Issue 15

UNLOCKING
NEW
POTENTIAL

 

A multi-disciplinary brainstorming by Nicole Büttner, Sergio Pérez Rosal and Anne Philippi in Berlin

Photos by marzena skubatz Words by Silke Bender
Nicole Büttner, Sergio Pérez Rosal and Anne Philippi in front of a modern building
"The synchronism of the rise of AI and the revaluation of psychedelics may not be a coincidence. Stepping beyond former boun­daries of thinking seems to be key to the future of humanity."

Before meeting for a photo call at the Futurium, our three discussion partners sat down in Soho House Berlin for a literally mind-blowing conversation: Why do AI and psychedelics attract each other? Do we need the latter to better understand the former? Can AI give us a spiritual experience? 

 

The host of this talk is Anne Philippi, journalist and start-up entrepreneur in psychedelic journeys. In 2019 she founded The New Health Club podcast and newsletter, a space where founders, investors, scientists and therapists from the new psychedelic ecosystem talk about the potential of these previously banned drugs and about new markets, compounds and medical perspectives. Today she is expanding her activities to become a literal trip advisor and helping people to find the retreat that best fits their personal needs in the Netherlands, Europe’s playground for exploring the power of psilocybin (also known as magic ­truffles). Completely legal, these trip retreats have been springing up like, well, mushrooms all over the small country in the past few years and are attracting people from all over Europe, US, India and even Saudi Arabia.  

 

Nicole Büttner is CEO and co-founder of Berlin-based Merantix Momentum. She is regarded as one of Europe’s most influential women in the field of artificial intelligence; the World Economic Forum in Davos named her the Digital Leader of Europe in 2022, and she has twice been Capital magazine’s pick as one of the Top 40 under 40. She supports and advises start-ups, SMEs and corporations in the application of new AI technologies. Convinced that Europe should become part of the forefront of AI, Büttner writes, gives talks and regularly lectures on artificial intelligence at institutions including the University of St. Gallen and the Swiss Finance Institute. She is also a startup coach at the Founders Institute and describes herself as a tech optimist. 

 

Sergio Pérez Rosal is a medical doctor and specialist in anaesthesia, intensive care, emergency medicine and cannabis-based medicine. He is CEO and co-founder of the OVID Clinics Berlin, the first psychedelic medicine clinic in Germany to use ketamine in treating mental disorders. Pérez Rosal is a member of the executive board of the MIND Foundation. Under the lead of Prof. Gerhard Gründer, MIND has joined forces with the Charité hospital in Berlin and the Central Institute of Mental Health (ZI) in Mannheim to conduct a clinical trial with 144 patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression. In this placebo-controlled study, patients will receive one or two doses of psilocybin under therapeutic supervision. The clinical trial was approved by the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices and the responsible Ethics Committee. The start of the study and patient recruitment was in March 2021. Pérez Rosal is currently also training in cognitive-behavioural psychotherapy and pursuing a Master’s in Neuroscience and Psychology at King’s College London. 

 

A link between AI and psychedelics is more than just a weird pipe dream. Philippi first encountered psychedelics in the US while working as a tech and lifestyle correspondent in California. Many Silicon Valley tech leaders have long experimented with micro-dosing of hallucinogenic substances. It all started with Apple founder Steve Jobs  in the early 70s. He never tired of emphasising how LSD helped him to dream up his first computers alongside a mobile wireless internet bringing the whole world together. Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, is also chair of Journey Colab, a new start-up aiming to tap into the promise shown by psychedelic drugs in clinical trials and making them widely available for those struggling with mental health and drug-use disorders. The man bringing artificial intelligence to the masses through the viral chatbot ChatGPT wants to revolutionize mental health care and addiction treatment with psychedelic drugs, wrote The Washington Post. Other star entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Sergey Brin are also part of the movement that proponents hope will expand minds, enhance lives, boost careers and produce business breakthroughs. In June this year, Elon Musk tweeted in response to a Wall Street Journal report on psychedelics that he believed ketamine is more effective at dealing with depression than more widely prescribed SSRI antidepressants that are, in his words, zombifying people.

artistic black and white portrait of Nicole Büttner

NICOLE BÜTTNER

A
P

A lot of people are actually scared of both topics; they are afraid that their jobs will one day be replaced by AI. And they fear psychedelics because they are stigmatised as dangerous drugs. I would like to keep our conversation as fearless and unbiased as possible, and I’d like to start with a quote from Yuval Harari, the Israeli big-tech philosopher, who said that social media was the first contact between AI and humanityand humanity lost. Now, many years later, are our brains actually designed for AI? Or do our brains need psychedelics to understand AI?

 

S P
R

Human brains created AI, so of course AI and the human brain are complementary and compatible. If we can delegate some of our most intensive tasks to an AI, we could liberate a lot of time to do whatever actually brings us joy, and therefore bring more wealth and mental health to the world.

 

N
B

We actually know so little about the human brain that maybe we can’t answer the question yet. But AI could help us to understand the human brain even better. So maybe we can even reverse that. We could use the technology to understand patterns that we cannot yet properly sense or explain. That’s my hope.

Please select an offer and read the Complete Article Issue No 15 Subscriptions