Montag, 02. Juni 2014, 07:00 - 07:00 iCal

Bruce Clarke: Dolphins on Drugs

The Human Biocomputer, the Biological Computer Laboratory, and the Systems Counterculture


Seminarraum am Institut für Ethik und Recht in der Medizin (Alte Kapelle)
Spitalgasse 2-4 / Hof 2.8, 1090 Wien


John Lilly’s address to a Conference on the Use of LSD in Psychotherapy and Alcoholism, held in 1965, was published 1967 as “Dolphin-Human Relation and LSD 25.” In his account of experiments in which dolphins were injected with LSD under various conditions and controls, the key episode involved a female dolphin. Repeatedly shot with a spear gun in the wild and now in captivity, she always avoided the humans that entered her tank. However, Lilly reports, “As the LSD effect came on, forty minutes after the injection of 100 mcg, the dolphin came over to me. She had not approached me before. She stayed still in the tank with one eye out of water looking me in the eye for ten minutes without moving. This was a completely new behavior.” Other therapists at Lilly’s talk reported comparable findings: the LSD effect also afforded traumatized humans moments of reconnection to their fellow beings.

In 1967 John Lilly was on the cusp of a transition from the margins of the scientific mainstream to the heart of the systems counterculture. That year he published The Mind of the Dolphin: A Nonhuman Intelligence in a popular trade edition, and submitted to a much smaller audience the summary report on his five-year career fellowship from the National Institute of Mental Health, Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer. This latter text provided a detailed if impersonal work-up of his self-experimentation with LSD in the isolation tank. Underscoring the first-order cybernetic orientation of his computational metaphors, Chapter 8 cites substantial passages from Heinz von Foerster’s 1962 paper “Bio-Logic,” precisely on the probability of the central nervous system’s constant generation of internal noise.

Recent book publications: Emergence and Embodiment: New Essays in Second-Order Systems Theory, with Mark Hansen (Duke, 2009); and the Routledge Companion to Literature and Science, with Manuela Rossini (Routledge, 2010). Editor of Meaning Systems (Fordham, 2013 ff).

Eine Veranstaltung des Instituts für Zeitgeschichte und der Heinz von Foerster Gesellschaft mit Unterstützung durch die Historisch-Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät der Universität Wien.

Zur Webseite der Veranstaltung


Institut für Zeitgeschichte / Interaktionen / Heinz von Foerster Gesellschaft


Marianne Ertl
Institut für Zeitgeschichte