Stealing Fire

By Steven Kotler, Jamie Wheal
HarperCollins Publishers
Published Feb. 21, 2017
304 pages

Microdosing is a new trend in Silicon Valley. A growing number of developers and other tech professionals are taking small dosages of psychedelic drugs - typically LSD or psilocybin (”magic”) mushrooms each morning to improve their productivity at work. Mad Men protagonist Don Draper had it all wrong. With small fractional dosages, (typically about 10% of a dose, to avoid tripping) microdosers claim increased creativity, proficiency in problem solving, better focus and less anxiety.

While tech visionaries such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates famously experimented with hallucinogenics, the practice has become more common in the past few years. The proponents even have their own manual to the world of enlightened states..

“Stealing Fire” describes how Navy SEALs, Google developers, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, the United Nations, Nike, Red Bull execs, Burning Man devotees and others are seeking the enlightened consciousness of “ecstasis” to increase collaboration, productivity and creativity in an altered state of mind.

The heart of “Stealing Fire” is focused on the pursuit of ecstasis, which it describes as heightened levels of inspiration and innovation. The four ways people reach ecstasis is through: Psychology, neurobiology, pharmacology and technology. In ecstasis we are so engaged in an experience that all of our senses are amplified to the point that we forget ourselves.

The power of the Burning Man experience (see “Why this former floor trader keeps returning to Burning Man”) is building a bridge between the extreme and the mainstream. Burning Man is likely the largest and most bizarre U.S. gathering to involve imagination, art, self-expression and self-reliance. The authors of “Starting Fire” explore altered states of consciousness and how these states can fuel creativity, accelerate problem solving and improve decision making capabilities to gain a formula for peak performance in life and career.

Plato described ecstasis as an altered state where our normal waking consciousness vanishes completely, replaced by an intense euphoria and a powerful connection to a greater intelligence. The final characteristic of ecstasis is “richness,” a reference to the vivid, detailed, and revealing nature of non-ordinary states.

“Stealing Fire” references early studies that showed eight weeks of meditation training measurably sharpened focus and cognition. More recent studies have carved that down to five weeks. Ecstasis only arises when attention is fully focused in the present moment, where optimal potential can be unlocked and limitlessness can be obtained.

“Stealing Fire” is an articulate endorsement of the pursuit of ecstasis and flow and their website (stealingfirebook.com) is equally compelling. MODERN TRADER has been in the business of forecasting, and following trends for 45 years. While one could joke that some former floor traders had been at the forefront of macrodosing for years, we expect microdosing will be a trend to follow in markets for years to come.