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Predicting the future is hard. It’s easy to instinctively turn to science to tell us where we’re going, but that’s usually only half the story. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been enthralled by fiction’s ability to evoke ideas that end up pertaining to science. In this essay, from a class I took on philosophy of mind some years ago, I discuss the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in which Jim Carey takes advantage of a new neurodevice that allows a person to completely ablate bad memories, in this case, memories of his ex. I think the movie raises several questions that are becoming more pertinent all the time (and it doesn’t help that it’s a beautiful performance, give it a watch!).
Is there some calculus for how many years it takes before something you once considered serious becomes cringe-worthy? Is it a linear equation, or is there some point where the cringe turns to turn into nostalgia? I’m not sure, but in putting together this site, I found an essay I wrote for Vanderbilt’s undergraduate philosophy journal, Geist, as a wee sophomore. It falls somewhere between cringe, nostalgia, and just a smidge of pride. As is probably clear from the tone, my politics were… a little more radical, to say the least. It’s a funky essay, but I do think it’s at least mildly apropos bringing information out of the hands of the powerful and disseminating it to the people. Enjoy!
Last semester, I took a class on the ethical underpinnings of scientific research. As part of this course, we wrote a final paper on some topic pertinent to research ethics. I’ve been fascinated by the pharmacology and policy surrounding indoleamine psychedelics (magic mushrooms, LSD, DMT) ever since working in a primate lab at Vanderbilt where we investigated the neural correlates of visual hallucinations evoked by these strange compounds.
Currently, they are considered ‘Schedule I’ drugs by the DEA: they have (ostensibly) no known medical uses and a high potential for abuse. After spending so much time learning about the pharmacology, I found this classification to be odd, and I went looking for answers in history. This paper distills my findings about the sociological forces that led us to stigmatize a group of compounds that, for many patients with disorders like PTSD, end-of-life anxiety, or even smoking cessation, could be highly efficacious. Along the way, I discovered that their status as Schedule I drugs is ensconced an a web of culture and geopolitics involving far-flung figures and entities like Timothy Leary, the CIA, and Richard Nixon. Thomas Final Paper
Many of you might have seen my recent TED(ish) talk posted on the website. Several of the themes I address in the talk are not new to me; in fact, they have been following me for several years. I recently dug up an essay that gives some deeper context to the issues faced by a world where neuroscience continues to impinge upon our sense of privacy and agency. Free will essay