA colleague explained to me the similarities between extensive work in zero G in the shuttle cargo bay and the fatigue, vertigo or "brain rotation" sometimes experienced by long time citizens of 3D virtual worlds. I recently chaired a cyberconference held inside a complex of worlds, "Avatars99" (, and while this event progressed, I tracked several thousand people, handling 2 interrupts a second while warping my avatar body from the exhibit hall to the breakout rooms to the art gallery, all for 20 hours nonstop. For a week afterward, i drifted in and out of a totally different mind state. This is not to say that these virtual world trips are just about being neuronially taxing. In fact I believe that my mind is now is capable of an order of magnitude more complexity both on a conscious and subconscious level. I "run" multiple worlds, scenarios, lines of reason and dialogue at once. I believe that the medium has allowed me to "get beyond that 15%" of utilized brain capacity (to maybe 16%?). And of course I am "old and over the hill" by the standards of the younger average avatar citizen base (37). We cannot predict how "in-world" life will affect the up and coming generations.

The original ALLChemical Gathering So when Terence and I first met several years ago (through the net naturally) our worlds meshed rather magically. I am not a particular "user" of psychoactive substances but had come to some of the same places Terence had found through them. I guess my concoction was less 'shrooms and more a kind of communal pixel elixir. Back in February Terence and I performed an "ALLChemical Gathering" in a virtual world on the net from his place in Hawaii and our worlds truly meshed. He was able to experience our medium fully at that time. I still run into him moving about the original world we built for that event in his avatar "Zoneghost". Many of the worlds we featured were inspired by psychedelics and so were well received by Terence's mailing list members who teleported in for the day. So I guess what is coming out of all this is that Terence's ideas about the vital importance of people using psychoactives to bust out of a culture of constriction, releasing religious dogma, banning banality and relativism, can possibly be partly achieved by "jacking in". And they haven't even made Monster3D cards illegal yet.

Pollen World, the site of the trip
we were taken on by Terence Cathie Leavitt's Trip Report reproduced from the first ALLChemical gathering Tonight's online Active Worlds meeting merits a trip report! Using the browser you move around inside a little virtual 3D scene as an "avatar" - a 3D rendering of a humanoid figure (or possibly non-humanoid if you are a "citizen" which costs $20 a year). Terence appeared as "Zoneghost" - in avatar as a tall skinny alien with almond shaped eyes. He was also onscreen via a live video feed from his place in Hawaii. There was to have been an audio feed but I guess there were technical difficulties, so he greeted us in acsii. I "saw" christa, MushaMan, lovelava, Dan O., Tantrika, Donut, Bryan, Chelsea, and Fi there. Probably some others traveling incognito as well! The simultaneous conversations were hilarious, witty and urbane...kind of a psychedelic dadaesque group mind meld. Apparently a transcript will be on Terence's web site...check it out in a day or so. A bunch of us went on a trip together...we teleported through a gate to the world called "Pollen." Due to bandwidth limitations I did not see the fully rendered world on the group trip...had to go back later when it was quieter to see the incredible enthoegenic garden someone had built. Wow! It felt kind of like a historic moment to me, the way the first transcontinental phone call must have felt. This medium has vast possibilites for connecting minds. Just as with this list, there is the sense of emotional connection within the discovery and exploration of a new medium. There is a shared dimension beyond the words and pixels on the screen. saying goodbye in deep dialogue after 2 hours, fans keep arriving from his mailing list well into the night I think we'll be seeing more of this. love, Cathie 2) What is exciting and valuable about his strange ideas about time and the eschaton in 2012? In other words, even if you dont take him literally, why is it still important to dwell on these possibilities? Well I personally don't believe in any set dates for big events, y2k not withstanding, but I do believe that the stunning acceleration that the Net will bring to all human processes and culture may generate a kind of "white nova" of change. Art Bell calls this "the Quickening". A bit of a controversial viewpoint of mine is that I believe that the pace of change.. in the infrastructural world.. is actually slowing. Go back to 1970 and what do you see: freeways, jumbo jets (well a couple in test flights), microwave ovens, VCRs, malls, moon landings (we don't even have those now), and even primitive electronic calculators. IE: there has not been much real innovation in the brick and mortar world since then. Now I lived for years in Czechoslovakia in the early 90s just after the Berlin Wall had fallen. In 4 years, that society went through the same freeway/mall/cable TV/workaholism frenzy that we here in North America adopted more gradually over 20 years. So with the pace of change slowing in our external world, the real changes are happening in the threads and densities of our mind-lives and the Net is driving that. The explosion of books from printing presses changed European culture, politics and mindspaces radically in the first 100 years and I think the first full measure of impact of the Net will be felt by the beginning of the second decade of the new Century. In that way, 2012 is probably a pretty prescient pick. 3) What role does the psychedelic experience, or, more safely, "psychedelic thinking" play in the kind of conceptual creativity required in the cutting edge of computers, information science and VR? In other words, why are so many techies heads? (If you think is true) Well, that is a popular view, but truthfully fewer techies of my age bracket (30s and younger) are or were heads. Our drugs of choice are caffeine, long working hours, extreme sports, rave-trance, body piercing, online rapidity and idea streams. Pot seems to have been for many of our hippie forebears a real mind numb-er or paranoia producer. We don't want to mess with our neurons that way. On the other hand, like the incredible psychedelic designs of our camps Burning Man, virtual world cyberspace is certainly inspired in part by "conceptual hallucination". When many people first experience a virtual world, and learn that they can build their own spaces there, they enter into a kind of trance or trip state, their minds going into hyperdrive.. "oh my god, I could build this and this and this..". I present a lot of keynote addresses on this stuff (with demos) to a wide assortment of groups and get a line of wide-eyed tripped-out people at the end of every one. Or, boiling it all down: 4) What is cool about Terence? And what's cool about his world on AW?

Terence Test world built by Finn McKenna and Bruce Damer What is cool about Terence are his words, and the mind behind them, and the courage he has to rub them together and to call a spade a spade. Boy he is not out to make any friends when he says "you don't need your guru, you don't need religion, what OS are you running? Catholicism 8.0 or New Age Nitwit 1.2?" or when he decries how a report on a "face on Mars" gets the same serious treatment on air as the discoveries of quasars at the beginning of time. In a sense, his world in Active Worlds (called the Terence Test and built by Finn McKenna and myself in about an hour) hardly represents his thought or life's work. What is cool about the Terence setting foot in a virtual world (and we don't call them VR, there are no goggles and virtual worlds are about people not lone immersion, sorry Jaron) is that from that most remarkable mind may issue a true seer's wisdom about where we are going as we roll this new reality called Cyberspace. and 5) What role does his thought play in your work at Active Worlds? Well I don't work at Active Worlds, but our organization carries a great deal of it's forays and experimentation within virtual worlds using the Active Worlds environment and other worlds like Traveler and Blaxxun. I think there was a really good reason why Terence was the first big "celebrity mind" to visit and carry out an event in a citizen-built virtual world. In a way, he is the most receptive, and has some of the most relevant experiences to bring to the community. Virtual Worlds are more about what is in the imagination and dreams of people and less about fancy Fx. I guess Terence taught us the value of having a truly gifted and giving presence in our avatar-midst. Also, if you could think of any notable techheads, in or out of VR, that might have something to say about Terence, please let me know (other than Pesce, Laurel, Rheingold, Abraham). Gosh.. well there are folks who were at ALLChem.. Tom Robbins, Bruce Pavitt, Alex Grey, Robert Venosa, Ken Symington, not really tech heads though. Steve Jobs? Dont know if he knows of Terence though. I will have to put out feelers on that one! Let me know if you got this Erik! I hope it fits the bill. Bruce has a lot of this weirdness collected all in one spot!

Thank you very much, and I hope to hear from you soon. erik +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Erik Davis +1-415-541-5016 vox Book: Articles, essays, and whatnot:  

See Also:

The initial AllChemical Gathering with Terence from Kona Hawaii, February 1999

AllChemical Arts Gallery in Cyberspace (Sept 1999)

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